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About the Never-Trump Skirmish of 2017

In 2016, Donald Trump started a hostile takeover of the Republican Party and he succeeded. The GOP and the larger conservative movement in America is becoming more and more like the man who “bought” the party in last year’s presidential election.  While for the most part policy is somewhat following a conventional GOP agenda, temperamentally it is a very different party. As columnist Michael Gerson wrote recently:

The war against terrorism has been rebooted on the basis of anti-Muslim bigotry, which undermines domestic law enforcement and anti-radicalization efforts. Authoritarian regimes around the world — now shielded from human rights criticism — feel more secure. Dissidents and democratic activists feel more lonely and abandoned. Fleeing refugees feel more desperate and friendless. The president is conducting delicate nuclear negotiations with demeaning pet names. Morale at the State Department is in collapse, leading to the hemorrhaging of diplomatic talent and experience. Trump has alienated important allies with demands for protection money. The United States has stepped back from effective economic competition in Asia, leaving China a more dominant regional power. Russia, in all likelihood, has helped elect a favorable U.S. president in the largest intelligence coup of modern history.

But even though a good chunk of the GOP is either falling for Trump or kissing up to him like one Vice President Mike Pence, there is a remnant of conservatives that hasn’t bent the knee to the President: that erstwhile group, of which I am a part, called “Never-Trumpers.”

The Never-Trump or Trump-skeptic group is a diverse group with different views on how to deal with Donald Trump. What unites them is that they see Trump as unfit to serve as Commander-in-Chief.  There are fissures in this group and they came to a head recently as a number of skeptics “fought” against each other.

There are basically two groupings of Never-Trumpers: the Revolutionaries and the Pragmatists.  The Revolutionaries see Trump as such a threat to the Republic that anything he supports has to be resisted. Because the GOP seemed to easily acquiesce to Trump, they now have doubts about the whole conservative project.  The most well-known people in this camp are former speechwriter for George W. Bush, David Frum, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, and former presidential candidate Evan McMullin.

On the other side are the Pragmatists.  The Pragmatists don’t like Trump, but they concede he is the titular head of the party.  They have decided to work with him where possible, but also criticize the President when necessary.  While they are pragmatic, that doesn’t mean they don’t speak out with force; they are very clear where they stand.  Most of the representatives of this side of Never-Trumperland are found at the National Review and they include David French, Jonah Goldberg, and Weekly Standard publisher Bill Kristol.

The match that started a brief conflagration came when National Review editor Charles C. Cooke wrote an article criticizing Jennifer Rubin.  Since the rise of Trump, Rubin has been known to radically switch positions without really telling people why. Cooke wrote about Rubin’s flip-flops which started the online fight.  Here’s what he says:

The illustrations are endless. In two years, Rubin has gone from arguing that the “ludicrous,” “absurd” Iran deal “has to go” — and, indeed, that John Kasich was a fool for contending otherwise – to praising those who believe it must  remain in place as “reasonable” “experts,” and predicting that even to decertify would put “American credibility” at “risk.” In 2015, she wrote that “if you examine the Iran deal in any detail, you will be horrified as to what is in there.” In 2017, she characterizes this position as the “emotional” “temper tantrum” of an “unhinged president.” A similar metamorphosis has sullied her views on tax cuts, welfare, energy, and gun control (before, after), as well as her attitude toward Jews and anti-intellectuals, which once led her to defend Sarah Palin, but which now leads her to condemn Trump on almost all of the grounds she once dismissed.

This prompted a response from David Frum who saw Cooke’s article as a savage attack. Frum then criticizes Cooke and all of National Review for falling into line when it comes to Trump:

Rubin’s crime is that rather than waking up every morning fresh for each day’s calling of balls and strikes, she carries into her work the memory of the day before. She sees patterns where Cooke sees only incidents. She speaks out even when Cooke deems it prudent to hold his tongue.

In this course, Cooke is following the Republican leadership in the House and Senate and the more presentable of the conservative commentariat: Hope for the best. Make excuses where you can. When you can’t make an excuse, keep as quiet as you can. Attack Trump’s critics in the media and Hollywood when all else fails. That has also become the working position of many conservatives who in 2015 and 2016 called themselves “Never Trump.”

In the spring of 2016, National Review published its “Against Trump” issue. Twenty-one prominent conservatives signed individual statements of opposition to Trump’s candidacy. Of those 21, only six continue to speak publicly against his actions. Almost as many have become passionate defenders of the Trump presidency, most visibly the Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell and the National Rifle Association’s Dana Loesch.

So, who is right?

First, you should know where I stand. I tend to see myself as a Never-Trumper and have been since Trump started his campaign. Having said that, now I want to give my own view of this conservative remnant.

I tend to agree with Cooke about Rubin.  She has changed positions for what seems like no other reason than Trump supports it.  She tends to chew out anyone who dares support a bill that Trump might like.  Rubin kind of reminds me of how Andrew Sullivan acted in the latter years of George W. Bush; running around with your hair on fire.

The problem I have with the Revolutionaries is that they currently seem to want to burn everything down.  We see that with Rubin, but it is also at times what Evan McMullin and Max Boot have done.  McMullin has occasionally said things that seem like he is turning his back on conservatism as a whole. McMullin doesn’t seem to show any fealty to his former intellectual home, if only to present himself as a conservative alternative.  Boot wrote recently that he hoped Republicans would lose in the midterms.  In all three cases, it might feel good to seek the right side.  But at the end of the day, it doesn’t help reform conservatism.  In these polarized days, denouncing your side and not proposing solutions or alternatives, only makes you lose integrity among conservatives.  Burning bridges might feel good, but it won’t help change the movement.

The pragmatists can at times seem too accommodationist to Trump’s agenda.  They really aren’t.  The National Review has been a strong voice against Trump when it needs to.  That said, it can appear that they don’t want to rock the boat..  The fear from liberals and Never-Trump revolutionaries that we might become some living version of the Handmaids’s Tale hasn’t happened.  What is happening is actually a bit worse because it is so insidious. There is a breaking of social norms; lines have been crossed that had never been crossed before. How Trump has acted might not destroy American democracy as we’ve known it, but it will weaken its foundations, in ways that will take years if not decades to fix. Yes, he has governed in many ways like a normal Republican; but how he has expressed himself in the office falls far short of the expectations that come with being President.  Pragmatists see Trump kind of as a hurricane that will pass in time.  As much as I think Trump is full of air, I don’t see him as a storm that will pass.  Instead, Trump is more like a nuclear bomb that brings destruction and leaves areas toxic for years. What he is doing now will impact not just conservatism, but America as a whole for years to come.

A case in point is Trump’s treatment of persons of color. You could look at a recent story in the New York Times where Trump said all Haitians have AIDS and referred to Nigerian immigrants as not wanting to go back to their huts after seeing America.  You could also see how he treated Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Over and over again, he has not hesitated before treating Americans and others who aren’t white as less than human.  Or calling Mexicans rapists. Or refusing to condemn white supremacists after Charlottesville. All of this has an effect.  If one thought it was difficult to get Latinos and Blacks and Muslims to listen to what the GOP has to offer now, just wait.  Trump has made the GOP and conservatism toxic to people like me.  While I don’t think that means we should run around with our hair on fire, we ignore that Trump is doing things that will impact our society for a long time.

But while that toxicity is disconcerting, I still fault the revolutionaries for losing their heads at  every little thing the president does.  You can be concerned without falling off the deep end and pissing off people who aren’t as…”passionate” as you are. And if Trump has caused you to rethink your assumptions, for God’s sake, please tell people why.

What really needs to happen right now is a meeting of the two groups.They need to find ways to work together, even if they have different approaches to dealing with Trump. I doubt that will happen, but both sides need to see that they are on the same side and learn from each other about how to act in the age of Trump.


Staff Writer

Dennis Sanders is the Associate Pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Minneapolis, MN.  You can follow Dennis through his blogs, The Clockwork Pastor and Big Tent Revue and on Twitter.  Feel free to contact him at dennis.sanders(at)gmail(dot)com.

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308 thoughts on “About the Never-Trump Skirmish of 2017

  1. I don’t know if it should be surprising that Jewish people on the right were and maintain to be the most alarmed and the most-strident anti-Trumpists. If Trump does (and I think he does) represent a strident form of ethno-nationalism and authoritarianism, Jewish conservatives like Jennifer Rubin and David Frum know the alarm bells of history. Now polling shows a strong potential for an anti-GOP tidal wave election in 2018 (and this is with a map highly favorable to the GOP). The GOP should be alarmed at Alabama and Virginia but they don’t seem to be or they think the writing is on the wall and they are going to do what they can before November 2018 to enact their donor’s wishes.

    But I have a different take on what is happening to Rubin. You say she is merely opposing things just because Trump is for them but what if Trump’s capture of the GOP tore something off her eyes? What if she is on the road to Damascus from right-wing politics? There is no reason why this isn’t plausible but it is not favorable to the conservative political world view. Much better to just call her a knee-jerk contrarian. But when I see her columns, I see someone who has become distgusted with GOP policy and is moving to the left.

    It might be rareish for people to change political ideology but it is not too uncommon or unheard of. It even happens with people moving from the right to the left. Not just people moving from the left to the right.

    This is still a free country and people are not forced to stay in the same political party or stance forever and yet this post seems rather angry at people not falling behind the party line. This is something I imagine you would be quite down if someone on the left was criticizing an alleged fellow traveler for.

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    • Whether or not Rubin is on the road to any kind of change in philosophy is impossible to say. Either way neocon horror of Trump is their just deserts for the Bush years. One of the few good things that could come out of the Trump presidency is a thorough and lasting discrediting of the executive branch.
      Empire and militarism seems all well and good until the plebes elect some charlatan too stupid to maintain a veneer of respectability over our self-destructive foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East.

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      • I see what you are saying but I am not sure I fully agree. I’d rather have Rubin doing what she is doing now over the people on the right who ostensibly denounce Trump’s language/vulgarity as corrosive for our democracy; but still end up taking no substantive actions against him. I’m largely looking at people like Avrik Roy and the Jeff Flakes here. Jeff Flake has done some things as objecting to Trumpism/Mooreism but he still voted for the horrible tax bill.

        What use is Avrik Roy’s alleged heart breaking over the reasons many are against the welfare state if he also going on to cheer people being “liberated” from health care access.

        Rubin has or had many faults. I found her conduct prior to 2016 largely horrible. But 2017 Rubin has written some of the most forceful columns against the GOP congress and their actions. This is much more than Jeff Flake has ever done. Or Avik Roy.

        The OP seems to be largely on the side of the people saying “Yeah Trump is a racist, bigot, and a vulgarian but we control the government; and can put enough Federalist society lackeys on the Judiciary to stymie progressives/liberals for decades to come!!! The #NeverTrumpers are throwing too much sand into this. Just denounce Trump’s language and fret but full speed ahead man.”

