Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In an important post Brian Beutler, in effect, asks "who are you and what have you done with Glenn Kessler."

I generally respect Kessler, but I think he refuses to stick to fact checking when he covers the Medicare debate. I also think he should either drop the Pinocchios or apply them consistently*.

The topic is a DSCC advertisement on Republicans and Medicare which Kessler denounced very strongly and awarded the maximum four Pinocchios.

I think that Beutler buries his main point. In a discussion with Beutler, Kessler conceded that one of the claims of fact which he marked as outrageously false is, in fact, true.

As summarized by Beutler, the advert said that " Republicans want 'to take needed health care coverage away from our seniors.'" Beutler notes that the House Budget resolution repeals most of the health care reform bill (keeping most of the Medicare cuts in the bill) and therefore repeals the closing of the Medicare plan D doughnut hole. Thus the Republicans undeniably take health care coverage away from seniors. Clearly the question of whether it is needed is a matter of opinion and firm statements on such questions are perfectly standard in political debate.

According to Beutler who is summarizing a conversation with (I think) Kessler

"The Post mostly grants this, but says it's wrong for Democrats to place so much focus on it. "In any case, it is a stretch to focus on this provision (and a couple of other issues) and then make a sweeping claim that leaves the impression that all seniors would be affected immediately. "

In other words "The Post" concedes that the claim of fact which they denounced as false is true. They argue that the truth is false, because the statement is phrased in a way which could be misinterpreted. It is clear that the phrasing was chosen to convince current Medicare recipients that they would lose more than the Medicare plan D doughnut hole. But phrasing a claim to maximize the effect is not stating a falsehood.

The Post's position is that, while the claim is technically true, that's not what really matters. In other words their fact checking is based on the principal that the truth or falsehood of claims of fact isn't fundamental.

I don't know what is happening. I think that part of what is going on is that Kessler is confusing "inflamatory" and "false." He considers the claim that Republicans voted to take health care coverage away from current recipients bad for the discussion, so it is false even if it is true. I also suspect that he strongly believes that the Medicare budget's growth should be restrained and he is allowing his views on the proper decision to affect his opinions about the accuracy of claims made in the debate.

The good news is that only a few bloggers are paying attention. It is clear that at least two fact checkers (Kessler and someone at Politifact) consider the claim that Republicans are trying to repeal and replace Medicare to be the "death panels" of 2011. It is clear that Democratic operatives don't care what fact checkers write. In this case, I think the operatives are correct on the merits, but, beyond that, I am pleased that they aren't afraid of the Washington Post.

*A large fraction of my problems with Kessler have to do with the, very striking and effective, awarding of Pinocchios. He definitely does not award them consistently. He noted in a fact check of Romney's campaign launching speech that he had awarded 4 Pinocchios to one of Romney's claims, objected to many other claims, and awarded 2 Pinocchios in the end. This just isn't fact checking. Making some true claims and some false claims must be scored as making some false claims. Fact checkers must check which claims to check -- they just can't assess which fraction of total claims of fact made by a person is accurate. Removing two Pinocchios for other claims (many of which Kessler asserted were false) is clearly inconsistent with the whole idea of fact checking and the stated definition of the Pinocchio scale.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

New Frontiers In Granting Anonymity

In a New York Times article on how a slight relaxation of the US-Cuban trade embargo is helping Cubans, Victoria Burnett blazes and new trail and sets a new standard in granting anonymity

A State Department official, who requested anonymity because the policy is politically delicate, said that “additional people-to-people contact and enhanced economic independence from the state” helped to “undermine repression.” In an e-mail responding to questions, the official said such benefits outweighed concerns about “the Cuban government profiting indirectly.”

So "A State Department official" demanded anonymity in order to defend current policy by stating the totally obvious.

The embargo loving Cuban American lobby is strong. Of course, Cuban Americans are no longer united. I was sent to the article by anti embargo Cuban American Matthew Yglesias.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bridget from ashville nc wins the internet

"I found Pawlenty on Google, so gov doesn't need one."

