March 13, 2017

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John McLaughlin, the late syndicated gabfest pioneer of a sort, used to ask guests like myself and Monica Crowley about whether we could make some declaration with “metaphysical certitude.”

Little did we realize that such biblical conviction pertained to whether Crowley is a plagiarist. Then, again, as I can attest, Mclaughlin was as smitten with Crowley as he was with Richard Nixon (for whom he worked), who was himself smitten with Crowley (whom Nixon employed post-presidency).

So thanks to CNN’s Brian Stelter for the reminder offered Sunday, even as he shot fish in a barrel by going after Sean Hannity’s modest supply of pseudo-journalist integrity.

In particular, he critiqued an appearance on Hannity’s Fox show by Crowley, who had been laying fairly low of late. Her selection by then-President-elect Donald Trump as a deputy national security adviser went out the window after proof of her plagiarism in both a book and her doctoral dissertation were disclosed by CNN and Politico.

Hannity didn’t ask a “good friend of the program” about the plagiarism, as Stelter made clear in a firm commentary that skirted any Hannity-like hyperbole or very personal condescension.

Related Training: Poynter Ethics, Plagiarism and Copyright Certificate

No, he played back Hannity’s own performance with Crowley in which he declared, “If you have questions for Monica Crowley, you can go straight to hell,” referred to “vicious” attacks on her and then gave her a platform for a conspiracy-filled, Steve Bannon-like screed.

She lumped herself with what she deems fellow victims Michael Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying the shots they took were “all of a piece” and part of, yes, “a very dangerous and very effective destabilization campaign” against Trump. “They are out for blood.”

Stelter was concise in noting that “what Crowley calls a hit job we call journalism.” And that her claim of being totally backed up “by my editor” was news to the world.

There is a far greater chance that Troy will topple Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament than that conservatives will be impacted by Stelter. After all, Hannity said Crowley was a victim, her critics can “go to hell” and the shot across the Fox bow came via self-evidently Marxist CNN and one of its paid employees.

Oh, since Hannity (who forever denies that he should be held to any journalism norms) is so given to conspiracy theories, he should note that Sunday was what is generally marked as the start of the Russian Revolution 100 years ago. And that Comrade Stelter of left-wing CNN made no mention of the anniversary in an action of obvious deceit.

Come to think of it, that must put Stelter in league with Vladimir Putin, who is not marking the anniversary in any fashion. (The New York Times) But that inescapably brings up the irony of Putin hating revolution, while Hannity both says “bring it on!” via Trump and is bound to Putin by one reality: a mutual suspicion of facts.

Dictator chic

Peter York, who writes a design column for The Sunday Times, and wrote a book on the architectural and design styles of dictators, finds Donald Trump in sync with his books’ thesis:

“The whole point is that dictators’ homes aren’t for one’s family, friends or private self; they’re not a refuge from the world or the job. Dictators’ homes, in fact, are the job—a place to do business, harangue people and settle scores, all while one’s entourage stays nearby. They are an architectural and artistic means of establishing the power of the occupants, of intimidating and impressing any visitor.” (Politico)

An overriding inference you can easily make is that outward vulgarity is far from trivial.

Kerfuffle over canning a prosecutor

First, U.S Attorney Preet Bharara was informed that he was gone though President-elect Trump suggested that wouldn’t be the case. Then, on Saturday, he got formally canned after saying he wasn’t going. On Sunday, he tweeted out a somewhat murky reference to a New York State commission that was investigating governmental skullduggery.

“And while there’s no confirmation about what precisely he meant, people seem to think he was investigating the administration of President Donald Trump. It’s not random Twitter eggs either. He’s caught the attention of people from organizations like the NY Post, POLITICO, and the ACLU.” (Law Newz)

Changing the clock yesterday

“If you hate daylight saving time and all the confusion and sleep deprivation it brings, you now have solid data on your side. A wave of new research is bolstering arguments against changing our clocks twice a year.” (Bloomberg)

“The case for daylight saving time has been shaky for a while. The biannual time change was originally implemented to save energy. Yet dozens of studies around the world have found that changing the clocks has either minuscule or non-existent effects on energy use. After Indiana finally implemented daylight saving, something that didn’t happen until 2006, residents actually used more electricity.”

