LA Times blogger Andrew Malcolm (R-CA) snarks about Obama administration transparency, employing some statistical slight-of-hand in the process. Malcolm writes:
The White House Democratic administration of Barack Obama, who denounced his presidential predecessor George W. Bush as the most secretive in history, is now denying more Freedom of Information Act requests than the Republican did.
An Associated Press examination of 17 major agencies' handling of FOIA requests found denials 466,872 times, an increase of nearly 50% from the 2008 fiscal year under Bush.
First of all, according to the AP, there have not been 466,872 denials. There have been 466, 872 citations of FOIA exemptions -- a significant difference because, as AP notes, "Agencies often cite more than one exemption when withholding part or all of the material sought in an open-records request."
Now, notice that "part or all of" bit. Contrary to Malcolm's implication, there have not been 466,872 blanket rejections of FOIA requests. Nor have there been 466,872 citations of FOIA exemptions for the purpose of rejecting an entire FOIA request. There have been 466,872 citations of exemptions for the purposes of denying part or all of a request. Indeed, there has been a decrease in the number of FOIA requests denied in their entirety:
They denied FOIA requests in their entirety based on exemptions 20,005 times last fiscal year, compared with 21,057 times the previous year.
Malcolm didn't include those numbers, so reading his post, you'd think there has been a 50 percent increase in blanket rejections. That isn't true -- there's been a decrease. Granted, the real numbers still don't look great from a transparency standpoint. But Malcolm is playing fast and loose with the facts and making things appear worse than they are.
Los Angeles Times reporter Johanna Neuman misremembers President Clinton's 1993 budget:
Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky came to Congress on President Clinton's coattails.
Then she became the margin of victory for Clinton's 1993 budget, which actually eliminated the deficit for the first time in decades by raising federal taxes on the middle class.
Well, no. That's not how the 1993 budget got rid of the deficit (actually, it's probably more accurate to say it reduced the deficit; the budget wasn't balanced until 1997.) The middle class saw very little in the way of tax increases due to the '93 budget. Here's an explanation from Citizens for Tax Justice:
It raised income tax rates at the very top of the income scale, adding new brackets of 36 percent and 39.6 percent above the then top rate of 31 percent. It eliminated the $125,000 earnings cap on the Medicare-financing portion of payroll taxes and included some modest corporate tax reforms. The bill also expanded the earned-income tax credit for lower-income working families. In addition, about four million better-off seniors were required have to pay taxes on a higher portion of their Social Security benefits.
For most families, the only tax increase in the bill was the 4.3-cent-a-gallon boost in the gasoline tax. That may have been politically ill-advised, but it raised middle-income families' taxes by an average of only about $40 a year.
More from CTJ:
[T]he 1993 tax changes were very progressive, concentrating mainly on taking back a portion the supply-side tax cuts that had gone to the very rich. In fact, except for a 4.3 cent increase in the gasoline tax, most families didn't pay a penny more in federal taxes as a result of the 1993 act. The boost in the top personal income tax rate affected only the best-off one percent of all families, and the expanded taxation of Social Security benefits hit only 3% of all families (also generally better-off ones).
Overall, only 4.2% of all families saw an increase in their personal income taxes as a result of the 1993 tax act. In contrast, 14.9% of all families got an income tax cut, due to the expanded earned-income tax credit for working families. In other words, Clinton's 1993 tax act cut income taxes for far more families than it raised them.
And a Brookings paper by Jeffrey Frankel and Peter Orszag:
[T]he 1993 package included significant spending reductions and tax increases. But it concentrated the tax increases on upper-income taxpayers, while substantially expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, Head Start, and other government programs aimed at lower earners.
I could go on like this all day, but the bottom line is that claiming the 1993 budget reduced the deficit "by raising federal taxes on the middle class" is the kind of blatantly false assertion that has no place in a political ad, much less in a news report.
Ironically, Neuman brought up the 1993 budget vote in order to draw a parallel to the political peril supposedly facing Democrats who vote for health care reform. But the peril, if it exists, is that the media will mindlessly amplify bogus Republican attacks, just like they did with the '93 budget -- and just like Neuman did in her post.
This is what happens when you make poor hiring choices -- you force your employers to defend the mistakes, which only makes more people look bad. Yesterday, it was CNN's Ed Henry's turn.
For those Tweeting CNN shouldn't have hired @ewerickson as a contributor, seriously do you think a network should NOT have diverse voices
Not to put to put too fine a point on it, but this is just painfully dumb. Henry actually claimed that liberals were upset because they don't want CNN to hire any conservatives; that CNN hired somebody who they will disagree with politically? This is pointless because basically nobody on the Left was making that argument. In fact, they were explicitly saying it was fine for CNN to hire conservatives.
But at least we know Ed Henry can build straw men.
