May 19, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 PM


Trump administration declassifies full Susan Rice email sent on Inauguration Day (BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN,,05/19/2020, Politico)

"Director Comey affirmed that he is proceeding 'by the book' as it relates to law enforcement," Rice wrote. "From a national security perspective, Comey said he does have some concerns that incoming NSA Flynn is speaking frequently with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. Comey said that could be an issue as it relates to sharing sensitive information. President Obama asked if Comey was saying that the NSC should not pass sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn. Comey replied 'potentially.' He added that he has no indication thus far that Flynn has passed classified information to Kislyak, but he noted that 'the level of communication is unusual.' The President asked Comey to inform him if anything changes in the next few weeks that should affect how we share classified information with the incoming team. Comey said that he would."

That even Donald had to fire him for lying demonstrates the Director's wisdom.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Case for Capitalism (Lee Edwards, 5/19/20, Law & Liberty)

They are right about one thing: the rich are becoming richer. There are now nearly 19 million millionaires in America, two-fifths of all the millionaires in the world. We have 621 billionaires, one-fourth of all the billionaires globally. They are rich because the United States rewards the entrepreneurial spirit. American capitalism has also produced the largest and most affluent middle class in the world, with a per capita GDP of more than $65,000. By contrast, Communist China's per capita GDP is an estimated $10,900, one-sixth of ours.

But it is also true that the poor are getting richer. Measured by consumption, according to economist Bruce Meyer of the University of Notre Dame, the percentage of the poor fell from 13 percent in 1980 to 2.9 percent in 2018, while the official poverty rate fell by only 1.2 percentage points to 12.3 percent. A major reason for the discrepancy is that the official poverty measure is based on cash income only, which fails to include all the resources available to a family including tax credits and in-kind transfers. The reality is that the average "poor" American owns a car, enjoys air conditioning, has access to the Internet, and has at least one TV. The official poverty line for a family of four is $25,465.

Capitalism benefits all, as seen by the lessening of historical racial and gender disparities. From 2013-2018, the five metropolitan areas with the largest black population -- New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Washington, D.C. -- saw black median household income increase significantly from rates of 7 percent in Washington, D.C., to 21 percent in Atlanta. In 2019, blacks maintained their lowest unemployment rate ever of 5.5 percent. The jobless rate for Hispanics hit a record low of 3.9 percent. The 11.6 million women-owned firms in America represent 39 percent of all private businesses. No other nation comes close to matching this level of female entrepreneurship.

Adam Smith's "invisible hand" is everywhere. Capitalism, not socialism, is responsible for a global economic miracle: The number of people living in poverty around the world has declined every year since 1990 while the global population has risen. Free-market capitalism, in the words of the Pew Research Center, has for the first time "allowed [billions of] people to decide for themselves what they value and what type of life they wish to pursue."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"Immune to Evidence": How Dangerous Coronavirus Conspiracies SpreadConspiratorial videos and websites about COVID-19 are going viral. Here's how one of the authors of "The Conspiracy Theory Handbook" says you can fight back. One big takeaway: Focus your efforts on people who can hear evidence and think rationally. (Marshall Allen, 5/18/20, ProPublica)

Conspiracy theories related to the COVID-19 pandemic seem to be proliferating, and some may even be taking root. So I asked Lewandowsky to share how he identifies and understands them, and what we can do to sort through the confusion. The interview has been condensed for clarity and length.

What's the difference between a real conspiracy and a conspiracy theory?

A real conspiracy actually exists, and it is usually uncovered by journalists, whistleblowers, document dumps from a corporation or government, or it's discovered by a government agency. The Volkswagen emissions scandal, for example, was discovered by conventional ways when some engineers discovered an anomaly in a report. It was all mundane -- normal people having normal observations based on data. They said, "Hang on, something's funny here," and then it unraveled. The same is true for the Iran-contra scandal. That broke via a newspaper in Lebanon. True conspiracies are often uncovered through the media. In Watergate, it was journalists not taking "no" for an answer.

