Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘Hillary Clinton’

Why can Hillary Clinton make up fake statistics and no one in the media challenges them?

Posted by sanityinjection on December 3, 2015

Following up on my previous post, here is another example of how the media does not give the same scrutiny to the statements of someone they like, such as Hillary Clinton, as they do to someone they dislike, such as Donald Trump.

I first noticed this statement by Ms. Clinton during one of the recent Democratic presidential debates, and according to this from, apparently she is now repeating the claim in one of her TV commercials: Clinton states that between 88-92 people are killed every day by guns.

Now, that would seem like an easy thing to fact-check wouldn’t it? After all, the FBI reports crime statistics on an annual basis. In 2014, the *total* number of murders and non-negligent manslaughters in the US was 13, 472. Ms. Clinton’s lowest figure of 88 per day, multiplied by 365 days, would give a total for gun murders alone of 32, 120.

Clearly, this is not a slight exaggeration. Nor is it an isolated mis-statement, since Ms. Clinton has repeated the claim multiple times. It is quite a simply a deliberate and blatant falsehood designed to trick people into thinking that gun violence is a much larger problem in this country than it actually is (the recent terrorist attack in San Bernadino notwithstanding) in order to win support for further eroding that pesky Second Amendment to the Constitution. (In fact, the 2014 homicide rate of 4.5 per 100,000 people is the lowest since 1963.)

Now, does anyone doubt that if Donald Trump had uttered a massive falsehood like that even once, every major media outlet would be holding it up and trumpeting it as an example of his unfitness for office?

Which is worse: when the mainstream media tells you what they want you to know? Or when they deliberately don’t tell you what they don’t want you to know? At this point, Ms. Clinton could simply declare – as O’Brien famously did in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four – that 2 + 2 = 5, and you would hear nary a peep from the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS, and their assorted imitators.


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Dissecting media bias: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the anatomy of propaganda as news reporting

Posted by sanityinjection on December 3, 2015

I call your attention to this superb piece by Emmy-winning investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson. In it, she uses the recent controversy over Donald Trump’s remarks about Muslims in New Jersey celebrating on 9/11 to illustrate the fundamental double standard the mainstream media applies to politicians they don’t want the American people to vote for.

It’s hardly a secret that many mainstream media reporters, editors, and talking heads abhor Mr. Trump and are appalled by the possibility of him becoming President. (I happen to agree with them.) Ms. Attkisson uses a technique she calls “the Substitution Game”, giving specific examples of how the media’s behavior would be very different if the person in question were someone they approve of such as President Obama or Hillary Clinton. She also points out how convenient it is for Ms. Clinton’s campaign to have the national media painting her potential election opponent as dishonest even as polls suggest that perecptions of her own dishonesty are one of her biggest problems with voters. Attkisson isn’t necessarily suggesting a well-orchestrated media conspiracy, but rather a culture of bias that permeates the major television news networks and newspapers.

If this bias were to be stated in its most naked form, it would be something like this: Dishonesty, in the form of intentional misrepresentation of facts or outright lying, is OK as long as it is in service of good liberal causes, but it’s abhorrent whenever it’s done by someone we don’t like or someone who disagrees with us. This fits in with a more general theme that the end justifies the means: that it is OK for the “good guys” (which in the view of so many influential media members means the liberals) are justified in lying, cheating, stealing, or doing whatever is necessary to advance their noble aims, but the “bad guys” – Second Amendments rights advocates, climate change skeptics, etc. –  are abhorrent if they use the same methods, because they have the wrong aims.

Attkisson is not saying that the media should not challenge counterfactual claims by public figures. Rather, she is questioning why they only seem to beat the drum about such claims when those figures are on one side of the political spectrum. When a huge segment of the broadcast and print media spends a lot of time making a huge deal out of controversial statements by Mr. Trump while deliberately downplaying and even ignoring those made by Obama and Clinton, even a relatively savvy news consumer who is not paying close attention can, over time, absorb that implication of what is important. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how propaganda works.

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US – North Korea negotiations: What is really going on?

