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September 11, 2005

The "Truth" About TABOR

Colorado will consider a major tax increase this fall, loosening the tight taxing and spending restrictions known as the TAxpayers' Bill Of Rights, or TABOR. Some of the money raised in Referendum C will be earmarked for roads in Referenum D. As part of its attempt to influence - er, inform - the public, the Denver Post today ran the first of a four-part series, "The Truth About TABOR."

If only.

This fall, Coloradans will choose whether to give up about $500 each in tax refunds over the next five years so the state has more money for roads, schools and health care.

Under TABOR, growth in state spending is limited to population + inflation. Any money raised beyond that must be refunded to taxpayers. Each year uses last year as its baseline, meaning that should revenue fall as a result of a downturn, there's a permanent reduction in tax rates as a percentage of state GDP.

Referendum C would suspend those refunds for 5 years, and eliminate that "ratchet" effect. It is estimates that this would raise $3.7B over 5 years. Referendum D would earmark $2.1B for roads, school buildings, and police and firemen's pensions.

Referendum C says nothing about where the money goes. The legislature will be free to spend it however it likes. Should C pass and D fail, the legislature would have all $3.7B at its disposal.

But while the article eventually describes what D does, the lead and the article leave the impression that the legislature would be required to spend the money on "roads, schools, and healthcare." This constitutes a lie, at least a lie of omission.

As for that $500 number, if it seems a little low to you, you're not alone.

To provide that money to the state, the average taxpayer would give up a total $491 in tax rebates over five years, according to estimates by the nonpartisan staff of the state legislature.

Those rebates are separate from state income tax refunds.

Opponents of Referendums C and D argue with the staff estimates on how much taxpayers would lose in TABOR refunds.

They divide the amount of forfeited tax refunds by the number of families to conclude that the average family would give up $3,200 over the five years.

This is not the difference between saying, "the average taxpayer" and, "the average of taxpayers." In fact, most of TABOR's rebate gets swallowed up by a variety of special rebates, refunds, and programs. (See page 10.) These are all discretionary, and it would appear that they would not retain their funding under C. Therefore, while the amount that taxpayers would have to give back from rebates is probably around $491, the actual amount of the tax increase is closer to $3200 per family. Moreover, since families (including some middle-class families) also benefit from many of the refund methods, that money should be included in the amount they're being asked to forgo.

None of this is explained anywhere in the article.

Finally, the article gives short shrift to alternatives. It mentions Joe Stengel's idea of selling off some state assets, but that's only a one-time fix. Those assets could also be leased, providing a revenue stream. Amendment 23 could be changed, and the state could apply for Medicaid waivers, releasing some of the pressure from the two biggest budget line items. None of this is suggested as an alternative.

In the end, the article accepts uncritically C&D's proponents' estimates of the cost to families, assumes that the money will go to certain programs, fails to mention alternatives. Even the headline focuses attention on TABOR as the main culprit, rather than a combination of budget decisions and priorities.

We'll see what the next three articles bring.

Cross-Posted at Oh That Liberal Media, and Newsbusters.

Posted by joshuasharf at 11:00 PM | TrackBack

August 22, 2005

Denver Post Air America "not a story"

The Denver Post has finally broken its silence about the developing Air America story. Only, as with the New York Times and the Swift Boat Veterans, the first mention of it is a dismissal followed by a rebuttal. Dick Kreck addresses the scandal in his radio column in today's Entertainment section:

Bloggers and others are buzzing about another "story" - whether Air America benefited from loans made to its former director, Evan Cohen, by the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club in New York. Conservative media, led by the shrill Michelle Malkin, are all over this story, touting it with headlines like, 'AIR AMERICA: STEALING FROM POOR KIDS?!' and wondering why the "mainstream" press isn't.

Ah yes, Michelle Malkin is "shrill". The story is a "'story'". And what's with the scare quotes around "mainstream?" The term has been around for more than a few years, shortened to "MSM" last year around this time during the campaign, when the MSM turned its back, put its fingers in its ears, and started whistling during that other non-story-story.

Maybe it's not a story because it's not a story. Piquant, the parent of Air America, responded in several statements that the disagreement over some $800,000 in loans is between Cohen and the boys and girls club, not AA. Despite its non-involvement, Piquant says it will make good on the missing
funds.

Piquant would say that.

In the meantime, Air America seems to be developing another reputation that the Post ignores, one of not paying its bills, either to its former business partners or to its former employees.

