Seeking a Journalist for the Morning Call’s DC Bureau

Or at least they should be. Colby Itkowitz gets another one wrong:

To start, Dent is taking the place of former Delaware Rep. Mike Castle (who lost his primary bid for the Senate to “I’m not a witch” Christine O’Donnell) as the lead Republican co-sponsor on legislation to allow federal funding for stem cell medical research. This isn’t going to be very popular with the social conservatives of the 15th district, but the district leans Democrat and Dent has succeeded there by hugging the political center.

Is it true that Charlie Dent has been “hugging the political center”?

That’s what Colby Itkowitz is always telling us, but it just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The more likely reason for Mr. Dent’s popularity is that the Morning Call does a lousy job of holding him accountable for his votes.

Was the vote to end Medicare hugging the political center? How about the vote against the Affordable Care Act? The vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act?

Voting against every single jobs bill that’s been proposed since the financial crisis? Opposing every bill to reregulate Wall Street? Insisting on 100% spending cuts for deficit reduction?

If we’re going by the Congressman’s actual voting record, he’s voting like a loyal rightwinger on all the major issues. Every few months he picks a token minor issue to break with the party on, and the media laps it up.

Rather than using his real voting record to take his measure, Colby is taking Charlie Dent’s brand at face value. That is what makes her such an ineffective journalist.

Rich Wilkins also comments.

Time for the Morning Call to Retire Paul Carpenter

Reading this kind of ignorant dreck from Paul Carpenter, it could not be more clear that it is well past time for the Morning Call to send him off to spend more time bumbling around the Westgate Mall:

There are clear signs of cultural degradation — gratuitous loud noise, acceptance of vulgar language in public, tattoos and other intentional disfigurements, habitual sloth, ridicule of intelligence and education, and barbarous music that glorifies vice and belligerence.

The clearest sign is graffiti. You can tell quickly which communities or neighborhoods have decent and productive populations, and which ones don’t, by the amount of trash sprayed on walls.

It was gratifying the other day to see the story about Fred Lahovski, a Nazareth police detective, who has found a way to crack down on the dimwitted lowlifes who use spray paint to vandalize trucks, houses, garage doors, industrial buildings and other surfaces…

Graffiti, the story said, is “driven by ego,” which compels the vandals to sign their work, even if it’s in some sort of fatuous code. As I have said before, graffiti is very similar to what dogs do to mark their territory, and is applied with approximately the same level of intellect.

There was one statement by Lahovski with which I disagree. He said some graffiti vandals have “artistic ability.” You need pretty low artistic standards to be able to look at graffiti and say something like that.

Tattoos and rap music are signs of cultural degradation? Get off my lawn!

Areas with graffiti don’t have decent and productive populations? Actually, America’s cities – and especially the gentrifying neighborhoods of America’s cities – tend to have a lot of graffiti and also very high productivity. Low-density suburban areas have lower productivity than cities.

You need low artistic standards to appreciate graffiti?

I could go on, but I’ll just direct Mr. Carpenter to look up “graffiti art” on The Google, or check out Banksy’s site. He should also see the films Exit Through the Gift Shop or Bomb It, although I’m not sure they stock them at 48 Hours or Hollywood Video.

The bottom line is that there’s an enormous difference between graffiti and just scrawling your tag on a wall. Lumping them together and then repeatedly comparing all graffiti artists to urinating dogs is beyond the pale, not to mention racially inflammatory, considering that Carpenter has made it abundantly clear by this point in the column that his villains are young non-white urban dwellers.

Colby Itkowitz Is Not Using Her Journo Powers

Rich Wilkins and Greg Palmer have you covered with rebuttals to these ridiculous comments from Charlie Dent. I’m more interested in what in the world the Morning Call was thinking letting Colby Itkowitz publish a one-sided item like this.

What you have in Washington right now is a hostage situation. Everybody agrees we need to raise the (statutory!) debt ceiling or the bond markets are going to freak out. There’s nothing to negotiate about because everyone agrees we need to do this. But even though everyone agrees, the Republican Party has decided to take the economy hostage anyway in order to force through an ideological agenda of deep spending cuts and smaller government.

Colby agrees with this. She even calls it a hostage situation in her report.

Now, in a hostage situation, typically the hostage-taker has some specific demands that he wants in exchange for releasing the hostages. It’s certainly not the responsibility of the person being extorted to suggest demands to the hostage-taker. He’s calling the shots! He’s the one with the hostages.

