Media Coverage Of Election News & Credibility Of Media Outlets

figure-1-general-election-768x351

A  report from Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy analyzed news coverage during the 2016 election found that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump received  coverage that was “overwhelmingly negative in tone and extremely light on policy.”

While supporters of either candidate can find plenty in the analysis to argue that their candidate was treated unfairly by the press, both candidates had such major negatives that this is not unexpected. While Clinton did receive more negative coverage, this was largely driven by a coverage of a scandal in progress. Both old news and news driven by Donald Trump’s bizarre acts did him almost as much harm.

Some are complaining about the amount of coverage of Clinton’s scandals, but Democrats should not be surprised that this would be the result of nominating a candidate in the midst of a major scandal. It was as if the Republicans had nominated Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal broke. Clinton is the one who violated the rules in effect, and then repeatedly attempted to stonewall the press and lie about her actions. Therefore I am not impressed with the claims that there is a false equivalency between Clinton’s negatives and Trump’s. Democrats should have know better to nominate a candidate with the negatives of Hillary Clinton, which have been well known for quite a long time.

When both candidates are unfit to be president, that is precisely the message which should come from the media coverage. Arguments over which scandals are worse are secondary.

My complaint about media coverage pertaining to the email scandal is not the amount of coverage but that the media concentrated too much on the question of indictment for mishandling classified information, leading some Clinton apologists to mistakenly equate a lack of indictment with exoneration. While the more dramatic aspect, this was not the major issue.

This was far more a matter of government transparency, with the classified information only being one portion of the scandals. Rather than concentrate so much on the question of whether Clinton would be indicted, which I never thought was going to happen, more attention should have been paid to the State Department Inspector General Report which showed how Clinton violated the rules, tried to cover-up her actions, and failed to cooperate with the investigation.

It is typical for the media to concentrate more on negative aspects of candidates and on the horserace. In most years I would be more critical of the media for this, but this year the candidates are largely to blame. Donald Trump was generally contradictory and incoherent on most policy matters. Clinton would chose her policy views based upon what was most politically expedient that day, and avoided the media as much as possible. I would have liked to see the media cover issues more, but the media dislikes complex issues at any time. They are even less likely to discuss them when the candidates are rarely doing so in a coherent manner.

The media’s concentration on negative news does distort how some issues are seen. As the report noted: “Although the nation’s economy has steadily improved since the financial crisis of 2008, one would not know that from the tone of news coverage. Since 2010, news stories about the nation’s economy have been 2-to-1 negative over positive.” This did benefit an outsider and “change” candidate, but here too, the Democrats have only themselves to blame. They had a far stronger candidate in Bernie Sanders to capitalize on such feelings, but preferred to rig the system for the most anti-change establishment candidate possible.

The report also points out that “negative news erodes trust in the press, which is now at its lowest level in the history of polling.” This leads to consideration of a Morning Consult survey which looked at trust in the media, and broke it down on party lines. The results are summarized in this table:

media-credability

The major differences here are in how credible Fox is seen to be, with The Wall Street Journal showing a comparable but less severe partisan divide. Any consideration of the credibility of The Wall Street Journal should take into consideration the tremendous difference between its news pages and the opinion pages, which take far greater liberties with the truth.

There is far more agreement that I might have predicted with other news outlets. Democrats trust MSNBC more then Republicans, but the difference is not all that great.Both Democrats and Republicans rank Huffington Post and Breitbart fairly low, with some degree of the expected partisan difference. I find it encouraging that only 26 percent of Republicans find Breitbart to be credible, placing it below MSNBC, NPR, and Huffington Post. It is notable that Democrats find The Onion to be more credible than Beritbart, but Republicans do not.

A Probably Futile Attempt To Stop Trump In The Electoral College

Everyone was upset when Donald Trump said he might not accept the results of the election. Now that he has been elected, there are those who do not accept this and are trying to block his election in the electoral college. One roadblock is laws in some states which require electors to vote for the winner of their state. Electors in Colorado are challenging this:

Two presidential electors in Colorado are heading to court Tuesday to try and boost their extreme long-shot gambit to stop Donald Trump from officially being elected president when the Electoral College votes on Dec. 19.

Democratic electors Polly Baca and Robert Nemanich are filing suit in federal court to overturn a state law that forces them to support the winner of Colorado’s presidential popular vote, in this case Hillary Clinton. But a successful bid, they say, would undermine similar laws in 28 other states, empowering Republican electors in those states to reject Trump.

In the legal filing, obtained by POLITICO, lawyers for Baca and Nemanich argue that Colorado’s statute is flatly unconstitutional because the Founding Fathers intended presidential electors to have free will when casting their votes — and to consider the popular vote as merely advisory.

“Plaintiffs are entitled to exercise their judgment and free will to vote for whomever they believe to be the most qualified and fit for the offices of President and Vice President, whether those candidates are Democrats, Republicans, or from a third party,” they argue in a brief signed by Denver attorney Jason Wesoky.

