Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Other Items

In what the New York Times should hope is the worst written article of the week (it really would be hard for worse writing to appear in the paper), David Carr's "Harper's Set to Name Its Next Editor" announces that in April Roger D. Hodge "will succeed Lewis H. Lapham as editor" of the magazine. With paragraphs that seem to read like information was in preceding ones (but wasn't) and an all round snide little attitude, this is a really poorly written article. Here's an excerpt of the first two paragraphs:

Harper's Magazine is an intellectual hothouse that tends to grow its own. The magazine will announce today that Roger D. Hodge, 38, will succeed Lewis H. Lapham as editor in April, and Mr. Hodge is no exception. After being turned down for an internship in 1996, he got a call back a few days later and has remained planted at the magazine since, holding a variety of jobs, most recently serving as deputy editor.
Then again, Mr. Hodge was born and raised in Del Rio, Tex., and as the son of a rancher knows his way around cattle, sheep and a gun. The family spread is now a hunting ground, and Mr. Hodge's gimlet eye extends beyond raw copy to the scope of a rifle.

"Then again"? Exactly what does Carr believe he's implied in the first paragraph? Either the article's been badly written (by Carr or others who stripped out something) or Carr's attempting (badly) to argue that someone born in Del Rio isn't naturally suited (due to birth place or location?) for "an intellectual hothouse."

Carr also seems bound and deterimend to liken Harper's to the Atlantic Monthly and pooh-pahs John R. MacArthur's [comparison] of his magazine to The New Yorker. To anyone who's read all three magazines, MacArthur's comparison doesn't seem off base. To anyone who's followed the Times' own coverage of The Atlantic (including the relocation) in the last few years, MacArthur's comparison doesn't seem off base.

Unlike friends at CBS, I don't dislike Carr's writing. I usually enjoy it (even the column about his daughter's fondness for for getting information online as opposed to relying on more traditional means) but this article suffers from something. Hopefully, that's a desire on the part of someone other than Carr to rewrite it.

There's also an eagerness to trash the magazine (Harper's) that may confuse readers. For those who don't read Harper's, let's clear that up. While the Times can wax poetic about The Atlantic, Harper's has covered issues that the Times takes a pass on. The news section of the paper prefers to operate under the belief that a Naomi Klein or a Greg Palast or a Mark Crispin Miller doesn't exist. Questions raised, for instance, about voting irregularities (Palast or Crispin Miller) are enough to make the Grey Lady turn red. And of course Klein's pioneering work covering the occupation of Iraq makes the Times uncomfortable. (This is true of Klein's writing that regularly appears in The Nation and The Guardian but in the case of Harper's it refers to "Baghdad Year Zero.") In the case of all three journalists, something's more being done than think pieces and they're topics that the paper prefers to ignore.

What they are is investigative journalism that you won't find in The Atlantic which prefers to traffic in conventional wisdom and take on a few obvious suspects instead of getting to the core of the issue. (The Atlantic's also been more than happy to traffic in backlash stereotypes that are so pleasing to the Times as an institution.)

The insults just pile on in Carr's article to "the left-leaning Harper's" which, Carr admits, "is selling better on the newsstand than it has in 20 years" but seems to file the success under Bush bashing. (The right leaning Atlantic, apparently, is more akin to the people profiled Saturday who are now questioning the Bully Boy they once voted for.) Contrast this gleefully rude article with the hand-holding piece on how The Atlantic had switched locations for its base and you'll grasp how the paper (as an institution) let's objectivity fly out the window when it "covers" an issue, topic or publication that it wishes would just go away.

It fills a "niche," the paper argues, but apparently that's all Harper's can hope to do and, in the eyes of the Times, that has to do with the issues the "left-leaning" Harper's raises. Carr should be embarrassed his name is attached to the piece. (I expect many calls today from friends at CBS saying "I told you so!") (To which I will readily cop to "I was wrong, you were right" repeatedly.)

Carr (or "Carr") notes that Hodge "was not in the mood to pick any fights with other publications." As anyone reading the article in the paper today will attest, the Times suffered from no such reluctance.

