New Yorker fact checking

February 1, 2012

The New Yorker refuses to issue a correction, despite an inarguable error. By the end of the farce, the New Yorker is reduced to arguing semantics and contradicting the dictionary.


Ah yes, the fact checkers

December 19, 2011

Because the really cannot be made too often, Mark Hemingway blasts the new fad of “fact-checking” columns, which are anything but. There are lots of examples there, but the ripest one is this:

Smith was quite rightly annoyed with Glenn Kessler, who writes “The Fact Checker” blog on the Washington Post website. (Kessler’s gimmick is rating political statements on a scale of one to four with cutesy Pinocchio-nose graphics.)

On August 17, Kessler wrote an item supporting President Obama’s denial at a town hall in Iowa that Vice President Joe Biden had called Tea Party activists “terrorists” in a meeting with congressional Democrats. . . After supplying a rudimentary summary of what happened, Kessler reached a conclusion that is at once unsure of itself and sharply judgmental. “Frankly, we are dubious that Biden actually said this. And if he did, he was simply echoing what another speaker said, in a private conversation, as opposed to making a public statement.”

Awesome, a “fact-checking” column with zero facts! To paraphrase: “I don’t know if he said it, but if he did say it, I’m quite sure he didn’t mean it.” What a gig! Reporters who actually report news are suckers.

POSTSCRIPT: It may be a cheap shot, but I’m not above noting that Kessler doesn’t know the meaning of “apologist”. Fact-checking indeed.


Fact-checking the fact checkers

September 19, 2011

The Washington Post says this claim by Speaker John Boehner isn’t true:

At this moment, the Executive Branch has 219 new rules in the works that will cost our economy at least $100 million. That means under the current Washington agenda, our economy is poised to take a hit from the government of at least $100 million — 219 times.

They give it three “Pinocchios”.

The problem is, it’s entirely true. If you go to the government’s web site, it lists 219 “major regulations” that are “under development or review”. The law defines “major regulation” as one that, among other things, will cost the economy $100 million or more. Boehner’s claim is unarguable.

So how do they say it’s false? The same way that other “fact checking” hacks try to call true statements they don’t like false. They make a “nuanced” argument that the facts don’t mean what Boehner implies they mean. Fine, make your argument. But that’s an editorial, not a fact check.


Ah, the fact checkers

May 16, 2011

The AP confuses Minnesota and Wisconsin.


Annenberg Fact Check on Mexican crime guns

April 18, 2009

The Annenberg Political Fact Check has taken on the “Mexican crime guns come from the U.S.” factoid and agree with Fox News that the 90% statistic cited by anti-gun politicians is bogus.  They back up Fox News’s central contention that the 90% reflects only the guns that are successfully traced, a sample which is very heavily biased towards guns from the U.S.  They estimate the true number at 36%, a bit higher than the 17% calculated by Fox News.  (Annenberg says one of the figures Fox was calculating from is wrong.)  Either way, it’s a long long way from 90%.

(Via Instapundit.)


Fact check

September 10, 2008

Fact-check abolition

July 21, 2020

Today’s media has endless energy to fact-check Donald Trump (including fact-checking opinions, predictions, and literally true but arguably misleading statements), and the Atlantic is no exception. But it’s different when it comes to their own pages.

Two weeks ago the Atlantic ran an article in favor of “police abolition.” Central to the piece was a harrowing anecdote: when the author was 12 years old, she witnessed a police officer shoot a child at a local community center and faced no consequences for it.

Well, the Federalist did what the Atlantic would not; they fact-checked the piece, and found that nothing like it every happened. It’s impressive work; the community center wasn’t named in the piece, so they had to deduce it from hints in the piece, which was made more difficult by various minor errors (e.g., the age of the author, and which highway was nearby). They narrowed it down to two candidates. Interviews and a public record search found no evidence that any such incident had ever taken place.

The Atlantic refused to comment, but belated looked at the piece and has now admitted that the incident was not as described. The shooter was a security guard, not a police officer; the victim was an adult, not a child; and the guard was prosecuted for the incident. (They have not corrected their description of the 18-year-old victim as a “boy.”)

The Atlantic has edited the piece, adding an end note noting the correction. They don’t seem to have noticed that the correction eviscerates the piece. The author’s thesis is that we should abolish the police, and replace them with something else. (Exactly what we should replace them with, they never quite say.) Well here you have what they say they want: the law enforced by a city employee who is not police. The non-police officer didn’t have the professionalism of a police officer, and shot his (adult) cousin in a quarrel. The non-police officer apparently didn’t face consequences from his non-police department, and only faced consequences when the actual police became involved.

The author is unrepentant, cheekily tweeting:

I was not 12. I was 13. The shooter was a uniformed private guard with a badge and gun. When we say abolish the police, that includes private police, too. thank you for reading <3.

(Her tweets are now protected. I got the text of the tweet from the Federalist.)

That is just silly. People are not going to go unprotected. If you abolish the police, you will get more private police. You cannot disclaim the predictable consequences of your policies.


Don’t worry, the fact-checkers are on the case!

March 2, 2018

The Babylon Bee is a satire site, similar to the Onion but with rightward slant instead of the Onion’s leftward slant, plus they include a lot of humor about religious issues. Sometimes it is quite funny (much more often than the Onion these days). Yesterday, they ran this headline:

CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine To Spin News Before Publication

Given the headline, you pretty much know how the story is going to go, so I needn’t quote it further. First, let it be conceded this isn’t their best work, but that’s neither here nor there. This is nothing more than a pun; no reasonable person could possibly think that a literal washing machine could actually play any role in “spinning” the news.

But, don’t you worry, Snopes is on the case:

CLAIM: CNN invested in an industrial-sized washing machine to help their journalists and news anchors spin the news before publication.

RATING: FALSE

Oh good. That’s a relief. Thanks Snopes!

Now, this sounds like nothing more than some low-level buffoonery on the part of Snopes, but it’s actually illustrative of the serious problem that arises when social media uses Snopes as a gatekeeper for permitted content. Since Snopes went to the trouble to mark the piece false, Facebook is automatically marking it as false content, which results in warnings when people share the piece on Facebook, threats to the Babylon Bee’s ad revenue, and (presumably, although Facebook’s algorithms are shrouded in mystery) steps to prevent it from going viral.

This is bad however you slice it. On the one hand, it shows how easy it is for Snopes to drag down content on Facebook, and their failures are not always so amusing as this one. On the other hand, if you think these sort of automatic warnings are important and valuable, incidents like this train people to ignore them.


A misleading fact-check

September 30, 2016

The reason “fact checking” has become such a joke is the the supposed fact-checkers can’t seem to limit themselves to checking the facts. They also want to check that the facts give the right impression. This is natural for leftist journalists, I suppose, since the actual facts give an impression that they don’t want.

This has led the fact checkers to such absurdities as Politifact grading an objectively true statement — crime is rising — as “pants on fire,” their lowest possible rating. Murders rose by 10.8% in 2015 and other violent crime increased as well, but Politifact said that “crime is rising” is not only false, but actually absurd. Their justification is that, although crime rose in 2015 (and probably 2016), it is to soon to say that the long-term downward trend is over. This true fact gives (what they view as) a false impression, so they call it false.

Another problem with grading impressions rather than the underlying facts, is they aren’t able to do it consistently. When two politicians made essentially the same statement (the official unemployment rate doesn’t capture real unemployment), they graded one of them (the politician they like) “mostly true” and the other one “pants on fire.”

Once you go down that path, you’re not fact-checking any more, you’re just writing an opinion column. And if you want a leftist opinion column, there are much better ones than Politifact, Glenn Kessler, et al. Still, I think there’s room for a misleading fact-check. By “misleading”, I mean one that grades statements according to whether they are literally true, and doesn’t worry about whether they might lead to false impressions.

So let’s go through the first presidential debate and do exactly that. We’ll limit ourselves to determinate claims of fact, not to opinions. (We won’t assess whether Trump has a winning temperament, or whether Mexican industry is the eighth wonder of the world.) I also won’t grade claims made about private or classified conversations, or about their own state of mind, since there’s no way to know. We will still have to make some judgement calls, since some claims are ambiguous. Our rule will be that ambiguities are construed in favor of the speaker (even when I don’t think that’s what he/she really meant). Statements that too ambiguous to construe as concrete claims, I will simply omit.

I’ll put the statement (drawn from the Washington Post’s debate transcript) in bold, and my evaluation in plain typeface.

TRUMP: [China is] devaluing their currency. True. +1 Trump.

TRUMP: So Ford is leaving. You see that, their small car division leaving.Thousands of jobs leaving Michigan, leaving Ohio. This hasn’t happened yet, but Ford has announced it. +1 Trump.

TRUMP:  All you have to do is take a look at Carrier air conditioning in Indianapolis. They left — fired 1,400 people. They’re going to Mexico. True. +1 Trump.

CLINTON: We are 5 percent of the world’s population. 4.4% is close enough. +1 Clinton.

CLINTON: He started his business with $14 million, borrowed from his father. Actually, it was much more than that. We’ll construe her claim with an implicit “at least”. +1 Clinton.

CLINTON: My father was a small-businessman. . . He printed drapery fabrics on long tables. True. +1 Clinton.

TRUMP: I built [my father’s loan] into a company that’s worth many, many billions of dollars. Impossible to determine with the information he has released.

TRUMP: Let me give you the example of Mexico. They have a VAT tax. We’re on a different system. When we sell into Mexico, there’s a tax. When they sell in — automatic, 16 percent, approximately. This much is true. +1 Trump.

TRUMP: When they [Mexico] sell into us, there’s no tax. Although it is true that the US does not have a federal sales tax or VAT, plenty of states have sales taxes. It’s not true there’s no tax when they sell in America. This would have been literally true if he had said there was no Federal tax, but with his phrasing it’s false. -1 Trump.

TRUMP: We owe $20 trillion. The national debt held by the public is $13.6 trillion. But if you include intragovernmental holdings, it’s $19 trillion, which is close enough. According to our rules, we’ll resolve this ambiguity in favor of the speaker. +1 Trump.

CLINTON: Well, let’s stop for a second and remember where we were eight years ago. . . Nine million people — nine million people lost their jobs. False. By September 2008, we had lost 1.7 million jobs. If you include the rest of 2008, you get to 3.6 million. To get close to 9 million, you have to include the first year of the Obama administration in which 5 million jobs were lost. -1 Clinton.

CLINTON: . . . Five million people lost their homes. False. 862 thousand families lost their homes in 2008. To get to 5 million, you have to include five years of the Obama administration. -1 Clinton.

CLINTON: . . . And $13 trillion in family wealth was wiped out. True. +1 Clinton.

CLINTON: Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. . . TRUMP: I did not. I did not. I do not say that. We can’t know what he thinks, but he did say that. +1 Clinton, -1 Trump.

TRUMP: We invested in a solar company, our country. . . They lost plenty of money on that one. Solyndra cost the government between $535 million and $849 million, which satisfies a reasonable interpretation of “plenty of money.” +1 Trump.

TRUMP: Well, [Bill Clinton] approved NAFTA. . . True. +1 Trump.

CLINTON: [During the Clinton administration] Incomes went up for everybody. True. +1 Clinton.

CLINTON: Manufacturing jobs went up also in the 1990s. . . If you construe 1990s to mean the Clinton administration, manufacturing jobs went up slightly. +1 Clinton.

CLINTON: When I was secretary of state, we actually increased American exports globally 30 percent. We increased them to China 50 percent. As long as you’re talking about exports, not net exports, this is plausible. (It’s very sensitive to exactly how you measure and I wasn’t able to produce exactly this number.)  +1 Clinton.

TRUMP: And now you want to approve Trans-Pacific Partnership. You were totally in favor of it. . . CLINTON: Well, that is just not accurate. I was against it once it was finally negotiated and the terms were laid out. . . TRUMP: You called it the gold standard. CLINTON: No. TRUMP: . . . CLINTON: Well, Donald, I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts. The facts are — I did say I hoped it would be a good deal. . . Hillary said “This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.” She did not say “hoped”. It is true that the deal wasn’t negotiated at that time, so it’s possible she changed her mind once it was, but we’re not grading their private thoughts. +1 Trump, -1 Clinton.

HOLT: Secretary Clinton, you’re calling for a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans. . . And, Mr. Trump, you’re calling for tax cuts for the wealthy. Obviously true. +1 Holt.

TRUMP: But you will learn more about Donald Trump by going down to the federal elections, where I filed a 104-page essentially financial statement of sorts, the forms that they have. It shows income — in fact, the income — I just looked today — the income is filed at $694 million for this past year, $694 million. TL;DR, but that seems to be in the right ballpark for what the document says. +1 Trump.

TRUMP: I’ve been under audit almost for 15 years. This seems impossible to verify or disprove.

CLINTON: We have been told through investigative reporting that [Trump] owes about $650 million to Wall Street and foreign banks. The New York Times did report this. +1 Clinton.

CLINTON: We have an architect in the audience who designed one of your clubhouses at one of your golf courses. It’s a beautiful facility. It immediately was put to use. And you wouldn’t pay what the man needed to be paid, what he was charging you to do. . . The architect exists and alleges what she says. It would be better if she said “alleges”, but we’ll call this true. +1 Clinton.

CLINTON: You even at one time suggested that you would try to negotiate down the national debt of the United States. TRUMP: Wrong. Wrong. This is muddled. Trump gave an interview in which he sounded like he was suggesting that, but during the same interview he gave a plausible clarification. We’ll resolve the ambiguity in favor of the speaker for both of them. +1 Clinton, +1 Trump.

HOLT: Stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York, because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men. There’s been a lot of talk about this, but Holt is wrong. The Supreme Court has upheld stop-and-frisk, and district judges don’t overrule the Supreme Court. The ruling in question found that stop-and-frisk as applied by New York at the time was unconstitutional. -1 Holt.

TRUMP: No, you’re wrong. It went before a judge, who was a very against-police judge. It was taken away from her. And our mayor, our new mayor, refused to go forward with the case. They would have won an appeal. If you look at it, throughout the country, there are many places where it’s allowed. It’s true that the case was taken away from the judge; it’s true that the mayor refused to appeal; and it’s true it’s still legal in many places. Whether the judge was “very against-police” and what would have happened on appeal are opinion. +1 Trump.

TRUMP: . . . you have 3,000 shootings in Chicago from January 1st . . . True. +1 Trump.

TRUMP: . . . you have 4,000 people killed in Chicago by guns, from the beginning of the presidency of Barack Obama . . . I wasn’t able to find gun deaths specifically, but the number of murders is in the right ballpark for that to be plausible. +1 Trump.

CLINTON: Violent crime is one-half of what it was in 1991. Property crime is down 40 percent. True, crime rates peaked in 1991. +1 Clinton.

CLINTON: If you’re a young African-American man and you do the same thing as a young white man, you are more likely to be arrested, charged, convicted, and incarcerated. I wasn’t able to find a study with precisely this finding (it’s hard to control for “do the same thing”), but with all the studies finding disparities in the criminal justice system, we’ll say this is plausible. +1 Clinton.

TRUMP: In New York City, stop-and-frisk, we had 2,200 murders, and stop-and-frisk brought it down to 500 murders. The cause is opinion (and I don’t agree), but the numbers are accurate. +1 Trump.

CLINTON: Well, it’s also fair to say, if we’re going to talk about mayors, that under the current mayor, crime has continued to drop, including murders. So there is… TRUMP: No, you’re wrong. You’re wrong. CLINTON: No, I’m not. TRUMP: Murders are up. All right. You check it. The year before Bill DeBlasio took office there were 332 murders in New York City. Last year there were 352. That’s not a big increase, but it’s certainly not still falling. -1 Clinton, +1 Trump.

TRUMP (regarding who started birtherism): Sidney Blumenthal works for the campaign and close — very close friend of Secretary Clinton. And her campaign manager, Patti Doyle, went to — during the campaign, her campaign against President Obama, fought very hard. . . And if you look at CNN this past week, Patti Solis Doyle was on Wolf Blitzer saying that this happened. Blumenthal sent McClatchy, highly respected reporter at McClatchy, to Kenya to find out about it. He garbled the heck out of this, but something like this happened. +1 Trump.

TRUMP: When I got involved, I didn’t fail. I got him to give the birth certificate. That much is true. +1 Trump, I guess.

HOLT: The birth certificate was produced in 2011. You’ve continued to tell the story and question the president’s legitimacy in 2012, ’13, ’14, ’15. . . True. +1 Holt.

CLINTON: Donald started his career back in 1973 being sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination because he would not rent apartments in one of his developments to African-Americans. True, except for it being the start of his career. +1 Clinton.

TRUMP: We settled the suit with zero — with no admission of guilt. True. +1 Trump.

CLINTON: It’s one of the reasons why 50 national security officials who served in Republican information — in administrations . . . have said that Donald is unfit to be the commander- in-chief. It was national security and/or foreign policy officials, but close enough. +1 Clinton.

CLINTON: I was involved in a number of efforts to take out Al Qaida leadership when I was secretary of state, including, of course, taking out bin Laden. Yeah, yeah. +1 Clinton.

CLINTON: Donald supported the invasion of Iraq. TRUMP: Wrong. The claim that Trump supported the invasion of Iraq hinges on this: “Yeah, I guess . . . sooo.” Listen to the recording to get a sense of how unenthusiastic he was. He did say the words, though. On the other hand, he came out against it before it took place. He was never in a position to cast a vote, which would have made his position clear. There’s enough ambiguity here that we’ll give this one to both of them. +1 Clinton, +1 Trump.

CLINTON: He actually advocated for the actions we took in Libya and urged that Gadhafi be taken out. True. +1 Clinton.

CLINTON: George W. Bush made the agreement about when American troops would leave Iraq, not Barack Obama. This is misleading: The way the agreement worked was it needed to be renegotiated periodically. If it was allowed to expire, it contained a clause requiring American withdrawal. But, according to our rules, this is literally true. +1 Clinton.

CLINTON: The only way that American troops could have stayed in Iraq is to get an agreement from the then-Iraqi government that would have protected our troops, and the Iraqi government would not give that. This is unknowable because Obama never tried.

TRUMP: I read on the front page of the Wall Street Journal that NATO is opening up a major terror division. True. +1 Trump.

TRUMP: We pay approximately 73 percent of the cost of NATO. True, in the sense of being responsible for 73% of all defense spending by NATO partners. +1 Trump.

HOLT: Mr. Trump, a lot of these are judgment questions. You had supported the war in Iraq before the invasion. . . TRUMP: I did not support the war in Iraq. [More of the same.] As above, except that Holt is a little more careful (“had supported . . . before the invasion”) than Hillary. +1 Holt, +1 Trump.

CLINTON: You know, NATO as a military alliance has something called Article 5, and basically it says this: An attack on one is an attack on all. And you know the only time it’s ever been invoked? After 9/11, when the 28 nations of NATO said that they would go to Afghanistan with us to fight terrorism, something that they still are doing by our side. True. +1 Clinton.

CLINTON: [Trump] said, you know, if [Iran] taunted our sailors, I’d blow them out of the water and start another war. He didn’t say start a war, but if we read that part as her commentary, not as part of the quote, this is true. +1 Clinton.

CLINTON: [Trump] has said repeatedly that he didn’t care if other nations got nuclear weapons, Japan, South Korea, even Saudi Arabia. I don’t know about repeatedly, but he has said this. +1 Clinton.

TRUMP:  Just to go down the list, we defend Japan, we defend Germany, we defend South Korea, we defend Saudi Arabia, we defend countries. They do not pay us. False. Japan and South Korea pay us. -1 Trump.

TRUMP (regarding the Iran deal): One of the great giveaways of all time, of all time, including $400 million in cash. Nobody’s ever seen that before. That turned out to be wrong. It was actually $1.7 billion in cash. True. +1 Trump.

HOLT: Earlier this month, you said [Hillary] doesn’t have, quote, “a presidential look.” True. +1 Holt.

CLINTON: [Trump] is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs. True. +1 Clinton.

CLINTON: [Trump is] someone who has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers. TRUMP: I never said that. He said it. +1 Clinton, -1 Trump.

CLINTON: [Trump said] women don’t deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men. TRUMP: I didn’t say that. (I have to interject here: why on earth is this a controversial proposition? Of course people don’t deserve equal pay if they don’t do as good a job!) What Trump said was, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Hillary is committing a logical fallacy, going from “P implies Q” to “not P implies not Q.” -1 Clinton. (I’m not giving +1 Trump, because when you listen, I think he is still replying to Clinton’s previous statement.)

CLINTON: And one of the worst things [Trump] said was about a woman in a beauty contest. He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman “Miss Piggy.” Then he called her “Miss Housekeeping,” because she was Latina. . . Her name is Alicia Machado. The Trump camp has tried to rebut this with Machado’s very checkered past (allegations of murder, death threats, links to organized crime), but he did say those things. +1 Clinton.

TRUMP: She spent hundreds of millions of dollars on negative ads on me, many of which are absolutely untrue. It’s certainly true that she’s spent millions on attack ads. Whether they were untrue is beyond the scope of this fact-check. + 1 Trump.

TRUMP: I’m either winning or tied, and I’ve spent practically nothing. True. +1 Trump.

HOLT: One of you will not win this election. Preferably both. +1 Holt.

TRUMP: The other day, we were deporting 800 people. And perhaps they passed the wrong button, they pressed the wrong button, or perhaps worse than that, it was corruption, but these people that we were going to deport for good reason ended up becoming citizens. Ended up becoming citizens. And it was 800. And now it turns out it might be 1,800, and they don’t even know. True. +1 Trump.

Tallying up the score, we have Trump +25/-4, Clinton +25/-5, Holt +5/-1. So all three participants were almost exactly as accurate, when it comes to verifiable claims of fact. This is not to deny that an awful lot of nonsense was peddled on that stage, but when it comes to verifiable claims of fact, both candidates were correct by a ratio of about 5:1 or 6:1.

Is 5:1 or 6:1 good enough? If we look at it as a test of remembering facts, that’s probably a B. On the other hand, if we assume they both have very good memories, and it’s a test of honesty, then 5:1 or 6:1 is terrible.


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.)


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!


Fact-checkers, call your office

September 21, 2012

This is an outright lie, and a blatant one at that:

Asked about the Fast and Furious program at the Univision forum on Thursday, President Obama falsely claimed that the program began under President George W. Bush.

“I think it’s important for us to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration,” the president said. “When Eric Holder found out about it, he discontinued it. . .”

In actuality, the Fast and Furious program was started in October 2009, nine months into the Obama presidency.

