No Penalty for Synthetic News – Voracious Media Swallow Anything

For quite a while, papers such as the National Enquirer were the only place a reader could find out about the conception and birth of the extraterrestrial, alien children of movie stars.

“Enquiring Minds Want to Know,” led supermarket and drugstore shoppers to buy the tabloid for gossip and secrets of the rich and famous, celebrities, along with eyewitness tales of the occult and UFOs.  It only took a dozen or so specious or craftily worded articles per week to keep the America Media publication flush with advertising revenue.  No one cared about journalism, or retractions, or misspellings – entertaining fiction was all it was.  They had a big enough budget to settle lawsuits and keep printing.

Now the ever-widening maw of the internet has spawned info-fantasy outlets to compete with reality.  Exempli gratia:  The recent articles about a couple of California “Breatharians,” who claim to live on “energy that exists in the universe and in themselves” and that they are sustained by “cosmic nourishment.”  This must put the National Enquirer in the backseat of audacity.  No fewer than six news outlets on Google News published the articles; YouTube videos of the couple and their two children have hundreds of thousands of views.

I will not honor this idiocy with more details, but I will shake my head at what the word “news” has come to mean.  I shudder at the thought of how many people might believe such unfiltered, synthetic, mental trash.  Our children are already screen zombies with waning connection to the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual worlds they inhabit.  The gullible, undereducated, and socially diminished cohorts of the future may have little reality on which to build their lives.

The comedian Gallagher quipped, “I wish there was a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence.  There’s a knob called “brightness,” but it doesn’t seem to work.”  That was before cable TV and the Internet.

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Public Radio – Public Disgrace

You would think the 2016 campaign is still raging, after listening to two segments of Think on KERA, hosted by Krys Boyd, today.  Both were patently political, and anti-Trump fearmongering.  Is inappropriate, biased, rhetorical conjecture the policy of KERA and public radio?  Is anybody reviewing the balance or objectivity of the programming?  If so, who?

The first segment was an interview with Kennette Benedict, who has a BA from Oberlin College, a PhD in political science from Stanford University. She is a former executive director and publisher of the  Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which recently moved the Doomsday Clock from 3 seconds to 2.5 seconds until midnight. The whole discussion was a not-so-thinly-veiled criticism of President Trump for the increased likelihood of nuclear war, and, with a strange detour, the woes of unchecked climate change.  I did not hear any details of her solutions to these issues.

The second segment was naked rant of hatred against the president, forecasts of dire consequences, and calls for mobilization against him.  The guest was David Frum, author of an essay about “Building an Autocracy.” Published in the March issue of The Atlantic.  The subtitle, “The preconditions are present in the U.S. today. Here’s the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism.”

According to Wikipedia, “Illiberal democracy is a term used by  Fareed Zakaria, a journalist, in a1997 article in the journal Foreign Affairs.[4]    https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/1997-11-01/rise-illiberal-democracy   It refers to governments that give the appearance of democracies, but are autocratic in practice.

The very long treatise may qualify as “future-fiction,” as it starts by describing America in 2021 as Donald Trump starts his second term.  He describes a downward spiral towards a corrupt, Orwellian democracy, in which Trump enriches himself, pardons his friends, harasses and punishes opposition; Slovakia owns The Washington Post; illegal aliens can stay in the shadows to work; young, black, and other liberal voters find it difficult to register and vote in some states.

This is followed by pages and pages of postulations and fears; he took way too many pages to say, “We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered.” “Trump bad!”  “Trump evil!”  “Trump hurt us!”  “Hate Trump.”  Stop Trump.”

 

Donald Trump – The Matryoshka Candidate?

I am amazed at the number, scope, and continuous flow of speculations about Donald Trump, as president-elect.  Now we have an American, billionaire, capitalist, accused of being a Russian sympathizer, and even a collaborator with Russia’s Putin to win the election.  Does that sound like the Russian version of “The Manchurian Candidate” to you?  (FYI:  a Matryoshka is one of those hollow, Russian, nested, wooden dolls with smaller and smaller dolls inside.)  I guess there are no limits on imagination, enmity, paranoia, malice, and disappointment.

Those who oppose Donald Trump, and those who are left bitter, dazed, angry, and confused by his election as President do not need to be rational in their relentless attacks on anything Trump.  Those accusing him of being soft on Russia, a Putin sycophant, and naïve about our enemies might take a minute to reflect on how silly that sounds.

Is it soft to sell some rich Russians overpriced condos and land in the US?  Is it sycophantic to use Putin to criticize political opponents as being weak?  Is it naïve to get the Russians to pay premium prices to have the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow?  Do I hear a no?

Until now, Mr. Trump’s interest in Russia has been limited to money, i.e. making money, not losing it, and not giving it away.  All his dealings with Russians have been real estate in the US, or visiting Moscow for a US-based beauty pageant.  Trump has never met Putin face-to-face, or made any deals with him.  Putin even cancelled a scheduled meeting with Trump during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.  Does that sound like love to you?  I believe Trump could continue to make money from Russians without being President, and without being friends with Putin; therefore, I do not think there is a sinister link. What else would he have to gain?