Working from "470 pages of documents," David D. Kirkpatrick's "Alito Memos Supported Expanding Police Powers" paints a portrait of a Supreme Court nominee not interested in individual liberties and right but eager to bring on a police state. From the article:

In a 1986 memorandum, Mr. Alito argued that an opinion of the American Bar Association prohibiting lawyers from secretly taping conversations should not block lawyers for the Internal Revenue Service from secretly taping as part of a federal criminal investigation.
In another, he argued against proposed "model rules of professional responsibility" from the District of Columbia that would have precluded investigation of an individual without a "good faith belief" that the person was involved in criminal activity. He argued that the rules were written so broadly that they would cramp the ability of prosecutors to pursue legitimate leads.
In another memorandum, Mr. Alito argued that the Federal Bureau of Investigation should have broad latitude to investigate federal employees, contending that a federal district court decision appearing to limit such investigations was wrongly decided.
He also took a narrow view of an appeals court case, Clark v. Library of Congress, that prohibited an investigation of a government employee on the basis of his membership in a socialist party. Mr. Alito argued that decision still left room for a preliminary inquiry without more evidence, in part to determine if "there is a reasonable possibility that the employee is disloyal" and thus justifying a fuller investigation.

Sidebar (not in the article), will the White House's use of Steve Schmidt to lead on Alito's nomination backfire on them? Despite some glowing profiles, that's a question some journalists (at other papers) maintain they are pursuing.

Deidre notes John M. Broder's "Lawmaker Quits After He Pleads Guilty to Bribes:"

Representative Randy Cunningham, a Republican from San Diego, resigned from Congress on Monday, hours after pleading guilty to taking at least $2.4 million in bribes to help friends and campaign contributors win military contracts.
Mr. Cunningham, a highly decorated Navy fighter pilot in Vietnam, tearfully acknowledged his guilt in a statement read outside the federal courthouse in San Diego.
"The truth is, I broke the law, concealed my conduct and disgraced my office," he said. "I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions and, most importantly, the trust of my friends and family."

The truth is, the Times has little interest in exploring the case (which is why so many details are left out of it, details published in other papers). The truth is, Cunningham's too low level to expect to go from disgrace to occasional op-ed contributor for the Times but they'll still keep the kid gloves on when covering his conviction. The truth is, he did break the law and a real paper would be interested in digging in on this story.

Erika steers us to Linda Greenhouse's "Case Reopens Abortion Issue for Justices" on Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England:

And in fact, the case raises two questions with broader implications for the future of abortion.
One is how flexible a restriction on access to abortion must be when a woman's pregnancy poses a threat to her health. New Hampshire imposes a 48-hour waiting period after the required notice to at least one parent. Like all states, it provides an exception for conditions that present an immediate threat to a pregnant teenager's life.
But of the 43 states with parental-involvement statutes, New Hampshire is one of only five that do not also provide an exception for non-life-threatening medical emergencies, and it was on this basis that two lower federal courts declared the law unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court's decision in the case, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, may therefore shed light on the contours of the "health exception" that the court's abortion precedents have required since Roe v. Wade in 1973.
The second question, while seemingly quite technical, has perhaps even broader implications. The issue is under what circumstances federal courts can continue to do what they did in this case and in many other abortion cases: bar the enforcement of abortion restrictions that have not yet gone into effect, and so cannot be said to have injured any specific plaintiff.
Waiting in the wings, as the justices surely know, is another, perhaps even more highly charged abortion case. The Bush administration recently filed an appeal in defense of the federal ban on the procedure that abortion opponents have labeled "partial birth abortion," and the court must decide shortly whether to hear it.
That law, passed in 2003, has never taken effect. Federal courts around the country have declared it unconstitutional for lack of the health exception that the Supreme Court said was essential when it struck down a nearly identical Nebraska law in 2000. In passing the federal ban, Congress took account of that ruling by declaring that a health exception was superfluous because the procedure was, in its view, never medically necessary.

Lloyd e-mails to note Ruth Conniff's "What's Good for General Motors Is Killing America" (Ruth Conniff's Weekly Column, The Progressive):

If any good is to come of the demise of good corporate employers like GM, it could be that Americans see the need to push for a national solution to the health-care crisis.
"I think GM ought to get on Congress and push for health-care reform," says Yeager. "Instead of blaming the UAW, let's talk about national health care."
Rightwingers like Lowry think good pay and benefits for factory workers are a cumbersome relic of the past. But there are still enough Americans who have a vision of a large, secure middle class that there is time to push for a future in which we are not divided into the few, isolated "New Economy" millionaires, and a vast population of underpaid, uninsured workers with no power to improve their lot.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com and don't forget to catch (audio, video or transcript) Democracy Now! today.

[Note: Typos pointed out by Shirley have been corrected.]