Regardless of what happens with this suit, it is highly unlikely that Trump will be prevented from becoming president. While laws such as those in Colorado are somewhat of a roadblock, I suspect it would actually be hard to enforce such laws. The real problem here is that it is Democratic electors who are making the most noise about a challenge in the electoral college. Some are engaged in a probably futile attempt to get the support of Hillary Clinton, who has no real incentive to see her electoral vote count decrease. Their goal is to switch votes to John Kasich, seeing him as a less objectionable Republican than Donald Trump. This might have a long shot chance at working if Republican electors were joining them, but it makes no difference in the end if Democratic electors vote for Kasich rather than Clinton.

Some are urging Republican electors to vote for Clinton over Trump. It is even less likely they would support Clinton as opposed to another Republican.

So far there is one Republican elector who is saying he will not vote for Trump:

A Republican member of the Electoral College from Texas said Monday that he won’t cast one of his state’s 38 electoral votes for Donald Trump because “I am here to elect a president, not a king.”

Dallas paramedic Chris Suprun previously indicated he would support Trump. But he now says the president-elect’s postelection attacks on the First Amendment and the country’s electoral process, as well as the billionaire businessman’s continued promotion of his brand and business interests overseas, changed his mind.

The loss of his electoral vote will not prevent Trump from being elected, even if he should convince a handful of other Republican electors to take the same action. If enough electors do vote for Kasich over Trump to prevent him from reaching 270 electoral votes, in theory the House of Representatives could then choose Kasich over Trump to be president, but is is questionable if this would actually occur.

Conan O’Brien On The Trump Transition

Conan Photo

Yesterday, Donald Trump had his third top secret intelligence briefing. If you’d like to know the details, just check Trump’s Twitter feed.

It’s been reported that President-elect Trump has chosen four-star Gen. James Mattis for secretary of defense. When Trump was told the general had four stars, he said, “Wow, that’s a great Yelp review.”

Yesterday, Donald Trump tweeted that millions of people voted illegally on Election Day. Then someone told Trump it’s not illegal for women to vote.

Donald Trump is giving key positions in his cabinet to people who were loyal to him early on. So congratulations, Defense Secretary Scott Baio!”

SciFi Weekend: Gilmore Girls A Year In The Life; CW Superhero Crossover; Bryan Fuller and Star Trek Discovery; Class; Doctor Who; Sherlock; Luke Cage; Sense8; Westworld

gilmoregirlsstill5h2016

Gilmore Girls, A Year In the Life finally revealed the greatest mystery beyond the secret of life, the universe and everything (which was revealed in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy to be 42). Major spoilers ahead as I figure that any fan of Gilmore Girls will have completed the series by now. It is only six hours and it is Lorelai, Rory, Emily, and Stars Hollow, after all. The series concluded with those four final words which  Amy Sherman-Palladino had intended when she first started the series, but did not get to use because of leaving the series for its final seventh season over contract disputes. After years of waiting, we now know they were, “Mom. “Yeah?” “I’m pregnant.” The words, in retrospect, were entirely predictable. As we learned from Battlestar Galactica, “All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.” Lorelai being pregnant with Rory years earlier set up the series, and now all of it will happen again.

Of course it will not happen exactly the same. Rory will not run off and leave her family as Lorelai did. Rory is now much older than both Lorelai was, and also significantly older than Rory would have been if the four final words were spoken at the end of the original seventh season. She could go down a completely different path. “Rory doesn’t have to keep the baby,” as Amy Sherman-Palladino told TVLine. “There are choices here that she can make. It’s just the left turn. It’s that curveball that life throws you. I will say, weirdly, that I like it much more now. ”

gilmore-girls2

The revival captured much of what made the original series great. Most of the old cast was seen, with Paris having some of the best scenes. Drop Murder She Wrote and sign Liza Weil for a Paris Geller spinoff. There were many additional cameos, including cast members from Bunheads and Parenthood. This included her Parenthood daughter Mae Whitman. The two park rangers were played by Jason Ritter, a romantic interest on Parenthood, and by Peter Krause, her brother on the show, and real-life romantic partner. A full list of cameos can be found here.

There were many pop culture references. This includes genre references include Doctor Who (with an appearance by Alex Kingston), Superman, Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel Movies, Outlander, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twin Peaks (with Ray Wise also having a role), and Game of Thrones. While there were far too many to mention all the genre references here, Screen Rant has a full list. The timing of the show, taking place during the 2016 election year but filming before the results were known, prevented them from including political references. A future season of Gilmore Girls could easily include some snarky comments about Donald Trump–as they sometimes did at the expense of George Bush and other Republicans during the original run. I collected some examples here and here.

parenthood-cameos-gilmore-girls-year-life

Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino gave multiple interviews which covered some of the points discussed, included whether Stars Hollow would have gone for Donald Trump. Here’s a portion of one interview from Vulture:

Let’s get right to the heart of the matter: the final four words. You’ve said these were the same four words that would have marked the end of the original series. But did you ever contemplate changing the ending for A Year in the Life in a way that differed from that plan?
Amy Sherman-Palladino: We didn’t really know what that last season was until we got into it and then we asked a lot of questions and we found out where the show ended. The show could have ended in a different place that made those last four words completely irrelevant. So we went into breaking this in a way that we were really looking at it like these three women are at a crossroads. The patriarch has died and what’s the way forward for them?