Some cite the friendly, respectful tone of comments and letters between the men.  A friendly demeanor is not the same as friendship; sometimes negotiations can benefit from pleasant diplomacy.

Others suggest that Putin sees Trump as weaker than Clinton.  Do we have some evidence that Trump is as passive as Obama has been in foreign matters, such as Crimea and Syria?  Or maybe evidence that Putin is afraid of Hillary after meeting her as Secretary of State?

Let us see what happens after January 20th.

Ignorance is Blitz – Hillary Slams Donald

Let’s see now, a former US senator who knows how Congress passes tax laws, shouts unnecessarily (microphones notwithstanding), counting on the ignorance of her audience.

“Duplicitous” is the apt description of this fiery rhetoric she delivers, as if Trump has done something wrong, sinister, diabolic, & deplorable with his taxes, when she knows better.  But she knows it just works; why not stir up angry emotions?

The billion-dollar loss on Trump’s 1995 tax return is a real loss of money, & perfectly legal.  Using past business losses to offset future profits is a given & it makes perfect sense.  This law has been in effect, with periodic modifications, since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

Every tax law must come from Congress & be signed by the president.  Every one of Donald Trump’s tax returns has been scrupulously audited & accepted by the IRS.  Anything they may have found that does not comply with the law, they adjusted to conform.  Nothing was allowed that was not legal; no law was broken.

Few people know the complexity of the tax laws congress passed.  But, most people know that they can deduct mortgage interest, medical expenses, and certain  other personal expenses.  No one I know forgoes those deductions, or refuses to accept tax credits.  I believe it is pernicious, irresponsible & wildly ignorant to brand approved behavior as evil & elitist

Business Losses

Businesses are not always profitable, (i.e. Sales – Costs = Profit/Loss).  Even if some years are bad, others must be good; otherwise the business fails.  The government allows business to look at their profits & losses over several years.  For example:

Joe & Mary Remodeling Co experiences a loss in 2008 during the financial & real estate crash.

2008Income was $ 150,000 and employees, suppliers, equipment, outgo was $250,000, a loss of $100,000. This included the business share of payroll taxes, (employers match the Social Security & Medicare taxes withheld from paychecks). Joe & Mary had to borrow $100,000 to keep their doors open.  They also had to borrow money for living expenses that year.

  • The $100,000 loss is “carried forward.”
  • Joe & Mary owe $100,000 +.

Things get worse in 2009; they cut expenses to $100,000, but income was only $75,000, a loss of $25,000, which they borrow.  They also borrow enough for personal living expense.

  • The $25,000 loss is added to the previous year’s $100,000 and $125,000 is “carried forward.”
  • Joe & Mary owe $125,000++

Things brighten in 2010; income is $125,000 with expenses of $75,000, a profit of $50,000.

The tax law allows them to use $50,000 of the “carried forward” losses from 2008 ($100,000) and 2009 ($25,000) to offset the 2010 profit.

  • $50,000 is subtracted for the $125,000 loss “carried forward.”
  • The remaining $75,000 of their losses is “carried forward.”

You can read the IRS instructions & explanations here:  https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p536.pdf

Bankruptcy & Unpaid Debts

Joe & Mary still owe the money they borrowed ($125,000 plus living expenses)

If Joe & Mary could not repay the debts, &  claimed bankruptcy, the amount of debt not paid is deducted from the amount of loss they could “carry forward.”  https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc431.html

Donald Trump’ s Billion-Dollar Loss in 1995

The amount of loss in the real estate business can include deductions for both cash expenses & “depreciation” of the buildings.  The tax law has strict rules on how much a person can “depreciate” all kinds of business assets.  If depreciation is part of the loss, & the building is later sold or repossessed, the depreciation is “recaptured,” which means added back into income & subtracted from the loss “carried forward.”

All in all, without more information, no one can tell what happened to that billion-dollar loss.  If Trump’s properties went into bankruptcy, those losses could have been cancelled by the rules for “recapture,” and debt reduction.

You can bet that the IRS audits every tax return Donald Trump files.  Someone should audit Hillary Clinton’s knowledge of tax law, & ethical portrayal.

 

The Fight for Eyes

Political parties beware: the 2016 presidential election could stimulate American fact-checking and critical thinking – or not.  Why?  Could It be, we are awake and paying attention?  Could it be, we just want to be “right?”  Could it be, “We’re as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore.”?

In 2016, American information media reflect our mindsets.

  • We have boundless channels of 24/7 content battling for “eyes,” and “market share.”
  • We are so numb, it takes lurid, “mind bites” of “shocking facts” to get our attention.
  • Our jaded, fickle brains are addicted to “breaking news and “editorial reporting.”

Then comes the election.  How do we decide?  The battle lines are drawn.  The news media have abandoned objective balance in the fray.

It is natural for people with strong political bias to seek news sources that support their current views, and to ignore, avoid, or distain sources that reflect contrary, or impartial thinking.

Lord knows, we have enough choices (e.g. newspapers, magazines, radio, television, internet, social media).  Which do we choose: “bread and circuses,” or brains?  Do we swallow our favorite- flavored propaganda, or chew on the tough, tasteless truth?

