Saturday, June 3, 2017

FRUSTRATION: Seeking peace in Trumpist times



FRUSTRATION:
Seeking peace in Trumpist times
A very short story based on real conversations with friends since the election.

I was talking with a friend right after Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Accord; she’s a big outdoors enthusiast, but also a Trump supporter.  So I asked her what she thought.

Me: So what about your boy pulling out of the Paris thing?
Her: He did the right thing.  It’s a bad deal, and we get stuck with all the costs.  Plus the whole climate change thing is pretty shaky.

Me: Well I don’t know: 100% of the world’s national science academies say climate change is real, is caused by man, and we’re really screwed if we don’t make some drastic changes.  Every single nation’s group of scientists, including the US.  That doesn’t sound shaky to me.  And where’d you get this “we get stuck with all the costs” line?
Her: Everybody says so.  Carson Tucker.  Judge Jeanine.  Sean Hannity.  It’s all a big scam by the One World Order to line their pockets and keep America down!

Me: Wait a minute – those are all Fox News people.  Fox isn’t a credible source.  You can’t seriously believe the shit they say!
Her:  Bullshit; they tell it like it is.  And besides, I read the same thing on Breitbart news.

Me: Fuck you!  Breitbart’s even worse!  Look, Fox’s leader (Roger Ailes, RIP) admitted he’s not in the news business; his goal is entertainment and propaganda, and he admitted he doesn’t care about the facts, just twisting people’s opinions!  And Breitbart is worse – it comes in far to the right of Fox News on all the non-partisan surveys.
Her: Fuck me?  Fuck ME?  Fuck YOU, Jon Strebler and fuck your liberal surveys and your “facts”.  They’re all fake.  Fake news, Jon!

Me: Oh, I figured we’d get there.  “Fake news” is just Trump’s way of fighting back against all of HIS lies.  He knows the best defense is a good offense, so he does this stupid thing of calling verifiable facts, information that has been carefully vetted, “fake news” – and you guys fall for it.  What the hell?
Her: Verified by who?  You know how biased the mainstream media is.  I don’t trust a thing they say.  They’re all lying liberals trying to bring our president down.

Me: I know what you mean about the bias.  But the thing is, that doesn’t have anything to do with most of Trump’s lies.  I mean, all you have to do is read his own words, watch videos of what comes out of his own mouth.  No opinions, no bias, no libtarding – just the dude’s own words!  I’ll give you an example: “If I run for president, I’ll release my taxes.”  Bam – that simple.  He said it, not the media.  He broke his own word – period.  And I can give you a hundred examples; the motherfucker just lies constantly, and there’s no two ways about it.  How can you back a guy like that?
Her: I don’t care.  America first!   He’s our president; why do you have to bring him down?  Sure, Trump’s not perfect, but he cares about us and he’s a godly man.  He’s trying to do good things to make America great, and I trust that God is guiding him!
Me: Trump’s a godly man?  You’re kidding, right?  He’s a serial liar, he’s greedy, selfish, he insults people constantly, he disrespects women, he totally lacks humility.  What religion would back a person like that?
Her: He IS humble.  After meeting the Pope, Trump tweeted how they were both humble.  And you know what, the Pope endorsed him before the election last year – said Trump would make a great president!

Me: Oh my god!  That was one of Trump’s fake news plants on social media!  The Pope hates Trump; don’t you remember their spat a few months earlier?  And did you see the Pope’s face during their meeting?  It was obvious he didn’t want to be around the guy.  But back to that phony story – there’s tons of evidence that Trump and his buddies planted all kinds of bullshit stories on social media during the campaign, all kinds of lies that suckers like you actually took for real news.
Her: Oh – so now I’m a sucker, and we’re into name calling?  Nice Jon, real nice.  You know, you can be a real dick sometimes, and a big know it all.  How do YOU know that story was phony?

Me: Well part of it is just common sense.  Popes don’t endorse candidates, and this Pope certainly didn’t like Trump.  You can also usually tell from the way a story or a meme is presented, the language of it.  You know how there are so many memes that say how this or that ABSOLUTELY DESTROYS this person or that person?  There’s tons of those these days from both sides, and that’s a big clue that the thing is biased or just total bullshit.  But there’s also Snopes and FactCheck; they’re websites that will tell you if something is legit or BS.
Her: You can’t trust those websites – they’re all run by liberals!  They’re part of the liberal mainstream media that Trump says is our enemy.  And I trust Trump; he’s draining the swamp and looking out for average Americans like me.

