Peek-a-boo! Now you see it, now you don’t coverage of Boehner’s Sandy aid betrayal

Dereliction of duty

Getting one’s head around the flurry of headlines on this issue is a good trick.

First, I spotted an article earlier in the day at CNN about Rep. Peter King (R-NY) blasting Boehner and the House for failing to act on the $60 billion bill for Hurricane Sandy aid.  CNN subsequently updated that article, but by update I mean they replaced the old article in its entirety with new content.  The original points are present, tamed and muted.

Later in the day I spotted an article from the NY Daily news: Sources: hurricane aid tabled out of spite.  According to that article, Boehner yanked the bill, for which House Majority Leader Eric Cantor negotiated, in retaliation for Cantor’s refusal to vote for the “fiscal cliff” bill.  Good luck finding the text of that article.  At least for that one I can find some evidence that I didn’t just make it up at PR Newswire.

CNN subsequently replaced their original article with this one about the reversal in the face of outrage.  With a little digging, I was able to locate this footage at CNN.com.  Just in case they bury that deeper, here’s YouTube to the rescue, with Rep. Peter King on the House floor, by way of his own YouTube channel.

What the House leadership did was “absolutely inexcusable, absolutely indefensible.”

NY Daily News, on the other hand, completely shifted from the spite article to an article about the reversal.  Searches of news via Google as well as of my subscription list via Google Reader (fairly extensive, if I do say so myself) for “Sandy tabled spite” (without quotes for search) only yield reference to NY Daily News with that context, and NY Daily News no longer has that article available as originally presented.  The new content brings up the allegation of spiteful motive for tabling the bill, but cites Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, as calling the allegation absurd.  Two still unnamed sources, one Democrat, one Republican, maintain the allegation behind the veil of anonymity.  Even so, the heart of the original story is now thoroughly buried, nearly relegated to footnote.

Now, I’m quite sure the vast majority of us are far more concerned with the positive development that is now taking the lead in the coverage.  It is critically important that an aid package is passed for Sandy relief.

By the same token, I’m alarmed and dismayed at the manner in which both CNN and NY Daily News have buried their original coverage, as though, somehow, the sequence of events, as originally covered, are somehow no longer newsworthy.  The tabling of the bill for whatever the reason, the allegations of spite, the outcry from Rep. Peter King, and Boehner’s reversal, however partial, as a sequence of events, are illustrative of our current political crisis.  To bury any aspect of that sequence is, in my opinion, a dereliction of journalistic duty.

There I go again, assuming that our media feel some duty to anything other than shareholder value.  Silly me.

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Image credit: Photograph by Ari Helminen, licensed under Creative Commons.

CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernment

Who’s “winning” the fiscal battle? (Hint: not the people)

Well, it happened. Congress compromised and our national nightmare is…postponed for another month, when this all happens again.

There are plenty of articles breaking down the gains and losses, like this great one from Mike Lux and this one from Bob Borosage. There’s plenty that has been accomplished, and plenty more that Congress still has to deal with in a month. And there have been plenty of reactions from both sides of the aisle on the deal. The one that caught my eye was from New Jersey Governor and fleece-pullover model Chris Christie, because he really hit the nail on the head.

America deserves better than just another example of a government that has forgotten who they are there to serve, and why.

Governor Christie, you took the words right out of my mouth.

There’s been more reporting on which side is winning the fiscal debate than there has been on how this will all affect working and middle class families. Every story is about Obama’s bargaining chips stacking up against Boehner’s, how Cantor is pushing on one side and Biden is pushing on another. There have been Plan As and Plan Bs, and talks and sequesters, and winners and losers.

And different senators and congresspeople have come forward to talk about how their side is winning, like this gem from Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole:

Again, I would prefer not to raise taxes on anybody. But we protected almost every American. We did it at a higher income level than the President campaigned on. And again, frankly, we’ve denied him I think his most important piece of leverage in any negotiation going forward. So I particularly like that part.

