Thursday, October 31, 2013

Calderon allegedly took bribes for pushing film bills, Al Jazeera reports

Ron Calderon
State Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), right, listens to a question from a reporter at the end of his brief news conference at the Capitol in June. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP / June 10, 2013)
SACRAMENTO -- State Sen. Ronald Calderon allegedly accepted more than $60,000 in bribes from  undercover FBI agents during an elaborate sting operation, according to a report by the Al Jazeera television network, which cited a sealed federal affidavit.

The bribes were paid in exchange for Calderon seeking a change in tax credits available to the film industry and for hiring on the state payroll a woman purported to be the undercover agent's girlfriend, but who was herself an undercover agent, according to the affidavit, which the television network released.

The document, filed in support of a search warrant served in June of Calderon’s Capitol office, said the agent believed Calderon had also engaged in conspiracy, mail fraud and extortion under color of official authority, and indicated that wiretaps were used to collect evidence.

Calderon has not been charged with any crime.

“There is probable cause to believe that Ronald Calderon, a California state senator, has committed the subject offenses by accepting approximately $60,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent," ('the UC') the affidavit says, “in exchange for (1) directly enriching the UC’s business by supporting legislation in the California Senate that would lower the amount of money independent filmmakers have to spend on a film’s budget in order to qualify for a California tax credit and (2) indirectly enriching the UC by hiring the UC’s purported girlfriend, UC-2, to a Senate staff position funded by the state of California.”

The affidavit says there is also probable cause to believe that Calderon “participated in a separate bribery scheme with Michael D. Drobot,” the chief executive officer of the Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, accepting $28,000 in bribes from Drobot in exchange for “supporting legislation that would delay or limit changes in California’s workers compensation laws….”

The document said a $25,000 bribe paid by the undercover agent to Ronald Calderon went through Californians for Diversity, a nonprofit formed by his brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon in 2008.
Ron Calderon told investigators that he and Tom Calderon “intend to use that money when Ronald Calderon is no longer in public office.”

The bribes, which began in Februry 2012, were from an undercover agent “posing as owner of a film studio in downtown Los Angeles that provides studio facilities to independent films and commercials,” the affidavit says.

The agent also made nine $3,000 payments to Ronald Calderon’s daughter, Jessica Calderon, who “has received these payments even though she has never done any work for the” undercover agent.
Mark Geragos, an attorney for Ronald Calderon, challenged the television report.

“The only illegal act that is being committed is either by the government or by Al Jazeera,” Geragos said. “The only illegal act I see is commited either by somebody who released a sealed affidavit or somebody who claims they got a sealed affidavit. Releasing a sealed affidavit is a federal crime.”

Asked about the allegations in the report: “My guess is, it is fabricated and untrue.”

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


The Shrinking White Base of the GOP Cannot Accept the Country In Which It Now Lives




 Written by Gary Younge


GUEST WORDS-In the early 1980s veteran pollster Stan Greenberg, conducted a focus group in Macomb County, a Detroit suburb, of former Democrats who had switched allegiance to the Republican Ronald Reagan. After he read a statement by Robert Kennedy about racial inequality, one participant interjected: "No wonder they killed him." 

"That stopped me and led to a whole new analysis of Reagan Democrats," wrote Greenberg in a recent report, Inside the GOP.  "I realized that in trying to reach this group of people race is everything," he told me.

While conducting a focus group with Republicans over the summer he had a similar revelation, although it came not from a sole outburst but almost throwaway comments, often left on cards after the session. As one man left his handout he half-joked: "It's probably digital, so you can check it on the NSA files."

Another asked: "Now you're going to guarantee that what we put down here, we won't be getting a call from the IRS about an audit or anything like that?" Alongside this sense of being spied upon was relief that, in these Republican-only groups, they had found kindred spirits. "I'm not alone in the way I view things for the most part," wrote one on a postcard. "Not by myself in thought process," confided another.

Those seeking to understand what drove the Republican party to shut down the government this month in a strategically disastrous move that laid bare its deep internal divisions – and ultimately led to humiliating defeat – could do worse than start here. The report reveals a sense of ideological, demographic and cultural siege, on the American right, from which there is no obvious escape.

