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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Web Patterns in 2016

A report from the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard:
"In this study, we document polarization in the media ecosystem that is distinctly asymmetric. Whereas the left half of our spectrum is filled with many media sources from center to left, the right half of the spectrum has a substantial gap between center and right. The core of attention from the center-right to the left is large mainstream media organizations of the center-left. The right-wing media sphere skews to the far right and is dominated by highly partisan news organizations,” co-author and principal investigator Yochai Benkler stated. In addition to Benkler, the report was authored by Robert Faris, Hal Roberts, Bruce Etling, Nikki Bourassa, and Ethan Zuckerman.
The fact that media coverage has become more polarized in general is not new, but the extent to which right-wing sites have become partisan is striking, the report says.

The study found that on the conservative side, more attention was paid to pro-Trump, highly partisan media outlets. On the liberal side, by contrast, the center of gravity was made up largely of long-standing media organizations. Robert Faris, the Berkman Klein Center’s research director, noted, "Consistent with concerns over echo chambers and filter bubbles, social media users on the left and the right rarely share material from outside their respective spheres, except where they find coverage that is favorable to their choice of candidate. A key difference between the right and left is that Trump supporters found substantial coverage favorable to their side in left and center-left media, particularly coverage critical of Clinton. In contrast, the messaging from right-wing media was consistently pro-Trump." Conservative opposition to Trump was strongest in the center-right, the portion of the political spectrum that wielded the least influence in media coverage of the election.

In this recently-emerged universe, Breitbart stands at the center of a right-wing media ecosystem and is surrounded by sites like Fox News, the Daily Caller, the Gateway Pundit, the Washington Examiner, Infowars, Conservative Treehouse, and Truthfeed, according to the report’s analysis.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Congressional Staffers as Valets

Congress has cut back on the staff who help with research.  But lawmakers are doing fine with their valets.  At Politico, John Bresnahan and Rachel Bade report on Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN):
Who knew it could take eight pages of instructions on how to properly escort a member of Congress around his district? Yet there it is, laid out in mind-blowing detail, in a memo obtained by POLITICO that's sure to make any young, eager-beaver political aide shudder.
Tasks listed in the document, entitled “Instructions on Staffing and Driving — District Version,” include handing Rokita a cup of black coffee upon picking him up at his home, acting as a physical barrier between him and trackers looking to capture embarrassing footage of the congressman, and “avoid[ing] sudden acceleration or braking” while driving.
“The goal is to provide as smooth a ride as possible,” reads the instruction manual, co-authored by a former chief of staff to the congressman and Tim Edson, Rokita’s ex-communications director-turned-campaign spokesman.
Drivers are expected to transport not only Rokita’s toothbrush and toothpaste but also stock and tote around the district a nearly 20-item supply box that Rokita’s staffers call “the football.” The contents include gum, hand sanitizer, business cards, bottled water, napkins and Kleenex, lozenges, a stapler and stapler remover, Post-it notes and Shout wipes, among other items.
Veep fans will recognize Gary Walsh (played by the wonderful Tony Hale):






Sunday, August 20, 2017

God and the State Constitutions

At Pew, Alexandra Sandstrom writes:
The U.S. Constitution never explicitly mentions God or the divine, but the same cannot be said of the nation’s state constitutions. In fact, God or the divine is mentioned at least once in each of the 50 state constitutions and nearly 200 times overall, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.
All but four state constitutions – those in Colorado, Iowa, Hawaii and Washington – use the word “God” at least once. The constitutions in Colorado, Iowa and Washington refer to a “Supreme Being” or “Supreme Ruler of the Universe,” while Hawaii’s constitution makes reference to the divine only in its preamble, which states that the people of Hawaii are “grateful for Divine Guidance.”

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sasse and the Creed

Senator Ben Sasse:


We have a glorious heritage in the American Idea, but we have neglected it at our kids’ peril.

This is the right time for each of us – parents and grandparents, neighbors and patriots – to pause and teach our kids again about universal human dignity and about love of neighbor. This is a time for discussion and education and humility, not intimidation and mobs and midnight wrecking balls. ‎

Let’s teach our kids why our First Amendment Society fights with debate, not violence. Let’s teach them that those standing in threatening mobs don’t stand with America. Let’s teach them that white supremacy is a cancer to our union. Let’s teach them to reject identity politics. Let's teach them that all of us are created equal, with infinite dignity and limitless potential. Let’s teach them that what makes us Americans is not our skin, our wealth, or our religion but our shared creed. ‎

That creed, ironically, was put to paper most profoundly by a very fallen slave-holder, who spoke for the long-term future of America in writing that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights…” We eventually went to war to preserve a creedal “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” And that creed eventually perfected our union from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, with the proclamation that “‎the goal of America is freedom.”

It feels like violence is coming. I'm not sure if this moment is like the summer of '67 or not. But it might be. Before that violence strikes again, it’s up to us to reaffirm that exceptional American Creed again today, with our neighbors, and in our kids' hearts.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Trump Fires Bannon at the End of a Bad Week

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Inequality Was the Cornerstone of the Confederacy

On March 21, 1861, Alexander H. Stephens frankly explained the basis of the  Confederacy, of which he was vice president. 
The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Moral Treason

In Crisis of the House Divided, Harry Jaffa wrote of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates:
Douglas's crucial statement in his reply to Lincoln was his assertion that Lincoln's question implied that the judges were capable of "moral treason." This, of course, is precisely what Lincoln believed. Not only did he believe the judges capable of moral treason, but he believed they had actually committed it. For Lincoln believed that moral treason consisted, above all, in denying tike proposition that "all men are created equal"
or in denying that this was in fact the foundation of the American constitutional system.
Reading his staff-written statement Monday, Trump recited a line saying that all men are created equal. When he was speaking for himself, however, he said the opposite.