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“Watching The Second Amendment In Action”: Setting Gun Violence Apart From Other Public Health Risks

Like many of you, no doubt, I watched the studio-produced live video of two local television journalists being murdered in Virginia yesterday pretty soon after it happened. I might have also looked at the vastly more graphic killer-generated cellphone video of the event, but chose not to. Most media outlets soon stopped posting or linking to either video before long. At TNR, Jeet Heer explains why: there was no doubt who the perp was, and thus no real reason to distribute the video.

But also at TNR, Brian Beutler thinks otherwise:

The line between informing the public and macabre gratuitousness is murky, and staying on the right side of it requires great discretion and judgment. But rather than cleanse newscasts and websites of the on-air killing, producers and editors should make it easily available to their viewers and readers, because our society unfortunately needs vivid reminders of the awesome, life-stopping power of firearms.

In an abstract sense, everyone knows guns are deadly, in the same way everyone knows cigarettes are deadly. But our political culture—the conservative faction of it, at least—sanitizes the way guns end life in a way that sets gun violence apart from other public health risks….

When a bullet pierces human flesh, that body becomes extremely ill right away, no less than when a body flies through a windshield or experiences a severe electric shock. But where government actively regulates cars and construction sites—indeed is applauded for doing so—it simultaneously takes steps to abstract guns from the harm they cause, and silence public officials who refuse to play along. Last year, dozens of senators opposed President Barack Obama’s Surgeon General nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, on the grounds that he described gun violence as a public health issue and, in his private capacity, had supported efforts to further regulate firearms.

Murthy was eventually confirmed, but barely, and only because Democrats had disarmed the filibuster as a means of blocking executive branch nominees.

What Beutler doesn’t mention here is that he was a gunshot victim not long ago; his was the body that became “extremely ill right away,” and he might well have died. He wrote about the incident at Salon back in 2013, mainly to rebut the idea that gun violence justified racial profiling. But his descriptions of the shock he went into and his gradual horrifying realization after surgery of the damage wrought by three bullets was unforgettable.

So this is one person who has experienced the downside of the Second Amendment rights that make America a uniquely gun-toting country and wants the rest of us to get at least a small glimpse of it as well, instead of treating the shooting of human beings with guns as an abstraction or glorifying it as the essence of liberty.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 27, 2015

August 28, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Deaths, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Who We Are As A Nation”: 11 Million People, But Just Three Choices

Whether or not it can be said that Donald Trump is pushing the Republican presidential field “to the right” on immigration policy, there’s zero question he is making it much harder for them to play games with it, as Greg Sargent points out at the Plum Line after watching Scott Walker and Carly Fiorina squirm through questioning on the Sunday shows.

When the GOP candidates are pressed on what they would do about the 11 million, the results tend not to be pretty. For instance, on Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked Carly Fiorina about Trump’s call for ending birthright citizenship -which Fiorina rejected far more forcefully than Walker did. But then Todd sensibly followed up with this:

TODD: What do you do with the 11 million?

FIORINA: My own view is, if you have come here illegally and stayed here illegally, you do not have an opportunity to earn a pathway to citizenship. To legal status, perhaps. But I think there must be consequence.

Fiorina says that “perhaps” undocumented immigrants should have a path to legal status — provided it precludes any chance at citizenship. Okay, if you’re not willing to support legal status, then what should be done instead? Walker, for his part, has declined to endorse mass deportations, but doesn’t think we should even talk about legalization until the border is secured.

There are really just three legitimate answers to Todd’s question: deportation, self-deportation, or legalization (though it’s possible to have a combination of the three). “I don’t want to talk about it until the border is secured” is a non-answer. Arguments over the remote possibility of repealing “birthright citizenship” are non-responsive, too. And if deportation–which presumably is what “just enforcing the law” would involve–is in the cards, we need frank talk about how to defray the incredibly high costs and whether the police state atmosphere it would involve could have some collateral effects on little matters like who we are as a nation.

Until Trump started talking about deportation, there was a tacit agreement within the GOP to keep it all vague so as to satisfy the people who really would like to see children herded onto cattle cars and sent to the border without alarming everyone else–you know, kind of like the tacit agreement not to discuss Carly Fiorina’s qualifications to be president, which Trump also broke. But journalists really need to stop letting these birds avoid the key questions or have it every which way or change the subject.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 24, 2015

August 25, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Immigration | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Republicans Willfully Misrepresenting Fundamental Facts”: Still Perplexed And Worried About Hillary Clinton’s Emails? Calm Down

Amid the ongoing hysterics over Hillary Clinton’s email server – now turned over to the FBI, along with a “thumb drive” maintained by her attorney David Kendall – it was refreshing this morning that ABC News, at least, appears to understand basic facts about this overblown affair.

In a handy question-and-answer format, the network’s Justin Fishel and Mike Levine explain why the FBI wants to examine the server, namely to ascertain that it contains no classified information, and reiterate what everyone ought to know by now: that despite propagandistic nonsense spread by Republican operatives, the bureau is not undertaking a criminal investigation of Clinton herself.

