The Media is Not Trusted: An Analysis and Critique

The Media is Not Trusted: Beginnings

Thomas Jefferson famously wrote in 1787 that “the basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”  Yet, twenty years later as President, and on the other side of vituperative journalists, he stated: “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.  Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”  Jefferson did not trust the press in 1807.  Today, the media is not trusted by the public.

Media not trusted
The Sage of Monticello

Why is the media not trusted today anymore than by Jefferson during his presidency?  We have an idea or two.  But let’s look at the data first. Continue reading “The Media is Not Trusted: An Analysis and Critique”

Share This Piece

Major Changes Coming in U.S. Foreign Policy – Trump’s New Relationship With China

All signs point to President-elect Trump implementing a major shift in the U.S.-China policy that has been in place since 1971.  A primary purpose of President Nixon’s rapprochement with China was to leverage China against the former Soviet Union.  The economic benefit of the rapprochement, though unforeseen at the time, was the development of a major bilateral trade and economic relationship between China and the U.S.  Currently, there is over $700 billion in trade flows between the two countries.

U.S.-China Policy shift in the 1970s led to strong economic ties
President Nixon and Chairman Mao

However, recent years have witnessed growing cries of Chinese exploitation of this relationship, ranging from widespread intellectual property and industrial theft, to mercantilistic currency manipulation in order to advantage Chinese trade.  Military issues exist in the South China Sea.  The U.S. position with respect to mainland China’s one-China policy is apparently being reconsidered.

Introduction of Peter Navarro Into the Mix

President-elect Trump’s appointment of Peter Navarro as director of trade and industrial policy and as head of the new White House National Trade Council has amplified the likelihood of a major shift in U.S.-China policy.

US-China policy to take a new turn
Peter Navarro, new head of the White House National Trade Council

Among other things, Mr. Navarro has previously blamed China for the loss of 25 million American jobs.  In his writings Navarro portrays China as a menace that cheats on trade in a variety of ways, including through the theft of intellectual property and illegal export subsidies.  He has stated that the U.S. is already in a trade war with China and needs to fight back.

The President-elect has suggested that his goal is to level the economic playing field with China.  Creating a variety of pressure points to achieve that objective may be wise.  However, implementation of those pressure points may be tricky, if not outright dangerous.  The risk of a tactical miscalculation is real.

We will explore these issues in more detail in a subsequent Opinion in the coming weeks.

Share This Piece

Is it Russian Government Hacks, Someone Else or Inside Leaks?

The CIA has supposedly determined that Russian government hacks, as directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, were the source for publication of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails and related emails.   Comments from a variety of private security firms buttress these claims.  However, in an open letter dated December 12, 2016, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) claimed that the emails were leaked, not hacked.

VIPS is no ordinary group of citizens with an opinion.  Rather, it includes a group of highly accomplished retired and senior intelligence personnel.   It’s steering committee includes intelligence luminaries including Thomas Drake (former senior executive with the NSA), Mike Gravel (former adjutant, top secret control officer and special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps, as well as a former U.S. Senator), and famed NSA whistle blower William Binney (former technical director, world geopolitical and military analysis in the NSA), among others.

VIPS Steering Committee says No Russian Government Hacks
Renowned whistle blower William Binney

So which is it, Russian government hacks, third party hacks or insider leaks?  Here’s what the two sides are telling us to date. Continue reading “Is it Russian Government Hacks, Someone Else or Inside Leaks?”

Share This Piece

Greatest Sports Records of All-Time

Sports Records: The Unbreakable and the Insurmountable

We start with our bakers dozen of the greatest sports records and sports accomplishments of all time, American version.  Here’s a first cut of the records/accomplishments that we believe have, and will, stand the test of time:

Horse Racing

1. No thoroughbred will ever match Secretariat’s accomplishment of holding the fastest time in each of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.  Each of these three records still stand today.  Secretariat’s combined time for the three races is six seconds faster than any other horse.

Major League Baseball

2.  Consecutive Games With a Hit – Of the many sports records to consider, this consecutive games with a hit is held by the incomparable Joe DiMaggio, who hit in 56 consecutive games (need we say more).  Willie Keeler, who at 5’4″ and all of 140 pounds was one of the smallest men to ever play in the major leagues (from 1892 until 1910) and who coined one of baseball’s greatest phrases, “hit ’em where they ain’t”, had his 45 consecutive game streak broken by DiMaggio in 1941.  The modern-day consecutive games hit leader is Pete Rose with 44.

Wee Willie Keeler
Hit ‘Em Where They Ain’t!

3.  Career Wins – Cy Young won an astounding 512 games.  The fabulous Walter “Big Train” Johnson is a distant second with 416 wins.  The “modern” era leader is Greg Maddux, who checks in with 355 wins.

4.  Consecutive Games Played – Sports record number four is the great accomplishment of Cal Ripken, Jr. who logged 2,632 consecutive games played (more than 16 full major league seasons), a total that will certainly never be overtaken.  Hall-of-Famer Lou Gehrig’s prior record of 2,130 consecutive games lasted 59 years, but was then shattered by Ripken.  Shortstop Everett Scott is an even more distant third, with 1,307 consecutive games.

