When Facts don’t matter in America


March 13, 2017

When Facts don’t matter, Trump’s White House is the sole arbiter of truth.

by Paul Krugman@www.nytimes.com

Image result for Paul KrugmanDr. Paul Krugman-The Nobel Laureate in Economics

The U.S. economy added 10.3 million jobs during President Obama’s second term, or 214,000 a month. This brought the official unemployment rate below 5 percent, and a number of indicators suggested that by late last year we were fairly close to full employment. But Donald Trump insisted that the good news on jobs was “phony,” that America was actually suffering from mass unemployment.

Then came the first employment report of the Trump administration, which at 235,000 jobs added looked very much like a continuation of the previous trend. And the administration claimed credit: Job numbers, Mr. Trump’s press secretary declared, “may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”

Image result for When Facts don't under TrumpTrump’s American Supporters are factually challenged

Reporters laughed — and should be ashamed of themselves for doing so. For it really wasn’t a joke. America is now governed by a president and party that fundamentally don’t accept the idea that there are objective facts. Instead, they want everyone to accept that reality is whatever they say it is.

So we’re just supposed to believe the president if he says, falsely, that his inauguration crowd was the biggest ever; if he claims, ludicrously, that millions of votes were cast illegally for his opponent; if he insists, with no evidence, that his predecessor tapped his phones.

And it’s not just about serving one man’s vanity. If you want to see how this attitude can hurt millions of people, consider the state of play on health care reform.

Obamacare has led to a sharp decline in the number of Americans without health insurance. You can argue that the decline should have been even sharper, that there may be troubles ahead, or that we should have done better. But the reality of the law’s achievement shouldn’t be in question, and you should worry about the consequences of Trumpcare, which would drastically weaken key provisions.

Republicans, however, are in denial about recent gains. The president of the Heritage Foundation dismisses the positive effects of the Affordable Care Act as “fake news.” In Louisville over the weekend, Vice President Mike Pence declared that “Obamacare has failed the people of Kentucky” — this in a state where the percentage of people without insurance fell from 16.6 to 7 percent when the law went into effect. And as for the likely impacts of Trumpcare — well, they literally don’t want to know.

When Congress is considering major legislation, it normally waits for the Congressional Budget Office to “score” the proposal — to estimate its effects on revenues, outlays and other key targets. The budget office isn’t always right, but it has a very good track record compared with other forecasters; even more important, it has always been scrupulous about avoiding partisanship, and therefore acts as an important check on politically motivated wishful thinking.

But Republicans rammed Trumpcare through key committees, literally in the dead of night, without waiting for the C.B.O. score — and they have been pre-emptively denouncing the budget office, which is likely to find that the bill would cause millions to lose health coverage.

The truth is that while the office got some things wrong about health reform, on the whole it did pretty well at projecting the effects of a major new bill — and far better than the people now attacking it, who predicted disasters that never happened. And whatever criticisms one may have of its forthcoming score, it will surely be better than the ludicrous claim of Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, that “nobody will be worse off financially” as a result of a plan that drastically cuts subsidies and raises premiums for millions of Americans.

But this isn’t really about whose analyses of health policy are most likely to get it right. It’s about Trump and company attacking the legitimacy of anyone who might question their assertions.

The C.B.O., in other words, is in the same position as the news media, which Mr. Trump has declared “enemies of the people” — not, whatever he may say, because they get things wrong, but because they dare to challenge him on anything.

“Enemy of the people” is, of course, a phrase historically associated with Stalin and other tyrants. This is no accident. Mr. Trump isn’t a dictator — not yet, anyway — but he clearly has totalitarian instincts.

And much, perhaps most, of his party is happy to go along, accepting even the most bizarre conspiracy theories. For example, a huge majority of Republicans believe Mr. Trump’s basically insane charges about being wiretapped by President Obama.

So don’t make the mistake of dismissing the assault on the Congressional Budget Office as some kind of technical dispute. It’s part of a much bigger struggle, in which what’s really at stake is whether ignorance is strength, whether the man in the White House is the sole arbiter of truth.

Is Trump giving Americans “bread and circus”to keep them happy?


