Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Why Dress Up Like a Giant Vagina?


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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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hard Truths

Last night at the GOP convention, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said that the time had come for the American People to be told some hard truths.

Then he utterly failed to tell us any of them, which is typical of today's politicians.

He's right, though; we do need to face up to some hard truths, so let's look at one together, right now. We don't have to wait for the election, or for Romney or Obama to tell us because we already know that neither one would ever dream of telling us the real truth because it is too painful. So let's talk, just between us.

Here is a hard truth: There is no way we can restore fiscal sanity to our budget without severely cutting spending AND raising taxes on almost everybody.

Now you know why I said you will never hear this from a politician of either major party.

Let me show you why I say that, so you will know that I am not just making stuff up to scare you. All of the numbers I use will be linked to official government sources so you can verify them for yourself. And, I promise that there will be no complicated math beyond basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

First, let's look at spending and revenue, to get an idea of what our actual deficit really is. I'm not going to look at the budget, because there are significant chunks of spending that are off budget, and besides, we haven't had one of those in over three years anyway. Instead, I'm going to look at the actual National Debt. The site I'm using is the US Treasury Direct website. I'm using September 30 as my annual date since that is the final day of the US government's fiscal year.Plugging in the search criteria gives me the fol,lowing numbers:


Now, we need to modify one piece of data in our table. The first number in the list is only to date, meaning it is for a partial year. We have to extrapolate from this number to get an estimate of what the debt will be on September 30, 2012. What I'm going to do is determine how many days of the year have gone by (333) and divide the increase in the debt so far ($1.19 trillion) by the days gone by. This gives me the increase in debt per day. Then multiply by the total number of days this year (366, it is a leap year) to get the total increase in debt. Then I will add that the the existing debt on Sep. 30, 2011 to get my projection. My result is $16,096,705,624,820. So now our table looks like this:


Next, I'll determine the actual annual deficit by subtracting the past debt from the current and working my way backwards. For example, I'll subtract the total debt on Sept 30, 2011 from the estimated total debt on Sept 30, 2012 to get the deficit for fiscal 2012. And so on.


Taking an average of the last 5 years gives us an annualized deficit of about $1.4 trillion dollars. That's how much money the federal government spends than it takes in. Now I know that this number is significantly higher than what is reported by the White House or the press, and there's a good reason for that. We're not playing with Washington's phony number. We've bypassed all the "modifications" and "off budget expenditures" in order to look at the bottom line.

And it is pretty ugly.

The Obama plan to deal with this deficit is to raise taxes on the 1%, leave the middle class alone, and slow the rate of increase in government spending and hope to be out of office before the crash. The Ryan plan isn't much better. He wants to cut taxes on everybody, reduce the growth in government spending even more, and hope to be out of office before the crash.

There is not one major party candidate talking about the serious spending and tax reform needed to balance our budget, mainly because it would be political suicide to do so.

Let's look at Obama's plan for a moment to see what I'm talking about. In 2009, the last year the statistics are available, the top one percent of tax payers had a total adjusted gross income of $1.33 trillion. In other words, the government could have taken every penny of taxable income from the top 1% in 2009, and still run a deficit of $550 billion. There is simply no way that 'taxing the rich' will generate enough revenue to support continued spending at these levels, much less start to pay off the debt we've accumulated.

Check out the debt clock. Watching the numbers spin up should scare the crap out of you.

So, how do we get out of this mess? Well, look at the last row in the last table. Our deficit for 2007 was only $500 billion. (And it is a scary world when $500 billion can be preceded by the word only.) If we reduce spending back to the pre-emergency levels started in 2008, then we have a much more realistic chance of balancing our budget.

But it will still be a struggle. We would have to cut about $1 billion dollars from the Federal budget. It seems like it wouldn't be so difficult; we've only been spending at this rate for 5 years, but getting politicians to cut spending is not an easy task, particularly since they know that any real spending cuts will result in the end of their political careers. And even after cutting spending by $1 billion, we'd still have to raise our tax collections by roughly 57% to cover the ongoing deficit.

Now this doesn't necessarily mean tax increases. Economic growth will increase revenues faster and more painlessly than tax increases, but that doesn't come quickly or easily. Of necessity, there will be tax increases for everybody, not just the wealthy 1%.

