Daily Archives: January 22, 2006

Yes folks, due to overwhelming public uh. . . .demand Li’ll Debbie’s Back, with a whole new batch of whoppers.

“Nothing in my 50-year career prepared me for the thousands of flaming e-mails I got last week over my last column, e-mails so abusive and many so obscene that part of The Post’s Web site was shut down.”

Cue Margaret Dumont.

Actually scotch that. For Margaret (bless her immortal soul) was far more capable of dealing with Groucho’s casual snarkiness than Debbie has been with the “obscene” (ie. well-informed and righteously angry) mobs in cyberspace who have been quoting the last line of Oscar Wilde’s Salome non-stop for over a week.

“That column praised The Post for breaking the story on lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s dealings, for which he has pleaded guilty to several felony counts. The column clearly pointed out that Abramoff is a Republican and dealt mainly with Republicans, most prominently former House majority leader Tom DeLay of Texas.
I wrote that he gave campaign money to both parties and their members of Congress. He didn’t. I should have said he directed his client Indian tribes to make campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties.”

And this in turn evokes my second-favorite line in the enitre history of the cinema, which is from The Wild Bunch: “I know what you meant to do — it’s what you did that I don’t like!!”

Now don’t you just love her “mainly with Republicans”? It’s exclusively, Debbie — exclusively.

“My mistake set off a firestorm”

No shit, Sherlock.

“I heard that I was lying, that Democrats never got a penny of Abramoff-tainted money, that I was trying to say it was a bipartisan scandal, as some Republicans claim. I didn’t say that. It’s not a bipartisan scandal; it’s a Republican scandal, and that’s why the Republicans are scurrying around trying to enact lobbying reforms.
But there is no doubt about the campaign contributions that were directed to lawmakers of both parties”

Actually there is — and we’ll get to that in a moment. But first —

“Records from the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Public Integrity show that Abramoff’s Indian clients contributed money to 195 Republicans and 88 Democrats between 1999 and 2004. The Post also has copies of lists sent to tribes by Abramoff with his personal directions on which members were to receive what amounts.
Michael Crowley of the New Republic said in his blog that “while for all practical purposes this is indisputably a Republican scandal, the narrow liberal-blogger definition of whether any Democrats took money ‘from Abramoff’ — which neatly excludes contributions he directed his clients to make — amounts to foolish semantics.’ “

Oh really, dear? Let’s talk semantics with the good folks at Wampum

“In the graphic Howell cites . . ., the WaPo claim that from 1999 until 2004, Abramoff directed one of his “clients”, the Sandia Pueblo gave $51,000 in political contributions.
However, according to Senate lobbying registration records, the Sandia Pueblo tribe only hired Greenberg Traurig, with Kevin Ring, not Jack Abramoff, as lead lobbyist, in 2002. From 2002 until 2004, the Sandia Pueblo tribe gave only $30,000 in contributions to state and federal political parties and members of Congress of both parties – most of whom represented New Mexico, home of the Sandia as well.
What complicates things, however, is during this very same time period, the Sandia Pueblo also hired a second lobbying firm, Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry, with Mary Pavel as lead lobbyist.
According to The Hill:
…Hobbs Straus, Sonosky Chambers devotes its practice to Indian issues. Principal Reid Chambers — “the godfather of Indian law,” according to one source — was associate solicitor for Indian affairs at the Interior Department in the 1970s. Pavel focuses on congressional issues.
So, even if Kevin Ring, with Abramoff whispering in his ear, was directing the Sandia to write checks to certain Congresscritters, if Hobbs Straus was making the same recommendations, who then gets the “credit”?
The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians had a whole slew of lobbyists on board during that time besides Greenberg Traurig: Capitol Resources, Parker-Malvaney, Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, and, not surprising, Hobbs Straus. The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians took on Indian lobbying powerhouse Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, as well as Pace-Capstone and Steptoe and Johnson.
If Howell is making the assertion that lobbyists wield such influence over their Indian clients that they could force them to make particular contributions, then how does she determine which lobbyists mind-melded which Indians for precisely which contribution?
It took me all of five minutes to search both the Capital Eye website and the US Lobby Registration database to find the above information, and I’m stuck on a slow satellite feed at the moment. Just think what Howell could accomplish with her WaPo interns and other minions.”