The White House then walked back the statement, saying that, even though Obama specifically said Fast and Furious, he actually was referring to the Wide Receiver program. Wide Receiver was entirely unlike the Gunwalker scandal in that it was done with the consent of the Mexican government, and in that  in Wide Receiver the agents actually tried to track the guns, while in Fast and Furious they did not. Even Holder rejected the comparison of the programs.

Moreover, Obama’s claim is still a lie, even if taken to refer to Wide Receiver. Wide Receiver was not shut down by Holder; it was shut down in 2007 after accidentally losing some of the guns.

(Previous post.)


FACT: Fact-checking has nothing to do with facts

August 30, 2012

This ABC article is the apotheosis of the new liberal fad of bogus fact-checking. It assembles a collection of counter-arguments to arguments made by Paul Ryan last night, and precedes each counter-argument with “THE FACTS”.

Moreover, their counter-arguments are quite feeble:

[Obama’s Medicare] cuts do not affect Medicare recipients directly, but rather reduce payments to hospitals, health insurance plans and other service providers.

When doctors cut back on accepting Medicare patients, I’m sure Medicare recipients will be consoled that the cuts did not affect them “directly”.

Ryan himself asked for stimulus funds . . .

This is so stupid. When the federal government squanders billions of borrowed money, opponents are on the hook for the debt just as much as supporters. Of course they will look to get their share, even while preferring it wouldn’t happen at all.

The [Janesville GM] plant halted production in December 2008. . .

This is false. (Nice “fact-checking” guys!) Also it’s irrelevant to Ryan’s point. Much more here.

It’s true that Obama hasn’t heeded his [debt] commission’s recommendations, but Ryan’s not the best one to complain. He was a member of the commission and voted against its final report.

The final report called for keeping Obamacare, so of course he voted against it. But he based his bipartisan budget proposal on the non-Obamacare aspects of the report.

In short, the only one of ABC’s attacks that actually addresses the facts is wrong. The others are just liberal arguments prefixed by the phrase “THE FACTS”.


Fact-checkers lie

August 29, 2012

Oh good grief; the Politifact spin artists are saying that Paul Ryan’s story about the Janesville GM plant (Obama said he’d keep it open for 100 years, but it lasted less than one year) is false because: (1) it closed under Bush, and (2) Obama never promised he would keep it open anyway.

Nonsense. The plant closed April 23, 2009. (Via Stephen Gutowski.) And as far as Obama’s promise goes, he said:

And I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years.

Okay, according to a very narrow reading, he never promised to keep it open, he only said that he believed that his policies would keep it open. That’s a pretty thin reed on which to call Ryan’s comment false.

Except it’s even worse than that. In fact, Ryan quoted him accurately:

Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, “I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years.”

Put in an ellipsis, and that’s a verbatim quote. Ryan did not misrepresent Obama at all, even in the utterly insubstantial way that Politifact suggests.

Moreover, Politifact’s shtick is various different grades of truth or falsehood. But they didn’t grade Ryan’s 100% accurate claim as “mostly true” or even “half true”; they go all the way to an unmodified “false”. Even if there were some wiggle room here for Politifact to work with, which I don’t see, there’s no way to get all the way to “false”. They’re lying; plain and simple.

UPDATE: Further, David Freddoso points out that Ryan never said the plant closed under Obama. That’s true, but since the plant actually did close under Obama, it’s not a critical point.

Also, the Obama campaign claims that the plant was “slated” to close during the Bush administration. If true, that wouldn’t change anything: Obama knew the plant was in trouble when he delivered his not-quite-a-promise, but a planned closure can be reversed if times improve and that was the hope he held out for Janesville. (Indeed, a idled plant can be re-opened.) But, moreover, depending on how you define “slated” (their whole argument is one of semantics), the claim isn’t even true. Although the plant had been on the chopping block for some time, its final closure was announced February 18, 2009.

UPDATE: Indeed:

What I really like is how the Leftist media is pretending it knows more about a GM plant in Paul Ryan’s HOMETOWN than Paul Ryan does.

UPDATE: MSNBC’s “fact-checker” Ezra Klein (who used to run a discussion group for journalists to coordinate the liberal spin in their reporting) offers this:

Ryan says it had not yet shut down Obama was elected, that Janesville was “about to” lose the factory at the time of the election. This is false, as Ryan knew in 2008 when he issued a statement bemoaning the plant’s closing.

Either Klein never read the page he linked to, or he hopes that no one clicks through. Anyone who did click through found that Ryan’s statement said this:

Following the announcement by General Motors that it planned to close its Janesville plant by 2010, U.S. Senators Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl and Representative Paul Ryan sent a letter to General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner asking him to reconsider the decision. . .

(Emphasis mine.) Exactly as Ryan said — and Klein contradicts — the plant was going to close but hadn’t yet. Bogus “fact-checking” is a plague on our body politic, but Klein has invented a new genre: the self-refuting bogus fact-check. Bravo! (UPDATE: Ezra Klein demonstrates how not to correct your mistakes.)

UPDATE: Here’s GM:

Janesville was placed on standby capacity in May 2009 and will remain in that status.

(Via Phil Kerpen.)

UPDATE: I’ve been focusing on the outright lies, but it’s also worth taking a note of the misdirection. Obama and his media allies are complaining than Ryan is unfairly blaming Obama for the plant’s closure. That would be unfair, if Ryan had said that, but he didn’t. Everyone knows that GM has been in trouble for years, and no one blames Obama for GM’s woes in 2008-2009. (Post-bailout is another matter!)

Ryan’s point, with Obama and his allies are trying to obscure, is simply this: The Janesville plant was in trouble. Obama told the worried people of Janesville that his policies would fix the problem. They didn’t.

This is just one example — a personal example from Ryan’s home town — of how Obama promised a bright tomorrow (“hope and change”) but failed to deliver.

It’s valuable to get the particulars right, since the left is lying about the particulars, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the key point.

UPDATE: More here.

UPDATE: Dear ABC: when you correct the factual errors in your article, it’s good form to correct the headline too.

Since this is apparently not just Politifact’s hackery, but the entire left’s main attack on Ryan’s speech, I’ve changed the title.

UPDATE: It turns out that GM considered re-opening the plant, but did not, at a time when the government was running the show, so you actually can blame Obama for the plant remaining closed if you want to. Fine, but that’s not really the point. The point is that Obama said he could turn around the auto manufacturing industry so that Janesville and plants like it would stay open, and he failed.

Also, in case there’s still any confusion about when the plant closed, there’s this video from April 2009:

UPDATE: A detailed chronology here.


Fact-checking the fact-checker

June 1, 2011

Don Surber fact-checks the Associated Press fact-checker. He finds, not too surprisingly, that the AP twisted the facts much worse than its subject (Tim Pawlenty).

But more importantly, he observes the that the fact-check format actually lends itself to dishonesty more than ordinary news copy does. This is an important lesson, since it runs against our intuition: When a paper runs a fact-checking piece, it’s more likely that they are lying to you than otherwise.

(Via Instapundit.)


Wanted: fact-checkers

January 21, 2011

MSNBC says that Arizona doesn’t have a holiday celebrating Martin Luther King. In fact, has had a Martin Luther King day for nineteen years.

BONUS: MSNBC goes on to say that if Arizona won’t enact an MLK holiday, it should secede from the Union. Al Sharpton, never one to be outdone in the race-baiting department by some network talking head, says that Arizona’s failure to enact such a holiday (that it enacted nearly two decades ago) means that it has somehow already seceded from the Union.


Fact-checked by Rolling Stone

January 17, 2011

Good grief.


Ah, the fact-checkers

December 29, 2010

The New York Times errs:

By the 17th century, people were imagining trips to the Moon and encounters with lunar inhabitants who, Mr. Brunner tells us, “are hardly ever imagined as inferior, ill-natured or threatening.” Perhaps the most famous work in the genre is Jules Verne’s “From the Earth to the Moon,” which was published in Paris in 1865, and which accurately predicted not only that people from the United States would be the first to set foot on the Moon but also, among other details, that the craft carrying them would be launched from Florida, splash down in the Pacific and be rescued by the United States Navy.

The NYT gets two points right: the book was published in Paris in 1865, Verne’s travelers did launch from Florida. We can allow them a third if we’re not too picky: The travelers were rescued by the Navy, not in “From the Earth to the Moon”, but in its sequel. However, they failed to land on the m0on.


Fact-checking is dead

July 4, 2010

It’s the juiciest story of journalistic malpractice in a while: Some wire service out of New Zealand ran a story last month headlined: US Republican Apologises for Elena Kagan “Sextape”. The story reported that “GOP consultant” Martin Eisenstadt had apologized for implying that the Heritage Foundation was involved in a purported incident involving an Elena Kagan sex tape. The story noted that Eisenstadt is a senior fellow at the Harding Institute and had been an advisor to John McCain and Sarah Palin.

I guess the story was, as they say, too good to check. ABC News, USA Today, and NPR picked up the story, and even ran the headline verbatim.

One problem: the only thing accurate about the story is the Heritage Foundation exists. There is no Elena Kagan sex tape (thank heavens). There is no Harding Institute. Eisenstadt is not a GOP consultant, and he never advised McCain or Palin.

In fact, Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t even exist. He is a hoax, created by two filmmakers. Over the years the two have duped numerous publications into running stories based on Eisenstadt, including MSNBC, the LA Times, the New Republic, and Time. (Wikipedia cites Mother Jones too, but I can’t confirm that.) But the media keep getting taken in, perhaps because Eisenstadt’s exploits are so deliciously damaging to Republicans.

They don’t even change his name, so it would just take a single Google search to uncover the fraud. That’s right, these publications do less fact-checking than Internet Scofflaw! ABC News should be particularly ashamed, since they themselves once ran a story about Eisenstadt being a hoax.

Keep this in mind whenever you catch yourself believing the media.

(Via Ace.)


Washington Post fact-checks White House

August 20, 2009

The Washington Post has a useful article savaging the White House’s claim that, under health care “reform”, people will be able to keep their current insurance. Here’s a key passage:

The legislation could also prompt some employers to drop coverage, congressional budget analysts say.

In a report last month on a bill advanced by House Democrats, the Congressional Budget Office said millions of people would gain employment-based coverage and millions would lose it. The CBO estimated that the number of people gaining the coverage would exceed the number of people losing it.

As for the losers, “CBO and the JCT [Joint Committee on Taxation] staff estimate that, in 2016, about 3 million people (including spouses and dependents of workers) who would be covered by an employment-based plan under current law would not have an offer of coverage under the proposal,” the CBO said.

The CBO was defining employment-based coverage to include an unspecified number of people who would obtain coverage through an exchange with a financial contribution from their employer. The CBO analysis left open the possibility that a larger number of people would lose employer-based health benefits in a more familiar sense — coverage procured or provided directly by the employer.

There’s three main points to unpack here:

  • The CBO has not said that no one will lose employment-based coverage, only that more will gain it than lose it. In fact, millions will lose it.
  • The CBO has not said that people will be able to keep their current plan (in fact, they almost certainly will not). It merely counts those who will keep some kind of employment-based coverage.
  • The CBO defines employment-based coverage in a very particular way, distinct from the “more familiar sense.”

Also, although the Post does not point it out, this sort of thing isn’t really part of CBO’s mandate (which is to estimate the budget implications of legislation) and I’m not aware that it has any special competency at it.

(Via Power Line.)


AP flubs another factcheck

August 7, 2009

A recent AP “factcheck” article contains several major errors:

CLAIM: Health care revisions would lead to government-funded abortions. . .

THE FACTS: The proposed bills would not undo the Hyde Amendment, which bars paying for abortions through Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor. But a health care overhaul could create a government-run insurance program, or insurance “exchanges,” that would not involve Medicaid and whose abortion guidelines are not yet clear.

Obama recently told CBS that the nation should continue a tradition of “not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care.”

(Via Newsbusters.)

In fact, President Obama said nothing of the sort. What he said was:

As you know, I’m pro choice. But I think we also have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government funded health care. Rather than wade into that issue at this point, I think that it’s appropriate for us to figure out how to just deliver on the cost savings, and not get distracted by the abortion debate at this station.

That is, he cited the existence of the tradition, but didn’t give any indication that we should continue it. In fact, he pointedly refused to say.

Moreover, another AP story out a few days later reported that the legislation would indeed cover abortions, and uses an accounting fig leaf to try to hide the fact.

The factcheck flubs another one as well:

CLAIM: Americans won’t have to change doctors or insurance companies.

“If you like your plan and you like your doctor, you won’t have to do a thing,” Obama said on June 23. “You keep your plan; you keep your doctor.”

THE FACTS: The proposed legislation would not require people to drop their doctor or insurer. But some tax provisions, depending on how they are written, might make it cheaper for some employers to pay a fee to end their health coverage. Their workers presumably would move to a public insurance plan that might not include their current doctors.

I’m glad that it rebuts the claim, but it does so much too weakly. The tax provisions are unsettled and beside the point. The bill would ban private health insurance. Existing coverage is grandfathered, but plans could not sign new customers or even make changes to the plan. Under such conditions, existing coverage would not survive for long.


Fact-checking the Plain Dealer

July 9, 2009

The Plain Dealer’s ombudsman, Ted Diadiun, is getting grief for insulting bloggers without the slightest idea what he’s talking about. This caught my eye because it wasn’t long ago that I caught Diadiun lying about the Associated Press’s style guide as pertains to assault weapons.


Snatching spin from the jaws of factchecking

July 7, 2009

Newsweek catches a minor error by President Obama:

“I don’t know if anybody else will meet their future wife or husband in class like I did, but I’m sure you’ll all going to have wonderful careers,” the president said.

In fact, he did not meet her in class:

The thing is: Obama didn’t technically meet his wife at school. Although both are Harvard Law School grads, Michelle Obama got her degree in the spring of 1988 while her future husband didn’t actually start school there until later that fall. (He graduated in 1991). The Obamas officially met in Chicago in 1989, when the future president was a summer associate at the Sidley Austin law firm and Michelle was assigned as his mentor.

Now, I don’t care in the least whether Barack Obama remembers how he met his wife (although his wife might care). But Newsweek apparently can’t bear to see their hero trapped in even a minor, unimportant falsehood, and felt the need to spin for him:

Was what Obama said wrong? Technically no, considering Obama was still going to school when he met his wife.

You can be as “technical” as you like; this is simply wrong.  Meeting while you’re in school is not the same thing as meeting in class. This is spin, and poor quality spin at that.

(Via the Corner.)


FactCheck.org: Obama ad misleading

August 23, 2008

The non-partisan Annenberg Political Fact Check finds that Obama’s ad linking McCain to Ralph Reed is misleading.


FACT: The New York Times is full of crap

September 1, 2012

With the rise of bogus fact-checking, the New York Times laments that people aren’t listening any more:

But while there is arguably more fact-checking now than ever — and, thanks to the Web, more ways to independently check what candidates and campaigns say — verdicts that a campaign has crossed the line are often drowned out by dissent from its supporters, who take it upon themselves to check the checkers.

Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College, said nonpartisan fact-checking groups now compete with ideologically motivated groups from both sides that consider their work to be checking facts as well. (The political campaigns also call some of their own news releases “fact-checks.”)

“The term ‘fact check’ can easily be devalued, as people throw it onto any sort of an opinion that they have,” Mr. Nyhan said. “The other problem is that the partisans who pay attention to politics are being conditioned to disregard the fact-checkers when their own side gets criticized.”

Internet Scofflaw rates this analysis “half true”. (See how easy that is?) Yes, fact-checking has been devalued as people throw onto it any sort of opinion they have; but no, there aren’t any competing nonpartisan fact-checkers.

And that’s the best part of the article. Then there’s this:

The cycle was on display at the Republican convention when Mr. Romney’s running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, made a number of questionable or misleading claims in his speech. Even before he stopped speaking, some of his claims were being questioned on Twitter. Soon fact-checkers were highlighting some of the misleading statements. More partisan sites rushed to Mr. Ryan’s defense with posts finding fault with the first round of fact checks.

Internet Scofflaw rates this claim “mostly false”. Ryan did make claims in his speech that were “questionable”, in the sense that Democrats did in fact question them. But, as it turned out, all of the “fact-checks” either were not fact but argument, or were simply wrong. This claim gives the misleading impression that Ryan might have actually said something that was false.

And then there’s this but, which the article leads with:

Mitt Romney highlighted the nation’s dire unemployment crisis, its record number of home foreclosures and the rising national debt, and showed video of President Obama delivering this arresting remark: “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”

There was one problem: the quotation was taken so wildly out of context that it turned Mr. Obama’s actual meaning upside-down. The truncated clip came from a speech Mr. Obama gave in 2008 talking about his opponent, Senator John McCain of Arizona. The full quotation? “Senator McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, ‘If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.’ ”

It’s a fair point. But the New York Times and other so-called fact-checkers leave out the full context as well. In fact, Obama was lying in 2008 when he attributed the statement to the McCain campaign. The statement came from a story in the New York Daily News (a liberal tabloid), which quoted an anonymous source who they described as a “top McCain strategist” making the statement. Internet Scofflaw rates this reporting “mostly true” (although, to be fair, Politifact has gone full “pants on fire” for less).


Politifact

August 30, 2012

Jon Cassidy’s long and detailed takedown of Politifact is impossible to excerpt, so I won’t try. But allot yourself 5-10 minutes and read it. It’s essential reading, especially if you’re still inclined to take Politifact seriously.

I will note one interesting historical point, though:

PolitiFact started off straight. As a partnership of Congressional Quarterly and the Tampa Bay Times (then the St. Petersburg Times) formed in 2007, the outfit won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the 2008 election. The partnership dissolved shortly after when The Poynnter Institute – the parent company of both outfits – sold off CQ.

The Florida journalists carried on alone, and their liberal tendencies became more obvious as the “Pants on Fire” rulings piled up on one side.

I’m glad to hear that, because I recall believing at one time that Politifact was good for something. My first inkling that something was very wrong with them was in October 2009.

POSTSCRIPT: This is just another example, like the many Cassidy cites in his piece, but it is a particularly pungent one. Despite acknowledging that every fact in the ad is accurate, they nevertheless grade it false, because they think it conveys an impression that they deem inaccurate. You can faithfully abbreviate their entire analysis this way: “We rate the statement False, because it gives the inaccurate impression that Obamacare is not a good idea.”


Politifact is still useless

August 18, 2011

If you were wondering whether the Politifact “fact-check” was still grading statements as “false” because they disagreed with them, wonder no longer.

In this latest case, Politifact graded Florida Governor Rick Scott’s remarks on high-speed rail as false, because Scott made the outrageous twin assumptions that there would likely be cost overruns, and the state would end up paying for them. This is nonsense — Politifact tells us — because supporters of high-speed rail have assured us that won’t happen.

(Via Instapundit.)


Geithner uses his own facts

August 2, 2010

FactCheck.org reports:

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made a false claim about the size of government spending being proposed by the Obama administration.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” July 25, he said the president is proposing spending “as a share of our economy” that is “lower” than it was during the Bush administration and “comparable” to what it was under Ronald Reagan. Neither claim is true.

The administration’s own estimates project spending next year that is higher as a percentage of the economy than in any year since the end of World War II. The average projected by Obama’s budget officials is significantly higher than the average under Reagan or Bush (father or son).

POSTSCRIPT: I would add that the 2009 budget, which they charge to President Bush, was actually prepared by President Obama.

UPDATE: I would also add that the last two years, in which the budget starts to fall, are the hypothetical estimates of years that are at least a year away. Older estimates had the deficit falling in 2010 and 2011 as well, but those estimates fell by the wayside by the time those years actually happened.

(Via TaxProf.)


Always check original sources

July 22, 2010

Dana Milbank ought to learn to check original sources:

“I think there’s a good reason for a conservative to vote yes, and that’s provided in the Constitution itself,” Graham told his peers before reading to them from Federalist No. 6, by Alexander Hamilton. “The Senate should have a special and strong reason for the denial of confirmation,” he read, such as “to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from family connection, from personal attachment and from a view to popularity.”

Milbank is wrong: Graham was not reading from Federalist #6. First, a quick glance would reveal that #6 has nothing whatsoever to do with confirmation. In fact, Graham was referring to #76. More importantly, the passage that Graham “read” does not appear in #76 either; it is stitched together from bits and pieces with some additions and deletions.

Once Milbank’s appeal to the authority of Hamilton’s text is ripped away, one can debate whether Lindey’s paraphrase is faithful to the spirit. (The answer is no.)

It’s sad to see Milbank doing less fact-checking than Internet Scofflaw.


Too good to check

February 7, 2010

The mainstream media really doesn’t like James O’Keefe. When Salon runs a story alleging that he manned a literature table at a conference of white supremacists, that’s just too good to check. That last thing you want to do is look carefully into whether he really was manning a literature table there, or whether the event in question really was a conference of white supremacists. You might lose a perfectly good attack story if you checked the facts.

The answer, incidentally, seems to be no on both counts. I wasn’t going to bother to report this incident when it was just a Salon story picked up by the Village Voice. (In the Village Voice, O’Keefe had actually morphed into an organizer of the event.) But now the story is appearing in the supposedly respectable press, like the Newark Star-Ledger. Retracto is on the case.


Facts 857, Biden 0

September 25, 2008

Aaron Burns observes:

One face-off between Biden and the facts that, once again, the facts seem to have won.

Criticizing McCain for opposing negotiations with Iran, Biden said even the Bush administration now favors such talks — which Obama has long supported.

“After seven years, in which our senior diplomatic personnel were not allowed to make a single contact with Iranians, the Bush administration realized the absurdity of its own policy and sent our leading diplomat to Iran,” he said. “The Assistant Secretary of State as he went to Tehran, sat down at the instruction of the President of the United States.”

It sounds great for Obama and Biden that the president came around to something so close to their position on talks with Iran; trouble is, the event Biden described never actually happened.

(Via JWF, via Instapundit.)


Obama’s “facts”

September 16, 2008

The Obama campaign has compiled a “fact sheet” for attacking David Freddoso, the author of an anti-Obama book. Ramesh Ponnuru points out that two of the three “lies” are actually true. (The third is hard to evaluate.) The most amusing is Obama’s citation of a Factcheck.org post that actually agrees with Freddoso.


Too good to check

September 3, 2008

Based apparently on blog reports, the NYT reports that Sarah Palin was a member of the Alaskan Independence Party.  It’s not true, which they could have found out themselves if they had bothered to look at voter registration records.  This is journalistic malpractice, plain and simple.  In fact, the entire article is “materially false,” says a senior campaign strategist.

More generally, the way the media has comported themselves over Sarah Palin is disgusting.  After all the reams they’ve written, they have nothing other than the trooper allegation, which was already public and will prove to be nothing.  Nevertheless, by relentless fixation on vicious rumors and private family issues, they’re trying to create a bad odor to Palin’s nomination.