The sequence of events appears to have been as follows. Progress Media acquired a boatload of debt, allegedly to Multicultural and allegedly in the form of "loans" from Gloria Wise. Then, Progress Media sold its assets to Piquant, but not its liabilities. Piquant, of course, is owned by some of the same people who owned Progress Media. This may constitute a fraudulent transfer.

All this is covered in a hopefully-not-too-shrill oped in this morning's New York Post.

A good summation - albeit left-handed - of the investigation by the New York state attorney general's office, where the story started and how it has spread may be found at http://jaywillie.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/7/30/124315/828.

At first glance, this piece looks like a good bit of digging to find the original source. One quote. No story, right? Except, look at that date. July 30. The first New York Sun piece, with corroborating quotes from the Club's president, is two days later, and the story has had almost a month to develop and widen since this posting and its update.

So, the Denver Post refuses to cover a story about a leftist radio network's financial shennanigans, leaving it to a columnist in the Entertainment section to give readers their first exposure. After deriding those who've actually been doing the gruntwork on the story, the only rebuttal they come up with is a three-week old blog posting, which, in the blogosphere, means they had to blow the dust off of it to read it.

Yes, this story is about a radio network. But if the Post is going to cover it, they need to get people who know something about business law, business, and blogging to write the stories.

Way to be ahead of the curve.

Posted by joshuasharf at 11:23 AM | TrackBack

August 09, 2005

Newsbusters.org

Today sees the premiere of a new site devoted to covering liberal media bias, and hopefully shaming it into submission. Newsbusters.org, a project of the Media Research Center, is up and running and open for business. I'm lucky enough to have been asked to contribute, so in addition to Stephen Sharkansky's venerable Oh That Liberal Media, the Denver Post has another site to worry about.

The lineup, present company excepted, looks impressive, including Tim Graham from National Review, and a couple of other heavy hitters.

Posted by joshuasharf at 11:56 AM | TrackBack

July 28, 2005

Postal Over Plame

The Denver Post is at it again, assuming the worst in order to exonerate one of their own (Reporter pays an unfair price).

Three weeks ago, New York Times reporter Judith Miller went to federal prison to defend a principle: that in a free society, journalists must sometimes rely on unidentified sources. Miller, it should be noted, has never been accused of a crime and in fact did not even publish the information she was given by her anonymous source or sources.

What anonymous sources have to do with a free society is unclear at best. The First Amendment is completely silent on the issue of anonymous sources. There is no federal shield law (and in my opinion, there shouldn't be one). Certainly, journalists must be free to print what's legal, and prior restraint is very limited, but as the Post admits, that isn't what's at stake here.

The fact is that Miller, while not charged with a crime, is in violation of a court order, and is being held in contempt of court. Now the law does state that someone should only be imprisoned if there's a reasonable expectation that it will encourage them to - um, obey the law. There's every reason to believe that Miller can tough it out playing tennis and taking notes for her book on her three months of hell. But the Post doesn't make that argument, either. Instead, it argues that journalists are above the law.

Meanwhile, two other characters who will have to account for their actions remain silent - relying on lawyers' advice and unusually high connections: President Bush's deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, and Vice President Cheney's top aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Both men have conceded that they spoke with reporters about former CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose clandestine cover was blown in an article by conservative columnist Robert Novak.

*Sigh*. Once again, we don't know if Plame was undercover at the time, covered by the IIPA or not. We do know that major media organizations, whose reporters had or would be subpeonaed, filed a brief with the court arguing that no crime had been committed.

As a side note, neither Miller nor Russert is identified as "liberal." Novak himself said that he did not know that Plame was undercover, and that he would not have published her name had he known.

Then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer's name has come up, too.

As has that of Matt Cooper, Joe Wilson, and even Valerie Plame herself. Lots of names have come up. A throw-away mention like this reminds me of the Great Mentioner.

It is illegal to knowingly unmask an undercover operative, and special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been reviewing discrepancies in witness testimony in his investigation into who told reporters about Plame. Novak first published Plame's occupation in July 2003 in what looked to be an administration effort to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had questioned the reasons President Bush launched the Iraq war.

Or, an attempt to warn reporters that Wilson was in fact submarining the administration through a series of lies, dependent on his wife's position within the agency. The shredding of Wilson's credibility by the Senate Inelligence Committee wouldn't happen for another year, but when it did come, it would be virtually ignored by the Post and most other papers.

Rove's lawyer says Rove wasn't the original source of the information. (We have to wonder, how would he know?)

