All posts by Philip Waring

Am retired. With my wife Josée I Iive in Tampa, and go often to Paris. There's not yet a bridge between the two cities and we have to fly. These two cities are far apart, but I'm working hard at finding real connections between them. Tampa is America, the best and the worst of it. Paris, well, Paris is Paris.

San Antonio can’t wait for Trump et al.

San Antonio doesn’t have time to wait for Washington to pass an immigration plan

By Robert Rivard, May 16th 2019

Pastor Gavin Rogers, second from left, prays with an asylum seeker from Central America  at Travis Park Church, which is serving as a makeshift shelter, in downtown San Antonio on April 2. (Eric Gay/AP)
Pastor Gavin Rogers, second from left, prays with an asylum seeker from Central America at Travis Park Church, in downtown San Antonio on April 2. (Eric Gay/AP)

There is no time for such standoffs in San Antonio, where asylum seekers released by federal authorities along the border arrive in daily waves at the downtown Greyhound station.

The influx poses a significant challenge. I spent a recent night with migrants as they were welcomed at the bus station and taken to an adjacent migrant resource center and then a nearby church shelter for an overnight stay. San Antonio is a strategic way station, the point on Interstate 35 where asylum seekers see a long journey turn from terror and uncertainty to a first glimpse of a better life. It’s a second, invisible border crossing, evident in the relief on the faces of parents and children alike.

San Antonio has never declared itself a sanctuary city, but it is a city that has always offered it: to Mexicans fleeing revolution 100 years ago; to New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005; and now, to fleeing Central Americans. A city with a majority-Mexican American population has a culture and history rooted in migration. The harshness of our national politics cannot change that.

Some days, 100 to 125 migrants arrive from the border. This week, the number flared to 200 or more daily. At times, it has been higher. “The migrants arrive only with the clothes they are wearing and what they can carry, and what they can carry in most cases is their young children,” said Colleen Bridger, the city’s senior public-health official who oversees San Antonio’s humanitarian, medical and shelter response. “We get no help or funding from Washington even though we are, in effect, acting as an extension of the federal government by processing and providing vital services to these asylum seekers.”

Bilingual relief workers escort new arrivals from the station to a makeshift migrant resource center inside a city parking garage where the San Antonio Food Bank serves a hot meal. Volunteer physicians and nurses deliver medical attention. Fresh clothing and footwear from Goodwill replaces tattered garments worn on the trek north. Every adult receives a new backpack with a Red Cross blanket, a bag of 20 snacks, soap and toiletries, crayons and a coloring book, a small stuffed animal, a used English-Spanish paperback dictionary, and a reusable water bottle. Sanitary products, over-the-counter medicines and diapers are distributed as needed.

Catholic Charities, which operates its own shelters around the city, helps fund the purchase of bus tickets that will take the migrants to other destinations after spending the night at the nearby Travis Park Church, a Methodist congregation with a history of serving the homeless and welcoming the LGBTQ community.

The aging church hall is a warren of rooms crammed with cots, a haven. Most asylum seekers leave the next morning on buses for their final destinations and waiting family or church sponsors. Immigration court hearings are likely 16 months or more into the future.

Migrants shared with me their harrowing stories of escape — deja vu for a reporter who covered Central America’s civil wars in the 1980s. The lawlessness that has reverberated down over the decades provides the setting that so many impoverished and threatened people seek to escape.

Heidi Serrano, 20, a third-year university student, arrived here 70 days after fleeing her home outside San Pedro Sula, Honduras. A local policeman showed up at her door one night and demanded weekly protection payment of 1,500 lempiras, about $60. “Someone I know … gave the policeman my cellphone number, and he began to track me,” Serrano said. “ He finally told me he would kill me if I didn’t have the money for him by the next day. I fled at dawn.”

Jeremy Herrera Mendoza, a slightly built 12-year-old from Guatemala City, was leaving school when members of La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, approached. “I could either join their gang or they would kill my mother and younger brother,” Jeremy said.

The vicious street gang controls many of the poor urban neighborhoods in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Jeremy skipped school for one week to avoid gang members but then returned when his mother, Karen Mendoza Centeno, learned of his truancy. Gang leaders found him again and gave him one day to join or lose his own life.

Jeremy broke down crying as he told his mother the truth. Karen, 33, Jeremy and 9-year-old Abrahám boarded the first bus the next morning to Mexico, abandoning their home and belongings. Mendoza paid $2,500 to a coyote to smuggle them across the Rio Grande on tire tubes. They were then detained by the U.S. Border Patrol.

