January 8, 2014
The HuffPo-ization of the Right

e have no right to be boring or irrelevant,” Tucker Carlson says. “The Washington Post already has that covered.” Beneath the bluster, Carlson, the conservative pundit and former Crossfire co-host, has reason to brag: The Daily Caller, the news site he founded in 2010, has defied insider snickering to become a major news source for the right. “What I despise most about the legacy media isn’t just that they’re mindlessly liberal, though they are,” Carlson says, “but that they’re conventional and boring and unwilling to report unfashionable truths. That’s death.”

The Caller will never be called boring. Carlson and his staff of 50 draw visitors to the site with a blend of high-energy reporting (especially on anything having to do with the Obama administration), right-leaning opinion columns and a hearty dose of semi-SFW slideshows of the female form. “We care about traffic,” Carlson told me unapologetically.

The Caller is more than click-bait, though: It’s a gamble that right-leaning readers hunger not only for opinion pieces written by their own—the bread and butter of established conservative magazines like the Weekly Standard and National Review and the Wall Street Journal opinion page—but that they’re looking for news reported by their own as well. In recent years, a whole new media ecosystem has sprung up around this premise, bringing new energy and digital savvy (and a lot more busty slideshows) to compete with the occasionally stodgy old outlets of the right.

The energy behind the moment, without question, is the hardening opposition to President Obama and the glimpse of life beyond his second term. As the Obama era slouches wearily into its sixth year, conservatives see the chance—the mandate, even—to torment, debunk and distract from his agenda, even to effect its failure. That might feel familiar. As Ben Domenech, who co-founded RedState and, more recently, a new conservative site called the Federalist, pointed out to me, it’s “kind of the same way there was a proliferation of folks on the left starting up places” like the Huffington Post and Think Progress at a similar point in President George W. Bush’s tenure. In the eyes of the left, the media herd had fatally discredited itself by accepting the Bush administration’s Iraq intelligence. The time seemed right for a more activist era of journalism, and the new liberal blogs—back before blogs were declared over—took as a founding principle the notion that they could be both opinionated and purveyors of news.

That philosophy has since been enthusiastically embraced by media entrepreneurs on the right, who see in what Sarah Palin famously called “the lame-stream media” an establishment hopelessly biased against their cause. The new outlets range widely in size, scope and bent. Smaller, more targeted sites like the Washington Free Beacon and Domenech’s Federalistseek to go deep on the issues and sway the conversation in Washington. The Blaze, founded by Glenn Beck in 2010, sees enormous traffic—more than 20 million unique visitors over the last month, dwarfing its competitors—and is far more omnivorous, almost as if Yahoo! were reimagined by a fierce conservative. (The site’s “About” page concludes: “We answer to God and you.”) The elder statesman of the group, Breitbart.com, which was founded in 2007 by the late provocateur Andrew Breitbart, seems to be the outlet of choice for Tea Party activists. “If you’re going to be carrying a ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag outside the Capitol building, you’re probably going to Breitbart first,” a Republican press strategist told me. The Daily Caller, for its part, sits somewhere in the middle, playing both the inside and outside game.

All together, these outlets add up to a movement with sufficient mass to make a measurable difference in how politics is reported. “Our coverage of proposed immigration reform/amnesty, the attack on gun rights, and the Obamacare debacle shaped both the debate and the outcome,” Alex Marlow, Breitbart’s editor in chief boasted in an email. “We also fought back, successfully, against various media outlets that are hostile to those with Judeo-Christian and conservative values.”

As another conservative put it: “You could spend $5 million on a week of ads, and what do you get for that? For $5 million you can launch a newspaper and beat up the administration all year.”

***

Certainly Carlson, Domenech and the rest have done their share of beating up on Obama. But the idea is to go beyond landing punches and build an actual readership by getting people to stay on the page. So, hours after Obama announced that newly canceled health care plans would be un-canceled for a year, the Daily Caller led with a grabbily headlined news item: “If You Don’t Like My Plan, You Can Tweak It.” But also featured on the site that day were “Here’s the newest Playboy playmate” and a listicle touting “15 hottest moments from the Victoria’s Secret fashion show.” Carlson is unapologetic about the high-low vibe; he just hired gossip columnist Betsy Rothstein from the media water-cooler siteFishbowlDC, and he plans to add more sports coverage, too. As for the salacious stuff, Carlson defends the more titillating fare as “celebrating pulchritude in a way that’s edifying and uplifting”—before conceding the more relevant point: “In any case, readers love it.”