So these are some hard truths. Our children will pay for the spending orgy we've been involve in. And I mean that literally, in many different ways. They will face an economic burden that has broken the backs of countries throughout history. They will face a lifetime of hard work, with no promise of security as they get older. They can expect little in return for their efforts except maybe, just maybe, a better life for their kids.

And that is the hardest truth of all.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Faith and Doubt

Most people desperately desire to believe that they are part of a great mystery, that Creation is a work of grace and glory, not merely the result of random forces colliding. Yet each time they are given but one reason to doubt, a worm in the heart of the apple of the heart makes them turn away from the thousand proofs of the miraculous, whereupon they have a a drunkard's thirst for cynicism, and they feed upon despair as a starving man on a loaf of bread.

Odd Thomas

The quote comes from the book Odd Thomas: An Odd Thomas Novel by Dean Koontz.

I don't know what Koontz has for a religious background, but he couldn't have described the human condition any more perfectly regarding our faith and our doubts. We are told throughout the Bible that God is in control, and that everything that happens is in accordance with His will.

As Christians, we should believe that. So why do we worry?

Because we are human.

When I fail, and my faith falters, I look at Peter, and know that I am in good company. Jesus called Peter a rock, and said that He would build his church upon that rock. That's pretty high praise, but Jesus also told Peter that his faith would fail through fear, enough so that Peter would deny even knowing Jesus.

And we know how that turned out.

What really strikes me about Peter though, is what a slow learner he was. After all, this wasn't the first time he'd been tested and failed.

After Jesus fed the multitude, he ordered the apostles with him to take their boat and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while He went into the mountains to pray. During the crossing, storms held back their boat and in the dark just before dawn, they saw Jesus walking to them on the water.

[28] And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” [29] He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. [30] But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” [31] Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

(Matthew 14:28-31 ESV)

Here's what gets me every time I read this. Peter was walking on the water. He didn't step out and immediately sink; he was walking on the water. He was doing it. But he saw the waves and felt the wind, and began to doubt, not Jesus, but himself. We know this because when he began to sink beneath the waves, he called out to Jesus to save him. He still believed that Jesus had the power to save him; his doubt was for himself.

You have to admit, Peter failed both times, and very spectacularly at that. Yet Jesus still saved him from the water, and still poured the Holy Spirit on him at Pentecost, and even made him the spokesman for that awesome event. See Acts Chapter 2.

It relieves me to know that when I doubt, I can be forgiven. I can still call on Jesus to save me from the waves and He will still reach out His hand and pull me back into the boat. How many of us as Christians really, truly believe that? And how many fall into the trap that opened this article? How many allow their doubts to separate them from God? How many take a burden of guilt for their momentary doubts? And how much does Satan use that doubt and guilt to drive us further away from God?

Remember Peter. He doubted. His faith failed. But still he cried out "Jesus, Save me!"

And Jesus did.

Posted by Rich
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An Announcement

I may have an opportunity coming up, but until it happens, I won't say anything more. It is still in the very early stages, and nothing may come of it, so I'll just wait and see.

But the possibility has gotten my mind working in a new direction, so I'm going to start something new here and see if it takes off.

"Letters to my Grandchildren" is going to be a new category here. My kids are now all young adults, and beginning to make their own way through life, and as they grew, I did the best I could raising them. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, and there are many things I would do differently if I could do things over. As I watch them move through life, I think of opportunities I missed to speak to them directly. Although I am certain that they are probably happy that there weren't more Dad lectures, I see choices they make and wonder if I couldn't have done more to prepare them for the realities they are all facing.

Don't get me wrong; I'm very proud of all of my kids and how they are moving on with their lives, but like any parent, I wish I had done more. I regret opportunities I missed. But they are young adults now, and while I can still advise them, I can't really teach them. And several of them are parents themselves now (Have I told you about my grandchildren?) and I am sure they will come to me for help in raising their kids.

At least, I hope they will.

And I know that their kids are not my kids, no matter how close I feel to them. I don't have the right to raise them, and just like I did when I raised my kids, I was determined to to repeat the mistake I believe my father made when raising his kids. And I am absolutely certain that my kids feel the same way.