Organically, the last four words fell into place on this. It’s not something we would have shoved in there if it hadn’t really led us to a good space and if we weren’t churning toward that anyhow. What’s interesting about the last four words as originally conceived is they would have been when [Rory] was 22, and while that still, I think, thematically would have worked with the whole idea of history repeating itself full freaking circle — you know, daughter follows in mother’s footsteps — to me it’s actually more interesting, it takes on more relevance, that it’s at the same age. She’s at the same age now that Lorelai was when we started the series.

That’s just an interesting kind of dynamic. When we met Lorelai, she was 32 and that’s where she was in her life and now we’re leaving Rory at 32 with the thing on the horizon. It felt kind of cooler to us to do it now than if we had done it when we were still on the WB.

Also, Rory has had an opportunity to live life and do some things that her mom didn’t.
ASP: She’s bringing more to whatever decision she makes than she would have at 22, fresh out of college.

Let me ask you this: Do you know who the father of Rory’s baby is?
ASP: We do…

I’m sure everyone is asking you this question, but do you want to do another season or series of mini-movies like this? Has that been discussed at this point?
DP: Nothing’s been discussed. This was kind of set as a one-off thing, but we would never have anticipated that we were going to do this up until a couple of years ago when it occurred to us. So we never say never. It wasn’t designed to go beyond this, but it certainly can go beyond this.

ASP: Yeah, it wasn’t the sales pitch. The sales pitch was, these are the four stories, this is A Year in the Life, this is what it’s going to be. There were no ulterior motives walking into that room to pitch, other than we think it will be really interesting to see where these women are over this particular year.

Because it ends the way that it does, some people may assume that, “Oh, they set it up to continue.”
ASP: Nope, not at all. We’ve always tried to not wrap things up in a bow. We tried to do that on the series. Because life isn’t like that. You can have a good moment with a parent you are estranged from, and you have a great moment, and then the next time you see them, everything’s back to the way it was before and you guys are throwing knives at each other. Life doesn’t tend to fix things or wrap them up in bows. Because of that, we wanted the ending of this to not have a pat, “And they all lived happily ever after!”

It’s not that it’s a sad ending, particularly, but it’s an ending of, “And life throws you another left turn and then you’ve got to go with the flow.” That’s what we’ve always tried to do, successfully or unsuccessfully, with the show over the life of it. We felt it would have been weird to end this year with, “Everyone’s happy! Yay! Unicorns for all!”

A detail that jumped out at me while I was watching was a poster with the date of Luke and Lorelai’s wedding, which would have been a few days before the election. I didn’t know if that was something that was …
ASP: They were so happy then. So innocent to the ways of the world.

DP: We were tempted to put something about — you know, because there was the prospect and the likelihood that there was going to be a woman president-elect at the very, very end. I think that poster [originally] indicated that it would be on November 19, I think it was post-election. I think it may have been post, you know, it was right around that time. We in this industry can’t afford to even predict the future even when it’s as certain as Hillary Clinton winning the presidential election. Quite frankly, this show — Amy and I are dyed in the wool liberals and very left wing. But the show, we always wanted it to be bipartisan and Stars Hollow is a — probably voted for Trump, mainly …

ASP: No. No, no, no, no.

DP: Oh, I think they did.

ASP: No, no, no, no, no.

DP: It’s rural America!

ASP: No, no, no, no, no. There is no evilness in Stars Hollow. Do not put that out there, I do not accept that. Absolutely not.

DP: Okay, maybe it’s a …

ASP: No. No.

DP: … clean, liberal …

ASP: No. No.

DP: … maybe.

ASP: No. No, no, no. The problem is that if we had known Satan was taking over the world we would have needed a whole other budget for, like, dragons and flying demons and, you know, like the sun disappearing from the world. Winter is coming. It would have been so expensive the way we would have needed to do it, had we known that the apocalypse was coming. It’s good we didn’t, so we didn’t have to spend all that money on horns, harpies — and Minotaurs and women with snakes.

Gilmore Girls, A Year In The Life works well as a stand-alone revival, or given the flexibility of Netflix, it should be possible to have further mini-seasons.

DC's Legends of Tomorrow --"Invasion!"-- Image LGN207c_0156.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): David Ramsey as John Diggle, Caity Lotz as Sara Lance/White Canary, Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon, Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak, Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer/Atom, Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl, Nick Zano as Nate Heywood and Victor Garber as Professor Martin Stein -- Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The CW Network had its big cross over event with Supergirl, Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow.The episodes were a treat not only for fans of the CW shows, but for all genre fans. While there weren’t as many genre references as in Gilmore Girls, MoviePilot.com listed some of the Easter Eggs for genre fans included in the episodes.

Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim discussed some of the issues raised in the episodes with TVLine:

WILL THERE BE MORE FLASHPOINT CHANGES FOR ARROW AND LEGENDS CHARACTERS? | The producers are keeping mum on that front, but Guggenheim did share that “there’s a fair amount of discussion” about the subject in next Wednesday’s Arrow midseason finale. “[The characters] deal with — in some humorous ways, actually — some of the ramifications. For example, I think Curtis is concerned that maybe he was straight, originally.” As for whether Barry’s voicemail is directly tied to Flashpoint or referencing more changes that the speedster makes down the road, Kreisberg offers this cryptic tease: “The message from the future relates to Flashpoint, but it also may relate to something else coming up.”

WILL SUPERGIRL VISIT EARTH-1 AGAIN? | Now that Kara has a way to communicate and travel across Earths, crossovers are certainly “easier” to execute, Kreisberg says. “The next time we do it, it means it doesn’t necessarily have to be because Oliver and Barry need Kara; it could be because Kara needs them.” However, the EP notes that nothing is in the works, seeing as how “we just barely survived this one. So we’re not too concerned with what we’re going to try to do next year. But it just gives us another way to come at a story.”

WILL STEIN’S DAUGHTER BE BACK? | “You’ll see her again in a few episodes,” Guggenheim says. And as early as next Thursday’s Legends midseason finale, “the ramifications” of Stein and Jax keeping the doc’s newly discovered offspring a secret “come into play.”

COULD THE NEW PRESIDENT HAVE BEEN LYNDA CARTER? | “Actually, in the original draft of the Legends episode, she was the Vice President, who became the President,” Guggenheim reveals. “The studio had what we all considered to be a very fair note [that] it was a bit too confusing.”

bryan-fuller1

Bryan Fuller is no longer involved with Star Trek: Discovery, but his early work on the series should still have a big impact on the direction of the series. From Newsweek:

“Ultimately, with my responsibilities [elsewhere], I could not do what CBS needed to have done in the time they needed it done for Star Trek,” Fuller explains to Newsweek. “It felt like it was best for me to focus on landing the plane with American Gods and making sure that was delivered in as elegant and sophisticated a fashion as I could possibly do.”

CBS opted to move ahead without Fuller after previously accommodating his and co-creator Alex Kurtzman’s request to push the show’s planned January 2017 premiere to May in order to “achieve a vision we can all be proud of.” Variety reported in September that the pair wanted to meet fans’ expectations, particularly with special effects.

“It is bittersweet,” says Fuller. “But it was just a situation that couldn’t be resolved otherwise…so I had to step away.”

Fuller—who retains an executive producer credit—wrote the first two episodes of Discovery and the story arc for the rest of the 13-part first season. CBS said it would see his “vision through,” but the writer confirms he has no active involvement with the series.

“I’m not involved in production, or postproduction, so I can only give them the material I’ve given them and hope that it is helpful for them. I’m curious to see what they do with it,” he says.

He commented on a potential second season: “They have my number and if they need me I will absolutely be there for them.”

class-doctor-who

Class began it season with an appearance by Peter Capaldi and now has completed its first season with a surprise visit from a classic Doctor Who enemy. As it won’t be airing in the United States until spring, I won’t give any details. Those interested can find out more here. Warning, the spoiler is in the title and cannot be avoided if you click on the link. Review of the episode here.

Jenna Coleman reports that filming of the second season of Victoria will start in February. The first season will be available in the United States on Masterpiece on PBS starting January 15.

sherlock-clues

The above picture provides several clues about Sherlock. Radio Times goes through the clues, which include a nod to a Doctor Who character.

Netflix has picked up Luke Cage for a second season.

Originally Netflix was only going to release a Christmas episode of Sense8. Now they have decided to release the entire second season on December 23.

Masters of Sex has been canceled after its fourth season. The show has gone downhill and it didn’t seem like they really knew what to do with it anymore. I just wish that they had known that it would be the final season earlier. Rather than a meandering fourth season, they could have told a story over a longer time span and taken the story until wherever they wanted to ultimately finish it.

Amazon has canceled Good Girls Revolt after its first season. I have not had a chance to see it yet, but I had added the first season to my queue following favorable reviews.

Last week more fan theories were confirmed on Westworld but there are a lot of questions remaining. With the season finale airing soon after this will be posted, there is little point on speculating further until the finale is viewed. I do have one additional tip for casual viewers who have not been paying attention to all the on-line discussion of the show. Pay close attention to the opening credits. The scenes do give away a lot.

Alec Baldwin did his impersonation of Donald Trump once again on Saturday Night Live, this time mocking his use of Twitter. Probably failing to see the irony, Trump responded by blasting Baldwin with a tweet. Baldwin offered to stop doing his impersonations if Trump would release his tax returns.

