Instrumentation

Via MPR’s Bob Collins, shocking news; most journalists don’t call themselves Republicans:

The research, from two professors at Indiana University, contains mostly “duh” conclusions. Journalists think journalism is going in the wrong direction, newsrooms are shrinking, there aren’t many minority journalists, journalists are most likely to be college graduates, men make more than women, and journalists aren’t very satisfied with their jobs.

The Post’s Chris Cillizza headlines that fewer journalists are Republicans now. Just 7 percent acknowledge that.

You knew it, right? Those Democrats in trench coats.

But here comes the whammy you just knew was coming:

And now, the rest of the story. They’re less likely to be Democrats, too, the study says:

Compared with 2002, the percentage of full-time U.S. journalists who claim to be Democrats has dropped 8 percentage points in 2013 to about 28 percent, moving this figure closer to the overall population percentage of 30 percent, according to a December 12-15, 2013, ABC News/Washington Post national poll of 1,005 adults. This is the lowest percentage of journalists saying they are Democrats since 1971.

MPR included a graphic.

But I’m going to suggest that the study buries the truth in plain sight.

Party affiliation is just one symptom of political belief – and it is an indicator that one can turn on and off and change and re-cast at will.  I could call myself a Democrat – a “Sam Nunn Democrat”, what the heck – if I wanted to.

But it wouldn’t explain much about me, or how I cover the news around me.  Not accurately, anyway.

But I’d suspect giving journalists a survey like this would be a lot more illuminating:

“For each of the following, assign a number from 1-5, where 1 = “disagree strongly”, 5 = “agree strongly”, and 3 = “I’m ambivalent.

1. I believe that “progressive” ideas are usually wrong, and that new ideas should prove themselves before being adopted.

2. Life begins at conception.

3. Education should be localized, if not privatized.

4. Social security should move into the private equity market.

5. The Second Amendment is a right of the people, and does not refer primarily to the police or military.

6. Marriage is primarily about having and raising children.

7. The Federal Government is too powerful; more power should be devolved down to the states, counties, municipalities, and to The People.

8. The nation has need for Natioanal Heath Insurance; Obamacare is a fiasco and should be repealed as quickly and completely as possible.

9. Any government function that can be performed by three or more people in your local Yellow Pages should be eliminated from the public payroll.

10. The state has no business subsidizing businesses (including public media).

Note that none of those ten questions ask anyone’s party affiliation – but they measure the the extent to which someone believes in the free market or statism.

And while the number of “Democrats” may have shrunk (they outnumber Republicans in the media 4:1), I’m going to guess the number of people with scores in the twenties on my test outnumber those with scores in the forties by a solid 5:1.

ADDITION:  A comment below reminded me – while a large number of journalists refer to themselves as “independents” and always have, surveys (especially the seminalLATimessurveys in the eighties and nineties) showed the vast majority of journos who call themselves “independent” but vote Democrat is almost as large as the proportion of stated Democrats versus Republicans. 

Affiliation isn’t the issue; belief, underlying belief and expressed bias are.

The Great Crisis

First, some history.

Untangled:  Back in 2010, when the DFL last controlled the Legislature, the media credentialling system was a shambles.  The Senate Rules specifically listed the media outlets that had permanent credentials – the major metro newspapers, the state’s various TV and major radio stations, MPR, the Legal Ledger and a few others.  You could count them on your fingers and toes, if I recall correctly (and I may well not).  However, any Senator could vouch for any “reporter” they wanted, and give them essentially a “day pass” to get into the gallery, the press room, and onto the floor (at a table reserved for the media between gavels, and out on the floor proper outside the session).

It was never much of an issue until the mid-2000s, with the growth of an alternative media.  Suddenly, new media – blogs, talk radio, and video and audio streams – began demanding a place covering the Legislature.  Being part-timers and hobbyists, most of us only needed credentials on a situational basis – but others, flush with activist budgets, had the time and manpower to make it a full-time “job”.

In 2010, the DFL made a hash of things; they credentialed “The Uptake”, a stridently progressive video-blog, but denied a day pass to Saint Cloud conservative talk host Dan Ochsner.

After the legislature flipped in 2010, the 2011 session began with tat following tit, with the GOP initially getting payback and ejecting the Uptake from the Senate.

Michael Brodkorb, brand-new in his job as Senate GOP Comms czar, took matters into his own hands.  While Michael’s a polarizing figure even inside conservative circles these days (and someone I still consider a friend), he undertook a really superlative project; give the Minnesota Senate the best, most open, transparent media credentialling process in the United States.  Period.

With that in mind, he enlisted left-leaning journo David Brauer, a few capitol comms staffers (including Senate DFL comms guy Beau Berendson and, briefly, then-House-DFL communications person Carrie Lucking, in her last gig before becoming Alita Messinger’s propaganda minister) and yours truly to craft a new Senate media credentialling rule.

I chronicled the process leading to the new news credentialing policy, from conception to passage into the Senate’s permanent rules, in a series of blog posts.

One of the rules was as follows (and it reads this way in the Senate’s permanent rules today):

Organizations owned or controlled by registered lobbyists, political parties or other party organizations (defined as organizations registered with the Campaign Finance Board or the Federal Election Commission) shall not be granted credentials.

It seemed pretty clear at the time.  In fact, it still does.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t controversy.

The Point Being:  the issuance of press credentials, and the (limited) access they give you to Senators on the floor, is non-partisan.  Utterly, utterly non-partisan.

So when the Strib’s  Baird Helgeson notes in a story about a credentialing tempest in a Senate teapot that…:

Republicans have questioned Senate press credentials for the left-leaning Uptake, while Democrats are critical of press credentials for conservative blogger Mitch Berg.

…that everyone – the Republicans questioning Uptake, the “Democrats” who bagged on me [1] , and I suspect Helgeson himself – misses the point.

Anyone can get credentials – provided they aren’t “owned or controlled by registered lobbyists, political parties or other party organizations”.

Credentials are issued by the non-partisan Sergeant At Arms – the eternal Sven Lindquist, who’s been there close to thirty years, through every possible combination of political power.

Seems simple, huh?

Muddied:  Shawn Towle is a Saint Paul would-be pundit.  For years, he ran the website/protoblog Checks and Balances.

More recently, he’s “famous” for reportedly having tweeted a link to an anonymous photo of a former Minnesota legisator – a female conservative, naturally – in her underwear, apparently while doing a little galavanting, as they used to say.  Did Towle publish the photo?  Let’s assume it fell out of the sky and hit him on the head, for all I care.  Either way, the episode was one of the more disturbing bits of “gotcha” “journalism” I’ve seen, part of a wave of (and I say this with all due respect to Towle as a journalist) prurient panty-sniffing from Twin Cites left-leaning alt-media, thinly disguised as diligent reporting (about the private and semi-private lives of female conservatives and, it seems, nothing more).

But that was last year,  We have a new controversy.

Helgeson  notes that Towle has been paid nearly $40,000 in the past few years by the DFL, including money just before the current session:

DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk’s “failure to disclose political payments he made to a member of the credentialed press is dishonest and damages the integrity of the Senate,” Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said Monday. “How can the public trust what’s going on at the Capitol if the reporters are being paid by the politicians?”

