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Jamison Foser

Author ››› Jamison Foser
  • Facts Weren't Invited To CNN's Stimulus Birthday Party

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    CNN throws a 527-word birthday party for the stimulus legislation passed in 2009, but forgot to invite any facts. Instead of telling readers what the stimulus consisted of and how well it worked, CNN just decided to tell readers what Republicans and the Obama administration say about the the stimulus. And -- breaking news! -- Republicans criticize it while the administration praises it.

    The absence of facts from CNN's report led to awkward moments almost immediately. The second paragraph, for example:

    Signed into law by President Obama in February 2009, the bill passed Congress with minimal Republican support. Democrats said it would encourage job creation and promote investment. Republicans criticized the original $787 billion price-tag and argued that it green lighted new spending instead of tax cuts.

    OK, but is it true that the stimulus "green lighted new spending instead of tax cuts"? CNN never got around to telling readers this -- remember, facts weren't invited -- but no, it is not true. The stimulus contained $288 billion in tax cuts. (Another fact that would have been useful: tax cuts are less stimulative than spending on things like food stamps and unemployment benefits.)

    CNN then moved on to quoting a series of Republican attacks on the stimulus -- by the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate Republican Leader. (Surprise: They all agree the stimulus was a failure.) That would've been a good place for some facts -- like the fact that independent analysts including the Congressional Budget Office and Moody's have credited the stimulus with millions of jobs and helping avert depression. And the conclusions of many economists (both during debate over passage and since) that if anything, the stimulus should have included more spending.

    But none of that was included. CNN just told us that Republicans criticize the Democratic president's economic policies, and that members of the administration praise those policies. CNN may as well report that the sun rose in the east this morning.

  • Daily Caller Recycles 18-Month-Old FoxNews.com Birther Column For Its Front Page

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Despite the fact that President Obama was born in Hawaii, Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller lets frequent Caller columnist and "Fox News Forum Contributor" Tommy De Seno go birther in a column headlined "The birther movement is President Obama's fault":

    I've long maintained that the existence of the "birther movement" is President Obama's fault. He could dispel the rumors about his birth by simply showing everyone his 1961 birth certificate. By doing so, he would also save a lot in legal fees. Yet, no one has ever asked Obama why he'd rather lose money than show his birth certificate. It's time to ask that question.

    If he really wants the birthers to shut up, he has the power to do so by releasing the 1961 document. Why not just do it then? It's a simple task.

    I call shenanigans on the straw-man argument that "the birthers still won't believe him." Yes, they will. And so too will others who just don't know where he was born, not because they are kooks, but because Obama himself acts kooky in spending money to win lawsuits he could win for free by showing his birth certificate.

    By defending the lawsuits and not showing the 1961 document, Obama feeds the suspicion of those who already think he is lying. That's why this issue has the power to linger, and that's Obama's fault alone. I hope the birthers continue to bite his ankles until he releases the records. He deserves nothing less for making this issue stay with us.

    That blame-the-victim birther nonsense won Tommy De Seno a spot on the Daily Caller's front page:

    On July 29, 2009, FoxNews.com published a similar piece by De Seno, as Media Matters noted at the time. That piece was headlined "Obama's to Blame for the Birther Movement" and, contained many of the same lines he uses in the current Daily Caller piece. Both quote Ronald Reagan's "trust but verify" line, for example. Both contain the lines "Sure his grammar school records show that he was enrolled as an Indonesian Muslim, but some people will say anything to get their kid in the right school. It doesn't really answer the question." Both ask of Obama's purported failure to prove his birthplace, "Why not get rid of a conversation that has been with America since the campaign"? Both reference John Kerry's Yale records.

    So here's what we've learned today: The way to get a piece published on the Daily Caller's front page is to recycle an 18th-month-old FoxNews.com column peddling birther conspiracy theories.

    Remember when Tucker Carlson insisted the Daily Caller wouldn't be a right-wing site?

