Diana Krall (Temptation Video ) — Somerville News Blog (17 Parking Tickets) — Columbia Journalism Review


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cpd_badge_patchRusted brandy in a diamond glass
everything is made from dreams
time is made from honey slow and sweet
only the fools know what it means
temptation, temptation, temptation
oh, temptation, temptation, I can’t resist
I know that he is made of smoke
but I’ve lost my way
he knows that I am broke
so that I must play
temptation, temptation, temptation
oh, woah, temptation, temptation, I can’t resist
Dutch pink and Italian blue
he is there waiting for you
my will has disappeared
now my confusion’s oh so clear
temptation, temptation, temptation
woah, woah, temptation, temptation
I can’t resist…


Listen To Diana Krall “Temptation” As You Read Below…


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Obama finally pays local parking tickets

By George P. Hassett, Senior Editor – March 07, 2007

Before Barack Obama was a United States senator and a presidential hopeful, he was a Harvard University law student living in Somerville who parked in bus stops and accumulated hundreds of dollars in parking tickets. And for nearly two decades those parking tickets went unpaid, until a representative of Obama’s settled all his outstanding debts with Cambridge’s Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department Jan. 26.

Obama attended Harvard Law School from 1988 to 1991. During his time at Harvard, Obama lived at 365 Broadway in Somerville, according to his parking tickets. Records from the Cambridge Traffic, Parking and Transportation office show that between Oct. 5, 1988 and Jan. 12, 1990 Obama was cited for 17 traffic violations, sometimes committing two in the same day. The abuses included parking in a resident permit area, parking in a bus stop and failing to pay the meter. Twelve of Obama’s 17 tickets were given to him on Massachusetts Avenue.

In one eight day stretch in 1988, Obama was cited seven times for parking violations and was fined $45. Thirteen of the 17 violations occurred within one month in 1988.

Obama’s disobedience of the rules of the road earned him $140 in fines from the City of Cambridge. The tickets went unpaid for over 17 years and $260 in late fees were added to the tab. On Jan. 26, the fines and late fees were paid in full. The final tally for Obama’s parking breaches was $400, according to Cambridge Traffic, Parking and Transportation.

Obama spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said the presidential candidate’s parking violations were not relevant.

“He didn’t owe that much and what he did owe, he paid,” Psaki said. “Many people have parking tickets and late fees. All the parking tickets and late fees were paid in full.”

Psaki declined to comment further. She refused to say how the fines went unpaid so long and what prompted Obama to finally pay them.

At Harvard, Obama became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. After school, he spent eight years in the Illinois state senate before becoming a United States Senator in 2005. He is currently campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president.


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Obama’s Parking Tickets: Who Cares?

A little story about the candidate’s parking tickets during his law school days got way more play than it deserved.

By Edward B. Colby, March 09, 2007 12:56 PM

At 2:45 p.m. Wednesday afternoon the Somerville News, “Somerville’s Most Widely read Newspaper!”, published a scoop on its rudimentary Web site: During his first year and a half as a Harvard Law School student, Barack Obama racked up 17 parking tickets in Cambridge, Massachusetts — adding up to fines of $400 which were not fully paid off until January 26, 2007.

Forget, for a moment, that the “action” in this bit of news took place a month and a half ago: in the 2008 presidential campaign, this little story was certifiable front-page material. And so it was launched into the media echo chamber, where news value is often determined by something other than good sense.

Thus, headlines like “Obama pays parking tickets: 17 years late” and “Cleaning out the glovebox: Dem hopeful pays parking tix, taxes,” gave the impression that the story was current. The latter title came from the Boston Herald, which said that Obama “has been driving around with a dark secret for nearly two decades: A stack of Cambridge parking tickets from his student days, unpaid until after he began his run for the White House” — though Obama’s debt was actually paid two weeks before he officially launched his campaign. (A Virginia political consultant, quoted by the Herald, was spot on, however, when he said of Ticketgate, “It seems monumentally inconsequential.”)

Meantime, the Herald’s Howie Carr used the opportunity to take a number of cheap shots at Obama. “Thanks to the Somerville News, we now find out that Barack Hussein Obama is another liberal who talks the talk, just don’t ask him to walk the walk, especially if it’s a walk down Mass. Ave. to Central Square to pay off his parking fines at City Hall,” Carr wrote. Added Carr: “If you think the road’s tough, try finding a legal parking space in Harvard Square. Our next president certainly couldn’t do it. He can end the war in Iraq and ‘heal’ America, but a legal parking space on Mass. Ave. outside the law school — forget about it.”

