Archive

May 25th, 2016

Some politicians are impervious to fact-checking

    Perhaps the most frustrating question about Donald Trump's political success is why people keep voting for him even though his statements often don't withstand the most basic fact-checking. And it's not just Trump: The Austrian presidential candidate Norbert Hofer appears to be successful in convincing voters that he's a moderate, conciliatory candidate though the press has written extensively about his history of extreme nationalist statements and leanings.

    Why are people so unwilling to accept factual rebuttals? Is it that, as Farhad Manjoo wrote in "True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society," "the creeping partisanship has begun to distort our very perceptions about what is 'real' and what isn't"?

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Games people rig, by Bernie Sanders

    If Bernie Sanders and his supporters complained about other things the way they complain about the fairness of the Democratic presidential primary process:

    Chess: This game is rigged. The pawns get to move almost NOWHERE, whereas the QUEEN (DETECT ANY RESEMBLANCE HERE???) can just move wherever she likes with no apparent rhyme or reason. She's not a bishop or a rook. Why does she move like one? Also, the black pieces have to move second, which is TOTALLY unfair and needs to be looked into, unless I am playing with the white pieces today.

    Scrabble: I played exactly the same word as my opponent, using exactly the same letters, and received fewer points for it -- just because I wasn't on some pink square, which my opponent claimed gave you DOUBLE the points. Pretty sure that's the definition of rigged. Why would you just randomly have squares all over the board that counted for MORE or FEWER points when it's just the same words? Also my opponent had two BLANK tiles, which just got to be WHATEVER letters she wanted. This seems made-up. Milton Bradley are shills who are trying to prevent the revolution. Also, "BERN" is totally a word.

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Hillary's behavior on the brink

    In the wake of a mini-protest of Bernie Sanders supporters against the Nevada Democratic Party at its state convention in Las Vegas last weekend, Hillary Clinton in a CNN interview has essentially called on Sanders to rein them in.

    The protesters had engaged in some minor violence in a fight over delegate allocation to the July national party convention, reportedly throwing chairs and making personal threats against the state party chairwoman.

    Both sides overreacted, a reflection of the kind of tension that mounts as a presidential nomination nears its conclusion after months of intense competition. Clinton backers, including Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, called on both sides to cool their tempers, and President Obama through his press secretary has echoed her, saying he expected all parties to adhere to nonviolent behavior.

    A still-feisty Sanders, noting his recent string of state primary victories, called any criticism of his troops "nonsense" and vowed to press on to the end of the primary calendar next month, which includes delegate rich primaries in California and New Jersey.

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May 24th

Remembrance of Booms Past

    If Hillary Clinton wins in November, Bill Clinton will occupy a doubly unique role in U.S. political history — not just as the first First Husband, but also as the first First Spouse who used to be president. Obviously he won’t spend his time baking cookies. So what will he do?

    Last week Hillary Clinton stirred up a flurry of comments by suggesting that Bill Clinton would be “in charge of revitalizing the economy.” You can see why she might want to say that, since people still remember the good times that prevailed when he was in office. How his role might be defined in practice is much less clear.

    But never mind. What I want to do right now is talk about the lessons the Clinton I boom actually holds for a potential Clinton II administration.

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What's in a team's name? How about a slur?

    Well, that's a relief. It turns out that Native Americans are not offended by the name of Washington's football team after all.

    You know, the Redskins.

    A new Washington Post poll finds nine out of 10 Native Americans say they are not offended by the Washington Redskins name. That, the Post tells us, is a sign of "how few ordinary Indians" -- instead of, you know, those inflammatory identity-politics activist types -- "have been persuaded by a national movement to change the football team's moniker."

    Actually "how few" is how I would describe the number of people surveyed. But that doesn't mean the poll wasn't scientific.

    The five-month survey of 504 people, according to the Post, includes every state and the district.

    It also agrees with a 2004 poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, the Post notes, and the responses were "broadly consistent" regardless of age, income, education, political party or proximity to reservations.

