LOCK HER UP: Fox News Stands Alone With Praise For Aspiring Dictator Donald Trump

The second presidential debate is now a part of history, and that’s not just a figure of speech. In a campaign that has set ugly precedents and breached common standards of decency from its inception, Donald Trump has once again lowered the bar. He has let his inner dictator emerge in full view of millions of viewers and citizens.

Donald Trump Hillary Clinton

During a debate wherein Trump engaged in free-range falsification of reality, there was one moment that stood out. It was an exchange in which Trump took the extraordinary position that as president he would instruct his Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton.

TRUMP: “I didn’t think I’d say this but I’m going to say it, and I hate to say it, but if I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation.
CLINTON: It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law of our country.
TRUMP: Because you’d be in jail.

The “situation” to which Trump referred has to do with Clinton’s emails and the private server she used. Never mind that an extensive investigation was already completed by the FBI. While they found some room for criticism, they concluded that there were no actionable violations of the law.

Trump, however, doesn’t care about the law as evidenced by his prejudgment to jail Clinton before any investigation or trial. It’s a position that stands in stark contrast to every legal precept in a democracy. Former Attorney General Eric Holder noted that in a statement saying “In the USA we do not threaten to jail political opponents.” George Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer agreed saying that “Winning candidates don’t threaten to put opponents in jail. […] Trump is wrong on this.”

For the most part the media recognized the aberrant legal analysis that Trump was proposing. Like much of what he says on any subject, he demonstrated his pitiful lack of knowledge or even basic understanding. Here are a few examples of how the press views Trump’s ludicrous threat.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: We got an excellent moment right now to discuss something I’ve never heard in any of these debates before between two presidential candidates […] One candidate says not only is he going to put forward a special prosecutor to investigate his rival, but he’s going to put her in jail if he’s elected president of the United States. That’s pretty extraordinary.

DANA BASH, CNN: What makes this country different from countries with dictators in Africa or Stalin or Hitler or any of those countries with dictators and totalitarian leaders is that when they took over, they put their opponents in jail.

JOY REID, MSNBC: We need to not speed past the point that an American candidate for president threatened to jail his political opponent. […] This happens in Malaysia, this happens in Uganda. This does not happen in the United States of America.

VAN JONES, CNN: A line was crossed that I don’t know has been crossed in my lifetime, maybe ever. He threatened to jail his opponent. […] He threatened to jail Hillary Clinton if he became president of the United States. That is something that I think is a new low in American democracy.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Donald Trump also said, in one of the most provocative comments of the evening, he said that if he was president, he would jail his political opponent. He would put Hillary Clinton in jail. That is the sort of thing that we usually decry in other countries, in authoritarian countries.

PAUL KRUGMAN: Let’s be clear: a candidate for president promised to put his opponent in jail if he wins. Everything else is secondary.

JAKE HOROWITZ, MIC: A few politicians who have jailed their political opponents: Putin, Erdogan, Chavez, Mugabe, Pinochet. Noriega.

DAVID FRUM, speechwriter for George Bush: Who would consent to serve as Attorney General to a president who believed he could direct prosecutions of his political opponents?

By contrast, Fox News presented a somewhat different perspective. Their primetime star Bill O’Reilly gushed that “That’s the smartest thing he did all night because that, just that, coalesced his base back together.” And contributor Scott Brown said that “It was the line of obviously, I think, the election, the debate process. […] it was a home run. I thought he won the debate.” Nowhere on the “fair and balanced” Fox News was there a contrary opinion like that expressed by Clinton’s campaign spokesman Brian Fallon:

“That is the comment of a dictator that you expect to hear in a banana republic — the idea of jailing your political opponents.”

And that pretty much sums it up. Trump has presented himself as a narcissistic authoritarian from the outset of his campaign. His racist proposals to ban immigrants on the basis of religion; his incitement of violence toward protesters; his proclamations that “I alone” can defeat ISIS, or reform the tax code, or repeal ObamaCare, or end street violence. These are all indications of Trump’s belief that as president he can act unilaterally and impose his will the nation. And let’s not forget his open hostility to the media upon whom he promised to seek revenge.

These are the thoughts and actions of a budding tyrant. Anyone who can contemplate putting Trump at the head of the U.S. government and military is playing with fire. Trump has shown us who he is, and it’s a frightening picture of autocratic oppression. If he were to become president, Hillary Clinton would not be the only opponent he would throw in his gulag. Guantanamo would be packed with his critics and any random liberals who offend him.