        Rubin comes out better here for the reasons I wrote about below. Anyone who ends up trying to align with Trump for temporary advancement of long-held goals; ends up looking deeply debased. Trump debases everything he touches and yet there are still people trying to defend him and/or treating Trump as the head of the GOP? Because what? Because they can’t give up on their illusions on the importance of small government? Because admitting that Trump is toxic and also the head of the GOP means that they need to vote for Democrats?

        I am not feeling much sympathy to the thesis of the essay here. It seems to be doing everything it can to say “But I just don’t want to admit that Democrats/Liberals/The Left might be right here…”

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        • Maybe she pulls an Andrew Sullivan (frustrating as I can still find him at times), and if so, I’ll give her credit. To me though that requires a little more than finding Jesus only after the obviously evil guy you’ve been happily breaking bread with pulls off his mask and announces that he is in fact Satan. She’d need to own some of those old pieces/stances.

          In that respect I very much differ from the OP on Sullivan. His change on Iraq is the biggest reason I can take him seriously. Say what you want about his emotional swings but he isn’t a sycophant. I don’t think it’s at all clear that Rubin would be writing these articles if, say, Romney was president and the Congressional GOP agenda was the same (which it has been since at least 2012).

          As for the rest of the NeverTrumpers I think we are in agreement. If they exist they’re at the margins of conservative intelligentsia, and their opposition strikes me as more of a cultural distaste. They certainly aren’t putting up any hurdles for Trump. The struggles Congress has had seem to arise from contradictions in the conservative coalition than anything to do with the president.

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      • This post made me rather livid as you can tell from my number of comments! But there is nothing redeemable about Trump. I think Dennis knows this. I think a lot of conservatives know this but they are still holding on to trying to do defenses/apologia for Trump to varying degrees. And they do seem to think Trump deserves some deference because he took over the GOP.

        I just can’t stand for this. The idea needs pushback. Pushback hard!!

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      • Good points [InMD]; citing Gerson’s list of Neo-Con foreign policy issues is perhaps a microcosm of the failed Neo-Con-never-trumpening. None of the issues listed by Gerson had anything to do with the election.

        What’s strange is that Trump is basically a Neo-Con whose major sin is not promoting Neo-Cons… that’s the meta-point of Cooke’s critique. What happens when you get everything you want (and more!) but not in ways you prefer or control. And that is mostly the rage behind that faction’s nonsense and why Never-Trumpism in its institutional form is bad politics and not something we should encourage.

        I’ve said it before and will say it again, the Republican party of the Conservative Movement (TM) is probably dead… certainly mostly dead. What comes next or what exactly the Republican party might be in 2018 or 20 or 24 I’m not entirely sure… but I’m not spending any political capital to put Rubin and the Neo-Cons back in charge. RIP.

        [in response to InMD… threaded way down here]

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      • Only if the road to Damascus is circular.

        Cooke’s piece is pretty devastating… a President Jeb!, Romney$, or Rubio^ would have had Rubin’s full support in:

        1. Scrapping the Paris Climate Accords
        2. Moving the capital to Jerusalem
        3. Pulling out of the Iran Nuclear deal.

        Plus…

        1. Increased military aid against ISIS
        2. Bombing Syria
        3. Arming Ukraine
        4. Aggressive sabre rattling for North Korea.

        All of this should have been done years ago, and it is a mystery why the Obama administration did not take the lead on sanctions but, as in the case of Iran, instead had to be dragged down that route by Congress. But better late than never. It is welcome that policymakers in Washington and Seoul are giving up any illusions that North Korea under the present regime is capable of meaningful reform or that it can be enticed into better behavior by handouts or diplomatic outreach.

        The only policy that makes any sense is the one outlined by North Korea experts Sung-Yoon Lee and Joshua Stanton: “Sanction North Korea, and don’t stop until it disarms and begins irreversible reforms.” Or, if reforms do not come, do not stop until the odious regime in the North collapses and North and South Korea can be reunited — as spelled out by another North Korea expert, Sue Mi Terry, in this Foreign Affairs article.”
        ~Max Boot

        Trump is a giant Neo-Con-Monster-Baby… its ok to say we have to fight the monster, but the monster the Neo-Con’s end will be themselves.

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        • Precisely. You can also throw in coming down on the Europeans for being free riders on defense. Trump’s positions are a John Bolton type’s wish list. It’s like the neocons have finally been forced to look at themselves in the mirror and don’t like what they see.

          As for the future of the GOP I have no idea whats coming. I keep expecting them to fracture and maybe Trump will finally cause it to happen but I have my doubts. We’re voting for our tribes and as long as some general conservative culture exists out there and its mouthpieces support Republicans they’ll stumble along no matter the total incoherence on policy/governing.

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            • With one exception: John Bolton is intelligent and educated (if, IMO, misguided), and evidences respect for others who are educated and intelligent.

              Could you really see a President Bolton elbowing the Prime Minister of Montenegro aside to take pole position at a photo op? President Bolton would listen to a foreign head of state explain, in succinct, clear, and evidence-backed terms why the United States needed to side with his country on an issue, and nod sagely, indicating that he understood and would carefully consider what he had just learned. Then, of course, he’d order the exact opposite and call it “realism.”

              But the tone would be different and that is something that matters. Even the Republicans who quietly approve of most things Trump is doing but recoil at the man’s base vulgarity seem to realize that much.

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          • Yes, this unfortunately is correct. Both parties are very guilty of fearing the power inherent in a branch of government that they do not control, at this exact moment, but are willing to trust in the wisdom and prudence of the leaders of whatever institution happens to be under their fellow-partisans’ sway. There is no reason to think either party will ever learn to address checks and balances otherwise, and this predates Trump.

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            • I would argue this is much less a problem with the parties, and much more a problem with the system they navigate.

              I also am much less concerned about the expansion of executive power than the modal OTer, I expect. Much of it is, IMO, the appropriate functioning of a constitutional check on a Congress that is unwilling to govern for (mostly) partisan purposes.

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            • Held by, say, Louie Gohmert? Virginia Foxx? Roy Moore? Lindsey Graham?

              You speak as if Trump were an anomalous madman in a party full of sober responsible Great Men.

              It was Congress in 2003-2006 that rose to its feet to give thunderous approval to the Iraq war and the creation of a gulag archipelago of black sites.

              And this newer generation of legislators is even darker and more filled with rage than that one.

              If Trump demanded a full scale war with North Korea tomorrow, which figures in the GOP would fail to jump to obedience?

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              • If Trump demanded a full scale war with North Korea tomorrow, which figures in the GOP would fail to jump to obedience?

                North Korea is very close to the theoretical “nuclear armed madman” problem. War may be the least destructive way to deal with them.

                Probably it should be China invading rather than us but whatever.

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                  • Sometimes, but the Westminster system seems to do pretty well at avoiding that problem. By contrast, nearly every county that uses a variant of your constitution turns into a basket case. I blame George Washington, his suitability as a leader led the framers to invest far too much power in the President.

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                    • Yes, I think the Democrats are relatively unlikely to push a constitutional amendment that effectively abolishes the office of the President, however much they probably should.

                      Anything short of that is unlikely to work.

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                      • What about giving the senate the power to veto executive orders and to remove executive officers (e.g., secretaries and undersecretaries) for no confidence (instead of only for high crimes and misdemeanors)? I can see how a president could still game such a system, but it would be a check on the presidency without abolishing it.

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                    • The Framers were working with the system they thought they knew best, the British one. The Constitution was an idealized and republicanized version of the British constitution after the Glorious Revolution. You just call the King, a President and don’t have it as a hereditary office and change the House of Lords into a Senate and voila, the American constitution.

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                      • The founders never could’ve envisioned an administrative state like most first world bureaucracies or our mass media and the powerful bully pulpit it gives the executive. It’s why the kind of, shall we say extra-constitutional activity, we now take as a given was sporadic and mostly reversible up through the early 20th century. Any thesis also needs to take into account our emergence as a super power after World War 2 and the endless military commitments ever since. Its no accident that most of the power grabs have been related to actual or imagined threats to national security where the president operates with the least restriction. I don’t know that the Westminster system would’ve done much to alleviate this particular dynamic, even if there are other arguments for it.

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                        • Just my opinion, but they set the bar too high. We had to fight a war in order to get amendments doing away with slavery. Direct election of Senators happened only when we were within sight of a Constitutional Convention, the US Senate knew the battle was lost, and were more scared of what else a Convention might do. Otherwise we’ve tinkered with the franchise and some details, but no significant structural changes. (Sanity check: states in the American West, with less history, almost all decided that it was better to err on the side of making it too easy to make changes and added amendments by citizen initiative.)

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                          • …they set the bar too high. We had to fight a war in order to get amendments doing away with slavery.

                            I doubt the South would have cooperated with getting rid of Slavery via Constitutional amendment.

                            In terms of political power for that time period I’d call it at best a 50/50 split slave vs free… and if one side had more it might have been the slave states since they wanted it more than the free states wanted to get rid of it. Every “compromise” ended up either a tie or moving the needle towards slavery.

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                            • I agree with the cause of the Civil War wasn’t that it was too hard to amend the Constitution, the cause was that the South was willing to flip the table rather than lose on slavery.

                              That said, yes I think the amendment process is probably too hard.

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                              • I’m thinking about it from the other direction. If there had been no Civil War, no Reconstruction, if the southern states had simply dug their heels in and said “We’re going to hang on as long as possible, in hopes of a better opportunity for separation down the road,” with their Senators voting against Amendments and the legislatures voting against ratification or a convention… How long before the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments passed? 20 years? 40? Would the 16th have passed if there were no Civil War income taxes? And there’s some chance that the North and West simply throw up their hands at some point and say, “Fine. Go your own way.”

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                                • Ah, I see that makes more sense. Personally, I doubt that would have happened though, after all a Republican-controlled Federal government could have repealed the Fugitive Slave Act, and would probably have been enough to put the Southern States in a table-flipping mood.

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                                  • that would have happened though, after all a Republican-controlled Federal government could have repealed the Fugitive Slave Act

                                    This.

                                    People, thanks to goofy ‘states right’ rewriting of history, tend to assume that the states were leaving each other alone.

                                    In reality, the slave and free states were waging a legal war, with free states bordering slave states trying to make slaves that cross the line free, which had weakened slavery in those slave states to very low levels as slaves, basically, just kept walking across the border. (Turns out escaping from slavery is pretty easy when a slave can just slip out after dark and walk to freedom before anyone notices he’s missing.) Which meant that, at some point, those border states would stop having slaves, so stop voting as slave states, and, become free states, and the _next_ set of states would become border states. And the cycle would start over…and also at some point constitutional amendments could be made.