Posted by sanityinjection on November 12, 2009

Or perhaps better to ask, What is really *not* going on? Korea expert Andrei Lankov, writing in the Asia Times, argues that for once, the Obama Administration’s foot-dragging and dithering in the foreign policy arena is actually a good strategy when it comes to North Korea:

Lankov’s essential point is that North Korea has been “playing” the US for many years, and the Administration, led by Secretaries Clinton and Gates, has decided to turn the tables on them. In the past, North Korea had an edge because the US wanted something from them – denuclearization – and needed at least the appearance of an agreement badly enough to make concessions without insisting on verification of the NK side of the agreement, which was never fulfilled.

Instead, the US is now giving lip service to negotiations but not actually pursuing them. This sends a message to North Korea: If you are not serious about reaching an agreement, we won’t take you seriously.

Of course, there is the possibility that North Korea may try to raise the stakes by committing further provocations. The recent naval skirmish between North and South Korea may be the first sign of this. The Administration will have to steel itself not to give ground no matter how many missile tests or belligerent announcements come from Pyongyang. If NK leader Kim Jong-Il becomes convinced that there is an iron fist inside the US’ velvet glove, he may decide that it’s better to shake hands than play ratslap.

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Should the US talk to Cuba and Raul Castro?

Posted by sanityinjection on April 17, 2009

Recently, Cuban leader Raul Castro stated publicly that he is ready for talks with the US in which all issues could be put on the table, including political prisoners and human rights. This move, something Cuba has not been willing to do before, is being viewed around the world as an overture to the US. Everyone is interested to see how the US will respond.

So far, the Obama Administration’s tone has been positive but cautious. Secretary of State Clinton characterized Castro’s statement as “welcome” and said the Administration is seriously considering how it should respond. In my view, such caution is appropriate. The US has already made a gesture toward Cuba in loosening restrictions on trade and travel with Cuba. That represents a concrete benefit for Cuba; to reciprocate simply by agreeing to talk about human rights offers the US nothing concrete in return.

To those not well versed in international relations, such tit-of-tat considerations may seem silly. What is the harm, they might ask, in simply sitting down to talk with Castro or anyone without preconditions?

Well, nothing, if you believe there is a reasonable chance of accomplishing something. However, with countries like Cuba and North Korea, it is more likely that they desire the talks for reasons of prestige and may not have any intention of coming to an agreement. This would be especially true if the talks involve a high profile such as Clinton or President Obama himself. The regimes would spin that as the US coming to kneel at the feet of their Maximum Leader. For countries such as these where the leader’s personality cult is a critical mainstay of the regime’s power, the PR they can get out of having talks with the US is in itself a victory for them, though it may seem trivial to Americans. In this case, Castro has not given any indication that he is prepared to make any real concessions on human rights.

On the other hand, the US does not want to appear to have rebuffed what looks to the world like a sincere gesture. An appropriate response would be to send mid-level State Department officials to meet with Cuban representatives at the UN in New York and see whether there is potential for some sort of agreement. This is called “back-channel” negotiation and has been used in the past with the USSR during the Cold War. Only if progress seems to be forthcoming would you want to escalate to a more high-profile public negotiation.

The US can also indicate its posture by not attempting to block  the move to reinstate Cuba as a member of the Organization of American States, which it was expelled from in 1962. This move is going to succeed anyway. The US should still vote no, but it will be viewed as significant if the US does not lobby other nations to do so as well.

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On the subject of Senate seats…

Posted by sanityinjection on December 16, 2008

Now comes word that Caroline Kennedy, only surviving child of JFK, wants to be appointed to Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat.

Isn’t that the ultimate in dynastic entitlement? Kennedy doesn’t just believe that she’s entitled to be *elected* to the Senate in New York because of her family – she doesn’t even want to have to go through an election, she wants to be *appointed* into the seat so she can run as an incumbent!

The delicious irony here is that if Caroline hadn’t piped up, the top candidate for this seat would have been New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo – ironic because Cuomo is married to Caroline’s first cousin, Kerry Kennedy. Cuomo is also a scion of a famous Democrat family, but unlike Caroline, Cuomo has a long record of government experience in city, state, and federal positions – he was Clinton’s HUD Secretary during his second term.

