Merry Christmas, Mr. Greenwald!


Alt-text caption-writing contest!

While some of us were eating our figgy pudding and drinking mulled wine, Salon's Glenn Greenwald was acting like a patriot would by arguing that my Dec. 22 Obama-is-lying-about-health-care post was "flagrantly dishonest," since I included in my list of reasons a complaint that the president used "the verb 'reports' to describe what the Congressional Budget Office does," as opposed to, say, "projects." The "report" formulation, Greenwald found, is something Reason herself has used on at least six separate occasions regarding the CBO, each listed and quoted in the post (please go read it here).

And you know what? Greenwald's right! Well, at least about the two of his six examples in which "report" was indeed used as a verb. (When the CBO scores a bill, it is projecting; those projections are collected in documents that I for one have zero problem describing with the catch-all noun "report.")

Of the two remaining citations, one was in reference to a similar exercise as the scoring of a bill (projecting an imagined emissions cut), and the other, while also a projection, was a pretty different beast: the regular long-term budget outlook report for the United States. In the latter citation, Reason's Peter Suderman did not, as President Obama did last week, affix the verb "reports" to a discrete and highly disputed number, but rather to say very generally, "the CBO reports [that Medicare's] fiscal future looks dire." Though I think there's an obvious difference in the usage, I will defer to the Baby Jesus and cop fully to the two examples. Confirmation bias is a bitch, and we in opinion journalism should work harder than our "straight" brethren in recognizing it in our own work. Thank you, Mr. Greenwald.

This bit of linguistic hair-splitting, entertaining as it apparently was, amounted to one-fifth of my complaint against Obama in the post under dispute. Of the other four points–that Democrats have been gaming the CBO on the health care bill, that the agency is duty-bound to count as real a piece of legislation's unspecified future spending cuts that no one believes will take place, that the very CBO report Obama was touting had been significantly changed a few days prior, and most of all that the president was pretending that health care reform is not a "big government spending bill"–Greenwald is silent. We can infer that the Salon blogger finds it distasteful that I used the word "lied"–scratch that, that Reason's "embittered, clichè-ridden, deeply hypocritical Editor-in-Chief is reduced to screaming 'LIAR!' at Obama for saying things about the CBO which his own magazine has repeatedly said when it suits them"–yet we do not know which if any of Obama's statements that I disputed Greenwald believes to be true. Does he really, for example, believe that arguments that "this is somehow a big spending government bill" do "not hold water"? I guess we'll have to tune in to Update VI.

Alas, having located his two bits of scalp, Greenwald is unable to just declare victory and go home. He writes that "back when Reason loved the CBO because it was reporting that Obama's health care proposal and other policies would increase the deficit," the mag held "up the CBO as an authoritative oracle not to be questioned." That "be questioned," in an example typical of Greenwald's evidentiary standard, is hyperlinked to a post that says or infers nothing about the unquestionability of the CBO.

Here's what Greenwald cannot possibly understand because of both ignorance and confirmation bias of his own, bias that has created a fascinating but sadly fabricated timeline in which Reason turned on a dime from writing love-letters to the CBO (evidenced, apparently, by every simple citation of the agency's work), to becoming its sworn enemy once the health care scores started looking better for Obama in September: Peter Suderman's terrific feature article describing the history, present, and scoring practices of the CBO was conceived, assigned, written, edited, and about 95 percent executed back when the CBO was still looking like the health care bill's biggest obstacle (alert readers may have noticed such clues as the article's subtitle, and how the September news is just kinda tacked on at the end). Suderman's idea, and ours, was to help anyone who cared about this debate understand how the agency does it work, what other economic forecasters think of it (contra Greenwald's inaccurately reductive description of the piece as "maligning the CBO as unreliable and speculative," Suderman writes "their guesswork is as good as it comes. On the left and the right, most economists will testify to the CBO's general excellence"), and how it rose to such a unique level of prominence in this particular legislative process. Like what Suderman has done with health-care polling, it was an attempt to help readers of all stripes cut through the partisan fog in order to better understand an authority source used in a highly charged debate. In other words, it is almost exactly the opposite of what Greenwald claims it is.

