As protests against Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget continue in Madison, WI, right-wing media have continued to push the misleading statistic that public employees in the state of Wisconsin make more money than their private sector counterparts. In fact, according to the Economic Policy Institute, when education and experience are factored in, public sector employees in Wisconsin earn less than workers performing comparable jobs in the private sector.
In the past week, right-wing media have predictably spent a lot of time dismissing President Obama's budget proposal, sometimes with outright false and misleading claims. The Washington Examiner added to the heap of budget falsehoods with a whopper in today's editorial, titled, "Obama's budget assumptions only exist in fantasyland."
The editorial begins by saying that "healthy public policy cannot be based on fantasy foundations," then zooms in on a few numbers among the budget's assumptions (emphasis added):
Consider President Obama's 2012 federal budget proposal in this context. Rosy scenario certainly applies to the Obama budget's assumptions about economic growth, unemployment, and inflation between now and 2013. The president's proposal assumes real gross domestic product growth of 3.1 percent this year, 4 percent next year and 4.5 percent the year after. To grasp the unreality of that projection, recall that in only four years of the past 30 has the economy grown 4 percent or more. Two of those years, 1983 (4.52 percent) and 1984 (7.19 percent), were at the outset of the economic boom sparked by President Reagan's tax cuts. The other two years, 1997 (4.46 percent) and 1999 (4.83 percent), both followed on compromises between President Clinton and Republican congressional majorities that restrained federal spending and debt, and cut taxes. White House assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, the proposed Obama budget raises taxes, adds more debt and raises federal spending.
Indeed, projections of 4 percent GDP growth (and higher) would sound pretty unrealistic -- if the Examiner's numbers were true. The Bureau of Economic Analysis has these exact numbers in a chart called "Percent Change From Preceding Period in Real Gross Domestic Product." From 1981 to 2010, gross domestic product, in chained dollars, grew by "4 percent or more" a total of...nine times. About half of them occurred while Reagan was president (in 1983, 1984, 1985, and 1988), and about half occurred while Clinton was president (in 1994, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000). That number is even higher when the percent change is calculated in today's dollars -- 24 times -- so that can't be the figures the Examiner was using, either.
Hmm. Guess Obama's predictions aren't quite as "fantasyland" as the Examiner's readers were led to believe.
In a February 16 op-ed in The Washington Examiner, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey claimed that Obama is "mishandling the War on Terror" with a number of false or misleading claims. First, he dubiously claimed that the Bush administration's "coercive interrogation techniques" "violated no law" and "yielded troves of life-saving information." In fact, military and FBI interrogators have agreed that terrorists have used the U.S.'s use of harsh techniques as a recruiting device, and officials have disputed Bush's claims that waterboarding yielded useful intelligence that "saved lives." [Media Matters, 4/20/09, 11/9/10]
Mukasey also claims Obama "appointed a Homeland Security secretary and an attorney general who rejected both the language and the legal norms of the war on terror." As Media Matters reported, this echoes a Fox News talking point from Fox's Washington Bureau Chief Bill Sammon, who misleadingly portrayed Obama's June 2009 Cairo speech as not using "the words 'terror,' 'terrorist,' or 'terrorism.'" [Media Matters, 2/8/11]
Mukasey also refers to the fact that the Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, "was read his Miranda rights and treated as a criminal defendent." But officials have stated that they obtained valuable intelligence from Abdulmutallab both before and after he was read his Miranda rights. [Media Matters, 5/4/10]
From the op-ed:
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush tried to put the country on a war footing. But this was a war like no other, against an enemy that did not occupy a particular territory, and indeed prided itself on its ability to hide in civilian population centers.
It was a war in which intelligence about the enemy was virtually the only defense, and captured combatants had to be detained indefinitely and made to disclose knowledge of future terrorist plots.
