Patterico's Pontifications

7/26/2012

Obama Proposes No New Gun Control, But Pretends To

Filed under: 2012 Election,Dog Trainer,General,Obama — Patterico @ 7:48 am

Having just pointed out that Obama didn’t seem to propose new gun control legislation after Aurora, it’s incumbent on me to point that, well, he’s still not. But he’s trying to sound like he is:

Acknowledging sensitivity of the issue, he said Wednesday he believed that even gun owners would agree “that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of children.”

Very clever, Mr. President. You just made it sound like a situation that a) isn’t happening and b) will never happen is somehow a live issue. That’s like the NRA saying: “even gun control advocates would agree that guns should not be confiscated wholesale from every U.S. citizen, including members of the police and military.” Uh, yeah, we’d agree with that — but so what? Do we have laws allowing children to walk around with AK-47s that I’m unaware of somehow?

Maybe he’s talking about 24-year-old adults with AR-15s, like James Holmes. If so, that’s what he should say.

So what is Obama proposing, specifically?

He offered no specific proposals but referred to background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, fugitives and the mentally unbalanced. . Previous efforts to do the same have been thwarted by political opposition and the reluctance of elected officials who endorse the idea to take on the National Rifle Assn., among the nation’s most potent lobbying forces.

(That’s their extra period, by the way.)

So if I understand the L.A. Times, there are currently no “background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, fugitives and the mentally unbalanced” because “efforts to do the same have been thwarted” by the NRA and other gun nuts. I could have sworn we had such background checks already (18 U.S.C. 922(g)) but I’m not an expert on the matter and welcome comment from such experts. Is Obama talking about “gun show loopholes” even though Holmes didn’t buy his guns at a gun show?

How about a little clarity on this, L.A. Times? Maybe Obama isn’t specific because there is no law he could propose that would both a) prevent shootings like this and b) be popular and constitutional.

A country where adults can order AR-15s and there are background checks is different from a country with no background checks where children have “AK-47s.” Obama seems to be implying that we live in the latter country, and the L.A. Times is letting him get away with it.

7/25/2012

More Deception from the L.A. Times on Global Warming

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Environment,General — Patterico @ 6:48 pm

OH MY GOD THE GREENLAND ICE SHEET IS MELTING AND IT HASN’T BEEN THIS BAD IN 132 YEARS!!!!!!!

During a four-day period earlier this month, 47% of the surface of the Greenland ice sheet melted, bringing the total melted area to 97% of the surface, according to NASA.

The melting is the worst that has been observed since researchers have been monitoring the ice sheet, the agency said in a statement posted on its website. According to records from ice cores, it is the worst melt since 1889.

Holy crap! And there’s this SCARY picture to go with it:

It’s MELTING!!!!!!!!

So what’s the source for this? Well, the good folks at the L.A. Times, where this fine article appears, have placed the useful link to the NASA statement right there in the article! See there, where it says “website“? Look how convenient that is! Just click on that!

. . . and you get: http://www.nasa.gov/

. . . the NASA website. Yup, that’s it all right.

Is there a reason they didn’t provide the direct link to the press release? Well, the cynic in me says: yeah there is. And here’s the reason: if you went and found the actual link to the actual press release (hint: I did and it’s here), you might see this:

“Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time,” says Lora Koenig, a Goddard glaciologist and a member of the research team analyzing the satellite data.

So: it’s the worst melt since 150 years ago . . . but what they don’t tell you is, a really bad melt happens every 150 years or so.

Does that mean we’re totally in the clear? Not necessarily. She goes on to say: “But if we continue to observe melting events like this in upcoming years, it will be worrisome.”

Well, yeah. If Halley’s Comet returned one year after its next appearance, I guess that would be worrisome. But it would be kind of irresponsible for journalists around 2060 to suggest that we needed to be SUPER WORRIED ABOUT THIS BIG BALL OF FIRE IN THE SKY because nothing like this had appeared in the sky for 75 years . . . without telling you that this particular ball of fire in the sky appears every 75 years or so — and thus, is “right on time.”

