Schiavo Memo, again

On March 20, Washington Post journalist Mike Allen reported that the infamous ‘Schiavo Memo’ was distributed only to Republican Senators.’ Further down in the story, he refers to it again, this time as an ‘An unsigned one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators.’

The emphasis in the above sentence is my own.

We now know that Senator Mel Martinez (R, Florida) handed the memo to Senator Harkin (D, Iowa). And since the memo had to have come to the press through the hands of that Democratic Senator, the original reporters involved in the story must have known that it had not been distributed ‘only’ to Republicans.

Today Mike Allen reports that Senator Martinez’ office “is investigating whether an aide who resigned this week distributed a memo about the Terri Schiavo case to other Senate offices, and whether any other aides in the senator’s office had seen it.”

Powerline observes,

“On the question whether the Martinez staff memo had been distributed to other Senate offices, Allen himself should have had the answer when he reported in his March 20 story that the memo was distributed “only to Republican senators.” Three weeks since he wrote that story, Allen himself apparently can’t identify one such Republican senator. Allen omits to mention that, as of today, the only senator reported to have received the memo from Martinez or his office is Democrat Tom Harkin.”

MSM sloppiness aside for the moment (we will come back to it), having Senator Martinez’ office investigate itself may be rather like having our two youngest children investigate the incident of the ice cubes in the bed.

On March 26, Josh Clayborn of In the Agora blog, reported that four Republican Senate staff members had contacted him and “accused a renegade aide to Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) of distributing forged “talking points” to members of the media and claiming Republican authorship… Two of the four GOP staffers tell ITA they were eyewitnesses to the exchange.”

Two of those staff members said they were from Senator Martinez’ office, two from Senator Santorum’s office. However, they refused to give their names or name the Reid aide they were accusing. For these and other reasons Michelle Malkin immediately expressed strong doubts on their reliability, and Josh Claybourn actually agreed with her, apologizing for publishing too hastily. In fact, four days later he had completely retracted his post.

CNN even read a portion of that retraction on air:

“I publicly apologize for posting unfounded accusations, and I hope ABC News and the Washington Post follow my lead.””

Michelle Malkin wonders

“Did Darling give a fake tip to Claybourn to try to divert attention from himself? If so, who were his co-conspirators? Who exactly spoke to the Prowler and from whom did the Prowler’s sources get their information?”

At least one Democrat is calling for an independent investigation, and because of these false tips from Republican staff members, I agree.

Senator Martinez’ (and at least some staff members) role in all this has either been unbelievably incompetent. The memo had several spelling errors, gave the wrong bill number, and portions of it were lifted from a pro-life website. Sen. Martinez claims he had it in his pocket but didn’t know what it was, yet handed it to Senator Harkin during a discussion on this very issue- that’s just not plausible. If not incompetent, Martinez and/or his staff have been duplicitous. I’m not impressed. There should be a political price to pay for that, and I expect that it will be paid.

However, reporters in this story have also been rather less than stellar.

Michelle Malkin, again, sums that up- after first sharing a truly delicious email exchange she herself had with reporter MIke Allen.

Although he ignored several emails she sent him asking for information on this story (and asking for explanations of discrepancies), he finally emailed her with this:

“Howdy–I’m doing an article for tomorrow about what senators are saying about the Schiavo memo–I’d love to include your comments–I’d be interested in how you took an interest in this, where you think the memo originated, why you think it came from Democrats, etc.–We remain anxious to pin down the author and if you have clues, I’d love to pursue them–Appreciatively, Mike”

Since Michelle never said that she thought the memo came from Democrats, it’s a little curious that this trained, professional, expert journalist would be asking her to explain why she thinks it did. Isn’t it? I wonder why he would make that assumption? Here’s a portion of Michelle’s reply to him:

“If you’ve read my blog posts on this subject, you’ll know that I have never claimed that it came from Democrats. Other bloggers have suggested that. I have not. You should also know from reading my blog commentary that I was the one who publicly chastised blogger Josh Claybourn of In the Agora for
irresponsibly reporting that anonymous Republican sources had accused a Democrat staffer in Harry Reid’s office of being the source. See http://michellemalkin.com/archives/001912.htm

I have no clue who wrote the memo and neither, apparently, do you. That is
why this remains a story of interest, if not to mainstream media, then at
least to the pajama-clad bloggers who watch the watchdogs.”