Unable to comprehend or process last year's election defeat, they feel the nation has become unmoored from its founding principles and is on a full-scale, unrelenting descent into chaos. Obama has been victorious in implementing socialism and the party they identify with has proved incapable of halting the decline, leaving them alienated not only from the country at large but one another. If it appears as though they are howling at the moon, it's because they feel all earthly options have been exhausted.

Describing Ireland's economic and cultural transformation in his book The Deportees, Roddy Doyle wrote: "I went to bed in one country and woke up in a different one." Many Republicans have precisely the same feeling.

Central to this deep-seated sense of angst is race. In 2012, 92% of the Republican vote came from white people who, within 30 years, will no longer be in the majority. "They are acutely racially conscious," says Greenberg. "They are very aware that they are 'white' in a country that is becoming increasingly 'minority'."

Growing increasingly dependent on an ever-shrinking base, they see their electoral fortunes waning but are resistant to adapting their message to broaden their appeal beyond their narrow racial confines. Race is less the explicit target of their anxiety (issues such as affirmative action and civil rights no longer dominate) than the primary (if not exclusive) prism through which their political consciousness is being filtered. "Race," writes Greenberg, "is central to their worldview."

There are three main ways in which this has been a factor in the recent government shutdown and Republican schisms. First is gerrymandering. Since race is one of the best predictors of voting behavior, House congressional seats have been manipulated largely on racial grounds. Politicians at state level carve constituencies into odd and unlikely shapes, shuffling around various racial groups to protect incumbents.

Both parties do this when they have the chance but Republicans, who run more state houses, have had more chance and have undertaken the task with much zeal and guile.

As a result, in 2012 the Democrats won more votes nationally for Congress but still got fewer seats, giving the Republicans who shut down the government a fragile mandate. It also means incumbents need not fear losing their seats, leaving them able to act out.

Second is the perceived beneficiaries of government spending. Republicans are more likely to regard intervention as being to support minorities rather than to support the poor. This goes not only for food stamps and welfare but also for Obamacare – which was the issue that initially sparked the shutdown.

"Obamacare is a racial flashpoint for many evangelical and Tea Party voters," writes Greenberg.
Their despair is largely rooted in the assumption that by championing programs that disproportionately help minorities, Obama is effectively buying votes and securing a growing tranche of the electorate who will for evermore be dependent on government.

One participant, echoing the views of many, said: "Every minority group wants to say they have the right to something, and they don't. It's life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It doesn't say happiness. You get to be alive and you get to be free. The rest of it's just a pursuit … you're not guaranteed happiness. You have to work for it."

Finally, there is Obama – the black son of an African immigrant and white mother – who stands as an emblem for all this unease, personifying, in their minds, not only their political impotence today but their demographic irrelevance tomorrow. The word they're most likely to use to describe him is "liar". But their hostility goes beyond his policies and pronouncements to a deeply rooted suspicion of his authenticity.

"[There] is a sense of him being foreign, non-Christian, Muslim – and they wonder what really are his motives for the changes he is advancing." As he moves into his second term, there is now an elision in the Republican mind between what they think he is (an immigrant, a fraudster, a non-American) and what they think he does (assist immigrants and fraudsters in contravention of American ideals).

Their inability to craft a credible strategic response to these insecurities only serves to reinforce them.
"You don't like a particular policy or a particular president?" taunted Obama last week. "Go out there and win an election." The trouble is Republicans can't because their racially charged rhetoric alienates minorities, leaving them more electorally isolated, prompting defeat – which leaves them ever more divided.

Meanwhile, their reckless obstruction in Congress, which nearly triggered a default, makes the nation's descent into chaos more likely. Unable to come to terms with the country in which they live, they are complicit in creating the very future they most fear.

(Gary Younge is a Guardian columnist and feature writer based in the US. This column was posted first by The Guardian/UK and most recently by the excellent

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Cry of the True Republican

I AM a genetic Republican.

Five generations of Tafts have served our nation as unwaveringly stalwart Republicans, from Alphonso Taft, who served as attorney general in the late 19th century, through William Howard Taft, who not only was the only person to be both president of the United States and chief justice of the United States but also served as the chief civil administrator of the Philippines and secretary of war, to my cousin, Robert Taft, a two-term governor of Ohio.

As I write, a photograph of my grandfather, Senator Robert Alphonso Taft, looks across at me from the wall of my office. He led the Republican Party in the United States Senate in the 1940s and early 1950s, ran for the Republican nomination for president three times and was known as “Mr. Republican.” If he were alive today, I can assure you he wouldn’t even recognize the modern Republican Party, which has repeatedly brought the United States of America to the edge of a fiscal cliff — seemingly with every intention of pushing us off the edge.

