This is the dawning of the age of disinformation

For fans of the 5th Dimension, I recognize my use of the word “disinformation” has one more syllable than “Aquarius,” but it is better than “alternate facts.” This is the new term being spoonfed to us before being lied to by the new White House. Our new President, who has a history of treating the truth as a commodity, has hired two spokespeople that now lie to cover up their boss’ lies.

Kellyanne Conway said they were presenting “alternate facts,” which is an oxymoron that begs the input of George Carlin who was famous for oxymoron questions. As Carlin famously asked about jumbo shrimp, are they big shrimp or little jumbos? Are alternate facts untruthful facts or factual variations?

The sad part of this new era is how easily these alternate facts can be shown to be untrue. Yet, these spin doctors, which is a nice way of saying paid liars, are lying about inconsequential stuff. The size of the crowd and size of the TV audience are not worth losing goodwill over. Yet, if they will lie about something of no consequence, what will happen on bigger issues.

On inauguration day, there were two additional stories worth reporting that went unannounced. First, Sean Spicer made no mention that our new President signed an executive order in his first hours that reversed a planned mortgage premium rate reduction scheduled to go into effect at month end. This would have saved over one million middle class homeowners money. Weren’t these the people our President swore to look after?

Second, while speaking of build in America and buy American, his followers were wearing caps to “Make America Great Again” made in China, Vietnam and Bangladesh. Not only is this hypocrisy, but it shows what a poor planner the President is, as being a good manager has been a shortcoming. Why would you risk such discovery?

Finally, he has decided to continue his war on the media. Yet, what he fails to realize is the media is far-reaching and credible media is now presenting his office’s comments side by side with fact checks. When you are known for lying throughout your career, it is good journalism to show where statements made by our President or one if his surrogates is untrue. I wish they did this during the campaign, as he was the most prodigious liar since 2007 when such fact checking began.

Let me be candid. I did not vote for this man and advocated against his candidacy. This was a key reason. Yet, he is our President, so we must hope he does some good things and protest when he goes down a bad path. What will wear my patience quite thin is for blatant lying, especially on nonsense.

So, here is what I am going to do throughout his Presidency and I encourage others to do the same until shown otherwise. I am not going to believe a word Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway or Sean Spicer say. A betting person would say the same, based on their track record. They have to earn any trust I will give them. They have failed to do so and deserve this treatment. The ball is in their court.

 

False equivalence

My friend Hugh Curtler and others correctly talk about democracy requiring an informed electorate. Our founders saw a key role in the media to keep us more informed and search for the truth. One of challenges today is most of our electorate chooses not to be informed and would rather be entertained. I have written before about the United States of Entertainment.

Of those who do try to be informed, we need to spend time looking for valid sources. And, we need to ask questions when we learn of information from less legitimate sources, such as a Facebook post, Tweet or email. Where did you hear that? That cannot be true, so what is your source?

Even, so-called news outlets often are conflicted or biased, so information has to be taken with a grain of salt, or some cases looked at with a high degree of skepticism. As my boss used to say, “My Daddy told me to believe half of what you read and nothing of what you hear.”

One area that frustrates me is false equivalence. This is when biased news sources try to portray both sides of an issue as 50/50 when the issue is not even weighted in consensus or truth. An easy example is Fox News with its treatment of the issue of climate change has perpetuated a hoax issue for a long time, because of the heavy influence of the fossil fuel industry. It should be noted that Exxon-Mobil is under investigation by three attorney generals for misrepresenting the impact of climate change on its business to its shareholders, which is a crime if true.

The other way false equivalence is used is to say because one politician has made some mistakes, that it negates the mistakes of an opponent who has spent a lifetime of self-interest, not caring much about others. This sentence probably defines our Presidential election as clearly as it can be defined. We have one candidate who has spent a lifetime of service helping people, getting high marks for the jobs she did, but who has made mistakes and is too zealous in protecting her image.

We have another candidate whose lifetime has been one of exploiting others for money and not treating people well along the way, whether it stiffing them, suing them, lying to them, fooling them or just leaving them holding the bag. Getting his share takes precedence over anything and whether others get theirs is less relevant. And, it still does.

