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.
We have reached the logical endpoint of the conservative media's all-out campaign to vilify George Soros: When something in the news makes people mad, run Google searches on the object of the public's anger, plus "George Soros."
Washington Examiner writer Mark Hemingway handled the googling duties for the story about the outcry over full-body scanners at airports. In a blog post headlined "George Soros also profiting off controversial TSA scanners," Hemingway purported to show that Soros owns stock in OSI Systems, the parent company of Rapiscan, which makes the scanners.
Glenn Beck couldn't resist this. Today on his radio show, Beck warned his listeners that "there's something wrong with the scanner story." He went on: "First of all, George Soros has 11,000 shares in the scanner company. What a surprise. But there's something deeply wrong with the scanner story and what's happening at our airports. You're being set up."
Fox Nation loved it, too, linking to Hemingway's post with the headline "Soros Profiting Off Naked Airport Screeners":
Hemingway's "bad thing + Soros" search revealed shocking information -- some website you've probably never heard of says that Soros owns stock in OSI Systems. Hemingway wrote:
As for the company's other political connections, it also appears that none other than George Soros, the billionaire funder of the country's liberal political infrastructure, owns 11,300 shares of OSI Systems Inc., the company that owns Rapiscan. Not surprisingly, OSI's stock has appreciated considerably over the course of the year. Soros certainly is a savvy investor.
The link there points to GuruFocus.com, an investment information site owned by a limited liability company of the same name in Plano, Texas. Here's the smoking gun:
Assuming that GuruFocus is correct, Soros owns 11,300 shares of OSI Systems.
And according to that same site, Soros' holdings amount to a whopping 0.06 percent of the company's outstanding shares.
Yes, six one-hundredths of one percent.
Rush Limbaugh claimed that Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have a "proposal" to eliminate 401(k)s in favor of a retirement plan administered by the government. In fact, they have not made such a proposal. Rather, the idea of guaranteed retirement accounts -- which was distorted by Limbaugh -- was mentioned by a panelist from the Economic Policy Institute during a hearing held by Harkin and Sanders on retirement security issues.
In the final days before the midterm elections, following a very familiar pattern, conservative media have yet again turned to hyping baseless and misleading claims of voter fraud.
Earlier, we detailed how Glenn Beck credited conservative billionaire Charles Koch for information he used to attack Al Gore -- but not that he received that information at a secret strategy meeting the previous weekend hosted by Koch and his brother, David. But Beck is not the only media figure taking their cues from the Kochs at that meeting.
Also on the guest list (obtained by Think Progress) of conservative activists at the Kochs' June gathering -- at which strategies for the 2010 midterm elections were plotted -- were two Washington Examiner writers, senior political analyst Michael Barone and senior political columnist Tim Carney. That's a hefty representation for such a lower profile newspaper (The Wall Street Journal, by comparison, had only one representative, Steve Moore.) Their attendance presumably had approval from the top; after all, Examiner owner Philip Anschutz was there as well, as were executives from Anschutz's oil interests, according to Think Progress.
Interestingly, Carney recently penned a defense of the Kochs. In a September 1 column, Carney wrote that the Kochs and "any of us advocating a free market are trying to make the world a better place -- not just for business, but for the poor."
Carney disclosed that, in addition to Charles Koch introducing his speech at a "fancy dinner," "The Koch-created Institute for Humane Studies has, over the past two years, paid me on a few occasions to speak to various audiences (and also to mentor interns). The Koch-funded Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute have also hosted book talks for me." But Carney didn't disclose his attendance at the secret Koch confab two months earlier.
Washington Examiner editorial page editor Mark Tapscott writes in an October 12 blog post: "Nobody knows with certainty how many illegal votes were cast in the 2008 presidential and congressional elections, but odds are the total was in the millions, thanks to systematic vote fraud campaigns by leftist groups such as ACORN and mis-guided laws that allow individuals to register and vote on the same day."
Tapscott, however, offers no evidence of "systematic vote fraud" that resulted in "illegal votes" numbering "in the millions" -- perhaps because it didn't happen. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2008, election experts say that voter registration issues that had been associated with ACORN rarely result in fraudulent votes being cast because false and duplicate registrations are typically weeded out. The Chronicle goes on to state that "it's virtually impossible to pull off large-scale voter fraud without being discovered."
Tapscott's reference to ACORN is nothing more than yet another invocation of a right-wing bogeyman that has become so played out that it was getting tossed around indiscriminately; The Wall Street Journal's John Fund, for instance, insisted that one purported case involved people who allegedly "associated in the past with Acorn" that "may have" been involved in "advising" people "on how to perform" voter fraud, citing unnamed "local politicos." Scaremongering aside, Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall has pointed out that any actual vote fraud cases allegedly involving ACORN have been isolated.
Tapscott's baseless claim came in service to promoting Pajamas Media's "Voter Fraud Watch." He touted how one prominent name linked to Pajamas Media's project is "J. Christian Adams, the courageous former Justice Department attorney who blew the whistle on the Obama administration's craven cave-in to Political Correctness and left-wing ideology in the New Black Panthers Case."
The supposed "legal expertise" Adams intends to provide to "Voter Fraud Watch" doesn't exactly enhance the credibility of Pajamas Media's little project.
From the October 5 edition of the Washington Examiner:
Slate's David Weigel catches Michael Barone "phoning it in":
I'm not even sure that Michael Barone woke up before writing this one about "the Democratic party shrinking back to its bicoastal base."
Now we see Barack Obama campaigning at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, in Dane County where he won 73 percent of the vote in 2008, chiding students for their apparent apathy. Sen. Russ Feingold, who lives in Middleton, four miles away, was unable to make it -- and it's not the first Obama event in Wisconsin he's skipped.