Playing footsies with bad guys

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) produced a report “denouncing the readiness with which leading internet companies submit to the demands of authoritarian regimes in order to profit. RSF is also concerned about the many cases of online surveillance of journalists and calls for the creation of binding international regulatory mechanisms.” (RSF)

It finds the trade of cyber-surveillance experts to be in some cases both lucrative and dubious and chides those that lets them deal with”regimes bent on online surveillance and censorship – just to increase their market share.”

Inevitably, there’s mention along the way of Facebook. It noted Facebook’s “active cooperation with certain governments, deletion of journalistic content, and opaque content “moderation” policies. The examples include the fan page of ARA News, a website that covers developments in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and other parts of the Middle East. Facebook blocked the site for several days last December without explanation.”

Dubious Facebook editing in North Carolina

Visitors to Senate leader Phil Berger’s official Facebook page might have thought this headline appeared in The News & Observer: ‘Has Roy Cooper flip-flopped on HB 2? Gov. Cooper now refusing to support men in women’s bathrooms.’”

But that headline wasn’t found in the newspaper. Rather, there was this “In HB2 repeal effort, Gov. Cooper is silent on proposed nondiscrimination law.”

“The person managing Berger’s page used a little-known Facebook tool to change the headline on the article being shared, making it appear that the headline was written by the news organization. A typical user of Facebook can’t make such a change, but a manager of a professional or group page can. Facebook says Berger’s use of the tool violates its policies.” (News & Observer)

A journalist in trouble

Newsday is now checking the work of former reporter Kevin Deutsch, who worked there for about five years, “following questions raised by law enforcement and health officials about his new book about Baltimore, ‘Pill City.'” (The Baltimore Sun)

For example, “A scene set in the University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma Center quotes a doctor explaining her knowledge of the impact of drugs and violence because her unit treats gunshot victims and overdoses patients side by side. The hospital said that is not how the facility operates: Overdose patients are sent to the emergency room; gunshot victims are taken to the separate trauma center. A spokeswoman for the hospital said other accounts ‘didn’t ring true.'”

Another example: “Health officials said they were also unaware of a storyline involving a group of volunteer ‘addiction interrupters’ who are described in the book as walking the streets in 2015 to help addicts until their leader, a well-known street preacher, is gunned down by the BGF gang.”

Newsday editor Rich Rosen was scrupulously by-the-legal-book Sunday in telling me that the paper is reviewing his work and will publish its findings when done. After checking one of Deutsch’s freelance pieces on fentanyl overdoses, The New York Times couldn’t confirm the identities of two of his sources. (The New York Times)

Pravda’s Sunday highlights

The headline on Sunday’s new White House feature, “Top Highlights From Sunday’s Shows,” was “Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price on NBC’s Meet The Press: ‘We need a system that works for people.'” Searing insight.

Busman’s holiday

Northwestern-educated journalists flocked to the Verizon Center in Washington for the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament, and clearly weren’t working, concedes Christine Brennan of USA Today.

For its game with Rutgers, she initially sat with the Medill classmate she met her first day of freshman year, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, and ended a short hop from CNN political director David Chalian, who was not far from NBC’s Peter Alexander, himself near ESPN’s Kevin Blackistone.

And then there were the alums who went on to ply different trades: President Obama’s speechwriter Cody Keenan; ex-SNL cast member Brad Hall (a classmate of Wilbon’s and Brennan’s) and his wife, another NU alum who has found some success in Hollywood, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Their son, Charlie, is a sophomore walk on on the team.

Brennan figures more busman’s holidays. Northwestern defeated Rutgers, upset Maryland, got hammered by Wisconsin but got its first NCAA tournament invitation Sunday and plays Vanderbilt in Salt Lake City on Thursday.

