Politicians are laundering Harvey Weinstein’s filthy lucre

Disingenuous – “Not candid or sincere; giving a false appearance of simple frankness”

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Democrat of New York, is shocked, shocked to find that Harvey Weinstein is a serial sexual harasser of women (And even more egregious, the New Yorker reported today that three women had told a writer there that Weinstein raped them). So shocked is Schumer that he’s going to show his purity by getting rid of the money Weinstein has given to him over the years.

“Sen. Schumer is donating all of the contributions to several charities supporting women,” Matt House, a spokesman for the Democratic leader told the Washington Post.

Other Democrats have gotten religion, too. Lawmakers who have said they will be donating Weinstein’s contributions include: Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.

No word yet from dozen of other Democrats who have gleefully taken Harvey Weinstein’s money over the years. The Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit, nonpartisan research group that tracks the effects of money and lobbying on elections and public policy, has a record of those donations.

According to the Center, recipients of Weinstein’s money include the Democratic Party of Oregon, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and such Democratic luminaries as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and even, in an odd twist, the Midwest Values PAC. Weinstein has also made donations to the Clinton Foundation. The Foundation’s website  says Weinstein gave $100,001 to $250,000 through June 2017.

Weinstein has also served as a bundler, collecting contributions from other wealthy donors. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, he was a bundler for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, raising millions for both.

But here’s the rub.

The contrite Democrats are being more than a little disingenuous.

Many of the Democrats who say they will be re-gifting Weinstein’s contributions plan to give the money to organizations that support Democrats. In other words, the money’s going to be laundered through liberal groups right back to Democrats and their causes.

The Democratic National Committee, for example, has said it will give some of Weinstein’s donations to Emily’s List, Emerge America and Higher Heights. Emily’s List’s entire focus is on electing more pro-choice Democratic women. Emerge America’s focus is on increasing the number of Democratic women leaders in public office. Higher Heights works to elect Black women, a primary constituency of the Democratic Party (94 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016).

Chuck Schumer has said he’ll donate Weinstein’s money to women’s rights groups. You can safely bet that means liberal women’s rights groups that support the Democrats’ agenda, not the National Pro-Life Alliance or The Independent Women’s Forum, a conservative think tank.

Most money laundering is dangerous because it can lead to a criminal investigation. But don’t count on any of the Democrats caught in Harvey Weinstein’s web to face such consequences. They’re politicians. They’re protected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“What Happened” to Hillary?

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In Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened, Hillary:

  • Lets readers know, in no uncertain terms, that she is a monument to perseverance.
  • Claims to be a paragon of virtue who never stooped to bad behavior. “I couldn’t—and wouldn’t—compete to stoke people’s rage and resentment,” she writes.
  • Engages in what the New York Times describes as “a score-settling jubilee,” criticizing Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, Russians, racists, Julian Assange, misogynists, James B. Comey, the media, James B. Comey, Vladimir Putin, James B. Comey and others. “If not for the dramatic intervention of the FBI director in the final days,” she says, “we would have won the White House.”
  • Blames Barack Obama for not alerting the nation to the danger posed by Trump. “I do wonder sometimes about what would have happened if President Obama had made a televised address to the nation in the fall of 2016 warning that our democracy was under attack,” she wrote.
  • Takes a swipe at Joe Biden’s presidential ambitions, saying Barack Obama “…made it clear that he believed that I was our party’s best chance to hold the White House and keep our progress going, and he wanted me to move quickly to prepare to run.” The New York Times has characterized this comment as “…a grim reminder of the worst we’ve read about Clinton: She needs a separate storage unit to hold her grudges — and her sets of tiny knives.”
  • Criticizes Today Show host Matt Lauer for grilling her so aggressively about her controversial email practices during a NBC presidential debate that she was “ticked off” and “almost physically sick”.
  • Figures Donald Trump invited her and Bill to his 2005 wedding to Melania Trump because “he wanted as much star power as he could get.”
  • Insists Bernie Sanders is not a real Democrat
  • Was  “incredibly uncomfortable” to be stalked on stage by Trump during a presidential debate.
  • Claims she suffered disproportionately from charges of untrustworthiness or inauthenticity simply because she was a woman, not because of any of her behavior during her long career.
  • Blames voter suppression in swing states for her loss.
  • Never, ever, in a million years thought she could lose to Donald Trump, an inferior opponent across the board, from intelligence to political savvy and understanding of the American people.

