Old-guard GOP offers to fix problem GOP thinks doesn’t exist: climate change

Ted Halstead of the Climate Leadership Council says the political left and right have stalled on climate action in part because they disagreed about the means to fixing the problem.

I’d argue it’s because the right has convinced its followers that climate change doesn’t exist. Nice of ExxonMobil to sign on to this and to do all those ads touting their search for climate change solutions, but how can you offer to fix the sky if you don’t first admit it’s broken?

And the logic is puzzling. If you think there’s a 1 percent chance that someone will break into your house, you buy a deadbolt or maybe even a security system. If there was a 5 percent chance of a giant meteor hurtling toward Earth, we’d demand that the government do everything it possibly could to research it and then either stop it or mitigate the damage.

Well, the odds that we’re going to suffer the impact of our neglect of the climate is a hell of a lot greater than 5 percent. And we have people in government — at several levels — who want to silence scientists from even talking about it.

So Godspeed, old-guard GOP. Maybe they’ll listen to you, because they sure as hell aren’t listening to anyone else.

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A new category of lies

These are not ordinary lies. These are meta-lies, second-order lies, lies about the very institutions vouchsafed with testing and examining the truthfulness of political statements.This reckless disregard of reality reveals an unusual quality to Trump’s lying. Other presidents lied to deceive their opponents. Not so Trump. Trump does not even make the pretense of trying to hoodwink his opponents. Instead, he deceives his supporters. By lying about the neutrality and integrity of our truth-defending institutions, he consolidates his power by depriving his supporters of tools that might authorize an informed, critical assessment of his performance.

Source: Why Trump wants to disempower institutions that protect the truth | Lawrence Douglas | Opinion | The Guardian

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No, terrorists are not racing through U.S. airports

Let’s talk about deliberate misinformation for a minute.

Here’s the myth du jour: The travel ban / Muslim ban / airport advisory is the only bulwark between the good old USA and tons of terrorists disguised as refugees.

The facts: The people being turned away now are people we’ve already vetted.

For months. Maybe years.

And that’s all countries. Not just the ones that are vaguely Muslim-ish but don’t have Trump business properties. (Note the absence of Saudi Arabia, the homeland of a plurality of 9/11 hijackers.)

A former immigration officer described the process for The Washington Post last week. It’s a long read.

So is this, from a brilliant friend of mine on Facebook:

Our so-called President is now saying that people are “pouring in” to the United States following Friday’s injunction against his unlawful executive order — and that “If something happens” while that order is enjoined pending appeal, we should “blame” the federal judge who issued the TRO, along with the “court system.” I honestly do not know WHERE TO EVEN START with this crap, but if we ignore — or even worse, get inured to — this moron’s relentless and astonishing lies, he wins, and we will all lose in the end. So, here goes.
1. The idea that we should “blame” the Republican-appointed judge, and the “court system,” for DOING THEIR JOB is equal parts terrifying and stupid. (This comment may, however, have the silver lining of driving home the point to Neil Gorsuch, who is a good, smart judge, that he must not be, and must never be, Trump’s little bag-carrier.) This is the sort of dreck that a tin-pot dictator spouts.
2. The idea that terrorists are “pouring in” to the United States is A LIE. It is A LIE. It is A LIE. It is A LIE. This is the current vetting process for refugees, as sourced from government agencies and reported by the NYT:
The current screening process for all refugees involves many layers of security checks before entry into the country, and Syrians were subject to an additional layer of checks. Sometimes, the process, shown below, takes up to two years:
1. Registration with the United Nations.
2. Interview with the United Nations.
3. Refugee status granted by the United Nations.
4. Referral for resettlement in the United States.
The United Nations decides if the person fits the definition of a refugee and whether to refer the person to the United States or to another country for resettlement. Only the most vulnerable are referred, accounting for less than than 1 percent of refugees worldwide. Some people spend years waiting in refugee camps.
5. Interview with State Department contractors.
6. First background check.
7. Higher-level background check for some.
8. Another background check.
The refugee’s name is run through law enforcement and intelligence databases for terrorist or criminal history. Some go through a higher-level clearance before they can continue. A third background check was introduced in 2008 for Iraqis but has since been expanded to all refugees ages 14 to 65.
9. First fingerprint screening; photo taken.
10. Second fingerprint screening.
11. Third fingerprint screening.
The refugee’s fingerprints are screened against F.B.I. and Homeland Security databases, which contain watch list information and past immigration encounters, including if the refugee previously applied for a visa at a United States embassy. Fingerprints are also checked against those collected by the Defense Department during operations in Iraq.
12. Case reviewed at United States immigration headquarters.
13. Some cases referred for additional review.
Syrian applicants must undergo these two additional steps. Each is reviewed by a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services refugee specialist. Cases with “national security indicators” are given to the Homeland Security Department’s fraud detection unit.
14. Extensive, in-person interview with Homeland Security officer.
Most of the interviews with Syrians have been done in Jordan and Turkey.
15. Homeland Security approval is required.
16. Screening for contagious diseases.
17. Cultural orientation class.
18. Matched with an American resettlement agency.
19. Multi-agency security check before leaving for the United States.
Because of the long amount of time between the initial screening and departure, officials conduct a final check before the refugee leaves for the United States.
20. Final security check at an American airport.
Sources: State Department; Department of Homeland Security; Center for American Progress; U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants; Refugee Council USA

So, no, “bad people” are not suddenly dressing up like refugees and racing into the USA unimpeded.

It’s pretty easy to see that what you’re being told on Twitter by the president is simply not true.