There are really two points here:

  • Why does the DFL feel the need to pay Towle – who, according to sources in the Capitol, apparently shows up at GOP Senators’ press conferences acting like a Reagan-era Sam Donaldson?  They don’t have enough mainstream media to do the job for free?
  • I’m not sure that this story affects the public trust in the Senate – there are bigger reasons, like a $90 million office building and three years worth of lies about property taxes to do that.  But one might certainly wonder what Shawn Towle’s angle is.

Helgeson:

Hann is demanding that Bakk have Towle’s press credentials revoked. The press passes allow journalists to get on the Senate floor during debates, but they do not grant any special access to members.

It’s a little more complicated than that – it allows access to the press gallery, to press office handouts and info and – when space is available – to a small table on the floor (limit: 6) during the debates, with precedence given to the permanent press corps members that rent space in the basement.

But it’s not much more complicated than that.

An Aside:  Helgeson’s piece has this curious interjection:

Despite Hann’s insistence, Bakk had no role in getting Towle his press credentials.

Helgeson is talking for Bakk?   I mean – according to whom did Bakk had no relationship with Towle’s credentials?

Of course, it’s irrelevant, or should be.  You don’t need connections to get press credentials anymore.  That was one of the goals of the rules we passed in 2011!

And while Bakk needn’t have had any more role in Towle getting his credentials than in me getting mine, Bakk most certainly knew and had plenty to do with the fact that…:

  • The Senate paid Towle
  • The arrangement broke the Senate rules.

Dwelling in the Irrelevant:  Helgeson:

Towle said he actually got his Senate credentials when the Republicans controlled the body and Hann was an assistant leader.

Around that time, Towle was also on the payroll of the Republican Party of Minnesota’s payroll. The state GOP paid Towle a combined $15,000 in 2010 and 2011, records show.

Towle, in many forums (including in a phone conversation with me, over the winter when this story first came out) keeps repeating that he’s been paid by both sides.  The DFL is leaning on the same point:

DFL Senate Caucus Communications Director Amos Briggs points out that Towle has “been credentialed under DFL and GOP majorities, although you will notice that the credentialing authority named in the rule is nonpartisan.”

All of it is true – and it’s irrelevant.

When Towle was first credentialed, up through the beginning of the 2011 session, there were no formal rules against paid lobbyists or affiliates of lobbying organizations or parties being credentialed.  That restriction began in 2011, well into the session.

The partisanship – or even the bipartisanship – of Towle’s contract employment isn’t the issue.  It’s the fact that under the post-2011 Senate rules, he’s getting paid by any political organization.  Period.

And some observers get this.  The City Pages’ Aaron Rupar spoke with the Senate’s sergeant at arms, Sven Lindquist – the non-partisan staffer whose office is in charge of issuing press credentials.  Lindquist notes…:

“In the case of Towle, if he is working for one or both political parties — and I would have no knowledge of that — the rule does state that he should be responsible [and let us know about] any change in his reporting status,” Lindquist said. “What I’m hearing now about this, it will have to be looked at further… we’ve never had to go down this path before.”

Lindquist said the one significant thing a Capitol credential allows reporters to do is to “have access to the Senate chamber, and with God as my witness I’ve never had [Towle] attempt to gain access to the Senate floor, and he’s been credentialed since perhaps ’99 or 2000.”

During most of which time, up to 2011, partisan affiliation wasn’t an issue – or, rather, it was as much an issue as the party controlling the Senate wanted to make it.

So To Sum Up:  Does Shawn Towle get paid by the DFL?  So it seems.  Hey, a guy’s gotta earn a living.

But the problem is in Tom Bakk’s office.  Bakk either thinks “rules” are for mere mortals, or he isn’t in control of what his staff is doing.

I’m dying to find out which.

[1] I’d like to challenge Mr. Helgeson to show me a single Republican since 2011 who’s given a rat’s ass about The Uptake.  As to Democrats and yours truly?  The only Democrat I’m aware of who’s whined about my credentials was Mark Gisleson, one of the DFL’s intellectual thought leaders and former blogger and current “where are they now”-fodder.

The Bias Pageant (Vote Early And Often!)

The weekend saw not just one, but two bits of epic anti-2nd-Amendment bias in the Strib.  And not in the columns, mind you – it was in the “news”.

Contestant Number One:  Matt McKinney:  McKinney, whose coverage of the Darin Evanovich shooting in 2011 we spent so much time assailing back in the day.  Last week, he wrote about the Byron Smith trial in Little Falls.  Smith is accused of ambushing two youngsters who were breaking into his home.  Again.  The two -Haile Kifer, 18 and Nick Brady, 17 – were apparently not visiting Mr. Smith’s home for the first time.

How many times?

McKinney (with emphasis added):

The Little Falls homeowner had suffered a few break-ins in his home and his adjacent property in the fall of 2012, but didn’t go to the sheriff’s office until after an Oct. 27 break-in, when a shotgun and rifle, as well as other items were stolen from his home.

“A few break-ins” may have been a half-dozen or more.

How many break-ins is a person supposed to cheerfully endure?

To be fair to McKinney, it appears to this non-lawyer that Byron Smith broke one of the absolute rules of self-defense.  While he was not a willing participant, he had no “duty to retreat” in the home, and he may well have had a reasonable fear of being killed or maimed, the idea that he may have shot one or more of the burglars after they were down and no longer a threat may have been the one mistake he made.

On the other hand?  The Strib ran the story on a Saturday.  When the jurors weren’t sequestered, and could read McKinney’s heart-rending elegies to the victims.  Er, burglars.  Why would they do that?

And the County is charging him with first-degree murder – as if he’d been specifically planning to kill the two.

Why, it almost seems like the Strib has a desired verdict.

No – that’d be crazy talk.

The Second Contestant:  Baird Helgeson:   The Strib’s Helgeson wrote last week about the Schoen-Latz bill to take guns away from domestic abusers.

It’s not so much that the issue doesn’t warrant attention – domestic abuse is ugly and prone to violence.  Most people – even shooters – support some provisions to disarm people who are legitimately suspected of domestic abuse, with due process.

It’s the words “legitimate” and “due process” that are the clinkers.  Many – maybe most – domestic abuse charges brought during divorce proceedings are inflated or false, intended by angry spouses and sleazy divorce lawyers to try to skew the proceedings.   The accused – usually men – are often treated as guilty until proven innocent.  And even a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction is sufficient to disarm someone for decades, maybe life.

So most shooters agree – disarm the violent, but give people due process.

The responsible anti-gunners and the Minnesota 2nd Amendment community have been negotiating over a current bill for a while now, trying to make sure everyone’s concerns get addressed.

So look at the tone of Mr. Helgeson’s piece.  I’ll add emphasis for things like cheerleading and repeating Heather Martens’ chanting points under the guise of “news reporting”:

Minnesota could be on the verge of breakthrough changes in some of its gun laws.

“Breaking through…” against what?

Until now, no restriction on gun ownership has been too small to draw the fierce opposition of gun rights groups and their supporters.

“Small” to whom?  This blog spent a lot of time last year showing how big the “small” restrictions actually were.  That is, apparently, of no interest to Helgeson.

Just a year ago, a proposal for broader background checks for firearms purchases was crushed at the Capitol despite attempts to weaken the bill enough to get it approved.

