A fact-checking frenzy

Let’s start with two fact-checking stories, both related to GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. The first comes from the Twin Cities’ resident political fact checker, Pat Kessler, whose “Reality Check” segment on WCCO tends to be transcribed onto their site with a sort of breathless use of capitals, as though Kessler were a tabloid writer. So when Tom Emmer says of Arizona’s contentious immigration law that “I was asked one question: ‘what do you think about the Arizona law?’ I said ‘it’s a good start when you talk about Arizona,’ Kessler responds with “IN FACT, that’s not what he said.”

What he actually said, as Kessler reminds us, is “I think what Arizona did is a wonderful first step.”  Kessler is right; there’s a shift in nuance. “Wonderful first step” sounds a lot more excited than “good start.” But, still, they’re pretty close. The point Kessler is making, when he’s not shouting, is that there has been a shift in Emmer’s tone; the politician has started sounding a lot more cautious about things that used to heat up his firebrand. Emmer has come off sounding like a dyed-in-the-wool Tenther in the past, as MinnPost’s Eric Black pointed out back in July, discussing Emmer’s sponsorship of a bill that would allow Minnesota to exempt itself from any federal laws and mandates that they deem to exceed the U.S. Constitution. But, reminded of the fact, he seemed a bit, well, evasive: “What I have always proposed is that you gotta go based on the Constitution.” Again, he’s not entirely backpedaling, but neither is he being very forthcoming, which earns him a big old “IN FACT” from Kessler.

Eric Black doesn’t resort to all caps when he fact-checks, but he does bold text when he is feeling forceful, as we do here at the Glean, although we’re starting to feel like all caps is the way to go. So Black looked into Emmer’s claim that we have a 60 percent dropout rate in Minneapolis schools, which Emmer stated at one of the debates last week. Uh-oh, here comes the bold text: “The Minneapolis School District does not have a 60 percent dropout rate.” The actual dropout rate, according to Black’s research, is 23.64 percent.

While we’re on the subject of fact-checking, Nekessa Opoti of TC Daily Planet, inspired by Lino Lakes’ English-only resolution, looked into just how unfriendly Minnesota has been to non-English speakers in the past. AS IT TURNS OUT, in 1890, voting instructions in Minnesota were in nine different languages. Additionally, apparently the City of New Ulm was once predominantly German-speaking. We at the Glean did our own fact-checking on this: THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS that the people of New Ulm have stubbornly stuck to German over the years. For instance, here’s a photo of a New Ulm policeman from the mid-20th century standing next to a police car. Not only is “Police” written in some scary Black Forest font (if we had to guess, we would guess Fraktur), but you can just barely make out the word “Polizei” — the German word for police! And, as this website demonstrates, they still teach children German, and the mayor hands them little German flags!

The Basilica of St. Mary held a forum on panhandling Monday night, described by WCCO’s Heather Brown, who didn’t use all caps, but we will. Attendees shared their frustrations and questions about downtown panhandlers, and Minneapolis’ relatively tough aggressive-begging laws. It does not sound like many walked away from the forum without any clear answers, which wouldn’t be surprising. IN FACT, there are few studies out there about panhandling, and the subject is rather hotly contested among advocates for the homeless, as this 2007 story in the Seattle PI details. On one hand, many panhandlers certainly use the money to support chemical addictions, and organizations that seek to help the homeless feel that money might be better spent on, well, their organizations. On the other hand, some panhandlers certainly require the money they make panhandling to take care of basic needs, especially in this economy; Brown details one such panhandler in her story.

In other tales of this economy, Annie Lowrey of the Minnesota Independent discusses COBRA, a program intended to help the unemployed with health care that was given an especially alarming name, for some reason. THE TRUTH IS, as reported by Lowrey, “a popular stimulus provision, the federal subsidy of COBRA benefits, expired for newly unemployed workers as of the first day of June”; for them, the cost of COBRA has tripled. Sen. Al Franken is among those supporting a bill to extend the funding for this assistance program.

If you pass by the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant today, don’t be alarmed if you see what looks like a full-scale emergency: IN FACT, according to the Associated Press, it’s an emergency-preparedness exercise.

In arts: Arts organizations are often the canary in the coal mine of the economy, at least when things turn sour. They’re among the first hit, and the slowest to recover. So it’s no surprise to discover that Minneapolis’ highly regarded Children’s Theatre is ailing, although the exact amount is a bit overwhelming: According to the Star Tribune’s Rohan Preston, it’s $3.8 million in the hole. But IN FACT, there is reason for some optimism: Its leaders have trimmed their budget and pared down their staff; additionally, as Preston points out, other theaters have started to enjoy a jump in attendence, so perhaps this particular coal mine isn’t as toxic as it has been for the past few years.

In sports: “Another Favre Return, Another Football Win,the New York Times tells us. But, wait — if it’s talking about Sunday’s game against the 49ers, the Vikings actually lost. ACTUALLY, what they’re talking about is television ratings: The game apparently dominated the Nielsens that night.

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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/24/2010 - 11:22 am.

    Say Bunny?

    Nekessa Opoti of TC Daily Planet, inspired by Lino Lakes’ English-only resolution, cited the U of M Immigration History Research Center as the source of her assertion that in 1890, voting instructions in Minnesota were in nine different languages…

    But IN FACT, there is no such documentation available at the link Opoti provided.

    http://tinyurl.com/2f6zzdu

    Now that doesn’t necessirally mean it doesn’t exist, and it doesn’t mean I doubt the veracity of the TC Daily Planet**, but in the interest of FACT CHECKING, it seems either providing a proper link, or citing the source of your information (ie: “According to Joe Blow at the Immigration History Research Center”) is the proper thing to do…don’t you agree?

