Biased vs. Fake News

There appear to be polls that show a large percentage of Trump supporters believe the mainstream media is fake news, and that Trump’s tweets are more trustworthy.

Many on the more liberal side of things are surprised by that.  But I’m not too surprised.

First, there is a huge difference between fake news and biased news.  Fake news is, exactly that, fake.  The events didn’t happen.  Like the Bowling Green Massacre.

Biased news, on the other hand, is all other news.  It is impossible to write a story, or even pick a story to write about, without showing some sort of bias.

Now, any serious media outlet will have some bias in its reporting, but it will take great care to ensure the facts underlying a story are, in fact, facts.

So why aren’t they trusted?  Well I think anyone with political leanings away from main stream Democratic thinking was and is disappointed by this and last year’s media coverage.

If you liked Hillary, well then, you were probably pretty happy with what you read.

But if, like me, you liked Gary Johnson, you would have been bothered by: 1) the editorial decision to hardly cover him at all, and 2) the biased coverage given when he was covered.

He was only discussed in the main stream media as a spoiler.  Barely mentioned.  When he was discussed, two points were always made: he smoked pot and he didn’t know where Aleppo was.

Now, if I was writing the news, my biases would have shown.  I would have put in more coverage of him, and I would have noted that he could have been a viable candidate, and that in New Mexico he balanced the budget, created jobs, was very popular, and vetoed a whole bunch of special interest, lobbyist created legislation sent to his desk.  Basically he did all things I would want a president to do.

Now you might disagree with my editorial decisions, but they would be based on facts.  Just as the main stream media was factual.  Yet, when I read a serious news article that referred to him as Gary ‘Aleppo’ Johnson, well you can see how I might begin to not trust that news source.  It’s factual, he got the Aleppo question wrong, but there was a bit more to him than just that, and constantly harping on this one error was, to say the least, extremely annoying to me.

My son was very interested in Bernie Sanders (and Gary Johnson) and always enjoyed getting a lot of his news from NPR.  Well NPR gave Sanders almost zero coverage.  It was Hillary, Hillary, Hillary.  What about Bernie?  Nothing.  He was listening one day and realized it was the first time he had heard Sander’s voice on NPR.  Sanders was giving up and pledging support to Hillary.  That is, their editorial policy only covered him when he supported Hillary.

Nothing un-factual about that.  But very disappointing to someone interested in Bernie Sanders.  He doesn’t listen to NPR anymore.  He wonders, where should he get his news?

And Trump, I hate Trump and all he stands for as much as the next Trump hater, but I believe someone, anyone, even Trump, should be given fair coverage.

Here were the headlines at one point last year in the major news media: “Trump calls Hillary the Devil!”  Well, it was true.  But I was curious and went back and listened to what he actually said.

It turns out he was making a legitimate point.  He said he had respect for Sanders and what Sanders was trying to do, but that Sanders had sold out, compromised his principles, to support Hillary.

Well, that’s interesting.  He raised a good point.  You may or may not agree, but it’s certainly worth discussing whether what he did sold out his prinicples or not.

Then Trump used a common phrase for selling out, he said Sanders made a deal with the Devil.  And then, realizing how he could play with it, said, and Hillary is the Devil.

Next day’s headlines from Google News feed: Trump calls Hillary the Devil!  There was no coverage whatsoever of the legitimate point he was making, just outrage at the comparison of Hillary and the Devil.

It made me not trust their coverage of Trump.  The only way I could learn about the point Trump was trying to make was to listen to Trump himself.  The news media didn’t report it.  Nothing fake about that, just biased.  And very unsatisfactory.

I mentioned how I distrusted the media coverage because of how they treated Johnson, and my son distrusted the media because of how they treated Sanders.  I assume you’re reading this because you’re one of my many liberal friends, but put yourself in a Trump supporter’s frame of mind for a second.  How would you react to the main stream media’s coverage of him?  One issue of the New Yorker Magazine had six, that’s right, six articles each one describing another way Trump was horrible.