If anyone knows how the editors of this rag could possibly justify such rank deception, let me know.

Thanks to Gary H.

7/18/2012

Exclusive: L.A. Times Turns Editorial Control of Its News Pages Over to Obama Campaign Staffers

Filed under: 2012 Election,Dog Trainer,General,Obama — Patterico @ 12:47 am

It can be revealed this morning that, in a startling experiment that will be debated for years to come, the editors of the Los Angeles Times have temporarily ceded control of their web site and front page to staffers working directly for the re-election campaign of Barack Obama. According to insiders with knowledge of the plan, the pilot program, initially slated to last 24 hours, may be significantly expanded as the 2012 Presidential election approaches.

The staffers’ initial gambit is to take a standard pro-entrepreneurial speech by Mitt Romney and portray it as xenophobic and frightening. The Obama campaign intends to use the pages of the L.A. Times to suggest that Romney is invoking debunked “birther” claims, despite the complete lack of any reference to birthers in the actual words of Romney or anyone linked to him. The staffers’ article is a bold and daring move that is certain to grab attention due to its sheer audacity and shameless dishonesty. Whether readers will buy the hoax is another story.

This all-important first article is designed to defuse Obama’s recent gaffe in which he claimed “if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.” Mitt Romney took full advantage of Obama’s goof in a speech today that lauded the American entrepreneurial spirit:

Here’s how the Obama campaign staffers chose to portray Romney’s speech in their new position at the L.A. Times:

By Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times
July 17, 2012, 8:06 p.m.

IRWIN, Pa. — In remarks that played on debunked assertions about President Obama’s birthplace, Mitt Romney on Tuesday said that the current administration resembled foreign governments and one of his chief surrogates said the president needed to “learn how to be an American.”

OK, Patterico here, to say: I’m just kidding. My post so far is a goof. Of course it’s not really true that actual Obama campaign officials have been entrusted with the news pages of the L.A. Times. It’s even worse than that! In a terrifying development, the paper remains under the control of the same cabal of leftist lunatics who have published this rag since before I first started lining bird cages with it in 1993.

To see just how far divorced from reality these nutcases are, let’s take a look at the proof of their frankly insane claim that Romney is appealing to birthers. This claim is based primarily on an assertion that Romney claimed yesterday that “the current administration resembled foreign governments.”

Well, the entire transcript of the speech is available in this post at Hot Air. First let’s get a flavor of what the speech sounded like in general. Again, it is a clear response to Obama’s “successful people didn’t get there on their own” remarks. Here is Mitt Romney:

The idea to say that Steve Jobs didn’t build Apple, that Henry Ford didn’t build Ford Motor, that Papa John didn’t build Papa John Pizza, that Ray Kroc didn’t build McDonald’s, that Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft, you go on the list, that Joe and his colleagues didn’t build this enterprise, to say something like that is not just foolishness, it is insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America and it’s wrong. [Applause]

. . . .

I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think anyone could have said what he said who had actually started a business or been in a business. And my own view is that what the President said was both startling and revealing. I find it extraordinary that a philosophy of that nature would be spoken by a President of the United States. It goes to something that I have spoken about from the beginning of the campaign. That this election is, to a great degree, about the soul of America.