About all that can be said for Caroline is that at least she is a long-term resident of New York state, unlike her predecessor Hillary. Perhaps the best argument that she should be disqualified is that, in reaching out to Democratic leaders for support, she included race-baiting demagogue Al Sharpton among her courtesy calls.  Sharpton’s comment on Caroline’s qualifications for the job was amusing:

“What [Republican Congressman] Peter King said about Caroline Kennedy is what they said about Hillary Clinton. That’s the one she’d be replacing, right?”

In other words, New York already made a joke of the seat when they gave it to Hillary, so how is this any worse? (Let’s not even talk about the disgrace sitting in New York’s other Senate seat, Mr. My-Ego-Is-More-Important-Than-The Economy.)

I was always taught that the Democratic party stood for the little guy against the rich and powerful. So why does the Democratic party today keep catering to the rich and powerful Clintons and Kennedys? Bill Clinton even had the nerve to joke that his daughter Chelsea should be considered for the Senate seat, proving that far from being disturbed by the allegations of nepotism regarding his family, he wears them as a badge of honor. While I would gladly grovel at her feet for the opportunity to get into her pants, Chelsea is less qualified for public office than I am, except that she knows more Secret Service guys by name than I do.

Ach, I canna’ rant nae more.

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How the news media try to shape your perceptions, part 3

Posted by sanityinjection on September 23, 2008

Our latest example of the ways the media gets you to think what they want you to think comes from our friends at the Associated Press. The article in question is about polling data on former supporters of Hillary Clinton and the extent to which they are, or are not, supporting Barack Obama now.

The beginning of the article very clearly states that Obama has made little or no progress in winning over these voters (mostly Democrats and some independents), while John McCain has been able to win over a few more of them. However, as you read through the rest of the article, the tone very subtly changes. By the end of the article, you are left with the distinct impression that it is only a matter of time before the Clinton supporters “come around” and line up behind Obama – despite no evidence being presented to support this conclusion. How is this achieved?

One of the main ingredients is the quotes that are interspersed in the article. Readers tend to focus on quotes rather than on statistics in an article like this. The first quote is from a Clinton supporter who has doubts about Obama and is clearly undecided and struggling as to who to support. The next quote we get is from an Obama campaign spokesman who (not suprisingly) tells us that Clinton supporters are backing Obama “in huge numbers” and reminding us that Hillary herself has been unequivocal in her support for her former opponent. This is followed by a Hillary Clinton spokesperson who underlines the same message. 

You might expect that logically a McCain spokesperson would be next – but that nod to basic principles of equal coverage would ruin the whole effect. Instead you get a quote from another former Clinton supporter who has decided to back Obama, thus completing the journey from “undecided and struggling” to  “united for change”. You don’t get any quotes from any Clinton supporters backing McCain, which helps them seem vague and tentative.

What’s missing from the article is even the slightest mention of a large group of Clinton-backers who call themselves “PUMAs” (Party Unity, My Ass). This is odd because it is this group of people, fundamentally, that the article purports to be about. PUMAs are united in their determination *not* to vote for Obama under any circumstances. The majority seem to be leaning toward McCain, while others plan to vote for a third-party candidate, write in Hillary’s name, or just stay home. A quick web search turns up literally hundreds of PUMA web sites and blogs. And yet, the article does not offer us any opportunity to hear what they are thinking, or even acknowledge their existence as an organized group.

The last word of the article, the final impression you are given on this topic before moving on to something else? Is this gem:

people in the AP-Yahoo News poll who backed Clinton in earlier waves of the survey might not want to appear inconsistent by suddenly backing a candidate – Obama – they opposed earlier.”

In other words, just in case you are still thick enough to believe that Hillary supporters are serious about not backing Obama, it turns out they’re simply waiting for a decent amount of time to pass to save face before filing into line where they belong!