James Mattis Might Be Best We Can Hope For From Trump As Defense Secretary

matis-quote

Like most observers, I am apprehensive about the names being mentioned for top positions in the Trump administration. His national security advisers are far too hawkish, although the same would be the case if Hillary Clinton had been elected. Although more hawkish than I would like, I had been thinking that General James Mattis might be about as good a choice for Secretary of Defense as could be expected in a Trump administration. He is certainly a better choice than picking Michael Flynn to be national security adviser.

Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton invited General Mattis to speak at their nominating conventions, which was not surprising with Clinton being the more hawkish of the two. Mattis declined both invitations, which I consider to be a point in his favor.

Mattis is more hard-line on Russia than Trump. While I was concerned about the history of belligerence and Cold War mentality towards Russia seen from Hillary Clinton, it might be safer to have someone suspicious of Russia to counterbalance Donald Trump’s crush on Putin. I am more worried about his hawkish position on Iran.

Another benefit of Mattis advising Donald Trump is that Trump was impressed when Mattis advised him that waterboarding and other forms of torture are not effective means of obtaining information. Trump quoted Mattis as saying, “I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.” This is advice I want Donald Trump to hear.

Thomas Ricks, author of books including Fiasco: The American Military Adventure In Iraq had the following to say about Mattis in The New York Times:

Usually, I’d oppose having a general as secretary of defense, because it could undermine our tradition of civilian control of the military.

But these are not normal times. The incoming president appears to be a profoundly ignorant man who often seems to act on gut impulse or on what pleases the crowd. That is a dangerous combination to have in the White House. Having known General Mattis for many years, I am confident that he will be a restraint on Mr. Trump’s impulsiveness. I also think he will provide a strong counterweight to some of those around Mr. Trump who hold isolationist or pro-Putin views…

It helps that General Mattis, unlike Mr. Trump, is extremely well read. I once casually mentioned to him that I planned to learn more about the Carthaginian general Hannibal. He immediately named two books that he considered good studies. He told me once that in combat he liked to have a copy in his rucksack of “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius, the second-century Roman philosopher-emperor, the better to help him gain some mental distance from the battlefield.

I also think that General Mattis will provide a useful balance to Michael Flynn, the retired Army lieutenant general chosen by Mr. Trump to be national security adviser. General Flynn strikes me as an erratic figure. For example, his joining in the “lock her up” chant at the Republican convention was unseemly and, for a career military officer, unprofessional. Also, General Flynn did not have a good reputation as an administrator when he ran the Defense Intelligence Agency before being moved out by the Obama administration. It will help that General Mattis retired with four stars, while General Flynn wore just three — among military men, rank matters, even in retirement.

The public notion of generals is that they know how to use only the military as a means of policy and so are more likely to get the nation into wars. That is a false conception in most cases, but especially in this one. General Mattis knows that war is the last resort, not the first one. He also understands that the threat of force works best when it works in conjunction with robust diplomatic efforts.

If it is inevitable that Trump is going to chose someone who is conservative on foreign policy, Mattis might be as good a choice as we can hope for under Trump.

Save

Save

Save

Donald Trump’s Phone Calls To World Leaders Would Sound Like A Parody If Not For Dangers

trump-phone

Donald Trump has created quite a stir today by speaking with Taiwan’s president, possibly risking problems with China. The New York Times reports:

President-elect Donald J. Trump spoke by telephone with Taiwan’s president on Friday, a striking break with nearly four decades of diplomatic practice that could precipitate a major rift with China even before Mr. Trump takes office.

Mr. Trump’s office said he spoke with the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, “who offered her congratulations.”

He is believed to be the first president or president-elect who has spoken to a Taiwanese leader since 1979, when the United States severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan after its recognition of the People’s Republic of China.

…the potential fallout from the conversation was significant, the administration official said, noting that the Chinese government issued a bitter protest after the United States sold weapons to Taiwan as part of a well-established arms agreement.

Mr. Trump’s call with President Tsai is a far bigger provocation, though the Chinese government did not issue an immediate response. Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province and has adamantly opposed the attempts of any country to open official relations with it.

This comes after another story on Donald Trump making phone calls to world leaders which sounded more like a parody to diplomats seeing the read outs of his conversations:

President-elect Donald J. Trump inherited a complicated world when he won the election last month. And that was before a series of freewheeling phone calls with foreign leaders that has unnerved diplomats at home and abroad.

In the calls, he voiced admiration for one of the world’s most durable despots, the president of Kazakhstan, and said he hoped to visit a country, Pakistan, that President Obama has steered clear of during nearly eight years in office.

Mr. Trump told the British prime minister, Theresa May, “If you travel to the U.S., you should let me know,” an offhand invitation that came only after he spoke to nine other leaders. He later compounded it by saying on Twitter that Britain should name the anti-immigrant leader Nigel Farage its ambassador to Washington, a startling break with diplomatic protocol.

