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Jamison Foser

Author ››› Jamison Foser
  • Reuters, Please Define "Rough Year"

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Take a look at the first two examples Reuters uses to claim it's been "a rough year or so" for scientists concerned about global warming -- bizarrely, both are incidents in which the scientists have been vindicated:

    It's been a rough year or so for scientists and others who say that data shows human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, accelerate the climate-warming greenhouse effect. Climate skeptics are quick to point this out. To wit:

    -- Skeptics allege scientists manipulated climate research, citing the so-called "climategate" scandal of December 2009, in which leaked e-mails from scientists at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit in Britain appeared to show scientists sniping at climate deniers and trying to block publication of articles critical of their findings.

    At least four reviews of the case have exonerated the climate scientists but skeptics maintain it cast doubt on all climate research that showed a consistent warming trend.

    -- In 2010, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had to correct a 2007 report used by government policymakers that exaggerated the melt of Himalayan glaciers by saying they might all vanish by 2035. Since then, however, independent reviews have reaffirmed the panel's main conclusion that it is at least 90 percent certain that human activities are the main cause of global warming in the past 50 years. [Emphasis added]

    So, in the first example, global warming deniers attacked scientists -- but at least four separate reviews exonerated the scientists. And in the second example, independent reviews reaffirmed the conclusion that human activities are the main cause of global warming.

    To Reuters, these developments are the lead examples of it having been "rough year or so" for climate scientists. A more rational assessment would be that these are examples of it having been a rough year for the special interests attempting to undermine climate science.

  • NYT Pretends Health Care Repeal Was Consistent With Deficit Reduction

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    You'd never know from reading today's New York Times that last year's health care reform legislation will reduce the deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Here's the Times:

    Invoking the mantra of fiscal restraint that has dominated House action since lawmakers reconvened last month, Republicans began committee work this week on two bills that would greatly expand restrictions on financing for and access to abortions.

    Over and over, Democrats said that by bringing up the abortion issue now, Republicans were going back on their word to focus on the budget.

    Yet the bills that have surfaced on the House floor this year have been fiscal in nature, including the repeal of the health care law, which was later rejected by the Senate, and some measures designed to cut spending.

    Got that? The "mantra of fiscal restraint" has dominated House action this year, and Democratic criticism of Republicans for going back on their promises to reduce the deficit is unfounded because the GOP's proposals, like health care repeal, "have been fiscal in nature."

    One little problem: Repealing health care reform would have increased the deficit.

    Don't take my word for it: Here's what the New York Times reported on February 2:

    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said that repealing the health care law would add more than $230 billion to federal deficits between 2012 and 2021.

    The Republicans' attempt to repeal health care was "fiscal in nature," all right -- but its fiscal impact would have been to drive up deficits. The New York Times knows this. So why is it now pretending that the repeal effort is consistent with the GOP's "mantra of fiscal restraint"?

    Previously:

    Why Is The New York Times Touting Paul Ryan's Fiscal Credibility?

    Why is the New York Times helping Joe Lieberman lie about health care?

  • No, AP, Corporate Profits Are Not Down

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The Associated Press reports:

    Income tax payments this year will be nearly 13 percent lower than they were in 2008, the last full year of the Bush presidency. Corporate taxes will be lower by a third, according to projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

    The poor economy is largely to blame, with corporate profits down and unemployment up.

    High unemployment has certainly affected government revenue. But what's this business about corporate profits being down?

    New York Times, November 23, 2010:

    Corporate profits have been doing extremely well for a while. Since their cyclical low in the fourth quarter of 2008, profits have grown for seven consecutive quarters, at some of the fastest rates in history. As a share of gross domestic product, corporate profits also have been increasing, and they now represent 11.2 percent of total output. That is the highest share since the fourth quarter of 2006, when they accounted for 11.7 percent of output.

    And Justin Fox of the Harvard Business Review noted in November 2010 that in the third quarter of 2010, corporate profits as a share of national income was "quite high by historical standards. … There is annual data to 1929, and the only time besides 2006 and (one can predict with some confidence) this year when the profit share topped 9% was 1929, when it hit 9.9%."

    When a leading media institution like the Associated Press can't correctly report basic facts like the direction in which corporate profits are heading, what chance does the public have of reaching informed public policy positions?