OK, but didn’t he compare the Obama administration to “foreign” governments? Well, I searched for the word “foreign” in his remarks, and came up with these two passages, which I will place in their proper context:

You understand, of course, what’s going on. What he is saying is his justification for raising taxes higher and higher, because government needs more. What he is saying is his justification for Obamacare, which says that we need 2,300 pages of legislation to have government more intrusive in your life. What he is saying is his justification for a larger and larger government. This is very different, by the way, than the Democratic Party of Bill Clinton that said that the era of big-government was over, that reformed welfare. You heard that story by the way, he is trying to take work out of welfare requirement. It is changing the nature of America, changing the nature of what the Democrats have fought for, and Republicans have fought for. In the past, people of both parties understood that encouraging achievement, encouraging success, encouraging people to lift themselves as high as they can, encouraging entrepreneurs, celebrating success instead of attacking it and denigrating, makes America strong. That’s the right course for this country. His course is extraordinarily foreign. [Applause]

Now, Joe, Joe got it right. Where did Joe go? He, there he is right here. Joe got it right. He said somethingabout what would happen if President Obama were reelected. And I don’t think that’s going to happen. But if he were reelected, I want you to know that what you’ve see for the last three and a half years, you’d be seeing for the next four and a half years. And what that means is: chronic high levels of unemployment, it means low wage growth to negative wage growth, declining median incomes in this country, and it means putting America on the door to fiscal calamity.

BIRTHERISM!!!!!

Not seeing it yet? Well, just wait until you see the next passage!!

And so I see that entrepreneurial spirit and that innovativeness of the American people and our willingness to work hard in whatever role we have and to lift and to improve our lot and to improve the lot of the enterprises we work in—I see that as driving this economy to be the most powerful in the history of the Earth. It has already; it will again. The course we’re on right now is foreign to us. It changes America. This is a vote for what kind of America we’re going to have, and for me I vote for freedom and free people. [Applause]

Let me just end with this thought: this is an important choice. This is a defining choice. This is a choice about what America’s going to be. Not just for the next few years but for a century. This is a choice which will determine what kind of future our kids are going to have. And, in fact, it also determines what kind of future the world’s going to have. America plays an unusual role in the world—I think we understand that. Some in some circles tend to brush that aside. But those that have fought in world wars and other conflicts recognize the greatness of America and our unique role in the history of the earth. [Applause]

BIRTHERISM!!!!!

But but but . . . John Sununu said Obama needed to learn to be an American! Well, let’s look deeeeeep in the article to see what he actually said:

In a conference call arranged by the Romney campaign, Sununu assailed Obama’s roots in the “political-slash-felon environment” of Chicago and attacked the president’s recent statement that business leaders who had succeeded had help from government, in the form of teachers or road construction workers, among others.

Those business leaders, Sununu said, “are the people who are the backbone of our economy, and the president clearly demonstrated that he has absolutely no idea how the American economy functions. The men and women all over America who have worked hard to build these businesses — their businesses, from the ground up — is how our economy became the envy of the world.”

He added: “It is the American way, and I wish this president would learn how to be an American.”

Asked later whether he could clarify that remark, Sununu said Obama “has to learn the American formula for creating business.”

BIRTHERISM!!!!! He said Obama was born in Kenya!!! You heard him! Right? That was what he said, kinda . . . sorta . . . OK, not really. But . . .

Look. It has to be obvious to anyone reading these passages that Mitt Romney is not being a race-baiting racist obsessed with race who is a racist birther preying on xenophobic racist tropes of Obama being a black black foreign non-American guy. Romney is praising the entrepreneurial spirit. He is decrying the erosion of traditional values of American rugged independence by a nanny-state government that seeks to replicate the failed policies of Social Democrats in the crumbling empire of Europe.

Ah, who am I kidding? He’s just being a racist. The hell with capitalism, free markets, and the American way.

Honestly, the actual situation is worse than if Obama’s people had written this as a press release themselves. At least if it really were Obama staffers in there, there would legally have to be some kind of “I’m Barack Obama and I approved this message” disclaimer on the bottom of this blatant advertisement for Obama’s candidacy.

As it stands, it’s just more claptrap from the L.A. Times. And some idiots fall for it. They really do.

I use plastic bags to pick up my dog’s poop and I have no bird cage to line. This paper serves no purpose any more.

Die, L.A. Times. Just die already.

