How the fact-checkers blew “open borders”

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy. Photo by Gage Skidmore.] It appears that “fact-checkers” have one thing in common: They lie. The latest evidence comes from documents released by WikiLeaks revealing Hillary Clinton’s private speech for Brazilian bankers, for which she was paid $225,000 by Itau BBA, a unit of Itau Unibanco Holding, Brazil's largest private-sector bank. Her remarks followed by eight months a speech by Bill Clinton for which the Brazilian bankers paid a reported $400,000. In her remarks, dated May 16, 2013, Clinton said that she believes in open borders. “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders . . . ,” she said, as quoted in the WikiLeaks document. (She does not deny making the comment.) That represents a problem for the fact-checkers. Every one of the major fact-checking organizations reported, as a matter of objective, undeniable fact, that Clinton is not in favor of open borders. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, his running mate Mike Pence, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump advisor, have all been branded by the fact-checkers as liars (or, at least, makers of false claims) for asserting that Clinton is for open borders. Now we know that, in 2013, Clinton told bankers in a private forum that open borders were her “dream.” While it is possible that she has changed her mind since the bankers’ event, or that, for some reason, her policies aren’t intended to help her pursue her “dream,” or that she lied to the bankers, we know that Trump’s, Pence’s, and Giuliani’s accusations may be true—indeed, probably are true. A reasonable belief cannot be classified objectively as a falsehood. Therefore, the fact-checkers’ labeling of their comments as falsehoods is, itself, a lie. And they, the fact-checkers, all told the same lie. The fact-checkers cannot effectively defend themselves on the ground that they were expressing opinions, because the sole purpose of fact-checking is to compare claims to objective facts. Together with recent revelations that the New York Times gave Clinton a veto over quotes, that CNBC’s John Harwood gave advice to the Clinton campaign, that CNN town hall questions were leaked to the Clinton people, that the Clinton campaign hosted a cocktail party/dinner for 37 journalists that was not publicly reported—along with other recent disclosures about unethical behavior by the news media—the fact that the fact-checkers lied is of great significance, exposing a pattern of corruption that is astonishing in scope. Read More

E-cigs and Joe Camel: To the Washington elite, we’re all children

This post is part of the October Green Watch article. For the full story on recent e-cigarette regulations, click here. What do Sports Illustrated magazine, vampire movies, NASCAR, The X-Files, piña colada flavoring, and puns based on the expression “Let it go” have in common? Why, they’re all aimed at children, of course—which you would “know” if you were a member of the braindead Washington political elite. In its attack on e-cigarettes, the CDC has claimed that “the same advertising tactics the tobacco industry used years ago to get kids addicted to nicotine are now being used to entice a new generation of young people to use e-cigarettes.” That was the point of a hearing held two years ago by the Senate Commerce Committee, then chaired by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.). Rockefeller dragged before his committee Jason Healy, president of blu Cigs, and Craig Weiss, president of NJOY, and committee members grilled them for more than two hours. People use e-cigarettes as a substitute for real cigarettes, and the average age of users is over 50. The industry has conducted campaigns to block access to e-cigs for children, and limited its advertising to media and events with audiences that are at least 85 percent adult. But that didn’t stop Senators from accusing the e-cig manufacturers of targeting children. Read More

The Miss Universe hoax, or ‘No good deed goes un-Clintoned’

