Author: Steve Prestegard

Presty the DJ for Aug. 1

Today in 1964, the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” went to number one and stayed there for longer than a hard day’s night — two weeks:

If you are of my age, this was a big moment in 1981:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Aug. 1”

Read this, and On Wisconsin

One day after the birthday of retired UW Marching/Varsity Band director Mike Leckrone, we have some literary news via Facebook, which is, yes, part of “the damn Internet”:

Mike signs this week with University of Wisconsin Press. Look for his autobiography in September 2021. We might even have a special edition for bandos!

(Recruiting poster from 1970, his second year at the UW.)

Leckrone (about whom I have written a few times here) isn’t on Facebook, but his autobiography is. The title reportedly will be Moments of Happiness, and you know about that.

Presty the DJ for July 31

Today in 1964, a Rolling Stones concert in Ireland was stopped due to a riot, 12 minutes after the concert began.

Today in 1966, Alabamans burned Beatles products in protest of John Lennon’s remark that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus.” The irony was that several years earlier, Lennon met Paul McCartney at a church dinner.

Other than my mother (who was a singer, but never recorded any records, unlike my father’s band, which released a couple of them), birthdays today include Kent Lavoie, better known as Lobo:

Bob Welch, who before his solo career was in Fleetwood Mac before they became big:

Karl Greene of Herman’s Hermits:

Hugh McDowell played cello for Electric Light Orchestra:

REM drummer Bill Berry:

A sign of our collective foolishness

Dan Clauser passes on this graphic that explains a lot:

Of the more than 900,000 Wisconsinites who have been tested (because they feel sick, may have been exposed, or took advantage of free testing ), as of Wednesday 5.66 percent have tested positive for COVID-19. Of that group fewer than 9 percent have been sick enough to be hospitalized (and fewer than one-third of that group has been sick enough to go to an intensive care unit). The percentage of those who tested positive and died is less than 2 percent and dropping. And for that we have blown up the economy, thrown people into economic destitution, and tranpled on constitutional rights. One wonders what the next pandemic will bring after this one ends after Election Day.

Gary Probst adds:

Fear of death becomes hysteria for people with no religious belief system. Ever notice how often radicals will say they wish you were dead? For them, that’s the worst thing. For a believer, it’s more like, oh well.

The First Amendment and its, and our, enemies

John Kass:

The angry left-handed broom of America’s cultural revolution uses fear to sweep through our civic, corporate and personal life.
It brings with it attempted intimidation, shame and the usual demands for ceremonies of public groveling.
It is happening in newsrooms in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles. And now it’s coming for me, in an attempt to shame me into silence.

Here’s what happened:

Last week, with violence spiking around the country, I wrote a column on the growing sense of lawlessness in America’s urban areas.

In response, the Tribune newspaper union, the Chicago Tribune Guild, which I have repeatedly and politely declined to join, wrote an open letter to management defaming me, by falsely accusing me of religious bigotry and fomenting conspiracy theories.

Newspaper management has decided not to engage publicly with the union. So I will.

For right now, let’s deal with facts. My July 22 column was titled “Something grows in the big cities run by Democrats: An overwhelming sense of lawlessness.”

It explored the connections between soft-on-crime prosecutors and increases in violence along with the political donations of left-wing billionaire George Soros, who in several states has funded liberal candidates for prosecutor, including Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

Soros’ influence on these races is undeniable and has been widely reported. But in that column, I did not mention Soros’ ethnicity or religion.

You’d think that before wildly accusing someone of fomenting bigoted conspiracy theories, journalists on the union’s executive board would at least take the time to Google the words “Soros,” “funding” and “local prosecutors.”

As recently as February, the Sun Times pointed out roughly $2 million in Soros money flowing to Foxx in her primary election effort against more law-and-order candidates.

