Ken Shepherd lives in New Carrollton, Md., with his wife, Laura, and children Mercy and Abraham. Ken graduated cum laude from the University of Maryland in 2001 with a Bachelors of Arts in Government & Politics and a citation in Public Leadership.
Ken has worked full-time for the Media Research Center since May 2001 and prior to that was an MRC New Analysis Division intern from October 1998 to May 2001.
In his spare time, Ken enjoys karaoke, tennis, reading, and discussing theology or politics.
Those familiar with the Washington Post know that the paper is a staunch defender of a very liberal vision of the separation of church and state. For example, the paper's editorial board was heavily critical of the Supreme Court's Mojave cross ruling.
But when it comes to the supposed dearth of Muslim chaplains at Virginia prisons, Sunday's Metro section went into full hand-wringing mode. "Inadequate Funds for Chaplains," complained a subheader for the page B1 story by staffer Kevin Sieff.
"In Va., most money goes to Protestant clergy," another subheadline for the story "Support limited for Muslims in prison"* lamented.
Of course, it wasn't until paragraph 27 that Sieff noted that "[n]either Catholic nor Jewish chaplains have sought funding from corrections officials." As Sieff explained early in his article, "a 200-year-old interpretation of the state constitution... bars Virginia from doing any faith-based hiring" and "is the only state where prison chaplains are contractors, not state employees." Sure, "Muslim chaplains could visit correctional facilities to minister to Virginia's 32,000 inmates," Sieff explained, "but they received no funds from the state" until a $25,000 grant was given to Muslim Chaplain Services of Virginia last July.
Thus reads the page A2 headline for Michael Shear's August 20 Washington Post story that reads like an extended Obama
White House campaign press release.
Shear opens with a story about how Obama prayed with "three Christian pastors" over the phone as he flew to Chicago to celebrate his 49th birthday. "As he celebrated his birthday, he was in a reflective mood," Shear cooed. "He told them he wanted to pray about the year that had passed, what's really important in life and the challenges ahead," the Post staffer added before cuing up Joel Hunter, "an evangelical pastor who ws on the call and who is part of a small circle of spiritual advisers who frequently talk to Obama by phone."
Hunter served up the argument of Shear's article, that because Obama is private about his Christian faith, it's no wonder polls show a growing number of people unsure of his faith, with some even thinking he's a Muslim. "You know what happens with a vacuum?" Hunter asked, before answering his own question, "It gets filled."
Back in September 2008, MSNBC's Chris Matthews floated a specious allegation that then-Governor Sarah Palin had ties to an advocate of Alaskan secession named Joe Vogler. Although the charge was roundly discredited, it was one of the many early attempts to smear Palin as a wacky extremist.
Two years later, it appears at least one writer for a liberal magazine thinks Alaskan secession would be a fun little topic to bat around the Web.
"Thought Experiment: Should Alaska Secede From the U.S.?" asked the headline for Daniel Stone's August 18 The Gaggle blog post at Newsweek.com:
August is slow around Washington, so we figured it’d be high time to toss around the idea of kicking Alaska out of the union—or the state leaving on its own accord.
The reason? Those darn Alaskans are too conservative, too critical of federal government intrusion, yet they are net recipients of federal aid from Washington spending:
The number of Americans from all kinds of demographics who are unsure that President Obama is a Christian have grown since he's been in office. For instance, "fewer than half of Democrats (46%) know Obama is a Christian, down from 55% in March 2009. Barely four-in-ten African-Americans say he's a Christian, down from 56% last year," an exasperated Amy Sullivan noted in an August 19 Swampland blog post at Time.com.
So who's fault is that? Conservatives, of course, the religion reporter insisted:
It would also be foolish and naive to pretend that conservatives who call Obama a Muslim are doing it in a neutral way and that their intention is anything other than to raise questions about his "otherness."
"Ground Zero is not Auschwitz, so why all the analogies?"
USA Today religion blogger Cathy Lynn Grossman asks that question with the headline of her August 18 Faith & Reason post.
Grossman explained that the comparison stems from conservatives who pointed out an incident in the early 1990s when Pope John Paul II halted a planned convent near the Auschwitz concentration camp. The nuns had every right to build the convent, but it was unwise and insensitive to do so, leading the pontiff to scrap the plan. By way of analogy, Muslims have every right to build a mosque near Ground Zero, but the insensitivity of doing so blocks from the site of the deadliest radical Islamic terror attack in U.S. history should lead Muslim leaders to call for the project to be scrapped.
But Grossman then went on to quote two liberals who reject the Auschwitz analogy as invalid before she conflated the Ground Zero mosque issue with isolated incidents across the country where other folks are raising NIMBY objections to mosques in their hometowns (emphasis Grossman's):
Radical Islam, schmadical Islam.
"[N]ine years after 9/11, the fight over the mosque near Ground Zero shows how obsessed we remain with an enemy that may no longer exist."
That's the argument from Time magazine deputy managing editor Romesh Ratnesar in his August 17 online Viewpoint essay entitled, "The 'Ground Zero Mosque' Debate: Exaggerating the Jihadist Threat."