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.] “Clinton Shaming Trump for His Alleged ‘Miss Piggy’ Comment Was Maybe Her Best Moment,” proclaimed the online magazine Slate. After accusing Donald Trump of attacking women—of saying, for example, that “women don't deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men”—Hillary Clinton, in Monday night’s debate, brought up “a woman in a beauty contest.” CLINTON: He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman “Miss Piggy.” Then he called her “Miss Housekeeping,” because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name— TRUMP: Where did you find this? Where did you find this? CLINTON: Her name is Alicia Machado. TRUMP: Where did you find this? CLINTON: And she has become a U.S. citizen, and you can bet— TRUMP: Oh, really? CLINTON: —she's going to vote this November. TRUMP: OK, good. Let me just tell you— (APPLAUSE) MODERATOR LESTER HOLT: Mr. Trump, could we just take 10 seconds and then we ask the final question— Coming near the end, 96.3 percent of the way through the event, the “Miss Piggy”/”Miss Housekeeping” accusation—he didn't even use her real name!—won the debate for Clinton. That it did so for Clinton is appropriate, since it was based on a claim that is utterly unsubstantiated and is almost certainly a lie. If it was, in fact, a fabrication, its status as fake made it particularly effective. As experts on deception know well, true accusations are easy to prepare for, because the guilty person knows what’s coming. False accusations, on the other hand, catch the victim unprepared and vulnerable. The background: Actress/model Alicia Machado became Miss Universe in May 1996. Asked what she would do to celebrate her victory, she said, in Spanish, “Eat! Eat! Eat!” Over the ensuing months, Machado gained a large amount of weight—a major problem, given that part of her job was to promote products associated with a healthy lifestyle, including swimsuits and breakfast cereal for dieters. More than five months into her reign, and more than two months after pageant officials reportedly threatened to fire her, Donald Trump bought a share of the beauty pageant organization that included the Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA pageants. According to the news accounts that appeared at the time, Trump hired a trainer, gave her access to a gymnasium he owned, and helped her get into better physical condition so that she could keep her job. The Trump purchase was announced at the end of October 1996 and finalized in November. (The ultimate deal, in which Trump partnered with CBS, was announced in January.) Stories about her weight gain and the possible loss of her job had appeared in the news media the previous August: “Those extra kilos could cost Miss Universe her crown,” declared Agence France Presse (the French press agency) on August 19, 1996. “Venezuelan beauty queen Alicia Machado, the reigning Miss Universe, has been told to go on a crash diet or risk losing her crown, according to Venezuelan beauty contest officials,” reported the Newark Star-Ledger, August 20. The Miami Herald, August 21, headlined: “LOSE THE POUNDS OR THE CROWN?” The Scottish Daily Record reported on August 23 that “Miss Universe Alicia Machado gives her defiant verdict on the order to diet or lose her beauty crown. The gutsy 18-year-old from Venezuela has been told to shed 27lb in a fortnight but was snapped wolfing a hot dog in LA ... with relish.” “Alicia Machado and her waistline were the talk of the town in Las Cruces, New Mexico, this week,” noted Canada’s Globe and Mail on August 24, 1996. “The dusty resort city on the Rio Grande was awash with young beauties, but all eyes were on the reigning Miss Universe in the wake of rumours that she would be stripped of her title if she didn’t shed 27 pounds.” “Earlier this week, Miss Universe Alicia Machado, the reigning symbol of interplanetary beauty, became the object of furor over whether she was expanding just a little too much for this galaxy,” wrote Louis Kiernan in the Chicago Tribune, August 25. (Kiernan was writing sarcastically, defending Machado.) Remember: This happened months before Trump bought a share of the Miss Universe pageant. Read More

Birthered in the U.S.A.