Apparently. According to Carlson, the Caller had more than 9 million unique visitors in October, rivaling websites like Slate and, well, Politico. He’s circumspect about the Caller’s financials but said the site has been making money for a little more than a year. “I’ll put it this way,” he said, “in contrast to virtually everyone else in Washington, we aren’t a nonprofit.”

The news organization that Carlson built reflects his own attributes—cavalier, colorful, at times impolitic—occasionally to a fault. In June of last year, Neil Munro, a Caller reporter, interrupted Obama during a Rose Garden speech on immigration, shouting, “Why’d you favor foreigners over Americans?” The outburst earned the Daily Caller a round of finger-wagging from the White House, and from frustrated competitors. Carlson stepped in to cover for his man, saying, “This is what reporters are supposed to do. They’re supposed to get their questions answered.” Then in March, the Caller found itself in hot water over a shaky story about two Dominican women who claimed that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) had paid them for sex, which Menendez denied outright, satisfying most other outlets that there was no story. A lawyer for the women came forward to say that someone from the Caller had paid him to find prostitutes who would fabricate such a story. Carlson denied the lawyer’s charges.

“I think the Caller's work over the years has been decidedly mixed,” said Jon Ward, a former White House correspondent for the Daily Caller who now works at Huffington Post. “But I’m cheering for them to keep moving closer to the bar Tucker set in 2009, when he talked about a conservative outlet with the same kind of accuracy and depth and insight in reporting as the New York Times.” In an email, Ward credited Carlson with encouraging him to “swing for the fences more often, to punch hard (my emphasis to him was that I wanted my punches to connect), to not be so worried about angering a government official or a politician.” Carlson, Ward said, “taught me to give fewer fucks.”

Far smaller than the Caller but perhaps even more pugnacious is the Washington Free Beacon.  The news site is the brainchild of Michael Goldfarb, a noted neoconservative and hardliner on Israel who rose through the ranks at the Weekly Standard and went on to serve as an aide to Sarah Palin and the Koch brothers. The Free Beacon, like its liberal opposite, Think Progress, is funded by a 501(c)4 nonprofit that is not required to disclose its donors. (Think Progress recently began disclosing its donors; Free Beacon does not.) The nonprofit model offers freedom from worry about traffic, enabling the Beacon “to focus very specifically on narrow things, especially in the foreign policy realm,” according to a friend of the publication. When the accord on Iran’s nuclear program was announced, for example, the Beacon devoted the entire upper half of its site to rolling reports about how awful some experts think the deal is.

Goldfarb and company make no bones about their agenda, which is to shred Democrats’ credibility, particularly when it comes to foreign policy. “We’re ideological,” he told me flat out—an admission you’re unlikely to hear from many editors or publishers around town. The Beacon’s editor in chief, Matthew Continetti, the former opinion editor at the Weekly Standard and son-in-law of that magazine’s patriarch, Bill Kristol, has reportedly used the term “weaponized journalism” to describe the Beacon’sapproach—meaning, from the looks of it, that every post should serve as a kind of pipe bomb in the hedges of Democratic officialdom and its liberal media abettors.

During the rocky confirmation process for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, for example, Beacon staffers were singularly focused on breaking unflattering stories about him—most notably when they uncovered a 2003 newspaper interview in which Hagel suggested that Israel kept “Palestinians caged up like animals.” The Beacon’s coverage often uses a winking, irreverent tone—what a New York Times profile of Goldfarb last February termed “gleeful evisceration.” A recent story about Democratic congressional candidate Sean Eldridge hedging on his support for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Affordable Care Act identified Eldridge as “husband of New Republic editor and millionaire ‘poke’ button pioneer Chris Hughes”—wording that’s hard not to read as a smirking reference to Eldridge and Hughes’s same-sex marriage. (Disclosure: I have written freelance articles for the New Republic.)

“We’re true believers,” Goldfarb told the Times, “but we’re also troublemakers.”

***

Yet the Beacon is surprisingly newsy and straightforward to read. If the site’s primary agenda is messing with Obama, its secondary agenda is to professionalize right-leaning reporting. “We’re trying to develop an infrastructure that can help develop young conservative reporters,” Goldfarb said. “For a long time, every kid who wanted to be in conservative media wanted to be Charles Krauthammer or Rush Limbaugh. But we already have great opinion writers, and it’s clear that’s not really enough.” He raised the example of the Koch brothers’ exploration of purchasing the Tribune Company, the parent company of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. “What would happen if they bought Tribune?” he asked. “Who’s going to staff it? They’re going to turn the L.A. Times into a conservative paper? No way. And if you hire new people, they’re going to be liberals, too. There’s hope that someday you can have a real conservative newspaper, but you can’t do it until you have a critical mass of conservative reporters and editors.”