Judge for yourselves. Here is the full article:

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Thoughts on the Democratic convention, at the midpoint

Posted by sanityinjection on August 27, 2008

Nothing much of importance usually happens on Day 1 of a convention, and this one was no exception. The one thing that sticks out my mind was the image of Michelle Obama and her daughters on stage with their beaming father on a giant video screen behind them. Looking at this handsome, young, charismatic family, I was reminded of nothing so much as JFK, Jackie, Caroline and John-John, only recast with darker skin. If I were the Obama people, I would try to use a photo of Obama and his family together in every ad. It’s an attractive image that counteracts the usual GOP critique that the Democrats don’t support “family values”.

Day 2 was a little more interesting. Governor Schweitzer of Montana is a pudgy redneck with goofy mannerisms who surprised me by blowing the roof off the place with an old-fashioned stump speech that really fired up the crowd (which had just finished ignoring Obama’s brother-in-arms, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.) 

The TV cameras kept going to Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama for reax all night, especially during Hillary’s speech. The Hillary tribute video was well done – I especially liked that they got some real rock music in there instead of the usual insipid crap. Chelsea Clinton continues to be droolworthy, although it’s a little scary how much her voice is starting to resemble her mother’s. (Hillary has many fine qualities, but dulcet tones are not among them.) I liked watching Bill’s face and seeing what was either the greatest acting job ever or genuine love and pride for his wife.

The most enduring image from Day 2 was during Hillary’s speech when she paid tribute to two Democrats who recently passed away, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones and the chair of the Arkansas Democrats, Bill Gwatney. Jones’ son and Gwatney’s wife were sitting in the VIP box on either side of Bill Clinton. When the crowd acknowledged them, they stood up and briefly took each other’s hands in front of Clinton. That image of the white, Southern woman holding hands with the strong, well-dressed young black man, I thought encapsulated the whole idea of unity that Obama supposedly represents. Again, if I were the Dems, I’d get that shot into as many ad pieces as possible.

What we haven’t heard much of at all so far is specifics about what Obama wants to do as President. We know he’s going to calm the seas and make the lion to lay down with the lamb, but some actual policy proposals might be nice, too. I would assume we’ll be hearing more on that front in the second half of the convention.

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The truth about voter turnout

Posted by sanityinjection on August 22, 2008

It has been a truism so far in the media coverage of the Presidential race that a big part of Obama’s strategy is the assumption that Obama’s unique qualities will drive up voter turnout among populations that have been underrepresented in previous elections, and that these groups (especially African-Americans) will make the difference in the election.

Jay Cost addresses this in the context of analyzing what Obama needs to do in order to win the state of Virginia, a traditionally Republican state with a large chunk of African-American voters and a demographic trend that favors the Democrats. Cost points out that any surge in black turnout for Obama may be offset by backers of Hillary Clinton who switch to McCain:

“Every previous non-voter who votes Democrat this cycle nets Obama one vote, but every typical Democrat who backs McCain nets the Republican two votes.”

For political junkies, Cost’s full analysis of Virginia is here:

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The “Veepstakes”

Posted by sanityinjection on August 21, 2008

By now even non-political junkies should recognize this term. Speculation is running fast and furious over who the major party candidates for President will pick as their running mates. (To the point that Senator Obama’s press secretary sent out an e-mail to the press titled, “Vice President…” and with a message body that simply read, “Just kidding.” Note to the Obama campaign: The press tends to lack a sense of humor when the joke’s on them.)

At this point I think it’s easier to get a read on McCain’s likely choice. The first rule of picking a running mate is, “Do no harm.” In other words, don’t pick someone who might lose votes for you by embracing controversial positions, turning up a scandal in their background or saying something idiotic. What is interesting on the GOP side is that for some of the individuals that have been mentioned as being under consideration, segments of the party are so concerned that the person fails the “do no harm” test that they have actually mounted campaigns to prevent their nomination. For example, there is an evangelical “Stop Romney” group (he’s too Mormon), a supply-side “Stop Huck” group (he’s a tax-raiser), a pro-life “Stop Ridge” group (he’s pro-choice), a conservative “Stop Lieberman” group (he’s a Democrat.) But interestingly, there’s no “Stop Pawlenty”, “Stop Cantor”, or “Stop Portman” group. Cantor may be too little known, but this suggests that Pawlenty and Portman meet the “do no harm” criterion for McCain. Both are from key states – Minnesota and Ohio, respectively – though recent history suggests running mates don’t necessarily deliver their states (Edwards in 2000). Portman brings the economic pedigree that McCain lacks, but he’s also tied to the Bush Administration, and if I were McCain I wouldn’t want that albatross around my neck. I still think Pawlenty is the likely pick – as a Governor he has the executive experience McCain lacks.