As Vanity Fair put it, “…this book shows her to be just like Hillary Clinton, only more so, meaning that you’ll love it or hate it or feel however you already felt about its author.”

There. Now you don’t have to buy the book.

Celebrities and Politics: Why Are Voters Attracted to Shiny Objects?

What is it about celebrities?

Democrat Jon Ossoff wants to win an open primary on April 18 so he can represent Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.

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Actress Alyssa Milano canvassed Ossoff’s district for him in March and offered voters a ride to an advance polling location.

According to various media, actors Alyssa Milano and Christopher Gorham‏, want Ossoff to win, too. Media tell us lots of other liberal celebrity actors support Ossoff as well, including Chelsea Handler, Kristen Bell, John Leguizamo, Sam Waterston, Connie Britton, Jessica Lange, Lynda Carter, Jon Cryer, Debra Messing, George Takei and Rhea Perlman.

I’m not sure yet where Kim Kardashian, who’s so well known for her political sophistication and deep thinking, stands on Ossoff’s race, but I’m sure the media will tell us if she ever blurts out something.

How did we get to the point where this matters, or at least reporters, reporters, pundits and political consultants think it does?

Did you know Elvis Presley supported Democrat Adlai Stevenson in the 1956 presidential election and John F. Kennedy in 1960, or that he shared his strong opinions on America’s cultural decline with President Nixon?

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President Nixon and Elvis Presley at the White House, 1970

Elvis was particularly incensed about the behavior of actress Jane Fonda, who was photographed at an anti-aircraft gun placement in Hanoi during the Vietnam war.

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Actress Jane Fonda at an anti-aircraft position in North Vietnam in July 1972

Like an updated Tokyo Rose, she’d also gone on Hanoi radio and petitioned American fighting men stationed to the south to lay down their arms because they were fighting an unjust war against the peace-loving North Vietnamese.

Did any of us care what Elvis thought about political issues? I don’t think so.

Did anybody vote for Adlai Stevenson because Elvis endorsed him? I doubt it.

How did we reach a point where the political opinions of pampered, self-absorbed, and often empty- headed celebrities influence our voting? It’s a virulent, ugly form of anti-intellectualism.

 Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.

Americans are woefully uninformed about history and public policy. According to a Pew Research project, about a quarter of American adults (26%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form.

A recent Fairleigh Dickinson University survey revealed that only 34 percent of registered voters can name the three branches of government, only 69 percent know which party controls the House of Representatives and just 21 percent can name the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Hard to believe, but according to Newsweek, 70 percent of Americans have no idea what the constitution, the country’s most important historical, political, and legal document even is.

But Americans do know the names, sexual proclivities, marital history, makeup choices, fashion choices and car crash-like personal lives of celebrities and, increasingly, they pay attention to their political opinions. And the media is thrilled to offer celebrities a platform to say what they think about climate change, refugees, the electoral college or whatever, no matter how nonsensical or shallow those views are or how hyping their views is a devaluation of actual expertise.

If there’s any hope it’s helpful to remember that celebrities like Katy Perry came out for Hillary in droves….and we know how that ended.

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DeFazio and Schrader: are they vulnerable in 2018?

What are they smoking?

That was my first thought when I learned Republicans think Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) will be vulnerable in 2018.

The National Republican Congressional Committee’s Chairman Steve Stivers announced on Feb. 8 that DeFazio and Schrader would be among the party’s initial 36 offensive targets in the House of Representatives for the 2018 midterm elections.

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Rep. Peter DeFazio

The Committee’s goal is to keep Republicans in control of the House

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Rep. Kurt Schrader

so they can pursue their agenda in areas such as healthcare reform, a stronger national defense, and job growth.

