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TBR News September 23, 2018

Sep 23 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. September 23, 2018 : “Whenever there is a catastrophe; natural or man-made, trust it, after the reporting has faded away, legions of lunatics emerge from public lavatories where they live or under damp rocks where they breed, spewing acres of fictional stories that sound like transcriptions of group therapy sessions.

  • Fukushima was caused by an Israeli submarine firing German torpedoes,
  • Kennedy was killed by mutant dwarves,
  • secret Russian agents attack people in England with nerve gas,
  • sea levels are not rising but all the land is sinking,
  • Jesus is going to make an appearance in Dallas next week,
  • secret Russian agents sank the USS Maine,
  • the Sandy Hook massacre was actually a Hollywood movie,
  • Houston was destroyed with an A-bomb by Israeli agents,
  • all earthquakes are caused by Tesla death rays,
  • a huge city was discovered under Antarctica ice caps,
  • taking aspirin causes fatal ear wax problems,
  • the US dollar is sound,
  • George W. Bush was a wonderful president,
  • alien mummies allegedly found in Peruvian tombs are actually made of plaster and odd bones,
  • the Illuminati, the Bilderburgers and the Rockefeller family control the Federal Reserve and tap water in Chicago,
  • aliens flew to this planet in DC3s,
  • the famous Lost Continent of Atlantis has been discovered in Utah’s Great Salt Lake,
  • Marilyn Monroe was murdered by the whole Kennedy family,
  • Planet X is bearing down on Cleveland at two miles an hour,
  • government agents are putting spy cameras in all toilets in American schools,

and finally, one belief that smacks of reality:

  • Donald Trump never told the truth when a lie would suffice.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 29
  • Learning the Power of Lies
  • GOP heading for midterm wipeout as ‘blue wave’ scenario gives Democrats a 12-point generic ballot lead: NBC-WSJ poll
  • Kavanaugh’s accuser accepts request to speak to Judiciary Committee next week, lawyers say
  • What’s the endgame in the US-China trade war?
  • The facts about electric vehicles

 

 

Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 29

August 8, 2018

by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief

The Toronto Star, Canada

The Star is keeping track of every false claim U.S. President Donald Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Why? Historians say there has never been such a constant liar in the Oval Office. We think dishonesty should be challenged. We think inaccurate information should be corrected

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not teling the truth.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2018

  • Oct 1, 2017

“Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: This is obviously nonsensical: Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator Trump calls “Rocket Man,” was 8 years old 25 years ago. Trump sometimes makes clear that he was talking about Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, but did not here.

 

“We have done a great job with the almost impossible situation in Puerto Rico. Outside of the Fake News or politically motivated ingrates, people are now starting to recognize the amazing work that has been done by FEMA and our great Military. All buildings now inspected for safety.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: “I’m not aware of such inspections; there are areas of Puerto Rico where we really haven’t gotten contact,” Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello told CNN. When the Star asked FEMA directly whether Trump’s claim was accurate, the agency would not answer directly — or address building inspections at all. Instead, a spokesperson sent an explanation of other activities the agency was undertaking. In sum, it was not clear that FEMA and the military were doing mass building inspections at all, let alone Trump’s obviously false claim that they had inspected “all” buildings.

  • Oct 3, 2017

“Flashlights, you don’t need ’em anymore. You don’t need ’em anymore.”

Source: Event during visit to Puerto Rico

in fact: More than 90 per cent of Puerto Ricans lacked power at the time Trump was handing out flashlights to hurricane victims.

“But the Coast Guard itself saved in Texas 16,000 lives, and they went right through that hurricane.”

Source: Remarks at briefing on visit to Puerto Rico

in fact: Trump’s figure is an exaggeration. The Coast Guard told the Star that they rescued 11,022 people during their response to Hurricane Harvey.

Trump has repeated this claim 8 times

“But that’s an expensive plane that you can’t see. And as you probably heard, we cut the price (of the F-35) very substantially — something that other administrations would never have done, that I can tell you.”

Source: Remarks at briefing on visit to Puerto Rico

in fact: Lockheed Martin had been moving to cut the price well before Trump was elected, multiple aviation and defence experts say, and would have done so no matter who won. Just a week after Trump’s victory, the head of the F-35 program announced a reduction of 6 to 7 per cent — in the $600 million to $700 million range. “Trump’s claimed $600 million cut is right in the ballpark of what the price reduction was going to be all along,” wrote Popular Mechanics. “Bottom line: Trump appears to be taking credit for years of work by the Pentagon and Lockheed,” Aviation Week reported, per the Washington Post.

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

“This has been the toughest one. This has been a Category 5, which few people have ever even heard of — a Category 5 hitting land. But it hit land — and, boy, did it hit land.”

Source: Remarks at briefing on visit to Puerto Rico

in fact: Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm. And lots of people have heard of a Category 5 hitting land; that has happened three times to the U.S. alone.

Trump has repeated this claim 6 times

  • Oct 4, 2017

“The @NBCNews story has just been totally refuted by Sec. Tillerson and @VP Pence. It is #FakeNews.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Tillerson denied parts of the NBC story about his prior unhappiness with Trump. But he did not deny the most sensational part — the report that he had called Trump a “moron” — so “totally refuted” is incorrect

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“I’m very honoured by (Rex Tillerson’s) comments. It was fake news. It was a totally phony story…It was made up. It was made up by NBC. They just made it up.”

Source: Remarks after meeting with patients and medical professionals

in fact: While Tillerson criticized and rejected some of the NBC story, he did not deny the most widely discussed part of the NBC story — the report he had called Trump a “moron.” Even if some parts of the story were incorrect, it was, clearly, not “totally phony” or “made up.”

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

  • Oct 5, 2017

“Ralph Northam,who is running for Governor of Virginia,is fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs & sanctuary cities. Vote Ed Gillespie!”

