Trump’s Coronavirus Disinformation Campaign

The Daily Escape:

Mount St. Helen’s WA – July 2019 photo by NathanielMerz

The Coronavirus global tally as of Saturday March 7th is 105,612 cases with 3,562 deaths. Yesterday was the first day where we saw over 3,000 new cases in a single day since there was routine reporting of those levels in China a week or so ago.

That means the focus of new infections has shifted from China to the west. Wrongo saw a meme comparing flu deaths to Coronavirus deaths, saying that “54,000 people die from the flu each year and no one bats an eye, but people are freaking out over 3,500 coronavirus deaths”.

This is disinformation of the worst kind.

We’ve written about the differences between the flu and the Coronavirus: Coronavirus is at least 20 times as deadly as the flu, and is currently trending at 35 times as deadly. It is more contagious. This means that for 54k people to die from flu, 54 million people have to get the flu. But, for 54k people to die from Coronavirus, only between 1.8 million and 2.7 million people have to get sick.

This kind of disinformation is also spewing from the president. He has repeatedly downplayed concerns about Coronavirus. Just this week he:

  • Said he wanted to keep sick people on a cruise ship to fudge the numbers
  • Called the governor of Washington state, who has the most cases, “a snake”
  • Was preoccupied with his ratings on Fox
  • Said anyone can get tested, when they can’t

Meanwhile, the number of US cases have gone from 5 to 260 since he claimed it was all a hoax.

America can’t seem to get sufficient numbers of tests in the hands of health professionals. Connecticut, for example, has one examination kit that allows only 600 tests to be conducted. Do Trump & Pence realize that when you test fewer people, you do keep your number of confirmed cases low, but your death rate percentage is going to be higher?

The disinformation is reflected in polling. Reuters reports:

“Democrats are about twice as likely as Republicans to say the coronavirus poses an imminent threat to the United States, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted this week. And more Democrats than Republicans say they are taking steps to be prepared, including washing their hands more often or limiting their travel plans. Poll respondents who described themselves as Republicans and did not see the coronavirus as a threat said it still felt remote because cases had not been detected close to home and their friends and neighbors did not seem to be worried, either.”

Overall, about four of every 10 Democrats said they thought the new Coronavirus poses an imminent threat, compared to about two of every 10 Republicans. This is looking like a battle between the scientists working on the Coronavirus, and the political complacency of the right, who say that the virus is no big deal.

But this is a binary situation: One side or the other will turn out to be correct. The complacents assume that the number of cases will remain small (in the hundreds), so the number of deaths will also remain small. From Charles Hugh Smith:

“Given the scientific evidence that Covid-19 is highly contagious, let’s do a Pareto Distribution (80/20 rule) projection and estimate that 20% of the US population gets Covid-19. That’s 66 million people….higher than the 54 million who catch a flu virus in a “bad flu” season.”

Smith’s analysis paints a daunting picture: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Using the lower CFR (case-fatality rate) rate, 2% of 66 million is 1.3 million, so if Covid-19 infects only 20% of the US populace, current data suggests 1.3 million people will die.”

That should be a reason for panic.

Some final points: If even just 5% of all cases required hospitalization/intensive care, that would equal about 3.3 million people. Thus, America will quickly run out of hospital intensive care bed capacity. Smith says that there are just 94,000 intensive care beds in the US. Once the number of patients needing hospitalization exceeds the number of ICU beds, the death rate can grow dramatically.

And today, using disinformation, the Trump administration is trying to deflect and minimize what the scientists are saying. Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus in America is dangerous, and needs to be stopped.

A final word from Brian Schatz, Senator from Hawaii, on Trump:

“Today is a three dimensional demonstration of the consequences of electing someone like this. He’s not lying about his wealth. He’s not lying about his polling. He’s not lying about his opponent or his ratings. He’s lying about a pandemic and the government response.”

If in another 2-3 months, the hospitals are overflowing and surrounded by armed guards to keep the uninsured out of the building, we’ll be riding in a shit storm of Trump’s incompetence.

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2020 Census Brings Scams, Confusion

The Daily Escape:

Florida Beach in February – 2015 photo by Wrongo

(Posting will be light and variable until March 8th, as Wrongo and Ms. Right spend a few days warming up in Florida)

The 2020 census is about to start. That’s the way we estimate the number of people living in each location in our country. The census is more than just a headcount; it shapes the distribution of political power and government funding for the next 10 years. It will inform the redistricting process at every political level across the country. So Congressional seats and Electoral College votes hang in the balance.

The Census Bureau is running more than 1,000 census ads in the US through July 2020 to encourage all households to participate. The Census Bureau confirmed that all advertisements will include a disclaimer underscoring that participants’ information will not be shared with any other parties, presumably, like ICE.

