Monday, September 26, 2016

The debate moderator won’t fact check Trump. Use this guide to do it yourself.

The Commission on Presidential Debates, which organized Monday night’s debate, has said it’s inappropriate for moderators to fact check the candidates.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to get the moderator into essentially serving as the Encyclopedia Britannica,” Janet Brown, executive director of the commission told CNN.

This would appear to be an abdication of the basic responsibility of journalism, which is to inform the public.

It also presents a particular challenge for a debate featuring Donald Trump. The New York Times reports that Trump has “unleashed a blizzard of falsehoods, exaggerations and outright lies in the general election, peppering his speeches, interviews and Twitter posts with untruths so frequent that they can seem flighty or random — even compulsive.”

If the debate commission won’t let Lester Holt do his job, we’ll do it for him.

You can use this guide to fact check Trump during the debate.

Trump: “If you look at their numbers, you look at what’s going on statistically. 40 percent in poverty. 58 percent of African-American youth can’t get jobs.”

These poverty numbers are not accurate. According to the US Census Bureau, 24.1 percent of the African American population fell below the poverty line in 2015 — the highest out of any racial group, but nowhere near Trump’s inflated numbers.

The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts unemployment among African American youth at 26.1 percent (Trump has repeated the higher percentage throughout the summer; in June Politifact rated it “mostly false” and explained how Trump had likely inflated the statistics to make an exaggerate talking point).

Trump: “I am under audit. A routine audit. And when the audit is complete, I will release my [tax] returns.”

In February, Trump said he would “at some point, probably” make his tax returns public. But later, he claimed that he could not do so because his returns since 2009 are under IRS audit (at one point suggesting that he is regularly audited because he is a Christian).

The IRS has made it clear that he is still free to release his returns and would not hold it against him, but Trump has not even been willing to release returns from 2008 and before — returns that are not under audit. The last time Trump did reveal his tax filing, in a report by gaming regulators, the documents showed he did not pay a dollar in federal income tax.

In May, Trump was asked to reveal just his tax rate, but told a reporter it was “none of your business.” Trump added that he did not believe voters have a right to see his returns, but that “When the audit ends, I’m going to present them. That should be before the election. I hope it’s before the election.”

In recent weeks, Trump’s son Donald Jr. completely contradicted Trump’s stated reasoning, revealing perhaps the real reason the campaign is remaining steadfastly opaque: “[Trump Sr. has] got a 12,000-page tax return that would create … financial auditors out of every person in the country asking questions that would detract from [the campaign’s] main message.”

Trump: “The [Trump] Foundation is really rare. It gives money to vets. It’s really been doing a good job”

Though Trump has smeared the Clinton foundation as “the most corrupt enterprise in political history” and demanded that it “be shut down immediately,” he has said very little about his own foundation.

Only after months and media scrutiny about his January claims that he had raised $6 million for veterans at a campaign stunt did he finally keep his pledge to kick in $1 million of his own. He berated a reporter for asking about it at the time, “You know, you’re a nasty guy. You’re really a nasty guy. I gave out millions of dollars that I had no obligation to do.”

Surrogates have boasted since that Trump has given “millions and millions” to charitable causes and that the Trump foundation “is his money.” but an extensive examination by the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold found that Trump has not has not given any of his own money to the tax-exempt foundation since 2008 — and found less than $10,000 in personal charitable giving over seven years. He also found that even Trump’s pledges of personal charitable donations were often paid out by the foundation or his television production company.

More problematic — and seemingly illegal — was the fact that Trump used the foundation’s money to support a political campaign committee (for which the foundation paid a $2,500 penalty), to settle business debts, and to purchase paintings of himself and sports memorabilia.

Asked last week about these allegations of improper “self-dealing,” Trump offered only an incoherent word salad, stating that ““we put that to sleep just by putting out the last report.” Earlier this month, New York’s attorney general said he is investigating the Trump Foundationover possible improprieties.

Trump: Hillary wants to “bring in 620,000 new refugees from Syria and that region over a short period of time.”

Clinton has called for 65,000 Syrian refugees to be resettled in the U.S., an increase from the 10,000 resettled under the Obama administration. While Clinton proposed this increase once, Trump is effectively adding the 55,000 additional refugees Clinton proposed to resettle and adding it to the 100,000 refugees from all over the world proposed by the Obama administration for FY 2017.

“Trump then multiplies 155,000 times four years to reach 620,000 refugees,” the Washington Post reported. “Clinton has never proposed such a ‘plan,’ so this is an invented figure. Clinton only has proposed an increase of 55,000 refugees for one year.”