“Crushed” sounds so…bad.  How about “defeated”?

This time, a rank-and-file police officer — who also happens to be a DFL House member from St. Paul Park — is leading the effort to take all firearms, including rifles, away from those who stalk or abuse their partners. His careful ­legislative campaign is winning surprising support.

Notice how Helgeson is framing the issue?  Gun rights supporters are tyrants, “crushing” and “weakening” legislation from the plucky, reasonable underdogs of the DFL!

The narrative is served!

He has a powerful partner — Republican Rep. Tony Cornish, a retired police officer and the Legislature’s most outspoken advocate of gun rights. He ­regularly carries a handgun into the ­Capitol.

Presumably as “the Darth Vader March” plays in the background.   That plucky Dan Schoen!

The bill, which has run a gantlet of House committees, faces its most serious test Monday, when the full House is scheduled to vote on final passage.

Now, if I were a reporter exercising my personal biases, I’d say the bill “slithered through a series of House committees where members, weary of defending bad gun bills from well-informed citizens, gave it a solid working-over”.

But good bills “run gauntlets”.

Here’s the interesting part – and perhaps the part the Minnesota anti-civil-rights lobby would prefer Helgeson not have written:

The proposal would put Minnesota at the leading edge of a larger national movement that, after meeting with defeat on more ambitious proposals, is aiming at narrow niche victories in areas with broad public ­support, such as preventing domestic homicides.

Leading the way to “Victory” against the big bad shooters!

That is, of course, Michael Bloomberg’s current strategery – to kill the Second Amendment with a million cuts. 

I wonder if Helgeson would be so excited about laws that tossed biased “journalists” out of the trade?  Probably not – he (and I) would likely turn into civil libertarian absolutists.

Narrative alert!

The bipartisan nature of the measure has drawn the attention of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, a devoted gun owner who has been leery of tightening Minnesotans’ right to own firearms.

The left trots that out whenever Dayton needs to appear “moderate”.  He’s a “devoted gun owner” – but not one of the icky bad ones!

“It’s not perfect, but it’s getting there,” said Rob Doar, a lobbyist for the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, which has dropped its objection to Schoen’s bill. “We agree with making sure the guns get out of the house,” so long as there is ample due process.

There is some question as to how accurately Helgeson related Doar’s quotes.  I’ll be talking with Rob about this soon enough.

Studies show that half of all domestic abuse homicides in Minnesota over the past three years involved a firearm.

“I absolutely believe without a doubt that lives will be saved by this,” said St. Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing, whose office handles about 1,000 domestic violence cases a year.

All likely true.  But they’re significant for what they set up:

The gun culture of this country is so disturbing,” said Marree Seitz, whose daughter Carolyn was shot and killed by her husband several days after filing for divorce in 1996. “So much of the domestic abuse is so flammable, where the littlest thing can set the person off,” she said. “The accessibility of the weapons makes it such a natural thing.”

It’s as if Helgeson thinks he’s writing a buddy movie – the unlikely good/liberal cop bad/conservative cop taking unlikely sides against “the gun culture”, personified by all those unwashed gun maniacs that swarm the Capitol “crushing” and “weakening” their precious gun laws.

And yet they try soooo hard!

Legislators were still working on the proposal late in the week, ensuring that gun advocates could approve the changes.

The measure puts opponents in the difficult and politically dicey position of defending gun ownership rights for domestic abusers and stalkers.

Right!  And in case any of you missed it, Baird Helgeson was there to say it’s so!

The measure has strong support from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the country’s largest gun violence prevention advocacy organization.

Not to be confused with “gun control group”.  Good heavens, no.

The group was founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has poured millions of dollars of his personal fortune into the cause.Just this month, Bloomberg pledged an additional $50 million to try to match the NRA’s formidable membership base, lobbying force and campaign organization.

That’s good ol’ Bloomie; just another plucky billionaire underdog, fighting against those millions of regular middle-American nuts!

“Clearly, we ran into a buzz saw last year,” said Paymar, who runs a nonprofit organization aimed at reducing domestic abuse. “The environment was toxic at the time.”

Regular citizens turning out and making their opinions crystal clear = “toxic”.

Good to know.

Now It’s Time To Vote!:  Who wins the first ever “Strib Bias Pageant?”

Who Wins This Week’s Strib Bias Pageant?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

 

 

Results will be announced tomorrow. Vote early and often!

The Left’s War On The Western Intellect

One never needs to look far for a Berg’s Seventh Law violation.  But this one may be the big daddy of them all.

For all the left’s bargling about how smart they are and how stupid the teabagging wingnuts are, it’s the left that’s waging a war against the intellectual traditions that made the West a great, and – by world historical standards – free, prosperous and enlightened place.

The Late, Great Debate:  I did debate team for one year, and speech team for two in high school.  And with all due respect to the debaters in my social circle – including John Hinderaker, a national college debate champ – there was no question about it; debate team was the lesser set of skills.  The best “debaters” merely honed their ability to rattle off, auctioneer-style, factoids in a coherent-sounding case; oratorical style and even audible legibility didn’t make the cut as priorities.  Debaters tended to make lousy “forensics” speakers.

But debate teaches a vital skill – indeed, perhaps one of Western Civilization’s most vital skills; classical logic.  A good debater knows how to contruct a logical argument, quickly, steering clear of glaring logical fallacies which will, of course, cost them points with literate judges.

Or rather, they knew it.

John Hinderaker relates the story of the decline and fall of collegiate debate, where teams are now winning “debate” tournaments while ignoring the stated topic and swerving into their own personal polemics, often in “slam poetry” and hip-hop styles and, dumber still, declaring the idea of “logic” and “structure” to be racist:

The assertion that “the framework of collegiate debate has historically privileged straight, white, middle-class students” is puzzling. By “privileged,” the writer apparently means that these are the people who have been good at it. Historically, most college students have of course been white and middle-class, but so what?

“Collegiate debate” has turned into the MinnPost comment section!

I’m tempted to declare that the structure, rules and equipment of the NFL are ageist, classist and ableist, and play using only a shotgun and a hockey stick; why should those privileged with athletic talent and lack of years have all the fun and money?

Well, no – I won’t.  Because I’m not an idiot.

The underlying message from the academy (and hip hop forms notwithstanding, the end of collegiate debate is a battle between academic points of view, not tastes in music) is that logic and structure – the building blocks of western philosophy, “liberal” government, modern science, and indeed every Western intellectual tradition worth preserving – are matters of racist “privilege”.

Would we have had a small-”l” liberal government, ann Enlightenment, a Renaissance, math and science as we know it, a legal system remotely worth having, and any common intellectual tradition without classical logic?

Happy To Be An Intellectual Midget For A Better Minnesota!:  Of course, it’s more than just a national thing; the Minnesota Left has been doing its best to make politics and public life in Minnesota  dumber, coarser, nastier thing.

Bill Glahn dials this tendency in as remorselessly as a sniper:

As the 2014 election campaign heats up, a drearily familiar pattern is repeating itself. Flush with big dollars from out-of-state donors, Democrat-front group Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM) is attacking Republican candidates under the theme Wrong for Minnesota…Back in the dim mists of time—when dinosaurs still trod upon the earth—I was taught that arguing against the person (ad hominem) rather than what the person was saying, defied the laws of logic.