I have no doubt that Senator Martinez and certain staff members will be paying a political price for their ineptitude. Indeed, at least one staff member has already lost his job.
Several bloggers have been embarrassed by jumping to conclusions and finding the conclusions had no supporting structure- thereby falling on their (our) faces. So far as I know, all of them have apologized immediately.

Michelle Malkin says:

“A related issue was ABC News’ and the Post’s mischaracterizations of their own reporting. ABC News insisted it never said the memo was distributed by Senate Republicans even though Kate Snow said just that. Allen repeatedly denied that he reported the memo was distributed by GOP “party leaders” even though a widely-published article carrying his byline said just that. After this blog and others pointed out the discrepancy, Allen himself requested that his initial claim be retracted. Post editors, however, concluded that a retraction was not warranted.”

Over at Slate, Kaus points out that:

“Allen doesn’t come off looking too good in this latest account. a) The memo was apparently not “distributed to Republican Senators by party leaders,” as Allen’s initial story, sent out through the Post news service to other papers, reported. It was–at least judging from today’s account–handed to one Democratic senator, Tom Harkin, by one freshman Republican senator (who isn’t in the party leadership); b) Allen doesn’t explain why he told Howie Kurtz he “did not call them talking points or a Republican memo” when he had in fact done just that in the news service draft; c) Even the later, more “carefully worded” account Allen published in the Post itself was apparently wrong. Allen wrote

In a memo distributed only to Republican senators, the Schiavo case was characterized as “a great political issue” …

This is almost the reverse of what Allen now reports.”

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More Memo Madness

Michelle Malkin points out (warning: graphic language censored, but still recognizable) that she never claimed that the memo came from a Democrat- she only claimed we didn’t have enough information yet to know who had the memo:

For me, the salient questions always centered on what exactly ABC News and the Washington Post knew or didn’t know before they hyped the GOP politicization angle in the midst of the wrenching Schiavo debate.

A related issue was ABC News’ and the Post’s mischaracterizations of their own reporting. ABC News insisted it never said the memo was distributed by Senate Republicans even though Kate Snow said just that. Allen repeatedly denied that he reported the memo was distributed by GOP “party leaders” even though a widely-published article carrying his byline said just that. After this blog and others pointed out the discrepancy, Allen himself requested that his initial claim be retracted. Post editors, however, concluded that a retraction was not warranted.

Michelle also points out that while bloggers were all over the board on this, the reporters responsible for this story have also altered their claims a goodly number of times:

“The search for answers can be messy. Bloggers were at both their best and worst in this episode. But it was the MSM that failed to play it straight in the first place. As usual, Mickey Kaus gets the last word:

a) The memo was apparently not “distributed to Republican Senators by party leaders,” as Allen’s initial story, sent out through the Post news service to other papers, reported. It was–at least judging from today’s account–handed to one Democratic senator, Tom Harkin, by one freshman Republican senator (who isn’t in the party leadership); b) Allen doesn’t explain why he told Howie Kurtz he “did not call them talking points or a Republican memo” when he had in fact done just that in the news service draft; c) Even the later, more “carefully worded” account Allen published in the Post itself was apparently wrong. Allen wrote:
In a memo distributed only to Republican senators, the Schiavo case was characterized as “a great political issue” …

This is almost the reverse of what Allen now reports. We know the memo was distributed to at least one Democratic senator. We don’t know whether it was distributed to any Republican senator other then the senator whose staffer wrote it (although it’s hard to believe it wasn’t given to at least some other GOP lawmakers). Allen’s story left the now-unsupported impression that Republican senators were conspiratorially reading the memo amongst themselves; d) The whole “memo” fuss, as played up by WaPo and ABC’s Linda Douglass, was wildly overdone even if the memo was a GOP leadership document–as if senators never consider what is a good political issue, as if that’s a no-no in a democracy. (Phoning Martin Luther King Jr. in jail was a “good political issue” for Sen. John Kennedy–and if you were trying to convince him to make the call that’s something you’d have pointed out!)