Honestly, I didn’t think my opinion of the mainstream media could fall even lower.


Too good to check

June 2, 2008

The New York Times, better late than never:

An article on May 4 about black liberation theology and the debate surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr, Senator Barack Obama’s former minister, erroneously confirmed a statement by Mr. Wright that the United States has used biological weapons against other countries. There is no evidence that the United States ever did so.

(Via the Corner.)

How does such an outlandish claim get past their vaunted army of editors and fact-checkers?


Ha ha ha

August 10, 2015

Thank goodness for the fact checking. (Via Instapundit.)


Liars for “gun safety”

June 29, 2015

When gun control advocates, such as Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), cannot make their case without lies, it gives one the strong impression that they do not have a real case at all:

Since Sandy Hook there has been a school shooting, on average, every week. How on earth can we live with ourselves if we do nothing?

One per week? We certainly haven’t seen anywhere close to that number on the news. Is it possible that so many could go unreported?

Obviously not. Nevertheless, the Washington Post Fact Checker column takes a look at the numbers. (SPOILER: They give it four pinnocchios.) The number is based on a report from a gun control organization called Everytown for Gun Safety. (ASIDE: It offends me that the gun prohibitionists are now trying to relabel gun bans as “guns safety.”  Gun safety is important and we mustn’t lose the term.)

Everytown for Gun Safety claims there have been 126 school shootings since Sandy Hook, as of earlier this month. Almost none of those bear any resemblance to Sandy Hook, even including unsuccessful attempts. The Post came up with 10 such. In order to get their number an order of magnitude higher, they included suicides and gang-related violence. That’s a standard tactic for the prohibitionists to inflate their numbers, but even that didn’t get them there.

To get to 126, they also had to include virtually any discharge of a firearm on any premises connected with any kind of school. For example, they included the case in which a man accidentally shot himself while unloading his gun in the parking lot of Beaver County Community College.

(Via Hot Air.)


Moderately dishonest

October 17, 2012

Before last night’s presidential debate, Candy Crowley, the moderator, made it clear that she intended to inject herself into the debate, despite the rules clearly prohibiting that. And so she did.

In the egregious intervention everyone is talking about today, Crowley took it upon herself to insert some in-line fact checking, contradicting Mitt Romney to say that Barack Obama had called the Benghazi attack a terrorist attack the day after it took place.

The moderator should not be putting herself between the two candidates this way (particularly since the rules clearly prohibit it), but what makes Crowley’s intervention so egregious is she was wrong.

In Obama’s speech on September 12, he used the word terror one time:

No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for

Note that he did not say “these acts of terror”, which is what Candy Crowley apparently thought he said. That would have been a clear statement that the Benghazi attack was a terrorist attack.

One can argue that making that statement in a speech about the Benghazi attack implies that it was a terrorist attack. But that is debatable. He made the statement about acts of terror after mentioning the 9/11/2001 attacks, so he need not have been referring to Benghazi for the statement to be germane.

Moreover, still earlier in the speech, Obama said “We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” clearly indicating that (in his view) the attack resulted from the anti-Mohammed YouTube video. This contradicts the notion that it was a terrorist attack, as a terrorist attack — by definition — must be premeditated. And, moreover, the protest-gone-bad theory was clearly the administration’s position for weeks after the attack, as Crowley herself admits.

There’s more. Obama’s remarks were not taken at the time to imply that the attack was terrorism. Both the Associated Press and New York Times made no mention of any such implication in their reports on the speech. (Via Brendan Buck.) The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler says “there is a world of difference” between what Obama said and acknowledging Benghazi as an act of terror. (Via Mickey Kaus.)

On September 20, White House spokesman Jay Carney agreed that the administration had never called the attack terrorism:

Q No, I just hadn’t heard the White House say that this was an act of terrorism or a terrorist attack. And I just —

MR. CARNEY: I don’t think the fact that we hadn’t is not —

(Via American Crossroads.)

Carney refers to “the fact” that the White House hadn’t said that it was an act of terrorism.

Finally, on September 21, Crowley’s own network, CNN, reported:

The White House, for the first time Thursday, declared the attack that killed Stevens and three other people a terrorist attack.

That Thursday, on which the White House declared the attack terrorism “for the first time”, was eight days after the Obama remarks in question.

All in all, the interpretation of Obama’s September 12 remarks as calling the 9/11/2012 attack terrorism is quite debatable. And, wouldn’t you know it, there was actually a debate going on! She should have let the debate happen, rather than dragging it to a halt with her own misinformation.

UPDATE: Added some additional points observed by Mickey Kaus, who comments:

You could say that Obama was calling this attack an “act of terror.” Or you could say that Obama was using the phrase “act of terror” in the vicinity of discussing the “attack” to come close to labeling it an act of terror without actually, logically doing so, preserving his freedom to not do so in the future.

I think that’s probably right; this was a deliberate obfuscation, intended to provide opportunities for future spin. The candidate, not the moderator, should be delivering that spin.

UPDATE: Michael Ramirez nails it, as usual.

(Previous post.)


Obama to release one-third of Guantanamo detainees

September 24, 2012

What could go wrong?

President Barack Obama is about to release or transfer 55 Gitmo prisoners, despite reports that the Libyan believed to be behind the killing of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens was a former Guantanamo inmate transferred to Libyan custody.

The large percentage of those scheduled to be released are Yemeni, according to a list made public by the Obama administration.

The administration will argue (with the blessing of the “fact checkers”) that these guys aren’t being released, they’re just being transferred to a Yemeni prison. However, Yemen is curiously unable to keep Islamic militants in prison. (Note that those are three separate links, to three distinct jailbreaks.)

But at least released Guantanamo prisoners never do much. Oh.


I never said half of the things I said

September 5, 2012

At a session for Jews at the Democratic convention, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said this:

We know, and I’ve heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel.

In fact, Michael Oren never said it. At least, there’s no public record of him saying it, and Ambassador Oren “categorically” denies saying it.

So, when Fox News’s Shepard Smith asked her about it, she denied ever saying it:

I didn’t say he said that. And, unfortunately, that comment was reported by a conservative newspaper. It’s not surprising that they would deliberately misquote me.

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is a liar. Here’s the audio of her making the statement (cue to 0:25):

And here’s the video of her saying she never said it (cue to 0:45):

Not only is Debbie Wasserman-Schultz a liar, she’s that worst kind of liar: the kind who dishonestly says that someone else is lying. She says that the Washington Examiner deliberately misquoted her, when in fact their quote was verbatim.

Keep this mind if you’re ever inclined to make the mistake of believing something that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz says.

POSTSCRIPT: In fact, it’s President Obama’s policies that are damaging to Israel. In fact, he is not only damaging, but openly hostile. (Here’s just one example. Here’s two more. Oh what the heck, here’s a litany.) Michael Oren obviously can’t come out and say this, but Israelis certainly get it. Only 4 percent of Israelis see Obama as friendly to Israel.

POST-POSTSCRIPT: It doesn’t have anything to do with this incident or with Israel, but if you still think you might be able to believe words that come out of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s mouth, watch this video in which Anderson Cooper eviscerates Wasserman-Schultz for lying about Romney’s position on abortion. I had no idea that Cooper had it in him.

POST-POST-POSTSCRIPT: If the so-called fact checkers wanted to do some actual fact-checking, this is the sort of situation where they could be useful: a factually false statement, rather than a rebuttable argument. (UPDATE: This one was too obvious for the fact-checkers to skip.)

UPDATE: This woman’s lying goes beyond ordinary political mendacity. She is pathological. When questioned by CNN’s Don Lemon about her lies about her other lies, she just lies some more. I can’t embed the video, you can find it here. She said:

Don, if you look at what the Examiner — which is a conservative blog site, so it’s not surprising that they would deliberately misquote me — and I’ll reiterate that they did deliberately misquote me. First, they took only the first line of what I said, and then they cut it off. And so you haven’t played the rest of what I said. And what they did was, they reported that I said that Republican policies were dangerous for Israel, and actually that’s what Ambassador Oren commented on. I never said that Republican policies were dangerous for Israel.

This is a big soggy mess that’s hard to tease apart:

  1. She maintains that Examiner misquoted her, even when presented with the recording that shows that the quote was verbatim.
  2. Apparently she means that her quote was taken out-of-context (which is not the same thing as being misquoted), but she never uses that phrase. Lemon uses it on her behalf, though.
  3. Her quote was not taken out of context. She says that she wasn’t talking about Republican policies, but about Republican criticisms of President Obama, which is in fact exactly what the Examiner said she said in their report’s very first sentence:

    Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz claimed on Monday that Israel’s ambassador to the United States has accused Republicans of being “dangerous” to Israel by criticizing President Obama’s record.

  4. She says that the Examiner cut off the rest of her remark, and CNN didn’t play the rest either. In fact, the Examiner’s recording went well past the quote and included all the context that Wasserman-Schultz alludes to. CNN played all that context as well.
  5. She says that the Examiner reported falsely that she said that Republican policies were hurting Israel. It seems this is her key point, and it’s yet another lie. The Examiner never reported any such thing. Not only did the article correctly report her intent in the very first sentence, it never used the word “policy” at all.
  6. Finally, returning to her original material, she reiterates her claims of unverifiable private discussions with Michael Oren. (Cue to 3:10 if you want to hear that part; I’m won’t bother to transcribe it.)

Amazing. This woman is a pathological liar.

(Via Commentary.)


Dark corner

August 8, 2012

When Charles Krauthammer wrote a column criticizing President Obama for his disrespect for our allies, the White House took issue with one sentence out of Krauthammer’s litany of Obama snubs and worse:

Obama started his presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office.

The White House first denied that the bust had even been returned, calling it a “rumor” that was “patently false”. Except it was true, and the denial was patently false. The White House later retracted their “fact check” (although they left all the incorrect material up and buried the correction at the end) and eventually apologized.

However, they continued to maintain that Krauthammer’s allegation was a “completely false” “urban legend”, claiming that the bust was returned only because the loan had expired at the end of President Bush’s term in office. The White House deputy press secretary took up the new line of defense and attack:

There is myth floating in some of the darker corners of the internet that suggest that upon taking office the President went out of his way to snub the British people by prematurely returning the bust of Winston Churchill that had occupied a prominent place in the Oval Office under the previous president. That’s not true. . .

The bust was loaned to President Bush by the British government. As is customary, at the conclusion of President Bush’s term, and before President Obama entered the Oval Office, the bust was returned to the British embassy.

The White House’s new story isn’t true either. The British government has made it clear that they offered to extend the loan and the Obama administration refused. The Times reported:

Britain wants President Obama to put a bronze bust of Sir Winston Churchill back in the Oval Office, where it stood for the past eight years as a symbol of an enduring special relationship with America. The White House is not so sure. . .

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Washington said yesterday: “We have made it clear that we would be pleased to extend the loan should Mr Obama so wish.” He added that no response had been received; yesterday the White House declined to comment.

A similar report appeared in the Sunday Telegraph.

We will be charitable, and assume that the White House’s original attack was not a deliberate falsehood, and that they simply failed to ascertain the facts before lashing out. But we cannot be so charitable now that they have had every opportunity to establish the facts. Not only is their latest defense/attack false, but they sneer that the allegation comes from the “darker corners of the internet”. Darker corners? The Times is one of the world’s oldest and most respected newspapers, dating from 1785. The Telegraph and the Washington Post (for which Krauthammer writes) are relative upstarts, dating from just 1855 and 1877.

(Previous post.) (Via Nile Gardiner.)


According to unreliable sources

July 31, 2012

Politico must really admire the Obama administration. First, they made the mistake of trusting material issued by the White House. Then, when that material (ironically, a “fact check”) turned out to be entirely wrong, Politico corrected their error the same way as the White House did, by leaving the incorrect information in place and merely appending an update at the end where no one will see it.

Believing the White House is wishful thinking. Failing to correct it once you know their information is wrong is lying.


Your lips are moving again

July 28, 2012

The White House is indignant about Charles Krauthammer’s assertion that President Obama, in his first days in office, sent back a bust of Winston Churchill lent by the British government.

Here’s the White House “fact check”:

Lately, there’s been a rumor swirling around about the current location of the bust of Winston Churchill. Some have claimed that President Obama removed the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and sent it back to the British Embassy.

Now, normally we wouldn’t address a rumor that’s so patently false, but just this morning the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer repeated this ridiculous claim in his column. He said President Obama “started his Presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office.”

This is 100% false. The bust still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.

News outlets have debunked this claim time and again. First, back in 2010 the National Journal reported that “the Churchill bust was relocated to a prominent spot in the residence to make room for Abraham Lincoln, a figure from whom the first African-American occupant of the Oval Office might well draw inspiration in difficult times.” And just in case anyone forgot, just last year the AP reported that President Obama “replaced the Oval Office fixture with a bust of one of his American heroes, President Abraham Lincoln, and moved the Churchill bust to the White House residence.”

In case these news reports are not enough for Mr. Krauthammer and others, here’s a picture of the President showing off the Churchill bust to Prime Minister Cameron when he visited the White House residence in 2010.

[photo]

Hopefully this clears things up a bit and prevents folks from making this ridiculous claim again.

(Emphasis mine.)

This denial struck Jake Tapper as strange, since the “rumors” that Obama had returned the bust were well-founded. A spokesman for the British Embassy said in 2009:

The bust of Sir Winston Churchill by Sir Jacob Epstein was uniquely lent to a foreign head of state, President George W Bush, from the Government Art Collection in the wake of 9/11 as a signal of the strong transatlantic relationship.

It was lent for the first term of office of President Bush. When the President was elected for his second and final term, the loan was extended until January 2009.

The new President has decided not to continue this loan and the bust has now been returned. It is on display at the Ambassador’s Residence.

So what gives? Tapper learned that there were actually two busts of Churchill. One was given to the White House during the Johnson administration; the other was lent during the Bush administration. The former has been in the residence all along (it was not moved there); the second was in the Oval Office and has been returned.

So the “ridiculous”, “ridiculous”, “100% false”, “patently false”, “debunked” “rumor” that Obama returned the bust is entirely true. It’s the White House’s statement that the bust was moved to the residence that is patently false.

ASIDE: An AP “Fact Check” column from last year reporting that Mike Huckabee “failed to note” the Obama moved the bust to the resident was also false. Nice fact checking. The National Journal story the White House cites is behind a paywall, so I can’t check what it actually says.

The nuance to catch here isn’t just that the White House was wrong, but the level of disdain and mockery they employed in their false debunking.

The White House later issued an update (presumably after Tapper’s reporting):

Since my post on the fact that the bust of Winston Churchill has remained on display in the White House, despite assertions to the contrary, I have received a bunch of questions — so let me provide some additional info.

[He confirms every particular reported by Tapper.]

On January 20, 2009 — Inauguration Day — all of the art lent specifically for President Bush’s Oval Office was removed by the curator’s office, as is common practice at the end of every presidency. The original Churchill bust remained on display in the residence. The idea put forward by Charles Krauthammer and others that President Obama returned the Churchill bust or refused to display the bust because of antipathy towards the British is completely false and an urban legend that continues to circulate to this day.

Note here the complete lack of any embarrassment for the false statements in the original post. Nor has the White House corrected any of those false statements other than by adding a contradictory update to the end. Nor is the existence of an update even noted at the top of the post.

Worse still, they maintain that Krauhammer was somehow wrong (“completely false”, circulating an “urban legend”), despite the niggling detail that he was right.

The only disputable fact is the reason that the bust was returned. The White House claims that the return of the art is standard practice. Perhaps, but one has to suspect that the British government would have been happy to let Obama keep the bust as a symbol of the transatlantic relationship, had Obama been willing to do so.

In fact, we needn’t speculate. Recall the British statement:

The new President has decided not to continue this loan and the bust has now been returned.

To sum up: The White House statement, which accused Krauthammer of being wrong at least eight times, is false in every particular, while Krauthammer is right.

POSTSCRIPT: The Krauthammer column is well-worth reading, by the way. It recounts several instances of this administration’s disdain for our allies, most of which are much more substantial than the bust issue.

UPDATE: The British embassy re-confirms, and Krauthammer fires back. The White House has yet to apologize.

UPDATE: Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, apologizes. They still haven’t corrected their erroneous post, though. And they still maintain that it wasn’t their choice to return the bust.

There’s still something left to remark on though. Pfeiffer says:

A better understanding of the facts on my part and a couple of deep breaths at the outset would have prevented this situation.

Well, okay. Alternatively, one might employ a general rule of thumb that when the British government makes an official statement, one oughtn’t call it “ridiculous” without checking first. Failing to do so might give people the impression that you don’t respect our most important ally.


Regulation benefits and Obama’s new math

March 31, 2012

Big Journalism’s observation that the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” column rewrote an column to make it much kinder to the Obama administration has been getting some attention. The column looked at the administration’s defense of its reams of new regulations, originally finding it quite bogus (“three Pinocchios”). Then the column was rewritten to remove the most cutting observations and downgrades it to the lowest rating (“one Pinocchios”). (Via Instapundit.)

Among the facts that were deleted in the rewrite is this one: When comparing the number of pages of regulations between the Bush and Obama administration, “that number doesn’t clarify whose rules have a larger negative impact.”

Obviously, the number of pages of rules gives only a very rough estimate of their impact. (Moreover, other deleted facts called into question whether even the page count comparison was accurate.) The cost-benefit analysis is much more telling.

As it happens, the Economist had an article (subscription required) last month about the questionable calculations that the Obama administration has been making to improve its cost-benefit justification. It turns out that when the administration quotes the benefits of its regulation, almost none of the claimed benefit is the direct result of the regulation:

IN DECEMBER Barack Obama trumpeted a new standard for mercury emissions from power plants. The rule, he boasted, would prevent thousands of premature deaths, heart attacks and asthma cases. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reckoned these benefits were worth up to $90 billion a year, far above their $10 billion-a-year cost. Mr Obama took a swipe at past administrations for not implementing this “common-sense, cost-effective standard”.

A casual listener would have assumed that all these benefits came from reduced mercury. In fact, reduced mercury explained none of the purported future reduction in deaths, heart attacks and asthma, and less than 0.01% of the monetary benefits.

Less than one-hundredth of one percent of the claimed monetary benefits, and no health benefits at all!

So how does the administration get from zero to $90 billion? In two ways. The first is “co-benefits”: the incidental benefit that happens to take place as a secondary effect of the regulation:

Instead, almost all the benefits came from concomitant reductions in a pollutant that was not the principal target of the rule: namely, fine particles.

So the entire benefit of the mercury reduction rules comes from the incidental reduction of an entirely different pollutant that might also take place when the rules went into effect. Clearly:

If reducing fine particles is so beneficial, it would surely be more transparent and efficient to target them directly.

The Economist goes on to note that the administration’s calculation of the benefit of reducing fine particles is completely speculative.

The second way that the administration conjures regulatory benefits out of thin air is “private benefits”:

Economists typically justify regulation when private market participants . . . generate costs—such as pollution—that the rest of society has to bear. But fuel and energy-efficiency regulations are now being justified not by such social benefits, but by private benefits like reduced spending on fuel and electricity. Private benefits have long been used in cost-benefit analysis but Ms Dudley’s data show that, like co-benefits, their importance has grown dramatically under Mr Obama.

They are helping us by making us spend our own money more wisely than we otherwise would. (Thanks guys!) As the Economist observes:

The values placed on such private benefits are highly suspect. If consumers were really better off with more efficient cars or appliances, they would buy them without a prod from government. The fact that they don’t means they put little value on money saved in the future, or simply prefer other features more.

In short, the entire benefit of Obama’s regulations are either dubious secondary benefits or unwanted private benefits.


The Otter principle

February 9, 2012

The Arizona Republic’s “fact check” column rates a statement made by sheriff Joe Arpaio false. Arpaio’s mistake? Relying on reporting from the Arizona Republic.

Well, trusting the media’s reporting is a big mistake, to be sure.


Opinion police

September 23, 2011

John Hinderaker coins the perfect phrase — “opinion police” — for the journalists who claim to be fact-checking, but really are evaluating opinions.  This is a pernicious phenomenon that is becoming far too prevalent.

In this particular instance, Hinderaker was complaining about a Washington Post column by Glenn Kessler called The Fact Checker, which reported Rick Perry’s “newbie mistake” on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Kessler said Perry’s was factually incorrect when he said:

I certainly have some concerns. The first step in any peaceful negotiation for a two-state solution for the Palestinians is to recognize the right of Israel’s existence. They have to denounce terrorism in both word and deed. And they have to sit down and negotiate with Israel directly. Anything short of that is a non-starter in my opinion.

Kessler claimed Perry was wrong on all three points. On the first point, he says that Palestinians have indeed recognized Israel, but this is debatable.

For starters, many say that the Palestinians never really changed their charter to remove its anti-Israel language. They argue that merely voting to revoke the charter’s provisions is not the same thing as producing a new charter without those provisions. (Here’s an example of that school of thought.) Personally, I think that what Palestinian authorities did in 1996 or 1998 to revise a document written in 1964 is beside the point. What matters is what they say and do now. Just last month, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas denied the existence of Israel:

The Palestinian Authority will not be recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday, adopting a belligerent tone ahead of his planned statehood bid in September. . .

“Don’t order us to recognize a Jewish state,” Abbas said. “We won’t accept it.”

And this very day, the logo of the Palestinian mission to the UN denies Israel’s existence. In short, Perry’s position is, at the very least, a defensible opinion, not a factual error. Frankly, I think he’s right.

Kessler is even weaker on the other two facets of Perry’s statement. Perry says the Palestinians must denounce terrorism in word and deed. Kessler produces one example of the Palestinians denouncing terrorism in word. He does not produce any examples of the Palestinians denouncing terrorism in deed (okay, I’ll grant that that’s clumsy wording), because there are none to produce.

On the third point, that the Palestinians need to negotiate with Israel directly, Kessler seems to concede that Perry is right. The Palestinians are not negotiating with Israel directly, and haven’t since March 2010. But somehow this point too shows Perry’s ignorance. Kessler doesn’t explain how.

Nowhere in this “fact-checking” piece on Perry’s “newbie mistake” does Kessler demonstrate any factual errors. On the contrary, there is one difference in opinion, and two correct facts. But wait, Kessler talked to three anonymous “experts”, and all three said that Perry sounded remarkably uninformed. Oh, well then.

But wait, there’s more! Kessler concludes that Rick Perry’s campaign is a “fact-free zone” (no facts at all!) because they have never replied to any of his inquiries. Clearly, Kessler is using the word “fact” to mean something entirely different from what it means to me.


