“Fake but accurate” is the Trump administration’s new defense of its lies

It’s time to add a new phrase to the annals of memorable lines from the Trump spin machine: “fake but accurate.”

Those are the words of an unnamed White House source quoted in a Politico article that reveals how information makes it to President Trump’s desk even though it’s one-sided, exaggerated, or simply flat out untrue.

It’s a phrase that should send chills down the spine of anyone who worries about Trump’s decision-making. “Fake but accurate” has an Orwellian ring that reminds us, yet again, of Trump’s unpredictability — and his willingness to make consequential decisions impulsively and without considering whether he’s basing them on facts or lies.

In this case, Politico reports, Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland gave Trump a Time magazine cover from the 1970s about a coming ice age. Trump quickly got “lathered up,” Politico reports, because the cover implied climate scientists have been wrong for decades, so their current warnings about global warning can and should be ignored.

There was just one problem: The Time cover was an Internet meme that was debunked as a hoax years ago. “Desperate White House staff,” Politico’s Shane Goldmacher reports, “chased down the truth and intervened before Trump tweeted or talked publicly about it.”

And here’s where things get fun. The unnamed White House official, working overtime to defend McFarland, tried hard to defend it as little more than an honest mistake that was “fake but accurate.”

“While the specific cover is fake, it is true there was a period in the 70s when people were predicting an ice age,” the official insisted. “The broader point I think was accurate.”

If McFarland’s broader argument is that the scientific community has somehow been wrong about climate change, that would be literally the opposite of the truth. 2016 was the hottest year on record, breaking the record set in 2015, which had in turn broken the record set in 2014.

But it’s no accident that the phrase comes from an administration that has already coined the memorable concept of “alternative facts.” The president is a congenital, and almost pathological, liar, which means that the staff who surround him have become congenital liars as well.

Take the current scandal over the James Comey firing. The White House first said the decision had nothing to do with the FBI’s probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Then Trump took to NBC and undercut his own staff’s spin by admitting that the investigation was very much part of his calculus.

The Politico piece would be memorable enough if it stopped with the creation of the phrase “fake but accurate.” But there’s a second part of the piece that is far more jarring — the profoundly dangerous way that Trump makes decisions with potentially life-and-death consequences.

Trump believes whatever is put in front him. That’s not a good habit for a president.

One of the funniest parts of Will Ferrell’s Anchorman was that the titular character would read, on air, anything he saw on a teleprompter, regardless of how profane or absurd it was. Trump has a similar willingness to believe anything he reads, no matter its source or accuracy, and then to act on it. Needless to say, there’s nothing funny about that.

Trump is famously prone to being swayed by the last person he speaks to on any issue, which has resulted in key staffers like White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus desperately trying to ensure as much face time with the president as possible.

It’s also already impacted Trump’s foreign policy. As my colleague Zack Beauchamp has written, Trump went into his first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping convinced that Beijing could simply eliminate the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program. Xi then patiently explained Chinese-Korean history to Trump — who then promptly changed his mind.

“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” the president told the Wall Street Journal at the time. “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power [over] North Korea. … But it’s not what you would think.”

Put another way, the leader of America’s largest rival in Asia was the man Trump turned to for the kind of basic facts he could have found on Google — and the president then changed his positions accordingly.

There’s a second aspect to Trump’s malleability that’s worrisome. Trump, the Politico piece makes clear, is willing to accept as fact almost anything that’s put in front of him, facts be damned. White House staffers, Goldmacher writes, try to take advantage of that by slipping him news clippings to bolster their own arguments while undercutting those of their internal opponents:

The consequences can be tremendous, according to a half-dozen White House officials and others with direct interactions with the president. A news story tucked into Trump’s hands at the right moment can torpedo an appointment or redirect the president’s entire agenda. Current and former Trump officials say Trump can react volcanically to negative press clips, especially those with damaging leaks, becoming engrossed in finding out where they originated.

That’s a bad enough habit when dealing with relatively unimportant matters, like whether an individual staffer was the source of a specific leak. But it can get downright dangerous during a national security crisis like a major terror attack, where the intelligence community and the Pentagon might give Trump conflicting assessments of who was responsible and how to retaliate.

The right-wing media will have its own narrative too. Will Trump be able, or willing, to differentiate between the government and his allies at Fox News and elsewhere? If so, which will he believe?

We’re less than five months into the Trump presidency, even though it feels much longer. Trump has had the good fortune to not yet face a crisis not of his own making, like a military confrontation with China or a terror strike. When he does, we’ll see if what his aides concede to be “fake but accurate” advice will be enough to shape his response. For the good of the country, let’s hope that Trump insists on the second half of that phrase, and throws away the first.