By all means, don't take my word for it just because there's a hyperlink under an assured-sounding description–read it yourself. And Greenwald's description, too. Then watch Greenwald talk drug decriminalization in Portugal on Reason.TV:

NEXT: Security Theater: A New Show Opens In Detroit

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  1. I am such a pussy. I can't believe no one has beaten the shit out of me yet.

    1. "Glen Greenwald". Never heard of him before, now filed under "snivelling pinko liar".


  2. My take on Greenwald's overwrought logomachy here.

    Before Mr. Welch's response, I kept thinking I was playing Rufus T. Firefly to his Mrs. Teasdale, "Remember, you're fighting for this woman's honour, which is probably more than she ever did."

  3. "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders that you eat for their protein content because the Japs only feed you rice with weevils in it and when you grow up you'll star in American Psycho and be caught on tape yelling at a PA for messing up a scene"

  4. Well, Mr. Welch, at least you did the right thing and owned up to any inconsistencies, something which anyone with any credibility in journalism would do.

    And that's part of our world. Good night.

  5. Good job, Matt. And thanks for responding so rationally to Greenwald's hissy fit. If it were me, I would have answered in the same hysterical tone of voice.

  6. As soon as the CBO began issuing reports that undermined rather than bolstered Reason's desire to sink all health care reform,

    Dear Mister Greenwald:

    I think you do a lot of good work, and I am gratified to see you denounce establishmentarians of all types.

    But, I think you're on the wrong track when you make accusations about Reason's desire to sink all health care reform.

    And- the Pinocchio nose is pretty tame stuff, in the annals of political satire. Lighten up.

  7. Matt: From the linked KMW article:

    And what did the CBO find?: The debt service alone from the stimulus will cost about $347 billion over the next 10 years.

    Not "projects" it will cost -- rather, a declarative statement not in the least questioning a wildly overprecise number that gives a false sense of reliability that ought to have been questioned, seeing as how I doubt "347 million" had more than one statistically significant digit -- "300 to 400 million" would have much better captured the margin of error in that number.

    So, while you apparently do make the fine distinction about the real difference between "reports" and "projects", other members of Reason are not being so careful.

    So, yeah, bitch-slapping Obama about that particular bit of rhetorical overreach was a pretty weak argument. Man up, admit it, move on. The rest of the lies you cited though WERE clearly lies.

    Overall, strong work.

    1. should have read:

      "347 BILLION"

      and "300 to 400 BILLION"

      joez law strikes again

    2. The CBO is essentially being untruthful with all these numbers they are flinging about that have too many significant digits imputed, and no +/- margin of error given to show the extreme unreliability of their projections.

      1. I would think (without looking at it) that a debt-service projection number, while indeed ridiculous on the single- or even double-digit million level, is nonetheless one of the simplest projections you could make. Borrow XX dollars in 200X, and the band of possibilities for paying it back is not exactly limitless, minus some Peter Schiff nightmare scenario. Yes, I would prefer and hopefully use "projects" in all cases, but some apples are oranges, etc.

    3. My guess, the White House rolling out it's new campaign of lies left Welch so flabbergasted he narrowed in on one small area in order to get a foothold to build on the more substantial body of that dishonesty on display in Obama's rhetoric. It was the weakest of his arguments, but if Greenwald was honest he would admit that what Welch was saying with that point, that Obama was injecting in to his dialectic the meme that CBO projections were based in a greater deal of certitude than what the CBO can honestly vouch for beyond the limited scope of their projections had a great deal of merit.

  8. Reading the comment thread attached to Greenwald's article made me throw up in my mouth.

  9. Mr. Greenwald lies. So, are you going to call out "mea culpa" Glen? "Resign in shame?" Oh, dear Salon readers, I think not.

  10. Salon's Glenn Greenwald was acting like a patriot would by arguing that my Dec. 22 Obama-is-lying-about-health-care post was "flagrantly dishonest,"

    Merry Christmas! He didn't call you racist, unless I missed it.