Seven questions we can ask about what we call “news:”

  • Which sources provide complete, unbiased information and analysis?
  • Which sources provide incomplete, biased information and editorials?
  • Can we discern where information stops and persuasion starts?
  • Did we get all the information we need to understand?
  • Do we know enough to understand the context and importance of the information?
  • Do we have enough sources to verify or complete the information?
  • Do we care?

Few of the major news organizations remain credibly neutral or balanced.  Here are 10 news sources accepted as trustworthy by people across the political spectrum.

  1. The Wall Street Journal
  2. The Economist
  3. BBC
  4. Google News
  5. The Guardian
  6. Associated Press
  7. Reuters
  8. C-SPAN
  9. ABC
  10. USA Today

Here is an informative graphic from    showing the political positions of the various major news outlets.

news politics

Good thinking everyone.

Love Is Blind – Exaggeration Is Rampant

Those who love Hillary Clinton can hardly contain their hyperbole.  Let us put it this way:  Hillary Clinton is not, “the best qualified candidate for president America has ever seen.”  While she has done many admirable, and noteworthy things, it takes a fairly partisan filter to make them presidential.  In fact, we would have to give a “participation trophy” for many of the things she has done.

Achievement is not attendance, support, involvement, engagement, pursuit, publishing, membership, advocacy, writing, researching, promoting, and most of the descriptors in the articles, blogs, and websites promoting her qualifications. 

Is she really better qualified than Abraham Lincoln? Yes, he was a man with few credentials, but he managed the most excruciating period in all of our nation’s history.

Is she even close to George Washington? George Washington was chosen by acclamation; rightly so in that he led the colonies to victory over the greatest military force in the world. He was a highly principled man, who pandered to no one. He was a successful wealthy businessman.  He managed the most challenging period in our early history.

What about Franklin D. Roosevelt, who defied his social class to lead the nation through the worst combined experience in the last century?

How about Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson (the top 10 according to a 2014 Washington Post survey.), or Barak Obama (Ranked 18)?

Does being First Lady, being a senator, or being a cabinet appointee give her astounding qualifications to be president?

As far as I can see, the only elected executive position she has held was “president of the college’s student government associations” at Wellesley College.

(Update: “Hillary Clinton Removes Hamas-Israel Ceasefire Accomplishment from Biography as Gaza Tensions Rise”

https://www.ijreview.com/2016/02/528923-hillary-clinton-removes-hamas-israel-accomplishments-from-biography/

Ah well, history in the remaking.)

 

Where can we find descriptions of her achievements and qualifications in very supportive, favorable publications?  Here are extracts from two articles that called for examples of her qualifications.  It seems that both articles point to her efforts and activities instead.  You be the judge.

First, extracted from https://www.quora.com/What-has-Hillary-Clinton-achieved

phrases used to describe Hillary’s achievements:

  • became engaged in politics
  • took part in political campaigns
  • graduated from Wellesley College
  • was involved in student government
  • elected president of the college’s student government associations.
  • worked with the college’s African-American students
  • became the first student in Wellesley’s history to offer its commencement address
  • received a 7- minute standing ovation
  • criticized Senator Edward Brooke
  • was on the editorial board of the Yale Review of Law and Social Action
  • worked with the Yale Child Study Center
  • wrote “Children Under the Law”
  • researched issues affecting migrant workers
  • served as staff attorney for the Children’s Defense Fund
  • moved to Arkansas with Bill Clinton
  • began teaching criminal law
  • joined the Rose Law Firm
  • pursued patent infringement and intellectual property law
  • became a partner in 1979
  • co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
  • publish scholarly articles in the field of children’s law
  • served on the board of directors of the Legal Services Corporation
  • served as First Lady of Arkansas
  • served as chair of the Arkansas Education Standards Committee
  • implemented standards for curriculum and mandatory teacher testing
  • served on the board of nonprofits
  • was on the corporate board of TCBY and Walmart
  • pushed for environmental reforms and for more women in its corporate management
  • regarded as the most politically influential first lady in the history of the United States
  • played an important part in vetting presidential appointments
  • headed the unsuccessful effort to achieve national healthcare reform
  • worked with the U.S. Senate to pass the State Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • was influential (in) the passage of Foster Care Independence Act
  • traveled extensively and advocated for women’s rights around the world
  • was elected United States Senator from New York twice
  • served on Senatorial committees
  • worked in a bipartisan manner
  • was instrumental in securing funding for recovery efforts and increased security for New York state.
  • voted for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
  • began calling for gradual withdrawal from Iraq
  • opposed the increase of troop deployment of 2007
  • voted in 2007 for a spending bill that would require a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
  • voted against Bush’s tax cuts
  • supported immigration reform as a senator
  • led a bipartisan effort to bring broadband access to rural communities
  • was the first former First Lady to occupy a cabinet position
  • conducted many diplomatic missions
  • visited over 100 countries
  • did a great deal to repair international relations
  • lead the U.S. response to the Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen
  • was the key advocate for U.S. participation in the military intervention in Libya
  • argued successfully that the United States not release photographs of the Al Queda leader
  • was vital in conducting relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan
  • worked to restart negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians
  • establish(ed)ing direct talks in 2010
  • travel(led)ing to Jerusalem in 2012 in an effort to stop the 2012 Gaza conflict.
  • promoted women’s right and human rights
  • advocated for gay rights at the UN Human Rights Council
  • oversaw damage control in response to the Wikileaks revelations of State Department cables
  • testified to Congress regarding the killing of U.S. Diplomatic staff in Libya
  • co-chaired the U.S-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in 2009
  • mediated in the electoral crisis in Honduras in 2009
  • unveiled the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative for Bill Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative.
  • visited Haiti in 2009 and Chile in 2010 in response to catastrophic earthquakes.
  • played an important role in lobbying the U.S. Senate to ratify the new START treaty in 2010.
  • was outspoken in support of legitimate democracy in Russia
  • was the first Secretary of State to visit Burma since 1955
  • played a vital role in the passage of the Turkish-Armenian Accord
  • initiated reforms in the State Department