According to the Beacon’s masthead, Goldfarb and company now employ an editorial staff of 20—a fairly large roster for a startup. And in a sign of their success as an incubator, they’ve already seen the departure of at least one staffer for more mainstream terrain. In October, BuzzFeed hired away the Beacon’s digital managing editor, Katherine Miller; she’s now the traffic giant’s political editor. Miller began her career at the Student Free Press Association, a nonprofit that trains conservative college journalists and helps them land substantive internships—the slots more often snapped up by their liberal counterparts, who then become entrenched in the media ranks. BuzzFeed’seditor in chief, Ben Smith (a Politico alumnus), told me he didn’t see anything unusual in making such a hire. He said “the new energy and jobs” have for years been “pushing great young reporters and editors to partisan media,” but Smith sees sites like Buzzfeed and Politicoas “exerting a centripetal force,” pulling that talent back toward the nonpartisan center.

Others have followed the same course, including Chris Moody, a former Daily Caller writer who now covers politics at Yahoo! News, and Robert Costa, a consummately sourced writer at National Review, who recently announced a move to The Washington Post. “I hope that Bob Costa’s credibility doesn’t suffer as a result of moving to a less reputable publication,”National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru joked to me.

Even as the movement begins to cohere, it’s not all neighborliness and camaraderie. Over the course of numerous conversations, I heard the Daily Caller called “kind of a three-ring circus” and the Free Beacon, “a vanity site about Israel.” Breitbart and the Blaze get sniffed at as unserious.

Still, nearly all the conservatives I talked to said the new range of right-wing outlets is a good thing. “The only thing that I think is hurtful to the movement is if you didn’t have that kind of variety,” Domenech of the Federalist told me. During the Bush era, he said, the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina showed that partisan media’s failure to question its own leadership can lead to a collective lurch into the political wilderness. The remedy is an array of sites playing complementary roles—a “weaponized” hit piece here, a clicky slideshow there, anti-Obama video snippets nearly everywhere.

Over the holidays, that diversity was on typical display, with the Daily Caller featuring both the news about Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor blocking Obamacare’s contraception-coverage mandate and a splash about the “huge” fight over “spandex, short skirts for teachers in West Va.” (This might help explain why education stories do well for the Caller.) At Breitbart, a headline cried, “Exclusive: OFA Obamacare ‘Success’ Stories Include Former Dem Candidate, Activist,” while in the comparatively bookish pages of the Federalist, a writer was taking time to explain “What Madison Meant By Self-Governance,” the second installment in a three-part series.

Just before Christmas, the Washington Free Beacon tweeted its “10 Last-Minute Gift Ideas for the Tea Partier in Your Life”—a slideshow of liberty-themed gifts like a Ron Paul ornament, Ted Cruz coloring book and vanilla-scented soap sculpture of Mitt Romney’s head. It was a perfect three-fer: irresistibly clicky, legitimately entertaining and a clever knock on Obama. (The list was a joking retort to Organizing for America’s Thanksgiving suggestion that liberals arm themselves with talking points to take on the “uncles everywhere [who] feel the need to spout off about Obamacare.”)

“I suspect that the conventional wisdom inside the beltway is that there simply cannot be a market for so many competing publications on the right,” said Drew Cline, the editorial page editor at the famously right-wing New Hampshire Union Leader, who recently drafted a column for the Federalist. “But anyone who is paying attention can see that the conservative movement is richly varied”—and so are its members’ reading preferences. “There is huge demand for news from a generally right-of-center point of view, and conservative-leaning publications are filling it,” Cline said. “It’s the free market at work.”

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Filed under: politico 
September 12, 2013
McDonald’s Tries to Improve on Perfection | Slate

McDonald’s had a great run during the early recovery years as fast food served as an “affordable luxury” for cash-strapped families. In the most recent quarter, however, it reported anemic 0.2 percent same store sales growth. Now they’re trying to shake things up with, among other things, a new set of steak-and-eggs breakfast options.

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(Source: Slate)

September 10, 2013
Liberal group calls John Morse ‘worst’ politician in country | The Gazette

The Gazette editorial | Published: September 9, 2013

Gun rights and tax hikes aren’t the top concerns of idealistic young adults at prestigious liberal arts institutions. So it’s not surprising Senate President John Morse was able to speak at a rally Friday, which featured free food, and get Colorado College students to march downtown and cast their votes for him en masse.