                                    So the slave states had countered with the Fugitive Slave Act, which meant literally anyone could just claim someone with a dark skin was an escaped slave and free state authorities were required to arrest them.

                                    At the point of the election of Lincoln, the two parts of the country were basically in an escalating cold war. Actually, a lukewarm war, considering the ‘slave raiding parties’ that had started where groups of slaveholders would cross over into free states and basically just kidnap black people.

                                    It is easy to imagine a history where it’s the free states that flips the table. A lot of the state governments were in explicit and open refusal to follow the federal law of the Fugitive Slave Act. And even in the places where Federal agents arrested people who wouldn’t follow the law, juries were nullifying convictions for that left and right.

                                    I’m not sure exactly how they would have flipped the table, though.

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                                • How long before the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments passed?



                                  Some of the “compromises” on slavery were pretty ugly. A lower bar back might have resulted in slavery (or slavery-lite) being the law of the land.

                                  I’m not sure what good ideas didn’t make it into the Constitution because of the high bar but there’s a ton of bad ones which got thrown out.

                                  Women having the Constitutional right to equal pay presumably outlaws the free market if that AM does something more than federal law.
                                  Flag burning gets outlawed.
                                  Personhood starts at conception.
                                  Marriage is defined as straight only.

                                  We got Prohibition even with a really high bar.

                                  Would the 16th have passed if there were no Civil War income taxes?

                                  Yes. The 16th passed in 1913, the Civil War income tax was in 1863. The income tax was a serious idea in this country starting in 1812, at some point politicians would want the money and the people would want “free” stuff.

                                  Sooner or later the country would be leaning left far enough that it’d look like a good idea.

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            • Legislatures — at least those likely to win — have become reluctant to declare war, I think, because of the burdens they are taking on when they win. Suddenly they are an “occupying power”, with responsibilities for governing and humanitarian aid. It’s not just the US who has denied being an occupying power: Israel’s top courts have ruled that Israel is an occupying power, which the Knesset ignores.

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          • I would object to Trump as an honorary figurehead. As the public voice and face of the United States, the President sets a tone that Americans follow and the rest of the world reacts to. Trump is a vulgar man whose racism shines through whatever veneer his aides try to apply; he is an intemperate, impatient man in thrall to his own ego. He is every negative, disparaging stereotype held about Americans. He is not the best of us; he is the worst of us.

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        • Probably not. The Democratic Party is largely but a party built of government skeptics. The bias in the Democratic Party (and I share it) is that government can and should be a force for good in the world. Government is a necessary counterbalance to wealth and the vagaries of the market.

          In a realpolitik sense, Democrats need a strong executive to get things done. The differences between the two parties policy wise is too vast for bipartisan compromise in Congress. The GOP are also acting in bad faith.

          A lot of libertarians have this misguided hope that Democrats are going to become government skeptics because of Trump. But Democrats still believe in the welfare state.

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          • I get that a modern administrative stature requires a more active executive than the Founding Fathers envisioned, that’s not my concern. My concern is that the US system has precious few controls over Presidential power in practice. War powers have been entirely annexed by the President, and regulatory agencies have a distressing habit of just reinterpreting their rules Tom suit new policy demands, instead of policy being directed by the legislature.

            Don’t get me wrong, Congress deserves a big part of the blame. But for a century now, the President has been getting more and more powerful, and its becoming dangerous. Trump is just a harbinger of the sort of disaster this could cause.

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            • I suspect a number of “norms” regarding the President are going to be codified into “laws” in the near future, which is….something, I suppose.

              I mean “We’re going to forbid by law things we hadn’t before because nobody would do these things” is technically limits, right?

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              • I mean “We’re going to forbid by law things we hadn’t before because nobody would do these things” is technically limits, right?

                As I said literally Trump’s second week in office:

                As far as I can tell, it is not illegal for the executive branch to issue someone documentation that says they have permission to enter the country (Aka issue them a visa), and then the same executive branch absurdly bar that person from physically entering the country. Probably because that’s so dumb no one bothered to make a law about it.

                It’s like we’re suddenly parents of a toddler and we’re having to run around saying a bunch of utterly crazy things like ‘Do not eat that ball of hair’ and ‘Do not climb the refrigerator shelves’ and ‘Do not bar people with valid visas from entering the country’…it’s like, who the hell knew we needed those rules?

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                • You will explain why we do not put blueberries in orifices other than our mouths. You will field impossible requests from tiny dictators and weave magic for tyrants with attention deficit. You will say “no” in an increasingly callous way and you will hear, a thousand times, “why.” It will buzz in your dreams like a whiny mosquito. You will be dazed by toddlerian twists of logic and tripped up by twisty teen nihilism. One of them will say, “Geography is a waste of time. We only name things so that we can control them.”
                  You’ll reply, “It didn’t work with you, did it?”

                  From an essay by Lisa Renee

                  Not actually about Trump, but then, we can’t really be sure, now can we?

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          • @saul-degraw

            I don’t expect the Democrats to become government skeptics, unless government skeptic means things like living up to Obama’s campaign promises about constitutional limits around executive use of military force. You can support a robust social safety net, environmental protections, labor protections, etc. (all things I favor) and still be unhappy with a system that allows one person control over the biggest war machine the world has ever known and a bunch of shady intelligence agencies with histories of abusing their power. It’s bad enough when we have a normal politician in charge.

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            • I don’t expect the democrats to become government sceptics even if that is what you mean by it. History suggests the Democratic Party is perfectly fine with human rights violations, so long as they are the ones doing them.

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            • I largely concur . But the enemy of my enemy is my friend is a powerful psychological force. I see lots of Democrats supporting the CIA and FBI just because Trump tweets against them seemingly.

              Some of these are the gooiest bleeding hearts imaginable. Which makes me to the left of them?

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              • But the enemy of my enemy is my friend is a powerful psychological force. I see lots of Democrats supporting the CIA and FBI just because Trump tweets against them seemingly.

                I don’t know if that is ‘the enemy of my enemy’ logic or just ‘A large portion of those agencies are made up of professionals and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise, even if those agencies occasionally abuse their power’.

                Although I’m not quite sure of this premise that the Democrats are normally against those two institutions.

                The FBI, maybe, and that’s just because they have very recently screwed up an election.

                Although in reality there has always been a fascist anti-left section of the FBI that seems to think any sort of left-leaning political group is inches from a communist coup, and the fact we keep learning how they ‘used’ to spy on parts of the left, and that is is all in the past…at some point, should result in people realizing they have never stopped doing that, and it is a systematic problem in the FBI. (Meanwhile, while they are spying on the Sierra Club and other fairly moderate left groups, they keep have to be forced by the DoJ to keep paying attention to far-right groups, you know, the actual groups that commit domestic terrorism.)

                But everyone, including Democratic leaders, keep ignoring that. Guys, those anti-Hillary people in the FBI, the people who forced Comey’s hand, didn’t just appear from thin air, they showed up because somewhere in the FBI is a big cancerous lesion that thinks ‘Left equal a threat to this country and we need to stomp it out via any means necessary’ that Hoover installed in the FBI and it never really got removed. The apolitical nobility is at the top, and it’s something the top brass is trying to force on everyone there, but there are multiple abusive areas that think ‘people marching for equality’ or something like that is a sort of suspicious behavior that needs investigation, and the FBI is completely unwilling to route those people out.

                As for the CIA…I am unaware of the Democrats having any real problem with them at all….despite the fact the CIA is front and center in most things that are misuses of American military power, mostly because the military really doesn’t want to participate in those things. They did the torture, and while the military was also doing drone strikes, the CIA was doing drone strikes the military wouldn’t.

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                • Seeing the world as a nuanced place is difficult for political types.

                  The idea that the CIA and FBI have many moving parts and different competing agendas all within a single organization is a fact that escapes most polemics.

                  The FBI prosecuted the KKK and tormented MLK; the CIA provides accurate intelligence and supported illegal coups;
                  And both organizations are often used as tools for political ends.

                  Being “for” or “against” these organizations is the telling sign of ideologues.

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                • This is what I mean. I see lots of people in the Democratic Party, people who want pony and unicorn welfare states, defend the FBI and CIA because Trump bashes them.

                  When I remind people of all the spying that the FBI did on left groups, it is hand waved away. A product of the bad old days. Or people simply don’t know.

                  Then again, it is only in American political culture that the Democratic Party is considered far left. We have so many right wing loons that it makes the Dems, a bunch of left wing radicals.

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                • …those anti-Hillary people in the FBI, the people who forced Comey’s hand, didn’t just appear from thin air, they showed up because somewhere in the FBI is a big cancerous lesion that thinks ‘Left equal a threat to this country and we need to stomp it out via any means necessary’…

                  Ah, the HRC as ‘victim’ card. Your motivation is weak, HRC hardly hits the radar as some marching radical, more like an openly corrupt politician. Making the assumption the FBI attracts people who treat the law seriously, let me suggest how it would have looked from their point of view.

                  HRC’s various ethical “lapses” seriously offended people in the FBI in the same manner that OJ does. She’s repeatedly been investigated for things most people (even politicians) would be destroyed over. She’s been too clever to be arrested every time, but her charity and various other ways of monetizing her position hit their radar as illegal in spirit if not provably illegal in practice. Certainly none of their careers would survive them having their own personal email server and being so criminally careless with state secrets.

                  This time she was corrupting law enforcement itself. The clearest demonstration of this was when her husband met with the AG a few hours before she was going to announce the result of the investigation… however there were other issues. Obama made statements which could be interpreted as what he wanted the results of her investigation to be long before it was done and the investigation itself was run by various supporters and inappropriately treated her with kid gloves.

                  And they made it clear internally they wouldn’t put up with HRC continuing to corrupt the FBI itself and Comey’s hand was forced.

                  Her problem wasn’t she was of the Left (she was a friend of law enforcement during Bill’s tour). Her problem was her “not provably convictable in court” level of ethics and expecting the FBI to provide political coverage.

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  2. Latest report on Trump’s racism, xenophobia, and bigotry. If the report is accurate, Trump said that Haitians “all have AIDS” and that Nigerians all “live in huts.”

    What I see on going on in the right (from an outsider, left, and partially gloating) perspective is to the extent that right-leaning intellectuals and writers want to deal or not deal with how much of Trump’s open bigotry was a feature and not a bug for many GOP voters. We saw some of this cracking in 2016 with Avik Roy admitting that a lot of people might have said that they were against government provided healthcare, not because of firm ideological beliefs/ideals in the scope and size of government but merely because they disliked people of color. Trump came along and promised welfare state for white people but not for people of color and lots of GOP voters said “Hey, this sounds pretty good.” Poor ol’ Avik Roy had no idea how to handle this one. He still thrilled at “liberating” people from the ACA when the ACA repeals seemed like they would happen.

