I Miss W

It is sad that there is so much bad news so close to Christmas. The best thing we can say for our president is that he has departed for Hawaii on a 17-day vacation, so he can’t do any more damage until after the new year. Meanwhile, we could all use a day brightener. So here is one, via the Facebook account of a mother of twin daughters who were born with a rare heart defect. One died, and the other is undergoing treatment at the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.

On Tuesday, Santa came to the hospital to deliver gifts to sick children. He is a little hard to recognize behind the beard, but the burly elf in the background could be a clue:

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The mother wrote:

Guess who just came and gave Emily a Christmas present dressed in a Santa suit with Secret Service and all?!?!? ………. Pres. George Bush

Most of President Bush’s charitable efforts go unnoticed; they come to light when someone does a Facebook post, or the like, and it is picked up by an outlet like the Daily Mail.

George W. Bush: good policy 75% of the time, good man, 100% of the time. Merry Christmas!

As Anti-Police Demonstration Rages at Mall of America, Two Cops Are Murdered in Brooklyn [Updated]

This afternoon there was an anti-police demonstration at the Mall of America in Minnesota. Twitchy had coverage. Stores were closed as chanting protesters occupied portions of several floors overlooking the mall’s rotunda. This photo is from Twitter:

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The person who posted it added: “Prosecute the police! Multilevel chant is thrilling.”

The mall warned protesters to disperse, and police eventually cleared them out:

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While the demonstration was in progress, another anti-police activist, in Brooklyn, walked up to a police car and shot the two policemen who were sitting unsuspectingly inside. One was pronounced dead at the scene while the second died shortly after at a hospital. The gunman ran to a nearby subway station, pursued by other policemen, where he reportedly shot himself. The two policemen had been participating in an anti-terrorism drill. Many, many liberals celebrated on Twitter.

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The murderer has been identified, at least tentatively, as Ismaaiyl Brinsley, apparently a gang member from Baltimore. On Instagram, he announced his intention to murder two policemen in retaliation for the death of Eric Garner. I would link to it, but his account has already been deleted. Brinsley apparently shot his girlfriend, too, before leaving for New York.

Of course, not all of those who have led or participated in anti-police demonstrations can be blamed for these murders. But a lot of them can be. Some of the anti-police demonstrations have explicitly called for policemen to be murdered. Here, for example, you see marchers in New York one week ago chanting, “What do we want? Dead cops!” Today they got them.

No doubt it is futile to hope for any sort of accounting; I suppose the press is already spinning madly. But at a minimum, we can hope that Bill De Blasio isn’t invited to the funerals.

UPDATE: Brinsley’s Facebook page is interesting. Brinsley says that he is a Muslim, but evidently not a very good one. He had 1,300 Facebook friends and, seemingly, quite a bit of money. He traveled to Miami and to Hawaii and said that he was going to write for STFU Comedy. He posted this photo of himself with a stack of $100 bills:

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Normally one assumes that means he was a drug dealer. No doubt more information about Mr. Brinsley will come to light over the next few days.

FURTHER UPDATE: The murdered police officers have been identified as Wenjin Liu and Raphael Ramos.

Last call: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

Way back when in the vinyl era, Rolling Stone gave the album A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector (1963) five stars in its rock and roll record guides and singled out Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” as one of the highlights. Rolling Stone still rates it the greatest Christmas album of all time. There is no arguing about taste, and my knowledge of the genre is extremely limited, but by contrast with Rolling Stone’s straight reportage and political opinions, I think that rating is not completely unreliable.

Ms. Love has performed the song annually for Christmas on David Letterman’s shows for nearly 30 years, first on NBC and then on CBS. Dave Itzkoff tells the story in “Darlene Love’s last ‘Letterman’ Christmas.” CBS News took a look back at Ms. Love’s performances on Letterman’s shows over the years in a segment posted here.

Letterman is leaving his CBS show next spring, so Ms. Love’s performance of the song on the show last night was the last time around (video below). I think it’s fair to say they brought the tradition to an end on a high note with an epic wall of sound arrangement in the class Spector style. This should be good for whatever ails you.

Itzkoff’s New York Times story is terrific. Among other quotable quotes, Itzkoff presents this one from Steve Van Zandt (who is producing an album for Ms. Love), explaining the commercial challenge faced by Love’s new album: “There’s no explanation for it, other than there being no place in the modern world for greatness. We’re going to create greatness anyway, in spite of what the modern world may want or not want.”

Edward Jay Epstein: Journalism and truth

Michael Wolff has declared Edward Jay Epstein “one of the great investigative journalists of the era.” Who is his peer? I say he is our most formidable investigative journalist.

He is the author of numerous riveting books, among which are three on the Kennedy assassination: Inquest: The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth, Counterplot: Garrison vs. Oswald, Ferrie, Shaw, Warren Commission, FBI CIA, the Media, the Establishment and Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald. His three books on the assassination have been collected in The Assassination Chronicles. Also related to the subject are his ebooks Killing Castro and James Jesus Angleton: Was He Right? as well as his classic 1992 New Yorker article, “Epitaph for Jim Garrison: Romancing the Assassination.”