City official Bridger said San Antonio’s efforts to deliver services to the arriving migrants are straining local budgets, but the city does not intend to stop, regardless of how long the crisis continues.

No end is in sight: Last week a federal official told me 14,000 asylum seekers were awaiting processing that day in detentions centers, tent camps and other makeshift facilities along the border. The next day, that count grew to 18,000.

“At first we said, ‘Let’s gear up for a two-week response,’ ” Bridger said, “We now realize it’s just nonstop, it’s the new normal.”

Robert Rivard is the editor and publisher of the nonprofit Rivard Report in San Antonio.

Quora wisdom

Do you think that Donald even knows that the Quora internet site exists? I don’t think he has any idea. I think Quora is just about the best we can have/do on the internet. Quora comes in the form of answers to submitted questions, the answers illustrating more often than not the wisdom of common sense.  Common sense, I would say,  is the knowledge , sometimes designated as wisdom, that we share, knowledge, that has come to us over the some tens of thousands of years of our species’ existence, thanks to the countless observations and note taking of science and its practitioners.  Actually all, of us, to to the extent we are human, are all scientists. We are always looking about us and “taking down” what we see.

This kind of common sensical knowledge doesn’t come from religion. Religion is all that science is not, often all dogma rather than discovery, as some have put it, and whose, practitioners, shamans, ministers, priests, rabbis, monks, magicians et al.. have mostly led themselves and the rest of us astray, while inflicting upon us untold suffering, causing millions of unnecessary deaths most often by something as an insubstantial difference of opinion, a little difference that too often leads to genocide and war. While science is no less subject to differences of opinion these differences have never led us, as have religions, to the brutal exterminations of the ones out of power by those in power

Anyway getting back to my subject, Quora (the plural of quoram, both words, meaning the group of people required to carry over a transaction in an organization, that is the requisite number of those needed to get the business done. Why was this name chosen for the web site. I don’t know.

Here’s the Quora question and answer for today:


Mats Andersson
Mats Andersson, Professional Translator English into Swedish (1991-present)

Questions for the Donald. Here’s one to begin with.

I have a question, actually a lot of questions for you, Donald Trump. I don’t know why these questions and others have never been asked, let alone answered (at least to my knowledge). Perhaps it’s because your life up until now has taught you that questions are never to be answered directly, or truthfully, because you’d only get into big trouble if you ever did. Perhaps you’ve learned from your own experience that, as Shakespeare tells it, truth is a dog and must be kenneled. For whatever reason truth, and truthful answers, don’t seem to be a part of your make-up, but are rather dogs, and if allowed out must at a minimum be locked away in a kennel.

So while I have questions I don’t expect truthful answers from you. Here’s my first question— why did you question Barack Obama’s place of birth? One answer I come up with is that your questioning of Obama’s citizenship places you in the news, and being in the news, being talked about is most often the primary motive in what you say or do. Being in the news is what most empowers you. You’ve never liked being passed over. As you will be, btw, if you lose as expected the presidential election of 2020.

There are some things I could say about the Donald Trump I’ve come to know, not the realtor Trump of NYCity, whom I didn’t know, occupied as he was, as the NY Times has made clear, with spending and losing his father’s hundreds of millions. But the Trump whom I first noticed was the one who began to appear in the media questioning the birth place of Obama. And again, one answer to the question is easy, to get the Media’s attention.

At the time in 2008, when Obama was running for president and John McCain was a much respected leader in the Senate the two of them together were getting the attention that Trump wanted for himself.  And his strategy for doing that and getting the media’s attention was simply to put the two of them down, while lifting himself up, by questioning Obama’s citizenship and McCain’s courage. And amazing, and surprising as this seemed then, and still seems to me now, Trump had no trouble finding supporters who agreed with him and who would become his base and who would stick with him right up until now.

In fact, both putdowns were enough to put Trump and keep him in the news, where he’s really been ever since. Trump seemed to know from the beginning how to grab and hold the media’s attention. In that regard how much has Trump’s success resulted from the media/s constant attention. When he spoke against McCain’s courage shouldn’t the media, shouldn’t all of us, have dropped him like an empty coke can.

If there was/is any greatness in our country, it is/was much more in the stories of these two men, Obama and McCain, and others like them. Trump is not a real man, a whole man. There are missing parts to him, the greatest parts missing at least for me, being, one, the ability to tell the truth (about himself), and two, being able to laugh (at himself). If he had had any real understanding of our country’s greatness to restore even a part of that greatness he ought to have celebrated at his “rallies,” not made fun of, such stories as the stories of these two men.

