Is Jay Severin making up quotations?

In Jay Severin’s blog today, he writes:

There has been considerable evidence that this President is fundamentally out of touch with many of us – but none more head-shaking to me than news the Obama’s ordered their White House staff "nothing religious for Christmas…no manger, no statues, nothing…”

That was a rather eye-popping quote, so I immediately Googled [obama “nothing religious for christmas”]. I got one hit: Jay’s blog. So I googled [Obama manger display], and that led me to this Wall Street Manna blog post. That post, in turn, led me to a New York Times article about White House social secretary Desiree Rogers, which seems to have been the original source for the story about the White House Christmas display. Here’s what the Times said on the matter:

…Washington is a city that likes its traditions, and Ms. Rogers has raised a few eyebrows by trying to bend them. When former social secretaries gave a luncheon to welcome Ms. Rogers earlier this year, one participant said, she surprised them by suggesting the Obamas were planning a “non-religious Christmas” — hardly a surprising idea for an administration making a special effort to reach out to other faiths.

The lunch conversation inevitably turned to whether the White House would display its crèche, customarily placed in a prominent spot in the East Room. Ms. Rogers, this participant said, replied that the Obamas did not intend to put the manger scene on display — a remark that drew an audible gasp from the tight-knit social secretary sisterhood. (A White House official confirmed that there had been internal discussions about making Christmas more inclusive and whether to display the crèche.)

Yet in the end, tradition won out; the executive mansion is now decorated for the Christmas holiday, and the crèche is in its usual East Room spot.

It’s one thing for Jay Severin to take that story and spin it wildly to suggest that the Obamas are somehow anti-Christmas, but the use of quotation marks in Jay’s blog to imply that the President had explicitly banned religious display from the White House is misleading and a breach of blogging etiquette.

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Jay Severin’s words finally on line

Sure, Jay Severin’s had a blog before, but this time it looks like maybe he’s going to stick to it. He’s blogged every day this week. The blog even allows you to submit comments. Interestingly, though, no comments have actually been approved yet by the moderators. I’m sure they just haven’t gotten around to it. It couldn’t possibly be that they’re too scared to allow public feedback.

Jay also has a Twitter feed. I’ll be monitoring this and tweeting back as appropriate from my own account.

Jay even has a Facebook page. For reasons unknown, he set it up as a regular friend page rather than as a fan page. And while I’d love to communicate with Jay’s fans via Facebook, there’s no way I’m inviting Jay to be my friend. So I can’t say a whole lot more about what’s there.

Unfortunately, Jay’s comments on his blog and on Twitter are short, so he doesn’t get nearly as much rope with which to hang himself as he does on the air. Nevertheless, I’m sure it won’t be too long before he writes something incorrect, illogical, or inane. Imagine me pointing at my own eyes and then pointing at Jay’s. That’s what I’m doing, Jay. I’m watching you.

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Jay Severin needs education on Secret Service

Jay Severin says the failure of the Secret Service to prevent uninvited guests from getting close to the President last week “illustrates how incompetent at Everything (including their own safety) is this administration.”

Nice dig at the Obama administration, Jay. Too bad you overlooked the fact that the Director of the Secret Service has been on the job since May 2006, and that both he and the Deputy Director have been with the Secret Service since 1983.

I agree with you, Jay, that the Secret Service displayed some incompetence on the night in question. But pinning it on the Obama administration is rather silly, no?

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Jay Severin is Anwar Al-Awlaki

I just finished reading a Huffington Post essay by Kamran Pasha. Pasha is a friend of a Muslim soldier who knew and prayed with Nidal Hasan, the Ft. Hood murderer. The soldier, called “Richard” by the essayist, describes Hasan’s relationship with Anwar Al-Awlaki:

As Richard got to know Hasan better over the next several months, he found the major to be a pious man who was at the mosque daily. But Richard also began to garner a sense of Hasan’s political views that troubled him. A black-and-white outlook on Islam and life that had no room for nuance or debate. Hasan had apparently attended a mosque led by an imam named Anwar Al-Awlaki, a Yemeni scholar whose political views Richard disagrees with.