Throughout my family’s more than 170-year legacy of public service, Republicans have represented the voice of fiscal conservatism. Republicans have been the adults in the room. Yet somehow the current generation of party activists has managed to do what no previous Republicans have been able to do — position the Democratic Party as the agents of fiscal responsibility.

Speaking through the night, Senator Ted Cruz, with heavy-lidded, sleep-deprived eyes, conveyed not the libertarian element in Republican philosophy that advocates for smaller government and less intrusion into the personal lives of citizens. but a new, virulent strain of empty nihilism: “blow it up if we can’t get what we want.”

This recent display of bomb-throwing obstructionism by Republicans in Congress evokes another painful, historically embarrassing chapter in the Republican Party — that of Senator Joseph McCarthy, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, whose anti-Communist crusade was allowed by 
 Republican elders to expand unchecked, unnecessarily and unfairly tarnishing the reputations of thousands of people with “Red Scare” accusations of Communist affiliation. 

Finally Senator McCarthy was brought up short during the questioning of the United States Army’s chief counsel, Joseph N. Welch, who at one point demanded the senator’s attention, then said: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” He later added: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Watching the Republican Party use the full faith and credit of the United States to try to roll back Obamacare, watching its members threaten not to raise the debt limit — which Warren Buffett rightly called a “political weapon of mass destruction” — to repeal a tax on medical devices, I so wanted to ask a similar question: “Have you no sense of responsibility? At long last, have you left no sense of responsibility?”

There is more than a passing similarity between Joseph McCarthy and Ted Cruz, between McCarthyism and the Tea Party movement. The Republican Party survived McCarthyism because, ultimately, its excesses caused it to burn out. And eventually party elders in the mold of my grandfather were able to realign the party with its brand promise: The Republican Party is (or should be) the Stewardship Party. The Republican brand is (or should be) about responsible behavior. The Republican party is (or should be) at long last, about decency.

What a long way we have yet to go. 

John G. Taft is the author of “Stewardship: Lessons Learned From the Lost Culture of Wall Street.”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Latinos want national leader, have trouble naming one

(In a recent poll, 5% of Latinos questioned named Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Florida Senator Marco Rubio as an important Hispanic or Latino leader.)

by Suzanne Gamboa, @SuzGamboa 

More than 50 million and growing, Latinos are hard-pressed to name someone among them as their national leader, even though there is desire for one, according to a new report from Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project.

The study released Tuesday reported that nearly three quarters of Latinos in the United States believe their community needs a national leader. But about the same share of the 5,103 Latinos surveyed could not name one. The study was done by Pew’s Hispanic Trends and Religion and Public Life projects.

Mark Hugo Lopez, lead author of the study, said the finding that Latinos feel they need a national leader to advance the concerns of the community is a new one. Earlier studies only asked Latinos to name national leaders. That prompted questions of whether Latinos thought one was needed.

Lopez said the desire for a national leader was more important among foreign-born Latinos who prefer Spanish, which he said may be a function of getting news from media outlets that give more attention to issues within the Latino community.

When respondents were asked to name the most important Hispanic or Latino leader, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is Puerto Rican, and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, of Cuban descent each were cited by 5 percent of participants.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and immigration reform champion Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., were cited by 3 percent and 2 percent respectively.
The leading answer was “don’t know,” 62 percent, while 13 percent came up with other names and 9 percent said no one.

The lack of a name of a national leader on the tip of Latinos’ tongues reflects a cultural aspect of the community where years ago the leader was a mother, a father, a parish priest or a local wise person living in the neighborhood, said Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Chicago-based Latino Policy Forum.

“What’s happened with the Latino community as it has developed and matured is there are literally thousands of leaders at the local and community level,” Puente said.

Look at immigration reform, she said. “You can look at the community and see hundreds of people working to keep that issue alive,” said Puente, whose organization advocates on issues of education, immigration reform and housing for Latinos and works to build leaders in the community.

Puente said part of the reason Latino leaders are not better known is because as the community has grown and their issues have matured, the community is not given its fair share of coverage in the media. Latino leaders are not turned to by the media and “it’s the media who designates who those leaders are,” Puente said.