5/15/2012

L.A. Times: Obama vs. Romney = Amiable Occasional Pothead vs. Scissor-Wielding Homophobic Bully

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 7:24 am

David Horsey at the L.A. Times:

Sure, you may know which man — Mitt Romney or Barack Obama — you want to see running the country, but which one would you have wanted to know in high school?

We learned four years ago that young Barack was a laid-back, not overly studious kid who loved basketball and occasionally smoked a little weed. The kids at Punahou, the prestigious Honolulu prep school Obama attended, never expected their amiable but seemingly unmotivated classmate to one day become the most powerful man on the planet.

. . . .

[I]f you were a certain type of student at Cranbrook back in 1965, the idea of Mitt Romney getting any kind of power over people would have been frightening.

. . . .

Romney pulled together a pack of boys and went to Lauber’s room, where they tackled him and pinned him down. As Lauber, with tears streaming down his cheeks, screamed for help, Romney pulled out scissors and chopped away at the kid’s hair.

If we’re going to keep talking about the dog-eating days of yore, can we at least get it right, Horsey? Obama did some cocaine too:

“Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it,” Obama wrote in a book long before running for Senate. “Junkie. Pothead. That’s where I’d been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man.”

It doesn’t make for such a nice, neat contrast, of course, to mention the cocaine use. It’s just more factually accurate.

Which is better? Factually accurate? Or a distortion that fits a narrative?

David Horsey and the editors of the L.A. Times have made their choice!

5/11/2012

L.A. Times Swoons Over Obama “Evolution” Without Mentioning Prior “Devolution”

Filed under: 2012 Election,Dog Trainer,Obama — Patterico @ 7:43 am

There is a puff piece in today’s L.A. Times titled: President Obama’s influence on gay marriage will be tested. His change, we are told, is historic and valuable:

David Mixner, a longtime Democratic and gay rights activist, noted wryly that Obama’s endorsement was “no more symbolic than President Johnson endorsing the Voting Rights bills…. It’s going to give momentum. It’s going to give real legitimacy. It’s going to impact those who are sitting on the fence. Anytime the president takes a major stance on any civil rights issues, whether it’s Harry Truman or John Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson, it lends the power of the presidency to that issue.”

. . . .

Obama’s most valuable contribution may have been the way he described his evolution on the issue. In the ABC interview, he related dinner-table discussions about his daughters’ friends whose parents are same-sex couples.

“That’s the same kind of conversation that’s taking place at kitchen tables around America,” said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, a pro-gay-marriage group. He said Obama’s explanation about “how he had opened his heart and changed his mind” was the most important part of the president’s statement.

Obama also placed his personal opinion in the context of his values as a “practicing Christian,” in line with efforts by gay marriage proponents to sway conservative voters. Obama said that, contrary to those who believe same-sex marriage is at odds with Christian teachings, it “is not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf — but it’s also the golden rule, you know? Treat others the way you’d want to be treated.”

If we’re going to talk about Obama’s “evolution” on this issue, let’s talk about Obama’s evolution on this issue.

In 1996, when Obama was running for the state senate in Illinois, he signed a questionnaire in which he supported the right of gays to marry:

Then, when he was running for federal office, his position changed. He has allowed a spokeshole to claim that the above questionnaire was filled out by someone else — a claim later retracted by another spokeshole when nobody bought it.

And he cited religion as the reason for opposing same sex marriage.

Now, having flip-flopped, he has flop-flipped back. And he is trying to make it sound principled.

And the L.A. Times is letting him. Because somehow, none of this makes it into today’s misty-eyed description of Obama’s “evolution.” The “devolution” preceding the “evolution” never comes up.

Odd, that.

5/8/2012

L.A. Times: Romney Must Correct the Trolls

Filed under: 2012 Election,Dog Trainer,General,Obama — Patterico @ 7:36 am

The L.A. Times reports a Very Important Story that just happens to play into Obama talking points: Romney stands silent as Obama is accused of treason.

