Friday, January 18, 2019

Scriber takes a break

Hi all. Your Scriber is on vacation for a few days. I’ll get back to regular posts next week. Cheers!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Be careful what you wish for - impeachment might trade an idiocracy for a theocracy.

Dana Milbank (Washington Post) tells us why AG nominee William Barr might want the AG job in Why would William Barr take this job? The answer should alarm Trump. The short answer is that Barr might be a protector of the rule of law and of the Mueller investigation. But I digress. In the confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee we have evidence that our law makers, and Barr, understand that Trump is not the best and brightest.

And the chairman, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), usually a Trump loyalist, seemed to be trolling the president.

Asked whether then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions was right to recuse himself from the Russia investigation — a source of Trump’s fury — Barr replied: “I think he probably did the right thing recusing himself.”

“I agree,” Graham added, before poking fun at Trump’s lack of intellectual curiosity. “President Trump is a one-pager kind of guy,” he said.

“I suspect he is,” Barr concurred.

There was laughter in the hearing room at Trump’s expense.

Although the Senators would not dare utter the word, Trump’s tenure really is an idiocracy - my word.

But let’s put that on hold for a moment. What if Trump is successfully impeached and leaves office. Who takes his place? You know the answer: VP Mike Pence. He is an evangelical and so is his wife Karen. She is the focus of recent reports about her teaching job at a Christian school that bans LGBTQ students and requires a moral pledge from its teachers. (And, look, I am not being misogynistic here. If Pence gets the presidency his wife becomes first lady, and that is not exactly apolitical.)

Jen Hayden at Daily Kos has a short version: Karen Pence begins teaching at a Virginia school that bans LGBTQ students and employees.

Karen Pence, mother wife of Vice President Mike Pence, started a new job this week: a part-time gig as an art teacher at Immanuel Christian School in Virginia, where she previously taught for 12 years. The private Christian school explicitly bans LGBTQ students and employees in the employment application that each staff member must sign and affirm.

It reads:

I understand that the term “marriage” has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive covenant union as delineated in Scripture and that God intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and a woman who are married to each other and that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity is engaged in outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Further, I will maintain a lifestyle based on biblical standards of moral conduct. Moral misconduct which violates the bona fide occupational qualifications for employees includes, but is not limited to, such behaviors as the following: heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites, and sexual abuse or improprieties toward minors as defined by Scripture and federal or state law.

Remember that these hypocrites work next to and support someone who has repeatedly cheated on his current and former wives, and violates nearly every ethical and moral code we live by, but hey—you do you, Karen Pence.

One can only imagine what a painful, toxic place this kind of school would be for students who may be struggling with their own sexual identities.

Naw, no need. I suspect rather few such students would end up for any length of time in that school.

But this reporting does beg for evidence of the claimed hypocrisy. It comes from another story at CNN, Karen and Mike Pence’s astonishing moral hypocrisy by Clay Cane (h/t Sherry Moreau)

For all their professed beliefs, Pence, and his wife, show unwavering support for a man who has been married three times, divorced twice, has had five children with three women and who has been accused of (though denies) paying a porn star and a Playboy model hundreds of thousands of dollars to conceal affairs he’d had with them.

The hypocrisy here, and indeed from white evangelical Trump supporters, is astonishing. As of April, white evangelical support for Trump was at an all-time high: 75%. Disturbingly, as he left the White House, President Barack Obama enjoyed the favorable view of only 24% of white evangelicals.

Obama, a man who had no sex scandals, was never accused of sexual harassment, had two children with the same woman, couldn’t crack 25% white evangelicals. Of course, race is a huge reason, but Hillary Clinton only received 16% of the white evangelical vote.

For white evangelicals, it appears to be Trump over country – and Karen Pence is a glowing example.

It comes down to this: If the Pences love their God so much, then they would not sit in a White House with a man who shows no moral compass and said he never asks for forgiveness. They would be on the White House lawn, with the King James Bible in hand, disavowing a President who is a horrible representation for our children.

