Archive

December 17th

The President-Elect Of A Post-Fact World

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.

    Welcome to the reality-TV presidency. Nothing president-elect Trump says is to be taken literally, nor evaluated for its truth content. His surrogates have made that clear. Once and future sidekick Corey Lewandowski recently admonished journalists at Harvard University.

    "This is the problem with the media," he scolded. "You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally. The American people didn't. They understood it. They understood that sometimes -- when you have a conversation with people ... you're going to say things, and sometimes you don't have all the facts to back it up."

    So when Trump claimed that he saw Muslims in Jersey City celebrating 9/11 on TV, he was just blowing smoke like some guy in a bar.

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The proliferation of fake news presents real perils

    Fake news leads eventually to real tragedy. It almost got there Sunday when an idiot brought a loaded assault rifle into a Washington pizzeria, firing at least one shot, in an attempt to "self-investigate" a preposterous made-up conspiracy theory.

    No one was hurt -- this time. But the same kind of thing will happen again, thanks to the poison being dispensed by "alt-right" and white-supremacist propagandists. They concocted "news" stories out of whole cloth during the campaign in an attempt to destroy Hillary Clinton and those closest to her. Is anyone surprised that some people take these paranoid fantasies as gospel truth? I'm not.

    President-elect Donald Trump makes matters worse by trumpeting "facts" that are non-factual. To the extent that he shapes the "post-truth" media landscape, he shares responsibility for the consequences.

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Trying to ignore the election

    He promised the swamp would be drained,

    Was elected, said "Rain!" and it rained

    And the old crocodiles

    Wore flesh-eating smiles

    And the turtles were well entertained.

 

    It's a wonderful satire right out of Twain or Thurber, a minority of the electorate goes for the loosest and least knowledgeable candidate, certain that he will lose and their votes will only be harmless protest, a middle finger to Washington, and then -- Whoa. The joke comes true. You put a whoopee cushion on your father's chair and he sits down and it barks and he has a massive coronary. You wanted to get a rise out of him and instead he falls down dead. Very funny.

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What is inspiring homegrown terror in the US? It's not just the Islamic State.

    The details of Abdul Razak Ali Artan's attack last Monday at the Ohio State University campus in Columbus remain scarce, but in social media posts attributed to him, there is praise for both the Islamic State and slain al-Qaida preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, who the United States said directed attacks on Americans.

    The Ohio State attack comes just two months after Ahmed Khan Rahimi detonated two bombs in New York and New Jersey. When pages from Rahimi's blood-soaked journal were released to the public, its contents sparked confusion. In his scribblings, he had expressed support for - and clearly drew inspiration from - both al-Qaida and the Islamic State. How, many are asking, could jihadist allegiances be divided in such a way?

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Clinton-Trump coverage was a feast of false equivalency

    U.S. media organizations are locked into such a negative mind-set that they portrayed Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as equally pernicious and scurrilous pretenders to the presidency.

    That, at least, is the conclusion of a study by Thomas Patterson in the fourth of his series of studies on media coverage of the presidential campaign for the Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

    "False equivalencies abound in today's reporting," writes Patterson. "When journalists can't, or won't, distinguish between allegations directed at the Trump Foundation and those directed at the Clinton Foundation, there's something seriously amiss. And false equivalencies are developing on a grand scale as a result of relentlessly negative news. If everything and everyone is portrayed negatively, there's a leveling effect that opens the door to charlatans."

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Fakery Is Reality for Our Next President

    All hail Augusts Trumpus — the American Putin, whom none can criticize! All hail the All Knowing One, who reveals “realities” that aren’t there and finds “facts” that mere mortals can’t detect.

    Once again, the Amazing Donald has demonstrated his phantasmagoric power of perception, having found a new outcome in November’s election that others haven’t seen. Trump has been greatly perturbed by the official results, which showed that while he won the Electoral College majority, he wasn’t the people’s choice.

    Instead, according to the latest tally, Hillary Clinton won the popular balloting by a margin of more than 2.5 million votes and counting.

    Growing increasingly furious at this affront to his supernatural sense of self, the master of factual flexibility went on Twitter with an amazing revelation: “I won the popular vote,” decreed our incoming tweeter-in-chief.

    How did he turn a 2.5 million vote loss into a glorious victory? “I won,” he tweeted, “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

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Identity Politics and a Dad’s Loss

    This fall I sat down in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a black pastor whose unarmed son, Terence Crutcher, had been shot dead on the street by a white police officer.

    The Rev. Joey Crutcher told me that Terence’s killing was just the latest loss his family had suffered. He had also lost a child to crib death years ago, and another to cancer. In addition, his grandson had been shot dead while driving home from church in a gang hit that was a case of mistaken identity.

    Such heartbreak: Three children and a grandchild dead, each for a different reason. I’ve been thinking of the Crutchers because of the debate raging in the Democratic Party about its future. One faction argues that the left became too focused on “identity politics” — fighting for the rights of Muslims, gays, blacks and Latinos but neglecting themes of economic justice that would appeal to everyone, working-class whites in particular.

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Is Pentagon burying billions in waste? Dig deeper

    We defense wonks awoke to find a bombshell Tuesday morning, in the form of a Washington Post investigation by Bob Woodward and Craig Whitlock titled "Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste." All the plot elements are here for a classic Woodward expose: colossal federal waste, bureaucratic cover-up, high-level dissembling, and even overstaffed chow halls.

    But on closer inspection, the bombshell appears to be a dud. First, coming from somebody who has been as intimately familiar with government malfeasance for as long as Bob Woodward, shock over runaway Pentagon spending seems akin to griping over the cost of a porterhouse at the Capital Grille -- it's an outrage, but it comes with the territory. Second, after taking time to do the math and parse the timeline, it seems like there really is a lot less here than meets the eye.

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Keith Ellison isn't an anti-Semite. He's the victim of a vicious smear.

    Which is the more bitter irony: That the Anti-Defamation League's specialty should have become defamation, or that its latest target, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, should be among the country's most important opponents of political anti-Semitism?

    Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress and a prominent Bernie Sanders supporter, is a leading candidate for chairman of the Democratic National Committee. But since he is also a measured critic of U.S. support for Israel's occupation of Palestine, he has fallen victim to the same accusations of anti-Semitism that the ADL has promiscuously dispensed in recent years.

    It all happened so suddenly. Two weeks ago, the ADL's national director Jonathan Greenblatt regarded Ellison as "a man of good character" in emailed remarks to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Now, per an official ADL release, Ellison's views on the Israel-Palestine conflict are "both deeply disturbing and disqualifying."

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Minimum-wage opponents tripped up by facts

    We interrupt this holiday season to revisit the minimum-wage experiment going on in various cities and states, paying special attention to those opposed to plans by some locales to eventually adopt a $15 hourly wage.

    The forecasts of these critics -- that jobs would be lost and businesses would close -- have, so far, been proven wrong. Although this is interesting, what's most important is why they were wrong. In many cases, they suffer from the sort of systemic bias that is typically observed in the self-destructive tendencies of too many investors. To many of these minimum-wage foes, government can do no right, and any effort to ameliorate some of the defects or inefficiencies in the free market will always and everywhere prove counterproductive.

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