Fact-checking is dead

September 29, 2015

Carly Fiorina likes to talk about she rose from secretary to CEO. For example:

I started as a secretary, typing and filing for a nine-person real estate firm. It’s only in this country that you can go from being a secretary to the chief executive of the largest tech company in the world, and run for president of the United States. It’s only possible here.

This is, in fact, true. She did start as a secretary. She did become a CEO. Full story here (sorry, video only).

But somehow, the Washington Post gives Fiorina “three pinnochios” for the claim. How does a completely factual statement become a big lie?

You’d have to read their article to get the full tortured reasoning. But the gist of it is that the secretary-to-CEO story is part of a “Horatio Alger-like” rags-to-riches narrative that they judge to not be a good description of her career. She left her secretary job to go back to school, earn advanced degrees, and work other jobs, before eventually returning as CEO of HP, and that — says the Washington Post fact-checker — isn’t a rags-to-riches story.

You can make that case, I suppose, but it isn’t fact-checking. The facts she stated were true and not even misleading.

(Via Ace.)

Movies that don’t exist

September 29, 2015

The most memorable scene in The Empire Strikes Back, I’m sure everyone would agree, is when Darth Vader reveals himself as Luke’s father:

No, Luke, I am your father!

As a kid in a movie theater, seeing Empire for the first time, this blew my mind. I remember it so vividly.

Alas, that movie doesn’t exist.

What, you ask? The Empire Strikes Back doesn’t exist? What are you talking about?!

It’s true. No such movie exists with that scene.


As you can see, the line is slightly different than the one that is burned into my memory:

No. I am your father.

When I remember the line, I am off by one word. He never says “Luke”. The movie I remember doesn’t exist.

In a hyper-technical sense, what I just wrote is true. But if you were explaining the error, would you say (1) the movie doesn’t exist, or would you say (2) I made an insignificant error in remembering a key scene? Of course you would say (2). To say (1) is stupid, unhelpful, and misleading.

Unless, for some reason, I wanted to convince people that The Empire Strikes Back doesn’t exist at all. (Actually, for the Star Wars prequels, I do, but that’s another story.)

This is the bizarre place we find ourselves in the attack on Carly Fiorina, who said in the Republican debate:

Anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’ This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.

First, let it be conceded that Fiorina made an insignificant error in remembering the scene. The sentence “We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain” is not word-for-word, it’s a paraphrase; and the paraphrase obscures the fact that the fully formed fetus to which the interviewee referred is not the same one that appears on screen. As it turns out, the fully formed fetus on screen — its heart beating and its legs kicking — is B-roll footage, used to illustrate the interview. The whistleblower didn’t have a hidden camera to capture the scene she described.

So we don’t know what happened to the fetus on screen. Well, we do know that it was left to die, cold and alone, in a stainless steel specimen vessel. But we don’t know whether someone cut into his skull to harvest his brain.

Nevertheless, the video certainly exists. (Warning: horrifying footage.)

When discussing this, you can say (1) Fiorina’s video doesn’t exist, or you can say (2) the video is slightly different that Fiorina’s off-the-cuff description.

Why would you say (1), which is stupid, unhelpful, and misleading?

There’s only one reason. You want to insinuate that the video doesn’t exist at all (even though you know it does). You want the people who read your column to think that video appeared out of Carly Fiorina’s fevered imagination.

For their target audience at least, it seems to be working. Other leftists echoing the attacks — people who haven’t seen the videos, and therefore don’t know how narrow and hyper-technical the attacks are — misunderstand them, and thus say things that are simply false. They say that the videos are “imaginary”, which they certainly or not. Or, this outright falsehood (from Amanda Marcotte):

There is nothing in the videos made by CMP, either in the edited or full-length versions, that has anything approaching images of legs kicking or hearts beating.

(ASIDE: I’m assuming that Marcotte is a dupe here, but perhaps she is simply lying.)

So that is the plan: Announce that the video does not exist [whispering] precisely as described [/whispering]. Let everyone draw the wrong conclusion and repeat that the video doesn’t exist at all.

