Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

In Defense of Standardized Testing

A few decades ago, the argument was that teachers could not be held accountable for their students performance because there were no objective measurements of that performance. The same argument was made regarding school funding. There was no real way to measure whether policies and programs were beneficial enough to justify their expense because there were no objective measures to use. Grades were inadequate because different school systems had different grading standards and criteria; an 'A' in one system might only rate a 'B+' in another. Passing in one district might be failing in another. Different curricula at different schools could not be compared across the board.

In short, there were no tools for managers to use to evaluate performance in our schools.

So the education profession got together to establish performance based standards and assigned them to certain grade levels. For example, mastering the ability to recite the letters of the alphabet was assigned to kindergarten; the ability to add and subtract two digit numbers to 2nd grade, and so on. This was important for two different reasons. First, the skills identified are all foundational, which is to say they form the basis for more advanced skills, like spelling, or multiplication. Second, mastery of these foundational skills can be easily assessed through objective testing.

And that, in a nutshell, is the origin of the standardized tests. There is nothing discriminatory about an objective test that assesses mastery of an ability. There can't be. Either the student has mastered the skill well enough to meet the standard, or they haven't. No bias, no politics, no subjectivity.

Basically, teachers are protesting to being held to objectively measured tests demonstrating mastery of fundamental skills as an unfair reflection of their teaching ability. They say it is unfair to hold them accountable for the performance of their students

Remember that the next time the teachers' union demands a raise because teachers are the most important element in a child's education.

Can't have it both ways folks.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, August 30, 2012

What Exactly are “Factual Shortcuts?”

Just when you think the pres can't get any slimier, the AP demonstrates that in this game of ethical limbo, they can always sink a little lower.

The headline of the story reads "FACT CHECK: Ryan takes factual shortcuts in speech"

Not sure what a factual shortcut is, except maybe a bald statement of the facts, but let's see what the AP has to say.
RYAN: "And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly. ... So they just took it all away from Medicare. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama."

THE FACTS: Ryan's claim ignores the fact that Ryan himself incorporated the same cuts into budgets he steered through the House in the past two years as chairman of its Budget Committee, using the money for deficit reduction. And the cuts do not affect Medicare recipients directly, but rather reduce payments to hospitals, health insurance plans and other service providers.

In addition, Ryan's own plan to remake Medicare would squeeze the program's spending even more than the changes Obama made, shifting future retirees into a system in which they would get a fixed payment to shop for coverage among private insurance plans. Critics charge that would expose the elderly to more out-of-pocket costs.

In other words, Jack Gillum and Ricardo Alonzo-Zaldiver do not dispute the central fact that Obama does take over $700 billion from Medicare. So I guess they are agreeing with him, just adding more words to make it look like they are disagreeing.
RYAN: "The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare and cronyism at their worst. You, the working men and women of this country, were cut out of the deal."

THE FACTS: Ryan himself asked for stimulus funds shortly after Congress approved the $800 billion plan, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Ryan's pleas to federal agencies included letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis seeking stimulus grant money for two Wisconsin energy conservation companies.

One of them, the nonprofit Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp., received $20.3 million from the Energy Department to help homes and businesses improve energy efficiency, according to federal records. That company, he said in his letter, would build "sustainable demand for green jobs." Another eventual recipient, the Energy Center of Wisconsin, received about $365,000.

Again, not one word to counter the charge that the stimulus plan benefited corporations more than workers.
RYAN: Said Obama misled people in Ryan's hometown of Janesville, Wis., by making them think a General Motors plant there threatened with closure could be saved. "A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. 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 hundred years.' That's what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year."

THE FACTS: The plant halted production in December 2008, weeks before Obama took office and well before he enacted a more robust auto industry bailout that rescued GM and Chrysler and allowed the majority of their plants — though not the Janesville facility — to stay in operation. Ryan himself voted for an auto bailout under President George W. Bush that was designed to help GM, but he was a vocal critic of the one pushed through by Obama that has been widely credited with revitalizing both GM and Chrysler.

Again, they agree with Ryan that the plant Obama said would stay open was shut down.
RYAN: Obama "created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing."

THE FACTS: It's true that Obama hasn't heeded his 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.

Again, they agree with Ryan. Obama did ignore the report.

So, in essence, without disagreeing with a single fact Ryan presented, thee two AP clowns did their level best to imply that he was a liar.

No wonder fact checking in the media has such a bad name.