  • Tim Graham Demonstrates The Absurdity Of Conservative Media Criticism

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    During the Bush administration, liberals criticized the media for mindlessly parroting the Bush administration's fraudulent case for war in Iraq. Now, conservatives complain about reporters carrying water for the Obama administration:

    Kate Betts is so pro-Michelle she wouldn't allow a glimmer of negativity damage the beautiful, casual picture she was painting. Meredith Vieira mentioned her fashion "mistakes," and like an administration publicist, Betts wouldn't even contemplate the possibility:

    VIEIRA: Yet she's made some fashion mistakes, according to some people. The bare legs on Air Force One and then--showing her legs, actually--and then recently she wore a British designer at that dinner for the president of China. Big mistakes in your view?

    Ms. BETTS: You know, I don't think those are mistakes. I think the British designer was something that she did because she wears what she loves and she really telegraphs this message of self-possession and confidence. And to me that's what defines American style.

    That's Media Research Center director of media analysis Tim Graham accusing a reporter of behaving "like an administration publicist" because she doesn't think it was a mistake to wear clothes designed by a Brit to dinner with the president of China.

    And that, basically, is the difference between media criticism from the left and from the right: Liberals didn't like it when the media obediently repeated deeply false claims about war, and conservatives don't like it when a reporter refuses to go along with a deeply stupid criticism of Michelle Obama's clothes.

  • PolitiFact Rigs Tax Debate in Favor Of Conservatives

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    PolitiFact gets recent history wrong:

    [W]e should note that Obama has not raised income taxes. Thanks to a compromise he brokered with Republicans at the end of 2010, income tax rates are staying the same for people of all incomes. Obama had favored raising taxes on high earners, but he gave up on that as part of the tax deal.

    Nonsense. Obama would not have "raised income tax rates" even had the compromise not occurred: The rates would have gone up in accordance with the tax law President Bush signed. Here, let's let PolitiFact explain, via a December 1, 2010 fact-check headlined "'Obama tax hikes'? Just as easily call them the Bush tax hikes":

    The tax rates are expiring on Jan. 1, 2011, because of the way they were created in the first place. Back in 2001 and again in 2003, Republicans used a process known as reconciliation that only requires 50 votes to pass the Bush tax cuts. ...

    But there are a number of rules that govern reconciliation, and one of those rules says that you can't include things that affect the budget for more than 10 years. That's why the tax cuts are expiring. Republicans didn't have the 60 votes they needed in the Senate to make the tax cuts permanent.

    We should point out that the 2001 reconciliation bill passed in the Senate with some Democratic support, 58-33. In 2003, the vote was closer, 50-50, with then vice president Dick Cheney breaking the tie.

    "Republicans very deliberately engineered this set of tax cuts to expire after 10 years," said Norman Ornstein, a long-time observer of Congress and politics and a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "They did it for utterly political reasons."

    And on January 1, PolitiFact explained: "The tax rates, passed during President George W. Bush's administration, had an end-of-the-year expiration date and were set to go up in 2011 unless they were extended."

    So when PolitiFact now says that absent the Obama-GOP compromise last December, Obama would have "raised income taxes," that's nonsense. He wouldn't have "raised income taxes," he would have done nothing. The tax rates would have changed as scheduled, in accordance with the provisions of the law Bush signed. PolitiFact knows that.

    And the lack of precision matters -- a lot. It fundamentally skews the debate in favor of lower taxes and, therefore (take your pick) higher deficits or deep cuts in government services, as I've previously explained:

    If the expiration, on schedule, of tax cuts that were always scheduled to expire is described as a policy of raising taxes, that makes a mockery of the entire tax policy debate of the past decade. It rigs tax debates in favor of Republicans, who find it easier to argue for tax cuts for the wealthy if they can argue that the cuts won't cost very much -- by making them "temporary" -- but who then get to argue that the scheduled expiration that they included in order to make the cuts look affordable would constitute a tax increase. The GOP gets to have it both ways, describing tax cuts as temporary when it helps them, and pretending they were intended to be permanent when it helps them. It's no great surprise Republicans want to have it both ways -- but that doesn't mean the media should go along.