Actually, Feingold did make it to the rally, announcing his intentions in a Tuesday afternoon tweet and giving a brief speech from the stage. I noticed the mistake in the free print edition of the paper, but it's still online.
Barone's column contains another flaw that suggests it was thrown together with no more than eight minutes of thought: a reliance on the tired old gimmick of pretending that the GOP's edge in "land mass represented" is meaningful.
Here's an exercise for some evening when you're curious about big nationwide trends in this year's elections.
Get an outline map showing the 50 states and take a look at the latest poll averages in pollster.com in each race for senator and governor. Color in the percentage (rounded off; no need for tenths) by which either the Republican or Democratic candidate is leading (I use blue for Republicans, red for Democrats) in each state.
The results are revealing, even breathtaking.
The map of the Senate races shows Republicans leading over almost all the landmass of America.
I imagine most readers stopped right there. I mean, who hasn't read this exact column a couple hundred times over the past decade? (I guess Barone thinks he's keeping things fresh by switching around the now-standard blue/red indicators. Bold!) Is there anyone who still believes -- actually believes, not just pretends to believe -- that maps that give parties credit for landmass represented are anything other than wildly misleading?
Several paragraphs later, Barone admits this, sort of:
Now, the geography can be a little misleading. The Democrats' Northeast and Pacific Coast bases are heavily populated, and the states where they're leading in Senate races cast 136 electoral votes in 2008. But the states where Republicans are leading cast 274 electoral votes.
A little misleading? No: It can be completely misleading. You know what else is misleading? Using electoral votes as a proxy for population. And Barone is wrong about the electoral vote totals, anyway: States in which Republicans are leading cast 257 electoral votes in 2008, not 274. By using electoral votes, a misleading proxy for population, then inexplicably awarding the GOP a bonus of 17 electoral votes, Barone makes it look like the Republicans have a 2-1 advantage.
If, on the other hand, you look at each state's population, you find that Republicans lead in states containing a total of about 144 million people, and Democrats in states with a total of about 82 million people. That's still a sizable gap, but considerably smaller than a 2-1 margin. (And then there's the fact, not acknowledged by Barone or included in his calculations, that there are two Senate races in New York, both of which Democrats are leading. Include both races, and the gap shrinks to 144-101.)
Long story short: Beware the columnist who misleads you in his disclaimer acknowledging that he misled you earlier.
In a September 7 editorial, The Washington Examiner falsely claimed that President Obama "supports letting the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 expire as scheduled on Jan. 1, 2011."
In fact, as Media Matters has noted, according to Obama's FY 2011 budget proposal, "the President supports allowing [the Bush] tax cuts that affect families earning more than $250,000 a year to expire." The budget also noted that such an action "will have no effect on the 98% of all household who make less than $250,000." Further, The Boston Globe reported on April 10 that "Obama wants to extend Bush's tax cuts, except for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and couples making $250,000."
Thomas Sowell spent 2009 fear-mongering about health care reform. Though he failed to stop reform from becoming law in early 2010, Sowell is trying his hand at fear-mongering, again, but this time, warning that "if Obamacare doesn't get repealed before it takes full effect in 2014...It is not a pretty picture."
In an August 25 Washington Examiner editorial, titled "Obamacare's facts and fables are chilling," Sowell painted the "not pretty" -- and untrue -- picture of "Obamacare":
We have to go back to square one and the simplest common sense in order to get some rational idea of what government-run medical care means. In particular, we need to examine the claim that the government can "bring down the cost of medical care."
It is cheaper to remain sick than to get medical treatment. What is cheapest of all is to die instead of getting life-saving medications and treatment, which can be very expensive.
First, under the health care reform law, we do not have government run health care. In fact, as early as 2009, Politifact labeled this claim "false," noting that:
[W]e've also found nothing in the [health care reform] proposals so far that would force people off their current coverage into a government-run plan, if they prefer and can pay for private coverage.
Also in that paragraph, Sowell attacks the claim that health care reform will "bring down the cost of medical care." However, if he had read the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) report that was released in April of this year, Sowell would know that increases in national health expenditures are largest in 2016 and "gradually decline thereafter."
Further, Sowell insinuated that under health care reform, health care decisions will be "out of your hands":
Despite these facts, most of us tend to take a somewhat more parochial view of the situation when it is we ourselves who are sick or who face a potentially fatal illness. But what if that decision is taken out of your hands under Obamacare and is being made for you by a bureaucrat in Washington?
We won't know what that leads to until the time comes. As Nancy Pelosi said, we will find out what is in the bill after it has passed.
Of course, Politifact has long-since debunked the claim that bureaucrats will be responsible for making health care decisions for Americans, rating that claim a pants on fire lie.
But Sowell obviously isn't reading CMS reports or Politifact. He is getting his health care information from a much more credible source -- Sally Pipes, who has written a book called "The Truth About Obamacare." It's not certain how Ms. Pipes' "BA with honors in economics" whose think tank, Pacific Research Institute, caters to special interest organizations like Phillip Morris and Exxon, qualifies her to speak, or write a book, on health care policy.
What is certain, however, is that these "Obamacare" "fables" are getting old.
Right-wing media have responded to President Obama's comments that he "believe[s] that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country" by falsely claiming that opponents of the proposed Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan have not talked about restricting Muslims' religious freedom. In fact, opponents have advocated using government intervention to restrict construction of the center or have asserted that the planners don't have a right to build it at the proposed location.
Right-wing media have claimed that Sen. Jacob Howard, the author of the 14th Amendment's Citizenship Clause, said that it would not apply to the children of "foreigners." However, scholars dispute this interpretation of Howard's remarks; and the Supreme Court noted in 1898 that the white children of European foreigners "have always been considered and treated as citizens."