UPDATE: It's even worse. The factoiry that the AP claimed closed down in 2008, before Obama took office was still in production in 2009.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, August 13, 2012

PolitiHack Sullivan Once Again Misses the Facts

And here it comes right on schedule. The Democratic Party in Tennessee wants to reject the candidate selected by the voters in the primary, so here comes PolitiFact with a hit piece disguised as fact checking.

The target is Mark Clayton, who won the Democratic primary to run against Bob Corker for his US Senate seat, and the axeman is once again PolitiHack Bartholomew Sullivan, PolitiFact Tennessee's go to guy for sleaze, slime, and hatchet jobs. The only thing new in his latest adventure into fiction is that the target is a Democrat. Clayton is an outspoken supporter of traditional marriage and for that, he has been viciously attacked by party Democrats, who have gone so far as to try and override the election results, a fact Sullivan gleefully includes in his column.

According to Sullivan Clayton wrote on his campaign's Facebook page that "the federal government 'mandates transexuals (sic) and homosexuals grabbing children in their stranger-danger zones in the name of airport security.' " I say according to Sullivan because he has no link to the Facebook page itself. I went to Clayton's Facebook page and found no trace of the alleged statement. I went to his campaign's Facebook page, and again, no such statement. Obviously Sullivan couldn't find it either, explaining why there was no link.

However, since I am not a dirtbag sleazeball lacking the initiative God gave a gerbil, I did a Google search, and was able to find the statement on Clayton's regular campaign page..

Mr Sullivan, if you will drop me a line, I'll be happy to explain just how a Google search is performed, and how to append the results to your on-line work. You know, in the spirit of amity and all.

So, having verified the statement, always a necessity when dealing with PolitFact Tennessee, I read the 'analysis.' Clayton backed up his statement using the case of Ashley Yang, a pre-op transsexual who worked as a TSA screener at LAX. According to Time Newsfeed , Yang was told that since he hadn't gone through surgery, and was still identified as male on all documentation, that under TSA policy, he would have to pat down men. When he objected, he was offered another position in the baggage handling department, but he claimed that he wanted the job because he wanted to work with people.

Some readers may object to my using the masculine when referring to Yang. Yet in accordance with California State law, while he may be recognized as a transsexual, he cannot be documented as such until undergoing reassignment surgery. And you might also note that good old Bart Sullivan also refers to Yang as "He." At last, we agree on something.

Back to the case at hand, the first part of the Clayton's statement, that the TSA does in fact hire transsexuals to work as screeners, Clayton is correct. In fact, Yang said he wanted the job in order to interact with people, and given that everybody today knows exactly how screeners 'interact' with people, the fact that he would be required to pat down others could not have been a shock. But he didn't want to pat down other men; he wanted to pat down women.

Now I understand that this is a delicate area. I do not doubt that Yang sees himself as female, but the question is how do the passengers being patted down by him feel? Do they see him as female as well? Or male? And should it matter? Who would be more uncomfortable during the pat down process? The men, the women, or Yang? These are all valid issues surrounding the case, but in his 'analysis' of the story, Sullivan does not mention any of it. To him, gender and the pat downs are irrelevant. He passes off the case as "employment law regarding the on-the-job treatment of transsexuals." He completely ignores the legitimate issues faced by the airport with Yang's employment as a screener. The reason for his myopia is clear; if the issue is solely about unnamed 'employment law' then it doesn't apply at all to Clayton's statement. But since pat downs and gender issues figure prominently in the case, including the assigned sex for pat downs, it applies directly to what Clayton said.

Leaving this information out isn't just disingenuous; it is dishonest.

The next issue is whether or not Yang, in his role as screener, would be required to do an invasive pat down of children, as claimed by Clayton. Bartholomew laughs off the idea as if it were totally ridiculous, and he trots out TSA statements on their policy of child pat downs and how sensitive they will be to the children.

Yeah, right.

This incident, in March of 2009, saw a four year old boy forced to remove his leg braces to get through a scanner. The TSA agents were completely unsympathetic to the boy's disabilities.

In Nov of 2010, a young boy is partially undressed by the TSA agent doing the patdown.

In May, 2011, a baby got a full pat down from the TSA, including removal of his diaper.

In April of 2011, a young girl was patted down by a TSA agent, despite her protests and her obvious distress.

In June of 2011, the TSA changed their guidelines for the pat downs of children, but they did not cease the practice entirely.

Just one month after the new policy was enacted, a Nashville woman was arrested for protesting as TSA agents patted down her daughter.

