Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday Reading

“It Has To Be Hillary Clinton” — It’s not really a surprise that the New York Times endorses Hillary Clinton, but when the Cincinnati Enquirer, the paper from the city that gave us William Howard Taft and hasn’t endorsed a Democrat in a very long time does it, that’s news.

Presidential elections should be about who’s the best candidate, not who’s the least flawed. Unfortunately, that’s not the case this year.

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the most unpopular pair of presidential candidates in American history, both have troubled relationships with truth and transparency. Trump, despite all of his bluster about wanting to “make America great again,” has exploited and expanded our internal divisions. Clinton’s arrogance and unwillingness to admit wrongdoing have made her a divisive and distrusted figure as well.

The Enquirer has supported Republicans for president for almost a century – a tradition this editorial board doesn’t take lightly. But this is not a traditional race, and these are not traditional times. Our country needs calm, thoughtful leadership to deal with the challenges we face at home and abroad. We need a leader who will bring out the best in all Americans, not the worst.

That’s why there is only one choice when we elect a president in November: Hillary Clinton.

Clinton is a known commodity with a proven track record of governing. As senator of New York, she earned respect in Congress by working across the aisle and crafting bills with conservative lawmakers. She helped 9/11 first responders get the care they needed after suffering health effects from their time at Ground Zero, and helped expand health care and family leave for military families. Clinton has spent more than 40 years fighting for women’s and children’s rights. As first lady, she unsuccessfully fought for universal health care but helped to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program that provides health care to more than 8 million kids today. She has been a proponent of closing the gender wage gap and has stood up for LGBT rights domestically and internationally, including advocating for marriage equality.

Trump is a clear and present danger to our country. He has no history of governance that should engender any confidence from voters. Trump has no foreign policy experience, and the fact that he doesn’t recognize it – instead insisting that, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do” – is even more troubling. His wild threats to blow Iranian ships out of the water if they make rude gestures at U.S. ships is just the type of reckless, cowboy diplomacy Americans should fear from a Trump presidency. Clinton has been criticized as being hawkish but has shown a measured approach to the world’s problems. Do we really want someone in charge of our military and nuclear codes who has an impulse control problem? The fact that so many top military and national security officials are not supporting Trump speaks volumes.

Clinton, meanwhile, was a competent secretary of state, with far stronger diplomatic skills than she gets credit for. Yes, mistakes were made in Benghazi, and it was tragic that four Americans lost their lives in the 2012 terror attacks on the U.S. consulate there. But the incident was never the diabolical conspiracy that Republicans wanted us to believe, and Clinton was absolved of blame after lengthy investigations. As the nation’s top diplomat, Clinton was well-traveled, visiting numerous countries and restoring U.S. influence internationally. She was part of President Barack Obama’s inner circle when the decision was made to go after and kill Osama bin Laden and negotiated U.N. sanctions that led to the Iran nuclear deal.

Her presidential campaign has been an inclusive one, reflected by the diversity of her supporters. She has even moved to the left on health care, expressing a willingness to consider Sen. Bernie Sanders’ single-payer “Medicare for all” health care plan. Clinton has talked about building bridges, not walls, and has a plan to keep immigrant families together with a path to citizenship.

We have our issues with Clinton. Her reluctance to acknowledge her poor judgment in using a private email server and mishandling classified information is troubling. So is her lack of transparency. We were critical of her 275-day streak without a press conference, which just ended this month. And she should have removed herself from or restructured the Clinton Foundation after allegations arose that foreign entities were trading monetary donations for political influence and special access.

But our reservations about Clinton pale in comparison to our fears about Trump.

This editorial board has been consistent in its criticism of his policies and temperament beginning with the Republican primary. We’ve condemned his childish insults; offensive remarks to women, Hispanics and African-Americans; and the way he has played on many Americans’ fears and prejudices to further himself politically. Trump brands himself as an outsider untainted by special interests, but we see a man utterly corrupted by self-interest. His narcissistic bid for the presidency is more about making himself great than America. Trump tears our country and many of its people down with his words so that he can build himself up. What else are we left to believe about a man who tells the American public that he alone can fix what ails us?