Monday, June 06, 2011

Ballance at the Washington Post all time winner

This beats the original Ballance

When allegedly "Fact checking Mitt Romney’s announcement speech"
Glenn Kessler quotes Romney

“President Obama sees a different America, and he's taken us in a different direction. A few months into office, he traveled around the globe to apologize for America.”

then writes

Romney wrote a whole book on this theme, titled “No Apology,” so maybe it’s hard to let go. But we previously gave four Pinocchios to the notion that Obama ever went on any kind of “apology tour.”

This is just one of many assertions made by Romney and contested by Kessler.

Then we get to Kessler's bottom line

Two (2) Pinocchios !

So evidently all the other alleged falsehoods are nega-falsehoods or something.

Here I think a large part of the problem is the Pinocchio graphic. Kessler is clearly not willing to apply his stated scale (it may be that the four Pinocchios were incorrectly assigned not the two, but there is no way to eliminate a falsehood by saying other unrelated things many of which are plainly false too).

It is very clear that his fact checking is contaminated with the sort of policy which prevents many political journalists from dealing with questions of fact. I think he believes that he just can't award the Republican front runner four Pinocchios (or at least not at the very beginning of his official campaign). Therefore, his assessment of factual accuracy depend on who made the claim.

This is particularly distressing, since Kessler awarded HHS sect Sebelius three Pinocchios for a claim which he basically acknowledged was true, because he considered it "outrageous."

As Jack Webb would say "just the facts man."

(For the kids in their thirties and stuff, Jack Webb was an amazingly wooden actor who played a police officer in the ultra-boring TV series "Dragnet." He often said "just the facts ma'am." For some reason he never said "just the facts sir." Sexism on TV was extreme back in teh good old days (TV is still sexist but less blatantly so).
Is there a present for fact checking in US journalism ?

Fact checking is a new and exiting alleged feature of US journalism. The AP is now sending out fact checking articles. The Washington Post has a regular fact checking column. The existence of fact checking separate from reporting on what public figures say is, in itself, a shocking confession that political journalists haven't been doing their job. The apparent view is that, in addition to all of the commentary on the horse race, on political strategy and on reporters' impressions of what sort of impressions ordinary people will have, there is room for a little bit of discussion of the facts.

The problem is that fact checking is a radical break with business as ususal. It was absent for a simple reason. To be frank, the problem is that Republicans lie a lot more than Democrats do. Objective reporting therefore is perceived as liberal bias. As Colbert said, the facts have a clear liberal bias (like all of the very best parody, his statement was barely a parody).

Like many people, I was upset when Politifact (pioneers in the daring new experiment in fact based journalism) gave a pants on fire rating to a DCCC ad mostly because of accurate claims of fact in the ad, partly because the alleged fact checker considered the implied policy recommendation bad policy (the alleged fact check included the observation that Republicans have argued that it is necessary to reform Medicare to keep it from going bankrupt -- this was not related to any factual claim in the ad which was allegedly being fact checked). Oh and because of a name -- the ad said Republicans had voted to end Medicare and they have named their proposed voucher program "Medicare." The fact checker actually wrote that claming they had voted to end Medicare "as we know it" would have been OK. Think of that. The qualifier "as we know it" just means "if we don't allow them to redefine terms at will." How can it be required for factual accuracy.

Then I was very upset when Glenn Kessler awarded Sect Sebelius three Pinocchios for a statement which he basically acknowledged was true, because it was also "outrageous."

Now Kessler awards just two Pinocchios to Romney even though he had awarded just one of Romney's claims of fact four Pinocchios in the past. Good of him to note that fact, but this means he has clearly stated that fact checking as we know it is not about the relationship between claims of fact and facts, because it is not acceptable to reach the conclusion that a relatively sober and respectable Republican lies like a dog.

Go with the facts or go with the approved narrative. Compromise is ridiculous.
Weiner's weiner query

OK I get it. I will not delete the silly post below. I was wondering why everyone is convinced that the alleged tweet with the link to the crotch shot allegedly on yfrog was, in fact, a tweet. The reason is that Patior76USA retweated it. Now I understand.

Confused query below.

There is an alleged tweet containing a link to a yfrog account and a digital photograph of a man's crotch in very tighty whiteys which was allegedly at that link. It is agreed that both the tweet and the photograph are not on their original alleged locations on the allgedly world wide alleged web.