EXTRA Ed is also the author, most recently, of the “short-form book” Extra: The Inventions of Journalism, just published in paperback and as an ebook. The new book collects some of Ed’s best pieces on journalism itself. After compiling the book, Ed realized that the book needed a preface to bring it up to date to include reference to the Rolling Stone story that has been in the news over the past few weeks. He therefore added the following by way of introduction, which he has authorized us to post on Power Line. Ed writes:

The problem of journalism in American proceeds from a simple but inescapable bind: journalists and editors are rarely, if ever, in a position to establish the truth about a story for themselves, and are therefore almost entirely dependent on “sources,” who may be self-interested, falsifiers or even fictional characters. It is these “sources” that provide the version of reality that journalists report.

Walter Lippmann pointed to the root of the problem a century ago when he made a distinction between “news” and truth. “The function of news is to signalize an event; the function of truth is to bring to light the hidden facts, to set them into relation with each other, and to make a picture of reality on which men can act.” Because news reporting and truth seeking ultimately have different purposes, Lippmann concluded that news should be expected to coincide unerringly with truth in only a few limited areas, such as the scores of sports events and the results of elections, where the results are definite and measurable. In more ambiguous areas, where the outcome may be in doubt or dispute, news reports could not be expected to exhaust or perhaps even indicate the truth of the matter. Lippmann held that if the public required a more truthful interpretation of the world it lived in, it would have to look elsewhere.

Today journalists would have difficulty accepting such a distinction between news and truth. Indeed, newsmen almost invariably depict themselves not merely as gatherers of the fragments of information but of hidden truths. Even though they remain dependent on “leaks” from sources whose motives are murky, their standing, as well as the circulation of their news organization, often requires them to ferret out scoops that depend on secret and otherwise unverifiable sources. The pressure to supply something extra in these stories has led time and again to journalistic invention.

Consider the invention of an epidemic of child heroin users in Washington D.C. On September 28, 1980, the Washington Post ran a sensational story about an eight-year old addict entitled “Jimmy’s World.” Janet Cooke, a staff reporter on the Post, described her extended interviews with “Jimmy” whose “thin, brown arms” had tracks of “needle marks” from repeated injections of heroin. Even after a massive police search for “Jimmy” proved unsuccessful, assistant managing editor Bob Woodward of Watergate fame submitted it for the Pulitzer Prize, and the Pulitzer Prize committee, unperturbed by the lack of verification, awarded Cooke the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing on April 13, 1981.

It turned out that the reason the police could not find “Jimmy,” the putative source for the story, was that he was imaginary. Cooke, as she admitted to her editors, invented “Jimmy” in response to pressure to produce an exclusive story for the Post. To his credit, Donald Graham, the publisher of the Post, admitted that the story was fraudulent and returned the award. Even so, Woodward said, “I think that the decision to nominate the story for a Pulitzer is of minimal consequence. I also think that it won is of little consequence. It is a brilliant story—fake and fraud that it is.” He added, in what might be termed the Woodward doctrine, “It would be absurd for me or any other editor to review the authenticity or accuracy of stories that are nominated for prizes.” (Cooke, who resigned from the Post, demonstrated the profitability of invention by selling the film rights to the story of Pulitzer Prize fabrication to Columbia Tri-Star Pictures for $1.6 million, though the film was never made.)

Woodward also took advantage of this doctrine when he described in vivid detail a scene in which he extracted a death bed confession from William Casey, the former CIA Director, in his hospital room at Georgetown University hospital just before Casey died of a brain tumor in 1987. But, according to Kevin Shipp, who was part of Casey’s round-the-clock security detail at the hospital, Woodward was turned away at the door and never entered Casey’s room. If so, the interview was pure invention.

The pressure to accept stories based on unverified sources has only increased in the Internet era. In November 2014, for example, Rolling Stone published a stunning story by Sabrina Erdely entitled “A Rape on Campus.” It described in gory detail the ritual gang rape on September 28, 2012 of a student identified only as “Jackie” during a party at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia. It further described the University’s response to the incident as inadequate. As it turned out, however, there was no party held at the fraternity on the night of the alleged rape, the description of the fraternity house was incorrect, and prior to the Rolling Stone story there had not been any allegation of sexual assault against any members of the fraternity.

The reporter, who viewed her assignment as finding a campus rape story, had not made any effort to speak to any of the alleged perpetrators. Instead, the story relied on a single questionable source. As the discrepancies mounted, Rolling Stone admitted that its trust in the source was “misplaced.” Rolling Stone editor Will Dana explained, “We made a judgment — the kind of judgment reporters and editors make every day. And in this case, our judgment was wrong.”