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.] The so-called “birther” story—the claim that President Obama was born outside the U.S. and is not a “natural born Citizen,” thus ineligible to be president—was back in the news last week.  Was it spread, as Donald Trump alleged, by the Clinton organization? Among those allegedly spreading the birther story during the 2008 campaign: Sidney Blumenthal, Clinton’s top political advisor. According to James Asher, former Washington bureau chief of the McClatchy Company, one of the nation’s top news organizations, Blumenthal suggested to him that Obama was born in Kenya, and sought to persuade Asher to pursue the story—which Asher did, leading to a determination that the birther story was false. The Washington Post, in a news story Friday, characterized as false Donald Trump’s charge that “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy,” with the Post calling Trump’s claim “an assertion that has been repeatedly disproved by fact-checkers who have found no evidence that Clinton or her campaign questioned Obama’s birth certificate or his citizenship.” The rest of the media followed suit. The idea that the Clinton campaign was involved in the birther effort was a “false conspiracy,” reported the Associated Press. It was “a claim that does not stand up to scrutiny,” said Reuters. In an effort to exonerate the Clinton organization from charges of ties to “birtherism,” some in the news media cling to the technicality that Blumenthal was supposedly not a part of the 2008 Clinton campaign. They claim that, while Blumenthal might have spread the rumor, Clinton’s campaign didn’t. For example, John Berman on CNN said that his organization “reached out to Clinton campaign staffers to say, to their knowledge, at that time, Sidney Blumenthal did not work for the campaign, but, yes, he is a friend of Hillary Clinton.” Even McClatchy News, in reporting the allegations of one of its former editors, stated that “there is no evidence that Clinton herself or her campaign spread the story.” Again, the point is that the person spreading the story was just Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton friend, not someone from the campaign. That characterization of Blumenthal as someone who was not a member of the Clinton campaign is contradicted by the words of Mark Penn, the Clinton 2008 campaign’s pollster as well as its chief strategist. In an interview in GQ magazine, published June 12, 2008, Penn defended himself from accusations that he had overcharged the campaign for his services. He pointed out that the money paid to his business organization (the firm Penn Schoen Berland) went mostly for expenses, such as printing and postage related to direct mail.  Penn said that much of the money, payments that people assumed went to Penn himself, in fact went to “Sid Blumenthal.” [Question:] You’ve been accused of making obscene amounts of money from this campaign. Can you clear that up for us? [Penn:] Well, people think, you know… The reality is, the way that money’s been reported, all the printing and the postage—you know, 85 percent of the work has been for direct mail, of which almost all that is postage and printing and all that [Question:] So when they come out with, like, ‘Mark Penn was paid $4 million,’ $3.4 million of that was postage? [Penn:] The actual consulting fee is, you know, we received $27,000 a month, which is split between me and Sid Blumenthal [described by GQ as “a senior advisor”]. So it makes the net around half that. [Question:] Wait, Sid makes as much as you? [Penn:] You know, again, I don’t own these companies, so— [Question:] No, really, Sid Blumenthal makes as much as you? [Penn:] His fee is about the same. So Sidney Blumenthal, according to Penn, was paid “about the same” as him, or, roughly half of the $27,000-a-month consulting fee paid by the Clinton campaign. If you believe the news media, Blumenthal—Hillary Clinton’s closest political advisor, the apparent partner of her campaign’s chief strategist, and a man who was paid by the campaign at a rate corresponding to more than $160,000 a year—was not “the Clinton campaign.” If not, then who, besides Hillary Clinton herself, would be? Read More

The E-Cigarette Ban: A Win for Liars and Big Tobacco

This article is part of the Green Watch series. Summary: Bureaucrats and politicians often cite “science” as justification for their efforts to exercise control over Americans’ lives. It’s a fake, politicized “science,” of course. When science suggests that government policy is ineffective or counterproductive, Washington elites ignore the science they claim to venerate. Case in point: the regulation of e-cigarettes, benefitting the big tobacco companies that the Left claims to hate. This reminds us of the “Joe Camel” controversy, which was fabricated and promoted so that the Left could get its hands on a fortune in tobacco money. The Food and Drug Administration has joined with Big Tobacco in an effort to crush the small businesses that make up most of the e-cigarette industry. In doing so, the FDA is putting at risk the lives of millions of Americans. Once again, bureaucrats and politicians are distorting scientific studies in order to support a political agenda.  The ostensible mission of the FDA is to make sure food and medicine are safe, but FDA bureaucrats and the politicians who enable them have long sought to make the agency into a national nanny, a haven for prohibitionism and for meddling in people’s lives. Now, bureaucrats have issued a set of rules that would effectively ban 99 percent of e-cigarettes, scuttle innovation in the e-cig industry, and enrich the companies that misled the public about the health consequences of real smoking. Read More