    This kind of struggle is going on as we speak. Lots of the think tankers and wonks with right-leaning ideals/beliefs in the small state are thrilled that the GOP controls all three branches of government (with plenty of young GOP judicial nominees to be around for decades) and they can finally achieve their dreams but it comes with needing to support someone like Trump with his open authoritarianism, demands of ass-kissing todayism, and bigotry. This is not ideal. So you see lots of contortions at defending the slashing of the welfare state and regulation while pretending to be high-minded and denouncing Trump’s vulgarity and style.

    Jennifer Rubin made a moral choice. She found that it was not worth it to defend the ideals and goals of the right if it meant supporting Trump and seeing him as the head of the party and giving him some fealty as leader. I think she made a right choice. Kissing Trump’s ring only seems to lead to humiliation, ruin, and moral/ethical bankruptcy.

    But there are still plenty of slash the welfare staters out there who might say they deplore Trump but the promise of achieving long-term goals is just too great for them. They are falling for the bait.

    I think these people are going to end up with a serious amount of egg on their face from their devil’s agreement.

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    • I’d give the New York Times story about a 5% chance of being true and a 95% chance of being more made-up news. The meeting is supposed to have occurred in June, yet only now does some anonymous person mention it? It reminds me of last week’s story about how Trump banned the CDC from using words like “fetus”, “transgender”, “entitlement”, and “science-based”, which of course turns out to be nonsense despite CNN’s breathless reporting.

      So we have the New York Times pumping out paragraphs like this:

      Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They “all have AIDS,” he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.

      Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.

      That sounds like reporting from a junior high school student paper, and the story was flatly denied by people actually there, like generals Kelly, McMaster, Secretary of State Tillerson, etc.

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      • I’d give the New York Times story about a 5% chance of being true and a 95% chance of being more made-up news.

        So by “made-up news” do you mean that there’s somebody at NYT just fabricating stuff and attributing it to sources in the White House?

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          • I keep trying to pin this stuff down because I keep seeing people shouting “fake news” and then when pressed on it, they come up with stories about how the MSM angers them by running too many (true) stories about one thing and putting their thumb on the scale in a way they don’t like. I just want to know:

            1) What’s fake?
            2) How do we know it’s fake?
            3) How do we decide what’s true other than just clinging to what makes us feel good?

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            • I am generally skeptical of these ‘readouts’ of meetings that attribute direct quotes of persons that are not the source themself. (And further skepticism if there’s an additional layers of ‘sources familiar with what happened because they were told about it later).

              Bon Woodward made his entire post-Watergate career writing books with this method.

              That said, this particular story, even though in additiom it validates my priors, does nonetheless seem ‘real’ enough, and sourced well enough despite the telephone game it plays.

              Eta – I kinda miss that they don’t tape conversations in the Oval Office anymore, which have proven to be a real treasure trove for historians and other students of executive decision making.

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        • So by “made-up news” do you mean that there’s somebody at NYT just fabricating stuff and attributing it to sources in the White House?

          Someone who dislikes Trump, maybe never-Trump, maybe some bureaucrat, maybe some Dem, says they heard Trump said “X”.

          The reporter thinks it sounds like something Trump would do so there’s no effort at what would normally be called “journalistic ethics” and it’s published.

          The result is the media looks a lot like an arm of the Democratic party.

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            • They’ve been ignored in most other cases, so it’s safe to assume they’ve been ignored in this one.

              Was it two weeks ago that they were all breathlessly reporting that Wikileaks had given special, early, inside access to their cache of DNC files to Donald Trump Jr? Pundits at MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, and other outlets ran full tilt with it, and then it turned out that Trump Jr. got the e-mail the day after I and millions of other people had been given access to the document dump.

              This has been going on for well over a year, and once reliable outlets are now as dependable as Alex Jones [i]Inforwars[/i].

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            • Do we have any evidence that in this particular case journalistic ethics were ignored?

              Do you have any evidence to suggest ethics were followed? (Yes, I think we’ve hit that point).

              My basic assumption at the moment is yes, Trump is a terrible person. And yes, the media seems unable to apply their journalistic ethics where he’s concerned.

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                • Does the failed O’Keefe “sting” do anything for you?

                  That’s a good example on how the world is supposed to work.

                  But to the best of my knowledge, that “sting” wasn’t offering anything about Trump.

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                  • Is your position that these outlets are generally ethical but they make an exception for Trump? Is there some pattern you’re noticing in the data?

                    I know that sometime back you rejected the idea that that the disparity in bad news about presidential behavior had something do to with Trump’s behavior being different, but is there something more than that disparity that’s driving this claim?

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                    • The problem with Trump is he’s always heinous, and he’s also always inflaming everyone on the left, and he also has tons of political enemies. So it’s very hard to be neutral about Trump and give him the benefit of the doubt because he inspires strong feelings and he’s legitimately a monster.

                      Of course if (when) the media steps into the slime pit with him then they’ve stepped into the slime pit with him and it hurts them more than it does him. He doesn’t need to care about his rep but they really should.

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                    • Well, one question to ask is whether most of the errors made (that were then retracted) were lopsided in one particular way.

                      Everybody makes mistakes, after all.

                      If the retracted mistakes are about 50/50 in favor vs. against, then we’re good. (Let’s say 60/40. For variance’s sake.)

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                        • Well, if you ask “So it is your position that, when dealing with Trump, otherwise reputable news sources throw out journalistic ethics in most cases involving anonymous sourcing?”, I can’t help but notice that that is a question that deals with a proposition that can’t realistically be proven one way or another.

                          HOWEVER! You know what *IS* a provable proposition?

                          Whether news stories that have to go on to be retracted were originally news stories that told about Trump doing a bad thing and then, after more information comes out, well… maybe the original story was oversold as to how bad it was.

                          (To be contrasted with the original story saying that Trump did something good and then, when more info comes out, it turns out that the original story wasn’t as good as the news originally painted it.)

                          It gives a proposition that is testable.

                          If I can find a handful of news stories that go on to be retracted and the original stories were painted as being worse than the retractions eventually showed them as being, that seems to me that that would demonstrate something.

                          And if the retracted stories involved anonymous sources, hey, we might just be able to establish a pattern of, if not a lack of ethics, a surplus of enthusiasm for running stories that would have benefitted from more journalistic care.

                          Want me to find you the handful of stories that went on to be retracted?

                          If not, could you give me a better restatement of your preferred proposition that would be testable-in-theory one way or the other?

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            • So, basically quoting a source? That’s the nefarious activity we’re all complaining about?

              I think *ethically* you’re supposed to get two sources for this sort of thing. Otherwise we have people making things up, which can’t be distinguished from the Press making things up.

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                • How about we look at the peeps Trump retweets. Some tend towards…cough…. ethno nationalism.

                  Trump likes putting out flame bait on Twitter. We’ve elected a Troll who deliberately pushes people’s buttons. All the time. On every subject.

                  Which is why I don’t view Twitter as meaningful.

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              • has me rereading the NYT article and it does appear to have multiple sources:

                1) Six sources said he read the document aloud.
                2) Two sources, one present at the meeting and another who heard it confirmed by a different person present at the meeting confirmed the “all have AIDS” comment.
                3) Two sources at the meeting confirmed the “go back to their huts” comment.

                So it sounds like the two source rule was definitely hit for one of the quotes and pretty reasonably hit for the other. Does that make you feel better about the ethics here?

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                • It seems a dynamic is emerging wherein if something isn’t 100% proven true about Trump, than its inverse becomes objective fact.

                  “We don’t have video of Trump giving AIDS to Haitians? Obviously that means he never said anything but the most lovely things about them.”
                  “But, if he did say it, it’d be true because, ya know, Haitians.”
                  “Wait… Trump isn’t building a wall on the border being Haiti and the US?!”
                  “Oh no, he’ll keep those AIDS-ridden bastards out. He said so.”
                  “But… wait… I thought you said he didn’t…”
                  “FAKE NEWS!”

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                • So it sounds like the two source rule was definitely hit for one of the quotes and pretty reasonably hit for the other. Does that make you feel better about the ethics here?

                  Yes it does. Thank you.

                  (I’m over my limit for NYT so I can’t read the article myself.)

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                    • And yet there you were, calling into the question the ethics of its writers and editors.

                      Yep. Almost like they have a recent history of being wrong because they’ve clearly been ignoring those ethics.

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                      • I’m not sure what the exact recent history is you’re talking about, but I’m still not clear on how you’re deciding what’s true or not. Given that the article you rejected out of hand was properly sourced to your standards, does it move your needle on what you believe to be true about the meeting? About Trump’s behavior in general?

                        What would you say the probability of that article being correct is if it had one source vs two or more? What about any randomly chosen article that paints Trump in a bad light?

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                        • About Trump’s behavior in general?

                          I mentioned I expect he’s always heinous.

                          …Given that the article you rejected out of hand…

                          Not “rejected”, that would be saying “I don’t believe it” or “it’s not true”. What I’m saying is I can’t trust it. I think someone else already posted on this page the NYT mistating when Trump’s son was dealing with wiki. To be fair to the NYT I think it’s CNN who has had to repeatedly issue retractions.

                          Picture a reporter who is impartial and ethical. Now have him write about his loathed ex-wife who is actively lying about him to his new wife (and his boss, and the cops) and trying to break up his marriage and generally trash his life.

                          It’s a high voltage relationship with strong emotions. She’s legitimately the villain of the piece, she does other things to other people, she’s also made a lot of other enemies over the years.

                          He publishes something which paints her in a negative light. The issue isn’t whether she’s a good person, I already know she’s not, the issue is whether or not I can reasonably trust him to do his job impartially.

                          Oh, and we should add that several of her other ex’s have been caught with their emotions exceeding their professionalism and were thus used by her other enemies.

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                          • Not “rejected”, that would be saying “I don’t believe it” or “it’s not true”. What I’m saying is I can’t trust it.

                            So practically speaking, what’s the difference except for the phrasing? You’ve given no indication that the article and its sources have moved the needle on your belief about whether what they claim happened actually happened. So is “rejecting” really that different from “not trusting” when the net result is that it ends up being completely ignored?

                            My overall issue is that I’m seeing a disturbing tendency these days to:

                            1) Reject evidence (or “not trust” it followed by treating it like it doesn’t exist at all) from major news sources out of hand.

                            2) Appeal to vague shortcomings in those sources to support that rejection, implying that it’s all basically just made-up nonsense.

                            3) Refuse to be pinned down on the actual shortcomings or take a concrete position on what they really mean for how reliable the source is, leaving the ultimate impression that nothing can be trusted and news articles add no information.

                            4) Somehow still be pretty sure about what’s going on, despite the apparent total absence of usable sources of information.