The key is to look at people’s real history. What did they do, how did they do it and how did they treat people along the way? That is the best way to judge how they will act in the future.

The Wizard of Orange

I have used this analogy before, but there is a certain Presidential candidate who is doing his best impersonating the Wizard of Oz. The other night on PBS Newshour, two financial reporters, who had delved deeply into this candidate’s business affairs, used that term to describe his poor business management skills – he does not want you to look behind the curtain. They did say he was superb at public relations skills equating him to P.T. Barnum, of circus fame, who once said “There is a sucker born every minute.”

A lot of this poor management is likely apparent in the candidate’s tax returns, yet he is the lone Presidential candidate to not release them since Richard Nixon started the practice. Some have provided two years, while guess who has provided the most in-depth release of 39 returns – one Hillary Clinton. While the man said no one cares about his returns, it turns out 67% of Americans do in a recent Rasmussen poll. The reason cited is he is under audit, but he would not be the first one to do so under audit, nor is an audit preventing him from releasing older accepted tax returns.

But, the lack of tax returns did not prevent these reporters from reviewing the man’s business history. His early career was heavily laden with debt financing, so much that it led to several bankruptcies of his companies. The corporate bankruptcies almost led to his personal bankruptcy. They noted the stories of his looking out only for his interests, while screwing others over through stiffing contractors, employees and co-investors are “all true.” They said he was quoted as saying about others “that is their problem.” This is a key reason for his many lawsuits, which number more than 3,500 per a USA Today article in June.

His later career is not using debt as much. He is “renting” his name to other developers where he has nothing to do with the property. This is so they can charge more to unwitting buyers. The candidate gets his royalties and goes about his business. I personally find this exploitive at best and unethical at worst, but he would not be the first person to sell his name. My guess is he loves this, as he gets money for very little risk, as he can pull out at any time, which has led to even more lawsuits.

These reporters were not high on the candidate’s business acumen. They added that he also seems to have less grasp of financing than he touts and has made several errors attempting to equate this business knowledge to federal financing. When pressed, they noted his consummate skill at PR. He can sell his name better than anyone can theirs. This is not the kind of man we need leading our country as he would not be putting the interests of others first.

 

 

 

Leadership is not beating on your chest

I have written before that a key characteristic of a great leader is to deflect credit to others. Such a leader understands that most achievement is leveraged by a team of people who executes ideas or serves its customers.

Conversely, when you hear a leader or wanna-be leader take credit, even when undue, it is a sure sign that this person’s ego will get in the way of organizational success. If you hear too many “I’s” and “me’s” and too few “”we’s” and “us'” then that should give you pause. A candidate recently said ” I alone can solve this” which  should be sufficient by itself to discount his candidacy.

Our blogging friend Persia, who writes under a blog called “Blog of a Mad Black Woman,” has written numerous posts about exiting a narcissistic relationship. While she is from the UK, she does not have full advantage of how accurately she has defined the candidate I quoted from above who is running for President.

Her latest post, which can be linked to below, is a perfect example. In this post she compares the leadership attributes versus those of a psychopath, which is an extreme version of a narcissist. It is a quick read, but well worth it. In it, you can easily see why this candidate is scary.

Leadership Trait vs Psychopathic Trait

Beliefs equal facts per the GOP

At last week’s Republican Convention, the big loser was accuracy and factual data. Why let the facts get in the way of your story? If you want to scare the hell out of folks and tell everyone how bad things are and that you alone are the man and group to fix such problems, then why should facts interfere with that narrative? The problem is what was presented is largely at odds with the truth. I ask people who tell me how bad things are by asking a simple question, what country are you talking about?

John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” broadcast on Sunday shows the several bald-faced lies that were told by the convention speakers, including their nominee. The fact the nominee lied is not news as he has broken all records for lying in a campaign dating back to when fact checkers started measuring comments. What turned out to be the most fascinating conversation was an interview with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who is portrayed as the most serious and knowledgeable GOP spokesperson.