It’s expected that scams will be everywhere. According to AARP:

– 70% of respondents were incorrect or unsure about whether the Census Bureau would use email to contact them. Actually, all correspondence is sent via US mail

– 35% expect or are unsure whether the Census questionnaire will ask for their Social Security number, bank account information or passwords, or that it will require payment of a fee

It’s clear that the AARP crowd skews older, so you might expect that there would be some level of confusion that could make them susceptible to scams.

In addition to scams, Republicans are taking the opportunity of the census to collect information and raise funds with a form letter labeled “Census”. Here’s a sample:

The document asks questions, some of which are leading and biased, such as:

“Do you approve or disapprove of the Democrats’ agenda to raise taxes, provide free health care and college tuition for all, open our borders to all immigrants, enact dangerous abortion policies, pack the Supreme Court, allow inmates to vote and abolish the Electoral College?”

There is also continuing confusion about whether the census is asking a citizenship question, despite the fact that the US Census Bureau was directed by the Supreme Court not to include it.

A Pew Research Center survey just found that most Americans believe, incorrectly, that the 2020 census will ask about whether each individual in the household is a citizen:

“A 56% majority of the public thinks the census will include a question about citizenship, according to the Pew survey. Another 25% are not sure. Only 17% know that a citizenship question will not be on the census. By demographic segment, here’s who knows there will be no citizenship question on the census:

14% of women, and 20% of men

20% of Democrats and 14% of Republicans

15 to 16% of adults under age 65 and 21% of those aged 65 or older

18% percent of Hispanics and non-Hispanic Whites, but only 9% of blacks

21% of foreign-born Hispanics versus 16% of native-born Hispanics

26% of those with a bachelor’s degree and 13% of those with less education”

Whether this mistaken belief will suppress participation in the census, which is just a few weeks away, remains to be seen. Also, Pew says that certain groups are more hesitant to participate, including black and Hispanic adults. The Census Bureau says it is targeting black and Hispanic populations, as well as some groups of young adults, for additional outreach because they have been hard to count in the past.

The 2020 Census will be the first to be completed largely online, assuming that the Census Bureau’s plan goes off without complications. And Pew says that 60% are interested in doing so. But, the possibility of scamming will be ever-present.

People do have the option to request a paper form. One way to verify that the document received in the mail is an official Census Bureau form is to see if the enclosed envelope to mail it back is addressed to Jeffersonville, IN, or Phoenix, AZ, locations of the Census Bureau’s processing centers.

Like in the 2020 national elections, turning out for, and completing the census is very important to the future of the country.

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Facebook Could Destroy Democracy

The Daily Escape:

Pond, Greenville County SC – February 2020 photo by Ninjiteex. It’s rare to see snow in SC

On Facebook, Wrongo mostly reads the posts of friends who are involved in showing dogs at AKC events. People who show dogs skew older and female, and thus, so do Wrongo’s Facebook friends. Many share a constant amount of pro-Trump (dis)information.

So, Wrongo tried a week-long experiment, letting some of those posters know that their posts were factually incorrect. Let’s focus on one, a picture of a very young Bernie Sanders being hauled away by police:

The photo’s caption says:

“In 1963 Bernie Sanders was arrested for throwing eggs at black civil rights protestors. This is the side of Bernie that CNN and the fake news media don’t want you to know”

The picture is real, the caption is false. Sanders was actually protesting police brutality and segregation, and was arrested for “resisting arrest”. Facebook has now taken down the post, but it was up for over a week.

When Wrongo told friends that their posts were false, everyone deflected, and minimized their intent. One, a fervent Trumper, said, “I just wanted to post a picture of him when he was young”. Never mind that this photo is available all over the internet with the simplest of searches, all with the correct reference.

Despite a week’s worth of trying, no one was willing to delete a false post. Many of these people post disinformation six or more times a day, so it was an exercise in futility to try and make these “friends” admit the truth about their posts, much less show any awareness about their biases.

This is a small example of what McKay Coppins wrote in his Atlantic article, “The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President.” As an experiment, Coppins signed up at many pro-Trump social media sites, and soon was deluged with alternative facts: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“What I was seeing was a strategy that has been deployed by illiberal political leaders around the world. Rather than shutting down dissenting voices, these leaders have learned to harness the democratizing power of social media for their own purposes—jamming the signals, sowing confusion. They no longer need to silence the dissident shouting in the streets; they can use a megaphone to drown him out. Scholars have a name for this: censorship through noise.”

All of this is helped by Facebook’s excellent micro-targeting tools. They allow an advertiser to slice the electorate into narrow and distinct niches and then reach them with precisely tailored digital messages. More from Coppins:

“An ad that calls for defunding Planned Parenthood might get a mixed response from a large national audience, but serve it directly via Facebook to 800 Roman Catholic women in Dubuque, Iowa, and its reception will be much more positive.”