In: vox

Noam Chomsky: “El Partido Republicano de EE.UU. es la organización más peligrosa de la historia de la humanidad”

Imagen: https://ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/660/cpsprodpb/180E3/production/_96013589_de27-1.jpg

Es uno de los lingüistas más famosos del mundo y un gran defensor de la izquierda política global. El académico estadounidense, además, se caracteriza por ser un activista polémico y provocador.

Después de haber apoyado públicamente el socialismo durante décadas, a sus 88 años Noam Chomsky sigue clamando contra la injusticia social y la clase política que dirige Estados Unidos.

Aprovechando una visita a la Universidad de Reading (Inglaterra), la BBC tuvo la oportunidad de entrevistarlo y preguntarle acerca de la situación actual de la política occidental y, en especial, sobre lo que está ocurriendo en Estados Unidos con Donald Trump como presidente.

¿A qué apeló Donald Trump para llegar a la presidencia de EE.UU.?

La alternativa, que era el Partido Demócrata, se rindió con la clase trabajadora hace 40 años. La clase trabajadora no es su distrito electoral. Nadie los representa en el sistema político. Los republicanos, aunque dicen ser sus representantes, son básicamente los enemigos de la clase trabajadora. Su mensaje político, sin embargo, está dirigido a la gente religiosa y a la supremacía blanca.

O sea, ¿cree que hubo una motivación racista en su elección?

Sin ninguna duda. Aunque el porcentaje que representó este tipo de votantes es discutible, no cabe duda que Trump sedujo a una gran parte de los fundamentalistas cristianos, un segmento importante de la población estadounidense.

¿El daño que está haciendo Trump a las instituciones estadounidenses terminará con su mandato o será permanente?

Está perjudicando y dañando el planeta. El aspecto más significativo de la elección de Trump no es sólo el propio Donald Trump, sino también lo que ha ocurrido con el partido republicano, que ha dejado solo al resto del mundo ante el cambio climático.

Usted define al Partido Republicano como la organización más peligrosa de la Tierra.

Y de la historia de la Humanidad. En su momento dije que eran unas declaraciones escandalosas, pero es la verdad.

¿Peor que la Corea del Norte de Kim Jong-un o Estado Islámico?

¿Acaso Estado Islámico está tratando de destruir la perspectiva de la existencia humana organizada? Lo que quiero decir es que no sólo no hacemos nada por prevenir el cambio climático, sino que estamos tratando de acelerar la carrera hacia el precipicio.

Los republicanos están convencidos de que la ciencia que está detrás del cambio climático carece de fundamento.

No importa si realmente lo creen o no. La gente que verdaderamente cree en Jesucristo confía en que vendrá a salvarlos durante su vida.

Pero si la consecuencia de que crean o no en la ciencia es que vamos a utilizar más combustibles fósiles, no vamos a subvencionar a países en vías de desarrollo y estamos dispuestos a eliminar las regulaciones que obligan a reducir las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero, entonces las consecuencias son extremadamente peligrosas.

A menos que vivas debajo de una roca, tienes que reconocer la seriedad de esta amenaza.

El político europeísta y liberal Emmanuel Macron ganó las elecciones francesas. ¿Usted cree que tendrá éxito? ¿Es este el fin del populismo en Europa?

El caso de Macron es un buen ejemplo del colapso de las grandes instituciones. Es un candidato independiente y los que votaron por él lo hicieron, sustancialmente, contra Le Pen. Ella sí que es un serio peligro.

¿Qué opina de las elecciones británicas y del candidato del Partido Laborista, Jeremy Corbyn?

Si fuera un votante británico, votaría por Jeremy Corbyn. Creo que Corbyn es una persona buena y decente. Sigo su carrera desde hace años y creo que el problema del partido laborista es que carece de programa y no representa a la clase trabajadora.

Usted siempre ha sido un firme defensor de Julian Assange y Wikileaks. Muchos progresistas, sin embargo, no confían en la organización.

Creo que la persecución contra Assange y la amenaza que despierta su persona son completamente infundadas. Las acusaciones deberían ser retiradas y él tendría que poder ser libre.

Considero que los procesos en su contra son un fraude. No hay razón para que las autoridades suecas lo quieran interrogar. Si sigue preso (en la embajada) es por el miedo a ser perseguido por Estados Unidos. Por esa misma razón Edward Snowden sigue en Rusia.