In March of 2012, a three year old boy in a cast and wheelchair went through a patdown, and was visibly distressed by the experience.

In April of 2012, a 4 year old girl was given a pat down after hugging her grandmother, who was waiting for screening. The girl was terrified and and the TSA were on the verge of forcing the family to leave the airport. Notice that the TSA said that their agents handled the incident appropriately, and followed the revised guidelines

Obviously, TSA screeners continue to do pat downs on children, including areas that are sensitive, and these pat downs make children extremely uncomfortable. The undeniable truth is that any TSA screener may be called upon to do a pat down of a small child. Sullivan completely dismisses this as a possibility in order to debunk Clayton's claim but again, the facts tell a different story.

So let's look at the facts. We have a court decision that airports must allow transsexuals to work as screeners, and allow them to pat down the sex they identify with, regardless of their actual status regarding their sex change. In other words, a transvestite may qualify as a female if he identifies himself as such and then he must be assigned to pat down females. In order to travel on an airplane, passengers must submit to either the scanner, or a pat down, and possibly both depending on the scan results. Despite the revision to TSA procedures, young children are still subjected to pat downs as they travel, and those pat downs do include areas that children would normally not allow a stranger to go near.

It doesn't take a logical genius to conclude that a parent could be required to allow a transsexual screener to pat down their child.

While the number of transsexuals working in the TSA has got to be miniscule, meaning the chances of this occurring are fairly slim, the number of gays/lesbians working as screeners is certainly higher, presenting an increased chance for a gay/lesbian screener to be assigned to pat down members of the same sex. And this raises a completely separate issue, one that is easy to state but nearly impossible to resolve. If we don't want TSA agents patting down passengers of the opposite sex, then why would we want homosexual TSA agents patting down same sex passengers?

Or are we being hypersensitive to the whole thing? Should we let TSA agents pat down passengers without regard to gender?

While Clayton's language is overly inflammatory, and his prejudice against transsexuals and homosexuals is evident, his statement is not a lie, but an accurate, albeit unlikely depiction of the reality of air travel. At worst, it is half true.

But that doesn't fit the narrative; it doesn't paint Clayton as extreme enough, so Sullivan doesn't provide the readers with the facts. Instead of presenting the evidence and analyzing it, he offered up a tissue thin layer of support for his own prejudices and sold it as the truth.

Sullivan and 'truth' are two words that do not belong in the same sentence. As long as PolitiFact Tennessee continues to publish his garbage, they will continue to be seen as the biased, agenda-driven, lapdogs of the left that they are, and journalists will continue to rival congressmen for the public's scorn.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, August 06, 2012

Battered Media Syndrome

The media covers for Obama like an abused wife covering for her husband. The truth is obvious to everybody, but nobody can do anything about it until she stops the lying.

Posted by Rich
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PolitiFact Tennessee:  Even the Editors Don’t Read It

PolitiFact Tennessee just published an evaluation of Tennessee Congressman Chuck Fleischmann's statement that Obama claimed that small businesses succeed because of government. Fleischmann's statement was based on a speech Obama gave, where he famously said that:
If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

That quote has gotten tons of traction and is causing serious damage to the President's re-election campaign because, if accurate, it reveals a great deal about how he thinks, and how he sees America.

But is it true? Are those two lines an accurate characterization of Obama's attitude towards business and success?

I'm sure it will come as no surprise to anybody that PolitiFact, both the national version and its baby sister here in Tennessee both claim that it is not true, that the quote was taken out of context.

So let's add the context.

The following transcript of Obama's remarks is taken directly from PolitiFact Tennessee's evaluation of Fleischmann's statement and is what they call "the full context":

"There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

"The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

"So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the G.I. Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President -- because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together."

In context, Obama says that being smart does not make you successful because there are a lot of smart people. He goes on to say hard work does not make you successful because there are a lot of hard working people out there. Next, he makes a declarative statement. "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help."

That's the difference maker. Hard work and intelligence don't cut it; you have to get help from somebody else. (Which begs the question, "Who helped Obama?" We don't know because he's sealed all the records, but that's a post for another day.)

And who does Obama see as that helper? Let's go to his speech.

There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges.

Hmmm. Teachers=government. The American system=government. Roads, bridges and infrastructure=government. It's almost like he is saying that government is the vital factor in success.

Of course he fails to answer a simple question. If access to public schools, and roads is the arbiter of success, and we all have access to those schools and roads, why aren't we all successful? But I digress.

Obama then sums up his position with the famous quote: "If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen."

