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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Politi"Fact": science, women's health, and basic public services now "partisan"

by folkbum

I am supporting Jim Sullivan for Milwaukee County Executive, though this is not the way I planned to announce it (not that my endorsement carries any real weight anymore, if it ever did). I say that because the following post is in part a defense of Chris Abele, and I don't want anyone to think I am doing this out of some kind of blind partisan loyalty.

I'm doing this because the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's franchise of the PolitiFact brand is at war with truth and with public employees and letting that bias get in the way, repeatedly, of any semblance of fairness on related issues.

Today they examine Abele's claim to be non-partisan. Abele said, "I’ve worked with Republicans, Democrats and anyone who has good ideas to find solutions. And I’ve fought for our shared values without being an ideologue or a partisan." And it's true--Abele has a history of playing well with members of this community on all sides of the aisle to make Milwaukee a better place to live and work.

He's a Democrat, no doubt, and has a history of supporting Dems financially (including, ironically, Jim Sullivan). But identifying with one party is not the only criterion for being labeled partisan, and certainly doesn't prove Abele's an ideologue.

But, oh, does PolitiFact try hard to make it so! Despite a lot of fevered rhetoric, when they start citing specifics, the needle moves toward true: the bulk of his charitable money goes to arts or no-brainer efforts like fighting cancer. His announced positions on County issues are hard-right (and this is part of why I don't support him)--gutting employee contracts, ignoring the public will on a parks/transit sales tax, and more. I personally have problems with his support of for-profit education enterprises and a mayoral takeover of MPS.

But here's what really pisses me off about the story: In trying to decide what's "progressive" or "liberal" or ideologically "left" or whathaveyou, they offer this kind of BS (my emphasis):
[Abele's family foundation] has funded progressive social causes such as Planned Parenthood, homeless prevention, global warming, alternative energy and the Wisconsin Citizen Action Fund, the sister organization of group representing a coalition of labor and social justice causes. [. . . S]ome of Abele’s rhetoric seems designed to reassure progressives--suggesting we can protect services even in the county’s time of fiscal peril.
Yes, you're reading that right: PolitiFact is here suggesting that such things as scientific truth (global warming and alternative energy), women's health, helping the homeless, and providing basic public services like parks and transit are "progressive" now. Unbelievable! Science is not a party, the homeless are not a political movement, taking care of each other is not ideological.

It is remarkable to me how far off kilter our political discourse has become that a self-appointed arbiter of truth, like Politi"Fact," can not only ascribe a partisan orientation to such things, but then use that to call a complicated and inscrutable figure like Abele a liar.

Added: xoff sees other problems with PolitiFact today.

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