The news media has generally done a mediocre job of correcting misinformation. Coverage of politics typically centers on the horse race, and statements from competing candidates are quoted with the view that they are being objective by quoting both sides. Fact Check sites are often helpful in sorting through the claims of politicians, but they also do a mixed job.
Eric Cantor repeated the frequent claim from Republicans that the deficit is going up when in reality the deficit has fallen under Obama. PoltiFact started out with a correction, stating:
There’s one problem: The federal deficit isn’t “growing.” At least not now.
And later in their article:
If CBO is on target, then by 2015, the deficit will be roughly a quarter of what it was in 2009.
In other words, Cantor is wrong about what has been happening to the deficit, and what is projected to happen in the near future.
From there the article states that the deficit is projected to grow after 2015. Based upon this, they came up with a strange conclusion:
Cantor said that the federal deficit is “growing.” Annual federal deficits are not growing right now, and they are not projected to grow through 2015, a point at which the deficit will have shrunk by three-quarters since 2009. By this standard, Cantor is wrong. However, unless policies are changed, deficits are projected to grow again in 2016 and beyond, according to the CBO. On balance, we rate his claim Half True.
Half true? If the deficit is now falling, then Cantor’s statement was wrong.
Steve Benen and Paul Krugman wrote more on this. Krugman is frustrated by the same problem I have seen from Factcheckers. They want to appear nonpartisan and find untrue statements from both sides. In recent years the amount of false information coming from Republicans far exceeds the amount coming from Democrats as the Republicans are spreading a number of false narratives as part of their overall political strategy. As a result, factcheckers sometimes find a rare exception to a generality said by a Democrat and rule it to be false based upon an exception, or find other ways to add alleged falsehoods from Democrats to the long list they uncover from Republicans. In this case, a factchecker helped tilt matters by taking a clearly false statement from a Republican and calling it Half True. Krugman wrote:
It is, of course, the same old problem: news organizations in general, and PolitiFact in particular, are set up to deal with a world in which both parties generally respect reality, and in which dishonesty and delusion are roughly equally distributed between the parties. Faced with the highly asymmetric reality, they choke — treating mild Democratic exaggerations as if they were equivalent to outright falsehoods on the other side, treating wild misrepresentations on the GOP side as if they were slight misstatements.
This should be simple: PolitiFact should just rule on the facts; it should seek to be party-blind, which isn’t the same as being “nonpartisan”, with its connotation of “balance”. But apparently it can’t do it.
Beyond this attempt to balance out the number of false statements from each party, there are a number of other problems seen in some factchecking articles. They are essentially the work of a journalist who brings their own biases. In this case, the journalist might be concerned about the risk of growing deficits after 2015 and this affected his opinion in this particular article. Journalists are not experts in every field, and a factchecker may also lack the background to fully understand an issue. I’ve found this to be a problem in some factchecking articles on health care reform (with the factcheckers generally debunking the false claims from Republicans about the Affordable Care Act).
It is helpful when the media presents facts to analyze the statements from politicians. That does not mean that a single factchecking article has the final say. In complex issues, multiple sources should be reviewed. Journalists should concentrate on providing the facts as opposed to coming up with rulings such as true, false, or half-true or using gimmicks such as the Truth-o-Meter.
Now, contradicting what I suggested above, PoltiFact gets a False on the Truth-0-Meter for going beyond evaluation of the statement being evaluated, probably injecting the opinion of the author into the analysis, and calling a clearly false statement half-true.
Whether the country has become more or less liberal on economics depends upon both the time frame considered and definition of economic liberalism used. The country has moved towards the right in some ways on civil liberties issues since 9/11. On the other hand, while the pendulum sometimes moves briefly in the other direction, the country is becoming socially more liberal.
Stuart Rosenberg points out the difficulties now faced by social conservatives, as their archaic views are rejected by increasing portions of the country:
Starting with TV shows like “All in the Family,” “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Maude,” progressing to the very funny “Will & Grace” and going right up to today’s most obvious example, “Glee,” television has pushed socially progressive themes. Socially progressive characters are enlightened and admirable, while traditionalists are unappealing, to say the least…
The public and TV networks’ reactions to two recent Supreme Court decisions, one invalidating Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the other invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act, were noteworthy.
Both decisions were 5-4, but only about the Voting Rights Act decision did I hear the high court widely described as “bitterly divided.”
In the days after the Voting Rights Act decision, you might have thought that the high court had taken away the right to vote from African-Americans. Journalists gave plenty of attention to voices opposing the decision and arguing that the ruling would overturn all the progress of civil rights since the 1960s.
The media’s coverage of the DOMA decision, on the other hand, was almost euphoric, geared overwhelmingly toward those celebrating the decision…
The type of coverage of the two decisions undoubtedly also reflects the fundamental values of most journalists, who are generally more liberal than the country as a whole. There appeared to be plenty of cheerleading after the two rulings on same-sex marriage, and not merely from the obvious voices on MSNBC.