Apologists, like PolitiFact, claim that Obama was referring to infrastructure by the indefinite article "that," even though the rules of grammar dictate that an indefinite pronoun or article refers to its nearest antecedent, in this case, "business." But the preceding statements he made clearly indicate his belief that the efforts of small business people while not completely irrelevant to the outcome, are not the ultimate arbiter of their success. With that established, there is evidence to support the conclusion that the grammatical reading is also correct in intent; that Obama meant exactly what he said.

But let's dig a little deeper. Giving Obama the benefit of the doubt, let's assume he did mean bridges, schools and other infrastructure. Yes, they are built using state and federal taxes, but who pays those taxes? According to recent data, 52% of American families pay all the federal taxes, while 48% pay none. Road usage taxes(gas taxes, wheel taxes, etc) are paid by everyone, but again, wealthier people pay a higher amount due more miles driven, more cars owned, etc. Businesses who use public infrastructure also pay usage fees and taxes over and above what families pay. And many small businesses operate as sole proprietorships or S corporations which means their business taxes are paid as personal income. Take all these factors together and it is a good bet that small business people do, in fact, build the roads, fund the schools, etc.

So, if we take Obama grammatically, he is wrong, and if we judge him by what his apologists claim he meant to say, he's still wrong.

Let's move on. Maybe there is something in the speech that can override what we've found so far. After all, PolitiFact had to have something to base their "False" evaluation on, right?

"The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

Ahhhh. The golden moment for the liberal Obama defender! "See, he says we succeed because of our individual initiative!" Yes, he does, but again, he adds that we have to have external support in order to succeed. And then he goes on, driving the point home.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the G.I. Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President -- because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.(Emphasis mine)

Notice something interesting about that list?
G.I Bill...government program
Golden Gate Bridge...government program
Hoover Dam...government program
Internet...government program
Apollo Program...government program
Middle Class...?????

Obama sells the creation of the middle class as due to government programs.


President Obama clearly believes that the growth of the middle class, and the success of small business is due primarily to the efforts of the government and not to the initiative, efforts, and intelligence of the people who started them. He confirmed that belief several times in the speech, not just in the famous two sentences. The amazing thing is that PolitiFact can quote the speech in full and still not see what it says. I sent an email to the KNS' Steve Ahillen, the editor for this particular episode of PolitiFact.

"Your recent PolitiFact article fails to follow any sort of logic at all. Obama directly stated that the middle class is a creation of the US government. I quote:

"So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the G.I. Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon." (Emphasis mine.)

In other words, the government created the middle class. That is exactly what Fleischmann accused Obama of believing, and you called it false.

You used the same quote I did and apparently never bothered to read it. That, or your partisan myopia prevents you from seeing what you are reading. And if you think I'm mistaking the "we" just look at each example on the list. Every single item was a government project, funded by taxation. Are you going to try to claim that the creation of the middle class is an exception on that list?

Logically, it doesn't work. The only honest interpretation of the entire speech is that government action is responsible for prosperity, and not just responsible, but more important than initiative, intelligence, and hard work.

By the way, since 52% of Americans pay all federal income taxes, it is quite probable that successful people did in fact build the infrastructure, pay for the teachers, etc.

Obama is still wrong.

As are you.

I don't expect a reply. For a fact checking organizations, they are remarkably uncomfortable when confronted with actual facts.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, June 18, 2012

PolitiFact Tennessee Doubles Down on stupid

Yesterday, I wrote about Bartholomew Sullivan's rating of Marsha Blackburn as "Mostly False," based on her slight exaggeration of the number of medical equipment jobs in Tennessee. In that post, I wrote:
Sullivan is a hack whose sole purpose is to advance a liberal agenda, and since Zack McMillan, the editor of PolitiFact Tennessee continues to publish his pieces, he is guilty as well.

Apparently, Zack was insulted by my suggestion that all he could do was edit crap, and wanted to show that he could write crap as well.

Today's PolitiFact Tennessee article regards The Tennessee Democratic Party's claim that Mitt Romney said we don't need more police, more firefighters and more teachers. Here's Zack's conclusion:
The Tennessee Democratic Party says Mitt Romney has said "we don't need 'more firemen, more policemen, more teachers.' "

That's a slight exaggeration of Romney's remarks -- he was responding to Obama's comments on them, not outlining his own specific policy against them. Still, that's pretty close to what Romney said. We rate the claim Mostly True.

So, an exaggeration one way is Mostly False, but the other way is Mostly True.