  • Andrew Malcolm Does Not Understand Polling (Or Pretends He Doesn't)

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    In theory, part of the reason why a news organization would put a former partisan political operative like Andrew Malcolm in charge of writing its politics blog is that his experience working in politics helps him understand what he's writing about. In theory. In Malcolm's case, however, it's clear that he either doesn't understand the first thing about politics, or he's willing to pretend he doesn't in order to score political points.

    Today, for example, Malcolm writes about a Gallup poll asking respondents whether they are likely to vote for President Obama in 2012, or for an unspecified Republican candidate. Such poll questions are not uncommon, and are not completely meaningless (though the predictive value of horserace polls nearly two years in advance of an election is rather limited.) But Malcolm completely misunderstands (or pretends to misunderstand) the poll question, claiming it means Obama is tied with "any" Republican rather than a generic Republican:

    Obama 2012 support slips; Now, any generic Republican ties him

    President Obama's done a lot of talking recently about Winning the Future. Trouble is, he's not. Politically.

    At this moment -- 57% of the way through a first term with only 628 days left until the 2012 presidential election -- the Democrat can only tie any conceivable Republican candidate.

    Last February Obama led a generic Republican 44-42. This February, after the invisible "Recovery Summer" and Democrats' historic midterm election shellacking, any Republican ties Obama at 45-45.

    You get the picture. In all, Malcolm uses the "any" construct to describe a generic opponent four times, including in his headline. But that simply isn't what the Gallup question assess -- and, again, Gallup's construct is not uncommon, and should be familiar to someone who has covered and worked in politics. The question didn't assess Obama's standing vis-a-vis "any conceivable Republican candidate" -- it assessed his standing versus a generic Republican candidate about whom respondents know nothing. That's pretty much the opposite of "any conceivable Republican candidate."

    To see just how false Malcolm's description is, let's look at polling pitting Obama against one "conceivable Republican candidate" -- Malcolm favorite Sarah Palin. A Fox News poll conducted February 7-9 has Obama routing Palin, 56-35. A McClatchy-Marist poll conducted January 6-10 has Obama beating Palin 56-30. A December 9-13 NBC poll has Obama beating Palin 55-33. Not that Palin is the only "conceivable Republican" who struggles in head-to-head match-ups with the President: That Fox poll shows Obama up 30 points on Jeb Bush, 20 on Newt Gingrich, 8 on Mike Huckabee and 7 on Mitt Romney.

    In short, polling shows Obama with a lead over just about every conceivable Republican candidate. But Andrew Malcolm, who must be a fool, a liar, or both, writes that a poll pitting Obama against an unspecified Republican indicates that he can't beat any conceivable Republican -- the absurdity of which should be readily apparent to a political "analyst" and former operative like Andrew Malcolm. Or to a reasonably-bright fourth-grader, for that matter. And the Los Angeles Times pays him for this nonsense.

  • The Right's Painfully Stupid Approach To Budget-Cutting

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    If you've been reading conservative columnists lately, you might think balancing the budget via spending cuts is easy. That's what they keep telling us, anyway. Under the headline "Look, It's Easy to Whittle the Budget Down," for example, Donald Lambro writes:

    There are lots of places where spending can be cut and billions saved. Among them:

    -- Federal aid to the states: A study by budget analyst Chris Edwards at the Cato Institute found there are 1,122 aid-to-state programs, or "72 percent more programs than just a decade ago." "For lawmakers looking for places to cut, the $650 billion federal-aid empire would be a good place to start," he says.

    ...

    -- Cut the government's travel budget to half of its level. Savings: $5.8 billion.

    See? Easy! Except that Lambro doesn't write a word about about the consequences of slashing federal aid to the states -- what effect it would have on state budgets, on public services, on the economy, etc. And he doesn't write a word about what cutting the government travel budget in half would mean -- what wouldn't get done as a result, or what other costs would be incurred. He gives no indication that he has any idea what the "government's travel budget" pays for. (No, "travel" is not an answer, any more than "dinner" is an answer to the question "what did you have for dinner?") He just wants to cut it.