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Obama’s War on Inequality

    There were two big economic policy stories this week that you may have missed if you were distracted by Trumpian bombast and the yelling of the Sanders dead-enders. Each tells you a lot about both what President Barack Obama has accomplished and the stakes in this year’s election.

    One of those stories, I’m sorry to say, did involve Donald Trump: The presumptive Republican nominee — who has already declared that he will, in fact, slash taxes on the rich, whatever he may have said in the recent past — once again declared his intention to do away with Dodd-Frank, the financial reform passed during Democrats’ brief window of congressional control. Just for the record, while Trump is sometimes described as a “populist,” almost every substantive policy he has announced would make the rich richer at workers’ expense.

    The other story was about a policy change achieved through executive action: The Obama administration issued new guidelines on overtime pay, which will benefit an estimated 12.5 million workers.

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Aging in the Key of Humor

    His back hurts. His memory is slipping. He can’t cook, but then he never could. Igloo-making is no longer one of his diversions. The wit is sharp, quick as ever, but now he’s prone to ... what’s the word? Oh, and he has Parkinson’s disease.

    Michael Kinsley is aging so you don’t have to. The editor in him, the one who held the reins at The New Republic, Harper’s and Slate, and grasped for a few hours the chance to helm The New Yorker, would refine that. Here’s how he puts it, in his guidance to the 74 million baby boomers entering the years of living less dangerously:

    “But when it comes to the ultimate boomer game, competitive longevity, I’m on the sidelines doing color commentary.” His chronic disease, which gives him many of the symptoms of old age but which he believes is no more likely to bring him to an early death than slipping on a bar of soap, has presented him with “an interesting foretaste of our shared future.”

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Meet Deadeye Donald

    Donald Trump has a permit to carry a gun.

    “Nobody knows that,” he told a gathering of the National Rifle Association on Friday.

    Well actually, it’s pretty hard to not know since he brings it up all the time.

    “Boy, would I surprise somebody if they hit Trump,” he told the audience.

    People, have we ever had a president who spoke about himself in the third person? Something to consider. But more important, what would that surprise entail? Was Trump trying to say that he’d quickly draw his concealed weapon and take the gunman out of circulation?

    “If I wasn’t — if I wasn’t surrounded by, like the largest group of Secret Service people,” he began, and it did sound as if we were about to get a description of his shooting prowess.

    But then Trump veered off to demand a standing ovation for police officers and never did get back to the original point.

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Weakend at Bernie’s

    Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.

    Really.

    Just ask her.

    She should have been able to finally savor shattering that “highest, hardest glass ceiling” — the one she gloried in putting 18 million cracks in last time around — when she attends her convention in Philadelphia in July.

    Instead, she is reduced to stomping her feet on CNN, asserting her dominance in a contest that has left her looking anything but dominant. Once more attempting to shake off the old socialist dude hammering her with a sickle, Clinton insisted to Chris Cuomo on Thursday: “I will be the nominee for my party, Chris. That is already done, in effect. There is no way that I won’t be.”

    It’s a vexing time for the Clintons. As Bill told a crowd in Fargo, North Dakota, on Friday, it’s been an “interesting” year: “That’s the most neutral word I can think of.”

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How Facebook Warps Our Worlds

    Those who’ve been raising alarms about Facebook are right: Almost every minute that we spend on our smartphones and tablets and laptops, thumbing through favorite websites and scrolling through personalized feeds, we’re pointed toward foregone conclusions. We’re pressured to conform.

    But unseen puppet masters on Mark Zuckerberg’s payroll aren’t to blame. We’re the real culprits. When it comes to elevating one perspective above all others and herding people into culturally and ideologically inflexible tribes, nothing that Facebook does to us comes close to what we do to ourselves.

    I’m talking about how we use social media in particular and the Internet in general — and how we let them use us. They’re not so much agents as accomplices, new tools for ancient impulses, part of “a long sequence of technological innovations that enable us to do what we want,” noted social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who wrote the 2012 best seller “The Righteous Mind,” when we spoke last week.

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