Me: How can you trust someone who’s been proven over and over again to be a liar?  The people running those websites – look into them.  They’re highly educated in what they’re doing, and they use unbiased techniques to determine if something is legit or not.
Her: Yeah, I know about all those “educated” people.  They went to college, where all they got was a liberal brainwashing, and they think they’re so much better than the rest of us.  The educated elite – those are the assholes that have gotten this country in such a mess.  They’re the ones holding us back; they’re the problem!

Me: I see.  So we can’t trust the educated media, we can’t trust scientists because they have a good education, and it sounds like anyone with a college education is the enemy – libtards all! 
Her: Basically.  All you smart liberals, you don’t have any real world common sense, just ivory tower book learning.  And we’re sick of you telling real Americans how things are.  Look at the huge mess we’re in because of Obama and all his educated idiots!

Me: Yeah, I dunno.  I mean, the US has one of the highest standards of living in the world.  Nobody’s starving, everyone gets an education, has a place to live, a chance to be successful.  And our economy – it’s been the world’s strongest for the last 5 years!  Things don’t seem too screwed up to me.
Her: Maybe so, Mr. Economics genius, but a lot of us aren’t seeing it.  The rich get richer and all the good jobs go to China, and people like me can’t keep up.  We’re never gonna be able to pay our house off, and the kids – I don’t think they’ll ever be able to own their own home.  Somebody’s gotta do something for regular Americans, and Trump’s doing it!

Me: You mean regular WHITE Americans, right?  Trump just wants to turn the clock back to 1960 when every high school dropout could support a family of 4 on a factory job – if he was white, anyway.  But those jobs are gone, coal is dying and his pathetic efforts won’t change that.  It’s really clear to economists who follow this kind of stuff: We haven’t lost jobs to trade, we’ve lost them to technology, and that clock won’t turn backwards.  Besides, how can you think a selfish billionaire like Trump, with his billionaire Cabinet, is going to help the little guy?
Her: You don’t know everything, Jon Strebler, so stop acting like you do!  Trump cares about us and he’ll get us a fairer deal with those other countries, get our jobs back.  And what’s wrong with kicking out a bunch of illegal Mexicans so white people can have a fair chance anyway?  This is America, we speak English, and all those Spanish speakers and Muslims don’t need to be here messing things up for the real Americans.

Me: Yeah, I don’t know everything, but at least I know some basic stuff.  The guy is SO ignorant – about government, about economics, about history.  He’s always saying something stupid, showing his ignorance.  “The unemployment rate is 42%”  “We don’t vet people coming into the US”  “Judges make the laws”  “Frederick Douglass is an up and coming black leader”  How can you guys not see what a moron he is?  Do you think being a moron is a good thing in a President?
Her: Why do you have to be so negative?  And mean?  Nobody’s perfect; so Trump makes a few mistakes; so what?  He’s trying to make America great again, and what’s wrong with that?  But you liberals, you’re always looking for things to attack him on; you’re so unfair.

Me: You know, I’m tired of hearing this “you liberals” bullshit.  I’ve never been a liberal; voted for Nixon, voted for Reagan.  There are millions and millions of independents who oppose Trump because he’s a lying, dangerous idiot.  Colin Powell – who was a top general and Secretary of State under Bush, and is a Republican and certainly not a “libtard” – he said it best:  Trump is a “national disgrace and an international pariah!”  And he’s not the only one.  Millions and millions of Republicans don’t like Trump and have spoken out about it.  It’s not a Trump vs. liberals thing; it’s Trump against anyone who has a clue, anyone who wants a president that knows what he’s doing, speaks the truth, and REALLY wants what’s best for America. 
Her: I don’t care what you say.  I don’t care about your facts or your Colin Powell or any of it.  Trump is my guy and Trump is our president, and God bless America!

