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October 4th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels

Don’t Panic*, Continue Doing What We’ve Been Doing

Two key data points and a message for worried DEMs and other Obama supporters:

1) In today’s Gallup poll President Obama’s job approval rating is 54%, the highest he’s ever had in that poll.

2) Also, in CBS’s snap poll overnight, while it did show improved numbers for Romney on the question of who you think can most help the country (from 30% to 63%), for the president the same figure went from 53% to 69%, still a 6-point edge.

The president’s got most of the country with him. I believe he can keep the people with him. Even though he didn’t do as well in the debate as we hoped he would–I think he was befuddled, unfortunately caught off guard by Romney’s ambidextrous shape-shifting and unabashed dissembling, as TPM’s Brian Beutler’s written–but I would add the president has no small reservoir of goodwill, the truth, and a skillful campaign, all on his side. My message is don’t panic, keep doing what we’ve been doing, especially all the truthtelling and fact-checking that the campaign has done all day–with the blogger community, including this one, pushing out that information–and things will be okay. And we get another crack at Romney/Ryan next week. It’s still a race, but the president remains in a strong position.

*Thanks to the late Douglas Adams for his book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and its valuable nostrum, “Don’t Panic.”

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October 4th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Media, Blogging, Internet

The Truth about Pre-Existing Conditions

The Obama campaign assembled this brief video as a fact-check on Romney’s false claim in the Denver debate that under him people with pre-existing conditions would still have coverage. Fact is, only people who’ve had uninterrupted coverage would be able to evade problems over this. Today, Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom told TPM reporter Evan McMorris-Santoro, “With respect to pre-existing conditions, what Governor Romney has said is for those with continuous coverage, he would continue to make sure that they receive their coverage” but that others, lacking “continuous coverage,” would, according to McMorris-Santoro’s summary of Fehrnstrom’s comments, ‘need their states to implement their own laws’ to make sure that residents with pre-existing conditions would not lose coverage. Think about it: ill people, amid a healthcare ecosystem where many seniors would also be paying more for what medicare used to provide free, would now be at the mercy of their often underfunded home states to guarantee their medical care. It would be a disaster and more people would endure untreated illnesses and lingering conditions.


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September 28th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Media, Blogging, Internet

Repub Commentator: Todd Akin’s Situation=David Koresh’s Situation

Unreal–a Repub consultant, Kellyanne Conway, thinks she’s doing a Todd Akin a favor by likening his resolve to stay in the Missouri senate race to the determination shown by David Koresh–the late apoca-death wish zealot–who refused to exit the Branch Davidian compound. Koresh’s megalomanical obstinacy led to the death of his whole flock in 1993. This is what Conway said:

“The first day or two [after Akin’s widely condemned legitimate rape comment] where it was like the Waco with the David Koresh situation where they’re trying to smoke him out with the SWAT teams and the helicopters and the bad Nancy Sinatra records. Then here comes day two and you realize the guy’s not coming out of the bunker. Listen, Todd has shown his principle to the voters.”

Yep, Kellyanne, that should do Todd a world of good! Via TPM’s Igor Bobic, here’s the story, with a link to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch source. This is on top of Akin’s own recent comments, complaining about Claire McCaskill’s demeanor in their debate this week, as “unladylike” and like a “wild cat.” This man is so weird!

Note: After an Akin spox took issue with Conway’s comment, she contacted the St. Louis reporter, Kevin McDermott, supposedly to clarify herself, but her revision doesn’t change anything:

UPDATE 1:48 p.m.: Akin spokesman Ryan Hite has responded with a one-line written statement: “It was a stupid comment to make.”

UPDATE 2 p.m.: Conway just called to clarify that she was not comparing Akin to Koresh, but rather was comparing the GOP leaders who were trying to dislodge Akin to the federal agents in the standoff with Koresh. “It was about how overbearing the Republicans had been. It was about the tactics being used to force (Akin) out,” Conway said. “I wasn’t comparing the (two) men. . . . I don’t consider David Koresh a man of fortitude. Todd Akin is a man of fortitude.”