Source: Twitter

in fact: There is no evidence to support the claim that Democratic candidate Northam is “fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs.” This line of attack is based on a vote Northam cast in Virginia’s state senate against a Republican bill to ban so-called “sanctuary cities,” which limit local cooperation with federal deportation authorities. Virginia does not actually have any sanctuary cities, and there is no clear link between this vote and MS-13.

  • Oct 6, 2017

“We’re building up our military. We just had an over $700 billion budget, which will be approved.”

Source: Interview with Forbes magazine (extended transcript)

in fact: The military budget is $700 billion — a $640 billion base budget, plus $60 billion in “Overseas Contingency Operations” war funding. Trump has repeatedly claimed the budget was more than $700 billion.

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

“I was able to reduce the price of the Lockheed (F-35) by billions of dollars. By billions of dollars. And this took me, actually, a very small amount of time…I went back and forth. And the end result is billions and billions of dollars have been taken off the cost of the plane.”

Source: Interview with Forbes magazine (extended transcript)

in fact: Trump was not responsible for these savings. Lockheed Martin had been moving to cut the price well before Trump was elected, multiple aviation and defence experts say. Just a week after Trump’s election, the head of the F-35 program announced a reduction of 6 to 7 per cent — in the $600 million to $700 million range. “Trump’s claimed $600 million cut is right in the ballpark of what the price reduction was going to be all along,” wrote Popular Mechanics. “Bottom line: Trump appears to be taking credit for years of work by the Pentagon and Lockheed,” Aviation Week reported, per the Washington Post.”

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

“We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world — now some people like to say ‘developed nation,’ but I haven’t found too many that are higher. We’re the highest-taxed developed nation in the world, probably the highest-taxed nation in the world.”

Source: Interview with Forbes magazine (extended transcript)

in fact: Neither is true. While its corporate tax rate is near the top, the U.S. is below the average of developed OECD countries when other taxes are included.

Trump has repeated this claim 28 times

“It makes it very uncompetitive when you’re paying 42 and 44 per cent, if you start including state taxes and other things that many businesses have to, depending on what state they’re in, and in China you’re at 15 per cent…”

Source: Interview with Forbes magazine (extended transcript)

in fact: China has a business tax rate of 25 per cent. It offers a 15 per cent rate only to certain firms, mostly in the high-tech sector, in about 20 particular cities. Trump is wrong to suggest that 15 per cent is China’s general business rate.

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

“You know, that’s what’s been happening. You saw what I did with Keystone Pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline, approved within 24 hours — approved.”

Source: Interview with Forbes magazine (extended transcript)

in fact: Trump did not approve either pipeline in his first 24 hours in office. He issued executive orders in his first week, not his first day, to advance the two pipelines, but they did not grant final approval then. Trump actually approved Keystone XL two months into his presidency; the government announced the approval of the Dakota Access pipeline three weeks into his presidency

Trump has repeated this claim 9 times

“You know, that’s what’s been happening. You saw what I did with Keystone Pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline, approved within 24 hours — approved. In fact, the one is now built, and the other one’s under construction.”

Source: Interview with Forbes magazine (extended transcript)

in fact: “The other one” is Keystone XL, which is not under construction. TransCanada Corp. has not yet decided whether to go ahead with the project, and it still needs to secure approval to build in Nebraska.

Trump has repeated this claim 9 times

“Everyone knows that that was just a statement put out by the Democrats so that they could have an excuse for losing an election that in theory they should have won because it’s very easy for the Democrats to win the Electoral College. And not only didn’t they win, it was 306 to — what was it? — 223, if you could get the right number. It was 306 to 223.”

Source: Interview with Forbes magazine (extended transcript)

in fact: Hillary Clinton earned 232 electoral votes, not 223.

Trump has repeated this claim 12 times

“They also just said that there has been absolutely no collusion. They just said that. Yesterday. Two days ago. Senate. There has been no collusion. I didn’t speak to Russians.”

Source: Interview with Forbes magazine (extended transcript)

in fact: Trump was falsely referring to a press conference held by the top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, one Republican and one Democrat. They did not say “there has been absolutely no collusion.” Here is what Chairman Richard Burr, a Republican, actually said: “There are concerns that we continue to pursue. Collusion: the committee continues to look into all evidence to see if there was any hint of collusion.”

Trump has repeated this claim 18 times

“So GDP (growth) last quarter was 3.1 per cent. Most of the folks that are in your business, and elsewhere, were saying that would not be hit for a long time. You know, Obama never hit the number.”

Source: Interview with Forbes magazine

in fact: As the Forbes interviewer immediately informed Trump, Obama presided over growth of 3 per cent or higher in eight separate quarters. Only then did Trump amend his claim to correctly note the economy never hit 3 per cent for a whole year under Obama.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“So GDP (growth) last quarter was 3.1 per cent. Most of the folks that are in your business, and elsewhere, were saying that would not be hit for a long time.”

Source: Interview with Forbes magazine

in fact: There was no widespread prediction that the economy would fail “for a long time” to hit 3.1 per cent growth in a quarter. In fact, some experts thought GDP growth would hit 3 per cent in that very quarter, the second quarter of 2017. The Atlanta Fed had forecast 4.2 per cent growth, then revised it to 3.6 per cent in May. At the time of the revision, financial publication Barron’s wrote, “It’s still a high forecast. Most economists see second quarter growth between 2.1 per cent and 3.2 per cent.”

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

“I’ve had just about the most legislation passed of any president, in a nine-month period, that’s ever served. We had over 50 bills passed. I’m not talking about executive orders only, which are very important. I’m talking about bills.”

Source: Interview with Forbes magazine

in fact: Trump is not even close to the record for most legislation passed in nine months. Franklin D. Roosevelt signed 76 bills in his first 100 days, or just over three months — many of them major.

Trump has repeated this claim 19 times

“This tax cut and tax reform is going very well, and it’s going to be a tremendous boost for our country, including the fact that we’re the highest-taxed nation in the world.”