Mr. Trump’s unfiltered exchanges have drawn international attention since the election, most notably when he met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan with only one other American in the room, his daughter Ivanka Trump — dispensing with the usual practice of using State Department-approved talking points.

On Thursday, the White House weighed in with an offer of professional help. The press secretary, Josh Earnest, urged the president-elect to make use of the State Department’s policy makers and diplomats in planning and conducting his encounters with foreign leaders.

“President Obama benefited enormously from the advice and expertise that’s been shared by those who serve at the State Department,” Mr. Earnest said. “I’m confident that as President-elect Trump takes office, those same State Department employees will stand ready to offer him advice as he conducts the business of the United States overseas.”

“Hopefully he’ll take it,” he added…

In a remarkably candid readout of the phone call, the Pakistani government said Mr. Trump had told Mr. Sharif that he was “a terrific guy” who made him feel as though “I’m talking to a person I have known for long.” He described Pakistanis as “one of the most intelligent people.” When Mr. Sharif invited him to visit Pakistan, the president-elect replied that he would “love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people.”

The Trump transition office, in its more circumspect readout, said only that Mr. Trump and Mr. Sharif “had a productive conversation about how the United States and Pakistan will have a strong working relationship in the future.” It did not confirm or deny the Pakistani account of Mr. Trump’s remarks.

The breezy tone of the readout left diplomats in Washington slack-jawed, with some initially assuming it was a parody. In particular, they zeroed in on Mr. Trump’s offer to Mr. Sharif “to play any role you want me to play to address and find solutions to the country’s problems.”

I imagine that it is better that he speak to world leaders than to tweet messages to them.

Trump might be a little less prone to saying foolish things if he hadn’t decided to ignore intelligence briefings since his election.

Ivanka Trump Plans To Speak Out On Climate Change

ivanka-trump

Ivanka Trump is probably the most moderate to liberal member of the Trump family, and the incoming first daughter is expected to have more of a public role than the next first lady. Ivanka promoted liberal positions such as support for family leave at the Republican convention, and now plans to promote another liberal viewpoint regarding climate change. Politico reports:

Ivanka, 35, Trump’s avatar among the moneyed left-wing elite, is now poised to be the first “first daughter” in modern history to play a larger public role than the first lady. And she’s positioning herself exactly as she did that weekend — as a bridge to moderates and liberals disgusted and depressed with the tone and tenor of the new leader of the free world.

And the ambitious daughter, who once plotted her career around international brand domination, is planning to take on an even heavier lift. Ivanka wants to make climate change — which her father has called a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese — one of her signature issues, a source close to her told Politico. The source said Ivanka is in the early stages of exploring how to use her spotlight to speak out on the issue.

If she can pull it off, her advocacy could come as a bit of solace to fearful Americans. Over the past week, New Yorkers concerned about Trump’s election have posted “Dear Ivanka” letters on social media and outside the Puck Building in lower Manhattan, which is owned by her husband. One theme of the letters is a fear that Trump will dismantle the Obama administration’s signature climate change policies.

Advocating opposition to CO2 emissions and fossil fuels will inevitably create another warring sphere of influence in Trump’s orbit: Incoming Chief of staff Reince Priebus has clarified in recent days that Trump’s “default position” on climate change is that “most of it is a bunch of bunk.”

But no one is closer to Trump than his eldest daughter, and it would not be the first traditionally liberal position she has tried preaching to conservatives. At the Republican National Convention in July, Ivanka championed pay equity and parental leave, family issues she intends to continue pushing from what will likely be a unique platform that represents her role as an adviser, a surrogate and functional first lady.

It is possible that Ivanka might change her father’s views. I often get the impression that Donald Trump has no firmly held views, and he often seems to repeat the views of the last person he spoke to. He did concede that there might be some connection between human action and climate change when speaking to The New York Times.

Ideologically it would be beneficial to have Ivanka advising Donald Trump, but it also raises ethical concerns for Ivanka to be both advising the president and simultaneously managing his business interests:

But as Trump seeks to avoid business conflicts, Ivanka is also expected to increase her responsibilities running the family company — and it is unclear how she will advocate for policy positions while overseeing the international real estate and branding organization.

“It becomes a conflict if she is in a policymaking or advising role,” said Jellison. “If she were able to play White House hostess only, and very much delineate that is her sole role in the White House, then she would be on much safer ground. At any point if people see her sliding onto the policymaking and advising side, there would be charges of conflict of interest.”

Bernie Sanders Wishes He Had The Opportunity To Run Against Trump (And So Do I)

sanders-conan

The nomination of Hillary Clinton by the Democratic Party in 2016 was among the worst blunders in the history of politics. She was the about the most status-quo candidate possible in an election where voters wanted change, representing everything which is most reprehensible in our political system. She was shown to have engaged in serious corruption in a year in which voters wanted reform, but many partisan Democrats continue to ignore the well-established evidence against her. It was clear Clinton would have difficulties with young voters, independent voters, many Obama voters, Sanders voters, swing state voters,  and voters in rust belt states. (Yes, there is considerable overlap in these groups, and it should have especially been obvious that many of those who voted for Obama in 2008 or Sanders in 2016 were doing so because they did not want Hillary Clinton to become president).