Trump: “Illegal immigration costs our country more than $113 billion a year”

From ThinkProgress’ Esther Lee in August:

According to Trump, undocumented immigrants are a billion-dollar burden on the economy, costing $113 billion in local, state, and federal taxes. The same statistic can be found at the Federation for American Immigration Reform website, an anti-immigrant organization founded by white nationalist John Tanton.
In reality, undocumented immigrants are a net positive to the economy, contributing $11.64 billion into local and state taxes, according to a 2016 Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy report. What’s more, undocumented immigrants also contributed $35.1 billion to the Medicare Trust Fund between 2000 and 2011, according to a 2015 Journal of General Internal Medicine study. Even Alex Nowrasteh, the immigration policy expert at the Libertarian think tank CATO Institute, called Trump’s claim “nonsense.”

Trump: “Crime is rising”

Trump has tended to overstate crime numbers — he spent most of his Republican National Committee speech using cherry-picked data to tell an exaggerated story about crime in America. The facts don’t back him up.

The latest FBI report — released just today — do show a small increase of 3.9 percent in violent crime in 2015 as compared to the previous year. However, that number is still a bit lower than the 2011 crime level, and much lower — 16.5 percent — than the 2006 violent crime level.

Homicide and manslaughter rates are also on an overall downward trend, according to the FBI.

CREDIT: The Federal Bureau of Investigations

There has been an uptick in crime rates in certain cities, which has been eagerly seized upon by the press — and Trump — to make dire pronouncements. Trump is right that the homicide rate increased in the nation’s 50 largest cities in 2015, but violent crime has been on the decline for decades.

As detailed by a Congressional Research Service report debunking the hyperbolic headlines, statistically speaking, it’s not good practice to look at a one-year uptick.

From the report:

In general, crime data should be viewed over longer time periods in order to determine trends. For example, even though violent crime and homicide rates have been on a downward trend since the early 1990s, there were years where one or both increased, but those year-to-year increases did not portend a break in the overall trend.

There’s always noise in the data, and this year’s uptick does not definitively indicate a reversal of a two-decade long downward trend. And, just as the overall crime and homicide rate has decreased nationwide, it has also decreased in both large and moderate sized cities across America.

CREDIT: Congressional Research Service
CREDIT: the congressional research service

Trump: “Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment.”

Hillary Clinton has never endorsed the repeal of the Second Amendment. She has advocated for stronger background checks prior to gun purchases and a federal prohibition on “straw purchases” to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and the severely mentally ill. She has also opposed special immunity for the gun industry.

Clinton disagreed with a 2008 Supreme Court ruling that found for the first time that the right to bear arms was an individual right, rather than a class right, but has also made clear that she does not want to see that case overturned.

Trump, who in the past backed new gun control measuressaid last week that he thinks police officers should simply disarm citizens if they find them carry guns — though he later claimed that he only would do that to people in Chicago. His statement after the Orlando Pulse shootings, suggesting that more bar owners should have been armed and firing back, drew criticism even from the National Rifle Association. He later changed his position, claiming he only had meant more armed security guards and employees.

Trump: “Our country doesn’t win… We don’t win. We can’t beat ISIS.”

ISIS lost significant ground in 2016. Experts familiar with the groups workings say the execution of foreign attacks in places like Istanbul and Baghdad were responses to military failures in Syria and Iraq.

“ISIS is reeling and their fighters are fleeing the battlefield,” a senior officer of the U.S. Central Command (Centcom), told Politico in July.

They group lost so much ground in Syria and Iraq that some analysts believe they are preparing for the collapse of their self-proclaimed caliphate.

“They’re not trying to be clever about it,” Will McCants, an expert at the Brookings Institution and author of a recent book about ISIS told the Washington Post, “but they’re really trying to prepare their followers to cope with a ‘caliphate’ that is no longer a caliphate.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s strategy to defeat ISIS is a little more straightforward. His solution to defeating ISIS? “I would bomb the shit out of them,” he told a rally.

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Trump directed $2.3 million owed to him to his tax-exempt foundation instead

Donald Trump’s charitable foundation has received approximately $2.3 million from companies that owed money to Trump or one of his businesses but were instructed to pay Trump’s tax-exempt foundation instead, according to people familiar with the transactions.

In cases where he diverted his own income to his foundation, tax experts said, Trump would still likely be required to pay taxes on the income. Trump has refused to release his personal tax returns. His campaign said he paid income tax on one of the donations, but did not respond to questions about the others.

That gift was a $400,000 payment from Comedy Central, which owed Trump an appearance fee for his 2011 “roast.”

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Bloomberg to fact-check debate on-screen

Bloomberg will be the only TV network to display on-screen fact-checks of statements made by Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the first presidential debate Monday, Politico reports

Debate Bar So Low For Donald Trump That If He Doesn’t Vomit, He’s Exceeded Expectations

Donald Trump is an arrogant slacker who wastes his time hanging out at greasy spoons when he should be spending his time studying ― not like that striving know-it-all Tracy Flick Hillary Clinton. Or at least, that’s what Trump’s campaign wants you to believe.