Source: Speech at Hispanic Heritage Month event

in fact: The U.S. is far from the highest-taxed nation in the world. While its corporate tax rate is near the top, it is below the average of developed OECD countries when other taxes are included.

Trump has repeated this claim 28 times

“Our budget this year — as you know, well over $700 billion — is getting us back to the position we have to be.”

Source: Remarks in meeting with senior military leaders

in fact: The budget approved by Congress is precisely $700 billion, not well over $700 billion.

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

 

Learning the Power of Lies

Facts vs. Falsehoods in the Age of Trump

September 22, 2018

by Arnold R. Isaacs

TomDisptatch

It’s easy — and not wrong — to think that truth is in dire danger in the era of Donald Trump.

His own record of issuing breathtaking falsehoods from the exalted platform of the White House is unprecedented in American history. So is his consistent refusal to back down when a statement is proven false. In Trump’s world, those who expose his lies are the liars and facts that show he was wrong are “fake news.”

In this war on truth, Trump has several important allies. One is the shameful silence of Republican politicians who don’t challenge his misstatements for fear of giving offense to his true-believing base. Another is a media environment far more cluttered and chaotic than in past decades, making it easier for people to find stories that fit their preconceived ideas and screen out those they prefer not to believe.

These trends come in the context of a more general loosening of the informal rules that once put some limits on the tone and content of political speech. American politicians have always done plenty of exaggerating, lying by omission, selecting misleading facts, and using slanted language. Typically, though, if not always, they tried to avoid outright, provable lies, which it was commonly assumed would be politically damaging if exposed.

Nowadays, the cost of being caught lying seems less obvious. Some politicians show no apparent embarrassment about lying. Take, for instance, Corey Stewart, the Republican candidate trying to unseat Virginia’s Democratic senator, Tim Kaine. Stewart unapologetically told the Washington Post about a doctored photograph his campaign distributed, “Of course it was Photoshopped.”

In the altered photo, an image of a much younger Kaine is spliced in to make it appear that he is sitting with a group of armed Central American guerrillas. The caption under the picture says, “Tim Kaine worked in Honduras to promote his radical socialist ideology,” suggesting the photo proves that he consorted with violent leftist revolutionaries while working at a Jesuit mission in Honduras at the start of the 1980s.

In reality, the guerrillas in the original photograph (which dates from well after Kaine’s time in Central America) were not leftists and not in Honduras, but right-wing Contra insurgents in Nicaragua. So the visual was a double fake, putting Kaine in a scene he wasn’t in and then falsely describing the scene. When I read the story, I wondered whether Stewart would think it legitimate if an opponent Photoshopped him into a picture of American Nazis brandishing swastika flags. (If anyone asked him that question, I have not found a record of it.)

It may still be uncommon for a politician to acknowledge a deception as forthrightly as Stewart did, but it does seem that politicians today feel — and probably are — freer to lie than they used to be

So, yes, truth is facing a serious crisis in the present moment. But two things are worth remembering. First, that crisis did not begin with Donald Trump. It has a long history. Second, and possibly more sobering, truth may be more fragile and lies more powerful than most of us, journalists included, would like to believe. That means the wounds Trump and his allies have inflicted — on top of earlier ones — may prove harder to heal than we think.

An Early Lesson

I began learning about the fragility of truth many years ago.

George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama, taught me an early lesson. In the spring of 1964, less than a year after his notorious “stand in the schoolhouse door” attempt to block two black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama, he came to Maryland as a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary (not to be confused with his more widely remembered presidential runs in 1968 and 1972).

His real target wasn’t the presidential nomination but the 1964 Civil Rights Act, then being filibustered in the Senate. There were plenty of segregationist Democrats in Maryland then and Wallace calculated that scoring a significant vote there (as well as in a couple of other states) would send a message to Senate Democrats that supporting civil rights was politically perilous.

I was 23 that spring, barely halfway through my second year as a reporter, when I was assigned as the (very) junior half of the Baltimore Sun’s two-man team covering the primary campaign. I was under the direction of the Sun’s chief political reporter, an old-timer named Charlie Whiteford. But Charlie didn’t hog all the big stories, as would have happened on most newspapers. In an effort to show balanced and even-handed reporting — an appearance the Sun in those days went to extreme lengths to maintain — he switched off with me, so that his byline and mine would appear alternately over stories about each candidate. As a result, young and green as I was, I got to cover Wallace’s rallies on a roughly equal basis with my senior colleague.

From the start, I heard the governor saying things about the civil rights bill that weren’t just misleading or slanted in ways I was already accustomed to hearing, even that early in my reporting life, but unequivocally false. After the first rally I attended, I got a copy of the bill from the Sun’s library and carried it with me for the rest of the campaign, so I could accurately cite Wallace’s misstatements as I was typing my stories.

The first time I nailed his lies in print, I was smug. Maybe he can get away with this stuff in Alabama, I remember thinking, but the Baltimore Sun will keep him straight in Maryland. Very soon, though, I found out that I couldn’t have been more wrong. The people Wallace was speaking to believed him, not the Sun, and Wallace knew that. He didn’t care in the least what I wrote about him and kept right on offering his untruths about the civil rights bill.

More than a half century has passed since I learned that lesson, and it’s still sobering: when people like a politician’s lies better than they like the truth, it’s tough to change their minds, and even after lies are proven false, they can remain a powerful force in public life.

Learning Another Lesson, Far from Home

Thirteen years later, in a factory on the other side of the Earth, I had another moment of truth that taught what might be an even more chilling lesson: lies can still have power even when we know they’re lies.

That moment came during my first trip to China in May 1977, eight months after the death of that country’s leader, Mao Zedong. As the Sun’s correspondent in Hong Kong, still under British rule at the time, I had been writing about Chinese affairs for nearly four years. But that visit, seven days in and around the city of Guangzhou (then commonly called Canton), was the first time I was able to look with my own eyes at a country still largely closed to the outside world.