While Clinton has been relentlessly challenged about her honesty, Trump was the primary propagator of arguably the biggest lie of the past eight years: that Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Trump has played fast and loose with the support of white supremacist groups. He has praised some of our country’s most dangerous enemies – see Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un and Saddam Hussein – while insulting a sitting president, our military generals, a Gold Star family and prisoners of war like Sen. John McCain. Of late, Trump has toned down his divisive rhetoric, sticking to carefully constructed scripts and teleprompters. But going two weeks without saying something misogynistic, racist or xenophobic is hardly a qualification for the most important job in the world. Why should anyone believe that a Trump presidency would look markedly different from his offensive, erratic, stance-shifting presidential campaign?

Some believe Trump’s business acumen would make him the better choice to move America’s slow recovery into a full stride. It’s true that he has created jobs, but he also has sent many overseas and left a trail of unpaid contractors in his wake. His refusal to release his tax returns draws into question both Trump’s true income and whether he is paying his fair share of taxes. Even if you consider Trump a successful businessman, running a government is not the same as being the CEO of a company. The United States cannot file bankruptcy to avoid paying its debts.

Trump’s rise through a crowded Republican primary field as well as Sanders’ impressive challenge on the Democratic side make clear that the American people yearn for a change in our current state of politics. However, our country needs to seek thoughtful change, not just change for the sake of change. Four years is plenty of time to do enough damage that it could take America years to recover from, if at all.

In these uncertain times, America needs a brave leader, not bravado. Real solutions, not paper-thin promises. A clear eye toward the future, not a cynical appeal to the good old days.

Hillary Clinton has her faults, certainly, but she has spent a lifetime working to improve the lives of Americans both inside and outside of Washington. It’s time to elect the first female U.S. president – not because she’s a woman, but because she’s hands-down the most qualified choice.

For comparison, Gary Johnson has garnered more newspaper endorsements than Donald Trump.

My Vote — Roger Angell of The New Yorker.

I am late weighing in on this election—late in more ways than one. Monday brought my ninety-sixth birthday, and, come November, I will be casting my nineteenth ballot in a Presidential election. My first came in 1944, when I voted for a fourth term for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, my Commander-in-Chief, with a mail-in ballot from the Central Pacific, where I was a sergeant in the Army Air Force. It was a thrilling moment for me, but not as significant as my vote on November 8th this year, the most important one of my lifetime. My country faces a danger unmatched in our history since the Cuban missile crisis, in 1962, or perhaps since 1943, when the Axis powers held most of Continental Europe, and Imperial Japan controlled the Pacific rim, from the Aleutians to the Solomon Islands, with the outcome of that war still unknown.

The first debate impends, and the odds that Donald Trump may be elected President appear to be narrowing. I will cast my own vote for Hillary Clinton with alacrity and confidence. From the beginning, her life has been devoted to public service and to improving the lives of children and the disadvantaged. She is intelligent, strong, profoundly informed, and extraordinarily experienced in the challenges and risks of our lurching, restlessly altering world and wholly committed to the global commonality. Her well-established connections to minorities may bring some better understanding of our urban and suburban police crisis. I have wished at times that she would be less impatient or distant when questions arrive about her past actions and mistakes, but I see no evidence to support the deep-rooted suspicions that often surround her. I don’t much like the high-level moneyed introductions and contacts surrounding the Clinton Foundation, but cannot find the slightest evidence that any of this has led to something much worse—that she or anyone has illegally profited or that any legislation tilted because of it. Nothing connects or makes sense; it beats me. Ms. Clinton will make a strong and resolute President—at last, a female leader of our own—and, in the end, perhaps a unifying one.

The Trump campaign has been like no other—a tumultuous and near-irresistible reality TV, in which Mr. Trump plays the pouty, despicable, but riveting central character. “I can’t stand him,” people are saying, “but you know, wow, he never stops.”