Although the authorization Congress passed following 9/11 permitted the use of all appropriate force, and although intelligence gathering had long been recognized as an adjunct to the use of force, there was vigorous resistance to the notion that the executive branch could conduct electronic surveillance without a court issued warrant.
Although the law of war had long distinguished between lawful and unlawful combatants, denying the latter legal protections, there was vigorous resistance as well to the detention of unlawful combatants at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to the CIA's use of coercive interrogation techniques, referred to euphemistically by the Bush administration as "enhanced interrogation techniques."
Notwithstanding that there was no realistic alternative to such detention, and that such techniques violated no law and yielded troves of life-saving information, President Obama rejected both as violative of American ideals. On his first day in office he signed proclamations declaring that detention at Guantanamo would end and that the CIA interrogation program would be abolished, limiting interrogation techniques to those set forth in the Army Field Manual, long available to all including terrorists on the Internet.
He appointed a Homeland Security secretary and an attorney general who rejected both the language and the legal norms of the war on terror.
When an army major screamed "Allahu Akhbar" before murdering 13 soldiers and wounding others, he told the country not to jump to conclusions about the man's motivation. The attorney general announced three days later that the scheduled military trial of the planners of 9/11 would be abandoned in favor of civilian prosecution.
When a terrorist with a concealed bomb concealed tried to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, instead of being treated as a possible intelligence asset he was read his Miranda rights and treated as a criminal defendant.
The administration appears to be abandoning the demands of reality to the attractions of fantasy, and placing the country and its citizens at risk in the process. [The Washington Examiner, 2/16/11]
Right-wing media have responded to the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) decision to grant collective bargaining rights to TSA workers by fearmongering that it would harm national security.
In a January 31 editorial, The Washington Examiner used the ongoing protests in Egypt to baselessly claim that Muslim extremists are infiltrating "the Department of Justice and Homeland Security" and "are in prisons ... and in polling organizations" and are also "military chaplains." As Media Matters has documented, Fox News has also recently used the turmoil in Egypt to claim that Islamists are using "subversive techniques" to impose Shariah law in the U.S. [Media Matters, 1/31/11]
From the January 31 editorial:
Western secularists either don't believe this or stupidly think these beliefs can be overcome. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood and its growing adherents plan to overcome us and prove it daily.
"Not all Muslims are radicals." True. "Islam is fundamentally a peaceful religion." Also true.
But the growing threat of radical Islam is real enough that we should be mindful of the exceptions, not the rule. To do otherwise dulls the senses and lulls us all into a false sense of security, which is exactly what our enemies want.
Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, notes, "Islamists wish to repeat their success in Iran by exploiting popular unrest to take power."
That strategy worked in Russia a century ago when the communists exploited grievances against the czar to grab power. It worked in Germany when the Nazis used German humiliation following World War I to ride to power. Now it is Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan and Lebanon with more to come.
In her book "Londonistan," Melanie Phillips writes, "We have long contracted our understanding of the extremists to the extremists." She means that instead of pursuing a policy to defeat radical Islamists, we have welcomed them among us.
They are at the Department of Justice and Homeland Security, giving "sensitivity training" to people who are supposed to be protecting us from them. They are in prisons, organizing the disaffected into "hate America" cadres.
They are military chaplains and in polling organizations, shaping the way questions are asked and manipulating results to further their interests.
This isn't "bigotry." It is provable fact, which the Islamists believe we will ignore. [The Washington Examiner, 1/31/11]
Somehow the conservative media found a way to link a program promoting childhood health to an increase in pedestrian deaths. The magic word? "Obama."
The Drudge Report linked to this Washington Examiner story that gave the impression that there was a link between the "Let's Move!" campaign begun by first lady Michelle Obama and increased pedestrian deaths.
