Sunday, September 25, 2016
Saturday, September 24, 2016
As of this writing, Donald Trump trails Hillary Clinton by three points in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, while FiveThirtyEight’s election forecast gives the Republican nominee a 40 percent chance of winning the White House this November.The fact that an emotionally volatile, authoritarian demagogue — who has campaigned on his contempt for minority groups and the norms of liberal democracy — could prove so competitive in a presidential race has led many pundits to accuse the news media of abject failure: Clearly, the fourth estate has not given the American people an accurate assessment of the choices before them.
There’s some sound evidence for this view. The media’s fixation on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server has left much of the public ignorant of virtually everything else the Democratic nominee brings to the 2016 race.
Meanwhile, Trump is the most mendacious candidate in modern American history — and yet voters see him as “more honest and straightforward” than his opponent. What’s more, even though his economic program consists of supply-side tax cuts and deregulatory schemes that most Americans oppose — and his career in business has been marked by corruption and incompetence — many polls show a majority of voters saying Trump would be better at handling the economy.
But the Republican nominee boasts many deficiencies that are easy to convey. It’s not hard to show the public that Trump is bigoted, ill-tempered, and unpredictable in his behavior — you just need to broadcast his rallies. And, at that task, cable news has excelled. A pair of new polls show that the message of those rallies has gotten through to the electorate.
An Associated Press–GfK survey released Friday finds that a majority of Americans think Trump is at least somewhat racist, while 60 percent say he does not respect ordinary people, and nearly three-quarters say he is neither civil nor compassionate — a sentiment endorsed by 40 percent of Trump’s own supporters.
A new SurveyMonkey poll shows Americans taking an even darker view of the Republican nominee, with a majority of voters saying Trump would abuse the power of the presidency to punish his political opponents, allow the U.S. to default on its debt, inspire “race riots” in major cities, create a database to track Muslim Americans, and order air strikes against the families of terrorists.
A full 46 percent of the electorate says Trump will detonate a nuclear weapon during his time in office, while 44 percent say he will establish internment camps for illegal immigrants.
The upshot of both of these surveys, when taken together, is that Donald Trump has not been “normalized.” Most Americans see him as a racist would-be authoritarian who is highly likely to start a nuclear war. The trouble is, some voters apparently like that in a president.
According to SurveyMonkey, 48 percent of Trump supporters believe he will create a database for monitoring Muslims; 33 percent think he’ll let the government default on its debt; 32 percent say he’ll use the Executive branch’s authority to persecute political opponents and establish internment camps for the undocumented; and 22 percent — nearly a quarter — say he’ll probably start a nuclear war.
Be very, very afraid.Due to a combination of party polarization, Hillary Clinton’s high unfavorable numbers, unusually popular third-party candidates — and an openness to extremism far more widespread in the electorate than most political observers had realized — it now seems possible that Trump could win the presidency this November, even as more than half the country sees him as a bigoted madman.
RICHMOND – You can now buy "Virginia is for Lovers" trucker hats with a gay pride flag incorporated into the state's iconic tourism pitch.
The hat, and other state swag, is part of a new branding effort targeting LGBT tourists. There's a new web page highlighting events and destinations that have self-identified as LGBT friendly and a new resource guide for businesses looking to cash in.
The Virginia Tourism Corporation rolled out the campaign heading into this weekend, just ahead of the Virginia Pridefest in Richmond. But this is no limited-time event.
"This is going to be fully integrated in all our marketing, from top to bottom," tourism corporation spokeswoman Caroline Logan said. "This will be going on forever as far as we're concerned."
Eight other states have done something similar, but Virginia is the first one in the South, unless you count Florida. The campaign has been two years in the making, started by a push from Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who made clear from before he took office that he wants everyone to visit Virginia, and to leave lots money.
LGBT tourists – and that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender – make up 10 percent of the U.S. tourism market, Logan said. They spend somewhere around $57 billion a year on travel and tourism, she said.
"They travel more and they stay longer and they spend more money," she said.
Logan said campaign feedback has been positive, but the effort is bound to be controversial for some.
Businesses and events have to opt into this particular marketing campaign, just as they do for other targeted state campaigns. The database of places to stay included 120 locations on rollout. Among other things, the website features a picture of McAuliffe marrying a lesbian couple.
In addition to the web page and database, the tourism corporation has created an LGBT Tourism Resource Guide for state businesses in the tourism industry, which generated an estimated $23 billion in spending last year in the state.