Am I missing something?  Which of these supports qualification to be president?

Second, an article from politico:

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/09/carly-fiorina-debate-hillary-clintons-greatest-accomplishment-213157

THE FRIDAY COVER

What Is Hillary’s Greatest Accomplishment?

Carly Fiorina dared Democrats to name it. 20 top Dems accepted the challenge.

By POLITICO MAGAZINE

Getty

“If you want to stump a Democrat, ask them to name an accomplishment of Hillary Clinton,” Carly Fiorina quipped at Wednesday’s Republican debate. The line got hearty applause—but it also cut to the core of one of the defining lines of attacks against the former first lady and Democratic presidential frontrunner. After nearly forty years in public life, what exactly has she accomplished?

It’s a question that even, at times, has tripped up Clinton herself: During her 2014 book tour, when ABC’s Diane Sawyer asked her about her “marquee achievement,” Clinton changed the subject and she fumbled over a similar question during a women’s forum in Manhattan last year. “I see my role as secretary—in fact leadership in general in a democracy—as a relay race. You run the best race you can run, you hand off the baton. Some of what hasn’t been finished may go on to be finished,” she told Thomas Friedman. “I’m very proud of the [economic] stabilization and the really solid leadership that the administration provided that I think now leads us to be able to deal with problems like Ukraine because we’re not so worried about a massive collapse in Europe.”

The question Fiorina posed has also tripped up members of the Obama administration. When State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki was asked last year to “identify one tangible achievement” accomplished through one of Hillary Clinton’s key projects as Secretary of State—the first-ever audit of the department—Psaki punted, “I am certain that those who were here at the time, who worked hard on that effort, could point out one.”

Hillary’s supporters have been stumped too. When Bloomberg Politics’ Mark Halperin asked a focus group of Iowans this summer about Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments, one Democratic supporter said, “I honestly can’t say I followed along [with] everything that was going on.”

So is Fiorina right? Are Democrats really unable to defend Clinton’s record on the merits? To find out, Politico Magazine on Thursday asked the nation’s top Democratic leaders and thinkers to name Hillary Clinton’s biggest accomplishment.

What is the most impressive item on Clinton’s record? Which legislative or policy triumph from her many years in office will be most important on the campaign trail? Not surprisingly, those surveyed all came up with an answer to defend their party’s likely presidential nominee. Whether these count as “marquee,” “significant,” or “tangible”? You be the judge.

‘It’s kind of hard to pick one accomplishment’

By Bill Burton, former senior strategist for Priorities USA Action, a super PAC in support of President Barack Obama.

It’s kind of hard to pick one accomplishment for Hillary Clinton. Personally, I’m sure she’d say her daughter and grandchild are her greatest accomplishments. Professionally, how about these three?

  1. Her China speech on women
  2. Her role in killing Osama bin Laden
  3. Management of the State Department during which time we saw a 50 percent increase in exports to China
  4. Aggressive work on climate (particularly at Copenhagen)
  5. The effort to create and implement the toughest sanctions ever on Iran—helping to lead us to the agreement currently on the table.

‘The sanction on Iran that brought them to the table’

Howard Dean is the former governor of Vermont and the former chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Hillary Clinton was the principal author of the sanction on Iran that brought them to the table.

‘Nearly every foreign policy victory of President Obama’s second term has Secretary Clinton’s fingerprints on it’

By Harry Reid, Senate Democratic leader.

American foreign policy was stronger when Hillary Clinton left the State Department than when she arrived. She took the reins from a Bush administration that had left America’s reputation deeply damaged and planted the seeds for the foreign policy successes we see today. From the

  1. agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon
  2. landmark normalization of relations with Cuba, nearly every foreign policy victory of President Obama’s second term has Secretary Clinton’s fingerprints on it.

Her accomplishments extend to health care, as well.

As First Lady, she helped create and guide through Congress Children’s Health Insurance Program, a key program that brought health care coverage to millions of children.

As a Senator, she worked across the aisle to provide full military health benefits to reservists and National Guard members.

Secretary Clinton was also an outspoken champion for women around the world. She set records for travel while leading the State Department and used every trip to empower the women of the 112 countries she visited. She made gender equality a priority of U.S. foreign policy. And she created the ambassador at large for global women’s issues, a post charged with integrating gender throughout the State Department.

