Friday, March 30, 2007

Times Deems Pork a Scandal--If It's Democratic

Wow, looks as though there is a pattern here. Back in December, I wrote about how the New York Times had devoted most of its precious op-ed page to an eye-catching graphic (a format they call Op-Chart) that presented a highly slanted and misleading attack on liberal bloggers. (Short version: The chart, developed by DC blogger K. Daniel Glover, presented an almost entirely Democratic list of bloggers who'd been paid consultants to political campaigns, implying some sort of corruption--while failing to note that the relatively small number of bloggers who'd worked for campaigns without disclosing their paid status were all Republicans.)

Now the Times is at it again, using the visually arresting Op-Chart format for another unfair hit on Democrats. Today it's this chart by Thomas Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste (which as you might guess is a corporate-funded lobbying group). The chart lists items of pork attached to the emergency spending bills currently before Congress, and lest anyone misunderstand the message, Schatz's introductory comments note:
Despite their campaign talk about earmark reform last fall, the new Democratic leadership shamelessly used pork to buy votes. . . .The chart below, which is a partial list of some of the most egregious earmarks, shows that the new bosses are already feeding at the trough, and "war pork" threatens to sink their fiscal credibility.
There follows the chart, decorated with a giant silhouette of a pig (get it?), listing such appalling and obvious wastes of taxpayer money as $4 million for the Office of Women's Health at the FDA and $2 million for repairing ditch irrigation systems. All of this with no background, context, explanation, history, or comparison.

I guess it would have been too much work for an editor at the Times to look back at any other emergency spending bill--one passed by a Republican Congress, for example--to see whether any unrelated spending was included. It took me all of five minutes on Google to uncover this House bill from June, 2006, as sponsored by that great Republican statesman Jerry Lewis (R-CA). A single paragraph of this bill, which was designated an emergency spending bill to cover expenses related to Hurricane Katrina, provides funding for the following pork projects:
(1) the St. Mary Development Corporation, City of Dayton, Ohio, to purchase and demolish blighted property, develop detailed design/construction drawings, and to begin site preparation for new infill housing lots in lieu of street infrastructure and parking facility improvements; (2) the West Virginia University Institute of Technology Community and Technical College in lieu of the West Virginia Technical College for completion of a building for a newspaper publishing program; (3) the Borough of Mahonoy City, Pennsylvania, for improvements to Centre Street in lieu of improvements to West Market Street; (4) the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation for demolition and redevelopment of properties in the Broadway-Fillmore Corridor, Buffalo, New York, in lieu of infrastructure improvements in Central Plaza Park; (5) the Crittenden County Senior Citizens (currently, Day Care) Center, Crittenden County, Kentucky, for expansion of such Center in lieu of the Day Care Center; (6) the Sunnyside Community Services in Queens, New York, for renovation and build out of a multipurpose center in lieu of construction of a senior center; (7) the Boys and Girls Club of Lancaster, Inc. in Pennsylvania (currently, City of Lancaster, Pennsylvania) for construction of the Columbia Clubhouse for the Boys and Girls Club of Lancaster; (8) the City of Greenwood, South Carolina, for the Emerald Triangle Project in lieu of the Greenwood Partnership Alliance, South Carolina, for the renovation of the Old Federal Courthouse; and (9) the UND Center for Innovation Foundation in Grand Forks, North Dakota, for the UND Technology Transfer and Commercialization Center as well as the Ina Mae Rude Entrepreneur Center.
You can read the whole bill if you want to see the complete list of pork projects deemed worthy, nine months ago, by the Republican Congress.

Did the Times turn over its op-ed page last summer to run a giant chart accusing the Republicans of hypocrisy or corruption for passing this bill? Don't bother looking. They didn't.

The Op-Chart format is fun and very effective. Media experts have long known that people are far more likely to look at pictures and read captions than they are to study long blocks of text. So when the Times runs an Op-Chart, it probably gets much more readership than the typical op-ed column.

It's disturbing that America's "paper of record," that supposed bastion of liberalism, seems to feel it's appropriate to devote this format especially to insinuations of hypocrisy and corruption in which data is cherry-picked to make Democrats look bad.

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