Rush Limbaugh promoted the version of the story appearing on his affiliate in the DC region, WMAL. That story was headlined "Michelle Obama's 'Get Moving' Program Linked to Pedestrian Deaths." Serial misinformer Jim Hoft wrote on his blog Gateway Pundit, "Michelle Obama's 'Get Up & Get Moving' Program Linked to Increase in Pedestrian Deaths," while Clarice Feldman of Pajamas Media wrote that "Michelle's 'Get Moving' Led to Increases in Pedestrian Deaths." The Daily Caller didn't want to be left out of the story, and produced a story with the headline "First Lady's anti-obesity campaign could be causing more pedestrian deaths."
From the Examiner:
First lady Michelle Obama's campaign to get people to exercise outdoors might be a factor in an increase in the number of pedestrian deaths during the first half of last year, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
GHSA executive director Barbara Harsha said her organization doesn't know why there were more deaths in the first six months of 2010 than in 2009, but the increase is notable because overall traffic fatalities went down 8 percent during this period, and the increase ends four straight years of steady declines in pedestrian deaths.
But the "get moving" movement, led by Obama's "Let's Move" campaign to eliminate childhood obesity, could be to blame, Harsha told The Washington Examiner.
The Examiner had this tidbit four paragraphs in, however:
"There's an emphasis these days to getting fit, and I think people doing that are more exposed to risk [of getting hit by a vehicle]," said Harsha, who conceded to having no scientific evidence that the Let's Move campaign has led to an increase in walkers and runners, or deaths. (our emphasis)
In comments to Media Matters, GHSA spokesman Jonathan Adkins called the story a "total sham," and said, "some people have an agenda" to tie the non-partisan group to a "partisan" story, and noted that more mainstream outlets like USA Today reported the story accurately. Adkins said that GHSA "support[s]" the Let's Move program. Adkins also told Media Matters that none of their research showed any connection at all between the Let's Move program and pedestrian deaths.
TBD.com spoke to Harsha after the story gained traction:
Well, the folks at GHSA were awfully surprised when they read this morning's paper. In fact, Harsha tells us, she didn't tell the Examiner that at all. "It's ridiculous," she says. According to Harsha, the first lady's fitness campaign never even came up in her discussion with [Scott] McCabe. "Absolutely not," she says, adding that she actually supports the "Let's Move" campaign.
But as McCabe points out to us, the Obama nugget came from the GHSA's pitch to him for the story, which he passed along: "Why the increase? We don't really know but speculate that it could be a couple factors. One is the possible increase in distracted pedestrians and distracted drivers. We've been focusing on the drivers, but perhaps we need to focus some attention on distracted walkers! Additionally, Mrs. Obama and others have been bringing attention to 'get moving' programs, so perhaps pedestrian exposure has increased."
Harsha says her theorizing to the Examiner never went beyond the predictable and mundane: More people seem to be walking and running, particularly while listening to music or fiddling with their smartphones, and not paying attention to traffic signals. "What we were trying to say is if people do walk more, there's more risk," says Harsha. "We're concerned with the increase in pedestrian fatalities, and we need to monitor it. Maybe some education needs to be done for people who are into physical fitness."
Following the memorial service for the victims of the tragic shooting in Tucson, several in the right-wing media attacked and mocked the inclusion of a Native American blessing as part of the invocation.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman takes a lot of abuse from right-wingers for his liberal political views and his economic theories that contradict the right-wing way of doing things (never mind that Krugman did receive a Nobel Prize in economics). But did you know that Krugman is just like Fred Phelps, pastor of Kansas' Westboro Baptist Church and best known for leading his tiny flock in odious protests of funerals of fallen soldiers?
That's what NewsBusters' Matthew Sheffield wants you to think. In a January 12 post (cross-posted at the Washington Examiner, where he works as an online media consultant), Sheffield asserts that any liberal who suggests that extreme right-wing rhetoric might be contributing to an environment that may have played a role in the Arizona shooting is acting just like Rev. Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church brood because, as Sheffield explained, liberals think "Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and anyone else who dares to resist the march of history are heretics. That's why they need to shut up, or in the event that they choose not to, have someone else shut them up."