Beyond Clinton’s corruption and being wrong on virtually every major decision in her career, Clinton is terrible at running political campaigns. She is totally out of touch with the voters, and her political instincts are awful. She could not beat Obama in 2008, and could not have won the nomination in 2016 if the party insiders hadn’t cleared the field for her, in a system already rigged to favor a centrist over insurgent candidate, and then further intervened to support her when there was an unexpected challenge. The failure of the Democratic Party to pay attention to the desires of the voters resulted in the election of Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders had double digit leads over Trump while Trump and Clinton were close in head to head polling. If Bernie Sanders was the nominee, Democrats, not Republicans, would have won the voters who wanted change. Sanders could get the young, independent, swing state, and rust belt voters to turn out for him in far larger margins than Clinton could. Sanders would have addressed issues of concern to voters while Clinton ran a dreadful campaign which never gave voters a reason to vote for her  beyond gender and the feeling that it was her turn. Sanders would have spoken to the press to get out his message, while Hillary Clinton avoided them as much as possible. With Sanders, there would have been no scandals, and no problems raised by being investigated by the FBI. Only partisan Democrats could think that she was exonerated after being exposed for conducting unethical and reckless behavior, and lying about it to the American people, because she was not indicted.

Bernie Sanders appeared on Conan (video above) and, while too modest to say he would win, showed that he regretted he did not have the opportunity:

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Tuesday said he wished he had the chance to run against Donald Trump.

In an interview on “Conan,” Sanders said that while he was unsure whether he would’ve defeated Trump, early hypothetical head-to-head matchups showed him far ahead.

“What the polling showed that early on was all the polls nationally and statewide, I was beating him by much larger margins, much more than Secretary Clinton, but you know, then you go through a three-month campaign,” Sanders told host Conan O’Brien.

“All I can tell you Conan: I wish to God I’d had the opportunity. I would’ve loved to have run against him,” he added.

During his appearance Tuesday night, Sanders also ruminated on the nature of Trump’s election victory. He suggested that Trump used rhetoric to inflame racial and ethnic tensions but successfully branded himself as an outsider who could relate to many voters’ frustration with established industries.

“What Trump managed to do was convince people that he was the antiestablishment candidate at the time when people really are not happy with the economic establishment, the political establishment, and the media establishment,” Sanders said. “I think, sadly, much of what he said will not be true — he will not keep his word.”

He added: “Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist or a sexist or a homophobe. There are a lot of people who are hurting very badly. They saw him as a glimmer of hope. That’s why they voted for him.”

Today’s attempt in the House to replace the establishment candidate also failed, but the challenge did show signs of growing discontent over the failures of the Democratic Party under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi:

Pelosi easily beat Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), a seven-term lawmaker who launched an upstart bid to lead House Democrats two weeks ago in response to the party’s disappointing November election results and concerns that Democrats have become out of touch with working-class voters in key swing states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio.

But Pelosi’s margin of victory, 134 votes to 63 for Ryan, signaled a large degree of discontent with her leadership after 14 years atop the caucus and, more broadly, with the Democratic policy agenda that many lawmakers say has grown stale. While she cleared her self-declared margin of victory, a two-thirds majority, many Democrats were stunned that almost a third of the caucus was willing to vote for a backbench lawmaker with no major policy or political experience.

Many were left wondering whether a more seasoned Democrat could have actually toppled Pelosi, with several privately suggesting these next two years would have to be Pelosi’s last as leader. Ryan’s 63 votes marked the largest bloc of opposition Pelosi has faced since winning a deputy leadership position 15 years ago that set her on a course to become the first female House speaker.

Being “out of touch with working-class voters” is only part of the problem. Democrats are also out of touch with liberal voters, including many younger potential voters, on foreign policy, mass surveillance, civil liberties, and social/cultural issues. A Republican-lite party has little constituency beyond those content with voting for the lesser evil.

Trump Sides With Clinton In Opposing First Amendment Rights

flag-burning

Issues were generally ignored during the 2016 election campaign, with media coverage concentrating on what atrocious things Donald Trump has said and the latest revelations in the Clinton scandals. The media generally ignored how both major party candidates are very far right on First Amendment issues. The First Amendment has finally come under discussion in response to a tweet from Donald Trump (which appears to be in  response to a story Trump saw on Fox):

Trump tweeted: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

This puts Donald Trump to the right of Antonin Scalia. As I noted following his death, this was an issue where Scalia sided with civil libertarians.  Scalia has voted for a Supreme Court decision which ruled that the First Amendment protected the right to burn the American flag. In contrast, Hillary Clinton has sponsored legislation to make flag burning a felony.