In August 2016, Politico outlined Soros’ money supporting local DA races and included the view from opponents and skeptics that if successful, these candidates would make communities “less safe.”
From the Wall Street Journal in November 2016: “Mr. Soros, a major backer of liberal causes, has contributed at least $3.8 million to political action committees supporting candidates for district attorney in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Texas and Wisconsin, according to campaign filings.”

The Huffington Post in May 2018 wrote about contributions from Soros and Super PACs to local prosecutor candidates who were less law-and-order than their opponents.

So, it seems that the general attitude in journalism is that super PACs and dark money are bad, unless of course, they’re operated by wealthy billionaires of the left. Then they’re praised and courted.

All of this is against the backdrop of an America divided into camps, between those who think they can freely speak their minds and those who know they can’t.

Most people subjected to cancel culture don’t have a voice. They’re afraid. They have no platform. When they’re shouted down, they’re expected to grovel. After the groveling, comes social isolation. Then they are swept away.

But I have a newspaper column.

As a columnist and political reporter, I have given some 35 years of my life to the Chicago Tribune, even more if you count my time as an eager Tribune copy boy. And over this time, readers know that I have shown respect to my profession, to colleagues and to this newspaper.

Agree with me or not — and isn’t that the point of a newspaper column? — I owe readers a clear statement of what I will do and not do:

I will not apologize for writing about Soros.

I will not bow to those who’ve wrongly defamed me.

I will continue writing my column.

The left doesn’t like my politics. I get that. I don’t like theirs much, either. But those who follow me on social media know that I do not personally criticize my colleagues for their politics. I try to elevate their fine work. And I tell disgruntled readers who don’t like my colleagues’ politics that “it takes a village.”

Here’s what I’ve learned over my life in and around Chicago, what my immigrant family taught us in our two-flats on South Peoria Street:

We come into this world alone and we leave alone. And the most important thing we leave behind isn’t money.

The most important thing we leave is our name.

We leave that to our children.

And I will not soil my name by groveling to anyone in this or any other newsroom.

The larger question is not about me, or the political left that hopes to silence people like me, but about America and its young. Those of us targeted by cancel culture are not only victims. We are examples, as French revolutionaries once said, in order to encourage the others.

Human beings do not wish to see themselves as cowards. They want to see themselves as heroes.

And, as they are shaped and taught to fear even the slightest accusation of thought crime, they will not view themselves as weak for falling in line. Instead they will view themselves as virtuous. And that is the sin of it.

Those who do not behave will be marginalized. But those who self-censor will be praised.

Yet what of our American tradition of freely speaking our minds?

That too, is swept away.

A story based on a lie

Christopher Bedford:

“We called 911 for almost everything except snitching” reads the first line of an Atlantic article, “How I Became a Police Abolitionist,” by social justice activist and lawyer Derecka Purnell. Her deeply personal essay, first published July 6 in the Ideas section, tells of her childhood in a polluted neighborhood surrounded by violence and beset by fear, using one particularly disturbing memory of a police officer shooting their cousin, just a “boy,” in the arm for skipping the basketball sign-in sheet in front of Purnell and her sister, who had been playing basketball but were forced to hide “in the locker room for hours afterward.”

“When people dismiss abolitionists for not caring about victims or safety,” she writes, “they tend to forget that we are those victims, those survivors of violence.”

“This story means everything to me,” Purnell wrote on Facebook later that day. “I cried a lot while writing it.”

An investigation by The Federalist encompassing newspaper archives, police department records, questions to The Atlantic, the police union, and the office of the mayor, however, called the story — including facts about the neighborhood, the timeline of the incident, and if the incident described even happened at all — into question.

Four days, six comment requests, and one follow-up story later, The Atlantic issued a series of major corrections that confirmed The Federalist’s investigation — and gutted the Purnell’s story of the police violence that made her “a police abolitionist,” rendering it a story about a private security guard shooting his adult cousin. Although the updated story no longer involves personally motivated and barely punished police violence against children, it now includes mention of a police investigation. Additionally, a contemporary news article uncovered by The Federalist using the updated timeline details pending police charges against the shooter.

