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February 13, 2005 - "Would that it were so!" (Return to the kill-the-messenger philosophy?)

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World’s Laziest Journalist

Sunday, February 13, 2004

By Bob Patterson


“Would that it were so!”  (Return to the kill-the-messenger philosophy?)




In 1937, Dr. F. Donald Coster, at a meeting in his palatial estate in Connecticut, told his assembled group of guests and distinguished Republicans that he was flattered by their suggestion, but he would decline the offer to try to become FDR’s next opponent.


Shortly after noon, on Friday, December 16, 1938, Philip Musica was dead of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head, and the charade that led to the Republican’s invitation was over.


The son of an Italian barber, Philip Musica, had used his wits to live the high life and collect a pardon for his first prison term from president William Howard Taft.  Musica manipulated the New York City crime of the year for 1913 to his advantage.  He became an inmate-informant in the case, in return for a light sentence.  As Dr. F. Donald Coster, he implemented some questionable business practices to make the pharmaceutical firm of McKesson and Robbins look profitable during the Great Depression.  When faced with exposure, Musica / Dr. Coster had decided to avoid humiliation and picked up a pistol.


[The 1913 case concerning Father Hans Schmidt was fascinating and would have been ultra-controversial if TV had been there to cover the story.  Father Schmidt was accused of murder after he botched an attempted abortion that involved his “wife.”   Did anyone ever do a book about that?]


We found out all this last week when we stumbled across an autographed copy of Charles Keats’ book, copyright 1964, “Magnificent Masquerade: The Strange Case of Dr. Coster and Mr. Musica,” from Funk & Wagnalls.


[Isn’t the current thinking among criminologists that swindlers should be punished minimally and be rehabilitated by submitting to total immersion in the theory that they are philanthropists, rather than resorting to Dr. Coster’s harsh methodology?]


We had been torn by the prospect of choice concerning the writing of this column.  Should we try to find something that was relatively unique as a topic, or should we follow Hugh Hewitt’s lead and write about the topic that seems have become his current obsession?


If we wrote about the hustler who was adept at getting huge sums of money and paying with a slap on the wrist we could make some snide remarks about how the Democrats seem to have never had a prominent swindler in their ranks.  (Could it be that con men view the Republican Party the same way Willie Sutton regarded banks:  “Because that’s where the money is!”?)  Or we could join the Ox-bow incident crowd screaming:  “Crucify him!” and demand to know:  Did Easton West (or whatever his name is) actually say what he is supposed to have said and shouldn’t he be fired for abusing freedom of speech?


Hugh Hewitt, author of Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That’s Changing Your World ($19.99 Nelson Books), was all atwitter because someone is supposed to have said something in Davos.  (Davos?  Isn’t that a small town a few miles West of Toowoomba, in Queensland, Australia?)


Hewitt is urging bloggers to exhort the Main Stream Media (MSM) to demand an accounting and see if the alleged statement actually was made.  Hewitt leads the Internet bloggers around like the Pied Piper playing the old Sixties song (done by Dobie Gray): I’m in with the “In” Crowd.  When Hewitt’s last book, If It’s Not Close; They Can’t Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It ($19.99 Nelson Books), was out, he flaunted the possibility that blogs that plugged the book, might get mentioned on his radio show.


What is it that he is so worked up over?  Allegedly, a CNN executive said at some meeting in Davos, that the US Military is targeting journalists in Iraq.  Hewitt was heard on tape during his radio program for Tuesday, February 8, 2005, saying that if the guy said that, such a statement was “traitorous.”  The American press would freak out if one of their folks went missing, but if someone from Agency France Press missed bed check, odds are the Yanks wouldn’t take notice for several weeks.


Hewitt seems very upset over the possibility that it was said.  He seems to be totally oblivious to any concern about the veracity of the specifics.  A lazy journalist would want to see if someone else on the Internet had provided a list of the deadly encounters. 


Wouldn’t a pseudo-journalist, in the best tradition of John the Baptist justice, just ask for the speaker’s resignation from CNN?