DeFazio has represented Oregon’s 4th Congressional District since 1987. The district, in the southwest portion of Oregon, includes Coos, Curry, Douglas, Lane, and Linn counties and parts of Benton and Josephine counties.

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Oregon’s 4th District

In his first race, DeFazio won with 54.3 percent of the vote. He won his next 16 races with comfortable leads, with a high of 85.8 percent in 1990 and a low of 54.6 percent in 2010. After a 2011 re-districting gave Democrat-heavy Corvallis to the 4th district, DeFazio won 59.1- 39 percent.

Democrats figured the Corvallis shift guaranteed DeFazio a permanent seat and his seat did seem safe when he won in 2014 with 58.6 percent and in 2016 with 55.5 percent.

Further hurting Republicans has been their failure to put up a strong opponent.

With a weak bench, the Republicans have run the same man, Art Robinson, against DeFazio in each of the past four elections. You’d think they would have learned. The first time, 2010, Robinson lost by 10 points, the second time by 20, the third by 21, the fourth by almost 16.

So, is DeFazio really vulnerable as the National Republican Congressional Committee believes? Maybe.

Consider how Donald Trump did in DeFazio’s district.

Trump handily defeated Hillary Clinton in Coos, Curry, Douglas, Linn and Josephine counties. In Douglas county, Trump racked up 64.6 percent of the vote versus Clinton’s 26.3 percent.

Hillary carried only two liberal enclaves, Lane County, home of the University of Oregon, and part of Benton County, home of Oregon State University, but that was enough.

In the end, Hillary barely carried the 4th District with just 46.1 percent of the vote versus Trump’s 46 percent, a margin of just 554 votes.

That suggests the Republican problem is their candidate and his/her messaging, not the dominance of Democrats.

If the Republicans could recruit a strong moderate candidate able to make persuasive arguments, DeFazio could be in trouble.

As for Schrader, he has represented Oregon’s 5th Congressional District since 2008. The district, in the northwestern portion of Oregon, includes Lincoln, Marion, Polk, and Tillamook counties as well as portions of Benton, Clackamas, and Multnomah counties.

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Oregon’s 5th District

In his first race, Schrader won with 54 percent of the vote. He won his subsequent races with 51.3 percent, 54 percent, 53.7 percent, and 53.5 percent. In 2011, the Oregon State Legislature approved a new map of congressional districts based on updated population information from the 2010 census, but it hasn’t had a meaningful impact on Schrader.

In 2016, Trump took Marion, Polk and Tillamook counties. Clinton carried Lincoln, Benton, Clackamas, and Multnomah counties, winning heavily populated Multnomah 73.3 to 17 percent. In the end, Clinton carried the 5th District with 48.3 percent of the vote versus Trump’s 44.1 percent.

Schrader’s winning margins to date have been consistent and comfortable, but not breathtaking. They would likely have been higher without the presence of multiple other party candidates in the general elections, who have been draining principally liberal votes. In 2016, for example, the Pacific Green Party took 3.4 percent of the votes. In 2014, three other parties captured a total of 6.7 percent of the vote.

Although voter registration trends aren’t consistently matching actual election trends, Schrader’s district is becoming increasingly Democratic, though also more non-affiliated.

In Nov. 2012, there were 158,885 registered Democrats, 148,464 Republicans and 89,539 non-affiliated voters in the district. By Nov. 2016, it had shifted to 176,868 registered Democrats, 155,430 registered Republicans and 135,233 non-affiliated voters.

Is Schrader as vulnerable as the National Republican Congressional Committee believes? I don’t think so. Even though he’s been in Congress fewer terms than DeFazio, his district is likely safer for a Democrat, and becoming more so.

How about DeFazio?

I know, he’s been in office for 30 years and just keeps rolling along, seemingly invincible. But I think he’s more vulnerable than he looks. He hasn’t so much been winning as the Republicans have been losing with uninspiring, ideologically rigid candidates.