Do Karen and Mike Pence (who, incidentally, supports conversion therapy) not see LGBTQ people as humans deserving the same respect and rights as anyone? It’s easy to imagine, based on his pronouncements in the past, that if he could, Vice President Pence would create a sweeping policy to annihilate the progress of all LGBTQ communities — progress that, to be clear, resonates in every community.

The LGBTQ community is Republican, Democrat, black, white, undocumented, documented and has members in red and blue states.

Mike and Karen Pence, where is your Jesus?

So there you have it. Impeaching Trump risks trading the Trumpian idiocracy for a Pencian theocracy. Be careful what you ask for.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

With shutdown Trump shoots America. Russia celebrates.

Read on to find out which part of the title is fact and which is fiction.

Trump accepted shutdown mantle. Voters agree.

There are two take-aways from the bloomberg.com report Trump Took Responsibility for the Shutdown, and Voters Say It’s His.

Polls: Half of Americans fault him, one-third blame Democrats
In past shutdowns, a president’s opponent blamed by public

How’s that for doing things differently.

President Donald Trump said a month ago that he’d gladly take the blame for a government shutdown over his proposed border wall. Polls show he’s getting it.

(In that iconic meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, Trump promised not to blame Democrats. Guess what - he lied.)

Trump didn’t help himself by embracing the responsibility for the looming shutdown on Dec. 11 during an acrimonious Oval Office meeting with Democratic leaders. “I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” he said. “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.”

Congressional Republicans were stunned. “‘I own it’? Really?” former Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado, who lost his seat in the November midterm elections, said the following day. "Do you really want to own this? Don’t you want to put it on their lap? Really!?”

Republicans fail History 101

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” said the philosopher George Santayana. The bloomberg.com report provides the evidence that Republicans are repeating the past.

In October 2013, a government shutdown occurred after the Republican-led House refused to include funding for Obamacare in spending legislation; they relented in 16 days. A CNN poll that month showed that 52 percent blamed Republicans in Congress, while 34 percent blamed President Barack Obama.

In November 1995, the first of two shutdowns occurred after the Newt Gingrich-led Republicans demanded steep domestic spending cuts opposed by President Bill Clinton. A CNN survey found that 49 percent blamed Republican leaders, while 26 percent blamed Clinton.

Now, reports bloomberg, “Six surveys taken since the partial government closure began last month tell a consistent story – half or more Americans believe Trump and his party are responsible for the shutdown, while one-third or fewer point the finger at Democrats.”

Trump shoots America in the foot

Snopes.com rated this one as true. “On 23 January 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump caused controversy when he stated the following during a campaign rally in Iowa: I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Now he’s holed up in the White House waiting for some one, any one, to do something about his self-inflicted looming economic contraction. Not just a slow-down. A real reversal in economic growth. He’s sitting in the White House shooting America and claiming that he will not lose voters.

Shutdown’s Economic Damage Starts to Pile Up, Threatening an End to Growth reports the New York Times.

The partial government shutdown is inflicting far greater damage on the United States economy than previously estimated, the White House acknowledged on Tuesday, as President Trump’s economists doubled projections of how much economic growth is being lost each week the standoff with Democrats continues.

The revised estimates from the Council of Economic Advisers show that the shutdown, now in its fourth week, is beginning to have real economic consequences. The analysis, and other projections from outside the White House, suggests that the shutdown has already weighed significantly on growth and could ultimately push the United States economy into a contraction.

To blunt the shutdown’s effects, the administration on Tuesday called tens of thousands of employees back to work, without pay, to process tax returns, ensure flight safety and inspect food and drugs. But some people involved in the shutdown discussions in the White House have privately said they anticipate that Mr. Trump will grow anxious about the economic impact in the coming days, accelerating an end to the stalemate. Others close to the president believe Mr. Trump has leverage and are encouraging him to stand by his demands.

Is that intransigence working?

Mr. Trump has demanded that Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, include $5.7 billion for a border wall in any measure to fund the government. Democrats have refused and, along with some Republicans, have tried to persuade the president to reopen the government and negotiate border security afterward. The House has passed several bills to fund parts of the government, including the Internal Revenue Service, that are not related to border security. Senate Republicans have declined to schedule votes on those bills.