Ray Suarez, who compiled the stories of several Latino leaders over the centuries in his book “Latino Americans,” said the idea that a community of 53 million people can have a single recognized leader “seems a little bit of a long shot to me, but I can see why that has appeal.”

The idea of a single national leader does not seem that useful in the 21st century, Suarez said. “What we need in a disperse community growing in every part of the country is lots of people who come to mind locally,” said Suarez, whose book accompanied a six-part PBS series on the 500-year legacy of Latinos in the United States.

Suarez said a national leader – even a Latino president – is something that emerges organically, from being governor of Texas or a U.S. senator from Califorina. “It won’t be the kind of thing where everyone thinks you are a leader and therefore you are one. You have to have real influence over real events.”

Potential leaders varied by Hispanic origin for some groups. Rubio was most named among Cubans and Sotomayor most named among Puerto Ricans.

Hispanics of Mexican and Salvadoran origin were least likely to name a leader, with just a quarter coming up with a name. But Latinos of Mexican origin split at four percent each in naming Sotomayor and Villaraigosa.
Salvadorans named Gutierrez, 7 percent, and 9 percent of Dominicans named Sotomayor.

The need for a leader also became less of interest if the Latino surveyed was born in the U.S. While 82 percent of foreign-born Latinos said it was extremely or very important the community have a national leader, 64 percent of U.S.-born Latinos said the same.

The Pew study was conducted May 24 through July 28 by landline and cell phone in English and in Spanish. It carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.
Other findings of the survey included:

_ Four in 10 Latinos surveyed say that Latinos of different origins share a lot of the same values, while 39 percent say they share some and 19 percent say only a little or almost nothing.

_ One in five of the respondents say they most often describe themselves as Hispanic or Latino. A majority, 54 percent say they most often describe themselves using Latino origin descriptions such as Mexican, Dominican or Puerto Rican and 23 percent use “American” most often.

_ Half of the respondents say they have no preference for being called Hispanic or Latino. But when a preference is expressed, Hispanic is preferred over Latino by 3-1.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Opinion: Time for Republicans to recover grand in Grand Old Party

President Obama  should not be so quick to penalize the IRS for questioning Tea Party groups, argues Stephen Nuño.
President Obama should not be so quick to penalize the IRS for questioning Tea Party groups, argues Stephen Nuño. (Photo/Getty Images )

Opinion: Time for Republicans to recover grand in Grand Old Party

Conservatives should not need to be told this, but there is more to leadership than being smart.  A Harvard law graduate, Senator Ted Cruz is smart but a seriously flawed individual who has taken on a cultish following of political amateurs who have no greater sense of achievement beyond their noses.

Ted Cruz came out swinging like William Wallace and ended up looking like a prostrate George Wallace.  At a political rally in which he attempted to gather the troops, someone showed up with a Confederate flag.  Jonathon Capehart of the Washington Post was repulsed by the display, and pointed out that the Confederate Flag was seen as a “hostile act” by black families.

The confederate flag represents much more than that.
It represents separatism, slavery, and a Dark Age culture of backwardness towards minorities and women. It is the opposite of how we should aspire to be as a country.

No other flag has been flown in this country to support an economic and social system that so systematically destroyed the lives of so many Americans.  The murder, subjugation, and tyranny over the hearts and minds of not only millions of people, but generations of American families is unprecedented and should no longer be accepted in civilized society.

It is more than a hostile act to display that flag on the lawn of a black family; it is a terrorist act.  It is a hateful act.  It is a shameful act.

And yet when the flag was waved at their rally, neither Ted Cruz nor Sarah Palin bothered to say anything. Not that we should be surprised, since Senator Cruz is an admiring fan of one of this country’s grandest supporters of Jim Crow in the Senate, Jesse Helms.

Ted Cruz was warned before this latest episode of holding the government hostage over the attempt to extend health care to working class and poor families that he and his confederacy of dunces would ultimately lose a showdown between the President and the Senate. Yet Cruz ignored those warnings, he ignored the costs it imposed on working families, on our distressed financial system, and on the poor.

If there is anything salvageable in the Republican Party it will come from those who believe in honorable opposition for the benefit of the country.

Currently, there is nothing grand about this party.  There are no more grand ideas to improve the country, improve our society, and move forward as a nation.