But it wasn’t only surrounding the Supreme Court’s opinions on marriage that some of the recent media coverage seemed tilted.
On his final show hosting CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, media critic Howard Kurtz commented on the media’s very sympathetic treatment of Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, whose 11-hour filibuster at the end of a special session prevented the enactment of a bill limiting abortions and requiring facilities performing abortions to meet certain standards.
“If Wendy Davis had been conducting a lonely filibuster against abortion rights,” Kurtz asked, “would the media have celebrated her in quite the same way?” Kurtz didn’t offer an answer — because he didn’t have to. The answer certainly would have been “no.”
For social conservatives, the greatest problem may be the undermining of traditional religious authority and belief.
While Gallup showed only a slight annual increase last year in the percentage of people saying that they had no religious identification (up to 17.8 percent in 2012), the trend is clear.
“The rise in the religious ‘nones’ over time is one of the most significant trends in religious measurement in the United States. … The percentage who did not report [a religious] identity began to rise in the 1970s and has continued to increase in the years since,” wrote Gallup in a January 2013 report.
In the 2012 exit poll, President Barack Obama won 62 percent of voters who never attend religious services but only 39 percent of those who attended weekly. He carried 70 percent of those voters who said they had no religion, compared with only 42 percent of Protestants and 50 percent of Catholics…
Social conservatives probably see Obama, liberals on the Supreme Court and Democrats in Congress as their main adversaries. But they are wrong. The most important leaders of cultural liberalism may well be the members of the media and entertainment communities, and social conservatives simply have no strategy to deal with that.
While the country is becoming more liberal, I see the record of the Supreme Court as far more mixed, making some rulings which liberals are happy with but also taking moves to try to move the country to the right, such as with the Citizen’s United ruling. Their efforts to reduce the ability of minorities to vote may also be of value to Republicans. I wouldn’t underestimate the value of looking at popular culture as an indicator of which direction the country is heading in, but a conservative Supreme Court can leave us with a government which continues to be overly intrusive in the private lives of individuals.
Edward Snowden has arrived in Moscow with Cuba one of his potential final destinations. He seems fated to wind up in Cuba regardless of what happens–Havana if he remains free or Gitmo if captured.
Update: Snowden has applied for asylum in Ecuador.
In related news, David Gregory asked Glenn Greenwald this question: “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?” Our “liberal” media at work.
Greenwald tweets: “Who needs the government to try to criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it?”
After losing jobs at MSNBC and Current, Keith Olbermann has a new television job. He will return in October as a studio host for Turner during their coverage of post season baseball. Before developing fame as a political commentator, Olbermann had been one of the original hosts of ESPN’s Sportscenter and is considered to be knowledgeable about baseball.
Olbermann has had difficulty difficulty getting along with management, regardless of where he is. Fortunately for him, show business is an area where people will continue to take a risk on celebrities like him if they think he can draw in viewers.
I have often pointed out that actual views of past conservatives, even ones still held up as founders of the conservative movement, would not be welcome by the extremist and reactionary members of the current conservative movement. Barry Goldwater was strongly opposed to social conservatism and the influence of the religious right on the Republican Party to the point where he considered himself a liberal in his later years. Richard Nixon supported social conservatism but also supported a form of activist government which neither liberals or conservatives support. Ronald Reagan had the right rhetoric for the conservative movement, but was not as out of touch with reality as modern conservatives, supporting increases in taxes and the debt ceiling which today’s conservatives would protest without even considering their merit. Bob Dole correctly added himself to this list.
In an interview on Fox News Sunday Bob Dole responded to questions on the Republican abuse of the filibuster and whether he could have made it in today’s party:
“I doubt it,” he said in an interview aired on “Fox News Sunday” when asked if his generation of Republican leaders could make it in today’s GOP. “Reagan couldn’t have made it. Certainly, Nixon couldn’t have made it, cause he had ideas. We might’ve made it, but I doubt it.”
Dole, a wounded World War II veteran from Kansas and icon of the party, said he believes it needs to rethink the direction it’s heading in.
“They ought to put a sign on the National Committee doors that says ‘Closed for repairs,’ until New Year’s Day next year,” he said. “And spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas.”
Video is above.
Dole agreed the filibuster is being over-used and criticized Barack Obama for not reaching out more to lawmakers during his first term. In reality Obama moved far to the right in attempts to reach agreement with Republicans. This was not successful as Republican leaders placed opposition to Obama, and their goal of trying to deny him a second term, over support for policies they have supported in the past as well as over the good of the country.
I only heard portions of Barack Obama’s speech while driving to and from lunch today but did like what I heard. It was clear that whether or not I wound up agreeing with everything, contrary to claims from portions of both the left and right, Barack Obama is no Richard Nixon or George Bush. For now I am relying on the prepared text, which lacks the portion where I hear Obama did an excellent job of responding to the criticism of a heckler. While we could question if some of this is being said later than desired, there was much in today’s speech which I did like, such as addressing this early in the speech: “I believe we compromised our basic values – by using torture to interrogate our enemies, and detaining individuals in a way that ran counter to the rule of law.”