On Tuesday, in an effort to try to splinter the Democrats’ opposition, the White House invited several House Democrats from districts Mr. Trump won to discuss a path forward. None showed up.

In the meantime, federal workers are taking a big hit and the misery is likely to spread to the general populace. See my post from yesterday for a summary of the damage Trump is doing. So far, congressional Republicans are just fine with that.

Would you believe that Mitch McConnell was heard to say “What, me worry?”

Our man from Moscow in the White House

Scriber has a nagging feeling that the shutdown is just the latest item on Putin’s wish list that Trump is checking off. There is evidence.

Rachel Maddow reported that Alarm rises as Trump behavior aligns with Putin’s fondest wishes.

Rachel Maddow looks at mounting evidence of Donald Trump policy inclinations lining up with the wildest anti-American, anti-Western dreams of Vladimir Putin as Donald Trump reportedly tries to obscure his personal interactions with Putin.

If you got this far, you will know that none of this is fiction.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Trump's shutdown and the wall - garbage in, garbage out.

Trump's garbage
Garbage in, garbage out

There is an old saying in computer science: ’ garbage in, garbage out describes the concept that flawed, or nonsense input data produces nonsense output or “garbage”. The principle also applies more generally to all analysis and logic, in that arguments are unsound if their premises are flawed.’

So it is with respect to the White House. If you put a deeply flawed person IN a position of authority, you get garbled nonsense being spewed OUT. In 2016, Americans elected the most incompetent petulant narcissist in history. In 2019, he is forcing the people to suffer for his own campaign promise that is founded on nothing more than a campaign slogan: “Build the wall.” You see? Garbage in, garbage out.

Sher Watts Spooner, a Daily Kos Community writer, documents how The human costs of the Trump shutdown will affect all of us. Coming soon to your nation, your community, your income, you personally: bad sh!t inflicted by Trump’s temper tantrum - and we should acknowledge, abetted by the Congressional Republicans. In the latter regard, it’s become so bad that we have a Senator (Lindsey Graham) goading the president to take the legally, constitutionally, politically precarious autocratic action of declaring a national emergency.

Watts Spooner lists the various consequences of Trump’s shutdown.

… The worst-off, of course, are those employees who won’t get paid and are genuinely fearful about their ability to make a rent or mortgage payment. They’re worried about how they’ll afford groceries in the coming weeks to feed their families. They wonder where they’ll find the money for school fees. …

Would you believe that Trump’s idiocracy infected the US Coast Guard evidenced by “its online tip sheet suggesting that employees hold yard sales or babysit to make ends meet.”

Those who don’t depend on the government for a paycheck might not realize how cutting off government services when employees aren’t around can affect all of us. Whether it’s curtailing a visit to a national park, waiting in a long line to board a plane, or worrying whether the food you buy at the grocery store is safe, this Trump shutdown is starting to mean inconveniences and hardships for many Americans.

The Center for American Progress issued an analysis that put the amount of missed paychecks at $2 billion every two weeks. That’s a lot of money to remove from the economy, even for a short time.

Moreover, Trump’s shutdown is, or soon will be, affecting the majority of Americans.

Here are just a few of the ways the shutdown is causing inconveniences and creating dangers for the U.S. population:

Food safety. The Food and Drug Administration oversees about 80 percent of the nation’s food supply. With workers furloughed, the FDA “has suspended all routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities,” according to a story in the Washington Post. The FDA typically conducts about 160 inspections a week, and a third of those are done at high-risk facilities.

The safety net. Poor Americans count on government assistance for a variety of services, and those services are getting cut off. Whether it’s nutrition programs, housing subsidies, or low-interest housing loans through the government doesn’t matter; many are on hold.

Fear of flying. Employees of the Transportation Security Administration must show up for work, even when they don’t receive a paycheck. But many of those who screen travelers at the nation’s airports have been calling in sick. Some are threatening to resign all together—or already have done so. … It’s one thing to be bothered by the inconvenience of long lines at airports when there aren’t enough TSA agents to process travelers. It’s a more serious safety concern when there are personnel shortages in air traffic control towers.