                            The argument starts out simply enough–that news people can be biased and might not have Trump’s best interests at heart. Then, once that’s conceded, people start acting like we’ve all just agreed that news articles from major media outlets provide no information content and shouldn’t push our priors in one direction or the other.

                            More than anything else over the past 18 months, this disturbs me. But pushing back against it feels more and more like performing an exorcism.

                            Picture a reporter who is impartial and ethical.

                            Let’s take your concrete example here. He’s impartial and ethical and he makes factual claims about what happened.

                            1) Does the fact that he’s impartial and ethical in all of his other work mean nothing when he writes his account? There’s “not 100% trustworthy” and “worthy of 0 trust” which you seem to be using interchangeably here. What would you say his account is worth on that scale?

                            2) Do you think that the people who report on Trump are as compromised as a person writing about their own behavior and details of their own contentious divorce? Like, if you had to give it a 0 to 100 weight like in (1), would it be the same?

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                            • You’ve given no indication that the article and its sources have moved the needle on your belief about whether what they claim happened actually happened.

                              Eh? I thought I did that… here. http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/2017/12/24/about-the-never-trump-skirmish-of-2017/#comment-1337276

                              I raised the bar for evidence based on what I suggested was likely shortcomings and previous problems. That bar was passed (easily). I accepted it and moved on.

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                              • OK, so if I’m understanding you, you’re saying that you believe that the claims about what Trump said in that meeting are very likely true.

                                So back to your more general position: Does it seem like this type of article is the norm (i.e. most of the concrete claims about what Trump is saying/doing/etc are true), or is this just unusually good journalism wrt Trump?

                                Because it seems like these discussions always end up going, “Well that’s true. And that’s true. And that’s true. But these guys are biased, so I really can’t trust anything they write.”

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                                • OK, so if I’m understanding you, you’re saying that you believe that the claims about what Trump said in that meeting are very likely true.

                                  Yes.

                                  Does it seem like this type of article is the norm (i.e. most of the concrete claims about what Trump is saying/doing/etc are true), or is this just unusually good journalism wrt Trump?

                                  Oh, it’s probably the “norm”, you shouldn’t need to be unusually good just to publish the truth, but it’s also clearly what they *want* to publish.

                                  Here, I found a good article detailing the kind of coverage CNN is doing. https://www.realclearinvestigations.com/articles/2017/12/26/flying_the_liberal-friendly_skies.html

                                  Because it seems like these discussions always end up going, “Well that’s true. And that’s true. And that’s true. But these guys are biased, so I really can’t trust anything they write.”

                                  That’s an emotional response to a complex issue.

                                  The first side effect to the whole “they want to do this” issue is I need to wait a week to see if whatever they’re claiming is real. It’s the whole “Mike Brown was shot in the back” (Ferguson) problem created when the filtering is less than great, information is imperfect, and lots of people are chasing “I want to be the great reporter with the great story scooping the others”.

                                  The second side effect to “they want to do this” is the “story selection” effect. Good news about Trump (jobs data, growth in the economy, various agencies cleaning up unconstitutional excesses from the previous Prez) doesn’t get covered. Bad news about Trump (him running his mouth) does. We saw the reverse of this with Obama.

                                  So Trump making a racist comment is serious news and gets serious coverage. But it wasn’t news when Obama was giving guns to drug dealers to see what happens at a similar point in his administration. Similarly, excluding this website, I’ve seen no coverage saying there’s data suggesting refugees (from countries Trump is blocking) commit rape at scary high levels.

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                                  • There’s a lot to unpack in that story, but there are a few core complaints:

                                    1) CNN (and most cable news) is all politics all the time and actually useful non-politics stuff just isn’t covered anymore. This is a pretty serious problem.

                                    2) Most of the stuff CNN covers about Trump is negative. I’m not sure what the correct percentage should be here. Should all presidents receive the same amount of positive and negative coverage? The number on its own doesn’t really tell us a lot. Concrete examples of things that are important but not being covered are more interesting.

                                    Good news about Trump (jobs data, growth in the economy, various agencies cleaning up unconstitutional excesses from the previous Prez) doesn’t get covered.

                                    I don’t think that anybody who watched only CNN was missing out on job or economic growth numbers. They’re reported constantly. Whether they spend a lot of time praising Trump for single-handedly making those things happen with his Business Aura is a different question. I’d have to argue that if spin is happening, networks that spin the economy as primarily being driven by presidential decisions are the ones most badly misinforming their viewers.

                                    Likewise, the “cleaning up unconstitutional excesses” facts are absolutely being reported. They’re just being reported as things Trump is doing and not being spun as the universally positive “cleaning up unconstitutional excesses.”

                                    But it wasn’t news when Obama was giving guns to drug dealers to see what happens at a similar point in his administration.

                                    1) If that’s what you think happened, I do think you have a legitimate criticism to level at whatever news you were watching.

                                    2) What makes you think that story wasn’t covered *extensively* by every major media outlet? It really was. This is another thing I see all the time: People linking to mainstream media articles claiming in the same breath that the mainstream media isn’t covering the thing they’re liking to. I don’t know how to respond to this. I mean, I think I got a lot of information about that particular scandal, and I wasn’t doing my own investigations. I got it all from the news.

                                    Similarly, excluding this website, I’ve seen no coverage saying there’s data suggesting refugees (from countries Trump is blocking) commit rape at scary high levels.

                                    I’d have to see the actual data before I decide whether that’s actually news or not. I do think that there’s something sinister about the recently popular news story genre, “Another crime committed by a FILTHY IMMIGRANT,” but if the aggregate statistics are both significant and policy relevant, I’m interested in seeing them. I just have a feeling that this factoid won’t turn out to be something that we’d scream “Stop the presses!” over.

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                                    • The number on its own doesn’t really tell us a lot.

                                      Fair enough. Let’s look at other numbers for comparison. Overall, Obama’s coverage was 20% negative, compared to Bush & Clinton’s 28%.

                                      For at a serious media player who is attempting to be unbiased, CNN’s 93% negative on Trump is exceptionally weird. Either they’re not attempting to be unbiased or they’re totally failing.

                                      https://www.recode.net/2017/10/2/16401216/president-donald-trump-news-negative-pew-research-obama-bush-clinton

                                      2) What makes you think that story wasn’t covered *extensively* by every major media outlet? It really was.

                                      Not at this point in the Presidency it wasn’t. Yes, by 2012 the Obama halo had slipped, and Holder made the news as the first sitting cabinet member to be found in Contempt of Congress (although wiki mentions that Obama personally stepped in to keep documents secret and I don’t remember that in the news).

                                      But how much digging was the press doing on Obama in 2009 when this program was going off the rails? He was “the great one” for quite a while, that 20% negative rating says the press served as a cheering section.

                                      Another crime committed…

                                      I pay a lot of attention to the news on immigration for personal and professional reasons. My strong impression is since Trump’s election, there have been a lot more stories on immigrants and the bulk of them have been positive.

                                      I disagree, strongly, with Moats!… but I don’t hear their point of view represented. Obviously the sample size is low, i.e. “just my impression”, but it’s not even “that point of view is wrong” so much as “the viewpoint doesn’t exist” as far as coverage.

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                                      • For at a serious media player who is attempting to be unbiased, CNN’s 93% negative on Trump is exceptionally weird.

                                        But what’s the common thread here? It’s not party, because as you point out, the coverage was the same for Clinton & Bush and pretty close for Obama. Trump is a serious outlier. So what percentage of that is stuff that warrants negative attention and what percentage of it is this bias factor? I’m a big fan of the phrase, “The only common factor in all of your failed relationships is you,” and I think it may apply here. If the only factor that really correlates with bad coverage is being Donald Trump, one might wonder if there’s something specific about Donald Trump that warrants bad coverage.

                                        The fact that he was an underqualified conman from the get-go and had surrounded himself with shady associates who are currently being indicted one at a time suggests that his coverage might be at least somewhat more negative than other presidents who weren’t conmen surrounded by a core team of criminals and weirdos. Combine that with the fact that, until this month, his legislative accomplishments were zero and I wouldn’t expect even a 50/50 balance.

                                        The things that you suggest should warrant positive as opposed to neutral coverage are, for the most part, pretty uninteresting relative to having one’s cabinet members hauled off by the FBI or saying that Haitian immigrants all have AIDS. All presidents leave a trail of regulatory decisions and administrative appointments that get nothing more than, “The President just did this obscure regulatory thing that undoes his predecessor’s decision and will be undone again by his successor.” That’s fairly normal.

                                        But how much digging was the press doing on Obama in 2009 when this program was going off the rails?

                                        I don’t know. How much did you know about it then and where did you learn it from? I have to assume the mainstream press is the answer there. As I recall, it was a pretty uninteresting scandal of a sting that wasn’t run properly and then a relatively mild cover up because it was an embarrassing failure, and most of the coverage got interesting later when people were trying to make it into a Benghazi! scandal before there was the Benghazi! scandal.

                                        I’d have to see an actual time line of coverage to believe that this was anything like a press cover up.

                                        My strong impression is since Trump’s election, there have been a lot more stories on immigrants and the bulk of them have been positive.

                                        Some of that may simply be that in an atmosphere of extreme xenophobia, stories that remind us that immigrants are people like us rather than weird monsters with horns stand out. But again, I’d be interested in what you think the baseline statistics should be. I can’t think of much reason to assume that coverage of immigrants should be more positive or negative than the population at large except perhaps for sensationalism bias like The Year of the Shark.

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                                      • The “Fast and Furious” segment of the operation (which began in 2006) began in late October of 2009. Brian Terry was killed in mid-December 2010. The LA Times reported about it on December 15, 2010 (the day after Terry was killed), though for whatever reason the site is only letting me see articles from early 2011.

                                        So… yea… you’re wrong about this.

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                                        • I know a guy, who to this day reflexively responds to questions of the Civil War with a rant about how it was about economics, but “liberal state schools” teach it was about slavery.

                                          Where did he learn it was about economics? *In those liberal state school*. He learned it in junior high or high school, as it’s a pretty damn common “interpretation” of the Civil War here in Texas.

                                          I have pointed out, more than once, that he’s just parroting stuff he learned in high school to…criticize high schools for not teaching it to him. And directed him to various primary sources (like Texas’ own letter of Secession). And he’ll shut up for that conversation, but next time it comes up he’ll repeat the same thing.

                                          Facts don’t matter on this topic. It’s a reflexive complaint, written into his worldview. Even if he acknowledges he’s wrong, it won’t sink in. He’ll still believe the falsehood, because he’s got so much invested in it.

                                          Not at the realm of concious thought, but below it. It’s a bedrock *fact*. State schools are liberal, liberal schools teach fake history to indoctrinate, and the Civil War thing is just his go-to example.

                                          The most you can do is make him shift to a secondary example for that one conversation. But getting him to internalize that the Civil War example is just wrong literally requires him to change his mind about “Public schools as liberal thought police”. Because it’s not about the Civil War to him.