PolitiFiction

December 24, 2010

The Wall Street Journal is piling on to the St. Petersburg Times’s PolitiFact for labeling “a government takeover of health care” as its “lie of the year”:

So the watchdog news outfit called PolitiFact has decided that its “lie of the year” is the phrase “a government takeover of health care.” Ordinarily, lies need verbs and we’d leave the media criticism to others, but the White House has decided that PolitiFact’s writ should be heard across the land and those words forever banished to describe ObamaCare.

It’s a good (if petty) point that a sentence fragment can’t really be a lie. But we’ll set that aside because the important point is that Obamacare is a de facto government takeover of health care.

I’ve noted that many times before (for example). What I want to note here is that the St. Petersburg Times seems to have made a major blunder. Their PolitiFact bit has been, all along, not about truth but about grading statements for ideological correctness from the liberal perspective, leavened with some straight-up fact checking to build credibility.

Their strategy works only as long as they can maintain their credibility. So far they’ve managed to do so. Around the last election they had an entire piece on NPR in which they debunked a bunch of Republican “lies” (and I think one or two Democratic ones in order to maintain credibility).

ASIDE: In that NPR piece (which I never blogged because I couldn’t find a transcript or audio online) they gave their worst “pants on fire” rating to a Republican Senate candidate (I think it was Dan Coats, but I don’t remember for sure) who said that Obamacare was going to force seniors into a government-run health care plan. This was absurd, they said, because Medicare already is a government-run health care plan. But that ignores Medicare Advantage, which is privately run. Obamacare imposes severe cuts on Medicare Advantage that essentially kill the program, which will force its participants into ordinary (government-run) Medicare. The cuts to Medicare Advantage were a big deal: Medicare Advantage represents almost a fifth of Medicare, and Senate Democrats had to agree to exempt Florida seniors from the cuts to get Bill Nelson’s vote for the bill. (The exemption was later revoked as part of the reconciliation shenanigans.)

By making such a patently indefensible statement in such a high-profile way, I think the St. Petersburg Times has gone a bridge too far. People are now noticing that PolitiFact (which they also call their Truth-o-meter) is anything but a fact check. It is now going to be common knowledge on the right side of the political spectrum that PolitiFact is worthless and Republicans will have ready ammunition to refute PolitiFact’s future pronouncements.

POSTSCRIPT: Reason is piling on as well, noting all the lies from the left that PolitiFact had to pass up.


Drop the charade

December 17, 2010

I’ve often noted the uselessness of the St. Petersburg Times’ PolitiFact, which they also call the Truth-o-Meter. The feature pretends to be an objective fact check, but it is anything but. In fact, they simply grade statements based on whether they agree with them. Not surprisingly, from a left-of-center publication, that means that statements from the right are rated false (even when they are actually true), and statements from the left are rated true (even when they are actually false).

Their latest takes the cake. They say that referring to Obamacare as a government takeover of health care is “false” or even “pants on fire” (their phrase, meaning somehow falser than false):

As previous national PolitiFact checks have shown, no matter how you look at it, the legislation cannot reasonably be considered a government takeover.

The government will not take over hospitals or other privately-run health care businesses. Doctors will not become government employees, like in Britain. And the U.S. government intends to help people buy insurance from private insurance companies, not pay all the bills like the single-payer system in Canada.

“No matter how you look at it.”  Nonsense.  At this blog I’ve frequently referred to Obamacare as the health care nationalization act, because that’s what it does in essence. True, this being America it’s still hard to get away with overt socialism here. So we still have “private” health insurance firms. As I said last June:

The government is merely going to dictate what policies they write, for whom, and at what price. The government will also dictate how much they pay out, require individuals to buy their services, and pay for much of the cost with taxpayer funds.

Hooray for the triumph of free enterprise.

In other words, we have a government takeover of health care, administered through private firms.

According the to the St. Petersburg Times, the preceding sentence is a lie. It is not. It is, in fact, an opinion. Moreover, it is an opinion backed by a strong argument.

The St. Petersburg Times is grading opinions based on whether they agree with them. If they are going to do that, they should drop the charade. They should admit that what they are doing is editorializing, not fact checking. They also might want to considering building their editorials around stronger arguments — without their fact-checking shtick they are left with a really flimsy case — but first things first.

(Via Don Surber.)

UPDATE: Karl at Hot Air has a similar take.


The dishonesty or the hypocrisy?

October 12, 2010

In the debate over whether the Democrats’ foreign-money line of attack is more dishonest or more hypocritical, the Annenberg Fact Check casts its vote for more dishonest. They also have this gem, from top Obama adviser David Axelrod:

CBS’ Schieffer, Oct. 10: But this part about foreign money, that appears to be peanuts, Mister Axelrod, I mean, do you have any evidence that it’s anything other than peanuts?

Axelrod: Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?

Oh, is that how it works now? They can level unsupported allegations and its their targets’ job to refute them?

(Via TaxProf Blog.)

POSTSCRIPT: Also, the Wall Street Journal takes a look at the more sinister side of this line of attack.

(Previous post.)


23% more lies

October 12, 2010

Last night I saw this Democratic ad attacking Tim Burns:

A 23% sales tax on everything? Sounds pretty bad! What they aren’t mentioning is that the 23% sales tax would be instead of your existing federal taxes (income tax, Social Security, Medicare), not in addition to them. It’s a classic lie by omission.

The DCCC has disabled comments on this ad, making it impossible for anyone to point out that it’s dishonest.

POSTSCRIPT: The DCCC has been called out for this lie before by the Annenberg Fact Check.


Fire this man

October 1, 2010

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) is a disgrace. He has produced two of the most dishonest campaign commercials ever, both in the space of a week. The first ad claimed that his opponent, Daniel Webster, is a draft dodger. He’s not. He reported for duty, and failed the physical. Grayson also explicitly attacked Webster’s patriotism. (Myths aside, pretty much only Democrats do this.)

The second ad edits remarks Webster made at a Christian conference to make them sound like the exact opposite of what he said. At the conference, Webster was making the point (correctly, in my opinion) that the bible’s exhortation to wives in Ephesians 5 is exactly that, an exhortation to wives, not a demand to be placed by husbands. But Grayson’s editing made it sounds as though Webster was saying just the opposite. Grayson used those remarks (that Webster never made) to brand Webster “Taliban Dan”.

For example, Webster said “Don’t pick the [bible verses] that say, ‘She should submit to me.'” Grayson edited that to “Should should submit to me.” When you edit out a negative, you’re nearly always telling a lie.

The Annenberg Fact Check summarizes:

We thought Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida reached a low point when he falsely accused his opponent of being a draft dodger during the Vietnam War, and of not loving his country. But now Grayson has lowered the bar even further. He’s using edited video to make his rival appear to be saying the opposite of what he really said.

Florida voters need to fire this disgrace of a Congressman. Fortunately, it appears they will.


Hook, line, sinker

April 5, 2010

Another blow to the vaunted fact-checking prowess of the New York Times:

Welcome to April 2nd. And that means a deconstruction of what happened on April Fool’s Day when I announced that I was going to become the official White House law blogger.

The basic idea was this: A bunch of law bloggers would try to punk the political bloggers, whose reputation is to grab any old rumor and run with it. Fact checking hasn’t always been the strong suit of this community.

But the political bloggers, to their collective credit, didn’t bite, despite wide dissemination of the story. Not on the right or the left. Instead it was the vaunted New York Times that ran with the story without bothering to check its facts.

To be fair, given the effort he put into the prank, I would have been fooled. I do my fact-checking using Google, not by contacting sources. So, it seems, does the New York Times.

(Via Instapundit.)


Decision-making, dithering, and sitting on desks

November 29, 2009

Last month, Robert Gibbs fired back at Dick Cheney’s (inarguable) accusation that President Obama is dithering about Afghanistan, saying:

The vice president was for seven years not focused on Afghanistan. Even more curious given the fact that an increase in troops sat on desks in this White House, including the vice president’s, for more than eight months, a resource request filled by President Obama in March.

Obviously Gibbs’s effort to tie in the vice president is rubbish, since the vice president is not in the chain of command. But what about the central accusation that the request sat on President Bush’s desk for more than eight months?

The St. Petersburg Times’s “Truth-o-meter” rates the accusation true, observing that Gen. McKiernan (apparently) started issuing requests for more troops when he took over in Afghanistan, about eight months before the end of President Bush’s term, and those requests were not fully fulfilled during the Bush administration.

If “sat on desks” meant the same thing as “was not fully fulfilled”, then Gibbs and the St. Petersburg Times would have a strong case. (Of course, by that definition, Gen. McChrystal’s request will probably be sitting on Obama’s desk forever, since all indications are that it will not be fully granted.) But that’s not what the phrase means. To “sit on a desk” means that no decision was made. That is not at all the case with Gen. McKiernan’s requests for troops.

As ABC News explains, McKiernan made several requests for troops over his months in command, totaling about 30,000 troops. Some of the requests were granted, but most were not, as the Surge in Iraq was making heavy demands. Instead, the Bush administration tried to get NATO to fill the gap. By the fall of 2008 it was clear that NATO was not going to come through, and with the Surge winding down, more US troops were available for Afghanistan and were sent. In March 2009, with Iraq quiet and troops withdrawals underway, the balance was sent by President Obama.

So what you saw from President Bush is the normal process of allocating scarce military resources where they are most needed. In other words, you saw decision-making. In March you saw the same from President Obama. But now, on the other hand, you see Obama unable to make a decision. Dithering.

ABC put it bluntly:

So Gibbs’s claim that for “eight months” McKiernan’s request for troops “sat on desks” isn’t accurate.

It’s no surprise that Gibbs is wrong; he usually is. But so, it seems, is the St. Petersburg Times. Last month I noted that the “Truth-o-meter” rated several true criticisms of the Obama administration as false. Here it rated a false defense of the Obama administration as true. What use is a fact checker that sides with the administration regardless of the facts?


Only 17% of Mexican crime guns come from the U.S.

April 2, 2009

If you read Glenn Reynolds, you probably know this already:

You’ve heard this shocking “fact” before — on TV and radio, in newspapers, on the Internet and from the highest politicians in the land: 90 percent of the weapons used to commit crimes in Mexico come from the United States.

— Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it to reporters on a flight to Mexico City.

— CBS newsman Bob Schieffer referred to it while interviewing President Obama.

— California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said at a Senate hearing: “It is unacceptable to have 90 percent of the guns that are picked up in Mexico and used to shoot judges, police officers and mayors … come from the United States.”

— William Hoover, assistant director for field operations at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, testified in the House of Representatives that “there is more than enough evidence to indicate that over 90 percent of the firearms that have either been recovered in, or interdicted in transport to Mexico, originated from various sources within the United States.”

There’s just one problem with the 90 percent “statistic” and it’s a big one:

It’s just not true.

In fact, it’s not even close. By all accounts, it’s probably around 17 percent.

What’s true, an ATF spokeswoman told FOXNews.com, in a clarification of the statistic used by her own agency’s assistant director, “is that over 90 percent of the traced firearms originate from the U.S.”

68% of the guns used in Mexican crimes are never even submitted for tracing, because they do not have traceable markings.  (Such guns are almost certainly not from the U.S., which requires such markings.)   Of those, 45% cannot be traced.  Thus, just 17% of the guns used in Mexican crimes are successfully traced.  Of those, 90% came from the United States.

So all the 90% statistic means is that guns from the U.S. are traced much more easily than most Mexican crime guns.

UPDATE (4/18): Annenberg Political Fact Check estimates the number as 36%.  Either way, it’s nowhere near 90%.


NY Times taken in by fake letter

December 22, 2008

The vaunted army of editors and fact checkers misses another one.  (Via Instapundit.)


CNN vs. ABC on McCain and Lebanon

October 9, 2008

Best of the Web today notes that CNN and ABC draw opposite conclusions when fact-checking a McCain statement from the last debate:

In Lebanon, I stood up to President Reagan, my hero, and said, if we send Marines in there, how can we possibly beneficially affect this situation? And said we shouldn’t. Unfortunately, almost 300 brave young Marines were killed.

CNN says it’s true and ABC says it’s false, while agreeing on the same underlying facts. Best of the Web explains:

Here is CNN explaining why McCain’s statement was true:

The U.S. Multinational Force operated in Beirut, Lebanon, from August 24, 1982, to March 30, 1984, as part of an international peacekeeping operation in the war-torn country

McCain was a freshman member of the House of Representatives in September 1983 when it approved legislation “that would invoke the War Powers Act in Lebanon and authorize the deployment of American Marines in the Beirut area for an additional 18 months,” the New York Times reported.

The resolution had the backing of House leaders of both parties and President Reagan, and it passed by a vote of 270 to 161, the Times report said. But McCain “argued that his military training led him to oppose the continued deployment of troops in Lebanon,” the Times reported.

But here is how ABC concluded it was false:

This is an issue that came up in the first presidential debate, as well. And in both cases, McCain exaggerates his position. Marines were already in Lebanon when McCain arrived on Capitol Hill in 1983, and his vote was to prevent invoking the War Powers Act to extend the Marines already deployed. McCain did vote against that, but as he did in the first debate, McCain is wrong to imply that he opposed sending the Marines to Lebanon.

Note that these two “fact checks,” despite reaching opposite conclusions, agree on the underlying fact, namely that McCain voted against what CNN calls the “continued deployment” in Lebanon.

ABC has a niggle–that the vote was not on the initial deployment, which occurred before McCain took his seat in the House. ABC does not mention that when Reagan deployed the Marines in August 1982, he did so on his own authority. Congress’s 1983 vote on “continued deployment” was the first time lawmakers weighed in on the subject.

I would add that if you accept ABC’s reasoning, then Barack Obama is lying every time he says he opposed the war in Iraq. We were already in Iraq when Obama took office in 2005. If you accept Obama’s statement (as everyone does), you have to accept McCain’s as well.

(Via Instapundit.)


Biden’s tax whopper

September 26, 2008

Joe Biden claims that John McCain will impose the largest tax increase in US history by making health benefits taxable.  The Washington Post fact checker calls Biden’s claim a “whopper” (they give it four Pinocchios, the worst score).  They point out that McCain’s plan includes a tax credit for health care, which would more than compensate for taxing benefits, and actually put taxpayers ahead.  But what’s the difference between a massive tax hike and a tax cut between friends, anyway?

It strikes me that this is not only a lie, but a stupid one.  People know what Democrats and Republicans are.  Are they really going to believe that McCain will raise taxes more than Obama?  I doubt it.

(Via Instapundit.)


Washington Post: don’t trust us

September 22, 2008

How much is the media in the tank for Barack Obama? So much that they won’t even stand up for their own reporting.

The McCain campaign ran an ad criticizing Obama for his ties to a central Fannie Mae figure, for which they relied on two Washington Post stories. Obama accused McCain (not the Post) of lying. Then, the Washington Post backed up Obama, and faulted McCain for relying on their reporting. Amazing.

Additionally, as I noted earlier, the Post was initially unable to report accurately on the contents of their own pages. Originally, their “fact check” reported that the Post story appeared in the Style section, when in fact it appeared in the Business section. The “fact check” has now been silently corrected.


Thank goodness for the editors

April 21, 2008

At the LA Times, in a review of HBO’s John Adams:

George Washington (David Morse) so quickly tired of the infighting among his Cabinet and vagaries of public opinion that he stepped down from the presidency after a single term.

I guess that’s where the tradition of presidents stepping down after one term in office started.

The critic now is suitably embarrassed, but what about the editors?  I thought that editors and fact checking were supposed to be the big advantage of the mainstream media.

(Via the Volokh Conspiracy.)


Tenet (Mostly) Explained

April 10, 2021

Christopher Nolan’s new film, Tenet, is my favorite film of the last decade. I don’t think it’s Nolan’s best film. But it’s hard to beat Tenet in terms of sheer fun and rewatchability. More than any movie I can think of, Tenet rewards multiple viewings. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen it, and I’m still noticing new things.

What follows is my exposition of the Tenet storyline, what happened and why, and what I think it means. This is directed toward people who found the movie confusing, want an explanation, and (for whatever reason) aren’t inclined to work it out themselves. It’s also directed toward other Tenet fanboys, to compare notes. But mainly it’s because I enjoyed working all this out and I wanted to share what I learned.

Obviously, here there be spoilers. I assume you’ve seen the movie at least once, so I won’t bother explaining who the characters are.

Read the rest of this entry »


Wanted: one moral compass

February 24, 2018

(This is more stream-of-consciousness than my usual essay. Sorry about that.)

The facts

We now know many things about the February 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. We know that a former student (I won’t be using his name) who had been expelled from the school, went in with a rifle and murdered 17 students.

We know that the shooter talked about shooting up a school all the time. He would introduce himself saying “Hi, I’m Nick. I’m a school shooter.” After another mass shooting he bragged “Man I can do so much better.” And we know that his threats were relayed to local police and the FBI on numerous occasions, but no action was taken. Some of the warnings were quite explicit. We know that the police were called to the shooter’s home on numerous occasions, but, as far as we know, no action was taken. (CNN has reported that this happened on 39 occasions, but the Broward Country sheriff’s office says it was only 23 times.)

We know that the sheriff’s office had a deputy stationed at the school. The deputy, Scot Peterson, ran to the building where he heard the shooting, and then waited outside while the shooting continued. The Broward County sheriff, Scott Israel, offered Peterson up as a sacrificial lamb, but the problem went beyond Peterson.

We know that, in addition to Peterson, three other Broward County sheriff’s deputies responded to the school. None of them went in. All four waited outside, taking cover behind their cars. (Sheriff Israel had previously claimed otherwise, but that turned out not to be true.) Nor did they even prevent the shooter from escaping. They might as well not even have shown up at all.

The first officers to enter the building were police from a neighboring municipality, Coral Springs, who responded even though the school was out of their jurisdiction. They reportedly were disgusted with the Broward County deputies cowering outside. But it appears that by that time, the shooter had already escaped. He was eventually captured by an alert police officer in another municipality.

We also know that a Sheriff Israel had a reputation for hiring political cronies to staff his force, and liked to reply to critics by saying “lions don’t care about the opinions of sheep.” And we know that the same Deputy Peterson had earlier refused to share information about a previous incident involving the shooter with the Florida Department of Children and Families. The reason he would refuse to cooperate with them has not been revealed, but it must be.

The rant

With all these facts known, who do the left/media blame for the massacre? The shooter himself? The FBI or various local police who ignored the warnings? The deputies who cowered outside the school, or the political sheriff who was responsible for their recruiting and training?

Of course not. The true culprit was the NRA.

The NRA, who had nothing whatsoever to do with it, that’s who the leftists and the media (but I repeat myself) think are to blame.

What in the hell is wrong with these people?

While they blame the NRA, they make excuses for the cowardly deputies. A guy with a rifle is just too scary, you can’t expect them to take him on. For example, an editor at the Los Angeles Times wrote “not every has, or should be expected to have, the guts to face a maniac with an AR-15.” It was their job!

ASIDE: While they excuse the useless cops and blame the NRA, let’s not forget the barefoot, civilian plumber from Sutherland Springs who engaged a shooter who was armed with a rifle and wearing body armor. That man was an NRA instructor.

But the worst take on the cowardly cops was from CNN’s Chris Cillizza, who wrote:

What happened in Parkland is proof that a good guy with a gun doesn’t always stop a bad guy with a gun

(CNBC’s John Harwood made the same point.) Clearly Cillizza and Harwood don’t actually understand the “good guy with a gun argument” so let me spell it out: If there is a bad guy with a gun, you want there also to be a good guy with a gun to stop him. The police can’t always be there, so citizens should be armed. The cowardly deputies are a confirmation of the the argument, not a refutation. Even if the cops are there, they might not do anything.

A related idiocy was from MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, who said it is useless for a handgun wielder to confront a AR-15 wielder, since AR-15 bullets travel faster. I guess a man armed with a laser will be invincible.

To go along with the idiocy were the outright lies. Everytown for Gun Safety — the deceptively-named gun-control advocacy group funded by billionaire Mike Bloomberg — claimed that there have been 18 school shootings so far in 2018. This isn’t remotely true. (To come up with this number, they have to count nonsense like a window being shot out by a bb gun.) Many media outlets pointed out this it wasn’t true, but not all. The always-execrable New York Daily News cited it without reservation. So did Jeff Greenfield, a long-time political analyst for various networks. (He later deleted the tweet.) Various politicians including Bernie Sanders and Bill DeBlasio cited it as well. ABC couldn’t pass it up either, but did point in the 4th paragraph that it was disputed. Finally, in CNN’s town hall they took a question that cited the bogus statistic; the event’s moderator, Jake Tapper, didn’t point out that it was false, nor did he give anyone else a chance to do so.

The CNN town hall brings me to the main point of this rant, the shameless politicization of this crime. The gun-control movement is clearly frustrated that mass shootings have failed to move to move public opinion on gun control. The reason for this is they have never rebutted the common-sense logic: If guns are made illegal, only criminals will have guns. There are other important arguments for gun-rights as well, but that one suffices.

The only way they can get their gun bans is to have them enacted when the public is emotional, and not thinking rationally. That is why they always bristle at the suggestion that we should wait to consider gun-control measures until we can do so with a clear head.

But even so, it hasn’t been working. Worse — from the anti-gun perspective, but also from the sensible perspective — we are getting accustomed to mass shootings, so they don’t create the same level of emotion as they used to. Something must be done to increase the emotional temperature.

Hence, the Parkland kids. To be clear, I don’t blame the kids. Being from Broward Country, they have surely be taught to view the world from a liberal perspective, and they survived a horribly traumatic experience. Their feelings are genuine. But making those kids the face of the gun-control movement is shameless emotional blackmail of the crassest sort.

They tell us — with a straight face — that these kids have a special wisdom we have to listen to. No. They are children. There is a reason that juvenile and sophomoric are synonyms. And this especially applies to high schoolers, who tend to think they know everything, when in fact they know very little. And everyone knows it. Yes, the bull curve is wide, and some children are wise, but you identify those special children by their wisdom. To assume they are wise simply because they are children is simply insane.

As I said, everyone knows this. Including the people who are pretending that these kids are Charles Wallace Murray because the kids are speaking from the worldview with which they were indoctrinated.

The game plan is clear: Put forward the kids. Some internet crazies will attack them. You publicize the crazies and the public recoils in horror. Then, you tar anyone who disagrees with the kids as the same as the crazies. That is, exactly this: You start with crazies like Alex Jones, and then sliiiiide into Ben Shapiro, The Federalist, and National Review. By the end, you’re supposed to condemn supposedly outrageous statements like:

If you have ever been, or known, a teenager, you know that even comparatively well-informed teens are almost always just advancing arguments they’ve heard from adults.

