Patterico's Pontifications

3/25/2007

Is Rummygate an “Ethical” Problem? Nah — But It’s Plenty Goofy, All Right

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 10:25 pm

Regarding my recent Rummygate post, Tim McGarry comments:

Patrick, I read you as agreeing with Kevin [Roderick] that, ethically, Rumsfeld would be a poor choice. Let us know if that’s a misread.

It is a misread. I think Rumsfeld would have been a poor choice, but not “ethically.”

I come from the school of thought that says full disclosure washes away almost any accusation of “ethical” impropriety. (I said “almost.” Save your comments and e-mails with ridiculous hypotheticals illustrating the extreme exception to the rule. Please.) But — regardless of full disclosure — if what you’re disclosing is just plain goofy, the disclosure may not save you from being mocked bitterly.

I assume that using Rumsfeld would have (appropriately) resulted in an Editor’s Note, just as using Grazer would have (appropriately) resulted in its own Editor’s Note. Let’s enter the Alternate Universe, in which this experiment is allowed to flower, unimpeded by the objections of sanctimonious lefty types from the newsroom. How would those Editor’s Notes have read?

WEEK 1

This week’s Current section will be edited by Brian Grazer, a Hollywood producer. Full disclosure: editorial page editor Andres Martinez is currently dating public relations executive Kelly Mullens, who is an executive with the firm 42West. That firm represents Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment. When Martinez first chose Grazer for a guest editor spot, he consulted with 42West head Allan Mayer. At that time, 42West did not represent Grazer or his company. However, the 42West firm has since helped to distribute a news release regarding Grazer’s guest editorial spot, and in the interest of full disclosure, The Times has seen fit to notify readers of the relationship. Otherwise, Nikki Finke will end up doing a blog post with pictures of Martinez, Mullens, and Grazer, with crudely Photoshopped arrows connecting the pictures. And that would just embarrass the hell out of us. Hence this disclosure.

WEEK 2

This week’s Current section will be edited by Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense. Full disclosure: Rumsfeld is also the former squash partner of this newspaper’s publisher David Hiller. Hiller wrote a piece praising Rumsfeld here. But — just like last week, when the first guest editor spot went to a producer whose firm is represented by the P.R. firm of the editor’s girlfriend — personal relationships had nothing to do with the awarding of the guest editor spot.

WEEK 3

This week’s Current section will be edited by Manny Monterroso, the maître d’ at The Ivy. Full disclosure: when Andres Martinez and David Hiller went out for dinner last week to discuss the exciting new direction of Current, Manny got Andres and Mr. Hiller a really great table right next to Sandra Bullock, who acknowledged that the things the L.A. Times is doing with the Current section are, and we quote, “really great.” But we assure readers that the selection of Manny had little or nothing to do with that incident, and everything to do with Manny’s vision of a new and revitalized L.A. Just like Week 1, when the spot went to a producer whose company is represented by the editor’s girlfriend’s P.R. firm. And Week 2, when the spot went to the publisher’s former squash partner. This is all merit-based, people! Why can’t you see that?

Pretty soon, the jokes would start writing themselves. And most (if not all) of them would be way funnier than mine. (Yes, I’m walking right into your comment below.)

So: “ethical issue.” Nah.

But funny? In the right hands, you betcha.

P.S. If I can be serious for a second, the main reason the Staples Center deal was an issue was because of lack of disclosure. Is this too subtle a point for the self-righteous newsroom puffballs who have been flogging this issue?

Metropolitan Opera Simulcasts

Filed under: General,Music — Patterico @ 9:39 pm

This weekend, we saw a simulcast of the Metropolitan Opera’s Barber of Seville. I went with Marc “Armed Liberal” Danziger and his charming wife T.G.

If you don’t know about these, read about them here. The idea is that, on six Saturdays this year, the Metropolitan Opera simulcasts operas in high-definition on IMAX movie screens throughout the world. You go to your local movie theater and watch it live — but due to the magic of multiple cameras and good direction and production, you get to experience the opera from all different angles, including close-ups and audience shots . . . all while you munch your popcorn.

I first heard about it from my mom, who had seen Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky. They are running an encore broadcast of that next month, as well as a live performance of Puccini’s Il Trittico. I hope to see both.