"The mosque's critics and champions both say their goal is to counter radical Islam," Ratnesar noted, arguing that both sides are all wet:
In a Swampland blog post this morning entitled, "Something I Didn't Know," Time magazine's Joe Klein pointed to a New York Times article that noted the existence of two mosques "already within several blocks of the proposed [Islamic] center."
But while other folks might draw the conclusion that building an additional mosque just blocks from Ground Zero is a needless exercise in dividing New Yorkers over a highly sensitive matter, Klein ran in the exact opposite direction, suggesting that logical consistency would compel mosque opponent Newt Gingrich to want to "close those suckers down"?
"[T]his is further evidence of the true nature of this squabble: a particularly sleazy form of Nativist electoral politics," Klein insisted. [click here for a related post by Brent Baker]
How dense and forgetful does Newsweek think socially conservative voters are?
Apparently so much so that the magazine's Ben Adler predicts yesterday's stay on Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling permitting same-sex marriages in California will blunt the hopes Republicans have of social conservatives coming out in force on Election Day to help push the GOP to victory in the midterms on Election Day.
In his August 17 The Gaggle blog post, "9th Circuit Stays Pro-Gay Marriage Ruling, Takes Away GOP Issue," Adler argues that:
Social conservatives were set to use the images of gay couples getting married in California as grist to motivate their base to turn out in the midterm elections. Republicans look certain to gain seats in both Houses of Congress in November, as opposition parties typically do during midterms. Whether they will pull the inside straight they need to take over either, or both, the House and Senate, will depend on any number of factors, but turnout is sure to be one of them.
Further, Adler maintained, because "the Democrats have not done much to invite images of an American Gomorrah" what with President Obama moving "very gingerly" and tentatively on issues like repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," social conservatives need the visual impact of gay and lesbian couples at the altar this fall to incense social conservatives and drive them like angry hornets to the ballot box.
While Newsweek's David Graham is hard at work defending President Obama's summertime leisure -- "A Short History of Presidential Vacation Outrage" -- by insisting that the press corps always complains about any president's vacation habits, it's instructive that he failed to indict his own magazine.
"War on terrorism stalled, economy on precipice, time for a month on the Crawford ranch."
Accompanied by a disapproving down arrow, that's how the August 5, 2002 Newsweek feature "Conventional Wisdom" derided President Bush's working vacation a mere three months before midterm elections in his first term.
Elsewhere in Newsweek's coverage at the time, writers put the term working vacation into derisive quote marks, and otherwise presented President Bush's time away from Washington, including a quasi-campaign swing called the "Heartland Tour," as a nakedly political move to bolster his sagging approval numbers.
From Martha Brant's August 7 "Web exclusive" entitled "Look Who's Back":
But everybody's doing it!
That excuse may not have gotten you out of hot water with your parents, but it seems to hold some sway with Time magazine, at least when it comes to ethically-challenged former House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.).
Staffer Michael Scherer apparently drew the short straw for the August 13 assignment, in which he focused on just one of the numerous allegations of impropriety against Rangel: that he misused his congressional office to solicit contributions to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service.
Of course, there are other serious charges against Rangel -- who used to chair the House committee responsible for federal tax policy -- namely that he avoided paying taxes on property that he owns. From the July 29 Washington Times:
With his August 12 post, "Can a Child be Tried for Jihadist Crimes?", Time magazine's Tim McGirk hit the Obama administration from the left on the military tribunal prosecution of jihadist Omar Khadr.
Khadr was captured on a battlefield in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was just 15 years old. He's charged with the murder of a U.S. soldier, a crime he's already confessed to, although he now claims his confession was coerced.
Although 15-year-olds in the United States are frequently tried as adults for murder and although Khadr is in 23 years old now, McGirk presented the case as the potential first conviction of a "child" for war crimes since World War II. What's more, McGirk presented the case as a potential travesty of justice in an ill-conceived war on terror, a term he dismissively used in quote marks:
The job has aged him, as it did his predecessors. Dr. Michael Roizen at the Cleveland Clinic stated constant stress can age the Commander in Chief two years for every one year in office.
So I guess that means he's really turning 50.
President Obama has enough stress to last a lifetime... and as he blows out his birthday candles, war, recession and a giant oil spill won't magically disappear.
But I hope he's able to take a break tonight, forget his troubles and spend time doing something he loves.
But as Paul Bedard of USNews.com noted in an August 11 blog Washington Whispers blog post, Obama has not exactly been lacking in the R&R department:
While filming a segment for her new TLC program in Homer, Alaska, former governor Sarah Palin was recently accosted by one Kathleen Gustafson, a local bearing a large handwritten banner reading "Worst Governor Ever."
But that's not accurate, as MacRanger of the Mac's Mind blog discovered.
Gustafson is listed as a "theater tech" at Homer High School. In addition to those duties, she's on staff at the Homer public radio station and on the board of directors for a family planning clinic in town. From her bio:
The Washington Post has an opinion blog entitled "All Opinions Are Local." Print edition editors regularly pick from the blog to excerpt a post to the editorial page under the heading "Local Opinions."