Rove is bound by federal laws that prohibit government officials from unveiling the name of covert U.S. operatives and by the restrictions that come with a top security clearance. Yet Miller sits in jail for doing her job.

Well, since reporters who aren't under subpeona aren't allowed into the grand jury room, the Post wouldn't know. But then a great many statements have been made by a great many people, and the Post doesn't question those quite so easily.

Moreover, the phrasing simply assumes Rove's guilt. Of course, if Karl Rove violated the IIPA, he should be charged. (Although one might well ask the what position the Post took on the Pentagon Papers.) Rove, it should be pointed out, has as yet been charged with no crime. So far, the only document connecting him with Mrs. Wilson seems to have been far too indistinctly classified, and at far too low a level, to have meant anything to anyone who didn't already know where she worked.

The Washington Post reported that Libby told a grand jury he learned of Plame's name from NBC correspondent Tim Russert. But Russert said in a statement last year that he told the federal prosecutor "he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a CIA operative" and that he did not provide such information to Libby in July 2003. Libby has paid no price in the matter. Yet Miller sits in jail for doing her job.

Libby says one thing. Russert says something else. The Post simply assumes that Russert is telling the truth,and that Libby is lying. Libby hasn't been charged with a crime, either, and the probe may not even be about him, but the Post wants his job.

The Post, in its cry for justice, wants scalps before charges have even been issued. And the dichotomy is completely false. Even if Rove and Libby were to be charged tomorrow for treason, those charges would have nothing to do with Judith Miller.

Judith Miller is in violation of a court order. Journalists, even when they believe they are doing their jobs, are not above the law.

Until Fitzgerald finishes his investigation, the public will not know if he believes anyone broke the law in outing Plame.

(Scratching head.) So exactly what are we to assume that Libby and Rove are to pay a price for now? The Post is obviously throwing this in at the end to show that they defend the rule of law impartially, but it invalidates the whole editorial!

He has erred in criminalizing Miller, who has been trapped in a high-stakes investigation and paid dearly to maintain her commitments and her credibility. She should be released while Fitzgerald sorts out this dirty business that has cost Plame her career.

Wow. At least they didn't follow Jow Wilson in claiming They had endangered her life. Still, spare me all the righteous indignation about Valerie Plame. Bobby Ray Inman is quoted at National Review's Media Blog as saying the following:

[The leaking of Plame's identity] is still one I would rather not see, but she was working in an analytical organization, and thereís nothing that precludes anyone from identifying analytical officers. I watch all the hand-wringing over the ruining of careers - there are a lot of operatives whose covers are blown. It doesnít mean the end of their careers. Many move to the analytical world, which is where she already was. It meant she couldnít deploy back off to Africa, but nothing Iíve seen indicated that was possible in the first place.

Inman, by the way, ran Naval Intelligence under Ford, the NSA under Jimmy Carter, and was Deputy DCI for a year under Reagan. Clinton nominated him for Secretary of Defense, but Inman later withdrew.

The Post, in trying to hold journalists to be above the law, has systematically ignored facts, reprinted lies, drawn false dichotomies, sought to deny others due process, and misunderstood the intelligence world to a degree even they should find embarassing.

Cross-Posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.

Posted by joshuasharf at 12:22 AM | TrackBack

January 20, 2005

Les Moonves, Put Down Your Lamp

Dan Rather's replacement has been found!

Posted by joshuasharf at 10:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shale Oil

Someone needs to remind Tom Shales of the Washington Post that he writes a TV column, not a political one. His years of faux-bemusement at President Bush's preference for blue ties finally came to an end this year when Kerry started showing up in them. His routine panning of Republican convention speeches, and praising of Democratic ones continues, in spite of the current tradition of Republican inauguration speeches.

Today, he derides CBS's Les Moonves's somewhat bizarre attempts to remake the Evening News. If he would stick to the facts, and forget trying to rewrite the background, he'd be a lot more convincing. Shales isn't faulting Moonves for focsing on style over substance. He's faulting Moonves for doing anything at all. Four hundred years ago, he'd have been one of Pope Julius's chief enablers.

Rather had long planned to retire later this year, but the date was moved up to March after controversy arose over the "60 Minutes Wednesday" report, for which Rather, busy with other news duties, basically just served as on-air correspondent. He did not do the reporting. The segment dealt with Bush's National Guard service and with his allegedly being found deficient by a commanding officer. It's common knowledge that Bush was a spoiled little rich boy who did not serve with any great distinction, so this story wasn't exactly a blockbuster. It was more a matter of new details.