During the interview, the reporter challenged him when he said violent crime is up in America. The reporter said the data clearly shows a decline over the last twenty-five years. Gingrich refused to concede that, but the reporter kept insisting. She gave him an out saying there are a couple of large cities where it has gone up the past year and he seized that, but she reiterated it has clearly declined over time. Gingrich then said people believe it to be higher and I will leave the data to the liberals and media. “As a politician, beliefs are more important,” said Gingrich. Unfortunately, he was not the only person to say he believed something over facts, so in so doing it must make it true.

As Oliver pointed out, it does not work that way. You cannot substitute your beliefs for facts and think everything is alright. You can believe all you want that climate change is a hoax and even make it more colorful as The Donald does adding it is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs. But, it remains a huge problem we must deal with.

Let me offer a few facts in rebuttal to the story painted at the GOP convention.

  • America’s economy is actually doing pretty well, especially related to the rest of the world. The stock market has more than doubled under Obama, unemployment is down to under 5%, 10 million plus net jobs have been created on his watch and we are currently on the 5th (soon to be 4th) longest economic growth period ever in the US.
  • In 2015, the US sold more US made cars than ever before, beating the previous record, ironically, when Bill Clinton was President.
  • The rest of the world still respects the US as we have higher ratings than when Obama took the reins from Bush. Our reputation had fallen with the WMD story. By the way, the British just completed their review of the Iraq invasion story and were highly critical of Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush. We have chosen to investigate Benghazi ad nauseam rather than the WMD issue.
  • The Affordable Care Act is not perfect and needs improvements, but is working pretty well with over 20 million new insureds and slower cost growth than before it was implemented.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has penalized banks, credit card companies and pay-day lenders over $11 Billion for aggressive and fraudulent marketing practices, with over 90% of that money going to cheated consumers. Consumers benefit, but GOP legislators hate this program. By the way, Senator Elizabeth Warren played a strong role in its passage and implementation.

I could go on, but we are in a much better place than was told last week. Yes, we have things to improve upon such as the declining middle class and increased poverty which have occurred over the last forty years and we must have better dialogue around race and violence issues, as well as gun governance, but America is not going to hell in a hand basket. And, even if it were, The Donald is the absolute worst person to be given keys to the car. His track record is one of great salesmanship, but poor management.

So, please ask questions of politicians and don’t let them off the hook if they say they believe it to be so. Show me your data.

 

I was wrong

The above title represents the three words you may never hear Donald Trump utter in public. And, yet based on his prolific pace of lying and continual bashing of anyone or anything that gets in his way, I can think of no other celebrity who should say these three words more than him. I was wrong.

Let’s help him practice.

When DT derides Senator John McCain, a war hero, for not being such as heroes are not captured – I was wrong.

When DT sells his name to a development that he has nothing to do with for them to con folks into thinking this development has higher quality – I was wrong.

When DT says Carly Fiorina is not attractive enough to be president saying looking “look at that face” – I was wrong.

When DT imitates a reporter who has a noticeable disability with his arms and then denies he was so doing when it was obvious after saying “you should see this guy” – I was wrong.

When DT accuses reporter Meghan Kelly of unfairness implying she was on her period because she asked him legitimate, but tough questions – I was wrong.

When DT uses every means possible to evict people from their homes, saying it is just business – I was wrong.

When he says America is the most taxed country in the world, when it is not even close to being accurate – I was wrong.

When he derides a judge for being unfair to Trump because he is Mexican, when the judge was born in Indiana – I was wrong.

When he tells seminar goers and students he will personally interview and select teachers at Trump University when he did not and when he has a sales playbook to strong-arm people into spending their money – I was wrong.

When he not only condones, but encourages violence at his speeches – I was wrong.

When he says whites are killed by blacks 80% of the time at a rally to rile up the crowd, when the truth per the FBI is it is only 15% of the time – I was wrong.

When he derides Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans, women, etc. indicting them as a group or as individuals – I was wrong.

When he consistently says the President was not born in America when the proof has been exhibited time and again – I was wrong.

