From the Outpost: Looking for the ever-elusive truth

Truth can be slippery, as last week’s news showed.

Sometimes, the truth comes without relevant facts. In his Sunday column, Billings Gazette editor Darrell Ehrlick noted the decline of press coverage of the federal government in Washington, D.C. It’s a common, and worthy, complaint.


David Crisp

Between 2005 and 2009, more than 40 regional reporting jobs (including the lone Washington reporter of the Gazette’s parent company, Lee Enterprises) were lost in the nation’s capital.

I couldn’t find more recent numbers, but surely they have gotten worse. The rise of online sites such as Politico and Vox has filled some of the gap, but those sites usually focus on national issues, not the regional concerns that were the bread and butter of regional newspaper reporters.

What Ehrlick did not mention was Lee’s own contribution to that decline. Lee owns 50 dailies with 1.1 million in daily circulation, plus nearly 300 weeklies and other publications, but has no Washington reporter.

Years ago in this space, I made the rash promise that when Outpost revenues equaled 1 percent of Lee’s revenues, we would add our own Washington reporter. Just $6,375,702 to go!

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Sometimes the facts aren’t enough. From the Media Trackers website come complaints about a math assignment on the minimum wage at Miles Avenue Elementary School in Billings.

Kari Zeier of Concerned Women for America told Media Trackers that the assignment raises “red flags.” According to Media Trackers, “she said that she and other parents are concerned about seeing assignments that seem to be pushing a political agenda.”

The thing is, the assignment, which you can see here, takes no position on the minimum wage. It provides some historical background, tracks the number of minimum-wage workers by age and occupation, compares the U.S. minimum wage to the minimum in six other countries (three of which pay more than the United States and three of which pay less), shows how the purchasing power of the minimum wage has declined over the years, and reports on efforts in certain U.S. cities and states to raise the minimum.

It also points out that President Obama would like to raise the minimum. It then asks students to make some simple calculations based on all that data.

It’s true that the assignment doesn’t raise arguments against the minimum wage, but it also doesn’t raise arguments in favor of it. Such arguments might be beyond the math skills of elementary school students—even pretty good economists disagree about the minimum wage’s impact—but surely basic facts are not beyond the ken of school kids.

This may be just further evidence that facts, as Stephen Colbert likes to say, have a well known liberal bias.

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And sometimes, truth takes a holiday. For some reason, my computer automatically routes email from U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., into my junk email folder.

Digging through that folder last week, I found a news release from Daines’ campaign office that began this way: “I’d never support repealing the 2nd Amendment … but if Loretta Lynch is confirmed as our next Attorney General it may just have the same effect.”

The basis for this extraordinary claim? Lynch, who has since been confirmed, has ties to Obama and Eric Holder, whose “anti-Constitutional beliefs put our right to bear arms under fierce attack.” No kidding: Daines actually says, “Her close ties to Obama are a clear signal that she couldn’t possibly support the 2nd Amendment.”

The only Second Amendment attack Daines mentions was “Obama’s unconstitutional gun and ammo ban,” an apparent reference to a proposal not by Obama but by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to ban certain bullets used in the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

According to Politifact, ATF said the bullets can penetrate police body armor and can be used in handguns. This violates the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 1985, ATF argued.

Banning those bullets would leave only 168 other kinds of bullets that fit the same weapons, Politifact reported. How could the Second Amendment survive?

Of course, the ban won’t happen. ATF backed off after getting a blast of negative comments from the public and Congress.

No doubt Obama would like to impose reasonable gun controls. So would a large majority of Americans, according to many polls. But it won’t happen as long as the National Rifle Association runs Congress.

Before Obama took office, Americans could walk into stores all over the country and buy weapons and ammo in virtually unlimited quantities. Now, after six years of dictatorial rule, Americans can still walk into stores all over the country and buy weapons and ammo in virtually unlimited quantities. Some dictatorship.

As usual, I asked Daines for a response. As usual, my request was ignored. When it comes to Obama bashing, facts are beside the point.

David Crisp has worked for newspapers since 1979. He has been editor and publisher of the Billings Outpost since 1997.

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