Sheffield transcribed a Phelps sermon asserting that, in Sheffield's words, "Innocent people were killed because American and its leaders have sinned against the higher light." He then claimed that this "is effectively what New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said in a column printed Monday." This is followed by a lengthy section of Sheffield juxtaposing excerpts of Phelps' sermon with Krugman's column.
But Sheffield's little experiment discredits his argument. For instance, Krugman's statement that he was "expecting something like this atrocity to happen" is juxtaposed by Phelps' statement "God appointed the Afghanistan veteran to avenge himself on this evil nation." How are those statements any way analogous? We have no idea.
Krugman has never claimed he wanted to silence all views he opposes, nor does he claim divine approbation for his views; rather, he spoke in his column specifically of "eliminationist rhetoric" that he identified as "coming, overwhelmingly, from the right." Krugman has not called for his opponents to be struck down from above, nor is he running around the country picketing the funerals of those he disagreed with.
Americans may not be able to agree on much these days, but one thing both left and right do agree on is that the funeral protests held by Phelps and his fringe congregation are hateful and despicable. What purpose could Sheffield have in likening Krugman to Phelps other than revel in the vitriolic rhetoric Krugman is trying to tone down?
In the wake of last weekend's shooting in Arizona, Sarah Palin, Andrew Breitbart, and others in the conservative media have accused some journalists and progressives of manufacturing a "blood libel" against them. Historically, the term "blood libel" refers to the grave anti-Semitic charge that Jews use the blood of Christian children in some religious rituals -- a myth that has long been the source of anti-Jewish violence.
The latest criticism of Rush Limbaugh's offensive and false comment claiming that accused Arizona shooter Jared Loughner "has the full support" of "the Democrat [sic] Party" and that Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is "doing everything that [he] can to make sure" Loughner is "not convicted of murder" comes from a surprising source: Tim Carney, senior political columnist at the conservative Washington Examiner.
After stating in a January 11 Examiner blog post that Limbaugh "added as much toxic waste to the Tuscon debate as Paul Krugman -- probably more" with his comments, Carney wrote:
Limbaugh is doing the same thing here Krugman and other liberals have done: he's simply making stuff up to smear the other side, and try to turn this atrocity into a political weapon.
What liberals are defending Loughner? What evidence is there Sheriff Dupnik wants to go light on the guy? And what about this guy would lead anyone to believe he wants to be the victim -- I would guess the opposite.
As I said about Krugman, Limbaugh isn't stating a viewpoint, he's making stuff up, especially where he claims to get in Loughner's mind.
Here's the best I can do to explain Limbaugh: he seems stuck in the 1990s, where we on the Right were often battling a "blame-society" relativism. But Dupnik and Krugman aren't blaming the Right in order to exculpate Loughner -- they are most likely doing it in order to vent frustration or to delegitimize our arguments. Limbaugh's fighting the wrong fight, and assigning the motive that's least likely and most offensive.
I was just beginning to think tonight that things were clearing up and the Krugman-Kos drivel was fading away. Then Limbaugh throws this garbage into the mix.
Now the countdown begins on Carney's inevitable walkback of his criticism, like every pretty much every other conservative who has committed the offense of criticizing Limbaugh in public.
In the days following the blizzard in New York City, right-wing media seized on a Republican NYC councilman's claim that a deliberate union slow-down was responsible for the city's widely criticized snow removal. In fact, numerous city officials, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, say there is no evidence for the claim and many reports have cited other factors likely to be responsible, such as the mayor's failure to declare a state of emergency and an inadequate number of sanitation workers.
In his Washington Examiner column today, Byron York takes a swing at press coverage of the Pentagon's service member survey regarding Don't Ask Don't Tell. York makes much of the fact that among troops with combat experience, larger percentages of service members predict a "negative effect." From York's column:
Press coverage of the new Pentagon Don't Ask Don't Tell report suggests that large majorities of U.S. servicemen and women wouldn't mind the repeal of the military's current policy on gays. Don't believe it. What the report actually shows is that the military is deeply divided over the policy, both between the service branches and especially between those who have served in combat and those who haven't. Did you know that 59 percent of Marines who have served in combat say repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell would have a negative effect? And that 45 percent of Army respondents who have been in combat say the same thing? That is significant, not marginal, opposition.