My advice to the National Republican Congressional Committee. Don’t divide your limited resources in an effort to capture both seats. Instead, focus on finding a strong moderate candidate to run against DeFazio in 2018, building a war chest sufficient for a credible race and running a sophisticated campaign.

Dennis Richardson showed a Republican can win in Oregon. If the right things fall in place, the 4th District could be next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Algorithm Politics: A Threat to Democracy

It’s not the Russians or fake news, the overhyped threats du jour, I’m most worried about. It’s algorithms.

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We’re all being sliced and diced like in an autopsy, analyzed and scrutinized so we can be messaged and manipulated. We are being told what we want to hear or what fits our biases. We accept lies because we’re being trained to do so.

As Howard Beale shrieked about television’s voice in the movie Network, “But, man, you’re never going to get any truth from us. We’ll tell you anything you want to hear; we lie like hell…We deal in illusions, man! None of it is true!”

We’ve gotten so used to the manipulation we usually don’t recognize it.

While recently strolling about the Washington Square mall’s new Amazon bookstore, I noticed that some of its racks had embraced the a fortiori tactic of many online sellers, “If you like …, you’ll love ….”

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On one shelf, printed notes said that if I liked Emma Donoghue’s novel “Room”, I’ll love Paul Pen’s “Light of the Fireflies” (“which deals with some very deep and disturbing topics, including incest”), Gillian Flynn’s “Sharp Objects” (featuring “…an incredibly flawed and fragile character…”) and Wally Lamb’s “I know this to be True” (an Oprah Book Club Pick in 1998).

It looks like the store is just being helpful, but it it is really steering your purchasing decision  in a particular direction based upon your characteristics and previous behavior.

It’s like LinkedIn alerting you to job openings that might appeal to you and Twitter feeding you promoted tweets based on your profile information, mobile device location, IP address or apps on your device.

It’s like Facebook delivering information to you on topics you’ve already signaled an interest in with a bias you’ve already displayed, and cutting out contrasting views, or not showing you certain ads based on your ethnicity (as it did until recently).

In Sept. 2016, ProPublica, an independent, non-profit that produces investigative journalism, wrote about Facebook having a comprehensive set of dossiers on its more than 2 billion members.

“Every time a Facebook member likes a post, tags a photo, updates their favorite movies in their profile, posts a comment about a politician, or changes their relationship status, Facebook logs it,” ProPublica said. “When they browse the Web, Facebook collects information about pages they visit that contain Facebook sharing buttons. When they use Instagram or WhatsApp on their phone, which are both owned by Facebook, they contribute more data to Facebook’s dossier.”

And in case that wasn’t enough, ProPublica said, Facebook also buys data about users’ mortgages, car ownership and shopping habits. Talk about invasive.

In a TED Talk, Eli Pariser, Moveon.org’s Board President, called this the “invisible algorithmic editing of the web.”

It’s like Breitbart and The Daily Beast satisfying their conservative and progressive audiences with red meat, allowing each group to retreat to what University of Wisconsin Journalism Prof. James Baughman has called “safe harbors”.

Algorythms are being used to personalize all your communications, constantly reaffirming and constraining your current perspectives, establishing and solidifying your opinion silos. As they get more sophisticated and widely used algorithms are creating what Pariser calls your “filter bubble”, accentuating rifts and perverting our democratic system.

When you log on to Facebook, an algorithm takes into account countless variables to predict what you want to see. Facebook also uses algorithms to categorize your political bent, taking into account your full range of interactions, including the pages you like and the political leanings of people who like the same pages you do.

If you want to know how Facebook categorizes you, just go to facebook.com/ads/preferences. Under the “Interests” header, click the “Lifestyle and Culture” tab. You may have to click on “More” to find it. Then look for a box titled “US Politics.” In parentheses, it will describe how Facebook has categorized you, such as liberal, moderate or conservative.

This and other information is used by opinion influencers to target you. Among those influencers are media of all stripes and politicians of all persuasions.

Politicians have long sought to appeal to different segments of voters with targeted messaging and carefully constructed personas, but until recently the process has been fairly rudimentary.

