Links and Comments: Sides of History; Myths and Lies; Voting Inequities

Washington Post: Trump brought data from the Fox News universe to a debate centered in reality

How Trump, and Fox News (in particular Laura Ingraham), lie with statistics, as the article explains in great detail.

It’s all spin, aimed at precisely what Ingraham outlined at the outset: undermining Biden’s insistence on following expert advice and, therefore, bolstering Trump’s seat-of-his-pants approach.

Trump has at his disposal decades of experience in battling public health crises and aggregated data that could provide an accurate sense of how the country’s effort to contain the virus is faring. But that’s not the sort of thing in which Trump immerses himself, preferring the friendlier and more supportive universe of Fox punditry.


NYT, Nicholas Kistof: Will We Choose the Right Side of History?, subtitled “In Amy Coney Barrett, Republicans are once again backing a Supreme Court nominee who could take us backward.”

It’s not as if the two American political parties are apples and oranges, different but equivalent; actually (it seems to me) one side actively tries to improve the world, making it (or at least America) a better place to live for more people, while the other side tries to suppress such progress for the sake of tradition, fear, or the retention of privilege. As Kristof puts it:

We sometimes distinguish between “liberal judges” and “conservative judges.” Perhaps the divide instead is between forward-thinking judges and backward-thinking judges.

Partly because of paralysis by legislators, partly because of racist political systems, forward-thinking judges sometimes had to step up over the last 70 years to tug the United States ahead. Those judges chipped away at Jim Crow and overturned laws against interracial marriage, against contraception, and fought racial and sexual discrimination.


That brings us to another historical area where conservatives, Barrett included, have also been on the wrong side of history — access to health care.

Over the last hundred years, advanced countries have, one by one, adopted universal health care systems, with one notable exception: the United States. That’s one reason next month’s election is such a milestone, for one political party in America is trying to join the rest of the civilized world and provide universal health care, and the other is doing its best to take away what we have.

(Adjacent to this thought is the strain of American arrogance that disregards anything that happens in any other country, in particular how so many mostly Europeans nations have higher standards of living, measured in numerous ways, than does the US. Americans are exceptional, and therefore can’t possible have anything to learn from anyone else.)


Scientific American: Eight Persistent COVID-19 Myths and Why People Believe Them, subtitled “From a human-made virus to vaccine conspiracy theories, we rounded up the most insidious false claims about the pandemic.”


NYT, Farhad Manjoo: California’s 40 Million People Are Sick of Being Ignored, subtitled “In America’s bizarre electoral system, some votes are more equal than others.”

There is the Senate, which gives all states equal representation regardless of population, so voters in Wyoming, the least populous state, effectively enjoy almost 70 times more voting power than us chopped-liver Californians. And there is the winner-takes-all Electoral College, in which a tiny margin of victory pays off, with the whole pot of electoral votes going to the winner. This means that millions of presidential votes, from both Republicans and Democrats, are effectively wasted — all the votes cast for the loser in each state and all the excess ones cast for the winner.


More on Mayor Pete, from The New Yorker: The Remarkable Effectiveness of Pete Buttigieg on Fox News.

Fox News has always been a good venue for Buttigieg, for reasons that don’t have much to do with the dimness of its morning hosts. Last spring, a Fox audience stood at the end of a town hall with Buttigieg. “Wow! A standing ovation!” the Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said, apparently surprised by it. The network’s orientation, on both the hyperbolic evening shows and the Doocified morning ones, borrows the spirit, if not the prudity, of religious conservatives: the heartland is virtuous, and the liberal city sinful. Beamed in from Indiana, Buttigieg has a way of inverting all of that.

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