The results can be overwhelming. The Trump campaign runs hundreds of iterations of ads. In the 10 weeks after the House of Representatives began its impeachment inquiry, the Trump campaign ran roughly 14,000 different ads containing the word impeachment.

No one has the bandwidth to sift through all of them, and then call them out.

It gets worse. Coppins says that the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign have compiled an average of 3,000 data points on every voter in America. They have spent years experimenting with ways to tweak their messages based not just on gender and geography, but on whether the recipient owns a dog or, a gun.

Raw Story quotes former Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) saying that Donald Trump intentionally wants America to be anxious: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“I had a colleague that was in a meeting in the Roosevelt Room and….he heard Trump say, ‘Have you ever seen the nation so divided?’ My colleagues and others said, ‘No, we haven’t.’ Trump said, ‘I love it that way.’’

He thinks this how he’ll be re-elected!

Last Sunday, Walter Schaub, former director of the US Office of Government Ethics had a remarkable tweet thread on this, saying: (emphasis and brackets by Wrongo)

“…we’re in a dangerous new phase of Trump’s war on democracy. What do we do now?

….the greatest threat we face is despondency. The enemies of democracy…want you drowning in hopelessness. A hopeless populace is a helpless one. To that end, a hostile foreign power set up an infrastructure to weaponize social media against you.

Compounding the assault on your senses, he [Trump] also wields a corrupted government, which follows his lead in disseminating lies to sow confusion…

In the face of this psychological warfare, our most urgent mission—our civic duty—is to reject despondency. Everyone has a bad day, so we may need to take turns leading the charge. But our job as citizens is to resist the temptation to spread defeatism on social media.”

You said it, Walter!

We gotta keep hope alive.

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NY Times’ Pointless Exercise

The Daily Escape:

Zion NP, UT – January 2020 photo by csmicfool

Wrongo is confused. The NYT endorsed both Warren and Klobuchar, apparently for the same job. But in reality, they endorsed Klobuchar, the candidate who is polling around 4%, well below the 15% it will take to win any delegates. The endorsement of Warren is secondary, even on their editorial pages, which lists Klobuchar on the left full page, and Warren on the right full page.

Here’s how the Times talked about the difference between the two of them:

“Both the radical and the realist models warrant serious consideration. If there were ever a time to be open to new ideas, it is now. If there were ever a time to seek stability, now is it.

That’s why we’re endorsing the most effective advocates for each approach. They are Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.”

They are not campaigning to be co-presidents, we will get just one nominee. The Times says there are two possible ways forward: Warren’s a radical. Klobuchar’s a realist. This all but guarantees that if Warren is the nominee, Trump’s ads will say: “Even the leftist New York Times thinks Warren is a radical.”

In case you’re unsure, Warren isn’t a radical. She’s demonstrated over and over that she’s moderately progressive, and a pragmatic liberal, with the exception of her poorly-thought-out position on Medicare for All. The NYT has its way with Warren:

“American capitalism is responsible for its share of sins. But Ms. Warren often casts the net far too wide, placing the blame for a host of maladies from climate change to gun violence at the feet of the business community when the onus is on society as a whole. The country needs a more unifying path.”

By contrast, here’s the Times’s critique of Klobuchar. It’s one paragraph plus one sentence about her poor positioning in the race:

Reports of how Senator Klobuchar treats her staff give us pause. They raise serious questions about her ability to attract and hire talented people. Surrounding the president with a team of seasoned, reasoned leaders is critical to the success of an administration, not doing so is often the downfall of presidencies. Ms. Klobuchar has acknowledged she’s a tough boss and pledged to do better…..Ms. Klobuchar doesn’t have the polished veneer and smooth delivery that comes from a lifetime spent in the national spotlight, and she has struggled to gain traction on the campaign trail.”

The Times is playing a cynical game. They’re saying that they are endorsing both Warren and Klobuchar, but they really want Klobuchar, someone who really has very few followers.

It isn’t even clear that Klobuchar is a better moderate candidate than Biden. Clearly he’s older, but he has a national and global perspective that Klobuchar lacks. As a candidate, she’s a lesser Biden, without the black support.

And for Warren, she’s at least as formidable a candidate as Sanders, but she may have a higher ceiling with potential voters.

In most ways, the 2020 primaries so far have been Policy Minutiae on the Democrat’s side, vs. Resentment Politics on the GOP’s. Way more people are persuaded by tribal politics than by policies. If you disagree, look at this from the LA Times which says that a substantial group of Iowa voters are trying to choose between Biden and Sanders:

“Both campaigns believe there is a swath of voters — mostly white, working-class voters, including those who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 after backing Barack Obama twice — who are torn between Biden and Sanders, the race’s old-timers. Both men’s campaigns are fishing in that electoral pond as each candidate looks to expand his base in a tight contest.”