In support of this, they also Dowdify Fiorina’s defenders. For example, Jonah Goldberg wrote:

The exact scene, exactly as Fiorina describes it, is not on the videos. But anybody who has watched the videos would find Fiorina’s off-the-cuff account pretty accurate.

(Emphasis mine.) But when Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick quoted Goldberg, she deleted the part in bold. (ASIDE: She also added many outright falsehoods, such as describing live babies as stillborn, but that’s not my point here.)

I’ll be interested to see if the new standard for off-the-cuff descriptions is consistently adhered to. (Just kidding! We know it won’t be.) Misremember a detail from Uncle Tom’s Cabin? That means the book doesn’t exist, and no one needs to grapple with its content.

It’s just too bad about Casablanca, Dirty Harry, Silence of the Lambs, Field of Dreams, The Graduate, The Wizard of Oz, All About Eve, and Snow White and Seven Dwarves. I guess I imagined some really good movies.

(Previous post.)

POSTSCRIPT: More along these lines from Ross Douthat. (Via Instapundit.)


September 28, 2015

Barack Obama clearly has no idea what motivates Iran’s rulers:

Chanting death to America does not create jobs.

Judging not only by this clip, but from the entire speech, it seems never to have occurred to Obama that economic prosperity might not be their aim.

This always seems to be our problem with this bunch: We assume that they think like we do. This was the central folly of the Oslo agreement. It seemed to us like a really fair and reasonable agreement. I confess that I too was taken in. But it assumed that the Palestinians wanted peace. In the years since 1993, we’ve learned that they (and all the Islamist fundamentalists) want peace only after the complete annihilation and/or subjugation of their enemies.

What was an excusable error in 1993 is sheer idiocy now.

Your lips are moving again

September 25, 2015

Is anyone surprised that Hillary Clinton, despite all her claims to the contrary, still has not handed over all her work-related emails?

The Obama administration has discovered a chain of emails that Hillary Rodham Clinton failed to turn over when she provided what she said was the full record of work-related correspondence as secretary of state, officials said Friday, adding to the growing questions related to the Democratic presidential front-runner’s unusual usage of a private email account and server while in government.

The messages were exchanged with retired Gen. David Petraeus when he headed the military’s U.S. Central Command, responsible for running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They began before Clinton entered office and continued into her first days at the State Department.


September 25, 2015

Barack Obama has released the 20th 9/11 hijacker from Guantanamo Bay. I have no words for this.

(Via Instapundit.)

Your lips are moving again

September 25, 2015

Believe literally nothing this woman ever says:

Documents released by a conservative watchdog group Thursday show Hillary Clinton personally signed official forms in 2012 that allowed her top aide [Huma Abedin] to attain status as a special government employee (SGE), despite the Democratic presidential frontrunner’s denial of any involvement in the situation during a recent interview. . .

The document, obtained by Judicial Watch as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, shows that Clinton signed off on a title change for Abedin on March 23, 2012. . .

In an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that aired Sept. 4, Clinton was asked about the propriety of Abedin collecting a salary from the State Department and Teneo, which was founded by a longtime aide to former President Bill Clinton.

“Well, you know, I was not directly involved in that,” Clinton answered.


September 21, 2015

If the idea of the federal government ranking colleges and universities made you a little queasy, you were right:

The new “College Scorecard” released by the Department of Education and the White House that ranks universities excluded several institutions widely considered among the best conservative colleges in the nation: Hillsdale and Grove City colleges.

Of course progressive politics plays a role in their rankings. Could you imagine anything else?

(Via Instapundit.)

Things liberals believe

September 21, 2015
  1. Mormons are too weird to be president. (2, 3, 4, 5)
  2. There are too many Catholics on the Supreme Court. (2, 3, 4, 5)
  3. Jewish senators are not loyal to the United States. (2, 3, 4, 5)
  4. It is never acceptable to consider religion when evaluating candidates for public office. (23, 4)

UPDATE: “What they really mean is that no values should ever come before the liberal agenda.”