  11. I still think Greenwald would make a better token liberal for this site than Weigal ever was.

    1. Nah, Greenwald is a sockpuppeting douche.

      And frankly, he's also kind of a nut. He seriously believes that it was George W. Bush and Dick Cheney who sent the post 9/11 anthrax letters in the mail, and not the guy who killed himself when he was told that he was going to be formally charged with the murders.

      1. Link.

        Your assertion is an out and out lie.

        He just has written that:

        1. The evidence against the accused was extremely weak, and largely comes from people with every reason to lie if the anthrax used came from a domestic research source

        2. Many people who enthusiastically tried to link the anthrax in question to Saddam Hussein never acknowledged their error and are still regarded as credible bioterrorism experts despite their error

        3. The people who leaked false information linking the anthrax to Saddam Hussein have never been identified

        4. Supporters of George Bush repeatedly claimed that after 9/11 we had no domestic terror attacks, even though the anthrax attacks took place.

        All of these are true.

  12. It's not an alt-text, but Diary of a Shinjoku Thief might have been a better Oshima film for this thread - it features a would-be radical who gets off on compulsive thievery. I can't think of a better metaphor for Obama and his supporters.

  13. Greenwald is a worthless hack. I really wish Cato had employed some standards and found someone else to report on Portugal's drug policies.

    1. They needed someone who spoke some Portuguese which, given Ellers McEllerson's current domicile, he likely does.

      Then again, I'm almost certain I speak Portuguese better than the Gleens and, unlike he, I am an actual libertarian. I ought to send my CV to Cato.

  14. Silly Greenwald

    He fell for the same trap that sunk our dearly lamented and beloved joe. He got hooked on Krugman columns and something about the way the mustachioed superstud promotes his alchemy makes those inclined to follow him think they can hang with Libertarians on matters dealing with numbers.

    Stick to civil liberties, Greenwald.

    You're out of your element, Donny!

    1. I told those fucks down at the league office a thousand times that I don't roll on Shabbos!

      1. you don't roll, but you do post on Reason...SHOMER FUCKING SHABBAS!

  15. Top this for Obama sucking up:

    Why The President Went Golfing Today
    ...In fact, he's been golfing. He received a counterterrorism briefing early this morning, Hawaii time, and moments later, left for the gym. The president's vacation activities might have become the subject of a fierce partisan fight -- but really, the only carping is coming from the usual suspects on the right.

    There is a reason why Obama hasn't given a public statement. It's strategy....

    ...In a sense, he is projecting his calm on the American people, just as his advisers are convinced that the Bush administration projected their panic and anger on the self-same public eight years ago....

    1. I've got a C-note for anyone who can read that belch of bullshit without rolling his eyes.

    2. Ambinder is a pro-Obama hack of the highest caliber. He can spin anything into Obama's favor. But what could Obama do on Christmas Day that would make any difference? He could just as well play golf.

  16. It's amusing that in his nitpicking, Greenwald writes "clich?-ridden" instead of "clich?-ridden."

    1. That's a grave error, Mr. Greenwald.

      1. Which he will nevertheless feel acutely.

        1. Watch out - you could die of critical (re)marks for your terrible puns.

          1. Die! You grave-y sucking pigs!

          2. (id est) leggo your ?go(ut)

  17. You guys get clowned, mourn, and then your back to your delusion cheerleading. It's hilarious.

    Welch's response was yet another lengthy snark, where he actually surrenders without admitting that he was wrong.

    Of course, Libertarians are so desperate for friends that they vehemently defend Welch, when he's not even doing much to further their arguments. Once again, the Conservative/Libertarian mindset encourages its followers to work against their own interests.

    Welch is the master of saying nothing, and saying it too loudly.

    1. Come on, Glenn, we know it's you, so stop with the sockpuppetry already!

    2. Funny how liberal thinking infects even the language of liberal individuals.

      What is this "Conservative/Libertarian mindset" and how does it "encourage" anything?

      As if anthropomorphizing God weren't bad enough...

      1. Liberals are not individuals, they are a community.

    3. Thanks, but no thanks. Libertarians don't need nor do we do PSAs since they are all made for retards by even bigger retards.