Me: Well yeah – he is our president, but he didn’t really win the election as far as I’m concerned.  At least not fair and square.  I’m not a big Hillary fan, but she’s the one who should be in the White House now, not that sneaky, snaky Trump.
Her: Oh no – not the Russia thing!  I mean seriously – all of these phony charges, from anonymous sources.  Nothing’s been proved, and it’s just a huge witch hunt to keep the president from giving Americans the changes he promised.  You liberals should be ashamed of yourself!

Me: I’m telling you: stop with the liberals crap!  I’m no frickin liberal, and neither are all of the Republicans who want to know what Trump and his crew have been up to.  But look, it’s not just about Russia.  First, there was Trump’s campaign with all the fake social media stories that people like you fell for.  How many votes do you think he got because of roping in dopes like you early in the campaign, votes he didn’t deserve and wouldn’t have gotten if he and his people hadn’t lied like dogs?  Then there was the FBI disaster.  10 days before the election, Hillary was several points ahead and trending upward, all set to lock it up.  Comey comes out with his bullshit announcement that we now know was based on fake info (and he knew that at the time!) about Hillary’s email account.  Bam!  Her numbers start dropping.  And the Russians, who even Trump admits were interfering in our election on his behalf all along, they step it up even more.  Hillary wins the popular vote, but Trump ekes out a win in the electoral college to become president.  It’s just wrong!
Her: Hey, whatever.  Trump won and Hillary lost.  Waaaah - get over it!  Besides, there’s no way to know if those things affected people’s voting or not, and Trump didn’t “eke out” an electoral college vote.  He creamed Hillary!

Me: You know, you’re right.  We can’t know for sure how much these things affected peoples’ voting.  But I think a reasonable, open-minded person would conclude that each of those 3 things helped Trump somewhat; taken together, probably quite a bit.  The way Trump won the electoral vote, just a very small number of votes cast the other way would have won key states for Hillary instead of Trump.  If those 3 things hadn’t happened, those key states would almost certainly have gone her way and we’d have our first woman president instead of this lying idiot.  Either way, it’s my belief that he cheated, and so I don’t consider him to legitimately be our president.
Her: Oh great!  So then what are you going to do?  Hold a cry-in or something?  Don’t be such a weenie.  Trump is in and that’s that, and he’s making America great again.  Look – I’m done here; gotta run.  Tell Lori hi.  Love ya.
Me: Love ya too.  Drive safely!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT



There’s an existential threat to the United States of America, one that can change the country’s path forever – and not in a good way.  No, it’s not the new President, Donald Trump.  Nor is it the rebirth of radical liberalism.  This frightening new threat is the growing belief that facts are fluid things, that whatever one person believes about what happened is just as valid as anyone else’s beliefs on the matter, and that there is no such thing as “truth” since we can never be clear on the facts.  Others have written and spoken about this before, but here is my take on the problem.

Let me clarify a few things first:  I am not a political conservative.  I am not a political liberal.  As my Facebook page claims, I am “excessively centrist.”  Over the decades, I have voted for Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians in about equal amounts. 

So I’m not a “libtard” or “snowflake” or any of that, although that fact won’t keep the less thoughtful of readers from believing I am.  Which only goes back to the problem: Facts don’t matter so much these days. 

What matters instead of facts, we are learning, is how one “feels” about an issue or a person.  Another way to say this is that emotions are overtaking facts in determining what people believe.  

So if I feel that the water off of Imperial Beach is polluted and too dangerous to be in, then I’m going to look for and believe news stories, signs, and anecdotal evidence supporting that view.  I’m going to hang more with people who believe the same thing, and we’ll share what we know about the problem.  I won’t be searching out evidence of the water being safe, and I’ll find fault with anything that implies that it’s not bad.  The same goes for people on the other side of the issue – those who believe the water isn’t all that polluted.  The end result is each side reinforcing their own beliefs, “feeling” even stronger that they are right and the other guys are wrong.

THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD
Scientists use the “scientific method” to determine what is true or not true in the worlds of physics, biology, oceanography, and so forth.  That entails extensive testing of hypotheses, with results that can be, and are, duplicated by other scientists.  In the world of legitimate science, what a person “feels” about an issue – pollution levels, global warming, evolution, etc. – plays no real role.  Importantly, when new information or facts call into question earlier conclusions, scientists test those and, if valid, they change their views of what is true and not true.  A good scientist doesn’t stick with beliefs that have been disproved by verifiable testing and peer review.