The word is 'bias' and PolitiFact Tennessee, reeks of it.

I'm just amazed that the folks at the KNS aren't embarrassed that they continue to publish this garbage. Are there any real journalists left in the shed on the hill? I know they fired most of them in the last purge, but surely one or two survive?

Maybe in the Sports department?

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, June 17, 2012

More PolitiFarce from Tennessee

Check this out.

Marsha Blackburn makes the following statement:
"In my congressional district, we have about 10,000 individuals that are employed in the medical device industry," Blackburn said. "We have estimates from the Manhattan Institute that 1,000 of those jobs will be lost if this tax stays on the books."

PolitiFact looks up the study by the Manhattan Institute and finds:

"Table 11 on page 21 of the report indicates that in Tennessee 1,023 of 9,179 jobs would be lost statewide assuming a 2.3 percent excise tax and a 10 percent shift in production offshore."

So guess what rating is applied?

Mostly False.


Their justification? (other than the obvious, that Blackburn is a conservative woman in government) Blackburn misspoke when she said the jobs were in her district when she meant statewide, and she exaggerated when she claimed "about 10,000" instead of saying 9,000.

One thing that is obvious is that neither Bartholomew Sullivan nor Zack McMillan, the writer and editor respectively, mastered basic math skills, because if they had, they would have realized that Blackburn's rounding actually created a more favorable result than does the correct numbers.

A loss of 1000 jobs out of 10,000 is a 10% loss. 1,000/10,000*100=10%
A loss of 1023 jobs out of 9,179 is an 11% loss. 1023/9,179*100=11.145%

Here's what is ironic. Sullivan makes a big deal over Blackburn's 10% inflation of the number of jobs in the state, but doesn't even notice that her inflation of the numbers reduce the percentage of jobs lost by an identical 10%.

Apparently, 10% only matters when it's against you.

The bias is mathematically evident. Sullivan is a hack whose sole purpose is to advance a liberal agenda, and since Zack McMillan, the editor of PolitiFact Tennessee continues to publish his pieces, he is guilty as well.

In a sane universe where truth in labeling exists, any column using the word "Fact" in its title would rate Blackburn's statement as "Mostly True," down checking her for mistakenly saying her district rather than state. Only in today's media, where Orwellian doublespeak is the order of the day would a factually accurate claim be rated as false because it is politically inconvenient. Welcome to the 2012 election, where facts don't matter as much as how you can spin them.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

KNS Gets One Right

As much as I beat up on the Knoxville News Sentinel, there are times when they do the right thing, and I want to encourage that kind of thing.

A few days ago, Jack McElroy wrote a brief post explaining why the KNS shut down comments on the story about the County Commissioner caught in a sex act with another man in a public park.
It wasn't bias or selective compassion that prompted us to disable comments on that story. The fact is, we have learned that some subjects bring out the worst in comments. In our ongoing efforts to raise the level of civility in our comments, we have decided to be more aggressive in controlling these forums. That includes disabling stories that are sure to be trouble. Given the subject matter, if we had opened up the Ownby article to comments, we almost immediately would have been deleting many of them.

Katie Granju, a fellow blogger and friend, has had some experience with the frequently harsh comments thrown around in the KNS moshpit, and wrote a reply to McElroy, asking that the KNS let its readers know what the standards were for closing comments.
If the newspaper is going to offer varying levels of protection from public commenting for each story it publishes online, it’s clearly time for the newspaper’s management to explain in detail to the community it serves what the criteria are for deciding which level of protection each story will get. How is this decision made, exactly, and who makes it? Does E.W. Scripps provide guidelines to its newsrooms in this matter, or does each E.W. Scripps newspaper -including the Knoxville News Sentinel – get to create its own guidelines? Where are the guidelines published for newsroom staff? Do they receive any training in making this decision? Or is it actually the case that there ARE no fairly, universally applied guidelines directing which stories get online comments disabled and which do not, and that its simply a personal judgment call by whichever News Sentinel editor happens to be around when a particular story is published online?

Of course, it is highly doubtful that the KNS will publish the standards they use to determine which comments are removed and when to close a story to comments because, as Katie suggests, there most likely are no standards. They are going by a gut feel for the tome of the comments. The problem with that approach is that if you have sympathy for one side or the other of the subject, your gut will react accordingly, and you will let some comments stand that support your side that you would otherwise ban.

That's not right.

That being said, and understanding that the KNS will probably never publish a list of standards controlling comments, I do have to say that I like what they did today.