    In addition to extending the Bush tax cuts, last December's tax deal reduced payroll taxes for a year. By the "logic" used by PolitiFact and other media to claim that allowing the scheduled expiration of tax cuts constitutes raising taxes, if the President and Congress do not agree to extend that payroll tax cut, they will be actively raising taxes. But that's obviously nonsense: The payroll tax reduction was always discussed as a temporary, year-long measure. Labeling everyone who allows it to expire as planned a tax-raiser would be false and badly distort public policy debates. The same is true of the Bush tax cuts.

    Note, by the way, that PolitiFact seems to be laying the groundwork for just such a distorted debate over the payroll tax. Here's the full paragraph I excerpted at the beginning of this post:

    Before we rule on this item, though, we should note that Obama has not raised income taxes. Thanks to a compromise he brokered with Republicans at the end of 2010, income tax rates are staying the same for people of all incomes. Obama had favored raising taxes on high earners, but he gave up on that as part of the tax deal. In exchange, he gained a a 2 percent reduction in payroll taxes for all workers. When you combine that with small tax cuts that were part of the economic stimulus, most taxpayers have seen reduced rates under Obama's administration.

    No. Obama gained a temporary reduction in payroll taxes for all workers. PolitiFact left out the word temporary -- an omission that will come in handy when people start accusing people who want to allow them to expire of wanting to raise taxes.

  • Attention WaPo: Fact-Checking And "Inherently Subjective" Claims Don't Mix Well

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Bizarre: Out of all the questionable claims made by politicians and activists, the Washington Post chooses to fact-check President Obama's statement that the U.S. has "the most productive workers, the finest universities and the freest markets."

    If there's any doubt that such benign rhetorical statement is unworthy of the Fact-Checker treatment, just look at the Post's analysis.

    The paper concludes that the "most productive workers" claim is a "stretch" because although a U.N. report "found that in 2008 the United States was number one when measured by gross domestic product per person engaged in work," other studies put the U.S. in third place. So we aren't exactly talking about an "Iraq has WMD"-level lie.

    The Post then purports to check the "finest universities" claim, though it notes that doing so is difficult because "there are so many different kinds of surveys out there and all are inherently subjective." Now, when you find yourself using the phrase "inherently subjective" in a fact-check piece, it's probably a good idea to reconsider the whole exercise. Instead, the Post used just one of the "many different kinds of surveys" to assess the President's statement. And when that survey showed that the U.S. has 21 of the top 50 universities in the entire world, the Post invented some vague "number of world-class universities per million people" metric to rank the U.S. 8th.

    And to assess President Obama's "freest markets" claim, the Post again relied upon only one study -- one conducted by the right-wing Heritage Foundation.

  • Pro-Torture Michael Gerson Claims To Believe In Primacy Of Human Dignity

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson writes:

    [T]hough it is hard to identify a distinctive Catholic voter, there is certainly a distinctive Catholic teaching on politics - a highly developed and coherent tradition that has influenced many non-Catholics, myself included. Human life and dignity, in this view, are primary.

    Gerson never gets around to explaining what he means by human dignity, so it's worth remembering that Gerson (like so many Post columnists) defends the Bush administration's use of torture:

    Gerson pays lip service to opposing what he tactfully calls "harsh interrogations," but when you get past the throat-clearing, Gerson argues that firm opposition to such tactics simply "is not an option for those in government." And he has bitterly denounced efforts to investigate Bush administration interrogation methods, using rhetoric Nathan Jessep would appreciate:

    And now Obama has described the post-Sept. 11 period as "a dark and painful chapter in our history." In fact, whatever your view of waterboarding, the response of intelligence professionals following Sept. 11 was impressive. ... Now the president and his party have done much to tarnish those accomplishments. So much for the thanks of a grateful nation.

  • WaPo's On Faith Needs A Fact-Checker

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The Washington Post's On Faith microsite is most notable for regularly featuring anti-gay and anti-Muslim bigotry and questioning the president's religion and setting Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin up as the nation's leading religious thinkers. But that isn't all the Sally Quinn project does: It also traffics in casual falsehoods.

    Most recently, On Faith's Julia Duin claimed that "Evolution runs directly counter to most major world religions, which teach that God created the world in some form or another." Lauri Lebo responds at Religion Dispatches:

    Really? Just off the top of my head I can think of a few major religions that have no trouble reconciling evolution with faith, including Judaism, Catholicism, Buddhism, and all non-fundamentalist versions of Protestantism, such as, for instance, the United Methodist Church.