We should all accept this philosophy of knowing what is true, even as we acknowledge exceptions to it, notably in the area of religion.  Religions are largely faith-based; we can’t prove there is a God using the scientific method, for example, but we can nevertheless have faith that he/she/it exists.  The Christian Church, at least up until the 16th century, and to a lesser degree well into the 19th century, taught that science and Christianity dealt with two different worlds.  Whenever science disagreed with the Bible on matters of science, Church leaders actually deferred to the scientists and accepted their wisdom.  That is still the case today with most Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, and Muslim leaders, although notable and powerful forces (fundamentalists) sadly choose to see science and religion as opposing one another.

REASONABLE DOUBT
Since it is difficult to be absolutely, 100% certain - especially in the social sciences, where certainty is even harder to achieve, we rely on probabilities.  For most people, in most cases, we don’t literally calculate probabilities of something happening or not happening, being true or not true.  Mostly, we just sort of informally figure out if something is really likely, sort of likely, probably untrue, etc.  What we should ideally shoot for is something like the standard in criminal court cases: Beyond a reasonable doubt.  That more or less translates into a 95% probability of being correct. 

So when we say something is or is not true, we “should” know it beyond a reasonable doubt, even though it doesn’t seem that many people follow that standard.   What we hear more and more, unfortunately, is people throwing out claims and facts that they haven’t vetted.  They read or heard it elsewhere – probably from someone or some source that feels the same way they do on the topic.  And at that point, then the whole idea of true beyond a reasonable doubt kind of goes out the window.

We’ve experienced much more of this in recent years, and especially during and after the last Presidential election.  Things that should have been laughable, e.g. the Pope just endorsed Donald Trump for President, were taken as truth by millions of Americans.  I say “laughable” because Popes do not endorse candidates, and in fact there was extensive media coverage of this particular Pope expressing his dismay with Trump’s policies.   Why did people fall for this obvious falsehood?  Well, partly because many are so woefully unaware of what’s actually going on in the world around them; they don’t read and watch legitimate news sources.  But even more so, because they heard it from sources they liked and it was a message that was in tune with their own feelings.

This was an egregious example of the new phenomenon (not new, actually, but just much more prevalent and powerful than before) of fake news.  This is different from merely cherry-picking which stories to print, or tweaking the way the stories are presented to favor one point of view or another.  Instead, fake news is something that never even happened, presented as being real and truthful.  Other recent examples are the claims about Obama not being born in the US, and the “Pizzagate” story about Hillary Clinton.  These were totally false stories, or at least in the case of Obama, claims that were quickly shown to be false, intentionally sold to the public as truth. 

BOTH SIDES NOT EQUALLY GUILTY
There are now a number of organizations that make good money creating fake news stories to sell to a gullible public.  Two of them, LifeZette.com and a number of sites owned by Floyd Brown (Liftable Media) are run by friends of the President or his special Counselor, Kellyanne Conway.  Liberals used a few stories written by Jestin Coler’s company, Disinfomedia during the election, but it seems clear that fake news stories were vastly more utilized by right-wing sources who were promoting Trump’s candidacy.  And it’s easy to imagine Trump himself as being behind some of these stories.

The President has been an unquestionable promoter of fake news stories, none more blatant than his claim to have really won the popular vote, except for the “3 million to 5 million illegal votes” cast by immigrants.  When pressed for evidence of this, and despite every other source denying any such thing happened (including leaders of his own party), Trump continued to insist on his fantasy.  To date, no evidence whatsoever has appeared to back the President’s “long-standing belief.”  The same is true with his claims that many more people attended his inauguration than the evidence shows.

President Trump has a long history of saying whatever he believes or feels, regardless of its accuracy.  A study from about a year ago showed that only 9% of the public comments he made were “true or mostly true.”  This compares to 51% for Hillary Clinton.  How ironic that “Rotten Hillary” Clinton was actually truthful more than five times as often as Trump.  While much of the country was outraged by Clinton’ lies on her email server and events in Benghazi, Trump was broadcasting egregious lie after lie, non-stop.  Trump’s level of lying was (is, actually) totally unprecedented, and can in no way be compared to what Clinton or any other politician in the country’s history has done.