    4. Since you're apparently interested enough in obscure yet contentious battles over the meaning and usage of words (logomachy, as the astute Mr. Ridgely pointed out), it seems out of character to be so sloppy with your grammar, PSA. "Your" is not the same as "you're." Nor is acknowledging one's insufficient clarity with respect to past arguments the same as "surrender[ing] without admitting that [one] was wrong." What Mr. Welch did was admit that past H&R posts, particularly his own, could have been misconstrued, but in light of the full breadth of Reason's reporting (not projecting, like you're doing) it becomes clear that there was nothing "embittered, clich?-ridden, [or] deeply hypocritical" about saying that the CBO does the best possible work it can, under the circumstances, yet based on it's statutory limitations it cannot be 100% accurate, such that when it projects exorbitant costs, you know it'll be even worse, and when it projects a modest savings based on cuts we all know wont happen, you know it'll be, well, even WORSE. Given that the CBO itself issues warnings about relying in their projections when they're based on obviously absurd Congressional inputs, it hardly seems mendacious to call Obama a liar when he trumpets them as gospel despite having read those very same "reports." I hope that's clear enough for you.

    5. "Welch is the master of saying nothing, and saying it too loudly"

      Hmmm, kind of like your own post?

    6. he actually surrenders without admitting that he was wrong.

      If he didn't admit he was wrong (which he wasn't), then how do you claim that he "surrendered"?

      Logic never was very big in pinkbot circles, was it?


  18. Matt, Glenn is not going to address the substance of your criticisms....from the comments on his story, after one of his own commenters called him out on it:

    Bullshit, Glenn

    The claims that the health care reform will reduce the deficit are full of crap for three very simple reasons:

    1. The Medicare cuts will never actually be made.

    2. If Medicare was overspending and could be cut, those cuts should just have been made in their own bill. Combining those cuts [which will never be made] with this bill and then claiming that the "reform" will save money is extraordinarily disingenuous. It's like putting amendments on the bill cutting defense spending or spending for the Department of Energy and then claiming "health care reform reduces the deficit". The elements of the health care package that reflect new departures for the federal government will vastly increase spending. Period.

    3. Every government program ever proposed, ever, has ended up costing dramatically more than contemporary estimates, whether those estimates were made by the CBO or some other body. In the case of health care programs, the underestimates are often by orders of magnitude.

    The real reason Welch's piece was ill-advised is that it dwells on minutaie instead of just addressing the real issues openly.

    I didn't address the validity of that claim in anything I wrote.

    1. Actually, the poster in question over there acknowledged in response that Greenwald's post did not, in fact, address the validity of these particular claims.

  19. "3. Every government program ever proposed, ever, has ended up costing dramatically more than contemporary estimates, whether those estimates were made by the CBO or some other body. In the case of health care programs, the underestimates are often by orders of magnitude."

    By the 1966 estimate, Medicare was to cost $6Bn in 1990; the actual cost was $67Bn. Error = 50%/year
    By the 1987 estimate, Medicare's special hospitals subsidy was to cost $100m annually. By 1992, the actual costs were $11Bn. Error = 220%/year
    By the 1988 estimate, Medicare's home care benefit was to cost $4Bn in 1993. The actual cost was $10Bn. Error = 50%/year.
    Do we see a pattern here?

    1. I guess my formatting wasn't clear. The first part was one of the commenters calling Glenn out.

      The one-liner at the bottom was Glenn's response.

      1. Actually, that is how I read it. So your formatting looks fine at least in Firefox.

      2. I hope you read that I was adding evidence to the claim, not disputing it. The formatting seemed fine at this end, and it was as you describe.
        BTW, in case anyone didn't do the sums, the average error is >100%/year. Maybe that's overstating the point; anyone got other examples?
        And PapayaSF? I'm afraid smarts are equally distributed between the Dems and the Reps; all devoted to goals as suggested by public choice theory.

        1. The only other example I could offer would be one of greater than 99.99%/year.

    2. Excellent, Ron L. If Republicans were smart they could turn that into a great TV ad and use it to gain a Senate seat in the upcoming Massachusetts election, which would knock the Dems down to 59 and possibly stop this idiotic healthcare bill if it gets bounced back to the Senate. But it's never smart to count on the GOP being smart.

