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Donald Trump

Trump, Kim Jong-un, and Twitter

by Dan Burns on March 9, 2018 · 0 comments

trump13Pr*sident Donald Trump apparently plans to personally meet with North Korean President Kim Jong-un. (North Korea has been trying to get one of these summit-type meetings with a US president going back to Clinton. The intent is to try to help establish world legitimacy for the regime. Not even W. went for it. Once someone explains that, and other matters, to Trump, it seems unlikely that this encounter will actually happen.) I did something I very rarely do: took some time on Twitter to view reactions. MN Progressive Project follows 3,463, by no means all left/progressive, so I presumably saw a somewhat representative sample. Significant categories included:
 

– Quips referencing Dennis Rodman. Most were mildly amusing, none lol-funny;
 
– Suggestions that Trump and KJU will become bosom buddies, what with both being deranged egomaniacs, and that Putin is somehow involved;
 
– Suggestions, entirely valid if you ask me, that KJU will “play” Trump like a grand piano;
 
– Re-posting old Trump tweets about the foolishness of trying to negotiate with “Little Rocket Man.”
 
Which brings me to a big study about Twitter that just appeared. My tendency has been to discount the real influence of social media on voting. That could be a mistake.
 

“Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it,” Jonathan Swift once wrote.
 
It was hyperbole three centuries ago. But it is a factual description of social media, according to an ambitious and first-of-its-kind study published Thursday in Science.
 
The massive new study analyzes every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence—some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years—and finds that the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor. By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories.
 
“It seems to be pretty clear [from our study] that false information outperforms true information,” said Soroush Vosoughi, a data scientist at MIT who has studied fake news since 2013 and who led this study. “And that is not just because of bots. It might have something to do with human nature.”
(The Atlantic)

(I don’t think the original publication in Science is paywalled, but I do think you have to sign up to access it, so they can send you emails. That’s how it worked for me when I first read something there online, a few years ago. I now get a weekly list of suggested articles on Saturday mornings, and sporadic emails inviting me to go for a subscription to the actual magazine. In any case, I’m sure that original is pretty dense and data-heavy to plow through. There‘s a link in the quoted article.)
 

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veteransOne one hand the Trump budget calls for a big boost in the Veterans Administration budget, which is a rare bit of positive news from that for the most part extremist wish-list. On another:
 

But others in the administration want a much more drastic change: They seek to privatize vets’ health care. From perches in Congress, the White House and the VA itself, they have battled (VA secretary David) Shulkin. In some instances, his own subordinates have openly defied him.
 
Multiple publications have explored the turmoil and conflict at the VA in the wake of the inspector general report. Yet a closer examination shows the roots of the fight stretch back to the presidential campaign and reveals how far the entropy of the Trump administration has spread. Much has been written on the “chaos presidency.” Every day seems to bring exposés of White House backstabbing and blood feuds. The fight over the VA shows not only that this problem afflicts federal agencies, too, but that friction and contradiction were inevitable: Trump appointed a VA secretary who wants to preserve the fundamental structure of government-provided health care; the president also installed a handful of senior aides who are committed to a dramatically different philosophy.
(ProPublica)

There was a report yesterday that one of Shulkin’s top staffers tried to get him fired.
 

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What difference did the Russians really make?

by Dan Burns on February 22, 2018 · 0 comments

trump7I’m among those who have been thinking, very little. That is, that Russian activities are well down the list of the factors that put Trump in the White House. (If you ask me, the #1 factor is that the overall socio-political intelligence in this country is still considerably less than many of us fondly chose to believe. #2 was the atrocious, despicable behavior of corporate media, including pretty much across the board here in Minnesota.) I still think that, more or less, but I found this article intriguing and worthwhile.
 

It’s a fairly straightforward question. But more than a year later, we are no closer to a definitive answer on the actual impact of Russian intelligence hacking efforts as well as their active measures through RT, Sputnik News, and thousands of Facebook and Twitter ads, bots, and trolls on the 2016 election.
 