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August 11th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels

5 Key Analyses of Mitt’s VP Pick

I’m sure there will be lots more important columns to read as the process of vetting Paul Ryan moves forward, but this is where I recommend we begin. Dear readers, if you have faves of your own, please let me know what they are.

1) Greg Sargent’s take at the Plum Line on Mitt’s choice to double down on economic radicalism; 

2) Benjy Sarlin’s TPM piece, Democrats Can’t Wait to Run Against Paul Ryan’s Budget;

3) Also at TPM, Evan McMorris-Santoro reports that (incredibly, but typically and absurdly) Mitt’s already trying to distance himself from the Ryan Budget;

4) At the WonkBlog, Ezra Klein writes about what he believes the Ryan pick means, with a helpful 10 point list;

5) At NY magazine, Jonathan Chait explains It’s Paul Ryan’s Party: With Romney VP Pick, Movement Conservatives Openly Control GOP At Last.

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August 9th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels

What Mitt Thinks is Funny

Courtesy of TPM, from an interview by Josh Tyrangiel with Romney in Bloomberg Businessweek, he’s asked about the emblematic photo of him with his Bain colleagues:

“When you look at it now, does that photo of you and your Bain colleagues posing with money in your pinstripe suits make you laugh or make you cringe?”
“Oh, that was a moment of humor as we had just done what we thought was impossible. We had raised $37 million from other people and institutions who entrusted us with their funds, and we thought it was a miracle that our group had been able to be so successful in fundraising. And ultimately we were able to yield for them a very attractive return by such investments as Staples (SPLS), which was in our very first fund.”

Hilarious, right?

Also worth noting from the full interview, is this softball question, which elicits only an utterly unresponsive response:

“On the subject of leadership, why does Mormonism produce such a disproportionate number of political and business leaders?”
“I don’t know that I have an answer for you on that. I believe that people of faith by and large have a great interest in the institution of family and that a family is a great place to learn leadership skills. I’m sure I benefited by having a Mom and Dad, both of whom were actively involved in the community and in various enterprises. And by watching them interact with other people, I learned the kinds of lessons which serve me well. I presume that’s true for people of faith, if their faith, like mine, draws you to your family.”

Clearly, Mitt doesn’t want to say anything substantive about being Mormon or his Mormonism. Reading Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, which I am currently making my way through, I can see why. Like many religions, this is a movement with a blood-soaked history, and a bizarre theology–including so-called posthumous baptisms– that adherents to the faith nowadays would just as soon not discuss in public.

Finally, Mitt also slips the knot when Tyrangiel asks him about his tax returns:

“Let’s frame the issue around your tax returns in a slightly different way. If you’re an investor and you’re looking at a company, and that company says that its great strength is wise management and fiscal know-how, wouldn’t you want to see the previous, say, five years’ worth of its financials?”
“I’m not a business. We have a process in this country, which was established by law, which provides for the transparency which candidates are required to meet. I have met with that requirement with full financial disclosure of all my investments, but in addition have provided and will provide a full two years of tax returns. This happens to be exactly the same as with John McCain when he ran for office four years ago. And the Obama team had no difficulty with that circumstance. The difference between then and now is that President Obama has a failed economic record and is trying to find any issue he can to deflect from the failure of his record. Thanks, guys. Goodbye.”

The thing here that caught my eye is the “I’m not a business” statement. As Aaron Blake put it this afternoon in The Fix,”The man who once said ‘corporations are people’ apparently doesn’t believe the inverse.” Truth, or what Romney says, is all about what’s convenient at the moment, not what he really believes. This photo of Mitt lost in a cornfield accompanied Blake’s Washington Post story. Now that’s funny!