Meanwhile, I can exclusively report that David Maraniss, the historian and Washington Post reporter-editor, will make virtue out of necessity via a Solomonic stance. His daughter went to Northwestern, son to Vanderbilt.

Most curious tale of weekend

The Washington Post leaves no doubt that top Trump aide Steven Bannon is an eccentric nomad who craves mystery, even some chaos, with lots of different homes, and lodgings of a sort and former wives, and a claim of Florida residence that probably doesn’t doesn’t stand up to close legal scrutiny, but surely won’t merit any prosecution.

Should the idiosyncrasies detailed prompt driving him from office? Probably not. Might you want a guy like this drafting executive orders? Probably not. This is unsettling but no criminal indictment. (The Washington Post)

Family fare from the NBA and ABC

The kids are Steph Curry fans, so we were watching some of ABC’s Saturday evening broadcast of the Golden State Warriors-San Antonio Spurs game (though Curry was taking the night off). We were surprised by a comment by Warriors player Andre Iguodala after a loss to Minnesota, which was plastered across the screen by ABC.

“Do what master say…”

“We gotta score more than the other team. Yes, they want dumb n—-s so I’m gonna give y’all a dumb n—-. What would dumb n—- say? Just play hard, figure it out.”

Commentators Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy properly excoriated Iguodala, a very smart guy who may have been frustrated but went way overboard. “Inexcusable,” each said. I switched back to Duke-Notre Dame.


The role of the press in a democracy? “The responsibility is not to be presumptively negative,” Kellyanne Conway told Howard Kurtz during a generally genteel inquisition Sunday.

Remember any of the dozens of outrageous and gratuitous comments about then-President Obama and by Trump during the campaign? The birthplace stuff, the links to ISIS, rigging the election for Hillary, etc.? “I was raised to respect the office of the president, no matter who it is,” Conway said with an absolutely straight face. (MediaBuzz)

The news in Syracuse, New York

“After not receiving an at-large bid to this year’s NCAA tournament, Syracuse joined an ignominious list of schools that went from the Final Four one year to missing out on the NCAA tournament the next.” (The Post-Standard)

Headline of day

“Tesla’s Elon Musk Sets Sights on Australia — Via Twitter — Musk tweets that battery technology can help solve the country’s energy problems, leading to a Sunday phone call with the prime minister.” (The Wall Street Journal)

The $4 billion transportation hub

The New York Times’ David Dunlap wrote the best piece on the crazy spiraling costs of the World Trade Center Transpiration Hub. Now Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin offers a takedown of the ineffective grandiosity of the joint, designed by Spain’s Santiago Calatrava.

“It’s a given that you will come upon the Oculus’ birdlike shape and stop for the requisite smartphone photo. But such a reaction and the inevitable elicitation of the word ‘wow’ hardly constitute the standard of aesthetic success. If they did, bizarre roadside buildings that resemble ducks or doughnuts would be considered masterpieces.”

“The Oculus and its asymmetric wings look weighted down — more about body armor than taking flight. The hub’s beak has a crudeness that belies Calatrava’s ability to transform the prose of transportation facilities into architectural poetry. At his best European train stations, intricately-detailed canopies resemble trees or floating clouds. He has not achieved that level of refinement here.”

The morning babble

“Fox & Friends” praised Preet Bharara for going after “the most corrupt people to ever run a state,” as Brian Kilmeade put it, notably former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (Democrat) and former State Senate majority leader Dean Skelos (Republican).

“Morning Joe” was focused on the Trump wiretapping claims via a seeming Historians Breakfast empaneled, notably Walter Isaacson and Jon Meacham.

CNN’s “New Day” was Obamacare-focused, raising the question of whether Trump would care whatever the Congressional Budget Office’s financial assessment of the Republican plan’s price tag might be. It could come as early as today, with the morning line that the White House will not be deterred, whatever the figures are, given the importance to other legislative dominoes of somehow ramming home the GOP “repeal and replace” bill.

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New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S.…
James Warren

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