Tag: #AlternativeFact

Fact-free discourse

The migrant caravan illegally invading the United States has been a gigantic heap of “alternative facts” — or, for the old fashioned, inaccuracies and lies. Is there anything to gain from proving individual tenants of Trump’s argument to be the abject falsehoods that they are? People walking from Southern Mexico are not at the US border. 5,800 US military personnel, *they* are at the border in what I am sure is a fairly expensive political stunt. But people hiking across Mexico have a few weeks of walking ahead of them.

And what exactly are they doing that is wrong?? How many people know step #1 of the asylum process? Here it is — from the US Department of Homeland Security website. To apply for asylum, you need to be physically present in the US or seeking entry into the US at a port of entry. So … people who want to request asylum in the US that head to a port of entry are, wait, following the legal process.

But while there are a bevy of proximal arguments being made, the distal complaint is essentially “we don’t like other, keep them out”. So I wonder about the efficacy of of providing actual facts to counter the litany of alternative ones. Are there people rooting for militarization of the border who will change their mind when they realize asylum seekers showing up at a port of entry are following the proper process? Or will they come up with some new “fact” to heap on the pile.

Alternative Fact: The Darknet Market

Alternative Fact: From Trump @ one of this continual campaign rallies, this time in Florida: “You know, if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card, you need ID.”

“The only time you don’t need it, in many cases, is when you want to vote for a president, when you want to vote for a senator, when you want to vote for a governor or a congressman. It’s crazy.”
Real Fact: Unless the grocery stores, home improvement centers, general merchandise retailers, and coffee shops around me have joined up to create a dark non-web to protest this crazy requirement to show ID before purchasing anything, there are limited situations in which one needs to present ID to make a purchase (hell, they don’t even require a signature for a 200$ grocery purchase anymore). And groceries are not one of those cases (barring, possibly, those using government support to make said purchase … but that’s fraud prevention {i.e. making sure SNAP recipient Fred is the one purchasing this stuff} and not an attempt to check out your awesome drivers license photo before you can purchase green beans. Maybe beer (verifying age restriction). Maybe smokes (again, age restriction). Guns, probably. Maybe even ammo. Occasionally for a high-value purchase. Frequently if you are asking for a discount — senior, student, military.
The worst part about his argument is that the same example could have been presented factually to support his desired outcome. Who cares who you are if you want to fork over some cash to purchase some oranges. Go right ahead. If you want the military discount, we need to see some ID that proves you are were in the military. If you want to use Fred’s SNAP benefits to purchase those oranges, you need to prove you are Fred. ID is required to ensure honesty. To prevent fraud. And shouldn’t we demand honesty in our elections? Shouldn’t we try to eliminate fraudulent voting?
Now I think the argument is a bunch of rubbish – unless the dude with an ID printing machine is going to set up shop at local employers and print out free IDs on people’s lunch breaks, unless the ID office is going to be open 24×7 so people don’t have to take a day off work to renew their free ID, unless they’re going to cruise around rural America printing IDs on farms … requiring an ID seems more like disqualifying eager voters than ensuring the sanctity of the election process.

Fake Wars!

Last week in fake history: just days before the Bowling Green Massacre, Canada invaded Washington DC and razed our federal buildings.

Historical ignorance (and sure it’s scary that Trump is both so ignorant of history AND unwilling to accept counsel), aside — so what if Canada *did* burn down the White House in 1814. Say Canada *were* a country aligned with England, and they participated in the war of 1812 by invading the US and burning DC. How does that make Canada a national security threat TODAY?

Reality Check – The VA

Alternative Fact: “We can talk about experience but the VA, when you think about 13 million people, you could take the head of the biggest hospital corporation of the world and it’s peanuts compared to the VA. So nobody has experience” — Trump on Fox & Friends this morning.

Real Fact: The VA does not have thirteen million employees, they’ve just just under 400k. By their own documentation, they have nine million enrolled veterans. Unless this number does not include dependents who *quality* to receive services *and* there are an additional four million qualified dependents … thirteen million is another Trump-ed number. Even if they’ve got thirteen million people enrolled in their health plan, the number of patient *visits* (i.e. one guy comes in every week, that’s fifty patient visits a year), a standard metric within the health care industry, is more useful (and, honestly, impressive sounding). They had 95 million outpatient visits and 700k inpatient admissions in 2015.

Now that’s a lot of employees , but Amazon has more. Amazon also has something like 300 million active customers. So it’s not like anyone anywhere is this size. But OK, he’s limiting it to hospital corporations.

Hospital Corporation of America has like 200 thousand employees and handles twenty seven million patient visits a year. Less, sure, but how many employees and patient visits does the White House doctor handle? It’s not like Trump went with the Cleveland Clinic guy who oversees fifty thousand employees and seven million patient visits and defends the choice saying anyone’s experience is going to need to scale when joining the VA.

Alternative Fact: Constitutional Amendments Are Easy

Alternative Fact: Courtesy of Mnuchin on Fox News Sunday:

MNUCHIN: Well, it doesn’t need to be reality. And I’m not going to comment on what the president will do. But as you heard him say, he’s not planning on doing this again. I think — I think they should give the president a line item veto. These things should be looked at —

WALLACE: But that’s been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, sir.