In the run-up to the first presidential debate Monday night, Trump’s team has been working to lower the bar so far for him that it’s basically just lying on the ground. Story after story talks about how Clinton is spending her time poring over wonky policy details in briefing books while Trump is just hanging out.

Trump senior adviser Jason Miller sent a memo last week stressing that Clinton “has more debates under her belt than almost any presidential candidate in history,” whereas Trump has been in a one-on-one debate only once. 

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

New Roundups Of Trump’s Lies Prove Why Fact-Checking Is Vital During Presidential Debates

The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and Politico all independently published on September 24 and 25 reviews of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “blizzard of falsehoods, exaggerations and outright lies” in just the last week. Given that Trump’s “mishandling of facts and propensity for exaggeration” is so “frequent,” these reports of Trump’s “untruths” bolster the case for debate moderators to fact-check the candidates during the presidential debates.

Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton are set to debate on September 26 in the first of three meetings. Given that Trump has a startling penchant for lying and that Trump’s debate prep team is filled with conspiracy theorists and disreputable political operatives, journalists and veteran debate moderatorshave called on the moderators to hold the candidates to a high level of truth-telling and fact-check their inaccurate statements.

Media Matters has also called on the debate moderators to fact-check the candidates in real-time, so a debate over settled fact does not become a “‘he said, she said’” situation. Failing to fact-check Trump’s lies during the debate will also feed into the growing media tendency to lower the bar for Trump and hold the two candidates to different standards.

Those calls for asking “tough follow-up questions” have been given even more importance with these new studies. Trump, according to a five-day Politico analysis of his most recent remarks, “averaged about one falsehood every three minutes and 15 seconds.” The Politico analysis found 87 different lies of Trump’s, including on issues such as the economy, health care, national security, immigration, and Clinton, among others. The study also noted Trump’s September 16 lie that “he was not the person responsible for the birtherism campaign to delegitimize Barack Obama’s presidency.” 

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Clinton campaign: Trump shouldn't be graded on a 'curve' at first debate

Donald Trump shouldn't be graded on a "curve" at the first presidential debate Monday, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager said Sunday. 

"I'm very concerned that Donald Trump will be graded on a curve. Just because he doesn't fly off the handle in the middle of this debate doesn't mean he's prepared to be president of the United States," Robby Mook said on CNN's "State of the Union." 

He also slammed Trump for inviting Gennifer Flowers, a woman with whom former President Bill Clinton had an extramarital affair, to the debate, saying it's a further example of his bullying tactics. 

"I think the fact that Donald Trump is spending the hours before the debate on this sort of thing is indicative of the kind of leader and the kind of president he would be," Mook said. 

In a tweet earlier Saturday, Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, offered to bring Flowers to the debate, in response to the attendance of billionaire Mark Cuban, a vocal supporter of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. 

The Trump campaign said Sunday that it did not expect Flowers to be a guest of the campaign. 

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Trump Flies With Gold-Plated Bathroom Fixtures, And You’re Paying Millions For It

WASHINGTON – Taxpayers are now picking up most of Donald Trump’s air travel costs, unnecessarily spending millions of dollars because he insists on flying aboard his luxury 757 instead of a practical plane.

And because the GOP presidential nominee owns both the company that owns the jetliner and the one that operates it, some percentage of that taxpayer money is likely winding up as profit in Trump’s personal bank account.

The bombastic businessman has often bragged about the comforts of his ride, with its full bedroom, shower and 24-karat gold-plated bathroom fixtures. But because it seats so few passengers, Trump’s Secret Service agents appear to make up more than half of the plane’s flight manifests. And that means taxpayers are now legally required to pick up the majority of its staggering running costs.

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Some Good News For Dems For A Change: Trump Could Cost GOP A Ton Of State Legislatures

WASHINGTON ― Democrats are finally paying attention to state politics. 

Over the past few years, major donors, national Democrats, the White House and state officials have begun organizing to win back state houses that have been dominated by Republicans since 2010. 

And even as the presidential race tightens nationally, Democrats are increasingly confident the party will be able flip a significant number of state legislative chambers, riding a wave of disgust with GOP nominee Donald Trump. At least 14 state House or Senate chambers are well within reach, according to a Democratic memo circulated this week.

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

The New York Times Endorses Hillary Clinton, Praising Her ‘Intellect, Experience, And Courage’

The New York Times editorial board endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in an editorial published Saturday.

The former Secretary of State is the best person to lift Americans’ economic fortunes and guide the country on the world stage at an uncertain time, the paper argued.

“Over 40 years in public life, Hillary Clinton has studied these forces and weighed responses to these problems,” the editorial stated. “Our endorsement is rooted in respect for her intellect, experience, toughness and courage over a career of almost continuous public service, often as the first or only woman in the arena.”

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