Obama discussed our triumphs in fighting al Qaeda , and then its cost:
These questions matter to every American. For over the last decade, our nation has spent well over a trillion dollars on war, exploding our deficits and constraining our ability to nation build here at home. Our service-members and their families have sacrificed far more on our behalf. Nearly 7,000 Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice. Many more have left a part of themselves on the battlefield, or brought the shadows of battle back home. From our use of drones to the detention of terrorist suspects, the decisions we are making will define the type of nation – and world – that we leave to our children.
So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us, mindful of James Madison’s warning that “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” Neither I, nor any President, can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society. What we can do – what we must do – is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend. To define that strategy, we must make decisions based not on fear, but hard-earned wisdom. And that begins with understanding the threat we face.
He recognized that victories over terrorist groups often come from targeted efforts and police actions as opposed to the Bush/Cheney concept of a global war on terror:
Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ – but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America. In many cases, this will involve partnerships with other countries. Thousands of Pakistani soldiers have lost their lives fighting extremists. In Yemen, we are supporting security forces that have reclaimed territory from AQAP. In Somalia, we helped a coalition of African nations push al Shabaab out of its strongholds. In Mali, we are providing military aid to a French-led intervention to push back al Qaeda in the Maghreb, and help the people of Mali reclaim their future.
Much of our best counter-terrorism cooperation results in the gathering and sharing of intelligence; the arrest and prosecution of terrorists. That’s how a Somali terrorist apprehended off the coast of Yemen is now in prison in New York. That’s how we worked with European allies to disrupt plots from Denmark to Germany to the United Kingdom. That’s how intelligence collected with Saudi Arabia helped us stop a cargo plane from being blown up over the Atlantic.
Obama called for greater oversight over the use of drones and targeted killing, and greater transparency:
This week, I authorized the declassification of this action, and the deaths of three other Americans in drone strikes, to facilitate transparency and debate on this issue, and to dismiss some of the more outlandish claims. For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen – with a drone, or a shotgun – without due process. Nor should any President deploy armed drones over U.S. soil…
Going forward, I have asked my Administration to review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones that go beyond our reporting to Congress. Each option has virtues in theory, but poses difficulties in practice. For example, the establishment of a special court to evaluate and authorize lethal action has the benefit of bringing a third branch of government into the process, but raises serious constitutional issues about presidential and judicial authority. Another idea that’s been suggested – the establishment of an independent oversight board in the executive branch – avoids those problems, but may introduce a layer of bureaucracy into national-security decision-making, without inspiring additional public confidence in the process. Despite these challenges, I look forward to actively engaging Congress to explore these – and other – options for increased oversight.
I believe, however, that the use of force must be seen as part of a larger discussion about a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. Because for all the focus on the use of force, force alone cannot make us safe. We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root; and in the absence of a strategy that reduces the well-spring of extremism, a perpetual war – through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments – will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways.
He called for a media shield to protect journalists:
Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law. That is why I have called on Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government over-reach. I have raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concern. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review. And I have directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th.
While Republicans were leading us into a perpetual war, Obama realizes that, like all wars, this war must end:
The AUMF is now nearly twelve years old. The Afghan War is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking and our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states. So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.
He is addressing the continued detaining of prisoners at Guantánamo:
Today, I once again call on Congress to lift the restrictions on detainee transfers from GTMO. I have asked the Department of Defense to designate a site in the United States where we can hold military commissions. I am appointing a new, senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries. I am lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen, so we can review them on a case by case basis. To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries. Where appropriate, we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and military justice system. And we will insist that judicial review be available for every detainee.
Even after we take these steps, one issue will remain: how to deal with those GTMO detainees who we know have participated in dangerous plots or attacks, but who cannot be prosecuted – for example because the evidence against them has been compromised or is inadmissible in a court of law. But once we commit to a process of closing GTMO, I am confident that this legacy problem can be resolved, consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.
I know the politics are hard. But history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism, and those of us who fail to end it. Imagine a future – ten years from now, or twenty years from now – when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country. Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are? Is that something that our Founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children?
The president does not micromanage every action by the United States government and, as Ed Kilgore and David Weigel pointed out, Obama did try to hold the Congressional Republicans for their actions:
One thing is fairly clear: the speech poses a challenge to congressional Republicans that may not be that easy for them to meet, distracted as they are and as divided as they tend to be on national security policy these days. As Slate’s Dave Weigel quickly noted, Obama four times shifted responsibility for current dilemmas at least partially to Congress: on drones (where he insisted the appropriate congressional committees have known about every single strike); on embassy security; on the 9/11-era legal regime that still governs anti-terrorist efforts; and on Gitmo (where Republicans have repeatedly thwarted effort to transfer detainees to U.S. prisons). But like critical reporters, Republicans, other than neocons who want GWOT not only to be maintained but intensified, will probably tear off tasty chunks of the speech and masticate them noisily, or just dismiss it all and get back onto the crazy train of Scandalmania ‘13.
David Corn sees this as Obama taking the middle ground:
Not shockingly, Obama is attempting to find middle ground, where there is more oversight and more restraint regarding activities that pose serious civil liberties and policy challenges. The McCainiacs of the world are likely to howl about any effort to place the effort to counter terrorism into a more balanced perspective. The civil libertarians will scoff at half measures. But Obama, at the least, is showing that he does ponder these difficult issues in a deliberative manner and is still attempting to steer the nation into a post-9/11 period. That journey, though, may be a long one.
He is also looking for a middle ground which considers our security needs in the era of international terrorism along with the need to respect civil liberties and the principles which the nation was founded upon. He might not get it completely right, and the answers are not always entirely clear but, contrary to Bush and Cheney, he is considering the key issues.
One consequence of a dysfunctional opposition party which is more concerned with scoring political points than the good of the country is that we have a combination of attacks over fabricated scandals while ignoring real problems. The Republicans have concentrated on Benghazi, even resorting to distorting evidence, and the IRS, which looks far more like low level bureaucrats taking short cuts than any Nixonian abuse of power coming from the White House, despite the Republican attempts to move the goal posts.
One problem with trying to turn real problems into a political scandal is that the actual problems are not addressed. We need to look at issues such as how organizations are evaluated for favorable tax status and how foreign embassies are defended, not twist the facts to blame Obama. Strangely, conservatives who speak out (sometimes correctly) about the size of our bureaucracy fail to understand that the president does not personally make every decision. Republicans who ignored actual abuses of power under George Bush see everything which might go wrong as evidence of evil intent on the part of the current president.
There is a report today which provides hope that some Republican staffers, at least, are looking at trying to learn from the Benghazi attack:
The inquiry led by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee into the slaying of four Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last year has been attention-grabbing, but some senior GOP aides are worried that the partisan overtones are diverting Congress from identifying and addressing the real lessons learned from the attack.
In particular, these aides say key staffers have been overly consumed with chasing down or addressing inaccurate or unfounded accusations emerging from the inquiry.
“We have got to get past that and figure out what are we going to do going forward,” a GOP aide stressed. “Some of the accusations, I mean you wouldn’t believe some of this stuff. It’s just — I mean, you’ve got to be on Mars to come up with some of this stuff.”
In this charged political environment, where some on Capitol Hill have accused the president of a possible cover-up related to the attack just weeks before the 2012 presidential election, defense policy Republicans are trying to refocus attention on core issues and create some good out of the tragedy.
Hopeful, but I fear that the Republicans will still prefer to mislead their base in order to motivate them to turn out and contribute money as opposed to turning to reality-based governing.
One sign of business as usual among Republicans is that Darryl Issa, who pursues his job with the vigor and lack of integrity of Joseph McCarthy, is now attacking IRS inspector general J. Russell George.
Another problem is that real questions involving civil liberties are ignored, primarily as the Republicans would support greater violations. The Obama administration’s actions towards the AP raises First Amendment concerns even if this was done within the law and there are extenuating factors which also must be considered.While conservatives are generally only concerned with abuses which target conservatives, and which often only exist in their imagination, liberals have been non-partisan regarding both the IRS and the media. Liberals were no less likely to be concerned in principle that the target was from Fox with the naming of a correspondent as a possible “co-conspirator” in an investigation of a news leak . The New York Times concluded their editorial on the matter by writing:
Obama administration officials often talk about the balance between protecting secrets and protecting the constitutional rights of a free press. Accusing a reporter of being a “co-conspirator,” on top of other zealous and secretive investigations, shows a heavy tilt toward secrecy and insufficient concern about a free press.
Along with excessive secrecy, in contrast to campaign promises to have the most open and transparent government in history, the use of drone strikes has led to much of the criticism of Obama from the left. There is some good news on this today, also from The New York Times:
President Obama embraced drone strikes in his first term, and the targeted killing of suspected terrorists has come to define his presidency.
But lost in the contentious debate over the legality, morality and effectiveness of a novel weapon is the fact that the number of strikes has actually been in decline. Strikes in Pakistan peaked in 2010 and have fallen sharply since then; their pace in Yemen has slowed to half of last year’s rate; and no strike has been reported in Somalia for more than a year.
We cannot rely on Congressional over-site as the Republicans would be more likely to promote greater use of drones and show far less concern over issues of either legality or morality. There have been mixed signs that the Obama administration has been moving towards establishing greater consideration of institutionalizing changes in warfare with development of due process and ideally judicial over-site. Hopefully this reduction in the use of drones indicates a greater consideration of the consequences of this policy.
I’ve had several posts recently about two of the “scandals” surrounding the Obama administration. In one case, Benghazi, there is no real scandal–just another case of Republicans distorting the facts. In the case of the IRS, we have the rare case of Republicans being right about wrong-doing, but wrong in trying to tie this to Obama. The subpoena of AP records regarding sources on a story about a planned terrorist attack is more difficult to characterize. In this case, Republicans aren’t attacking Obama because they have no qualms about infringing upon First Amendment liberties, but many liberals are concerned.
Jack Shafer of Reuters has an excellent review of this case and his entire post should be read. He began:
Journalists gasp and growl whenever prosecutors issue lawful subpoenas ordering them to divulge their confidential sources or to turn over potential evidence, such as notes, video outtakes or other records. It’s an attack on the First Amendment, It’s an attack on the First Amendment, It’s an attack on the First Amendment, journalists and their lawyers chant. Those chants were heard this week, as it was revealed that Department of Justice prosecutors had seized two months’ worth of records from 20 office, home and cell phone lines used by Associated Press journalists in their investigation into the Yemen underwear-bomber leaks.
First Amendment radicals — I count myself among them — resist any and all such intrusions: You can’t very well have a free press if every unpublished act of journalism can be co-opted by cops, prosecutors and defense attorneys. First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams speaks for most journalists when he denounces the “breathtaking scope” of the AP subpoenas. But the press’s reflexive protests can prevent it from seeing the story in full, which I think is the case in the current leaks investigation.
See the full article for the specifics, but the gist of this is that the Obama administration’s concern here was not with preventing the press from publishing their reports but uncovering a leak. Also, this is not a case of someone leaking information which we necessarily wanted to get out, but the fact that an al Qaeda plot to bomb an airplane bound for the United States was stopped due to having an informant recruited by British intelligence inside of al Qaeda.
To begin with, the perpetrators of a successful double-agent operation against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula would not want to brag about their coup for years. Presumably, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula will now use the press reports to walk the dog back to determine whose misplaced trust allowed the agent to penetrate it. That will make the next operation more difficult. Other intelligence operations — and we can assume they are up and running — may also become compromised as the press reports give al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula new clues.
Likewise, the next time the CIA or foreign intelligence agency tries to recruit a double agent, the candidate will judge his handlers wretched secret keepers, regard the assignment a death mission and seek employment elsewhere.
Last, the leaks of information — including those from the lips of Brennan, Clarke and King — signal to potential allies that America can’t be trusted with secrets. “Leaks related to national security can put people at risk,” as Obama put it today in a news conference.
The ultimate audience for the leaks investigation may not be domestic but foreign. Obviously, the government wants to root out the secretspillers. But a country can’t expect foreign intelligence agencies to cooperate if it blows cover of such an operation. I’d wager that the investigations have only begun.
Since 9/11 there have been many situations where the government has gone overboard in placing security (and sometimes false claims of security) over civil liberties. The answer on this one is certainly not clear.
We learned earlier this week from CNN that the supposedly incriminating emails about the Benghazi talking points were altered to give the false impression of a cover up. But who would do such a thing? CBS News reports that the Republicans misquoted the content of the emails to give the false impression of wrong doing on the part of the White House.
This is no surprise. It is common for Republicans to misquote Democrats when they have no coherent argument against what the Democrats actually said
What is surprising is the news media is pointing out the the claims made by Republicans are false. More often the media will quote both sides as if they have equivalent validity and fail to point out the facts.
This is a promising change which I hope continues.
There was very little to the Benghazi scandal which the Republicans were trying to promote when I wrote about it yesterday. They have even less today now that it has been exposed that the email the Republicans have been so excited about had been altered according to a report from Jake Tapper.
CNN has obtained an e-mail sent by a top aide to President Barack Obama about White House reaction to the deadly attack last September 11 on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that apparently differs from how sources characterized it to two different media organizations.
The actual e-mail from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes appears to show that whomever leaked it did so in a way that made it appear that the White House was primarily concerned with the State Department’s desire to remove references and warnings about specific terrorist groups so as to not bring criticism to the department…
So, let me get this straight. Someone — we don’t know who — leaked misleading information to ABC and the Weekly Standard, they ran it, other news organizations embraced it, we’ve had several days of “scandal” based on it, and the information wasn’t true?
Tapper put it this way: “Whoever provided those quotes seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed.”
In other words, we’re not dealing with a mistake, so much as we’re dealing with a political actor deliberately misrepresenting key details to journalists, who in turn misled other journalists, who in turn created a controversy where none existed.
This would seem to do still more damage to the notion that there was any kind of cover up here…. It’s increasingly clear that this was merely a bureaucratic turf war at work, in which State wanted to get rid of the CIA’s efforts to insert into the talking points stuff that preempts blame against the agency. This new revelation from Tapper takes this even further — it suggests the administration didn’t even prioritize State’s demands and was simply looking to get agencies on the same page to prevent the spreading of misinformation.
Indeed, the email explicitly cites worry about the “significant policy and messaging ramifications that would flow from a hardened mis-impression.” That suggests, again, that this internal debate was mainly about not getting out too far ahead of what was actually known — which could actually be a desirable thing under such circumstances.
Indeed, if this report bears out, it weakens the underpinning of this supposed scandal considerably.
Andrew Sullivan concluded: “Just an early, failing attempt to smear Hillary for 2016. Because the GOP has no relevant policies for our times, just politics.”