This last point is worth repeating.  Trump supporters often claim that all politicians lie, so what’s the big deal?  NO.  You cannot compare his pathological level of lying with Clinton or Obama or Cruz or anyone else.  Even some ultra-conservative Fox News reporters are finally seeing this.  Check out this video of Fox commentator Shep Smith saying, among other things, that: “This President keeps telling untrue things, and he does it every single time he’s in front of the microphone; it’s demonstrable – I can re-rack the tape for you. https://www.facebook.com/OccupyDemocrats/videos/1430873363672380/  
Sure, the video comes from an anti-Trump source, but as the man says – all of these things are demonstrable, meaning they can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

While the alt-right has been by far guiltier in using fake news business, liberals are now starting to play the same game, as they’ve learned how viciously effective it can be. According to the Christian Science Monitor, judged to be one of the least biased major media sources, liberals are shocked at how successfully Trump and his handlers used fake new to ultimately help put him in office.  They’re taking pages from the same playbook, such as showing Trump’s parents both dressed in KKK outfits.  So now we have both sides using this unethical technique!         

LYING ABOUT LYING
But now we also have this new thing of calling legitimate news stories, presented with some form of bias, as fake news.  They are not the same thing.  The media has always chosen which stories they want to cover, and how to present them to the public.  And it’s not uncommon for some bias to appear in their coverage.  Knowledgeable Americans expect that, and discount what the news sources print or say – at least, they should. 

So if MSNBC covers the women’s march on DC, estimating 200,000 attendees and focusing more on the positives of the march than the negatives in their 5 minute story, while FOX News estimates the crowd at 100,000 and focuses on the march’s negatives in their 2 minute story – well, nobody should be too surprised.  That is spinning the news, cherry-picking what to present, and showing each organization’s bias.  But it’s not fake news; it’s not denying the march took place, or claiming that it was funded by Russia, or whatever that would make it a fake story. 

Yet this is what the President and his team are now claiming.  They have chosen to claim that fake news is everywhere, that CNN and CBS and all the rest are fake news because their coverage doesn’t favor him and therefore should be completely ignored.  Every time a media source says something that Trump doesn’t like, he Tweets: “FAKE NEWS”, more and more driving that concept into the subconscious of his base.

When you look at what the legitimate media sources present, they are largely based on verifiable facts, facts that news organizations around the world agree on with very few exceptions.  They are confirmed by relatively unbiased sources such as Snopes.com and almost totally unbiased sources such as The Christian Science Monitor.  For the most part, they fit our earlier definition of being accurate beyond a reasonable doubt.  Yet the Trump team, led by Steve Bannon, wants people to think that stories from CBS are in the same category as totally fake stories from places like LifeZette.com.  This strategy has intentionally muddied the water of what is true, not true, biased, or fake.

By the way, there’s another disturbing trend lately.  Remember the Fox News reporter who took Trump to task for always lying?  Shep Smith was widely attacked by Fox viewers as being unpatriotic, as belonging on CNN for not supporting our President.  Not – “his statements are false, this reporter is lying.”  No; they don’t challenge the truth of what he says, and instead attack him for not following the false party line.  I’ve read and heard this a lot lately; the only measure of truth for them is whether it supports the President or does not support him.

GASLIGHTING, ZYKLON GAS?
Gaslighting is a term that means to bombard people with contradictory “evidence” in the form of fake news and other means, in order to get them so confused that they don’t know what to believe.  And in doing so, it makes people question their own judgment, and even their own sanity, as in:  “I KNOW I saw Joe Politician get a pile of cash from a shady-looking character who was surrounded by several bodyguards.  But everyone else is telling me that there was no pile of cash and no bodyguards; the two men merely talked pleasantly for a few minutes, and then parted company.”  When this kind of thing happens over and over, you start thinking maybe you saw/heard it wrong.  Before long you don’t know what to believe, so you just start ignoring the events around you. 

Or simply trusting in the President!  That’s a clear goal of Trump and Bannon – to get people thinking there are no truths and lies, no up or down, and whatever one person says is as likely to be true as what anyone else says.  The President is our leader, he swears that only he knows the real truth about how to protect America and make it great again, and he has told us he will never ever let us down.  Why not just go with what he says, instead of doing the hard work of trying to figure out who’s lying and who’s truthing? 
 