We know Mr. Trump’s early transgressions by heart: the female reporter who had “blood coming out of her whatever”; the mocking of a physically impaired reporter; the maligning of a judge because of his Mexican parents; the insulting dismissal of the grieving, Gold Star-parent Khans; the promised mass deportation of eleven million—or two million—undocumented immigrants, and more. Each of these remains a disqualifier for a candidate who will represent every one of us, should he win, but we now are almost willing to turn them into colorful little impairments. “Oh, that’s ol’ Donald—that’s the way he is.”

But I stick at a different moment—the lighthearted comment he made when, in early August, an admiring veteran presented him with a replica of his Purple Heart and Mr. Trump said, “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.” What? Mr. Trump is saying he wishes that he had joined the armed forces somehow (he had a chance but skimmed out, like so many others of his time) and then had died or been scarred or maimed in combat? This is the dream of a nine-year-old boy, and it impugns the five hundred thousand young Americans who have died in combat in my lifetime, and the many hundreds of thousands more whose lives were altered or shattered by their wounds of war.

I take this personally, representing as I do the last sliver of the sixteen million Americans who served in the military in my war. I had an easy time of it, and was never in combat, but, even so, as I have written, I experienced the loss of more than twenty close friends, classmates, and companions of my youth, who remain young and fresh in memory. I have named them in previous pieces, along with some wounded survivors, like my friend Gardner, an infantry captain who landed at Normandy Beach and fought at Hürtgen Forest and Aachen and the Battle of the Bulge, was twice wounded, had five Campaign stars, and received numerous decorations, including the French Croix de Guerre, but who for the rest of his life would fall into wary silence whenever a thunderstorm announced itself. Also my late brother-in-law Neil, who lay wounded on the field for two days during the battle of Belfort Gap, and who hobbled with a cane all his life, and with two canes near the end. Every American of my generation can supply stories like these, and once learned and tried to forget that, worldwide, seventy million people died in our war.

Mr. Trump was born in 1946, just after this cataclysmic event of our century, and came of age in the nineteen-sixties, when the implications and harshness of war were being debated as never before, but little or none of this seems to have penetrated for him—a candidate who wants to give nuclear arms to Japan and South Korea and wishes to remain unclear about his own inclinations as commander of our nuclear triad. This makes me deeply doubt his avowed concern for our veterans or that he has any sense of their sufferings.

Reservations like this are predictable coming from someone my age, but I will persist, hoping to catch the attention of a few much younger voters, and of those who have not yet made up their minds about this election. I do so by inviting them to share an everyday experience—the middle-of-the-night or caught-in-traffic moment when we find our hovering second thoughts still at hand and waiting: Why did I ever?… What if?… Now I can see… and come to that pause, the unwelcome reconsideration that quiets us and makes us mature. It’s the same thought that Judge Learned Hand wanted posted in every school and church and courthouse in the land: “I beseech ye … think that we may be mistaken.”

Mr. Trump has other drawbacks I haven’t mentioned: his weird fondness for Vladimir Putin; his destruction of the lives and hopes of small investors and contractors unlucky enough to have been involved in his business dealings; his bonkers five-year “birther” campaign, now withdrawn, though without accountability—but never mind all this, for now.

Mr. Trump is endlessly on record as someone who will not back down, who cannot appear to pause or lose. He is a man who must win, stay on the attack, and who thinks, first and last, “How will I look?” This is central, and what comes after it, for me, at times, is concern for what it must be like for anyone who, facing an imperative as dark and unforgiving as this, finds only the narcissist’s mirror for reassurance.

If Donald Trump wins this election, his nights in the White House will very soon resemble those of President Obama. After he bids an early goodnight to his family, he sits alone while he receives and tries to take in floods of information from almost innumerable national and international sources, much of it classified or top secret. His surroundings are stately, but the room is shadowed and silent. There are bits of promising news here and there, but always more bloodshed, sudden alarms, and unexpected lurking dangers. The import of the news is often veiled or contradictory, or simply impenetrable. The night wears on, and may contain brief hours of sleep. There’s time to tweet. A new day is arriving, and with it the latest rush of bad news—another police shooting out West, another suicide bomber in Yemen, and other urgent briefings from a world already caught up in the morning’s difficult events. He needs to respond, but the beginning of this President’s response is always reliably at hand: How will I look?