On one of those days, my minders took me to the Guangzhou Heavy Machinery Plant, which manufactured equipment for oil refineries, chemical and metallurgical factories, and other industrial facilities. Its walls were plastered with posters showing standard images of Chairman Mao and of soldiers, workers, and peasants heroically struggling to realize his socialist ideals. The scene I saw from a catwalk over the factory floor, however, looked nothing like those melodramatic images. A few workers were tending machines or trundling wheelbarrows across the floor, but most were standing around idly, sipping tea, chatting in small groups, or reading newspapers.

I was startled by that very unheroic scene and even more startled when it dawned on me why I was so surprised. It wasn’t discovering that those propaganda images were false. I knew that already. Instead, I realized that even knowing that, I had still unconsciously expected to see workers looking like the men and women shown on those posters, faces glowing with devotion while giving their all to carry out “Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line.”

Until that moment I would have said with absolute certainty that I was immune to such Chinese propaganda. I had seen too many of its crude falsifications, such as the doctored photographs of Mao’s funeral that had run only months earlier in the same publications that regularly showed those heroic workers. Mao’s widow, Jiang Qing, and her three principal associates had been in the front row of mourners when the photos were taken. Only a couple of weeks later, they were arrested and denounced as counter-revolutionary criminals. The Chinese media kept on publishing those funeral photos, but with Jiang and her allies — now labeled the Gang of Four — airbrushed out. Blurred smudges or blank spots appeared where they had been shown in the originals, while vertical rows of x’s blotted out their names in the captions. (Had anyone asked about the retouching, it’s a safe bet that Chinese authorities would have answered with the 1976 equivalent of “Of course they were Photoshopped.”)

Having seen those and so many other transparently false words and images, I could not believe I would ever confuse any official Chinese lies with reality. Still, there I was on that factory catwalk, stunned to realize that those propaganda images had shaped what I expected to see, even though I knew perfectly well that they were unreal.

That moment, too, taught me a lasting lesson: that truth could be a fragile thing not just in the outside world but inside my own mind and memory.

An Immunodeficiency Disease?

By these recollections from four or five decades ago, I don’t mean to suggest that there’s nothing new about the immediate crisis. Quite the opposite. President Trump’s outlandish untruthfulness, an increasingly chaotic media landscape, and the decline of traditional habits of political speech unquestionably represent a new and deeply alarming threat to public discourse and the foundations of democratic government.

One element of that crisis might be considered analogous to what doctors call an immunodeficiency illness — a disease that destroys or weakens the body’s ability to cure or control its symptoms. The immunodeficiency disease in today’s political and cultural wars is the campaign to undermine public trust in journalists and other watchdogs, the very people who are supposed to counter fake facts with real ones.

That campaign isn’t new. Attacks on news organizations (most prominently from the right but also from the left) go back at least to the 1960s. Under Trump, however, that assault has become uglier, more intense — and more dangerous.

Calling journalists “enemies of the American people,” for example, doesn’t just raise echoes of past totalitarian regimes. It gives aid and comfort to present-day officials and lawmakers who want to avoid being held publicly accountable for their acts. That applies not just in the United States but internationally. Trump’s anti-media rhetoric abets repressive rulers across the world who suppress independent, critical reporting in their countries.

A recent column by the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl documented the worldwide impact of Trump’s anti-media assault. He reported that his search for examples “turned up 28 countries where the terms ‘fake news’ or ‘false news’ have been used to attack legitimate journalists and truthful reporting” during Trump’s time in office. Around the world, Diehl found, authoritarian leaders like Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Cambodia’s Hun Sen, and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan have explicitly endorsed the American president’s attacks or echoed his exact words while cracking down on press freedom in their own countries.

Journalists have responded to Trump with an outpouring of indignant commentary — an understandable reaction, though it’s far from clear whether it helps or hurts their cause. A gesture like the Boston Globe’s initiative last month that led more than 300 newspapers across the country to publish editorials on the same day calling for freedom of the press and attacking Trump’s stance on the media raised valid challenges to the president’s charges, but also may have cemented in place a kind of equivalency in the public mind: Trump is against journalists, journalists are against Trump.

Beyond reasonable doubt, that equivalency reinforces Trump’s side more than it defends good reporting or strengthens public knowledge. For his supporters, it validates his posturing as a president besieged by a hostile media — and his repeated insistence that stories he doesn’t like are “fake facts.” Pious editorials declaring journalists’ devotion to truth and fervently exalting the First Amendment may be justified, but as a practical matter, eloquent self-righteousness seems unlikely to be an effective weapon in the war against the war on truth.

It would be nice to think that tougher, more factual reporting would be more helpful, but as I learned covering the Wallace campaign all those years ago, that has its limits, too.

How to Be Right (Always)

I couldn’t read George Wallace’s mind in 1964 and can’t read Donald Trump’s 54 years later. So what follows is speculation, not verifiable fact. With that qualifier, my impression is that Trump’s falsehoods come from a different place and have a different character than Wallace’s. If there’s a Wallace reincarnation on the landscape today, it would be someone more like Corey Stewart. Wallace might not have said it to a reporter — though I did sometimes sense an unseen wink in our direction when he delivered some outrageous statement — but I strongly suspect that “of course it was Photoshopped,” adjusted for the different technology of that era, exactly reflected his attitude.

President Trump looks like a quite different case. He clearly lies consciously at times, but generally the style and content of his falsehoods give the impression that he has engaged in a kind of internal mental Photoshopping, reshaping facts inside his mind until they conform to something he wants to say at a given moment.

A recent report in the Daily Beast described an episode that fits remarkably well with that theory.

