Jim Rutenberg is Dumb

There has been a recent rash of pieces by journalists bemoaning the nasty tone of the letters they’ve been receiving from their readers. Personally, I think the real issue here is not that the tone of discourse of people who have traditionally written to journalists has taken a turn for the worse, but rather the convergence of two issues:

  • The Internet makes it very easy to send feedback to journalists.
  • The issues of the day have made many more people than usual take an interest in public affairs.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that telling Adam Nagourney that you hope his son gets killed in a Republican war is a pretty nasty thing to say, although I would counter that Adam is a semi-public figure who gets to go on the Charlie Rose Show, and the unfortunate downside of being a semi-public figure is that people might write you really nasty e-mails. But I really have to take issue with today’s piece in the New York Times on the same topic:

“Most of us now realize that this is a constant conversation, and I think that largely that part of it is good,” said Howard Fineman, chief political correspondent for Newsweek. “Some of the stuff includes very personal and nasty things about people – they go after people’s physical characteristics, they’ll say somebody’s ugly – and you just have to ignore that.”
Still, he said, “I would be lying if I didn’t say it could be hurtful.”
Bob Somerby, a comedian who runs a Web site called The Daily Howler that often accuses the news media of being shallow, lazy, bullied by Republicans and unfairly critical of Democrats, said a more genteel approach would not be effective. (He has referred to this reporter on his Web site as “dumb” and in “over his head” for being blind or turning a blind eye to Republican spin.)

It’s certainly infantile to call people ugly and dumb when you disagree with their reportage, but I think it’s equally (if not more) infantile to use your privileged position in the paper of record to whine about it. How thin-skinned are these people? Do they go to their mamas and cry whenever the mean bloggers call them names?
‘Cause we’ve heard a few things about their mamas, too.


Kerry Not a Heretic

Just in case you were wondering, it looks like John Kerry is not a heretic after all. And he got cleared by the No. 2 guy at the Inquisition, no less. From The New York Times:

BOSTON, Oct. 19 – The Roman Catholic Church’s official news service quoted an unnamed Vatican official on Tuesday as saying John Kerry was “not a heretic” for his stance on abortion rights.
The article by The Catholic News Service also quoted an unnamed Vatican official as saying Mr. Kerry was not about to be excommunicated because “you can incur excommunication” automatically “only if you procure or perform an abortion.”
But on Tuesday, Father Di Noia, an American priest who is highly influential in his position as under secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, took steps to distance himself from the letter. He told The Catholic News Service that “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has had no contact with Mr. Balestrieri” and that Mr. Balestrieri’s “claim that the private letter he received from Father Basil Cole is a Vatican response is completely without merit.”
Father Di Noia’s remarks to the news service seem to reflect a reluctance by at least some Vatican officials to be perceived as trying to meddle in an American presidential election, experts on the Vatican said.

Way back a long time ago, there was an ugly sentiment in this country that the Catholic Church was a foreign organization whose leadership went out of its way to control the decisions of its members, and that its members, therefore, could not be trusted to be good American citizens. Of course, that view was just used as a pretext by Americans who were simply anti-immigrant. But it seems to me that the (admittedly very few) bishops who are going around saying that it’s a sin to vote for pro-choice candidates are playing into exactly that stereotype.


Attack of the Weasel Vaccines

Courtesy, Asthmatic Weasels Blog.
From the BBC:

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said on Tuesday that vaccine manufacturer Aventis Pasteur would be able to produce an extra 2.6 million doses.

What Secretary Thompson neglected to mention was that the so-called Aventis is the result of a merger between a French (Rhône-Poulenc) and a German (Hoechst) company. Does the Bush Administration not realize that this company practically personifies the Axis of Weasel? Is it not possible that these vaccines could secretly contain defeatist chemicals intended to weaken our country’s resolve? Should they not, at least, label these vaccines such that patriotic Americans can be aware of the origins of the vaccines being injected into their (equally patriotic) children?


An old Rove mind trick

Karl Rove meets the press.
From the New York Times:

But in a sign that the Bush campaign suddenly found itself on the defensive, the president’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove, who is normally elusive to the press, sought out reporters to push the campaign’s argument that Mr. Kerry was a walking contradiction on Thursday night and that Mr. Bush was focused and pensive during the encounter, not peevish.

Rove: You don’t need to see Bush’s qualifications.
Press Corps: We don’t need to see Bush’s qualifications.
Rove: Bush was focused and pensive.
Press Corps: Bush was focused and pensive.
Rove: Kerry is most likely a pedophile.
Press Corps: Kerry is most likely a pedophile.