Well if you hate Trump, that’s fun, but would you read that magazine if you liked him?

And so, my son follows Bernie on the Internet, I look for news of Libertarians on their Web site, and the Trump supporters?  Well you can see how genuine fake news, straight from the horse’s mouth might just seem a whole lot more believable than truth as seen through the biases of the Washington Post or NY Times.



Center – Affordable Care Act

This is the start of what I hope to be a series of blogs looking for the center.  Not a rant from the left or the right, but a view from the center.

The Affordable Care Act — I feel it should be called by it’s official name, because ObamaCare it definitely is not.  Obama made it clear at the beginning that it was Congress’ job to come up with an appropriate health care plan.  Obama said he really didn’t care, he was happy with  nationalized health as an answer, or, get this, he was happy with a complete free market approach to health care.  Either would be better than the then current state of health insurance.

Congress did neither.  The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a compromise that not everyone is happy with. (All though the insurance companies seemed just fine with it, more customers guaranteed.)

What do the Liberals love about it?  It provided health care for many of those people locked out of the previous health care system.  Health care they couldn’t have afforded otherwise.

What to the Conservatives hate about it?  Well, if you are going to provide health care at a discount, cheaper than the insurance companies feel they need to charge for it, somebody has to pay.

Who pays for the ACA?  Two parties.  One is individuals who are required to buy health insurance, even if they don’t want to.  Penalties otherwise.  The other is companies with more than 50 employees.

Here is where we begin to see the incredible chasm between the Democrats and Republicans.

The Democrats sing the praises of all the people who now have health care who couldn’t before.  This is great!  (Can you see the gratitude that comes from this?)

The Republicans decry the injustice of who has to pay for it.  Some healthy 20-something, doing say construction work, taking care of his family, now has to buy health insurance he still can’t really afford.  Why?  Because some poor person can afford it?  (Can you see the resentment that might be built up here?)

And small companies, suddenly faced with a huge expense if they go over 50 employees.  They’re all refusing to hire, instead using contractors and part-time employees to avoid incurring this expense that will definitely impact their ability to do business.  (And the resentment that builds up here?  And the impact on jobs?)

This is a classic case of the government redistributing wealth.  It’s a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.  Which is not a bad thing, it’s what government does.  As always, Paul is really excited about it. Peter is pissed.  And there you have the Republican – Democrat divide over the AHCA.

So what’s the answer?

Clearly as a civilized nation we want to provide basic health care to all our citizens.

Clearly as a fair nation, we need to figure out some way to pay for that. Fairly.

We need the Democrats and the Republicans to sit down at the negotiating table.  We need the Democrats to say, our constituents are hurting, they can’t afford health care, they can’t take care of their basic needs.  We need the Republicans to say, our constituents are having a hard time making ends meet, the self-employed can’t be forced to pay for it, the small companies can’t be forced to pay for it as they are our best hope for new jobs.

So look across the table, Ds and Rs, talk about exactly how much health care to provide, talk about who is going to pay for it.  Work together for your constituents.  Understand each other.

Personally, I agree with Obama.  Either nationalize health insurance, Medicare for all, or take it out of corporations, make it an individual decision, pure free market, different products for different budgets, with regulation ensuring that pre-existing conditions, etc., can not be used as a criteria in the price of insurance.


Judicial Philosophy and the Immigration Ban

This isn’t really an opinion, but more like a report on what I just learned.

In reading about Gorsuch I learned he was a ‘literalist’, which is a conservative way of being a judge.  It means a judge interprets the law based on the words in the law and nothing else.  That is as opposed to a judge who might try to understand the lawmaker’s intent behind a law.

Backing up, what does the Supreme Court, and other Federal courts do?  They hear cases that challenge laws, difficult situations that require the court to interpret whether or not a particular law applies or not.

So how does a judge decide?  Well this gets down to whether you believe a judge should enforce the letter of the law or the spirit of the law.

A literalist judge will simply look at the words and reason from there.  The other approach is to look for evidence of what the lawmakers intended with the law, or maybe what the law, de facto, accomplishes, and use that to shape an opinion.

