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Damned Lies and ‘Fact Checking’ (cont.)

From The Scrapbook

Jan 2, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 16 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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It was just two issues ago that The Weekly Standard published Mark Hemingway’s devastating brief against media “fact checkers” and their systematic bias against the right (“Lies, Damned Lies, and ‘Fact Checking,’ ” December 19, 2011). But Fortuna is a capricious sprite, and The Scrapbook awoke last week to find the left spitting nails about PolitiFact, the influential column produced by the St. Petersburg Times. For its “Lie of the Year,” PolitiFact selected Democrats’ claim that Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget​—​passed by the House GOP earlier this year​—​would “end Medicare.” 

Cartoon of boxing match between an elephant and a donkey

Practically the entire liberal wonkery cried foul, including writers at the New Republic, Slate, Mother Jones, and Washington Monthly. Paul Krugman, the New York Times’s attack-pundit, conjectured that PolitiFact was “terrified of being considered partisan . . . so they’ve bent over backwards to appear ‘balanced’​—​and in the process made themselves useless and irrelevant.”

On the merits, they have a point. Sure, saying Ryan’s reform “ends Medicare” is arguably inaccurate and certainly misleading. But to what extent is it a “lie”? The Medicare program is $30 trillion in debt. We simply can’t begin to address that fiscal black hole without ablating Medicare as it currently exists. Accordingly, Ryan has been fairly explicit about the need for fundamental change in the program. Anyone who’s honest about our fiscal predicament knows that “ending Medicare” in favor of a program structured differently is the point.

However, as a political matter, the timing of PolitiFact’s dubious honor is not helpful to Democrats. Senator Ron Wyden just signed on to a version of Ryan’s plan, and other congressional Democrats want to end the Medicare cost control plan in Obamacare, aka the Independent Payment Advisory Board. IPAB is Obama’s scheme to empower federal bureaucrats to set the Medicare budget without congressional approval. Sarah Palin famously called it a “death panel,” an obviously hyperbolic opinion that PolitiFact made its 2009 “Lie of the Year.” The same liberal pundits angry at PolitiFact now clucked in approval then. 

And until last week, they had good reason to be pleased with Politi-Fact. If, as Krugman’s column suggests, PolitiFact is terrified of being considered partisan, that’s because they are partisan. A University of Minnesota survey found the organization has accused Republicans of telling more falsehoods than Democrats by a rate of two to one. 

Thanks to PolitiFact’s latest effort, our friends on the left, such as the New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn, are belatedly noticing that “fact checkers” have “a tendency to confuse statements of opinion, or interpretation, for statements of fact.” Indeed. 

It’s high time liberal pundits figured out that there’s more going on in this fact-checking bordello than raucous piano music. If they’d been paying attention, they would have long ago stopped patronizing these journalistic houses of ill repute.

Occupied Trinity

To The Scrapbook’s knowledge, there is no evidence Jesus ever said “no good deed goes unpunished.” But if He had, the clergy at Trinity Wall Street in Lower Manhattan would know precisely what He meant.

When the Occupy Wall Street mob first assembled in neighboring Zuccotti Park, the Trinity clergy did what Episcopal clergymen have been reliably doing for the past half-century: embrace the latest left-wing fad. According to the New York Times, Trinity offered the enclave of superannuated hippies, assorted thugs, anarchists, student radicals, and anti-Semites not just “expressions of sympathy, but also meeting spaces, resting areas, pastoral services, electricity, bathrooms, even blankets and hot chocolate.” Go to the Trinity Wall Street website and savor the photographs and accompanying essays. (Our favorite: “Occupy Everything!” by the Rev. Daniel Simons.)

But of course, the character of OWS swiftly turned from peace and love and equality to vandalism and violence and intimidation, prompting Mayor Michael Bloomberg (belatedly) to eject the trespassers and scour the park. This left the diminished ranks of Occupy hangers-on with no place to squat until they settled on a parking lot adjacent to another open space called Duarte Park​—​both owned, as it happens, by Trinity Wall Street. 

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