Friday, March 17, 2017

Following the wild goose of fake news

Trump had done a relatively decent job of handling the blowback from his epically stupid accusation that Obama ordered wiretaps on him during the campaign. He hadn't repeated the accusation, his surrogates weren't repeating the accusations. A few, like Kellyanne Conway, were going out on a limb and trying to explain what he might have meant. But generally, Trump and his camp were saying 'Let Congress investigate this and report on it.' Yawn, another long, boring Congressional investigation signifying nothing and concluding nothing. That was a pretty good strategy for containing the issue--letting it dry up and die since it was only words.

That lasted over a week (a long term strategy by the standards of the Trump administration). Then on 3/16/17, Sean Spicer, the press secretary, repeated some fake news (verbatim) from Fox contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano who claimed that three intelligence sources told him that Obama got the British intelligence services to do the dirty work. I suppose that means that no paperwork exists in the US, and no Americans can be called in front of Congress who could admit to it or lie and commit perjury. So this story is now impossible to disprove!

Well, it was always impossible to disprove. Who would be naive enough to believe those liars from the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. who might swear that Obama didn't order such a thing? No red-blooded American would fall for those weasly denials, that's for sure!

The big question: when will the Trump administration learn not to repeat what they hear on Fox News, Breitbart, etc.?

Sean Spicer air quotes

Extras. The top national security adviser General McMaster supposedly apologized to the British privately. Supposedly Sean Spicer did too. And more fun--I found new sources that are hybrids of news and infotainment: news with snark, and news with misleading captions. No, Trump and the British prime minister didn't have a joint news conference this Friday 3/17/17, but on 1/27/17. The bonus here is a longer report from estimable judge and fake news innovator Napolitano.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Trump swallows fake news, barfs it back up.


This is what happens when an undiscerning person watches conservative media. The newbie, twit, or whatever term you want to use hears/sees something, and stupidly thinks it's true. Maybe it's reporting that a pizza restaurant in DC is a front for a child sex ring. Maybe it's about a secret planet behind the sun. Maybe it's that Obama ordered wiretaps on Trump during the campaign.

So Trump hears this story from a fake news source that he doesn't realize is fake news. Why doesn't he realize? I don't know. Maybe he's actually incredibly stupid. Maybe he forgot how to question authority decades ago, and had enough money so that he didn't get his ass kicked. Maybe most people are that stupid, and it's just a matter of what propaganda captures them first. Whatever.

So Trump blasts out some tweets about how terrible it is that he was wiretapped. Trump doesn't wait for evidence, an investigation with various findings of facts. No, out it goes on Twitter. Trump has now accused the prior president of extreme malfeasance.

Is Trump going to walk this back? Is he going to explain, like he did with the 'attacks in Sweden,' that he misunderstood, but it still was important and real? Frankly, it's going to be fun seeing how this plays out. Supposedly James Comey, head of the FBI, has already said it's not true, but he has to wait for someone high enough in the Justice Department to approve and receive a statement to that effect.

So where did this fake news come from? Mark Levin. A name I already know because he's blatantly lied before. The guy is such scum.

Now Mark Levin will be partially responsible for millions of people believing until their dying day that Obama tapped Trump during the election. (Only partially responsible because the idiots deserve part of the blame too.) This is going to be birtherism all over again. MARK MY WORDS. Well, I hope not, but it certainly could turn out that way.

Extra. Maybe this is the real story behind the wild exaggerations and lies of Mark Levin. Strange activity by a server in Trump Tower--yes, I had heard of that.

Update 3/6/17. Trey Gowdy, a House Republican, doesn't believe Obama ordered such wiretaps and asks Trump to have the Department of Justice to release evidence of it.
3/7/17. Devin Nunes doesn't believe it either. Allahpundit tries to explain it to HotAir readers, to no avail.
3/14/17. Two more reports on surveillance on and round Trump and his advisers. Nothing that is both big and new, and nothing that corroborates Trump's claims. He hasn't repeated his claims, and is uncharacteristically quiet as he waits for the investigation to drag out and people to stop caring about that particular blather of his.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Various Trump links

Trump is dominating the news even more now than when he was campaigning. There was a spot of good news today. His pick for top national security adviser is praised in this article, with the caveat that honesty may mean he stays on the job only two months. Well, let's be optimistic and hope for much longer than that.

Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager (with similar lack of tact with women), doesn't seem to agree with Trump's statement that his administration is a well-oiled machine. He says that Trump is trying to get a lot done, but his subordinates are a disappointment. Um, who hired them? Did he not choose well? I guess the blame has to land on Trump one way or another.

One hope I have for the new national security adviser is that he'll have a healthy distrust of the Russians. The Russian connection to many things Trump has me very worried. Pence might be visiting Europe and trying to reassure our NATO allies, but he's the VP, not Trump. Who really knows what deals Trump might be inclined to make? I take this article with a pinch of skepticism, but it does discuss the patterns that are so very worrisome.

And, as always, Trump attacks the mainstream media. The press isn't reporting on terrorist attacks. They are enemies of the American people. So far, his attacks are words only. If they turn to deeds, such as banning news outlets, launching trumped-up investigations, or inciting violence, then he will have gone into dictator-mode.

Oh, the irony! A huge purveyor of fake news...

Extras. Bob Corker, who sounds like a reasonable person, on his hopes that Trump will 'evolve.' Will Trump provoke a constitutional crisis by refusing to abide by judicial decisions? So far, he has obeyed while complaining very loudly. A more detailed article about the new pick for top national security adviser. How and why the CIA should cozy up to Trump, and the dangers if it doesn't work. The Anne Frank Center blasts Trump for not standing up to anti-semitism. The twitter responses are quite the window to accusations and counter-accusations.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Last output of crazy: Daddy, they're being mean

How can I describe the thin-skinned egotistical asshole that we currently have as president? Maybe the best thing is just to let him out himself with the bizarre things he does.

Now, an adult knows that there are ups and downs in business. An intelligent, honest, non-corrupt president knows not to interfere to help the business dealings of friends, families, donors, and supporters. But Trump isn't intelligent, honest, or free from corruption. So he tweets this when his daughter's fashion line is dropped by a major retailer:


The idiocy and corruption doesn't stop with Trump, however. Kellyanne Conway told viewers to go out and buy Ivanka Trump merchandise. But it turns out (reasonably) that federal employees aren't supposed to plug commercial enterprises while on the job. That applies when the commercial enterprise is owned by the prez's dear daughter. Imagine that: you aren't even supposed to use all that power to enrich yourself and your family. Who designs these rules?

And what does the pro-Trump, fake news purveyor Breitbart do? A huge article about how the retailer is going to suffer, but how Ivanka Trump is a trooper and will just be stronger. It reads like a bad People magazine article. Barf!

So far Nordstrom's stock took a brief loss and then bounced back. A more important question is whether the asshole president will take a well-deserved hit for this. He truly doesn't seem to understand what his job is now. It sure as hell isn't promoting his businesses or his friends' businesses. A mountain of shame on him and his idiotic supporters.

Links about 'Repeal and Replace'

For seven years the GOP bragged that they could make a better health insurance program than Obamacare. For seven years, they waved their hands, gave us bullets points sprinkled with pixie dust, and didn't deliver.

After winning the presidency, and already having majorities in the House and Senate, the GOP was supposed to be poised to repeal Obamacare on the first day of President Trump's term. Somehow, that didn't happen. BECAUSE REALITY IS A BITCH!

The GOP can't wave their hands anymore and fling pixie dust. They have to seriously crunch numbers, and it hasn't been going well for them. They can drop coverage for millions of people, they can zap the mandate and see cost rise even higher, they can repeal the taxes and blow up the deficit. What they can't do is figure out how to make a program cover more people and cost less. I wonder why not. Maybe not enough pixie dust.


Extras. Problems with repeal and replace (with less snark). True believers among Congress just don't understand the delay. Trump makes another promise about the replacement, sprinkled with prodigious amounts of manure-scented pixie dust.

One economist tries to show stimulus didn't work

I've written about the 2009 stimulus for as long as I've had this blog. The conservative talking point is that the stimulus was a giant waste of money that added at least $800B to the national debt with little or no benefit. I believe that the stimulus helped lessen and shorten the recession. I have just a tiny bit of evidence, but the con forces have never provided even a scrap of evidence... until commenter John Riggins pointed to this study by economist John Taylor. (All graphs from this study.)