The continuing and non-existent collapse of Donald Trump

[Continuing our series on deception and misdirection in politics and public policy.] Donald Trump’s continuing decline in the polls is a clear indicator that the GOP is facing disaster—that Trump will lose cataclysmically in November, perhaps becoming the first candidate to win a negative number of electoral votes, and that every other Republican on the ballot, from governors to U.S. Senators to Zika mosquito squashers, will perish in a landslide comparable to the Ruatoria debris avalanche off North Island, New Zealand, circa 170,000 B.C. I know this because the news media tell me so. Trump’s poll numbers, I’m told, have been plummeting, collapsing, and falling in free fall, even as they have been both shrinking and sinking. Over the past two weeks, the news media reported this crackup over and over again. [Feel free to skip through these examples, down to the charts below.]   ►Yahoo!, 8/9/16 More Republicans broke ranks Tuesday with their party's White House nominee Donald Trump, issuing dire warnings that his recklessness and lack of policy chops would put the United States in danger. Facing sinking poll numbers and anger in the party . . . ►Singapore Star, 8/9/16 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is playing the "China-bashing card" in an attempt to rescue his falling poll numbers but has no real ideas to resolve the two nations' differences, China's official news agency said Tuesday. ►CNN, 8/9/16 Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. It's 30 minutes past the hour. And Donald Trump, he's trying to elevate the tone of his campaign. He is trying to get back on track after a couple of really rough weeks and plummeting poll numbers like this. New Monmouth poll showing Hillary Clinton breaking out to a 13-point lead. ►Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas), 8/9/16 The speaker's obvious political concern about the latest polls is what Trump's slide may augur for Republican support down the ballot in congressional races this fall, putting his speakership in jeopardy. ►Right Wing Watch [People for the American Way], 8/10/16 On his radio show today, Glenn Beck became so alarmed over Donald Trump's cratering poll numbers and forecasts showing him falling further and further behind Hillary Clinton that he called on Mitt Romney to throw his hat into the ring just so that Republicans have someone to vote for in case Trump has a complete meltdown. Read More

Unindicted, Clinton accepts Democratic nomination

 PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA — The Democratic Party comes out of this convention deeply divided, with a nominee who, 56 percent of Americans believe, should have been indicted. Tonight, Clinton was heckled repeatedly. Her supporters responded to the hecklers, outchanting them with “Hill-a-ree.” At times, some of us in the press area in the convention hall had difficulty hearing Clinton. Other major speakers were heckled this week, including Elizabeth Warren with chants of “We trusted you,” Leon Panetta and General John Allen with chants of “No more war,” and Bernie Sanders (at a pep rally outside the convention hall) with boos and jeers when he called on supporters to back the winning ticket. This week, some of the protesters in Philadelphia took up the chant heard at last week’s Republican convention: “Lock her up!” The anger of the Sanders people is entirely understandable, given that, as e-mails revealed this week, Democratic Party leaders cheated in order to deny their candidate the nomination, and discussed using religious bigotry to defeat him. Sanders, who got 46 percent of the delegates chosen in the primaries and caucuses, has reportedly decided to remain an independent rather than join the party. Only a four-mile-long wall of eight-foot-high “no-scale” fence, keeping protesters far from delegates and most of the news media, created an illusion of peace in Philadelphia. (For some of the reality, see https://twitter.com/mikedogli/status/758578450760204288/video/1 .)  Armed guards enforced the rules, to make sure people went only where they were welcome. Photo ID was required, of course. Because, unlike security at the border or at the polls, security at a Democratic convention is something Democrats actually want. Quoting the inaugural address of Franklin Roosevelt, Clinton in her pedestrian acceptance speech declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” People in Orlando, Dallas, and Baton Rouge—not to mention Istanbul, Nice, and Munich—might differ with that sentiment, as might the law enforcement personnel who have kept convention-goers safe. The tense convention came as polls show Donald Trump pulling even with, or ahead of, Hillary Clinton. So panicked have the Democrats become that, Wednesday, they and their media allies stooped to bizarre Read More