True, among service members with deployment experience and those in combats arms units, larger percentages of those surveyed predict negative results. However, an overwhelming majority (84 percent) of Marines in combat arms units who have had actual experience working in a unit with a service member believed to be gay said that the unit's "ability to work together" was either "very good," "good," or "neither good nor poor." That number is even higher (89 percent) among Army combat arms units and higher still (92 percent) among the services at large. From page 6 of the report, emphasis added:
Given that we are in a time of war, the combat arms communities across all Services required special focus and analysis. Though the survey results demonstrate a solid majority of the overall U.S. military who predict mixed, positive or no effect in the event of repeal, these percentages are lower, and the percentage of those who predict negative effects are higher, in combat arms units. For example, in response to question 68a, while the percentage of the overall U.S. military that predicts negative or very negative effects on their unit's ability to "work together to get the job done" is 30%, the percentage is 43% for the Marine Corps, 48% within Army combat arms units, and 58% within Marine combat arms units.
However, while a higher percentage of Service members in warfighting units predict negative effects of repeal, the percentage distinctions between warfighting units and the entire military are almost non-existent when asked about the actual experience of serving in a unit with someone believed to be gay. For example, when those in the overall military were asked about the experience of working with someone they believed to be gay or lesbian, 92% stated that their unit's "ability to work together," was "very good, "good" or "neither good nor poor." Meanwhile, in response to the same question, the percentage is 89% for those in Army combat arms units and 84% for those in Marine combat arms units--all very high percentages. Anecdotally, we heard much the same. As one special operations force warfighter told us, "We have a gay guy [in the unit]. He's big, he's mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay."
However much the conservative media would like to preserve the myths about DADT, the fact is that countries that have repealed gay bans follow a familiar pattern. Surveys of troops often suggested widespread resistance to policy change, but repeal did not undermine unit cohesion, effectiveness, or recruitment and retention.
In a November 24 Washington Examiner op-ed, Cheryl K. Chumley promotes the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, touting its "collaborative approach to investigative journalism" and how it hires "veteran reporters with traditional muckraking skills." But Chumley is eager for you to dismiss all the evidence that the Franklin Center is a conservative group.
After quoting Franklin Center chief Jason Stverak saying how his organization partners with others to generate its stories, Chumley writes:
The majority of these organizational partnerships are forged with nonprofits of conservative or free-market bent. But Stverak says dismissing Franklin Center as a "right-wing group news site" is no more justified than ignoring ProPublica as a "leftist" media outfit.
ProPublica was started in 2007 with financial backing from wealthy liberal activists like Herb and Marion Sandler. Stverak, a former North Dakota Republican Party executive, praises the group's 2010 Pulitzer Prize recognition.
Note that Chumley doesn't mention where the Franklin Center gets is financial backing. That's because it has refused to release such information. (Media Matters' Joe Strupp has reported how the Franklin Center is one of a new crop of conservative nonprofit journalism organizations that like to keep their funding sources hidden from the public.) Stverak told Washington Monthly -- which noted that such secrecy "is more than a little ironic given Franklin's obsession with transparency in government" -- that it was irrelevant because his organization's credibility hands on the quality of journalism it produces, not who funds it.