When I was in debate in high school, and moreso when arguing points in college, leading with the ad hominem was a good way to have your thesis sent to the showers.

I was taught in classical Greek rhetoric that a message that relied exclusively on raw emotion (pathos)—rather than reason (logos) or an appeal to values (ethos)—was considered the lowest form of communication.
Ad hominem and pathos are the only form of expressions ABM is capable of. The reason why ABM relies on these tactics is because they work. The object is not to engage in debate, but to end debate by surpressing voter turnout. ABM is not trying to convince you that you should vote for Democrats, they are trying to convince you that no Republican possesses the personal character worthy of your vote.

And it works.  A potential candidate for higher office talked with me about ABM’s efforts last year; this person wanted very much to run for an office that would be up for election this year, but couldn’t; while they have the political savvy, experience and record to do the job, ABM would make their personal life – things unrelated to politics, of course – a living hell.  And so a good candidate opted out of the race – leaving that bit more room for an inferior Democrat.

To add insult to injury?  The same media full of Lori Sturdevants and Keri Millers that snivel about the “vitriol” and “anger” in politics, are utterly silent about the Alliance’s crimes against logic:

Should a Republican whisper about the health of our current governor or the temperament of our junior senator, they are immediately shouted down by local media.

Either because of personal relationships or broad sympathy with the aims of ABM, these tactics are never questioned by local media. ABM’s increasingly fantastic and desperate claims against Republicans are never subjected to the “fact-check” apparatus.

And why is that?

Why has MPR, especially their “Fact-Check” operation, “Poligraph”, never systematically looked into ABM’s propaganda?  Catherine Richert?  Mike Mulcahy?  Tom Scheck? Anyone?

The Barricades Fall – A Little

The Twin Cities’ left is declaring a Code Red; Glen Taylor is buying the Strib

The Minnesota sports and business tycoon and former GOP state senator has picked up the shrivelling Gray Nag of Minnesota media properties - and has vowed to make some changes.

Some. 

Bear in mind, Taylor came from the old-school Minnesota GOP; relatively moderate, accustomed to working with the then-slightly-less-extreme DFL in a way that’s as obsolete as the personal computers from the 1980s, when that arrangement still held sway. 

But he’s talking changes; the MinnPost‘s Britt Robson (from the first installment of a two-part interview) talked with Taylor about his planned changes:

MP: The Star Tribune is regarded as a liberal newspaper, rightly or wrongly, and probably less so now than ten years ago. Will that change under you in any way shape or form?

GT: I think the answer is yes. But I think the answer is yes whether I buy it or don’t buy it. Everything changes, and some people are going to say, “Well it is, because you bought it, that it changed.”

I would say back to them, “No. You are going to have new hires. You are going to have new people. There are going to be changes in seniority. You have got to be responsible to your readership.” And I think it has already been changing, and I have been a longtime reader of the paper.

Will it change because of the ownership of Glen Taylor? Yeah. To say it won’t wouldn’t be accurate. But it isn’t like Glen Taylor is going to come in there on day one and say, “I’m going to fire people” and do all sorts of things. I am going to say — and I have already told them this — that first of all it has got to be fair and it has got to be accurate.

On the one hand, that – especially if manifested in the form of “reporting news that impacts the DFL with the same zeal as they do it to the GOP” – would be a huge start. 

On the other, I think Taylor is too sanguine about the evolutionary process in journalism.  The old, DFL-upsucking liberals like Nick Coleman are slowly fading away (and Lori Sturdevant has got to be eyeing that condo in Tampa, right?), but even they got their start at a time when American journalism paid more than feeble lip service to the ideals of impartiality and balance.

The Journalism academy today is far less idealistic than it was forty years ago.  New J-School grads are far more likely to start out as advocates from the word “go” than their elders, who oozed into the role over decades in a “progressive”-dominated state. 

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes:  So what does the Strib  really need?

  1. An Editorial Staff that actually puts accuracy and completeness ahead of politics.  Today – when they’ll sit on video of Mark Dayton giving an embarassing speech, but race to press with even the most foetid allegations about Republicans – they do not.  This editorial staff needs to crack the whip on, if not “objectivity” (which I believe has always been a myth in the major media) at least detachment, balance and development of sources outside the current crop’s clubby Rolodex full of left-leaning contacts. 
  2. Accountability:  For the better part of a decade, the person filling the role of the ombudsman (“reader representative”) at the Strib has served entirely as the editorial board’s spinmeister/spinmistress.  Ombuds like Sue Perry were the journalistic equivalents of Baghdad Bob, asking who you trusted – your lying eyes, or the Strib’s spin on the mountain of evidence of the paper’s bias.   The Strib needs an ombud that revels in mixing it up with the paper’s status quo. 
  3. A Columnist’s Row With Real Diversity:  Liberals have spent the past half-decade or so whining about the hiring of Katherine Kersten.  The complaints took two forms; “why hire a conservative, the paper is already balanced/conservative”, and “she doesn’t know the journo’s secret handshake!”.  The first line of complaints was straight from Alice in Wonderland.  The second wasn’t so much delusional as, I think, a tacit admission that conservatives were right; the journos wanted someone filling the “house conservative” role who knew the secret journo handshake and would work for “the team” when in doubt.  Which is not to impugn Doug Tice, Kersten’s designated replacement, in any way – he’s a solid reporter, right of center by Strib standards, and a journo of great integrity, but hardly an iconoclast.   The Strib needs an iconoclast, someone who will hold the ancient, biased institution of the paper’s feet in the fire. 

What else will it take?

Confronting The History Thief

Question: will the media force Elizabeth Warren – putatively the Democrat second choice after Hillary! – to meet with Cherokee women who’d like to talk with her about her phony claim to being a member of their tribe?

And profiting from it?

(Answer: Sure they will.  When they get done holding Ryan Winkler accountable for turning a SCOTUS justice into Stepin Fetchit).

Kill The Bill

John Cornyn is right; Chuckles Schumer’s proposed “Media Shield” law creates two medias – a government-sanctioned media (which will, by necessity, have to dever to government to retain its favored status), and the rest of us:

“This is a bad idea and one whose time has not come,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate minority whip, told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview. “Believe me, we will not be rolled over.”…Schumer’s proposal would exempt a “covered journalist” from subpoenas and other legal requirements to expose their confidential sources in leak investigations and other areas. Other lawmakers have proposed similar ideas in the past, but the effort gained new momentum after a series of revelations about controversial tactics the Justice Department was using to target journalists.

I’m not the only one who notes the irony – liberals like the media and Diane Feinstein are fine with the rabble being spied on – but they value their privacy.

(If we had a media that was a genuine antagonist and check on government, it’s still be a stupid but forgiveable bill.  But we don’t, and we haven’t in decades). 

This bill needs to die and be buried in a forgotten unmarked grave.

Count The Paragraphs, Part II

News:  Mayor of Charlotte, NC arrested, charged with public corruption and accepting bribes:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, who has been in office less than six months, resigned Wednesday, just hours after he was arrested and accused of taking more than $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen who wanted to do work with North Carolina’s largest city.

Not News:  The fact that Cannon is a Democrat is buried in the middle of Paragraph 2.