En: bbc 

Priming the Pump: The Economic Metaphor Trump ‘Came Up With’

President Trump recently sat for a long interview with The Economist magazine in which he discussed his economic agenda. One exchange was particularly attention-grabbing for those who could remember their high school history, or who paid vague attention to the debates over stimulus during the last recession.

Explaining why he seeks tax cuts even if they risk expanding the budget deficit, President Trump said that they might increase the deficit temporarily, but that “we have to prime the pump.”

“Have you heard that expression before, for this particular type of an event?” the president said.

Yes, the interviewer — who, again, is an editor of The Economist — confirmed.

“Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just … I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good.”

Hoo boy. Let’s unpack this.

What is Mr. Trump talking about?

“Priming the pump” is a common metaphor for using government tax and spending to try to boost the economy into a higher level of functioning.

The origin of the metaphor refers to pumps used to extract water from wells, which were more widespread before most people had indoor plumbing. The basic idea was to pour a bit of water into a mechanism to make it possible to pump water out. Here’s a video!

The economics metaphor is that the government might increase economic growth by pumping a little extra cash into the system, perhaps by spending money on jobs programs, or, to use Mr. Trump’s preferred policy, cutting taxes. The hope is that the economy then takes off on its own, just as adding a little water to a pump enables water to flow freely.

Did he invent the term?

No. It dates to before Mr. Trump was born. It was in wide use by 1933, when President Roosevelt fought the Great Depression with pump-priming stimulus. For example, a 1933 cartoon assailing the Roosevelt administration’s spending practices was titled “What we need is another pump” and showed a desperate Roosevelt, with billions already spent, pouring more water into a pump, fruitlessly.

The term is most closely associated with the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes, who advocated energetic intervention to try to arrest the depression. By the time Mr. Trump was in school in the 1950s and 1960s, it was widely taught in history and economics courses as part of the story of how the United States emerged from the depression.

John Maynard Keynes, right, speaking to Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. at an international monetary conference at Bretton Woods, N.H., in 1944. Credit Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life Pictures — Getty Images

The concept was widely discussed again in 2009 and subsequent years in the context of the Obama administration’s stimulus package, which aimed to jolt the United States out of the deep recession. A Nexis search shows the phrase “pump priming” or its variants appeared in 1,073 news articles in major publications in 2009 alone, and they are almost all referring to economics, not water pumps.

In fact, arguably “priming the pump” is now a “dead metaphor,” or a metaphor in which the original evocative meaning is largely lost. Not many people have a home water pump they need to prime anymore, after all. Other dead metaphors include “champing at the bit” (technically a reference to obstreperous horses) or “selling like hot cakes” (an early term for pancakes, which were in high demand in the 19th century).

Does Trump really think that he invented it?

A more generous reading of the interview with The Economist suggests that perhaps he didn’t literally mean that he came up with the term on his own; he seemed to know that it was a phrase that the editors might have already heard. Still, this fits with a pattern in which the president seems to learn of widely known, widely discussed concepts and view them as novel and revelatory.

For example, he seemed surprised when the Chinese president explained why his country couldn’t simply coerce North Korea into more agreeable behavior, and he has expressed wonderment that health care policy is complicated.

Is now a really good time to be priming the pump?

In Keynesian economic theory, the strategy makes the most sense when there are underutilized economic resources to be tapped, such as during a recession or depression. While the United States economy probably isn’t yet at full capacity, with the unemployment rate at 4.4 percent it does seem to be closing in on full employment. Factories are running closer to full speed, among other evidence that the economy is hardly depressed.

Perhaps workers who have left the labor force could be coaxed back in with faster economic growth, or the right mix of tax and regulatory policies could unleash higher productivity growth. But those are more esoteric arguments than the standard “prime the pump” concept.

To extend the metaphor, it’s hard to prime a pump when the water is already flowing just fine.

Are there any other concepts from Keynesian economics the president might wish to learn about?

There is one that might hold special interest for him. As Zach Carter of The Huffington Post noted in a tweet, one of the most famous and influential pieces of analysis Keynes offered was a metaphor for how financial markets work.


The stock market, Keynes argued, was much like a hypothetical beauty contest in which readers of a newspaper had not simply to vote for whom they found most beautiful, but to predict whom others would find most beautiful. This in turn would create perverse feedback loops that might lead to winners who aren’t actually the most beautiful.

For a former owner of the Miss Universe pageant, this would seem to be a financial idea that would be easy to remember — or maybe to invent all over again.

In: nytimes

¿Es posible destituir a Donald Trump?

Imagen: http://www.dw.com/image/38733729_403.jpg

Después de haber despedido al director del FBI, James Comey, más voces en EE.UU. reclaman la destitución del cada vez más impopular Donald Trump. DW analiza qué tan real es esta posibilidad.