Their decision won’t be about Policy Minutiae. More from the LAT: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Sean Bagniewski, chairman of the Democratic Party in Polk County, Iowa, which includes Des Moines. ‘Ideology isn’t as important as the personality. To a lot of folks, they feel like they know and can trust both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, regardless of the ideological stuff.’”

For the NYT, the election is shaping up as a contest between a former TV personality who has generated a long list of policy failures, against either a cynical moderate, or a radical progressive, when some people think policies aren’t going to decide the election.

In 2008 and 2012, the Obama campaigns were about the healing power of centrism, without openly bashing the left. Biden and Buttigieg seem to be going that route, but Klobuchar seems more interested in pointing out that She Is NOT One of Them Lefties.

It’s like no one on the Times Editorial Board stopped to ask the question: “Wait – what exactly is the point of this exercise”?

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Monday Wake Up Call – January 13, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Many Glacier, Glacier NP, MT – 2019 photo by MDodd

Let’s clear the air about Iran and their use of terror. Wrongo isn’t an apologist for Iran, although he thought that the Nuclear Deal was a positive step forward. We need to look carefully at the data supporting what our government and the US media say about Iran’s terrorist activities.

Here’s what the US State Department says about Iran and terrorism:

“Iran remains the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism. The regime has spent nearly one billion dollars per year to support terrorist groups that serve as its proxies and expand its malign influence across the globe. Tehran has funded international terrorist groups such as Hizballah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

It also has engaged in its own terrorist plotting around the world, particularly in Europe. In January, German authorities investigated 10 suspected Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force operatives. In the summer, authorities in Belgium, France, and Germany thwarted an Iranian plot to bomb a political rally near Paris, France. In October, an Iranian operative was arrested for planning an assassination in Denmark, and in December, Albania expelled two Iranian officials for plotting terrorist attacks.

Furthermore, Tehran continued to allow an AQ facilitation network to operate in Iran, which sends fighters and money to conflict zones in Afghanistan and Syria, and it has extended sanctuary to AQ members residing in the country.”

From Larry C. Johnson:

“You notice what is absent? A list of specific attacks that caused actual casualties. Plans and plots are not the same as actions. If Iran’s malevolent influence was so powerful, we should be able to point to specific attacks and specific casualties. But you will not find those facts in the U.S. State Department report because they do not exist.”

This State Department Annual Terror report details who is really responsible:

  • The Taliban was responsible for 8,509 deaths and 4,943 injuries, about 25 percent of the total casualties attributed to terrorism globally in 2018
  • With 647 terrorist attacks, ISIS was the next-most-active terrorist organization, responsible for 3,585 fatalities and 1,761 injuries
  • Having conducted 535 attacks, al-Shabaab was responsible for 2,062 deaths and 1,278 injuries
  • Boko Haram was fourth among the top-five terrorist perpetrators, with 220 incidents, 1,311 deaths, and 927 injuries

Not a single group linked to Iran or supported by Iran is identified. Here’s a table from the report’s statistical annex that identifies the worst offenders:

Iran doesn’t make the list. The attacks are predominantly from Sunni affiliated groups that have ties to Saudi Arabia, not Iran.

America takes exception to Iran because we have a long and negative history, but with justifiable complaints on both sides. Recently, Iran has thwarted the US’s actions in Syria. We should remember that Iran is a Shia Muslim state. When we removed Saddam Hussein and destroyed Iraq’s government, the Bush Administration installed Iraqi Shias in leadership. No GW Bush administration policymakers expressed any concern that these Iraqi politicians and military personnel had longstanding relationships with Iran, which naturally increased Iran’s influence in Iraq.

Iran also had a longstanding relationship with Syria. Obama decided that by eliminating Syria’s Bashir Assad, Iran would be weakened, but that policy backfired. Iran, along with Russia, came to the aid of Syria. Assad is now secure, and America’s influence in the ME has been weakened.

Time to wake up America! We need to get educated about which terror groups are committing what terror acts. Back in the 1980s, Iran was very active in using terrorism as a weapon to attack US military and diplomatic targets, but not so much lately. Iran was behind the early development of the IEDs used in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many US soldiers died. That technology is now globally ubiquitous.

The real issue we should be asking our government to resolve is whether we can (or should) halt the expansion of Iran’s influence in the Middle East. Administrations since Carter have bet that isolating Iran diplomatically, ratcheting up economic pressure, and using limited military power will somehow energize the Iranian regime’s opposition and lead to the overthrow of the Mullahs.

They forget that we’ve used that exact policy with both Cuba and North Korea. How has that worked out for America?

