Patterico's Pontifications


Day Eight of Stengel-gate: Why Was Richard Stengel Presented as an Expert on the Constitution on NPR?

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 9:30 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

To give a quick review, on June 23, Richard Stengel wrote a cover story* for Time magazine rife with factual errors.  Eight days ago, I published a piece here outlining thirteen of those errors in that story.  The next day, I published a substantially similar piece at Big Journalism, and by then the list of errors had grown to fourteen.  I said at the time that I considered it a journalistic scandal that such an error-ridden piece appeared at Time magazine as its cover story and ever since I have been crusading to more or less embarrass them into a correction.

Surely they know by now what an embarrassment that article was; some of them probably knew before the article even went to print. This is reaching the point where I think it is safe to say that their reaction—or lack thereof—is becoming as much of a problem as the initial mistake.  It’s one thing to make the mistake in the first place but to leave it uncorrected as word gets around that Time published such inaccurate garbage only deepens the embarrassment.  Time has already harmed its reputation by publishing the piece in the first place; now the only question is whether they can salvage their reputation by admitting finally they made an error.

But truthfully I understand that for the staff at Time, this puts them in an awful position.  He is the Managing Editor, after all.  How do you go to your boss and tell him that he is not only wrong, but incompetently, embarrassingly wrong, on a subject that he claims to be an expert on?  (And if you think that characterization is hyperbole, I suggest you read this piece and decide or yourself.) They do need to confront, but on a human level you can understand why they are hesitant to do so.  He is their boss, after all.

But that raises the question…  what is NPR’s excuse?  Here is a blurp for a show entitled Talk of the Nation that aired on July 4:

In the fierce debates over health care, Libya, debt, gay marriage and other issues, Americans have been getting a lecture on the meaning of the Constitution and the intentions of its authors. Andrea Seabrook speaks with Richard Stengel of Time magazine and Yale law professor Akhil Amar about the political divide over the Constitution and how an 18th-century document applies in a 21st-century world.


“Imperfection Doesn’t Preclude Greatness”

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 11:55 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

That is strong line from USA: The Jewish Promised Land, by Stephen Richer, a piece reflecting on the unique degree of tolerance exhibited in America, in general, toward Jewish Americans.  He writes:

We Jews have always looked to Israel as our promised land. The dates 586 BCE and 70 CE (the destruction of the first and second Temples and the start of the Diaspora communities) are etched into the collective Jewish mind, and we end each Yom Kippur and Passover with the saying: “Next year in Jerusalem.”

But in many respects, we Jews found our promised land when we first stepped foot on American soil (Boston, 1649, Solomon Franco), and later when we came in larger numbers during the 1800s (250,000 Jews by 1880). For the first time, Jews had a home country devoid of a history of Jewish expulsion or systematic Jewish bloodshed. For the first time in history, Jews had a country that – from the beginning – gave de jure acknowledgement to the right to practice to Judaism and the right to be an equal citizen as a Jew.

Read it all.  Your patriotic heart will swell with pride.  While he acknowledges the sad reality of American anti-Semitism, he also recognizes that such incidents stand out because they are out of place.  America’s truest self is one where no discrimination is tolerated but what arises from merit and conduct.

And indeed in my opinion it is that egalitarian element in the American psyche that leads many of us to support Israel itself.  Too often liberals who oppose the so-called occupation of so-called Palestinian lands think that conservatives like me support the Isrealis out of some sense that the Jews have a right to that land as a matter of faith.  I am sure that element exists, but for myself it is about a morality that has little to do with any historic Israel or any biblical status as a chosen people.  Simply put, after being murdered by the millions in the Holocaust, and facing endless pogroms in Israel, the Jews had the same right to end that oppression as we had the right to end the oppression we faced at the hands of Great Britain in 1776.  Indeed frankly things were worse for Jews in “Palestine” in the 1940’s than in the colonies in 1775.  So, it is not the Bible, in my mind, that sanctions the War for Israeli Independence.  It is the Declaration of Independence that does the intellectual work for me.  And likewise when faced with genocide in the Six Days War, the Israelis were correct to fight back and even to gain some land so as to ensure their own security.  They are most likely the only country in human history that won land in a defensive war and for some reason is expected to give it back.

Conservatives like me don’t support Israel because we think Jews are somehow special.  They are not.  They are no better or worse than other people.  But we have noticed that Jews have been uniquely singled out, arguably above all other groups, for abuse and discrimination, yes even at the hands of so-called Christians.  (At the severe risk of engaging in the No True Scotsman fallacy, I deny the true Christianity of any person who harmed a Jew in a fit of anti-Semitic hate.  They might claim to follow Christ, but they are willfully oblivious to His message,)  And seeing them singled out for a special degree of hate, Christians like me react with a special degree of loyalty.  One blogger (I forgot who) once said that he wished we could treat Israel as being no different from Uganda or Austria, just another country in the roster-list of countries, but the unique hostility to Israel makes that impossible.  That is pretty much exactly how I feel.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

Peter Beinart Rises to the Defense of New York City Officials (And Other DSK Updates)

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 5:25 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

First, I have to say I agree with the majority of what Peter Beinart says in defending how authorities have behaved in this case:

[W]hether or not DSK goes free, his case reflects well on American justice. We can hold our heads high.

Let’s review the facts. A housekeeper comes forward. She says she was sexually assaulted, in an account that, according to The New York Times “was so compelling that it brought tears to the eyes of seasoned investigators.” There is powerful physical evidence: ripped stockings, a torn shoulder ligament, a vaginal bruise. Initial interviews with people in the hotel seem to corroborate her story. DSK is on a plane on his way to France, a country with which we have no extradition treaty for such crimes. So the police take him off the plane. What other option did they have?

In fact, they did have another option. Here, after all, was one of the most powerful men in the world, a steward of the international economy, a potential future president of one America’s key allies. He was being accused of sexual assault by a black, Muslim immigrant maid, a woman with virtually no status or power. For the police in most countries, at most moments in history, it would not have been a close call: let him fly. Tell her to shut up. If she won’t, find some way of making her shut up.

What happened on May 14 is not just defensible. As an example of equality before the law, it is downright inspiring.

Okay, I wouldn’t use the word inspiring, but otherwise he is right on.  We cannot judge this case with 20/20 hindsight and we cannot reasonably expect police and prosecutors to wait for proof beyond a reasonable doubt before arresting a person, especially if he is about to go to France Polanskiland.  He goes on to praise how local officials eventually ferreted out the accuser’s serious credibility problems and subsequently disclosed them.  This is ideally how the system is supposed to work.

In other news, the French complaint for attempted rape was filed against Dominique Strauss-Kahn (who is a man) in France, and the American accuser is now suing the New York Post for calling her a prostitute,  which is weird because they were not the only media outlet to call her one.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

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