The kids went and seemed to enjoy it okay. I told them the story on the hour-long drive to Irvine, and played them some music along the way. (Mrs. P. was at a work seminar.) Lauren (age 7) seemed to enjoy it. Matthew (age 4) was attentive during the first part, but faded away some after the intermission.

We talked about the fact that, while we were watching it in Irvine, G-ma was watching it in Fort Worth, Texas, at the very same time.

During the intermission, they interviewed the principal singers. The soprano playing Rosina was from Kansas, and said that her family was watching live, including some young relatives. “They’ll be asking why I’m crying so much,” she said. I leaned over to T.G. and said: “That’s what Matthew keeps wanting to know: ‘why is she crying?'”

Rosina knows kids.

Anyway, I highly recommend it. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than flying to New York to see the Met (trust me, I’ve done it), and you get a great seat, no matter where in the theater you sit.

Meeting Mailander, Fikes, Mike K., McVey, Etc. — and Almost Meeting David E.

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:25 pm

So I met Joseph Mailander, of the Martini Republic web site, at Cathy Seipp’s funeral.

He didn’t do any of the things that have annoyed me about him online. He didn’t suggest that I was a racist (because I oppose illegal immigration), or suggest that I shouldn’t have my job (because I am a “racist,” because I oppose illegal immigration), or imply (without evidence) that I blog on County time (which I don’t do).

Instead, he just shook my hand and thanked me for my recent post praising an excellent music review on his site. And I responded that it was a very good post.

Then someone dragged me elsewhere, and the conversation ended. But I thought to myself: wow, that guy seems pretty nice in person.

And I know Cathy Seipp always said he was, so I’m not alone there. (She said: “I actually have rather a soft spot for him.” And in person she told me that he had been quite nice to Maia — when I chided her for inviting Mailander (but not me) to Maia’s graduation party. Cathy responded that Maia had actually been the one handling the invitations, and Maia liked Joseph. So that made sense. Plus, I gather that Mailander was a neighbor of Cathy’s. So there you have it.)

I also saw David E., but I didn’t get a chance to say hi. Actually, I didn’t. See the UPDATE below.

Incidentally, David E. recently e-mailed me, asking:

While you’re perfectly free to ban me from posting on your site, don’t you think it’s a tad much to comment on my writing while CONTINUING to ban me, thus preventing me from making any reply?

He was referring to this post.

I thought he had something of a point, although he has done some of the same things Mailander has done in the past, like suggesting that I should be fired, claiming without basis that I am a racist, etc. You know, you can’t stop people from saying that kind of thing on other sites. But somehow, I just don’t feel like paying bandwidth costs to have people read such tripe.

I really want to let David E. back on. I keep hearing that he’s a good guy in person, and part of me wants to lift the ban. And, in fact, I would be thrilled to see all of the Seipp commenters commenting here more regularly. I met some of them at the funeral, including Mike K., Bradley J. Fikes, and Gary McVey.

But I just don’t need people threatening my job on my site. Or calling me a racist or a liar, completely without basis. Do it elsewhere. I can’t stop you. But I should pay for that? As they say: feh.

UPDATE: It turns out that I didn’t see David E. after all. He e-mails to say that he didn’t go.

Before you play the “they all look the same to Patterico” card, I have a few things to say in my defense: 1) I never met the guy before, and was going off a hazy memory of pictures seen online months ago; 2) the guy I saw, I viewed from 100-150 feet away; 3) David Scott, who has met David E., says that it looked like him from a distance; and 4) I really, really expected to see him there — so I didn’t even question it when I saw someone who resembled him.

Blog Issues

Filed under: Blogging Matters,General — Patterico @ 8:09 pm

The blog has undergone a heavy regimen of improvement today, some of which knocked it offline temporarily, and some of which has made it look weird in different ways. But all of it should end up being a good thing in the long run. The weirdness is continuing even as I publish this post. But we’re working on it.

One positive has emerged. You may have noticed a little thingie that shows up next to your URL: a purple “P” in the same Gothic style font as appears at the top of the main page. That’s called a “favicon,” and it was given to me months ago by Anwyn, but nobody had been able to make it actually happen for my blog until I asked Evariste today. I think it’s pretty cool.

One of these days, we’re going to get everything ironed out so that the site doesn’t crater every time Glenn Reynolds decides to toss a link my way. And when that day comes, there will be much rejoicing.