    John Stossel, under the header "I can balance the budget" also pretends budget-cutting is easy: "[E]liminate the U.S. Education Department. We'd save $94 billion. Federal involvement doesn't improve education. It gets in the way. ... We should also eliminate Housing and Urban Development. That's $53 billion more. Who needs the Energy Department and its $20 billion sinkhole?"

    Stossel may think that's a rhetorical question, but it isn't. In addition to little things like cleaning up radioactive waste and funding and conducting important scientific research, the DOE plays a rather significant national security role. How will radioactive waste get cleaned up in John Stossel's DOE-free world? How will students pay for college without the financial aid that disappears when Stossel eliminates the Department of Education?

    As an opinion columnist, Stossel is of course under no obligation to have answers to those questions that I find satisfactory. But he gives no indication that he's even considered them, just as Lambro gives no indication that he has any idea what it means to cut travel spending, or what effects slashing aid to states would have on state budgets and the economy.

    Yes, cutting the budget is easy if you completely ignore the consequences of doing so. But that isn't a rational approach to budgeting. Families struggling to make ends meet don't simply announce "we'll just spend half as much on food and transportation" and think they've solved their problem. They consider whether it's even possible to cut their grocery budget in half without starving or dooming their children to malnourishment. They consider whether it's possible to cut their transportation budget in half and still make it to and from work. And whether adding an additional hour to their daily commute will actually save money once they factor in the increased daycare expenses that will result.

    But the "it's easy to cut government spending" crowd doesn't bother thinking things through like that. They just Google the Department of Education's total budget, say we should eliminate it, then wonder why people think balancing the budget is difficult.

  • CNN's Erickson Agrees Gays "Have Nothing To Be Happy About"; Condones Discrimination Against Gays & Non-Christians

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    CNN's Erick Erickson spent much of the January 31 broadcast of his radio show discussing criticism of the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A for its support for anti-gay organizations -- and in doing so, Erickson agreed with a caller who asserted that gays "have nothing to be happy about" and did not disagree with the same caller's explanation that "their life is perverted. It's evil." Erickson also suggested that gays cannot be part of "real families" and condoned workplace discrimination against gays and non-Christians.

    A January 29 New York Times article noted that Chick-fil-A has faced criticism for "strict hiring practices, which require potential operators to discuss their marital status and civic and church involvement" (the company settled a lawsuit filed by a Muslim restaurant owner who said he was fired for not praying to Jesus) and that "the company's operators, its WinShape Foundation and the Cathy family have given millions of dollars to a variety of causes and programs, including … groups working to defeat same-sex marriage initiatives." Most recently, a Pennsylvania Chick-fil-A franchise's "sponsorship of a February marriage seminar by one of that state's most outspoken groups against homosexuality" drew criticism.

    And Erick Erickson knows all of that -- we know he knows it because he read a portion of that very article on-air. But despite being aware of the fact that Chick-fil-A settled a lawsuit filed by an employee who says he was fired for not praying to Jesus, Erickson repeatedly downplayed the Chick-fil-A controversy, pretending it is based entirely on the donation of some chicken sandwiches by an individual franchise, and mockingly claiming that Chick-fil-A critics are complaining that the company is racist for serving only white meat.

    Here's how Erickson explains the controversy:

    ERICKSON: The gays are boycotting Chick-fil-A because a Chick-fil-A franchisor -- not the company, ladies and gentlemen, not the corporation, not all of the Chick-fil-A operators in the country, one Chick-fil-A independent franchisor in Pennsylvania provided free food to a nonprofit group that just happens to be conservative, and supports families. Like, real families.

    Erickson knows that isn't true -- he's read a New York Times article that explains that there have been complaints about the parent company, not just an "independent franchisor in Pennsylvania." In other words, he's lying. (And, in doing so, implying that "real families" do not include gays.)