Where Ronald Reagan once envisioned a grand economic and social cooperative between Mexico and Canada, today’s Republicans build walls and quite literally try to convince people that freedom lies within one’s right not to have health care.

This is a party of fear and resentment, whose only display of grandeur is in the remarkable littleness of its leaders. The utter lack of courage to stand up to populism, to succumb to the anxiety of a changing society, and to profit off the misery of its fellow neighbors without one scintilla of effort to try to educate their constituency is an utter failure of what a political party is supposed to do.

Our democracy needs a responsible opposition. Today we have none.

The GOP was once an innovator of ideas in an era of lethargy.  They may not have always been right, but they did think big.  Embracing a global economy, families of all stripes, spirituality in its many positive forms, and our pride in improving opportunities for our future entrepreneurs should be the nexus of where the GOP goes from here.  Driving forward with both eyes on the review mirror is neither conservative, nor healthy.

Perhaps some day the GOP will embrace the power of diversity in society as they do their portfolios. Hopefully that day comes sooner rather than later, because the Democrats are content that it comes later rather than sooner.

Opinion: Time for Republicans to recover grand in Grand Old Party  politics NBC Latino News
Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBC Latino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Opinion: Tea Party’s hostile takeover

We are now at a point where we are being pulled by the ear by a Tea Party faction who no longer cares about the very basic function of democracy,

Due to the shutdown brought about by the refusal of the Tea Party to engage in actual governance – and the Republicans who have gone along with it – private charities have had to pick up where the federal government has eschewed its collective obligation to our poor, our children, and to those families who make the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.  The Laura and John Arnold Foundation has pledged ten million dollars to hold several Head Start programs over until Congress can come to an agreement. Another charity, Fisher House Foundation, has promised to pay survivor benefits to families who have lost loved ones abroad defending their country until we get our act together.

Even if the House approves piecemeal solutions, if this shutdown continues, hundreds of thousands of American families who have fallen on hard times throughout the recession may have delays in the delivery of nutritional support through food stamps, which have already been reduced. This will be beyond the capacity of temporary fixes by charity.

Apart from the real-world effects of this shutdown, most disheartening is what the current GOP has done to our basic understanding of what it means to be conservative.

Rather than looking at society as a cohesive unit with basic civic responsibilities for each other, conservatism has descended into a self-interested libertarian fantasy land that never existed but for a time in which life expectancy was 35 – 40 years

Today, by the way, it is eighty years.

Long-time conservative columnist, George Will equated the Affordable Care Act to the Fugitive Slave Act and to the Jim Crow South. One wonders what sense of entitlement one has, in order to feel like a slave simply because the government has set forth regulations of an insurance market that curbs practices that other modern societies have addressed for decades – such as denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.
There has been a stream of libertarian bravado that demonstrates a lack of basic human empathy not only for our fellow Americans, but a language that poisons the well of discussions about how to move forward as a society.

Representative Brenda Barton of Arizona publicly compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler for shutting down the national parks. Governor Brewer offered to reopen the parks using state funds, but was denied.  Perhaps because she needed to be reminded to focus on other priorities, like her initial decision to halt Temporary Cash Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) from reaching the poorest members of the State she represents; the only state in the union to do so.

A recent book by Dr. Chris Parker and Dr. Matt Barreto finds that beyond the conservative values is a sense of anxiety, conspiratorial fantasy, and delusion about the state of the country.

The fundamental flaw of conservatism in our past has been the refusal to view the poor and minorities as full members of society, entitled to the same basic obligations expected from government to assist with, such as Medicare and Social Security.

The President has simply expanded our notion of citizenship and membership, if ever so slightly.
True, by doing so, the President has encroached on the sense of individuality and empowerment that others have felt since the beginning of our founding.

Still, this Tea Party sense of paranoia cannot be allowed to decay our nation.
We should do what we can to prevent this hostile takeover from happening.
Opinion: Tea Partys hostile takeover   politics NBC Latino News
Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBC Latino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Reporting on government shutdown has failed democracy

Commentary: We need journalists to hold politicians accountable for extremist actions, not to enable them.
media government shutdown
A man reads morning newspapers from around the U.S. at the Newseum in Washington October 1, 2013.
Gary Cameron/Reuters
American news reports are largely blaming the government shutdown on the inability of both political parties to come to terms. It is supposedly the result of a "bitterly divided" Congress that "failed to reach agreement" (Washington Post) or "a bitter budget standoff" left unresolved by "rapid-fire back and forth legislative maneuvers" (New York Times). This sort of false equivalence is not just a failure of journalism. It is also a failure of democracy.