Awlaki is a controversial figure among Muslims, and has been accused by the Congressional Joint Inquiry on 9/11 of serving as a “spiritual advisor” to two of the September 11 hijackers. While Richard is careful to say that he respects much of Awlaki’s historical scholarship, he rejects his political ideology, which posits a black-and-white, us versus them, view of America’s relationship with the Islamic world.

Richard’s own study of Islam has revealed that such a harsh dualistic approach to religion is very much against the history of Islamic thought and practice. Indeed, debate is central to the Islamic tradition, and mainstream Muslims have always understood that true faith requires openness to nuance and subtlety. In my novel, Mother of the Believers, which tells the story of Islam from the perspective of Aisha, Prophet Muhammad’s wife, I discuss how the early Muslim community engaged in profound debate and discourse in the search for truth. An embrace of subtlety and intellectual sophistication is inherent to the Islamic tradition.

But this kind of subtlety is anathema to fundamentalists of any religion or ideology, who are incapable of seeing other points of view. And the backlash against my book by Muslim fundamentalists reveals the deep-seated fear that such people have of mainstream Muslims’ efforts to take back the discourse from those who cannot accept shades of grey in life and faith.

I could not read that description of the imam without thinking of Jay Severin. Obviously Severin and Awlaki have different world views, but the lenses with which they see the world have similar filters. A black-and-white, us versus them outlook combined with a lack of subtlety and intellectual sophistication describes Jay Severin perfectly. And that is why Severin’s rhetoric is so dangerous. I don’t believe Jay Severin himself would resort to violence as a means of furthering his political causes, but I will not be terribly surprised if and when one of his listeners does.

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Jay Severin and Glenn Beck get Turked

I was unable to listen to Jay Severin’s hero myself, but fortunately The Young Turks got hold of the recording and they’ve posted it for our entertainment. Grab a barf bag and take a listen …

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Jay Severin moves up

WTKK has shuffled its weekday lineup, moving Jay Severin from 3:00-7:00 pm to 2:00-6:00 pm. My first thought on seeing this news was that Severin, having been forced to come into the Dorchester studio more often since coming back from his suspension, was whining about wanting to get home to his wife and kid earlier. However, it appears that the move is designed as a promotion for Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. Good for them. That pair has some intellectual honesty – and when they don’t, they have one another to keep themselves in check.

I would imagine that this means fewer listeners for Severin overall. I mean, there must be fewer people listening to the radio between 2:00 and 3:00 than between 6:00 and 7:00, right? If so, that’s a good thing.

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Jay Severin’s hero

Here’s how Jay Severin described his 6:00 pm guest, Glenn Beck: “A hero of mine … and a friend.” Here some information that speaks to the credibility of Glenn Beck:

I suppose it’s not all that surprising that a liar like Jay Severin would idolize a liar like Glenn Beck. I suppose the real question is how much of Jay’s material is lifted directly from Beck’s show.

P.S. For pure amusement, check out

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Jay Severin’s dumb-ass-ity, in his own words

The problem with the “public option” for health care, according to Jay Severin, is that it will kill the private insurance industry. Why? Because if businesses can move their employees to the public option, they can stop providing health insurance and save on premiums. I called him up, because I was a little unclear about his reasoning.

David From Brighton: I’m also a small business owner. I do provide health insurance for all of my employees. [This is true, by the way.] And what — I heard your criticism of the public option and what I don’t understand is, OK, yes, if the public option were available maybe I would say to my employees, “OK, I’m dropping coverage from our plan and you can go get it through the public option,” but at the same time that would free up tens of thousands of dollars for me to put in their paychecks. So wouldn’t it be better for me to give them the choice of how to spend their money? And I imagine that some supplemental insurance market will take place just like it has in Medicare. You know, Medicare is a single-payer system —

Jay Severin: David that’s a lovely concept and I haven’t heard anything quite so lovely since Peter Pan, but I would put it on the same scale. What percentage of private capitalist employers do you think would, when all of a sudden there is, you know, $800,000 freed up next year, or $80 million, depending on the size of the relatively, you know, small or medium business, how many employers are going to say “Hey, I saved $800,000 next year so let me immediately give it away again?”