There have been questions about the quality of that journalism. Chumley touts as the Franklin Center's top scoop the story of "White House claims to have saved jobs in districts that didn't even exist," stating that it "generated national recognition for Franklin's venture into investigative reporting soon after its inception." But as Washington Monthly points out:
The only problem: the story was, at best, misleading. In a "fact check" feature on Watchdog's scoop, the Associated Press's Matt Apuzzo took the step that the Watchdog reporters had not: he checked to see what was happening to the money. As it turns out, the funds were going exactly where they were supposed to go, not vanishing into black holes as the Watchdog sites had implied. The problem was simply that a handful of the local government agencies and nonprofits that had received stimulus funds had mistyped the zip codes when they entered information about their projects into the federal database. In other words, all the fuss had been over a few stray typos. "[T]he 'phantom congressional districts' are being used as a phantom issue to suggest that stimulus money has been misspent," Apuzzo concluded.
Even Chumley's noting that the training prospective reporters receive "includes a Computer-Assisted Investigative Reporting boot camp taught by Examiner editorial page editor Mark Tapscott, who is a Franklin advisory board member" is presented not as evidence of conservative bias -- the Examiner's editorial page under Tapscott is aggressively conservative -- but as evidence that journalists receive training. Never mind, of course, that the link Chumley provides to Tapscott's boot camp goes straight to the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Chumley quotes Stvernak saying, "We ask the tough questions. When we push our reporters, when we train them, we tell them, 'You are not a stenographer.' I believe in an aggressive and honest Fourth Estate." Unfortunately, by not challenging Sternak on his organization's funding and pretending that the group really isn't conservative despite all the evidence to the contrary, stenography is precisely the approach Chumley took in writing about the Franklin Center.
It seems inevitable that every conservative news outlet will, sooner or later, dirty its hands by latching onto the birther issue. The Washington Examiner plunges in by publishing a Nov. 22 op-ed by Diana West promoting one birther's case.
West wrote that Terrence Lakin, an Army lieutenant colonel, "faces an upcoming court-martial at Fort Meade, Md., on Dec. 14 for refusing to follow orders to redeploy to Afghanistan because of his conviction that the president hasn't proven his eligibility to hold office." Lakin is the birthers' latest hope for promoting their case, and West admits she's writing about him in part because "Lakin supporters have dubbed this week Terry Lakin Action Week, urging American citizens to take the occasion to call their congressional representatives about the case."
West lionized Lakin as "a senior military officer with an unblemished career" who is committing "what amounts to a historic act of civil disobedience for which he may well serve time in prison." The reality, meanwhile, is that a military judge has already ruled that, according to military law, the personal beliefs or convictions of a soldier are not enough for the soldier to deem an order illegal, that Lakin cannot introduce any evidence related to Obama's citizenship at his court-martial, and that the military court was not the proper venue for determining the eligibility of a president.
West peppered her op-ed with standard birther arguments:
Of course, Obama's failure to release his original 1961 birth certificate (which, contrary to mantralike misperception, has never been released) is just the beginning. There remains a startling dearth of documentation pertaining to Obama's progress through his 49 years of life that only begins with his birth certificate.
A gaping hole -- dare I say "memory hole"? -- seems to have consumed all possible Obama records from his education, health, family records, even his pre-presidential political career. But this subject is never taken seriously by the media or the political establishment, including, most glaringly, erstwhile GOP opponent John McCain, who, on being challenged on the eligibility question himself, should have called on candidate Obama to join him in releasing their bona fides together.
But even to suggest such a thing is to indulge in "conspiracy theories." Not surprisingly, Wikipedia defines this term for us as well, noting that it's "often used dismissively in an attempt to characterize a belief as outlandishly false and held by a person judged to be a crank or a group confined to the lunatic fringe."
Is the birther path really the one that Philip Anschutz's aggressively conservative publication wants to take? It appears so.
Glenn Beck feverishly promoted a conspiracy theory throughout his Fox News show tonight that involved George Soros owning stock in a company that makes full-body scanners. Beck said that Soros had sold off the stock "two days ago" because "someone in the media" -- presumably Glenn Beck -- was on to his plan to quietly profit off the scanners.
You're probably used to Beck's theories falling apart in short order, and in comical fashion. This time, though, it comes with a special twist.