The Media

May 21


Monday, May 21, 2012 at 7:01 pm Mountain Time

You may recall that it was a particularly ridiculous Drudge homepage that led to the creation of the “PANIC!!!!!!” graphic that subsequently became my oft-praised Twitter avatar. Well, Drudge has struck again:


That’s Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, who made headlines over the weekend by criticizing President Obama’s anti-Bain Capital ads. ABC says the Obama camp is in damage control mode, which led Drudge to proclaim — referring to the president by the first letter of his last name, then stretching it out for effect — “OOOOOOO NOOOOOO.”

Teehee. Oh, Drudge, you ridiculous, sensationalist partisan shill, you. I doooooon’t knoooooow hoooooow to quit yoooooou.

Anyway, yet again, I couldn’t resist coming up with some alternate versions:




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Jan 04

Tied Iowa vote produces epic CNN night

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 1:19 am Mountain Time

Mitt Romney “won” the Iowa caucuses tonight by 8 votes out of 122,255 cast, “beating” Rick Santorum 30,015 to 30,007. That’s a margin of 0.0065%, which is even narrower than Florida’s unbelievably close 2000 election (0.0090%), and essentially meaningless in the absence of a recount. The caucuses ended in a tie, plain and simple.

As dramatic as that was, CNN’s “Best Political Team on Television” somehow managed to make it even moreso, on a wild and wacky night of television that just got weirder and more wonderful as the hour got later and later. If you’re a political or news junkie and you weren’t watching CNN from 1:30 to 3:00 AM Eastern Time, you truly missed out.

First came this moment, when the entire set collectively lost its sh*t:

Then, a bit later, came the live-TV interview that will live forever in political journalism lore. As Rick Santorum clung to a 4-vote lead, and the nation waited for results from a single outstanding precinct in Clinton County, Iowa, an enterprising CNN producer managed to get two local biddy-old-lady county GOP officials, Edith Pfeffer and Carolyn Talett, on the phone to discuss what had happened in their county that was delaying in tally. It was absolutely, sublimely amazing. Here’s video of most of it:

Moments later, Candy Crowley at Romney headquarters got independent word that Romney had been told he’d won by 14 votes. John King did the math, and found that — voila! — Edith and Carolyn’s numbers would lead to precisely that result. He revealed this to America in a way that surely had Tim Russert, he of the famous dry-erase board, looking down from Heaven and smiling:

CNN shows Edith & Carolyn's math

Eventually, the official word came down that Romney’s margin was actually 8, not 14. Somehow, Santorum had picked up an extra 6 votes from the 30,001 shown by King’s biddy-old-lady-based tally. But whatever. Edith and Carolyn are instant legends, and CNN got a truly epic night of punch-drunk wee-hours TV out of the whole thing. HI-LA-RI-OUS. We might as well end the 2012 election now — RIGHT NOW, as Wolf Blitzer would say — because I’m pretty sure nothing can ever top this. LOL!!

May 12

Heads must roll!

Thursday, May 12, 2011 at 12:57 pm Mountain Time

The New York Times issues the nerdiest correction ever. LOL! (Hat tip: dcl.)

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Mar 22

Crazy like a gray fox?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 8:59 pm Mountain Time

Guest post by

There has been a lot of virtual ink spilled on the topic of the NYT pay wall. Just visit Daring Fireball for a run down of some of the better comments on this.

The short of it is this, the pricing model is confusing and complicated, and subscribing to a print edition (either weekdays or Sunday only) will net you the full digital which costs more than your subscription per annum… (Some sort of tax on people that can’t do math?)

But we must assume that the Times business people can do math quite well. And this whole thing doesn’t make any sense until your remember one very important thing, ads in the print edition of the times are worth a hell of a lot more than the ones in the online edition, so anything that suppresses print subscriptions even a little cost them millions, and anything that pushes that up even a little grosses millions of dollars. Even if you throw the paper away, the NYT gets to count you in their circulation numbers they provide to advertisers. You are worth a lot of money as a print subscriber; that’s why they chase you like a jealous and clingy ex whenever you try to cancel your subscription. And you continue to be worth a lot of money until the print advertisers realize everyone is just throwing the paper in the recycling bin, un-read, along with the phonebook.