Elsewhere, the Boston Globe ran a metro front story that set the record straight on the Cambridge parking details (Obama paid two of his tickets in 1990, leaving 15 to be paid this year and not all 17, as the Somerville News indicated), and the Obama story aired multiple times on Boston’s four major local news stations. After an early evening story Wednesday on WBZ-TV that relied on the News and Globe’s reporting, a veteran Boston anchor remarked, referring to how everything is pored over in presidential campaign coverage, “This scrutiny is just amazing.”

That’s especially so when CNN (“Parking Politics”), MSNBC (“Unpaid Parking Tickets?”) and Fox News (“No Parking”) get involved. Fox, for instance, recycled the news throughout the day Thursday, spreading misinformation as it went. Shortly after 6 a.m. one Fox host claimed “He had seven tickets in one day at one point”; actually, that was over an eight-day period. Shortly after 3:30 p.m. Fox’s Trace Gallagher told viewers that Obama’s tickets “reportedly cost him $375, plus the late fees”; the $375 paid in January included those late fees. Earlier in the hour, Gallagher referred to “Barack Obama’s car trouble in the college years” [emphasis ours]: “How more than a dozen unpaid parking tickets came back to haunt the senator.”

This is a story that never should have made it beyond local Boston TV news, if that. It’s the kind of lazy, picayune nonsense that passes as a “character issue,” but really adds nothing to our understanding of a candidate. Yet such stories tend to pile up during a campaign, often at the expense of questions and issues that actually matter. Up next: Did you “experiment” with marijuana as a college student?


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Coverage of Obama “Suds Summit” Hard to Swallow

Top papers waste time covering irrelevant photo-op

By Greg Marx, July 31, 2009 03:39 PM

The nation’s political media apparently decided to hold a little contest yesterday: Which outlets can produce the most gratuitous, the least insightful, and perhaps even the most offensive coverage of the White House “suds summit”?

The bar was sure to be high, even with cable news disqualified on the grounds that it has an unfair advantage, having honed its skills for just such a challenge over the last decade. While the initial Gates/Crowley affair, for all its baggage, was a legitimate news story, yesterday’s beer party was a straight photo op—just the sort of contrived event that the press loves to mock even as while indulging in it. And so, even restricting the entrants to three of the country’s most influential publications—The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Politico—the competition was strong.

Politico—famous for its hyper-obsession with horse race politics, notorious for indiscriminate electron-spilling on trivialities, and criticized for often missing the forest for the trees—should have been the favorite coming in. Thursday night, the headline on Josh Gerstein’s story carried a blunt verdict: “‘Beer summit’ letdown.” (The headline has been changed on the updated version of the story.) Here’s Gerstein:

But the portion of the event aired on TV had an anti-climactic feel, and in many ways was exactly what Obama had said it would be earlier – the men sitting around having a drink. One surprise was the addition of Vice President Joe Biden.

Analysts of race relations said the benefits of the White House encounter were murky, at best.

What a disappointment! Because, up until it happened, this whole thing had seemed like it might be a reprise of the March on Washington. Even the president had promised… oh, right. Like the story says, he had promised just what we got—a few guys sitting around drinking beer. The decision to arrange the photo op was not a particularly proud moment for the president. But the press, which knows this game perfectly well, could never have really expected the beer summit to be, in Obama’s clichéd formulation, a “teachable moment.” Pretending otherwise is simply disingenuous.

Continuing:

In the video aired on TV, Crowley and Gates were clad in suits, and while Obama and Biden were in shirtsleeves as an aide delivered beers in frosty mugs. Crowley was seen sipping his beer during the brief photo-op, while Obama and Biden could be seen digging into a bowl of pretzels and peanuts.

Crowley also did the most talking during the few minutes the press was invited to watch, from a distance of about 40 feet.”

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I’m not sure who is more demeaned in this scene, the press or the people they’re covering. Call it a tie. I do know that, for the first time since the initial incident, reading this passage—and watching the accompanying video, which is just as enthralling as the story suggests—made me feel sorry for Sgt. Crowley. The other three men around that table, by virtue of their celebrity, had some prior sense of what it’s like to be treated as though you’re on exhibit in a zoo. For Crowley, it must have been a novel experience.

All in a day’s work for Politico, though, which was recently described by Glenn Greenwald as the embodiment of “everything rotted in politics & media.” What’s disappointing is that The New York Times so readily joined in. The Grey Lady, confronted with the same constraints as every other paper in the industry, the same tough choices about how to deploy scare resources, decided to assign not one, not two, but three reporters to live-blog the event. So, did the Times’s talented troika wring any legitimate news or insight out of the meeting? Let’s see:

It’s Begun | 6:24 p.m.

