Election Day Afternoon Update

Good Afternoon!!

Here’s a fresh thread while we wait for any bits of exit poll results to be leaked. Let us know if you’ve heard any!

I’ve got a few entertaining links for you in case you’re looking for something to read while obsessively waiting for the polls to close in Florida and Virginia (7PM Eastern).

Can you believe Mitt Romney is charging reporters who want to be inside his campaign headquarters tonight when the returns come in?

BOSTON — The campaign of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney appears to be setting a precedent this election year in charging journalists and news organizations for any access to a presidential campaign headquarters on the night of the election.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is locked in a tight race with Democratic President Barack Obama, will be holding his election night gathering at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, where access costs anywhere from $75 for a chair in the ballroom to $1,020 for permission to use the media filing center. Broadcast news organizations will be paying up to $6,500 for workspace.

Obama’s campaign party will be held at McCormick Place, in Chicago, and although his campaign is charging for premiums, credentialed reporters are granted access, which includes a workstation, electrical power and a wireless Internet connection, at no cost.

Romney is ending his historically awful campaign as gracelessly as he ran it for the past year.

But Romney’s money men will be treated like kings tonight.

BOSTON, MASS. —Mitt Romney isn’t going to forget the folks who picked up the tab for his billion-dollar run for the White House tonight.
Roughly 2,000 mega donors and bundlers are flocking to Beantown on Election Day for one last get together —which includes some special perks — according to a source on the ground familiar with the finance teams efforts.

Some of Romney’s biggest supporters, including New York Jets owner Woody Johnson; Texan mega donors L.E. Simmons and Ray Washburn; Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute; Bobbie Kilberg, head of the Northern Virginia Technology Council; among others are expected to attend. Nevada gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson may also make an appearance, according to the source….

The festivities kick off with a dinner for the Romney Victory Council at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, just a few short steps from the convention center where Romney’s slated to speak later in the evening. The group, dubbed informally as the “Council of 100,”are those that have raised significant amounts of money and includes many of Romney’s state chair network.

Unlike the press, the mega donors will watch the festivities in style.

Following the dinner, the finance team has organized two massive rooms in the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center for election night watch parties, one for the victory council and another for the national finance committee members. The finance committee room will include the campaign’s high-end donors of the founding members and partners as well as the bundlers that hit their marks in the“Stars” and “Stripes” programs.

May they all end up crying in their champagne.

Even though Romney will lose badly in Massachusetts, voters are flocking to the polls for the Senate race between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown.

Lines crawled down hallways of schools, outside firehouses and community centers around Cambridge, Somerville and Braintree just outside Boston.

At the end of the most expensive senate race in Massachusetts history, voters cast their choice as one for the decidedly progressive politics of Warren or the sense of moderation they felt that Brown–who shocked the nation when he won Kennedy’s seat in 2009–had brought to the Senate.

A few more links:

Emptywheel has an interesting post about her day working in “voter protection” at an African American district in Michigan: On the Ground Turnout in MI Feels Like It Did in 2008

At another Michigan polling place: Southfield Twp. voter appears to die, then asks ‘Did I vote?’

TPM: Ohio Viewers Hit By Anti-Obama TV ‘Special’ On Election Eve

The Cleveland Leader reports that Sherrod Brown’s opponent, Josh Mandel got a surprise from some family members yesterday: Josh Mandel’s In-Laws Call Him Out on Anti-Gay Stance in Newspaper Ad

In Franklin County, Ohio Tea Party “observers” from “True the Vote” were “barred from Franklin County polling places.”

What are you hearing in your neck of the woods?


Fact Checking 101 and the Role of the Media

One thing about the media that has truly alarmed me is the way that it parrots lies asserted by politicians and public figures without any context. Today, the NYT asked for feed back about this.  The question is  weirdly put, but is still worth a response. Fact checking isn’t being a “truth vigilante”  imho.  It’s about providing context to the story and it’s about informing your reader.  Reporters should not just be parrots of political convenience.  They should report more than verbatim comments.

I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.

One example mentioned recently by a reader: As cited in an Adam Liptak article on the Supreme Court, a court spokeswoman said Clarence Thomas had “misunderstood” a financial disclosure form when he failed to report his wife’s earnings from the Heritage Foundation. The reader thought it not likely that Mr. Thomas “misunderstood,” and instead that he simply chose not to report the information.

Another example: on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney often says President Obama has made speeches “apologizing for America,” a phrase to which Paul Krugman objected in a December 23 column arguing that politics has advanced to the “post-truth” stage.

As an Op-Ed columnist, Mr. Krugman clearly has the freedom to call out what he thinks is a lie. My question for readers is: should news reporters do the same?

