The NY Times and the Clinton Rules

So, the NY Times had a story that it got a touch wrong although you can’t see that in the linked article–the original title was Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email (you can see the original here). As Kevin Drum states the NY Times got almost everything wrong: there wasn’t a criminal inquiry, Clinton was not the target, and the emails were not classified when they were sent to Clinton.

The story was botched so badly that the NY Times had both an editor’s note and a column by their Public Editor. The editor’s note doesn’t even pretend to apologize, it just lists the errors. The column by Margaret Sullivan is better noting this:

And the evolving story, which began to include a new development, simply replaced the older version. That development was that several instances of classified information had been found in Mrs. Clinton’s personal email – although, in fairness, it’s doubtful whether the information was marked as classified when she sent or received those emails. Eventually, a number of corrections were appended to the online story, before appearing in print in the usual way – in small notices on Page A2.

But you can’t put stories like this back in the bottle – they ripple through the entire news system.

So it was, to put it mildly, a mess. As a result, I’ve been spending the last couple of days asking how this could happen and how something similar can be prevented in the future.

but then there’s this:

He agreed, as Mr. Purdy did, that special care has to come with the use of anonymous sources, but he believes that the errors here “may have been unavoidable.” And Mr. Purdy said that he thought The Times probably took too long to append a correction in the first instance.

But, Mr. Baquet said, he does not fault the reporters or editors directly involved.

“You had the government confirming that it was a criminal referral,” Mr. Baquet said. “I’m not sure what they could have done differently on that.”

Thus we get a concrete, high-level example of the Clinton Rules which include this:

Every allegation, no matter how ludicrous, is believable until it can be proven completely and utterly false. And even then, it keeps a life of its own in the conservative media world.

The reporters couldn’t have asked the Clinton camp and they couldn’t have waited for more confirmation because …. well, the story was about Hillary Clinton (except it turned out it wasn’t). Is it irresponsible to speculate, it is irresponsible not to.

Sullivan does worry about anonymity and has even written about it before but in neither of these articles does she bring up a possible solution (and the reporters of the article don’t even seem to contemplate it)–if you lie to a reporter, that reporter will then give out your name. This would almost immediately cut down the number of ‘inside sources’ that are trying to put out propaganda.

All in all, you can see why Hillary Clinton decided to put a response letter on her site and why the Clintons don’t seem to get along with the press.

A communist from 100 years ago

Wow, listen to this guy (or here):

War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.

I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we’ll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

I wouldn’t go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

There isn’t a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its “finger men” to point out enemies, its “muscle men” to destroy enemies, its “brain men” to plan war preparations, and a “Big Boss” Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.

It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

This was Smedley Butler, one of two Marines to be awarded the Medal of Honor twice and eventually rose to Major General, the highest rank at the time.

The reason this comes up is that today is the hundredth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Haiti by the US. This was part of the banana wars where the US, mostly for US business interests:

  • invaded Cuba and Puerto Rico in 1898 (the US mostly controlled Cuba until 1934; Puerto Rico is, of course, still part of the US)
  • backed the secession of Panama from Colombia in 1903
  • invaded and then occupied Nicaragua from 1912-1933
  • occupied Haiti from 1915-1934
  • invaded and then occupied the Dominican Republic from 1916-1924
  • went into Honduras in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924 and 1925

One can see why Butler was so cynical.

No Olympics in China

This week is the week for Olympics news. We learned yesterday that Boston will not be hosting the 2024 Olympics and the Olympics committee will decide where the 2022 Winter Olympics will be held on Friday.

The articles on the choice for 2022 typically are like this one:

Chinese organizers have repeatedly stressed they would put on ‘‘sustainable’’ and ‘‘economical’’ games, using infrastructure from the 2008 Summer Games and promising to leave a ‘‘powerful legacy’’ by developing a winter sports market for China and east Asia.

Critics point to China’s lack of Alpine venues, and the distance from Beijing of suitable mountainous regions as having a negative impact on the bid.

Beijing insists it has sufficient water supplies for snow-making and can provide excellent conditions for ski competitions.

Both countries have been assailed for their human rights records. Human Rights Watch issued a report criticizing Kazakhstan’s ‘‘hostility and abuse’’ toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. China has been involved in a recent crackdown on rights lawyers.

This is one of the few articles that notes something I mentioned after the 2008 Summer Olympics in China:

Golog Jigme said in an interview that he was troubled that the International Olympic Committee would award the Winter Games to Beijing after the Chinese government broke promises it made during its earlier bid for the Olympics.

At the time, China assured the committee that it would improve press freedom, honor its international human rights commitments and even allow protests during the games. Although foreign journalists were given unfiltered Internet access at the official media center in Beijing, the government vigorously censored negative news about the games and security officials made sure that the designated protest zones set up around the city were empty. (Many who applied to protest in those areas were detained while filing their applications.)

Here’s an article that is somewhere in between:

As with its 2008 bid, Beijing has come under intense criticism from human rights groups who say giving it the games will only reward the communist government for its strict limits on political organization and freedom of speech.

