Noted without comment:

Have there been any new email leaks lately? Or any news at all about Hillary Clinton's private server? I haven't noticed any. That's kind of funny, isn't it?

There are lots of wingnut sites that traffic in conspiracy theories and urban myths. But that's not all. There are also fake news sites, deliberately crafted to look real and fool people into believing outrageous stories. The most infamous at the moment is the Denver Guardian, which peddled a fake story written in pseudo-AP style about an FBI agent involved in investigating Hillary Clinton's emails who was found murdered. Sites like Google and Facebook should work harder to eliminate junk like this from their search results and news feeds, and in Facebook's case it turns out they have a pretty good idea of how to do it. But Gizmodo reports that they were afraid to pull the trigger:

According to two sources with direct knowledge of the company’s decision-making, Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging review of products and policies earlier this year, with the goal of eliminating any appearance of political bias. One source said high-ranking officials were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public. It’s unclear if the update had other deficiencies that caused it to be scrubbed.

“They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear of retribution from the company. The source added, “there was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics,” and that “a lot of product decisions got caught up in that.”

This demonstrates the benefit of working the refs. Back in May, an ex-Facebook employee accused Facebook of manipulating its Trending Topics feed to favor liberal stories. Conservatives naturally went ballistic, and their shitstorm of abuse worked: Facebook caved in and agreed to change its process even though there was never any real evidence of liberal bias in the first place.

That was a victory, but not the real victory. The real victory is that it put the fear of God into Facebook, which became hypersensitive to anything that might affect right-wing sites—even if those sites were plainly bogus. And as Mike Caulfield points out, bogus right-wing stories like the Denver Guardian's get a lot of attention on Facebook:

To put this in perspective, if you combined the top stories from the Boston Globe, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and LA Times, they still had only 5% the viewership of an article from a fake news site that intimated strongly that the Democratic Presidential candidate had had a husband and wife murdered then burned to cover up her crimes.

Facebook probably could have stopped this kind of thing, but their earlier run-in over the Trending Topics feed made them afraid to do anything. That's how Facebook ended up promoting dozens of right-wing conspiracy theories during a presidential campaign. They had been worked.

Ed Kilgore says that it's not clear yet how much of Donald Trump's appeal to rural white voters is economic:

We may soon have an answer in rural communities that still largely depend on agriculture for jobs and income. While it did not get much, if any, national attention during the presidential general election, it may soon matter a lot that Trump is largely at odds with the farm lobby when it comes to two of his signature economic policy issues: his opposition to trade agreements and to comprehensive immigration reform. The American Farm Bureau has traditionally viewed trade agreements — particularly those with fast-growing Asian countries — as creating export opportunity for farmers and agribusinesses. It strongly supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that Trump (and eventually Clinton) opposed. And it has also favored comprehensive immigration reform in order to stabilize the farm-labor supply and protect undocumented migrant farm workers.

I'm not buying it. First off, take a look at the chart on the right—and pay special attention to the units on the vertical axis. It comes from the International Trade Commission's report on the "likely impact" of TPP. In the agricultural sector, it's minuscule. By ditching the TPP, farm employment will lose a benefit of 0.031 percent per year. That amounts to maybe a hundred workers each in the biggest Midwest agricultural states.

You wouldn't notice this if you lost that many jobs, let alone merely failed to gain them. And that's assuming that Trump kills TPP in the first place, rather than renegotiating a few bits and pieces and then declaring victory. Either way, it's just not big enough for any of his supporters to notice.

As for migrant farm workers, the business community has been in favor of comprehensive immigration reform forever. Likewise, the base of the Republican Party has been against it forever. There's nothing new here, and nothing that's likely to split Trump's coalition.

I've seen a lot of complaints today that the press is ignoring or "normalizing" Steve Bannon's ties to the racist alt-right. I have plenty of beefs with the way the Trump campaign was covered, but at least for now, credit where it's due: no one is ignoring this. Here's a roundup of headlines from today. Even Fox News felt obligated to mention it.

Here's a chart for you:

What this shows is that states with the smallest population of illegal immigrants had the strongest vote for Donald Trump. It's not an especially strong correlation, and I wouldn't draw any grand conclusions from it, but it sure doesn't seem to suggest that actual loss of jobs to illegal immigrants is what drives support for Trump and his wall. If anything, it's just the opposite.

State-level popular vote data here. Immigration data here.