As told by the Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng, at a March 2017 White House meeting between the president and representatives of leading veterans organizations, Rick Weidman of Vietnam Veterans of America brought up the subject of Agent Orange, the widely used U.S. defoliant that has had long-term health effects on American soldiers and Vietnamese villagers.

As Suebsaeng reconstructed the discussion, Trump responded by asking if Agent Orange was “that stuff from that movie” — a reference evidently to the 1979 film Apocalypse Now. Several veterans in the room tried to explain to the president that the scene he remembered involved napalm, an incendiary agent, not Agent Orange. But Trump wouldn’t back down, Suebsaeng recounted, “and proceeded to say things like, ‘no, I think it’s that stuff from that movie.'” His comment directly to Weidman was, “Well, I think you just didn’t like the movie.”

What makes the Daily Beast report particularly revealing is not just that Trump was ignorant of the facts and would not listen to people who clearly knew better. That behavior is all too familiar to anyone even casually aware of Trump’s record. The argument with the veterans was different because his misstatement did not arise from any of the usual reasons. He was not answering a critic or tearing down someone who frustrated him or making an argument for a policy opinion or defending some past statement.

Sticking to his version of Agent Orange was purely a reflection of his personality. On a subject one can safely assume he had not thought about until that moment, he seized on a fragmentary memory of something he’d seen on a screen years earlier, jumped to a wrong conclusion, and was then immediately convinced that he was correct solely because he had heard himself saying it — not only certain that he was right, but oblivious to the fact that everyone he was talking to knew more about the subject than he did.

In effect, this story strongly suggests, Trump’s thought process (if you can call it that) boils down to: I am right because I am always right.

Lots of people absorb facts selectively and adapt them to fit opinions they already hold. That’s human nature. But the president’s ability to twist the truth, consciously or not, is extreme. So is his apparently unshakable conviction that no matter what the subject is, no one knows more than he does, which means he has no need to listen to anyone who tries to correct his misstatements. In a person with his power and responsibilities, those qualities are truly frightening.

As alarming as his record is, though, it would be a serious mistake to think of Trump as the only or even the principal enemy of truth and truth-tellers. There is a large army out there churning out false information, using technology that lets them spread their messages to a mass audience with minimal effort and expense. But the largest threat to truth, I fear, is not from the liars and truth twisters, but from deep in our collective and individual human nature. It’s the same threat I glimpsed all those years ago at George Wallace’s rallies in Maryland and on that factory floor in China: the tendency to believe comfortable lies instead of uncomfortable truths and to trust our own assumptions instead of looking at the evidence.

That widespread and deep-rooted failure of critical thinking in American society today has helped make Trump and his enablers, like other liars before them, successful in the war against truth. In the words of the mid-twentieth-century cartoonist Walt Kelly’s comic-strip character, Pogo the Possum, “We have met the enemy and it is us.” That’s a powerful enemy. Whether there’s an effective way for the forces of truth to oppose it is far from clear.

 

GOP heading for midterm wipeout as ‘blue wave’ scenario gives Democrats a 12-point generic ballot lead: NBC-WSJ poll

  • The new NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey, taken six weeks before Americans head to the polls, shows Democrats leading Republicans by 52 percent to 40 percent for control of Congress.

If it holds, that 12 percentage point margin would suggest a “blue wave” large enough to switch control of not just the House but also the Senate.

September 23, 2018

by John Harwood

CNBC

Congressional Republicans are facing a mid-term election wipeout fueled by voter resistance to President Donald Trump, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

The survey, six weeks before Americans head to the polls, shows Democrats leading Republicans by 52 percent to 40 percent for control of Congress. If it holds, that 12 percentage point margin would suggest a “blue wave” large enough to switch control of not just the House but also the Senate.

“The results could not be clearer about making a change in direction from Trump’s policies,” explained Bill McInturff, the Republican pollster who helps conduct the NBC/WSJ survey. “Once again, Americans are hitting the brakes in a mid-term.”

In each of the last three off-year elections — 2006, 2010 and 2014 — voters have flipped control of one or both houses of Congress away from the incumbent president’s party. This year, the provocative behavior some voters accepted from Candidate Trump in 2016 has overshadowed everything else, including falling unemployment, surging growth and rising stock values.

“Donald Trump’s presidency has been about one thing: Donald Trump,” said Peter Hart, McInturff’s Democratic counterpart on the survey. “He makes himself bigger than the economy. In 2018, he has become Typhoid Trump, infecting most GOP candidates he supports.”

What makes that conclusion all the more striking is that Trump’s job approval rating, now 44 percent, has inched five points higher since January. But 52 percent disapprove, and loyalty to Trump among his core supporters — white men without college degrees, rural residents, those aged 50-64 — is not lifting GOP candidates, as voters focus on their November choices.

The pollsters’ so-called “generic ballot” pitting the two parties for the House illustrates the GOP predicament most broadly. In 1994, before seizing control of both the House and Senate from Democrats, Republicans led on that question by four percentage points; in 2006, before Democrats seized them back, they led by 10 points.

Their 12-point national lead today includes a margin of 30 points in House districts Democrats already hold. That means some of those anti-Trump votes will merely translate into larger victories for Democratic incumbents without producing any of the 23 additional seats the party needs to make Nancy Pelosi speaker again.

But the best evidence of vulnerability for Trump and his party lies in the seats Republicans already hold. The survey shows Republicans leading by only a single percentage point in those districts.

Overall, a 42 percent plurality of voters say they want to place a check on President Trump, compared to 31 percent who aim to help him achieve his objectives. Even in Republican-held districts, 38 percent want a check on their party’s president.

Moreover, Democrats have generated wide advantages among key swing groups within the electorate. The poll shows them leading by 31 percentage points among independents, 33 points among moderates and 12 points among white women.

Among white college graduates, a group Republicans carried by nine points in 2014 mid-term elections, Republicans now trail by 15 points. Among white women without college degrees, a group Republicans carried by 10 points in 2014, Republicans now trail by five points.