February 20, 2017

Dr.Fareed is back with his latest take on Trump

Is Trump giving Americans “bread and circus”to keep them happy?

by Dr Fareed Zakaria

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-trump-circus/2017/02/16/d1bc4a86-f48c-11e6-8d72-263470bf0401_story.html?utm_term=.04404ea201e8

Image result for fareed zakaria

Let’s say you are a Trump voter, the kind we often hear about — an honest, hard-working American who put up with Donald Trump’s unusual behavior because you wanted a president who would stop playing Washington’s political games, bring a businessman’s obsession with action and results, and focus on the economy. How is that working out for you?

The first few weeks of President Trump’s administration have been an illustration of writer Alfred Montapert’s adage, “Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.” We are witnessing a rocking-horse Presidency in which everyone is jerking back and forth furiously, yet there is no forward movement.

Image result for Combative Trump
Image result for Combative TrumpBoth Trump and Nixon: Taking on the Media

Since winning the election, Trump has dominated the news nearly every day. He has picked fights with the media, making a series of bizarre, mostly false claims — about the magnitude of his victory, the size of his inauguration crowd, the weather that day, the numbers of illegally cast ballots, among many others. He has had photo ops with everyone from Kanye West and Jack Ma to Shinzo Abe and Justin Trudeau. Now he is embroiled in a controversy about ties to Russia. But in the midst of it all, what has he actually done? Hardly anything.

 

Trump versus the Media


January 31, 2017

Analysis

Trump versus the Media

by Mike Minehan

http://www.ideaschannel.com/index.php/analysis/2787-trump-versus-the-media

Image result for Mike MinehanMike T. Minehan

It seems that the new President of the United States is happiest when he has an enemy to attack. His fans also love this pugilism, perhaps because this is the feeling of being in the thick of it together, us against them.

‘Them’ in this case is the mainstream media in America, mainly the big outlets such as the New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN.

It suits Trump to berate the media, because these news media were quick to point out his inaccuracies, contradictions and falsehoods during his election campaign.

Almost all of Trump’s rallies were an opportunity to attack the media. “I would never kill them, but I do hate them. And some of them are such lying, disgusting people.” This was Trump’s opinion about journalists at one of his campaign rallies.

Yet one of the most interesting discoveries about Trump’s ascent to the Presidency of the USA is that alternative media, not conventional media, played the most important role in his success. The proof of this, according to Fortune magazine was because the flood of articles and coverage about Trump’s outrageous behaviour, had almost no effect on most of the voters. These were the stories about his falsehoods, his refusal to publish his tax returns, his companies that were ethically challenged, his refusal to place his businesses in a blind trust, and his boasting about sexually groping women.

Trump’s support base simply wasn’t reading or consuming conventional media. This is probably not so much because these supporters couldn’t read, but because they were getting their information from the myriad of new sources that the internet has made available.

“What Trump supporters were listening to was Trump himself on Twitter, and organs of the Trump Nation such as Breitbart News, InfoWars, and other alternative and fringe news sites”.

Also, 44 per cent of Americans had switched to Facebook for their news. News on Facebook consists of the stories that trend the most according to how many other users like them, and according to algorithms which provide more of the stories that you will like.

Image result for Trump vs CNN

This is the ‘echo chamber effect’ where people get the news that they like, and which will reinforce their existing opinions, or biases.

The other new, alarming phenomenon has been the rise of fake news sites. Almost anyone with basic internet skills can set up a site with an apparently innocuous name, and then fill it with pictures and attention-grabbing stories, false or otherwise.

These site were simply working on the principle of attracting enough traffic that, in turn, would generate income when the site owners would then place advertising on it for profit.

The genie is out of the bottle and the news as we knew it not so long ago has irrevocably changed. This is particularly in countries such as the USA, where free speech, almost any speech, is protected by the First Amendment.

Alright, so why should Trump bother any more about mainstream media, when mainstream media is no longer central to his success?

The answer, according to Trump’s biographer, Michael D’Antonio, is that Trump is ‘irritated and even enraged by those who check facts and look for evidence to confirm or disprove his claims. He thinks he should just be able to say things, and that those things should be reported and considered uncritically. So he resents it when people fail to do that and instead hold him to some standard, and he takes it personally’.

It appears that Trump wants to be loved and forgiven by the mainstream media, irrespective of his inability to get his facts straight. This need for constant approval seems to indicate a deep-seated insecurity. There’s almost a child-like petulance and rage about his reaction to criticism. This immaturity would be amusing, it Trump wasn’t the President of the United States, with the nuclear codes within reach.