Data not found. The loss of data collection might not cause any personal hardships now, but the lack of such data will hurt us all in the long run. Pew Research has a compilation of all the agencies that have stopped collecting and supplying data, “affecting everyone from investors and farmers to researchers and journalists.” Those include the Census Bureau, statistical offices in the Agriculture Department, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and more.

The Center for American Progress did a breakdown of how the shutdown is affecting seven states—seven states where Republican senators face re-election in 2020.

One of these is Arizona where:

Seven thousand and three hundred federal employees in Arizona, over half of whom work for the Interior Department, are either furloughed or working without pay during the shutdown. The Interior Department includes workers who support the state’s 24 national parks, monuments, and trails in addition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The 300,000 indigenous Americans living in Arizona are uniquely harmed by the shutdown, thanks to its impact on the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has said she does “not think there’s ever a time when it’s appropriate to shut down the government over any demand.” Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) has not publicly broken from Trump and McConnell, and did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Another of those states is Kentucky, home of Senate Majority Leader who has gone AWOL, effectively by his disappearance turning over control of the Senate to Trump.

Spooner concludes:

… [McConnell] shows no sign of budging and refuses to let senators vote on the House-passed bill to fund the government. You know—the same bill that passed on a voice vote in the Senate back in December.

“More than 6,000 federal government employees in Kentucky are furloughed or working without pay,” says a Center for American Progress report on the shutdown.

What do you say, Mitch? How much are you willing to screw over your constituents just to appease the big baby in the White House?

Monday, January 14, 2019

Mournday Mourning Madness (Trump) and Mythology (GOP)

Today let’s start with some definitions.

Wall defined:
Verb
Make someone very irritated or angry.
‘Chuck and Nancy are driving Trump up the wall’

National Emergency
Noun
A term typically used by politicians to express irony.
‘Donald Trump at the border’

Trump's wall
Dig under it, drive around it, fly over it

Now more Illustrated Gnus from AZ Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona.

  • Trump: “Why doesn’t anybody believe me?” Toon: “Because you are the boy who cried wolf.”
  • Trump declares national emergency, requisitions paper towels from Puerto Rico.
  • A logical progression: concrete blocks, steel slats, chicken wire, picket fence, speed bump, legos.
  • What Trump is not considering: concrete wall, steel wall, padded cell.
  • Trump’s progression: The Art of the Deal, The Art of the Steal, The Art of the Heel.
  • The lesson Trump learned from Truman: The buck stops everywhere else.
  • What American taxpayers could get for the $5.7 billion: 58,853,290,105 legos.
  • What else American taxpayers could get for the $5.7 billion: A monthly paycheck for 1,954,062 TSA employees.
Trump's wall

A fool's impulse drives America to the brink

shutdown
Noun
A means of building a wall. Typically used to prevent government workers from working and/or being paid.
Also: A fool’s impulse.

Wall
Noun
Something that can be dug under, driven around, and flown over. A monument to the stupidity of [one] man.

General George Patton had it right. Here are quotes swiped from military-quotes.com.

“Pacifists would do well to study the Siegfried and Maginot Lines, remembering that these defenses were forced; that Troy fell; that the walls of Hadrian succumbed; that the Great Wall of China was futile; and that, by the same token, the mighty seas which are alleged to defend us can also be circumvented by a resolute and ingenious opponent. In war, the only sure defense is offense, and the efficiency of offense depends on the warlike souls of those conducting it.”

“Fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man”

Michael Gerson (Washington Post) elaborates: Trump is turning a budget crisis into a constitutional crisis — all for a fool’s impulse. (h/t Daily Star which reprinted Gerson’s column this morning)

So far: President Trump has announced a crisis that isn’t actually a crisis — requiring a wall that is not really a wall, funded by Mexican pesos that are really U.S. tax dollars — to keep out murderous migrants who are (as a whole) less violent than native-born Americans, leading to congressional negotiations that involve no actual negotiations, resulting in a government shutdown undertaken on the advice of radio personalities, defended in an Oval Office address that consisted of alarmism, prejudice, falsehood and other material caught in the P-trap of senior policy adviser Stephen Miller’s mind.