Count The Paragraphs

News:  A California State Senator who helped author California’s latest draconian gun control laws – was arrested yesterday, accused of trying to trade guns for influence:

In San Francisco, FBI agents have charged California State Sen. Leland Yee with conspiracy to deal firearms and wire fraud. The allegations were outlined in an FBI affidavit against Yee and 25 others. The allegations against Yee include a number of favors he requested in exchange for campaign donations, as well as performing “official acts” in exchange for donations to get himself out of a $70,000 debt incurred during a failed San Francisco mayoral bid, according to court documents.

Yee discussed helping the undercover FBI agent get weapons worth $500,000 to $2.5 million, including shoulder-fired automatic weapons and missiles, and showed the agent the entire process of how to get those weapons from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines into the United States, according to an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Emmanuel V. Pascua.

Not news:  It took to paragraph 7 to note that Yee is a Democrat.

Chanting Points Memo: The Head Fake

Joe Soucheray got fooled.

The entire Twin Cities media has either been fooled, or is playing along.   I vote “playing along”.

Governor Messinger Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Bakk aren’t “fighting”, or “at odds”, or “in a conflict” over the DFL’s so-called “tax cuts” (which, let’s not forget, “cut” less than 10% of the four billion dollars worth of tax hikes the DFL jammed down back in 2013).

This is all theater.   And it’s about as spontaneous as a porn shoot.

Signs the DFL planned this from the ground up?   Ask yourself this; why is Governor Messinger Dayton, who is up for re-election this year, “in conflict” with Tom Bakk – who is not up for re-election this year – and not Paul Thissen, who is?

The entire “story” is a carefully-manicured charade designed to make Mark Dayton – who signed four billion dollars worth of tax hikes last year with little more thought (and perhaps little more knowledge) than he’d use signing a credit card receipt at the Oceanaire – look like a “tax cutting moderate” compared with the Senate (who are utterly safe for the next two years, and for whom the media will help engineer something in two years anyway), but heaven forbid not the House, who are, mirabile dictu, not involved in this particular fracas.

Nope, No Media Bias At All

The DFL controls both chambers of the legislature, as well as the Governor’s office.

They passed four billion dollars in total tax hikes last session, for a net two billion dollars in increases, without a single Republican vote.

But now the DFL needs GOP support to change tax policy? 

That’s what this piece – “GOP senators refuse to be rushed on sweeping tax-relief measure” – would have you believe.

No, really:

Dayton and DFL leaders have rushed to pass the measure to ensure the largest number of Minnesotans can take advantage of more than $50 million in retroactive tax relief by April 15. Senate DFLers used a rare procedure to try to speed passage by a day, but Republicans in the minority used their limited muscle to delay the vote until Friday.

Earlier in the week, Dayton chastised Senate DFLers for not passing the measure swiftly enough. On Thursday, Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, joined together to direct their wrath at Republicans.

Look – this bill was never intended as anything but an election-year bandaid for the DFL – allowing them to say “We cut taxes! (to some favored classes of Minnesotans, for a total of a tiny fraction of the tax hike we unilaterally jammed down two years ago)” in an election year when the MNSure flop and the 2013 tax and spend and gun grab orgy looks certain to cost the DFL dearly. 

Baird Helgeson is, in short, carrying the DFL’s narrative water:

“There is no good reason for Senate Republicans to block the bill’s passage,” Dayton said. If Republican legislators force any further delays, “they will be solely responsible for denying income tax cuts to thousands of Minnesotans.”

The measure is nearly certain to pass Friday because Republicans are out of options to block it.

Ahem:  the DFL doesn’t need one single Republican vote to pass the “tax cuts”.  Not One. 

Why is Baird Helgeson and the Strib carrying the DFL’s water? 

Will Rachel Stassen-Berger, Tom Scheck and Bill Salisbury catch the Strib on this fairly egregious bit of journalistic partisan narrative-fluffing?

That’s Why We Used To Call Them “High Priests Of Information”

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

“All the news that’s fit to print” has been replaced with “all the news we want you to know.” I didn’t realize that news in America is on a need-to-know basis. The media decides what we need to know and who we need to hear it from.

That’s thoughtful. Screening the information I’m given avoids confusing me with troubling thoughts and all that messy thinking for myself. Makes pulling the level for “D” much easier. Reminds me of my youthful Catholic catechism. The nuns flat-out said “Don’t read the Bible: the Pope already read it. We’ll tell you what you need to know.”

Today, network anchors act as if they’re the Pope, telling me only what I need to know.

Works for me.

Joe Doakes

 

I suppose that makes Lori Sturdevant “doctrinally infallible”…

…but then, other than a brief stretch when the Jamestown district rented a couple rooms at the local Catholic school when our school was being torn down, I’ve never really had any Catholic education.

Media catechism, on the other hand…

Strib: “Look At All That Money!”

You know me.

You know I believe that the Strib is – and at the highest level, sees itself – as a PR arm for the DFL.

I don’t think I’ve left a whole lot of you wondering about my beliefs about Minnesota’s Newspaper of Record.

But I never figured the business section’s Neal Saint Anthony would turn into a stenographoer for Alida Messinger, too.

But one of my last little outposts of pollyannaism about theStrib’ssense of detachment has been the business section, especially Neal Saint Anthony.

I was wrong, of course:

Nearly half of the tax cuts Gov. Mark Dayton proposed Thursday are for businesses and their owners, a move that may reduce the anti-business criticism that has dogged him.

 Dayton proposed — and the House almost immediately passed — eliminating three business-sales taxes that accounted for $232 million in his overall $616 million in tax cuts.

 He also asked lawmakers to simplify and raise the estate tax deduction to $2 million from $1 million and to eliminate the gift tax, a 10 percent levy on any personal gift above $1 million. Those moves would cut $43 million in taxes, bringing the combined cut on businesses and the wealthy to $275 million, or 44 percent of the total.

So let’s get this straight:

  • In 2013, the DFL went on a taxing orgy, jacking up taxes by a net $2 Billion.  With the economy still moving forward after a decade of Republican control, revenues actually went up $3 Billion.  That’s an extra $600 taken out of the productive economy for every man, woman and child in Minneosta.   This orgy of larceny was treated with kid gloves by the Minnesota media. 
  • In 2014, the DFL proposes “giving” a few hundred million of those three billion dollars “back”.    This “gift” is being greeted with saturation media coverage, in a key election year in which – mirabile dictu – the DFL is in dire need of a PR win. 

Why, it’s almost as if a cynic might expect to dig back into the “hypothetical” Minnesota version of Journo-List and find a conversation between key DFL operatives and the major Twin Cities media figures saying “we’ll grab all the taxes we can first; keep mum about it.  We’ll give some back next year; make a huge deal about it.  And for God’s sake, never talk about MNSure!”. 

But that’d be cynical, wouldn’t it?

Same As It Ever Was

The other day, a pack of the usual crowd of waxy yellow Leftyblog and Leftytweet buildup  teased themselves to ecstasy over this photo:

It’s a group of “Trail Life” boys – from a breakaway sect of Boy Scouts that bars openly gay members – “giving a Nazi salute” as they recited their creed. 

Except it wasn’t:

But it turns out that the boys were not saluting Hitler and contrary to the first Associated Press caption, they were not reciting a creed. The boys were singing “Taps,” a longtime Boy Scout tradition that the Texas Trail USA troop had adapted as their own.