                                          He’ll just keep going back to it, because no matter what he realizes in a given conversation, public schools remain bastions of liberal thought police revisionists who teach the Civil War was about slavery, when it clearly wasn’t. And you didn’t know that, because you went to a public school and were indoctrinated. (How he avoided it in the same damn school I attended is never explained either).

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                                      • Someone pointed to an interesting article here.

                                        It’s a collection of all of the stories that had to be retracted over the last year dealing with Trump-adjacent stories.

                                        Now, not all of them had to do directly with Trump. The list contains the non-story about how Gorsuch “plagiarized” from Abigail Kuzma (as it turns out, he cited her and she agrees that he cited her). Is this a Trump story that had to be retracted? “Opinions differ.” It contains stories about how Cosmopolitan argued that handguns didn’t exist in the 1800s and USA Today falling for the DPRK parody twitter account. And there’s a thing in there about how Yemen reportedly said something about how the US no longer has permission to fight terrorism within Yemeni borders but that was later retracted when the Yemeni government spokesperson said that that wasn’t true. (Does that sort of thing count?)

                                        That said, it does seem to contain a lot of Trump-related stories that directly have to deal with either Trump or the Trump Administration itself.

                                        I kinda wish we had a control group to check retracted stories against… I have no idea whether this is a lot, fewer than normal, or about the average amount of stories that have to be retracted.

                                        And I don’t know if the skew of the retracted stories indicates anything… my gut says that a perfect control group would indicate a 50/50 split between stories that would benefit Trump having to be retracted and stories that would damage him having to be retracted (or 33/33/34 for pro/con/neutral).

                                        This skew seems to be lopsided and lopsided quite heavily… but I don’t know what the perfect control group would look like.

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                                          • No, not really.

                                            Now, keep in mind, my argument is not “they should have 50/50 representation of good/bad stories about Trump!” but “getting it wrong should have a 50/50 distribution of reported that it was worse than it actually was/reported that it was better than it actually was but then we had to retract it because we got the story wrong and then tell the real story”.

                                            Or 33/33/34. Whatever.

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                                            • As with the old cliche about airplane crashes, “President gives a speech- doesn’t drool or make any obscene remarks” is not a headline one expects to see.

                                              So I would expect that negative stories will usually outweigh positive ones.

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                                              • Again: my argument is not “they should have 50/50 representation of good/bad stories about Trump!” but “getting it wrong should have a 50/50 distribution of reported that it was worse than it actually was/reported that it was better than it actually was but then we had to retract it because we got the story wrong and then tell the real story”.

                                                Or 33/33/34. Whatever.

                                                We’re not talking about CNN running a story that says “President gives a speech- doesn’t drool or make any obscene remarks”. It’s that they ran a story saying that he both drooled *AND* made obscene remarks and then they had to retract said story when footage of the speech surfaced.

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                                                • but “getting it wrong should have a 50/50 distribution of reported that it was worse than it actually was/reported that it was better than it actually was but then we had to retract it because we got the story wrong and then tell the real story”.

                                                  I can’t imagine why that would be true. Almost all newspaper corrections logically are because someone complained, and people, especially politicians, are a lot more likely to complain about information that is incorrect in the ‘worse’ direction. No one’s going to correct the record because the paper mistakenly forgot one of their affairs.

                                                  The only time they’d issue a correction the other way is when they notice it is wrong themselves.

                                                  As an aside, there’s a really funny example of the entire news getting something ‘wrong in a nice direction’ of the Trump administration. Basically, the newspaper reported that Trump wasn’t going to exit the Paris Accords because they said something like ‘We would be willing to stay if we could renegotiate’.

                                                  This was because the media operate in actual reality when the Paris Accords are ‘Just say publicly what you are going to do and then later say if you did it’, and the media figured out the administration had changed their mind, when in the Trump administration actually meant ‘We are leaving because we want a better deal, aka, we’re either a bunch of morons who don’t understand ‘a better deal’ makes no sense in the context of this agreement, or, more likely, we cannot justify our behavior. I.e., we’re leaving, like we said originally’.

                                                  It’s hard to figure out how to classify that media mistake.

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                                                • I also want to point out that we’ve shifted from:

                                                  “[Journalistic ethics have] been ignored in most other cases, so it’s safe to assume they’ve been ignored in this one.”
                                                  AND
                                                  “[Dark Matter’s] basic assumption at the moment is yes, Trump is a terrible person. And yes, the media seems unable to apply their journalistic ethics where he’s concerned.”

                                                  To

                                                  “Maybe the media’s error rate is higher with Trump than elsewhere. Maybe. We don’t know. And probably can’t know. But maybe they’re wrong negatively more than they’re wrong positively and maybe that means they might have bias.”

                                                  That isn’t shifting goal posts. That’s taking the football, running to the adjacent baseball field, spiking it on the pitchers mound, and shouting, “GOAAAAAAAAAAAAL!”

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                                                  • You’re ignoring Obama got negative news twenty percent of the time, Bush and Clinton got twenty-eight, and CNN’s percentage of negative Trump news is ninety-three.

                                                    This is strongly suggestive Trump does indeed inspire negative emotions in the media and this effects their reporting. I suppose them deliberately acting as an arm of the Democratic party would also explain it but whatever.

                                                    Or to put it differently, yes, they’re biased.

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                                                    • You think that’s bad? Check out sports coverage. Take the Houston Astros, and the frankly sickeningly biased coverage of the last year. So many positive stories singing their praises!

                                                      Why, three years back it was just endlessly negative! They went from one bias to another! What happened to bias-free sports media?

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                                                      • Were they an arm of the Democratic party when they treated Bush and Clinton equally?

                                                        The whole “accusations of being a cheering gallery” seemed to be new, at least in degree, with Obama. I thought that reporters openly talking about getting a tingle from his greatness when being in the same presence would have been dissed by other reporters if he’d tried it with Bush or Clinton.

                                                        We might be looking at a side effect of societies polarization or the internet or something (although I don’t see the connection off hand). It’s also possible both Obama and Trump are unusual in the emotions they inspire and channel, Obama-as-savior and Trump-as-monster.

                                                        On the other hand we’ve got Romney as nazi, but I was never clear just how much of the media bought into that.

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                                                  • Kazzy, I’m just trying to shift the ground from something that cannot be measured, even in theory, to something that can measured, at least in theory.

                                                    Unfortunately, I was only able to find one story about Obama that was subsequently retracted (that’s my measuring stick: “retracted”).

                                                    It’s this one. It was written in 2017.

                                                    I can’t find any from CNN from during Obama’s time in office.

                                                    So we still don’t have anything to compare Trump’s multiple stories that were published and then retracted to.

                                                    If you have a way that bias could, in theory, be measured, let’s hear it.

                                                    All I’ve got is to compare stories that had to go on to be retracted in one administration vs. the stories that had to go on to be retracted in another.

                                                    And I can’t find any for Obama.

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                                                        • Hmmm ….The “MSM” has had some percentage of stories they have retracted regarding Trump. Do we have a percentage of stories the Right Wing MSM ( Fox, Limbuagh, etc) have retracted as false regarding Obama? Has the hidden muslim or no birth certificate stuff been retracted? If so by who?

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                                                          • Good point. One way to avoid a long list of retractions is to simply never issue them, regardless of whether doing so is justified or not.

                                                            CNN may have some misses with Trump, but nothing that justified DM’s initial claims. I’m curious if he will retract those.

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                                                          • Greg, again, I can’t find a single retracted story for Obama during his tenure.

                                                            I only found one retraction from 2017, from a story written in 2017.

                                                            And that’s the only one I found.

                                                            If you don’t like “retracted” as a measurement, I’d love to hear your suggestion as to what would make a better one.

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                                                                • Perhaps it’s simply not measurable or quantifiable in the way you’re demanding.

                                                                  Perhaps accusations of bias are as much or more an indicator of the bias in the individual making the accusation as in the target of the accusation.

                                                                  Finally, does the 93% figure simply reflect that at least 93% of what Trump says and does is “negative” by any reasonable standard? I.e., just a purely straight up, factual account of Trump’s daily activities and pronouncements seems negative simply because he’s objectively unfit for the office?

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                                                                  • So there are two things going on.

                                                                    1. We cannot really define “bias” according to any reasonable standard and it’s not really reasonable to ask for a measurable definition.
                                                                    2. Besides, maybe the stories are negative because Trump is bad according to reasonable and objective standards.

                                                                    Did I get that right?

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                                                                      • I think it’s just weird that we can know exactly how bad Trump is but can’t know whether the stories about Trump accurately reflect how bad he is, whether the stories are overstated, or whether they’re understated.

                                                                        Finding out that there are stories that were written, then retracted, and then the reporters involved resigned is not indicative of anything, and comparing this to whether this happened before isn’t indicative of anything.

                                                                        Unlike how objectively unfit Trump is for the Presidency by “any reasonable standard”.

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                                                                        • To know if the media is uniquely failing with regards to Trump requires the ability to identify if their known failings are unique to him. We don’t know that and can’t know that because we haven’t chronicled every media failing for every President. Again, you yourself acknowledged the inability to develop a control group.

                                                                          For a variety of reasons that have been offered to you, simply looking at the frequency of failings or the types of failings is insufficient to determine bias.

                                                                          Maybe there is another way. If you think there is, offer it. Even the method you offered was insufficient (by your own admission) and had other flaws pointed out by many folks here.

                                                                          On a related note, what do you make of the media’s focus on Hillary’s emails during the campaign, to the point of the emails being the topic of more stories than all other issues combined. Do we have sufficient data to call that bias? Why or why not?

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                                                                          • Maybe there is another way. If you think there is, offer it. Even the method you offered was insufficient (by your own admission) and had other flaws pointed out by many folks here.

                                                                            I think that stories that have to be retracted demonstrate an editorial lapse on the part of the institution producing them (and, indeed, if people actually have to resign as part of the fallout, that’s an even bigger indicator of actual wrongdoing). If it’s not possible to find previous examples of this sort of thing, I think it’s possible to just say “this behavior is unprecedented” or something and that is enough to shift the burden of proof.

                                                                            On a related note, what do you make of the media’s focus on Hillary’s emails during the campaign, to the point of the emails being the topic of more stories than all other issues combined. Do we have sufficient data to call that bias? Why or why not?

                                                                            Are we allowed to use the standards we established above?

                                                                            Were the email stories later retracted? Did anyone resign as a result of these stories being printed and then retracted?

                                                                            If they weren’t, and no one did, are we really comparing apples to oranges by making that comparison?

                                                                            What measurements are we using to say that the Hillary coverage of her emails was biased? Can we take them up a level of abstraction and then apply them to DJT? What happens when we then apply these same rules to DJT?

