Saturday, March 18, 2017

Donald Trump and "Fake News"



As has been pointed out--by me, here, and by many others at many times and places--Donald Trump dispenses lies, while calling any media stories or articles that he feels are unfavorable to him "fake news." This--as has also been pointed out--is the tactic of a dictator. Dictators feel compelled to deflect criticism of themselves by attacking the media.

To define the term, fake news stories that are wholly manufactured; they are started by some usually unknown person, perhaps on a web site, and then they gain wide circulation via the Internet and social media.

I thought I would make up some "fake news" stories myself.

Fake News: Trump admits that the accusations that Obama wiretapped him were totally made up, and apologizes to Obama and the American people.

Fake News: Trump appoints all people-friendly choices to head his cabinet departments.

Fake News: Kellyanne Conway (Trump advisor) says, "I've been an evil, lying b*itch but I've been converted and now I see my evil ways."

Fake News: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigns, saying "I just can't lie for that clown any longer."

Fake News: Trump resigns!!

Well, since none of these are true, they'd count as fake news; but I admit that to me they're just as much wishful thinking.

Copyright © 2017.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

My Issues with the Feminists



First, let me assert that I am a feminist, at least as far as condemning domestic abuse (and the attitude of men toward women that is shown by men who feel they can do that sort of thing to their spouses and girlfriends), condemning sexual harassment, favoring equal pay and equal opportunity, and encouraging girls to consider any and all traditionally masculine occupations.

Also, I positively applaud when women in third-world countries start businesses; and I believe women should have control over their own health and reproduction, and do not feel that a man should be able to override the woman's decision. (Sadly, in too many countries, women cannot obtain contraception supplies or even counseling because of the objection of a husband, priest, or some other--usually a male).

On the other hand, I find I have to take issue with some of the claims, assertions, and implications that feminist women seem to use.

I used to work for a woman who was quite the energetic feminist. One time when she and I were chatting, I referred to one of my female students--this was community college--as a "girl." Said boss very quickly said, "I she over 16? If she's over 16, don't refer to her as a 'girl'."

Well, this is nonsense. Never mind that many women refer to their fellows of that gender as "girls" (or even guys!). Adult men are often called "boys": the boys in the band, boys' night out, the boys of summer, our boys in the service. And surely many, if not all, of the males to whom this term is applied are over 16.

Can you say "double standard"? Maybe even hypocrisy?

Next, women seem to like to facilitate the idea that cancer is a women's issue: women own cancer, and seem to be trying to make "cancer" synonymous with "breast cancer." Contrary to the impression they foster, breast cancer is not the most common type of cancer. Both of these are false. According to statistics I just saw, one in three women will get cancer, whereas for men the figure is one in two! And breast cancer is the third most common type of cancer. Most common is digestive tract (I would have thought lung cancer). Second most common is male genital tract cancer. In other words, more men die from prostate cancer (possibly lumping it with some other "male genital cancers," if there are others) than women die from breast cancer. Yet, where are all the marches for prostate cancer, the pink ribbons, etc.? Women have been very vocal about all the women who are carried off by breast cancer--and that is a terrible thing, to be sure. (Let me hasten to point out that I have lost more than one friend to breast cancer, and it has stricken my family as well.) But by comparison, I have to suppose that men are just dying in silence.

P.S. Confession, disclaimer, or whatever: I am a survivor of prostate cancer, so maybe I have an axe to grind in all this.

Copyright © 2017.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Donald J. Trump, Car Salesman




Donald Trump is like a car salesman.* He will say whatever comes into his head in an effort to persuade, with little or no thought to whether he is uttering the truth.

Examples: He said that his inauguration drew the largest crowd in US history. Untrue. Photographs of Trump's inauguration crowd on the Washington, D.C. mall and of Barack Obama's inauguration crowd four or eight years earlier clearly showed that the latter was larger.)

He said that he won the election with the largest number of electoral votes, at least among recent presidents. Again, untrue. Most if not all of the four or five most recent presidents received more electoral votes. I believe I heard him say he'd gotten 360 electoral votes. The correct number was 304.

He said that the only reason he did not win the majority of the popular vote in the election  was because of voter fraud. Many people, including people in Trump's own party, have said there is no evidence of significant voter fraud.

It's very interesting, even astonishing, that a speaking event which Trump has scheduled is to be, his team claims, an election event. One can only speculate as to why he is campaigning for re-election when it is not even a month into his present term.

Possibly, out of insecurity, he does not feel confident that he will be able to run, in four years, on a record of solid accomplishments. More likely, he knows that his approval ratings, according to the polls (which Trump publicly denounces and claims contempt for) are very low.