 ‘The SCHIP program … which expanded health coverage to millions of lower-income children’

By Anita Dunn, Democratic political strategist.

After universal health care failed in 1994, the Clinton Administration was reluctant to go anywhere near healthcare again—Democrats lost the Senate and the House in 1994, and losing the house was for the first time in 40 years.

Then-First Lady Hilary Clinton ended up being the White House ally and inside player who worked with Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch to create the SCHIP program in Clinton’s second term, which expanded health coverage to millions of lower-income children.

She has other accomplishments but this one made a huge difference, and came at a time when politically the Administration was cutting deals with Newt Gingrich on the budget and not necessarily all that enthusiastic about revisiting health care.

This obviously isn’t her only accomplishment but it is meaningful because she took a political battering after the failure in 1994 but came back to fight again, and was able to work on a bipartisan basis during a very polarized time to get this done. Seems relevant!

‘Clinton is one of the most accomplished people ever to run’

By Chuck Schumer, U.S. Senator for New York, Democratic party.

Hillary Clinton is one of the most accomplished people ever to run for the Presidency. I’m lucky enough to have seen those accomplishments up close from her time as Senator from New York and as Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton

  1. was instrumental in helping secure $21 billion in federal aid to help New York rebuild after 9/11. She fought tooth and nail to protect the first responders who rushed into danger when the towers collapsed and was pivotal in the passage of legislation that helped those first responders who got sick get the care and treatment they deserved.
  2. worked night and day to protect and create jobs in New York, whether that was at the Niagara Falls Air Force base or the Center for Bioinformatics at the University of Buffalo. She also led the charge on the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Equity Act, which is now the law of the land.

‘Rebuilding America’s leadership and prestige overseas after the Bush years’

Bill Richardson is a former secretary of energy and governor of New Mexico.

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was key in rebuilding America’s leadership and prestige overseas after the Bush years.

She restored our alliances with the EU and key Asian allies as well as key relationships in Africa and Latin America.

 ‘The Pediatric Research Equity Act’

By Chris Dodd, former U.S. Senator for Connecticut, Democratic party.

Having worked with her in the Senate and on the HELP Committee, the first thing that came to mind was her

  1. authorship of the Pediatric Research Equity Act. This law requires drug companies to study their products in children. The Act is responsible for changing the drug labeling of hundreds of drugs with important information about safety and dosing of drugs for children. It has improved the health of millions of children who take medications to treat diseases ranging from HIV to epilepsy to asthma. Millions of kids are in better shape and alive because of the law Senator Clinton authored.

‘Crippling sanctions against Iran’

By Paul Begala, political analyst for CNN and counselor to President Bill Clinton.

Easy: Iran sanctions. Sec. Clinton accomplished the nearly impossible mission of getting China, Russia, the European Union and the civilized world on board with crippling sanctions against Iran. This is what brought Iran to the negotiating table.

‘Clinton struck major and consequential diplomatic achievements’

By Bill Scher, senior writer at the Campaign for America’s Future.

Hillary Clinton has four major accomplishments from her tenure as Secretary of State: winning the

  1. UN resolution supporting military intervention in Libya
  2. New START arms control treaty with Russia
  3. renewing diplomatic ties with Myanmar
  4. setting in the motion talks that culminated in the Iran nuclear deal.

We don’t see the Clinton campaign or other Democrats leap to cite most of these accomplishments because they come with degrees of future uncertainty and, in the case of Libya, associations with the tangentially related Benghazi attack. But they are significant accomplishments nonetheless.

Clinton is often mocked for failing to “reset” relations with Russia. But the New START treaty is being followed and helping contain tensions. She won Russia’s support for UN sanctions on Iran that helping bring the rogue state to the negotiating table. And she cajoled Russia to abstain on the Libyan resolution, which was critical to securing its passage in the UN Security Council. (In fact, she may have “reset” too well. Vladimir Putin, who was not President at the time, opposed the resolution and that may have contributed to his decision to reclaim his post.)

The aftermath of that Libyan intervention has been messy, with rival governments fracturing the country, although unity talks are currently taking place. Myanmar has not been perfect either. The promise of released political prisoners has only been partially filled. And the military is being accused of manipulating the upcoming general election. Still the participation of the previously banned National League for Democracy party is a step forward.

These are reminders that, in the real world, progress is often halting. But the fact remains that Clinton struck major and consequential diplomatic achievements, even if the final historical judgment on their lasting impact is years away.

 ‘I’ve seen, first-hand, her exceptional work at every level

By Patrick Leahy, U.S. Senator for Vermont, Democratic party.

I’ve seen, first-hand, her exceptional work at every level—when she was in the White House as First Lady; later, when we were partners and neighbors as senators; and after that, when she was Secretary of State.

  1. Just one example, which is one of her enduring legacies as First Lady, was her partnership with Congress in developing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which has improved access to essential health care for millions of kids.
  2. In the Senate we worked together on efforts to clean up Lake Champlain and to help Vermont’s and New York’s family farmers.
  3. (As a senator from New York,) She was at the center of securing help for New York’s 9/11 first responders.
  4. We worked together in enacting the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was the first bill signed into law by President Obama.