Mitt Romney talks with Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, right, and farm owner Lemar Koethe in a cornfield in Des Moines. Charles Dharapak / AP

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May 2nd, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Media, Blogging, Internet; Philip Turner's Books & Writing; Publishing & Bookselling; Urban Life & New York City

Correcting Politico and Drudge on “Dreams From My Father”

Happy to be quoted at length in this TPM story by Brian Beutler about the erroneous reporting by Politico, which mistakenly reported today that Barack Obama had failed in the earliest editions of Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance to acknowledge that he created composite characters in the book. I know otherwise because I published the first paperback edition of the book, in 1996, as I have written on this blog. I contacted TPM this afternoon to correct the record on the needlessly murky situation created by the false report that originated with today’s Politico story by Dylan Byers, then amplified on the Drudge Report. You may click on the TPM story or read it below.

A former executive of the original paperback publisher of President Obama’s 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father weighed in on Wednesday’s manufactured controversy over whether Obama represented fiction as fact by using composite characters in his autobiography.
“It is unfathomable to me how Dylan Byers of Politico could have overlooked the very plain disclaimer that the book carried from the very start,” Philip Turner said to TPM via email. Turner was an editorial executive with Kodansha America, which published the paperback version of Dreams from My Father in 1996.
“The reference to ‘compression’ appears on page ix of the Introduction of the book I published then, which I have on my desk as I write this message,” Turner says. “What’s more, the 1996 paperback was an exact reprint with no changes of the hardcover edition that had been published a year earlier….” (emphasis added).
The fact that Obama used composite characters in his memoir — and that he disclosed this in the book’s introduction — was widely known before it was mentioned again in an excerpt from David Maraniss’ upcoming Obama biography, published Wednesday in Vanity Fair. It even featured prominently in a 2007 story by Politico’s top political reporter Mike Allen.
But on Wednesday, Politico published a story that made no reference to the disclaimer, suggesting Obama had misled his own readers. That piece has since been appended with a correction, but still reads as an indictment of the President.

For the record, this is the entire comment I sent to TPM which they quote from above:

As the first paperback publisher of “Dreams From My Father,” in 1996, I feel obliged to confirm everything in the above TPM story by Benjy Sarlin. The reference to “compression” appears on page ix of the Introduction of the book I published then, which I have on my desk as I write this message. What’s more, the 1996 paperback was an exact reprint with no changes of the hardcover edition that had been published a year earlier. For the record, I was editor-in-chief of Kodansha America then, and we acquired the rights to publish the book from Random House, whose imprint Times Books had done the hardcover. In the early 2000s Kodansha’s license to publish the paperback expired and rights reverted to Random House. Their Three Rivers Press imprint republished it in paperback in 2004 with a new preface by the author, and yet his original Introduction, with the disclaimer about “compression” remained in the book then.

It is unfathomable to me how Dylan Byers of Politico could have overlooked the very plain disclaimer that the book carried from the very start. I wonder if commenter @wpilderback isn’t right in his explanation below: “This was an opportunity for them to remind people that Obama slept with a white woman, and nothing more.” Even if Byers just made a stupid and avoidable mistake, I’m sure Drudge was only too happy to perpetuate the error.       

For readers interested in further information on the paperback edition I published, I refer you to a personal essay I published last month on my blog The Great Gray Bridge, via this link:  http://philipsturner.com/2012/03/11/dreams-father-circa-1995-96/


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January 3rd, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Media, Blogging, Internet; Technology, Science & Computers

Media Organizations Pranking Themselves

Carl Franzen of TPM’s IdeaLab reports that for several hours today News Corp. was erroneously corroborating that the Twitter handle of @wendi_deng was in Twitter-speak a ‘verified account’. Turns out they were wrong, as was Twitter. It was really a bogus handle for a fake account. Eventually, News Corp. corrected the mistake about the wife of their corporate chairman, but that’s a pretty rad mistake for a company to make about itself. One marvels how Twitter, and especially News Corp, could have gotten something so simple so wrong.