A comment falsely attributed to Winston Churchill, but useful nonetheless, says: “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.”

Genuine liberals, such as Gov. John Hickenlooper and Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino, bring a lot of good to public process. Arch-liberal celebrity Ashton Kutcher, a staunch supporter of President Barack Obama, teaches young Americans the value of hard work - even as the president advocates state benefits and dependence.

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(Source: gazette.com)

September 6, 2013
Snowden Disclosures Finally Hit 12 on a Scale of 1 to 10

A few days ago, NBC News quoted a former intelligence official about the fallout from Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks. “The damage, on a scale of 1 to 10, is a 12,” he said.

At the time, I thought it was an odd thing to say. Obviously Snowden’s leaks have been damaging to the NSA, and just as obviously they’ve caused the NSA enormous PR problems. Still, we’ve known for years that they were collecting telephone metadata. We’ve known they were subpoenaing email and online documents from tech providers like Google and Microsoft. We’ve known they were monitoring switching equipment and fiber optic cables. We certainly know a lot more details about this stuff than we used to, but the basic outline of NSA’s capabilities hasn’t really come as much of a surprise.

So what was this former intelligence official talking about? I suspect it was this:

The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show.

….Some of the agency’s most intensive efforts have focused on the encryption in universal use in the United States, including Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL; virtual private networks, or VPNs; and the protection used on fourth-generation, or 4G, smartphones.

….By this year, the Sigint Enabling Project had found ways inside some of the encryption chips that scramble information for businesses and governments, either by working with chipmakers to insert back doors or by exploiting security flaws, according to the documents. The agency also expected to gain full unencrypted access to an unnamed major Internet phone call and text service; to a Middle Eastern Internet service; and to the communications of three foreign governments.

….[In 2010, a] briefing document claims that the agency had developed“groundbreaking capabilities” against encrypted Web chats and phone calls. Its successes against Secure Sockets Layer and virtual private networks were gaining momentum.

But the agency was concerned that it could lose the advantage it had worked so long to gain, if the mere “fact of” decryption became widely known. “These capabilities are among the Sigint community’s most fragile, and the inadvertent disclosure of the simple ‘fact of’ could alert the adversary and result in immediate loss of the capability,” a GCHQ document warned.

That’s a 12 on a scale of 1 to 10. The Snowden documents don’t make clear precisely what NSA’s capabilities are, or exactly what kind of encryption it can break. Nor is it clear how many of its new capabilities are truly due to mathematical breakthroughs of some kind, and how many are more prosaic hacking exploits that have given them more encryption keys than in the past.

Nonetheless, this is truly information that plenty of bad guys probably didn’t know, and probably didn’t have much of an inkling about. It’s likely that many or most of them figured that ordinary commercial crypto provided sufficient protection, which in turn meant that it wasn’t worth the trouble to implement strong crypto, which is a bit of a pain in the ass. (Recall, for example, Glenn Greenwald’s admission that he “almost lost one of the biggest leaks in national-security history” because Snowden initially insisted on communicating with strong crypto and Greenwald didn’t want to be bothered to install it.)

But now that’s all changed. Now every bad guy in the world knows for a fact that commercial crypto won’t help them, and the ones with even modest smarts will switch to strong crypto techniques that remain unbreakable. It’s still a pain in the ass, but it’s not that big a pain in the ass.

For what it’s worth, this is about the point where I get off the Snowden train. It’s true that some of these disclosures are of clear public interest. In particular, I’m thinking about the details of NSA efforts to infiltrate and corrupt the standards setting groups that produce commercial crypto schemes.

But the rest of it is a lot more dubious. It’s not clear to me how disclosing NSA’s decryption breakthroughs benefits the public debate much, unlike previous disclosures that have raised serious questions about the scope and legality of NSA’s surveillance of U.S. persons. Conversely, it’s really easy to see how disclosing them harms U.S. efforts to keep up our surveillance on genuine bad guys. Unlike previous rounds of disclosures, I’m a lot less certain that this one should have seen the light of day.

August 20, 2013
Barack Obama: the first female president | The Daily Caller

By Mark Judge | 4:03 PM 08/20/2013

Condolences to Hillary Clinton, who wanted to be the first woman president. She just missed it.

Barack Obama is the first female president.

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(Source: dailycaller.com)

August 6, 2013
Loans for day care issued to New York City parents

Child care is so expensive in New York City that City Council Speaker and mayoral frontrunner Christine Quinn is launching a loan program to help middle-class parents pay for daycare.