In case that seems nothing more than common sense, then comes the emotional punch: “Even, it seems, teens who have recently been shot at by a mass murderer.” You aren’t supposed to notice that this is a complete non sequitur.

Then there’s this:

Another approach was to find individual survivors of this massacre who did not happen to support the call from a large number of their classmates for gun control. The Daily Wire managed to find a pro-gun Marjory Stoneman student who accused the media of “politicizing” the massacre to talk about gun control.

Wait a second, you’re not supposed to have your own kids rebut ours! See, it’s not all the kids who have special wisdom, just the ones who agree with us!

That brings us to CNN’s travesty of a town hall. You can find a transcript here, but the transcript with its “(BOOING)” and “(APPLAUSE)” doesn’t capture the sense of the event. It resembled nothing more than one of Red China’s struggle sessions in which an audience would watch and jeer while the party abused a victim until he confessed his crimes against the people.

It was obviously a set-up from the beginning. The host, Jake Tapper, used to be the spokesman for Handgun Control, Inc. — not that CNN disclosed that fact — where he was known for insights such as this:

[Charleton Heston’s] interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is unique to him and his organization and has never been upheld in court.

(That was before Heller v. DC, so the latter part was true at the time, but only a true ideologue would try to claim that it is unique to the NRA to believe that the Second Amendment protects gun rights.)

The questions were all approved in advance. (Despite the he-said/she-said about the correspondence between the producers and possible participants, this point is not in dispute.) And this was the sort of insightful question they approved:

Senator Rubio, it’s hard to look Senator Rubio, it’s hard to look at you and not look down a barrel of an AR-15 and not look at Nicholas Cruz, but the point is you’re here and there some people who are not.

and:

So, I had a question for Ms. Loesch but she’s not here yet. So for her and the NRA — she’s probably watching — and all of you puppet politicians that they are backing. Was the blood of my classmates and my teachers worth your blood money?

The government failed them at every level, but a civil-rights organization with no involvement whatsoever, one that wants to give your teachers the means to defend you, they are the ones with blood on their hands!

Rubio and Loesch were courageous going in there, and generally acquitted themselves pretty well. Rubio orchestrated this revealing moment:

RUBIO: … Now on the issue that you’ve raised about the background checks, relate directly to what you said about the — about the assault weapons ban. It’s not the loopholes. It’s the problem that once you start looking at how easy it is to get around it, you would literally have to ban every semi-automatic rifle that’s sold in the U.S.

(APPLAUSE) [this is an understatement]

RUBIO: Fair enough. Fair enough, that — that is a valid position to hold, but my colleagues do not support banning every semi-automatic rifle sold in America.

This is how far out of the mainstream the audience CNN assembled was. It’s not about “assault weapons,” it’s about banning every semi-automatic rifle in America.

Bottom line

Rant over. Let me wrap up with the bottom line. We are not going to ban guns in America. It isn’t going to happen. You are welcome to try; if you want to try, go ahead and get started.

But if not, please stop wasting our time with these proposals that sound superficially reasonable, but are extremely broad or nonsensical when you look at them closely. Stop telling us you want to ban assault weapons, when you actually want to ban all semi-automatic weapons. Stop saying you want to expand background checks, when your policy would actually make it illegal to fire any gun you don’t personally own. Stop saying you want to want to keep terrorists from buying guns, when your policy would actually give bureaucrats the power to block anyone from buying a gun without any probable cause at all. Stop saying you want to ban bump stocks, when a rubber band can serve as a bump stock

If you’re going to try to ban all guns, let’s get started on that fight. But if not, can we please try to do something about the problem? Something that could actually be enacted?

I’ve been told that I’m immoral because I don’t care if children die. This is offensive. Because I disagree about your preferred policy response does not mean I don’t care about the problem. I could just as well say that gun-control advocates don’t care about our children because they want to lock them into “gun-free” hunting preserves for psychos. But that would be unfair.

If we’re going to keep this on a partisan basis, then I’ll be pushing to end gun-free zones. They are idiotic, and history shows that mass shooters seek them out.

But there’s an alternative. We could look for other ways to address the problem that don’t involve expanding or restricting gun rights. We could look for a consensus approach. Personally, I think it would help enormously if we placed public pressure on the media to stop making mass murderers into celebrities. I’m sure there are other things we could try too.

Alas, that’s not what I’m seeing. When I tried to start such a dialogue among my Facebook friends, I had only one person join in.  For the rest, I gather it’s gun control or nothing. And that strikes me as lamentable.


Net neutrality, explained

December 16, 2017

With the recent FCC action on net neutrality, a lot of people are worked up, but almost no one seems to know what it actually means. Here is what it is all about:

The Internet is a protocol for delivering small packets of data over a wide-area network. An important property of the internet protocol (for present purposes it is the most important property) is that packet delivery is best-effort. That means that internet routers will attempt to deliver every packet, but there are no promises. If a router gets overloaded, some packets will be dropped (i.e., not delivered).

The key question is this: when packets have to be dropped, how do you pick which ones? Historically, internet routers have generally chosen the packets to drop arbitrarily.

But for many applications, this is not actually what you want. For example, in streaming video (nearly 80% of all internet traffic) some frames are more important than others. Some frames are keyframes (which give the entire picture), while most frames only describe the differences from the previous frame. If you miss a regular frame, there is some degradation in the picture, but if you miss a keyframe, you have no picture until the next keyframe arrives. Consequently, it would be best if internet routers preferred keyframes to other frames. More generally, there is an area of research called quality of service, which seeks to enable applications that require a certain amount of reliable bandwidth, and typically does so by identifying and reserving network resources.

So what is network neutrality? Network neutrality is the principle that says that routers must not distinguish between packets when deciding which ones to drop.

As a technical matter, network neutrality would tie the hands of networking innovators by prohibiting any routing strategy that intelligently chooses which packets to favor. One can improve the network by adding more hardware, but not by using the hardware one already has more efficiently. (Note: some dispute this. I will return to this point later.)

So why do some people want network neutrality? There is concern about a certain sort of network management practice that ISPs might adopt. To explain this, it’s helpful to know a few statistics.

Over three-quarters of the internet traffic in North America is from video streaming. Netflix alone accounts for over a third of internet traffic. YouTube (owned by Google) accounts for another sixth. (Figures from December 2015.) This creates a tension between ISPs and content providers. The latter’s business strategy requires that they consume a brobdingnagian amount of network bandwidth, while the former are concerned that the content providers will overwhelm their networks.

Thus, the content providers are concerned that the ISPs will throttle back their content, or that the ISPs will demand that they help pay for it. And, in fact, on a few occasions, ISPs actually did something like this.

Back in 2007, when the concern was peer-to-peer file-sharing (mostly music and video), rather than video streaming, Comcast throttled back certain file-sharing protocols. On the face of it, one could argue it was reasonable, but, being Comcast, they did it in a super-sleazy way. Rather than announce they were doing it, they just did it secretly. People noticed, made a fuss, and Comcast stopped doing it. (Ironically, Comcast is now trying to position themselves as big supporters of network neutrality, while they literally did exactly the thing that net neutrality advocates are trying to prevent.)

Nevertheless, the Comcast incident is instructive, because it was corrected by the free market without any government intervention at all. The customers noticed, the customers complained, and Comcast stopped. Years later, AT&T blocked its customers from using Facetime on iPhones, and they too stopped after public outcry.

That’s the technical background. At this point it gets political. Google (which owns YouTube) made a big push for net neutrality, and it became a cause celebre on the left.

In 2010 the FCC announced its rules governing internet routing and they were quite bad for innovation. (You can find the relevant rules on pages 17944-17956 here, but the summary in the draft rules is much more accessible.) They were full of lip service about freedom to innovate, but they never defined the key terms of “nondiscrimination” and “reasonable network management.” (The final rules improved the draft rules by giving a non-circular definition of “reasonable network management,” but they defined it (¶82) in terms of “legitimate network management purposes” which they did not define.) They specifically say (¶83) that “reasonable network management” will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Consequently, if you want to stay out of trouble, you have to go to the FCC for permission to do anything.

At this point, there is one more important element. The FCC actually had no legal authority to regulate the internet, and when they tried to do it anyway, they lost in court. But, never ones to allow something like that to stop them, the Obama administration reclassified the internet from an information service (which they have no power to regulate) to a telecommunications service (which they do).

A telecommunications service is a service that transmits information without change in its form or content. An information service is a service for generating, acquiring, storing, transforming, processing, retrieving, utilizing, or making available information via telecommunications. (Via Ars Technica.) The sticky thing is the internet is pretty clearly both of these. Some applications are more like an information service: the web, search engines, social media, video streaming, file sharing, cloud drives; while other applications are more like telecommunications: email, instant messaging, voice over IP, online gaming, remote login. Certainly the vast majority of traffic is in the first category, but a case can be made for either.

It is harder to make a case to reclassify the internet as telecommunications service when it is already classified as an information service, particularly since most internet usage is moving in the opposite direction. But, when the matter went to the Court of Appeals, only one of the three judges was bothered by that. The other two applied the Chevron principle which requires that judges defer to administrative agencies unless their decisions are clearly wrong. (It’s a terrible principle, but that’s another topic entirely.) As it happens, the 2-1 decision was Democratic appointees versus a Republican appointee, which emphasizes how political the matter has become.

Anyway, the reclassification allowed the FCC to regulate the internet (or, more precisely, home access to the internet). Another effect was to erase all of the FTC’s internet privacy rules. Instead, FCC crafted its own rules, but the FCC is not an agency with experience with consumer privacy protection, so the result was, as the FTC put it, “not optimal.” Moreover, there were other pernicious effects that had not fully played out yet.

At this point, net neutrality has become a proxy battle between progressives and conservatives. Conservatives oppose net neutrality because they generally oppose regulation, but especially because they don’t want to set the precedent that the government can regulate the internet. Net neutrality may be well-intentioned (if ill-conceived), but they worry that net neutrality will be just the beginning. Hillary Clinton’s statement that net neutrality is “a foot in the door” plays into that concern.

Now the FCC has re-reclassified the internet as an information service again, as it was until 2015. This makes the FCC’s net neutrality regulation null and void. So what happens now? In the near term, nothing at all. The internet survived without net neutrality until 2015, with very few abuses and nearly all of those quickly corrected by the free market. If an ISP ever tried to block an internet content provider that didn’t pay the ISP (a standard scenario in net neutrality’s parade of potential horribles), they would immediately face the wrath of their consumers, and have to reverse themselves. They know it, so they won’t even try.

In the longer term, it’s hard to say. The business model of Netflix and others, who soak up most of the internet’s bandwidth without paying anything for the infrastructure that makes it possible, may turn out to be unsustainable. If so, something will have to change. The same would have been true with net neutrality. But this is a technical problem, and the repeal of net neutrality means that networking researchers can develop a technical solution. Were net neutrality in play, technical solutions would be banned, so the solution would have to be political. That would mean that rent-seeking, not innovation, would be the future of the internet, and we would all be the worse for it.

UPDATE: Added the AT&T-Facetime affair to the preceding discussion.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The discussion above focuses on policies for choosing packets to drop, but there’s another aspect of network neutrality that I left out: concern that ISPs might block certain services entirely. This too happened once: a small phone company blocked voice over IP in an effort to force customers to pay for phone service. This case runs against my general thesis, because it was the (Bush-era) FCC, not the market, that put a stop to it. (Oddly, the FCC was able to do it at a time when it had no regulatory authority over ISPs at all, which says something about the intimidation powers of federal regulators.) Nevertheless, this is a baldly anti-competitive practice and I think the FTC has the power to address it under existing antitrust rules.

(Previous post.)


Debunking Vox’s latest gun-control article

October 3, 2017

In the aftermath of the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, the opportunistic ghouls of gun control quickly emerged to exploit the incident. A lot of people are passing around an “explainer” from Vox.com entitled Gun violence in America, explained in 17 maps and charts. It contains a few valid facts, but most of it is misleading or outright false. I didn’t find a rebuttal on-line, so I thought I would do it myself.

I’ll go through it point by point:

Point #1 (misleading):

America has six times as many firearm homicides as Canada, and nearly 16 times as many as Germany

The chart shows “homicides by firearm per 1 million people” for 14 countries, and shows the United States as an outlier, dramatically worse than the second worst country on the chart. There are two big problems with this chart: First, it focuses on “firearm homicides.” Who cares? Are people murdered using a gun more dead than if a different weapon were used? If you just look at homicides, the numbers change dramatically. For instance, the second worst country on the chart (Switzerland) actually has a much lower murder rate than the best one (Australia).

Second, they are cherry-picking the countries. This is a consistent pattern throughout this article (and others like it). There are countless statistics one can draw from the data, so it’s not hard to quote statistics to support any hypothesis. One needs to look at whether the quoted statistics are natural ones. In this case, one should ask, why choose these particular countries? In fact, there are many countries with a worse murder rate than the United States, and some of them are developed nations. (Russia and Brazil are much worse.)

In fact, the US does have one of the highest murder rates among developed nations. It certainly is a problem. But the chart exaggerates.

Point #2 (true):

America has 4.4 percent of the world’s population, but almost half of the civilian-owned guns around the world

In fact, American civilians have more guns than the militaries and police forces of the rest of the world put together.

Point #3 (false):

There have been more than 1,500 mass shootings since Sandy Hook

Simply untrue. The standard definition of a mass shooting is four or more people killed, in a public place, while not committing a crime, and excluding war. (This definition was employed by the FBI until Obama tinkered with it in 2013.) By that measure, this number is orders of magnitude too high. Even Mother Jones makes this point.

To get numbers like this, some people have deliberately lowered the threshold to include four or more people killed or injured, including criminals. That generates big numbers to be sure, but it’s plainly dishonest to pass off gang wars, and incidents in which no one was killed, as if they were incidents like Sandy Hook.

Point #4 (false):

On average, there is more than one mass shooting for each day in America

See above.

Point #5 (misleading):

States with more guns have more gun deaths

This one is very popular; I’ve seen it all over the internet the last couple of days. But note the careful wording: “gun deaths” not “gun homicides.” In fact, this statistic is entirely about suicides. If you remove suicides from the count, the correlation entirely disappears:

Also, recall point #1; people killed by other weapons are just as dead as people killed by guns. There’s no reason to exclude non-gun murders, other than to skew the numbers.

Also, their chart isn’t even honest in its own terms: they omit the District of Columbia which has the nation’s strictest gun laws and worst murder rate. If they put DC on the chart, they would have to resize the Y-axis to make room for it.

Point #5 goes on to say this:

And it’s not just one study. “Within the United States, a wide array of empirical evidence indicates that more guns in a community leads to more homicide,” David Hemenway, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center’s director, wrote in Private Guns, Public Health.

They are quoting the book accurately. But when you follow the link, the book does not cite a single one of the “wide array” of studies. It just makes a bald assertion. On the other hand, there is considerable scholarship to the contrary.

Point #6 (misleading):

It’s not just the US: Developed countries with more guns also have more gun deaths

This one hits nearly every misleading point. It uses gun deaths, rather than gun murders or overall murders. And the choice of countries is odd. If you follow the link, you find that the countries are supposedly selected by high scores (greater than 0.79) on the Human Development Index. But the choice of countries doesn’t match the linked data, it leaves out countries (Russia and Uruguay) that would completely spoil the picture.

Point #7 (misleading):

States with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths

Once again they use gun deaths rather than gun murders or overall murders. Plus, their proxy for tight gun control laws is this: “States with at least 1 Firearm Law Designed to Protect Children in Place.” So, gun locks? Come on. This is obviously a cherry-picked criterion.

In fact, the cities that have the very highest murder rates (e.g., Chicago) are in states with very strict gun control. And states that have loosened their gun laws have not seen any increase in the murder rate.

Point #8 (true):

Still, gun homicides (like all homicides) have declined over the past couple decades

Point #9 (true):

Most gun deaths are suicides

Point #10 (dubious):

The states with the most guns report the most suicides

I don’t know the statistics, and I don’t have time to look them up, but it’s very suspicious that they use a 5-year window, 12 years ago. This smells like cherry-picking.

Point #11 (obvious):

Guns allow people to kill themselves much more easily

Point #12 (chart does not support headline):

Programs that limit access to guns have decreased suicides

It’s believable that there could be some low-order effect here, but the chart doesn’t show one at all. The chart shows that the suicide rate was already steadily falling when Australia instituted its gun confiscation program, and it continued falling.

UPDATE: The article also cites a study of the Australian gun confiscation program that found (page 532) that it did result in a statistically significant drop in firearm suicides. But the study did not find a statistically significant drop in the overall suicide rate. Quite the contrary. They found a small decrease in the overall suicide rate, but the p-value is a staggering 95.6%, meaning that the decrease is almost certainly due to random chance. So, once again, there’s something here only if suicide-by-gun is somehow worse than suicide by some other means. Moreover, the headline claims a decrease in overall suicides, which is flatly unsupported by the study.

Point #13 (irrelevant):

Since the shooting of Michael Brown, police have killed at least 2,900 people

Let’s assume this statistic is true. I fail to see why relevance it has to gun policy. Moreover, just on its own terms, I have no benchmark to judge whether this is a lot.

Point #14 (dubious):

In states with more guns, more police officers are also killed on duty

They are comparing the 8 states with the least guns with the 23 states with the most guns. 8 and 23. Those are very strange numbers to focus on; this is obviously a cherry-picked statistic.

Point #15 (true):

Support for gun ownership has sharply increased since the early ’90s

Point #16 (true):

High-profile shootings don’t appear to lead to more support for gun control

Point #17 (misleading):

But specific gun control policies are fairly popular

Yes, when posed using terminology tested on focus groups by gun control advocates, they are fairly popular. But, support plummets once people learn what is really being proposed:

  • “Preventing the mentally ill from purchasing guns” is pretty popular. But once people find out that “mentally ill” means nothing more than “has someone handling their finances,” they realize they’ve been had.
  • “Barring gun purchases from people on no-fly or watch lists” is pretty popular, but “a bureaucrat can suspend your right to buy guns, and they don’t even have to suspect that you’re a terrorist, and in fact they don’t even have to tell you you’re on the list, and you have no legal right to contest being on the list, and even if you get off the list you still can’t buy a gun for years” is much less popular.
  • “Background checks for private sales and at gun shows” is pretty popular. That disappears when people find out “background checks for private sales” means you cannot borrow or rent a gun, so there’s no practical way to try a gun out before you buy it. Also, the so-called gun-show loophole is a complete myth.
  • “Banning high-capacity magazines” is somewhat popular, at least among people who don’t know anything about guns. But then people find out that “high-capacity” actually means regular capacity.

UPDATE: John Lott has a thorough debunking.


Snopes: Only once in history has Louisiana flooded

September 4, 2017

The quality of Snopes’s work has declined dramatically as they have become more partisan, but this one really takes the cake:

(Screengrab via Mediaite.)

They are complaining about this tweet:

This is false, Snopes explains, because Obama wasn’t president during Hurricane Katrina. Ha ha, what an idiot! Naturally, this led to a rash of people mocking Republicans for forgetting who was president during Katrina.

Except, the tweet never says Katrina. The entire premise of this fact-check is that if you’re talking about Louisiana floods, you must be talking about Katrina. But Louisiana has flooded lots of times, including once during 2016 when Obama was president. An unnamed storm dumped three times as much rain on Louisiana as did Hurricane Katrina, and Obama faced criticism for going golfing instead of visiting the disaster:

Here’s why President Obama isn’t stopping his vacation to visit the Louisiana flooding

Two important things happened today in the political world of President Obama.

The first was that the Advocate, a Louisiana newspaper chain, published an editorial calling on the president to come to the state to see the horrible flooding first-hand. It read, in part:

We’ve seen this story before in Louisiana, and we don’t deserve a sequel. In 2005, a fly-over by a vacationing President George W. Bush became a symbol of official neglect for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The current president was among those making political hay out of Bush’s aloofness.

Sometimes, presidential visits can get in the way of emergency response, doing more harm than good. But we don’t see that as a factor now that flood waters are subsiding, even if at an agonizing pace. It’s past time for the president to pay a personal visit, showing his solidarity with suffering Americans.

This isn’t to say that this criticism of Obama is necessarily fair (see below), but indisputably it is factually accurate.

It gets worse. The internet naturally pointed Snopes’s error to them, but (as we’ve seen before) they were too invested in it to correct it. Instead, they revised it to add this:

. . . during similarly pervasive flooding in Louisiana in 2016. Other users took that argument even further, knocking Obama for not “doing enough” to help Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina.

Their revised version also demotes the featured “origin” tweet to be just the first in a collage of many. But this version is incoherent. They still have that tweet and a similar one first in the collage, even though they are perfectly accurate. The rest of the tweets in the collage, on the other hand, do mention Katrina, so why keep the first two? Because the first two (the ones that are right) are the only ones from Twitter “blue checkmarks.” The rest are all from random internet people. Fact-checking random internet people is silly.

And what about those random internet people? Are they just the kind of crazy people that blame everything on the opposing party? Maybe, but maybe not. Two of them specifically mention Obama being on vacation, as he was during the 2016 floods. One of them mentioned he didn’t answer for three days, a specific detail that fits if she was talking about the 2016 floods. (Obama broke his silence regarding the floods on their third day.) And nearly all of them mention the golf; Obama went golfing at Martha’s Vineyard three times while the floods were ongoing.

So I think that most of those random internet people remembered the vacation-golf-during-a-flood incident, but they didn’t remember the exact circumstances (the storm had no name to tie a memory to), and they erroneously attributed it to Katrina. In other words, I think those people committed exactly the same error as Snopes.

Snopes should rate the claim mostly true, but note that some of them misremember the incident’s name. But that’s not what they’ve done, even when their error was pointed out. Instead, they continued to peddle misinformation, and I’ve now seen that misinformation dozens of places around the internet.

That’s right, Snopes is now starting urban legends of their own.

POSTSCRIPT: Snopes makes it unnecessarily difficult to critique their work. I’d like simply to link to the original post on the Wayback Machine, but Snopes blocks the Wayback Machine so I had to settle for a screengrab that someone kept. I can’t think of any reason for Snopes to do that, other than to memory-hole their mistakes.

POST-POSTSCRIPT: Is it fair to criticize Obama for golfing during a natural disaster? Chris Cillizza, now of CNN, makes a stab at defending him:

[I]t speaks to Obama’s unique and long-lasting commitment to not playing by a core rule of modern politics: making at least some decisions based on “how it looks” and/or “how it will play.” Obama has long been a rejectionist on this front.

First of all, this is nonsense. I’ll grant that the Obama had the unique conceit that he didn’t make decisions based on how they would play, but of course he did exactly that all the time. But never mind that; it’s beside the point. The question is: should the president engage in useless gestures in order to make people feel good? And the answer is yes.