As noted in the ABC News Q&A:

The Intelligence Community’s inspector general said from the beginning that it made a “counterintelligence referral” — not a “criminal referral” — to the FBI. The main concern was that classified information could be compromised because it was sent over unsecured networks and remained in the hands of Clinton or her legal team, not that any crimes may have been committed, a spokeswoman for the Intelligence Community’s IG previously told ABC News.

But even the comparatively sober ABC News analysis omits crucial facts that seem to have eluded many observers – several of which were outlined by Jennifer Palmieri, the Clinton campaign’s communications director, in a useful briefing she posted on Medium. Yes, it is Palmieri’s job to remind everyone of these facts. And it is the job of journalists to report them – not ignore them – so that readers and viewers can understand this story’s context.

As discussed in this space before, the State Department asked the four Secretaries of State who preceded John Kerry to turn over work-related electronic mail for archiving. Only Hillary Clinton has provided any materials so far, sending over 30,000 emails from her server. According to Palmieri, at least 1,200 of those messages will be returned to Clinton, because State officials say they are wholly personal in nature.

(I still wonder why reporters seem so uninterested in the emails sent by Colin Powell on his personal account, particularly concerning Iraq. Powell insists he didn’t keep any of those messages, but nobody seems too eager to test that convenient assertion.)

Palmieri also addresses the confusion over information that wasn’t classified when Clinton sent it but may have been classified since she left office:

It’s common for information previously considered unclassified to be upgraded to classified before being publicly released [as Clinton’s official emails are being examined, redacted, and released by the State Department]. Some emails that weren’t secret at the time she sent or received them might be secret now. And sometimes government agencies disagree about what should be classified, so it isn’t surprising that another agency might want to conduct its own review, even though the State Department has repeatedly confirmed that Hillary’s emails contained no classified information at the time she sent or received them.

We can expect some partisan figures – like Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and his fellow Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi – to continue to willfully misrepresent these fundamental facts. Gowdy seems to believe that smearing Clinton, using millions of taxpayer dollars, is his job.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, August 13, 2015

August 14, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Let’s Not Get Carried Away Here”: Get Ready For The Raw Lunacy Of The Media’s 2016 Debate Coverage

If you live in Washington, where herds of journalists and pundits lope across the landscape in search of political events to opine on, you’ve probably noticed a tingling in the air. Yes, Thursday night is the first primary debate of the 2016 election, when the answers to so many burning questions will come into focus.

So I want to plead with my fellow denizens of the media: Let’s not get carried away here.

I say that not because I don’t think this debate will matter, but because I fear it might matter too much. If history is any guide, a relatively small number of political junkies will actually watch the thing — after all, who in their right mind tunes into a primary debate 15 months before the election? The potential problem isn’t in what happens during the debate, but what happens after.

This debate has been the source of even more speculation than the first of previous elections, for one important reason: Not everyone gets to come. The Republican field currently contains a remarkable 17 contenders (more actually, if you count some people you’ve never heard of and who haven’t held elected office before but have declared themselves candidates). Since a debate with that many participants would barely give each of them a time to talk, Fox News decided to limit the number to 10.

By my count, there have been approximately three zillion articles and TV news stories on the question of which candidates will make the cut. And the presumption is always that if they don’t make it into that debate, then they’ll be forever consigned to second-tier status, ignored by the media as their campaigns sink even lower than they already are.

Which might well be true. But it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s a product of choices that we in the media will make about who we pay attention to. There’s no law that says we have to ignore somebody because they didn’t appear in that first debate. (Fox will be airing a kind of consolation debate with the other seven, which is being referred to as the “kids’ table.” Unless one of them strips naked and performs a sword-swallowing act, don’t expect reporters to care much about what goes on there.)

Let’s look at the candidates who didn’t make the top-10 cutoff: Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, and Jim Gilmore. One sitting governor, one sitting senator, three former governors, one former senator, and a former corporate CEO. As a liberal, the thought of any of them becoming president might fill me with dread, but you can’t say they’re not a serious group. Nor can you say they’re any less qualified than the ones who did make the top 10. Is Perry, who was governor of the country’s second-largest state for 14 years, less of a real candidate than Ben Carson, a retired doctor who has never held public office? Is Jindal, who has been an executive branch official, a member of Congress, and a governor, less of a genuine contender than Mike Huckabee, who spends most of his time these days hawking biblical cancer cures?

Choosing the candidates who will be on the stage may have been a problem with no good solution, because any means of deciding between the guy at number 10 and the guy at number 11 would seem unfair. But that’s exactly why reporters shouldn’t assign any meaning at all to the lineup of this debate.

And they ought to take as measured an approach as possible to what actually occurs during the debate itself. Debate coverage is seldom all that enlightening, and it usually has the function of creating self-fulfilling prophecies. Journalists pick out one or two key moments (a screw-up, a particularly creative zinger) and say, “This is what will have an impact.” Then they proceed to replay and repeat those moments over and over, to the point where they’re all anyone remembers — and for most people, they’re all anyone ever saw. Then they say, “Candidate Smith couldn’t escape his debate gaffe when he picked his nose on camera” — and of course he couldn’t escape it, because you kept talking about it.