When the political leadership of this country is incapable of even keeping the government open, a political course-correction is in order. But how can democracy self-correct if the public does not understand where the problem lies? And where will the pressure for change come from if journalists do not hold the responsible parties accountable?

The truth of what happened Monday night, as almost all political reporters know full well, is that "Republicans staged a series of last-ditch efforts to use a once-routine budget procedure to force Democrats to abandon their efforts to extend US health insurance." (Thank you, Guardian.)

And holding the entire government hostage, while demanding the de facto repeal of a president's signature legislation and not even bothering to negotiate, is by any reasonable standard an extreme political act. It is an attempt to make an end run around the normal legislative process. There is no historical precedent for it. The last shutdowns, in 1995 and 1996, were not the product of unilateral demands to scrap existing law; they took place during a period of give-and-take budget negotiations.

But the political media's aversion to doing anything that might be seen as taking sides — combined with its obsession with process — led them to actively obscure the truth in their coverage of the votes. If you did not already know what this was all about, reading the news would not help you understand.
What makes all this more than a journalistic failure is that the press plays a crucial role in our democracy. We count on the press to help create an informed electorate. And perhaps even more importantly, we count on the press to hold the powerful accountable.

That requires calling out political leaders when they transgress or fail to meet commonly agreed-upon standards: When they are corrupt, when they deceive, when they break the rules and refuse to govern. Such exposure is the first consequence. When the transgressions are sufficiently grave, what follows should be continued scrutiny, marginalization, contempt and ridicule.
In the current political climate, journalistic false equivalence leads to an insufficiently informed electorate, because the public is not getting an accurate picture of what is going on.

Journalists have been suckered into embracing 'balance' and 'neutrality' at all costs.

But the lack of accountability is arguably even worse, because it has the characteristics of a cascade failure. When the media coverage seeks down-the-middle neutrality despite one party's outlandish conduct, there are no political consequences for their actions. With no consequences for extremism, politicians who have succeeded using such conduct have an incentive to become even more extreme. The more extreme they get, the further the split-the-difference press has to veer from common sense in order to avoid taking sides. And so on.

The political press should be the public's first line of defense when it comes to assessing who is deviating from historic norms and practices; who is risking serious damage to the nation; whose positions are based in irrational phobias and ignorance rather than data and reason.

But instead, journalists have been suckered into embracing "balance" and "neutrality" at all costs, and the consequences of their choice in an era of political extremism will only get worse and worse.
One of the great ironies of the current dynamic is that political scientists Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, who for decades were conventional voices of pox-on-both-your-houses centrism, have now become among the foremost critics of a press corps that fails to report the obvious. They describe the modern Republican party, without any hesitation, as "a party beholden to ideological zealots."

But as Mann explained in an interview last year: "The mainstream press really has such a difficult time trying to cope with asymmetry between the two parties' agendas and connections to facts and truth."

Even with a story as straightforward as the government shutdown, splitting the difference remains the method of choice for the political reporters and editors in Washington's most influential news bureaus. Even when they surely know better. Even when many Republican elected officials have criticized their own leaders for being too beholden to the more radical right wing.

Media critics — and members of the public — have long decried this kind of "he-said-she-said" reporting. The Atlantic's James Fallows, one of the most consistent chroniclers and decriers of false equivalence, describes it as the "strong tendency to give equal time and credence to varying 'sides' of a story, even if one of the sides is objectively true and the other is just made up."

New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen argues that truth-telling has been surpassed as a newsroom priority by a neither-nor impartiality he calls the "View from Nowhere."
Blaming everyone — "Congress," "both sides," "Washington" — is simply the path of least resistance for today's political reporters. It's a way of avoiding conflict rather than taking the risk that the public — or their editors — will accuse them of being unprofessionally partisan.

But making a political judgment through triangulation — trying to stake out a safe middle ground between the two political parties — is still making a political judgment. It is often just not a very good one. And in this case, as in many others, it is doing the country a grave disservice.

So no, the shutdown is not generalized dysfunction, or gridlock or stalemate. It is aberrational behavior by a political party that is willing to take extreme and potentially damaging action to get its way. And by not calling it what it is, the political press is enabling it.

We need a more fearless media.