If so, then perhaps the next time Mr. Romney says the president has a habit of apologizing for his country, the reporter should insert a paragraph saying, more or less:

“The president has never used the word ‘apologize’ in a speech about U.S. policy or history. Any assertion that he has apologized for U.S. actions rests on a misleading interpretation of the president’s words.”

Yes.  I think that’s appropriate.  I think a lot of people read it in print and assume it wouldn’t be printed if it was a baldface lie.  What do you think?


Late Night: Interesting Juxtapositions

FIRST JUXTAPOSITION: COMPARE AND CONTRAST

First responders at Ground Zero in NYC

Huffington Post reported today that a little-known amendment in the new 9/11 health bill requires anyone who applies for benefits to be checked by the FBI to make sure they’re not terrorists.

The tens of thousands of cops, firefighters, construction workers and others who survived the worst terrorist assault in U.S. history and risked their lives in its wake will soon be informed that their names must be run through the FBI’s terrorism watch list, according to a letter obtained by HuffPost.

Any of the responders who are not compared to the database of suspected terrorists would be barred from getting treatment for the numerous, worsening ailments that the James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Law was passed to address.

It’s a requirement that was tacked onto the law during the bitter debates over it last year.

The letter from Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, informs medical providers and administrators that they should begin letting patients know before the new program kicks in this July.

Yes, the people who risked their lives and their health to help after 9/11 will be treated like suspected terrorists by their government.

"Liquidators" clean up after Chernobyl explosion

From Voice of America: Chernobyl’s Cleanup Crew Pay a Steep Price, 25 Years On

On April 26, 1986 a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl plant caught fire and exploded, sending radioactive debris high into the sky. Aleksey Breus was an engineer at Chernobyl at the time of the explosion. He worked four straight days inside the plant after the explosion. He wore protective equipment, but still received a large dose of radiation.

According to Breus, all “lucheviki” – the Russian word surviving cleanup workers use for describing one another – have been left with one thing in common: illness and a lack of money to pay for medications. He says virtually all of them live in poverty.

Another Chernobyl worker, Aleksander Kramer, says he was one of the first to go into the plant after the explosion. Kramer, who now lives in Germany, remains angry at how he was treated by authorities in what was then the Soviet Union. From the very beginning, he says, the authorities doubted those claiming they were part of the clean-up effort.

And the suspicions have lingered. In 1993, Kramer says former rescue workers had to prove to Ukranian authorities “that their documents were not a sham and that their health problems were real.”

Remember when we were told over and over again that the United States was morally superior to the Soviet Union? What’s the difference again?


SECOND JUXTAPOSITION: COMPARE AND CONTRAST

Time Magazine, 1970: President Richard Nixon tells the media that Charles Manson (then on trial in Los Angeles) is guilty.

Nixon had just come from a ten-day working holiday in San Clemente, where he found himself angered by the coverage given the Manson case in the local media. Many of the young, Nixon said in Denver, “tend to glorify and to make heroes out of those who engage in criminal activities.”

In Los Angeles, the effect of Nixon’s remarks on the Manson trial was instant and dramatic. While the Los Angeles Times came out the same afternoon with a four-inch headline reading MANSON GUILTY, NIXON DECLARES, Judge Charles Older went to great lengths to ensure that the jury, which has been sequestered since the trial began, would not learn of Nixon’s remarks. The windows of the jury bus were whited over with Bon Ami so that no juror could glimpse the headline on street newsstands. If the jury discovered Nixon’s verdict, the defense might have grounds for a mistrial.

Remember when Americans (and the media) cared when the President did something wrong?

WL Central, April 22, 2011: President Obama tells protestors that Bradley Manning “broke the law.”

Transcript and comments from WL Central:

“People can have philosophical ideas about certain things,” President Obama explains. “But, look, I can’t conduct diplomacy on open source.” He then goes on to add that he has to abide by certain classified information rules or law and if he had released material like Manning did he’d be breaking the law.

Now, here is the remark that deserves the most attention: “We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our decisions about how the laws operate.” He adds, “He broke the law.” Finally, before removing himself from the conversation, he says Manning “dumped” information and “it wasn’t the same thing” as what Daniel Ellsberg did because what Ellsberg leaked “wasn’t classified in the same way.”

First, President Obama says Bradley Manning did it. It is not entirely clear that he did it unless you solely rely on the chat logs published by Wired magazine. Manning is the alleged whistleblower in the case. And, displaying this attitude that he is guilty before he actually is put on trial and convicted may prejudice Manning’s case.

That’s if Mr. Obama ever allows Bradley Manning’s case to go to trial. When is that going to happen? And when will today’s media be as outraged by Obama’s irresponsible remarks as the media of 1970 was at Nixon’s?