    Duin was writing about a recent study, which I wrote about here, which indicates that one in eight biology teachers are teaching creationism in the classroom. Duin takes a rather sympathetic view to those creationist and intelligent design-spouting teachers and wonders whether it's fair to make them teach evolution when they don't accept it. For some reason, Duin leaves out a discussion of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause and the litany of federal court rulings against teaching creationism/intelligent design or banning the teaching of evolution in public school science classes.

    Duin, it should be noted, isn't some random On Faith contributor: She was religion editor for The Washington Times and now "anchor[s] Under God's daily discussion of religion in the news" for the Post.

    Lebo concludes:

    I sincerely hope Washington Post's religion editors take note of Duin's factual inaccuracy, which cries out for a correction. A newspaper of the Post's reputation owes far more to its readers than to print blog posts of different viewpoints to generate buzz, without regard to the facts. Duin's just-so assertion, which was not backed up by a shred of evidence, shows a woeful lack of understanding of her beat, and insults the beliefs of the countless people of faith she so casually dismissed.

    The Post should also consider whether it is appropriate for the person who leads its daily "discussion of religion in the news" to put her thumb on the scale. As Lebo noted, Duin "takes a rather sympathetic view to those creationist and intelligent design-spouting teachers." Here's how Duin concluded her piece:

    Should high school and college teachers be mandated to teach evolution even if it's against their religious beliefs?

    That phrasing ("mandated," "even if," etc) is certainly sympathetic to people who want to deprive schoolchildren of the opportunity to learn about established science. A more neutral phrasing might have been: "Should science teachers be allowed to refuse to teach science they don't like?" And a more neutral consideration of the question might have considered the implications of allowing teachers to refuse to teach things they don't like. If a teacher can refuse to teach evolution, can she refuse to teach the Earth orbits the Sun? Can a history teacher who is a pacifist refuse to teach his class about World War II?

  • The Right's Growing Civil War

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The civil war between the far right and the far, far right is getting ugly, as a quick look at Red State's front page makes clear.

    First there's this scathing piece in which Red State's Ben Howe blasts the American Conservative Union and Grover Norquist, claiming that "radical Islam" exerts undue "influence" over ACU's board of directors and that "it has become apparent that there are Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers, apologists, and fundamentalists sponsoring and speaking at" CPAC this weekend. Howe goes on to accuse ACU of "sully[ing] the memory" of September 11, 2001 "by pretending it's ok to share a table with groups that apologize, sympathize, justify, or ignore the truth of radical Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood."

    Scroll down a little further and you'll see Red State editor Leon Wolf accusing Red State contributor Melissa Clouthier of trafficking in "anti-Semitism."

    Add those examples to attacks on Glenn Beck by Bill Kristol and Rich Lowry, the schism between Kristol and leading conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and Dick Morris over Egypt, swipes at Sarah Palin in Rupert Murdoch's latest venture, The Daily, and the ongoing feud over which anti-gay conservatives are anti-gay enough, and it's increasingly clear the Right could use a unifying figure to keep everyone focused on common goals. That role has traditionally been played by Grover Norquist, but now that he's taking hits from fellow conservatives for ties to "jihadist money men," it's unclear how effective he can be.

  • WaPo Promotes Call For "Civil Discourse" About Gays (Sort Of)

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Of course, this is the Washington Post we're talking about, so the call for civility is directed at those who criticize anti-gay bigotry, not those who practice it:

    Remember, this is Washington Post, which features anti-gay screeds on National Coming Out Day, treats gay suicide as a two-sided issue, gives a blog to someone who calls homosexuality an "abomination" and "indecent" and "perversion," features activists who want "gay behavior" outlawed and who urge military chaplains to denounce gay congregants, treats hate-merchants like Bill Donohue as respectable figures, and promotes claims that gay sex "serves death" and comparisons of gay-rights advocates to racists and assertions that gays are sexist.

    And now the Post thinks it's important to promote the claim that it is uncivil to refer to discrimination against gays as homophobic. Yeah. We wouldn't want to hurt the feelings of the "God hates fags" crowd. Speaking of which: This call for civility is entirely one-sided: It doesn't contain so much as a word of reproach for those who use ugly rhetoric to attack gays.