Mitt Romney drew criticism Monday after he failed to challenge a questioner who suggested at a campaign event that President Obama should be tried for treason.

The woman, in posing a question to Romney, asserted, “We have a president right now that is operating outside the structure of our Constitution.”

She was interrupted by applause from the crowd.

“I want to know,” she said before turning to another audience member and saying, “Yeah, I do agree he should be tried for treason. But I want to know what you are going to be able to do to help restore balance between the three branches of government and what you’re going to be able to do to restore our Constitution in this country?”

Romney, after waiting for the applause to die down, answered the woman’s question without addressing the treason remark.

So Romney didn’t correct a troll. Big deal. It’s about the same thing as when some yahoo makes a really dumb and inflammatory comment on this blog and I don’t say anything. I don’t have a responsibility to respond to every dumb comment. (Most of them are smart, by the way!) And Mitt Romney does not have a responsibility to take on every silly comment made by some citizen asking him a question.

Of course, the Obama camp jumped all over Romney for this, as does the L.A. Times. But remember when little Jimmy Hoffa got up on stage before President Obama and delivered this inarticulately nasty battle cry?

President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let’s take these son-of-a-bitches out and give America back to America where we belong.

Obama’s reaction? He came on stage and named a bunch of union leaders, including Hoffa, and said: “we are proud of them”:

How does the L.A. Times portray that episode?

The Romney campaign called foul, pointing to a 2011 Labor Day rally in which Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa used foul language to refer to Republicans and said Democrats should take them out. Obama later took the stage and made no mention of the comment.

Technically accurate, I suppose. But how about telling readers that Obama also praised the guy who made the comment?

And why must editors portray it as the Romney response, rather than putting the institutional weight of the paper behind the observation that it happened? The spin would be very different if the article portrayed this as “Obama camp makes big deal out of Romney silence. But Obama was silent in the past in a similar situation.” Instead, we get: “Romney was silent. But he says Obama was silent in the past in a similar situation.” See the difference?

At least the Times article notes the blatant hypocrisy coming out of the Obama camp, which was all over Mitt Romney for failing to denounce the “treason” comment — but which was singing a different tune back when Jimmy Hoffa was calling us all “son-of-a-bitches.” Let’s pick up where we left off:

The Romney campaign called foul, pointing to a 2011 Labor Day rally in which Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa used foul language to refer to Republicans and said Democrats should take them out. Obama later took the stage and made no mention of the comment.

Asked later if the president should have disavowed the remark, White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said the president shouldn’t be expected to “serve as the speech police for the Democratic Party.”

Hahahaha. Hypocrites.

P.S. Let’s keep in mind that there is a sound basis to say that Obama is operating outside the structure of the Constitution. ObamaCare is a solid example. Somewhere between 4-5 members of the Supreme Court agree with me that the law is an overreach and is not tenable under our structure of government.

4/30/2012

L.A. Times: We Must Give Our Readers All the Information, Even if It Puts the Troops at Risk . . . but Not if It Hurts Our Agenda Our Endangers Our Own Lives

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 7:23 am

So the editors of the Los Angeles Times decided a few days ago to publish inflammatory photos of American soldiers with dead Afghan suicide bombers, despite the military’s deep concern that publishing the photos would put our soldiers at risk.

The fear among some officials is that the latest trophy photos will be used as an excuse for further unrest in Afghanistan, similar to what happened when previous photographs were made public.

The paper published an article explaining its decision, which linked to an online chat with the paper’s new editor:

“We considered this very carefully,” Maharaj said. “At the end of the day, our job is to publish information that our readers need to make informed decisions.”

Apparently danger to the troops was not a good enough reason not to publish inflammatory material.

What about danger to the editors themselves? Well, you see, that’s different.