Consuming the News

I was one of those nerdy little kids in class that loved it when show and tell switched to bringing a current events article and presenting it to the class.  In my grade school, the big day was Wednesday.  I got my first subscription to The Paris Match in 7th grade and my Honors World History teacher turned me on to The Guardian in 11 th grade. My grandmother made sure we all had subscriptions to The Christian Science Monitor until the day she died. I think a lot of it had to do with being trapped in Omaha where nothing EVER happened.  I was fortunate that my family put a high priority on travel because the newspaper subscriptions were  a portion of what kept me away from becoming the archetypal Omahan.  Geographical and cultural isolation can lead to some strange people. (Cue The Deliverance banjos.)

I’ve been returning to the PEJ site now that I know it exists.  That’s where I’ve pulled this book review and an interesting set of suggestions on how to “interpret the news”.  I admit to having a preference for C-SPAN these days as I’m pretty tired of the idiots that filter and read the MSM items now.   I probably will order up the book ‘Blur, How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload’ by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. The review says its goal is to provide a “pragmatic, serious-minded guide to navigating the twenty-first century media terrain”.  That’s a serious agenda given the number of commercial news outlets we have these days.

Here’s another bit from that:

Blur provides a road map, or more specifically, reveals the craft that has been used in newsrooms by the very best journalists for getting at the truth. In an age when the line between citizen and journalist is becoming increasingly unclear, Blur is a crucial guide for those who want to know what’s true.

What I want to offer up is the list they provide.  It’s called “Ways of  Skeptical Knowing”.   My mother handed me her middle name–Jean–for my birth certificate.  She was always a true to form Show-Me-State skeptic.  That’s why I always consider “Skeptic” to be my authentic middle name.

Ways of Skeptical Knowing—Six Essential Tools for Interpreting the News

1. What kind of content am I encountering?

2. Is the information complete? If not, what’s missing?

3. Who or what are the sources and why should I believe them?

4. What evidence is presented and how was it tested or vetted?

5. What might be an alternative explanation or understanding?

6. Am I learning what I need?

So, armed with this, I got slightly curious about the guys that wrote the book and found an interview with Bill  Kovach at a site called Stinky Journalism.  I gave up writing for the school paper back in high school so I actually didn’t know he’d authored your basic Journalism 101 textbook, The Elements of Journalism. The site explains how Blur “focuses on the importance of verification, fact-checking and evidence in media — whether it be traditional newspaper media or an online blog”.   Evidence!!! Verification!!! Fact-Checking!!!  NOW, we’re talking stuff that sends tingles up and down my researcher leg!!

I found this quote to be very interesting.

“The separation between journalists and citizens is slowly disappearing.  I mean, anyone, anywhere can be a reporter of the next big news incident.  Anyone can be a reporter now, and in terms of the information citizens need because they have access to the online presentation of information from hundreds of sources, they are becoming their own editors.  So it’s imperative that we both help journalists understand this change…and citizens understand how they can determine what they can believe in.”

What drove my Grandmother to send me The Christian Science Monitor, my French teacher to share the Paris Match, and my history teacher to encourage me to read The U.K. Guardian is what drives me to alternative sources on the World Wide Web today. I  was fortunate enough to  develop a healthy skepticism about relying on any one source of information from these precious folks who cared about my development as a person.  I am thankful for my earliest experiences of looking out side of the Omaha World Herald for information.  I do have to say that I was fortunate to be educated in an excellent public  school system that was well known for its outstanding English programs and teachers.  This is the same high school and school system  that produced Kurt Andersen. (One of my friends had a wicked crush on him and used to use my access to get into the Journalism classroom/lab to get near him when we were sophomores.)

I guess I’m bringing this up for several reasons. First, I think part of being in a democracy means that you become an informed citizen.  That implies you need information and it should be factual information.  Second, I think that the powers that be have found so many profound means of disseminating propaganda through main stream sources–think WMDs and the Iraq War– that we have to actively search out alternatives to find out not just the information; but the truth.

Lastly, nothing is making this an imperative as the Wikileaks episode.  What first made some things clear to me in Junior High School was The Pentagon Papers.  For some childish reason, I thought my exceptionally wonderful and moral country would never lie to me or hide things from me other than battlefield plans.  I believe that my reaction to both was formed early by the intents of my grandmother and my teachers to get  me to look outside my narrow life to the world at large.   Our government, many people in our communities and plenty of those around us–including the press–are not always acting from truth or the best interest of all of us.  It’s important to discover intent, funding, and connections.  We must all become investigative journalists.  However, it heartens me to see that there are still journalists that remember they are an important element of democracy.  It saddens me when journalism turns into celebrity gossip rags and spin vehicles.

Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin were the bloggers of their day.  Samuel Adams made certain that the Massachusetts Circular Letter was seen by more than just the local politicians.  His ‘leaks’ outraged the British monarchy.  It also lead to our nascent democracy.  Much of what is going on right now is part of our heritage as Americans.  However, so many people have have access to platforms now that it’s important to do the basic research for ourselves.  We must be vigilant and tenacious truth seekers.