They’ve been given further ammunition by an ongoing campaign against human rights lawyers, dozens of whom have been detained in recent weeks. That’s seen as part of a drive by president and Communist Party head Xi Jinping _ China’s most powerful leader in decades _ to further shrink the space for political critics.

The Internet also remains heavily regulated, with some social media sites blocked entirely. Organizers have pledged to lift those restrictions for the games.

Minority groups, especially Tibetans, Mongolians and Uighurs from the far northwestern region of Xinjiang, have also complained of tighter limits on political and religious life as well as being denied the right to travel abroad.

Despite commitments to loosen rules on foreign reporters in the country made during the 2008 games, Tibetan and Uighur areas remain largely off-limits to the media.

So, the article says that China is making promises to get the Olympics and notes that currently China is not following rules it promised to follow for the 2008 Olympics, but doesn’t directly say that China broke their promises in 2008. That would seem to be important–after all, why should anyone trust their promises this time around?

The CFPB and banks

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has helped consumers again (you can see more details here):

Citigroup will refund $700 million to consumers and pay $70 million in fines for illegal and deceptive credit card practices, the bank and federal regulators said.

Tuesday’s order, from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is part of the latest multimillion dollar settlement with the largest credit card issuers for their role in selling ‘‘add-on’’ products to customers, such as credit score monitoring and ‘‘rush’’ processing of payments. Bank of America reached a similar, slightly larger settlement with regulators in 2014, and JPMorgan Chase was fined in 2013.

The Bureau is trying to play up its successes and it’s pretty impressive:

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created in the wake of the financial meltdown to stand up for consumers and make sure they are treated fairly in the financial marketplace. One way we accomplish this mission is by enforcing consumer protection laws, holding law breakers accountable for their actions. Since 2011, we have secured over $10.8 billion dollars in relief for more than 25 million consumers harmed by illegal practices.

Of course this means many Republicans are against it (and the Dodd-Frank bill that created it). Kevin Drum has a sensible comment:

This actually brings up a point worth repeating: one of the prices we pay for extreme political polarization is the inability to tweak big laws after they’re passed. No Democrat would claim that Obamacare is perfect, for example. With a few years of experience under our belts, there are some things we now recognize could have been done better. But it’s impossible to tweak the law because Republicans flatly refuse to cooperate. It’s repeal or nothing. To their base, tweaking the law would be a tacit admission that Obamacare can be improved, and that’s effectively treason to the cause. It’s a socialist nightmare and it has to be torn out root and branch, period.


And here’s a close up picture of Pluto from the New Horizon spacecraft (Credit: NASA/APL/SwRI):


Back to the Past

Here’s what we can expect from Republicans in the future:

“The left claims that they’re for American workers and they’ve just got just really lame ideas — things like the minimum wage,” Walker said. “Instead of focusing on that, we need to talk about how we get people the skills and the education and the qualifications that they need to take on the careers that pay far more than the minimum wage.”

Somehow if we get rid of the minimum wage the economy will get stronger and people will all make more money. Oh, and here’s how Walker will get people the skills they need:

The Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget committee handed the governor a string of defeats as it spent months revising the two-year budget.

The committee scrapped his plans to grant the University of Wisconsin System autonomy from state oversight and scaled back a $300 million cut the governor wanted to impose on the system by $50 million. The panel also rejected deep funding cuts for K-12 public schools and the popular SeniorCare prescription drug program as well as a proposal to borrow $220 million for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena.

Assembly Republicans, in particular, were extremely critical of the budget, with 11 GOP members voting against the plan on the floor. They cited a host of reasons, saying the budget doesn’t spend enough on public schools and borrows too much for road work. They also took issue with provisions exempting local governments from the prevailing wage law. Those statutes require the government to pay construction workers minimum salaries on public projects.

Walker created WEDC shortly after starting his first term as governor in 2011. The agency was beset with problems from the start, including not tracking past-due loans, leadership turnover and highly critical audits that revealed mismanagement. The agency came under fire in May after the Wisconsin State Journal reported it handed an unsecured $500,000 loan to a company owned by Walker campaign donor William Minahan in 2011 that still hasn’t been paid back.

In a related bit, some people are better off than they were in 2007 but most of us are not (this looks at income through 2014):

The red line is the one to look at: it displays total compensation, including benefits like health insurance, paid leave, and so forth. As you can see, 80 percent of all workers—that is, everyone with an income less than about $65,000—saw their compensation fall. Only the top 20 percent saw their compensation go up, and only the top 10 percent saw it go up by more than a pittance.


The New Horizons spacecraft will make its closest approach to Pluto tomorrow. Here’s a picture it took on Saturday (Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI):


New Horizons is currently around 500,000 miles from Pluto travelling just under 31,000 mph (by the way, NASA has a nice app of this here) and will make its closest approach tomorrow morning at 7:49:57. It will have travelled for 9 years and 3 billion miles.

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