A conspiracy theory, on the other hand, is discussed at length on the internet by people who are not bona fide journalists or government officials or whistleblowers in an organization or investigative committees of regulators. They're completely independent sources, individuals who self-nominate and put themselves forward as being in possession of the truth. In principle, that could be true. But then if you look at the way these people think and talk and communicate, you discover their cognition is different from what I would call conventional cognition.

What are some differences between conventional and conspiratorial thinking?

You can start with healthy skepticism vs. overriding suspicion. As a scientist, I'm obviously skeptical. I'm questioning anything people say. I look at my own data and other people's data with a skeptical eye. But after skeptics have been skeptical, they are quite capable of accepting evidence. Once something has withstood scrutiny, you accept it. Otherwise you're in a state of complete nihilism and you can't believe anything.

That crucial second step of acceptance is absent in conspiracy theorists. That is where conspiracy theorists are different. Their skepticism is a bottomless, never-ending pit of skepticism about anything related to the official account. And that skepticism is accompanied by extreme gullibility to anything related to the conspiracy. It's an imbalance between skepticism for anything an official may say and complete gullibility for something some random dude on the internet will tweet out. It's that imbalance that differentiates conspiracy thinking from standard cognition.

Conspiracy thinking is immune to evidence. In the "Plandemic" video, the absence of evidence is twisted to be seen to be as evidence for the theory. They say the cover-up is so perfect that you will never find out about it. That's the opposite of rational thinking. Usually when you think of a hypothesis, you think of the evidence. And if there's zero evidence, you give it up or say there is no evidence for it.

Conspiracy theorists may also simultaneously believe things that are contradictory. In the "Plandemic" video, for example, they say COVID-19 both came from a Wuhan lab and that we're all infected with the disease from vaccinations. They're making both claims, and they don't hang together.

More generally, conspiracy theorists show this contradictory thinking by presenting themselves as both victims and heroes. They see themselves as these heroes in possession of the truth. But they also see themselves as victims. They feel they are being persecuted by this evil establishment or the deep state or whatever it is.

The fact that evidence of reality only makes them cling all the tighter to their unreality is the most important take away for the well-balanced.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sorry, Donald Trump: Media-Bias Claims May be Overblown (Hans J. G. Hassell John Holbein Kevin Reuning Matthew R. Miles, 5/19/20, National Interest)

In our research, conducted in 2017 and 2018, we examined media bias two different ways.

First, we studied whether the media displays bias by the stories they choose to cover. For example, a media outlet might cover a politician's initial failure to respond to COVID-19 while another outlet chooses to bypass that story. This is what we call gatekeeping bias. What journalists cover, or their agenda setting, has a powerful effect on the issues people care about. Media bias, in other words, can occur if journalists ignore stories not aligned with their ideological preferences.

Second, we studied whether the media discussed stories differently - if they used a different tone or perspective to cover the same story. Two news outlets, for example, might cover a politician's press conference very differently. News framing, studies show, has an effect on public opinion, though it's often short-lived.

In the summer of 2017, we visited the website or Facebook page of every newspaper in the United States to gather email addresses of political journalists and editors. We collected email addresses for over 13,000 political journalists. We surveyed those journalists and combined what we learned with a separate analysis of newspaper content.

We found no evidence of the first form of bias - gatekeeping.

Although there is bias in how newspapers cover politics - the second kind of bias - the effects were largely limited to small shifts in tone. Moreover, our research shows that most newspapers are politically moderate, further reducing the impact of bias.

...then all reporting looks like bias.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



Donald Trump believes Fox News is "no longer the same" after host Neil Cavuto urged caution over the use of hydroxychloroquine, which the president is taking as a preventative against COVID-19.

The president criticized the network and said he is "looking for a new outlet" after Cavuto's message, in which he warned of potential risks of taking the drug for vulnerable groups.

The Trumpist must wear kneepads.