We finally might have a real scandal here, but the scandal is over who is altering email to fabricate right wing attacks.
Rush Limbaugh received a lot of criticism for calling Sandra Fluke a slut and many advertisers dropped his show. I hadn’t heard anything about this in a while and thought that over time the issue might have been forgotten. According to Medialite, major advertisers are still avoiding Rush Limbaugh:
As we reported earlier this morning, Rush Limbaugh is allegedly in the midst of a battle with Cumulus Media, the distributor of his radio show. The company’s CEO has blamed ad revenue losses on the conservative talkers’ controversial 2012 “slut” comments about Georgetown student Sandra Fluke.
Mediaite’s own sources confirm that the ad troubles in connection with Limbaugh’s show are, indeed, severe. In fact, one source within the radio advertising world with direct knowledge of the ad buys on Limbaugh’s show confirms the extent of the problem: “The vast majority of national advertisers now refuse to air their ads during Rush Limbaugh’s show,” our source tells us.
Limbaugh’s contract with Cumulus runs through 2013. Will he suffer the same fate as Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin at Fox? If Limbaugh leaves Cumulus he presumably will have other opportunities, but driving away advertisers would reduce his appeal to other radio outlets.
Hide looked like a ghost story, but this week’s episode of Doctor Who was actually a love story involving two couples (or maybe a third). The young assistant Emma was the real reason for Doctor showing up where he did, to see if the clairvoyant Emma could detect anything unusual about Clara, “the only mystery worth solving.” While nothing unusual was revealed about Clara, Emma did warn Clara about the Doctor’s icy heart. I suspect this will play a part in whatever is revealed in the season finale.
The episode picked up on the theme of the TARDIS not yet accepting Clara, but by the end they worked out their differences and went on to save the Doctor. Last week in Cold War it was necessary to contrive a way to get rid of the TARDIS to avoid a simple solution to being trapped in the submarine. This week did something which few too many episodes do–use time travel as part of a story. This did wind up leaving one time traveler just hanging around, possibly a loose end to come up in a future episode. It also showed Clara the full meaning of time travel and the Doctor:
Clara: “To you I haven’t been born yet, and to you I’ve been dead a hundred billion years. Is my body out there somewhere, in the ground?”
The Doctor: “Yes, I suppose it is.”
Clara: “But here we are, talking, so I am a ghost. To you, I’m a ghost. We’re all ghosts to you. We must be nothing.”
The behind the scenes video is above.
This was actually the first episode filmed with the modern Clara Oswald, written by Neil Cross, who subsequently wrote The Rings of Akhaten. Cross did better with his first attempt in Hide. Like previous episodes since Doctor Who returned, there is an homage to a previous Doctor. This time it is John Pertwee’s Doctor, from a scientist with assistant (or is it companion?) using 1970′s oscilloscopes to the need for a blue crystal from Metebelis III. Will next week’s Journey To The Center Of The TARDIS include references to Tom Baker? I suddenly feel like some Jelly Bellies.
Hide played with Doctor What while Steven Moffat has made the question Doctor Who? a recurring theme. The official synopsis for The Name of the Doctor, the final episode of the season is “Someone is kidnapping the Doctor’s friends, leading him towards the one place in all of time and space that he should never go.” Moffat says we really will learn something we haven’t known about the Doctor, telling Radio Times: “There’s going to be a revelation. I’m not teasing. I’m not wrong-footing you – you’re about to learn something about the Doctor that you never knew before. And I think you’re in for a shock.”
River Song, who proved her relationship to the Doctor by being the only person to know his name in Forest of the Dead, will be returning in this episode. The Wedding of River Song included this warning:
“The Fields of Trenzalore, the fall of the eleventh and the question. The first question, the question that must never be answered hidden in plain sight, the question you’ve been running from all your life. Doctor who? Doctor who? DOCTOR WHO?”
The fall of the eleventh has been interpreted as meaning the time of his regeneration, but it might mean something different if the Doctor’s name really s revealed, or this might not be the secret which is revealed. Even if his name is revealed, there would have to be more to the secret for it to be meaningful. Finding that his name is the Gallifreyan equivalent of John Smith would not mean very much. Perhaps the Grammar Daleks have been correct and his real name is Doctor Whom.
There is yet another possible clue to a secret in this rumor about the 50th Anniversary episode:
…there are several sites claiming that two very reliable sources have independently revealed that John Hurt will be playing the real 9th Doctor :O Basically Eccleston, Tennant and Smith’s Doctor have either forgotten or have repressed Hurt’s incarnation for some unknown reason, and it is very possible that the secret due to be revealed in the season finale next month is that Smith is the 12th Doctor rather than what his real name is.
