“Real” not “fake” doomed Hillary

So argues Matthew Yglesias. The mainstream media’s obsessive focus on what Yglesias terms a “bullshit” story on Clinton’s email server had a far more devastating impact on the election than the crazy wingnuts of the alt-right. He includes this graphic:



 A team of researchers working for Gallup found that what Americans heard about Clinton during the campaign was overwhelmingly information related to emails. By contrast, they found, “Americans’ reports of what they have read, seen or heard about Donald Trump over this same period have been more varied and related to his campaign activities and statements.”

The media, we should keep in mind, are profit-seeking corporation. Money is more important than informing readers.

Perfect killing the good

The Everett Herald‘s editors weighed in. They urge a “no” vote on Initiative 732. They write:

Revenue forecasting is difficult enough now, without having to estimate what would come from a carbon tax.

And while it won’t generate any revenue for the state, we now have a carbon cap being put into place. At the direction of Gov. Jay Inslee, the state Department of Ecology in September announced its Clean Air Rule, which sets a limit on carbon for industrial producers. Phased in over the next 20 years the cap will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.7 percent each year.

Assuming the cap survives challenges by industry and others, we will have the reductions in carbon that I-732 offers without the uncertainty it would bring to the state budget.

Fixing our regressive tax system will have to be left to another initiative or state lawmakers who can find the courage.

I find the editors unduly and cavalierly dismissive. While the initiative may be an imperfect attempt to limit carbon emissions in Washington state, and one certainly embroiled in controversy—mostly on the progressive side, it is the only game in town for the moment. If voters reject the measure, as the Herald‘s editors recommend, future opportunities to accomplish its objectives could be few and far between.

David Roberts, writing for Vox, dives into the initiative and its controversies. He begins:

It’s a fight happening within the left, and like a great many such fights in US politics these days, it reveals sharp differences over how to make progress in the face of Republican intransigence. In this case, the subject is climate change policy, but the fissures being exposed are relevant to all of left politics in an age of hyperpolarization.

Here’s the situation. There’s a carbon tax on the ballot in Washington this November, meant not just to put the state on the path to its climate targets but to serve as an example to other states.

The measure, called Initiative 732, isn’t just any carbon tax, either. It’s a big one. It would be the first carbon tax in the US, the biggest in North America, and one of the most ambitious in the world.

And yet the left opposes it. The Democratic Party, community-of-color groups, organized labor, big liberal donors, and even most big environmental groups have come out against it.

Why on Earth would the left oppose the first and biggest carbon tax in the country? How has the climate community in Washington ended up in what one participant calls a “train wreck”? (Others have described it in more, er, colorful terms.)

That turns out to be a complex and ill-fated story, revealing divisions among climate hawks — over who pays, who benefits, and who decides — that will not long stay confined to the West Coast. The future of climate politics is playing out in Washington state, and it is not pretty.

After reading Roberts’s lengthy report on the internecine battle being waged on the left, I’m struck once again by the stiletto approach of progressives, who seem so enamored of their own niche that they lose sight of the larger picture. In this case, the initiative, if successful, will surely result in fewer carbon emissions. Making something harmful more expensive will reduce its consumption—all other things being equal. Economists of every political stripe will say as much. Also, a carbon tax will increase the value of alternatives, including renewable energy and conservation.

But, according to Roberts, people’s noses got bent out of shape, resulting in self-destructive pettiness. So, Washington voters have before them a ballot measure that is officially rejected by the state’s large liberal organizations, including labor.

What I fear, if the measure fails, is that it will be a long time before Washingtonians get another bite of the carbon-reduction apple. However, this unfortunate outcome cannot be blamed on the left. As Roberts emphasizes, it’s the Republican Party’s stubborn refusal to accept the science and reality of global warming and its steadfast and foolish resistance to any solutions that stand in the way of progress.

This situation will only get worse should voters shoot themselves in the foot by electing more Republicans. The Party of No is intent on ruining everything, including our children’s future.

Digby on Trump’s performance

He simply tried to bluff his way through with incoherent misdirection, hostility and sarcasm, even as he made the absurd claimed that his temperament is his best quality. He gave the worst debate performance of his short political career. In fact, it may have been the worst debate performance of any political career.

— Digby, writing for Salon

That said, and I agree with the characterization, having watched the debate in its entirety, no amount of facts about what Trump says, does, or implies will dissuade his supporters. It is “the primitive simplicity of their minds,” as Hitler wrote, that makes them impervious to truth.

Not all equal

If you’ve been making the rounds of self-described fact-checkers this morning you will encounter uneven qualities, to say the least. On the whole, I judge the efforts of the Washington Post and The Guardian superior to that of the New York Times. But there are many other outlets engaged in the activity. I was particularly struck by this headline in the Seattle Times, which relied on external sources:

AP FACT CHECK: Trump, Clinton deny their own words in debate

We’ve come to appreciate the term “false equivalence,” as if “both sides do it.” When, in fact, either one side doesn’t “do it” at all or to a far lesser extent than the other. Reading the content of the linked article, one finds that Trump’s misstatements greatly trump Clinton’s.