Reading Franzen’s story, I thought of the incident that made a quiet holiday-week Wednesday hop, when the NY Times sent an erroneous email to 8 million of their own customers, including me. Like News Corp., the Times got their first response wrong, though in a way opposite to the corporate home of FOX News and the NY Post. Where News Corp. claimed a bogus account was actually real, the Times told other media and the world that a real message from the NY Times was actually spam. A few hours later the Times put out word that the message really had come from them. My post then read:

On Twitter [the Times] reported, “If you received an e-mail today about canceling your New York Times subscription, ignore it. It’s not from us.” A few hours later they had to admit this too was wrong; the message hadn’t been spam, it really had come from the newspaper. Reflexively blaming spam for the transmission of an email to 8,000,000 readers, when it was supposed to go to 300, is bad form.

Nowadays media companies are such complex organizations they’ve become quite capable of pranking themselves. What’s more, in each of these cases the companies made corporate communications mistakes, tarnishing their brand, over things they should have easily been able to avert. I detest seeing errors in books I’ve published–I get sick to my stomach the first time I see an error in a book I’ve edited–so my outlook here is informed by that. And yet, I know that I am fallible, along with other people, and that we’re all probably more mistake-prone in our screen-dominated age than in eras past. Mistakes will continue to occur in communications. But what’s inexcusable is to make errors on top of errors. Both companies here failed as organizations to correctly assess the matter at hand. I guess you might say they’re simply too complex to be simple when they need to be.

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December 29th, 2011

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Media, Blogging, Internet; Publishing & Bookselling; Technology, Science & Computers

Stay With GoDaddy for Influence, or Ditch ‘Em?

TPM’s IdeaLab has a very thorough analysis covering the controversy buffeting web hoster GoDaddy in the past week. Until today they’d been supporting the controversial SOPA bill that failed as Congress ended its recent session. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) has been criticized by netizens who fear it will just allow large content owners to dominate the streams of digital distribution in the emerging entertainment and intellectual property environment. GoDaddy has been threatened with mass defections by many subscribers willing to move their hosting to other companies. Carl Franzen’s story flags a change in the company’s position:

“’We have observed a spike in domain name transfers, which are running above normal rates and which we attribute to Go Daddy’s prior support for SOPA, which was reversed,’” said Go Daddy CEO Warren Adelman. ‘Go Daddy opposes SOPA because the legislation has not fulfilled its basic requirement to build a consensus among stake-holders in the technology and Internet communities. Our company regrets the loss of any of our customers, who remain our highest priority, and we hope to repair those relationships and win back their business over time.’”

But Franzen’s reporting suggests the company was wholeheartedly behind SOPA until pressure began to build over the past 7 days.

Although I haven’t read the entire proposed law, I tend to agree with the many activists charging that SOPA’s passage would be a serious loss in the struggling effort to salvage ‘net neutrality,’ and a capitulation to anti-democratic interests. And this is personal for me: my wife and I happen to each have a site hosted by GoDaddy: this one, www.kylegallup.com,and this very blog. We’re  discussing changing hosts, but now I’m curious to see how this all may play out. Would it make any sense to stay with GoDaddy but let CEO Adelman know in writing that it’s only because they’ve repudiated SOPA, and that we’ll stay with them only if they hold fast to that stance? Though SOPA seems to have died in the last congress, the corporate lobbying that brought it up will surely bring some version of it back. Will GoDaddy recant their renunciation of support for a SOPA-like law? Is its latest statement only made in hopes of forestalling mass defections? What will their position be when the next bill comes up?

Interestingly, the CEO of GoDaddy, Warrren Adelman, only stepped into his job a few days before this controversy began. I don’t want to give him a break he may not deserve, but given the circumstances it’s possible he’s been trying to get the PR response to this situation aligned with his own best judgement, instead of the previous regime’s.

I’m going to keep my eye on Carl Franzen’s reporting on this in the new year. Meantime, if any friends have a favorite host, please let me know. We may need it.