Steve Bannon is President Trump’s Chief Strategist, and he has clearly become one of, if not the, most influential member of the President’s team.  He previously led Breitbart News, which is generally accepted as being an “ultra-conservative” media organization sympathetic to alt-right views, including white supremacists.   Bannon has a particularly dark view of where the country needs to go, based on his theory of inevitable, cyclical disasters. 

Bannon has said that he’d like to help “bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment,” as a necessary step before rebuilding a stronger nation base on Western European, Christian values.  www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/steve-bannon-will-lead-trumps-white-house   Part of the process, Bannon says, is a “global existential war” between the West and radical Islam, in addition to a separate likely war with “expansionist China”.  As the word “existential” implies, he sees these wars as being a life or death matter for the United States.  Bannon thinks the US’s “fourth great crisis in our history, with a new and greater war” than the last great crisis – WWII – is basically inevitable, and he seems to promote the idea of: let’s get it on; the sooner the better!

To repeat: Steve Bannon is probably the President’s closest and most powerful aide; a number of sources claim that he is actually the true policy maker, and that Trump merely does what Bannon tells him to do.  Bannon is the one who has urged Trump to “be Trump” all along – telling bald-faced lie after lie, insulting anyone who disagrees, taking controversial steps like the recent Muslim ban, etc.  This is a very dangerous man, given his worldview and his general nastiness.

            WHAT ABOUT THAT EXISTENTIAL THREAT?
But let’s get back to where this started.  The existential threat I refer to here is not Bannon’s “fight to the death” with Islam and China.   It is, instead, the threat upon Americans’ ability to know truth, to be able to tell fact from fiction.  To distinguish between facts being presented with some bias (the legitimate media), and totally made-up falsehoods (fake news), along with bald-faced lies that bombard the public day after day.

This threat has to do with an intentional strategy by Trump, Bannon, et al. to reverse the two; to convince the American public that the legitimate media is fake news, and that the only source of truth is the President and his team.  The ultimate goal, of course, is to drown out the truth and let Trump do whatever he wants, regardless of its merits and legality.  As key Trump adviser Stephen Miller recently said on national television: ”the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.” 

The latter part of the quote is shocking, reminiscent more of a brutal dictator than the leader of the free world.  As a result, it’s clear that President Trump believes the executive branch of our government should be more powerful than the judicial branch.  This could be the beginning of an attack on the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land. 

A concerted attack on the Constitution probably won’t happen.  But even if only the current situation continues, the country is in a dire position.  Those whose go-to response is "FAKE NEWS!" seem to have neither the intellectual skills (familiarity with concepts such as logic, evidence, probabilities, reasonable doubt) nor interest in seeing the light.  It’s hard to see their views changing.  As a consequence, the fate of our sadly divided nation rests on what is essentially a war between those folks and the rest of us, because neither side will go down gently.

Monday, January 2, 2017

For the Record



During the first Gulf War, US troops overwhelmed Iraq’s military and were set to attack Baghdad in order to seal the deal.  NO! came the cry from all over the world, including the US.  Iraq is defeated, and attacking Baghdad is unnecessary; it will only result in tens of thousands of innocent civilian deaths, not to mention many more US military deaths.  And besides, Saddam Hussein will become so impotent when we get done with him that he’ll never be a threat to anyone again.  Well, President Bush listened, and the world sighed in relief as he ordered US troops not to invade the city.  Bush was seen as a humanitarian hero back in 1991!

Fast forward ten years, when Saddam Hussein was causing all kinds of trouble for the West and for his own people.  Bush blew it, everyone said.  Why didn’t he finish Hussein off by taking over Baghdad when we had the chance?  Moron!

Wait, what?  What just happened?  Don’t people remember what they said a few years earlier?  Don’t they remember urging Bush to be the bigger man, to do the humane thing?  No – no they don’t.  People have short memories, and are quick to find fault with others, while forgetting what they themselves believed in the past.  

I’m writing this because it will happen again.  I fear that already people are forgetting why more than half of American voters were appalled at the Republican candidate for President, Donald J. Trump.  It’s not that I “can’t get over it”.  It’s just that I want a written record of what actually happened, something we can refer to later, after memories get wobbly.  And it matters; this is a really important issue, because…..