So Donald, you really didn’t know what you were doing, did you, other than getting a lot of attention, that on which you have always mostly fed. It’s really no different from now, when you most feed yourself, not on the real issues and needs of the country, but on the whoppers and diet cokes you stuff yourself with while watching TV.

But there’s another answer to my question, about why Trump put down Obama, and that will be the subject of my next blog.

How to Defeat Trump For starters, we need a patriotic Republican on the right to run as a third-party candidate.

Thomas L. Friedman

By Thomas L. Friedman

Opinion Columnist

Growing up, I was always fascinated with the magician-psychic Uri Geller, who was famous for bending spoons with his supposed supernatural powers. How did he do that? I wondered. I’ve been thinking about him lately as I’ve watched an even more profound magic trick playing out in our politics. We have a president who can bend people.

In so many cases, Donald Trump has been able to take people who came into his orbit and just bend them to his lying ways the way Uri Geller bent spoons. The latest is Attorney General William Barr, who, in only a few weeks, got bent into becoming Trump’s personal lawyer. But Barr is in good company. Trump took Senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, who’d actually been bent against him, and bent them into fawning sycophants. It’s awesome!

How does he do that trick? Surely the answer lies partly in Trump’s energy source: Fox News, Breitbart and Trump’s own Twitter feed keep his base in a state of constant agitation and high partisanship, and Trump, seemingly with no hands, leverages that energy into bending so many Republicans to his will. With a few exceptions, like Jim Mattis, Trump also has a knack for picking people who are bendable.

And bendable people — people who, like Trump, were always outsiders or never on the A-team — are attracted to him to get ahead.

“Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from,” former F.B.I. Director James Comey explained in The Times. “It takes character like Mr. Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.”

What worries me most right now is that if Trump gets a second term he’ll also bend all the key institutions that govern us. Already he’s softening the steel in many of them so they can be bent more easily.

Look at the dishonest crusade he has begun against the F.B.I. for “spying” on his campaign and how we need to “investigate the investigators.” Trump and his bent spoons are ready to wreck any institution that gets in the way of his re-election or unfettered exercise of power.

For America to stay America, Trump has to be defeated.

<p class=”highlight”>

I don’t want him impeached. He has to be voted out. Only that will restore the faith of the world that America has not lost its mind and maybe, maybe, will force a much-needed debate among Republicans, titled, “How did we let this grifter take over our party?”</p>

But defeating Trump won’t be easy, so I am hoping for three things. First, we desperately need a third party. No, no, no — not that kind of third party!

I don’t mean a third party that sits between Democrats and Republicans. We need a Republican third-party candidate who won’t just primary Trump but will get on the general election ballot and challenge him in 2020 in all 50 states — but do it from his right, not from the center.

Yes, we need a Republican who will do the most high-minded, patriotic thing I can imagine today — fall on the Trump grenade. That is, run against Trump from the right in the national election as, say, a libertarian — who could oppose Trump for his tariffs, his piling up of the national debt, his opposition to immigration and his immorality. This could siphon off just enough Republican votes for Trump to lose close races in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Florida. We need a Republican who will do to Trump what Ralph Nader did to Al Gore in Florida in 2000.

“Even if you believe (as I do) that the Supreme Court improperly stopped a Florida recount that could well have given the race to Gore, the fact remains that without Nader on the ballot, there would have been no protracted recount spectacle and no Supreme Court involvement,” noted Bill Scher on RealClearPolitics. “The official Florida tally gave Bush the win by 537 votes (48.847 percent to 48.838 percent), while Nader racked up 97,488 votes.”

Second, we need some dutiful people to bear witness. There is now a club of people who have served at the top of Trump’s administration in the past two years who either quit, because they would not bend, or were forced out after Trump could bend them no longer: Mattis, Don McGahn, H.R. McMaster, Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn, Kirstjen Nielsen, John Kelly, Jeff Sessions and Reince Priebus. (We also need to hear from Robert Mueller.)

We need them all to bear witness to the dishonesty, indecency and dysfunction they saw while serving Trump and to his unfitness for high office. We can’t wait for their memoirs or anonymous, ineffective leaks. They don’t have to take sides left or right. We need them to side with the truth. That is the essence of acting honorably.

It is high time they stopped holding their tongues while Trump lashes them all with his. If all those people bear witness at the right time, it could have a major impact. Elie Wiesel put it well: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.”

