Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lies, and the Lying Liars ...

"Reality has a well-known liberal bias" - Stephen Colbert

So I was thinking about that recent study that found that watching Fox News makes you stupid, as the headlines put it. And it got me thinking about how it's a really insulting thing to say that those who watch Fox News are actually idiots. I mean, the study is actually about misinformation and the 2010 election (that's actually its title) and not just about Fox News viewers. Sure, 63% of everyday Fox News viewers thought that it was unclear where the president was born, but that might be because 64% of Republicans share the same view. Fox News may lie directly to their customers, but they may also just be broadcasting and repeating Republican lies.

So this got me thinking about Republican lies. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of them. Like, a whole lot. It seems like Republicans lie more often than do Democrats. But I recognize that I am a liberal and I am a Democrat, and so when I hear about statements made by conservative Republicans, I notice the lies more prominently than your average American. So I decided to go to (the non-partisan fact-checking project of the St. Petersburg Times that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009) and count up all the lies to see who lies more: Republicans or Democrats.

The editors of spend a lot of time sorting out controversial statements by how much truth they contain, always recognizing that, in politics, truth is never black-and-white. So they place statements into the following truth categories: "true", "mostly true", "half true", "barely true", "false", and "pants on fire." has been around since the early stages of the 2008 presidential campaign, so that meant there were a lot of statements to count. I counted each statement made by a human or organization, and I did not count any chain emails or statements made by "bloggers". Journalists and pundits counted towards partisan totals only if it was clear which party they sympathized with (i.e. Rachel Maddow = Democrat, Glenn Beck = Republican). Joe Liebermann counted as a Democrat, even when he was bashing Obama; and Arlen Spector counted as a Democrat only if he made the statement after he switched parties. Bernie Sanders and Ralph Nader were put in the blue category: Bob Barr and the Cato Institute in the red.

There is surprising parity in the number of statements analyzed by has chosen an almost equal number of Democratic and Republican statements over the years.

But of those statements, Republicans have told more lies than Democrats. And more Democratic statements have been rated "true" and "mostly true" than Republican statements.

A statement made by a Democrat is most likely going to be in the "true" category (25%). A statement made by a Republican is most likely going to be in the "false" category (23%).

A true or mostly true statement is more likely to come from a Democrat than a Republican by a margin of 54% to 44%.

And throughout Barack Obama's presidency and all the policy debates about health care, the stimulus and everything else, the margin has been fairly consistent: 54% for Democrats to 46% for Republicans.

However, a "false" or "pants-on-fire" statement is much more likely to come from a Republican source than a Democratic source.

And the margin has only increased during Obama's tenure as president. Nearly 7 out of 10 lies categorized by have been Republican lies. Think back to the policy debates during this time. The health care debate (death panels), the stimulus package (no jobs created), all the tax policy stuff (tax hikes); of all the lies that were produced during this time, almost 70% of them came from Republicans.

When one isolates the worst, most egregious lies, the "pants-on-fire" lies, one finds that the liars are overwhelmingly Republican.

And 87% of the worst, foulest, stankiest lies of the past two years originate from members of the Republican Party.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

My Letter to the Senators: An Exercise in Futility

Below is my letter to Oklahoma's U.S. Senators Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe. In it, I try to lay out a conservative argument in favor of the DREAM Act. I probably should have made the word "taxpayers" bold and capitalized.


Dear Senator (Coburn / Inhofe),

I am writing you today to please consider voting in favor of the DREAM Act. You may have heard many arguments both for and against the proposed bill, as have I, but one argument that has not been given a lot of play is this one:

We taxpayers have been subsidizing the education of immigrants without status for years in the public education system. The whole point of public financing of education is that we all share a common belief that an educated population is an economically productive population; it is worth taxpayer funding for the betterment of the common good. And we hear stories all the time about the many immigrants without status in our society who are honor students destined for success in college and beyond.

But our current immigration policy mandates that we deport these students right at the time in their lives when our nation would start to be able to reap the benefits of the education we taxpayers have financed for so long.

How can it make sense to give away to some other country the future economic power generated by these individuals? Why would we want to prevent graduates of our colleges and universities from using their knowledge to form a better society right here in the United States?

Please don’t let trillions of dollars of taxable income go to waste. Please don’t exacerbate “brain drain” by forcing new graduates and young professionals to leave the country.

Please vote in favor of the DREAM Act.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Don't Believe the Pledge: Social Issues Still Dominate the Republican Agenda

One of the sites that I visit several times a day is the Slatest,'s picks for the dozen most important or newsworthy items at any given time. Today, this morning, I went there and discovered that item number one was this story about how all Senate Republicans have now signed a pledge stating that they will block all Democratic legislation unrelated to tax cuts or government spending in the current "lame duck" session of congress, according to the AP.

To an idiot, this pledge would seem to fit right in line with the Republican Party's current focus on economic issues rather than social issues. Ever since the economy tanked and the Tea Party gained national prominence, Republicans have made it seem like they are more eager to talk about taxing and spending rather than divisive social issues. But the real idea behind the Republicans' pledge isn't a call for congress to focus more on the economy: it's a call to stop progress that Democrats are trying to make towards ending discriminatory government policies.

There is not and has never been much of a threat that congress will refuse to act on the sunsetting of the Bush tax cuts. News agencies and the public have been talking about this for months, even since before the election, and every move in the negotiations between Democrats and Republicans has been high-profile. And also, congress is not full of idiots: our elected senators and representatives do have the mental ability to discuss more than one issue per session of congress. So the whole point of the pledge is that Republicans have vowed to block the Democrats' two important social policy bills: the DREAM Act and repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. The whole point of this pledge therefore is not to advance discussion on the economy, but rather to advance a social agenda that discriminates against gay people in the military and perpetuates the injustice of deporting non-citizen U.S. college grads and military servicepeople.

The hypocrisy doesn't stop there.

I noticed some of the other items on the Slatest were also about Republicans. The number 4 item was a story about an art exhibit at the Smithsonian that was pulled because Republican lawmakers were offended at its content. The number 10 item was a story about how the chief of staff of incoming House Speaker John Boehner had a meeting with a rabid right-wing anti-abortion activist named Randall Terry, who has called for the murder of abortion doctors. And the number 6 item was a story about Julian Assange, who Republican Representative Peter King has labeled as a terrorist.

Censorship of art, abortion activism, calling people terrorists: all of these things are social issues, and all of these things are foremost on the minds of prominent Republicans.

You would think the newly fiscally-focused GOP would be able to put aside their social views and seriously discuss a measure that would generate $3.6 trillion dollars over the next 40 years of new taxable income for America. One would think Republicans would be open to hearing about ways the military could retain thousands of honorable soldiers while simultaneously increasing the number of college campuses in which ROTC groups will be allowed to operate, not to mention the cost and efficiency savings that would come from not having to investigate the personal lives of soldiers. And one would think that any politician would think twice about blocking measures that have the support of 58% (DADT repeal) and 70% (DREAM Act) of Americans.

By signing the pledge of non-cooperation, Senate Republicans have made a choice. They have chosen to allow social issues to continue to dominate their party, even if those social policies would create significant economic good. They've placed social issues above economic issues, even as they claim that they are doing the exact opposite.