The president is not just the head of government, he is also the head of state. That means that the job of being the country’s ceremonial leader falls to him. Other nations assign that job to a monarch, but America (thank God) has no monarch. The head of state should not be clowning around on the golf course in full view of cameras while a natural disaster is underway. Showing some solemnity during a disaster is part of his job.

(Via F. Bill McMorris.)


Quantitatively assessing honesty

December 3, 2016

A month after the election, people are still arguing the relative mendacity of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. “Who lies more?” ought to be a quantitative question, admitting an empirical test. But as a practical matter, collecting all their statements and fact-checking them all is difficult. Worse are the methodological problems: Hillary was in politics much longer than Trump; how do you normalize for that? During the campaign, Trump spoke much more than Hillary, how do you normalize for that? What do you do with the things they said more than once?

In order to get a controlled basis for comparison, I focused on the first presidential debate. Restricting our attention to that setting addresses the practical and methodological problems. (All three would have been better, but it was too much work.) I fact-checked the entire thing, using a neutral standard that I call the “misleading” approach.

To summarize the results: Trump, Hillary, and Lester Holt were all almost exactly as truthful, when you restrict your attention to determinate claims of fact. Nevertheless, nearly everyone savaged Trump as much more dishonest than Hillary. It simply wasn’t so.

Now, I’m quite sympathetic to the notion that this was an unusual setting, and Trump is normally less honest than Hillary. But how are you going to demonstrate it? Polling the “fact-checkers” is easy but useless. The only controlled assessment I’m aware of is the one I did, and it found no difference between the two. To broaden its basis out to the entire campaign (or more) is a worthy goal, but then you would have some severe practical and methodological problems to address.


I’ve got your authentication right here

October 25, 2016

The latest find in the Wikileaks document drop has the White House on the defensive. In the email, Cheryl Mills (Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff) learns that Barack Obama claimed to have learned that Hillary was using a private email server “the same time everybody else learned it through news reports.” She replies:

we need to clean this up – he has emails from her – they do not say state.gov

Whatever the White House might claim now, this shows clearly that they saw a problem with Obama’s statement. You don’t clean up something that isn’t dirty. And, indeed, a few days later they walked back the president’s statement:

President Obama exchanged messages with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at her private email address but did not know how the address was set up, the White House said Monday.

ASIDE: I actually find the revised statement plausible, but it’s not really exculpatory. You don’t have to know how the server is set up to know that there’s something shady about doing official business over “clintonemail.com”.

Anyway, now the email is public and people are calling it the smoking gun. Naturally, the White House would love to impeach the email, so the hapless White House spokesman is sent out with this:

“I can’t verify the integrity of these emails,” Earnest told reporters traveling with Obama as he fundraised in California, speaking of illegally obtained messages from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, that were published by WikiLeaks and apparently show the Clinton camp challenging Obama’s assertion that he didn’t know Clinton was using a private email account.

Podesta’s emails were “stolen,” and, therefore, their authenticity cannot be verified.

Well, as a public service, let me help. The email includes a DKIM signature:

DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha256; c=relaxed/relaxed;
        d=gmail.com; s=20120113;
        h=mime-version:in-reply-to:references:date:message-id:subject:from:to
         :content-type;
        bh=ZHarGwofbGy5infz7Thpz6DG+ykstdddQQmn2MUub2g=;
        b=nW8z1BSu8I+k9aDKnEI2hWIZZ0Vs1MWg8ip+5XLxoJjCo/IMhPhf//Pjt0bQQvsaVo
         ebmYE10DgrOfc+RDiWxDQqjU9/5UFJF33vlFnTAUCe5X3uvGQAJU9+A46NV3TVpjf87/
         0TYfKP0jinTz4UqQC34veevl0kjLi1vEHsxYTvCQBeHydP4OV3D5sBDagmTC+CxT3HJM
         UJpd6g/yJyulgsbcYKKSHmjofZT2VOmpraXEO12jLxCzJMeiPL1ZsT3ccxgokX3SM4ug
         Rv5Y4RvJVy+L9X22WclWFaON9zvuvt9h0ChVnBFU5vlfNnngWLC0Zx8LmbXAULs//Da/
         KcIQ==

(You can see it yourself by clicking “view source” on the email.) The purpose of DKIM is to authenticate that an email came from a particular domain; in this case, gmail.com. It uses a mathematical technology called digital signatures. A digital signature is a string (all the nonsense text at the end of the signature) that testifies to the content of a message, and that can only be computed by the holder of a secret key (in this case, Google). A signed message cannot be forged or altered by anyone who doesn’t have the key. In DKIM, a mail server automatically adds this signature to outgoing mail, thereby proving that the mail has not been tampered with since it left the server.

So all we have to do to authenticate the mail is to verify the digital signature. This is very easy to do. The Thunderbird mail reader has a DKIM verifier plugin that you can install in about 15 seconds. Then you simply open the email and see:

clean-this-up-dkim

Observe the fourth line: “DKIM Valid (Signed by gmail.com)”.

This tells us that this email definitely hasn’t been altered since it left gmail.com, assuming that Google has kept its secret key secure, and assuming that Russia can’t crack a 1024-bit RSA key or a SHA-256 hash. In 2016, both of these are very safe assumptions.

So what are we to make of Josh Earnest’s claim that the email can’t be authenticated? We know it’s false. We also know that Earnest didn’t bother to check with any experts before he made the claim. (Or, that he just outright lied.)


Snopes can no longer be trusted

July 27, 2016

If there is one strategy the left has used to move our country in their direction it’s this: They find institutions that have built up public trust, often over generations, and they take those institutions over, corrupt them, and put them to work on the leftist agenda. It’s happened most notably with academia and the media, but they’ve done it everywhere.

Snopes, the urban legend debunking site, has not been building up credibility for generations, but since 1994 Snopes has been the go-to site for debunking misinformation travelling the internet. Now they seem to be carrying water for the Democratic party. Case in point: the Snopes article on American flags at the Democratic National Convention.

First let it be said, this is a somewhat silly controversy. But never mind that. It’s a question of fact that Snopes weighed in on; let’s see how they handled it. The allegation is that there were no American flags on display at the DNC, and Snopes rated it False. Not “mostly false”, not “mixed”.

You can read the Snopes article here. The thrust of their debunking is two-fold:

  1. A widely circulated image featured Donald Trump on a stage festooned with flags, but those flags weren’t real. They were digitally added in real-time.
  2. Look, there were a bunch of flags at the Democratic convention.

Let’s start with #1. Yes, it appears to be true that Trump’s flags were virtual, not physical. So what? Virtual flags are fine. Moreover, it has no bearing on whether there were flags at the DNC. I guess we’re supposed to think that the DNC had virtual flags too? If so, that would be a strong debunking. But they didn’t. Here is Michelle Obama, the final speaker on the convention’s first night:

All you see is a mottled gray and turquoise background. No flags.

On to #2. The Snopes article has eight photos of the DNC with flag-ish imagery in them. The first two are from a color guard ceremony:

moreflags

That image is from day two, but there was a color guard ceremony on day one as well. So there’s that.

The third image is a guy setting up some flags, and the fourth shows the podium with some flags on the far right:

democratic-national-convention-flags

That’s conclusive, right? No. That image is from the day before the convention opened. (UPDATE: I originally thought the image was from day two, but the Politifact piece I discuss below indicates otherwise.) The flags were gone on day one. Go back and look at first image in the Michelle Obama video. It briefly shows the entire stage and the flags aren’t there. You can skim the entire first day on video; no flags on stage. The flags reappear on day two, after the Democrats faced criticism for not having flags.

Next they have four crowd images:

flags-at-DNC-1024x853

Three of those are not actual flags. (In fact, the two on the left are improper uses of the flag on apparel, but never mind that. I seem to be the last person in America to care about that sort of thing.) But the upper-right is an actual flag. And, if you skim the full-day video, you can occasionally see other flags among the crowd.

Finally, they have a video of Fox News conceding that there are flags on stage. But, again, that’s from day two. (You can tell from the chryon, “roll call vote underway.”)

ASIDE: Bonus points for Snopes taking their Fox News clip from the far-left Media Matters.

Let’s take stock: There were no flags on stage on day one, except during the opening ceremony. On the floor there were a few small flags. (If there was a big one, I haven’t seen it.) On day two the flags appeared, but still pretty subdued.

The controversy seems to have started with a story in the Daily Caller. (ASIDE: Snopes calls them a “right-wing web [site] known as purveyors of misinformation.” Nice.) They mention a few other sources, including a Facebook page, but all of those came after the Daily Caller story.

The Daily Caller story is dated the evening of day one. On day one, the story was true, except for a color guard ceremony and a smattering of flags in the audience. There’s no way you can honestly call that story anything but mostly true.

POSTSCRIPT: When you google “dnc flags”, the first hit is the Snopes page. The second is the Daily Caller story. The third is on a blog called Occupy Democrats. It says largely the same thing as the Snopes page. In fact, almost the whole post is ripped off from the Snopes page. At the end, they conclude:

Flags are so ubiquitous at the DNC that it is not possible that conservative websites made a ‘mistake.’ They created a lie using a minority of DNC images, and they deserve to be held accountable.

“Ubiquitous”? Not remotely. Yes, even on day one you could find a few flags if you looked, but as we’ve seen, they were certainly not ubiquitous.

UPDATE: Snopes is doubling down on this. They’ve posted another article attacking the Daily Caller for claiming there were no flags at the DNC. As we’ve seen, the Daily Caller was largely correct. But that doesn’t stop Snopes from writing this:

The first thing you have to wonder is, was this Daily Caller “reporter” actually “at the Democratic National Convention,” as he implied? Because his entire article was based on two Getty Image news service photographs, one of which wasn’t even taken at the Democratic National Convention. Did this “reporter” not know how to operate a camera (i.e., a cell phone) to snap a few shots of what he supposedly witnessed? Did he have a really crummy seat at the DNC that didn’t afford him a view of the proceedings (in which case he shouldn’t have been writing about the subject at all)? Or is he just incredibly inept at his job?

The tone is surprisingly strident, very unlike the Snopes of old. They also include a picture of a crying baby.

When they get down to business, they make a claim explicitly that they merely insinuated in their first article:

Of course, the Daily Callerdeceptively didn’t mention that their RNC shot captured a digital backdrop displaying images of flags, and not actual physical flags — the very same form of display used at the DNC.

This is absolutely untrue. No, the DNC did not display virtual flags on a digital backdrop. Once again, you can scan the entire first day here. They simply did not use the digital backdrop that way. To be totally clear, when introducing a new session, they did use some bunting (flag-esque imagery) on the digital backdrop, like the image below, but did not use actual flags.

dnc

After stridently attacking the Daily Caller so stridently for its poor reporting, it is ironic that Snopes did not actually go to the video themselves to check this claim.

The rest of the attack piece was similar to the original article, but they did add one element, a tweet purporting to show a flag on day one:

kopack-flag-image

But, again, this is from the color guard ceremony. You can see the color guard if you zoom in (which you have to do to see the flags anyway). The “call to order” on the backdrop is also a clue.

If Snopes’s point is that the DNC had flags on their digital backdrop, they are dead wrong. You can see that by looking at the video. If Snopes’s point is that the flags at color guard ceremony are enough to refute a report of no flags, that would seem very weak for an unqualified “false” rating, but if they want to go with that, they need at least to mention the color guard. To leave it out entirely is simply dishonest.

In all, a very bad performance by Snopes. Getting the facts wrong is pretty bad, since that is Snopes’s entire trade, but it’s the overt malice with which they do so that shows clearly that Snopes has changed.

POSTSCRIPT: The second Snopes article is titled “Daily Caller Throws Another Temper Tantrum After Being Debunked by snopes.com”, but they don’t actually say anything about the supposed temper tantrum. The article is here. It sounds indignant, to be sure, and rightfully so, but it’s nowhere near as strident as the article that Snopes published in response. In substance it says pretty much what I wrote above, but I had it a day earlier.

UPDATE: They’ve added this paragraph to the original story:

In fact, U.S. flags were present on the stage during the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem, and photographs captured U.S. flags being set up prior to the start of the convention. Flags at stage left were apparently moved or removed at some point (for reasons unknown), but one or more flags were visible at stage right on Day 1:

There’s good and bad here. Good: they’ve admitted that the flags were on stage for the pledge and the national anthem (i.e., while the color guard was out). Bad: everything else. Photographs capture flags being set up prior to the start of the convention? Show us those photographs. All we see is an undated photo of a man setting up flags exactly where they were placed on day two. Flags were removed for reasons unknown? No, we know the reason: those flags were being carried by the color guard and the color guard left. One or more flags were visible at stage right? Exactly one, and only while the color guard exited to the right.

Look, none of this is hard. Just watch the video.

UPDATE: Snopes also wrote this in their second post:

The flag rumor, as is typical, went through multiple mutations as those who spread it repeatedly shifted the goalposts to try to keep up with the debunkings, moving it from “there are no flags (of any kind) at the DNC” to “there were no flags at the DNC on Day 1” to “there were no actual flags at the DNC on Day 1,” to “there were no actual flags on stage at the DNC on Day 1” to “there were no actual flags on stage at the DNC for the entirety of Day 1” — and, as is also typical, we’ve continually modified our article to keep up with the shifting rumors.

The second post, recall, was the one specifically about the Daily Caller. Did the Daily Caller change its article? I don’t think so. I didn’t keep a copy of the original, but there wasn’t much to change, it was only three sentences. (In fact, Snopes specifically insulted them for how short the report was.) No, here they switch to talking about “the flag rumor” in general. Doubtless that changed, as they tend to do, when people repeat things without reading carefully. But by including a paragraph about the rumor at large, and then going back to the Daily Caller as if nothing had happened, they give the false impression that the Daily Caller shifted its goalposts.

UPDATE: Amazingly, Politifact gets this story pretty much right. There were no flags on stage on day one, apart from the honor guard. They also show some footage of flags on the video screen before the convention opened. (Perhaps that’s what Snopes was thinking of with their talk of virtual flags, which otherwise seems irrelevant.) They also have a picture of physical flags on the right side of the stage the day before the convention opened. It’s interesting that they would have flags during the set-up and not during the first day of the convention itself.

UPDATE POSTSCRIPT: The Politifact image of physical flags on stage is from July 24, the day before the convention. (They say the photo is from the New York Times. I’ve been unable to find it with some persistent googling, but I’m taking their word for it.)

dnc-flags-july-24

This photo is interesting because the flags are in exactly the same place, and draped in exactly the same way, as in the Snopes image above (the one with the oval around flags on the right side of the stage). The flags clearly were not moved between the two photos. This shows that Snopes’s image is from July 24, and not July 26 (i.e., day two) as I previously thought.

 


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.

Observe:

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.)


Do not trust content from the New York Times

August 6, 2015

Sixteen days later, the New York Times post a major correction of its reporting on the Planned Parenthood body-parts-for-sale scandal:

An article on July 21 about a video made by abortion opponents, which they said proved that Planned Parenthood sells tissue from aborted fetuses for profit, referred incorrectly to the timing of the release of what was described as the full-length, unedited version of the video showing a Planned Parenthood employee talking about how much clinics charge for specimens. The full video was posted at the same time as the edited version. It is not the case that the full video was not released until “after Planned Parenthood complained of selective, misleading editing.”

Sixteen days seems a bit long for an error that is easily checked in under a minute, if they had ever bothered to look. One might hope that the NYT would now be more hesitant to accept Planned Parenthood’s claims as fact, but that would assume that the NYT is more interested in accurate reporting than in protecting progressive institutions.

I don’t think Planned Parenthood can be at all dissatisfied in the service the NYT did them. Their misreporting aided Planned Parenthood in their claim that there was something dishonest or misleading in the videos. Planned Parenthood could never cite anything that was actually misleading, so they relied on a vague accusation that the video was edited. (As if a nine-minute video drawn from a lengthy conversation might somehow not have been edited.) The untrue notion that the Center for Medical Progress might have been hiding the full context certainly assisted that spin.

POSTSCRIPT: This is actually the second (at least) version of the correction. The August 5 version included this gem:

While the full-length video of more than two hours took longer to download than the nearly nine-minute edited footage, the full video was in fact posted at the same time as the edited version.

162 > 9. A New York Times exclusive!

(Via Twitchy.)


Fisking the president

September 22, 2014

Let me say first that I support military action against ISIS (or ISIL or the Islamic State, if you prefer). But I think that whatever we do ought to be serious and have a good chance of success. Otherwise, it looks like the president is just pretending to action because he’s suffering in the polls.

That exactly how President Obama’s ISIS speech looks. It’s so full of idiocy and mendacity, we have to go through it line-by-line:

My fellow Americans, tonight I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.

First line, first lie. He doesn’t want to do anything of the sort; he’s being forced to do it by the weight of public opinion.

As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Oh, that again. By now, boasting about Bin Laden, Obama sounds like a middle-aged man bragging about how he scored the touchdown that won the big game in high school.

We’ve targeted al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. . .

Actually, the situation in Yemen looks very bad. But I guess it’s true that we’ve targeted them.

Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents.

ISIL’s interpretation of Islam is incorrect, according to the President of the United States. A presidential fatwa, as it were.

President Bush started this line in 2001, when he tried to assure the Muslim world that the war on terror was not a war on Muslims. That was probably the right thing to do in 2001, and it worked to some extent. But 13 years later, opinions in the Muslim world are made up, and aren’t going to be changed by a line in a speech. And anyway, this speech is directed to the domestic audience, not to the Muslim world.

For years we’ve been told that Islam is peaceful, and the Islamic doctrine of jihad — “holy war” — doesn’t refer to war at all, but to a peaceful inner struggle. Mohammed certainly did not see it that way, but since I’m personally uninterested in fidelity to Mohammed, I would love it if Muslims everywhere adopted the peaceful interpretation. But as an outsider, the peacefulness of Islam is primarily an empirical question. I think Jonah Goldberg is right that it’s time they started convincing us, rather than the other way around.

No religion condones the killing of innocents.

Yes, I had to repeat this line, because it’s so breathtakingly stupid. Let’s agree, arguendo, that this is true in regard to Islam. No religion at all condones the killing of innocents? Various cultures have been practicing human sacrifice for millenia. The Aztecs were famous for it. Parts of India still practiced suttee in the 1980s. ISIS absolutely is religious, even if their religion is not true Islam.

And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. . .

This is true in exactly the same way as it is true that the vast majority of Stalin’s victims were Russian or Ukrainian. That’s who he was able to lay his hands on.

Last month, I ordered our military to take targeted action against ISIL to stop its advances. . . These strikes have protected American personnel and facilities, killed ISIL fighters, destroyed weapons, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory. . .

Yeah, the Kurds are great. Our airstrikes might have helped them somewhat. You know what really helps them? Letting them buy weapons! I’m glad we finally seem to be doing that. We should have done it years ago.

But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. . .

Fair enough, but let’s remember it wasn’t so long ago that the official Democratic position was that we should never, ever outsource our security to the locals.

In June, I deployed several hundred American servicemembers to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi security forces. Now that those teams have completed their work –- and Iraq has formed a government –- we will send an additional 475 servicemembers to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission –- we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq.

We’ll see about that. Indeed, by ruling out the possibility of that we might go in there and crush them, we may well embolden them, making a full ground war all the more necessary. These people have never learned the virtue of being coy about how far you might go.

But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. . .

Two words here, “Kurdish” and “equipment”, are far more important than everything else in this speech. At least he mentioned them.

Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. . .

Years ago, this likely would have made a difference. Today, all of Assad’s enemies who were friendly to us are dead. In the unlikely event that the Syrian opposition manages to overthrow Assad, we’re just going to see a replay of the Libya debacle. (Interesting tidbit: the word “Libya” appears nowhere in this speech.)

Who’s left fighting Assad? People like this: “Syrian rebels and jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have agreed a non-aggression pact for the first time. . .”

Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. . . And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.

I’m sure ISIS is shaking in fear of UN action.

Fourth, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.

What? Humanitarian assistance is well and good, but it won’t get those refugees back in their homes.

So this is our strategy.

Here’s the tl;dr version: (1) airstrikes, (2) ground forces who will absolutely not have a combat mission, (3) counterterrorism, (4) humanitarian aid.

And in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners.

I can’t let this go. Who, exactly, is part of the “broad coalition”? Forty nations deployed troops to Iraq, and that coalition was proclaimed a sham because it didn’t include France and Germany. We don’t know who will be in this coalition, because it doesn’t exist yet. The Obama administration is working frantically to assemble it.

We do know that the coalition won’t have Germany, and Britain (who always supported us before we discarded the special relationship) is vacillating.

My administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home.

Indeed he has. And Obama is unfortunate that he is a Democrat. Were he a Republican, not only would his bipartisan support evaporate at the first sign of difficulty, they would actually pretend that they never supported it in the first place.

I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL . . .

Wow. Exactly where that authority derives from is left unsaid, and for good reason. The 2001 AUMF directed at Al Qaeda doesn’t seem to apply, since ISIS did not collaborate in 9/11 and is not affiliated with Al Qaeda.

The 2002 Iraq War Resolution may provide authority. It gives the president the power to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq”, which won’t do, even if you set aside “continuing”, since ISIS is not Iraq. But it also authorizes the president to “enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq”. There are so many UN resolutions concerning Iraq that some of them arguably apply. Of course, this slender reed relies on ignoring the fact that the Iraq War was over. (The White House said in June that the Iraq War resolution “is no longer used for any U.S. government activities.”)

But at the time at which he said this, the White House had not yet figured out where that authority would come from. The New York Times reports “public and background briefings for reporters this week mentioned only the 9/11 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or A.U.M.F., and not the Iraq authorization, as did a statement the White House released after Mr. Obama’s speech,” but within days they were citing the Iraq War resolution as well.

Ironically, the White House called for the repeal of both resolutions just a few months ago. In May, the president announced “So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the [9/11] AUMF’s mandate.” And in July, the National Security Adviser wrote the House Speaker “we believe a more appropriate and timely action for Congress to take is the repeal of the outdated 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. . . With American combat troops having completed their withdrawal from Iraq on December 18, 2011, the Iraq AUMF is no longer used for any U.S. government activities [Scofflaw: there’s that phrase again] and the Administration fully supports its repeal. Such a repeal would go much further in giving the American people confidence that ground forces will not be sent into combat in Iraq.”

Now, the president certainly has the innate Constitutional power to deal with ISIS. That power is statutorily limited by the War Powers Act, but after Obama ran his Libya campaign in flagrant violation of the War Powers Act, it has to be considered a dead letter. But it’s awfully hard for them to make that case after all the Democratic caterwauling over the unitary executive theory, and Joe Biden’s threats to impeach President Bush if he dealt with Iran without Congressional authorization.

but I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger. . .