Rapid Evolution — Menno Schilthuizen on the rapid pace of nature adapting to human civilization.

Amsterdam — A FRIEND recently invited me over to see the blackbird that had taken up residence in a potted plant on her balcony.

Serenely incubating eggs in the inner city, this bird had little in common with its shy, reclusive ancestors that nested in Europe’s forests. Early in the 19th century, probably in Germany, blackbirds began settling in cities. By the mid-20th century, they were hopping around on stoops all over Europe.

Many “wild” bird species — like the peregrine falcons, red-tailed hawks and laughing gulls of New York — have set up camp in cities. But the thing about Europe’s urban blackbirds (a relative of the American robin, not to be confused with North American blackbirds, which belong to a different family) is that they are very different from their forest-dwelling relatives. They have stockier bills, sing at a higher pitch (high enough to be heard over the din of traffic), are less likely to migrate (in cities there’s food and warmth year-round), and have less nervous personalities.

For many of these differences, genes are responsible. The birds’ DNA, after 200 years or less of adaptation, has diverged from that of their rural ancestors.

For a long time, biologists thought evolution was a very, very slow process, too tardy to be observed in a human lifetime. But recently, we have come to understand that evolution can happen very quickly, as long as natural selection — the relative benefit that a particular characteristic bestows on its bearer — is strong.

And where else to find such strong natural selection than in the heart of a big city? The urban environment is about as extreme as it gets. Temperatures in the city center can be more than 10 degrees higher than in the surrounding countryside. Traffic causes continuous background noise, a mist of fine dust particles and barriers to movement for any animal that cannot fly or burrow. Much of the city is clad in impervious surfaces of stone, glass, steel and tarmac. There is pollution of soil, water and air, mainly human-derived food sources, and an especially motley crew of local and invasive flora and fauna.

With urban environments expanding all over the world, wildlife and biologists alike are starting to treat the city as a true ecosystem. Many species’ original habitats are being squeezed into annihilation. For them, it’s adapt or die. And field biologists like me are following suit. As we have to travel ever farther to find untouched wilderness, we are beginning to realize that the expanding urban sprawl is perhaps not something to be depressed about, but rather something very exciting, as entirely novel forms of life are evolving right under our noses.

A Fordham University biologist, Jason Munshi-South, studies the populations of white-footed mice marooned in New York City parks. These native mice once lived all over the place. But as the city expanded, they became confined to the small pockets of forest left behind in parks. Thus isolated, the mice in each park began evolving a park-specific genetic blueprint. In some parks, Dr. Munshi-South found mice carrying genes for heavy metal tolerance, probably because soils there are contaminated with lead or chromium. In other parks, the animals have genes for increased immune response — maybe diseases spread more easily in some high-density populations.

French biologists have been studying a daisylike weed called Crepis sancta, which normally produces two kinds of seeds: heavy ones that fall to the floor, and light seeds that drift in the wind for long distances. But in Montpellier, in southern France, C. sancta makes reduced numbers of the airborne seeds. Small wonder: The plants grow in pockets of soil on sidewalks, and any seeds that are carried on the wind are likely to land on concrete. The heavy seeds that land at the parent plant’s feet, on the other hand, are pretty certain to find a patch of fertile soil. So plants genetically predisposed to produce more heavy seeds have been favored by urban evolution.

THERE are more examples: Spiders in Vienna are evolving to build their webs near moth-attracting streetlights. In some cities, moths, in turn, are developing a resistance to the lure of light bulbs. Certain Puerto Rican city lizards are evolving feet that better grip urban surfaces like concrete. Some grass is adapting to the relentless regime of the lawn mower by acquiring a shorter stature.

The most exciting projects are perhaps no longer in faraway forests and canyons, but just there on our doorstep. We evolutionary biologists are trading our expedition gear for subway tickets and studying street grass and house mosquitoes instead of jungle orchids and mountain birds.

