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Howard Kurtz Media Notes

Blog Till You Drop

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 6, 2005; 10:15 AM

I have seen the future of the blogosphere, and I'm out of breath.

Before I get to that, though, I want to reassure those of you who think the pope's passing has been the most heavily covered story in western history that you're not crazy.

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At least, according to the Global Language Monitor (via the BuzzMachine), which has these findings:

"The death of Pope John Paul II has unleashed an unprecedented global media outpouring. Preliminary numbers from the Global Language Monitor's daily Internet and media analysis suggest that in the 24 hours since the pontiff's death, there have been some 45,000 major news stories, and more than 4.4 million Internet citations. In comparison, for the entire preceding year there were only 28,000 major news stories and 1.5 million Internet citations about John Paul II.

"According to Paul J.J. Payack, President of The Global Language Monitor, 'The word historic is associated with the pontiff over 2,000,000 times, while conservative is associated some 500,000 times, and loved or beloved about 450,000 times in the first 48 hours since John Paul's passing.'" (And here we all thought we were being original!)

"By way of comparison, within the first 48 hours of the Pontiff's passing, there were:

"--More than two-and-a-half times as many global Web citations for John Paul than there were for Ronald Reagan, when he died in June of 2004;

"--Almost 3 times as many news stories for John Paul as there were for the 9/11 attacks in 2001;

"--Some ten times as many news stories as there were for the re-election of President Bush."

I also want to mention that I was saddened yesterday in reporting the illness of Peter Jennings, the last of the Big Three anchors. The full story here.

Returning now to our regular programming:

There are now Web sites that produce the major headlines from the MSM and, right there and in real time, including links to lots and lots of blogger reactions. Many of them, as you'd expect, less than favorable.

Rather than hunting and pecking your way through cyberspace, or using Google and other search engines, it's all there: the news and the counter-news, the establishment version and the cyber-critique.

Yesterday, for example, there was much blog traffic about this Washington Post report on the junior senator from Texas:

"Sen. John Cornyn said Monday that recent examples of courthouse violence may be linked to public anger over judges who make politically charged decisions without being held accountable.

"In a Senate floor speech in which he sharply criticized a recent Supreme Court ruling on the death penalty, Cornyn (R-Tex.) -- a former Texas Supreme Court justice and member of the Judiciary Committee -- said Americans are growing increasingly frustrated by what he describes as activist jurists."

"Forgive me, but can I just raise a question about the word "activist"? If a series of state judges, acting under the law, reach one judgment in the Schiavo case--and Congress, unsatisfied with the outcome, comes in and moves the case to federal courts--where judges, all the way up to the less-than-liberal Supreme Court, reach the same conclusion . . . just who is being "activist"?

"Said Cornyn about the recent violence: "I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. . . . And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence. Certainly without any justification, but a concern that I have."

So here are some of the links (you can check it out yourself at Memeorandum

Sam Rosenfeld of American Prospect: "Just what, exactly, are congressional Republicans thinking these days? Did John Cornyn look at the reaction Tom DeLay's veiled threat of violence against judges elicited and think he'd be a fool not to get in on the action?"

Ann Althouse: "It is really a shame how little people understand of the reasons judges decide cases the way they do. DeLay and Cornyn, like many others, signal to the public to think that the judges are simply out of control and the cases are inexplicable as the serious work of deeply thoughtful persons steeped in the legal tradition. It wouldn't be wise just to assume that judges are unerring oracles of law, but to leap to the opposite conclusion and decide they are frauds is even more foolish. And for a public figure even to hint at violence as a solution is completely unacceptable."

Jack Balkin at Balkinization: "It's difficult to see why Cornyn would make so asinine a comment if he had not intended to send the message that federal judges should watch what they do from now on. This cannot be put down to an offhand remark or mere abstract speculation. It was in a speech on the Senate floor made by a seasoned politician. Cornyn knew exactly what he was doing. Sadly, Republican politicians like Tom Delay and Cornyn now appear to believe that veiled threats against the federal judiciary play well with their political base."

Joe Gandelman at the Moderate Voice: "has now seemingly given a perfect mental fig leaf for every nut on the right OR ON THE LEFT who wants to physically take out a judge (or the judge's family) with whom he or she disagrees.

RedState (link via Hotline) is somewhat more sympathetic:

"This was not a terribly bright thing for the senator to say, as there's no evidence that the recent spate of 'courthouse violence' (if you can call two incidents a 'spate') is in any way linked to the actions of the GOP leadership's perceived 'unaccountable' judges...

"Cornyn's musing, while impolitic, is hardly [a] danger to Constitutional governance . . . .He's not even endorsing the rhetoric, reasoning, nor actions in question -- indeed, he explicitly characterizes them as 'without justification.' One might therefore expect that his monologue would have all the moral content (if not intellectual content) of a professor hypothesizing on the motivations of al Qaeda.

"One, though, would be reckoning without the short bus to paranoia that is the lefty blogosphere."

Glenn Reynolds also weighs in at InstaPundit: "If you need proof that some Republicans are just as dumb as some Democrats, this is it. Now if there are further attacks on judges, Cornyn -- and the Republicans -- will be blamed. What's more, to some degree they'll deserve it."

All that (and lots more) sparked by just one story!

Similarly, this David Brooks column in the NYT has triggered lots of comment:

"We're living in the age of the liberal copycat. Al Franken tries to create a liberal version of Rush. Al Gore announced his TV network yesterday. Many Democrats have tried to create a liberal Heritage Foundation.

