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Print view: As your nation slides toward the sea, the Times frisks Bachmann's makeup
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FRISKING HER WARDROBE AND MAKEUP! As your nation slides toward the sea, the Times frisks Bachmann’s makeup: // link // print // previous // next //

The Washington Post gets it right: We think Trip Gabriel’s “news report” deserves full attention today (see below).

That said, we were struck by the Washington Post’s editorial in support of Warren Buffett’s tax proposals. We recommend that you read the whole thing. But the editors ended with these proposals. Shouldn’t libs bruit this around?

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (8/24/11): The 1986 tax reform closed the gap between capital gains and ordinary income, taxing both at a top rate of 28 percent. But subsequent legislation under both Republican and Democratic administrations, culminating in the tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush, reopened it. This is one reason that the effective tax rate on the top 400 earners in the United States fell from 29.2 percent in 1992 to 21.5 percent in 2008, even as their income more than quintupled.

For Mr. Buffett, the solution is higher rates on both ordinary and investment income for all those earning $1 million a year, with an extra boost in rates for those making $10 million and up. That seems reasonable; but he isn’t precisely clear about how to do it. Unless you equalize the ordinary income and capital-gains rates, there would still be myriad ways for the rich to avoid taxes.

Congress should follow the precedent set by the 1986 reform: Tax all income at the same top rate. Wiping out other special breaks would yield even greater gains in revenue and equity. Indeed, expanding the tax base could yield more revenue at a relatively modest top rate. It might not have to be much more than the 29.2 percent top earners paid back in 1992. A fair, efficient system that raises more revenue than the current one is something all Americans—from plutocrats to the poverty-stricken—could support.

Wow! They even used that “plutocrats” lingo!

As we liberals clowned and played this week (more tomorrow), this editorial got little attention. Our question:

How can progressives establish forums in which such topics are explored by a range of average citizens? Very few people have ever heard a serious discussion of tax fairness. But on all sides of the tribal divide, everyone is being ripped off, in various ways, as the plutocrats extend their agendas.

Everyone hears the disinformation; it gets churned every day by a range of talk hosts. How can progressives establish forums which gain citizens’ trust and extend a fuller discussion?

We know, we know! As good liberals, we shouldn’t even imagine such things! We should be railing against Those People—about how very bad we can imagine they are.

That said, Alert! Tonight’s must-see TV! One of the professors who wrote this Times op-ed piece will be on the Maddow Show tonight. We plan to discuss that column again next week, in conjunction with the fascinating blog post by Kevin Drum which we recommended yesterday. (Read all the comments and links.)

Special report: Two days of the dumb!

PART 1—FRISKING HER WARDROBE AND MAKEUP (permalink): In large part, it’s the dumbness of our upper-end culture which is bringing our nation down.

As part of the general mega-dumbness, we liberals can only see the dumbness in the other tribe. Often, we imagine this dumbness and bruit it around when it isn’t even there.

But the dumbness of the mainstream press corps has been a monster problem for years. The liberal world has never identified this problem, in part because our intellectual leaders are too dumb (and conflicted) to care.

Just how dumb is the upper-end mainstream press corps? This morning, Trip Gabriel teaches a lesson in The Culture of Dumb in the New York Times.

Gabriel reports today on Michele Bachmann’s makeup and clothes. To read his “news report,” just click this. Just to save a lot of time, let’s explain the obvious background:

The punishment factor: As is obvious from Gabriel’s report, the mainstream press corps is unhappy with the treatment and access they’re getting from Bachmann. When this type of situation develops with a disfavored candidate, low-brow, entitled news orgs like the Times will look for ways to fight back.

Past example: By February 2000, it was obvious that the mainstream press corps had gone to war with Candidate Gore. Obviously, the candidate knew it. Ranking members of the “liberal” “intellectual elite” were sworn to silence, of course.

In reaction, the Gore campaign limited the press corps’ access to the candidate. (In reaction to the swoon for McCain, the Bush campaign was doing the same thing at this juncture.) On March 2, the New York Times fought back against Gore. The punishment was dished by the paper’s always astounding “reporter,” the ludicrous Katharine “Kit” Seelye.