I say it is beyond dispute that much of the support for Donald Trump in the presidential election was a result of misinformation.  Another way to put it is that his supporters believed a lot of things that he and his camp said, even though they were demonstrably (could be proven) wrong.  Many of these things were demonstrably false at the time to anyone who bothered to do a quick check; others were proven wrong at a later time.  Trump and his campaign intentionally put things out there that they simply had to know were wrong; this is in addition to a number of pronouncements that they may genuinely have believed, but wrongly so.  Taken together, they foisted false information on the voting public on a massive, never before seen scale. 

My claim is a fact that will be proven here.  It leads to another claim that cannot be undeniably proven, but is almost certainly true: if Trump’s campaign had not used misinformation on an unprecedented scale, Hillary Clinton would have been elected President. 

We know that a great many Trump supporters hated Clinton and Obama; they hated Establishment politicians of both parties; they wanted a more isolated and self-interested US; they wanted more and better blue-collar jobs.  For those millions of American voters, a better understanding of the truth vs. misinformation probably wouldn’t have made much difference.  They wanted Trump as president, no matter what.  But for many other voters, it seems likely that they wouldn’t have voted for Trump if they had known the truth about his claims.  Clinton did win a clear victory in the popular vote; it’s reasonable to think that only small changes in voting patterns would have done the same for her in the Electoral College vote.

Trump constantly referred to his opponent as “Crooked Hillary” and a “world-class liar”, when it was Trump himself who was involved in numerous lawsuits regarding his own sketchy deals.  And a report that analyzed his statements found that only 9% were true or mostly true.  “Crooked” Hillary’s statements, by contrast, were true or mostly true 51% of the time.  But as his supporters always point out, that 9% number came from a “liberal” source.  Fine – but that doesn’t mean it is wrong. 

Here are some of the more notable examples of the systematic misinformation that characterized Trump’s campaign, making him probably the least honest of any US politician ever:

·       Barack Obama isn’t an American citizen (Trump finally admitted he was wrong in September, 2016)
·       Obama is a Muslim (there was never any credible evidence to support this)
·       Mexicans are rapists and criminals (a very few are; the vast majority are hard-working and honest)
·       “I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”  (Mexico has vowed that it would never do such a thing, and now such a wall is seen as very unlikely)
·       China manipulates its currency to keep it artificially low (it hasn’t done so for nearly 3 years, and its currency is now overvalued, not undervalued as Trump claimed)
·       Bad trade deals have cost the US millions of good jobs (by far most job losses are due to technology and communication improvements, not trade.  A Ball University study released on 12/27/2016 says only 13% of US manufacturing job losses came from trade deals)
·       NAFTA has been a disaster for the US (a Wharton School of Business study in 2014 concluded that NAFTA has overall had a modest positive impact on the US)
·       Speaking of the prestigious Wharton School, Trump claimed to have graduated first in his class of 1968.  In fact, he only went to Wharton for 2 years, and his name is not shown at all on the list of students who graduated with honors from Wharton.
-    The election was “absolutely rigged” against him (17 US agencies confirm that Russia intervened in the election in order to help Trump win)
·       Trump claimed “serious voter fraud” and “millions of illegal votes for Clinton” in the election (his own party confirmed only a handful of questionable voter incidents nationwide)
·       The Clinton family played a role in the plane crash death of John F. Kennedy, Jr., as well as the deaths of various friends and Democrats (originated by LifeZette, a fake news organization run by a Trump crony; totally baseless)
·       Muslims were ordered to vote for Hillary (originated by a fake news outlet run by Floyd Brown – a close ally of Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway; totally baseless)
·       Global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese (the national science foundation of EVERY developed country in the world has signed a statement that global warming is real, and caused by man; there is no evidence that the Chinese are behind a “hoax”)
·       There is no system to vet refugees from the Middle East (vetting of refugees has existed here since 1980)
·       His sister, a US judge, can pass laws (the Constitution only allows Congress to make laws)
·       The actual unemployment rate is as high as 42% (the rate at the time was 4.9% and even economists who use alternative measures don’t cite anything higher than 16.2% )
·       The US is the highest taxed nation in the world (in fact, we fall in the low-to-middle area compared to other countries)
·       The Pope endorsed Trump for President (the Pope has publicly scolded Trump for some of his ideas, and definitely did not endorse him; from another one of his fake news sources)
·       Trump promised to lock Hillary up when he became President (he has upset many supporters by now saying he won’t, adding: “We owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country”)
·       Trump promised to “drain the swamp” of corrupt establishment figures (his appointments so far are mostly former lobbyists, business cronies, and billionaires, and feature people with no qualifications for their new job, e.g. Dr. Ben Carson for HUD Secretary)
·       Only liberals opposed Trump (many top Republicans opposed him, including the last two Presidential candidates, the current Speaker of the House, governors, Cabinet officers, and members of Congress – Republicans all)