Until then, be patient. Thanks for reading.

The New York Times’s David Carr on the L.A. Times “Circular Firing Squad”

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Economics — Patterico @ 7:36 pm

Writing in the New York Times, David Carr has a hilarious take on the L.A. Times mess:

Reporting on the contretemps at The Los Angeles Times last week brings to mind a scene in which you come upon a sinking vessel and see people scrambling everywhere. And then you realize they are not looking for buckets, but guns.

At The Times last week, editors took aim at other editors, writers sprayed shots at their own newspaper, and the publisher drew a bead on his own foot. The shootout went off on the Web in real time, with blogs annotating every ricochet. Fittingly, the whole thing ended when the editorial page editor, after resigning, explained himself on a blog, using the digital platform to throw a grenade on the way out.

Andres Martinez, who shows no signs of slowing down in his zeal to provide usable quotes, provides insight into the factions’ use of blogs (L.A. Observed comes to mind):

“[L.A. Times leadership] panicked — it was like a university administration besieged by student protests — and in the end, it was a rather pathetic cave,” said Mr. Martinez, whose romantic entanglement became the focus of people in the newsroom concerned about the paper’s credibility.

“What changed between Wednesday morning and Wednesday evening was a couple of blog posts,” he said. “It was a weapon that the newsroom used to ratchet up the pressure on Hiller. It was fascinating in its transparency, but it was also very disruptive.”

Like me (and many other people), Carr doesn’t think that Grazergate was equivalent to the Staples Center scandal:

This was not the Staples Center. The Current section is frequently an afterthought and in need of some rejuvenation. Connections aside — my reading of the facts suggest that the relationship between Mr. Martinez and Ms. Mullens had no effect on the selection — Mr. Grazer was not a dumb choice for the experiment.

Of course, Carr’s article preceded the revelation of Rummygate. But I don’t think that was the Staples Center either. I’ll explain in an upcoming post.

Rummygate to Replace Grazergate?

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 3:59 pm

Hard on the heels of Grazergate . . . it’s Rummygate!

Summary: one of the other names mentioned for a guest editor spot for Sunday Current was Donald Rumsfeld — the former squash partner of publisher David Hiller.

And Hiller is rumored to have suggested Rummy’s name.

Hmmmm.

It doesn’t really sound like some earth-shaking ethical violation . . . but it does add weight to the personal connections angle of Grazergate. The connection to Rumsfeld has fewer degrees of separation than the Grazer connection did (at least as far as Hiller is concerned). It makes it look more and more like guest spots were being handed out to pals like candy.

On the other hand, I am aware of no reason to believe that Nick Goldberg (the editor of the Current section) had any objections to Rumsfeld as a guest editor. And Kevin Roderick — a former L.A. Times guy whose opinions often reflect the general ethos of the institution — seems to think that the problems associated with Rumsfeld go beyond his personal connection, and extend to his politics:

It’s not just that Rummy doesn’t lack for forums to express his views, has already had his ideas repudiated by half of America and would mark the Current section with a partisan stamp while undermining its efforts to foster an image as a forum for cutting-edge and provocative pieces. The main reason not to touch Rumsfeld is his connection to Publisher David Hiller, the guy who killed this weekend’s Current. They were racquetball buddies in Chicago [squash buddies, actually — Ed.] and colleagues in the Tribune fold, close enough that when Rumsfeld left the Pentagon, Hiller wrote a piece in Current about his friend. They are partisan fellow travelers: as recently as 2003, Hiller was donating cash to Republican campaigns. During the Reagan Administration Hiller was an assistant to Attorney General William French Smith.

Somehow, I just knew that references to Hiller’s Republican background were going to come to the fore as this controversy unfolded. I think you’ll see a lot more quotes like that in coming days.

I love the idea that we shouldn’t hear opinions that in any way are affected by Rumsfeld because he “has already had his ideas repudiated by half of America.” That sounds so much like something someone at The Times would say. I have a feeling Roderick is not the only guy saying it.

Don’t put that popcorn away just yet. And take a plate of bonbons to Cathy Seipp’s gravesite.

P.S. Didn’t Tim Rutten sanctimoniously assure us that publisher Hiller “had no trouble at all recognizing an ethical train wreck when he saw it coming”?