“The Republican coalition is, at the moment, unhinged,” said McInturff, the Republican pollster. The party’s erosion among women voters heightens the potential risk for Republicans in the ongoing furor over sexual assault allegations against Trump’s Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh.

The telephone survey of 900 registered voters was conducted September 16-19. It carries a margin for error of 3.27 percentage points.

It doesn’t preclude the chance that Republicans will rebound to some degree by Election Day. If history is a guide, the Democrats’ generic ballot advantage may narrow somewhat. That would improve chances for Republicans to hold their two seat advantage in the Senate. The outcome there rests with battles in Trump-friendly states.

Democrats still voice greater interest in the election than Republicans, a harbinger of superior motivation to turn out. But that Democratic edge is smaller than earlier in the year. Two strongly Democratic groups— Latino voters and those under 35 — are showing unusually low interest in the election.

But the electoral landscape remains “very precarious” for the GOP, McInturff concluded: “The ways in which you can create a Congressional Republican majority are hard to see.”

 

Kavanaugh’s accuser accepts request to speak to Judiciary Committee next week, lawyers say

September 23, 2018

by Ariane de Vogue, Clare Foran, Sarah Westwood, Laura Jarrett and Manu Raju,

CNN

Washington (CNN) — Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a past sexual assault, accepted the request to speak to the panel next week about the alleged incident, her lawyers told Senate Judiciary Committee staff on Saturday.

“Dr. Ford accepts the Committee’s request to provide her first-hand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct next week,” Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, attorneys representing Ford, wrote in a message to the committee.

But the message did not agree to a specified date and time for Ford to speak to the committee and said that “many aspects” of an earlier proposal by the committee were “fundamentally inconsistent with the Committee’s promise of a fair, impartial investigation into her allegations.”

Lawyers for Ford, along with a bipartisan group of committee staff, tentatively agreed during a Saturday evening phone call to a Thursday hearing, according to a person briefed on the call and a source familiar with it. The sources said more details would be ironed out on Sunday.

Kavanaugh allies quickly pushed back on the latest response from Ford, arguing that it does not actually amount to accepting the committee’s invitation to testify.

A source close to the process who supports Kavanaugh told CNN, “This is not an ‘acceptance’ of anything at all. The email doesn’t even say she will testify. It says she will ‘provide her firsthand knowledge’ but it doesn’t say how. It says she will do so ‘next week’ but doesn’t say when. And it says the rest of the terms are still up for negotiation. It ‘accepts’ nothing at all, but the language is very carefully calculated to give her credit for having accepted.”

The White House responded in kind.

“Brett Kavanaugh has been clear from the beginning — he categorically and unequivocally denies this allegation and is eager to testify publicly to defend his integrity and clear his good name,” said White House spokeswoman Kerri Kupec. “On Monday, Brett Kavanaugh met with Committee counsels to answer questions subject to criminal penalties and offered to testify publicly Tuesday morning. Since then, we have heard about different dates, conditions, and ever changing schedules, but today we appear no closer to a fair hearing. But one thing has remained consistent: Brett Kavanaugh remains ready, willing and eager to testify as soon as possible.”

Points of contention

Several points of contention still need to be worked out before there is any final deal. Some of those differences are as follows:

A source close to Ford says the legal team still wants the hearing on Thursday. Senate Judiciary has proposed Wednesday.

Ford’s team still wants questioning only by senators, while some on the committee are pushing for a female outside counsel to do at least part of the questioning for the majority. Ford’s lawyers also still want some others to testify or be subpoenaed, including Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge, who was identified by Ford as someone else in the room during the alleged assault.

Judge told the committee in a letter sent by his lawyer earlier in the week that he has “no memory” of the alleged incident and said that he does “not wish speak publicly” about Ford’s accusations. He also denied the allegation in an interview with The Weekly Standard last week.

Noted DC attorney joins Ford’s legal team

Michael Bromwich, a former Justice Department inspector general, has joined Ford’s legal team. He also currently represents former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in March and has been a target of President Donald Trump’s criticism.

CNN obtained an email Bromwich sent to his law firm, Robbins Russell, saying that because objections had been raised, he is resigning effective immediately.

“Within the past few days, I have been asked to serve as one of Christine Blasey Ford’s attorneys,” the email reads. “My role will likely require me to appear publicly on Dr. Ford’s behalf, and the Senate is being advised of my involvement this afternoon. Because objections have been raised within the partnership to my doing so while employed by the firm, I am resigning from the firm, effective immediately.”

Ongoing negotiations

The statement from Ford’s lawyers on Saturday is the latest in a tense back-and-forth with the Senate Judiciary Committee’s GOP majority over the terms under which Ford would be willing to testify before the panel next week about her allegation. It remains unclear whether the two sides will reach an agreement.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley agreed late Friday night to allow the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault more time to decide whether to testify before Congress.

Grassley tweeted that he “granted another extension” to Christine Blasey Ford, saying “she (should) decide so we can move on. I want to hear her.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee had given Ford’s attorneys a deadline of 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday to respond with their decision, a committee source confirmed to CNN.

The panel had proposed holding a hearing next Wednesday in which it would hear testimony from both Kavanaugh and Ford, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

Kavanaugh has denied the sexual assault allegation.

The committee earlier Friday had set a deadline of 5 p.m. ET for Ford to decide, later extending that to 10 p.m. In response, Debra Katz, who is representing Ford, wrote in a letter to the committee that its “cavalier treatment of a sexual assault survivor who has been doing her best to cooperate with the Committee is completely inappropriate.”

Calling the deadline arbitrary, Katz wrote in a letter that “our modest request is that she be given an additional day to make her decision.”

Had Ford’s lawyers not responded to the proposal or if Ford decided not to testify by the deadline, Grassley said, the committee would vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination Monday.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, accused Republicans of “bullying a survivor of attempted rape in order to confirm a nominee” by saying they will vote Monday on the nomination if they don’t reach an agreement with Ford and her lawyers for her to testify.