We are told that Donald Trump owes his victory to rural, blue-collar whites, especially those living in the upper Midwest. Trump's appeal to this demographic was based partly on racial fears and partly on economic loss. With that in mind, these folks deserve a few metrics to tell them if Trump is making good on his promise to make their lives better. Here's my top ten list of things to watch:

  1. Miles of wall built on the southern border. (Current number: 0)
  2. Number of manufacturing jobs. (Current number: about 12 million)
  3. Population of illegal immigrants in the United States. (Current number: about 11 million in 2014)
  4. Total federal spending on infrastructure (First term of Obama administration: about $400 billion)
  5. Trade deficit. (Current number: $500 billion in 2015)
  6. U6 unemployment rate. (Current number: 9.7 percent)
  7. Change in net imports from Mexico due to renegotiating NAFTA. (Current number: $60 billion in 2015)
  8. Change in net imports from China due to punitive tariffs etc. (Current number: $367 billion in 2015)
  9. Tax reductions for working class. (Baseline: 7.9 percent of income for all federal taxes for the second income quintile)
  10. Tax reductions for the wealthy. (Baseline: 25.8 percent of income for all federal taxes for the top quintile)

Some of these will need to be updated to 2016 numbers when they're available, but this gives you a rough idea of where Trump is starting from.

Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump chose Steve Bannon, his campaign chairman, to be his "chief strategist" in the White House. No one knows quite what that means, but at the very least it means he'll have the ear of the president for the next year. But what kind of person is Bannon?

“President-elect Trump’s choice of Steve Bannon as his top aide signals that white supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump’s White House,” said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), in a statement Sunday night.

“It is easy to see why the KKK views Trump as their champion when Trump appoints one of the foremost peddlers of White Supremacist themes and rhetoric as his top aide. Bannon was ‘the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill,’ according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

Goodness. People sure do overreact when someone isn't quite as politically correct as they'd like. Let's set the record straight and take a more nuanced look at who Bannon really is. Here's his ex-wife:

Bannon was head of Breitbart News, which embraced the "alt-right." Breitbart itself explains how the alt-right has absolutely nothing to do with white supremacism:

There are many things that separate the alternative right from old-school racist skinheads (to whom they are often idiotically compared), but one thing stands out above all else: intelligence. Skinheads, by and large, are low-information, low-IQ thugs driven by the thrill of violence and tribal hatred. The alternative right are a much smarter group of people — which perhaps suggests why the Left hates them so much. They’re dangerously bright.

See? They're smarter than your average racist. NPR explains further:

The views of the alt-right are widely seen as anti-Semitic and white supremacist....Most of its members are young white men who see themselves first and foremost as champions of their own demographic. However, apart from their allegiance to their "tribe," as they call it, their greatest points of unity lie in what they are against: multiculturalism, immigration, feminism and, above all, political correctness.

"They see political correctness really as the greatest threat to their liberty," Nicole Hemmer, University of Virginia professor and author of a forthcoming book Messengers of the Right, explained on Morning Edition. "So, they believe saying racist or anti-Semitic things — it's is not an act of hate, but an act of freedom," she said.

Being racist is "an act of freedom"! Ben Shapiro, a conservative who used to work for Bannon, said this:

Under Bannon’s Leadership, Breitbart Openly Embraced The White Supremacist Alt-Right. Andrew Breitbart despised racism. Truly despised it. He used to brag regularly about helping to integrate his fraternity at Tulane University. He insisted that racial stories be treated with special care to avoid even the whiff of racism. With Bannon embracing Trump, all that changed. Now Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with [Milo] Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.

Here's a look at some of Breitbart's work under Bannon's leadership:

That all seems perfectly reasonable. Sure, Bannon may be "controversial," but take a look at his staff:

There's a black guy right there, over on the far left. And yet people still call Bannon a racist! This is political correctness run amok.

There are a few things we should all keep in mind over the next four years. No matter what I write, or how much I write, or what I write about, these things will stay front and center in my consciousness even if I don't repeat them constantly:

  • We have elected a loudmouth, race-baiting game show host president of the United States. A. Game. Show. Host.
     
  • However that happened, it happened by a shift of one or two percentage points in the electorate. Don't listen to anyone on either side who writes lazy think pieces about how this portends a sea change in Western civilization and validates everything they've been saying all along.
     
  • A whole lot of people are going to suffer a whole lot over the next four years.

Was the presidential election this year a close call? Of course not!

Kellyanne Conway, a key adviser to Donald Trump’s transistion team, says the general election “was not close” and the president-elect has a “mandate” to carry out the will of the people on issues ranging from Obamacare to national security. “This election was not close. It was not a squeaker,” Mrs. Conway said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There is a mandate there, and there is a mandate for his 100-day agenda, as well.”

Really? It sure seemed close to me. So close, in fact, that Donald Trump actually lost the popular vote. Let's google "2016 popular vote" to find out:

It looks like Facebook isn't the only one with a fake news problem. Surely one of the top three results on Google News shouldn't be a nutbar blog dedicated to spreading false information about Hillary Clinton? How about giving a little higher weighting to actual news sources so this kind of stuff doesn't happen?

Trump's team is dedicated to telling us that the election was a landslide, and there are plenty of doofus sites out there who are happy to spread whatever lies will help that along. Nothing can stop this from happening, but at least big players like Facebook and Google should try not to help them along.

UPDATE: There's also the problem of deliberately fake news sources. Mike Caulfield has more on that here.