No, we’re not making this up. What follows appeared in a “news report” about the hated candidate:

SEELYE (3/2/00): But just as Mr. Gore was warming up to voters, he was clamming up to the press. The campaign wanted to ensure that he was delivering only the rehearsed message of the day, not random comments that were "off-message."

To see just how focused Mr. Gore has become on this task, go back to the scene in the hotel lobby here on Tuesday night.

The escort finally arrived and the traveling horde of perhaps two dozen journalists took the elevator to the vice president's suite. When everyone was assembled, Mr. Gore said nothing—this was supposed to be a "photo op" only—until a reporter asked, "How you feeling?"

"I'm grateful to the people of Washington State because, based on the projections, it looks like a big win, but I'm not taking anything for granted," Mr. Gore said.

He was then asked what message he had for Mr. Bradley.

"Uh, well, I don't, uh, have any, uh, message, uh, for, uh, for Senator Bradley," he responded slowly. "Uh, I, I, my message is for the, the voters of the country. Uh, I ask for their support. I'm not taking a single vote for, for granted."

Another question came. When would it be time for him to start unifying the Democratic Party?

At this point, Gore aides started trying to remove reporters from the room. Mr. Gore answered, "I, I am not taking a single vote for granted."

Much cross-talk ensued as the aides continued trying to hustle reporters out and Mr. Gore asserted, with the same rote-like repetition with which he famously said that there was "no controlling legal authority" over his fund-raising techniques, that he was not taking a single vote for granted.

Gore was punished as Seelye crammed in a reference to those fund-raising matters—and as she transcribed his “uhs.” At a later date, Seelye told writer Michael Erard that the Times had been experimenting with a new way of transcribing spoken speech when she penned this ridiculous passage.

Seelye’s claim may have been true, of course. In much the same way, gargoyles on major American buildings may fly away late tonight.

Gore was punished in Seelye’s “news report” for failing to provide enough access—and for the fact that the press was at war. Rather plainly, the same dynamic is displayed in Gabriel’s “news report.”

The phoniness factor: Gabriel complains in various ways about the lack of access to Bachmann. In this case, the means of punishment is a report about her makeup and wardrobe. Needless to say, the Times must conjure up an excuse for doing such brain-dead, baldly sexist “reporting.” Result? Of course! Gabriel pretends he’s discussing these topics because he’s concerned about the way female candidates are subjected to this type of scrutiny.

Why is the Times reporting on wardrobe and makeup? Of course! Because it’s a problem when so many others report on wardrobe and makeup! Citizens should feel massive contempt for “journalists” reptilian enough to play this game, dumb enough to think that their conduct isn’t transparent. For “journalists” who punish disfavored candidates with low-IQ bullshit like this:

GABRIEL (8/25/11): Unlike other candidates who let reporters fire questions after a public appearance for 5 or 10 minutes in a scrum, known as a “press avail,” Mrs. Bachmann takes questions in a well-mannered way at a microphone stand in front of her bus—but only from reporters whose names she calls from a list, like a substitute teacher.

“Like a substitute teacher!” What have Americans ever done to have life-forms like Gabriel, and his editors, arrayed in such high places?

The reinvention of obvious history factor: As fools like Gabriel play these games, they will naturally say and do anything to keep their bullshit alive. In the following passage, we learn that Gabriel is the world’s dumbest man—or perhaps just the least honest:

GABRIEL: The campaign seems determined to play down the subtle makeover that Mrs. Bachmann has undergone since she entered the presidential race in mid-June. In the following two weeks, she spent $4,700 on a hair and makeup stylist, according to campaign finance reports.

Analysts said this was unsurprising—in fact, the campaign would be derelict if it did not anticipate how female candidates’ appearances are more intensely judged.

“Women are scrutinized in a much more personal way,” said Tiffany Dufu, president of the White House Project, a nonpartisan group that advances women in politics. A study it did of Elizabeth Dole’s run for president in 1999 found she received more news coverage of her personality and clothing than the men in the race, and less of her positions on issues.

Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, said female candidates still faced such scrutiny, citing an unflattering photo feature on The Huffington Post comparing Mrs. Bachmann’s long eyelashes, apparently false, to Tammy Faye Bakker’s.

“I’m assuming that the people handling Michele Bachmann are studying what happened to Hillary Clinton closely in the last campaign,” Ms. Walsh said. “There was tremendous focus on what she wore and how her hair looked and whether her blouse was showing cleavage. I would think that would lead them to being overly cautious and careful.”

Exhibiting more of the dogged reporting that makes the Times an utter embarrassment, Gabriel reports that Bachmann may have false eyelashes—and he compares her to Tammy Faye Bakker, but only to show us how wrong it was when the Huffington Post did the same! He also tells us that the campaign “seems determined to play down” Bachmann’s “makeover.” But he doesn’t explain how the campaign is playing the makeover down at all, or why you’d have to “play it down” if the “makeover” is so minor.

Obvious translation: Plainly, that paragraph was devised to let Gabriel use the word “makeover,” a classic term of press corps punishment. But the highlighted passage about Elizabeth Dole is really this article’s highlight. It may be true that Dole “received more news coverage of her personality and clothing” than the men in the Republican race that year; we haven’t seen the study in question. But all through the fall of 1999, a Democratic candidate, Candidate Gore, was savaged for his personality and clothing—for his boots, his suits, his polo shirts, the number of buttons on his suit jackets (three). For the color of the clothing he wore. For the identity of the person who allegedly told him to wear certain clothing. For the psychiatric tendencies displayed in his wardrobe choices.

This garbage was pimped by the New York Times and all across the mainstream press, as the career liberal world’s “intellectual leaders” agreed not to notice. But the attention paid to this candidate’s wardrobe dwarfed the attention paid to Dole’s. In fairness, Gabriel and his editors may be so dumb that they really don’t know this. Much more likely, they are simply being dishonest—again.

The sheer stupidity of Gabriel’s report is a thing to behold. He writes at the very top end of your nation’s post-journalistic “press corps.” But good God! Note the way he reasons in this pitiful passage:

GABRIEL: Unlike other candidates who let reporters fire questions after a public appearance for 5 or 10 minutes in a scrum, known as a “press avail,” Mrs. Bachmann takes questions in a well-mannered way at a microphone stand in front of her bus—but only from reporters whose names she calls from a list, like a substitute teacher.

The list is compiled by Alice Stewart, Mrs. Bachmann’s press secretary, and whether she prescreens reporters and their questions to control the candidate’s message is an open issue.

Ms. Stewart insisted that she did not. The list, she said, is to exclude “Obama trackers” looking to provoke a gaffe, and to ensure that local reporters are not crowded out by the national news media. Local reporters’ questions often are less pointed.

Brandon Herring, a reporter for WMBF television in Myrtle Beach, said Ms. Stewart had approached him while Mrs. Bachmann spoke and asked if he wanted to ask a question. He said he did. “She said, ‘You want to ask about Myrtle Beach, I imagine,’ ” Mr. Herring said. “I was like, yeah, I guess I do.”

In that passage, Gabriel floats the idea that Bachmann’s press secretary is somehow “prescreening” reporters’ questions. Pitifully, that reported exchange with Herring represents the only “evidence” of this practice.

Today’s report is offensive and deeply dishonest—and it’s amazingly dumb. A few basic points in closing:

First, Gabriel normally serves as an education reporter. Do you begin to see why you learn so little about this topic from this pitiful newspaper?

Second, this pathetic paper kills trees today to report on Bachmann’s makeup. But as best we can tell, it has never reported what would have happened on August 3 if Bachmann’s absurd advice about the debt limit had been taken. Simply put, the Times is too dumb to tackle such questions. It does know how to frisk hair.

Your culture is currently dying from dumbness. The dumbness suffuses your upper-end press corps—and we even thought we spotted The Dumb on Our Own Liberal Channel this week!

Tomorrow: Frisking their oversized houses