When he says global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese, when there is written documentation revealing his request to the Irish government to build a sea wall to hold back the rising seas due to climate change – I was wrong.

When he berates reporters for asking him legitimate questions and refuses to participate in a debate because a female reporter hurt his feelings – I was wrong.

When he  brought up unsubstantiated or denounced stories about his competitors from sources like the National Enquirer or from past Republican smear campaigns – I was wrong.

When he said unemployment was 30%, 40% or even high as 42%, revising it down to 20% later, while the Bureau of Labor statistics had it between 4.9% and 5% when he said these statements – I was wrong.

When he pretended to be a public relations person for his organization as he called into talk shows and bragged as a fictitious employee about how great, rich, successful, sexy, etc. his boss Trump is – I was wrong.

The dilemma is I could go on and on. Plus, rather than confess a wrongdoing, he will sometimes double and triple down on the bad statement as he did with berating John McCain or the judge from Indiana. I was wrong. Three simple words. But, they are not in the narcissist playbook. Yet, there are four definitive examples of when he was wrong that he cannot hide from – he has filed for bankruptcy four times. On those failed investments, let’s hear him say it – I was wrong.

 

 

 

Odds and ends for a Friday

Mother Nature is wreaking havoc with flooding in France and Texas. Our expatriate friend Lisa from Ecuador is living in a community that has experienced devastating earthquakes which have taken many lives and will cost over $3 Billion to repair. And, this is on top of the encroaching seas which continue to wreak havoc in her seaside community causing folks to move inland. So I feel guilty about the beautiful day we are having here and wish for others to experience the sunshine.

Here are a few odds and ends on this Friday.

Violent protesting is not the answer – in response to maybe the most divisive, bigoted and narcissistic candidate we have ever had in the US in The Donald, protestors have become more physically demonstrative outside of his rallies. This needs to stop. Civil protest is more than OK, but violent protest has no place in our country. I recognize fully this leader-wanna-be has used his false bravado to encourage forcible put downs of protestors which is as far from presidential as you can get, but doing the same in protest is not the answer. The answer is don’t vote for this globally disastrous candidate.

That climate change thing is real – I  mention above about the encroaching seas on Ecuador and have talked before about the impact already occurring on Miami, Norfolk, Bangladesh and the Cartaret Islands, but my favorite lie of the above candidate is “global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs.” I have said before The Donald, who is on record as lying over 75% of the time by nonpartisan fact checkers, knows he is lying, but in this example we have proof. It turns out the Trump golf course in Ireland has formally petitioned the Irish government to permit him to build a sea wall to prevent the rising seas due to climate change from encroaching on his golf property. But, you said….

With friends like these, who needs enemies – Why this is not talked about more is amazing, but our allies have come out strongly against Trump given his statements and lack of awareness of global issues. Yet, The Donald does have the support of Vladimir Putin and now Kim Jong Un of North Korea. Putin is very adamant against Clinton and wants The Donald in charge. People need to ask themselves why? Here is a KGB trained man who knows how to manipulate and is in favor of Trump. Here is a man who makes sure Russian TV programs have purposeful light criticism and heavy support of Putin, as a means of propaganda. Don’t you think he is salivating at an egomaniacal, thin-skinned, and bombastic leader like Trump who will tick of our allies and make Putin look more statesmanlike?

Brazil and Venezuela have made governing a farce – There are known problems around the world with poor and corrupt governance, but it seems to have been heightened in these two countries. Brazil is about to host the biggest athletic show in the world, yet its leader, Dilma Rousseff  was suspended and is about to be impeached for cooking the books to make things look better than they are. Not to be out done, the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ticked off everyone by seizing control of businesses who have had to shut the doors because of cash flow problems. The country has relied too much on oil and with the downturn in oil prices, their economy has been devastated. Plus, he has ordered military exercises, which cost money, but basically are for showmanship. Dialogue is non-existent at this point and that needs to change, as oil prices are not soaring back anytime soon.

That is all I have for now. I think if there is a theme above, we must have reasonable and accountable leaders to run our governments. Our problems are real and we deserve leaders who will govern, govern with facts and not step on folks.