We shouldn’t mourn Gen. Soleimani; he was a bad actor who tried to build shadow Shia militaries in many ME Countries. But Trump and Pompeo need to stop ranting about Iran and terrorism.

The actual issues driving Iran’s growing influence in the ME aren’t based on acts of terror. Our recent policies and actions towards Iran are now accelerating their cooperation with China and Russia, not diminishing it.

Is that in the long term interest of the US?

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Saturday Soother – September 21, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Badlands Storm, South Dakota – September 2019 photo by Bill Frazier

It’s officially the end of summer. We now move towards shorter days, sweater weather, and at least in the Northeast, raking leaves. But, in politics, few things change with the seasons.

Consider this factoid from Bloomberg about what the Trump administration has done to support farmers hurt by his China trade war:

“At $28 billion so far, the farm rescue is more than twice as expensive as the 2009 bailout of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, which cost taxpayers $12 billion.”

Remember the auto bailout? Republicans were largely against it. The government shouldn’t pick winners and losers, let Mr. Market do it. While the auto industry was bleeding jobs, the bailout saved GM and Chrysler. It also helped restore jobs. Marketplace reports that in the Great Recession, auto-manufacturing lost 334,000 jobs, and membership in the United Autoworkers Union (UAW) fell by 150,000.

Since then, as vehicle sales rebounded, those job losses were gradually reversed. In July 2016, US auto-manufacturing employment surpassed its December 2007 pre-recession level of 957,000 jobs. The UAW however, remains more than 50,000 members short of its pre-recession high.

Back to the farmers. Because of the tariff war with China, farmers will receive $19.5 billion in direct government bailout money in 2019, the most since 2005. That doesn’t include an extra $10.5 billion in federally subsidized crop insurance payments, the main vehicle of the farm subsidy program.

This is a move to protect Trump’s political advantage with his Midwest base for the coming election in 2020. But, who is benefiting? It’s mostly the corporate farms, and the largest individually-owned farms. From Modern Farmer:

“The idea is fairly clear: the larger a farm is, the more it has to lose, and thus the more money it takes to make whole.”

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzed USDA data and found that 82 farmers collected over $500,000 each in 2018-2019. In comparison, the EWG found that the bottom 80% of farmers received less than $5,000 each.

This latest tranche of government money comes after the USDA changed the rules regarding who qualified. Previously, each farmer applying for assistance had to have an average adjusted gross income of less than $900,000 per year. Now, there’s no limit on the size of an applicant’s income, as long as 75% “is derived from farming, ranching, or forestry related activities.”

That opens the trough to the biggest corporate farms, to super-rich investors, and the biggest family farms. Not surprisingly, since the Trump administration’s efforts are aimed at protecting those who are among his large donors, rather than the most vulnerable farmers, there are no cries that this is “socialism” by the GOP.

Apparently, this is capitalism at its best, but what we did to save the auto industry was socialism.

On to our Saturday Soother, that interlude in the week when we try to forget what Trump may have promised to a foreign leader, or what Cory Lewandowsky did to Jerry Nadler. We focus instead on what excuses we can use to avoid the coming fall clean-up. Here, on the fields of Wrong, we are taking in our bluebird houses, the fledglings left a week ago. A few hummingbirds are still around, but will certainly be gone next week. The apple trees have lost most of their leaves, and the deer are eating the fruit that falls to the ground. We’re trying to wait until early October to turn the heat on, but the last two nights have been in the high-30s.

Let’s warm up today by brewing up a hot, steaming cup of Ethiopia Sidamo Gora Kone ($19/12 oz.) from Sacramento, CA’s Temple Coffee Roasters. The roaster says it has a sweet-savory structure with a crisp, lightly satiny mouthfeel. You be the judge.

Now settle back and listen to a musical selection for the change of season. Here is “Autumn” a petit adagio from Alexander Glazunov’s “The Seasons”. The music was written as an allegorical ballet, but we’re going to listen to a symphonic treatment. It was composed in 1899, and first performed as a ballet by the Imperial Ballet in 1900 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Here, it is played by the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra of Bratislava conducted by Ondrej Lenard:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Another Lie From Trump

The Daily Escape:

The Cuernos del Paine in Chile – photo via Live Science. The 4,300-mile-long Andes, the longest continuous mountain range in the world, didn’t form slowly by one geologic plate sliding under another. They grew in two growth spurts helped by volcanic action. (Hat tip to Ottho H.)

What Trump said about El Paso in the SOTU:

“The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime—one of the highest in the country, and (was) considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities,”

Local politicians weren’t happy with Trump’s false claims that the city was violent and dangerous before a border wall was built. Trump was repeating bogus information from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. And, he had made the same claim at the American Farm Bureau convention in mid-January.