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                                                                            • The intensity of her email coverage led to cries of bias.

                                                                              Shift the burden of proof for what to whom?

                                                                              Again, DMs claims were that all journalistic ethics are being thrown out most of the time when reporting on Trump. That is simply unsupported by any facts.

                                                                              Is the media biased against Trump? Unknowable, I’d say. Also, are we including all media or just CNN and the NYT? Does Fox and talk radio get accounted for in your analysis?

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                                                                              • The intensity of her email coverage led to cries of bias

                                                                                So that’s our measuring stick? Cries of bias?

                                                                                If I looked for cries of bias in the coverage of Trump, do you think I’d be able to find any?

                                                                                Shift the burden of proof for what to whom?

                                                                                For the proposition of whether it’s possible to measure bias in the first place from the person arguing that it is to the person arguing that it isn’t.

                                                                                Again, DMs claims were that all journalistic ethics are being thrown out most of the time when reporting on Trump. That is simply unsupported by any facts.

                                                                                Yeah, I agree. More than that, I’d argue that arguing such a proposition would be supportable even in theory is a very difficult row to hoe. As such, I think it’s important to make a proposition that is supportable and measurable in theory. Then we can argue about such things as facts. (I mean, what “facts” would you use when arguing ethics?)

                                                                                Is the media biased against Trump? Unknowable, I’d say. Also, are we including all media or just CNN and the NYT? Does Fox and talk radio get accounted for in your analysis?

                                                                                Perhaps it’s unknowable on some esoteric level, but I do think that if it’s possible to say “the media is biased against Clinton!” and point to, say, stories about her email, then we should be able to say similar about Trump and point to stories that resulted in people resigning after they were retracted and official apologies given.

                                                                                I think that if it’s possible to look at Fox and say “yeah, they’re biased *FOR* Trump!” then it would be theoretically possible to look at a different media outlet’s behavior and say “okay, this is the behavior of an outlet that is biased *AGAINST* him”.

                                                                                And even if the behavior isn’t properly quantifiable, it could still be qualitatively demonstrated.

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                                                                                • Sure. But then let’s look at the totality of the media and all their subjects. Focusing just on CNN/Trump seems biased in its own way.

                                                                                  Note: I’m not levying charges that Fox is biased towards Trump or the handling of Hillary’s email js evidence of bias against her. Only that such charges have been levied so if we’re developing a rubric for identifying bias, it ought to be applicable to and account for those dynamics.

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                                                                                  • Is this one of those things where we’re comparing the nightly news of the big three and the NYT with Fox News and the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page?

                                                                                    Isn’t this a kata that everyone is already familiar with?

                                                                                    Note: I’m not levying charges that Fox is biased towards Trump or the handling of Hillary’s email js evidence of bias against her. Only that such charges have been levied so if we’re developing a rubric for identifying bias, it ought to be applicable to and account for those dynamics.

                                                                                    At this point, I’m merely interested in seeing how someone *MIGHT* see the handling of Hillary’s email as evidence of bias and whether they’d see that as THEORETICALLY possible of bias showing up in reporting.

                                                                                    Perhaps they’d say “How can we say if journalism is biased or whether they’re reporting on things that are true?”

                                                                                    How would we even know?

                                                                                    Maybe we’re being terrorized by Descartes’s evil demon.

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                                                                                    • The argument with regards to Hillary’s emails is that the actual weight of that story was minimal and yet it received a ton of attention because it was negative and about Hillary and the press was biased towards negative Hillary stories. Are you saying you heard nothing of this during or after the election?

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                                                                                      • The argument with regards to Hillary’s emails is that the actual weight of that story was minimal and yet it received a ton of attention

                                                                                        Correct.

                                                                                        because it was negative and about Hillary and the press was biased towards negative Hillary stories.

                                                                                        That’s one account. Another might be that readers found them “newsworthy” because of their own negative bias against Hillary, so (eg) NYT continued to publish them on the front page. Personally, I think Hillary’s dishonesty/evasiveness about the issue reinforced the newsworthiness of each subsequent revelation. She contributed to creating her own negative newscycles.

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                                                                                      • …The argument with regards to Hillary’s emails is that the actual weight of that story was minimal…

                                                                                        HRC may have gotten people killed by mishandling state secrets via her server, and the only apparent need for it was so she could evade internal controls. She went to a lot of trouble to set it up and her explanation as to “why” shifted day by day as the previous day’s explanation was found to be inadequate.

                                                                                        It’s like she set out to convince everyone she was lying and it was a big deal. She gave the impression that she couldn’t tell the truth because it was so terrible. This does not interact well with her ethical standard of “not criminally convictable”.

                                                                                        I think Obama called it “political malpractice”.

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                                                                                • I would say that everyone here is missing the mark. Journalism is entirely subjective and thus unquantifiable through the metrics is talking about. Accusations of bias come down to trust which is downwind of subjectivity. Do I trust the media is telling me what I need to know about subject X. Any retractions, delays in reporting, putting an article above or below the fold* or burying it? All of these actions get filed by the reader/viewer and set in there mind as to whether someone is biased in the reporting or editing. Americans have a low but rising view of the media as of June, vastly different by political affiliation.(This is from June, so no telling what the CNN retractions and ABC firings, along with the sexual harassment scandal have done. Couldn’t find anything newer.)

                                                                                  As for the question of Hillary’s emails, what it looks like to me is an iterated prisoners dilemma. Not unlike Weinstein, or better yet John Edwards, when the stories broke, they had to cover it, no matter how they felt as political individuals, for to not cover it would be journalistic suicide. Such an obvious partisan move would make them a laughing stock and no matter how they might have felt about them as individuals, they do have a job to do, they do want to be good at it, and they do want to get the story. If no one breaks rank, then there is obviously no story, even if Everyone Knew.

                                                                                  *Homepage of a website, with banners on all pages, etc.

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                                                                                  • “Accusations of bias come down to trust which is downwind of subjectivity.”

                                                                                    Nope. Everyone is biased, so journalists claiming they aren’t is BS, especially, when along comes a polarizing figure like “the donald” and that bias becomes even more noticeable. Note, I’ve known journalists were biased for decades, I don’t mind it, I just make allowances for it.

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                                                                                  • I would say that everyone here is missing the mark.

                                                                                    You have my curiosity.

                                                                                    Journalism is entirely subjective and thus unquantifiable through the metrics is talking about. Accusations of bias come down to trust which is downwind of subjectivity.

                                                                                    You have my attention.

                                                                                    Such an obvious partisan move would make them a laughing stock and no matter how they might have felt about them as individuals, they do have a job to do, they do want to be good at it, and they do want to get the story. If no one breaks rank, then there is obviously no story, even if Everyone Knew.

                                                                                    I don’t see anything in here that I disagree with enough to write an essay about.

                                                                                    (What an awful time for everything to come to a head!)

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                                                                                  • I would say that everyone here is missing the mark. Journalism is entirely subjective …

                                                                                    If that’s true then there’s no distinction between truth and propaganda. I think you’re confusing the inability of a person (a media consumer) to distinguish between fact and fiction with the absence of a distinction between them.

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                                                                                      • Interpreting news isn’t journalism, tho. It’s editorializing, opining, etc. There’s a special section in newspapers for those types of folks: the editorial or opinion section. Journalists report facts and states of affairs that other people express opinions about.

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                                                                                        • Where the stories are placed, the level of writer, even the day it is put up all make a difference in how a story is brought out to the public. Below the fold, buried on A15 (or even the second, local section) having Woodward and Bernstein do the reporting vs. the guy who just graduated from CC journalism classes. Which facts get emphasized. Focus on the number of X or the number of Y? All of this goes into how the story is presented to the public. All of that is journalism. And they all have nothing to do with facts.

                                                                                          The news is just anecdote and chronology. Any topspin is solely journalism. Another word for that is editorializing, simply not on that page you mention.

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                                                                                          • Which facts get emphasized. Focus on the number of X or the number of Y? All of this goes into how the story is presented to the public. All of that is journalism.

                                                                                            So by your own lights, then, it’s not the case that “journalism is entirely subjective” as you wrote earlier, right? Journalists report facts and states of affairs even tho people can (and will) dispute how those facts are presented, or if they are accurate, etc etc.

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                                                                              • (merging two posts) CNN may have some misses with Trump, but nothing that justified DM’s initial claims. I’m curious if he will retract those.

                                                                                I retracted my claim on the NYT story.

                                                                                However imho the percentage of negative claims, retractions, and the swing of those retractions suggest elements of the media have departed from impartiality and “journalistic ethics” for their Trump coverage.

                                                                                Again, DMs claims were that all journalistic ethics are being thrown out most of the time when reporting on Trump. That is simply unsupported by any facts.

                                                                                Not “all”, nor “most of the time”.

                                                                                The problem is (and I’m sure Trump is doing this deliberately) if everything is negative, then nothing is. If bias is in there some of the time, then I can’t trust whether it’s there “this” time. I can’t even trust the overall picture because important elements are unpresented.

                                                                                Trump is attempting to get people to dismiss the (deserved) negative news about himself by portraying the media as biased and self interested at best, and an arm of the Democratic party at worst. To do this he needs the active cooperation of some elements of the media, so he flames and hits emotional buttons to encourage them to “cooperate”, and the math suggests they are.

                                                                                Trump is doing a form of “wag the dog”. He can’t deal with a disinterested press honestly representing him and his message, but an active war is a different problem that he can deal handle.

                                                                                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wag_the_Dog

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                                                                                • To do this he needs the active cooperation of some elements of the media, so he flames and hits emotional buttons to encourage them to “cooperate”, and the math suggests they are.

                                                                                  Whether it’s conscious or not, it’s definitely what’s happening. I’m seeing this tactic more and more all over the place. Constantly do enough bad stuff and get called on it and pretty soon your record is so bad that nobody can believe it’s real and they start thinking the record itself must be a fabrication.

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                                                                        • It’s not weird at all.
                                                                          Even if you were on a deserted island with no access to any media of any kind, except Trump’s own tweets and public statements, any reasonable person would conclude he is suffering from some terrible defect.
                                                                          Even his most devoted supporters tell us to ignore what he says, and listen to the English language interpretations.

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                                                                          • I hate writing something that relies on weasel words and then rereading it because I know that someone is going to notice and point out how the weasel words indicate that the author has his or her thumb on the scale (if they aren’t begging the question!).

                                                                            I suppose I worry about that sort of thing too much.

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                                                                                • Your challenge has been accepted.
                                                                                  Does anyone here look at Trump’s words and say they are the words of a man fit for the Presidency?

                                                                                  No weaseling.

                                                                                  Are they or aren’t they?

                                                                                  Yes or no.

                                                                                  Place your marks gentlemen, and stand by them.

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                                                                                  • “Does anyone here look at Trump’s words and say they are the words of a man fit for the Presidency?”