      1. Of course you are correct, and the GOP does appear to be suffering from a serious learning disability.

        Then again, if we voters were smart we would not give either party a majority to screw us to begin with. The wiser option would be a balance that ultimately resulted in a complete stalemate in which nothing but bickering between the two was ever accomplished. Until one of the parties pledges to only work on undoing the damage they've both already done, it's my opinion this is the best we can hope for. And even if such a pledge was made it should be treated with skepticism. Given politicians track records involving keeping their word, they're all liars to one degree or another. Can I say that? Or do I have to do what Glen does in the video and point out they (in this case Obama) lie, or lied, but not say the word?

    3. I'll bet that back in the day, the CBO never anticipated that Nebraska would no longer have to pay into Medicaid.

      Let's be honest: when you have a government as utterly out of control as ours has become, long-term CBO projections are completely worthless.

  20. I for one thing Mr. Greenwald's comments were right on the money and just the sort of thing I look for in internet commentary. I think I'll go his site every day from now on.

  21. All it takes to shut down this comment thread is for Greenwald to write another post responding to Welch's very late response. Comical how all of you Welch defenders disappeared in the original post.

      1. You are aware that comments on Glenn's blog for this particular post are locked, right? Is that what is so "comical" to you?

    1. One more Greenwald defender who says exactly nothing in defense of his Lord.

    2. A "shut down"? That sounds about as mature as what Greenwald described in the video as Obama's "giggling" and "snickering" like an "adolescent" over his lies concerning halting raids on dispensaries.

      From what I've seen the vast majority of those using this site whom leave comments are individuals who think for themselves. If Matt Welch wasn't presenting a more compelling and consistent argument I'd expect they'd be the first to tear into him. No one is perfect, and past examples as such by Reason contributors were not given kindly worded responses in the comments.

      Perhaps you are just projecting your preference for political hacktivism onto others.

      1. All it takes to shut down this comment thread

        Actually, you stupid cunt, Reason doesn't close comment threads, unlike the turds over at Salon.

        Go back to playing with the children.

    3. All it takes to shut down this comment thread is for Greenwald to write another post responding to Welch's very late response. Comical how all of you Welch defenders disappeared in the original post.

      Can anyone translate this? Every word matches a corresponding English word, but in this arrangement if translated into English they do not make any sense. Perhaps I'm being to generous to this poster, but maybe he used Babelfish (Italian -> Urdu -> English) to get these results instead of using the usual mix of under the kitchen counter cleaning chemicals that most of our trolls indulge in before posting.

  22. That must be some high proof sauce they're serving over at Saloon dot com.

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  24. You sound stressed, Matt. I think you should move to France. I bet you'd like it there.

  25. Has anybody ever seen Glenn Greenwald and Justin Raimondo in the same room at the same time? Their blogging style is identical: cherry-picking individual words out of context, and hyperactive linking to posts, news stories, etc., that don't actually provide any support for the point being made, as if the sheer number of links substitutes for their relevance.

    (And, I believe, they're both gay.)

  26. The CBO is a political computer, and so the BSIBSO rule applies. The End.

  27. >> And you know what? Greenwald's right!

    And you know what? You should have stopped there!

    Suderman's "terrific article" hardly changes the fact that you presented the CBO as a "nonpartisan expert" when it suited you and now claim "the CBO is bound in its 'scoring' to take at face value what every living politician ... knows to be a stinking lie." A fascinating nuance you suddenly discovered when the "reports" turned against you.

    Your mock apology does little to salvage your journalistic credibility. And your whiny excuse that Greenwald only addresses "one-fifth of my complaint against Obama" misses the point: Greenwald is not attacking your arguments, he is attacking your [dishonest] methods. In short, he is asking you to grow up and act like a journalist.

    And what is the reponse from the Editor-in-Chief of "Reason" magazine when called to account? A mock apology, another whiny article and more red meat for the dittoheads who follow him.


  28. I see, the title of the blog is rhetorical.

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