Friday, April 23, 2010

Alex Sink: You Will Be As OUTRAGED As I Am

Apparently a video ad produced by the Republican Party of Florida hit Alex Sink where it hurts.

Her (campaign's) reaction tells the tale:
The Republican Party of Florida's lack of respect for law enforcement officers and their families is on full display in this ridiculous video.

Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to protect the people of Florida every single day.  They deserve our gratitude and respect. But, instead, the Republican Party of Florida subjects them to insults and ridicule.
The "outrageous" video:

First, I think Florida's law enforcement officers can take a joke.  Second, the video is explicitly referring to insurance investigators, not local or state police.

Why, then, would Alex Sink publicize her outrage at this supposed attack on "law enforcement officers"?

Perhaps to distract from the elephant in the room?

The ad is an attack on Alex Sink, to be clear (watch it if you doubt).  And the missing element of Sink's reaction to the ad consists of her silence regarding the charge made against her (something about assault rifles).

What about the rifles?
Sink’s Department of Financial Services has purchased 182 assault rifles – costing $255,000, according to Sink’s office – in the last two years. Sink, the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, says the rifles are necessary to protect fraud investigators, but the Legislature’s Republican budget writers argue the rifles are expensive and unnecessary. Typically, fraud investigators have carried pistols.
(Orlando Sentinel)
I've been mulling a post about Sink's plan for the Florida economy, and as part of that post I'd have been willing to allow that I knew of nothing to blemish her record in her current office.  This does look like a legitimate embarrassment, albeit a minor one.  I think the bigger issue is the childish reaction of the Sink campaign to a legitimately funny political ad that nobody but a Sink sycophant would find offensive.

Word to the Sink campaign:  The right reaction to this would have consisted of a straightforward explanation for the purchase of the rifles.  Add to that a statement to the effect that it speaks well of your candidacy that the Republicans bother to place focus on such a minor issue.

Too late now, though.  She looks like a whiny baby willing to make up ridiculous charges to distract attention from her questionable actions.  Add that to Sink's negatives related to her banking career and lucrative compensation package associated with that career and any of the Republican candidates look pretty good.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Legends of the Left: Oliver North a "convicted felon"

Apparently quite a few people still believe that Oliver "Ollie" North is a convicted felon.  Those who believe it most stridently seem to hail from the left of the political spectrum, hence the categorization of this fact check post as a Legend of the Left.

How does the political left refer to Ollie North?
The irony of a convicted felon who lied about diverting proceeds from arms sales to a rebel group in Nicaragua supporting a policy that forces gay and lesbian servicemen to lie about their sexual orientation was lost on both Hannity and North.
Convicted felon manager in Iran Contra crimes ...
By the way, Oliver North is a convicted felon.
(jsgaetano, from comments at the Huffington Post)
Oliver North, a convicted felon pardoned by Bush Sr. offers his fact checking abilities on Obama's address to congress.
The host usually speaks from a position of moral strength, being himself a recovering alcoholic (Glenn Beck), a drug addict (Rush Limbaugh), or a convicted felon (Gordon Liddy, Oliver North).
(Bernard Chazelle, Princeton University)
This brings us to an incident on air several weeks ago that received no publicity. The guest of honor was the heroic, ex-marine-convicted-felon, Oliver (Twisted) North.

You get the idea.

Oliver North was, in fact, convicted on three felony charges out of 16 charges brought against him.  So that makes him a convicted felon, right?

Yes, but only temporarily.  North's conviction was later vacated on appeal.
The Supreme Court declined to review the case, and Judge Gesell dismissed all charges against North on September 16, 1991, after hearings on the immunity issue, on the motion of the independent counsel. Essentially, North's convictions were overturned because he had been granted limited immunity for his Congressional testimony, and this testimony was deemed to have influenced witnesses at his trial.
Writing after the conviction but before Gesell dismissed the charges, one could call North a "convicted felon" without seriously misleading the reader.  But one could even today reasonably call North a "felon" minus the "convicted" part since factual guilt was more-or-less established even if moral guilt might remain in doubt.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Grading PolitiFact: McCain the maverick? (Updated)

PolitiFact has a chronic problem with the failure to offer charitable interpretation.  Particularly when the subject is a Republican.

The issue:

The fact checkers:

Louis Jacobson:  writer, researcher
Morris Kennedy:  editor


Some of Louis Jacobson's introductory comments seem revealing:
(I)t came as a surprise to us when McCain was quoted on Newsweek magazine's Web site on April 3, 2010, saying, "I never considered myself a maverick. I consider myself a person who serves the people of Arizona to the best of his abilities."

Debunking this one wasn't a question of "if" but rather "how can we avoid piling on?"
If that last statement hints that Jacobson's mind was made up as soon as he saw the quotation of McCain, the rest of the story does nothing to dispel that impression.  Jacobson's story offers no evidence that he attempted any critical examination of the context of McCain's statement, though later he will inadvertently stumble over some statements that ought to have forced him to reconsider his course toward the "pants on fire" rating.