I’m sure this issue leads to some very deep intellectual discussions of the best way to judge.  Clearly there are many problems with trying to reason the intent of, say the Founding Fathers when writing the Second Ammendment.

A literalist judiciary puts the onus on the lawmakers to write laws that clearly express their intent.  This seems like a good thing. Maybe.

NOTE WELL that in either case, the judge’s own personal opinion on the matter should have no bearing whatsoever.  The personal opinions of the lawmakers, yes, definitely, should be encoded in the law.  But the judges can only interpret that law.

So how does this apply to the immigration ban?

Well it appears there are two legal challenges to it.  One is based on, I believe, a 1968 law that prohibits discrimintation based on national origins.  On the surface, it seems clearly in play here, but there are difficulties with it’s interpretation that I don’t want to discuss here, because I don’t understand them.

And my point is more about literalist judges and what that means for us as a people.  And that gets to the second challenge.

The second legal challenge is a constitutional one.  The Constitution bans any discrimination based on religion.

A ban against Muslim immigrants is clearly unconstitutional.

So what about this law?  Do you see where this is going?

If you take the law solely by it’s wording, if you make a judgement based on the words alone, well the law does not discriminate against Muslims, only on people from certain countries.

What if a judge considers the intent behind the law?  Well in that case Trump has many many instances of campaign rhetoric where he promised to ban Muslims from entering the country once he was elected.  Clearly his intent is to ban Muslims.

How can lawmakers use this to weasel around?  I’ve read that Trump’s team met with legal advisors to try to figure out how to ban Muslims legally.

The country of origin ban is what they came up with.

Whether it gets by the Supreme Court depends on whether the courts look at the words of the immigration ban, or the intent behind it.  Literalist judges, or not.  People are forecasting a 4-4 split if it goes to the Supreme Court.

(NOTE WELL AGAIN — in either case, for any of the 8 justices, it doesn’t matter what their personal opinion on immigration is.  They are simply deciding if the law violates the Constitution or not.  If it is a ban against a religious group, or not.  (And I believe the Supreme Court justices are all very honorable in this regard, they do do their jobs as they see it should be done.))

Gorsuch is a literalist judge.  If confirmed, it will be easier for Congress and the President to draft laws and directives that are legally worded but whose intent might be very different from those words.

In other words, it might encourage Congress and the President to pass laws, issue directives that, rather than clearly stating their intent, are crafted to obfuscate it.


My Favorite Super Bowl Experience

It was 1985, Super Bowl XX, the first for the New England Patriots, playing Chicago, also their first.  I was living in Boston at the time, and a friend of mine from Japan was visiting the country on business and asked if I could have dinner with him on Sunday.  Super Bowl Sunday.

He didn’t know.

Well I told him he was in luck, that I was probably the only Caucasian male in Boston willing to go out with him, so he, my wife and I made plans for a night on the town in Boston.

We made reservations in the North End at a nice Italian restaurant, I think Trattoria, but first went for drinks to the rotating bar on the top of the Hyatt Hotel overlooking the Charles River.

There were only three parties there.  Us, a group of women, and a group of Asians.  Huge room, almost empty.

We looked out over Storrow Dr and Memorial Dr., the two main roads running along either side of the river.  There was no, and I mean no traffic.  The streets were deserted.  I’d never seen it like that.

Finished our drinks and drove to the North End.  Went to the restaurant and, well, we didn’t need to have made a reservation.  There was one couple just finishing when we got there.  We were the only ones there.

The wait staff tried to conceal their disappointment that we had showed up.  We could hear them watching the game in the kitchen, cursing as Refrigerator Perry and the Chicago defense crushed the hapless Patriots.  I think they took out their frustration on our food.  It was terrible, and the service was, well he tried to be civil and professional.

They were glad to see us go.

Were we mad?  No, mostly amused.  And amazed at what the Super Bowl could do to a city like Boston.  And glad to have shown my Japanese friend a slice of American life.