It’s not really a question of whether they made a difference: it’s a question of how big or small that difference ultimately was.
 
This unknown impact would be added to the appeals made by either candidate, the specific states they visited, and how they managed to resonate with the general populace in the wake of the news cycle. And of course there was also the last-minute release of the Comey letter, which FiveThirtyEight states may have dropped Clinton’s numbers by between 3 to 5 percent. Is it possible that she had already been severely hampered by the endless reams of bad news about internal DNC emails, and then John Podesta? What difference did it actually make?
(Daily Kos)

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Trump voters got well and truly suckered, Part 100

by Dan Burns on February 19, 2018 · 0 comments

trump18When I started this series I soon decided to see how long it would take to get to 100. As it turns out, 395 days since his inauguration. Of course I could have arrived far sooner, because we’re talking Trump, here. I’ve never gone out of my way to find items. I just use what pops up in daily/weekly email updates from a bunch of sources, the majority but by no means all progressive. As a matter of fact doing the whole thing has been pretty much effortless.
 
This takes a hard look, based on current information, at whether Pr*sident Donald Trump really is traitorous filth. It’s by James Risen, and does not play fast and loose with the evidence. Quite the contrary.

 

I find it hard to write about Donald Trump.
 
It is not that he is a complicated subject. Quite the opposite. It is that everything about him is so painfully obvious. He is a low-rent racist, a shameless misogynist, and an unbalanced narcissist. He is an unrelenting liar and a two-bit white identity demagogue. Lest anyone forget these things, he goes out of his way each day to remind us of them.
 
At the end of the day, he is certain to be left in the dustbin of history, alongside Father Coughlin and Gen. Edwin Walker. (Exactly – you don’t remember them, either.)
 
What more can I add?
 
Unfortunately, another word also describes him: president. The fact that such an unstable egomaniac occupies the White House is the greatest threat to the national security of the United States in modern history.
 
Which brings me to the only question about Donald Trump that I find really interesting: Is he a traitor?
(The Intercept)

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Trump voters got well and truly suckered, Part 99

by Dan Burns on February 15, 2018 · 0 comments

trump13I suppose that this is not at all surprising.
 

President Donald Trump — who boasted (in January) that his success in life was a result of “being, like, really smart” — communicates at the lowest grade level of the last 15 presidents, according to a new analysis of the speech patterns of presidents going back to Herbert Hoover.
 
The analysis assessed the first 30,000 words each president spoke in office, and ranked them on the Flesch-Kincaid grade level scale and more than two dozen other common tests analyzing English-language difficulty levels. Trump clocked in around mid-fourth grade, the worst since Harry Truman, who spoke at nearly a sixth-grade level.
(Newsweek)

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Trump voters got well and truly suckered, Part 98

by Dan Burns on February 14, 2018 · 0 comments

trump12The article goes on to note that the NBC list in fact isn’t close to comprehensive. It would take a lot of work, and basically someone assigned full-time just to keep it current, to accomplish that.
 

If you once reveled in the over-the-top story lines driven by Kerry Washington’s character Olivia Pope in the TV drama Scandal, you know why that show has lost a bit of its juice in the last couple seasons. Even a fictional tale of Washington intrigue and deceit can’t compete with the episodic scandals pouring out of Donald Trump’s White House; the only difference is the characters aren’t as easy on the eyes and Trump’s actually ruining our country.
 
(Last) week’s “Oh, sorry, we had no idea” spin about wife abuser Rob Porter is only the latest in a long line of real-life scandals—any one of which would have rocked to the core a White House that was actually functional. But in a West Wing where hours of Fox News consumption has replaced the daily intelligence briefing as the pr*sident’s sole source of intel, scandals ebb and flow like the sea: daily. NBC News has a list of some the most serious scandals that rose and fell shockingly quickly because Trump always managed to steal the spotlight back. It’s not hyperbole to say that there’s more scandals flowing from Trump’s White House than there are reporters to investigate them.
(Daily Kos)

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medievalI’ve seen a lot of good stuff on what the Trump tax scam is really all about, but this is the best.
 

