Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 
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

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.

QED.

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.

Seriously!

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

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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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bartholomew Sullivan Gets One Right

I just reviewed the current crop of PolitiFact Tennessee claims, and these are much better. Even Bartholomew Sullivan's contribution, Another Republican Claims Martin Luther King Jr was a Republican, is well reasoned, accurately assessed, and logically sound. I could quibble that the evidence might call for a Mostly False rating, since there are some hints that Dr. King had some connection with the Republican Party, but that association was certainly a very loose one, and not enough to warrant claiming he was a Republican.

The choices are all Tennessee centric, and are based on statements actually made by Tennessee politicians.

Cool.

UPDATE: Another PolitiFact Tennessee article came out shortly after I wrote the above. This one has to do with US infrastructure and our global ranking and while the conclusion is justifiable, the language used to get there, on a site devote to objective analysis, is a problem.
Our ruling

So Cohen is off by a notch in the current overall rankings, while for roads and bridges, the U.S. actually ranks slightly lower, providing more evidence for his point. That's close enough to earn a True.


Close enough? Sounds to me like a "Mostly True" rating here. Like the above example, it's kind of a quibble, but once is a quibble, twice becomes a trend. I'm not talking about bias here, even though both instances the shade is given to the liberal side; I'm talking about sloppiness. IS the claim fully true, or just mostly true? Call it straight every time and you'll develop a reputation for objectivity. Shade it too often, and you'll be accused of bias no matter which way you call it.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New PolitiFact story in the KNS More Politics than Facts

Here we go again.

The newest PolitiFact article in the KNS examines a claim in a blog by a national trade association made back in July.

Yeah...July.

Apparently, blog posts from 6 months ago represent the cutting edge of political analysis at the Scripps News Service, which could explain why subscription rates are falling faster than ad revenue at their newspapers.

So what controversial statement was so hot that it was still burning 6 months after it hit the blogosphere?

Apparently, Cindy Zimmerman, a part time contributor to CornCommentary.com, the blog of the National Corn Growers Association, had the gall to refer to Tennessee Rep Stephen Fincher as "the only working farmer currently serving in the House."

I'm surprised 60 Minutes didn't leap onto this story.

Next week, PolitiFact Tennessee will be investigating whether Davy Crockett really did 'kilt him a b'ar when he was only three.'


For a detailed takedown of the piece, follow the link.


Posted by Rich
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Monday, January 16, 2012

More Spin Masquerading as Truth from the Knoxville News Sentinel

Bright and early Sunday morning, Jack McElroy trumpeted a new addition to the KNS. The Commercial Appeal and the KNS have joined forces to create Politifact Tennessee, an off shoot of the Pulitzer Prize winning effort by the St Petersburg Times to fact check the statements of politicians, and to do so without bias or agenda.

Yeah, right.

According to Jack:
The project may sound like silly, and biased, journalism. But PolitiFact, as the initiative was called, adhered to the highest standards of reporting. Political rhetoric was checked against strictly verifiable data. All sources of information were revealed, and the reasons for the Truth-O-Meter ratings were clearly spelled out.


Let's take a closer look, shall we?

From the Politifact Tennessee home page:
Every day, reporters and researchers from the Commercial Appeal and News Sentinel examine statements by Tennessee elected officials and candidates and anyone else who speaks up in the political discourse. We research their statements and rate the accuracy on our Truth-O-Meter:

TRUE – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.

MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

HALF TRUE – The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.

MOSTLY FALSE – The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.

FALSE – The statement is not accurate.

PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.


Now, as I read through the possible categories, I'm seeing a lot of subjective words in what should be objective criteria. Words like "significant", "critical facts", "partially", and so on. The true and false categories are fairly clear, but the Mostly True, Half True, and Mostly False are clearly areas where subjective bias can easily be masked as objectivity. After all, who decides which facts are critical and which are not? Who decides which details are important and which ones are not? And on what basis do they make those decisions?

This presents a serious problem with the root conceit of Politifact; the folks involved are making subjective judgments and labeling them as objective facts. This misrepresentation is more in keeping with propaganda than journalism.

The potential for abuse is demonstrated by the very first set of stories in the KNS. They "fact checked" Marsha Blackburn's statements about incandescent light bulbs and ruled her statement as "Mostly False."

Let's examine the article to see how they came up with that conclusion.

The headline for the article is:

New energy standards will take away "our freedom of choice and selection in the light bulbs we have in our homes."

Actually, that is not what Blackburn said. She said (quote appears below) that the new standards will take away our incandescent light bulbs, not our freedom of choice and selection. There's a huge difference in both the text and subtext presented here that reflects the bias of Bartholomew Sullivan, the author.

This is not a good start.

The sub head is:

Marsha Blackburn says she is battling for freedom of choice – for energy-inefficient light bulbs

Snarky headlines do not contribute to the appearance of objectivity. Even worse, this header puts words into Blackburn's mouth that she most assuredly did not say. Sullivan is belittling Blackburn and her position, which is irrelevant to the veracity of her statement.

