A failure of a different order

Tomorrow’s Star Tribune will carry the following note by Susan Albright, the editor of the editorial page:

It has come to our attention that the Nov. 10 editorial “Americans need their Congress back” contained phrases that should have been attributed to Hendrik Hertzberg of the New Yorker. We owe readers an explanation of how this happened.
The writer, who properly attributed other views included in the editorial, took notes on the Hertzberg piece, intending either to directly quote him or otherwise include some of his views, which coincided with the editorial staff’s opinions on problems in Washington. Later, in consulting these notes, the writer inadvertently failed to distinguish which parts were direct quotes and which were paraphrased ideas, resulting in the writing of phrases that included an unattributed, improper mix of the two plus other points about Congress.
To correct the record, the following should have been attributed to Hertzberg: the phrases “festival of bribery” and “the subcontracting of environmental, energy, labor, and health-care policymaking to corporate interests; … efforts to suppress scientific truth,” as well as a phrase that was paraphrased, “a set of economic and fiscal policies that have slowed growth, spurred inequality, replenished the ranks of the poor and uninsured, and exacerbated the insecurities of the middle class.”
We take issues of journalistic ethics and practice very seriously. We have addressed this issue with the writer and sincerely regret that it occurred.
— Susan Albright

We reported the plagiarism discussed in this note on Saturday in “The Star Tribune digs Hendrik Hertzberg,” citing Hertzberg’s New Yorker comment “Hearts and brains.”
JOHN adds: If they’re going to plagiarize, can’t they at least plagiarize something half-way intelligent? Granted, no one takes the Strib’s editorials seriously; still, in this case, what they copied was wholly unmoored from reality. “Festival of corruption”? We know of exactly three corrupt Congressmen, two Republicans and one Democrat. Some festival.
“Replenished the ranks of the poor”? Poverty rate in fifth year of Clinton administration (1997): 13.3%. Poverty rate in fifth year of Bush administration (2005): 12.6%.
“Subcontracting of environmental … policymaking to corporate interests”? That must be a good idea; here are the historical data on carbon monoxide emissions; you will find similar results for the other pollutants tracked by EPA; click to enlarge:

“Economic and fiscal policies that have slowed growth”? President Bush took office as a recession was beginning, and GDP was declining. Eight months later September 11 threatened to send the economy into a tailspin. It didn’t happen, and economic growth has been solid ever since the Bush tax cuts took hold–far better, needless to say, than the recession Bush inherited; click to enlarge:

Hendrik Hertzberg is an ill-informed idiot. The fact that the Star Tribune’s editorial board chose him to plagiarize says volumes about their own tenuous grip on reality.
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