“It’s clear that Republicans have learned nothing over the last 27 years. Bullying a survivor of attempted rape in order to confirm a nominee — particularly at a time when she’s receiving death threats — is an extreme abuse of power,” Feinstein said in a statement. “I’m shocked and appalled by the Republicans’ refusal to wait 24 hours for a hearing and instead rush forward with a vote on Monday. From the outset Republicans have tried to push through this nomination at all costs.”

Max Young, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, said, “At approximately 2:30 Republicans sent her a proposal and gave her a 5 p.m. deadline. Shortly after they wrote her, she responded and said I need 24 hours to talk to my client. At 6:30 they gave her a 10 p.m. deadline. … At this point, the Senate has shown significantly more deference to Facebook and Google’s hearing-scheduling requests than to Ford’s.”

Ford’s lawyers said Thursday night that Ford wouldn’t be able to get to Washington before next Thursday because of all that her family is dealing with, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide.

The proposed hearing, according to three sources, would include an outside counsel who would ask questions. The proposal calls for Ford to testify first and Kavanaugh second.

The order of testimonies is the opposite of what Ford, through her lawyers, has requested, according to a senior congressional source.

Another source told CNN that Republicans are dealing with internal disagreements about whether they should use an outside counsel. Multiple senior members of the committee are pushing for one, while others are less interested, according to the source, making it unclear whether this will make it into the final proposal to Ford.

Her lawyers previously suggested that the committee’s senators question their client, not an outside counsel.

A Senate Republican aide told CNN Friday that a special counsel would prevent the politicization of Ford’s questioning.

“Senate Democrats rightly said that the Senate should not bully Dr. Ford … the way to depoliticize that and ensure that is with an outside counsel,” they said.

But the use of an outside counsel is receiving pushback from Senate Democrats. An aide to a member of the Senate’s Democratic leadership told CNN that, “outside counsel doesn’t vote on Kavanaugh. Senators do. Republicans need to do their jobs and not hide.”

Ford also requested that at no point during any potential hearing would she be in the same room as Kavanaugh.

CNN’s Phil Mattingly, Dana Bash, Devan Cole, Sunlen Serfaty, Veronica Stracqualursi and Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.

 

What’s the endgame in the US-China trade war?

As the US and China impose tariffs on thousands of products in an escalating trade war, we ask what’s next.

September 22, 2018

Jazeera News

The ongoing and protracted tit-for-tat trade dispute between China and the United States has intensified this week – so much so that it prompted a warning from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The Paris-based think-tank says the world’s economy can’t keep growing if things don’t improve on the trade front.

China has now slapped tariffs on nearly $6bn-worth of US goods in retaliation for the latest round of US tariffs on $200bn-worth of Chinese products.

The increased tensions will likely scuttle the renewal of trade talks between Beijing and Washington, reports Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler from Beijing. While about 5,000 Chinese products, including household goods from vacuum cleaners to bikes, will be targeted, many US businesses are expected to suffer as well.

“Just before the tariffs were announced in Washington, the Chinese commerce secretary said US protectionism won’t only impact the two countries involved in the trade war, but it will hurt the global economy as well,” says Heidler.

Beyond US protectionism, “I don’t think the goal has been demonstrated or articulated well by the [US] president,” explains Greg Swenson, the founding partner of London-based Brigg Macadam, a merchant banking house for emerging and frontier markets.

“What he (Trump) seems to dwell on is the trade deficit and he picks these arbitrary numbers or targets for trade deficit reduction, which is a mistake. What he should focus on is that China is violating all kinds of free-market and open-market policies and rules. The US has taken China to the WTO 16 times in the last couple of years, and they’ve won all 16 times, but that doesn’t seem to be fixing the major problems, which are theft of IP and the complete disregard for free-market principles.”

Swenson says that Trump has “somewhat lost the narrative or the messaging battle because it looks like the US is provoking a trade war, when, in fact, he’s trying to fix something that needs to be fixed.”

“I don’t think these tariffs will stay in place because they’re self-defeating. It’s not really going to hurt the American consumer or the American economy. In many ways, the president’s playing with the house’s money; the economy is kicking on all cylinders.”

“The Chinese have a lot more to lose if they are in a trade war,” Swenson says, explaining that Americans are importing $500bn-worth of goods from China, whereas the Chinese are only importing $130bn from the US. “So, the US has a much better ability to punish China and that’s obvious.”

Also on this episode of Counting the Cost:

India economy: India is often referred to as the “world’s fastest-growing large economy” but the Indian rupee is now the worst-performing currency in Asia, despite government efforts to turn the tide. Non-essential import restrictions announced this week have left businesses unhappy and there are fears of protectionist policies being put in place. Gregor Irwan, chief economist at Global Counsel, offers his take.

Afghan ice cream: Since the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, one song has echoed across Kabul’s neighbourhoods. “Happy Birthday” blasts from the speakers of hundreds of ice cream carts across the capital, but the recent surge in violence before the upcoming elections has caused their profits to plummet, as Charlotte Bellis reports from Kabul.

Australia strawberries: A sabotage scare is threatening to hurt Australia’s strawberry growers. They’ve warned about an overreaction after several people found sewing needles inside the fresh fruit. While some reports turned out to be hoaxes, the devastating effect on the industry is the same, as Andrew Thomas reports from Sydney.

SpaceX passenger: There is now a face and a name for the man who hopes to become the first paying passenger to fly to the moon. US company SpaceX has said Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire, is its first customer. The 42-year-old online retailer said it has been his lifelong dream to go to space, as Victoria Gatenby reports.

Qatar-Japan electric cars: Qatar and Japan are teaming up to manufacture electric cars. The new $9bn project involves building several factories from scratch and is supposed to be up and running by 2024. The first car to roll off the assembly line will be called ‘Katara’, and will be launched in conjunction with the FIFA World Cup in 2022. The project is backed by ARM of Japan.

