The Magazine

Romney Was Right

From the Scrapbook.

Sep 24, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 02 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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But again, safety is a laughable pretext when justifying traffic cameras—tellingly, Gray made his pledge to cover the city in cameras at a budget meeting. Last year, the city generated some $55 million in revenue from traffic tickets and expects to earn $30 million in additional revenue this year. Naturally, this means the city will issue even more traffic camera tickets, which is impressive when you realize that last year the city issued 462,601 traffic camera tickets in a city of 617,996 residents.

Amazingly, D.C. now has competition when it comes to overuse of traffic cameras. Prince George’s County, Maryland, borders Washington, D.C., to the east, and, not ­surprisingly, it too is notorious for corruption. Last year, Prince George’s county executive Jack Johnson was sentenced to seven years in prison for taking as much as a million dollars in kickbacks; Johnson’s wife was hiding an ill-gotten $79,000 in cash in her bra when the FBI arrested her.

P. G. County is also leaning heavily on traffic cameras to make up for the revenue its corrupt officials are no doubt squandering. Except that it seems that residents of P. G. County are not taking this effort to squeeze money out of them for the crime of commuting lying down.

The Washington Post reports there have been a “half dozen incidents of vandalism and general meanness toward the cameras in the county. A camera was actually shot with a gun. Another was set on fire.” But have no fear, Prince George’s County police officer Robert V. Liberati, whose official title is, and no, we’re not making this up, “Commander of the Automated Enforcement Section,” explained last week that the county has come up with a novel solution to its traffic camera vandalism problem. Commander Liberati told local radio station WTOP that they’re putting up cameras to monitor what happens to their traffic cameras.

The Scrapbook does not condone vandalism of public property, but the county’s response here does raise the question of how this Orwellian recursion is supposed to end. We’re guessing that D.C. and Prince George’s County will continue to do whatever they can to extract cash, regardless of how unfair and infuriating it is to those penalized by these proliferating cameras. The alternative would be for local officials to clean up their act and spend less money, and we all know that can’t happen.

Fact Checking the Fact Checkers

Recently, the Washington Post fact checker wrote a column examining a series of claims made by pro-life groups about Obama’s abortion record. He evaluated four pro-life claims that were found wanting, receiving from one to three “Pinocchios” for being misleading, with four being the maximum number of Pinocchios the Washington Post fact checker dispenses. The Scrapbook, you may not be surprised to hear, was underwhelmed. It long ago concluded that media “fact checkers” are inherently partisan and terrible at evaluating factual claims fairly.

But that fourth claim was interesting, and not just because it focused on Barack Obama’s mendacity. A recent campaign ad by a pro-life group pointed out that while serving in the Illinois legislature, Obama twice voted against something called the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. The original incarnation of the bill stated that “a live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law.” You might call this a restatement of the law against infanticide. Obama actually voted against making it illegal to kill babies outside the womb, because he feared the law would undermine abortion rights. The bill was retooled to remove the line mentioning abortion, making the second version nearly identical to the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which passed unanimously in 2002. Obama still voted against the Illinois version.

In 2008, Obama was asked about his vote by the Christian Broadcasting Network. The Washington Post fact checker quotes his response. “I hate to say that people are lying, but here’s a situation where folks are lying. I have said repeatedly that I would have been completely in, fully in support of the federal bill that everybody supported,” he said. In other words, Obama is accusing others of lying about his record while he himself is telling a very big lie.

How does the Washington Post fact checker handle this? We’re about to take the train to Pinocchio city, right? “The evidence suggests we could have awarded Four Pinocchios to the former Illinois senator for his comments to the Christian Broadcasting Network, but that interview is several years old now, and it’s not the focus of this particular column.”

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