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Monday, February 06, 2006

Betcha Durbin Knows About Pajamas Media Now! (And Don't Miss Update V on an AP Schools Story)

Capitol Hill is buzzing with talk of a news conference earlier today in which Powerline's Paul Mirengoff was pushing some hard questions at Sen. Teddy Kennedy, D-MA, and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-IL, about the NSA's anti-terrorist international "eavesdropping" program.

Kennedy apparently got flustered with Mirengoff, so Durbin started fielding the questions and himself became increasingly flustered. Finally, according to one account, Durbin asked Mirengoff what news organization he represented.

When Mirengoff said "Pajamas Media," Durbin said something to the effect of "I've never heard of Pajamas Media, who the hell is Pajamas Media."

To which Mirengoff responded: "Well, Dan Rather knows something about Pajamas Media."

Oh how I hope somebody caught this exchange on camera.

UPDATE:

Paul Mirengoff emails this clarification:

"No. As I recall he said something he wasn't familiar with its work. Then, when he blew off my follow up question, he said as snidely as he could that he would look for my work on Pajama Line. The import was 'who the hell is pajamas media' but he didn't use those words."

I'll bet Durbin's press secretary is googling "Paul Mirengoff" and "Pajamas Media" right now!

UPDATE II: Here's the video!

I knew somebody would have it. Roger Simon, one of the PJM founders, has it here, courtesy of NSA Files.

HT: Instapundit.

UPDATE III: From the Man Himself

Powerline's Paul Mirgengoff gives his account of the encounter with senators Kennedy and Durbin. And yes, Paul, getting to ask people like Durbin questions like you put to him today is precisely why I've said for a long time that being a journalist is the most fun job in the world.

UPDATE IV: Bring on More Bloggers!

A veteran Senate GOP staffer who requested anonymity offered this observation about the significance of the Durbin-Mirengoff exchange:

"The mainstream news media that covers Congress is tightly controlled by the House and Senate press galleries and they would never be so aggressive in pressing a Member of Congress. So this was big, it was unprecedented to have a blogger asking such questions. We need more bloggers up here asking questions because they aren't controlled by the galleries."

I agree, the more bloggers are covering Congress, the more likely it is that Members will be asked and, as Durbin discovered today, have to answer questions they never expect to hear from mainstream journalists.

It is exactly the kind of aggressive, don't-let'em-off-the-hook questioning by Mirengoff that I have long lamented as being a thing of the past among establishment media journalists. They are either afraid to ask the tough questions, or they don't know the tough questions.

So come on up to Capitol Hill, bloggers!

UPDATE V: AP Story Shows Why Bloggers Are Needed on Capitol Hill

Federal spending on education programs - many of which have yet to have any demonstrably positive impacts - is up 137 percent under President Bush. That's 1-3-7. 137 percent. That is the biggest four-year increase in federal education spending ever.

Apparently that fact escaped Ben Feller's notice. He's the AP reporter covering the education portion of the Bush 07 federal budget proposal. The only element he seems to think important is making readers think Bush is starving the public school system.

I wonder if Feller has ever reported anything contrary to NEA's propaganda. In fairness to Feller, it must be pointed out that reporters rarely write the headlines over their stories, though in this case the desk editor who did write the headline got it exactly right, given Feller's story.

Bush Budget to Cut Deeper Into Education
Ben Feller, Associated Press, February 6, 2006

President Bush's budget would cut money for education, the second straight time has he has sought less school spending after a first term of steady increases.

The Education Department would get $54.4 billion for discretionary spending in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. That would amount to a cut of $3.7 billion, or 6.4 percent, from this year.

Bush would eliminate 42 education programs deemed unnecessary or inefficient, including some money for the arts, technology, parent-resource centers and drug-free schools.

Overall, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said, education has fared well under Bush, with larger percentage increases than any other domestic area outside of national security. But the big increases came early in Bush's first term after he won bipartisan support for his education law.

A year ago, Bush proposed cutting the education budget by 1 percent, to $56 billion from $56.6 billion. Congress eventually approved a slight increase instead - but that included a one-time boost of hurricane relief aid. Some major education programs got less money this year.

School leaders warn that shrinking budgets will hurt their ability to improve learning among students regardless of race or poverty, the goal of Bush's No Child Left Behind law in 2001.

Bush wants a new $100 million in vouchers for poor students to attend private schools or get extra tutoring. The money would go to students at schools that have not met their progress goals for five straight years and must be "restructured" under federal law.

But Congress rejected private vouchers when it passed the No Child Left Behind law. Congress has supported one only voucher experiment, for District of Columbia students.

The education budget is part of a $2.77 trillion plan that Bush sent to Congress on Monday. It shifts money to current White House priorities, under a theme of global competitiveness.

Those include math help for middle-school students, foreign language courses, and training for more high school teachers to lead college-level math and science courses.

Money for the biggest federal education program - aid to poor school districts, known as Title I funding - would stay at $12.7 billion.

Bush would end the federal vocational education program and shift its $1.2 billion toward expanded yearly testing and academic help for high school students. He tried to win approval for the same high school initiative last year, and Congress didn't consider it.
UPDATE VI: When Bologna Meets Grinder
Powerline's Scott Johnson explains the result here, with an excellent roundup of reactions, observations and comments about colleague Paul Mirengoff's encounter with a couple of U.S. senators.