Therefore Wampum declares —

So the very first thing we need to do is every single effing time some media talking head says “and his clients”, we need to interrupt with, “You mean Microsoft? Unisys? Eli Lilly? Merck? Or do you mean the Northern Marianas? Guam International Airport? City of Oakland?”

And now back to the Debbster:

“These facts have been reported many times in The Post and elsewhere. So why would it cause me to be called a “right-wing whore” and much worse?
Witness three printable examples:
“Yes, the WAPO needs an enema, and Howell should be the first thing that gets medicinally removed.”
“You Deborah Howell, stop lying about Democrats getting money from Abramoff. Democrats do not control anything in Washington, so why would he waste money bribing them. Think and do your research, and stop being an idiot.”
“This rag must be something that I pulled off a barscreen at a sewage treatment plant. Howell is simply a paid liar. How this creature endures itself is something I don’t understand. What a piece of flotsam.”

My favorite was the from the poster who told her that Gilligan, the Skipper, the Professor, Ginger and Mary Ann had voted her off the island and Thurston wants a divorce.

“There is no more fervent believer in the First Amendment than I am, and I will fight for those e-mailers’ right to call me a liar and Republican shill with salt for brains. But I am none of those.
My career has been a public one in journalism. You can find my biography and much of what I stand for on the Internet. You can ask anyone who worked with me in Minnesota and at Newhouse News Service what kind of journalist I am. I have spent my life working for rational reporting and passionate and reasonable opinion.”

I took Debbie up on that and found a truly fascinating interview the Washington Press Club had with her in 1993. It’s quite lengthy, and chatty — going into some detail about her upbringing (her parents objected to her having Mexican boyfriends), her two marriages (her first husband died of leukemia), and a journalistic career in which she (happily) found little in the way of sexual harrassment outside of the occasional dirty joke. So maybe Debbie was “unprepared” for the fury of the net in full cry. Or maybe she’s accustomed herself to filing the “unpleasant” and the “difficult to deal with” away in a drawer. I get this feeling from my favorite passage in the interview:

Moorhus: What about your parents and your younger siblings? What kind of messages were they giving your sister and your brother? Did they have different expectations for your brother than they had for the two girls?

Howell: They treated my brother quite differently.

Moorhus: How?

Howell: He was allowed more freedom. I had a very strict upbringing, and my sister had less so, but still had a strict upbringing. My brother was like allowed to have a car. We didn’t even get bicycles. And was allowed to do things we would never have been allowed to do because he was a boy. But he turned out to be gay, and so that issue, as it played itself out, as he went to college—

Moorhus: When did you and they and he—

Howell: I knew he was probably gay from the time he was a child. I knew he was different. I was pretty sure he was gay in college.

Moorhus: When you were in college?

Howell: No, when he was in college. So when he came and made a big trip up to tell me in Minneapolis that he was gay, I said, “So what else is new?” But it was very hard on my parents. But he was not “out of the closet” when he was in high school or anything like that. My sister’s more traditional. She always wanted to have kids. She went away to college, but she always wanted to get married and have children. She’s not career oriented. She works. She’s divorced and has a couple of kids and works, but she’s not career oriented.

Moorhus: What about your brother? What does he do?

Howell: He’s a window dresser in Neiman Marcus Union Square in San Francisco, and he’s got AIDS, and he’s sick. So we’ll see. I’m taking him to Europe on a big trip in May, and I hope he’s well enough and does well enough. It’s kind of his last hurrah.

It’s the line about the car that’s the punctum — as a fabulous old queen named Roland Barthes would say. Men do have special privileges, she’s forced to acknowledge. But only in the familial context of sibling rivalry. Gayness, apparently, evens things out.