Finally, most important, we need a Democratic candidate who can appeal not only to Democrats but also hold the independents, moderate Republicans and suburban women whose votes shifted the House to the Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections and whose support will be vital for any Democrat to win the presidency.

I’m not endorsing anyone now, but I appreciated how Joe Biden launched his campaign by quoting from the Declaration of Independence and arguing that “the core values of this nation … our standing in the world … our very democracy … everything that has made America — America — is at stake. That’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy for president.”

I think that is the right broad message for Democrats, because this election is not just about who will deliver “Medicare for all” but about who can deliver “all for one and one for all.”

I think a lot of people today are frightened that the country is getting pulled apart at the seams. It starts with Trump: His extreme language and behavior, amplified by social media, fuels extreme reactions. And this is clearly heating up the society and stimulating some fringe actors on the right to physically attack people they believe Trump has identified as “enemies” of the state.

Surely one reason Trump’s favorability rating is nowhere near as high as it should be — given the soaring economy — is that many Americans are worried that another Trump term will bring us to a political civil war.

So Biden was not waxing nostalgic. He was saying in effect: “Let’s remind ourselves who we were on our best days and rededicate ourselves to doing big, hard things, which can only be done together.” To go forward together we have to look back. We have to get reattached to what we were when we were at our best.

Yes, virtually the entire G.O.P. political/media apparatus is now a Trump-bent spoon ready to serve up whatever alternate universe he constructs. But the country is not. If Democrats don’t fight fire with fire, they lose. But if they just fight fire with fire, we burn the whole house down.

You also have to summon people with a message of unity and respect; there are moderate Republicans and independents whose support is vital. It’s a tricky balance, and the Democrat who gets it wins.



Nader Elected Bush: Why We Shouldn’t Forget

Polls show that many Bernie Sanders voters say they will withhold their support for Hillary Clinton, and that’s exactly how likely Green Party nominee Jill Stein wants it. She is tailoring her rhetoric to woo their votes, and in the process is rejecting claims that her campaign will be a “spoiler” candidacy, splitting the left and electing Donald Trump.

Memories of Ralph Nader’s 2000 Green candidacy are never too far away for older Democratic voters, but apparently this is not true for legions of youthful Sanders supporters, some of whom were in diapers at the time. So Stein is re-litigating the case, arguing that Nader deserves no blame for George W. Bush becoming president.

“The Supreme Court stopped the vote count, and Gore was just rolled over. …  Nobody else created that loss,” Stein told The Humanist Report podcast. “Spoiler argument leaves out many D’s voted for greater evil in ’00. In ’08 the lesser evil succeeded & still gave us much of what we feared,” Stein tweeted last week.

Stein is echoing the argument that Greens and Naderites have been quietly flogging for years. Google “Nader Florida” and you’ll quickly find a 2003 piece from the California Green Party, “Dispelling the Myth of Election 2000,” and a 2010 article from Disinfo, “Debunked: The Myth That Ralph Nader Cost Al Gore the 2000 Election.”

You might dismiss these musty defenses as meaningless yelps from bitter-enders. But take my word: Make a reference to Nader tipping the 2000 election, and you will get flooded on social media with angry defenses of Nader and finger-pointing at Gore.

So it is necessary to set the record straight. Even if you believe (as I do) that the Supreme Court improperly stopped a Florida recount that could well have given the race to Gore, the fact remains that without Nader on the ballot, there would have been no protracted recount spectacle and no Supreme Court involvement.

The official Florida tally gave Bush the win by 537 votes (48.847 percent to 48.838 percent), while Nader racked up 97,488 votes. The national exit poll asked respondents how they would vote in a two-person race between Bush and Gore. Political scientist Gerald Pomper summed up the results in a 2001 Political Science Quarterly overview: “approximately half (47 percent) of the Nader voters said they would choose Gore in a two-man race, a fifth (21 percent) would choose Bush, and a third (32 percent) would not vote. Applying these figures to the actual vote, Gore would have achieved a net gain of 26,000 votes in Florida, far more than needed to carry the state easily.”

But that is not quite the end of the story. Tony Schinella, a self-described Nader supporter, in a 2004 blog post cited by Disinfo, said we should not apply the national exit poll to Florida, but we instead should look at the Florida exit poll, which showed “the results as Bush 49 percent, Gore 47 percent” in a two-person race.

