I'll sound like an old newspaper guy saying this, but sometimes it pays to actually do a little research and reporting before throwing something on to the Web — especially when it comes to anything about politics.
Case in point:
A few minutes ago the liberal Huffington Post was leading with a headline that accused Supreme Court justices of being befuddled by technology and citing a "quote" from Chief Justice John Roberts, who supposedly asked during an oral argument on Monday "what's the difference between e-mail and a pager?" (The case involved whether personal messages sent by police officers on their pagers were private or not.)
Huffington got its material from this post at DC Dicta.
The only problem: That's not exactly what Roberts said and, in the context of the discussion, not necessarily what he meant.
The transcript of the oral argument is here. Let's zero in on the relevant section, which begins with a question from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "Mr. Dammeier" is attorney Dieter Dammeier:
JUSTICE GINSBURG: "But my question is, an employee reads this policy and says, oh, my e-mails are going to be subject to being monitored —"
JUSTICE GINSBURG: "Wouldn't that employee expect that the policy would carry over to pagers? When you think of what's the reason why they want to look at the e-mails, wouldn't the same reason apply?"
MR. DAMMEIER: "Well, I'm sure the same reasons could apply but the — the city is the one who writes the rules here. The — if they want to make it clear on what it applies to, it certainly should be on them to write them clear so the employee understands it.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: "Maybe — maybe everybody else knows this, but what is the difference between the pager and the e-mail?"
MR. DAMMEIER: "Sure. The e-mail, looking at the computer policy, that goes through the city's computer, it goes through the city's server, it goes through all the equipment that — that has — that the city can easily monitor. Here the pagers are a separate device that goes home with you, that travels with you, that you can use on duty, off-duty."
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: "You can do that with e-mails."
MR. DAMMEIER: "Certainly, certainly. But — but in this — in this instance with the pagers it went through no city equipment, it went through Arch Wireless and then was transmitted to another — another person."
Question: From the way Roberts asks about "the difference between the pager and the e-mail", couldn't you make the case that he was getting at the differences in the way the law treats the two ways of communicating, as well as the technical differences in the way their messages are routed? Not that he didn't know that pagers and e-mails aren't the same thing?