But certainly whatever legitimate valence Allen’s ‘memo’ story had depended almost entirely on the impression that the memo revealed and represented the strategy of the GOP leaders who pushed the Schiavo bill. If all that was involved was a staff memo Martinez gave to Harkin, Allen’s story was way out of whack.

And over at Wizbang, a commentor wonders why, since Tom Harkin knew he was the Democratic source, and he knew which Republican he got the memo from, he didn’t come forward two weeks ago, and how somewhere between Tom Harkin and the reporters, Freshman SEnator Martinez became the Republican Leadership.

Another commentor wonders why the aide who wrote the memo did not come forward two weeks ago.

I wonder how likely is it, really, that Senator Martinez had the memo in his pocket and had no idea what it was, how it got there, or what was on it, and that no other Republicans had seen it.

And that first Wizbang commentor mentioned also points out the discrepancy between the way the media handled this memo and the way they handled that Democratic memo about politicizing the Iraqi War intelligence investigation and using it as an opportunity to ‘get Bush’ by postponing key components of the investigation until closer to the election year.

Says “Just Me:”

“But you have to love the MSM-get some memos that show the Dems behaving badly, and their job is to find the leak and get him fired, and totally ignore the content of the memos, get memos that reflect badly on the GOP and worry about the content instead how they got it”

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Hair Braiding Hero

John STossel reports:

Every once in a while, people in Washington have a good idea. A really good idea. An idea that creates jobs and provides a service people like.

Then, the government gets involved.

Some years ago, a married couple, Taalib-Din Uqdah and Pamela Farrell, went into business braiding hair, African-style. They called their shop Cornrows & Co. If politicians’ speeches are right, Uqdah and Farrell were heroes: Inner cities need businesses, and the couple had built a booming business in Washington, D.C. They had 20,000 customers, employed 10 people and took in half a million dollars a year. Some women came from as far away as Connecticut, six hours away, to have their hair braided by Cornrows & Co.

Did the politicians honor these entrepreneurs for contributing to the community? Find ways to encourage others to do similar things? Well, the government did respond. But it wasn’t with encouragement.”

Uqdah did not have a license from a beauty school, so local government officials threatened to shut him down unless he spent a thousand hours and a few thousand dollars going to a beauty school- which didn’t teach anything about the things Uqdah and his wife actually did in their business.
Most people in Uqdah’s position simply give up the fight, comply, or shut down and walk away. It’s not worth the hassle, they think. But Uqdah didn’t think like that, and I’m glad.

“Uqdah refused to close his shop. He fought the government instead, ultimately going to federal court with the help of the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm, and D.C. changed its law. Now, hair braiders don’t have to get training that has nothing to do with what they do. Uqdah says, “I had to spend 10 years fighting the city. And now I’ve gone out and created a mechanism that other people can do what I’ve done — with or without a license.”

I agree with John Stossel when he says,

Usually, the established businesses get away with using licensing boards and “safety” regulations to crush competitors. That’s unfair. And if the question is who’s protecting the public, it seems to me Taalib-Din Uqdah has done much more than the bureaucrats who wanted him to spend 125 hours studying shampooing.

And that’s why I say Ugday is a hero.

More here (“How can you license what you do not teach,” he asks. And the Judge agrees with him, although he also warns that if hair braiders “branch into too many “cosmetology-like tasks”–including “shampooing hair” with too many “cosmetology-like instruments,” such as “combs”–the state would be well within its rights to send them off to beauty school”)

And this chapter from an economic textbook (written before the case concluded) asks some interesting questions about the case.

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Do Food stamps make you fat?