Helene Cooper: At 6:12, reporters and photographers were allowed in for a scant 40 seconds, where they could view the four men sitting around a table drinking out of frosty beer mugs. Four men, you ask? Weren’t there supposed to be three—President Obama, Professor Gates, and Sgt. Crowley?

And Vice President Joseph Biden! He was there too. In fact, during the brief time that the press could watch the goings-on, Mr. Biden leaned across the table towards Sgt. Crowley and said something. At another point, Sgt. Crowley gesturing with his hands, said something to Professor Gates.

And then, the press was ushered out.

Thrilling stuff!

But how about the analysis? Well, at 4:57, Jeff Zeleny provided this thought: “Regardless of the wisdom or accuracy of his words at the White House news conference last week, Mr. Obama seemed to be speaking spontaneously and with passion. Don’t look for a repeat of that anytime soon.” Helene Cooper concurred: “So I think what’s he’s learned from this is that as president, he can’t really say what he thinks.”

So, the White House press corps thinks one of the main takeaways from this whole episode is that the president shouldn’t be expected to say anything worth reporting in the future. Good to know that the peculiar meta-relationship between our political and media class has gotten to that point, and that no one seems much surprised.

Given that fact, it’s not surprising that a few readers wrote in to ask why the press was devoting so much time to this story. That prompted some self-reflection. Peter Baker, in his 5:25 entry, actually makes a good argument for why it was perfectly legitimate—correct, even—for the press initially to ask Obama about the arrest. But then, in the course of responding to a question about why coverage of the “summit” was warranted, Zeleny offered this tidbit at 6:50: “The media has certainly reacted—and, it could accurately be argued, overreacted—to the brouhaha.”

That “accurately” is maddening beyond description. It’s bad enough for media outlets to waste their limited resources covering the same non-story that everyone else is covering. It’s even worse when they admit that this is what they are doing, and do so anyway—as they have done twice in the last month, first with the Sotomayor hearings and now with the suds summit.

The press’s apparent conviction that the proper response to hokey photo-ops or meaningless political theatrics is to engage them, participate in them, criticize them, or even mock them is bizarre. This is wrong. The proper response is to ignore them. Even in summer. Even when everybody’s tired of writing about—and reading about—health care reform. They are not news. The bottom of A10—where the Times put its print coverage of last night’s events—is exactly where this stuff belongs.

The last contestant in this contest, The Washington Post, put its own write-up on A3—more prominent placement than it deserved, but not a grievous offense. And the Post’s standing in this competition is actually harmed by a decent Michael Kinsley column (he doesn’t think Obama made a Kinsley gaffe, after all), some interesting ruminations on the racial history of beer by Maureen Ogle, and a funny cartoon from the reliable Tom Toles. The paper also appears, commendably, not to have live-blogged the proceedings.

But all that is swept aside by a shockingly unfunny video from Post columnists Dana Milbank and Chris Cilizza, part of their new “Mouthpiece Theater” series. Megan Garber has already said most of what needs to be said about this piece, but it’s worth also highlighting the cowardice surrounding one of its most obnoxious moments, when a gratuitous and sexist insult is directed at the Secretary of State—who, of course, had absolutely nothing to do with GatesGate or the “beer summit.” After a smirking mention is made of “Mad Bitch” beer, the maws go silent for a moment, and Hillary Clinton’s photo briefly appears on the screen. Similarly, in Milbank’s column—essentially just a catalog of the same beer-related puns that populate the video—the joke is omitted entirely. If you’re going to tread into this territory, fellas, shouldn’t you at least have the courage to go all the way?

For that moment itself, the Post wins the booby prize in our little contest. But the entire video is really a perfect representation of the sniggering, self-referential tone that runs through so much of the coverage of the “suds summit” and similar events

And, in its profligate waste of the talents of two journalists who can do (or, at least, have done) so much better, it embodies much of what’s wrong about the way the press covers politics. The impulse to poke fun at proceedings that are staged, pointless, or lame is understandable—it allows the worldly-wise observer to show he or she knows how staged and pointless the event is. But there’s no good reason to turn political journalism into a less-funny version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. And there’s no reason for journalists—who have agency in these matters—to go along with it.

So, guys, please keep this in mind: If what you’re looking at is so stupid that you can’t believe you’re covering it—if it requires tongue-in-cheek snarkiness and a display of your own shining wit to justify the effort of talking about it at all—you need to turn around and go find a real story.


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Related Links

American Thinker: Obama’s revealing body language

Hot Air:  Disaster strikes beer summit: Biden decides to attend

Dick Morris And Eileen McGann: Gates and Crowley are OK But What About Obama

Michelle Malkin: Beer Summit: The final summary


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