Let's Fix This Country

the media

The Invasive Species, Fake News

The death of truth?

Perhaps you didn't hear before the election that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump. Or maybe you were not one of the million Facebook "shares" who learned that Hillary Clinton had secretly sold weapons to
ISIS. You know, the same Hillary Clinton who together with her campaign chief runs a child sex ring out of a D.C. pizza parlor.

These headlines — and a torrent of other stories spread across the Internet and through social media — were fake, of course, but they went unchallenged by Americans who accepted them as true and passed them on to friends. An analysis by Buzzfeed News found that the top 20 fake news stories had wider dissemination on Facebook — shares, likes and comments — than Dec 5: A 28-year-old from North Carolina walked into the above-mentioned pizza place with a rifle, which he fired once, to "self-investigate" the child sex ring story, reports the AP. Another who believes the fake news story and tweets, "Until #Pizzagate proven to be false..." (rather than until it is proven true), is the son of and advisor to retired general Michael Flynn, whom the President-elect appointed as National Security Advisor.

the top 20 real news reports. All but three favored Trump.

We have entered upon the "post-truth" era — it's the Oxford English Dictionary's word of the year — when the truth is whatever one prefers to believe.

anything goes

The news was once channeled through newspapers and the few broadcast television networks where staffs as a matter of pride checked their stories in an effort to get the facts straight. That became archaic when the Internet and social media sprung up to give ordinary citizens a voice and a license to say and write whatever they please, including fabricating phony stories at will. The public is left to figure out for themselves whether what they read or hear makes any sense. But why bother? If you like what you read, take it as fact. A large percentage of the public is prone to believe the preposterous because it's what they want to think is true. Silly stories (“This Is Huuge! International Arrest Warrant Issued By Putin For George Soros!” ) are taken as real and passed around by the conspiracy-minded. A reporter for Time magazine illustrated the phenomenon. About a fellow he…

the media

Stopping the Presses

Advertising and people's habits abandon print media

The mainstream press is in a fix. Year after year, as advertisers follow readers to the Internet, the life-support of advertising linage has dropped. In the third quarter alone, print ads declined 15% for Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher (its flagship is USA Today), 17% at McClatchy (The Miami Herald and
The Sacramento Bee among others), 19% at The New York Times and 21% at The Wall Street Journal, which is cutting staff and has already eliminated sections as economy measures. Meanwhile, digital ad revenue for newspapers has barely grown, taking four years to increase from $3 billion to only $3.5 billion between 2010 and 2014.

We are rapidly losing the ranks of trained journalists as newsrooms shrink, a fraternity drawn by its mission "to root out corruption, hold the powerful accountable and sort fact from fiction". And if that drew snickers, you really don't know about journalists. Why else would they chose the demanding and low-paying profession?

It has become fashionable to disparage the principal practitioners of journalism, lumping all together…

the new regime

Trump’s 100-Day Plan: The Great Unraveling Begins

Just moments ago the media universe was forecasting the demise of the Republican party, riven as it was by dissension between the moderate and the extreme, and split in third by a rogue independent who had rented the Party name to catapult himself into the presidency.

Instead, suddenly finding themselves victors, Republicans of all stripes are scrambling to fall in line, seeing their chance to enact every reform in their
wish list. Winning the trifecta of the presidency and control of both Senate and House has given Republicans a nearly clear path to overturning…

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The Electoral College and Our Pretend Democracy

When reporters took to the streets to interview some of the demonstrators in cities around the nation protesting Donald Trump's victory, they found many had thrown away their votes on Jill Stein or hadn't voted at all.

But with Hillary Clinton's majority in the popular vote now passing 1,500,000 a good many are protesting a system that doesn't look like democracy at all. They are discovering — the young among them for the first time — that America's electoral system is rigged indeed, but by some ancient construct called the Electoral College.

A Wall Street Journal editorial lauded the college scheme because it "picks a decisive winner as early as possible" by quickly throwing entire states to one or the other candidate. For them speed matters rather than a process that actually counts all votes.

The Founders set up the electoral college as a barrier against the electorate choosing a populist, yet in 2016 the college itself is what has produced the election of a populist — an anti-establishment iconoclast with policies designed to… Read More »

scales of justice

Trump Buys His Way Out of Likely Fraud Conviction

Richard Nixon believed that, "When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal". That above-the-law notion seems to prevail even for president-elects, given that, for defrauding students who attended Donald Trump's real estate courses at his so-called "university", he needed only to write a check to make it all go away. The settlement, just ten days before the case was to go before a jury, puts an end to two class action suits in California at which Trump would have been called to testify, and the racketeering (RICO) charges filed by in New York by its State Attorney Eric Schneiderman. In addition there
had been investigations by a number of state attorneys general, and the notorious instance of one potential probe being called off after Florida's attorney general, Pam Biondi, received a $25,000 contribution from Trump.

The students were bilked of some $40,000,000, not including time lost, according to Schneiderman's suit, yet Trump — or not even he but one of his companies — need reimburse only $25,000,000 to students for courses that 7,000 in the class actions say were worthless.

And, of course, the settlement does not require Trump to admit to any law-breaking.

Trump University closed its doors… Read More »

Trump tweeted: "I settled the Trump University lawsuit for a small fraction of the potential award because as President I have to focus on our country". Stephen Colbert's takedown: "$25 million is a small fraction of $40 million if you learned math at Trump University".

Or should we take Trump's "small fraction" to mean that students were gulled into paying far more than the $40 million the suit sought to recover?


Obamacare: Repeal and Replace, But Replace with What? »

Trump signals he wants to keep parts of Obamacare

Fulfilling the long held wishes of Republicans of all stripes and the more than half of Americans who dislike the program, President-elect Donald Trump will introduce legislation that "Fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with Health Savings Accounts, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, and let states manage Medicaid funds", according to his "100-day action plan".

The complexities of what was hoped to be a solution to America's abysmal healthcare system were so great as to require an Affordable Care Act that ran to 906 page. Yet six years after passage of that act, the Republican healthcare replacement plan amounts to little more in detail than the outtake you just read in the first paragraph.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who doubles as the that body's economics guru, issued what is putatively the official Republican take on the subject in June. There would of course be no mandate requiring individuals to buy insurance or pay a penalty. All insurance plans would be offered within states, rather than the current federal exchange. Federal subsidies would be no more; in their place, a tax credit to help pay for insurance. Ryan didn't mention the amount of the credit.…

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