One conservative claimed that Trump finally looked “presidential.” Actually, we are seeing the federal government — Trump supporters and opponents — trying to explain and respond to an impulsive, emotive, selfish, irresponsible and fundamentally irrational force at its center. It is like the immune system responding to a virus it has never seen before and cannot defend against. Trump walks in and out of meetings, repeating scraps of his stump speech, unpredictable to his staff, unconcerned about the pressure on his allies, contemptuous toward congressional opponents and with no apparent end game except their total surrender.

This is a case study in failed and erratic leadership. The shutdown happened because the president — under pressure from partisan media — reneged on a commitment to sign a spending bill the Senate had passed and that the House was ready to pass. Then, during an Oval Office meeting with the Democratic leaders, he said he would gladly own a shutdown, presumably because he figured it would look good on TV. Trump apparently did this without talking to congressional Republicans or his own staff. Congressional Republicans and his own staff were then forced to defend Trump’s impulse as a strategy. But this has proved difficult, because Republicans have no leverage. So now the whole GOP is left pretending there is an emergency at the border, and that a multiyear construction project is somehow the best way to deal with an emergency.

This is the Republican legislator’s lot in the Trump era — trying to provide ex post facto justifications for absurd presidential choices. The border “crisis” did not break because of some tragedy caused by a porous southern border. It did not result from some serious determination of national security priorities. The whole GOP strategy, and all the arguments they are using, are really backfill for an intemperate choice made by a president in response to media coverage. It is a dynamic we’ve seen again and again. Trump announced a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un because, well, for the hell of it. Then the whole government had to backfill a policy and process to fit his wrongheaded announcement. Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria on the spur of the moment, perhaps to assert himself against the influence of his now-departed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Then, the whole defense and national-security establishment has to scramble to backfill the details of coherent policy (which they still haven’t really done).

On the issue of border security, it has fallen to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to provide justification for the irrational. And this has turned a serious public servant into a font of deception and bad faith. She warns darkly about a terrorist threat crossing our southern border, though both the size and details of that threat are too “sensitive” to release. “I am sure all Americans,” she explains, “would agree that one terrorist reaching our borders is one too many.”

So, we know that the number of terrorists intercepted at the southern border is equal to or greater than one. What we don’t know is how this terrorist threat compares with other dangers and vulnerabilities that require funding as well. I have spoken to many counterterrorism experts about domestic radicalization, and foreign intelligence gathering, and drones and special operations, and financial investigation and disruption. I have never met an expert who mentioned the construction of a physical barrier with Mexico as an urgent priority in the fight against global terrorism. Some benefit in this area may be a highly attenuated byproduct of a wall. But if the goal is fighting terrorism, the first dollar would not go to a wall. Or probably the billionth dollar. The argument is deceptive to its core.

But security arguments would certainly be at the core of Trump’s justification for declaring a national emergency and building the wall with U.S. troops — if he makes that choice. Then, the ignorance, arrogance and stubbornness of one man would turn a budget crisis into a constitutional crisis — and turn Republican defenders into abettors of creeping authoritarianism. All to justify a fool’s impulse.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

How the media became Donald Trump's apprentice

This morning, Frank Bruni, columnist at the New York Times, asks Will the Media Be Trump’s Accomplice Again in 2020?, adding We have a second chance. Let’s not blow it. Bruni reports on some of the media’s biases and failures during the 2016 election thus becoming complicit in the election of Trump. It’s fairly lengthy. Here are some highlights.

"The shadow of what we did last time looms over this next time,” the former CBS newsman Dan Rather, who has covered more than half a century of presidential elections, told me. And what we did last time was emphasize the sound and the fury, because Trump provided both in lavish measure.

“When you cover this as spectacle,” Rather said, “what’s lost is context, perspective and depth. And when you cover this as spectacle, he is the star.” Spectacle is his m├ętier. He’s indisputably spectacular. And even if it’s a ghastly spectacle and presented that way, it still lets him control the narrative. …

I asked Rather what he was most struck by in the 2016 campaign, and he instantly mentioned Trump’s horrific implication, in public remarks that August, that gun enthusiasts could rid themselves of a Clinton presidency by assassinating her.

