City Desk

Our Morning Roundup: Washington Times “Owns” Chas Freeman Story

Good morning, City Desk readers. The one and only Ted Scheinman is chilling in the tropics this week, and yours truly has been tasked with turning regular Wednesday roundup into WTF?! Wednesday roundup. How about this weather, huh? Huh? The boss (as in, my boss) knows what I'm talking about. News and commentary about Phish, pot, Metro, and taxes, after the jump.

  • Dave McKenna incited a quiet riot on Monday by asking, "Did Anybody Go to the Phish Reunion?" Phish fans, many endowed with a LSD-inspired sixth sense, flocked to the comments board. The exchange was nowhere near as trippy as the culture war going on over at the Sexist, or as revolting as the average Twilight attack, still, I was mucho impressed to see the school of stone-washed stoners band together in defense of Trey "Is this thing on?" Anastasio.
  • Speaking of getting stoned: "Police said Monday they confiscated about $1.2 million in illegal drugs and more than $68,000 in cash...Authorities also arrested 194 Phish fans during the three-night celebration of the band's return to the stage after a nearly five-year absence." That's the gut of an AP article about the Phish reunion concert. Let me sum it up in a different way: Laid back folk got together to listen to some laid back tunes, and the cops ROBBED THE SHIT OUT OF THEM. For those of you who are thinking (or typing) "serves those scofflaws right," I want you to look around your home or office for a consumable that some other person might perceive as unhealthy–a bottle of Jager, maybe, or the April 2004 issue of Genesis magazine, or a package of Ramen noodles. Now, I want you to imagine some sweaty prick with a Taser taking that thing away from you, bending your arms behind your back, snapping a picture of you after you've been crying (this picture will end up online), demanding thousands of dollars in exchange for your freedom, and then releasing you in your dirty laundry with that taboo attached to your personal record. Ugh.
  • The National Review Online's Media Blog tips its hat to the Washington Times for totally nailing the Chas Freeman story. Kevin D. Williamson writes: "The other Times — the Washington Times — was very much on the case, with Eli Lake providing the most substantive reporting on Freeman, his history, and his connections to the Chinese and Saudi regimes. National Review, The New Republic, and other opinion journals covered the story, but the newspapers were largely absent. The Washington Post covered the story sparingly, and the Wall Street Journal touched on it, too, but considering the issues at play, it was remarkable that so much of the daily press took a back seat." It would seem that this is one of those stories only Washington folk give a shit about: Jamie "Am I bigger than Jesus, yet?" Kirchick dug his heels into the Freeman story over at The New Republic and the Washington Independent's Dave Weigel suggested that the now office-less Freeman will one day form an unholy alliance with Michael Steele.
  • Michael Perkins did some WMATA math and found "Metrorail fares have stayed flat relative to inflation for trips of equal length." He goes on to suggest that WMATA could stand to raise them: "Would it be better if fares kept up with inflation, and there was less pressure for service cuts?  Maybe with fare increases, there would be money for increased service after the recession is over." Perkins' post is deep, folks. I suggest those of you who can handle more than a graf or two of uninterrupted transportation talk dive the hell in. Though for my money, I think WMATA would invest in a chain of children's haircutteries before it raised fares as much as they need raising–an amount that would further marginalize the people who need WMATA the most. (Also a good transportation read: "Nobody Rides for Free," by Sarah Godfrey.)
  • Last but not least, there's a party: My some-time bosses at Reason magazine and are hosting a (so many domains!) viewing party this Friday in celebration of John Stossel's 20/20 special, "Bailouts, Big Spending, and Bull." I have reason to believe that "[s]oft and hard drinks and light fare will be served," and I'm certain that admission is free, and that most of the attendees will be the sweetest, most disarmingly-sincere capitalist pigz most of you have never met. Just make sure and RSVP. (Ruth Samuelson wrote a great piece about think tank food awhile back, now's as good a time as any to read it.)

OK, folks, let's seize this thing.

Flickr photo courtesy of David Drexler. Thanks David!

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  • jff

    Perkins gets too involved in Metro's arcane fare system, which fogs up what's really going on. The simple fact is that fares on ALL mass transit systems haven't risen enough relative to the expense of operating the systems. Fares alone provide only a part of revenue, but letting that part shrink relative to other sources is a bad idea, and users of WMATA know the effects: breakdowns, bad service, the list goes on., which certainly not as scientific a breakdown nails the key point here much better.

  • curm

    Why is it news that the conservative National Review's blog thinks the conservative Washington Times did good work on a story? Regarding the item, did any of them ever cover Bush family connections to China and Saudia Arabia?

  • Michael Perkins

    My point was that rail fares have pretty much stayed the same, but bus fares have decreased, necessitating large increses in government support. This year, those governments balked, making a debate about service cuts necessary. If bus fares had kept up with inflation, we would be discussing far fewer fare increases.

    Unsuck's analysis was simple to the point of simplistic. He only looked at maximum rail fare, which is an arbitrary decision of the outer counties of how much they want to directly subsidize their commuters. Most people riding Metro do not pay maximum fare. He also failed to take into account that people in the past used to get a 10% bonus when buying reasonably sized farecards.

    I understand my analysis was complicated, but WMATA has a horrendously complicated fare structure. If all rides on bus and rail were $2.50 (or something), it would make this all easier to understand, though a lot more expensive for a lot of people.

  • Mike Riggs

    @Curm: Only the Washington Times has followed the Chas Freeman story with the intensity it deserves. Regardless of the ideological bent of Lake, Williamson, or the publications involved, that's news. I don't know if you followed the links or not, but here's just one reason why people are concerned:

    On May 26, 2006, Chas Freeman sent an e-mail to a confidential listserv called ChinaSec. The subject under discussion was the Tiananmen Square massacre, the 1989 Chinese government crackdown on peaceful democracy demonstrators. Sounding like a hard-line Chinese Communist Party flack, he referred to the young activists as constituting a “mob scene,” termed their appeals for liberalization “propaganda,” mocked the “goddess of democracy” they had erected in honor of the Statue of Liberty and deemed the government’s response — which resulted in over 2,500 deaths — “overly cautious.

    That's from Kirchick's piece in the Politico--a must read for anyone who doubts that Freeman was a reprehensible choice. Where was the Post on this? The New York Times? I think it's a fair question.

  • Andrew

    If he had kept his mouth shut and never said anything bad about our leaders in Israel nobody would have cared about a thing he said about China or any connection to Saudi Arabia.

    Heck our last president of two terms was buddies with the Saudi regime.

    But god forbid anyone is not 100% in Israels corner.
    My wife is Jewish so please dont call me a Anti-Semitic.