The article then provides this partial quote, and a link to the video it comes from:
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., has been on a crusade to, as she put it on the House floor in July, prevent higher efficiency standards for light bulbs from creating "a de facto ban on the incandescent bulb." In an appearance on the Fox Business Channel in December, she re-calibrated her rhetorical salvo when she told Stuart Varney she’s fighting "to keep our freedom of choice and selection in the light bulbs we have in our homes."


Before I get to the quote, notice the loaded words used in this introductory paragraph. She's on a "crusade". She had to "recalibrate her rhetorical salvo." These are not neutral, objective descriptors; they are carefully crafted to provoke an emotional reaction to the content of the story. Along with the snarky sub head, they paint Blackburn as an obsessed ideologue who is in favor of wasting energy.

That is an editorial, subjective judgement, not a fact. It goes to her personality, not her statement.

Now, let's put the quote into context. The subject of the video was not light bulbs, but the accomplishments of the Republican controlled House. The segment lasts for 3:40, of which Marsha spends roughly 30 seconds talking about the light bulbs. Her full statement was:
"We have been able to block the money that EPA would use to implement the new energy efficiency standards that take away our incandescent light bulbs, so that is, that is in this Minibus that we are going to pass today. We are going to be able to hang on to our light bulbs one more year and be able to keep up this fight to keep our freedom of choice and selection in the light bulbs we have in our homes."


So we have two parts to this statement to fact check. The first is that the new energy efficiency standards are going to take away the traditional tungsten incandescent light bulb. The second is that this will limit our freedom of choice and selection.

From the article:

The Obama administration issued a statement before the vote that said consumers still have freedom of choice under the law. "Any type of bulb can be sold as long as it meets the efficiency requirements. In sum, the bill would hinder an opportunity to save American consumers money, while enhancing energy efficiency and reducing harmful emissions associated with energy production."

Let's translate this statement. "You can choose to buy any light bulb we allow you to buy."

Hardly freedom of choice.
Supporters of the standards say the higher-efficiency bulbs mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act not only save energy but, despite higher up-front costs, save consumers money over time because the bulbs last longer.

This claim is not sourced. What bulb types are these unnamed supporters referring to? Florescent? Compact Florescent? Halogen? Some undeveloped technology to be named later? Any links or sources for any of this? And more importantly, how does this statement relate to Blackburn's statement? It goes to justifying the law, not addressing the truth of either of her claims.

So does the imposition of higher energy standards amount to a "de facto ban" on incandescent bulbs? Does it strip away "our freedom of choice and selection in the light bulbs we have in our homes?"

The short answer is no. Existing inefficient bulbs will stay in circulation and will continue to be sold to consumers until supplies run out. And while traditional tungsten-element bulbs can’t meet the higher standards and will not be manufactured, light bulb companies are continuing to make incandescent halogen bulbs, although they are more expensive than incandescent tungsten. So the only way you could consider there to be a ban would be if you couldn't afford the halogen bulbs.

OK, here's the only part of the article that actually addresses Blackburn's statement. While Sullivan admits that traditional bulbs will not be manufactured anymore, which concedes the truth of the first part of Blackburn's statement, he argues that since replacements are available, you haven't really had your choice taken away. By similar logic, the ban on saccharine wasn't really a ban on saccharine because you could still buy aspartame. In both cases, your choice has been limited by government regulation, infringing on your freedom of choice.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that supports the higher standards, points out that the trade association for domestic light manufacturers, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, which would appear to have an interest in a banning of its products, has embraced the increased efficiency standards. The NRDC also notes that a factory in St. Marys, Pa., is retooling to make more efficient incandescent bulbs, creating domestic jobs.

In perhaps the most telling endorsement of the higher standards, Barry Edison Sloane, the great-grandson of the inventor of the incandescent bulb, Thomas Edison, called those who sought their repeal "narrow-minded." Consumers Union, which produces Consumer Reports, also endorses the higher standards.

Two paragraphs with more endorsements of the new standards, and completely irrelevant to whether Blackburn's statement was true or false.
Traditional 100-watt incandescent bulbs would have been the first to fail to meet the new standards that were to have taken effect Jan. 1. Congress in late December effectively delayed that until October 2012. Other traditional incandescents will fail to meet the lumens-per-watt standard between then and 2014, when the standard for 40-watt bulbs kicks in. Several kinds of incandescent bulbs within those wattage ranges are exempt from the new standards, including appliance bulbs, colored bulbs and stage lighting in theaters.

This paragraph explains the process of removing traditional incandescent bulbs from the marketplace, and is material that completely backs Blackburn's claims.
PolitiFact has checked many other assertions regarding the light bulb controversy, finding a claim by the conservative political action committee AmeriPAC that "you will be mandated by federal law to get rid of your existing light bulbs" to be a "Pants on Fire"-level misrepresentation. Others have been equally misleading, particularly Varney, who can be found in a 2009 debate with environmentalist actor Ed Begley Jr. stating: "The government is telling me I may not have incandescent lights."