As noted, McCain's statement was published at Newsweek magazine's Web site:
Many of the GOP's most faithful, the kind who vote in primaries despite 115-degree heat, tired long ago of McCain the Maverick, the man who had crossed the aisle to work with Democrats on issues like immigration reform, global warming, and restricting campaign contributions. "Maverick" is a mantle McCain no longer claims; in fact, he now denies he ever was one. "I never considered myself a maverick," he told me. "I consider myself a person who serves the people of Arizona to the best of his abilities." Yet here was Palin, urging her fans four times in 15 minutes to send McCain the Maverick back to Washington.
(Yellow highlights added)
The context:  McCain was apparently engaged in private conversation with the Newsweek reporter, David Margolick.  We do not have the context of that conversation, but rather the context in which Margolick chose to present the quotation.  The "I never considered myself a maverick" line is probably not the sort of thing McCain would push minus some explanation.  Any such explanation was up to Margolick to provide.  There isn't much to stop a reporter from dropping the context, unfortunately.

But rather than try to give consideration to the context, PolitiFact's Jacobson went immediately from his "piling on" comment to the following:
We ignored cases in which Palin or other campaign surrogates used the term on McCain's behalf, sticking instead to instances when McCain himself used it, or when he blessed television advertisements using that term with the words, "I approve this message." (This message, by the way, is a requirement of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which McCain himself spearheaded.)
In other words, Jacobson took for granted that a wooden-literal interpretation minus any nuance of understanding was in order for McCain's statement.  At worst we ought to have seen Jacobson blame that interpretation on Margolick, for that is pretty much the way Margolick presented it in his story.  But is trusting the uncorroborated implications from a reporter really fact checking?

Jacobson proceeded to provide a list of statements where McCain embraced the label "Maverick" to one degree or another.

It makes sense to conclude that if a person embraces a label that he thinks the label applies to him in at least some sense.  But is there more than one sense of the word "maverick"?  Merriam-Webster only lists one relevant sense.  But John McCain has emphasized some nuance with respect to the term.  Jacobson uncovered a clue without recognizing its worth:
In McCain's (slight) defense, we should say that he has on a number of occasions expressed a degree of ambivalence about the title "maverick" -- including his highest-profile use of the word, in his 2008 Republican National Convention acceptance speech. “You know, I’ve been called a maverick; someone who marches to the beat of his own drum," he said. "Sometimes it’s meant as a compliment and sometimes it’s not. What it really means is I understand who I work for. I don’t work for a party. I don’t work for a special interest. I don’t work for myself. I work for you.
(Blue highlights added)
This quotation of McCain seems to make clear that he found at least two meanings in the term "maverick."  "Maverick" can refer to a person who marches to the beat of his own drum.  McCain rejected that uncomplimentary meaning as applied to his political career in favor of the positive one in his subsequent explanation of  "(w)hat it really means."

Jacobson, after interpreting McCain's remarks as "ambivalence" toward the "maverick" label, counts this as a "slight" defense.  More likely it was the entire key to properly understanding McCain's statement to the Newsweek reporter.

Let not evidence stand in the way of a foregone conclusion:
(E)ven if McCain is now listening more closely to his inner ambivalence about the term, it cannot erase the eagerness with which his 2008 presidential campaign touted that particular characteristic as a major selling point for candidacy. So we rate his statement that "I never considered myself a maverick" to be Pants on Fire!
 McCain's statement to Margolick seems consistent with his resistance to the negative connotation of "maverick," though the lack of context makes a firm conclusion elusive.  PolitiFact takes the lack of context as a license to place the least charitable interpretation on McCain's statement.

The grades:

Louis Jacobson:  F
Morris Kennedy:  F

I'd like to have your parents in for a conference.


RealClearPolitics gives us a video update.

Chris Wallace of Fox News Channel pressed McCain on the "never considered myself a maverick" comment.  McCain pretty much dodged the question with more comments consonant with the attempt to keep to a positive take on his failure to maintain strict party loyalty. 

The video doesn't add much to the story except to contribute to the impression that McCain has trouble giving a clear and straight answer on the issue.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Tea Party "spitting" incident

I think this video very probably gives an accurate summary of the alleged spitting incident involving Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.).

Hat tip to Power Line.

What did my local paper have about this story?  Among other things:
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said he was behind Lewis and distinctly heard the slurs. Cleaver's office said later in a statement that he'd also been spat upon.
Nobody seems to have the racial slurs on tape, and so far it appears that only the group named in the story heard them.

It's fishy.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Paul Krugman: "Death Panels" could save the government money

Of course liberals/progressives will complain that Krugman is being taken out of context and that the "death panels" in this discussion are nothing like those Sarah Palin envisioned months ago.

In reply, I'd say that Palin's meaning was twisted in the media prism and this is exactly the sort of thing she was talking about.

Partial vindication for Sarahcuda.