________
*I apologize for the calumny against car salesmen. Compared to Trump they probably would come off favorably. Also, I want to admit I am engaging in a stereotype. It may be outdated and even if it is not, it is no more accurate than any other stereotype, and doubtless there are many, many car salesmen who are essentially honest and ethical.

Copyright © 2017.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

More (Bad News) on Donald Trump


It has been not yet a month since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the new president of the United States, and it's been terrible, alarming, and a disaster--at least in my opinion. No doubt there are some who approve of everything he's done so far--although polls show he rates a very low approval rating.
 

I will try to enumerate just a few of the reasons for concern.
 

  • First, on the very day of his inauguration, he claimed that his inauguration drew the largest crowd in history to the Washington, D.C. mall. When that was proved to be incorrect by the publication of a photo of an obviously larger crowd at the inauguration of the previous president, Barack Obama, Trump--who simply cannot stand to be criticized, let alone proved to be wrong, ordered the National Park Service to come up with a different photograph--and claimed that he had presented an "alternative fact." Alternative fact!! What possible sense can anyone make out of a term like that? It has conjured up in people's minds the depiction of a future dystopia in the George Orwell novel 1984, where the government tries to force people to believe contrary-to-fact things. 
 
  • Even before his inauguration, Trump asserted that he lost the popular vote (by some 3 million votes) because of voter fraud. Even people in his own party have said that there is no evidence whatsoever of any significant voter fraud.

  • Second, there is his travel ban. He banned entry to the United States of people from six Muslim-majority countries. The very day after Trump signed the executive order which put that ban into effect, a report was issued by researchers from the University of Chicago which showed that 83% of acts considered terrorist attacks (I imagine this includes things like school and mall mass shootings) were committed by "home-grown" terrorists rather than visitors from foreign countries. But Mr. Trump has his mind made up and does not want to be confused with facts. Besides, anti-Muslim xenophobia plays well with many of his supporters.

  • Then, when a judge issued a stay of the no-entry order, Trump immediately attacked the judge, calling him a "so-called judge." He did this in a tweet, via Twitter, as he is so fond of doing. Such name-calling is childish, but is typical of Mr. Trump. Note that even Trump's nominee to the vacant seat on the U.S Supreme Court, Judge Gorsuch, deplored this attack on the judiciary.

 
Mr. Trump cannot brook being reminded that he does not have absolute power but that the American system has separation of powers and constitutional limits on the president's power. As stated above, he does not handle any criticism, contraction, or any disagreement very well. This is not quite the definition of a diplomat or public official.

  • Trump had asserted that crime in the U.S. is at a 47-year high. When David Muir of ABC TV news was interviewing Trump and pointed out to him that crime, in fact, was at a 57-year low, Trump said something like, "Well, the people believe that." Hey, Mr. Trump: Once upon a time "the people" believed that the Earth is flat. That doesn't make it so. Isn't it up to you to lead them to the truth, rather than confirm and reinforce false beliefs?

And he keeps repeating his lies. It was Hitler's propaganda minister, Goebbels, who said that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. I guess that's Trump's model.

 
  • In another example of how Trump and his associates lie, KellyAnne Conway, his "advisor" and one-time campaign manager, keeps talking about a "Bowling Green massacre," when there was no such thing. They give us "alternative facts," and when refuted in the media they claim those media outlets dispense "fake news." Trump, at a recent news conference, would not accept any questions from media which he viewed as hostile, calling them "fake news." This is very dangerous as we rely on the news media to keep us informed and let us have a check on our government officials.

 
  • Next, there are the people whom Trump has nominated for cabinet positions ("secretaries" or ministers of the various government departments). Just one was Betty DeVos, Trump's nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education. The qualifications of this woman have been questioned in Congress (not only by opposition Democratic senators but even by two Republican senators, i.e. members of Trump's own party) because she has no experience with public education. She personally has never attended a public school and never taught in a public school, nor has she sent her children to public school.

 
  • Then there is Senator Jefferson Sessions of Alabama, Trump's nominee to be Attorney General, and this charged with enforcing laws such as civil rights laws and voting-rights laws. This man was well-known 40 years ago to be a racist. He now denies that he is a racist but one my well doubt whether he has changed.

 
Unfortunately, at least these two nominees of Trump's have already been confirmed by the Senate of the U.S. Congress. His other nominees are opponents of environmental protections and of minimum wages for U.S. workers. People who voted for Trump in the belief that he would be the champion of "the little guy," if they have not yet realized their serious mistake, will at some point.

 
Revised 2/12/2017
Copyright © 2017.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Trump Starts Out with More of the Same--Lies


Donald Trump started off his presidency, on Inauguration Day, with yet another one of his lies. He claimed that his inauguration had drawn the biggest crowd in U.S. history. That was refuted in short order by a news outlet issuing side-by-side photos of the Trump inauguration crowd and the one that Barack Obama drew for his inauguration; the Obama crowd was clearly a lot bigger.
 