DFB: Well, isn’t it your argument that they should provide healthcare as means of —

JS: Nope.

DFB: — attracting workers —

JS: [He hung up on me here.] David, my view is that private business can do whatever it wants to do, pretty much whatever it wants to do, and that’s what the founding fathers say, too, and if you don’t provide good health insurance, you won’t attract the top people. Of course, most businesses in America need to attract “people;” they don’t need to attract “top people.” I mean, let’s face it, a lot of the jobs in America require only the repetition of the phrase “Would you like to supersize that?” and so I think that — I think my radio station, I think my radio company, might have problems attracting top people if they did not offer superior healthcare but I don’t think the fast food joints or the, you know, state and county workers would turn their nose up at the job because they weren’t being offered better health insurance. The bottom line here is fairly obvious, which is if you offer the – look, what are we really talking about here is FedEx and UPS and other private companies, if you really provided free service enough so that there’s real competition then FedEx would go out of business. What we are talking about a government agency created sotto voce with the purpose of driving out of business – see, the government, if your real objective is that you have a government single-payer system, the only reason to have this government option is to try and foster those views. So all you’re doing is lubricating the means to an end here. The government agency will offer healthcare for free, quote unquote, and private companies cannot compete with free, so no matter how awful the service is – the free service – people will take the free service and tens of millions of people will be forced to take the free service and private services unable to compete will go out of business and then everyone will rely on government which is exactly what the government is after. Remember: Barack Obama’s goal is not that people be well. Barack Obama’s goal is that government provide and control all the service.

So, to sum up …

  • Employers currently provide good health insurance as a means of attracting good talent.
  • Employers are greedy bastards who keep wages as low as possible. (Apparently in Jay’s world, better health care benefits lure workers but higher salaries do not.)
  • Private companies can’t compete with government services, even when the government services are lousy, because the government’s prices are so low.
  • FedEx and UPS survive because even though the price of the USPS is low, the USPS service is so terrible that people are willing to pay more for private delivery services. (Apparently in Jay’s world, people are much more price-sensitive when their own health is concerned than they are when it comes to package delivery.)

And people listen to and respect this idiot! How can this be?

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Jay Severin slanders Van Jones

Jay Severin today referred to White House advisor Van Jones as a self-professed radical communist (among other things) and said that the validity of his (Severin’s) characterizations were easily available on the Internet. Yes, it’s true, that there are a lot of web sites that refer to Jones as a self-avowed communist, but they generally lack sources. I finally found the primary source: a 2005 article from the East Bay (Ca.) Express.  Indeed, in that article Jones is quoted as saying “I was a communist.” But (a) it’s not at all clear from the article that he was speaking seriously, and (b) the article’s focus is about how between 1992 and 2005 Jones moved away from his radical strategies in favor of pragmatism. Jay is simply repeating the many distortions and lies about who Jones is and what he does.

Now Jay may be right that Jones’s job is in jeopardy because of some questionable involvements with some 9/11 conspiracy theorists. But to call someone a self-avowed communist because of one comment made to a reporter four years ago about his actions and beliefs seventeen years ago is … well, it’s typical Jay Severin.

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Why watching Jay Severin is important

I’m often asked why I bother to keep an ear on Jay Severin and take the time to point out his lies and distortions. “He’s just an entertainer,” people say. “You can’t take everything he says at face value.” While some members of his audience might indeed see Severin as nothing more than comic relief, I’m afraid that he has far greater impact.

Take a look at this clip of health care reform protesters. These folks are in California, but if they lived in the Boston area, you know who their favorite talk show host would be.

These folks have a right to think and say whatever they want, but the idea that their opinions and behavior are affecting my life is downright scary.

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