Someone in the neighborhood, it appears, called 911.

A Very Different Story

“The first shooting I witnessed was by a cop,” the story read from 7 a.m. on July 6 until 1:37 p.m. on July 20. It detailed a police officer shooting a “boy” on city property in front of children over a personal feud, then seemingly suffering only a short suspension from duty at that rec center:

I was 12. He was angry that his cousin skipped a sign-in sheet at my neighborhood recreation center. I was teaching my sister how to shoot free throws when the officer stormed in alongside the court, drew his weapon, and shot the boy in the arm. My sister and I hid in the locker room for hours afterward. The officer was back at work the following week.

If her prescribed abolition of police departments were followed sooner, she wrote, “I wouldn’t have hid in the locker room for hours because of a police shooting, and maybe my sister would have a better jump shot.”

The article was widely shared among top journalists and activists, including an Atlantic editor, whose praise remained online Monday night.

On Monday afternoon, The Atlantic updated the above paragraphs (material changes bolded) to read:

The first shooting I witnessed was by a uniformed security guardI was 13. I remember that the guard was angry that his cousin skipped a sign-in sheet at my neighborhood recreation center; the victim told police it had started as an argument over ‘something stupid.’ I was teaching my sister how to shoot free throws when the guard stormed in alongside the court, drew his weapon, and shot the boy in the arm. My sister and I hid in the locker room for hours afterward. The guard was back at work the following week.

“An earlier version of this article described the shooter as ‘a cop,’” the more-material of the two Monday corrections reads. “In fact, he was an armed, uniformed security guard working at the municipal recreation center, employed by a security company under contract with the city of St. Louis. In addition, the author was 13, not 12, at the time of the incident.”

The Atlantic still refuses to share any corroborating evidence or if they did a fact-check on the original story before publication, although a search of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s archives encompassing the now-broadened timeline reveals an early-2004 shooting at Buder Recreation Center, less than three blocks from Purnell’s old address.

That article, published March 9, 2004, is titled “Security Guard Is Charged With Assault,” and reports that, “The security guard, 23, and his cousin, 18, were quarreling at the center about 4:50 p.m. [March 8] when the shooting occurred, according to Richard Wilkes, a Police Department spokesman. The victim was shot in the arm.”

“Wilkes,” the 2004 article concludes, “said there were no other injuries and no children were involved in the incident.”

When asked if The Atlantic spoke to the victim, spoke to the guard, or acquired a police report, Anna Bross, a vice president of communications at the magazine, replied, “To start, you can find coverage of the incident in local newspapers in 2004.”

The article’s title and call for police abolition remain unchanged, although the story justifying her activism is no longer about (1) a police officer shooting (2) a child (3) without serious consequences, and is about now (1) a private security guard shooting (2) an adult (3) and being charged with assault. The magazine decided police bringing charges within one day, however, was not worth mentioning — and the 18-year-old victim is still simply described as just a “boy.”

“I’ve reshared this essay with corrections about the shooting I witnessed,” Purnell tweeted more than five hours after the correction went live. “I was not 12. I was 13. The shooter was a uniformed private guard with a badge and gun. When we say abolish the police, that includes private police, too. thank you for reading <3.”

Purnell has led a prolific career, including writing for The New York Times and a stint at the helm of The Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy.

Monday afternoon Sunshine Law requests to the St. Louis Police Department and city hall on police responses to the Buder Recreation Center in March 2004, and on park employees or contractors facing discipline, had not yet been returned, although the police quickly replied that they would send records over. Missouri law gives government three days to respond to requests, and in every request the previous week, the city beat that timeline.

While still declining to say if the article was fact-checked before it was posted on July 6, and if so by who, Bross emailed that she “will keep an eye out for the significant corrections or updates to your piece(s),” referencing The Federalist investigation that fact-checked the article for them.