And we have millions of city dwellers to help us. Citizen science projects on urban ecology and evolution are springing up everywhere. This year, my students and I will introduce a smartphone app to measure how snail shells in hot inner cities in Europe and North America are evolving lighter colors to shield against overheating. Adeline Murthy of the University of New Mexico used the Christmas Bird Count, an annual census conducted by volunteers, to show that North American cities harbor an avifauna that is pretty much homogenized across the continent. At least 18 bird species are shared by all of them — something not the case in non-urban areas.

In fact, that Christmas data highlights one feature of urban nature that sets it apart from all other ecosystems: globalization. City-adapted wildlife is likely to hitch rides on human transportation and colonize other cities — at least within the same climate zone.

What’s more, as cities continue to grow, they will exchange more goods, people and information over greater distances. So each change in the environment (a particular pollutant, a certain novelty in road construction, a new kind of food source) will spread quickly across the world, and urban wildlife everywhere will be faced with the same novel challenge. Those that evolve adaptations will also easily spread to other cities, leading to a truly globalized urban flora and fauna — continually evolving at breakneck speed to keep up with an increasingly human-dominated world.

Back on my friend’s balcony, I peered through the branches at that nesting blackbird. She returned my stare with one glistening eye, as if to say: “Consider me your Darwin’s finch. And this city is my Galápagos.”

Doonesbury — Adding them up.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016

Whites Only

Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post:

If you are a black man in America, exercising your constitutional right to keep and bear arms can be fatal. You might think the National Rifle Association and its amen chorus would be outraged, but apparently they believe Second Amendment rights are for whites only.

In reaching that conclusion I am accepting, for the sake of argument, the account given by the Charlotte police of how they came to fatally shoot Keith Lamont Scott on Tuesday. Scott’s killing prompted two nights of violent protests that led North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) to declare a state of emergency. Last Friday, police in Tulsa shot and killed Terence Crutcher — an unarmed black man — and the two incidents gave tragic new impetus to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Scott’s relatives claim he was unarmed as well. But let’s assume that police are telling the truth and he had a handgun. What reason was there for officers to confront him?

North Carolina, after all, is an open-carry state. A citizen has the right to walk around armed if he or she chooses to do so. The mere fact that someone has a firearm is no reason for police to take action.

This is crazy, in my humble opinion. I believe that we should try to save some of the 30,000-plus lives lost each year to gun violence by enacting sensible firearms restrictions — and that the more people who walk around packing heat like Wild West desperados, the more deaths we will inevitably have to mourn. In its wisdom, however, the state of North Carolina disagrees.

In open-carry states such as Florida or Texas, if a group of white men walked down the street toting semi-automatic rifles and strolled into Wal Mart, they would be seen as Americans exercising their rights.  Change the adjective “white” to “black,” however, and you’d have SWAT in the parking lot and a BREAKING NEWS crawl on CNN as their correspondent did a stand-up a block away under the glare of a searchlight from the police helicopter.

That’s the subtext behind Donald Trump’s call for “stop and frisk;” take away the guns from the non-white people.  You would think the NRA would be against that, too.  But so far they’ve been silent.

Soft Bigotry

Yesterday we were treated to the not-from-The Onion opinion of Kathy Miller, a rich white Trump supporter and the chair of the Mahoning County, Ohio, Trump campaign, who informed us that there was no racism in America until Barack Obama came along.  After that bit of news went viral, she promptly resigned but insisted all along that what she was wasn’t racist.

Then we heard from Gov. Mike Pence, Mr. Trump’s running mate, who told us that we need to “set aside” all this talk about institutional racism in light of the recent police shootings and move on.  At last word, Mr. Pence has not yet resigned his position with the campaign.

The takeaway from both of these arbiters of race relations in America is that we don’t have a race problem in this country and stop saying we do because it gets people upset.

But I have a question: which is worse?  Ms. Miller who insists that everything was just peachy until that outside agitator came along, or the silencing of the discussion about race relations between African Americans and other minorities and the police departments in a number of cities because, in his words, it’s the “rhetoric of division.”

Ms. Miller and people like her can be dealt with — and she was — with universal scorn, derision, and the prompt termination of their services.  Blatant racism like that doesn’t lend itself to nuance and there was no way anyone, even in the Trump organization, could polish that turd.  So yes, she’s odious, but she’s obvious.