That’s a reversal of his pledge in May, “I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate [the AUMF] further.” Obviously, positions must change when situations change. But ISIS was certainly already active in May; they captured Fallujah in January. (Days before Obama derided ISIS as a “JV squad.”) The only change is public opinion forced Obama to start paying attention.

It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. . .

Yeah, we get it. We’re ruling out any possibility that we just might launch an effective campaign.

Next week marks six years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression. . .

This again. He always goes back there whenever he’s in trouble.

Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades. . .

Thanks to fracking. And it could be even closer if Obama doesn’t succeed in forcing Canada to send their oil overseas.

It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. . .

What?! We did nothing of the sort! I wish we had.

It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so that they can’t pose a threat to the Syrian people or the world again.

This is a great lawyerly statement. Yes, we helped destroy the weapons that Syria declared. Of course, the ones that Syria didn’t declare, those they still have.

And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, and tolerance, and a more hopeful future. . .

How exactly? I saw America stand back and watch the Arab Spring turn sour. A once-in-history opportunity, and we blew it.

When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said: “We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”

Good for us. But how did those civilians get trapped on the distant mountain in the first place? We did nothing as, month after month, ISIS steadily gained territory. We did nothing as ISIS drove those civilians from their homes. We did nothing as those civilians fled to that mountain. Then, when those people faced massacre, the public finally noticed, which forced Obama to take notice. Even now, have those people been able to return home? The media has moved on, but I doubt it.


Error and cover-up

February 14, 2014

Perjury is so common from this administration it hardly even seems notable any more. But let’s note it anyway:

After seven years of litigation, two trips to a federal appeals court and $3.8 million worth of lawyer time, the public has finally learned why a wheelchair-bound Stanford University scholar was cuffed, detained and denied a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii: FBI human error. FBI agent Kevin Kelley . . . checked the wrong box on a terrorism form, erroneously placing Rahinah Ibrahim on the no-fly list. . .

Instead of admitting to the error, high-ranking President Barack Obama administration officials spent years covering it up. Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and a litany of other government officials claimed repeatedly that disclosing the reason Ibrahim was detained, or even acknowledging that she’d been placed on a watch list, would cause serious damage to the U.S. national security. . .

Holder went so far as to tell the judge presiding over the case that this assertion of the state secrets privilege was fully in keeping with Obama’s much-ballyhooed 2009 executive branch reforms of the privilege, which stated the administration would invoke state secrets sparingly. . . In his declaration, Holder assured Judge Alsup that the government would not be claiming national security to conceal “administrative error” or to “prevent embarrassment” — an assertion that is now nearly impossible to square with the facts.

(Emphasis mine.)


Obamacare delenda est

February 5, 2014

The only silver lining to Obamacare is all the chances I get to say I told you so:

The new healthcare law will cost the nation the equivalent of 2.5 million workers in the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated in a report released Tuesday.

The nonpartisan agency found the reform law’s negative effects on employment would be “substantially larger” than what it had previously anticipated.

It said the equivalent of 2.3 million workers would be lost by 2021, compared to its previous estimate of 800,000, and that 2.5 million workers would be lost by 2024. It also projected that labor force compensation would be reduced by 1 percent from 2017 to 2024 — twice its previous estimate.

But wait, there’s more:

One killer detail comes on Page 111, where the report projects: “As a result of the ACA, between 6 million and 7 million fewer people will have employment-based insurance coverage each year from 2016 through 2024 than would be the case in the absence of the ACA.”

Well, maybe millions will lose their employment-based coverage, but they’ll all get coverage back from the exchanges, right? Nope:

“About 31 million nonelderly residents of the United States are likely to be without health insurance in 2024, roughly one out of every nine such residents.”

Why? Because, in selling the bill to the American people in a nationally televised September 2009 address, President Obama said the need for ObamaCare was urgent precisely because “there are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage.”

Now the CBO is saying is that in 10 years, about the same number of people will lack insurance as before. This, after new expenditures of as much as $2 trillion and a colossal disruption of the US medical system.

ASIDE: That statistic, bad as it is, doesn’t even tell the whole story. It just counts all those with some kind of insurance, neglecting the fact that nearly everyone is paying more for worse insurance.

In short, Obamacare is a complete failure. It is wrecking the economy, while utterly failing to do anything about the problem of the insured. More precisely, it’s a disaster, not a failure. Despite everything, it is succeeding in its real aim, which is to give the government more power.

BONUS: As a bonus, Glenn Reynolds digs this up, where Factcheck.org “fact-checked” Republican predictions that Obamacare would fail:

Independent, nonpartisan experts project only a “small” or “minimal” impact on jobs, even before taking likely job gains in the health care and insurance industries into account. . . One leading health care expert, John Sheils of The Lewin Group, puts the loss at between 150,000 and 300,000 jobs, at or near the minimum wage. And Sheils says that relatively small loss would be partly offset by gains in the health care industry.

Look, you can’t fact-check a prediction. It’s a prediction! And, as it turns out, all the predictions that they labeled misleading (as many as 1.6 million jobs lost) were much more rosy that what the CBO now says is actually happening (2.5 million jobs lost).

POSTSCRIPT: It’s worth noting that we’ve moved on from the side-show which was the Healthcare.gov debacle (although Healthcare.gov still doesn’t work!), and on to the first confirmation of real economic damage. Healthcare.gov was a surprise; we assumed that they would be able to build a web site. Stuff like this is what we were expecting. And worse to come.

(Previous post.)


Writing on the walls

January 11, 2014

If it wasn’t clear that Democrats are running scared from Obamacare, check out this Star Tribune column explaining that Al Franken (D-MN) wasn’t really the 60th vote for Obamacare. In fact, no one was!

They’ve abandoned “Obamacare is good” and are now attempting “it’s not my fault.” I don’t think it will work any better.

(Previous post.)


Obama to weaken mental-health privacy

January 5, 2014

The Obama administration has announced that it will weaken the HIPAA rules that protect the privacy of individuals’ health records. They wants government bureaucrats to have access to mental health records so they can use them to deny patients permission to purchase firearms.

They claim that they will find a way to do this without compromising patients’ privacy, but it’s not true. Firstly, it’s not true because it’s impossible: the whole point is to give health information to government bureaucrats. Secondly, we know from experience that when it comes to gun-related records, the government will leak the information:

In 2003, under pressure from the gun lobby, Congress passed a law that hid from public view the government database that contained the gun tracing information.

The Washington Post has obtained the names of the gun dealers nationwide with the most traces over the past four years. In addition, The Post has uncovered the names of the dealers, all from border states, with the most traces from guns recovered in Mexico over the past two years.

It was illegal for the government to disclose the information, but they did it anyway. And this wasn’t just a few “bad apples”, either. There was never any investigation of the leak, so DOJ policy-setting officials were complicit, at least after the fact.


Liar finally exposed

November 22, 2013

I’ve been harping for years about how Obama’s central health-care promise was a lie:

If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.

Now, with millions of cancellation notices going out, people are finally noticing, and the Obama administration is in a tough spot. People don’t like being lied to, particularly over matters consequence. The best that Obama’s defenders at the New York Times can manage is he “misspoke”. The Washington Post does better, practically tying itself in knots with this circumlocution:

the seeming contradiction shows the difference between political talking points intended to sell a controversial law and the intricacies of the health policies that underlie it.

Ah yes, the “seeming contradiction” between the talking points and the actual policies.

He did not misspeak. He lied. He told the same lie, over and over again, for years. In fact, the White House web site still has the lie, even today (weeks after Fox News pointed it out):

For Americans with insurance coverage who like what they have, they can keep it. Nothing in this act or anywhere in the bill forces anyone to change the insurance they have, period.

The lie was essential to getting his plan enacted, and it was essential for getting him re-elected. (If the election were held today, Romney would win.) They set out deliberately to break a system that most people are satisfied with, and to do it, they needed the people to think it wouldn’t affect them until it was too late to stop it.

With the law they passed, the promise was ultimately unkeepable, but they didn’t even try. Get this:

If you dig into the regulations (go to page 34560) [Scofflaw: OMG, page 34560!], you will see that HHS wrote them extremely tight. One provision says that if co-payment increases by more than $5, plus medical cost of inflation, then the plan can no longer be grandfathered. . . Another provision says the co-insurance rate could not be increased at all above the level it was on March 23, 2010. . . [T]he net effect is that over time, the plans would no longer meet the many tests for staying grandfathered.

And of course Democrats voted unanimously to defeat a Republican bill that would have altered the regulations to allow more people to keep their plans longer.

Were they perhaps unaware of the consequences of their policy? This bunch is so unfamiliar with the law of unintended consequences that you can almost imagine it. But no: the federal government does employ civil servants capable of working through the direct consequences of policy, and they did inform the White House:

Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40 to 67 percent” of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.”

That means the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them.

With a decay rate of 40-67%, you’re down to virtually zero within a very short time. And it’s not just the individual market. The same is true for the employer market, where the government projects that 39-69% of plans will lose their grandfather status.

And it wasn’t just the White House that knew, Congressional Democrats knew as well. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD): “We knew that there would be some policies that would not qualify and therefore people would be required to get more extensive coverage.” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY): “No, we all knew.”

(Previous post.)


Your lips are moving again

September 19, 2013

Barack Obama, yesterday:

You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling or the threat of not raising the debt being used to extort a president or a governing party and trying to force issues that have nothing to do with the budget and nothing to do with the debt.

As is nearly always the case when the Democrats claim that Republican tactics are unprecedented (such as this), not only is that claim false, but the tactic was actually pioneered by Democrats:

In 1973, when Richard Nixon was president, Democrats in the Senate, including Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Walter Mondale (D-Minn.), sought to attach a campaign finance reform bill to the debt ceiling after the Watergate-era revelations about Nixon’s fundraising during the 1972 election. . .

Indeed, Linda K. Kowalcky and Lance T. LeLoup wrote in a comprehensive study of the politics of the debt limit, for Public Administration Review, that “during this period, the genesis of a pattern developed that would eventually become full blown in the mid-1970s and 1980s: the use of the debt ceiling vote as a vehicle for other legislative matters.”

Previously, they noted, the debt limit bill had been linked to the mechanics of debt management, but now anything was fair game. Major changes in Social Security were attached to the debt bill; another controversial amendment sought to end the bombing in Cambodia. Kowalcky and LeLoup list 25 nongermane amendments that were attached to debt-limit bills between 1978 and 1987, including allowing voluntary school prayer, banning busing to achieve integration and proposing a nuclear freeze.

In 1982, Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker unleashed a free-for-all by allowing 1,400 nongermane amendments to the debt ceiling legislation, which resulted in five weeks of raucous debate that mostly focused on limiting federal court jurisdiction over school payer and busing.

Yes, lies and hypocrisy, but there’s also Barone’s first rule: all process arguments are insincere.


Putin is just trolling us now

September 13, 2013

Fresh off his triumph over Barack Obama and John Kerry heading off even a token strike against Syria, Vladimir Putin has an op-ed in the New York Times rubbing it in. (Yes, the NYT is offering itself as a soapbox for hostile dictators.)

The Washington Post has a detailed fisking, but here’s all you really need to know: He actually has the chutzpah (is there a word for chutzpah in Russian?) to say that military action without UN approval is illegitimate. This coming from the man who invaded Georgia (and still has troops occupying parts of Georgia) and who made his career waging a scorched earth campaign in Chechnya.

For good measure, here’s Vladimir Putin’s NYT op-ed from 1999 (via Business Insider), explaining why he needed to attack Chechnya. It does not mention the United Nations.


So much water to carry

September 11, 2013

The “fact-checkers” at the Washington Post and PolitiFact, commenting on President Obama’s absurd denial that he ever set a “red-line” in Syria, can’t bring themselves to call a lie a lie, but can’t produce a plausible argument to call it true either, so in the end they refrain from rating the comment.

That said, the Washington Post’s article is actually pretty good at laying out the facts; it’s too bad Glenn Kessler didn’t have the guts to draw the required conclusion. PolitiFact, on the other hand, is useless as always.


Obama anti-gun orders based on lies

August 30, 2013

Yesterday, the White House announced the president’s latest anti-gun executive orders:

One measure would close a loophole under which felons, those convicted of domestic violence and others banned from having guns can evade required background checks for machine guns or other weapons by registering the gun to a trust or corporation. The ATF received more than 39,000 requests last year for transfers of restricted firearms to trusts or corporations, Biden said, calling it “a very artful dodge to get around people who are not capable legally of owning weapons to be able to gain access.”

The White House adds that “felons, domestic abusers, and others prohibited from having guns can easily evade the required background check . . . by registering the weapon to a trust or corporation.”

Not so, explains John Lott:

Yes, when registered to a corporation any officer is allowed to posses the machine gun, but the point that the transfer occurs still requires a NICS check for the person actually picking up the gun.

So registering a gun to a corporation does not allow you to evade the background check. That is a lie.

The effect of this rule is that a corporation cannot register a weapon unless all of its officers are permitted to possess it, even those officers who never will. One domestic abuse charge is enough to blackball an entire company.

And why do companies need to register weapons anyway? Because the government has made them prohibitively expensive for individuals.

The second order is also dishonest:

The other measure will end a government practice that allows military weapons, sold or donated by the United States to allies, to be re-imported into the United States by private groups. The White House said the United States has approved the re-importation of 250,000 such guns since 2005; under the new policy, only museums and a few other groups such as the government will be allowed to re-import these weapons.

The weapon at issue here, what the White House calls “military grade”, is the obsolete M-1 Garand, which the United States produced in enormous quantities during World War 2. Lott explains that the M-1 is just like any civilian .30-06 hunting rifle, except that it is too heavy by modern standards.  It is “military grade” in the exact same sense as a 17th-century blunderbuss: it was once used by the military. Today it is mainly sought after by collectors.

POSTSCRIPT: The media, alas, has been typically credulous in reporting the president’s anti-gun orders, taking the White House’s claims at face value. For example, NPR simply quoted the White House “fact sheet”, without doing the minimal reporting that would have shown that it wasn’t true. The Washington Post did note the bogosity of the reimportation rule, but not the registration rule.


Okay to screen for criminals

August 19, 2013

A victory for sanity and a defeat for the Obama administration:

A [federal court in Maryland] has dismissed a lawsuit against an events-services company accused by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of discriminatory hiring practices, a setback for a federal agency that increasingly argues the use of credit reports and criminal background checks can disproportionately impact minorities.

Yes, the administration really was arguing that it should be illegal for employers to prefer law-abiding persons over criminals.

UPDATE (9/3): More here on the shoddy research the administration tried to put forward:

The meat of the ruling, however, is the court’s blistering takedown of the government’s “expert” report, authored by an outside statistician who attempted to establish that Freeman’s criminal-background checks disproportionately harmed black job-seekers. Judge Titus described the report as “an egregious example of scientific dishonesty,” its analysis “laughable,” “skewed” and full of “cherry-picked data.” He concluded that the “mind-boggling-number of errors” rendered the EEOC’s “disparate impact conclusions worthless.”

In fact, the truth appears to be quite the opposite:

An October 2006 study in the Journal of Law and Economics, “Perceived Criminality, Criminal Background Checks, and the Racial Hiring Practices of Employers,” found that “employers that check criminal backgrounds are in general more likely to hire African Americans,” according to Harry Holzer of Georgetown University and his two co-authors. “[T]he adverse consequence of employer-initiated background checks on the likelihood of hiring African Americans is more than offset by the positive effect of eliminating statistical discrimination.” These researchers surmise that employers who can screen for prison records are less likely to rely on prejudice when hiring.


CDC report debunks anti-gun tropes

August 19, 2013

After the Newtown massacre, President Obama ordered the CDC “to research the causes and prevention of gun violence”. He evidently thought that it would come back with a report supporting gun control, making him a fool but a true believer. In fact:

On the contrary, that study refuted nearly all the standard anti-gun narrative and instead supported many of the positions taken by gun ownership supporters.

For example, the majority of gun-related deaths between 2000 and 2010 were due to suicide and not criminal violence . . .

In addition, defensive use of guns “is a common occurrence,” according to the study . . .

Accidental deaths due to firearms has continued to fall as well, with “the number of unintentional deaths due to firearm-related incidents account[ing] for less than 1 percent of all unintentional fatalities in 2010.”

Furthermore, the key finding the president was no doubt seeking — that more laws would result in less crime — was missing. The study said that “interventions,” such as background checks and restrictions on firearms and increased penalties for illegal gun use, showed “mixed” results, while “turn-in” programs “are ineffective” in reducing crime. The study noted that most criminals obtained their guns in the underground economy — from friends, family members, or gang members — well outside any influence from gun controls on legitimate gun owners.

And:

There was one startling conclusion which, taken at face value, seemed to give the president what he was looking for. The study reported that “the U.S. rate of firearm-related homicide is higher than that of any other industrialized country: 19.5 times higher than the rates in other high-income countries.” . . . [However:] “If one were to exclude figures for Illinois, California, New Jersey and Washington, DC, the homicide rate in the United States would be in line with any other country.” These areas, of course, are noted for the most restrictive gun laws in the country, thus negating any opportunity for the president to celebrate the report’s findings.

(Via Instapundit.)


Elevator-less building has elevators

August 13, 2013

A few days ago, one meme circulating the internet was the skyscraper in Spain in which they accidentally forgot to put an elevator shaft. For example, here’s the New York Daily News:

In what will surely go down in history as one the greatest architectural blunders, the town of Benidorm in Alicante, Spain, had almost completed its 47-story skyscraper when it realized it excluded plans for elevator shafts.

Except, the building actually does have elevators. The story apparently goes back to a Gizmodo article that mistranslated an article from a Spanish newspaper.

Gizmodo defends itself, claiming that the Spanish article “plainly states” that it had no elevators. I don’t read Spanish, but according to the Google translation that doesn’t seem to be true. The article mentions elevators twice. Both mentions refer to problems with the elevators, but the existence of elevator problems would seem to imply the existence of elevators.

What is particularly striking about this story is how it spread without anyone — including the journalists — checking the facts. Apparently CNN and CBS both sent TV crews to Benidorm to cover the story.

But in the absence of fact-checking, there’s always fact invention. Here’s an amusing fact from the New York Daily News:

Because of the way the building was constructed, there is no space for a shaft anywhere.

It’s amusing because it seems the Daily News made it up from whole cloth. No space for an elevator shaft? Actually it has eleven elevators.

(Via Instapundit.)


The long history of Stand Your Ground

July 23, 2013

One meme going around the blogosphere is to say that Barack Obama is being hypocritical to oppose Stand Your Ground now when he was a co-sponsor of a Stand Your Ground law in Illinois. David Weigel (of Journolist infamy) fires back, writing:

Oh, you can probably guess the twist. [Scofflaw: sucking up to the brilliant readers at Slate, who are oh so much smarter than those stupid wingnuts, check!] Illinois’ 2004 SB2386 was passed by a unanimous vote in the state Senate. It amended a self-defense law first passed in 1961. Alarm bells should be ringing at this point, because Florida was pretty famously the first state to pass a “stand your ground” law, a year after this Illinois bill. Have reporters been blowing that story? No: “Stand your ground” is substantively different than what Obama backed in Illinois. He backed a tweak to the “castle doctrine,” which reads . . .

The degree of similarity between the two laws is debatable. It didn’t take much digging to find that there is a lot of similarity between them, but the similarity in a different area (a shield from lawsuits in self-defense cases) than the one most people are talking about most when they bring up Stand Your Ground. So while there’s some truth to the meme, Weigel also has a point.

Of course, that’s all based on the counterfactual assumption that this debate has anything to do with the substantive contents of the law, rather than pure demagoguery.

But never mind all that, I want to go back to this point, where Weigel seems to believe he proves that Illinois’s law can’t possibly be Stand Your Ground:

Alarm bells should be ringing at this point, because Florida was pretty famously the first state to pass a “stand your ground” law, a year after this Illinois bill.

Absolutely, utterly false, and by saying it Weigel beclowns himself far in excess of any legitimate point he might have had. Florida might have been the first to use the phrase “Stand Your Ground” (doubtful, but I can’t say for sure one way or the other), but the doctrine is over a century old. Andrew Blanca notes numerous cases doing as far back as 1877.

You needn’t be a lawyer to know this. Any history covering the American West (I recommend Paul Johnson) will tell of how the frontier did away with the duty to retreat that was typical back east. That doctrine, which we now call Stand Your Ground, was what gave rise to the gunfighting mythology of the West. That mythology persists today, providing not only most of the misconceptions employed to attack Stand Your Ground, but indeed providing most of the attack terminology (e.g., “the Wild West”) as well.


Obamacare mandate delayed until after election

July 19, 2013

Bloomberg reports:

The Obama administration will delay a crucial provision of its signature health-care law, giving businesses an extra year to comply with a requirement that they provide their workers with insurance.

The government will postpone enforcement of the so-called employer mandate until 2015, after the congressional elections, the administration said yesterday. Under the provision, companies with 50 or more workers face a fine of as much as $3,000 per employee if they don’t offer affordable insurance.

Why? Here’s why:

Forty-one percent of the businesses surveyed have frozen hiring because of the health-care law known as Obamacare. And almost one-fifth—19 percent— answered “yes” when asked if they had “reduced the number of employees you have in your business as a specific result of the Affordable Care Act.”

(Via Hot Air.)

41% of small businesses have frozen hiring! And half of those are actually laying off workers. This is an utter catastrophe, and no less catastrophic for having been predicted.

The Democrats still dream of winning back the House in 2014 so they can have their way with America for Obama’s last two years, and there’s no way that can happen with the entire small-business segment of our economy in a coma due directly to their reckless, tyrannical policies.

POSTSCRIPT: And then there’s Nancy Pelosi being Nancy Pelosi:

The point is, is that the mandate was not delayed. Certain reporting by businesses that could be perceived as onerous, that reporting requirement was delayed, and partially to review how it would work and how it could be better. It was not a delay of the mandate for the businesses, and there shouldn’t be a delay of the mandate for individuals.

What a barrel of utter nonsense. The notion the mandate isn’t delayed, just the reporting, sounds like meaningless hair-splitting. Who cares if the mandate is in place, if no one has to pay it? And indeed it would be hair-splitting, except it isn’t even true. The administration did not only delayed the reporting requirements, they specifically delayed the mandate itself:

We recognize that this transition relief will make it impractical to determine which employers owe shared responsibility payments (under section 4980H) for 2014.  Accordingly, we are extending this transition relief to the employer shared responsibility payments.  These payments will not apply for 2014.  Any employer shared responsibility payments will not apply until 2015.