That looks like Bush would have slightly benefited in Florida from Nader’s absence, but that is not definitive either. The Florida exit poll had a sample size of 1,829. Nader’s support in Florida was 1.63 percent, meaning the pollsters only found approximately 30 Nader voters — a sample too infinitesimal from which to extrapolate. (Consider that the official margin of victory was 0.009 percent.  One voter in the Florida exit poll sample amounted to 0.055 percent, more than the margin.)

In fact, some argue that the national exit poll yielded too few Nader voters for the purposes of analysis. So in 2006, professors Michael C. Herron and Jeffrey B. Lewis conducted a granular “ballot-level” analysis of 3 million Florida ballots, because “ballot images directly reveal voting behavior in its most raw form, unmitigated by hindsight, social desirability, or other intervening affects.”

By looking at the partisan nature of the down-ballot choices made by Nader voters, the two scholars estimated that the Gore-Bush breakdown would have been about 60-40. That’s a slightly smaller ratio than found in the national exit poll, but nonetheless a clear lean toward Gore. Herron and Lewis note this means Nader voters were not all left-wing, yet they still conclude, “Nader spoiled Gore’s presidency only because the 2000 presidential race in Florida was unusually tight.”

The extreme tightness of the 2000 result makes it easy for Green sympathizers to cast blame elsewhere, such as Stein’s point that “many D’s voted for greater evil in ’00.” That’s a reference to the fact that 11 percent of Democrats voted for Bush, a number many Greens cite in arguing that Gore failed to hold on to his base. But this point ignores that there are conservative Democrats who routinely vote Republican at the presidential level. The same 11 percent snubbed John Kerry in 2004. Even Barack Obama lost 10 percent of Democrats en route to his seven-point 2008 victory.

Anything can be blamed, like Gore’s failure to win Tennessee (a cheap shot, since Gore had shed much of his Southern conservatism by 2000, making Tennessee a reach) or abandoning Ohio late in race, only to lose by a mere 3.5 percentage points.

Lots of factors can be blamed for such a paper-thin defeat. But the fact remains: One of them is Ralph Nader. If he had chosen not to embark on an obviously quixotic campaign, Al Gore would have been elected president.

Green supporters don’t want to face this truth, because of its implications for 2016. If 2000 was Gore’s fault, then a Donald Trump victory in 2016 should be seen as Hillary Clinton’s fault, not Jill Stein’s – or Bernie Sanders’ for indirectly driving voters to Stein or other third parties. The Democrats don’t own my vote, says the left-wing independent, and I won’t be forced into giving it to them.

But our presidential election system does force individuals to vote strategically — or pay a political price. We have no runoff elections. The plurality winner gets all of a state’s Electoral College votes. If you refuse to accept that mathematical reality, and you deliberately vote without strategic consideration, you get more results like 2000.

Yes, it’s your vote. You can do with it what you like, based on what criteria you choose. If you think Trump is no worse than Clinton, then you should feel no obligation to vote for Clinton.

But don’t pretend your actions don’t have consequences. To willfully ignore the practical implications of your vote, and blame the candidate for the choice that you make, is an abdication of your responsibility as a voter.

Bill Scher is a senior writer at Campaign for America’s Future, executive editor of LiberalOasis and a contributor to RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at or follow him on Twitter @BillScher.

How Science Will Explain & Fix Fake News, by David Cowan

From Skeptic Magazine, May 3, 2019

The instant, global spread of information through the Internet clearly benefits us as individuals and as a civilization. But the Internet can also be wielded to spread disinformation, a formidable downside of the technology that we’ve recently labeled “fake news.”

Simple web publishing tools enable anyone to fabricate stories that appear identical to legitimate journalism, which prompts social media users—both human and robotic—to share them as easily as real news. Fake news, crafted to exploit us, wreaks havoc on our health, finances and politics.
Reality constrains the quantity of real news stories, but our boundless imaginations unleash a torrent of fake stories that now overwhelm our news feeds. Not only does fake news deceive us, it undermines our trust in legitimate news sources. This is the real catastrophe and, many believe, the objective of Russia’s fake news campaign leading up to the 2016 U.S. elections. Fake news threatens the institution of democracy itself, because an uninformed public cannot make sound governance decisions.

Fake news, crafted to exploit us, wreaks havoc on our health, finances and politics.