At least, I hope they do. We all want our kids to do more and be more and do better than we ever did.

But I know I have a lot to give to my kids and grandkids, a lot of lessons learned from life, and study, and quiet contemplation at 4am on watch at sea, or during an hour and a half commute to and from work. I want to pass these things on. I want them to know just how much they mean to me, and to show them what I've learned and with any luck save them from some of the many mistakes I've made.

So, starting next week, once a week, I will be writing a letter for my grandchildren. Their parents will be able to decide whether or not to let the kids read it, so I won't be interfering with their parenting decisions. But I will be telling them the things that I consider to be important, what I think is valuable. And hopefully, giving them a look inside my head and my heart.

Posted by Rich
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A Thought Experiment in Probability

You have a bag filled with all the letters in the alphabet. Each time you draw one out, it is instantly replaced so you always have 26 letters to choose from. Your task is simple.

  1. Draw one letter at a time and use those letters to form words.

  2. Each letter, when added to the previous letters must make a word, but you are allowed to create new words with each draw.

  3. Consecutive groups of words must form complete sentences.

  4. You are allowed to add any punctuation you like.

  5. The sentences you form must be found in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

  6. If at any time you draw a letter that cannot be used to form a word, or a sentence in a word, you must remove all the tiles that formed the last sentence you added to and start that one over again.

  7. You are allowed to repeat sentences as much as needed.

  8. The game is complete when you have produced every sentence in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The name of this game is "Genetic Evolution as a Sequence of Incremental Changes."

This is NOT a Creationist post, or even an argument against the idea of evolution. It is a simple exercise to demonstrate the sheer magnitude of the problem of accounting for the evolution of complex biochemical processes through small, incremental changes.

Posted by Rich
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The Path Through the Woods

I'm going to make this simple, to make sure that everybody can follow along.

First, let's remember exactly what Obama said, in full context:
“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.”

Grammatically, Obama said that you didn't build your business. He should fire his teleprompter. In context, he was clearly trying to say that as a small business owner, you didn't build the roads, infrastructure, the American system, or the education system.

I think we can all agree on that.

So let's look at what Obama meant to say and see if it holds up. Let's start with a simple story.

John and Tim are two 12 year old boys looking for something to do for the summer. They look around the neighborhood and notice that they can get to a convenience store quicker by cutting through an undeveloped wooded area than by walking alongside the road. Not only will it be quicker, it will be safer as well. So they spend a few days cutting brush, pulling logs out of the way, filling in ditches and holes, and make a nice path through the woods. Once the path is finished, they walk to the store, and celebrate with a cold soda.

John, who gets an allowance from his father, spends the next few weeks walking to the store, buying candy and soft drinks, and enjoys his summer. Tim, who doesn't get an allowance, decides to do neighborhood chores for money. As he walks from door to door, he finds that there are many residents who want their dogs walked, but are worried that such a young boy might have trouble controlling the dogs on the sidewalk, and that their dog might be in danger of breaking free and getting into the road. Tim tells them that he has a safe place to walk the dogs, the path that he and John built, and on that basis, he gets several customers who pay him to walk the dogs. Tim uses the money he earns to buy candy and soft drinks, and all is well.

Until Tim starts buying comic books as well. He's making more for walking dogs than John is getting in his allowance.

John goes to his father and asks for a raise in his allowance so he can buy comic books too. John's father, wanting his son to have the same things that other boys have, asks questions to find out where Tim is getting his money. When he finds out that Tim is making money from the path the boys built together, he decides that the only fair solution is that Tim should give a portion of his earnings to John.

And this is the Obama position. Tim is using a path built by him and John, and therefore owes John a portion of the proceeds of his work. The fact that JOhn has the same access to the path, the same opportunities to earn additional money by working, or that Tim's income is from work that Tim performs that John has no part in, is irrelevant to John's father.

And Obama.

Read what he said again carefully, and notice something. Obama claims that successful business people did not build the roads. Or the school. Or the American system. He's excluding them from the collective. The truth is exactly opposite. In America, where we ARE the government, we all built the roads. We all pay for schools. We all support and built the American system. That system is the path through the woods, and somebody else didn't build that; we ALL built that. That is the key fallacy in President Obama's philosophy.