There was a hit-and-run accident last night that took the lives of a young woman whose car was stalled on the side of the road and the middle aged man who had stopped to help her. Making the story even more tragic, the young woman was seven months pregnant. You would think that the comments on a story like this would be filled with expressions of sympathy for the family, and for the most part, you would be right. But there always seems to be one guy, one commentor who will take any story and twist it to fit their agenda. Like a member of the Hillsboro Baptist Church, this person has no respect for a family's grief or pain; he is just out to make his point, and is perfectly willing to do so using another person's tragedy.

Their heartbreak is his stock in trade.

In this case, the asshole (sorry, no other word fits) uses the handle TNRiverCaptain, and his comment tried to link the accident to a nearby house that he alleges is a drug house, specifically dealing in pot. In a later comment, and in response to questioning, he actually posts the address of the house. Keep in mind that since the police did not have a suspect in custody, or know the identity of the driver, there was no evidence at all that alcohol or drugs contributed to this accident. But TnRiverCaptain was determined to make his point, using the blood of two victims, three if you count the baby, without regard for the feelings of the families who lost their loved ones.

The KNS deleted his more egregious comments, and when he grew more heated, closed the thread.

But they did something else that I think is a good idea. Rather than blanking out comments altogether, they let the acceptable ones stand, including some of the responses to TnRiverCaptain. That gives the reader enough information about why the thread was closed down that they aren't left with more questions without answers.

It's not the same as publishing standards, but it is a start.

Incidentally, the KNS has a policy for printed letters to the editor. They must be signed, and you must leave contact information so they can verify that you actually wrote the letter. Anonymity is not an option.

I think they need to adopt the same model in their comments section. Most of the bullies and slime bags in the comments section hide behind fake user names. Comfortable and safe behind their little wall of immunity, they sit back and spew venom they wouldn't dare say face to face with other people. Their cowardice is masked by anonymous bravado. They know they will never be called to account for their words, so they write the most vile things, scraped from the sludge that fills the the bottom of their soul.

A little sunshine would go a long way towards drying up the cesspit. People who post under their own names are forced to remember that they are accountable for what they say. It is a restraining influence and raises the tome of the conversation.

And before you ask, just like here on my blog, when I comment, I use my name, so I do practice what I preach. You are welcome to go over to the KNS and type in rhailey931 and you will be presented with the full list of my comments, stretching back over the last several years. If I'm not willing to put my name on it, I won't say it.

Posted by Rich
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PolitiFact and Poland

I'm just waiting.

Over the holiday, President Obama went to Poland, and during a speech honoring a Polish freedom fighter, referred to the Nazi death camps as "Polish death camps."

Of course, the entire nation of Poland reacted with outrage, and Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski tweeted: "...It's a shame that this important ceremony was overshadowed by ignorance and incompetence."

From Hope and Change to Ignorance and Incompetence. What a let down.

But all is not lost. Remember, PolitiFact is on hand to make sure that every story is spun to Obama's advantage. I fully expect a story by PolitiFact to come out in the next day or two to show that Obama's claim was in fact, Mostly True. The following reasons will be given:
1. The camps were, in fact, physically located in Poland, so the president was geographically correct.
2. Some portion of the staff manning the camps were Polish.
3. The government administering Poland at the time authorized the construction and the operation of the camps and were fully aware of what those operations entailed.

Politifact will go on to state that any other interpretation of Obama's statement is based on partisan rhetoric, and is ideological in nature, and potentially racist.

Now obviously, I don't think that PolitiFact will actually issue something like this, but given what they've spewed out recently, I cannot honestly entirely rule out the possibility that they might.

And that says everything that needs to be said about PolitiFact.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, April 16, 2012

PolitiFact Tennessee Fails Again

Bartholomew Sullivan, one of PolitiFact Tennessee's most openly biased contributors, lays out a case that Lamar Alexander and others who oppose the changes in the FLSA are doing so because they want to continue to allow the children of migrant workers to work on farms, rather than out of concern for over reaching regulation from the federal government.

As with a lot of commentary on alleged over-regulation and government overreach into the realm of private business, we suspected there might be more to Alexander’s and many others’ concerns that do not involve wheelbarrows full of alfalfa or showing Bessie off at the county fair. Might the pushback be related to migrant child labor employed by big agribusiness concerns?