Many groups have tried to stem fake news through various fact-checking initiatives that have all failed, because they fundamentally misunderstand the problem. Some employ human editors, who cannot possibly keep up in any useful timeframe. More scalable schemes crowd-source the work, as though the public could possibly know what is happening elsewhere in the world. Others employ machine learning, as though reality follows some recognizable pattern. Others use automated reference-checking to verify facts elsewhere online, defying the very definition of “news.” Some internet media platforms necessarily publish “both sides of the story” side by side, serving up contradictory facts that guarantee misinformation and confusion. Some find the problem so intractable that their only remedy is to “educate the public” that news sources simply cannot be trusted, and that truth is a matter of opinion always “worthy of respect.”

The Rules of Ethical Journalism
* Verify every reported fact.
* Quickly correct errors and disseminate the correction at least as widely as the original content.
* Report all objectively credible sides of any issue while properly presenting the proportional weight of the evidence.
* Put facts and quotes in their proper context.
* Go to original sources whenever possible, and give subjects an opportunity to respond.
* Respect and preserve the confidentiality of sources.
* Accept neither payment nor gifts from anyone within the scope of your reporting.
* Resist pressure from editors, advertisers, employers, or anyone else to suppress facts that the public needs to know.
* Disclose any potential conflicts of interest.
* Never plagiarize; always attribute.
* Clearly distinguish opinions, advocacy and commentary from fact, and label them accordingly.
* Clearly distinguish advertising from editorial content, and label it accordingly.
* Subject copy to editorial review.
* Treat sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.
* Show compassion for those affected by news coverage, especially victims of natural and man-made disasters, children and sex crime victims, and those accused of crimes until they are tried in a court of law.
* Welcome questions and encourage civil, public discourse around journalistic practices, coverage and news content.

Fortunately, examining fake news through the lens of science greatly simplifies the problem and points us to tangible, effective remedies. Just as we apply science to the critical study of history, journalism is simply the scientific investigation into the truth behind current human affairs. Just as natural scientists do, “ethical journalists” follow a methodology to encode objectivity, transparency, and best practices. (See the sidebar to review the Rules of Ethical Journalism.)
Violators are not real journalists; they fit the mold of pseudoscientists who sidestep or even flout the scientific method. They are the source of fake news.
It is critical to distinguish fake news from news that is simply wrong. The common fallacy that fake news and wrong news are the same leads to great confusion, as politicians hurl the term “Fake News!” to dispute one fact and therefore dismiss entire news teams. Scientists can be wrong without being fake, and so can journalists. Inaccuracies are inevitable— the key is to follow rules that minimize and correct them.
That’s why fact-checking is not only futile; it is also barely relevant. Instead of hopelessly chasing errors in each story that pops up, we should routinely and openly audit the journalistic practices of reporters and news platforms. Audits can be performed by associations like Newseum, or startups like NewsGuard that survey and monitor news reporting practices. Consider how financial audits that bring trust to stock markets certify the controls of a corporate Finance Department rather than the specific numbers reported to Wall Street. This is a more tractable and relevant approach to fixing the problem, helping us critically assess news in real time based on the source, just as we do in deciding which scientific articles to believe. A peer-respected author from a media outlet with disciplined editorial practices generates both credible science and credible news.
Although most people do not become professional scientists, we teach the scientific method to all students to develop critical thinking skills, appreciate scientific work, and reject pseudoscientific claims. We must similarly teach journalism to all high school students if we want a society that appreciates the difference between journalism and fake news, and has the tools to distinguish them. In fact, these classes can directly contribute to the solution, by openly scrutinizing reporters’ work on Wiki pages that everyone can see. Such a significant corpus of journalistic reviews would yield strong signals to the public.

Fake news will finally wane when major news distributors such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter adopt this scientific mindset. Historically complicit, these companies are now eager to escape the hot seat, but they first need to overcome their powerful institutional bias that truth is whatever their users click on. Specifically, they must transparently label journalistic audits on the news stories they stream, and incorporate the signals from these audits in prioritizing the articles populating our news feeds.
When we as a society understand and appreciate how journalism works, and when our news feeds prioritize content from real journalists, we will once again enjoy the freedom and security endowed by a well-informed democracy.

About the Author
David Cowan is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and a trustee of the Center For Inquiry. In 1995 he founded VeriSign to bring trust to e-commerce by authenticating the identity of web servers.

Two Fake News Pieces but Must Reads

May 1, 2019

James Comey: How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr

Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive this president.