This puts Trump on the same side of Hillary Clinton, once again showing how Trump and Clinton are far more alike than many partisans supporting either candidate will ever admit. As is often the case, Trump has found a position somewhat to the right of Clinton’s by bringing up loss of citizenship. Both the prohibition on flag burning and the suggested penalty of loss of citizenship are unconstitutional.

It is a shame that an entire election went by with so little discussion of how both candidates hold positions which are extremely conservative with regards to civil liberties. Democrats will probably criticize Trump for this while ignoring that their candidate was not all that much better. We are screwed either way when elections turn into a contest based upon lesser-evilism.

Nate Silver Defends The Recounts Advocated By Jill Stein

jill-stein-recount

It is doubtful that the recounts which Jill Stein has pushed for in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania will change the election results. Despite this, Nate Silver has made the following case as to why this is beneficial, calling it more of an audit than a true recount:

The first proviso: Let’s not call it a “recount,” because that’s not really what it is. It’s not as though merely counting the ballots a second or third time is likely to change the results enough to overturn the outcome in three states. An apparent win by a few dozen or a few hundred votes might be reversed by an ordinary recount. But Donald Trump’s margins, as of this writing, are roughly 11,000 votes in Michigan, 23,000 votes in Wisconsin and 68,000 votes in Pennsylvania. There’s no precedent for a recount overturning margins like those or anything close to them. Instead, the question is whether there was a massive, systematic effort to manipulate the results of the election.

So what we’re talking about is more like an audit or an investigation. An investigation that would look for signs of deliberate and widespread fraud, such as voting machines’ having been hacked, whole batches of ballots’ intentionally having been disregarded, illegal coordination between elections officials and the campaigns, and so on. Such findings would probably depend on physical evidence as much or more than they do statistical evidence. In that sense, there’s no particular reason to confine the investigation to Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania, the states that Hillary Clinton lost (somewhat) narrowly. If the idea is to identify some sort of smoking gun indicating massive fraud perpetrated by the Trump campaign — or by the Clinton campaign, or by the Russian government — it might be in a state Clinton won, such as New Hampshire or Minnesota. Or for that matter, it might be in a state Trump won fairly easily, like Ohio or Iowa.

A second “condition” is that the burden of proof for claims of a fixed election ought to be high. That’s because there’s enough evidence for there to be a clear presumption against theories of massive vote-rigging…

In many ways, undertaking an audit of the election results is tantamount to performing a test for a rare but potentially fatal disease. You want to weigh the probability of successfully detecting an anomaly against the invasiveness of the procedure and the chance of a false positive result. Oftentimes, the risk outweighs the reward. For instance, many experts warn against mammograms for women in their 40s because the underlying risk of breast cancer is low for women of that age and the rate of false positive tests is high, causing undue stress for the patients and subjecting them to further tests and operations that might be harmful.

What are the costs of an election audit? Running them will cost several million dollars, but that’s fairly trivial in an era of billion-dollar campaigns. Instead, since these audits aren’t routine — although maybe they should be — the cost is mostly that they could undermine the perceived legitimacy of the election and the longstanding norm toward uncontentious transitions of power from one president toward the next. Which might be more persuasive … if Trump hadn’t spent the weekend peddling a conspiracy about how he thought the results were rigged in Clinton’s favor because millions of people had voted illegally…

Ultimately, though, I’m in the information business. An audit very probably won’t detect a conspiracy, but it will reveal information about our voting systems. FiveThirtyEight and most other American news organizations are founded on the premise that more information is better, even if it risks being misinterpreted. I’ve never questioned that premise more than I have over the course of this election. But over the next four years, we’re all going to have to get used to an environment in which nuggets of insight come buried in mounds of misinformation. An audit is as good a place as any to start.

Plus there is a certain satisfaction in seeing Donald Trump get upset over the recounts after he has claimed before the election that the election was rigged, and more recently claimed that he was only denied a victory in the popular vote due to voter fraud. Bernie Sanders called this claim “disgraceful and unfounded nonsense.”

One thing we are learning is that there are road blocks interfering with the recounts. The most complicated of the three is Pennsylvania where Stein is both filing suit and trying to obtain a recount through a rather complicated procedure:

To initiate a statewide recount through the courts, the Stein campaign must sufficiently prove that there was a strong probability of election fraud in Pennsylvania.

But with that high bar for the Stein campaign to meet, the campaign is also hoping to initiate a recount through another route, with Pennsylvania voters in every precinct submitting affidavits to their precinct clerks asking for recounts in their respective precincts. So far, the Stein campaign said, they had successfully gotten 100 precincts to make the requests — a fraction of the necessary 9,163 voting precincts.

Further complicating the effort, the Pennsylvania Department of State noted that some of the precincts are in counties that had finished certifying their election results, closing the five-day window for petitioning precincts to hold recounts.

Stein is also filing suit in Wisconsin after the Wisconsin Elections Commission refused the hand recount she requested.