Here is an example of the local outrage. Jon Barela, the chief executive officer of the Borderplex Alliance, which leads economic development efforts in the El Paso region, tweeted:

Texas Monthly reports that El Paso has made lists of the nation’s safest cities for almost two decades. But what are facts when you have a wall to build on the back of a racist narrative?

Wrongo lived in El Paso for a time when he was in the military (Vietnam era), back before there was talk of a wall, before the Maquiladora factories became a part of NAFTA, when Ciudad Juarez was probably far more dangerous than it is today. But back then, El Paso couldn’t be considered dangerous for someone who went to college in Washington DC, and lived on the outskirts of NYC.

One state over in New Mexico, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, has ordered the withdrawal of the majority of National Guard troops stationed at the US state’s southern border, denouncing as “a charade” President Donald Trump’s warnings about migrants swarming the border, saying:

“I reject the federal contention that there exists an overwhelming national security crisis at the southern border, along which are some of the safest communities in the country,”

Are you getting the theme here? Two of the states closest to “the problem” say there isn’t a problem.

Kevin Drum at MoJo gathered the El Paso statistics. He shows that Trump cherry-picked the data, looking at 2005-2009. There was a spike from 400 crimes/100,000 people in 2005 to 450 crimes/100,000 people in 2008. Here is a chart showing the same statistics from 1993 to 2013:

Do you see the big reduction that came with the Wall? The Wall had almost no effect on crime in El Paso. It’s also important to remember that crime rates have come down throughout the US since the 1980’s.

The most damning fact about crime on the southern border is that it is way down. American Progress reports that:

  • Border cities are among the nation’s safest: Phoenix and other large border (and near-border) cities have some of the nation’s lowest crime rates, including San Diego, El Paso, and Austin
  • Border counties have low violent crime rates: Counties along the southwest border have some of the lowest rates of violent crime per capita in the nation. Their rates have dropped by more than 30% since the 1990s.
  • There’s no evidence of “spillover” of violence from Mexico: El Paso, Texas, has three bridges leading directly into Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a city which has suffered a significant percentage of the national death toll brought on by the Mexican war on drug cartels, which approaches 23,000 today.
  • El Paso experienced only 12 murders in 2009, which was actually down from 17 in 2008. San Diego, California saw 41 murders in 2009, down from 55 in 2008, and Tucson, Arizona experienced 35 in 2009 a significant decrease from the 65 murders committed in 2008.

We should remember that Trump is from Queens, an outer borough of New York City. He lived there during the 1970s and 1980s, so he knows first-hand what living in a high crime city feels like. He also knows that the high crime he (and Wrongo) experienced, wasn’t caused by immigrants. That was when the Guardian Angels were founded in NYC. Trump lived there the whole time, he probably even took the subway.

His argument is false, and is clearly purely political. He’s playing to the fears of those suburbanites too intimidated to visit NYC, even if they live less than 25 miles away. His audience is suburbanites in the Midwest and Northern states.

These same people believe European cities like London and Paris are full of Muslim “no-go” zones. You can show them evidence that those cities are safer than their own suburbs, but that’s not the point.

Maybe “safe” really means “white”, so any place with too many non-whites is just too dangerous.

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Facebook’s Fail

The Daily Escape:

Fall at Birdseye Hollow State Forest, NY – 2013 photo by seabamirum

The NYT has a long read about Facebook (FB) called “Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis“. It paints a picture of a company that doesn’t know its customers, its technology or its ethics. Here is a digest of the NYT’s findings: (emphasis in all quotes by Wrongo)

In fall 2016, Mark Zuckerberg…was publicly declaring it a “crazy idea” that his company had played a role in deciding the election. But security experts at the company already knew otherwise.

They found signs as early as spring 2016 that Russian hackers were poking around the Facebook accounts of people linked to American presidential campaigns. Months later, they saw Russian-controlled accounts sharing information from hacked Democratic emails with reporters. Facebook accumulated evidence of Russian activity for over a year before executives opted to share what they knew with the public — and even their own board of directors.

The company feared Trump:

In 2015…presidential candidate Donald J. Trump called for a ban of Muslim immigrants…Facebook employees and outside critics called on the company to punish Mr. Trump. Mr. Zuckerberg considered it — asking subordinates whether Mr. Trump had violated the company’s rules and whether his account should be suspended or the post removed.

But…Mr. Zuckerberg…deferred to subordinates who warned that penalizing Mr. Trump would set off a damaging backlash among Republicans. Mr. Trump’s post remained up.

Most disturbing was FB’s disinformation and lobbying campaign:

As criticism grew over Facebook’s belated admissions of Russian influence, the company launched a lobbying campaign — overseen by Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer — to combat critics and shift anger toward rival tech firms.

