Sunday, October 7, 2012

Twisting Obama's words

As the political campaign heats up, we see both sides doing their best to twist the words of the opposition while apologizing for their own side.  I found a recent case in point in a recent post by Roger L. Simon in PJ Media entitled Barack Obama, Segregationist.

Calling Mr. Obama is rather a strong statement.  So what is the basis of this statement?  Mr. Simon says its a recently released 2007 speech to a black audience by Mr. Obama.  And what is the damning statement?

How else do you explain a statement like “We don’t need to build more highways out in the suburbs. We should be investing in minority-owned business, in our neighborhoods”?
What can we conclude from this statement?  First, after listening to the full speech, Mr. Simon edited the quote - it isn't even accurate.  And in the context, Mr. Obama is saying that the poor (largely minority) have trouble holding jobs because they have trouble getting to and from those jobs.  People without a car can end up spending 2 hours walking or taking busses to a job because there are too few jobs in the places the poor live.

I've been hearing politicians of both parties making statements in favor of neighborhood jobs for decades and none of them have been called segregationist.  Mr. Simon seems to think that by acknowledging that inner city neighborhoods are largely minority and thus wanting to increase the number of jobs there, plus encourage the minorities who live in those neighborhoods to start businesses, Mr. Obama is encouraging segregation.

I certainly didn't agree with all of Mr. Obama's speech, and I'm sure I'd disagree with the methods he proposed to encourage minority owned businesses, but arguing that this statement is somehow meant to encourage or sanction segregation is too much of a stretch.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The presidential debate transcripts and media bias?

Looking for a transcript of the first presidential debate, I've discovered that the transcript changes depending on the source.  So far I've found three versions, and the variations appear to support claims of media bias.  The transccript versions are:

  1. An apparent full transcript.  I found these at CNN, the New York Times, and labeled as from NPR.
  2. A transcript minus portions of President Obama's remarks from Fox News.
  3. A transcript missing Mr. Romney's initial remarks from the Washington Post and CBS.
The other odd thing is that the Washington Post link above (to a "running transcript" of the debate) itself contains a link to the full transcript on a different Washington Post web page.

What struck me is that the conservative news outlet (Fox) omitted portions of President Obama's remarks while two more liberal sites (Washington Post and CBS) omitted portions of Mr. Romney's remarks.  These seem to be ammunition for bloggers on both sides trying to argue bias by the opposing side.

Note:  I only checked the first portion of each transcript (initial remarks by both candidates) so it's possible that the "full" transcripts I found differ in later portions of the debate.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Don't trust headlines about the Supreme Court

A news story today shows the problem with summarizing Supreme Court decisions based on the surface facts.  The headline reads:  "Court won't hear anti-gay marriage group appeal".  However, on reading the article, the court didn't decide anything about gay marriage.  Instead it rejected the appeal of a campaign finance law in Maine.  The proper headline should have read "Court won't hear appeal of Maine campaign donor disclosure law".

The case involves a Maine law requires "groups that raise or spend more than $5000 to influence elections to register and disclose donors."  The anti-gay marriage group did not want to disclose its donor list.  So this is a campaign finance decision, not a marriage decision.

This type of deceptive headline shows up several times a year.  The Supreme Court decides a case on some technicality unrelated to the primary issue, but the news media looks at it as a decision based on the primary issue rather than the technicality.

I'm sure justices are sometimes swayed by the issue behind some technicality they are deciding, but having spent over 15 years following the court's decisions, this is not normally the case.