Is news "aggregation" getting out of hand? On Twitter this morning, I happened to see a complaint that TPM had badly mischaracterized a Bernie Sanders speech in Boston this weekend, possibly in an aggregation form of the old telephone game. I was curious, so I went to the original source. It definitely wasn't telephone. In fact, it was practically a word-for-word rewrite of the original. It was all properly attributed, but still. It's one thing to quote pieces here and there of your source material, it's another to lightly rewrite the sentences and publish it under a different name. That ain't right.

WBUR

 

TPM

Bernie Sanders, In Boston: Democratic Party Needs To Return Its Focus To Working Class

The Vermont senator told a crowd of more than 1,000 mostly young people at the Berklee Performance Center that this month's election shows the party has to return its focus to the working class.



"The working class of this country is being decimated — that's why Donald Trump won," Sanders said. "And what we need now are candidates who stand with those working people, who understand that real median family income has gone down."

Sanders also said supporters needed to help move the party away from what he calls "identity politics."

"It is not good enough for somebody to say, 'I'm a woman, vote for me.' That is not good enough," Sanders said. "What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industries."

 

Sanders Urges Supporters: Ditch Identity Politics And Embrace The Working Class

In a speech Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) urged attendees to move away from “identity politics” and towards policies aimed at helping the working class. Sanders spoke to a crowd of more than 1,000 mostly young people at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston, according to a report from WBUR.

"The working class of this country is being decimated — that's why Donald Trump won," Sanders said, according to the same report. "And what we need now are candidates who stand with those working people, who understand that real median family income has gone down."

Sanders also urged the crowd to move the party away from what he called “identity politics.”

"It is not good enough for somebody to say, 'I'm a woman, vote for me.' That is not good enough," he said, according to the same report. "What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industries."

The topic of the day is "fake news." This takes two forms. The first is something that's mocked up to look like a real news site and contains flat-out fabrications. The creators make money by trying to make their stuff go viral on Facebook and then collecting ad revenue. The second type of fake news is more familiar: hysterical conspiracy theories that make the rounds among the grass roots. There's nothing new about this except for the vehicles it uses. In the past, stuff like this circulated via newsletter, and then email chains. Today it circulates via Facebook and other social media platforms.

In any case, these are both allegedly huge problems. I'm not totally convinced of this yet, since I haven't seen any data about how widely spread this stuff is and whether it actually changes any minds. I'd put even money that it mainly gets circulated among people who are already highly receptive to fever swamp nonsense and who already hate whichever person it's aimed at.

Still, let's assume it's a problem. Riddle me this: Why is it that fact-checking sites spend countless hours researching the accuracy of statements by politicians, but spend no time researching the latest crank news on Facebook? I recommend they start. To do this, they need to either (a) get deeply involved in the left and right-wing fever swamps so they know when something new is making the rounds, or (b) set up an automated system that alerts them when something political starts to get widely shared. The latter sounds like it might be tricky, but if Silicon Valley is supposedly populated by the smartest people on the planet, surely one of them can create a site updated daily that contains, say, the top 50 wacko viral political stories along with how they're trending.

It's time to join the 21st century. In the past, checking out the statements of politicians was important. It still is, I suppose, though few people seem to care much about it. In any case, viral stories on the net are probably a lot more important. It's time to expose them to the light of day on a consistent basis and explain where they come from and whether there's any truth to them.

Nick Kristof tells me something I didn't know:

The announcement that Trump has recruited Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser is particularly alarming....Flynn had a brilliant military career....Then President Obama nominated Flynn to become director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and he began to unravel....Flynn’s former fans have been bewildered at his raging denunciation of Islam, including calling it a “cancer.” In February, Flynn also tweeted and asked others to forward a viciously bigoted video that argued that there could be no such thing as Islamophobia.

....For his chief of staff, Flynn chose his son, who is a looney on social media, calling President Obama a communist and fascist, tweeting racially insensitive comments and sharing absurd conspiracy theories.

The chief of staff for the National Security Council will be Flynn's son? Well, why not? Donald Trump has set the tone on nepotism from the top, and it's obvious that he not only tolerates it, but positively revels in it.

Ari Emanuel, July 30, 2006:

At a time of escalating tensions in the world, the entertainment industry cannot idly stand by and allow Mel Gibson to get away with such tragically inflammatory statements...

People in the entertainment community, whether Jew or gentile, need to demonstrate that they understand how much is at stake in this by professionally shunning Mel Gibson and refusing to work with him, even if it means a sacrifice to their bottom line.

There are times in history when standing up against bigotry and racism is more important than money.

Ari Emanuel, November 20, 2016:

The New York Times tells us about Ivanka Trump's husband, Jared Kushner:

Whatever role Mr. Kushner may play in the administration, he has already had a hand in helping assemble it. Both of Mr. Trump’s most senior advisers, Mr. Priebus, his new chief of staff, and Stephen K. Bannon, his chief strategist, seek Mr. Kushner’s advice routinely, considering his buy-in almost a prerequisite for their proposals to Mr. Trump....“Jared has the trust, confidence and ear of the entire inner circle of the Trump administration, including the most important member of that group, the president-elect,” said Matthew Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

....Though he is not particularly bookish, Mr. Kushner is an admirer of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” the story of an innocent man seeking vengeance against people who have wronged him. It is a story that feels particularly resonant now: In recent weeks, Mr. Kushner has been able to exact a measure of revenge against his own family’s nemesis, Governor Christie.