Facebook hired Senator Mark Warner’s former chief of staff to lobby….Ms. Sandberg personally called Senator Amy Klobuchar to complain about her criticism. The company also deployed a public relations firm to push negative stories about its political critics and cast blame on companies like Google.

Those efforts included depicting the billionaire liberal donor George Soros as the force behind a broad anti-Facebook movement, and publishing stories praising Facebook and criticizing Google and Apple on a conservative news site.

But the lobbying and disinformation was dark and wrong. FB used a Republican opposition-research firm Definers Public Affairs, and its connections to the Anti-Defamation League to link the anti-FB movement to George Soros and claim that some criticism against FB was anti-Semitic.

  • A research document circulated by Definers claimed Soros was an “unacknowledged force” behind the widespread condemnation of Facebook.
  • A news site called NTK Network, an affiliate of Definers, also published articles that bashed Google and Apple for “unsavory business practices.”
  • The Times reports that while NTK Network did not obtain large audiences, its content was picked up by Breitbart.
  • FB also called on the Anti-Defamation League to flag a sign used to depict Zuckerberg as an octopus encompassing the globe as anti-Semitic.

There’s more. After The NYT, The Guardian and others published a joint investigation into how user information was used by Cambridge Analytica to profile American voters, Facebook executives tried to contain the damage. FB hired a new chief of lobbying to quell the bipartisan anger in Congress, Kevin Martin, a Bush administration veteran, and former FCC Chair.

Just before Sandberg’s Congressional testimony, Facebook’s lobbyists asked Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Intelligence Committee chair to limit questioning to the topic of election interference. It worked. Burr issued a stern warning to all committee members to stick to that topic.

There are three big picture take-aways from the Times article about Facebook.

First, nearly everyone in America hates the media, but without them, we wouldn’t know anything about these FB actions. We wouldn’t know that FB was willing to distribute disinformation to save its skin. So, let’s not give up on the media and journalism.

Second, America needs to learn from how Europe is fighting Google and Facebook on privacy and content, and do the same. They have created very specific rules and guidelines and have issued very expensive fines to these companies.

Third, why do these high-tech executives fail to see the big picture? Sandberg and Zuckerberg have had huge financial success, but their business is an ethical and moral failure.

The Times article shows that they value power, their egos, and their money far more than whatever good the Facebook service can deliver.

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Saturday Soother – November 10, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Fall colors on the Katsura River, Kyoto, Japan -2018 photo by DillonCohen27

Larry King on Trump:

Trump is the story in America. I would bet that ninety-eight percent of all Americans mention his name at least once a day. And when it’s come to that, when you focus on one man, I know Donald 40 years — I know the good side of Donald and I know the bad side of Donald — I think he would like to be a dictator. I think he would love to be able to just run things. So, he causes a lot of this. Then his fight with the media and fake news. I’ve been in the media a long time….And at all my years at CNN, in my years at Mutual Radio, I have never seen a conversation where a producer said to a host “pitch the story this way. Angle it that way. Don’t tell the truth.” Never saw it. Never saw it.

I know, you weren’t sure that Larry was still alive. He is, and he’s not wrong. Here are more of King’s quotes:

So when CNN started covering Trump — they were the first — they covered every speech he made and then they made Trump the story. But, they covered him as a character. They carried every speech he made. They carried him more than Fox News, at the beginning. And so they built the whole thing up and the Republicans had a lot of candidates and they all had weaknesses.

Larry has a point. We spend waay too much time talking about what Trump talks about. People haven’t been addicted like this to the news before, and it isn’t healthy for us as individuals or as a country.

Sure, it would be terrific if people knew all the facts about issues before they voted, but social media, the internet and cable news no longer trade in truth. They’re in it for the money, not for the news.

We can’t uncover the truth without serious digging.

Think about the Jim Acosta affair at Trump’s Thursday press conference. Acosta confronts Trump, Trump wants to move on, but Acosta doesn’t think they are done, and wants to follow up with another question. A young female intern tries to take the microphone away from Acosta without success, and the WH says Acosta laid hands on the intern, then sends out a video to shame Acosta.

But, the video was doctored, according to the WaPo:

White House shares doctored video to support punishment of journalist Jim Acosta: https://wapo.st/2JPGGSA

And the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, defends releasing a doctored video.

Hold that thought. On Friday, Trump says that he doesn’t know Matt Whitaker, the guy he just appointed as Interim Attorney General. That sounds strange, no executive appoints a person that he/she doesn’t know. So, here are two quotes from Trump about Whitaker. They are both as uncomplicated as a statement can be:

“I know Matt Whitaker.” –October 10, 2018
“I don’t know Matt Whitaker.” –November 9, 2018

The truth is that he clearly knew Matt Whitaker when he said he didn’t know him. The sad part for America is that he has no guilt, and no shame, when he contradicts himself on something knowable.