Trump and his people promptly claimed all this was a lie and a fraud. I guess we are to believe that the photo of the Obama inauguration audience had been photoshopped.
 
A policeman once told me of a doctrine that they use to help decide if an assertion should be believed. It's known as cui bono, meaning (translated a bit loosely), Who would benefit (if that were true)? In this case, who has more to gain my lying, the Trumpets or the media? (It also reminds me of the attempts of the Nixon administration to discredit the media as a way of deflection criticism or perhaps even scrutiny.)
 
Evidently, in trying to weigh in on whose side should be believed, or the Trumpets' practice of lying, Mr. Spicer, the new White House Press Secretary, used the phrase "alternative facts." This conjures up a very scary, dystopian image such as was depicted in George Orwell's novel 1984, where the government demanded that people believe (in some fashion) things that they knew to be false, or help in their own brainwashing to believe in these incorrect things.
 
Trump, according to a documentary program about him on the PBS series "Frontline," evidently has always believed that he could get away with telling lies. I think in his campaign he exercised the belief that, if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. This is not only cynical, it evokes the tactics of Hitler's propaganda minister Hermann Goering.
 
As I said in a previous blog posting, if only people (when they've heard Trump's lies and before they decide to vote for him) would avail themselves of means (e.g., web sites like FactCheck.org) of ascertaining whether something is true or not.

See a related article:

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/alternative-facts-the-needless-lies-of-the-trump-administration/ar-AAm7jly?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=DELLDHP
 
Copyright © 2017.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Politicians' Lies

According to an article by the Associated Press and appearing on MSN.com, Donald Trump, in his inauguration speech today, made several statements which the AP, rather tactfully, termed exaggerations:

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/fact-check-trump-starts-on-familiar-note-with-exaggeration/ar-AAm4guB?li=AA5a8k

This probably should not surprise anyone, since  his campaign was full of claims and statements of very doubtful truthfulness. To me it is very, very sad that someone can get himself elected based on selling the voters a bunch of lies. (Of course I have to think that the voters, ultimately, are to blame for this state of affairs--but then probably not too many people know where to find fact-checking).

I wonder whether all politicians are untruthful. Studies have shown that people will say that politicians (for example, Congressmen) are a pack of scumbags--presumably liars and perhaps stupid as well--but that their representatives are good. Or at least perfectly okay.

I wonder whether my readers believe that all politicians lie, at least at times. I'd welcome comments on that.

Copyright (c) 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Winner by a Slogan; or, How to Get Elected President of the United States


There are many people who are saddened, disappointed, and alarmed by the election of Donald Trump. And there have been (and will be) many analyses as to how or why that came about.

I believe that one factor (among, doubtless, many) was his slogan, "Make America Great Again." Evidently this slogan had some effect, in terms of persuading some voters that Mr. Trump was offering something desirable for the country.
 
But, what does this mean? This is very vague, but it packs at least a couple implications, namely that America was once great, and that it no longer is (plus, that Mr. Trump can effectively do something abut that).
 
Besides questioning those two assumptions, a voter, before the election, should  have asked—at least to himself, if not aloud--"Great in what sense?" There are countless parameters or measures or rankings in which America would not score Number 1. To name just a few: per capita income; literacy; student math and science scores; life expectancy; low infant mortality—the list goes on.
 
Are these the things Trump has promised to improve? I don't think most of these are the things he talked about in his campaign speeches. The slogan is vague and, sad to say, has suckered in a lot of people who, I am sure, never stopped to really think about it.
No complex idea or issue can be adequately encapsulated in a four-word slogan. That is why I will never join in any march where the marchers are chanting some short and chantable slogan.
 
Slogans are effectively designed to discourage and even prevent real thought, by which I mean an analysis of what it is they're saying. And a great many people have never been taught or encouraged by parents or teachers to think analytically or critically. I know this from teaching: I used to berate my students for not being more critical. I'd tell them, "I could stand up here and say 'Black is white' and you'd just mechanically write that down in your notes."

I don't mean to suggest for a minute that slogans are the sole property of right-wing demagogues like Donald Trump. Barack Obama ran on the slogan, "Yes we can." Can do WHAT, fer chrissake? Did anyone stop to ask that? Surely, the people who come up with these slogans appreciate the power of the unstated, that-which-is-left-unsaid. They know slogans are vague, and pretty much let the audience supply what meaning they choose--like an ink-blot test. And they do that deliberately. Sloganeering is a fine art, and a part of propaganda as it was pretty much perfected by Hermann Goering, Hitler's propaganda  minister.

Copyright (c) 2017.