The Catholic Church has acquitted an HIV-infected priest who has admitted to raping close to 30 young girls between the ages of five and 10 years old. According to a bombshell report, which appeared in the Spanish-language news site Urgente24.com, the priest, Jose Garcia Ataulfo, was absolved of any wrongdoing by the Archdiocese of Mexico. Ataulfo has admitted to sexually assaulting indigenous young girls from Oaxaca, a state in southern Mexico known for its large indigenous population. The priest has yet to face any criminal charges, most likely due to the significant influence that the Catholic Church wields in Mexico, particularly in areas populated by indigenous ethnic groups.
According to Urgente24.com, only two of the over two dozen rape victims have come forward to denounce the acquittal.
The website Anonymous Mexico reported that the mother of one of the victims asked to meet with Pope Francis in Rome, but she was rebuffed by the Vatican which wrote a letter stating that it considered the matter closed.
Sexual abuse of minors by priests – and the subsequent cover-ups by bishops and other Church officials - have been widespread in many countries, including the United States.
The [Boston] Globe exposé, which detailed abuse cases that numbered in the thousands over a span of several decades, inspired other victims to come forward, leading to an avalanche of lawsuits and criminal prosecutions.
Not only did the floodgates open in the US, but the Catholic Church was also forced to confront cases in other countries, including Mexico.
U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials — including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president, according to multiple sources who have been briefed on the issue.
The activities of Trump adviser Carter Page, who has extensive business interests in Russia, have been discussed with senior members of Congress during recent briefings about suspected efforts by Moscow to influence the presidential election, the sources said. After one of those briefings, Senate minority leader Harry Reid wrote FBI Director James Comey, citing reports of meetings between a Trump adviser (a reference to Page) and “high ranking sanctioned individuals” in Moscow over the summer as evidence of “significant and disturbing ties” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin that needed to be investigated by the bureau.
Some of those briefed were “taken aback” when they learned about Page’s contacts in Moscow, viewing them as a possible back channel to the Russians that could undercut U.S. foreign policy, said a congressional source familiar with the briefings but who asked for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. The source added that U.S. officials in the briefings indicated that intelligence reports about the adviser’s talks with senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin were being “actively monitored and investigated.”
A senior U.S. law enforcement official did not dispute that characterization when asked for comment by Yahoo News. “It’s on our radar screen,” said the official about Page’s contacts with Russian officials. “It’s being looked at.”
Trump first mentioned Page’s name when asked to identify his “foreign policy team” during an interview with the Washington Post editorial team last March. Describing him then only as a “PhD,” Trump named Page as among five advisers “that we are dealing with.” But his precise role in the campaign remains unclear; Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks last month called him an “informal foreign adviser” who “does not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign.”
The questions about Page come amid mounting concerns within the U.S. intelligence community about Russian cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and state election databases in Arizona and Illinois. In a rare public talk this week, former undersecretary of defense for intelligence Mike Vickers said that the Russian cyberattacks constituted meddling in the U.S. election and were “beyond the pale.”
Page came to the attention of officials at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow several years ago when he showed up in the Russian capital during several business trips and made provocative public comments critical of U.S. policy and sympathetic to Putin. “He was pretty much a brazen apologist for anything Moscow did,” said one U.S. official who served in Russia at the time.
Page showed up again in Moscow in early July, just two weeks before the Republican National Convention formally nominated Trump for president, and once again criticized U.S. policy. Speaking at a commencement address for the New Economic School, an institution funded in part by major Russian oligarchs close to Putin, Page asserted that “Washington and other West capitals” had impeded progress in Russia “through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.”
U.S. officials have since received intelligence reports that during that same three-day trip, Page met with Igor Sechin, a longtime Putin associate and former Russian deputy prime minister who is now the executive chairman of Rosneft, Russian’s leading oil company, a well-placed Western intelligence source tells Yahoo News. That meeting, if confirmed, is viewed as especially problematic by U.S. officials because the Treasury Department in August 2014 named Sechin to a list of Russian officials and businessmen sanctioned over Russia’s “illegitimate and unlawful actions in the Ukraine.”
Friday, September 23, 2016
On Thursday, Donald Trump spoke before an audience full of natural gas and energy industry leaders — and the message was exactly the same as his economic policy proposal from last week: fewer environmental regulations and more land available to fossil fuel companies.“We need an America-First energy plan,” Trump said. “This means opening federal lands for oil and gas production; opening offshore areas; and revoking policies that are imposing unnecessary restrictions on innovative new exploration technologies.”