Apparently, Sullivan either did not read, or could not understand, the proposed rule, even though he linked it in his article because Section 570.123(b)2 specifically exempts from the new rules "An employee who is 12 or 13 years
of age and such employment is either with the written consent of his or her parent or person standing in place of his or her parent or his or her parent is employed on the same farm as the youth;(emphasis mine)

In other words, migrant workers can continue to bring their kids into the fields with them to work as long as it doesn't interfere with normal school hours in the district where the farm exists.

Given that almost half of his piece on Alexander's statement consisted of Sullivan attempting to show nefarious motivations behind the statement, rather than its accuracy, and that a five minute perusal of the rules demonstrated that Sullivan's assumption was without factual basis, maybe it's time for PolitiFact to give Sullivan a "Liar, Liar Pants on Fire" rating.

I won't hold my breath though.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

It’s Time for the KNS to Put Up or Shut Up

But they probably won't do either.

The Knoxville News Sentinel editorial board published yet another editorial calling for the results of all TBI investigations to be made part of the public record once the investigation is closed. This is a completely asinine (No Mr Campfield, I'm not calling them asses) idea, and I'll explain why.

Using small words, in deference to the KNS.

Imagine for a moment that you are the target of an investigation. You've done nothing wrong, nothing illegal at least, but circumstance places you squarely in the sights of the TBI, and they run a full investigation into every facet of your life. They look into everything, your finances, your associations, your movements, your habits, hobbies and internet usage, and in general, everything about you. In the end, they find no proof of wrong doing and close the investigation. You are off the hook.

Yet the documents created by that investigation still exist, and if the KNS gets their way, will be public record, available for everyone to see.

Is your life a completely open book? Would you be comfortable with the general public knowing everything about you, your habits, your activities, your finances, your social activities, etc? What about that episode a few years back, you know the one. It would be pretty embarrassing if that became common knowledge. And that place you went that time? What if there were cameras following you? It wasn't illegal, what you did, but it sure could be embarrassing. Don't forget that fight between you and the missus that night. That was ugly! And let's not forget those teenage years!

Heck, how many of you would be comfortable with the list of every website you visited over the last 6 months becoming public record?

Let's get even more basic; how many of you would like it to be public knowledge that you were even investigated in the first place?

Not many of us. We all have things we want to keep quiet; things we don't want to see made public. I have an extensive public life based on this blog; I talk about a lot of things in my life. I have an active Facebook page; I share lots of personal information there. But there are things I don't share; things that don't belong to the public. They are private, and I want to keep them that way.

There's a reason these investigations are not part of the public record. Unless criminal activity is found and prosecuted, the information contained in them is nobody else's business. There is no compelling public interest that overrides our basic right to privacy. Why should your dirty laundry be aired for everybody to see if you've done nothing wrong? Why should our lives be used to satisfy the voyeuristic tendencies of a bunch of self appointed 'guardians of the public trust' or whatever blather journalists use to help themselves sleep at night?

The short answer is that it shouldn't. Records are sealed by default for this very reason, and that's why opening them requires evidence of wrongdoing. It's basic protection of privacy.

Now, if the folks at the KNS have any integrity at all, this should be fairly simple to demonstrate.

I challenge the editorial board of the KNS to put their money where their mouth is.

Pay for and publish, both in print and online, a full background investigation for each member of the editorial board. Include all the typical information pulled in a TBI investigation. Credit history, associations, movements, criminal background, educational records, tax filings, etc. All of it. Addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, charge slips, surveillance reports and so on. Show us you aren't hypocrites; put the information about yourselves into the public record that you are demanding the TBI place into the record about the rest of us.

Put up, or shut up.

Given that the editorial itself was unsigned, I doubt they will have the courage to take up the challenge.

But I can hope.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Law and Order: East Tennessee Style

Donk Donk

In a story ripped from the headlines, a criminal court judge presides over the trial of a the woman accused of killing her second husband. In a bizarre twist that could only be true in Hollywood, the woman is suspected of also killing her first husband, the former District Attorney General, an act that propelled the sitting judge to his current position. Coincidentally, the death of the former DAG resulted in the current DAG, a man who ran against the former and lost,being awarded his position by the governor.

During the trial, the judge is abusing alcohol and prescription pills, causing his staff to cover up for him and reschedule trials for days when he is sober. The trial ends in a hung jury.

In the meantime, the woman is charged with the murder of her first husband as well, and the judge makes sure he gets that case as well, then proceeds to block all motions favorable to the prosecution, including exhumation of the body for forensic examination.

The episode closes with the judge in retirement on a full pension, the woman being convicted of murdering her second husband, but charges dropped on the first, and the first conviction in danger of being overturned based on the inebriation of the judge.