Well, mainstream media just won’t roll over and suddenly ignore the falsehoods and Trump’s ‘alternative reality‘ where the facts just don’t matter any more. American credibility itself is on the block.

Accordingly, the media wars have only just started, and what we’ve seen so far are only the first shots being fired. More brutal combat is on the way.

The Journalism Conundrum


January 24, 2016

The Journalism Conundrum

by Jahabar Sadiq

https://m.facebook.com/notes/jahabar-sadiq/the-journalism-conundrum/10154106417045966

Mr Rajah Nadeswaran, known to friends as Nades and fans as Citizen Nades, launched his second book Curi Curi Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur this past week.

The acerbic if not combative journalist– and there are more adjectives out there for him– is no stranger to anyone in Malaysia. He is an investigative reporter, a consumer rights crusader, a no-nonsense editor and for a while, a sharp and hardworking part-time subeditor.

At his launch, a few of us who worked with him or trained under or supervised him were asked about the future of journalism and whether we would see any future Nadeswarans in our industry now blighted by fake news, propaganda, listicles, web-clips and such.

Or rather, the digital age where newspapers are dying and revenue is shrinking.

There is no easy answer. Media survives in any form, as does good journalism. But is there a market for the reportage that Nadeswaran excelled in? Is there a market for political reporting or analysis at a time when governments and politicians just want their narratives to be the prime directive?

Is post-truth the standard now? That the ones who wield power decide what is true and those who think otherwise cannot share their thoughts and face the wrath for even thinking out aloud?

Image result for Curi curi malaysia
Image result for najib pencuri

So can a future Nadeswaran exist? And how did this Nadeswaran prosper and grow from the time he began as a sports stringer in 1969 and turn into this famed journalist who made people in power accountable?

Although he has lamented that not much action was ever taken despite the copious amounts of copy written about the scandals that only grow in the amount of money lost or stolen or wasted.

The simple fact is this. Nades came up at a time when Malaysian newspapers invested in journalism and journalists. Getting the best, letting and giving them time and money to pursue issues of the day, scandals and any kind of mischief that would make the news.

The government and the powers-that-be were held accountable. These people saw the media as the fourth estate and respected it as much. Those days are sadly gone.

The media today is a tool, and news is just a job of cut-and-paste and whatever that is kosher in the eyes of the powers-that-be. There is not much investment in getting the real stories out, the scoop, the analysis and the follow-up.

Simply put, if we don’t invest in journalism, we won’t get anymore reporters in the style of Nadeswaran. And what he writes might seem small potatoes but it starts there, the little Napoleons who get away with the petty stuff but go on to make their millions later.

The gigantic scandals of today began a long time ago with the smaller cases that Nadeswaran has written in his book. Those cases reveal how Malaysians have been slowly inured to the growing scale of kleptocracy and power abuse over the years.

And even if Nadeswaran has not touched some of those huge scandals known by their acronyms, he has investigated the few that show how easily this “road to hell” is paved with good intentions.

But he is one of a select few able to do it, thanks to his superiors who invested and encouraged him to pursue such scandals. Would we have more of such editors or publishers?

And would anyone pay for such journalism? Or do we just want it for free as fodder for Facebook posts and twitter outrage?

Perhaps we think Malaysian journalism is nowhere near global standards and refuse to invest in it, considering we can get bits and bobs from the global media, which is ironically paid by others.

Funny, our parents and some of us used to pay for local newspapers but balk at the idea of paying for something online. And if we continue refusing to pay and demand that kind of journalism rather than the insipid and patronising stuff that passes as news, then the new Nadeswarans won’t ever appear.

I noted this at a Paris media forum weeks after The Malaysian Insider was shut down and it is something to note for those still wondering what the future of Malaysian journalism is. “You pay to be informed or get it free to be influenced.”

So if you want the kind of news and columns that Nadeswaran wrote before he formally retired from print journalism last December, you have to pay. Or just pick up the licensed newspapers, read the free news portals, watch regulated broadcasters and be happy with what they offer as news.

And there’s always Facebook and other social media that shares all kind of articles. Like this.