I’d almost forgotten it. So many lesser shocks so quickly overwrote it. Rather wasn’t surprised. “It got to the point where it was one outrage after another, and we just moved on each time,” he said. Instead, we should hold on to the most outrageous, unconscionable moments. We should pause there awhile. We can’t privilege the incremental over what should be the enduring. It lets Trump off the hook.

The real story of Trump isn’t his amorality and outrageousness. It’s Americans’ receptiveness to that. It’s the fact that, according to polls, most voters in November 2016 deemed him dishonest and indecent, yet plenty of them cast their ballots for him anyway.

You might recognize this as one of the themes I’ve blogged about - the real story of 2016 being Trump’s followers. Another is the false equivalence sought by the media when it came to reporting on Trump’s habitual lying.

Through the first half of 2016, as Trump racked up victories in the Republican primaries, he commanded much more coverage than any other candidate from either party, and it was evenly balanced between positive and negative appraisals — unlike the coverage of Clinton, which remained mostly negative.

Only during their general-election face-off in the latter half of 2016 did Trump and Clinton confront equivalent tides of naysaying. “On topics relating to the candidates’ fitness for office, Clinton and Trump’s coverage was virtually identical in terms of its negative tone,” Patterson wrote.

Regarding their fitness for office, they were treated identically? In retrospect, that’s madness. It should have been in real time, too. But we fell prey to a habit that can’t be repeated when we compare the new crop of Democratic challengers to Trump and to one another. We interpreted fairness as a similarly apportioned mix of complimentary and derogatory stories about each contender, no matter how different one contender’s qualifications, accomplishments and liabilities were from another’s. If we were going to pile on Trump, we had to pile on Clinton — or, rather, keep piling on her.

That would be the “false equivalence” I mentioned above. In spite of a lopsided percentage of false claims (70% false for Trump, 70% true for Clinton), for each false claim by Trump, the media sought a false claim made by Clinton thereby implying a 50–50 equivalence.

During the election I took issue with such reporting. For example, on Friday, September 23, 2016, I posted Journalism in the age of Trumpiness: A tale of two narcissists. Think of my post as a listing of lots of things the media must not repeat in this new election cycle. The full text of the post is reprinted in full below (sans links to cited sources, with some added emphases).
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Edward R. Murrow? Walter Cronkite? Dan Rather? Bill Moyers? Two are dead and the others are not exactly competing in the same arena as CNN, Fox, and the other main networks. I know, there are good people doing solid investigative reporting, for example, Rachel Maddow, and our own John Dougherty. But, with apologies, they are not playing in the same league of audience share as the big networks mentioned above. That means that truth gets transformed into truthiness and ultimately replaced by Trumpiness. This state of affairs has not escaped notice among media critics.

So, you listen to me. Listen to me: Television is not the truth! Television is a God-damned amusement park! Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, side-show freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We’re in the boredom-killing business! So if you want the truth… Go to God! Go to your gurus! Go to yourselves! Because that’s the only place you’re ever going to find any real truth. Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch).

You’re television incarnate, Diana: Indifferent to suffering; insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death are all the same to you as bottles of beer. And the daily business of life is a corrupt comedy. You even shatter the sensations of time and space into split seconds and instant replays. You’re madness, Diana. Virulent madness. And everything you touch dies with you. -Max Shumacher (played by William Holden).

Those are harsh words from the 1976 academy award winning movie, Network.

The great journalist Edward R. Murrow put it more succinctly but no less critically. He predicted accurately how the media is complicit in spreading misinformation: “The speed of communications is wondrous to behold. It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.” That rapid distribution likely amplifies the conference of referential validity. Hasher, Goldstein, and Toppino (1977) showed that “repetition of a plausible statement increases a person’s belief in the referential validity or truth of that statement.” The media’s 24x7 barrage of untruths, partial truths, and lack of context thus distorts the informational environment of the audience.