Mr. Pence, on the other hand, speaks calmly, soothingly, and wants to bring everyone together as long as they don’t talk about what’s really happening.  I daresay that there will be some Very Serious Pundit sitting around a table on a cable chat show who will say, “Well, you know, he has a point.”

Actually, Mr. Pence’s racism is worse because it’s insidious.  It sounds reasonable, not like some rant in a parking lot from a blithering bigot.  But it takes any discussion of the problem off the table and leaves you with nothing other than nostrums about “thorough investigations” and “justice being served” as if in promising to actually follow the law is doing us all a generous favor.  Mr. Pence himself is the shining example of institutional racism.

Kneel Before Trump

Frontline on PBS will air a segment on September 27 that looks at the reason Donald Trump decided to run for president and when he decided to do it.

Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.

It comes down to seeking revenge for being humiliated in public by a black man.

Let’s make sure that it happens again; this time by a woman.

Short Takes

Charlotte police chief says the video of the shooting does not offer definitive evidence that the victim was holding a gun.

Police officer in Tulsa charged with first degree manslaughter in shooting of unarmed man.

Yahoo reports a vast e-mail breach by a “state-sponsored” hack dating to 2014.

President Obama honored some of the country’s top artists and filmmakers, including Mel Brooks.

The Tigers took Game 1 9-2 and Game 2 4-2 of the double header from Minnesota.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

If Ignorance Is Bliss…

… then Kathy Miller is over the moon.

The chair of Donald Trump’s campaign in a key Ohio county said there was “no racism” before the first black President was elected and blamed black Americans for their own failures over the last 50 years in an interview with the Guardian.

In video of the exchange, published on Thursday, Trump’s campaign chair for Mahoning County, Kathy Miller, told a reporter that blacks have had all the same opportunities as their white peers.

“If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your own fault,” Miller said, adding that it’s time for blacks to “take responsibility for how they live.”

Asked if Trump’s campaign has surfaced a racist undercurrent in American society, the campaign chair replied, “I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected. We never had problems like this.”

She continued: “Now, with the people with the guns, shooting up neighborhoods, not being responsible citizens, that’s a big change, and I think that’s the philosophy that Obama has perpetrated on America. I think that’s all his responsibility.”

Miller also told the Guardian that she “never experienced” racism or segregation while growing up in the 1960s and said about the civil rights movement: “I never saw that as anything.”

Well, you heard it, folks.  There wasn’t any slavery in America, there was no Civil War, no Jim Crow, the KKK is a sewing circle, nobody got lynched, Emmett Til committed suicide, Brown vs. Board of Education was a softball game, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks did nothing out of the ordinary, and everything was roses and rainbows until that foreign-born secretly gay Muslim agitator got himself elected president and stirred up our happy coloreds.

The worst part is that about 40% of the country either agrees with her or are willing to elect people who do.

UPDATE: She’s resigned.

In The Tank

If Hillary Clinton loses, blame the media.

Thomas Patterson in the Los Angeles Times:

My analysis of media coverage in the four weeks surrounding both parties’ national conventions found that her use of a private email server while secretary of State and other alleged scandal references accounted for 11% of Clinton’s news coverage in the top five television networks and six major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. Excluding neutral reports, 91% of the email-related news reports were negative in tone. Then, there were the references to her character and personal life, which accounted for 4% of the coverage; that was 92% negative.

While Trump declared open warfare on the mainstream media — and of late they have cautiously responded in kind — it has been Clinton who has suffered substantially more negative news coverage throughout nearly the whole campaign.

Few presidential candidates have been more fully prepared to assume the duties of the presidency than is Clinton. Yet, her many accomplishments as first lady, U.S. senator, and secretary of State barely surfaced in the news coverage of her candidacy at any point in the campaign. She may as well as have spent those years baking cookies.