Breitbart “News” Duped By Same Satirical Site They Blasted WaPo For Believing

It is becoming evermore inescapable that Breitbart “News” is run by the dumbest bunch of pseudo-journalists ever to disgrace the profession. Just a couple of weeks after freaking out over an alleged association between then-Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel and the Freinds of Hamas (a terrorist group that, it turns out, does not exist), the BreitBrats are at it again.

Breitbart - Krugman

Media Matters caught Breitbart editor-at-large, Larry O’Connor, posting an article (now deleted) that claimed that Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman had filed for bankruptcy. It was a juicy story for a conservative rag that would like nothing better than to discredit one of the shining lights of progressive media – a columnist for the New York Times no less.

Unfortunately for O’Conner, the story was utterly false. In fact, it was the work of The Daily Currant, a satirical web site. The thought of doing any actual reporting never entered into the minds of the BreitBrats or they would have quickly discerned that the article was a comical fake.

What makes this even more embarrassing is that just last month O’Conner’s fellow BreitBrat, John Nolte, went to great lengths to slam the Washington Post for having fallen for an article from the same site. Nolte’s pompous critique made some points that apply perfectly to O’Conner. He lambasted the WaPo author saying that…

Nolte: If [Suzy] Parker had a shred of self-awareness, integrity, and dignity, she would have changed the headline to “Too Good To Check,” and under it posted an essay about how shallow, smug, bitterly angry partisanship can blind you to common sense.

What part of that doesn’t reflect precisely the predicament in which O’Conner now finds himself? And why did the Breitbart site simply delete the phony article rather than adding a correction (which WaPo did) and an essay about angry partisanship and common sense. It should also be noted that the erroneous item on WaPo’s site was posted by a guest blogger not employed by WaPo, while the Breitbart screw up was by an editor.

The magnitude of hypocrisy here is off the scales. Breitbart never took responsibility for the phony Hamas story. They also never reported at all that their one-time Golden boy, James O’Keefe, had settled litigation against him for $100,000 in a case where he smeared an ACORN employee. And now they quietly sweep their brazen incompetence under the rug despite having made such a fuss about a similar recent situation.

Nevertheless, Breitbart’s site is still highly regarded in conservative circles, including Fox News, who frequently republish their tripe. It simply cannot be said enough that this is how right-wingers have become the most ignorant and misinformed people in America.

Fox News, Daily Caller, Admit That Fox News Is Not A Legitimate News Outlet

One of Mitt Romney’s most reality-detached comments of this campaign came when he declared that “We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.” The Olympian ignorance of that remark says a lot about Romney’s elitist upbringing and orientation. The truth is that thousands of people die every year due to lack of health care coverage – more than 26,000 in 2010. And it isn’t just people who get sudden illnesses in their apartments, but people who have untreated and/or undiagnosed problems that lead to more severe disorders and fatalities.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman addressed this matter in an editorial where he thoroughly demolished Romney’s preposterous theory:

“Even the idea that everyone gets urgent care when needed from emergency rooms is false. Yes, hospitals are required by law to treat people in dire need, whether or not they can pay. But that care isn’t free — on the contrary, if you go to an emergency room you will be billed, and the size of that bill can be shockingly high. Some people can’t or won’t pay, but fear of huge bills can deter the uninsured from visiting the emergency room even when they should. And sometimes they die as a result.

“More important, going to the emergency room when you’re very sick is no substitute for regular care, especially if you have chronic health problems. When such problems are left untreated — as they often are among uninsured Americans — a trip to the emergency room can all too easily come too late to save a life”

This is just common sense to everyone except Romney. But the part of Krugman’s article that is causing controversy came at the end:

Fox Nation - Krugman

“So let’s be brutally honest here. The Romney-Ryan position on health care is that many millions of Americans must be denied health insurance, and millions more deprived of the security Medicare now provides, in order to save money. At the same time, of course, Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are proposing trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy. So a literal description of their plan is that they want to expose many Americans to financial insecurity, and let some of them die, so that a handful of already wealthy people can have a higher after-tax income.”

The outrage generated by this was expressed in a column by Daily Caller contributor, Jim Huffman. However, there is nothing in Huffman’s retort that attempts to rebut the substantive assertions by Krugman. He never bothers to counter the argument that thousands of Americans are at risk due to deficient or non-existent coverage. The entirety of his pique is aimed at a single sentence that Huffman interprets as Krugman alleging that Romney wants people to die.

