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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Fact checking PolitiFact

Someone has to keep an eye on the self-proclaimed checkers of fact. I am going to do it the way they should do. Right now, political fact-checkers chose the politician, choose the quote, chose the method for verifying the claim, and finally, they set the rules for weighing the fact.

Overwhelmingly, these fact-checkers are liberal and grade Republicans harsher.

My criteria for checking the fact checkers is to do just that. I shall look at who they checked, what they checked, and whether the actual political quote matched the verdict.

Now either something is true or it is false. PolitiFact tries to shade things gray. I do not.

OK, from PolitiFact (most recent posts first):

1. Donald Trump said that in 2000, "I wrote about Osama bin Laden, 'We’ve got to take him out.’"

PolitiFact checked the book and quoted Trump:
"Instead of one looming crisis hanging over us, we face a bewildering series of smaller crises, flash points, stand offs, and hot spots. We’re not playing the chess game to end all chess games anymore. We’re playing tournament chess - one master against many rivals. One day we’re assured that Iraq is under control, the UN inspectors have done their work, everything’s fine, not to worry. The next day the bombing begins. One day we’re told that a shadowy figure named Osama bin Laden is public enemy number one, and U.S. jet fighters lay waste to his camp in Afghanistan. He escapes back under some rock, and a few news cycles later, it’s on to a new enemy and a new crisis."
So what Trump now says is true. He mentioned Osama bin Laden by name, citing him as a rival we have to take out. The quote marks were added by PolitiFact, when Trump was paraphrasing himself.

It is interesting that PolitiFact said Trump also wrote, the U.S. "must prepare for the real possibility that somewhere, sometime, a weapon of mass destruction will be carried into a major American city and detonated," which bolsters his claim that he warned us about 9/11.

Verdict: TRUE. PolitiFact said mostly false.

2. Associate Justice Antonin Scalia said, "There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well. One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them."

PolitiFact cited a brief that said just what the justice said, which makes the justice's comment true; there are those who make that contention. One of them who makes that argument sits with Scalia on the bench -- Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, who has said he would have been better off going to a different law school than Yale.

Verdict: TRUE. PolitiFact said half true.

3. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, "It's not just Donald Trump that has said that Muslims are unacceptable for admission to this country, Marco Rubio after the Paris attacks said not only that we should be considering internment, he actually suggested that maybe we should close down cafes and diners where Muslims gather, and in fact, compared them to the Nazi party."

Verdict: FALSE. PolitiFact said she is a liar, liar pants on fire. Oh good grief, can it get any more juvenile than this?

4. Jeb Bush said, "Up until recently, 75 percent of all the sorties that left the base came back without dropping their ordnances, because there was such a concern about making sure that there were no civilian casualties."

 PolitiFact said:
Between August 2014 and June 2015, there were 18,042 combat sorties over Iraq and Syria, according to U.S. Air Forces Central Command. Weapons (guns, bombs or missiles) were used in 4,175 of them, or 23 percent. That ratio varies per month, but overall, weapons were not used in 77 percent of sorties.
Verdict: TRUE. PolitiFact said mostly true.

5. Paul Ryan said: "The tax rate on successful small businesses is 44.6 percent right now. The tax rate on businesses in Canada is 15 percent. So we are taxing American businesses at a much higher rate than our foreign competitors are."

PolitiFact said true.

Verdict: TRUE.

6. Donald Trump said, "According to Pew Research, among others, there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population. Most recently, a poll from the Center for Security Policy released data showing 25 percent of those polled agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad, and 51 percent of those polled agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to shariah."

PolitiFact said:
The Center for Security Policy, a hawkish think tank, surveyed 600 Muslims and released findings in June under the headline, "Poll of U.S. Muslims Reveals Ominous Levels Of Support For Islamic Supremacists’ Doctrine of Shariah, Jihad."
Among the findings is 25 percent of respondents agreed either slightly or strongly with the statement "Violence against Americans here in the United States can be justified as part of the global jihad." About 64 percent disagreed.
The first problem with the Center for Security policy poll has to do with methodology. It was an online, opt-in survey, which tend to produce less reliable samples because respondents choose to participate. In traditional polling methods, everyone in a population has a chance of being selected for the survey, meaning the results generally reflect the country’s demographics.
That is not fact-checking. That is arguing.

Verdict: TRUE. PolitiFact said mostly false.

7. Facebook Posts.

Really? The president's response to the San Bernardino goes unchecked, but PolitiFact stands at the ready to fact-check Facebook posts.

Verdict: FALSE. PolitiFact said liar, liar pants on fire.

8. Occupy Democrats said, "Bloomberg puts Trump’s current net worth at $2.9 billion. ... If Trump had just put his father’s money in a mutual fund that tracked the S&P 500 and spent his career finger-painting, he’d have $8 billion."

PolitiFact said:
There’s a bit of informed guesswork behind these numbers because outsiders can only know so much about Trump’s finances. The National Journal writer, S.V. D├íte, figured Trump started with $40 million in 1974. That’s the year he became president of his father’s real estate company. By one estimate, the firm was worth about $200 million and divided among Donald Trump and his four siblings, each would have received $40 million.
But it’s not as though the company was liquidated that year. Trump’s father lived until 1999, so whatever happened, it’s more complicated than Trump receiving a cash inheritance in 1974 and deciding what he would do with it.
My own checking found the S&P 500 closed at 87.83 on December 12, 1975 (40 years ago today) and closed at 2012.37 on Friday. That means in order to be worth $8 billion today, Trump would have had to start out at $350 million in 1975.

And he received $40 million in 1999.

Verdict: FALSE. PolitiFact said false.

9. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said, "We've had three ISIS-related incidents already and now with the possible connection of one of the Syrian refugees being involved in the terrorist attack in Paris. Texas is saying 'no more.’ "

PolitiFact said one incident was related to an al-Qaida group, one to a fellow who went to Syria, state at an Islamic State camp but denied being party of it, and the third one was not verified Islamic State related at the time he made that statement.

Based on PolitiFact reporting, his statement is false. He should have said two were Islamic State, one al-Qaida.

Verdict: FALSE. PolitiFact said half true.

10. Joe Donald, who is running for the state Supreme Court in Wisconsin, said, "We lock up close to 2.4 million people in this country. We're locking up more people than China and Russia."

PolitiFact said: "The best estimates are that the United States incarcerates 2.2 million to 2.4 people, far ahead of available figures for both China and Russia. But it’s possible the China numbers are under counted."

Verdict: TRUE. PolitiFact said mostly true.

These are the 10 latest (as of this writing) fact checks at the site. Three are related to Donald Trump, who is quoted twice. Both of his statements were TRUE. Both times PolitiFact said Mostly False.

Not one of the facts check covered President Obama. Indeed, of the 20 latest posts at the site (its front page) none check Obama's statements. It does contain a column -- not fact-check -- "War of words: The fight over 'radical Islamic terrorism' " -- that shows a picture of an angry Obama, which ironically was misleading.

The president gives a major speech and it goes unchecked?


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  2. "The president gives a major speech and it goes unchecked?" Of COURSE; The Won NEVER lies.