You know, Hollywood would never buy this story. It's too unbelievable.

Donk Donk

Posted by Rich
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Friday, February 03, 2012

Speaking of Labor

A couple of days ago, I linked to a story that showed that the narrowest gaps in economic opportunity for African Americans and Latinos were in the South and the West, while the worst gaps were in the North East and Upper MidWest. If you remember, the map looked like this:

Well, I've got a new map for you today, this time from the National Right To Work Committee, showing the states where Right to Work isn't just a good idea; it's the law!

Notice anything? Let's make it more obvious.

Once again, the states with the most economic freedom are the states with the greatest economic opportunity for minorities.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, February 02, 2012

We Found Those Missing Busts!

Presented without comment for your entertainment.
KPD, Knox DA raid, padlock four 'head shops'
On the other hand:
Knox County sheriff reveals 'puppy mill' raid

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Martha Boggs: Hero of Tolerance

Ms. Boggs was on the radio this morning explaining all about why she threw Sen. Campfield out of her restaurant on Sunday.

Here is some of what she had to say:
He’s passing legislation that is restricting the rights of an entire segment of our society and obviously exercising my freedom of right for refusing him service to make a point that his actions are not acceptable.

First, Campfield can't pass legislation. He can only write, sponsor, or cosponsor it. And according to the State Senate Website, Campfield has sponsored 139 bills this session, only 1 of which has anything to do with homosexuality, and that one, SB 0049, or the "Don't Teach Gay" bill, is, according to Ms. Boggs, "pretty much a non-issue."
It was just that I didn’t want a man with that much hate and that has tried to legislate hate in my restaurant.

Again, one bill that's a non issue out of 139. Where does she get the "legislate hate"?
We live in a community where people just vote that straight party line. You’ll have someone who runs for mayor, deserves to win but people went into that voting booth and just pressed straight ‘R’s down on their ballot without knowing anything about the people they were voting for.

Is Ms Boggs aware that Knoxville mayoral elections are non partisan? And that both candidates in the run off were Democrats? I'm not entirely certain what people's voting habits have to do with this, but I'm beginning to suspect that her problem with Sen Campfield begins and ends with the "R" after his name. Or do Democrat voters not vote the straight party line? Isn't that where the phrase "yellow dog Democrat" came from?
It’s a sad fact that Tennessee has the worst voting record of people going out to vote; We’re second worst to Texas on the amount of registered voters that actually vote. And that is why idiots like Stacey Campfield get put into office.

Those stupid R voters! And those darn lazy D voters!
And it’s not just about the “don’t say gay” thing, teaching homosexuality in school, which is pretty much a non issue.

So, she's thinks Campfield's bill is pretty much a non issue. So why is she so mad at him?

Radio host Hallerin Hilton Hill read SB 0049, the "Don't Teach Gay" bill to her and she had no objections to it at all, since it is a fairly reasonable bill. Instead, she spoke out against another bill:
Well, why don’t you read the license to billy bull[sic]?

The bill she referred to is HB 1153 SB 0760. This bill was not sponsored or co-sponsored by Campfield and is dead in the State Senate. So what does that have to do with her hatred of Campfield? Not much, but it sure sounds good.

By the way, the Bill does not make it permissible to bully gay students. Instead it puts the emphasis on preventing all bullying, regardless of target.

Oh the horror!

Ms. Boggs go on to demonstrate her tolerance:
If there was a group of people, it would be discrimination if it was a group of people. But he is an individual. There was a Ku Klux Klan rally outside my front door last year. I had both sides of those people in here.

The KKK? And "those people!" We know what "those people " is a code word for!
So Fred Phelps and his church would be welcome because they are a group of people. Campfield isn't because he's an individual. Something tells me that her grasp of the law is about on par for a cook.
If he thinks his rights are violated, he can come see me about it. I‘ve only got about 50 lawyers in here that come to eat lunch here every day...they will be glad to represent me. He can bring it.

Wow. Now she's quoting George W. Bush.

So, crusader for the downtrodden or hateful old make the call.

For me, that's the last I'll post on this. Either you get it or you don't. Either we are all equal under the law, or we aren't. If we offer special protection to certain groups, we are saying that equal protection no longer exists. We go from being a nation of laws to a nation ruled by special interests and protected groups.

I know which I prefer and I'll cling to that even if I have to defend a grandstanding boob like Campfield.

Posted by Rich
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