Them don wanna be learned good

George Mason University Prof. David Bernstein:

Via College Fix, the Rutgers English Department purports to challenge “the familiar dogma that writing instruction should limit emphasis on grammar/sentence-level issues so as to not put students from multilingual, non-standard ‘academic’ English backgrounds at a disadvantage.” So far so good. Helping students who struggle with standard English is exactly what an English Department that wants to helps disadvantaged students should do.

Instead, though, Rutgers goes even woker. Rather than merely deemphasizing standard grammar, the English Department declares that standard grammar is “biased,” and endorses “critical grammar,” which “encourages students to develop a critical awareness of the variety of choices available to them w/ regard to micro-level issues in order to empower them and equip them to push against biases based on ‘written’ accents.”

In short, the Rutgers English Department wants to make sure that students who come to Rutgers with a poor grasp of standard written English not only remain in that state, but come to believe that learning standard English is a concession to racism. I remember when keeping “people of color” ignorant was considered part of white supremacy.

#NeverTrump Republicans, or Democrats in disguise?

Steve Stampley:

The four founders of the Lincoln Project — Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson, George Conway, and John Weaver — introduced their new venture to the world in a New York Times op-ed in which they described their aims as to prevent President Trump’s reelection by “persuading enough disaffected conservatives, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in swing states” to vote against him and to take down as many Republican members of Congress as possible.

But the project is a scam — little more than the most brazen election-season grift in recent memory. And it is working. As the ragtag band of three otherwise unemployed strategists plus one lawyer hoped, the allure of Republican-on-Republican violence has proven irresistible to the MSNBC set. Per their most recent FEC filing, the group has raised $19.4 million since its inception this past November.

The gap between the group’s rhetoric and its actions is enormous. The Times op-ed declared that “national Republicans have done far worse than simply march along to Mr. Trump’s beat. Their defense of him is imbued with an ugliness, a meanness and a willingness to attack and slander those who have shed blood for our country, who have dedicated their lives and careers to its defense and its security, and whose job is to preserve the nation’s status as a beacon of hope.” And yet the group’s focus thus far has been on vulnerable Senate Republicans, notably the moderate Susan Collins and the mainstream Cory Gardner, who haven’t exhibited any such behavior. Neither has Joni Ernst, another target.

The Lincoln Project’s ads don’t attack these GOP senators for supporting profligate federal spending, contributing to explosive debt, or enabling feckless foreign policy, nor do they bash President Trump for his incoherent trade policy or his failure to tame an ascendant administrative state. Rather, they attack Republicans from the left, in terms that please the Lincoln Project’s predominantly progressive funders. Rarely, across dozens of ads, is a political principle recognizable to anyone as center-right to be found. Is the Lincoln Project aware of who Abraham Lincoln was?

That most spots sound instead like Democratic boilerplate — the type of partisan schlock a Democratic candidate might run against a GOP opponent in a D+5 district — may go some way to explaining where the Lincoln Project is coming from. One ad slams North Carolina senator Thom Tillis for proposed cuts to federal education funding and Obamacare while claiming he supports putting “kids in cages.” Another sandbags Colorado’s Cory Gardner for siding with Trump on health care and the environment. Yet another lectures Susan Collins that she works “for Maine, not Mitch McConnell.” In an ad assailing the Senate majority leader, the group dubs him “Rich Mitch” and smears him as someone who has used his office to accumulate wealth (ignoring that most of McConnell’s wealth comes from his wife, Elaine Chao, not from anything he did during his time as a senator).

It’s one thing to object to candidates of (ostensibly) your own party on principled or even petty political grounds. It’s quite another to employ the ideas and vocabulary of those with whom you have fundamental philosophical disagreements. The Lincoln Project’s founders may have written, “Our many policy differences with national Democrats remain,” but they have yet to demonstrate one.