The image-making tactics described in Joe McGinnis’ groundbreaking book “The Selling of the President” about marketing Richard Nixon in the 1968 presidential race, came as a shocking surprise to a naive general public back then.

But the tactics that were pathbreaking almost 50 years ago are now old hat. They’ve been superseded by once unimaginable data collection and analysis and unforeseen content delivery systems.

Algorithm advocates are adamant that what’s being done is good for you. “Humans are facing an increasing number of choices in every aspect of their lives,” Netflix’s VP of Product Innovation Carlos A. Gomez-Uribe and Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt wrote in a co-published paper last year. “We are convinced that the field of recommender systems will continue to play a pivotal role in using the wealth of data now available to make these choices manageable, effectively guiding people to the truly best few options for them to be evaluated, resulting in better decisions.”

Gomez-Uribe and Hunt argued that Netflix’ impressive system, which breaks down films into over 75,000 hyper-specific sub-genres and uses those, and your past behavior, to make recommendations, is obviously a great thing because 80% of hours streamed at Netflix end up being of recommended films.

But Issie Lapowsky, at Wired, is less sanguine about the implications of algorithms, arguing that there’s a dark side to their use. “This (2016) election has shown us how the same platforms that put a world of facts and information at our fingertips can just as easily be used to undermine basic truths,” she wrote on Nov. 7.

In Weapons of Math Destruction, Cathy O’Neil argued that algorithms pose as neutral tools, but too often exploit people and distort the truth, contributing to the erosion of democracy.

“The social network (i.e. Facebook) may feel like a modern town square, but thanks to its tangle of algorithms, it’s nothing like the public forums of the past,” she said. “The company determines, according to its interests and those of its shareholders, what we see and learn on its social network. The result has been a loss of focus on critical national issues, an erosion of civil disagreement, and a threat to democracy itself.”

Algorithms cause us to “contribute to our own miseducation”, reinforcing echo chambers and making us more partisan, O’Neil said.  “Thanks in part to filtering and personalization… our information has become deeply unbalanced, skewed, and has lost its mooring.”

The increasing sophistication of data gathering and analysis reflected in algorithms is also allowing politicians to shape shift for almost each individual voter. A politician used to be one person, or maybe two if you didn’t like him. It used to be that a presidential candidate delivered similar personas and key messages to  all audiences. If he didn’t, his duplicity was exposed. Today, multiple personas and positions are carefully constructed  and messages are carefully targeted so they can be delivered to tiny slices of the electorate, often with no broader public awareness.

Micro-messaging allows specific online messages to be delivered to a certain group, such as just to attendees of the 2016 National Right to Life Convention at the Hilton Washington Dulles Airport  in Herndon, VA, or even to two members of a family in the same house with different views.

Often the dissection of voters allows a message to be massaged such that the recipient on social media or other channels believes she and the politician are in agreement, even if that’s not the case.  For example, an anti-union Congresswoman might tell a same-minded constituent of by her support for a right-to-work bill, while telling a union supporter about her vote for higher infrastructure spending that tends to reward unions.

Stanford Prof. Neil Malhotra’s research led him to suspect that this kind of  hypocrisy helps explain how members of Congress can get away with voting in a highly partisan or polarized way when their constituents are actually much more moderate.

“These people are good strategic communicators who can potentially take very extreme positions that are out of step with their constituents but then massage them with language,” Malhotra said in a Stanford Business article.

Of course, targeting voters is hardly a new thing; politicians have been doing it forever. But now the databases are substantially more comprehensive, sometimes scarily so, the messaging vehicles, such as social media, can be much more individualized and the political elite are fully embracing the new technology.

“Algorithms show us what we like, not what is ‘right’ ”, said Sebastian Buckup on Quartz. “As a result, they increase ideological segregation rather than creating a digital agora. Influencers no longer waste their time with facts…Rather than seeking truth, the age of data is creating its own.”

That new truth will put more power in the hands of manipulators who won’t have our best interests at heart.