That Rather "didn't do the reporting" is at least open to question. He was personally responsible for a vetting process that deliberately turned big, blind, CBS eye to evidence it didn't like. And in any case, what's a "managing editor" to do? If the Bush Administration tried to absolve the President of mistakes by claiming he was just reading the announcement, Shales would be all over that with President Cheney jokes and marionnette snarks. And while "spoiled little rich boy" is one interpretation, serving without distinction is a far cry from service with disgrace.

Unfortunately, the details weren't true. Or at least the segment made a sloppy case for their being true. Some of the documents uncovered were apparently faked by a longtime Bush basher. Mapes apparently failed to subject her sources to enough skeptical scrutiny and should have been more careful about the documents.

If anyone doubted that the Thornburgh investigation report would be used to put the most charitable face possible on CBS's electoral manipulations, they need look no further than this paragraph. The Challenger disaster didn't stop with the O-rings.

Stern action by Moonves, on the heels of an independent report criticizing the segment, was seen at least partly as a sop to quiet angry conservatives; for decades, going back to Edward R. Murrow's heroic debunking of Joe McCarthy, CBS News has been the far right's punching bag.

Oh, yes, that's what was going through the Poweline guys' minds. "Let's win one for old Joe. After all, they never proved that the list wasn't real." Please. McCarthy-ism was never as horrible as the dissolute McCarthy himself, who's only an idol to the aging Birchers trading stories as they wait for the staff to bring them their creamed peas.

Moonves is also despised by some insiders and observers for what he hasn't done. He has failed to come to Rather's defense even after Rather's 30 years of unquestioned loyalty to the company. Rather is such a team player that he apparently felt that standing by the controversial report, even as it was being condemned left and right (mostly right, of course) was the equivalent of standing by his colleagues and being supportive of people he had worked with and grown to trust.

I suppose one might equate taking a wrecking ball to your employer's most valuable asset with loyalty, but only in some alternate universe inhabited by myopic TV critics. Another example of Thornburgh and its Uses.

Network TV news is largely a commodity, and one whose futures are falling, at that. Chancellor, Brinkley, and Cronkite may have built the MSM Party, while Jennings and Rather and Brokaw lived off their accumulated credibility capital. But Rather led a borrowing-and-spending spree of that capital. Now there are probably no reporters large enough to rebuild that trust on their own.

Posted by joshuasharf at 06:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 13, 2005

Harsanyi Gets It

Some people in the old media don't feel threatened.

The Rocky Mountain Alliance of Blogs (RMA), a collective of conservative Coloradans, is, according to them, the first bloggers group in the nation specifically invited to attend and provide coverage of a State of the State address.

After his speech today, Gov. Bill Owens will sit down with RMA members for up to 30 minutes.

Earlier this week, Colorado House Minority Leader Joe Stengel invited the bloggers to take part in a retreat of Colorado House Republicans. The meeting was set to discuss strategic and tactical plans for the legislative session and next election cycle. Speakers include Owens, Stengel, Bob Beauprez and Dick Wadhams - who talked about the influence of bloggers in the 2004 race.

Now, you may ask yourself, why in the world would the governor or the Republican leadership put stock in what a blogger - or, as Jonathan Klein, a former executive vice president of CBS News, so smugly put it, a "guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing" - has to say about the future of Colorado?

"What they understand is the importance of the new media," says Clay Calhoun, an RMA member whose blog had 8,000 unique visitors in November.

"What they're interested in doing now, as they are the minority, is searching for new ways to communicate with the constituents and leverage this new media."

Posted by joshuasharf at 09:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2005

Standards of Evidence

Trunk over at Powerline asks why metaphysical certainty appears to be the standard for proving bias in the CBS case.

I've been wondering myself how people who are responsible for creating entire classes of thought crimes, impose speech codes to control for bias, escalate the severity of punishment based on bias-as-motivation, convict whole companies of bias based on one transcript, and throw the word "racist" around like rice at a wedding, can say things like, "bias is hard to prove" and not have their pictures show up in the dictionary under "sophistry."

Posted by joshuasharf at 09:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack



A Civil War


Supreme Command


The (Mis)Behavior of Markets


The Wisdom of Crowds


Inventing Money


When Genius Failed


Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking


Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude


How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?


Good to Great


Built to Last


Financial Fine Print


The Balanced Scorecard: Measures that Drive Performance


The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action


The Day the Universe Changed


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The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East


The Case for Democracy


A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam


The Italians


Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory


Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures


Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud