Archive for the ‘Truthiness’ Category

No surprise…Simpson’s been clueless for a long time

May 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Thanks to tireless Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler, we are reminded that ex-Sen. Alan Simpson has been parading his unfamiliarity with the facts about Social Security for a long time.

Somerby links to a Huffington Post item from June 2010 transcribing a back-and-forth between Simpson and pro-Social Security activist Alex Lawson.  Says Somerby,

[R]ead the transcript of Simpson’s interview with Lawson. If we take Simpson’s statements at face value, that interview showed that Simpson knows almost nothing about the Social Security system. But people! So what? Who cared?

Did anyone in the mainstream press corps react to Simpson’s gong-show last year? If they did, they did so quietly. Indeed, we’ve seen many liberals slam Simpson for this week’s ridiculous session with Grim. But we have seen no one recall last year’s disaster, an interview which was widely ignored by various mainstream elites.

The Lawson conversation featured Simpson making factually inaccurate statements about life expectancy and retirement age that he repeated in his recent interview with Ryan Grim (see previous post, “Simpson is a know-nothing blowhard.”)

Bill Sez: Take it away, Bob Somerby:

[T]here is no expectation of competence for our major elites. There is no sanction—none at all—for complete, astonishing ignorance. (Beyond that, there is no expectation of even modestly honest behavior.) Elites like Simpson are allowed to blunder ahead, even after they’ve made it clear that they (apparently) have no idea what they’re actually doing.


Surprise! Alan Simpson is a know-nothing blowhard

May 11, 2011 Leave a comment

He may have co-chaired a Presidential commission on deficit reduction, but former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson is largely unfamiliar with actual facts about the Social Security program and about key demographic trends in the U.S.

Like many members of the Pain (for others) Caucus, Simpson “knows” what he knows and refuses to accept corrections of his false perceptions and assumptions. After all, his lifestyle or well-being will never be diminished by his recommendations to cut benefits or increase the retirement age. He’s a perfect representative of the species Beltway Blowhard.

Read more…

Bring me the world’s smallest violin

May 6, 2011 Leave a comment

American CEO’s have to be some of the world’s biggest crybabies. According to the Rochester Business Journal, the latest boo-hoo-hoo fest shows business execs ranking New York as the second-worst state in which to do business, based on a survey reported by CEO Magazine.

So why the violins? Because according to the AP, “CEOs at the nation’s largest companies were paid better last year than they were in 2007, when the economy was booming, the stock market set a record high and unemployment was roughly half what it is today.” Recession, what recession?

Let’s dig into the survey first. Here are the 5 lowest-ranked states: California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan. And here are the 5 states the CEOs love: Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia. Does anyone notice a pattern? They really dislike heavily populated states that are struggling due to the ongoing Great Recession — a near-collapse triggered by Big Finance malfeasance, you may recall.

Explaining the stuffed-shirt cry-athon, Chief Executive CEO Marshall Cooper said, “Today’s soak the rich mentality hits business leaders especially hard. CEOs and entrepreneurs vote with their feet, and also pack up jobs and investment with them when they leave.”

Times are so tough for these jokers. The median pay package for the CEO of a company in the S&P 500 rose to $9 million, a full 24% higher than the year before. AP’s Rachel Beck reports:

Executives were showered with more pay of all types — salaries, bonuses, stock, options and perks. The biggest gains came in cash bonuses: Two-thirds of executives got a bigger one than they had in 2009, some more than three times as big.

Are these guys taking The Donald as their role model? Non-stop blowhard antics, cries and moans about Democratic presidents and governors, barely-veiled threats to move their business to some low-tax haven…they seem to be drinking a little too much Ayn Rand koolaid.

Bill Sez: Remember, Xerox moved its corporate HQ from Rochester to Connecticut years ago so top execs could avoid paying state income taxes. This greed mania has infected C-suites forever. But let’s not confuse it with principle.

Did high-stakes testing produce cheating in Philly, too?

May 1, 2011 Leave a comment

On top of USA Today’s investigation of improbable test-sheet corrections in the DC public schools, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports today on the possibility of “testing irregularities” at a middle school that apparently achieved huge gains on state-mandated tests, earning public acclaim from ex-Gov Ed Rendell and others.

According to the Inquirer,

In just two years, the 400 seventh and eighth graders at Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in East Germantown had jumped a stunning 52 points in math on a 100-point scale and 51 in reading on the statewide assessment known as the PSSA. The improvement was the best – by a considerable margin – of any comparable school in the School District of Philadelphia.

But while 73% of the school’s 7th-graders scored as proficient or advanced on the state test, other records showed that only 34% were reading at grade-level by the end of the year.