Today's entry, "Stop the torrent of hate after a deadly drunk-driving crash," was filed by one Simone Campbell of Washington, whom the Post noted "is executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice advocacy group." The online edition bears a much blander headline, "A proper tribute to Sister Denise," referring to Denise Mosier, the nun who was killed in a Sunday car crash by repeat DUI offender and illegal immigrant Carlos Martinelly-Montano.
In her 3-paragraph piece, Campbell essentially lumped xenophobes and racists in with conservative critics of law immigration enforcement, slamming "hate speech" on "The Post's online comments section" and insisting that Martinelly-Montano's immigration status did not cause "this tragedy." Campbell then promptly proceeded to politicize Mosier's death by arguing that "comprehensive immigration reform" would "be a proper tribute to Sister Denise's memory."
The Post did not note that Campbell's group Network supports a "Realistic path to earned legalization for people in the U.S. without status," in other words, amnesty to immigrants in the United States illegally.
What's more, by publishing Campbell's mini-screed, the paper passed over a more measured, conservative post by Paige Winfield Cunningham of the blog Old Dominion Watchdog.
On Sunday morning in northern Virginia, a drunk illegal immigrant -- who had previously been convicted twice on DUI charges -- allegedly crashed head-on into a car full of nuns, killing one, Sister Denise Mosier, and injuring the rest.
The Benedictine Sisters have since come out to say they are "dismayed and saddened" that the crime "has been politicized and become an apparent forum for the illegal immigration agenda."
USA Today religion writer Cathy Lynn Grossman picked up on that angle of the story yesterday, asking readers if they could forgive a drunk driver who killed a loved one of theirs, a perfectly legitimate query for a blog called "Faith & Reason." But Grossman then gratuitously threw in a loaded question that confuses anger over lax federal enforcement of immigration laws with xenophobia, asking:
When the defining event of your life is shooting at U.S. Congressman from a House visitors gallery, you'd think the Washington Post obituary, if any, for such a person would have enough sense to treat that event with the appropriate condemnation.
But in Emma Brown's August 2 treatment of 90-year old Lolita Lebron -- "A fervor for Puerto Rico's freedom led her to violent act at U.S. Capitol"* -- the Post obit writer went beyond the usual faux-balance that many journalists try to evince and sounded downright sympathetic to the late Lebron's political cause (emphasis mine):
Lolita Lebron, a Puerto Rican nationalist known to some as a terrorist and to others as a near-mythic freedom fighter for her violent attack on the U.S. Capitol more than a half-century ago, died Aug. 1 at a hospital in San Juan of complications from respiratory disease. She was 90.
Ms. Lebron was called both fanatical and fearless for her efforts to draw attention to the cause of independence for her home island, claimed by the United States as spoils after the Spanish-American War and made an American commonwealth in 1952.
The woman shot at unarmed U.S. congressmen! That act was without a question an incident of terrorism. Yet Brown couldn't help but comment on a famous photograph of Lebron in police custody following the attack (emphasis mine):
Time magazine's Joe Klein has a penchant for self-righteous bluster in his writing, particularly, it seems, when he's smacking around adherents of his Jewish faith who happen to disagree with him politically. Klein can't seem to let his wrath take a respite, as witnessed by a sabbath-day posting on Time's Swampland blog.
Klein lit into Abraham Foxman of the ADL in a Saturday morning blog post for his opposition to a planned Islamic center just blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan (emphases mine):
Imagine that it's 2006, and an elderly, long-serving conservative U.S. congressman from a deep-red congressional district is facing congressional hearings regarding charges of corruption and tax evasion. Also imagine that this congressman was caught on camera being exceedingly condescending and dismissive when asked about these charges by a young reporter.
The media drumbeat of indignation would be predictably nonstop and longtime liberal veterans of the print press corps would inveigh against the Republican legislator, calling for his resignation and warning that Republicans were headed for electoral defeat if they failed to clean house. This congressman would certainly not be depicted as a heroic but flawed figure who possesses redeeming qualities and tragically deviated from his high ideals.
But this is 2010, Republicans have a good shot of recapturing the House, and Newsweek's Eleanor Clift can't help but lament "The Rise and Fall of Charles Rangel" (emphases mine):
In nine short paragraphs, Los Angeles Times staffer Nicholas Riccardi offered readers a slanted look at how "Immigration demonstrations kick[ed] off in Arizona" yesterday, when the state's new anti-illegal immigration law went into effect [except for the portions ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge].
Reporting from Phoenix, Riccardi jumped straight away into loaded language (emphasis mine):
Opponents of Arizona's hard-line stance on illegal immigration launched a small religious procession from the state Capitol before dawn Thursday, the first of a series of demonstrations for the day the nation's strictest immigration law was due to take effect.
So who organized the religious procession? Is it purely a protest by otherwise apolitical religious folks, or were secular political interest groups involved? Riccardi didn't elaborate.