Hewitt promoted his book, Blog, and this new obsessive topic on Chris Matthews NBC show over the February 4-6, weekend.  As last week began, we jumped around the conservative avalanche of hot air to monitor the subject’s contagious factor among Hewitt’s peers.  Laura Ingraham was mocking Susan Sarandon, you know, and Sean Penn.  Ms. Ingraham played a sound byte of Penn in his break though role and generally disparaged Penn’s trip to Baghdad.  (On Friday, February 11, 2005, she mentioned the Davos verbal salvo.)  The other talkers presented a smorgasbord of “the usual suspects” type topics.  One talked to a fellow who looks at topics that are being overlooked by the MSM and the expert’s opinion was that the networks and newspapers were ignoring a recent promise by John Kerry to release some more of his military records.


An update on an aspect of the 2004 election trumps the “traitorous” remarks made in Davos?  Sounds like a difference of opinion happening here.  What happened to the good old days in the Fall of 2004 when all the conservative talk show hosts (with the possible exception of Armstrong Williams who had an affinity for the “No Child Left Behind” program) were all singing the same notes to the same song every day, in perfect harmony?  Their well-synchronized oration reminded some older folks of the TV program “Sing along with Mitch.”  Come on, conservative talk show hosts:  “Can we all get along?”  Hop to it with Hewitt.  Won’t it be just like the good ole days of last fall, when they went after Dan Rather like gentlemen conducting a fox hunt in Great Britain?  To hear Hewitt tell it, the Davosgate was a more serious journalism topic than the Rathergate incident of last fall.


On the Hewitt website, in reference to the possibility of a tape that might prove what was or was not said, it surmised thus:  “CNN’s and Jordan’s refusal to call for the release of the tape tells us all we need to know.”


Did Hewitt apply that logic to the TANG (Texas Air National Guard) issue?  Did Hewitt bolster Dan Rather’s position by encouraging a similar application of logic regarding Bush’s refusal to release his service records? 


Isn’t going into meltdown about something that might have been said in Davos, while the story of the week was the vote count in Iraq, a little like freaking out over the color of Dan Rather’s tie while he was reporting the shooting at Dealy Plazza in Dallas?  Come on, Hugh, shouldn’t a conservative talk show host realize that the vote count in Iraq, now, is for freedom and democracy, what the fall of the Berlin Wall was in the Reagan era?


When a conservative reads an AP story that casually mentions in passing that 49 reporters and support workers were killed in Iraq last year, wouldn’t most talk show hosts respond using hunter’s jargon:  “Is that all they could manage to bag?”


Ann Coulter’s reaction to the possibility that reporters were being targeted was: “Would that it were so!”


As long as Hewitt isn’t being targeted, shouldn’t he advocate that journalists should only be shot for just cause.  It’s like the joke where a conservative asked a sniper:  “Why did you shoot that journalist” and got the reply:  “Just ‘cause … it felt good.”


Hewitt didn’t seem concerned with the Iraqi election results. 


Somebody said something in Davos?  Gees, weren’t the two Tonys from Secaucus, New Jersey more famous than anything you will ever find in a book titled The Greatest Davos Quotes of All Time?


Speaking of teamsters in New Jersey, for this week’s quote, we’ll have a nostalgic moment for fans of Bobby Kennedy and his Senate Committee hearings.  How many times did we hear: “Senator, under the advise of council, and the privileges of the Fifth Amendment, I respectfully decline to answer on the grounds it might tend to incriminate me” or some slight variation?


Now, if fans of elections and democracy in action will join us, the disk jockey will play a John Philip Sousa march titled Saber and Spurs, and we will adhere to our schedule to get out of here for this week.  Come back again next week.  Who knows, maybe we’ll break a story about the journalists who are allegedly buried in the end zone of Giant’s Stadium.  Until then, pay your union dues.  [PS: They used an industrial strength garbage disposal unit in a union meat packing plant.  Jimmy ain’t in Giant Stadium.  Stick that in your fact checker’s “in” box.]  Have a nice week.




Copyright 2005 – Robert Patterson


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
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