Instead Colby gives hostage-taker Charlie Dent a friendly platform to accuse Barack Obama of not coming up with a list of cuts for Republicans to demand.

While Colby had Dent on the phone, wasn’t the obvious follow-up question “What is your plan for the debt?” or “Under what conditions would you vote to raise the debt ceiling?”

It does not appear that Colby asked Dent to name the specific cuts he wants to see in exchange for his vote.

But knowing what the hostage-takers’ demands are is a critical piece of information for Morning Call readers to know in order to form opinions about who to support in this standoff. Are the House Republicans asking for something crazy? Are they asking for something reasonable? We don’t know, because Colby didn’t ask.

Or maybe she did ask and didn’t report that the Congressman declined to give specifics. But that too would have been a good thing for readers to know. In that case it would have been appropriate to write something like: “I asked Congressman Dent what concessions would win his vote, but he declined to name any specific cuts.”

It isn’t as though Colby has gotten the Congressman on the record any other time regarding what he wants to do about the debt. Indeed, this is a long-standing pattern for Ms. Itkowitz. Her coverage of the Congressman alternates between giving him a friendly platform to launch political attacks, a friendly platform to respond to political attacks, and beat sweeteners.

Greg Palmer is puzzled why Dent keeps getting reelected, but I think it’s reasonably clear: the total lack of critical coverage of the Congressman in the LV’s largest newspaper means voters are only hearing very one-sided Dent-approved stories about what he’s doing in DC.

I’ve emailed Colby to give her an opportunity to respond and explain her process. With her permission I will update this post with her side of the story.

Almost There, Colby

I really appreciate that Colby Itkowitz decided to take on this incredibly important issue, but she ultimately deserves only partial credit.

First of all, the term “federal budget crisis” in the title is far too vague. Are these cuts required by skittish bond market vigilantes, or are they a political choice? Obviously they are a political choice, so “political crisis” would have been a better choice of words. Furthermore, who has caused this political crisis? Who is the political party who is not negotiating in good faith?

Second, the name “Charlie Dent” does not appear once in Colby’s article, even though Congressman Dent is one of the House Republicans the article refers to. Was the Congressman unavailable for comment? Presumably Lehigh Valley voters would like to know why their Congressman supports these cuts.

#Winning

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Thanks for the votes! I guess the Morning Call will be reviewing blog content before they decide whether to link to me on their Opinion page, so I will try to be on my best behavior this week.

#BlogTheVote

While I would rank fame-seeking way way down at the bottom of the list of reasons I write this blog, a blogger does need to gin up publicity to get ideas and preferred interpretations of political events into broader circulation.

To that end, I’ve been conspiring with some of your other LV Blogosphere Overlords to win the Morning Call’s Best Blogs of the Lehigh Valley contest.

We put together the above slate of blogs and will harness the awesome power of the Internet to massively pester everyone in our networks to vote every day for all of these blogs, every day between now and March 27th every day. Every day!

Joking aside, all of these people deserve your vote. This list is a Who’s Who of writers who are working to promote a positive forward-looking vision for the region’s future, and it is refreshingly free of the unproductive curmudgeony and Hess’s Lament™ that sadly characterizes too much of the LV blogosphere.

I would very much appreciate it if you would help me and the rest of my blogger friends on this list win this contest by voting every day.

One word of warning – you have to create a Morning Call login if you don’t have one, and the login is being kind of screwy for some people. Andrew McGill has assured me they’re looking into it, but don’t be discouraged! It’s not clear if the problem is browser-related, but people seem to be having the best luck with Chrome or Safari, or logging in with Google. Every day!

Use Your Power, Colby

I’m still pretty astonished that Colby Itkowitz didn’t bother to press Charlie Dent on what specific programs he wants to cut, since he thinks Obama’s spending freeze proposal doesn’t go far enough.

I mean, the article is about how local Republicans want to cut more than Obama. Isn’t the obvious follow-up question “So what do you want to cut?”

Of course it’s obvious why he would want to dodge on the specifics. But isn’t this why the Morning Call pays Colby? To get information that Dent doesn’t want to tell the rest of us? Unlike the average voter’s questions at a town hall, Colby’s questioning is backed by the implicit threat of embarrassment in the local paper. So why isn’t she using her power?