The Count of Monte Cristo! Could there be a more perfect book for Trump's extended family? But Kushner better watch out:

[Trump] gets angry when members of his inner circle get too much of the spotlight, as Rudolph W. Giuliani did when headlines about his millions of dollars in speaking fees appeared as the former New York mayor was publicly promoting himself to be Mr. Trump’s secretary of state.

Apparently Giuliani is now on the outs. Kushner might be too if more profiles like this start appearing.

Last week a federal judge in Michigan ordered the state to deliver four cases of bottled water each week to families in Flint that need it. On Thursday, the state asked the judge to stay his order, arguing that the court order would "require a 'Herculean effort' equivalent to a large-scale military operation and cost the state at least $10.45 million a month, or $125 million annually." This prompted a reader to ask me what was up. Is Flint's water still unsafe to drink?

I haven't checked in on Flint since June, so I figured maybe it was time for an update. I brought up the latest testing results and created a new data point for the past two months, and then added the data point to my old chart using the same metric as always. Here it is:

That's...not bad.1 Using a different measure, it turns out that about 6 percent of Flint homes were over the EPA's "action limit" of 15 ppb and 1 percent were way over. That's not great, obviously, but not catastrophic either. The catch is that presumably these measurements were all taken with water filters in place, and the judge's ruling applied only to homes without filters:

The city is not required to deliver water to residents whose homes have properly installed and working filters, are unoccupied or decline the service. Judge Lawson also ordered that officials provide information in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and Hmong, to residents about lead levels of city water and how to install filters that properly reduce the contamination.

....Flint had fought the request for deliveries of water, arguing that residents had sufficient access to clean water from distribution centers throughout Flint and at home using filters that the city provided. Judge Lawson disagreed. Residents struggled to properly install the filters because of language barriers, old age, cognitive barriers or a lack of necessary tools, the judge said. Others struggled to retrieve water even from the distribution centers.

I guess I'm a little puzzled. If Flint is getting good results even though lots of homes don't have working filters, then its water is in pretty good shape and the judge might be overreacting. However, if it's getting these results because most homes do have working filters, then the judge's order wouldn't be all that burdensome and it's not clear why the state is fighting it. Perhaps someone with deeper knowledge of what's going on will weigh in on this.

1There's a broader measure of blood lead levels that looks oddly high, but the entire state of Michigan looks oddly high. I'm not sure what to make of it.

Here is the version of reality that Donald Trump and the Trump team have been spreading around since the election:

  • Trump's victory was one of the biggest in recent history.
  • Trump kept a Ford plant from moving to Mexico.
  • Snobby New York theater elites were rude to VP-elect Mike Pence on Friday.
  • The demonstrations and marches following the election were the work of "professional protesters."
  • The New York Times apologized for its anti-Trump coverage during the campaign.
  • Trump won the debates handily.
  • He totally could have won the Trump University lawsuit, but chose to settle for the good of the country.

It's only been ten days so far. Can he keep this up for four years?

Guess who's getting a Presidential Medal of Freedom? Hopper! Well, Hopper's namesake anyway, Adm. Grace Hopper:

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, known as “Amazing Grace” and “the first lady of software,” was at the forefront of computers and programming development from the 1940s through the 1980s. Hopper’s work helped make coding languages more practical and accessible, and she created the first compiler, which translates source code from one language into another.1

It's a posthumous award, but Adm. Hopper is now right up there with Vin Scully and Newton "Television Is A Vast Wasteland" Minow. Naturally, this means that the furry version of Hopper is the star of this week's catblogging. She is trying her best to look visionary.

1Meh. I guess that's close enough. No need to get pedantic here.

Tyler Cowen says there have been a lot of papers about the declining labor force participation of men, so it's about time we investigate the declining labor force participation of women. He recommends a paper by So Kubota, a job market candidate at Princeton.

Unfortunately, I ran into a huge roadblock. Kubota thinks the answer involves the rising cost of childcare, and that certainly sounds reasonable. But take a look at the chart on the right. It comes at the very beginning of a presentation based on his paper. I've excerpted just the part starting around the year 2000, since that's when overall female labor force participation started to decline. What it shows is clear: participation rates for women with children declined less than rates for women without children.

What am I missing here? It seems perfectly sensible that rising childcare costs reduce the net income from market labor and therefore reduce the number of mothers who find it worthwhile to work outside the home. And I'm fully willing to accept that the costs of childcare have gone up over the past couple of decades. That should make a difference, and Kubota estimates that it's reduced female labor force participation by 5 percent. But Kubota's own chart suggests that it hasn't had this effect. All the subsequent discussion of subsidies and market vs. home-based childcare doesn't change that basic fact.

So the interesting question seems to be this: given that childcare costs have increased, why are labor force participation rates for mothers declining less than those for women without children? That's a genuine mystery.

Last night Donald Trump tweeted this:

There is a kernel of truth to this. Ford had planned to move production of its Lincoln MKC to Mexico, but then decided not to. However, there was never any plan to move a factory to Mexico. The Louisville Assembly Plant would have kept all its workers thanks to expanded production of the Ford Escape.

So where did Trump get the notion that a plant was slated to be closed down and moved to Mexico? Here is Jim Tankersley:

Trump appeared to be relying on information gleaned from an article posted on a website of a shop that sells business cards and door hangers.

Ladies and gentlemen, the president-elect of the United States.