First of all, Krugman’s statement actually refers to Romney’s “plan” that would have the effect of producing unnecessary deaths, not Romney’s personal bloodlust. But the more interesting part of Huffman’s article comes at the beginning where he writes…

“We all have heard, or read on the Internet, claims that President Obama is a Marxist and/or a Muslim extremist who wants nothing more than the downfall of America, and that he is willing to sacrifice American lives and prosperity to these ambitions. Maybe the few folks making those claims actually believe them, but there is not a shred of evidence they are true. In fact they are so preposterous no legitimate news outlets would report them as anything but the unsubstantiated nonsense they are.”

Apparently Mr. Huffman has never watched Fox News, or even read the web site his column appears on. Either that or he is admitting that Fox News and the Daily Caller are not “legitimate news outlets,” which would make more sense. Fox personalities from Glenn Beck to Eric Bolling to Sean Hannity, and more, have made overt references to President Obama as a Muslim, a Marxist, a socialist, a communist, a Kenyan, a racist, etc. And the Daily Caller, a web site run by Fox contributor Tucker Carlson, is every bit as bad. Huffman’s attempt to portray those ludicrous sentiments as the product of insignificant blogs backfires in the face of the truth: That the most prodigious disseminater of those vile lies is the heart of the right-wing media and the highest rated cable news network, Fox News.

The clincher is that Huffman’s article now appears st the top of the Fox News community web site, Fox Nation. So we have the unique circumstance of Fox News featuring an article that exposes Fox News as an illegitimate news source. That may be the first thing that Fox News has gotten right in sixteen years.

Rudy Giuliani vs Paul Krugman On The Lessons Of 9/11

New York Times columnist, and Nobel-winning economist, Paul Krugman has been getting grilled today for a post on his blog that expressed his dismay at how the aftermath of 9/11 resulted in a flurry of cynical, greedy, and dishonest politicians who exploited the atrocity for their own political or financial gain. He said in part…

The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.

Krugman correctly labeled these people and policies “shameful,” This set off a resounding assault from arrogant pseudo-patriots, on Fox News and elsewhere, trying to misrepresent Krugman’s thoughts as being somehow disrespectful to the victims and survivors of 9/11. Of course, the opposite is true. It is those who took advantage of the attacks to enrich themselves or advance their agenda who were so despicably disrespectful.

Contrast this with remarks by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani who was asked by CBS anchor Bob Schieffer, “Do you think [9/11] changed the country?” Giuliani replied:

“Sure it changed the country. Mostly in good ways. It made us more realistic about the threat that we faced, I think we have much better intelligence today. I think spiritually we’re stronger.”

Mostly in good ways? Does Giuliani really believe that a renewed sense of unity forged by tragedy is “good” when it cost the lives of 3,000 innocent people on American soil and more than 8,000 American troops (nearly twice the number lost on 9/11), as well as hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians overseas? Is it really “good” that we ran up more than a trillion dollars in debt due to what are now the longest wars in American history? Is it “good” that our Constitution has been violated by legislation like the Patriot Act and repugnant policies that justify torture and other extra-legal acts of war? Does Giuliani really believe that better intelligence and whatever it is that he regards as stronger spirituality is worth all the suffering we’ve endured?

Giuliani is one of those to whom Krugman referred who benefited from the 9/11 attacks. He shaped his whole post-mayoral persona on the tragedy, embarked on expensive political campaigns, published books, and launched a security consulting firm. He is a one-man 9/11 profiteering conglomerate. And he has managed this while bringing nothing useful to table to promote healing. In the same interview with Schieffer, Giuliani bragged that New York City…

“…is bigger, stronger, you know, twice as many people live down here now as before September 11th.”

The stupidity of that comment is all too apparent. If the population of New York City doubled it would bring the city to a standstill. The truth is that the city’s population grew from 8,008,278 in 2000 to 8,175,133 in 2010, according to the Census Department. That’s an increase of only 2.1%. So Giuliani was only off by 97.9%.

The wonder of all of this is how the conservative media can get its feathers all ruffled by Krugman’s perfectly reasonably comments, but have nothing to say about the ignorant and revolting comments by Giuliani. There is no comparison as to which were the more offensive and removed from reality. Giuliani deserves a firm rebuke, and hopefully the media will soon regain consciousness and start doing its job.

Rick Perry’s Pay-to-Play Scam

The media is all atwitter today after Texas governor Rick Perry threw his cowboy hat into the ring and announced his campaign for the Republican nomination for president. However, if there were any integrity in the press, Perry’s campaign wouldn’t last a week.

Rick Perry is an ill-informed, incompetent, political extremist, who barely graduated from Texas A&M University (with a D average) and has suggested that Texas should secede from the union. He supports discrimination against gays and lesbians. He doesn’t believe in either evolution or global warming. He admits that he has no solutions for the nation’s problems other than prayer. And just today he reiterated his position that Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.”