Of course they did

September 18, 2015

The IRS has been using the donor lists that they (illegally) demanded from conservative organizations applying for non-profit status, to identify people to audit.

This is what Obama describes as “not even a smidgen of corruption.” Because if it serves the Democrats, it’s not corruption.

Smart diplomacy

September 18, 2015

It seems that the Russians offered to dump Bashar Assad in 2012. The Obama administration refused the offer because they were sure the Assad would fall soon without Russian assistance.


Donald Trump is bad at business

September 18, 2015

I’ve heard people describe Donald Trump as a self-made man. He is, in fact, the opposite of a self-made man. He inherited a huge real-estate fortune. If he had sold all his real-estate holdings and invested the proceeds in an S&P 500 index fund, he would be much richer today than he is, according to the Washington Post.

All that Trump’s ballyhooed deal-making has accomplished is to lose himself $3 billion, relative to what a passive investor could have obtained. (That’s according to Forbes’s numbers. According to Trump’s own numbers, he’s only lost $2 billion.)

And in order to get himself that terrific -$3 billion return, he has had to employ strategic bankruptcies, abuse eminent domain, and exploit taxpayer funds. If business acumen is an important quality for President of the United States, Donald Trump is disqualified.

Fact-checking is hard, I guess

September 18, 2015

In the most recent GOP debate, Carly Fiorina had strong words for abortion-supporting Democrats in light of the Center for Medical Progress’s expose on Planned Parenthood’s horrifying practices:

As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

The left went ballistic, claiming that no such video exists. Uber-feminist Amanda Marcotte, for example:

There is nothing in the videos made by CMP, either in the edited or full-length versions, that has anything approaching images of legs kicking or hearts beating. . .

and again:

Many people have [watched the videos] and continue to be pro-choice anyway—and not just because they missed the part with the legs kicking (which doesn’t exist!).

(Emphasis mine.) Clearly Amanda Marcotte is not one of those people, since the leg-kicking part does indeed exist. It is horrifying.

Glenn Kessler, who writes a fact-checking column for the Washington Post, and who usually seems to be trying to be somewhat fair, is more connected with reality, but nevertheless starts with the snark:

Fiorina might have trouble finding this video to show to Clinton. No video has surfaced showing the scene Fiorina describes taking place inside a Planned Parenthood facility.

What he’s getting at here is not that the video doesn’t exist (it does, of course), but he is nit-picking Fiorina’s description. The fetus pictured with legs kicking is not actually the same one from which the former procurement technician being interviewed in the video was ordered to harvest the brain. It’s an illustration using stock footage (properly noted as such on screen), which of course is standard practice for any news organization unable to obtain pictures or video of an actual event.

So yes, CMP was not able to obtain footage of the vivisection. (Or, if they did, they haven’t released it yet.), However, they did get people to admit to extracting brains from live fetuses exactly like that one.

Others have claimed that the fetus wasn’t from an abortion, that it was stillborn. This is stupid, since the fetus was moving and thus obviously not stillborn. More plausibly, they claim that the fetus might be from a miscarriage. Not so, says the organization that obtained the footage:

The video clip we provided to CMP depicted an intact delivery abortion. It was filmed at an abortion clinic. It was not a miscarriage. Mothers don’t go to abortion clinics to miscarry. Had this case been a miscarriage, the mother would have presented at a hospital and her baby would have been rushed to an Isolette for appropriate neonatal care — not abandoned to writhe and eventually expire in a cold, stainless steel specimen vessel. As regards the organizational affiliation of the abortion facility in which this termination was performed, our access agreements forbid the disclosure of any information which might tend to identify the relevant clinics or personnel with whom we work. Preserving confidentiality is vital to future clinic access. I can, however, assure you that the footage in question is not anomalous. It is representative of the frequent outcomes of many late term intact delivery terminations performed at clinics of all organizational affiliations.

In short, Planned Parenthood extracts brains from live babies, and sells them. There is a video about it. That video is very disturbing. Carly Fiorina challenges abortion-supporting Democrats to watch it. However, it does not contain video of any actual vivisection; it merely contains people talking about performing vivisections — some cheerfully, and others in horror.