Obama’s Farewell Press Conference


January 19, 2017

President Barack H. Obama’s Farewell Press Conference

Government does not work in a democracy without a free and accountable media. This is because an informed citizenry keeps those endowed with power honest and accountable. Political Leaders must understand this simple message.  At the same time, a credible media can play only its role by maintaining high ethical standards of journalism.–Din Merican

 

Great Anniversary, Malaysiakini


December 1, 2016

Great Anniversary, Malaysiakini

Premesh Chandran, Steven Gan, Fathi Aris Omar and the great team of talented and brave journalists, you are very special Malaysians. My wife Dr. Kamsiah Haider and I admire your determination to bring to us in Malaysia and others around the world news and views on a timely basis. Please accept our sincere good wishes for many more years of exemplary journalism.

We  stand with you and, as loyal subscribers, we thank you for keeping us posted on developments about our country. You will remain our web-paper of first choice because you are the best in the business. 

To mark the occasion, your 17th Anniversary, Dr. Kamsiah Haider and I dedicate Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses”  Tennyson to you all, our fellow travelers in search of the truth. Yes, we are not faultless. But we are Malaysians who care for our country and are not afraid to speak the truth to power.  May Alfred  Lord Tennyson inspire you to continue on a journey to do your best for Malaysia, and never to yield.–Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican

 Seventeen years of Courageous Journalism

by http://www.malaysiakini.com

A long road traversed, dodging potholes, negotiating sharp bends as well as running into roadblocks and litigation hurdles.

Borne out of the intention to break the government’s monopoly on truth, Malaysiakini has helped provide a space for voices that are often unheard and ignored. Not surprisingly, the often-hurled allegation is that the news portal is pro-opposition. The answer is of course an emphatic ‘No!’

Image result for The Malaysiakini Team

The dedicated Malaysiakini Team

Such allegations stem from what is known as the law of the excluded middle, where what is not white must therefore be black – there is no third alternative. In other words, if you are not with us, you must be against us.

Detractors argue that since greater prominence is given to those critical of the government, as opposed to others, Malaysiakini must therefore be taking sides.

The first part of the argument is valid, but this does not lend credence to the notion that the editorial team therefore comprises opposition cheerleaders.

There are two reasons for this.

The first is that those in the opposition are more productive in generating media statements and more active in engaging with the media, compared to their ruling counterparts, where apart from a handful, the rest choose to remain silent or prefer to confide in acquiescing media organisations.

The second, and more important factor, is that the media, as the fourth estate, must help create a level-playing field in the information arena.

Image result for Najib Razak

The undeniable fact in Malaysia is that the ruling BN and its component parties still control the narrative in almost all major newspapers, radio and TV stations.

In addition, despite repeated denials, the actions of certain powerful individuals helming institutions of supreme importance in our country suggest clear bias in favour of the government.

When the chasm of disparity in influence is so wide, it would be a disservice to justice if Malaysiakini provided equal space to all.Indeed, when power is so lopsided, giving equal coverage to both sides only maintains injustice. To overcome this, media organisations must give a greater say to those without a voice, those without power, and those without influence.

We seek to challenge unequal power structures, not to reproduce them. However, if and when the scales are level, Malaysiakini too will provide a balanced space for both sides.That said, Malaysiakini is non-partisan. Our role is to tell truth to power and hold them to account, be they BN or opposition politicians.

But that doesn’t mean we are apolitical. We take strong editorial stance on many issues we hold dear – good governance, anti-corruption, independence of the judiciary, press freedom and the like.

However, this does not mean Malaysiakini provides the opposition with a carte blanche. The news portal recognises that the opposition is no longer a voice in the political wilderness but rather a government-in-waiting – it is already in power in some states – and therefore it too must be held accountable.

And while Malaysiakini supports freedom of expression, it must be stressed that such liberties come with responsibility – for both writers and readers.

Malaysiakini encourages the contestation of ideas, but it is just as important to ensure that this democratic process is carried out in a civil manner, without resorting to personal attacks, racist and sexist remarks or lewd comments.

One of the most common complaints against Malaysiakini is that the news portal spins articles, ostensibly to further a certain agenda.

More often than not, it is the politician who does a 180-degree turn after shooting his or her mouth off – and then blames the media when the heat is turned on.

But does this mean Malaysiakini is faultless?The answer is ‘No’. We do make mistakes. But unlike politicians, we admit and apologise instead of blaming others.