The boys had gathered in a circle with their hands raised straight into the air. They gradually lowered their hands as they sang the song. It concludes with their hands flush against their side.

“It really misrepresented what was going on,” [John Stemberger, chairman of the board of Trail Life] told me. “There are children involved and that made it more outrageous. They were exploited and misunderstood.”

The picture accompanied what was actually apparently a relatively fair story.

But when it comes to the un-PC, “fair” isn’t part of the left’s playbook. 

Read the whole thing.

Strib: “Oops – Sorry About All Those Unexpected Property Tax Hikes”

If there’s a “broken record” phrase in all of Minnesota conservative alt-media, it’s “the Star Tribune is carrying the water for the DFL”.

It’s like saying “Boy, isn’t Lady Gaga weird”.  It’s the baseline.  It hardly needs to be said.

As Strib observers and critics go, I’m more jaded and cynical than most, which is another way of saying “almost cynical enough”.

But even I – who doesn’t really doubt that the Strib’s editors, and likely some “journalists”, are on the local version of “Journo-List” with the DFL, Take Action, Alliance for a Better Minnesota and Alida Messinger – wasn’t ready for the avalanche of lies and bald-faced image-shaping in this editorial.

The subtitle says it all:  ”Relief not as sizable as hoped, but help goes where it’s most needed.”

There was no relief, and the “help” was taken from most Minnesotans and given to the Minnesotans whose votes the DFL wants to buy!

It only gets worse:

As many previous statehouse politicians learned to their sorrow, local property taxes are hard to control from the Capitol. That reality has hit home to the DFLers in charge of the Legislature and the governor’s office.

 They thought they set the table in 2013 for noticeable reductions in property taxes around the state. Instead, they got mixed results and a muddled message. Total K-12 school and local government levies are up $125 million this year, giving Republican politicians the chance to crow that the DFL’s tax-suppression strategy failed.

There was no “DFL Tax-Suppression Strategy, other than repeating “raising Local Government Aid will lower property taxes!” enough times for the incurious to believe it. 

None! 

But DFLers also engineered an increase in property tax refunds for both homeowners and renters, distributed on an income-based formula to low- and middle-income taxpayers facing high tax bills. Factor in estimated claims for the richer refunds, and net property taxes in 2014 are down slightly from 2013 — by $8 million, or 0.1 percent…But count us too among fans of the $133 million boost this year in refunds to qualifying taxpayers. The income-driven property tax refund and renters’ credit are well-designed programs that this year will reach an estimated 550,000 property owners and renters — up from 140,000 previously eligible.

“Income based formula”.

In other words, the DFL took money from some people, and gave it to others. 

That’s not a tax cut.  That’s redistribution.  That’s the state picking winners and losers. 

 That leaves plenty of Minnesota’s 2.1 million households staring at higher taxes again this spring. This is the 12th year in a row for increases in total property tax burdens, with yearly increases averaging $332 million.

 But the credits are helping to stabilize housing for low-income Minnesotans by sending help to those whose property tax bills are high enough in proportion to their incomes that their ability to remain in their homes could otherwise be in doubt.

That’s not “property tax relief”.  That’s a social program, using the state to funnel money to overextended low-income home owners.

 The refunds may not stifle political criticism, but they’re sound policy.

No.  They are DFL campaign spending.

Fact: after two years of the DFL claiming at every turn that the GOP’s cuts to LGA hiked property taxes, and that their reinstatement would “cut property taxes” – their words, over and over and over again – nearly 80% of Minnesota’s jurisdictions raised property taxes. 

The DFL lied to the people.

TheStrib, in this editorial, is covering for the lie, and doing it clumsily. 

Well, too clumsily to fool anyone that’s paying attention. 

But the Strib’s political coverage isn’t aimed at that audience.

The Ringer

The relationship between the Democrats and the  media occasionally usually seems intimate to the point of unseemly.

But it rarely seems like the media are directly employed by the Democrat party (Keri Miller and Lori Sturdevant notwithstanding).

But that’s changed.

Perhaps you recall; a few years ago, I was part of a small group – along with left-leaning reporter David Brauer and several Senate staffers – that rewrote the Senate’s media credentialing rules.  The changes opened up the Senate to all manner of alternative media, including bloggers.

That was a good thing.

But one of the rules read like this: “Organizations owned or controlled by registered lobbyists, political parties or other party organizations (defined as organizations registered with the Campaign Finance Board or the Federal Election Commission) shall not be granted credentials.”

Bill Glahn noticed something:

It turns out that in 2012 and 2013, the senate Democrats paid a total of $30,250 for “research” to a company listed as “Enlighten Enterprise” of 254 Wheeler Street in St. Paul.

Records on file at the Minnesota State Secretary of State’s Office show that a company called “Enlightened Enterprises” was registered at that address on July 25, 2012 by a Shawn Towle. The first payment from senate Democrats to Enlighten Enterprise occurred on July 26, 2012.

As pure coincidence would have it, a Shawn Towle is listed in both the 2012 and 2013 editions of Capitol News Coverage Directory as an accredited member of the senate press corps, representing Checks & Balances. That Shawn Towle is also listed in the current 2014 edition.

Sources in the Senate tell me Towle is at press conferences, pressing Republicans and back-slapping Democrats…

…which is fine, and not much different than the rest of the Capitol press corps.

But none of them are paid by the Senate DFL Caucus.

Is the Senate DFL paying for “media” presence, and violating its own rules in the process?

Someone should ask Tom Bakk…

More later.

Ta Ta

Morgan’s prime-time show is now mulch.

He was most famous for trying to return America’s gun laws to pre-revolutionary standards.

No, even that noted conservative tool, the NYTimes, caught that:

Mr. Morgan’s approach to gun regulation was more akin to King George III, peering down his nose at the unruly colonies and wondering how to bring the savages to heel. He might have wanted to recall that part of the reason the right to bear arms is codified in the Constitution is that Britain was trying to disarm the citizenry at the time.

I, for one, was looking forward to dumping the unctuous old Pom into Boston Harbor.

But I’ll settle for this, for now.

Our Idiot Elite

One of the things you learn by studying “progressivism” (as starkly opposed to classical liberalism) is the contempt its practitioners have for their subjects.

Er, citizens.  Sorry.  That was a slip.

Micheal Barone reviews a book – ““The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class.” by Fred Siegel – and  runs down some history of this contempt, a history lesson you just didn’t get in high school:

Progressivism was repudiated in the landslide election of Warren Harding in 1920, at which point disenchanted [post-Wilsonian] liberal thinkers turned their ire against middle-class Americans who, in the “Roaring ’20s,” were happily buying automobiles, refrigerators, radios, and tickets to the movies.

The novels of Sinclair Lewis, the journalism of H. L. Mencken, and the literary criticism of Van Wyck Brooks heaped scorn on the vast and supposedly mindless Americans who worked hard at their jobs and joined civic groups — Mencken’s “booboisie.”

I’ve always been annoyed by the retroactive regard Mencken gets – but given his resonance with our intellectual “ruling class”, it makes disturbing sense. 