“Huele a destitución”. La frase estalló ayer miércoles, 10 de mayo de 2017, en las redes sociales. Ya desde el inicio de su mandato, las encuestas del instituto de opinión Gallup mostraron que más de la mitad de los estadounidenses no están contentos con Donald Trump. Desde que despidió al director del FBI, James Comey, las apuestas sobre un posible proceso de destitución se han disparado en las casas de juego. Trump se convertiría en el primer presidente de los Estados Unidos en perder su puesto de esa manera. Pero, ¿cómo sería su proceso de destitución? ¿Qué tan probable es que se lleve a cabo ahora?

¿Qué habla a favor de un proceso de destitución?

1.  El despido de Comey es un indicio de abuso de poder

Trump argumentó su decisión diciendo que el director del FBI “no hizo bien su trabajo” de investigación en el asunto de los correos electrónicos de Hillary Clinton. Muchos medios reputados, como New York Times, CNN y Washington Post, informaron que Comey había pedido más medios para su investigación sobre las conexiones con Rusia. Si Trump despidió a Comey para impedir nuevas investigaciones en su contra, estaríamos ante encubrimiento y una forma de abuso de poder.

2.   Las acusaciones contra Trump no desaparecerán sin investigación

El Washington Post se remite a “30 fuentes de la Casa Blanca, del ministerio de Justicia y del Gobierno” para asegurar que Trump estaba “furioso” contra Comey porque este no quería apartarse de la investigación de la “conexión rusa”. La cantidad de artículos y reacciones de la opinión pública muestran que el presidente ha logrado justo lo contrario de lo que deseaba y que arrecia el interés por el esclarecimiento de la supuesta “conexión rusa”.

3.   Hay suficiente fuerza política para implementar un proceso de destitución

Aunque aún no se ha dado ningún paso concreto,  el debate actual sobre un posible proceso de destitución se basa en una situación administrativa real. Si bien es cierto que los republicanos quieren dar la imagen de unidad en torno al presidente, reputados miembros del partido, como John McCain, no han ocultado su oposición a la política de Trump. Las acusaciones contra Trump de que Rusia intervino a su favor en las pasadas elecciones implican traición a la patria, algo que contradice el profundo patriotismo con el que los republicanos se identifican. Hacer oídos sordos a algo así significaría la ruina política incluso para los más fieles seguidores de Trump.

¿Qué habla en contra de un proceso de destitución?

1.   Los indicios no bastan para probar el encubrimiento

Hay dos posibilidades para destituir a Trump o sacarlo del sillón presidencial antes de que concluya su mandato. La vigésimo quinta enmienda de la Constitución de EE.UU. contempla la declaración de “incapacidad para el puesto” contra la voluntad del presidente. La segunda posibilidad es el proceso de destitución, mediante el cual, según el Artículo II, Párrafo 4, se puede interponer una demanda presidencial a Trump por “traición, soborno o cualquier otro delito y conducta”, que finalmente conduzca a su destitución. Aunque este proceso es jurídico, se necesita para llevarlo a cabo una decisión política.

2.   Los republicanos deben situarse contra Trump

Ambas opciones requieren una mayoría de dos tercios en el Congreso, que actualmente está dominado por el propio partido de Trump, los republicanos, tanto en el Senado como en la Cámara de representantes. Dos de sus líderes, los diputados Paul Ryan, portavoz de la Cámara, y Mitch McConnell, presidente del partido mayoritario en el Congreso, ya han mostrado su conformidad con la decisión de Trump de despedir a Comey.

McConnell ya rechazó el día de la destitución de Comey el nombramiento de un investigador especial para el asunto de la “conexión rusa”, porque “solo serviría para obstaculizar el trabajo actual del FBI y de la comisión del Senado”.

3.   Su propio Ejecutivo tendría que querer destituirlo

Para poder aplicarse la declaración de incapacidad que contempla el Artículo 25, el propio gabinete de Trump, junto con el vicepresidente, Mike Pence, tendría que aprobar el procedimiento. Pence ya respaldó públicamente la decisión de Trump de despedir a Comey, diciendo que “tomó la decisión adecuada en el momento justo”.

Conclusión: Posible, pero improbable

Aunque se pudiera formular una demanda para iniciar un proceso de destitución contra Trump por encubrimiento y abuso de poder, sería difícil probar estas acusaciones. Además, faltaría apoyo político por parte de su partido y de su Ejecutivo.

Autor: Maximiliane Koschyk (MS/DZC)

En: DW

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