                                                                                    Yes, yes he is “fit”. For the single and sole justification he met the specs in the Constitution, beat his rivals, and was elected. I ain’t seen any impeachment actions moving through Congress.

                                                                                    That’s a low bar, but still. Just like when the president is elected, he gets all the classified goodies. Same here-default assumption is he is fit until proven unfit.

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                                                                                  • Does anyone here? I don’t know everyone here.

                                                                                    I can certainly conceive of a person who says something like “These are the words of a man engaging in brinksmanship in such a way that deliberately bypasses his demonstrated ideological enemies in the press. The fact that he’d figured out how to do this demonstrates his fitness for the Presidency in a way that we haven’t seen since Kennedy.”

                                                                                    But, no, I don’t know if anyone here thinks that.

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                                                                                              • I mean, I hold the government in mild contempt.

                                                                                                Asking me if I see Trump’s words as befitting the Presidency is something that is likely to get me to say “yeah, he’s the fulfilment of the office.”

                                                                                                But you’re going to hear “Yes, I think that Donald Trump should be held in the same esteem as you hold Obama.”

                                                                                                Which is not what I’m saying.

                                                                                                But it’s far to easy to twist my “yeah, he’s the fulfilment of the office” as “JAYBIRD THINKS THAT TRUMP IS A GOOD PRESIDENT!” and I don’t want to argue against people who want me to defend a point that I don’t hold.

                                                                                                So it’s easier to be evasive than to give a straight answer that I deeply suspect will be misinterpreted and twisted.

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                                                                                                  • He’s not a straight-answer kind of guy, so it’s a lot to ask. Like, he answers slantly to stuff like “did you get a chance to take out the trash?” half the time… (he almost always DID get a chance, and seized it, for the record. he’s good about doing stuff like that.) I don’t even notice it for the most part because I’ve learned to track him, but it used to confuse me a lot.

                                                                                                    Asking him why he can’t be more straightforward is … he knows what is and isn’t straightforward by some objective general standard, as far as I can tell, but he doesn’t actually think or operate in those terms. There’s nothing straightforward inside his head.

                                                                                                    So there’s little point of expecting it of him.

                                                                                                    (This isn’t a complaint on my part, I find it more beneficial – sometimes downright beautiful – than I do frustrating. Those comments/thoughts that you and many of us find thought-provoking in good ways come from the same mode that not seeing why he hasn’t already sufficiently answered the question, and being annoyed when people push for yes or no answers, does.)

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                                                                            • Chip handled it well, but for the record, it isn’t more civil to accuse someone of being weasely in a broad and implied way as you did here, than it would’ve been to say that “any reasonable” sets up a No True Scotsman situation as you did downthread.

                                                                              It’s considerably less civil, actually.

                                                                              So don’t do that.

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                                                                          • Even if you were on a deserted island with no access to any media of any kind, except Trump’s own tweets and public statements, any reasonable person would conclude he is suffering from some terrible defect.

                                                                            Trump has been a public dumpster fire for a long time, 40+ years. He hasn’t blown himself up, but he has kept people interested in him for 40+ years. That’s quite an accomplishment. This is the guy who had a movie made about his prenup. “Terrible defect” doesn’t work well in combo with “highly successful”, “has been this for a very long time”, and “thinks multiple moves ahead”.

                                                                            Trump-as-a-method-character-actor works reasonably well for explaining what’s going on. It doesn’t explain (much less justify) everything but there’s probably an element of truth there.

                                                                            Think of Dick Van Dyke doing his exaggerated comedic “I’m drunk” walk. It’s a lie (he’s not drunk), but it’s also truth (he’s an alcoholic). Trump really is lots of things, but he’s also playing a caricature of himself.

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                                                                            • Trump-as-a-method-character-actor works reasonably well for explaining what’s going on.

                                                                              Heh. You might be correct, but it leads to a different conclusion than I think you think it does.

                                                                              Method acting, for those who don’t know what it is outside of metaphor, is a form of acting when actors try to experience the actual emotions they are portraying. I.e., if the actor wants to show sadness, they think of a time they were sad, or something that makes them sad. They want to show love, they think of things they love. (Method acting is not the same thing as ‘staying in character’, although method actors are more likely to do that sort of thing because it’s exhausting to keep re-drawing the emotions needed.)

                                                                              This is in opposition to other schools of acting, which emphasis more mechanical aspects….this is what sadness looks like on the face and sounds like, this is what love is, etc. (And I over-simplify a bit…all schools of acting let you use some real emotion to some extent, but usually only hints of it, and usually just the positive stuff.)

                                                                              There is a very serious problem with pure method acting, and it should be obvious to anyone who knows how humans work. Namely, there is no such thing as fake emotions…you either feel an emotion, or you don’t. If the mere mechanical act of showing an emotion can change your emotion state, like how people who physically smile can feel happier, than actually feeling the emotion is ten times worse.

                                                                              In fact, the guy ‘credited’ with inventing method acting, Konstantin Stanislavski, (who really had a whole system where that was just a part of it) but even there, he noticed it was causing emotional problems. And all the derivative schools move even further away.

                                                                              Method actors who have to play angry people will find themselves angry. Method actors who have to play someone in a hurry will find themselves talking too quickly. Method actors who have to portray someone in love will not only find themselves falling in love, but can even delusionally think their counterpart feels the same way. Etc, etc. And that’s not even touching on the fact that a lot of works would require constantly changing those emotions.

                                                                              This is why, basically, no professional actor uses straight method acting. Or, to quote Wikipedia: [method acting] is among the most popular—and controversial—approaches to acting.

                                                                              By which they really mean ‘It is how naive people approach acting, and it’s a dumb thing to do’ and they’re just being polite.

                                                                              Trump might have been method acting at some point, but at this point, it’s completely moot. If he’s been channeling actual emotion this entire time, then that is truly how he feels about those things now.

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                                                                              • teal deer: If we hypothetically suppose that Trump is acting, that he is playing a caricature, there are two ways he could be doing that:

                                                                                1) He could be a very cold and calculating person, who has been pretending to go on angry rants that he calmly figured out in advance for maximum impact, carefully controlling himself, and…at this point it’s pretty clear either Trump is not that guy, or he’s one of the best actors in the world.

                                                                                2) Or he could be method acting, where he actually does get angry, but he’s pretending to be angry about specific things that do not make him angry in the real world. But that sort of method acting is extremely taxing on someone, and also eventually everyone becomes the mask, so he wouldn’t be acting at _this_ point, where he’s at least two years into it, and really more like five years. He might have tricked himself into his behaviors and feelings, but they would be real now.

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                                                                        • The way I’d state it is that in news reporting, there’s signal and noise, and in mainstream news reports, the vast, vast majority of it is signal. It’s fun to try to figure out what the actual SNR is in dB, but it’s ultimately not going to happen. If people want to say, “But 10% of the bad things they say about Trump are wrong!” I’m OK with that. It still paints a pretty accurate picture of what’s going on, and it means that the overall goodness or badness of our leaders is more or less knowable.

                                                                          What I object to is, “Here’s an example that constitutes way less than 10% being wrong, so I’m going to treat it like it’s all wrong and replace it with the feelings I have in my tummy.”

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                                                                          • What I object to is, “Here’s an example that constitutes way less than 10% being wrong, so I’m going to treat it like it’s all wrong and replace it with the feelings I have in my tummy.”

                                                                            Oh, absolutely.

                                                                            As a matter of fact, if I was opposed to Trump, I’d think that I’d see particularly egregious examples of media bias as being one of those things that actively undercuts my effective opposition of him.

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                                            • Maybe? I’d want to know the typical rates for these things. The control group, as you say. It is possible the media has a generalized bias towards negative stories and a higher “miss” rate in that direction.

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                                              • I’d also argue that “corrections” aren’t all created equal nor are we really looking at a binary for “corrected” versus “non-corrected”.

                                                Retracted seems the metric we are looking for here. But, again, absent any sort of control group… this data is pretty useless.

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                                            • I see where you’re going (random errors should be random) but I don’t think the nature of reporting is likely to produce that either. Reporting is biased toward interesting things, and I suspect that most interesting things in politics are bad. So I’d expect most errors to be on the side of thinking something’s interesting (bad) when it’s really not.

                                              That is, you’ll probably never see a retraction that says, “Our front page story that Senator Jones had a perfectly normal day yesterday was untrue and has been retracted. He actually stabbed a homeless guy.”

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                                              • That’s kind of what I was attempting to say.

                                                But then, I also question the entire “Bias”premise.

                                                Its valid to ask whether Trump has earned fair and square, a suspicion and distrust which leads to people instinctively believing the worst about him.

                                                I mean, if you took every utterance he ever made and assumed every one was a lie, would the error rate be above or below 50%?

                                                If you took every interaction with a foreign government, and assumed that Trump’s primary goal was predicated on how this would affect Trump Hotels, would you be more wrong than right?

                                                Sometimes assuming that the scorpion will sting you despite its promises, is actually a good thing.

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                                                • Any media analysis methodology would need to explain what they’d expect to see if an absolute saint with the foresight of a prophet and the will of a philosopher king were President vs what we’d see if we elected an enemy of the state bent on destroying America and looting the Treasury on his way out.

                                                  If the difference between those two test signals causes you to conclude that the media is garbage, you probably need a different evaluation function.

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                                                • Its valid to ask whether Trump has earned fair and square, a suspicion and distrust which leads to people instinctively believing the worst about him.

                                                  About him personally? Sure. However the Trump Presidency is very little about Trump, his personality, and very much about the government, administration, and so on.

                                                  It’s possible to picture the gov is now a massive cluster because Trump’s personality is *that* difficult, he changes his mind hourly, put into place incompetents, and so forth. It’s also possible there’s a vast difference between his public act and his private behavior. That he has serious management skills and runs the place like he would a hotel chain (i.e. a CEO). Putting in place competent minions who are given wide latitude to do their jobs and he only gets involved when those minions conflict.

                                                  The 2nd, 3rd, 4th order effects of the Trump administration are far more important than Trump himself. I’m never going to be in the same room as Trump, he doesn’t give orders via twitter, I’ve accepted that Trump is a terrible person, none of that is news that affects me. Other than Trump running his mouth, how are things going?

                                                  Moving from 20% negative news to 93% means the gov is melting down, that everything Trump touches ceases to work. OK great, what’s his equiv to “giving guns to drug dealers” and how common is that sort of mess?

                                                  The laughable misnamed “Muslim ban” was certainly a cluster. The Russian probe doesn’t hit the radar as well handled but my opinion is waiting for reports to be released, there’s room for that to swing either direction.

                                                  In terms of “news I care about”, the economy is growing, unemployment is going down, the gov is getting smaller (if that’s a negative it needs proving), so there seems to be a lot to like.

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