Not if he suggested Rummy, he didn’t.

Further evidence to buttress my skepticism of Rutten’s little tale.

In Case You Don’t Want to Just “Keep Scrolling”

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:14 pm

Wow: today I got my first-ever “keep scrolling” link from Instapundit. I feel like someone died and made me Tom Maguire! Anyway, I thought it might be a good idea for me to do a roundup of my recent posts on the L.A. Times‘s Andres Martinez/Grazergate non-scandal, in chronological order, so you can see it in a logical fashion:

  • I first mentioned the controversy here, and said that “we need to see all the e-mails concerning who was selected to publish on the opinion pages, and why — and have hearings with testimony, under oath, including transcripts, from all the players involved.” (I added: “Yes, I’m joking. I assume there is nothing to this.”)
  • In this post, I noted Andres Martinez’s startling statement: “I will not be lectured on ethics by some ostensibly objective news reporters and editors who lobby for editorials to be written on certain subjects, or who have suggested that our editorial page coordinate more closely with the newsroom’s agenda . . .”
  • Here, I noted that L.A. Times staffers prompted the cancellation of the Grazer-edited “Current” section.
  • Martinez ended up naming names, which I noted here.
  • In this post, I first speculated that the underlying story was a left-wing coup by newsroom staffers.
  • I provided further evidence of that theory here, saying that I believed that “a cabal of left-wingers blew up this nonscandal as a way to embarrass Martinez.” I noted some misreporting of the controversy by Tim Rutten, as well as the fact that the paper’s new editor had similar conflict issues at the Chicago Tribune.
  • For what it’s worth, Tim Cavanaugh, who works at the paper, wrote me an e-mail quoted here in which he praised “the excellent reporting you and Kevin Roderick are doing on this matter.”
  • In this post, I argue: “The real scandal at the L.A. Times has nothing to do with Andres Martinez — and everything to do with the paper hiding the truth from its readers.”
  • But is there really a reason that leftists would be upset at the paper’s editorial page? I explore that issue here. The answer is: quite possibly, yes.

Why Would Leftists in the L.A. Times Newsroom Have Been Upset at the L.A. Times Opinion Pages?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:54 am

In recent posts, I have argued that a cabal of left-wingers in the L.A. Times newsroom made a huge deal out of the Andres Martinez/Grazergate non-scandal to embarrass Martinez because he resisted their efforts to politicize the opinion section. Okie on the Lam thinks he sees one potential problem with my theory:

Honestly, I don’t see how the LA Times op-ed section could get any more “leftist” . . .

I don’t mean to imply that the editorial page under Martinez was some kind of hangout for Townhall-style conservatives. But consider the following:

  • Under Martinez, Jonah Goldberg was a columnist, and Robert Scheer wasn’t.
  • Under Martinez, the editorial page had a (kinda-sorta, and very tepid) endorsement of the surge:

    But if Congress accepts Bush’s argument that there is still hope, however faint, that the U.S. military can be effective in quelling the sectarian violence, that U.S. economic aid can yet bring about an improvement in Iraqi lives that won’t be bombed away and that American diplomatic power can be harnessed to pressure Shiites and Sunnis to make peace — if Congress accepts this, then lawmakers have a duty to let the president try this “surge and leverage” strategy.

  • Under Martinez, the editorial page was bucking the leftist line on Wal-Mart.

None of this means that the editorial page under Martinez was a hotbed of conservatism, notwithstanding the fevered nightmares of extreme leftists. But the page was probably less consistently leftist than Okie on the Lam has noticed — or than certain leftist staffers would like it to be.

The Real Scandal at the L.A. Times

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 8:19 am

On March 17, I noticed that Bud Cummins, one of the fired U.S. Attorneys, had directly contradicted the major premise of an L.A. Times article published about him. It’s now been over a week, and the paper has done nothing to correct the record. It appears clear to me that they aren’t going to tell their readers that the subject of an article has publicly claimed that the central premise of the article was wrong.

If you’re looking for an L.A. Times scandal, you’ve found it. This nonsense about Andres Martinez isn’t a scandal. Hiding the truth from your readers is.