But then it got worse with this tweet:
@buffalo_girl who is the equivalent to Eric Erickson on the left appearing on CNN? Have you seen Begala, Carville ...
Yep, Henry used the "e" word" (equivalent) when discussing Erickson alongside Paul Begala and James Carville. Apparently In Henry's eyes, Erickson and Begala/Carville are the same. And this is where CNN, by making a foolish hiring decision, begins to lose even more credibility; by having staffers like Henry run around and suggest a right-wing hate blogger is just like top-notch Democratic thinkers.
Keep in mind that Begala/Carville, by getting Bill Clinton elected, helped resurrect the Democratic Party, and then counseled a sitting president. Erickson, by comparison, is a city councilman who writes hate dispatches on his blog, like when he denounced a retiring Supreme Court Justice as a "goat fucking child molester."
But in the eyes of Henry, or at least according to his corporate spin, Begala and Carville are just like Erickson. They're equals.
Politico hypes a classic dog-bites-man story:
Wait: Republicans are attacking Nancy Pelosi? You don't say.
This passage is typical of the article:
Still, GOP challengers are convinced the anti-Pelosi campaign is a winner given the strong opinions that many voters hold about her leadership.
I know I'm repeating myself here, but: No. GOP challengers say they are convinced the campaign is a winner. What else would you expect them to say? "Yeah, we don't know if this will work, but we figure it's worth a shot"? Come on.
Incredibly, Politico never got around to mentioning that Republicans announce a plan to run against Democrats by attacking Nancy Pelosi every few months -- and every time congressional elections role around, it doesn't' work.
If you're going to call yourself "Politico," shouldn't you have some ability to put political strategy in context?
From the March 16 edition of Fox Business' America's Nightly Scoreboard:
During an online Q&A yesterday, Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi discussed Fox News at length, responding to Howell Raines' recent criticism of the media's approach to Fox. Farhi's comments demonstrate a lack of understanding of how bad -- and influential -- Fox really is.
Is Raines exaggerating Fox News' clout and impact on the long and complex health-care debate? No question that FNC is the preferred choice of cable news junkies. But on a given day it reaches, what, five or six or seven million people? Given that ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS, MSNBC, a thousand daily newspapers and a million billion websites reach many, many millions more, isn't he exaggerating Fox News' influence?
Farhi makes a mistake in assuming that Fox's "influence" is limited to the "five or six or seven million people" who watch. In reality, Fox influences "ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS, MSNBC, a thousand daily newspapers and a million billion websites," too -- and, thus, influences their audience as well as its own. Farhi needn't take my word for that; he can stroll down the hall and chat with the Post managing editors and Ombudsman who have instructed the Post to be quicker to amplify the stories peddled by conservative media.
Is Raines using too broad a brush? Is there no distinction between the reporting that FNC does and the overtly partisan advocacy of Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly? If so, isn't that like saying the Op-Ed page of the New York Times is the same as its news pages?
This again? As Media Matters has frequently documented, the notion that, aside from Fox's evening partisans, the cable channel consists of straight news reporting, is a myth eagerly promoted by Fox and credulously repeated by journalists who should know better. Notice, by the way, that Farhi doesn't name one such source of "the reporting that FNC does" that is neutral and fair.
A little later in the Q&A, a reader called Farhi on this myth, noting that Jon Stewart had demonstrated the similarities between Fox's "reporting" and its "opinion" shows. In response, Farhi wrote: "The show Stewart picked on was the newish afternoon hour hosted by Megyn(?) Kelly. Pretty clear from the clips played on 'The Daily Show' that Ms. Kelly has a way to go before being touted as 'objective.'"
And a little bit after that, another reader noted that "Fox and Friends" isn't exactly fair and balanced, either, to which Farhi responded: "I wrote a story about 'Fox & Friends' some years ago. It was at the time when the hosts were cheerleading us into the Iraq war. And I use 'cheerleading' in the most objective way possible--it was practically a pep rally. I asked them about this in reporting a story; they didn't see a problem with it."
Farhi never did get around to identifying what part of Fox is the equivalent of the New York Times' news pages. Maybe it's from 4:42-4:53 pm on alternate Tuesdays?
Raines doesn't seem to have a problem with MSNBC's partisanship on this issue. I'm not even suggesting there's an equivalence (because I don't know how to measure such a thing), but MSNBC's commentariat seems to have staked an ideological niche opposite Fox's.
So, Farhi recognizes that MSNBC and FOX are not equivalent, but expects Raines to express outrage about both of them? That makes absolutely no sense, and is the kind of illogical, lazy thinking that enhances FOX's influence and tilts public discourse to the right.
Hard to imagine that anyone watching any of Fox's opinion shows--its most popular programs, by far, by the way--would be shocked to encounter a conservative opinion. Screaming "partisan!" at Beck, Hannity, et al, can only be answered by saying, "Yeah. So?"