If elected president, Trump has pledged to revoke both the Clean Power Planand President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the cornerstones of Obama’s domestic climate agenda, and important signals to the international community of the United States’ commitment to climate action.Trump has also promised to roll back the Waters of the United States Rule, which would extend drinking water protections for millions of Americans. Instead, he said that he would redirect the EPA to “refocus…on its core mission of ensuring clean air, and clean, safe drinking water for all Americans.”
Trump does not seem to understand that regulations he so deeply wants to cut are crucial to preserving clean air, and clean, safe drinking water for all Americans.
A recent Harvard study found that the public health benefits of the Clean Power Plan are so robust that they outweigh the costs of the carbon standard in 13 out of 14 power sectors within five years of implementation. The same study estimated that the plan could save some 3,500 lives every year. Similarly, the Waters of the United States rule would protect the drinking water for a third of Americans that currently get their water from unprotected sources.
Beyond rolling back crucial protections, Trump’s speech on Thursday showed that he does not intend to back down on his policy proposal that would open up vast regions of the United States to fossil fuel production.
After Trump’s speech, Sierra Club Political Director Khalid Pitts criticized the Republican presidential candidate’s policies, calling them polluter “talking points.”
“Trump’s dirty-fuels-first plan is pretty simple: drill enough off our coasts to threaten beaches from Maine to Florida, frack enough to spoil groundwater across the nation, and burn enough coal to cook the planet and make our kids sick,” Pitts said in a statement. “In stark contrast, Hillary Clinton is the only candidate in this race who is committed to grow the booming clean energy economy to create jobs and help tackle the climate crisis.”
Here’s what we can be fairly sure will happen in Monday’s presidential debate: Donald Trump will lie repeatedly and grotesquely, on a variety of subjects. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton might say a couple of untrue things. Or she might not.
Here’s what we don’t know: Will the moderators step in when Mr. Trump delivers one of his well-known, often reiterated falsehoods? If he claims, yet again, to have opposed the Iraq war from the beginning — which he didn’t — will he be called on it? If he claims to have renounced birtherism years ago, will the moderators note that he was still at it just a few months ago? . . . . . If he says one more time that America is the world’s most highly taxed country — which it isn’t — will anyone other than Mrs. Clinton say that it isn’t? And will media coverage after the debate convey the asymmetry of what went down?
[A]t this point we have long track records for both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton; thanks to nonpartisan fact-checking operations like PolitiFact, we can even quantify the difference.
PolitiFact has examined 258 Trump statements and 255 Clinton statements and classified them on a scale ranging from “True” to “Pants on Fire.” One might quibble with some of the judgments, but they’re overwhelmingly in the ballpark. And they show two candidates living in different moral universes when it comes to truth-telling. Mr. Trump had 48 Pants on Fire ratings, Mrs. Clinton just six; the G.O.P. nominee had 89 False ratings, the Democrat 27.
Unless one candidate has a nervous breakdown or a religious conversion in the next few days, the debate will follow similar lines. So how should it be reported? . . . What I suggest is that reporters and news organizations treat time and attention span as a sort of capital budget that must be allocated across coverage.
And if the debate looks anything like the campaign so far, we know what that will mean: a news analysis that devotes at least five times as much space to Mr. Trump’s falsehoods as to Mrs. Clinton’s.
If your reaction is, “Oh, they can’t do that — it would look like partisan bias,” you have just demonstrated the huge problem with news coverage during this election. For I am not calling on the news media to take a side; I’m just calling on it to report what is actually happening, without regard for party. In fact, any reporting that doesn’t accurately reflect the huge honesty gap between the candidates amounts to misleading readers, giving them a distorted picture that favors the biggest liar.
Yet there are, of course, intense pressures on the news media to engage in that distortion. Point out a Trump lie and you will get some pretty amazing mail — and if we set aside the attacks on your race or ethnic group, accusations that you are a traitor, etc., most of it will declare that you are being a bad journalist because you don’t criticize both candidates equally.
One all-too-common response to such attacks involves abdicating responsibility for fact-checking entirely, and replacing it with theater criticism. . . . . news reporting should tell the public what really happened, not be devoted to speculation about how other people might react to what happened.
Now, what will I say if Mr. Trump lies less than I predict and Mrs. Clinton more? That’s easy: Tell it like it is. But don’t grade on a curve. If Mr. Trump lies only three times as much as Mrs. Clinton, the main story should still be that he lied a lot more than she did, not that he wasn’t quite as bad as expected.
Again, I’m not calling on the news media to take sides; journalists should simply do their job, which is to report the facts. It may not be easy — but doing the right thing rarely is.