So by all means, let’s report on this debate, as we will on the others that will be coming up later. Let’s analyze what happened there, and try to determine what was interesting or revealing or edifying — I certainly will. But let’s try to keep it in perspective. There’s lots of time left, many other debates to come, and plenty of opportunities for these many candidates to rise and fall — so long as we let them.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, August 6, 2015

August 7, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates, Media | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The ‘Clinton Rules’ Of Journalism”: Why Clinton-Bashing Articles Are A Golden Goose For Her Detractors

We’re beyond corrections now.

The New York Times issued a lengthy editors’ note Tuesday regarding the paper’s tangled, bungled coverage of Hillary Clinton’s emails, which, they conceded, “may have left readers with a confused picture.”

That’s a rather gentle gloss on the media tempest that made landfall Thursday night, after an article that purported to break news of a criminal investigation into Clinton, was published on the Times site and front page Friday morning, and was the subject of an email blast.

But then the Times silently amended the story, whittling the headline, and the story’s claims, down from “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email” to “Criminal Inquiry Is Sought in Clinton Email Account,” and then finally, “Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email,” where it stands as of this writing.

Of course by then, it had been copied, repeated, and aggregated all over the Web.

Per Reuters:

The New York Times originally reported that two government inspectors general had asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into Clinton’s use of her private email account

It altered its report on its website overnight without explanation to suggest she personally was not the focus of a criminal referral.

Then, the Justice Department said the inspectors general had requested a criminal investigation into the emails, before backtracking and saying that there was a request for a probe but not a criminal one.

When the crux of the original story — that Clinton was under criminal investigation — was tweaked to indicate that the investigation was not criminal in nature, nor was Clinton the target, the Times editors quietly corrected it on the online edition of the paper, after it had been online for a few hours, with none of the fanfare that attended the original story’s publication: no email blast; no correction.

Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, published a long note outlining exactly how and why Times reporters fouled it up. She concluded that, in the Times’ haste to publish an earth-shattering exposé on the Democratic frontrunner, the paper of record had rushed to print an overly sensationalistic story that relied on dubious sources. She also lamented editors’ decision to discreetly revise the story without first issuing a proper correction. Her prescription: “Less speed. More transparency.”

National Memo editor Joe Conason argued Monday that:

Sullivan lets the Times editors and reporters off a bit too easily, allowing them to blame their anonymous sources and even to claim that the errors “may have been unavoidable.” What she fails to do, as usual, is to examine the deeper bias infecting Times coverage of Hillary and Bill Clinton — a problem that in various manifestations dates back well over two decades.

It seems clear that the Times article was written in accordance with the “Clinton rules” of journalism — which, as articulated by Jonathan Allen, state that “the scoop that brings down Hillary Clinton and her family’s political empire” is the primary goal for journalists. Clinton rules endorse the use of tabloid-worthy headlines (“Criminal!”) and dubious sources, presume guilt, and operate under the assumption of a massive Clintonian conspiracy of widespread collusion and ill intent.

The Times finally ran two belated, garrulous corrections — the first on Saturday, the second on Sunday — which together read:

An article and a headline in some editions on Friday about a request to the Justice Department for an investigation regarding Hillary Clinton’s personal email account while she was secretary of state misstated the nature of the request, using information from senior government officials. It addressed the potential compromise of classified information in connection with that email account. It did not specifically request an investigation into Mrs. Clinton.

An article in some editions on Friday about a request to the Justice Department for an investigation regarding Hillary Clinton’s personal email account while she was secretary of state referred incorrectly, using information from senior government officials, to the request. It was a “security referral,” pertaining to possible mishandling of classified information, officials said, not a “criminal referral.”

These are not corrections on the order of “Mr. McDougal’s name is actually MacDougal,” and it’s baffling that they would be treated as such, quietly airbrushed onto the site like fixing a typo. Which, of course, became the next phase of the story.

It didn’t help that the Times reporter who wrote the piece conceded that the corrections were “a response to complaints we received from the Clinton camp that we thought were reasonable.” This is how a Clinton-bashing story evolves from one of sloppy journalism to the way Hillary Clinton muscled a media titan into reporting what she wanted them to report.

Of course this episode is already becoming subsumed into the vast Clinton conspiracy, as when S.E. Cupp accused the Times of altering its headline “because Hillary asked them to.” A Breitbart headline similarly proclaimed: “New York Times Stealth-Edits Clinton Email Story At Her Command.”

As Sullivan said, “you can’t put stories like this back in the bottle – they ripple through the entire news system.”

Clinton-bashing articles are the gifts that keep on giving, a veritable golden goose of insinuation, innuendo, and dishonesty: Even once the initial specious recriminations have crumbled, the storm of media attention and confusion that follows creates a feedback loop that reinforces Clinton’s detractors’ view of her as a media-manipulating mastermind. And for voters — even those who support Clinton — it’s a reminder that this kind of thing is just going to happen again and again.

 

By: Sam Reisman, The National Memo, July 29, 2015

August 1, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Media, The New York Times | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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