A Middle Tennesee State University professor has been awarded a grant to study the matter. According to an online Tennessean news article:

MURFREESBORO — Charles Baum III, an economics professor at Middle Tennessee State University, says people living in poverty in America have undergone a definite physical change over the last 200 years.

Being poor once meant having a thin, frail body type as a result of lack of food. Now, these individuals are more likely to be not just overweight, but obese, he says.

Baum traces the change to sometime in the 1960s, when obesity rates began to rise. It was around this time that the Food Stamp Act came into being, which provided food to those living below the poverty level. The idea of a connection between food stamps and obesity has caught the interest of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the agency recently awarded Baum a $120,000 grant to study the relationship of the Food Stamp Program to the rise of obesity.

Being poor in America is fattening. I suspect there are more causes than simply the food stamp connection, although it probably does contribute. It costs more to eat a diet of fresh fruit, vegetables, and meats than it does to eat things like like biscuits, potatoes, white rice, pasta, and other starchy, high carb items. Canned products are the least nutritious but often the least expensive (and the easiest to fix, as well as the most tasteless).

When did American Food manufacturers begin adding corn syrup to just about everything, even foods you would not think are sweetened? One of our children has a mild but unpleasant reaction to eating corn products, so we at The Common Room must read labels assiduously. Foods containing corn syrup have included some or all brands of ketchup, lunch meat, hams, tomato products of all sorts, granola bars, cereals, salad dressings, vitamins, cough syrups, soups, gelatins, jams, canned fruits, seasoning mixtures for stir fries, and more.

Before the 1960’s were the poor more likely to have a garden? Were they less likely to have a vehicle (so they had to walk more)? According to a 1990 Heritage Foundation report:

Among America’s “poor” there are 344 cars per 1,000 persons.16 This is roughly the same ratio as exists for the total population of the United Kingdom. A poor American is 40 percent more likely to own a car than the average Japanese; 30 times more likely than the average Pole; and 50 times more likely than the average Mexican.17

By 1961, I understand that many more households in AMerica had television than had indoor plumbing. In fact, though the gap has narrowed considerably, this still appears to be true. What kind of effect does an overdependence on television have on all of us, not just the poor?

Currently there are no restrictions on what foods a food stamp recipient may buy- except that alcoholic beverages may not be purchased. Otherwise, candy, gum, soda pop, convenience foods of all sorts, chips, cakes, jams, and so on can be purchased using food stamps.

At least some offices provide nutritional counseling, but I believe this is on a volunteer basis, since the article in the Tennesse paper states that nutritional classes are ‘offered’ to recipients. It’s long been my belief that food stamp recipients should be required to take classes teaching basic cooking skills and nutritional information, and even to submit menus and shopping lists to teachers in the domestic arts who can help them learn to stretch their food dollars and shop more wisely.

Professor Baum

“speculated that if a link is shown between issuing food stamps and obesity, the USDA might become stricter in its definition of food items, eliminating unhealthy choices such as sodas.”

He’s getting 150,000 dollars from the U.S.D.A. to fund his research.

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California really is the land of fruits and nuts

The Headmaster was born and raised in southern California. He never left the state until he was a married father of one. The Headmaster and Headmistress met and married in central California. This study comes as no great surprise to us, but still, the Department of the Obvious doesn’t want to be completely ignored, so we bring you:

California turns out to be so, like … so… California

63 percent of Californians have actually hugged a tree; 24 percent have surfed; and 21 percent admit to enjoying mud baths.

“It turns out that Californians actually do a lot of the things that make up the stereotype,” says Mr. Tootelian.

Granted, regional distinctions can be found in every corner of the land. Many New Englanders do exude a certain Yankee reserve and thriftiness, which is rooted in the puritanism of the past. Southerners do convey a distinctive charm, and Midwesterners, well, they’re Midwesterners [Ouch!].

The Deputy Headmistress has never surfed herself, although she has had friends and close relatives who surf and surf very well indeed.

She has also, she admits, hugged trees, though Not In That Way.

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