MNUCHIN: Well, again, Congress could pass a rule, OK, that allows them to do it. But —

WALLACE: No, no, sir, it would be a constitutional amendment.

MNUCHIN: Chris, we don’t — we don’t need to get into a debate in terms of — there’s different ways of doing this.

Real Fact: It actually is a Constitutional amendment, and while there may well be many ways of “doing this” … they shouldn’t fare any better. That’s the basic principal of the three branches of government. Sadly, I suspect many in Trump’s administration could use a civics refresher. While the principal of a line-item veto could be rewritten in an altered form, the decision in Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417 (1998) wasn’t quibbling details. They found that the Executive branch altering legislation violates the Presentment Clause.

Alternative Fact: Trade Wars

Alternative Fact (from Trump’s Twitter @ dark-o-clock today): “When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!”


Real fact: Not buying a billion dollars of stuff from country X does not mean said “stuff” will now be produced domestically (assuming the domestic capacity and raw materials to produce the “stuff” exist). It may well mean we’re paying for a few cents more (bad for people with limited income streams) to source the “stuff” from country Y (until Trump sufficiently offends them too and we have to move on to country Z at yet another slight cost increase).

Retaliatory actions significantly reduce American exports too (see: Bush 2’s steel tariff a year or so into his presidency). So maybe you’ve managed to reduce the trade deficit with country X. You’ve increased the overall trade deficit twofold: we’re paying more for our imported “stuff” AND the targeted countries (and possibly non-targeted countries) are buying less from us.

Now theoretically slapping wide-spread tariffs on everything sourced from everywhere would be an easy trade war to win – assuming you want to restrict your country to domestic markets (again, retaliatory action). I expect that means domestic corporations with international operations would spin off international divisions. An ugly mess … and probably why the stock market reacted so poorly yesterday.

Bonus real fact: China isn’t our biggest trading partner for steel or aluminium. That would be Canada. And the EU. Both of whom, I must assume, will object to the tariffs (again, see Bush 2 in 2002)

Everyone Is An Attorney At Heart?

Alternative Fact: From Trump Jr, attorney client privilege protects a conversation he had with his father because attorneys were present with both parties. Seriously.

Real Fact: FRE Rule 501 makes privilege a little difficult to figure out in federal cases. And privilege may not even apply to Congressional testimony. But considering attorney client privilege in general — Attorney client privilege restricts what the attorney can divulge. A reasonable protection, otherwise people wouldn’t be able to have frank conversations with their attorneys. There is precedent for the witness invoking privilege regarding a conversation they had with their attorney. But that doesn’t mean every utterance a lawyer hears instantaneously becomes top secret information that cannot be disclosed by either party.

First of all, the communication has to be for the purpose of obtaining legal advice. Iffy, but you might be able to sell that. Wanting to understand the legal ramifications of publicizing information.

Having a conversation with ones attorney in the presence of a third party can nullify the privilege. There’s a joint defense privilege which allows parties with common interest in the litigation to share information without waiving privilege. This applies for parties “sharing a common interest in the outcome of a particular claim” [United States v. LeCroy, 348 F. Supp. 2d 375, 381 (2004)]. Common interest in the outcome doesn’t mean “daddy cares what happens to me” or “I was working on daddy’s campaign when I did this”. It means a legal interest. So they’ll need to sell that there’s a joint defense going on (which admits that Trump Sr has some involvement in these events of which he claims ignorance).

Furthermore, there’s an exception to privilege when the communication is itself seeking to commit a crime or fraud. Even if Jr rang up his lawyer to discuss what false narrative should be presented under oath to Congress, that is not privileged communication.

There’s a legal principal that the parade of horrors shouldn’t be considered when adjudicating a case — essentially you need to ignore the ramifications of the order — but if the presence of a lawyer in a conversation makes the conversation privileged, wouldn’t a whole bunch of rich dudes just have a lawyer go with them everywhere?

On Compromise And The Civil War

Claimeth John Kelly: “But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand”.

Yes, John Kelly, rich white dudes refusing to compromise their profits for human decency totally caused the civil war. Now let’s address all the things rich white dudes refuse to compromise their profits for today … sustainable production, livable environment, human decency, REALITY.

Finally, a REAL FACT!!

Speaking about his failure to address the death of American soldiers in Niger, Trump said he’s mailed / is mailing / will mail tomorrow (yeah) letters. And defended this method of communication saying “Other presidents did not call, they would write letters, and some presidents didn’t do anything”. Most certainly, he is correct that some presidents did not call the family of deceased service members. The first telephone was installed in the White House in 1877 – and even then, I don’t know that phone service throughout the country was advanced enough to warrant phone calls from the chief executive.

Statistically, I am certain some presidents did do nothing too. Over half a million Union soldiers died in the Civil War — penning an individual letter to each family (even if you could combine a couple of siblings into one letter) would have been unrealistically time consuming.

We’re ten months into the administration, and I think we’ve finally gotten a fact fact!

Alternative Fact: Compassion

Alternative Fact: Courtesy of Trump at some meeting with military sorts and discussing North Korea: “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm”

Real Fact: It is literally after the storm in several devastated areas of the country. Trump’s comment was irresponsible viewed from a military or diplomatic perspective. But from the perspective of a compassionate person whose memory spans two news cycles? Probably better not to mention storms at all.