  • WND Claims Victory, Says GOProud Banned From Next CPAC

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    WorldNetDaily, which has waged war on both CPAC and gays, declares victory in its effort to exclude gays from CPAC:

    GOProud out at annual summit of conservatives

    CPAC determination reviews participation by 'gays'

    WASHINGTON – The homosexual activist group GOProud, whose inclusion in the Conservative Political Action Conference here last year and last week stirred controversy within the largest annual conservative gathering, will not be welcomed back next year, sources tell WND.

    WND adds that "a source has confirmed that a board vote has been taken that will realign plans for those who participate next year to exclude homosexual advocacy."

    UPDATE: According to Warren Throckmorton, GOProud says "The WND report is not true," which wouldn't be the first time.

  • Washington Post Inflates Public's Prioritization Of Deficit Reduction

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Two separate Washington Post articles today make dubious assertions about public polling findings relating to deficit reduction. Peter Wallsten and Perry Bacon, Jr. write, "Polls have shown that Americans see government spending and deficits as top-tier concerns." And Lori Montgomery writes: "Polls show rising concern about deficits but little appetite among voters for cutting specific programs."

    Neither article actually referred to any specific polling data, which may be because polls consistently show that the public ranks deficit reduction much lower than other priorities. The most recent polling on priorities found on PollingReport.com is a January 15-19 CBS News/New York Times poll that found 43 percent of Americans think the most important thing for Congress to focus on is job creation; only 14 percent said the budget deficit. The most recent Gallup poll on the top problems facing this country found that 29 percent of Americans think unemployment is the nation's most important problem and another 26 percent think the economy generally is; only 12 percent told Gallup the deficit is the most important problem.

    And what of the Washington Post's own polling? The last time a Washington Post poll asked respondents to rank the deficit against other issues in terms of importance was last October, when the paper asked people to name the most important issue in determining their vote. Thirty-nine percent of registered voters said the economy was most important, 18 percent said health care, 12 percent said "the way DC work[s]," 8 percent said taxes, and only 6 percent said the budget deficit. Six.

    Wallsten and Bacon also write: "Polls also indicate that Obama needs to boost his budget-cutting credentials, with just 43 percent of Americans approving of his handling of the federal budget deficit in a January Washington Post-ABC News poll."* But that same poll found that more Americans trust Obama to handle the deficit than Republicans, so it's odd for the Post to single Obama out as needing to "boost his budget-cutting credentials." (Not to mention the fact that the Post conflates deficits and budget-cutting.) Finally, the poll data the Post cites does not establish a "need" for Obama to "boost his budget-cutting credentials" -- not when Obama's overall approval rating in the poll is a solid 54 percent, and not when polling consistently shows the public cares more about other issues.

    * This line does not appear in the online version of the article, though it did appear in the version that ran on page A-1 of the paper's suburban edition, which is accessible via Nexis.

  • Greg Pollowitz, Global Warming Hypocrite (Continued)

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Greg Pollowitz, the National Review's lead global warming hypocrite, strikes again. Pollowitz routinely uses examples of cold weather to mock the scientific consensus about global warming, even as he endorses the claim that "the warmists" are guilty of "attribut[ing] to global warming almost any unusual weather event anywhere in the world." It's a shameless combination -- accusing scientists of unscientifically cherry-picking data, while doing exactly that himself. It's made all the more shameless by the fact that Pollowitz doesn't constrain himself to bizarre examples of cold weather: If it snows in Moscow in February, Pollowitz will have you believe that disproves global warming. (And when a winter heat wave hits Moscow, Pollowitz pretends not to notice.)

    Still not impressed by Pollowitz's hawkish commitment to his storyline? As I write this, it is 70 degrees in Washington, DC, approaching the all-time record for February 14. Now, if you were known for disputing global warming science by pointing to individual examples of cold weather, you'd probably think that a mid-February day that features 70 degree temperatures in the nation's capital would be a pretty good day to lay low and try not to draw any attention to your foolish habit of countering science with anecdote. But that's what sets Greg Pollowitz apart: He has absolutely no shame. And so he ignores DC's unusually warm temperatures, and scours the globe for some sign of cold weather in winter. And here's what he comes up with:

    Ten days ago, crops in Mexico were hit by frost. Forget the science; global warming must be a hoax!