We, the people built the path through the woods. The determining factor into how the path is used is not the existence of the path, but the will of the person who walks it.

Even in full context, President Obama is wrong.

We did build that.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Big Lie Deconstructed

Obama Adds Military Heroes to 'Enemies List'

The Breitbart headline is hyperbolic, accusing President Obama of calling veterans enemies. The truth is somewhat less earthshaking as President Obama's 'Truth Team' is targeting veterans groups that are campaigning against Obama. That activity on their part opens them up for retaliatory attacks from the Obama campaign, and I have no problem with that on either side.

That's politics.

So what is the Big Lie I headlined?

Let's look at the link Breitbart used to back up their claim, which goes to an article from the Obama-Biden Truth Team. The tagline for the site is "When you’re faced with someone who misrepresents the truth, you can find all the facts you need right here—along with ways to share the message with whoever needs to hear it."

They are promising facts to counter anything coming from the right. Let's see how they do.

Swift Boat 2.0: Conservative groups behind false attacks on the President’s national security record

Swift Boat count: 1
False Attack count: 1
Actual content: 0

But it is just a headline.

When President Obama took office, the U.S. was engaged in two wars and and al-Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden was still at large. As commander-in-chief, President Obama refocused our priorities on the most significant security threats to the country and on fulfilling our promises to our servicemembers. Under the President, we have eliminated more than two-thirds of al-Qaeda’s core leadership—including bin Laden.

Did we win the wars? Don't know. Didn't tell us.
Is al-Qaeda less effective? By what measure? Don't know. Didn't tell us.
What are our priorities, and what activities were deprioritized? Don't know. Didn't tell us.
What promises to servicemembers were made and fulfilled? Don't know. Didn't tell us.

Well, maybe the facts will come later in the article.

But a new cadre of conservative groups are trying to “Swift Boat” the President by manufacturing false attacks about his national security record. A collection of super PACs and organizations are deploying the same “discredited” and “hardball smear tactics” against President Obama that were used to attack Sen. John Kerry’s military service in 2004. Each group follows the same pattern, identifying themselves as separate, nonpartisan former U.S. military and intelligence operatives who have a “civic duty” to attack the President. But who exactly is behind these attacks?

Swift Boat count: 2
False attack count:5

They are setting the stage here. Without either detailing the charges from these veterans groups, or refuting them, Obama's Truth Team is characterizing the charges both as false and as attacks, rather than accusations. They are also calling the charges discredited and smears without ever demonstrating anything. In short, there are no facts here relating to the charges, only the presumption, presented as fact, that the charges are false and maliciously presented.

The last sentence shifts the focus from the content of the charges to the people presenting them. That is an attack as well as a logical fallacy. They are hoping to discredit the message by smearing the messenger.

A closer look at each group reveals an interconnected web of Republican operatives who are launching “Swift Boat”-style smear tactics against President Obama’s national security record.

Swift Boat count: 3
False attack count:5

The 'Truth Team' is intent on linking these groups with the Swift Boat veterans who so effectively countered Kerry's attempt to portray himself as a military hero. Again, rather than dealing with the specific charges, they want to attack the messengers.

Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund

The partisan agenda:

Launch false attacks on the President over the operation that killed Osama bin Laden

Falsely claim President Obama is deliberately leaking national security information

The operatives:

OPSEC president Scott Taylor is a failed Republican candidate who lost his campaigns for public office in 2008 and 2010.

Spokesman Chad Kolton worked as a spokesman for the Bush administration, the Republican National Committee, and House Speaker John Boehner. Another spokesman Fred Rustmann appeared on Fox News during the Bush administration to—ironically—downplay the significance of leaks about CIA operative Valerie Plame’s undercover status, claiming it wasn’t “a big deal.” This serious breach of national security later led to four felony convictions for Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.

OPSEC member Bill Cowan actually praised President Obama for making “the tough decision” to “go after bin Laden instead of taking the easy way out” before he joined a group attacking the President for that operation.

Swift Boat count: 3
False attack count:7

Here is where the 'Truth Team' truly earns the quotes I use when naming them.