Nancy Pelosi is simply a liar.


Obamacare’s “navigators”

June 11, 2013

Paul Mirengoff at Power Line has an interesting piece on Obamacare “navigators”, the legions of government advisers recruited to fan out and help people make health insurance decisions. A few of the problems Mirengoff identifies are:

  • The navigators are specifically barred from giving complete advice. Specifically, they will not volunteer the fact that purchasing insurance may be more expensive than the Obamacare penalty.
  • The navigators will be given access to a wealth of personal information, but will undergo no background check, even to exclude known felons and identity thieves.
  • The federal government is paying for the navigators, despite being barred by law from doing so.

Obamacare encourages worthless health insurance

May 24, 2013

Obamacare is going to ensure that everyone gets good health insurance, right? Okay, that’s a joke, but it’s even worse than we thought:

Employers are increasingly recognizing they may be able to avoid certain penalties under the federal health law by offering very limited plans that can lack key benefits such as hospital coverage.

Benefits advisers and insurance brokers—bucking a commonly held expectation that the law would broadly enrich benefits—are pitching these low-benefit plans around the country. They cover minimal requirements such as preventive services, but often little more. Some of the plans wouldn’t cover surgery, X-rays or prenatal care at all. . .

Federal officials say this type of plan, in concept, would appear to qualify as acceptable minimum coverage under the law, and let most employers avoid an across-the-workforce $2,000-per-worker penalty for firms that offer nothing.

It seems that while Democrats were putting first-dollar coverage for checkups into the mandatory health plan, they forgot the actual insurance part. (As the New York Post puts it, it’s like auto insurance that covers six oil changes per year, but has no coverage for collisions.)

Interestingly, the part of Obamacare that requires actual insurance coverage is mandatory for individuals and small businesses, but not for large ones:

A close reading of the rules makes it clear that those mandates affect only plans sponsored by insurers that are sold to small businesses and individuals, federal officials confirm. . . Larger employers, generally with more than 50 workers, need cover only preventive services, without a lifetime or annual dollar-value limit, in order to avoid the across-the-workforce penalty.

So Democrats gave a break to big businesses that they refused to individuals and small businesses. (ASIDE: Note that when Democrats profess their love of small business, they don’t mean it.)

In fact, only 19% of Americans with private insurance get it individually or from a small business. Thus few people are actually covered by the Obamacare mandates, are those who are covered are the ones who can least afford it.

It’s important to note that some companies switching to the “skinny”, Obamacare-approved, non-insurance health plan previously offered actual health insurance:

San Antonio-based Bill Miller Bar-B-Q, a 4,200-worker chain, will replace its own mini-med with a new, skinny plan in July and will aim to price the plan at less than $50 a month, about the same as the current policy.

Of course, mini-med plans aren’t great, but at least they offer some worthwhile coverage. Obamacare is forcing their replacement by plans with no insurance component at all.

The liberals who think they can control people’s actions, despite being warned of the law of unintended consequences, continue to be surprised by it:

“We wouldn’t have anticipated that there’d be demand for these types of band-aid plans in 2014,” said Robert Kocher, a former White House health adviser who helped shepherd the law. “Our expectation was that employers would offer high quality insurance.”

Fools. They never, ever learn.

(Via Ricochet.)


White House lies about Benghazi memos

May 22, 2013

In the days leading up to the Benghazi hearings (before all the other scandals broke out), there was a rather uninteresting dispute between Jake Tapper (CNN), and Stephen Hayes (The Weekly Standard) and Jonathan Karl (ABC) over the Obama administration’s Benghazi memos.

Hayes and Karl reported — accurately — that the State Department had considerable influence in the rewriting of the Benghazi talking points to remove the terror attack and insert a non-existent protest in its place. Indeed, they appear to have been the primary drivers of the rewrite. This contradicted essentially every aspect of the story the White House put out as to how those talking points were developed.

However, Hayes and Karl did not have access to the actual memos. They each worked from notes taken by Congressional investigators who saw the memos but were not allowed to make copies. Thus, they did not have verbatim quotes. Karl was not originally clear on this point.

Someone then leaked a cherry-picked memo to Tapper, who reported that it differed a little bit from the paraphrase in Karl’s reporting. In particular, Karl’s paraphrase read:

We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation. We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.

The italicized portion was not present in the actual memo. For this, Tapper reported “White House email contradicts Benghazi leaks” and the left thundered about the email being “doctored”.

ASIDE: To further muddy the waters, Tapper made some mistakes in his reporting of Hayes reporting.

But, as it turns out, Tapper got taken. When the full (or fuller, anyway) email chain was released, giving the context, it substantiated Hayes’s and Karl’s reporting in nearly its entirety, save only Karl’s lack of clarity on the language being a paraphrase. Although Rhodes didn’t use those words, the context makes clear the State Department’s “equities” were the ones under discussion.

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler summarizes this way:

Note the correct version is missing a direct reference to the State Department. CNN, which had only obtained the single e-mail, used strong words in its report about its competitor, ABC: “Whoever provided those accounts seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed.”

When the White House last week released all of its e-mails, it became clear that Rhodes was responding at the tail end of a series of e-mail exchanges that largely discussed the State Department concerns.

In other words, the summary would have been fairly close if the commas had been removed and replaced with brackets: “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities [including those of the State Department] and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.”

(Emphasis mine.)

With the context present, it’s quite obvious that the leaker deliberately gave Tapper the wrong impression by carefully selecting one memo to leak. The leaker even masked out the string of replies that typically appears at the end of an email. Had the replies been present, the very next few lines (after the email headers) would have been:

Given the DOJ equities and States desire to run some traps, safe to assume we can hold on this until tomorrow?

I don’t know what it means to “run some traps”, but even in the absence of the rest of the chain, this alone would have made it clear that State was involved.

While this talk of “doctoring” remained the province of fevered left-wing blogs, I wasn’t very interested. But now it has become part of the White House’s official spin:

I think one of the problems that there’s so much controversy here is because one of the e-mails was doctored by a Republican source and given to the media to falsely smear the president.

The White House wants to distract from the fact that they outright lied about the development of the talking points. But with this White House, the distractions from their lies are just more lies. As we’ve seen, the emails were not doctored, and the reporting on them was accurate in every significant particular.

Kessler gives White House mouthpiece Dan Pfeiffer three pinocchios:

It has long been part of the Washington game for officials to discredit a news story by playing up errors in a relatively small part of it. Pfeiffer gives the impression that GOP operatives deliberately tried to “smear the president” with false, doctored e-mails.

But the reporters involved have indicated they were told by their sources that these were summaries, taken from notes of e-mails that could not be kept. . . Despite Pfeiffer’s claim of political skullduggery, we see little evidence that much was at play here besides imprecise wordsmithing or editing errors by journalists.

(Previous post.) (Via the Corner.)


IRS lies

May 21, 2013

I don’t think this breaks any new news, but it’s a good summary.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


No, Obama didn’t acknowledge Benghazi was terrorism

May 21, 2013

The Washington Post’s fact-checker calls Barack Obama out for his utterly dishonest claim to have called the Benghazi attack terrorism the day after the attack. It still strikes me as strange to make the claim: If he knew it was terror on September 12, why did he spend the next month saying it wasn’t?

This is a very old story, of course, but it has some currency because Obama is still out there peddling the line this month.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


Holder lies about contempt citation

May 20, 2013

The Washington Post catches Eric Holder in a lie regarding the contempt citation against him:

The fierce exchanges between Rep. Darrell Issa and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Wednesday garnered a lot of attention, but there was also an interesting substantive point that was discussed: Did Ronald C. Machen Jr., the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, make his own decision regarding whether to prosecute Holder for criminal contempt of Congress?

Holder said Machen “made the determination.” What does the evidence show?

The story is a little bit complicated, but here’s the key point:

The decision on whether to empanel a grand jury rested with Machen. But the letter from Cole [indicating that the DOJ would not take action] came even before the House had transmitted the contempt resolution to Machen.

As it happens, this not only smells bad, it’s probably illegal. Under the law, the decision rests with the US Attorney for the District of Columbia, and no one else. But when the DOJ breaks the law, who can take action?

POSTSCRIPT: The Post is willing to forgive Holder because his office later retracted his false statement. My readers can decide for themselves whether subsequently retracting a lie excuses it.

(Previous post.)


Why the IRS scandal is Obama’s fault

May 20, 2013

Barack Obama probably never ordered the IRS to target conservative and Christian tax-exempt applicants, just as Richard Nixon never ordered the Watergate break-in. (Although, as Jonah Goldberg points out, there’s no earthy reason why we should take his word for it.) But, just as Nixon did, Obama created the circumstances in which the misconduct was likely, perhaps even inevitable.

Three must-read columns make the case. Jonah Goldberg observes that, when Tea Party groups began making credible claims that they were being targeted by the IRS, he did nothing. He didn’t even take the minimal step of asking someone to look into it. Against that backdrop, his current profession of outrage over the IRS’s actions are clearly crocodile tears.

Goldberg goes on to recount the very clear signals that he sent, quite deliberately, that his political opponents should be silenced. Kimberly Strassel expands on the point, observing that Obama and his Democrats attacked the people funding opposition to Obama’s rule, and explicitly called for the IRS to scrutinize them.

Rand Simberg adds another key point. The IRS, unsurprisingly, is a very liberal organization, and the division that review tax-exempt applications is even further left. Thus, these people were sent a clear indication by the president and his party who the bad guys are, and they were receptive to that indication.

In such an environment, it was essential to make it clear that partisan bias was unacceptable. However, Barack Obama sent the exact opposite message. He liked to joke about misusing his office (e.g., revenge audits, secret provisions), he called for his supporters to take “revenge” and “punish our enemies“, and he warned his enemies that he was “keeping score“.

To sum up, you have a sharply partisan IRS, unchecked by higher scrutiny, and being told clearly who the enemy is and that persecuting that enemy is morally appropriate. Under such circumstances they would likely want to persecute their party’s enemies. The only remaining necessary element is the ability to do so without facing repercussions.

And, of course, they had that too. We now know that the Obama administration is run on a “see-no-evil, hear-no-evil” basis. White House officials are careful to insulate the president and his key deputies from any knowledge of his administration’s wrongdoing: When the White House was informed of Gunwalker, those informed made sure the information went no higher (or so we are told, anyway). Ditto the IRS scandal. And when the Gunwalker misconduct became public, the White House stonewalled the investigation, and continues to do so to this day.

Furthermore, Obama administration officials are never punished for their misconduct. The persons responsible for Gunwalker were not punished; indeed most were promoted, while the whistleblowers were punished. The same is true in the IRS scandal. The woman in charge of the key IRS office has been promoted to run the IRS’s Obamacare office. The high-profile firing of Steven Miller (the acting IRS commissioner) was bogus. In fact, he had been in the position for just over a week, and was due to step down in less than a month anyway.

In short, people doing Obama’s never-explicitly-ordered bidding are safe from punishment. He has their back. If only the people who defend our country from terrorists were so secure.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


More IRS lies

May 16, 2013

The IRS claims that it was targeting conservatives to cope with a surge of tax-exempt applications. We already knew this is untrue because their strategy for identifying conservatives took more effort, not less; and because an even greater surge of tax-exempt applications for labor groups went unscrutinized.

Now you can add this: When the IRS started targeting conservatives, there was no surge of tax-exempt applications. In fact, it was just the opposite:

Applications for tax exemption from advocacy nonprofits had not yet spiked when the Internal Revenue Service began using what it admits was inappropriate scrutiny of conservative groups in 2010.

In fact, applications were declining, data show.

What was happening in 2010 was the rise of the first small-government populist movement in modern history. Something had to be done.

UPDATE: A bushel of Pinocchios.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


Yes, someone is lying

April 17, 2013

A quick note about the Manchin-Toomey gun-control bill that failed today: David Kopel explains that while the bill purports to forbid a gun registry, it actually authorizes one, and that, and while the bill purports to strengthen interstate transport protection, it actually eviscerates it. (UPDATE: Much more here.) Others have pointed out that, despite purporting not to do so, the bill’s vagueness and arbitrariness effectively require background checks for all private sales.

Are those interpretations correct? There is one thing on which you may depend: If the bill had passed (or if it still yet passes), the people who are complaining today about the supposed lies against the bill are the very same people who will be calling for the courts to adopt that strongly anti-gun interpretation.

This is why there is no such thing as moderate gun control. Whatever the bill is supposed to say, indeed whatever it does say, bears no resemblance to how it will look once Obama’s regulation-drafters and solicitors are through with it. And they know it. That’s the whole point.

UPDATE: It’s also worth noting the the anti-gun forces have been lying every single day since the Sandy Hook attack, such as alleging that a “fully automatic rifle” was used at Sandy Hook, calling semi-automatic rifles “weapons of war”, and by claiming that 40% of gun sales lack background checks.


Lies upon lies

March 12, 2013

Glenn Kessler, who has been doing yeoman’s work debunking the White House’s stream of sequestration lies, debunks another. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan:

It just means a lot more children will not get the kinds of services and opportunities they need, and as many as 40,000 teachers could lose their jobs. … There are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can’t come back this fall.

Lie. After being pressed for days for an example, the White House finally produced a single district in West Virginia, but even that wasn’t true. In Kanawha County, five or six teachers (not 40,000) are being transferred (not laid off), due to a change in state policy (not due to sequestration).

Megan McArdle sums up this way:

These aren’t matters of opinion where the administration can simply argue assumptions; these are easily checkable statements with hard numbers attached.  From this I infer that the administration is having a hard time finding concrete examples of bad things that the sequester is going to do.  Nor is that a huge surprise.  Whether you’re for or against the sequester, we are talking about relatively small sums, in the scope of the federal deficit.  They’re simply not going to show up in much measurable way as devastating hardship.

POSTSCRIPT: Despite being on the front line of the administration’s lies, Kessler still wants to give them the benefit of the doubt:

In other words, Duncan’s scare story about teacher layoffs — right now, at this moment — was apparently too good to check. If the Obama administration had learned anything about the Susan Rice-Benghazi debacle, you would have thought it was to make sure the talking points for the Sunday shows are rock-solid. Given that Duncan had made this claim once to reporters, couldn’t anyone in his office have bothered to pick up the phone and double-check the information?

It’s not a matter of checking. The Benghazi misinformation wasn’t a mistake; it was a lie. So is this.

(Previous post.)


Lies upon lies

March 6, 2013

Doubling down on President Obama’s earlier lies about the effects of the sequester on Capitol janitors, the White House is now offering this:

On the issue of the janitors, if you work for an hourly wage and you earn overtime, and you depend on that overtime to make ends meet, it is simply a fact that a reduction in overtime is a reduction in your pay.

Glenn Kessler looked at this one too:

Still, the White House has kept up its spin offensive, claiming that a cut in “overtime” was a de facto pay cut and thus the president was right — or at least not wrong.

So, we wondered: How much overtime do Capitol Hill janitors actually make? . . .

It averaged $304 per employee in fiscal year 2012 and $388 per employee thus far in the current fiscal year. “Cleaning technicians do not earn what I would consider to be a great deal of overtime pay,” Swanson said.

In other words, overtime amounts to only pittance of the overall pay — about $6.50 a week on top of wages of $1,000 a week. That’s much different from Carney’s claim of having to “depend on that overtime to make ends meet.” Indeed, even before the sequester was implemented, Capitol Hill janitors have already earned more overtime pay than they did in all of last year.

A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

I’ll bet.

Finally, Kessler had an insight on how the White House messaging machine works:

First of all, we should note that the White House’s story kept evolving as we reported last week’s column. It’s almost as if the president’s aides had to scramble to come up with reasons why the president could be correct, without actually knowing the facts.

So, when we forwarded to White House aides an AOC memo saying no furloughs were planned, White House aides latched onto a line about overtime reductions. For a couple of hours, we were also told that the janitors were on contract — and contracts were being curtailed. But that line of reasoning turned out to be incorrect. Then, after the statements from the Capitol were issued, there was no longer any response.

But, as seen by the quotes above, the talking point about “overtime” did not fade away.

Kessler is too charitable. When this bunch repeatedly says things “without actually knowing the facts”, it’s reasonable to assume that they don’t actually care what the facts are. Still, I’m glad he’s starting to figure this out. Maybe he will be less willing to cover for them in the future.

(Previous post.)


Sequester follies

March 6, 2013

A brief history of the sequester: (1) Democrats and Republicans were supposed to work together to devise a deficit reduction plan based on spending cuts and no tax increases. (2) If the parties couldn’t agree, the sequester would automatically impose spending cuts. (3) Both parties were supposed to be motivated to avoid the cuts, but Democrats never negotiated in good faith because they planned to renege on the ground rules and demand tax hikes. (4) Once this became clear, Republicans decided that it would be better just to let automatic cuts take place, but proposed legislation that would give the president the power to allocate those cuts to the least damaging places. (5) Senate Democrats killed that legislation, because they want the sequester to be as painful as possible. (6) The Obama administration, now, is making sure the sequester is as painful as possible.

Before the sequester, the White House promoted sequester pain by lying about what would happen. For example:

Starting tomorrow everybody here, all the folks who are cleaning the floors at the Capitol. Now that Congress has left, somebody’s going to be vacuuming and cleaning those floors and throwing out the garbage. They’re going to have less pay. The janitors, the security guards, they just got a pay cut, and they’ve got to figure out how to manage that. That’s real.

That’s President Obama, telling an outright lie. Glenn Kessler obtained two different documents explaining that capitol janitors and guards would not be effected. In Kessler’s assessment, “nothing in Obama’s statement came close to being correct.”

Now that the sequester is under way, the White House plan is to promote pain, using the time-honored “Washington Monument strategy”, in which you cut key functions but preserve the waste. Thus, in one example, the Department of Agriculture is cutting meat inspectors, but preserving a wine-tasting junket.

Will Obama get away with this cynical strategy? I wouldn’t bet against it. It all depends on the honor of the press: will they act as the administration’s lackies, and report only the painful cuts, or will they also report the wasteful spending that the administration did not cut? We’re in trouble.

(Previous post.)


Take Biden’s advice, go to jail

March 1, 2013

The very same people who want to lecture us about how dangerous guns are haven’t the first clue about how to safely handle firearms. On some level, I suppose that isn’t surprising, but they ought to be required to get some basic firearms instruction before prattling on about banning guns.

This story perfectly illustrates the point, while also providing yet another instance of our vice-president being a blithering idiot. No one should ever take Joe Biden’s advice. If you do, you could go to jail:

I did one of these town-hall meetings on the Internet and one guy said, “Well, what happens when the end days come? What happens when there’s the earthquake? I live in California, and I have to protect myself.”

I said, “Well, you know, my shotgun will do better for you than your AR-15, because you want to keep someone away from your house, just fire the shotgun through the door.”

As any responsible gun owner could tell you, you never pull the trigger without being sure of your target, which is difficult to do when firing through a door.

worried-girl-scouts

 

Not for the first time, taking Joe Biden’s gun advice could get you arrested for reckless discharge of a firearm. In fact, a Virginia man has been arrested for exactly that. We don’t know that he actually got the idea from Biden (although if Biden is to be believed, he gives the advice often), but he did exactly what Biden suggests — fire his shotgun through a door — and, sure enough, was arrested for reckless discharge of a firearm.


Don’t trust AP content

February 19, 2013

Oops:

The Associated Press has withdrawn its story about Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., saying he sees some in the his party favoring a 2016 presidential candidate with an immigration policy that would “round up people … and send them back to Mexico.” . . . A subsequent Associated Press review of an audio recording of the show determined that the transcript had dropped the word “don’t” from that quote, and Paul actually said, “They don’t want somebody who wants to round people up, put them in camps and send them back to Mexico.”

(Emphasis mine.) In other words, the AP story reported the exact opposite of the truth.

The correction blames Fox News for the error appearing in its rush transcript. I guess that indicates that the AP does no independent fact-checking of its own, regardless of how outlandish the report is.

(Via the Corner.)


Liars

February 13, 2013

The Obama administration, through its professional liar Jay Carney, is still claiming that the sequester was the GOP’s idea:

Question: Looking at all this, do you regret that this White House suggested [the sequester] in the first place?

Jay Carney: The notion much propounded by the spin doctors on the Republican side that the sequester is somehow something that the White House and the president alone wanted and desired is a fanciful confection.

In this case, Carney is using a bit of misdirection, by answering a different question than he was asked. But the message is clear, and Barack Obama himself has been less careful, claiming at the third presidential debate:

The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed.

This is an outright lie. Here’s the photo that Republicans have been circulating, of a page from Bob Woodward’s book on the subject:

woodward-sequester

Also note the final line, below the highlighted box. “We have to get people to turn against the Republicans.” That was the entire plan. They don’t have a fiscal plan; they never did. This was all about setting the stage for attacking Republicans.

(Previous post.) (Via the Corner.)


Professional journalist at work

February 13, 2013

The Washington Post’s crack reporting staff delivers:

Sarah Palin tries to stay relevant

CORRECTION:  An earlier version of this post and the post’s URL incorrectly reported that Sarah Palin had signed on as a contributor to the Al Jazeera America news network. The blogger cited a report on the Daily Currant Web site as the basis for that information without realizing that the piece was satirical.

Apparently sneering has replaced fact-checking at the Washington Post. Here’s the deleted material:

Late last week Al Jazeera America announced the former vice-presidential candidate would be joining their news network.

“As you all know, I’m not a big fan of newspapers, journalists, news anchors and the liberal media in general,” Palin told the Web site The Daily Currant. “But I met with the folks at Al-Jazeera and they told me they reach millions of devoutly religious people who don’t watch CBS or CNN. That tells me they don’t have a liberal bias.”

Oy. Anyone who would believe that is as stupid as they they think Sarah Palin is. That isn’t even good satire.

Anyway, the piece’s author, Suzi Parker, who apparently has not been fired for incompetence, now has her very own hashtag trending on Twitter.

POSTSCRIPT: This is actually a case of fake news imitating real news, as Iowahawk notes:

Leftwing satire headline: “Palin to work for Al Jazeera.” Rightwing satire headline: “Al Gore sells CurrentTV to Al Jazeera.” #SatireisDead


Liars

January 14, 2013

Bill Clinton, professional liar and sometime president:

Half of all mass killings in the United States have occurred since the assault weapons ban expired in 2005, half of all of them in the history of the country.

This isn’t even close to true. Moreover, he knows it. Glenn Kessler adds:

We ran this data past a spokesman for Clinton, but he declined to comment or offer an explanation for where the former president got his facts. That always makes us suspicious.

The fact that it was Bill Clinton talking should have made him suspicious, but I suppose we must make allowances for liberal journalists.

(Via Power Line.)