And remember - apart from all of these lies, there were all the other reprehensible things Trump said and did.  Here are just a few:
·       - As of a January of last year, Trump was documented as having insulted 289 people, places, and things.  Last October, the NY Times used two full pages to list all of his public insults. 
·       - Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” during a primary debate 
·       - He disrespected our military heroes, and especially John McCain, saying “he’s not a hero; I like people who weren’t captured.” 
·      -  He made fun of a disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski in what some people consider his worst offense of the whole campaign, by doing an impression of Serge’s spasms 
·      - He bragged about forcing himself on unwilling women, including his classy line about “grab them by the pussy!”  Subsequently, 11 women came forward to claim that it wasn’t just “locker talk”, and that Trump had grabbed and/or sexually harassed them. 
·      -  Trump claimed that he knew more about ISIS than all the generals.  In fact, Trump has made the    ridiculous, narcissistic claim that he knew more than anyone else in the world about: 
              America's domestic and international problems - "I alone can fix it." - July, 2016
              Taxes – “Nobody knows more about taxes” May, 2016  
              Renewables – “I know more about renewables than any human being on Earth." April, 2016 
              Debt "Nobody knows more about debt.” – May, 2016 
              Banking - "Nobody knows banking better than I do" — February 2016
              U.S. system of government - "Nobody knows the system better than I do."  April, 2016 
              Politicians - "Nobody knows politicians better than Donald Trump." – February, 2016                 
              Trade - "Nobody knows more about trade than me." – March, 2016 
              Jobs – “Nobody knows jobs like I do!” – January, 2016 
              Infrastructure - "Nobody in the history of this country has ever known so much about infrastructure as Donald Trump." – July, 2016 
              The visa system – “Nobody knows it better than me." – March, 2016 
              Nuclear horrors - "There is nobody who understands the horror of nuclear more than me."–June, 2016
              Respect for women - Here's a laugher, which just followed his "locker room" banter about grabbing women's pussies:  "Nobody has more respect for women than I do" - October, 2016
·       
More despicable stuff from The Donald and Co.:
     "I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” 
·       “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.” 
·       “My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.  I know words, I have the best words. I have the best, but there is no better word than stupid.”

"    Refused to release his tax returns, unlike every other Presidential candidate for decades.  Later, we found out he paid no federal taxes for 9 year, due to business losses from the one who knows banking and debt better than anyone else.

      Wife Melania delivers speech to the Republican convention with entire sections stolen word for word from Michelle Obama's speech to the 2008 Democratic convention.
 
·       And the latest: Trump doesn’t believe our intelligence agencies about Russian election hacking because he has “information that nobody else has.”


No one can know how Trump’s four (or eight?) years will turn out.  He has some good ideas, and may in some ways “Make America Great” again.  But he also has some very bad ideas, and they could be disastrous for the country.  So we’ll just have to see how it all works out.

But whatever happens, we know that the country has elected someone with no moral compass, who will say and do anything with no concern for the facts.  He never admits he was wrong (Obama birth being so far the sole exception, and even there, he followed with the preposterous claim that Clinton actually started the birther movement).  And he never apologizes, not even with the Obama thing. 

A big question in my own mind:  Which is better for the country – A person with no moral compass, but who (let’s just say) does improve the country materially? Or a decent, moral person who doesn’t have so much success (such as Republican John Kasich)?  The country chose the former in November.  I wonder if it will do the same thing in 2020? 
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.