Back when there was a controversy over cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, the paper pointedly refused to publish the cartoons that were at the center of the controversy. If the paper ever published those cartoons, I am unaware of it. Indeed, when a cartoonist drew a satirical cartoon that mocked the refusal of newspapers like the Los Angeles Times to publish the Muhammad cartoons — a cartoon that didn’t even depict Muhammad at all! — the editors pulled that cartoon as well.

So apparently, danger to the troops is not a good reason to withhold “information that [their] readers need to make informed decisions” . . . but danger to their own lives? Why, that is an excellent reason.

Indeed, the paper is willing to withhold critical information from its readers even when there is no danger to anyone. Remember the Rashid Khalidi tape, showing Obama paying tribute to a radical advocate for Palestinian rights? An article described some anti-Israel sentiments expressed at the dinner Obama attended:

“During the dinner a young Palestinian American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel. If Palestinians cannot secure their own land, she said, “then you will never see a day of peace.”

One speaker likened “Zionist settlers on the West Bank” to Osama bin Laden, saying both had been “blinded by ideology.”

The paper refused to release that tape, saying they had promised their source they wouldn’t. Not only that, they also refused to release a transcript (which they had not promised not to do), or view the tape to tell readers whether Bill Ayers or Bernadine Dohrn appeared at the dinner — or whether the tape showed Obama’s reaction to the extreme statements above.

So don’t give us a line about how you release all important information, Mr. Maharaj. You release information that serves your agenda, whether it puts our troops at risk or not. But you keep quiet if the information would hurt Obama . . . or if it posed a risk to your editors’ precious little hides.

Thanks to dana.

4/29/2012

L.A. Times: Obama Using Tactic Formerly Thought by Liberal Newspaper Editors to Be the Exclusive Province of the GOP: The Dreaded “Wedge Issue”

Filed under: 2012 Election,Dog Trainer,General,Obama — Patterico @ 2:36 pm

Everybody at the water cooler at the L.A. Times knows that so-called “wedge issues” are bad things — and that, as such, they have traditionally been used only by Republicans. Today, they are shocked to find Obama using similar tactics, in what hard-hitting editors apparently believe to be the first known instance of Democrats using “wedge issues” in the history of American politics:

Wedge issues may boost Obama’s prospects

Obama and Democrats appear to be using immigration and contraception to try to pry away voters from the other camp, similar to wedge issues that past Republican presidential candidates have employed.

Illegal immigration, affirmative action, gun control and same-sex marriage have all been used by Republicans as wedge issues at the state and national levels, with varied degrees of success. Now it’s Democrats and Obama — sympathizing with women paying more for dry cleaning, playing consoler in chief to a woman impugned by radio’s Rush Limbaugh — who are pushing people’s buttons.

The article explains that the issues in question are “immigration and contraception” and defines wedge issues as issues “grounded more in emotionalism than economics” that are “typically used to pry voters away from a party or a candidate they might otherwise be inclined to support.”

It’s nice that they’re noticing Democrats using wedge issues.

It’s laughable that they never noticed this before.

Does anyone here remember 2006, when Michael J. Fox had a commercial that touted stem cell research in a close Senate race in Missouri? The Democrat, Claire McCaskill, won the race. Although some argued that stem-cell research is not a true wedge issue and that it did not help McCaskill, there was plenty of research suggesting it worked. And in 2004 and 2006 Democrats pursued the issue with fervor, showing their belief it was an effective wedge issue. Fox also stumped in Iowa, Ohio, and Virginia — all states with close races — using the issue to motivate voters. Just as Republicans have been accused of placing gay marriage initiatives on the ballot to drive voter turnout, Democrats put stem-cell research issues on state ballots in California in 2004, and Missouri in 2006.

Stem-cell research is hardly the only Democrat wedge issue. Democrats have used a “personhood amendment” as a wedge issue in Nevada. They have used clean energy as a wedge issue. In fact, in 2010 the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a memo with a host of wedge issues the party planned to exploit, including minimum wage, Social Security, the grand debate over Obama’s birth certificate, and numerous others.