Asked, “How did you go bankrupt?”, Ernest Hemingway replied, “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

That’s how our democracy will collapse, too, if algorithmic tools aren’t tamed to function in our best interest.

 

De-Le-Git-I-Mizing Trump: Hillary and the permanent campaign

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The media are reporting that the Hillary Clinton campaign is supporting calls by some members of the Electoral College for an intelligence briefing on President-elect Donald Trump’s ties with Russia ahead of their Dec. 19 vote.

Huh? The Clinton campaign still exists? Thirty six days after the presidential election?

Of course, because unlike with past presidential candidates, Clinton’s team see themselves as part of a permanent campaign to delegitimize the winner.

It began with the campaign’s support for the effort to discredit Trump’s win by echoing accusations that Trump wasn‘t the “real” winner because even though he won the electoral votes, Clinton won more actual votes

It continued with the campaign supporting the recount effort in three states by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. On Medium, the Clinton campaign’s counsel, Marc Elias, said that while the campaign wasn’t going to contest the results itself, it had decided to take part in the effort to “ensure that it is fair to all sides.” Oddly enough, in Wisconsin, the one state which completed its recount, Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton increased by 131 votes.

Clinton’s campaign kept up the barrage by endorsing calls by some electors for CIA briefings on Russia’s role in the election. On Dec. 12, 10 electors published a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asking for an intelligence briefing before their Dec. 19 vote.

John Podesta, chairman of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, followed up with a statement saying, “The bipartisan electors’ letter raises very grave issues involving our national security,” Podesta said. “Electors have a solemn responsibility under the Constitution and we support their efforts to have their questions addressed.”

“We now know that the CIA has determined Russia’s interference in our elections was for the purpose of electing Donald Trump. This should distress every American,” Podesta added, leaving out that there is no unanimity on this point among the government intelligence agencies. The FBI, for example, has suggested that the CIA’s assessment so far lacks definitive evidence.

Leftist New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has gone so far as to call the presidential election “illegitimate” and “tainted” by Russian interference and the actions of FBI Director James Comey.

“So this was a tainted election,” Krugman wrote on Dec. 12. “It was not, as far as we can tell, stolen in the sense that votes were counted wrong, and the result won’t be overturned. But the result was nonetheless illegitimate in important ways; the victor was rejected by the public, and won the Electoral College only thanks to foreign intervention and grotesquely inappropriate, partisan behavior on the part of domestic law enforcement.”

“Did the combination of Russian and F.B.I. intervention swing the election?,” Krugman aid. “Yes. Mrs. Clinton lost three states — Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — by less than a percentage point, and Florida by only slightly more,” Krugman wrote.

“If she had won any three of those states, she would be president-elect. Is there any reasonable doubt that Putin/Comey made the difference?”

And if pigs could fly all would be well.

Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, D.C., have piled on, asserting in the Washington Post that Trump needs to create a blind trust for his assets in order to assure the electors that he won’t be violating the Constitution when he’s sworn in.

“Above all, Trump’s refusal to create a blind trust — and his procrastination in providing a credible plan to solve the constitutional issues his business plans pose — is not fair to the electors who must cast ballots on Dec. 19, before Trump’s “busy times” will allow him to explain his arrangements in January,” they wrote. “ “He needs to assure the electors now that his businesses will not receive payments from foreign governments. That is necessary so that both Trump and the electors can do their jobs as required under the Constitution.

It’s tempting to assume that the Clinton partisans are little more than a ship of fools bitter at the results of the presidential election, but more is at work here. The agitators are trying to delegitimize Trump from the outset, setting the stage for years of hard-edged conflict.

Buckle your seat belts, America.

Media Malpractice: Reporting on Post-Election Hate

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There’s not just fake news out there. There’s also a lot of reporting that’s just plain unreliable and biased, but is accepted uncritically by people because it fits their preconceived expectations and those of their like-minded circle.

Tales of hate incidents, threats and intimidation of minorities abound, with many commentators suggesting there’s a linkage between the incidents and Donald Trump’s election.