Nothing more about the brother from Debbie. In that the interview was in ’93 it was right on the cusp of the moment when protease inhibitors were prolonging the lives of those who only a year or two before would have bought the farm. But judging from the “last hurrah” quip he’s probably dead by now. Wonder what the funeral was like. Hell — wonder what his life was like. Debbie ain’t talking. And Pravda itself simply says of her life and career–

“Deborah Howell is a native of San Antonio, Tex., and became a reporter and editor, first at her high school newspaper and then at the Daily Texan at the University of Texas (BJ ’62). She was a reporter at the Austin American-Statesman, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and the Minneapolis Star. She became the city editor at the Star and then the managing editor and editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. She was the Washington Bureau chief and editor of Newhouse News from 1990 until 2005. Howell joined The Washington Post in October 2005 as an ombudsman. In that capacity, she promotes public understanding of the newspaper and journalism. She also writes a weekly column”

Yeah, we noticed.

“So is it the relative anonymity of the Internet that emboldens e-mailers to conduct a public stoning? Is this the increasing political polarization of our country? I don’t know.
What I do know is that I have a tough hide, and a few curse words (which I use frequently) are not going to hurt my feelings.
But it is profoundly distressing if political discourse has sunk to a level where abusive name-calling and the crudest of sexual language are the norm, where facts have no place in an argument. This unbounded, unreasoning rage is not going to help this newspaper, this country or democracy.”

As always, Cry Me a River (the Joe Cocker version). a fortiori, tell it to Ann Coulter. And Chris Matthews. And the new creep CNN just hired whose name escapes me — the one who wants to murder Michael Moore.

I didn’t ask washingtonpost.com to shut down an area reserved for comments about me, as it did on Thursday night. And I know the decision is being greeted with great disdain. Jim Brady, editor of the Web site, said that when the site was set up, “there are things that we said we would not allow, including personal attacks, the use of profanity and hate speech. Because a significant number of folks who have posted in this blog have refused to follow any of those relatively simple rules, we’ve decided not to allow comments for the time being. It’s a shame that it’s come to this.”

And true to form they want to capitalize on that “shame” by inviting noted bloggers (primarily on the right, needless to say) to a “conference” in order to discuss internet ethics.
No conference on journalistic ethics is apparently of interest to them — even as Kyra Phillips and Lou Dobbs parrot Debbie’s lies.

But now comes the best part:

But I’m not totally pessimistic. I am grateful for an e-mail I got from San Antonio. Mark Kelch’s first e-mail said: “I’m sure you are making your conservative handlers happy but journalistically it makes you look like a fool. In the end it shows you have a lack of integrity. Does that mean nothing to you?” I wrote him back. Kelch answered: “I took some time and read an interview (online) with you, among other things. When I finished, I shuddered a little bit because it made me think I may be exhibiting an attribute that in others I despise. My e-mail to you was a cheap shot at your integrity and for that I am sorry. I sincerely hope part two of your article knocks them dead.”

See the neat little Three Card Monte game that’s going on here? We get Kelch’s first and last e-mails but not Debbie’s. And why is that? because Debbie is once again assuming her rightful media maven role as She Who Must Be Obeyed. We’re not supposed to question her at all. She’s an experienced professional. We’re the rabble. And this is why those who complain that she’s not doing her job as ombudsman by answering reader complaints are wrong. The ombudsman is nothing more that a PR scam confected to give the impression of answering reader complaints. It emerged in the wake of the “mainstream’s” decided shift to the right (stelthily undertaken over the past two decades amidst constant mea culpas over aleged “Liberal bias”), as the readership hasn’t shifted along with it. What to do? Throw ‘em a cyberbone.

“Going forward, here’s my plan. I’ll watch every word. I’ll read every e-mail and answer as many legitimate complaints as I can. The vast majority of my work takes place outside this column. But I will reject abuse and all that it stands for.”

You do that little thing, sweetcakes.

To all of those who wanted me fired, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. I have a contract. For the next two years, I will continue to speak my mind.
Keep smiling. I will.
Deborah Howell can be reached at 202-334-7582 or at ombudsman@washpost.com.

You hear that? She has a contract. Just like Lina Lamont. “Says so, right heeyah!”

But don’t bother to call or e-mail Little Debbie directly. There are far more effective ways to wipe that smug little smile off her face.