These 1920s liberals idealized the “noble aspiration” and “fine aristocratic pride” in an imaginary Europe, and considered Americans, in the words of a Lewis character, “a savorless people, gulping tasteless food,” and “listening to mechanical music, saying mechanical things about the excellence of Ford automobiles, and viewing themselves as the greatest race in the world.”

This contempt for ordinary Americans mostly persisted in changing political environments. During the Great Depression, many liberals became Communists, proclaiming themselves tribunes of a virtuous oppressed proletariat that would have an enlightened rule…The supposedly mindless 1950s, Siegel recalls, were actually a time of elevated culture, with thousands of Great Books discussion groups across the nation and high TV ratings for programs such as Shakespeare’s Richard III, starring Laurence Olivier.

And let’s not forget the left’s tenuous relationship-of-convenience with rationality:

Liberals since the 1920s have claimed to be guided by the laws of science, but often it was crackpot science, like the eugenics movement that sought forced sterilizations.

Other social-science theories proved unreliable in practice. Keynesian economics crashed and burned in the stagflation of the 1970s.

The academy and the media it spawned has spent nearly 100 years trying to give Real America an inferiority complex. 

Read the whole thing.

The Secret Handshake

The Strib is discontinuing its “Contributing Columnists” column – or at least the part of it that featured conservatives like Katherine Kersten and Jason Lewis – in favor of installing Doug Tice as the paper’s sole voice of “dissent”.

Now, I’m acquainted with Doug.  I’ve interviewed him.  He’s a good guy, and a good reporter.

But having him serve as the sole voice of dissent on the Strib’s DFL-blue columnists’ row?

Bill Glahn writes about the changeover:

If such a thing is possible, I participated in a useful discussion on Twitter last night. The principal participants included my internet radio partner—St. Paul attorney John Gilmore—Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial page editor Scott Gillespie, and former editor and current Southwest Journal columnist David Brauer.

Prompting our conversation was the apparent decision by the Star Tribune to discontinue the weekly Sunday Opinion page “Contributing Columnist” feature, in which non-liberal voices rotated through about once a month. The feature included columns from conservative author Katherine Kersten, conservative radio talk show host Jason Lewis, and centrist politicians Tim Penny and Tom Horner.

That space is to be filled by a weekly column from current Star Tribune staffer D.J. Tice. I’ve met Mr. Tice on a number of occasions and have read his work for years. Not to damn him with faint praise, but he strikes me as a reasonable sort, very middle-of-the-road.

And he is.  This blog has mixed it up with Tice, and come away better for the discussion.

But here’s the beef:

To my taste, he comes across as more Joe Lieberman than George Bush. Perhaps, though, I will be pleasantly surprised by his work in this new role.

If you go waaaaay back to when Tice was with the Pioneer Press, he was…Republican.  Low-key, not especially ideological.

Mr. Brauer was among those cheering the move, telling us that the current conservative lineup was not “worthy” and did not “best showcase” our side of the aisle.

I’ve had that same discussion with Brauer, among others on the left.   I asked – in a city full of highly capable conservative writers (John Hinkeraker, Walter Hudson, Ed Morrissey, Bill Glahn himself, Scott Johnson, Erin Haust, and on a good day yours truly), what was the problem?  Finding a new conservative to fill the space would be a cakewalk!

And Glahn has the same question I did:

What makes a conservative “worthy”? It is a willingness to support the larger progressive cause? In Part 1 of this series, I quote National Review’s Jonah Goldberg on the liberal view of what the proper role of conservatives should be in the national discourse,

“Good conservatives… should know their place and gladly serve as Sherpas to the great mountaineers of liberalism, pointing out occasional missteps, perhaps suggesting a slight course correction from time to time, but never losing sight of the need for upward ‘progress’ and happily carrying the extra baggage for progressives in their zealous but heroic quest for the summit.”
For another view of a worthy role for conservatives, in Part 2 of this series, I quote the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto as he reviews a piece by Time magazine’s Joe Klein on the subject of ObamaCare,

What Klein wishes for is a division of labor in which the two parties would cooperate to make government bigger. He’d like the Republicans to reinvent themselves as a non-ideological party devoted to effective management, which would allow the Democrats to focus on expanding government. In such a world, Democrats would face no serious resistance to their legislative efforts, and there would be less risk of ObamaCare-style failures because the elephants’ job would be to clean up after the donkeys.

There’s all that; a decade of reading Lori Sturdevant’ll tell you that the views above are more common than not.

But the other subtext I got from discussing this with Brauer was the idea that their idea of a “worthy” “conservative” is someone who might be incrementally to the right of the rest of columnist’s row – enough to allow plausible deniability of bias without being too threatening – but most importantly, someone who knows the secret journalists’ handshake.

In other words – someone who is a journo first and foremost, and a dissenter from the group orthodoxy…somewhere down the list. 

Is it a make-work program in an industry increasingly full of people scrambling for jobs with non-profits or PR firms?

Or is it sometime more?

And are people (like, occasionally, a very frustrated me) being shortsighted for saying “a pox on their house and all like them?”

Glahn says yes:

For the reader, the absence of dissenting views—or when rebuttals are allowed only to hand-picked issues at certain times—reinforces the impression that no credible opposition exists to the progressive worldview or that there exists no viable alternatives to liberal policies. As a result, conservative election triumphs (like Scott Walker’s) or the failure of progressive initiatives (like MNsure) catch the reader by complete surprise: from faithfully reading the Star Tribune, they would not be aware such outcomes were possible.

This, of course, ties into my thesis – that most Minnesota liberals never learn how to debate conservatives, and conservatism, because they never actually encounter it as anything but a punch line, a defamatory stereotype, or a crisis.  From our DFL-owned school system, through our university system in which ”questioning authority” means “from the left only”, to the non-profits and academic and government union jobs that absorb so much of the regional left, they never have to confront considered, intelligent dissent – because the institutions that “inform” them carefully filter everything about conservative dissent that can’t be turned into a Sack cartoon from them. 

I still believe that even a liberal newspaper and its readers would benefit from a regular conservative presence on its pages. Thoughtful conservative commentary that describes, week-in-and-week-out, a workable alternative set of policies based on a competing worldview would force liberals to sharpen their arguments and readers to expand their horizons.

I believe the mainstream media hit a fork in the road over the past few decades; inform people, or serve a political end.  They made their choice, and they’re going to keep running with it.

And while I have the utmost respect for Doug Tice, he’s less a dissent from the Strib’s suffocating groupthink than he is the “good cop” to a room full of rhetorical “bad cops”. 

It’s not actually dissent.

Chanting Points Memo: Will Susan Perry Ever Stop Treating Readers Like Junior High Kids?

There must be a legislative session coming up; the MinnPost – a local group-blog funded by liberals with deep pockets employing a rogue’s gallery of recycled local big-media people – is back on the gun beat.

Last week, Susan Perry – their “consumer health reporter”, whose sloppy reporting on this subject we’ve repeatedly, even routinely, beaten up in this space – wrote a fluff piece about a metastudy (a repackaging of the data in other studies) appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine that shows that having a gun in the home doubles chance of a murder, and triples the chance of suicide.

And it reminded me of an episode from twenty years ago.

Let’s flash back, shall we?