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Jan 05

I went on a bit of a Twitter rant just now, via iPhone while grabbing a coffee at Starbucks, after my phone got a CNN Breaking News alert which announced: “A now-retracted UK study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an ‘elaborate fraud,’ a medical journal reports.” Here’s the rant:

What say you, @JennyMcCarthy? RT @cnnbrk: Study linking #autism to vaccines a “fraud,” medical journal BMJ reports

The fraudsters who invented vaccine-autism link have blood on their hands every time a child gets sick or dies due to loss of herd immunity.

Also, continued belief in the long-disproven vaccine-autism link is a searing indictment of our society, culture, education and media.

That Obama, Clinton & McCain each made wishy-woshy statements about vaccine-autism “link” in 2008 is indefensible and almost beyond belief.

Our society’s inability to purge itself of empirically false ideas, despite all the volumes of information available, is a sign of deep rot.

Or perhaps it points to something deeper than societal: a flaw in human nature itself. Either way, it’s a BIG problem.

So basically, I blame Jenny McCarthy for the decline and impending doom of Western Civilization. ;) #PANIC

But srsly: she should be shunned & universally condemned for role in propagating this pernicious lie. Instead, she was on ABC 12/31 in NYC.

If you can’t tell, I find the vaccine-autism b.s. extraordinarily depressing. It tests my faith in the very idea of human progress.

Wonder how Nazis could ever rule a civilized nation? Look no further than the continued mainstream belief in a long-disproven outright lie.

And, no, I’m not saying the “autism-vaccine link Truthers” are Nazis. Just that humanity’s inability to purge itself of known false ideas…

…is intimately related with the ability of an evil, inhuman regime based on pernicious lies & vile scapegoating to win over the masses.

BTW, #LetMeBeClear: when I talk about “purging” false ideas, I don’t mean censorship. I mean aggressive counterspeech & shaming of liars.

This, of course, all ties in with — and indeed, was specifically referenced in — my Grand Unified Theory of PANIC!!!!. We’re all heading toward that Event Horizon, and Jenny McCarthy is leading us there… or something.

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Nov 03

Two newspapers

Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 9:51 pm Mountain Time

The “paper of record,” and the headline of the day:



Sep 10

“Like Hell on Earth”

Friday, September 10, 2010 at 9:22 am Mountain Time

A look at how some of this morning’s California newspapers covered last night’s massive San Bruno natural gas explosion and fire:




More after the jump — including a bunch using the very same photo as the Santa Cruz Sentinel and the Daily News, and a few others with a very similar photo of the fireball. That’s interesting to me, because actually, I thought the far more newsworthy and emotionally compelling (if not as photographically beautiful) images are the shots taken from TV helicopters overhead, showing that whole suburban neighborhood ablaze:

See also here and here. If I were a newspaper editor in California, I think that’s the photo I would have gone with, even if was a little bit more grainy than the shot of firefighters silhouetted by an Ohio-shaped wall of fire, which, while visually arresting, doesn’t really tell us much about the scope of this disaster.

Anyway, like I said, more front pages (via the Newseum) are after the jump.

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Jul 09

LeBronOcalypse: the front pages

Friday, July 9, 2010 at 10:32 am Mountain Time

[UPDATE: Some fantastic, newspaper-by-newspaper design analysis & critique here.]

Reaction from Ohio:


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Jun 17

Fun with headline juxtaposition

Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 7:50 am Mountain Time

Take a look at the above-the-fold front page of yesterday’s Denver Post:


Do you think some headline writer, or editor responsible for page layout, was having a little fun at our “wannabe avenger” president’s expense? Heh.

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Jun 13


Sunday, June 13, 2010 at 8:01 am Mountain Time


Meanwhile, across the pond:


If you didn’t know… clod (n.): A dull, stupid person; a dolt.

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May 26

[Kudos to Terry Corcoran for coming up with an alternative title for this blog post: Brendan’s Grand Unified Theory of PANIC!!!!!! Hahaha. Brilliant. -ed.]

I had an interesting conversation with Melissa Clouthier (and, chiming in at one point, Doug Mataconis) on Twitter today. It started with me criticizing Melissa for, in my view, propagating patently unfair criticisms about President Obama, primarily or exclusively in the name of pointing out alleged media hypocrisy (i.e., for making similarly unfair criticisms of Bush, but not doing so with Obama). I argued that emulating the media’s unfairness made Melissa part of the problem, not part of the solution. Melissa responded, if I may paraphrase, that I was missing the forest for the trees, and failing to focus adequately on the media’s “abdication of duty.” It got heated at times.

Eventually, however, the conversation turned to something broader, and I filibustered a bit, as I am wont to do, even when I’m limited to 140 characters at time. :) The end result was, I think, a pretty good summation of my global beliefs about the state of the nation right now. So I wanted to post it here. WARNING: It contains some profanity.

I won’t link to the individual tweets, as that would be too cumbersome. Also, I changed some Twitterspeak abbreviations to more readable prose, and excluded a few irrelevant asides. And I’ve had to re-order and re-shuffle parts of the conversation so that it will make sense to the reader and will accurately represent what Melissa and I were responding to. This was difficult because, at times, we were “talking over each other,” and responding to earlier points even as new points were being made. But I think this reproduction is faithful to the substance of the conversation, on both ends (although, see the “editor’s note” at the end). Anyway, I’ll pick it up at the point where the topic started to broaden…

[NOTE: Conservatives won’t much care for roughly the first half of the quoted discussion below. It gets broader, and more trans-ideological, starting with Melissa’s comment, “There isn’t nuance in politics. I don’t believe there ever has been.” And what follows after that is the really important part, IMHO. I included the earlier parts for context, and because there are a few choice quotes in there. But the trans-ideological stuff is what I’m really getting at here. So, feel free to respond on the narrower ideological issues, but understand that they don’t drive my overall thesis. Whether the Right or the Left is more to blame is, for me, sort of beside the point. I see the rot in society going much deeper than any ideology or party. To the extent that one party or another is “worse,” that’s more a symptom than a cause. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s my take.]

Melissa: I bristle at the moderating tone argument. It always benefits Democrat ideology. They want the opposition to shut up.

Me: I’m not asking you to “moderate tone.” I’m asking you to make defensible arguments based on facts, rationality and logic. To un-ironically propagate concededly unfair criticisms of Obama, whatever your motive, is to further the cause of divorcing political discourse from reality and reason. This is not an issue of “tone,” but of substance. So much of the discourse, on both sides, is based on sheer bullshit, propaganda, nonsense, obvious illogic and outright lies.

Melissa: Okay, then let’s argue substance. But the sides you speak of are lopsided. Horribly. The Press does not present facts.

Me: Neither does the Right-Wing Alternative Media, for the most part. Nobody’s presenting facts, and the public isn’t demanding them.

Also, the meme of conservative powerlessness vs. the Almighty Liberal Media is soooo 1990s. Bias remains real, but the biased old guard (NYT/networks/etc.) have far less power than they once did. And the new guard is as bad, if not worse. Instead of promoting a truly fairer and more balanced discourse, we’re splintering into increasingly unhinged sub-discourses. As an archetypal example of said unhinged discourse once said, “I fear for our country.”

It honestly makes me feel almost hopeless. The Obama Administration has done nothing to change this. If 2012 is Obama vs. Palin, it will be the perfect shitstorm of rhetorical ridiculousness. I honestly may shut the blog till it’s over. I can’t handle it! :|

*Melissa: I hate it too. It’s horrible. But I don’t see any sign of rhetorical or ideological coming together. President Obama policy divides.

Me: I already acknowledged that Obama has done nothing to change it. Though saying his “policy divides” misses the point. When you say “Obama policy divides,” what you mean is, “I disagree with Obama policy.” Bush policy “divided” too. Americans will always have disagreements about policy. The key is to air and discuss those disagreements honestly and logically.

Melissa: There isn’t nuance in politics. I don’t believe there ever has been.

Me: Perhaps not, but there weren’t always so many actors so effectively and purposely trying to drown out any and all nuance.

As a country, we increasingly aren’t [airing and discussing disagreements honestly and logically]. It wasn’t some utopia before, but it’s getting worse and worse. I see little hope it will improve.

I fear meta-trends in all sorts of fields are moving us inexorably toward a very bad place. Someone way smarter than me should do a multidisciplinary Ph.D. thesis tying it all together. Suggested title: “Hell, Meet Handbasket.” Dishonest discourse, polarization, propaganda, endless debt, personal and government irresponsibility, bad governance: all are related.

Melissa: They are. America is at a cross-roads. Americans have to decide what they want. I don’t feel the question is settled.

Me: Yes but they’re deciding among various non-viable, fairy-tale choices. I think, or at least fear, that America is at something closer to an event-horizon than a cross-roads. #pessimism

Melissa: I hope not. But I fear you may be right.

Me: There was a time when we, as a nation, could take on truly big challenges and overcome them. I’m no longer sure we can.

Doug: Brendan, in an era when every crisis is used as an opportunity for partisan attacks, I know we can’t.

Me: When there’s always someone convincingly telling you fairy tales about the world, and distracting you from real problems with shiny objects and faux-outrages, and telling you everything’s a false choice, and you can have your cake and eat it too, who is ever going to make a tough decision? What will inspire voters to demand it? And if we don’t, why would our representaives?

Politicians know that anything necessary but potentially unpopular will be effectively demagogued to death. Thus, little is even attempted. So we will continue to live in fairy-tale land, until it’s too late, and maybe even then. #greece At least that’s my fear.

And, by the way, I dearly wish the Tea Partiers were the antidote to this. But alas. They “get” a tiny part of it, but miss much of it, and spin their own fairy tales that ultimately make them somewhere between useless and part of the problem.

My only solace is the generic belief that crises are usually overstated in pessimists’ minds. Grumpy Old Men are usually wrong. Doom is always imminent, The End is always nigh, and yet somehow we muddle through, and in the end, actually thrive. But in this case, I feel the crisis is so profound and foundational and trans-ideological, my generic optimism is outweighed by specific pessimism. And thus have I become a Grumpy Old Man at the tender age of 28. #GetOffMyLawn

*EDITOR’S NOTE: When Melissa said “I hate it too. It’s horrible,” she was responding to the paragraph immediately preceding that statement in the above rendering of our conversation (beginning “It honestly makes me feel almost hopeless”). However, I had not yet written the two paragraphs before that. Because of the “talking over each other” problem, I couldn’t find any other sensible way to present the conversation, but in fairness to Melissa, I don’t want to leave the misimpression that she was acknowledging that I’m correct about the flaws of “the Right-Wing Alternative Media” or the “increasingly unhinged sub-discourses.” She didn’t respond directly to those points. What she was apparently saying she “hates” and agrees is “horrible” is “the perfect shitstorm of rhetorical ridiculousness” and (possibly) the fact that “so much of the discourse, on both sides, is based on sheer bullshit, propaganda, nonsense, obvious illogic and outright lies.” That, at least, is what I had just said when she responded with “I hate it too. It’s horrible.”

UPDATE From comments, an even more depressing (if that’s actually possible) addendum to my thoughts on this meta-topic:

The public has seemingly lost the ability to discern the difference between facts and propaganda, between truth and lies, between real solutions and fairy tales. Or maybe the public at large never had that ability, but in ages long past, the fact that only the “educated elites” really had electoral power prevented the general public’s faults from mattering, and in the more recent past, the unwashed masses sort of trusted our elite cultural masters to make these decisions for us… but now the cultural empowerment of the “common man” has ruined that balance, and left us to the rule of the Lowest Common Denominator, the successful manipulation of which is now nearing perfection after decades of experimentation by the masters of advertising and propaganda, political and otherwise. This isn’t just politics I’m talking about: the ability of Jenny McCarthy to drive public discussion on complex scientific topics, the ascendancy of reality TV at the expense of real entertainment with redeeming social value, the success of massive corporate conglomerates in convincing us that valueless processed crap is “food” … all of these things are intimately related.

In the end, mine is a highly elitist position, because it’s basically an attack on human nature, and the ease with which human reaction can be controlled through clever, technologically and psychologically sophisticated manipulation. It’s too easy to blame Republicans, or the media, or whomever your preferred culprit is. At the end of the day, we are the problem. We, The People have made this mess. And only We, The People can get ourselves out of it. Except, actually, I’m not sure we can.

Maybe the Mayan calendar was right**, and 2012 is the end of the world, but only in the sense that it’s the end of humanity’s heretofore virtually unstoppable march toward progress. Maybe 2012 is when we start inexorably regressing as a society and a species, because of these many factors that I’m hinting at, though I’m not nearly insightful enough to really summarize them properly (like I said, I truly think there’s an award-winning Ph.D. thesis in this, but I’m not smart enough to write it). The beginning of humanity’s regression would qualify as an Apocalypse of sorts.

**Yes, I know the Mayan calendar doesn’t actually say the world ends in 2012.

I realize I’m blurring lines here, and morphing from a discussion of America into a discussion of humanity. In so doing, I’m not making the mistake of assuming that America is the only collection of humans that matters. Rather, although I don’t follow overseas developments as closely as I follow what’s happening here in the good ol’ U.S.A., I’m going off the general impression that the developments I describe are not unique to our country, but are — to one degree or another — impacting other developed countries, too. (Developing and undeveloped countries have their own set of problems, obviously. Though in the end, we’re so interconnected that, for purposes of this discussion, we are really one global “society.”)

Arguably, the core of the “thesis” I keep mentioning is that advanced societies necessarily reach some tipping point, as the adoption of democracy leads to the ascendancy of the common man, which causes the elites to eventually realize how effectively they can manipulate the common man, which leads to democracies becoming ungovernable, which leads either to dictatorships or non-functioning societies (or both). Possibly the only question is whether such societies — the plural here is multi-planetary, since again, for purposes of this discussion, Earth is really one “society” — blow themselves up with nuclear bombs before they collapse internally from cultural decay.

If this incredibly depressing theory (which I’m not necessarily saying I agree with, but it seems, at a minimum, plausible) is correct, and if it’s applicable to all intelligent life forms that come into being in the natural course of biological evolution on any planet — a big if — it would help explain why we haven’t had contact with any advanced intelligent beings from other worlds. Maybe it’s written into the very fabric of life that life-forms can’t really advance much beyond where we’re at now, because intelligent beings will naturally gravitate toward some form of democracy (it being, by far, the most facially just form of government), and any form of democracy will naturally implode eventually, because it would take a helluva lot more biological evolution before the masses are actually ready to handle the sort of power that they will inevitably grant themselves once they reach a minimal level of intelligence and interconnectedness and cultural sophistication. And — at this point, a religious person might add — maybe this is all part of God’s Plan, as it is ultimately what prevents us from becoming rivals to God, and/or from creating Heaven on Earth. Or something like that. I’m not a religious person, so I’m on shaky ground there. Hell, I’m on shaky ground with all of this. Like I keep saying, recruit someone smarter than me, and get them working on the damn thesis already. The future of our doomed society may depend on it. Now GET OFF MY LAWN, YOU DAMN KIDS!! :)

P.S. Do you see what I mean about how the thesis would have to be “multidisciplinary”? I started out talking about politics and the media (Political Science, Journalism and Communications would be the relevant disciplines, with a dash of History perhaps), but eventually, you get into Sociology, Psychology, Economics, Biology, Astronomy, Philosophy, Theology… and a bunch of others I’m not even thinking of, no doubt. Oh, also advertising and marketing, if those count as disciplines. And the study of advances in technology, of various sorts — not sure what discipline that falls into, but it’s a huge part of this.

UPDATE 2: Upon further reflection, with regard to my speculation about other societies on other planets, it occurs me that the “big if” I mentioned is probably even bigger than I initially thought, because of a discipline I failed to mention: Geography. Even if the basic principles of evolution are the same everywhere, as seems likely, the geographies of other worlds would have a profound impact on how their species evolve and their societies develop, in ways I can’t begin to imagine, but that could very well significantly alter my premises.

More broadly, I’d say the apocalyptic/decline-of-humanity stuff at the end of my comment to David, and the alien worlds/biological determinism stuff at the end of the above “UPDATE,” are the weakest parts of my “thesis,” or anyway the least provable and most subject to legitimately strong skepticism. I think those ideas make for some very interesting thought experiments, but perhaps not much more than that.

But it isn’t necessary to believe that humanity at large is entering an irreversible civilizational decline, one that probably necessarily afflicts all advanced intelligent life in the universe, in order to get at the core of my point. If the meta-trends I’m observing, or think I’m observing, point “merely” to the decline of America — empires do, after all, fall — and perhaps to a global decline of democracy itself (consistent with my dim, Derbyshire-esque view of human nature writ large, and with my elitist hypothesis about the inherent frailties of the common man, and also not inconsistent with, say, the potential rise of China), that’s plenty sufficient to warrant pessimism.

And that pessimism is personal for me, because I’ve got kids. It’s a long-cherished American ideal that we want our kids to have a better life than we do, and I certainly want that for my girls. But I fear for the state of the country, and the world, that they’re going to grow up in. I hope I’m wrong about all this, and the Grumpy Old Man all-is-lost, the-end-is-nigh, we’re-doomed-DOOMED hypothesis will be disproven yet again. That’s certainly happened plenty of times throughout history. But I worry.

P.P.S. I mentioned Derbyshire. Here’s a cheery quote, from the linked 2002 article: “We are living in a golden age. The past was pretty awful; the future will be far worse. Enjoy!” Heh.

UPDATE 3: Here is Melissa’s take on our conversation. It’s well worth reading in its entirety.

P.P.P.S. Somewhat related, from Andrew Sullivan’s blog, this quote about the Gulf oil spill — “If we cannot stop this, what else can we not stop?” — and a reader’s reply:

Exactly my own response these last few days. Honestly, I have not reacted to anything with this much impotent despair since 9/11. Not even Abu Ghraib and our collective, in effect, non-reaction to it made me feel more negative about the likely course of our society in the remaining decades of my lifetime.

I don’t participate in the apotheosis some baby boomers indulge of the so-called Greatest Generation. But the thought keeps coming to mind that if today’s American society were faced with situations as complex and terrible as the first half of the 20th century, we’d probably be living with a Nazi Europe and the aftermath of having preemptively nuked the Soviet Union.

Collectively we have lost any ability to make a hard decision, to accept that every action has consequences (as does every refused call to action) and to actually sacrifice, individually and collectively, to keep a terrible situation from becoming more terrible. If we can’t drill anywhere on the planet in pursuit of unlimited oil without destroying entire regional ecologies…well, then hey I guess we’re just screwed. If we can’t just invade the next country on our shit list and stop global Islamic terrorism…well then WTF are we supposed to do? If it turns out that the “wealth” we thought our households possessed was just a temporary accounting fiction…well that doesn’t mean we should have to quit spending money like it’s 2004.

The reader concludes that “there is truly nothing to be done about anything.” Sullivan titled the post “The Audacity Of Hopelessness.”

May 17

“Ha ha! I can see his arse!”

Monday, May 17, 2010 at 3:48 pm Mountain Time

Dear Lord, I love British people:

We live in serious times. … [And] this seriousness is being compounded by an intensifying national determination to behave terribly seriously about it. … This aversion to levity certainly infused the [U.K.] election campaign. But there was a funny bit and most of us missed it. When Gordon Brown got in his car and called that woman a bigot, it was hilarious. It was a properly comical human moment, made funnier by the uncomfortable truths it hit upon, in terms of both the former PM’s flawed personality and the jealous xenophobia that lurks behind many discussions of immigration.

But we forgot to laugh, because some of us have come to prefer the sensation of judging: judging Brown for the gaffe, judging the media for its reporting of it, poring po-facedly over the subsequent pantomime of apology. It was the equivalent of his accidentally showing his arse and yet all we could do was carp: “Has he been concealing from the public quite how fat his arse really is?” or: “Why, at this moment of crisis, are our media focusing on arses rather than policies?” No one said: “Ha ha! I can see his arse!”


Apr 09

Best. Caption. Ever.

Friday, April 9, 2010 at 3:43 pm Mountain Time


(From the Union Leader, via AMERICAblog, via Sully; originally posted on FriendFeed.)

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Apr 06

You stay classy, Matt

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 1:40 pm Mountain Time

Is Matt Drudge really expending his considerable political and “journalistic” clout … making fun of an 11-year-old? Why yes, yes he is:

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Mar 22

Health care headlines

Monday, March 22, 2010 at 9:10 am Mountain Time

Here’s a look at how various newspapers headlined last night’s passage of health-care reform. The New York Times first; others after the jump.


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