I have read (somewhere on the web I forget where) that the alleged Yfrog screen capture was photoshopped -- that it has nothing to do with anything that was ever hosted on Yfrog.

On the other hand, everyone seems to agree that the alleged tweet was a tweet -- that it went out on twitter and that it was sent from Weiners twitter account.

How do we know that the alleged tweet was ever on twitter ?

I ask for information. I'm pretty sure I'm missing something and there is some convincing evidence. Please inform me in comments (or by e-mail).

As far as I know (obviously not very far) the only evidence is a *.jpg which is alleged to be a screen capture.

My preferred explanation of all of the data is that Patriot76usa photoshopped that alleged screen capture, that neither he nor Weiner tweeted the link. That the alleged tweet was never a tweet.

The implausible 1 to 5 seconds would be an explanation of why no one else saw the tweet there is no need to explain how Weiner (or his staff) managed to get the tweet off of twitter so fast if it was never on twitter.

The alleged Yfrog screen capture has been discussed. I have read (somewhere on the web) a confident claim that it was photoshopped made by someone who explained what sounds like evidence and claims expertise (you know somewhere on the web).

But the claim that the alleged tweet was indeed a tweet and isn’t a photoshopped image passed off as a twitter feed screen capture isn’t even being discussed.

One possible explanation is that Weiner said his facebook account was hacked. Weiner’s defenders seem determined to argue that he is not only non-lewd but also tech savvy (they even argue that he wrote “facebook,” because hacking the facebook account was a step towards hacking the twitter account for some reason).

What if the first he learned of the alleged tweet and alleged YFrog hosting of the photo cam from ?

It seems to me that the idea that either Patriot75USA is telling the truth or something was hacked follows very logically from Weiner’s stated guess of what happened. But why assume that he must know what happened (so his hypothesis is true or he is lying) ? I mean he’s looks very geeky but he is a congressman not a technopunk.
Washington Post Headline Guy part MMMCCLCCVI

This is an interesting article which contains positive proof that neither The New York Post nor Politico is a serious journalistic enterprise (knock me over with a wrecking ball).

However, the headline makes a definite assertion on a controversial matter of fact. The claim is also almost certainly false. is in a weak position to lecture others about journalistic standards.

The headline is

"Recipient of lewd tweet criticizes New York Post story via Twitter".

Along with the first two words in the article "Gennette Cordova" this asserts that Gennette Cordova received the lewd tweet in question. Gennette Cordova has very defninitely asserted that she never saw the photo in question. The person who claims to have detected the tweet says it was deleted after 1 to 5 seconds.

Even assuming that Cordova has negative credibility so her claims are likely to be lies, one must also assume that she checks her twitter feed constantly in order to assert that she received the tweet.

Update DailyKos too

Update DailyKos too

Georgia Logothetis wrote

Representative Weiner is on the defensive for once following a porn star and a young girl who received the lewd tweet

Unless I am confused the "young girl" is Gennette Cordova who is 21 and, therefore, a young woman. Also she says she never saw the photo. I interpret this as equivalent to saying she never received the tweet.

My comment on the Washington Post article follows.

This is a very good article. However, it has a very bad headline. Farhi quotes Cordova extensively and reports no evidence that she has been other than perfectly honest. Notably the responses from the New York Post and Politico make it clear that neither is a legitimate journalistic operation.

However, the headline definitely asserts, as a 100% proven fact, that Cordova is a liar. She claims she never received the tweet. The person who claims to have discovered the tweet patriot76USA says it was deleted after 1 to 5 seconds on the twitter stream. The only evidence that Weiner ever sent any such tweet is a jpg file which is alleged to be a screen capture. The only evidence that the photograph was ever hosted in Weiners Yfrog account is another *.jpg file also alleged to be a screen capture.

The claim that Cordova received the tweet is contested. The assertion that she did, made without any qualification or a shred of evidence, is not serious journalism.

The Washington Post should run a correction.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Probably Not First

Probably not one of the first thousand, but I just noticed the Washington Post's article and abstract describing who will edit the New York Times

I've criticize the headline and abstract person, but, I think that his or her comment on the choice of an editor (yes and editor) is a word of part.


ps I guess there will be more sympathetic coverage of Anthony Weiner's claim that his twitter feed was hacked in the Post.