I always get a little annoyed whenever someone suggests that one party or another is uniquely susceptible to using a certain evil tactic. If you really believe that, you might double-check to see if partisanship is clouding your perceptions.

In this case, it most certainly is. Nowhere is this as blatantly obvious as at the end of article, which contains a nice little apologia for Obama’s use of wedge issues. It is a campaign plug for Obama so blatant that it had me scrolling back to the top of the article to see if I was actually reading an editorial or a “news analysis.” No such luck:

Wedge politics may seem a long way from the uplift of Obama’s 2008 hope-and-change campaign or, going back further, the message of healing and reconciliation that launched the young Illinois state senator’s political ascent with a galvanizing speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

But Obama has often been underestimated, or misconstrued, by supporters and critics alike. Though he has ideals and principles, and the eloquence to give them flight, he understands one thing: To get things done, you have to win.

Sometimes, to get the right policies put in place, even good-guy Democrats might have to resort to tactics so evil they were once the exclusive province of the Republicans. It’s not that they want to do these things; it’s that their ideals and principles require it, for the good of the nation — and, dare I say it? the known universe.

So sayeth the über-objective journalists at the Los Angeles Times.

4/24/2012

L.A. Times Uses Classic Liberal Bias Techniques in Article on Death Penalty Initiative

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 6:28 am

In reporting on an initiative to abolish the death penalty, the L.A. Times tells us about the “[g]rowing numbers” of people — conservatives, even! — who oppose capital punishment:

Growing numbers of conservatives in California have joined the effort to repeal the state’s capital punishment law, expressing frustration with its price tag and the rarity of executions.

The numbers have grown so much, it’s now a “chorus”!

The chorus of criticism has death penalty advocates worried, even though California voters have historically favored capital punishment, passing several measures over the last few decades to toughen criminal penalties and expand the number of crimes punishable by death.

Way back in 2004, I discussed the way this newspaper employs phrases like “growing chorus” to describe public opinions they agree with:

[W]hy another story on this topic? Blame the “growing chorus”:

A growing chorus of Bush critics has emerged in recent weeks, saying his youthful conduct then is freshly relevant today.

I have warned you that such language is a signal that the paper agrees with the criticism. When the paper disagrees with criticism of a candidate, it is portrayed as an attack by political opponents. When the paper agrees with the criticism, the criticism becomes a mysterious and disembodied (but ever-growing) entity. Doubts grow. Criticism emerges.

This doesn’t apply merely to criticism of candidates, but any public controversy that the paper’s editors want to push. The fact is that the way an article is worded can skew the reader’s perceptions markedly even if the facts are correct. Since we’re revisiting old posts, let’s look at another example, this time from 2007:

The article in question begins:

WASHINGTON — The growing controversy over White House recordkeeping and disclosure swirled around presidential adviser Karl Rove on Thursday, as congressional Democrats said they were told some e-mails that Rove sent from a Republican National Committee account are missing.

I have to take my hat off to the reporters for the skill in which they portray the controversy as a ghostly entity with a spirit all its own — rather than as attacks on the Administration by partisan Democrats.

And so it is with the article on the death penalty initiative. We are told about all the public officials who have changed their minds on the death penalty, and told that this represents a growing chorus that has death penalty supporters worried. But just how worried are they? When we hear the actual quote, it doesn’t sound like they are as worried as they were portrayed:

“The people of California have regularly voted for the death penalty by wide margins, but of course it has to be a matter of concern,” said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which advocates for tough criminal penalties. He said fundraising to defeat the November measure would be difficult.

