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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Friday, November 26, 2010

Help me understand Politi"Fact." Please.

by folkbum

Here's the latest:
In the wake of [GOP] election victories, officials are working [federal employment numbers] into interviews and even social-networking messages, such as this Nov. 16, 2010 Twitter post from Reince Priebus (@ReincePriebus), chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin:

"Obama has grown fed. payroll by 141k workers-not counting Census, postal, & uniformed military. Wants to add 125k more."
Right. So Priebus made two claims: 1, Obama's federal government, under his direction (note the transitive use of grown), increased its size by 141,000 workers; and 2, Obama's federal government, under his direction, wants to increase its size by an additional 125,000 workers. How many of those claims are true--one, two, or zero?

If you guessed zero, you're right:
During Obama’s tenure, the number of federal workers has increased by about 141,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics--though it is in large part a product of Bush’s last budget. [. . .T]he 125,000 figure is not the projected job growth in fiscal year 2011--it’s just new hires [. . .]. But two-thirds of the 125,000 hires will replace departing federal workers.
Zero true claims out of two. In real-world terms, that's "false," maybe "pants-on-fire" depending on how much you want to blame Preibus and how much you think he's a victim of bad information contained in the FOXNews item he linked to as evidence.

In Politi"Fact" world, that's "half true." Seriously. I am not kidding.

So what gives? What are the rules for what constitutes "truth" and "lies" in the eyes of Politi"Fact"? This is important--the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has spent untold fortunes on the license for the brand and they have recently declared themselves the ultimate arbiters of Scott Walker's promise-keeping. For those of us with an interest in monitoring said promises--as well as whatever other damage Walker does to the state in the coming years--it's important to know how to translate Politi"Fact" into English for the masses.

If anyone has a handle on this, I would love to learn the code.

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