City Council Speaker Quinn unveiled a pilot program Monday to provide subsidized child care loans to families that she described as “middle class.” Her office describes the plan as the first of its kind in the U.S.

Parents with children aged two to four will be able to receive loans of $11,000, at a 6% interest rate. Applicants must have an annual income of between $80,000 to $200,000, and a credit score of at least 620, according to Quinn’s office. Their finances will be reviewed by financial counselors from the Neighborhood Trust Credit Union, which will administer the loans.

In a press release detailing the plan, Quinn said that New York City has some of the highest child-care costs in the country. In Brooklyn, day care costs can cost $1,700 per month, while it can run as much as $2,300 a month in Manhattan.

The city’s Administration for Children’s Services already subsidizes child care for families below the poverty level, but there hasn’t been a program to help middle class families until now.

A pilot version of the day care program will provide loans to 40 families in its first year. 

(Source: CNN)

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Filed under: cnnmoney 
August 6, 2013
Artists give pretty signs to the homeless instead of something useful

Would you give more to a homeless person if their sign was more vibrant or conveyed its message better? A pair of Massachusetts-based artists have been exchanging the signs of homeless people with colorful replacements. Kenji Nakayama and Christopher Hope began their Signs for the Homeless project in February 2012; for each exchange, the pair explored the homeless person’s backstory, before giving them a colorful alternative to their hand-written sign. The intricate designs are layered with hand-crafted multicolor lettering, which the artists hope will help their owners increase their daily take. A partial list of the people Signs for the Homeless have helped is available on the duo’s Tumblr. Each entry contains before and after images, a brief profile, and excerpts from an interview. In the interviews, the pair ask questions that shed light on the daily lives of the interviewee. “I sleep outside because the shelters are nothing but stomping grounds for predators and thieves,” says Bobbi, the owner of the “Be Blessed” sign above. “I get attacked in the shelter. My things get stolen in the shelters in Boston. So I’ve decided to stay outside.”

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Filed under: theverge 
August 6, 2013
DNC to Philly in 2016?

Philadelphia, with its reliable and large turnout in a crucial swing state, is one of the most important cities to the Democratic Party. Yet Philly hasn’t hosted a Democratic presidential nominating convention since the famous 1948 event whereHarry Truman coined the term “do-nothing Congress” and Hubert Humphrey’s civil rights speechcaused a walkout of Southern delegates. If Bob Brady has his way, however, the city of brotherly love will be neglected no longer.

As reported by the Daily News, Rep. Brady, whose district includes South Philadelphia, will make a presentation today to the city’s leaders on the benefits of hosting the convention. Brady is also chair of the Philadelphia Democratic Committee.

The Congressman will cite the precedent of 2000, when the Republicans held their convention in the city and brought in $345 million in additional tourism and business according to a city study.

This is a familiar crusade for Brady, who tried to get the 2012 convention as well. Back then, Brady didn’t have the support of Mayor Michael Nutter. The Mayor so far has seemed noncommittal about this new bid, although his term of office ends before the convention would take place.

“This meeting is a very preliminary step toward getting information and putting us in a position to evaluate and help make the decision about whether to pursue a convention,” Nutter told the Daily News.

Brady has remained steadfast in his quest, noting that the Mayor had promised when he rejected the 2012 bid to try for 2016.

A potential downside? Pa. could be too blue. Democrats have held their last two conventions in Denver, Colorado and Charlotte, North Carolina, states not considered traditionally Democratic, in an attempt to expand the map.

(Source: politicspa.com)

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Filed under: politics pa 
July 18, 2013
There’s a good reason Republicans hate Obama’s labor board nominees | Washington Post

By Steven Pearlstein, | July 18 at 9:00 am

For those concerned about excessive partisanship and polarization, Tuesday’s Senate deal that clears the way for votes on presidential nominees is certainly a rare bit of welcome news.

But not totally.

Note what happened regarding the most controversial of the nominees, those to the National Labor Relations Board, which has been the site of an all-out war between Republican business interests and Democratic union interests for decades.

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(Source: Washington Post)

July 17, 2013
Why was Zimmerman allowed to walk around armed and loaded? | Washington Post

By Kathleen Parker | July 16, 2013

It is easy to understand how everyone in the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case feels.

If I were Martin’s mother, I’d want his killer’s heart on a platter. If I were Zimmerman’s mother, I’d be grateful my son escaped greater injury, however he managed.

If I were African American, I would fear for my sons and be furious at a system that condones vigilantism and then acts as though calling a teen’s death a “tragedy” ends the discussion.

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(Source: Washington Post)