  • At The Daily Caller, Right-Wing Attacks On Feminists Are Balanced By Far Right-Wing Attacks On Feminists

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Here, The Daily Caller's Caroline May quotes Phyllis Schlafly saying feminists "are really spooked by [Sarah] Palin because she's done everything and she is a success. Besides she is pretty and they cannot stand her" without quoting a single feminist or progressive in response.

    But don't worry, Tucker Carlson's very serious journalism web site features an opposing viewpoint alongside that article: Carey Roberts' attack on Palin's "over-heated gender-bending rhetoric," which runs under the header "Sarah Palin needs to rein in her harsh feminist rhetoric."

    And that's how things work at The Daily Caller, which Carlson once insisted would not be a right-wing site: The smear that feminists don't like Sarah Palin because she's pretty is 'balanced' by the claim that Palin herself is a shrill feminist.

    (Roberts previously wrote a Daily Caller column that distort[ed] domestic violence laws in order to argue for loosening the definition of domestic violence, earning a rebuke from the National Network to End Domestic Violence.)

  • Reminder: Rich People Aren't The Only Taxpayers Who Matter

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    I've written in the past about the media's tendency to behave as though the top tax bracket is the only one that matters when discussing tax policy. PolitiFact's new round-up of Reagan-related fact-checks links a perfect example I missed a the time: A September 20, 2010 piece about President Obama's statement that "Our tax rates are lower now than they were under Ronald Reagan," the validity of which PolitiFact assessed by looking only at top marginal rates (and getting the data wrong in the process.)

    Here's PolitiFact:

    We thought that claim was worth a run through the Truth-O-Meter.

    The most obvious way to make the comparison is to use income tax rates paid by people in various tax brackets. Due to the complexity of comparing a dozen or more income ranges that each need to be adjusted for inflation, economists most frequently compare just the top rate.

    As PolitiFact noted, the "most obvious" way to compare tax rates now versus tax rates under Ronald Reagan "is to use income tax rates paid by people in various tax brackets." But PolitiFact didn't do that. It used income tax rates paid by people in one tax bracket: The highest. And its approach was a factual, as well as conceptual, train-wreck:

    Today, the top income tax rate is 35 percent, starting at $186,825 for individuals and $373,650 for couples.

    In 1981, Reagan's first year, the top tax rate was 70 percent, hitting individuals earning $107,100 and couples earning $215,400. The top rate dropped immediately to 50 percent in 1982 and stayed there through 1986. In 1987, the top rate fell again to 38.5 percent, and in 1988, it fell to 28 percent, kicking in at $113,300 for married individuals and $149,250 for married couples. (The 1988 incomes would be equivalent to $209,000 and $275,000 today.)

    So, for one year of the Reagan presidency, the top rate was lower than it is now under Obama. For the other seven years, it was higher.

    First off, let's note that PolitiFact was simply wrong about the tax rates. According to the Tax Foundation document it links, the current top rate doesn't kick in for individuals at $186,825, it kicks in at $373,650. The $186,825 threshold is for people who are married but filing separately. And in 1988, the 28 percent marginal rate applied to single people making more than $17,850 and married couples making at least $29,750 -- far lower than the threshold PolitiFact claimed. Again: I'm basing this on the same Tax Foundation document PolitiFact relied on. PolitiFact just read it wrong.

    So PolitiFact's assertion that "the top rate was lower than it is now" is technically correct, but it's also a deeply absurd way to assess the overall tax picture. For single people in 1988, income above $17,850 was taxed at 28 percent. For single people in 2010, only income above $373,650 was taxed at 35 percent. Obviously, comparing a top rate that kicks in at $17,850 to a top rate that kicks in at $373,650 is pointless. But that's what PolitiFact did.