But the the big problem for Perry is his brazen corruption as governor of Texas. The Dallas Morning News conducted an investigation last year that revealed Perry’s conversion of the state house into a pay-to-play scheme that filled his campaign coffers, and the pockets of his contributors, with cash.

Rick Perry - Pay-to-Play
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Apparently, the way to get Texas taxpayers to finance your business venture is to payoff the governor. Then the state whines about not having funds for education, health care, and other social services. The Wall Street Journal called this scheme “Rick Perry’s Crony Capitalism.” When the conservative Wall Street Journal finds your shady dealings repugnant, you have crossed line that most people didn’t even know existed. This is the sort of scandal that would torpedo a campaign that wasn’t propped up by Tea Party fanatics and Fox News.

As Perry rolls out his campaign he is already asserting that he can bring to Washington the same sort of “success” that he brought to Texas. That should frighten most Americans. Upon closer examination, the alleged miracle of the Texas economy is a myth based on false premises and peculiarities exclusive to Texas. Paul Krugman’s column in the New York Times illustrates just how little the nation can learn, or benefit from, Texas’ program of “depressing wages and dismantling regulation.”

“What Texas shows is that a state offering cheap labor and, less important, weak regulation can attract jobs from other states. I believe that the appropriate response to this insight is ‘Well, duh.’ The point is that arguing from this experience that depressing wages and dismantling regulation in America as a whole would create more jobs — which is, whatever Mr. Perry may say, what Perrynomics amounts to in practice — involves a fallacy of composition: every state can’t lure jobs away from every other state.”

What’s more, Texas is now facing a projected 2012 budget deficit of 31.5% of its general fund. That makes it the third worst state deficit in the country. Even California is doing better. [Note: Texas trails only Nevada and New Jersey, both of which have Republican governors]

It is also worth noting that a recent poll showed President Obama beating Perry IN TEXAS!

“…the poll shows Perry trailing President Obama in heavily Republican Texas, which last voted Democratic for president in 1976, when Jimmy Carter was the South’s favorite son. Obama leads 47%-45%, even though Obama’s net approval rating is underwater at 42%-55%.”

So the question is: Why is anyone taking seriously the campaign of a governor who has driven his state into ruin; who has one of the the highest percentages of minimum wage jobs; who has one of the lowest rates of health care coverage; and who is demonstrably corrupt? How long will it take for the press to catch on that Perry is an evangelical huckster with no substantive record of achievement? He’s Elmer Gantry with a government job and gets his snake oil straight from the well.

CONFIRMED: Right-Wingers Mostly Wrong

The pundit class in American media has long been deservedly regarded with disdain. They are, as a group, an arrogant collection know-nothings who, via intense self-delusion, think they know it all. I addressed this sorry situation four years ago when I labeled them The PEP Squad: Perpetually Erroneous Pundits. The gist of that essay was to point out that once you become a member of the fraternity it doesn’t matter how much you get wrong, you will still be invited back to deliver more of your bad advice.

Now there is evidence from an academic study of contemporary punditry that shows that the accuracy of most pundits is no better than 50/50. So if you can flip a coin you’re as smart as the average pundit.

The most interesting conclusion of the report is the confirmation that liberals are accurate more often than conservatives. That may be the result of the inherent slant of factual information that was first identified by fake pundit Stephen Colbert who noted that “reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

The top performer in the study is Paul Krugman of the New York Times. The worst performer is uber-pundit George Will.

The study has some fairly serious methodological flaws in my opinion, including the omission of Fox News from the study. However, the most prominent flaw is that it included currently serving politicians in the roster of pundits. When politicians pontificate on current affairs they are not making predictions – they are campaigning. Therefore, they are not providing their honest opinions about what they believe will happen. They are attempting to influence public opinion to produce the result they hope will happen. To be sure, some bona fide pundits do the same thing, but at least they don’t have the direct conflict of interest that sitting senators have.

It is fairly safe to assume that the results of the study would not change materially if the politicians were removed. Anyone paying attention to media prognosticators over the years already knows that their success ratio is pathetic. If someone in almost any other job made mistakes as frequently as these losers, they would not have a job for very long. But such are the perks of PEP Squad membership.

What we need is a Pundit Certification Council. The purpose of this would be to rate pundits on their accuracy and impose mandatory labels. If they fall in the top third percentile they can be regarded as “experts.” Those in the middle would retain the “pundit” label. And those in the bottom third would have to be designated as “propagandists” wherever they appeared in the media.