I first became interested in the inventions of the media in 1970 when William Shawn, the legendary editor of The New Yorker, asked me to investigate whether the reported killing of 28 members of the Black Panther party was part of a US government “genocide” program to destroy the Black Panther Party. After investigating each case, I discovered that the list of 28 Black Panther deaths was partly invented, proving that there was no basis for the widely circulated press stories of genocide. After The New Yorker published my article in February 1971, both the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times wrote editorial apologies for their stories based on the invention of 28 Black Panther supposed deaths.

The essays I have included in this book are all variations on a single theme – the vulnerability of journalism to deception. Even after 45 years, it is very much a work in progress.

—December 17, 2014

Published with the kind permission of the author.
Copyright © 2014 EJE Enterprises. All Rights Reserved.

Long story short, Iowahawk edition

Iowahawk took to Twitter yesterday to comment on President Obama’s after-the-fact advice to Sony in the matter of The Interview. As is his wont, Obama affected the position of an innocent bystander. Even without the relevant history I found Obama’s pose somewhere beyond creepy. He thinks we’re really, really stupid, and he’s got the evidence to back it up.

Iowahawk took a quote from Obama speaking about Sony at his press conference and applied it to the unforgettable photograph of the man who…what was his name?

How could we forget? Ms. Hillary is in the background along with el presidente. We better remember. Oh, yes, his name is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a/k/a “Sam Bacile.”

The Week in Pictures: Cancel The Interview Edition

Okay, so when the Obama Administration says it is seeking a “proportionate” response to the North Korean hack of Sony, we know that is a euphemism for “weak response.”  Wouldn’t want to upset our new friends, the Castros down on Cuba, who we know are tight with the Kims.  Exchange holiday cards and torture tips and all that.  What was the first clue?  When Obama referred to James Franco as “James Flacco.”  Most observers thought he was confusing Franco with the Baltimore Ravens QB, but I think Obama had “flaccid” on his mind, since it describes his response.  Meanwhile, best not take our eyes off the most significant threat to the nation’s future—the Clintons.

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Just because.  F— yeah.

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What next year’s Academy Awards telecast will now look like.

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Future Interrogations copy ISIL Waterboards copy Ramirez on CIA report copy Big Gov Tow copy Anti-Obama Reindeer copy Obama Cuba copy

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Speaking of cigars. . .

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Dare we even suggest a caption contest for this. . .

No wonder Hillary talks about “empathy” a lot. Oh, wait. . .

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Wait, what?

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My kind of Christmas tree.

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The perfect stocking stuffer for a liberal.

Santas SUV copy Ackbars Mouse Traps copy Duct Tape copy Will to Power Bar copy Knights of Ni copy Hapy Hunnakah copy Han in Hannuhah copy Red shirt gogerbread copy Christmas copy Guiness copy

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And finally. . .

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What’s in a political name?

I am unenthusiastic about Jeb Bush as a presidential candidate for several reasons: his position on immigration reform, his position on the common core, and the fact that his last name will make him difficult to elect.

Some conservatives have advanced another reason to be unenthusiastic: the fact that his father and brother have both been president. Political dynasties are unseemly, if not un-American, we are advised.

To me, apart from the question of electability, this objection to Bush’s candidacy has no resonance. Nor does the parallel objection to a Hillary Clinton presidential run.

To be sure, if Bush is nominated, the Republicans will have had a Bush at the top of the national ticket in five of the last eight elections. And a Bush will have been on the national ticket in seven of the last ten.

Even the trio of Richard, Tricia, and Julie Nixon wasn’t this ubiquitous.

But so what? Jeb Bush served two terms as governor of a big state. It is his performance in that capacity, not his name, that makes him a presidential contender.

It’s possible that if his father hadn’t been president, Jeb Bush wouldn’t have been a governor. But it’s also possible that if his brother hadn’t been president, Jeb Bush would have already been nominated at least once by his party to run for president.

As for Hillary Clinton, she is a legitimate presidential contender by virtue of her time as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. Sure, she might not have attained either position if she hadn’t married Bill.

On the other hand, prior to her marriage Hillary was on the fastest of fast tracks (Yale law school, staff member on the House Judiciary Committee) at just the time when women were starting to break through in law and politics.

Who is to say that Elizabeth Warren would have beaten Hillary to the top of the greasy pole if Hillary hadn’t married Bill?

Such speculation is beside the point, though. America desperately needs a first rate president, and it isn’t brimming with politicians likely to fill the bill. It makes no sense to eliminate presidential prospects due to their lineage.

Should Democrats prefer a first-term Senator who pretends she’s an Indian to a two-term Senator and former Secretary of State, simply because the latter was married to a U.S. president. Of course not.

Should Republicans reject a successful two-term governor in favor of, say, a first-term Senator whose biggest claim to fame is paving the way for a partial government shutdown that accomplished nothing, simply because the former is the son and brother of former presidents. Of course not.

There’s nothing un-American about political dynasties as long as birth doesn’t trump merit (and in a democracy, it’s never likely to). Two of our first six presidents were from the Adams dynasty, and Charles Francis Adams would probably have made rather a good president.