Taylor's conclusions are that that the stimulus was ineffective because the money went to spending that didn't help the economy:
The federal government only increased purchases by a small amount. State and local governments saved their stimulus grants and shifted spending away from purchases to transfers. Counterfactual simulations show that the stimulus-induced decrease in state and local government purchases was larger than the increase in federal purchases. Simulations also show that a larger stimulus package with the same design as the 2009 stimulus would not have increased government purchases or consumption by a larger amount. These results raise doubts about the efficacy of such packages adding weight to similar assessments reached more than thirty years ago.
Now, I suppose I try to look at the evidence without his conclusion in mind. When I do this, I see the evidence painting a somewhat different picture. Here is the most significant graph:

Actual data from that time (green dashed line) shows that spending by states went down, even with the stimulus support. Taylor runs some sort of model that shows without the stimulus (red/dashed blue line), states actually would have increased spending. He writes that they would have done this through borrowing.

This sounds like a load of bullshit to me. When I look at this graph, focusing on the area in the red square, I see state spending dropping significantly. After Obama's election, the drop in spending mediated somewhat, but didn't reverse until the stimulus was passed. My interpretation is that states were tightening their spending significantly as revenues dropped. Then, when help seemed imminent, they moderated that policy and started spending somewhat more due to the promise of federal funds. Without the federal funds, the drop would have continued and many more workers would have ended up unemployed, worsening the recession.

Taylor posits that, for some unknown reason, states would suddenly substantially increase their borrowing, and spend the borrowed money immediately:

Is that what most states were going to do when revenue plummeted? Somehow I don't think so. I think they'd make some cuts, and maybe try to borrow more. The results that Taylor gets from his model are counterintuitive, and probably dubious when you think of how most states deal with revenue shortfalls.

I've expressed my opinion that payments to states were "very effective at reducing massive public job losses," and thus probably the most effective part of the stimulus. I see support for this opinion in the historical data presented by Taylor. A major drop in state spending was slowed and reversed due to stimulus funds.

Of course, I'm not an economist. Much of the verbiage in Taylor's report is meaningless to me. But it is clear that Taylor's model and his rosy conclusion depend on a huge and anomalous increase in states' borrowing.

Taylor's other conclusions, that tax rebates and other direct grants probably didn't help--I find that much more believable, though even then it's hard to know.

However, now I have one other data point that supports my contention that the stimulus helped. Thank you, John Taylor.

Extras. Summaries of nine studies. I got bored and didn't read the whole thing. A critique with some of the same complaints I had, but from a real economist. A more readable critique explaining how hard it is to figure out a model.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Left-leaning fake news: Found one. Sort of.

I see lots of fake news from the right, less from the left. The MSM media employs a different approach to its bias. It will not report on issues (bias by omission), downplay the importance, not follow up, or latch onto a convenient explanation when they should be digging deeper. They rarely do the outright lie. When they do and they're caught, they have standard procedures: correction, apology, and if the lie was bad enough, someone gets fired. So outright lies are much more the province of the conservative media.

This is one rare article where a lazy reader could be left believing a clear lie. Start with the headline:

Did Yiannopoulos secretly send more than 100 thugs to Berkeley to break up his own speech?

(By the way, if you don't know who Milo Yiannopoulos is, it's my displeasure to tell you he enjoys being a provocateur at Breitbart who somewhat admires the alt-right and 4chan types. So, well paid scum. Also gay.)

The headline is nice use of a question to imply the incorrect info, but still allow the author to deny lying. "I am only asking a question" -- I think that was a standard line of Glenn Beck as he drew his infamous charts showing the evil machinations of whomever.

Then I had to scroll down through the equivalent of about five screens before the author casts doubt on this speculation. Up till that point, it's a description of what's known about the event that supports this conspiratorial speculation.

However, this article is generally better than the conservative media because the impression is corrected if you read far enough down. So, it's not like the rest of the fake news I complain about, like Clinton going to Pedophile Island and lies like that.

So even when I see something that looks like fake news in the MSM, it isn't. Conservative media still has a near monopoly of this particularly form of despicable behavior.


Extra. More reporting on the campus police's weak response to the rioting. Compare these two responses to the riots.