On March 16, the L.A. Times published a story titled Cummins fears corruption investigation led to his firing. The article said that Cummins had looked into allegations relating to potential corruption by Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt. It quoted Cummins as speculating that this investigation may have had something to do with his being fired: “Now I keep asking myself: ‘What about the Blunt deal?'”

In an e-mail to TPM Muckraker, Cummins said that The Times got it wrong (all emphasis mine):

Unfortunately, that isn’t what I said, or at least what I intended to say, and it is not the case.

The context of my conversation with LA Times reporter Richard Serrano was clearly that I do not know of ANY connection between the Missouri investigation (which actually had nothing to do with Governor Blunt) and my termination.

I posted about this on March 17, quoting Cummins’s e-mail. I wrote the Readers’ Representative about this on March 18. On March 19, the Readers’ Representative acknowledged receiving the e-mail, and said that she would review the issue with editors and let me know what the thinking is.

It’s now March 25 — eight days from when I first posted about this, and a full week from when I first wrote the paper about it. No correction has issued. The paper has made no reference to Cummins’s denial of the central premise of the story. As far as the readers of the Los Angeles Times know, Bud Cummins thinks his firing may be related to a political investigation. Times readers have no idea that Cummins has explicitly said that he knows of no such connection.

Even if the paper stands by its quotation of Cummins, it owes readers the information that Cummins 1) denies that he said what the Times article attributed to him; and 2) says that, even if that’s somehow what he said, he doesn’t believe that it’s true.

The paper’s failure to communicate this information to readers is scandalous and inexcusable.

Which leads me to John Podhoretz. He has a wonderful post about the recent Andres Martinez non-scandal, in which Martinez, the former L.A. Times editorial page editor, gave a one-time guest editor spot to a client of his girlfriend’s P.R. firm. Like me, Podhoretz thinks this is a non-scandal, and contrasts it with the real scandal of putting out a horrible newspaper. Here’s Podhoretz:

When serious people criticize the media, they talk about serious things: Is the news being skewed? Is the public getting an incomplete picture due to biased coverage? Does the follow-the-leader approach of the mainstream media turn minor stories into major scandals? And so on.

This is exactly the point I have been making for days about the Martinez non-scandal. For example, in this post, I noted that, unlike the Martinez non-scandal, the paper’s handling of the U.S. Attorney scandal creates a real appearance of impropriety — because it shows that the paper doesn’t care about portraying the facts in a fair light. Podhoretz puts it well:

The problem with the L.A. Times is that it is a dull, characterless, mindlessly liberal piece of junk whose managers don’t know the difference between a real scandal — the scandal that is putting out a newspaper as bad as the Times in the second largest city in the country — and a fake one.

Which is par for the course when the newspaper industry decides to police itself.

Sing it, brother! And Mark Steyn piles on:

The “appearance of a conflict of interest” in the Times scandal is supposedly this: Brian Grazer, Mister Bigshot Hollywood Producer, was invited to guest-edit a section, but it turns out he uses a PR firm which employs a gal who dates an editor at the Times. How this can raise any “integrity” issues is beyond me. If the obscure Times functionary is trying to figure out a way to get to Grazer, using a personal contact who has an in is exactly what journalists are meant to do. Or is the “conflict of interest” supposed to be the other way round? That Brian Grazer, one of the most powerful men in the most powerful industry in town, had been panting all his life for the opportunity to guest-edit four pages of sludge in the local fishwrap but had no way of bringing himself to the attention of a minor Times functionary except through his PR lady’s pillow talk? If the paper truly believes that, it certainly explains a lot.

. . . .

Read this story about the LA “scandal”, as reported by no less than three New York Times reporters in their own inert house style. Doesn’t everyone quoted on every side of the story sound like a sanctimonious pill you’d hate to get stuck in an elevator with?

So what’s going on here, if so many people agree with me that this alleged “scandal” really isn’t one? I believe that a cabal of left-wingers blew up this nonscandal as a way to embarrass Martinez. I articulated my theory here, and provided further support for it here.

The real scandal at the L.A. Times has nothing to do with Andres Martinez — and everything to do with the paper hiding the truth from its readers.

DRJ Pores Through the Border Patrol Trial Transcripts – Direct Examination of Jose Alonso Compean (Volume XIII)

Filed under: Crime,General,Immigration — DRJ @ 12:45 am

The last witness of the trial takes the stand: Jose Alonso Compean.

(more…)


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