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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Extremely unfair balance in the Washington Post

Glenn Kessler, Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen, Jonathan Weisman and Walter Pincus have a generally excellent article pointing out false claims in the Vice Presidential debate. However, Kessler and VandeHei do make some mistakes, basically whenever they claim that Edwards distorted the truth. Mr Pincus gets major props as a white haired researcher. He must be the most famous journalist in the world who is willing to work on someone elses story.

However the obligation to be balanced seems to have forced Kessler and VandeHei to libel Edwards here "Edwards asserted that "in the last four years, 1.6 million private-sector jobs have been lost." The actual number is close to 900,000" Edwards is right and Kessler and VandeHei are wrong. The decline of only around 900,000 includes public sector employment which has increase. See The Times on this "Mr. Edwards's higher number comes from isolating private-sector jobs, not taking into account increases in state, local and federal government jobs." Shockingly, when Edwards said "private sector jobs", he meant "private sector jobs." The number of turnips has probably not decreased by 1.6 million either, and that would be an equally relevant criticism of Edwards' claim.

also ""Edwards also asserted that "the president is proposing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage that is completely unnecessary." But Bush simply endorsed such an amendment that had already been introduced on Capitol Hill." Ah I see. By this logic a proposal is not a proposal, if it is not the first proposal. That means I'm a bastard, since my dad was not the first guy to propose to my mother. Thanks guys, I never liked bourgious respectabiltiy (or spellling).

and ""millionaires sitting by their swimming pool . . . pay a lower tax rate than the men and women who are receiving paychecks for serving" in Iraq. President Bush last year cut the tax rate on dividends to 15 percent, whereas most soldiers would be in a 15 percent tax bracket -- and pay an effective rate much less after taking deductions for children and mortgages." "Rate" can refer to the marginal rate not just the average rate. Much more seriously, Kessler and Vandehei are counting only income taxes and not social insurance contributions.

Finally the old chestnut "Edwards, for his part, asserted that the war in Iraq has cost $200 billion "and counting,"" Here the distinction is between money spent and money spent plus money allocated plus confessed plans for suplemental appropriations. The sum is over $ 200 billion. Edwrd's claim is true or false depending on the exact wording. Kessler and Vandehei don't quote Edwards.

So even more than in the case of the Times (see below) the excellent research is damaged by an insistence on balance. When reality is one sided, balance is bias.

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