(Mr. Comey is the former F.B.I. director.)
NYTimes,  May 1, 2019

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 6.49.50 PM

CreditSarah Silbiger/The New York Times

People have been asking me hard questions. What happened to the leaders in the Trump administration, especially the attorney general, Bill Barr, who I have said was due the benefit of the doubt?
How could Mr. Barr, a bright and accomplished lawyer, start channeling the president in using words like “no collusion” and F.B.I. “spying”? And downplaying acts of obstruction of justice as products of the president’s being “frustrated and angry,” something he would never say to justify the thousands of crimes prosecuted every day that are the product of frustration and anger?
How could he write and say things about the report by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, that were apparently so misleading that they prompted written protest from the special counsel himself?
How could Mr. Barr go before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and downplay President Trump’s attempt to fire Mr. Mueller before he completed his work?

And how could Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, after the release of Mr. Mueller’s report that detailed Mr. Trump’s determined efforts to obstruct justice, give a speech quoting the president on the importance of the rule of law? Or on resigning, thank a president who relentlessly attacked both him and the Department of Justice he led for “the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations”?
What happened to these people?
I don’t know for sure. People are complicated, so the answer is most likely complicated. But I have some idea from four months of working close to Mr. Trump and many more months of watching him shape others.
Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them. Sometimes what they reveal is inspiring. For example, James Mattis, the former secretary of defense, resigned over principle, a concept so alien to Mr. Trump that it took days for the president to realize what had happened, before he could start lying about the man.
But more often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. I think that’s at least part of what we’ve seen with Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.
It starts with your sitting silent while he lies, both in public and private, making you complicit by your silence. In meetings with him, his assertions about what “everyone thinks” and what is “obviously true” wash over you, unchallenged, as they did at our private dinner on Jan. 27, 2017, because he’s the president and he rarely stops talking. As a result, Mr. Trump pulls all of those present into a silent circle of assent.

Speaking rapid-fire with no spot for others to jump into the conversation, Mr. Trump makes everyone a co-conspirator to his preferred set of facts, or delusions. I have felt it — this president building with his words a web of alternative reality and busily wrapping it around all of us in the room.
I must have agreed that he had the largest inauguration crowd in history because I didn’t challenge that. Everyone must agree that he has been treated very unfairly. The web building never stops.
From the private circle of assent, it moves to public displays of personal fealty at places like cabinet meetings. While the entire world is watching, you do what everyone else around the table does — you talk about how amazing the leader is and what an honor it is to be associated with him.
Sure, you notice that Mr. Mattis never actually praises the president, always speaking instead of the honor of representing the men and women of our military. But he’s a special case, right? Former Marine general and all. No way the rest of us could get away with that. So you praise, while the world watches, and the web gets tighter.
Next comes Mr. Trump attacking institutions and values you hold dear — things you have always said must be protected and which you criticized past leaders for not supporting strongly enough. Yet you are silent. Because, after all, what are you supposed to say? He’s the president of the United States.
You feel this happening. It bothers you, at least to some extent. But his outrageous conduct convinces you that you simply must stay, to preserve and protect the people and institutions and values you hold dear. Along with Republican members of Congress, you tell yourself you are too important for this nation to lose, especially now.
You can’t say this out loud — maybe not even to your family — but in a time of emergency, with the nation led by a deeply unethical person, this will be your contribution, your personal sacrifice for America. You are smarter than Donald Trump, and you are playing a long game for your country, so you can pull it off where lesser leaders have failed and gotten fired by tweet.

Of course, to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values.
And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.
James Comey is the former F.B.I. director and author of “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.”

April 30, 2019

Andrew Restuccia: The sanctification of Donald Trump

“I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times, and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said earlier this year.

saint DonaldNicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

For his closest advisers, President Donald Trump is a godsend — literally.
Trump’s campaign manager says the president was sent by God to save the country. The White House press secretary thinks God wanted Trump to be president. And the secretary of State believes it’s possible that Trump is on a holy mission to protect the Jewish people from the threat of Iran.

Forget the allegations of extramarital affairs, the nonstop Twitter insults and the efforts to close the southern border to migrants. Trump’s allies insist that his presidency is divinely inspired.
“There has never been and probably never will be a movement like this again,” Brad Parscale, the president’s campaign manager, wrote Tuesday morning on Twitter.

“Only God could deliver such a savior to our nation, and only God could allow me to help. God bless America!”

Parscale’s tweet, the latest example of a Trump adviser casting the president as a savior, comes as the White House is preparing to host religious leaders on Wednesday and Thursday for the National Day of Prayer, an annual event in which people of all faiths are encouraged to pray for the nation.
The president, who doesn’t regularly attend church services, has emerged as an unlikely ally of the evangelical right, building close relationships with influential conservative religious figures. The White House screened an anti-abortion movie earlier this month, part of a broader strategy to energize evangelical voters ahead of the 2020 elections by amplifying false claims about late-term abortions.