This would provide some measure of truth in punditry. It would incentivize opinion givers to strive for accuracy, and give networks, newspapers, etc., a tool to assess the performance of their editorial staff. Then, if they choose to keep propagandists on their payroll, it would be apparent to their viewers and readers. Just imagine tuning in to This Week next Sunday morning and seeing, “George Will, ABC News Propagandist,” in large type below his deceitful talking head.

What Is Roger Ailes Doing On ABC’s This Week?

For some reason ABC News saw fit to invite Roger Ailes, CEO of Fox News, onto ABC’s This Week to participate in the panel discussion. I wonder what Barbara Walters and the show’s producers thought Ailes would contribute. I wonder if they knew, when they sent the invitation, that Ailes would spend most of his time lying. I wonder if they ever gave consideration to inviting Michael Moore or Keith Olbermann. And I wonder if, in retrospect, they think the segment contributed to honest discourse and served to inform their viewers.

It may be unprecedented to have a CEO of a news network appearing on air as an advocate for the Republican Party. Just imagine the outrage that would ensue if the NBC or CBS chief took to the airwaves espousing Democratic politics. Ailes must have studied hard for his appearance because it shows in the quantity of grade A lies he produced (Media Matters has video). For instance:

Ailes said that the White House tried to ban Fox News from the media pool. That never happened. Fox failed to submit a request in time, so they were left off a list. As soon as they notified the White House, they were put back on by communications director Anita Dunn.

Ailes endorsed Glenn Beck’s accuracy but for “one unfortunate thing which he apologized for.” That was presumably in reference to Beck calling the president a racist who “has a deep-seated hatred for white people.” Beck has never apologized for that. In fact he affirmed it on his radio show the following day. He has subsequently lost more than 80 advertisers.

Ailes reviewed the State of the Union speech as “pretty good” except that the President “did some dumb things like take on the Supreme Court. But the media saved him by blaming it all on Alito.” Maybe, if by media he means Fox News. It was his own network that repeatedly replayed Alito calling the the President a liar (ala Joe Wilson). And they weren’t doing it to blame Alito for anything, but to agree with him and to attack the President. Furthermore, it wasn’t dumb to criticize the Court for a disastrous ruling that gives corporations even more power to influence elections.

This appearance on ABC may reveal why Ailes is so rarely seen on TV. He is neither compelling nor persuasive. Even worse, he is laughably illogical. In one segment he said about Obama…

“He is enormously likable and I think despite what everybody says, people would like him to succeed. But he came in with a belief that the radical change he wanted, or what some people say is the radical change he wanted, would be widely accepted.”

First of all, to preface his remarks by saying “despite what everybody says…” Ailes is asserting that everybody is saying that they don’t want the President to succeed. That may be true for him and for “everybody” on his network, but not for the rest of the nation. The way Ailes puts it, people want Obama to succeed despite saying that they don’t. Secondly, Ailes is promulgating the falsehood that Obama has a “radical” agenda. That’s right out of Beck’s playbook. And finally, if Obama does advocate radical change, and people find him likable and want him to succeed, then isn’t that a mandate for radical change? Ailes’ logic is working against his argument.

There were a couple of enjoyable exchanges. In one, Paul Krugman flustered Ailes with a classic example of Fox News’ “deliberate disinformation.” During the campaign Obama addressed a question about health care by prefacing it with his own question, “Why don’t we have a European style health care system?” Then Obama explained why we do not, and should not, and went on to describe his own plan. But Fox News just played the truncated clip implying that Obama favored the European system. Ailes’ response to that was to change the subject.

In another segment, Walters brought up the newest Fox News contributor, Sarah Palin:

Walters: Do you think she has the qualifications to be president?
Ailes: Fox News is fair and balanced. We had Geraldine Ferraro on for ten years as the only woman the Democrats ever nominated. Now we have the only woman that the Republicans ever nominated. I’m not in politics. I’m in ratings. We’re winning.

Hmmm. What’s missing from that answer? Oh yeah. Whether or not Palin has the qualifications to be president. I suspect he dodged this one because he must remain fair and balanced toward the four potential Republican presidential candidates who are on his payroll: Palin, Huckabee, Santorum, and Gingrich.

As much as I would like to castigate ABC for giving Ailes a platform on their political panel, I can’t help thinking that it might actually serve the country better to have him on TV even more. There aren’t too many less appealing spokespeople for conservative hogwash than Ailes. However, if they are going to host him and his kind, they need to do a lot better job of balancing his propaganda and self-congratulatory bluster with serious liberals who can disinfect the studio with some truth.