I suspect that if this is the case John Hurt’s character might not really be the Doctor, similar to the misdirection in The Next Doctor. The order of the Doctors has become ingrained too much to disturb this chronology. If Matt Smith’s Doctor really is the twelfth, it might give Moffat an opportunity to answer the question of the number of regenerations. Originally Time Lords had thirteen but obviously they will not end the show when this limit comes. There was a throw away line when David Tennant was in an episode of Sarah Jane Adventures claiming 507 but the line wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. They already have had two events in the new episodes which could alter the original limit. As the Time Lords have been overthrown, nobody knows if the old rules apply. There is also the possibility that the Doctor obtained additional regenerations when River Song gave up her future regenerations to save the Doctor’s life in Let’s Kill Hitler There is plenty of precedent for transfer of regenerative powers in Doctor Who, giving Moffat a number of possible routes. Plus, unless the number is extended, where will the Valeyard fit into this–or has the Doctor managed to avoid that fate?
Clark Gregg has a lot of information on S.H.I.E.L.D in the video above. Transcript below via Bleeding Cool:
If you watched The Avengers it was hard to miss the moment where that Asgardian bastard stabbed me quite thoroughly. And I died in The Avengers and it was a sad day because I loved Agent Coulson, and I loved going to the cons and hanging out with the Coulson fans. I was a little heartbroken. The Marvel guys said “You’re dead. You’re dead. But it’s the comics so it’s a different form of dead. Who knows, maybe we’ll see you again some day.”
I thought “You know what, I had a hell of a time playing this guy, I loved the death scene, I loved what Joss did so much,” to want any more of it felt greedy. So when I got a call a couple of months ago to say ‘We want you to come to New York Comic-Con. We’re going to announce that perhaps Coulson lives” I was very curious but also wasn’t sure that I was necessarily down with it.
I didn’t want to do anything to undermine the integrity of The Avengers and Joss didn’t either. So I had a conversation with joss and he explained to me that this [show] takes place after The Avengers, after ‘The Battle of New York’. I’m from New York, I’ve lived in a world after somebody has attacked New York, I know that there’s fall out.
The Avengers version of that world is a world that has superheroes and doorways to other dimensions and chaos. And the way Joss described to me the mystery that takes place in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, and the complexity and the unanswered questions about Phil Coulson standing there trying to deal with this, I found it so fascinating and so true to the world of the comics and mythology in general as I understand them that I was immediately in.
I don’t know you could not change going through what he went through in The Avengers. If he hadn’t gone through some kind of change it wouldn’t be any good. That said, I don’t know if he understands how much he’s changed.
It would be surprising to me if this was a world where there wasn’t some reckoning…the fact that there was some level of deception must have been perpetrated on The Avengers. It must have been.
Defiance has been billed as the next big thing from Syfy but I was not very impressed. The computer-generated special effects looked fake and I just don’t see the point in computer generated graphics which fail to give a sense of reality to scenes which could not otherwise be filmed. The town of Defiance, which is St. Louis around thirty years after a war which has altered earth, provides a scene which could just as easily be an alien planet or a spaceship which contains civilians. Julie Benz is the mayor (or if this was a spaceship, she fulfills the traditional science fiction role of the Captain). In this case, the future looks like the old west, but is far less fun than Firefly. The backdrop will allow for a wide variety of stories, with stories which felt very familiar filling the two-hour premier. Now that we have the setting down, perhaps the series can move onto more original stories.
Continuum is returning to a second season. Star Rachel Nichols was interviewed here. An excerpt:
What can we expect from the new season?
The second season is very interesting. Obviously the first season was very centered on getting home. I wanted to go home. I would be friends with the baddies, I would partner up with Liber8, whatever it took to get home. It’s obviously still important to me in the new season. However, the theme of Season 2 is responsibility. Kagame had a speech at the end of the last season about how, if you drop a pebble on one side of the world, it will become a tsunami on the other. For Keira that’s very, very important, because she wants to get home to her husband and her son. Very early on in season 2, she starts asking questions: what am I going to be returning home to? Am I costing my husband and son their lives? Will they never be born? Will I never be born because of what I’m doing now? It’s a lot to wrap your head around!
This week’s Community brought up the dark timeline. There was also a lot of nonsense such as the group believing they failed, with the grade changing to a C to an F and back again, and a knot which was not a knot. It is clear that new producers David Guarascio and Moses Port do want to keep this show as offbeat and original as it was under Dan Harmon. They just don’t have the ability to pull it off.
Dexter will be returning for its final season. A sneak peak at part of the first episode is above. The final trajectory for the series is in motion, but a spinoff isn’t ruled out.
Emilie de Ravin of Lost teased tonight’s episode of Once Upon A Time by describing her character (after losing her memory) as “young, scantily-clad chick, Lacey.” Okay, she sold me on watching, even if it is on network television.
Zooey Deschanel was identified on the closed captioning as the suspect being chased in Boston on Friday by one television station. Needless to say, it was a Fox channel. This is no more ridiculous (and false) than most of the type going by while watching Fox, such as identifying Barack Obama as a socialist from Kenya.
From 2068, above is a documentary on The Internet: A Warning from History. The Internet was one of the greatest disasters to befall mankind…
The first thing I wondered upon hearing that NPR is ending Talk of the Nation is whether Science Friday would continue, as it fills TOTN‘s Friday time slot. Earlier articles I read talked about an expanded version of Here and Now taking its place but did not say anything about Fridays. I finally found an article at Politico saying that Science Friday will continue in the Friday time slot. I won’t mind losing TOTN as long as Science Friday remains.