I was chairman of the State Department’s budget committee when she was Secretary of State, and I worked closely with her—week to week, and sometimes day to day—on a wide, wide range of issues and challenges, from human rights to global health.

  1. We traveled together to Haiti as we worked to help that country recover from the devastation of the earthquake.
  2. She had a leading role in securing tougher sanctions on Iran.
  3. We worked together to successfully overcome obstruction by House Republicans of the funding she requested to improve embassy security around the world.

Some of her most important achievements were her steady, methodical efforts, with the President, to help reintroduce America to the world.

 ‘She was the point person … compelling the Chinese to commit to cutting carbon emissions.’

By David Axelrod, former Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama.

When I was there, she played a very active role in

  1. rallying the world behind the global sanctions against Iran that brought them to the table over their nuclear program.
  2. She was the point person in Copenhagen in compelling the Chinese to commit to cutting carbon emissions.
  3. She personally negotiated a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Those are a few that come to mind.

‘The Adoption and Safe Families Act’

By Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress.

As First Lady, Hillary was the

  1. point person in the Clinton Administration on the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, a bill that refocused adoption policies on the needs of the children, made it easier to remove children from abusive situations, provided support and services to adoptive families, and encouraged adoption of children with special needs. The bill increased foster adoptions by 64 percent by 2002.

Hillary helped develop the idea behind this bill, first writing about it in a 1995 article. She went on to work with Republicans and Democrats in Congress, including moderate Rhode Island Republican John Chafee, to see the bill through to final passage, helping broker compromises to ensure the bill’s passage.

This was not a big bill that dominated headlines. But for every child who was placed in a loving home because of this legislation, Hillary’s work was more than an accomplishment on a resume; it was an important part of the reason their lives were better.

 ‘Clinton has at every turn fought for progress and opportunity’

By Tracy Sefl, former senior advisor to Ready for Hillary.

The reality is that Hillary Clinton has at every turn, fought for progress and opportunity. As her campaign continues, she’ll continue to share exactly what those fights have entailed, and for who—

domestically, on behalf of children, veterans, active military, first responders, victims of gender-based violence, family caregivers, pregnant women.

As Secretary of State, she helped restore America’s standing during challenging times, meaning that her tireless diplomatic efforts brought forth progress with

  1. tougher sanctions
  2. missile reduction treaties
  3. ceasefires
  4. strengthened international coalitions.

And critically, her core belief—that the improved lives of women and girls worldwide will leads to stronger and safer economies—is proving to be transformational in the 21st Century.

‘The new START Treaty’

By Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist.

Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, led the negotiations that led to the new

  1. START Treaty, a landmark revision of our nuclear arms agreement with Russia. It received bipartisan support in Congress and represents a critical leg in our national security and a safer world.

‘A relentless advocate for women and children’

By Douglas Schoen, pollster for President Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton has:

  1. has championed women’s reproductive rights as well as establishing the importance of early education.
  2. played a critical role in the creation of the Adoption and Safe Families Act.
  3. introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act as well as the
  4. Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

‘Galvanizing the Senate after the tragedy of 9/11’

By Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senator for California, Democratic party.

What Hillary Clinton has accomplished in any given year–from leading efforts to impose the toughest

  1. Iran sanctions
  2. making women’s rights central to our foreign policy to
  3. galvanizing the Senate after the tragedy of 9/11 to rebuild the city and take care of our brave first responders.

‘A ‘smart power’ diplomacy’

By Harold Koh, former Legal Adviser of the Department of State.

As Secretary, Hillary Clinton defined and tried consistently to implement a “smart power” diplomacy that combines diplomacy, development, aid, rule of law and private initiatives with limited applications of hard power to project U.S. global leadership abroad.

In an age where our hard power resources are limited and near exhaustion, her approach is a much more promising than the Republicans’ to addressing our hardest global problems in the years ahead.

  1. The Iran nuclear deal
  2. multilateral trade talks
  3. climate change negotiations are only three current concrete examples of that approach in action.

‘She helped hold together the Presidency and the country’

By Dennis Kucinich, former U.S. Representative from Ohio.

When the Clinton Administration was under attack and facing impeachment, Hillary Clinton

  1. s(h)owed great courage, fortitude and perseverance.
  2. She helped hold together the Presidency and the country by virtue of her steadfastness and determination.
  3. Her conduct revealed an extraordinary resilience and grace under pressure, which are the hallmarks of a strong leader.
  4. Even more than her considerable work on health and education, her effort to be a unifying force at that time was important for America.

‘The world is safer and people are more free thanks to Hillary Clinton’

By Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist and contributor to CNN and ABC News.

  1. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was instrumental in building an international coalition around the toughest regime of sanctions against Iran in history.
  2. She went to Beijing 20 years ago and declared that women’s rights are human rights.
  3. More recently, she stood before representatives of nations like Russia and Uganda and stated boldly that gay rights are human rights, too.

Today, the world is safer and people are more free thanks to Hillary Clinton.

Here at home, from her very first job out of law school—at the Children’s Defense Fund—Hillary Clinton has delivered results for Americans most at risk of discrimination and restricted opportunity.