And no, it’s not the same as what Obama did.

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What SHOULD be the lead Trump story today …

The stories about Trump and Spicer embellishing the inauguration crowd are important because they show how brazen these folks are willing to be about lying. Sure, plenty of politicians have lied — it’s the big black mark on the Clinton legacy — but they’ve paid a price for it. These people think they can lie about things in plain sight, and it’s OK.

The stories about Trump’s spat with Australia are important because they raise questions about his fitness to handle diplomacy.

The stories about the GOP feeling emboldened to push anti-union legislation are important because that’ll be a test of Trump’s promises to protect Rust Belt workers who tipped the electoral scales in his favor.

I had the misfortune of glancing at a TV with Fox News running today, and I’d like to see how reaction changes if they started calling “Obamacare” by its actual name — the Affordable Care Act. Some people still don’t realize they’re the same damn thing. And many people haven’t seen any analysis of what happens if the GOP strikes it down like Darth Vader swinging through Obi Wan’s empty robe.

But there’s one story that needs to be the lead today. And more importantly, we need to follow up on it:

U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.

The raid led to the death of one U.S. Navy SEAL, along with several civilians. Granted, the line between “civilian” and “combatant” in cases like these is difficult to draw.

So today’s stories from Reuters and The New York Times are not the last word. Nor do they pretend to be. They’re calm, reasoned snapshots of what we know now and what we don’t.

But if Congress can spend years investigating and re-investigating Benghazi, shouldn’t they at least ask a few questions about this?

And if they won’t, the media sure as hell should.



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Local news outlets vs. propaganda pushers

A large group of local media outlets is taking an aggressive stance against so-called fake news. Best of luck.

Source: Local news vows to fight fake news, halt business with ‘propaganda pushers’

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Journalists’ fight against propagandists begins in earnest

I’m proud to write for The Guardian, and I’m glad to see they’ve responded to a Breitbart onslaught with a calm but firm statement of the facts.

Let’s be absolutely clear. This is not “left wing” vs. “right wing.” The two sides here are not equivalent. This is truth vs. lies. In this case, it’s an attempt to label demonstrable facts on border crossings as “fake news,” lumping it in the same category as the websites that have made Weekly World News look rational.

And it’s part of an ongoing deliberate attack on the nature of truth, one that leads to many Americans going against overwhelming scientific consensus on everything from climate change to vaccines (with creationism still lurking in there somewhere). It leads to the propagation of absurd conspiracy theories like the one that prompted a North Carolina man to walk into a D.C. pizza place armed to the teeth in what we would call an act of terror if a Muslim did it.

Do Democrats sometimes bend the truth? Yes. Call them out on it. We all should.

But don’t pretend that it’s the same as what you’re seeing here, where the powers-that-be don’t just want to spin something but want to undermine the very forces that hold them accountable.

And we cannot allow that to happen.

An excerpt from the piece:

In so doing, Breitbart also appeared to foreshadow an emerging line of attack from Trump loyalists against journalists and media organizations who don’t adhere to the president-elect’s version of events. On Tuesday, this sentiment was loudly proclaimed by Newt Gingrich, a longtime advocate for the president-elect, who said that Trump supporters were entering a “world in which we get to tell the truth”.

Let’s talk about Gingrich and “truth” for a second. This is the man who called Trump’s border wall, which a lot of his supporters took literally, a “campaign device.” You know … fiction.

And there’s this memorable appearance in defense of “feelings” over “facts”:

That’s the closest you’ll ever come to seeing someone admit facts have a liberal bias.

They don’t, of course. But here’s the problem: When a journalist cites facts, that journalist is dismissed as having a liberal bias. Pointing out campaign promises a candidate has no intention of keeping is not “liberal bias.” Pointing to scientific consensus on climate change is not “liberal bias.” Fact-checking and pointing out fake news are not “liberal bias.” And in this case, pointing out the actual numbers on immigration is “liberal bias.” Or you’re a “Social Justice Warrior.” Case in point:


Journalists are far from perfect. We need diverse voices — we may not be amplifying the voice of the reasonable Republican as well as we should, but neither are we amplifying the voices of African-Americans or Hispanics as well as we should. We need to discuss and debate the headlines.

But we need to do so with respect to institutions that have long strived to be self-correcting. Newspapers are one of the few products ever manufactured that carry criticisms of that product (letters to the editor) within the product. You don’t buy a pair of socks that has a bunch of testimonials about how lousy these socks really are on the package.

We’re listening to legitimate criticism. Always have, always will. It’s sometimes tough to discern what’s legitimate in all the noise — I know plenty of journalists who have to tune out Twitter replies, or else they’d spend all day reading abusive junk in the search for that one good point — but be patient, polite (or at least amusing) and persistent, and we’ll listen.

If you want to be adversarial toward the press, fine. There’s a legitimate role for that. Just remember that the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend.

You want the truth. These people do not. Period.

The Guardian does run some risk here. Journalists don’t want to spend all their time responding to nonsense from disreputable people. But some of those people are in power now, and we need to hold them accountable. That’s the job we signed up for. And we’re going to keep doing it, no matter how much people try to bully us.


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What would Jesus investigate?

Sharp letter from a Christian journalist to evangelical media-bashers:

Your quick dismissal of the entire “mainstream media” feels deeply inaccurate to me as a Christian and a journalist — at least the kind of Christianity I was raised on, where the newspaper informed how we understood the world. The act of doing journalism is a way to live out my faith, a way to search for and then reveal truth in the world around me.

Related: If you want a nasty quip on fake news, just ask the Pope.

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