The media’s consistent search for “balance” is another way in which the media distorts the truth. For example, the reporting in 2016 has been portraying the political world as 50–50 when in fact is it 70–30 (70% truth from Clinton and 70% lies from Trump). Regardless of the base frequency of true and false statements, the media, finding one falsehood for one candidate, will seek evidence for another falsehood spoken by the other candidate. That leads to the illusion that both candidates are similar in their treatment of truth.

At least from my limited vista, some in the media are finally waking up to the fact that the media has been a willing partner with Donald Trump. Eric Alterman exposes the media’s attempt to make Trump appear “normal.”

Harry Enten of Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com titled a recent post “The More ‘Normal’ Trump Can Make This Race, the Better His Chances.” This is obviously true, and hence every effort by the media to treat Donald Trump as a “normal” presidential candidate brings us closer to the potential destruction of our democracy. And yet we can see it taking place at virtually every level of our media.

Silver recently estimated Trump’s chances of victory at about one in three. Remember, we are talking about a psychopathic narcissist whose alt-right agenda offers so many threats to the well-being of our country and the world, they defy simple enumeration or categorization. Even Republican political professionals are amazed. Scott Reed, chief strategist for the US Chamber of Commerce — who also managed Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, among others — finds it “really quite amazing that after the Trump adventure this is still a competitive race.”

The media deserve a good deal of blame here, not only because of the billions of dollars’ worth of free airtime television networks have given to Trump but also because of their insistence — against all evidence — that he is someone other than the person he clearly presents himself to be.

Paul Waldman at the Washington Post charges the media with “journalistic malpractice” and predicts “History will not be kind to the mainstream media.”

And just this morning the Daily Star ran an editorial by Harvard Professor Thomas Patterson, If Clinton loses, blame the media.

If Hillary Clinton loses the presidential election in November, we will know the reason. The email controversy did her candidacy in. But it needed a helping hand — and the news media readily supplied that.

Patterson provides evidence for the media’s drumbeat negative slant on Clinton from his analyses of media content. For example,

Few presidential candidates have been more fully prepared to assume the duties of the presidency than is Clinton. Yet, her many accomplishments as first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state barely surfaced in the news coverage of her candidacy at any point in the campaign. She may as well as have spent those years baking cookies.

How about her foreign, defense, social or economic policies? Don’t bother looking. Not one of Clinton’s policy proposals accounted for even 1 percent of her convention-period coverage; collectively, her policy stands accounted for a mere 4 percent of it. But she might be thankful for that: News reports about her stances were 71 percent negative to 29 percent positive in tone. Trump was quoted more often about her policies than she was. Trump’s claim that Clinton “created ISIS,” for example, got more news attention than her announcement of how she would handle the Islamic State.

Patterson then concludes:

Decades ago, the Hutchins Commission on Freedom of the Press concluded that reporters routinely fail to provide a “comprehensive and intelligent account of the day’s events in the context that gives them some meaning.” Whatever else might be concluded about the coverage of Clinton’s emails, context has been largely missing. Some stories spelled out how the merging of private and official emails by government officials was common practice. There were also some, though fewer, who tried to assess the harm, if any, that resulted from her use of a private server. As for Clinton’s policy proposals and presidential qualifications, they’ve been completely lost in the glare of damaging headlines and sound bites.

Perhaps most seriously is Brian Beutler’s conclusion that the “false balance” coverage of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is all about the press’s self-interest. And that pairs one narcissist (the press) with another (Trump). Changing the mores of an institution the size of the conglomeration of modern news networks would be a monumental effort.

Judging from the recent polls, we seem to be a country on the verge of making a horrible mistake, aided and abetted by the mainstream media - electing a man characterized by his connections to the mob, Moscow, and madness. Will the press forgive his violation of campaign finance laws if he does assume the presidency? Will they finally expose his alleged tax evasion? If not, then what?

Has America come to this, a welcoming of a narcissistic bully as the representative of our national ideals? If so, the blame will fall heavily on the modern media. I’ll then end with another quote by Edward R. Murrow because it too is an apt message to America. Good night, and good luck.