Also, it’s not a “tape”. No one uses video tape any more. Gotcha, Carly!

Thank heaven for the editors!

September 16, 2015

There was a time, not that long ago, when the New York Times was a good newspaper. It’s not good any more.  It’s not just the relentless bias, but how their relentless bias prevents them from employing good writing and reporting. Kevin Williamson edits an egregious example from two days ago.

Never forget

September 11, 2015


Chutzpah, thy name is Hillary!

September 4, 2015

Okay, first let’s be clear (again) that Obergefell is the law of the land. (Okay, literally it’s controlling Supreme Court precedent, but let’s not split hairs.) Government officials have no right to deny citizens any service (including marriage licenses) to which the law entitles them. Kim Davis, the (Democratic) clerk jailed by a (Republican) judge for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, is in the wrong.

Now, let’s marvel at the astonishing hypocrisy shamelessly exhibited by our Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton:

I guess she was out of characters, and simply didn’t have room to add the important conclusion:

But just this one time only.

I mean, where could Kim Davis have possibly gotten the idea that Democratic elected officials can ignore the law?

Could it be from Democratic officials in DC and Chicago who — in a very parallel situation — refuse to issue firearms permits despite a Supreme Court decision ordering them to do so? Could it be from Democratic officials in California who violated California law to issue marriage licenses before the court cleared them to do so? Could is be from a Democratic president who decided simply to ignore immigration law, or who many times has ignored the text of his own health “reform” law, or who decided that the Constitutional requirement to obtain Senate approval for treaties is obsolete? Could it be from a Democratic administration that ignored a court injunction against its immigration policy? Could it be from a Democrat-run IRS that illegally targeted conservatives for negative treatment, and illegally shared confidential filings with progressive activists, and which destroyed the relevant records once their misconduct came to light? Could it be from a Democrat-run ATF that shipped weapons to Mexican drug cartels, and never gave a plausible explanation why? Could it be from a Democratic Secretary of State who, in violation of public records laws, maintained a private email server, and then, in violation of classified information laws, used it for classified information, and then in further violation of those laws, turned all that classified information over to a private law firm? Could it be from a Democrat-run Justice Department that filed false affidavits in order to obtain illegal wiretaps on journalists? Could it be from a Democratic president who ignored the War Powers Act and launched a war against Libya without any notice to or consultation with the Congress? Could it be from Democratic officials in Seattle who imposed punitive taxes on guns and ammunition in clear violation of state law? Could it be from a Democrat-run EPA that imposed limits on carbon dioxide that were plainly outside the parameters of the law, and justified it by making up entirely different parameters? Could it be from a Democratic mayor of Baltimore who “gave those who wished to destroy space to do that”? Could it be from a Democratic prosecutor in Austin, Texas who indicted the governor for using his constitutional veto prerogative? Could it be from Democratic prosecutors in Wisconsin who raided homes with no cause other than their support for Republican candidates, and then barred them from discussing the raids, even with their own lawyers? Could it be from Democratic strategiests who urged the president to ignore the Supreme Court if they lost the King v. Burwell case? Could it be from a Democratic White House that set new records for denying Freedom of Information Act requests, and did so in violation of the law one-third of the time?

And could it be from a Democratic Party that watched all above the above happen, and never gave the slightest hint of any discomfort with any of it? From a party that scoffs at the rule of law in any circumstances where it might stand in the way of their goals?

Gee, where could Kim Davis have possibly gotten the idea that Democratic officials can get away with anything at all?

So yes, officials should be held to their duty to uphold the law. Let’s start doing that now please. Any time you’re ready would be fine.

POSTSCRIPT: This was all just off the top of my head. If I went through my notes, I could find plenty more.

UPDATE: Wow, the White House spokesman said this:

I will just say on principle that the success of the democracy depends on the rule of law, and there is no public official that is above the rule of law. Certainly not the president of the United States, but neither is the Rowan County clerk.

He really did say that. Unbelievable.