    I also wonder if immigrants were *required by law*, as they are today, to speak English before earning the citizenship required, to vote in the first place.

    **(but actually, I guess I do)

  2. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 08/24/2010 - 12:49 pm.

    Most of Minnesota’s prejudice is really more xenophobia. I’ve always contended if you put a black man in a suit he will have an easier time flagging down a taxi near Nicollet Mall than a white man with a hoody, baggy pants and a baseball cap. My point is: I think now that the languages people hear, besides English, are not even remotely like the Germanic languages of English, Norwegian and German. And they maybe said by a man with darker skin or a woman in a veil. I believe that every child in the world should learn two languages and one of them is English. But we forget our own European ancestors didn’t land on these shores speaking the King’s English and reading Shakespeare. A common courtesy might be that we put some or all of the laws in a format they can understand because I think most of them WANT to follow the laws of their new country.

  3. Submitted by Max Sparber on 08/24/2010 - 01:27 pm.

    Mr. Swift, I am not sure you know what the citizenship test for the US demands, so here is a link: http://tinyurl.com/yaz8pr7

    It’s not precisely demanding fluency. And there are exceptions made for even that bare amount of English familiarity it asks: http://tinyurl.com/36z4xjk

    For the sake of completeness, though, I have started researching the claim that nine languages were printed on voting instructions. Here is a sample voting sheet from 1896 that has five languages printed on it: http://tinyurl.com/2c35qxm (PDF). The book The American Midwest: An Interpretive Encyclopedia lists nine languages: http://tinyurl.com/2at9ql5; the Book Minnesota: Real and Imagined makes the same claim: http://tinyurl.com/35goy2j

    If you have further doubts, I’d suggest heading down to the historical society. I know for a fact they have a box of voting material from 1986: http://tinyurl.com/3xsf5tm; that should satisfy your curiosity. Mine is sated.

    As to your wondering if English was at all a requirement in 1896 for citizenship, the answer is no. That came as part of the Naturalization Act of 29 June 1906. If you’re curious, feel free to research that act; it’s a pretty fundamental document as to the institutionalization of racism in America, as it only allowed Europeans and people of African descent or nativity are eligible. As you are obviously curious about the history of immigration, this course of study should be especially edifying for you.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/24/2010 - 02:55 pm.

    “As to your wondering if English was at all a requirement in 1896 for citizenship, the answer is no.”

    So the TC article you’ve aggregated is an interesting historical side note, but moot for purposes of arguing the issue at hand.

    “it’s a pretty fundamental document as to the institutionalization of racism in America, as it only allowed Europeans and people of African descent or nativity are eligible.”

    Uh, oh…racism. That’s bad, isn’t it.

    Bunny, what defines the “European race”?

    How about the “African race”?

    No, no, don’t get up; it was a rhetorical question. We know you’re reducing the discussion to skin color; it’s what leftists do.

    People that are not obsessed with judging people by factors over which they have no control, such as the color of their skin, know that “Europe” and “Africa” are places, not races.

    They will also then inherently understand that your statement is utterly absurd.

    I do appreciate the links you provided, although I’d probably like ’em better if they worked.

  5. Submitted by Max Sparber on 08/24/2010 - 03:27 pm.

    They work fine, Mr. Swift. You remove the semicolons after the ones that are part of a sentence. Or, alternately, you could do your own research. If you need assistance in familiarizing yourself with the Internet, which offers useful search engines such as Google, the local library offers courses.

    You obviously have some curiosity about racism. That, coupled with your self-stated lack of familiarity with the subject, is an opportunity for self-education just waiting to happen!

    You type quite a few questions marks. But I am far too busy to be your own personal researcher. My suggestion is that every time you are tempted to type a question, such as “Bunny, what defines the ‘European race?,'” you research it first and see if you can’t find the answer. You will be astonished, and, I expect, delighted to discover just how much information is out there for the asking.

  6. Submitted by Jim Camery on 08/24/2010 - 03:27 pm.

    The links worked fine for me.

    I went back and reread Mr. Sparber’s comment and did not find a reference to the “European race”. One sentence speaks of racism, and the next about European descent, but its unfair (and a poor argument) to accuse him of speaking of “European racism”.

  7. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 08/24/2010 - 04:04 pm.

    All five of Mr. Sparber’s links worked perfectly for me. [Hint: you have to cut and paste them into your browser — you can’t just click on them!]

    Mr. Sparber was also referencing documents and texts that are over 100 years old so yes, he probably should have taken the 1,000 words or so necessary to explain how some of the terms have become dated since then. “Race” was very much a big thing in 1900. Now we are, of course, much more sophisticated and instead of labeling people by their skin color/”race”, we attack them for their religious beliefs.

    Or at least some Americans do that.

  8. Submitted by B Maginnis on 08/24/2010 - 07:29 pm.

    Swifty:

    Strength and honor, sir.

    You’re still far and away in the lead.

    Your adversaries are frothing.

    Very amusing.

  9. Submitted by Max Sparber on 08/24/2010 - 11:11 pm.

    Next time I have a conversation, I shall have to remember to bring along my own cheerleaders. Of course, I imagine them shouting “Give him what for!” and “Jolly good point there, chap!” I was ruined by a childhood year in Bath.

  10. Submitted by David Koski on 08/26/2010 - 07:35 pm.

    I find it funny that Swifty is getting clobbered on this comment run. Yet, “someone” is there to rescue him. BD Maginnis, whatever you are snorting, start using both nostrils.
    Swifty, you made a comment that you haven’t backed up:

    “We know you’re reducing the discussion to skin color; it’s what leftists do.”

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