No mention of his constituents – just that he was really excited they denied President Obama leverage in arguing about these matters further.

Oh, Republican leadership. You haven’t made huge strides to include people, and this is a step further in that direction. In your quest to keep taxes down for top earners, you were holding your breath and being petulant children about this deal – even though you received far more concessions than you should have. I appreciate that everyone tried to make this deal happen, but it shouldn’t have. It’s the “fetch” of policy compromises. And instead of really sitting down and coming up with a deal that would benefit the most Americans and bring our economy back, you kicked the can to February, where we have to watch this nonsense play out again. So thanks a lot.

CATEGORY: Guns

Is Israel proof that an armed society can work?

The burden is on those of us who advocate gun control to prove that deterrence doesn’t work with firearms.

At the Tablet on December 17, Lial Lebovitz attempts to explain (in a piece titled) Why Israel Has No Newtowns. First, he notes that, in the United States

… astute thinkers tried to look past their indignation and heartbreak in search of sensible policy alternatives. Not surprisingly, they often ended up looking to Israel. … A popular statistic spread like wildfire on Facebook and Twitter: Only 58 Israelis were killed by guns last year, compared with 10,728 Americans. … Assault rifles are banned, registration is necessary, and a whole system of checks and requirements is in place to keep weapons out of the wrong hands.

But, Lebovitz points out that, while assault rifles are banned in Israel, it’s surprisingly easy to obtain a handgun. (In particular, note what I’ve italicized.)

Security guards, obviously, are permitted their guns, but so are men and women who work in the diamond industry, or who handle valuable goods or large sums of cash. Anyone who lives or works in an “entitled residency”—code for a high-risk area, meaning the settlements—is permitted a weapon, no questions asked. Retired army officers can easily obtain a license, as can anyone who has inherited a gun from a friend or a relative. [Bad pun alert. — RW]  The upshot: Anyone can come up with an excuse to legally own a gun.

“How, then,” Lebovitz asks, “to explain Israel’s relatively low rate of gun-related deaths?” His argument now becomes familiar. He quotes Lior Nedivi, who he describes as an “an independent firearms examiner in Jerusalem and the co-author of a comprehensive report comparing Israel’s gun laws and culture to that of the United States.”

“An armed society,” Nedivi wrote, quoting the science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, “is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”

Lebovitz adds:

When everyone has a gun, guns are no longer seen as talismans by weak, frightened, and unstable men seeking a sense of self-validation, but as killing machines that are to be handled with the utmost caution and care.

He fails to explain, though, exactly why said “weak, frightened, and unstable men” no longer turn to guns for “a sense of self-validation.” What follows is equally familiar.

… ever more stringent gun control is bad policy: As is the case with drugs, as was the case with liquor during Prohibition, the strict banning of anything does little but push the market underground into the hands of criminals and thugs. Rather than spend fortunes and ruin lives in a futile attempt to eradicate every last trigger in America, we would do well to follow Israel’s example and educate gun owners about their rights and responsibilities, so as to foster a culture of sensible and mindful gun ownership.

It’s the old deterrence argument. When applied to nuclear weapons, those of us in the disarmament community know that deterrence is, at best, a short-term solution. In fact, it’s the epitome of a fragile peace. But, I’m forced to admit that the implications for an armed civil society are not nearly as dire, since one mistake won’t result in the destruction of large portions of the world, as with nuclear weapons. Neither is civil war in the United States, Israel, or Switzerland (another heavily armed society) likely. Thus, it’s left to those of us in favor of steeper gun regulation to present arguments and data refuting the belief that gun possession is an effective form of deterrence.

In the interim, though, it’s difficult to disagree with what Jill Lepore wrote in her outstanding April 2012 New Yorker article on the history of gun control in the United States.

When carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense is understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of citizenship, to be vaunted, there is little civilian life left.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.