How about her foreign, defense, social or economic policies? Don’t bother looking. Not a single one of Clinton’s policy proposals accounted for even 1% of her convention-period coverage; collectively, her policy stands accounted for a mere 4% of it. But she might be thankful for that: News reports about her stances were 71% negative to 29% positive in tone. Trump was quoted more often about her policies than she was. Trump’s claim that Clinton “created ISIS,” for example, got more news attention than her announcement of how she would handle Islamic State.

I also looked at the year before the 2016 primaries began, and even then Clinton had a 2-to-1 ratio of bad press to good press. There was only one month in the whole of 2015 where the tone of her coverage on balance was not in the red — and even then it barely touched positive territory.

During the primaries, her coverage was again in negative territory and again less positive than Trump’s. After the conventions got underway and Trump got embroiled in a testy exchange with the parents of a slain Muslim U.S. soldier, the tone of his coverage nosedived and her coverage looked rosy by comparison. But even then it was not glowing. Her convention-period news coverage was 56% negative to 44% positive.

[…]

Judging from their stories, journalists rate the emails as being a highly important and very serious issue. They cover it heavily and with damning tone. When 90% or more of the coverage of a subject is negative, the verdict is in. Even good news gets turned to her disadvantage. For example, when the FBI announced that her emails did not violate the law, the Los Angeles Times ran a story focused on Trump’s response, quoting him as saying, “This is one of the most crooked politicians in history…. We have a rigged system, folks.”

In today’s hypercompetitive media environment, journalists find it difficult to resist controversies. Political scientist W. Lance Bennett explored this phenomenon around Trump’s 2011 allegation that President Obama was not a native-born American. Trump’s “birther” statements were seized upon by cable outlets and stayed in the headlines and on newscasts for days. Veteran CNN correspondent Candy Crowley even interviewed Trump, who was then not a political figure at all. She justified it by saying on air: “There comes a point where you can’t ignore something, not because it’s entertaining …. The question was, ‘Is he driving the conversation?’ And he was.” In truth, the news media were driving the conversation, as they have with Clinton’s emails.

Decades ago, the Hutchins Commission on Freedom of the Press concluded that reporters routinely fail to provide a “comprehensive and intelligent account of the day’s events in the context that gives them some meaning.” Whatever else might be concluded about the coverage of Clinton’s emails, context has been largely missing. Some stories spelled out how the merging of private and official emails by government officials was common practice. There were also some, though fewer, that tried to assess the harm, if any, that resulted from her use of a private server. As for Clinton’s policy proposals and presidential qualifications, they’ve been completely lost in the glare of damaging headlines and sound bites.

So if we end up with a president who is vaingloriously proud of his ignorance and treats the Constitution like one of his contractors, it will be in large part because the media was far more interested in getting a story that boosted ratings so they could charge more for ads for boner pills.

Hillary Clinton Reaches Out To The Disabled

Good for her.  And all of us.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is pushing intensively to win over a group of voters who don’t typically get much attention during elections but who have become an increasingly potent political force: disabled people and their families.

With the race tighter than it was a month ago and Clinton struggling to generate enthusiasm within the Democratic base, her appeal to disabled people and their families comes amid a broader effort to win over voters. After weeks of mostly attacking Republican Donald Trump, she is highlighting specific policy prescriptions while trying to show a more compassionate side and present an affirmative vision for the country.

Clinton is also targeting Hispanics, women, caretakers of the elderly and sick, and families of gun-violence victims, among other constituencies focused on specific issues. In the case of the disability community, which cuts across all partisan and demographic divides, Clinton may be trying to attract not only ­Democratic-leaning voters who are not excited by her candidacy, but also voters who may be leaning toward Trump — notably disabled veterans.

One very visible piece of the effort came Wednesday in a policy speech here devoted to initiatives to more fully integrate those with disabilities into the nation’s economy. It is an issue, Clinton said, that “really goes to the heart of who we are as Americans.”

Speaking in a packed community-center gym in this presidential battleground state, Clinton pledged to fully support “a group of Americans who are, too often, invisible, overlooked and undervalued, who have so much to offer but are given too few chances to prove it.”

This is in sharp contrast with her opponent whose outreach to the disabled has so far been limited to mockery.