One teacher told the Inquirer, “There are some kids who maybe you could argue just did a lot better on the PSSA or happened to take that test seriously. But there are certain students who consistently, across all subject areas, have D’s or F’s who are consistently under 40 percent on benchmark tests. I looked at their scores and said, ‘These have to be manipulated.’ ”

Bill Sez: How many more of these stories have to turn up before advocates of high-stakes testing start having second thoughts?  H/t: Atrios.

Canadian govt muzzles scientists, too

April 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Borrowing a trick from the Bush 43 regime, the (Conservative) Canadian government leadership is refusing media access to scientists employed by the government, in the apparent belief that news it doesn’t like can be made to disappear if experts are not permitted to share their findings and interpretation with the public.

According to CBC News, the Canadian Science Writers Association sent an open letter to the government, saying

“We urge you to free the scientists to speak. Take off the muzzles and eliminate the script writers and allow scientists — they do have PhDs after all — to speak for themselves.”

In one instance, the govt denied access to an expert at the Dept of Fisheries and Oceans who had been lead author of an article about salmon mortality that was published in Science in January. Recently, Health Canada refused access to data from Canadian radiation monitors following the Japanese power plant failure.

Paul Raeburn at Knight Science Journalism Tracker comments: “Here’s a story American science writers might want to match. Then again–why worry? This could never happen in the U.S., right?

Oh, that’s right, it already did.

When the “truth” is found to be lies

April 4, 2011 Leave a comment

The global-warming deniers don’t hesitate to paint truth as lies, and vice versa, even when it’s pretty easy to catch them at it.

Case in point: physicist Richard Muller, whose research is funded in part by pollution advocate Charles Koch, used an anecdote in order to portray Al Gore and An Inconvenient Truth as alarmist and extremist and a liar. During a Berkeley lecture, Muller related a conversation between Gore and Dr. Ralph Cicerone of the National Academy of Sciences.  According to Muller,

Ralph Cicerone, head of the National Academy, said there are lots of things wrong in his movie, and Al Gore asked him to come and explain this to him, and he did come. And he said, “Well, what’s wrong with my movie?” [Cicerone:] “Well, lots of things, like the polar bears. We track polar bears. Not a single polar bear has died because of retreating ice.” And Al Gore turned to his movie producer and said, “So, why did we put that in?” The movie producer said, “Well, it really gets people emotionally involved.”

See, this is what politicians do. They put in things that they consider a real danger that represents what they consider to be reality. Doesn’t matter if it’s technically true or not.

Only one problem: the meeting and conversation between Gore and Cicerone NEVER HAPPENED. It’s fictional. A lie being told as truth. Muller made it up. (Or heard it from someone who made it up and didn’t check if it was true.)

More: Cicerone’s actual findings and statements about the effect of climate change on polar bears agree with Gore’s, according to Congressional testimony he gave before An Inconvenient Truth was released.

Bill Sez: Muller claims to be concerned about global warming, which he says is real, but criticizes most media coverage as wrong or exaggerated. And he wasn’t happy when Berkeley economist Brad DeLong called him a liar. But isn’t that the right word for people who tell lies?

Michelle Rhee walks back her “enemies” comments

March 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Someone identifying herself as former DC schools boss Michelle Rhee called Washington Post education writer Jay Mathews to describe as “stupid” her response to the USA Today report on improbably high numbers of wrong-answer erasures and corrections on standardized tests during her tenure.

This seems very unlike Rhee and the education “reform” crowd, who often rely on smearing anyone who questions results they claim to have achieved in classrooms, schools and districts. Saying that “enemies of education reform” had to be behind the erasures scandal story — that sounded like the Michelle Rhee we know and … disagree with.

According to Mathews,

She said that she thinks cheating might have occurred in the District and that she is glad her successor, Acting Chancellor Kaya Henderson, ordered a new investigation. Rhee said she still believes that the vast majority of teachers and administrators would never falsify test results, but that there can be exceptions. She said we should improve test security procedures so such abuses could not recur.

Mathews allows that people as prominent as Rhee “almost never” walk back their own statements, and he praises her for doing it. “She would not comment on …what exactly led her to make the Monday statements, which I think were thoughtless, insulting and, as she said, stupid,” he writes.

I wonder what Rhee’s supporters/defenders have to say now — will they stand behind a statement she has repudiated?

Bill Sez: Credit where credit is due, I guess. Let’s wait to see if the DC schools’ inspector general really digs in to “find out what caused so many answers to be so mysteriously changed from wrong to right.” [Emphasis added.] And let’s not forget Campbell’s Law, the likelihood that incentives corrupt rather than encourage good teaching/learning or any other social endeavor.

Also worth noting: the USA Today series on education and testing was conceived and edited by Jay Mathews’ wife, a fact he discloses in the Post story.