I’m having a harder time reading the tea leaves on the Democratic side. The buzz this week has been around Senator Joe Biden, which probably means he’s not the guy. He fails the “do no harm” test, with a plagiarism scandal in his past and a verifiable habit of putting his foot in his mouth (during the primary he said Obama wasn’t ready to be President.) Hillary Clinton also fails the “do no harm” test becuase she is a polarizing figure for many independent voters. Plus she could outshine the nominee, which is always a no-no. So would Al Gore, another longshot. The remaining shortlist for Obama supposedly includes Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Tim Kaine, and Senator Evan Bayh, and possibly former Senator Sam Nunn. At this moment, my guess would be Sebelius. The only knock on her seems to be that picking a woman other than Hillary will tick off Hillary’s 18 million voters. However, picking a *man* over Hillary will tick them off just as much, it seems to me. Sebelius has demonstrated appeal beyond the Democratic base, has executive experience, and as far as I know is clean as a whistle. She fits in with the “outsider/reformer” role Obama is trying to embody. Her state, Kansas, is not in play, but Obama claims that’s not a consideration for him. I can’t see the Netroots getting excited (at least not in a positive way) over Nunn or Bayh, so I’d say it’s between Sebelius and Kaine at this point.

The best reason for choosing Sebelius over Kaine? If you say “Obama/Kaine” too quickly, it sounds like “Oba-McCain”. I can see the GOP ads now, “Why Settle for ObaMaKaine When You Can Have The REAL McCain?”

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Good move, a bit overdue

Posted by sanityinjection on August 13, 2008

Kimberly Hefling of the Associated Press reports that Democratic officials are giving a featured prime time speaker slot at the Democratic Convention in Denver to Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey. This is significant because Casey, like his father, the former governor of Pennsylvania, is pro-life, in contrast to the Democrats’ party platform.

The elder Casey was famously denied a speaking role at the 1992 Democratic Convention because of his views on abortion. While this decision did not come back to haunt the Democrats in November, it was widely criticized as narrow-minded, in contrast to the Republicans who routinely allowed pro-choice Republicans to speak. The true reason behind the decision was that the Democrat brass were afraid that the party’s left-wing zealots, already irritated by candidate Bill Clinton’s move toward the political center, might actually boo Casey on national television, making them look like the wing nuts they were.  

Of course, those wing nuts are much happier these days now that their Messiah, Senator Obama is the presumptive nominee. So they can afford to be more magnanimous toward a pro-life convention speaker, as he will do nothing to dampen enthusiasm for their candidate.  In fact, Casey is being rewarded for his support of Obama during the primaries, and he has some influence in his home state of Pennsylvania, which is not solidly in the Obama camp just yet.

While the nod to Casey does not make up for the wrong done to his father 16 years earlier, it does send a long overdue message that there is room for more than one opinion on an issue within the Democratic Party. Now all the Democrats have to do is let Hillary Clinton place her name in nomination and show that there is room for more than one candidate as well. It should be obvious by now that the best way to defuse the anger of Clinton’s supporters is to let them have their roll call vote, but have Clinton persuade most of her less die-hard delegates to vote for Obama on the first ballot. That way, the true believers get the catharsis of casting their vote for Hillary, Obama still wraps up the nomination easily on the first ballot, and the party stands united against McCain in the fall. Of course, the Democrats’ demonstrated ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory strongly argues they will fail to follow this common sense approach. But the Casey move suggests that even the Democratic dog occasionally is capable of learning a new trick.

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