Turkey’s economic plan: Emerging market currencies have been a big focus in the past few months. This week, Turkey unveiled its long-awaited plan to find a way out of the crisis. Finance minister Berat Albayrak was put in charge of the economy two months ago by his father-in-law, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He sharply cut its growth forecasts for this year and next. He also promised to slash public spending by nearly $10bn and blamed some of Turkey’s problems on a spat with the US.

 

The facts about electric vehicles

August 1, 2018

by Rikki Gibson

EV Industry

High prices. Toxic batteries. Terrible range. The world is full of alarming stories about why electric vehicles are bad. But the reality is very different.

It’s easy to understand why people have these misconceptions. This is a new technology, one that the public is only just learning about. That makes people vulnerable to the exaggerations of companies that don’t want to have to change. But if we look at the facts, it doesn’t take long to tear those arguments apart.

The myth of the long tailpipe

The “long tailpipe argument” is one of the most popular and important misconceptions. It’s the idea that, once you take the environmental costs of manufacturing into account, electric vehicles are just as polluting over their lifetime as vehicles using fossil fuels.

As with many misleading arguments, this has a true fact at its core. Electric vehicles are more polluting to produce than comparable fossil fuel vehicles. A full-size electric vehicle with a range of 265 miles is 68% more polluting to produce than an equivalent gasoline-powered car. But only looking at manufacturing means missing out on the big picture.

Manufacturing creates only a small proportion of the pollution from any vehicle. Once you combine manufacturing with years of driving, electric vehicles produce less than half the global warming emissions of their gas-fueled equivalents.

As electricity generation gets greener, the environmental impact of driving an electric car keeps falling. Even when its electricity is generated entirely using fossil fuels, an electric vehicle will emit 25% less pollution during its lifetime. By using hydroelectric power and renewable energy, this can get as high as 64%, reducing a driver’s environmental footprint by two-thirds.

Transportation now produces more carbon dioxide pollution than power generation, so accurately understanding this area is important.

Balancing costs

The biggest practical problem holding many people back from going electric is the cost. There’s a widespread perception that it’s more expensive to drive an electric than a gas-powered car.

It’s easy to understand why people see it this way. Even with several countries providing government subsidies, you might be paying over 25% more for the initial cost of the car.

But this doesn’t take into account the savings made over the lifetime of the vehicle. Reduced costs for fuel and a reduced likelihood of something going wrong mean that an electric car can work out cheaper over its lifetime. The price of electricity is significantly lower than for gasoline or diesel. Though electricity and gas prices vary regionally, on average, a gallon of petrol in the US costs twice as much as the equivalent electricity.

For managers of vehicle fleets, this balance between up-front costs and long-term expense can be balanced using FleetCarma’s Electric Vehicle Suitability Assessment. This shows when gas-powered vehicles can be replaced with electric ones in a cost-effective way.

The vehicle’s range

Early electric cars had problems with range. Their relatively small battery capacity meant that they soon needed to recharge. Opportunities to do this were few and far between.

Both of these things are changing.

Electric vehicle manufacturers have significantly increased the range of their vehicles. The upcoming Mercedes-Benz EQC SUV will have a range of up to 310 miles between refueling and cars already on the road can go for 200 miles.

It’s also becoming easier to recharge. Cities and local governments are setting up fueling points, while specialist apps show you the nearest fueling point wherever you are. As recharging becomes quicker and easier to find, worries about range are vanishing.

Battery recycling

Like all batteries, those in electric cars lose power over time. Those in smaller vehicles need replacing every 7-10 years, while buses and vans need new ones every 3-4 years. This is an important part of their environmental impact, as batteries take a lot of resources to produce and their chemicals can be toxic.

Fortunately, the rumor that these batteries can’t be reused or recycled is untrue. Most electric vehicles use lithium-ion batteries, like those in smartphones and cameras. Only around 5% of lithium-ion batteries are currently recycled, but this isn’t because they can’t be. It’s because this is relatively new technology and the infrastructure isn’t in place yet. Batteries for electric vehicles can be recycled through processes including smelting and direct recovery, letting the materials be reused to reduce the costs and environmental impact of mining.

Many batteries can even be reused for other purposes, as they still have about 70% of their original capacity. They’re currently providing backup power for everything from streetlights to elevators to data centers.

Easier maintenance

The extra hassle of replacing the battery is more than balanced by other areas of maintenance.

Electric cars have far fewer moving parts than gas-powered ones, significantly reducing the need for repair or replacement. Fan belts, head gaskets, and spark plugs are just a few of the parts that aren’t needed anymore and so don’t need replacing after wearing out. Even the wear and tear on brakes is reduced, as electric cars can slow down simply by slowing the motor.

There are still parts of the car that will get broken or worn down, as in any complex machine. But the time and money spent on maintenance is significantly reduced by going electric.

Automation

Electric vehicles combine well with one of the other big trends in motoring – self-driving cars.

The lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles provide better energy storage and voltage than those in most traditional vehicles, which use 12-volt lead-acid batteries. This means that electric vehicles are better for powering self-driving cars. Cruise control, proximity sensors, and the other elements that go into automated driving can be more easily implemented using an electric car’s battery.

Electric power makes it easier for an automated vehicle to recharge. Recharging doesn’t need a human inserting a fueling hose, just a way for the car to connect to an electric socket. The development of wireless charging will let self-driving electric vehicles simply drive into a charging point and automatically refuel.

A better driving experience

Many of the so-called problems with electric vehicles are myths. In reality, they’re more environmentally friendly, easier to maintain, and cheaper to run in the long term. As the infrastructure grows to support them, the benefits will increase. And as work continues on self-driving technology, electric vehicles will help to make that vision a reality.

 

 

 

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