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Tags: PBS

Does the Hatch Act Apply to ‘Arthur’?



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A wise reader wonders if the appearance of the PBS children’s-series character “Arthur” at a press conference with House Democrats runs afoul of the Hatch Act.

The first question to be resolved is whether the individual wearing the “Arthur” suit is a federal employee or not.

If the “Arthur” is a federal employee, the Hatch Act permits federal employees to “attend and be active at political rallies and meetings,” so that would seem to cover it. But the Hatch Act also prohibits ”engaging in political activity while in official uniform.” Obviously, this provision is most frequently applied to military personnel.

But if your job at a PBS station is to wear the Arthur suit for events, isn’t that your “official uniform”? The whole point of the rally is that “Arthur” was there, not merely “the guy who dresses up as Arthur.”

The chances of anything coming of this are small. But besides the garden-variety exploitation of children’s-book characters to avert a serious discussion of whether the federal government should be subsidizing television programming in an era of runaway debt, we have the frustrating example of taxpayer-funded resources being used to argue against the taxpayers’ being relieved of that expense.

Tags: Arthur , PBS

From Nir Rosen to the Muppet Lobby



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Some nights and early mornings, the Jolt almost writes itself . . .

As OneRepublic Said, ‘It’s Too Late to Apologize.’

Well, that’s resolved. In part.

Should we feel good that Nir Rosen has resigned from NYU’s Center on Law and Security? I’m sure many will. I’m somewhat relieved that NYU didn’t confirm my worst suspicions and respond with a pro forma, ‘I’m sorry if anyone is offended, now let’s sing kumbaya’ that we’ve seen academic administrators deploy in previous egregious controversies.

Rosen’s apology can be found here.

I remain close to my sense that this kind of a reaction goes beyond political incorrectness or controversy to suggest a lack of empathy that offers a profoundly disturbing suggestion about Rosen’s psychology. Apologize? Resign? In a way those are almost beside the point, presuming the fallout from this doesn’t trigger some sort of wholesale reevaluation of the way he sees the world. In short, he needs to start seeing people as people and not abstract representations of good and bad political figures.

To hear this awful, awful news about Logan and decide that right then and there, you have to express your grievances about her coverage of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, or her war coverage, or to declare that you’re out of sympathy here? Or the idea that a sexual assault against Anderson Cooper would have been funny?

Who needs to do this? Who needs to take every little bit of information, even the shocking and stomach-turning, and say, “See, this proves I was right?” Is it driven by insecurity? Are figures like this so terrified of having their beliefs challenged that they can’t see it as a human tragedy beyond the realm of our ordinary political debates? Must every new development of the day be processed and categorized as a new variety of supporting evidence proving argument X or point Y?

(A couple of folks have written in, in a frustratingly nagging tone, saying, “Well, what about Debbie Schlussel and Jim Hoft? Huh? Huh? What about them?” I tuned Schussel out back when she wrote that I was writing in captivity over in Turkey and that I must be “Jimmy Carter Geraghty.” Get it? Get it? You see, because I have the same first name as a former president, she’s creatively and wittily putting the two names together, suggesting that I’m on the same page as him! Hooboy! Hilarity! Touché, Ms. Schlussel. Clearly, your all-nighter thinking that one up that proved worthwhile.)

You’ve seen Hoft in this newsletter before, and you’ll see this again. The only thing I’d say to him is that when you’re writing with strong emotions, you can end up writing things you regret. I’ve met Hoft, he seems like a reasonable guy with a good head on his shoulders, so I have a hard time believing that he really thinks that Logan believed that she would be treated differently than other Western reporters. I’ll let him speak for himself regarding this post; I’d note that even if one doesn’t intend to blame the victim, a poorly chosen word or two can inadvertently leave that impression.

I also discuss Sen. Jim DeMint’s mockery of Democrats defending PBS by holding publicity stunts with “The Muppet Lobby.” A key point: “When reached for comment, Cookie Monster responded to DeMint’s argument by declaring, ‘NOM NOM NOM COO-KIE NOM NOM NOM.’”

Tags: Jim DeMint , Nir Rosen , PBS

The Money Behind the Democrats’ Latest Star Witness Against Budget Cuts



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The latest brouhaha on Capitol Hill:

House Democrats made their case for continuing taxpayer funding of public media outlets such as NPR and PBS with a little help from Arthur the PBS cartoon character, who visited the Capitol Wednesday morning.

The friendly but silent aardvark joined Democratic Reps. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and others to hit back against Republicans who have pledged to cut the funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in the next budget.

“We need your help today,” Markey said as a person dressed as the character walked toward the Capitol building. “We can’t leave Arthur and all of his pals in the lurch.”

One might wonder why Arthur couldn’t make up the shortfall from corporate sponsors like Chuck E. Cheese, or Juicy Juice, or McDonald’s, or CVS.

You scoff. Except that all four are already corporate sponsors of the “Arthur” program.

Tags: Arthur , Ed Markey , PBS

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