The bigger the lie, the better [u]

…in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.

Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf

Tony Schwartz, ghost-author of Trump: The Art of the Deal, an autobiography of Donald Trump, acknowledged that his subject would engage in deliberate hyperbole, stretching the truth, as part of an overarching strategy to impress friends and foes alike. In an extensive interview with The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer:

Schwartz says of Trump, “He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.” Since most people are “constrained by the truth,” Trump’s indifference to it “gave him a strange advantage.”

Ironically, according to the Mayer piece, Trump, who evidently reads little, kept one book at his bedside. That was Mein Kampf.

UPDATE (Sep. 27, 2016):

From last night’s debate we have this from The Guardian, one of many outlets fact-checking the candidates’ remarks:

Trump blames Sidney Blumenthal, a friend of the Clinton’s, and Patti Solis Doyle, a 2008 campaign manager, for creating the false claim that Barack Obama was not born in the US.

There is no evidence that Clinton or her campaign had anything to do with the false rumors that Barack Obama was not born in the US, nor did Clinton have anything to do with Trump’s five years of questions about birth certificates, which he finally recanted last Friday.

Trump’s campaign has tried to blame several people who were, if at all, tangentially related to the Clinton campaign. There is no evidence that Solis Doyle had anything to do with the claim either. She told CNN that there was a volunteer coordinator in Iowa who forwarded the email and that the volunteer was dismissed, and that she called the Obama campaign to apologize.

A former aide named Mark Penn wrote a 2007 memo that Obama’s “lack of American roots” could “hold him back”. But he added: “We are never going to say anything about his background.” The Clinton campaign never acted on his advice, and he was dismissed in April 2008.

Some Clinton supporters have been blamed over anonymous chain emails for questioning Obama’s citizenship, but none of the rumormongers were linked to the campaign. Philip Berg, a former Pennsylvania official who supported Clinton, filed a lawsuit in 2008 over Obama’s birth certificate; the suit was thrown out because it was groundless. Blumenthal, an old friend of the Clintons who frequently sent them unsolicited advice, reportedly asked reporters to investigate Obama’s birth, but he has denied this and denounced the conspiracy.

As fellow fact-checkers at Politifact have noted, a Texas volunteer for Clinton named Linda Starr eventually joined Berg’s failed lawsuit; there is nothing to suggest Starr had any influence in the campaign at any level. Campaign volunteers who forwarded emails falsely alleging Obama is Muslim resignedwhen they were found out.

Trump did not answer the question about what convinced him that the president was born in the US, even though the birth certificate has been public for the five years that has Trump continued questioning Obama’s birthplace.


A depressing quote about Trump

From Dara Lind, writing for Vox:

Even though factcheckers deploy their forces on Trump regularly, he never apologizes or retracts. Calling out his lies doesn’t make his supporters any less loyal to him. People consistently find him more “honest and trustworthy” than his opponent. He still has a reasonable chance of becoming the 45th president of the United States.

This election is not about Trump, the lying huckster. It’s about American voters, and that’s the really scary part.

False equivalence

Recent polls suggest that Trump and Clinton are even. I find that difficult to stomach. How could an obvious buffoon, a modern-day P.T. Barnum, pull as much support as a woman with years of service in the public spotlight, from accomplished lawyer to first lady to U.S. senator to secretary of state?

I have long suspected that journalism as currently practiced explains much of this phenomenon. First of all, mainstream media—which include the New York Times, the Washington Post, and major television networks—are fundamentally profit-seeking corporations. They thirst for revenues as they endeavor to trim costs. Thus, their decisions as to what to report and how have nearly everything to do with generating sales, through subscriptions, of course, but increasingly through online advertising. (John Oliver recently lambasted media on this point.)

So, if I’m in charge of one of the principal outlets I treat elections as horse races, craft headlines intended to attract readers’ impatient eyes, and pounce on controversy, though I’m not averse to creating my own. Ethics be damned.

In a post today the blogger known as “tristero” takes on Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for the New York Times. Kristof, while bemoaning journalism’s penchant for “false equivalence,” engages in some false equivalence of his own.

Of course, the point Kristof’s trying to demonstrate is that Trump is a scoundrel.  But no one will bother to wade through or remember the details of Nick’s comparisons.

What’s important is the fact that Kristof writes as if Trump actually is comparable to Clinton. It doesn’t matter whether Trump doesn’t compare – Nick Kristof made the comparison anyway. 

Therefore, Trump=Clinton. The details? Let’s not argue about the details, that’s just partisanship.

Yes, Nick intends well, but this column is a textbook example of how not to write about our bizarre election.

Then we have the CEO of CBS, Les Moonves, admitting the obvious: Trump is “damn good for CBS,” even if he is “not so good for America.”

And who is this America, exactly?


UPDATE (Sep. 15, 2016):

Vox‘s Matthew Yglesias suggests that the polls are close because of Clinton’s historically high unfavorable ratings. The question begs itself: Why is she viewed so unfavorably? Could it have something to do with how the press treats her?