Trump, traitor (and the truth comes limping after)

Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect . . .   – Jonathan Swift PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA — How has Hillary Clinton survived in politics, and risen to her current position of trust, despite the fact that most people have an accurate impression of her character? Because the Clintons have an army of sycophants, ready to lie for their cause at a moment’s notice, and to smear anyone who dares criticize or otherwise challenge them. Today, they started calling Donald Trump unpatriotic, disloyal to his country, practically a traitor. To justify their characterization, they twisted his words from a press conference that he held today in Doral, Florida. As is known to most people who follow the news, intelligence analysts believe that the Russians probably hacked into the server to which Hillary Clinton, when she was secretary of state, diverted stolen e-mails. That means the Russians probably have copies of at least some of the e-mails that Clinton destroyed. Clinton has admitted to diverting some 66,000 e-mails, of which she returned roughly half. She claimed that the other half related to private matters such as yoga classes and plans for her daughter’s wedding. She claimed that her lawyers—who, importantly, lacked the proper security clearances to handle such material—reviewed the e-mails to determine which ones were personal and which were work-related. Clinton claimed that the supposedly personal e-mails were deleted. It is those e-mails to which Trump referred at the press conference today. Trump, half-jokingly, called on the Russians to turn over those copies. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said. He added sarcastically: “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Trump said that he hoped Read More

Trump rips Clinton, pledges to fight for working Americans

CLEVELAND, OHIO —In every country, Thomas Jefferson wrote Henry Lee, there exist two parties: “Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes,” and “Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise, depositary of the public interests.” Tonight, Donald J. Trump laid claim to leadership of the second group—the one that represents and speaks for regular people. It’s an extraordinary claim, coming from a billionaire. Then again, he’s running against Hillary Clinton, who epitomizes the first group. Introducing her father, Ivanka Trump declared: “Other politicians see the unfairness of it all and say, ‘I feel for you.’ Only my father will say, ‘I’ll fight for you.’” Another speaker, earlier in the evening, called Trump “America’s blue-collar billionaire.” Trump’s acceptance speech painted a picture of “Big Business, elite media, and major donors” who are “lining up behind the campaign of my opponent,” Hillary Clinton, “throwing money at her” because “she’s their puppet, and they pull the strings” He’s running for president, he said, “so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people who cannot defend themselves.” The system is corrupt, he said, and “Nobody knows the system better than me. Which is why I alone can fix it.” Highlighting the Republican Party’s abrupt turn toward populism Read More

I’m Ted Cruz. Vote for me in 2020! … uh, I mean 2024.

CLEVELAND, OHIO — After Ted Cruz’s self-immolation, the pundits were astonished: Given that Trump and his managers knew what Ted Cruz was going to say in his convention speech, how could they let him go on? How could Trump & Co. have been so incompetent? Incompetent like a fox? Well, maybe. Time and time again in this campaign, Donald Trump has done something that seemed, in the eyes of pundits, to be incredibly stupid. Time and time again, Trump’s seeming stupidity has paid off brilliantly. Which raises the question: Did Trump plan this, allowing Cruz to disrespect him in prime time, as a way to show that he’s not a bully and that he accepts disagreement within his team? (That’s how some focus group members took it.) Or did he simply hand Cruz the rope with which the Senator from Texas could hang himself? After the speech, Trump tweeted: “Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn’t honor the pledge!”—that is, the pledge all GOP presidential candidates took last year to support the eventual nominee. “I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!” Incredibly, the top Cruz people seem to be in shock Read More