"The theory is that liberals must create their own version of the conservative pyramid. Conservatives have formed their foundations, think tanks and media outlets into a ruthlessly efficient message machine. Liberals, on the other hand, have been losing because they are too fractious, too nuanced and, well, too freethinking.

"Much as I admire my friends on the left for ingeniously explaining their recent defeats without really considering the possibility that maybe the substance of their ideas is the problem, I have to say that this explanation for conservative success and liberal failure is at odds with reality."

Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber is among those taking whacks:

"All I have to say is that I hate this sort of thing:

"A year ago I called the head of a prominent liberal think tank to ask him who his favorite philosopher was. If I'd asked about health care, he could have given me four hours of brilliant conversation, but on this subject he stumbled and said he'd call me back. He never did.

"This is supposed to be an indictment? I mean, I'm sorry the guy didn't call Brooks back. But can you think of any answer that Brooks would not have been able to turn into a head-shaking anecdote about the intellectual poverty and disarray of modern liberalism? Meanwhile, Brooks switches on his dichotomizer and, remarkably, always has himself come down on the right side -- Red and Blue, Thinkers and Actors, Isolationists and Interventionists, Fifties intellectuals and Contemporary intellectuals , Lucky-Charmers and Cheerioians."

There's also an Annotated New York Times that provides similar links, with stories also broken down by subject.

Well, the blogs will be on fire today with the latest round of DeLay stories. After the Schiavo diversion, the majority leader is once again front and center, as in this New York Times piece:

"The wife and daughter of Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, have been paid more than $500,000 since 2001 by Mr. DeLay's political action and campaign committees, according to a detailed review of disclosure statements filed with the Federal Election Commission and separate fund-raising records in Mr. DeLay's home state of Texas.

"Most of the payments to his wife, Christine A. DeLay, and his only child, Dani DeLay Ferro, were described in the disclosure forms as 'fund-raising fees,' 'campaign management' or 'payroll,' with no additional details about how they earned the money. The payments appear to reflect what Mr. DeLay's aides say is the central role played by the majority leader's wife and daughter in his political career.

"Mr. DeLay's national political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, or Armpac, said in a statement on Tuesday that the two women had provided valuable services to the committee in exchange for the payments."

Extremely valuable, I'm sure. This sort of thing is combustible because it's easy to understand and easy for opponents to demonize. The payments continued through last month.

The Washington Post story is more complicated but raises the specter of improper influence-peddling:

"A six-day trip to Moscow in 1997 by then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was underwritten by business interests lobbying in support of the Russian government, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the trip arrangements.

"DeLay reported that the trip was sponsored by a Washington-based nonprofit organization. But interviews with those involved in planning DeLay's trip say the expenses were covered by a mysterious company registered in the Bahamas that also paid for an intensive $440,000 lobbying campaign. . . .

"The expense-paid trip by DeLay and three of his staff members cost $57,238, according to records filed by his office. During his six days in Moscow, he played golf, met with Russian church leaders and talked to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, a friend of Russian oil and gas executives associated with the lobbying effort.

"DeLay also dined with the Russian executives and two Washington-based registered lobbyists for the Bahamian-registered company, sources say. One of those lobbyists was Jack Abramoff, who is now at the center of a federal influence-peddling and corruption probe related to his representation of Indian tribes."

Not a name you want to be associated with right now.

C-SPAN almost never gets criticized, but as this New York Sun piece points out, the network recently made a rare misstep:

"In the face of protests from historians and Jewish groups, C-SPAN Sunday backed down from plans to air a lengthy speech from an author whom critics and a British court have labeled as a holocaust denier. Instead, the network's popular 'Book TV' program included only two brief video clips from David Irving, the British historian who in 2000 lost a highly publicized libel case against an American professor, Deborah Lipstadt.

"The professor had accused Mr. Irving of being an anti-Semite and of grossly distorting evidence in order to prove that the Holocaust was largely a myth. C-SPAN initially planned to carry a talk Ms. Lipstadt delivered last month to a Harvard Jewish organization, Hillel. However, Ms. Lipstadt withdrew permission for the network to tape her remarks after she learned that the cable outlet planned to pair her comments with a lecture Mr. Irving delivered recently at a dinner in Atlanta. She said the consecutive appearances would violate her longstanding policy of not engaging in debate with Holocaust deniers.

"The compromise program C-SPAN aired yesterday left both Ms. Lipstadt and Mr. Irving sharply critical of the network."

It's not shocking, I suppose, that Fox News would be eager to splatter longtime CNN rival Ted Turner, but there is some very juicy stuff in his ex-wife's memoir:

"Jane Fonda says her marriage to Ted Turner ended for two distinct reasons: her conversion to Christianity and his continuous cheating.

"In her spellbinding autobiography, 'My Life So Far,' Fonda reveals that she made the religious conversion without telling her husband of almost eight years:

"'I hadn't told Ted beforehand because by then I didn't feel we were on the same team. Alongside the frantic life we shared, I was living a parallel inner life, where I took care of my own needs. . . . I also knew that if I had discussed with him my need for spirituality, he would have either asked me to choose between him and it or bullied me out of it.'

"Fonda writes that her religious conversion coincided with the revelation that Turner had never stopped cheating on her. A month into their marriage, she realized he'd had a 'nooner' with another woman. She confronted him and bashed him over the head with a mobile phone. Through counseling they eventually reconciled, but Fonda had more disappointments to come:

"He had spent our whole last year together looking for my replacement. . . . The day we parted, three days after the millennium, he flew to Atlanta to drop me off. As I drove from the airport to [my daughter's] home in a rental car, my replacement was waiting in the hangar to board his plane. My seat was still warm."

I can just see sales shooting up on Amazon.


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