Right-wing pundit (in outer space) denounces Keith Olbermann

To understand why one conservative writes to other conservatives about "the death of conservatism," don’t miss Armstrong William on The Hill's Pundits Blog denouncing Keith Olbermann, claiming that on his best day, Olbermann's audience is less than 200,000.

Excuse me? Under 200,000 on his best day? Armstrong, is your problem a dearth of fact-checking? Is your problem you don’t care about the facts and just make things up as you go along? Earth to Armstrong Williams: Why don’t you try a little bit of research, and a lot less of this jib-jab, cheap-shot, hyper-partisan delusion, and tell us the accurate audience share for Olbermann, which is hugely different than what you falsely claim.


Ignorance defined

There must be something in the water over at MSNBC studios that causes guests on Keith Olbermann's excuse for a show to temporarily lose a lobe of their brain. The latest victim to get caught up in Keith's mindless rants was former Newsweek columnist Richard Wolffe. Did you all see his segment? Of course not; on its best day, the show averages fewer than 200,000 viewers, and most of them are his relatives or buried in the DNC.


Fact-checking matters — even for columnists and bloggers

I write columns and post blogs regularly, and I’ve made my share of factual mistakes.

So I do not sit in judgment of someone who goofed. But if you make a factual mistake, there are certain rules of the road that responsible writers and bloggers should follow: (1) immediately correct the error as soon as you find out — and in the same publication; (2) if it was also a personal attack in any way, which turned out to be based on a false statement, then personally apologize — no ifs, ands or buts; and (3) learn a lesson for next time — be more careful.


Ars gratia publica

FDR’s New Deal has been a reference point for President Barack Obama’s legislative planners. Many elements of our current economic crisis are reminiscent of those FDR faced. There are major differences in those times and ours, of course.

One feature not discussed currently is the extraordinary programs FDR implemented to employ artists to portray American culture. We remain beneficiaries of those programs today. Writers, painters, photographers and musicians crossed the country defining and at the same time contributing to our culture — the dire conditions and the humanity that prevailed.


Dangerous books

When I wrote my book on the American correction system, I traveled around the world (thanks to a grant from the Ford Foundation) visiting prisons that were, reportedly, innovative. At one modern facility in the Netherlands, I was shown around by the official in charge. The pleasant building was modern and didn’t look like the prototypical dungeons one sees in this context. At one point on my tour, my guide searched his vast ring of keys to find the one that opened a door to the library — a rather pleasant-looking room full of books. I asked why the door was locked.

“The prisoners might steal the books,” he reported.

“How nice,” I replied. “Where would they go with them except to their cells to read — the purpose of a library, no?” He looked at me with a strange glance, and we proceeded on our tour.


David Frum's lonely crusade

In case you didn't quite hear any compelling Republican arguments for healthcare reform this week — with issues like ACORN, White House czars and the martyrdom of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) taking center stage — I found a good one at

David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter who famously coined the phrase "axis of evil," has taken on a lonely crusade to rebrand conservatism and reform his party. His movement doesn't have half the momentum of the tea party crowd, but his message is smart, sound and sane advice for an increasingly angry and disengaged party searching for a way back to power. His advice: persuade instead of provoke, enlarge the coalition instead of narrowing it, and choose to govern instead of enflame.


Mr. President: Outfox Fox on Fox

President Barack Obama: You are about to set the world record for presenting the same show on the most channels in the same day. The record is currently held, of course, by "Law and Order.” The only network where you will not be seen is Fox. And that, Mr. President, is a crime.

Many of us in the reporter biz have always referred to the Sunday interview programs as the "game shows.” It's unfortunate that this Sunday, you, President Obama, are playing games with just one of them.


The life of a book

Harvard’s erudite library director, Robert Darnton, has just written an optimistic book, The Case for Books: Past, Present and Future. Books are not dead, or even dying, Darnton believes. He cites data supporting his point: 700,000 new titles were published in 1998; 859,000 in 2003; 976,000 in 2007. He is confident the number will go beyond 1 million soon.


2009 is not 1929

The headlines in The Washington Post shows how entrenched the mainstream press is in the romance of Rooseveltism and the Great Depression. “The President Pulls a Jimmy Stewart Moment,” one read, referring to the Frank Capra movies of the '30s. But 2009 has no bearing on the 1930s, which was an era of total complicity and cooperation between government and the entertainment and information industries, and to pretend it does is dangerous and absurd.

Robert Samuelson, the economist at the Post, says economists should learn a little history. All the talk today relating to the fiscal crisis is of the crash of 1929. But the situation today couldn’t be more different.


News about healthcare negotiations

Because the media is now drenched by misreporting about what is happening on healthcare, here is the real story. This is written not as opinion, but as what has been called "news analysis" in blue-chip newspapers.

The issue currently being negotiated, in reality, is not whether a pure public option will be included in the bill, but whether a strong or weak provision to "trigger" a public option will be included.

Ignore all stories about "the president supports the public option" (in truth he does not; he always intended to give it up in return for Republican votes). And ignore all stories about "the public option is dead" (it is not; there are forms of a public-option trigger that will keep it very much alive if adopted).