Thursday, June 06, 2013

Inflaming Eyeballs

Two of the political news sites I check every day--and fairly often, the only two--are Teagan Goddard's Political Wire and Talking Points Memo, also known as TPM.  They would be characterized politically as not right wing, and I have found them to be dependable in their facts.  The Political Wire is more of an aggregator (so every new poll's conclusion gets a flat headline that so and so is ahead of so and so, even if other polls report the opposite) but TPM is very good at following a story, correcting where necessary, showing the evolution of an issue.

The Internet as well as presumably cable news exploded Thursday with various revelations concerning federal government data mining of phone calls and Internet traffic.  The New York Times, perhaps eager to stake its claim as having broken one of the stories, published an editorial slamming the Obama administration.

It's a harsh enough editorial, but both Political Wire and TPM seriously--really seriously--misquoted it, TPM even doing so in an inflammatory headline.  Both misquoted the Times in exactly the same way.

Both TPM and Political Wire led their items with a quote from the Times: "The administration has now lost all credibility."  But the Times editorial states: "The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue."

There is a world of difference.  Apart from the merits involved in these allegations, it is quite a serious and possibly consequential statement that possibly the most prominent newspaper in America has asserted that the Obama administration has lost all credibility, period.  Particularly on the eve of President Obama's meeting with the Chinese leadership. 

TPM places a comma after their quotation, so they might say it is not technically a misquotation, as the Political Wire's is, since it places a period before those important words "on this issue."  Nevertheless, this is significantly inaccurate and unnecessarily inflammatory.  It smacks of sloppiness at best, and a competitive eagerness to get eyeballs on the site, regardless of accuracy.

I've emailed both sites asking for a correction.  We'll see what they do.  If they were less generally credible sites I'd have no hope.

Update: Interesting.  The Political Wire has not changed a thing, but TPM made the correction--noting however that it was the New York Times that changed the sentence from "lost all credibility" to "all credibility on this issue" a few hours after they first published the editorial on line. 

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

RFK on The Future

On the 45th anniversary of his assassination, some words on the future, from speeches made at various times and places by Robert F. Kennedy.

"The future is not a gift: it is an achievement. Every generation helps make its own future. This is the essential challenge of the present."

"The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of bold projects and new ideas. Rather, it will belong to those who can blend passion, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the great enterprises and ideals of American society."

"We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be enobled or enriched by hatred or revenge. Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land."

"If we fail to dare, if we do not try, the next generation will harvest the fruit of our indifference; a world we did not want - a world we did not choose - but a world we could have made better, by caring more for the results of our labors. And we shall be left only with the hollow apology of T.S. Eliot: 'That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all'."

Shaping Things to Come

With several appointments and nominations recently, President Obama is saying--among other things--didn't you notice?  I was reelected.  The people he's hiring seem more than ever the people he really wants to be hiring, with hopes that they will move things forward, even beyond his term.

Today's big appointment was Susan Rice as National Security Advisor, an appointment I advised that he make back immediately after John Kerry was appointed Secretary of State and she was still  being shamefully slammed by opportunistic GOPer bigmouths. 

Also today, President Obama appointed Samantha Powers to take Rice's old job of UN Ambassador.  From the first interview I saw with her as an author years ago, I knew Powers was impressive: smart, incisive, morally impassioned.  She's also young and attractive with a powerful charisma.  Because of the public demands, Susan Rice would not make a great Secretary of State because she can't really smile.  Samantha Powers doesn't have quite the wattage of President Obama's smile, but she can turn it on.  (She didn't look too comfortable trying to negotiate the Rose Garden steps in heels, however. She's going to have to get used to those kinds of shoes as Ambassador.)  She'll be a real if different kind of presence at the UN, where the climate crisis is taken seriously as a global security issue.

These are great second term appointments: of younger people with the potential of taking on major responsibilities, who got a lot of experience in the first term and are now ready to take on those top jobs. 

President Obama's apparent choice for the next FBI director is legendary in Washington--though he served in the Bush administration, he blew the whistle on some of Cheney' shady dealings and appointed the special prosecutor who followed the trail of the outing of Valerie Plame into Cheney's office.  Obama's appointment of CIA director may be the sleeper of them all, if he can deal with the leftover problems from the Bush era: the CIA involvement in drones and its problems with the State Department (it may well turn out that part of the protection problems involved in the tragic events in Benghazi were  to the consulate being only formally a State Department post but actually a CIA station.)  Maybe even Guantanamo, although the barriers to solution there are largely GOPers in Congress.

President Obama also nominated three judges to the DC Court of Appeals, two women and the black judge who as a public defender, successfully attacked "driving while black" racial profiling.  The President did so without mincing words.
“My judicial nominees have waited three times longer to receive confirmation votes than those of my Republican predecessor,” Obama said. “What’s happening now is unprecedented. For the good of the American people, it has to stop. Too much of the people’s business is at stake. Our legal framework depends on timely confirmations of judicial nominees....“This is not about principled opposition; this is about political obstruction.”

The president fired back against Republican accusations that he is trying to revive President Roosevelt’s “court packing” plan to add additional seats to the court to gain support for his political agenda.  “We’re not adding seats here. We’re trying to fill seats that are already existing,” Obama said. “I didn’t just wake up one day and say, ‘Let’s add three seats to the District Court of Appeals.’ These are open seats. And the Constitution demands that I nominate qualified individuals to fill those seats. What I’m doing today is my job. I need the Senate to do its job.”

“Republican senators are now pushing a proposal to reduce the number of judges on this independent federal court also makes no sense. When a Republican was president, 11 judges on the D.C. Circuit Court made complete sense. Now that a Democrat is president, it apparently doesn’t. Eight is suddenly enough,” he said to laughter. “People are laughing because it’s obviously a blatant political move.”

Obama said his three nominees were uniquely qualified for the positions. ”These three individuals are highly qualified to serve on the D.C. Circuit. They have broad bipartisan support from across the legal community. The nonpartisan American Bar Association has given them, each of them its highest rating. These are no slouches,” he said. “These are no hacks. These are incredibly accomplished lawyers, by all accounts."

The poli-sci types I check in with periodically (less and less actually) are especially interested because Harry Reid is signaling the possibility that changing the rules on filibuster might really be result of continued obstruction on judicial appointments.

The next appointment to make news is likely to be New Jersey Governor Christie's appointment to fill a Senate seat until the special election he opportunistically called for October.  The seat is vacant due to the death of Dem Senator Frank Lautenberg, who was a leader in one of the few successful social revolutions of our time: ending public smoking in America.  He also was a leader for gun regulation.

The most sensible appointment R Gov Christie could make is former NJ Governor Christine Todd Whitman.  She's R in the old sense, and is probably the best that Dems could expect for a Dem seat.  If she'd take a temp job like this--it might hinge on how much she cares about bills that are likely to come up in the next months, like immigration, and how badly she wants to stick it to the new Rs who have dissed her the way they diss everybody: savagely.