There is little truth from Trump, or in his administration, so why does the media cover him so slavishly?

Wrongo recommends that the Main Stream Media immediately reduce their coverage of Trump by 50%. By cutting it in half, two wonderful things will happen:

First, the country’s obsession with his lies will weaken. People’s stress levels will be reduced.

Second, it will drive Trump crazy. He will say even bigger whoppers to try and get America to reconnect, and mainline more Trumpiness.

Both outcomes would be completely acceptable to Wrongo.

Enough for today! Time for Wrongo to heed his own prescription. Let’s all take a few deep breaths, and relax. Poke around in the pantry, find your favorite coffee, and brew up a nice, fresh cup, just the way you like it.

Station yourself near a big, south-facing window, and take in the natural world. Here in the northeast, it’s raining for the third weekend in a row, so we’re staying inside once again.

Now, listen to “Spiegel im Spiegel for Cello and Piano”, written by the Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt in 1978. Wikipedia says that since 2010, Pärt has been the most performed living composer in the world.

This is a beautiful, although minimalist piece. It is said that Keith Jarrett once said classical music showed him how to play fewer notes and make more music.

This piece proves Jarret’s point. It should calm you down, because it’s so pleasing to the ear:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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It’s Hard to Swallow Today’s Breaking News

The Daily Escape:

Autumn, Lake Mrzia Vodica, Croatia – photo by lascic

Lots of breaking news today, including Ruth Ginsburg breaking three ribs. Wrongo broke two ribs this summer, so he has some idea of how a geriatric person recovers from this kind of injury. Let’s hope she is able to get back on the job soon.

Robert Mueller is said to be preparing his final report, now that Sessions is out. It seems that the GOP is going to go all in on a cover-up.

Today though, we’ll focus on yet another mass shooting, this time in SoCal. Twelve people have been killed in a bar near Pepperdine University. Apparently, the killer committed suicide. We know that he was a former Marine (2008-2013) who served in Afghanistan for eight months, from November 2010 to June 2011. He was a machine gunner while in the Marines.  He lived with his mother. He legally owned the murder weapon.

Expect to hear more thoughts and prayers, and for good guys to carry guns when they go in a bar.

Oh, wait! One of victims in the bar actually WAS carrying a gun. He was a sheriff responding to the shooting, and was one of the 12 people killed.

For some perspective on mass shootings, Paul Campos at the LGM blog has an interesting chart showing mass shootings in the US by decade:

1950s: 0

1960s: 1 (University of Texas tower shooting)

1970s: 0

1980s: 6

1990s: 6

2000s: 7

2010s: 16

Campos says that 22 of these 36 mass shootings have taken place since 2007. Campos doesn’t include the killer(s) if they were killed or committed suicide during the incident. His source uses eight dead as the definition of a mass shooting.

When you look at the timeline of mass shootings and see just how many of them (50%) have occurred in this decade (which still has two years to go), shouldn’t we be asking what’s changed? We have been living in an increasingly safe era since the peak in violent crime, with the outlier being mass shootings. The overall homicide rate reached its peak in 1992 at 9.8/100,000 and firearm homicides are now down to about 3.5/100,000 nationally.

For a nation of 300 million people, that’s a difference of about 10,000 fewer people dying in gun murders per year compared to where we would be if the rate had held constant.

Some will blame the internet, social media and our increasingly alienated modern society for angry white guys committing more mass murders. The truth is we have no idea why this abomination is happening more frequently. One place where better data would help is knowing what percentage of the population now has access to rapid fire assault weapons with large capacity clips.

We do know that gun ownership is more prevalent than it was in the 1950’s through the 1970’s. We know that there are many people out there with guns. Per capita, the number of guns in the hands of civilians has roughly doubled since 1968, from one gun per every two persons, to one gun per person. Yet, the firearm murder rate is lower.

We haven’t gotten anywhere with gun control since the Clinton presidency. There are few issues in America that we won’t tackle if they continually cause deaths. We don’t allow drinking and driving, and we require that people wear seatbelts. We are trying to blunt the anti-vaxx’ers by now requiring kids to show proof of vaccination before they can attend public school. We’re willing to send the people who screwed up Flint, Michigan’s water system to jail.

But nothing works to restrict the availability and lethality of guns.

The new governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, has a different framing for the gun debate. He talks about limiting “gun violence” not about “common sense gun control”, which is the standard liberal meme when it comes to limiting the Second Amendment.

Maybe a focus on gun violence as opposed to gun control is a better way to create voter support for new restrictions on guns, the kind of restrictions that would help lower the number and lethality, of mass shootings.

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