The Gullible, Biased Hack Beat:  Back in the early nineties, the anti-gun media (which was most of them, back then) breathlessly recited a factoid; a study in the New England Journal of Medicine had showed, we were told, that a gun in the home was 43 times as likely to kill the owner, or someone the owner knew, than it was to kill a criminal.

The media reported this uncritically, without question, much less the faintest pretense of analysis of the data that led to that very specific number.

Of course, some Real Americans in the Second Amendment movement did dig into the study, back when “the internet” was still “Usenet” for most people.

They found that the data came from King County, Washington, during a period of several years in the late eighties.  And the “43:1″ ratio actually broke out, over the period of time, to nine justifiable deaths of criminals that the shooter didn’t know, against something like 380-odd other firearms deaths.

And of those 380-odd firearm deaths, the vast majority were suicides – enough to account for 36-37 of the “43″.  Of the remaining 6 from the “43″ – 50-odd firearms deaths – there were a few accidents; the rest were murders or manslaughters of one kind or another.  And note that it only counted the presence of a gun in the home, not whether it was used; if someone broke into your home and shot you as you were peeling potatoes at your kitchen counter, but there was a gun in the house, it went into the “43″.

Suicide is obviously a problem – but it doesn’t depend on firearms.  Japan, where guns are unobtainable, has double the US’ suicide rate.   But leaving out suicides, the rate dropped to more like six to one.

But there were other clinkers in the way the “43:1″, or even the 6:1, figures were generated, and related to the public by a media that, at best, didn’t know what it was talking about and, at worst, didn’t care.

Walt White Knew Jack Welker!:  The phrase “gun owner or someone they know” was the first problem.

Someone who shoots himself, obviously, is “killing themselves or someone they know”.  But then so is a drug dealer shooting a rival, or a customer that owes them money, is “killing someone they know”, as is a gang-banger shooting a long-time rival So is a woman shooting an ex-husband that’s been stalking and threatening her.  So is someone killing a robber that they had met, even once, ever.

The NEJM study didn’t distinguish between those types of killings.  The “1″ in the “43:1″ ratio only included justifiable homicides where the shooter had never met the victim.

Why So Bloodthirsty?:  Did you notice that the only “good” results in the New England Journal study – the “1″ in “43:1″ – were the nine justifiable killings of complete strangers?

Leaving aside the likelihood (indeed, fact) that some of the homicides of acquaintances were justifiable – why is a justifiable killing of a complete, malevolent stranger the only legitimate use of a firearm?

The study didn’t account for deterrences of other crimes.  A gun used to scare away a burglar or a stalker doesn’t have to kill anyone to have a beneficial effect – deterring a felony without a shot being fired.

The Real Results?:  So when you take the numbers from the “43:1″ ratio, and then…:

  • factor out suicides (which are a problem, and were the vast majority of the deaths in the study, but are entirely different than crimes committed with malice against others)
  • move the justifiable homicides of “acquaintances” – ex-spouses and the like – into the “good” column”
  • Account for the “bad” shootings that involved someone who was drunk or high, or had a criminal record
  • Add in estimates of the number of crimes that would have been deterred by law-abiding citizens with guns in the same area during the same period

…then the original New England Journal of Medicine study’s numbers came out more like this:

  • A gun in a home in which one or more residents had a criminal record, drinking or drug problem was equally likely to be involved in a murder or unjustified killing as it was to deter a crime.
  • A gun in a home without any of those problems was dozens or hundreds of times as likely to deter a crime (depending on the estimate of deterrences you accepted – from the conservative FBI estimate to the much more expansive estimate by Gary Kleck, which by the way tracks pretty well with the Centers for Disease Control’s recent work on the subject) as to be involved in an unjustifiable homicide.  That’s dozens at least, hundreds at most

So How About Sue Perry’s Article?:  A quick scan of the metastudy in Annals shows that it (or, more proximately, the studies it mines for data) does not, in fact, control for…:

  • drug abuse
  • Alcohol abuse
  • criminal records

…among the subjects in the “study”.

Like the reporting on the NEJM study twenty-odd years ago, it considers firearms in a vacuum, without accounting for any of the human factors – criminal activity of the owner, sustance abuse issues, or mental illness.

Neither does it distinguish between justifiable homicide – which accounts for 2-3% of all firearms deaths in America in a given year – and murder, manslaughter or accidental deaths. 

It’s junk science…

…well, no.  It’s junk social science, which is the worst kind.

Susan Perry is doing junk reporting of junk non-science, to report a meaningless, junk conclusion. 

Why?

Remember:  The MinnPost operates with the assistance of a large annual grant from the Joyce Foundation.

Follow the money. Journos do it – when it’s not Alida Messinger or Michael Bloomberg’s money, anyway.

The Joyce Foundation also funds…

  •  ”ProtectMN”, the closest Minnesota gets to an actual gun control “organization”,
  • “TakeActionMN”, which essentially serves as an unregulated “progressive” political party whose mission is to drive the DFL to the left.  It may be the most successful political party in Minnesota today – precisely because the laws that apply to the GOP and (to some extent) DFL don’t apply to it. 

 

All “journalism” about guns – and politics and general – from the MinnPost must be considered with that in mind.

So why would the MinnPost publish a continuous chain of stories about Second Amendment issues that range from bad science to bad history to bad scholarship to really, really bad reporting

Because, I suggest, it’s what they’re being paid to do.   

There was a time when “journalists” would have recoiled at any suggestion that their coverage was bought and paid for to secure some special interest’s narrative. 

Those days are long past us – to everyone who pays attention.

File Under “Things Everyone In The Twin Cities IT Community Knew A Year Ago”

MNSure’s development process was, and remains, a shambles:

An Optum report released Wednesday cites major problems with MNsure.

According to the report, “Program management structure and process is nonexistent.” Optum says MNsure’s management decision making was “occurring via crisis mode.”

Thing is, the warning signs were there.  

Why, if only our society had an institution – perhaps one with printing presses and transmitters and a legion of workers who consider themselves an order of aescetic info-monks, dedicated to bringing the truth to the unwashed masses…

…that don’t get financially tied to the institutions they’re supposed to be covering.

This Is Today’s “Progressive” Journalism

SOUTH DAKOTA MOVES TO LEGALIZE MURDER OF ABORTION PROVIDERS”

The headline – re-tweeted by legions of “progressive” alt-media droogs – wasn’t remotely ambiguous; supposedly, a bill in the South Dakota legislature would legalize the murder of abortion providers. 

Now – what’s the rule?

If the leftymedia says something about conservatives, distrust.  Then verify.  Then, almost invariably distrust some more, because it’s a lie (with the propability approaching 100% in direct proportion to the sensationalism of the claim.  Indeed, I’m going to call this the Mother Jones Corollary to Berg’s Tenth Law, since MaJo is one of the most consistent offenders. 

So - read the article - which screams its throat raw that South Dakota is going to all but sell license to kill Infanticidiatricians.   

Then note the updates, which gingerly note that the bill actually makes a legitimate immediate threat of death or bodily harm to a fetus via an illegal act a justification to homicide, per South Dakota law, same as with any other person.  With the emphasis being on illegal acts, which abortion, more’s the pity, is not. 

So all together now; if the “progressive media” says it, it’s probably a lie.  And if you check into it, it’ll turn out to be pretty much always definitely a lie. 

Hope we’ve cleared that up.