This makes sense when one examines the Lincoln Project’s FEC filings. To date, the group has spent nearly $100,000 for “fundraising consulting services” with the Katz Watson Group. That firm’s founder, Fran Katz Watson, is a lifelong Democratic operative who previously worked as the national finance director for the Democratic National Committee. The firm’s long list of left-wing clients includes the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Beto for Senate. In addition, the Lincoln Project has spent large sums contracting with Elrod Strategies, the firm run by Adrienne Elrod, former director of strategic communications for Hillary for America, and has paid Zachary Czajkowski handsomely for “political strategy.” Czajkowski’s resume includes work for Barack Obama, former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, Hillary Clinton, and disgraced former California representative Katie Hill.

If a group of unemployed strategists were looking to shape a persuasive center-right critique of Trump and his allies, these are not the talents they’d turn to. If, on the other hand, the aim was to open up anti-Trump wallets on the left, they couldn’t pick a better team. The Lincoln Project’s communications director is Keith Edwards. He previously worked on communications for Mike Bloomberg’s run in the Democratic presidential primary and as a staffer for New York City Council speaker Corey Johnson, also a Democrat. Johnson is on record as trying to kick a Christian relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse, out of New York City, after its staff set up a field hospital in Central Park at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Never mind that these volunteers were risking their lives to help others; Johnson alleged that its presence was “painful” to “all New Yorkers who care deeply about the LGBTQ community.”

For a group that makes a big deal out of transparency and morality, the Lincoln Project’s financial records make interesting reading. Spending by super PACs is divided into disbursements, which cover operating expenses, and independent expenditures, which are used in support of (or opposition to) a candidate. To date, the group has steered roughly 50 percent of its total spending, including almost all of its independent expenditures, through just two firms: Summit Strategic Communications and TUSK Digital. Summit Strategic Communications is run by the Lincoln Project’s treasurer, Reed Galen. TUSK Digital is run by former Lincoln Project adviser Ron Steslow.

Through July 13, the Lincoln Project paid at least $5.6 million to Summit and TUSK as independent expenditures against Donald Trump and GOP senators and for Joe Biden and Montana governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat running for the Senate. Save for $72,000 paid to Getty Images, that is the entirety of the Lincoln Project’s independent expenditures. Since the money goes directly to Summit and TUSK, no one outside of those two firms knows the vendors they use to buy ads, create visuals, do direct mailings, etc. By contrast, other super PACs, including America First Action, which backs Trump, and Unite the Country, which backs Biden, pay their vendors directly, allowing donors and the public to see exactly where the money gets spent. Since disclosure of spending on subcontracted third parties is not required, it is impossible to say how much of this money was actually spent by Summit and TUSK and how much the Lincoln Project founders pocketed or paid out to other principals.

For example, per Open Secrets, the group recorded an independent expenditure against Arizona senator Martha McSally, with video production costs paid to Summit totaling over $14,000 — an exorbitant amount for a 90-second video made entirely from stock photos and news clips. Compare this to a seasoned political consultant (interviewed on background for this story) who ran a statewide race and hired a film crew to meet in a remote area to shoot for two days. The team created enough content for a short biographical video, two 30-second ads, two 15-second ads, and two six-second bumper clips for a total cost of $15,000. This calls into question how much Summit pocketed versus how much it actually paid its subcontractors.

The Lincoln Project has made limited national cable ad buys, airing their ads mainly in Washington, D.C., or on Morning Joe — neither market is exactly a Republican hotbed. Despite Joe Scarborough’s conservative track record as a member of Congress, the show he cohosts appeals to a heavily Democratic audience.

The Lincoln Project also spends heavily on social media. According to the Facebook Ads Library, the group spent $1.67 million on ads across Facebook and Instagram. However, many of those ads target donors with asks containing links to their donation page.

The group’s intentional lack of transparency, combined with the nearly $20 million it’s hauled in to date, raises valid questions about the potential for financial grift. Meanwhile, the Lincoln Project continues to raise funds from left-leaning partisans by advancing Democratic narratives in an effort to defeat centrist Republicans — an intellectually disingenuous gambit at best. Earlier this year, the group introduced the tagline, “Our mission is to defeat Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box in 2020.” Another line, often attributed to P. T. Barnum, might be more honest: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”