A precise sum of all the pay hikes attributed to the federal tax act by Americans for Tax Reform cannot be determined; many businesses give only a range of bonuses and pay hikes given, while others do not identify the number of employees affected. All pay hikes and bonuses attributed to the federal tax act that can be quantified from this list total about $1 billion. If we assume that all of the other pay hikes that can’t be quantified add another $0.5 billion plus, then the grand total of pay hikes and bonuses attributed to the federal tax act would come to approximately $1.5 billion. We have to suppose, of course, that all these pay hikes listed would not have occurred in the absence of the tax act—an extremely generous and unlikely supposition. This estimate also ignores all post-tax act layoffs and resulting wage losses.
 
According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, next year U.S. businesses will receive $157 billion in tax breaks due the 2017 tax act. Based on our rough back of the envelope calculations, the pay hikes resulting from the federal tax act will come to about a penny on the dollar of the total tax relief bestowed on businesses. A large portion of this penny consists of one-time bonuses; while the business tax breaks resulting from the federal tax act will continue into future years, the bonuses for workers might not. Over time, the workers’ share of each dollar of business tax breaks could shrink to less than a penny.
(North Star Policy Institute)

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trump23Corporate media has been making a big deal of worker bonuses of a few hundred dollars or whatever, and generally not mentioning that virtually none of the people that do the actual work out there are seeing anything like permanent pay raises because of the Trump tax scam.
 

Less than ten percent of the nation’s wealthiest and most-profitable companies have shared any of the financial benefits they received from a massive corporate tax cut provided by President Donald Trump and Republicans, a new analysis released Tuesday shows.
 
According to Americans for Tax Fairness, a coalition of organizations which advocates for progressive tax reform, the numbers in their new analysis reveal that the GOP public relations campaign touting the idea that corporations would be sharing “a big slice of their huge Trump tax cuts with their workers through bonuses and wage hikes is mostly hype.”
 
The ATF analysis, in fact, draws from financial data and public statements compiled by a similarly named (though ideologically opposite) group, the Americans for Tax Reform. The right-leaning ATR has been maintaining a database of how Fortune 500 companies have implemented or altered fiscal policies since passage of the GOP tax cuts at the end of 2017.
(Common Dreams)

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trump15The word needs to be spread, about the realities of the Trump “infrastructure plan.”
 

And track the response from Democrats, who will have to decide if they will back a plan drafted by privatization proponents, or if Democrats will represent the public and say no to years of paying off infrastructure bonds sold by Wall Street—tax free to investors—but eating up future tax revenues while imposing new user fees like highway tolls.
 
“[The GOP-passed] tax cuts have slowly opened the door to Wall Street, construction giants, and global water companies, who see enormous potential for profits,” wrote Donald Cohen, president of In the Public Interest, an anti-privatization advocacy group. “Some states and local governments have turned to expensive private financing, a.k.a., ‘public-private partnerships,’ and learned the hard way. Private financing often means higher tolls, parking rates, or water fees, lower labor standards, and less public control over decision-making once a project is up and running.”
(AlterNet)

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trump17This article is precise and detailed. Thankfully, some people do take the trouble to get the actual facts and make them available.
 

President Trump has made many claims promising that individual companies such as Amazon, Alibaba and Boeing will hire large – and specific – numbers of American workers, a total of 2.4 million in all.
 
We found that only about 206,000 of those jobs have been created so far.
 
Roughly 136,000 of those were genuinely new positions, as opposed to slots that were planned before the presidential election.
 
And some 63,000 of them are potentially attributable to Trump, according to the companies that did the hiring.
(ProPublica)

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