A lovely little paragraph that again, has nothing to do with Blackburn's statement, but is used to make her look bad through association.

Let me illustrate how this associative guilt thing works. Instead of describing Ed Begley Jr. as an 'environmentalist actor,' what if he were described as '9-11 truther and conspiracy theorist Ed Begley Jr.?' It would be just as accurate, but it would certainly prejudice the reader against his opinions, would it not?

Is that how McElroy defines the highest standards of journalism? Guilt by association?

And the conclusion:
Blackburn has been more careful in qualifying the language she uses to advance her cause. Because the standards will ultimately bring about the end of traditional incandescent bulbs, there is an element of truth in Blackburn’s claims. But consumers will still have plenty of choice of different types of bulbs, even if traditional incandescents are not for sale.

We rate the statement Mostly False.


In Blackburn's full, unedited statement, she is clearly talking about traditional incandescent bulbs being removed from the market, thus limiting consumer choice by government fiat. Those bulbs will be removed from the market. Blackburn's statement is mostly true. However, because Sullivan clearly agrees with the new standards, he chooses to ignore this basic fact and instead uses selective quotation, emotionally loaded language, unsourced and irrelevant statements, as well camouflaged subjective judgments to reach his "ruling" of Mostly False.

In other words, PolitiFact is little more than opinion based journalism masquerading as fact checking.

For this feature to be worthwhile, there are some significant changes that must be made.
  1. No snark. At all. Straight forward old school journalism rules apply. Just the facts and any relevant context with opinions and/or assumptions clearly stated.

  2. Only information that directly reflects the veracity of the claim being checked is allowed. No discussion of the merits of the issues involved, just the truth of the statement.

  3. Every claim for and against the veracity of the statement must be sourced and linked to allow checking by the reader for accuracy and context. If you include a quote from a speech, there better be a link to the transcript. If experts or supporters are cited, there better be a side bar with their name and where the information came from.

  4. A rebuttal by the subject should be included in the article.


Just for fun, here is how I would have written up this article, using the exact same information available to Mr. Sullivan.

Marsha Blackburn claims that the new energy efficiency standards will "take away our incandescent light bulbs."

Plans "to keep up this fight to keep our freedom of choice and selection in the light bulbs we have in our homes."

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., claimed during a speech on the House floor last summer that the new energy efficiency standards amount to "a de facto ban on the incandescent bulb" and during a December interview on Fox Business Channel took credit, along with the rest of the Republican led House, for delaying implementation of the standards.

Her full statement during the interview was:
"We have been able to block the money that EPA would use to implement the new energy efficiency standards that take away our incandescent light bulbs, so that is, that is in this MiniBus that we are going to pass today. We are going to be able to hang on to our light bulbs one more year and be able to keep up this fight to keep our freedom of choice and selection in the light bulbs we have in our homes."


Blackburn has said she was concerned with government limiting consumer choice.

The Obama administration issued a statement that said that consumers still have freedom of choice under the law. "Any type of bulb can be sold as long as it meets the efficiency requirements."

So does the imposition of higher energy standards amount to a "de facto ban" on incandescent bulbs? Does it limit "our freedom of choice and selection in the light bulbs we have in our homes" as Blackburn said it did?

The short answer is yes. Traditional tungsten-element bulbs can’t meet the higher standards and will not be manufactured and therefore will be removed from the marketplace once the last ones are sold. However, there will be some incandescent bulbs still available. Light bulb companies are continuing to make incandescent halogen bulbs, which are more efficient than the traditional tungsten bulbs, but also more expensive, and do pose a fire hazard. Also, some traditional incandescent bulbs will still be manufactured, mainly for appliance lights, and for stage and theater lights. But as Blackburn’s spokesman Mike Reynard said: "It’s a de facto ban because traditional incandescent light bulbs can’t meet the new energy standards. An American innovation may be able to create a new incandescent bulb 2.0 -- which can meet the new standards -- but it won’t be the incandescent bulb your parents grew up with."

Traditional 100-watt incandescent bulbs would have been the first to fail to meet the new standards that were to have taken effect Jan. 1. Congress in late December effectively delayed that until October 2012. Other traditional incandescents will fail to meet the lumens-per-watt standard between then and 2014, when the standard for 40-watt bulbs kicks in.

Our judgment:

Because the standards will ultimately bring about the end of traditional incandescent bulbs, Blackburn’s claims are accurate. But because some incandescent bulbs, including some tungsten types, will still be manufactured for special uses, and because the consumers can choose to use halogens, which are a type of incandescent light, the idea of an outright ban overstates the truth.

We rate the statement Mostly True.


No snark, no extraneous information, no bias, and no opinions hidden as facts. I even changed the wording of the conclusion from 'ruling', which implies some sort of objectivity, to 'judgment', which acknowledges that we are all subjective in our evaluations of the relevant facts.

Posted by Rich
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