From The Fox Nation, accessed on March 17:
In accusing Media Matters of "wet[ting] itself," Fox Nation links to a Politico article with the headline, "Media Matters unloads on CNN hire."
As I note in my column this week, there's nothing to support the beloved Beltway CW that, in terms of job approval rating, Obama's presidency is on the steep decline and that it's all slipping away. Reporters and pundits love repeating the hollow charge, even though there's no proof to back it up.
Don't believe me? Take a look at Obama's awful, "falling" poll numbers, via Gallup since late summer:
That's correct. According to Gallup, Obama has dropped exactly two percentage points in nearly seven months.
Read more on the media mythology, here.
After Big Government blogger Kyle Olson stepped in it when he suggested White House spokesman Robert Gibbs wore a purple bracelet on his wrist during his Sunday morning TV appearances to "signal" solidarity with the SEIU union -- um, Gibbs wore it in support of a young cancer victim, as he tweeted -- the blogger was widely mocked online.
And deservedly so.
His response? Also priceless [emphasis added]:
The very fact that Robert Gibbs and the radical left felt the need to respond to a theory I myself called "doubtful" shows how sensitive they are at this point. The votes don't appear to be there for ObamaCare and they ain't happy about it.
This is almost funnier than Olson's awful post which kicked off the laughs. Olson wrote something that was factually wrong and painfully dumb. Media Matters, among others, called Olson out on his ginormous mistake and his response is that we're "sensitive."
If by "sensitive" Olson means we're laughing at you, then yeah, that's correct. But if by "sensitive" he means anything else, then no, that's not accurate.
UPDATED: Please note that Olson never corrects his massive error. In his posted response, Olson, who got the purple bracelet story about as wrong as humanly possible, still does not explicitly explain to readers that Gibbs' bracelet was worn on behalf of a young girl with cancer. Nor does Olson apologize for his mistake.
It seems Olson is literally incapable of telling the truth. No wonder he blogs for Andrew Breitbart.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza credulously passes along some GOP health care spin, never thinking to question whether maybe -- just maybe -- there's some artifice involved:
Republican lawyers warn Democrats of "deem and pass" consequences
Less than 24 hours after House Democratic leaders floated the idea of using a parliamentary procedure to avoid a recorded vote on the Senate health care bill, a group of Republican lawyers -- including the legal counsels for the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee as well as high profile campaign attorney like Ben Ginsberg of Patton Boggs and Cleta Mitchell of Foley & Lardner -- penned an open letter making clear that such a tactic would not make Democrats immune from attacks on the bill in the fall campaign.
Citing an assertion from Rules Committee ranking member David Dreier (Calif.) that "a vote for the rule is a vote for the Senate bill," the group wrote: "We believe it is accurate to state in public communications that the effect of a vote for any rule illustrated in [Dreier's memo] is a vote for the Senate bill and all of its provisions." Put simply: Republicans believe that House Democrats using the "deem and pass" maneuver in no way prohibits GOP candidates and party committees from attacking them for "voting" for the Senate legislation.
So, Republican lawyers, citing a Republican member of congress, say Republicans can say in public communications (that's a reference to television advertising; each party frequently tries to get television stations to pull the other's ads over disputed claims) what the Republican member of congress says. How very nice and circular. And predictable. Oh, and ... meaningless. It probably won't surprise you to learn that the legal counsels for the RNC, NRSC and NRCC don't get to decide this question. That's up to television stations and their attorneys.
Unfortunately, Cillizza didn't include any indication of whether lawyers not in the employ of the GOP agree with the assessment. Or even any response from Democratic lawyers.
The letter along with House Republican leaders' vow to force a vote on the use of "deem and pass" is a reminder that GOPers believe the health care bill -- no matter the outcome of the vote later this week (or weekend) -- is something close to a silver bullet for them in the coming midterm elections.
Actually, it's a reminder that GOPers seem to want people to believe that they believe the health care bill is something close to a silver bullet for them. And, at least in this case, they got their wish.
How would Republicans behave if they believed health care was "something close to a silver bullet" for them? Pretty much they way they are behaving right now. (Or, perhaps, by laying low to encourage Democrats to walk in to their trap.)
But: How would Republicans behave if they believed health care could become a silver bullet for them, but would be much more likely to do so if there was a widespread belief that it would? Pretty much the way they are behaving right now. By thinking he can read the GOP's minds -- and concluding that their public statements are a sincere representation of their inner thoughts -- Cillizza plays right into their hands.
(Note that I'm not saying Republicans don't sincerely believe health care is their "silver bullet." I'm saying we don't know what they "believe," and that Cillizza's assumption that he does makes that outcome more likely. It's an assumption, by the way, that requires assuming that Republicans are offering Democrats sincere campaign advice, which seems more than a little unlikely.)