While the sequester is a terrible way to cut spending, failing to differentiate between useful and wasteful government spending, it is bringing more attention areas where spending could be cut. The IRS is under attack for spending $60,000 of taxpayer’s money for the above Star Trek parody and a second video based on Gilligan’s Island. It begins:
“Space: the final frontier
These are the voyagers of the Starship Enterprise Y
Its never-ending mission is to seek out new tax forms
To explore strange new regulations
To boldly go where no government employee has gone before.”
CBS News filed a Freedom of Information request asking for the video after the IRS earlier refused to turn over a copy to the congressional committee that oversees tax issues: House Ways and Means. According to committee Chairman Charles Boustany, Jr. (R-LA), the video was produced in the IRS’s own television studio in New Carrollton, MD. The studio may have cost taxpayers more than $4 million dollars last year alone.
According to a statement from the IRS, the “Star Trek” video (see above) was created to open a 2010 IRS training and leadership conference.
“Back in Russia, I dreamed someday I’d be rich and famous,” says one crew member in the parody.
“Me too,” agrees another. “That’s why I became a public servant.”
And the two fist bump.
A separate skit based on the television show “Gilligan’s Island” was also recorded, but the IRS did not provide that video. The IRS told Congress the cost of producing the two videos was thought to be about $60,000 dollars.
IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller said in a statement that one of the two videos was played in 400 locations and saved taxpayers $1.5 million over what it would have cost to train employees in person.
I have no problem with the idea of making training videos which save money as opposed to training employees in person but I fail to see how the above video would be of any value. The idea is promote the value of the IRS to society by showing an alien planet degenerating into anarchy without a good tax collection system. It fails to do a good job of presenting this message. It also has terrible acting (as might be expected from IRS employees) and looks amateurish compared to many other pieces of fan videos available on line.
I also fail to see how the IRS can justify refusing to turn a copy of this over to the House Ways and Means Committee, requiring CBS to use the Freedom of Information Act to get a copy.
Two years after Belushi died, Bob Woodward published Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi. While the Watergate sleuth might seem an odd choice to tackle such a subject, the book came about because both he and Belushi grew up in the same small town of Wheaton, Ill. They had friends in common. Belushi, who despised Richard Nixon, was a big Woodward fan, and after he died, his widow, Judy Belushi, approached Woodward in his role as a reporter for the Washington Post. She had questions about the LAPD’s handling of Belushi’s death and asked Woodward to look into it. He took the access she offered and used it to write a scathing, lurid account of Belushi’s drug use and death.
When Wired came out, many of Belushi’s friends and family denounced it as biased and riddled with factual errors. “Exploitative, pulp trash,” in the words of Dan Aykroyd. Wired was so wrong, Belushi’s manager said, it made you think Nixon might be innocent. Woodward insisted the book was balanced and accurate. “I reported this story thoroughly,” he told Rolling Stone. Of the book’s critics, he said, “I think they wish I had created a portrait of someone who was larger than life, larger than he was, and that, somehow, this portrait would all come out different. But that’s a fantasy, not journalism.” Woodward being Woodward, he was given the benefit of the doubt. Belushi’s reputation never recovered.
Twenty years later, in 2004, Judy Belushi hired me, then an aspiring comedy writer, to help her with a new biography of John, this one titled Belushi: A Biography. As her coauthor, I handled most of the legwork, including all of the interviews and most of the research. What started as a fun project turned out to be a rather fascinating and unique experiment. Over the course of a year, page by page, source by source, I re-reported and rewrote one of Bob Woodward’s books. As far as I know, it’s the only time that’s ever been done.
Wired is an anomaly in the Woodward catalog, the only book he’s ever written about a subject other than Washington. As such, it’s rarely cited by his critics. But Wired’s outlier status is the very thing that makes it such a fascinating piece of Woodwardology. Because he was forced to work outside of his comfort zone, his strengths and his weaknesses can be seen in sharper relief. In Hollywood, his sources weren’t top secret and confidential. They were some of the most famous people in America. The methodology behind the book is right out there in the open, waiting for someone to do exactly what I did: take it apart and see how Woodward does what he does.
Colby found that the problem wasn’t that facts cited by Woodward were necessarily false, but that “a lot of what Woodward writes comes off as being not quite right—some of it to the point where it can feel quite wrong.” He had difficulty putting facts into context.
This is now meaningful in light of the way in which he totally got the story wrong when reporting on the budget battle, and his rather strange claim that the White House was threatening him. The problem was not as much getting individual facts wrong about the negotiations between Obama and Boehner on the budget but that Woodward seemed ignorant of all the other important facts about these negotiations needed to put what he saw into context. He didn’t get the facts wrong about what the White House said to him, but anyone seeing the exchange in context would disagree with his assessment that he was being threatened.