Much of the recent debate has relied on data gathered by the Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

On Nov. 29, the SPLC released reports “documenting (emphasis mine) how President-elect Donald Trump’s own words have sparked hate incidents across the country and had a profoundly negative effect on the nation’s schools”. The reports said that in the ten days after the election the SPLC counted 867 incidents of harassment and intimidation.

Most of the incidents cited by the SPLC involved anti-immigrant incidents (136), followed by anti-black (89) and anti-LGBT (43). A “Trump” category (41) referred to incidents where there was no clear defined target, like the vandalism of a “unity” sign in Connecticut, which the SPLC categorized as “pro-Trump vandalism”.

The New York Times jumped on the report, observing that, “Hate Crimes have surged across the country,” linking that assertion to the SPLC ‘s “hate crimes” reports and denouncing Trump for not being more aggressive in “condemning the hate talk and violence being done in his name.”

The New Yorker, citing the SPLC reports, said, “Since Donald Trump won the Presidential election, there has been a dramatic uptick in incidents of racist and xenophobic harassment across the country.”

“Hate, harassment incidents spike since Trump election”, CBS News reported, basing its report largely on SPLC’s data.

Willamette Week picked up the SPLC’s report, running a story headlined, “Report on Post-Election Hate Incidents Shows Oregon at Top of List; New Southern Poverty Law Center info paints alarming picture of Pacific Northwest.”

NPR’s All Things Considered also had a segment on the topic.

“Since Tuesday (Nov. 8), the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has counted some 250 incidents…. ,” said NPR’s Eyder Peralta. “While they have not verified all of them, they include anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-Muslim messages and, in the case of a Michigan middle school, a lunchroom anti-immigrant taunt – build the wall.”

“I think that the emotions that were unleashed by the Trump campaign’s use of bigotry as a tool to get elected has reached every part of our society, “ said Heidi Beirich, an employee of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) described as an expert on various forms of extremism. “I think that the emotions that were unleashed by the Trump campaign’s use of bigotry as a tool to get elected has reached every part of our society.”

Because the SPLC is widely recognized as a reputable source, or because many media outlets have taken the easy way out and simply parroted the SPLC’s reports, the media have been awash in reports citing the SPLC data.

There’s one big problem. Media don’t note that the SPLC has not verified the incidents it cites so breathlessly as evidence of a spike in hate crimes..

On its website, the SPLC admits the hate incidents it cites came from news reports, social media, and direct submissions via SPLC’s #ReportHate page. “These incidents, aside from news reports, are largely anecdotal” and “…it was not possible to confirm the veracity of all reports” the SPLC says.

And there’s no way for the public to even read the details of all the reported incidents because the SPLC’s website doesn’t provide access to them.

There may, indeed, have been a recent rise in hate incidents, and the SPLC’s reports make for bone-chilling reading. But the reports don’t “document” hate incidents if the word is taken to mean providing hard evidence.

Hanna Goldfield addressed the critical need for writing to be accurate, even if an alternative version is more “beautiful” or makes a story stronger, in a piece she wrote for the New Yorker. “The conceit that one must choose facts or beauty—even if it’s beauty in the name of “Truth” or a true “idea”—is preposterous,” she said. “A good writer—with the help of a fact-checker and an editor, perhaps—should be able to marry the two, and a writer who refuses to even try is, simply, a hack.”

Reporters should also recognize that data sources are rarely neutral observers. the SPLC, for example, has a position to plead, a message to deliver in order to generate contributions, a desire to be quoted so its influence will be enhanced.

Paul Sperry, a former Washington bureau chief for Investor’s Business Daily, also points out that although the SPLC claims to be a nonpartisan civil rights law firm, it receives funding from leftist groups, including ones controlled by billionaire George Soros. And a review of Federal Election Commission records reveals that its board members contributed more than $13,400 to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns.

In summary, there’s a lesson here for current and aspiring reporters. Reporters shouldn’t just accept and promote information that affirms their biases or makes for a story that attracts a lot of clicks.  That’s sloppy reporting that undermines trust in the media, and rightfully so.