As First Lady, she

  1. championed healthcare reform at the comprehensive level and through SCHIP for children living in poverty.
  2. In the Senate she fought to raise the minimum wage,
  3. she stood up for 9/11 first responders and she was a tireless
  4. advocate for legislation to protect and expand the right to vote.

 

Summary

Compiling the 47 answers and eliminating duplication, here is what they said were her lifelong greatest accomplishments:

Pre-First Lady:

  1. First job out of law school—at the Children’s Defense Fund
  2. She went to Beijing 20 years ago and declared that women’s rights are human rights

As First Lady:

  1. Point person in the Clinton Administration on the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, a bill that refocused adoption policies on the needs of the children, made it easier to remove children from abusive situations, provided support and services to adoptive families, and encouraged adoption of children with special needs
  2. Championed healthcare reform at the comprehensive level and through SCHIP for children living in poverty.
  3. Advocate for legislation to protect and expand the right to vote.
  4. She stood before representatives of nations like Russia and Uganda and stated boldly that gay rights are human rights, too.

As Senator from New York:

  1. Stood up for 9/11 first responders and she was a tireless
  2. Fought to raise the minimum wage,
  3. Introduced the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
  4. Author(ed)ship of the Pediatric Research Equity Act. This law requires drug companies to study their products in children. The Act is responsible for changing the drug labeling of hundreds of drugs with important information about safety and dosing of drugs for children.
  5. Worked together on efforts to clean up Lake Champlain and to help Vermont’s and New York’s family farmers.
  6. Worked night and day to protect and create jobs in New York, whether that was at the Niagara Falls Air Force base or the Center for Bioinformatics at the University of Buffalo
  7. Traveled to Haiti worked to help that country recover from the devastation of the earthquake.
  8. Worked together to successfully overcome obstruction by House Republicans of the funding she requested to improve embassy security around the world.

As Secretary of State:

  1. Point person in Copenhagen in compelling the Chinese to commit to cutting carbon emissions.
  2. Multilateral trade talks
  3. Instrumental in building an international coalition around the toughest regime of sanctions against Iran in history.
  4. Her role in killing Osama bin Laden
  5. Management of the State Department during which time we saw a 50 percent increase in exports to China
  6. Landmark normalization of relations with Cuba, nearly every foreign policy victory of President Obama’s second term has Secretary Clinton’s fingerprints on it.
  7. UN resolution supporting military intervention in Libya
  8. Renewing diplomatic ties with Myanmar
  9. START Treaty, a landmark revision of our nuclear arms agreement with Russia. It received bipartisan support in Congress and represents a critical leg in our national security and a safer world.
  10. The Iran nuclear deal

I invite you to review and weigh the importance of her individual accomplishments on the scale of presidential qualifications.

 

Tools from Carl Sagan’s BS Detection Kit

We are in an age of hyper-information/persuasion/spin about all aspects of our lives, from what we eat, to what we buy, to what we attend, to whom we choose as leaders.  Now, as always, we can benefit from screening the inputs to our lives, and weighing our beliefs on a scale of clarity, and verity.  Carl Sagan gave us some sage tools to evaluate and detect fallacies of arguments, and false claims.  After the quote, I will try to translate, without bias, his precise language, and references, into reasonably understandable terms.

A. Evaluate Ideas to Approach the Truth:

  1. Wherever possible,there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
  2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science, there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
  4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
  5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
  6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
  7. If there’s a chain of argument,every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.
  8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the dataequally well to choose the simpler.
  9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.
  1. Avoid Common Pitfalls of Common Sense

Just as important as learning these helpful tools, however, is unlearning and avoiding the most common pitfalls of common sense. Reminding us of where society is most vulnerable to those, Sagan writes:

In addition to teaching us what to do when evaluating a claim to knowledge, any good baloney detection kit must also teach us what not to do. It helps us recognize the most common and perilous fallacies of logic and rhetoric. Many good examples can be found in religion and politics, because their practitioners are so often obliged to justify two contradictory propositions.

He admonishes against the twenty most common and perilous ones — many rooted in our chronic discomfort with ambiguity — with examples of each in action:

  1. ad hominem— Latin for “to the man,” attacking the arguer and not the argument (e.g., The Reverend Dr. Smith is a known Biblical fundamentalist, so her objections to evolution need not be taken seriously)
  2. argument from authority(e.g., President Richard Nixon should be re-elected because he has a secret plan to end the war in Southeast Asia — but because it was secret, there was no way for the electorate to evaluate it on its merits; the argument amounted to trusting him because he was President: a mistake, as it turned out)
  3. argument from adverse consequences(e.g., A God meting out punishment and reward must exist, because if He didn’t, society would be much more lawless and dangerous — perhaps even ungovernable. Or: The defendant in a widely publicized murder trial must be found guilty; otherwise, it will be an encouragement for other men to murder their wives)
  4. appeal to ignorance— the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa (e.g., There is no compelling evidence that UFOs are not visiting the Earth; therefore, UFOs exist — and there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Or: There may be seventy kazillion other worlds, but not one is known to have the moral advancement of the Earth, so we’re still central to the Universe.) This impatience with ambiguity can be criticized in the phrase: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
  5. special pleading, often to rescue a proposition in deep rhetorical trouble(e.g.,How can a merciful God condemn future generations to torment because, against orders, one woman induced one man to eat an apple? Special plead: you don’t understand the subtle Doctrine of Free Will. Or: How can there be an equally godlike Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the same Person? Special plead: You don’t understand the Divine Mystery of the Trinity. Or: How could God permit the followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — each in their own way enjoined to heroic measures of loving kindness and compassion — to have perpetrated so much cruelty for so long? Special plead: You don’t understand Free Will again. And anyway, God moves in mysterious ways.)
  6. begging the question, also called assuming the answer (e.g., We must institute the death penalty to discourage violent crime. But does the violent crime rate in fact fall when the death penalty is imposed? Or: The stock market fell yesterday because of a technical adjustment and profit-taking by investors — but is there any independent evidence for the causal role of “adjustment” and profit-taking; have we learned anything at all from this purported explanation?)
  7. observational selection, also calledthe enumeration of favorable circumstances, or as the philosopher Francis Bacon described it, counting the hits and forgetting the misses (e.g., A state boasts of the Presidents it has produced, but is silent on its serial killers)
  8. statistics of small numbers— a close relative of observational selection(e.g., “They say 1 out of every 5 people is Chinese. How is this possible? I know hundreds of people, and none of them is Chinese. Yours truly.” Or: “I’ve thrown three sevens in a row. Tonight I can’t lose.”)
  9. misunderstanding of the nature of statistics(e.g., President Dwight Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence);
  10. inconsistency(e.g., Prudently plan for the worst of which a potential military adversary is capable, but thriftily ignore scientific projections on environmental dangers because they’re not “proved.” Or: Attribute the declining life expectancy in the former Soviet Union to the failures of communism many years ago, but never attribute the high infant mortality rate in the United States (now highest of the major industrial nations) to the failures of capitalism. Or: Consider it reasonable for the Universe to continue to exist forever into the future, but judge absurd the possibility that it has infinite duration into the past);
  11. non sequitur— Latin for “It doesn’t follow” (e.g., Our nation will prevail because God is great. But nearly every nation pretends this to be true; the German formulation was “Gott mit uns”). Often those falling into the non sequitur fallacy have simply failed to recognize alternative possibilities;
  12. post hoc, ergo propter hoc— Latin for “It happened after, so it was caused by” (e.g., Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila: “I know of … a 26-year-old who looks 60 because she takes [contraceptive] pills.” Or: Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons)
  13. meaningless question(e.g., What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? But if there is such a thing as an irresistible force there can be no immovable objects, and vice versa)
  14. excluded middle, or false dichotomy — considering only the two extremes in a continuum of intermediate possibilities (e.g., “Sure, take his side; my husband’s perfect; I’m always wrong.” Or: “Either you love your country or you hate it.” Or: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”)
  15. short-term vs. long-term— a subset of the excluded middle, but so important I’ve pulled it out for special attention (e.g., We can’t afford programs to feed malnourished children and educate pre-school kids. We need to urgently deal with crime on the streets.  Or: Why explore space or pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?);
  16. slippery slope, related to excluded middle (e.g.,If we allow abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy, it will be impossible to prevent the killing of a full-term infant. Or, conversely: If the state prohibits abortion even in the ninth month, it will soon be telling us what to do with our bodies around the time of conception);
  17. confusion of correlation and causation(e.g., A survey shows that more college graduates are homosexual than those with lesser education; therefore, education makes people gay. Or: Andean earthquakes are correlated with closest approaches of the planet Uranus; therefore — despite the absence of any such correlation for the nearer, more massive planet Jupiter — the latter causes the former)
  18. straw man— caricaturing a position to make it easier to attack (e.g., Scientists suppose that living things simply fell together by chance — a formulation that willfully ignores the central Darwinian insight, that Nature ratchets up by saving what works and discarding what doesn’t. Or — this is also a short-term/long-term fallacy — environmentalists care more for snail darters and spotted owls than they do for people)
  19. suppressed evidence, or half-truths (e.g., An amazingly accurate and widely quoted “prophecy” of the assassination attempt on President Reagan is shown on television; but — an important detail — was it recorded before or after the event? Or:  These government abuses demand revolution, even if you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Yes, but is this likely to be a revolution in which far more people are killed than under the previous regime? What does the experience of other revolutions suggest? Are all revolutions against oppressive regimes desirable and in the interests of the people?)
  20. weasel words(e.g., The separation of powers of the U.S. Constitution specifies that the United States may not conduct a war without a declaration by Congress. On the other hand, Presidents are given control of foreign policy and the conduct of wars, which are potentially powerful tools for getting themselves re-elected. Presidents of either political party may therefore be tempted to arrange wars while waving the flag and calling the wars something else — “police actions,” “armed incursions,” “protective reaction strikes,” “pacification,” “safeguarding American interests,” and a wide variety of “operations,” such as “Operation Just Cause.” Euphemisms for war are one of a broad class of reinventions of language for political purposes. Talleyrand said, “An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public”)

Like all tools, the baloney detection kit can be misused, applied out of context, or even employed as a rote alternative to thinking. But applied judiciously, it can make all the difference in the world — not least in evaluating our own arguments before we present them to others.”