First, the use of "partisan agenda." Politics is partisan. When Obama attacks Romney, it is based on Party ideology, not personal antipathy. Including the word partisan is an attempt to discredit the group for simply being conservative. Additionally, partisanship does not preclude other motivations, like patriotism, integrity, honor, or truthfulness. Partisan should not be a bad word, regardless of which side uses it.

But what I really want to address is the Plamegate reference because here, the 'Truth Team' issues some very clear distortions. Fred Rustmann was not talking about the political implications of the Plame leak, but the national security implications. Plame had not been in the field, or actively undercover in years. Her employment by the CIA was well known throughout DC, and was a very open secret. In fact, is was such a minor issue that the origin of the leak, Richard Armitage, a member of Colin Powell's staff, never faced charges for the leak, despite his involvement being discovered very early in the investigation. Scooter Libby was convicted of four felonies, not related to the leak itself, which he had no part of, but for perjury because his testimony was inconsistent. The implication of the 'Truth Team' that Cheney was at the heart of the leak, and that the leak did grave damage to US national security is simply false.

Finally, BIll Cowan fully supported taking out Bin Laden. He objected to all the leaked details after the operations, details that will make future operations much more difficult. The 'Truth Team's' characterization of this difference as a contradiction is either deliberately deceptive or remarkably obtuse.

The rest of the article continues in the same vein, answering no charges from the groups, just attacking the members of the group. As a final example, let's look at the last paragraph.

It is not surprising that the attacks these groups are launching lack any credibility. The President is committed to protecting our troops and our country’s security. The only way to mislead Americans about his record on national security is to resort to dishonest and overtly political smear campaigns that do a disservice to Americans who deserve to know the facts about the President’s record. As Arends said himself, “Yes, it’s the swift boating of the president.”

Following the link to the quote, we see that once again, the 'Truth Team' is distorting the truth. Arends full quote is:"Yes, it's the swift boating of the president, in the sense of using what's perceived to be his greatest strength and making it his greatest weakness."

Talk about changing the context.

And that is the Big Lie. Obama's propaganda team has put together no clear refutation of the charges. Instead, they start from a presumption that the charges are false, and attack the people presenting them.

The sad thing is that they will be effective because they are presenting this information to the true believer, not the unconvinced skeptic.

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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Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Tax on Life

You are missing the point.

It no longer matters who the President is, or who controls Congress, or even whether Obamacare is repealed or not. All of that is immaterial, less than meaningless because what happened in the Supreme Court of the United States had nothing to do with health care, nothing to do with Republicans vs Democrats, or conservatives vs liberals. All of that mess was just a sideshow, a distraction to keep us from seeing what was really going on.

Chief Justice approved the individual mandate, in effect, by saying that it was obvious that the federal government had taxing authority over the inaction of individuals.

Let that sink in for a moment.

A conservative Supreme Court Justice, the Chief Justice, young and likely to preside over the course for a couple of decades, just ruled that the federal government has the authority under the Constitution to levy a tax on people who are not engaged in any activity other than breathing.

Can you hear me now?

Until today, taxation was dependent on economic activity. You had to buy, sell, trade, invest, or transfer wealth in order to be taxed. Or in the case of user fees, another form of taxation, you had to use something, a park, a road, a facility, a resource, or something. In effect, you had to have a transfer of value in order to be charged a tax.

Not anymore. Now you can incur a tax liability just sitting in a chair breathing.

The Supreme Court just said that you owe the federal government money because your heart beats, and they granted the IRS the full force of law to collect.

Are you starting to understand why Obamacare is small potatoes? Don't get me wrong, it's bad, but this is much worse.

  • Participate in community service, or pay a penalty tax.
  • Buy a car from GM or pay a penalty tax.
  • Buy from a government approved list of suppliers or pay a penalty tax.
  • Buy something you don't believe you need, or pay a penalty tax.
  • Support these approved charities, or pay a penalty tax.

This is now the world we live in, where the federal government has the authority under the Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, to tax you if you don't do what they want.

And if you think these taxes would never pass, well, you probably never expected Obamacare to pass either. Never underestimate the greed of the people. Pitched properly, every one of the above taxes could pass easily.

And this is the law of the land, thanks to the opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Tell me again how we are free.

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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