Monthly Archives: December 2012

2012 in review

Thank you all, and to all a good year!

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 17,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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To: John Boehner

From: Chris Daly

Date: Dec 21 (the day after you lost a vote in your own House)

The first rule of legislative leadership: Always count the votes.

When I worked as a reporter covering the Massachusetts Legislature, I got to see some masters of the game. Above all was Billy Bulger, the president of the state Senate (and brother of accused mobster/murderer Whitey Bulger). As best I can recall, I believe Bulger never lost a vote in the Senate in the five years I covered him. Yes, it’s true that he had a supermajority of about 80 percent of the members. But at a certain point, having such a big majority is no picnic for a leader, because you have so many members that inevitably there are intra-party splits.

Once in a blue moon, the leaders would come across an issue that had no partisan consequence and that genuinely divided the members on something the members cared about. In those rare cases, the leaders would release the members and say, “Vote your conscience” or “Vote your district.” But those kind of votes didn’t count as a loss for the leadership, because the leaders weren’t trying to achieve any particular outcome.

Otherwise, it was all-hands-on-deck. The leaders constantly polled the members, and they had ways of persuading members who were wandering or wavering. And once you gave your word on your vote, that was it. If a member came into the chamber to cast a vote and used it to double-cross the leaders, forget it. You were off to Siberia. No bridges for your district. You’d get the crappiest office in the building — one that might be even worse than the lowliest Republican.

The fact is, legislative leaders cannot afford to lose floor votes — at least not very often. When they do, the members no longer fear them. And if those leaders are low-spending, small-government types, they can’t offer the members a lot of ornaments on their trees. So, if they are not needed or feared, what good are they?

What Boehner’s defeat this week may mean is this: the House is ungovernable. It may be that the U.S. House is not divided between two parties but between three or more. It may be that we need to start learning the ropes of coalition-style politics.

The reason I say that is due to a corollary of the first rule of legislative leadership: the leader of the other branches will only try to make deals with a leader who can deliver. If you can’t deliver your followers, you’re wasting everyone’s time.


The Massachusetts State Senate: Counting the votes since 1713.




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When journalists are captured

By Christopher B. Daly

I am delighted that Richard Engel is safe after being captured and held in Syria. The NBC correspondent has been risking his neck for years in some of the most godforsaken places on earth, just so the rest of can debate what (if anything) we should “do” about those countries.

Here is his appearance (by video) on his network’s ailing “Today” show. (Btw, I still miss Ann Curry.)

Here is the story from today’s Times, which raises the issue of what (if anything) should be reported about missing journalists while they are in captivity. Here’s the takeaway:

NBC’s television competitors and many other major news organizations, including The New York Times, refrained from reporting on the situation, in part out of concern about endangering the crew even more.

In 2008, news outlets similarly refrained from publishing reports about the kidnapping in Afghanistan of David Rohde of The New York Times and a local reporter, Tahir Ludin. The two escaped in June 2009 after seven months in captivity.

In the case of Mr. Engel, Gawker and a number of other Web sites reported speculation about his disappearance on Monday. After he and his crew members returned safely to Turkey, Peter N. Bouckaert, the emergencies director of Human Rights Watch who has been involved in efforts to free captives, criticized the decisions made by those sites. News blackouts, he said, go “against the journalistic instinct to report the news, but in many of these cases it does save lives.”



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Reporting on gun violence and gun control (cont.)

By Christopher B. Daly

This is a huge, sprawling topic that is also something of a moving target. So, here are some more sources for journalists to consult. If you are involved in covering these issues and you come across other helpful sites, please leave a comment below, or email me and I will update.

More from the Journalist’s Resource project at Harvard:

*On gun policies:

*Global look at gun-homicide connection:

*On violent video games:

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What do historians make of the whole issue? That is a big, complicated tale. The subject has been almost as controversial among historians as it has been among politicians.

Here’s an intro to a recent controversy in the scholarship over gun ownership.

And here’s the major critic, Clayton Cramer. (But beware of link rot!)

Here is the report by Emory University on its own professor’s work.






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Reporting on gun violence and gun control (cont.)


By Christopher B. Daly 


In the wake of the massacre at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., here are some more resources for reporters, editors, and users of news sites.


–The Journalist’s Resource at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center has added a new post with many new links.


–Before anyone needlessly piles onto people with Asperger’s Syndrome, here is the website of the Asperger’s Assn of New England, which has lots of resources for learning about the condition. The AANE has also issued a statement specifically addressing the Newtown case.



–Here are some links to research done by researchers at the Berkman Center on meanness and cruelty (in case those issues are relevant here, and they may not be; I am trying to cast a wide net).


–Here is the homepage of the NRA. (Yes, it looks like the opening of the Colbert Report, but that’s Colbert’s point, isn’t it?)


–Here is the homepage for a leading gun-control organization, the Brady Campaign.











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Reporting on gun violence and gun control

By Christopher B. Daly 

The recent massacre of innocents at a school in Connecticut is bound to spur a renewal of debate over gun control. Based on President Obama’s comments on Friday, it appears likely that — finally — something might happen. If you are reporting on that issue, or just reading about it, the dialogue could be elevated if the reporting were deepened.

One place to start: the highly worthwhile site Journalist’s Resource, sponsored by the Shorenstein Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Here is a page of results from a keyword search for “gun control.”

It is a start toward bringing the best of fact-based research to bear on this enormous problem.



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Abolish the NCAA (cont.)

By Christopher B. Daly 

Thanks, again, to the NYTimes‘ Joe Nocera for staying on the NCAA beat. (I almost wrote “the NCAA scandal beat,” but that would be superfluous.)

In today’s column, Nocera looks deeper into the economics of big-time college athletics.

One theme: how little net proceeds end up in college treasuries to support education.

Another theme: how little these schools care about the educations of their athletes. (For example, Maryland and Rutgers just joined the Big 10. I know: Rutgers? Anyway, one result is that Maryland will now play regular conference games against, inter alia, Michigan, which is about 1,000 miles away. What is the educational rationale for making those kids schlep around for regular games?)

A final theme: at the NCAA’s most athletically ambitious schools, the salaries of big-time coaches are totally out of whack.



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