But for observers of American history and advocates for the separation of church and state, the assertions that Trump’s presidency is endorsed by God are alarming.
“Christians should beware of a political use of the word ‘savior,’ which goes to the very heart of our faith. This particular statement is a gross expression of Christian nationalism, which I define as equating Christian and American identities,” said Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Washington-based Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. “People of faith know that God is much larger than any one candidate, party, election or country.”
Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian, said, “What these political lieutenants are saying to the faithful is that, ‘You have no choice; God has told you how you must vote.’
“Republican administrations historically have talked about individual rights, the autonomy of the individual, preventing government from dictating political choice,” he said. “By bringing the sacred into politics, they are actually imposing a view onto his followers and depriving them of a freedom of choice.”
And even some of Trump’s most vocal evangelical backers have some qualms with the notion that God wanted him to win the presidency.
“If you give God credit for a good president, then you’ve got to blame God when you have a bad one. So I don’t think that’s the way to look at it,” Jerry Falwell Jr. told POLITICO, adding later: “I don’t think you can say that God gives us good leaders. What do you do when you get a bad one, say, ‘God messed up’? That’s silly.”…

Falwell said he would be attend a National Day of Prayer dinner at the White House on Wednesday with the president and first lady Melania Trump.

Parscale, who did not respond to a text seeking comment, isn’t the first Trump ally to make the case that Trump is carrying out God’s will.
“I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times, and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network News earlier this year. Sanders did not comment for this story.
And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested in March that Trump might have been sent to protect the Jewish people from Iran.
“Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?” a reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network asked Pompeo during a visit to Israel.


“A weightless world is indifferent”

Roger Cohen, in the NYT, writing about the re-emergence of Mussolini-likes in Italy.

“Liberation is a poor word to devalue, especially when hundreds of thousands have died for it. Salvini, the leader of the League party and a central figure in the pan-European rightist resurgence, did a disservice to history and honor that will delight his followers. Italy’s liberation by the Allies and partisan resistance forces was not some debatable “derby” devoid of moral significance, but a victory that laid the foundation for Italy’s postwar re-emergence as a decent, democratic country….

Screen Shot 2019-04-27 at 5.04.47 PM
Benito Mussolini, second left in front, in Rome with Nazi officers in 1936. CreditAssociated Press

All that, however, took place in the faraway 20th century. Words that marked that century’s course — Fascism, Communism, totalitarianism, Holocaust — have become weightless in the 21st century, fungible elements in a furious fake-news theater. The risk is that a weightless world is indifferent.
Montgomery, Ala., home of the year-old National Memorial for Peace and Justice , a monument to the 4,400 African Americans lynched by white mobs between Reconstruction and the civil rights era…. As I stood awed by the pain the monument represented, an older black man approached … and as we gazed together at the dangling blocks of metal, he said something I don’t often pause to consider: “As bad as things are now,” he said, “we’ve gone through much worse.”
I stand with Lewis today when he promises to cause all “necessary trouble” to face down Trump. “Whatever he tries to do, he cannot take us back,” Lewis says. There will be some setbacks. But the American people are not going back.

Philip Waring: I don’t know about you but I don’t know where to turn. The political parties that might have impeached the man for obstruction don’t seem now to want to do so. How could they not want to do that? And then how could we have, millions of us anyway, elected this Mussolini-like? Where is the fault, in the electoral system or in ourselves?

Igor, Is this you now?

Hey Igor, It seems to me that when I knew you in Moscow  in the spring of 1991, the time of the Gulf War that we listened to on your radio, you did keep up a healthy lifestyle.  What did you do? Tennis was it, or perhaps jogging, although that’s not what I remember most about you. No, what I remember is drinking a lot of vodka which was plentiful at that time right at the end of the Soviet Union. while sitting there at your kitchen table à la Sakarov and chewing on the remains of a fish that had been hanging outside on what I think was also your clothesline.

Good times! I hope what you’ve sent us on FB is not a true image of Igor today.

Also, you might check my translation. Do you remember my old pocket dictionary that always accompanied me during our Moscow walks? Well I still have it, out today and on my desk as I translate: Рано или поздно наступает такоӣ возраст…



Рано или поздно наступает такоӣ возраст, когда
Sooner or later there comes such an age, when
больше нет смысла вести здоровый образ жизни
there is no longer any sense to lead a healthy lifestyle
Но ещё пока вести интересный
But still while leading an interesting (life)