And indeed, when we look at the numbers, support for the death penalty is still strong even in reliably Democratic California. The last time the Field Poll surveyed Californians on this issue, 68% supported the death penalty (.pdf). Although the poll tries to claim that a growing number of people support life without parole for first degree murder, that is misleading, because we don’t impose death in every first degree murder case — by a longshot. Death is reserved for the worst of the worst, and asking people what punishment they prefer for first degree murder in the abstract (as the Field Poll does) does not answer the question whether they want to reserve death as an option for serial murderers, child rapist-murderers, people who murder and continue to kill after being incarcerated, and so forth. Kent Scheidegger addressed this in 2010:

But Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports capital punishment, said the question on death and life without parole was misleading because respondents were asked to choose a uniform punishment for all first-degree murderers.

“The question really is, do you favor the death penalty for the worst murderers?” Scheidegger said. “Very few people want the death penalty for every first-degree murder case.”

Overall, he said, the poll shows that “support for the death penalty is pretty stable.”

As long as the California initiative is described in a fair and non-misleading manner on the ballot, I am not particularly concerned about it.

By the way? One of the big arguments in the article is that the death penalty costs too much. I will never stop being amazed by the gall of those who throw up roadblocks to the implementation of the death penalty, and then argue that we shouldn’t have the death penalty because there are so many roadblocks. But this is what death penalty opponents do.

It’s a “by any means” necessary point of view. And one of the “means” is to take strong public support for the death penalty and portray it as a growing, swelling, ever-increasing opposition. They will suggest, as the article does, that abolishing the death penalty is better for victims:

Most death row inmates would be returned to the general prison population and be expected to work. Their earnings would go to crime victims.

Don’t you care about victims, Californians?

Seen this way, the editors aren’t behaving as journalists here, but as partisans. In that vein, I will note that the article is by Maura Dolan, one of two reporters who screwed up a DNA story to make it sound more favorable to the defense, and refused to admit that she had gotten it wrong.

Nice to see she’s on the death penalty beat. I have a feeling this article will be the first in a growing chorus of articles by her designed to sway Californians to vote for this initiative.

UPDATE: Here’s another one I missed, from April 14: Fight against death penalty gains momentum in states.

The fight against the death penalty is gaining momentum, opponents of the practice say, with Connecticut’s decision this month to abolish capital punishment making it the fifth state in five years to so do.

It’s a growing chorus!

4/23/2012

L.A. Times: Romney’s Constitutional Health Care Plan Is Just Like Obama’s Unconstitutional Plan!

Filed under: 2012 Election,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 7:18 am

The L.A. Times tells us Romneycare is “similar” to Obamacare (only much, much scarier!):

Romney’s plan follows a lead set by President George W. Bush, who unsuccessfully pushed for a healthcare overhaul. It adopts proposals long championed by conservative healthcare experts.

It also sharply contrasts with Romney’s last foray into healthcare reform. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney successfully pushed a law that guaranteed coverage for all state residents and included a requirement that people buy insurance — an individual mandate similar to Obama’s.

Very similar . . . with one smalllll, tiny leetle difference: Romney’s plan was constitutional, while Obama’s is not. (That last statement is not just my opinion, by the way. It is also the opinion of somewhere between 4 and 5 Supreme Court justices!)

The difference between legal and (at least very arguably) illegal is not a distinction without a difference. It’s like saying: Joanne and Chester both take property from a home and keep it, therefore their actions are “similar” — without noting that Joanne is the homeowner, while Chester is a burglar.

Legal vs. illegal matters. Whether the federal government is overstepping its constitutional authority matters.

I guess this is too subtle a point to expect a newspaper reporter to understand, and therefore far too subtle for the general public. Which means that, for the electorate, Romneycare and Obamacare are really the same — meaning we have basically lost that issue for the election.

But if we wanted to try to take it back, the way to start would be to note the distinction that the L.A. Times refuses to tell you about.

P.S. The rest of the L.A. Times article simply tells you why Romney’s current plan — giving Americans a tax break to make their own choices — is “more revolutionary” and “potentially more disruptive” than Obamacare. Fisk away in the comments.

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