The Incomparable Lou Gehrig
Baseball’s “Iron Horse”

NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball

5.  Single Season Scoring Average — LSU’s Pete Maravich averaged an incredible 44.5 points per game for the 1969-1970 college basketball season, a sports record that it is difficult to imagine could be overcome, even in the era of the three point shot.  Remarkably, Maravich also holds the marks for the second and third highest single season scoring averages, at 44.2 points and 43.8 points, respectively.

6.  Career Scoring Average — Pete Maravich holds this record as well, with a 44.2 points per game career average.  Notre Dame’s Austin Carr stands second at 34.6 points per game, almost eight points per game less.  The advent of the three point shot for the 1986-87 season did not lead to higher career scoring averages, as none of the top ten all-time scoring leaders played during the three-point era.  Maravich’s incomparable sports record seems very likely indeed to stand for generations to come.

National Basketball Association

7.  Single Game Points Record – Surely no one will ever touch Wilt Chamberlain’s astounding 100 points in a single game.  Kobe Bryant stands in second place, but with “only” 81 points.

Wilt Chamberlain Scores 100 Points
100 for Wilt!

8.  Rebounds Per Game (Career) – Another Wilt Chamberlain mark at 22.9 rebounds per game (Bill Russell is second with 22.5 rebounds).  Given today’s “modern” game, where the leader is Dennis Rodman at 13.1 rebounds per game (only 11th all-time), the probability of Chamberlain being surpassed seems infinitesimally small.

9.  Assists Per Game (Career) – Magic Johnson’s career record stands at 11.2 assists per game, with John Stockton at 10.5 per game and Chris Paul at 9.9 per game, all significantly behind the Magic Man.

National Football League

9.  Most Long Touchdown Passes Thrown (Career) – In the era before the west-coast offense innovation, quarterbacks threw farther down the field.  Notwithstanding all of the great passing records achieved in the 2000’s, John Unitas holds these career touchdown records that neither Manning, Elway, nor Favre ever touched, and that Brady, Brees and the like will never break: Most 40+ yard touchdown passes (70), most 50+ yard touchdown passes (51), and most 60+ yard touchdown passes (29) — and all of this among his 290 total touchdown passes thrown.  Almost 25% of Unitas’ touchdown passes were over 40 yards!  Unitas was the master of the bomb.  Unfortunately, the era of the deep ball is now long gone.

10.  Most Seasons Leading the League in Rushing – The incomparable Jim Brown led the NFL in rushing in eight different seasons; no one else has led the league more than four times.  Brown was a punishing yet explosive runner who retired after only nine years.  He averaged 5.22 yards per carry over that entire career, also an NFL record for running backs.  Brown later became an accomplished actor and important activist and leader.

11.  Most Consecutive Games of 100 or More Yards Rushing – Barry Sanders rushed for more than 100 yards in 14 consecutive games.  No other running back since 2000 has more than nine consecutive 100 yard games.  In the modern game, Sanders’ record seems very safe indeed.

Barry Sanders
Barry Sanders on the run

Olympics

12.  Most Career Gold Medals – This is another easy choice for our pantheon of all-time sports records that will never be overcome.  America’s Michael Phelps won an amazing 23 gold medals over four different Olympiads.  No one else has more than nine career gold medals.  Phelps also holds the all-time count for total Olympic medals won with 28.  Second place finisher Larisa Latylina logged 18 over her gymnastics career.

National Hockey League

13.  All-Time Scoring Leader – The last of our sports records is another one that seems obvious to us.  Wayne Gretzky amassed 2,857 points scored over his remarkable career.  Gretzky stands almost 1,000 points ahead of second place finisher Mark Messier, who accumulated 1,887 points over his illustrious career.  Naturally, Gretzky holds the career goals scored record with 894 (Gordie Howe is second at 801), and the career assists record at 1,963 (more than 700 ahead of Ron Francis in second place).

Gretzky's Great Sports Records
Gretzky: One of the 894 goals scored

What do you think?  Suggestions welcomed!

Share This Piece

Russian Hacks – What’s the Fuss? So Far, It’s Just the Pentagon Papers (But Without the Juice)

Russian Hacks Reveal Facts

There may be much to be disturbed about regarding Russian hacks (allegedly) of the Democratic National Committee and the emails of persons affiliated with Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign.  We presume, for the sake of this Opinion, that the hacks occurred.  The theft of information bearing on an American presidential election by a foreign government is no small matter.  Yet we realize that espionage is an everyday affair.  The U.S. itself, regrettably, has its own sordid history in interfering in foreign elections.

But a singular focus on the thief’s identity amid loud protestations from its victims misses a more important point – truth.  To date, there is no hard proof that any of the revealed information was anything other than wholly true.  Unless we have missed it, the victims themselves have made no claim of falsity or manipulation of the stolen material.

Evidence that the published emails were changed or falsified would cast the current state of affairs in a different light.  It would be a critical slice of information that the American people must see.  That information, if it exists, should be made available at the earliest possible moment.  It would be proof of an attempt to undermine the Constitution and would significantly elevate the gravity of these events.

Instead, the Russian hacks and the subsequent data publication are no more than the Pentagon Papers redux (or an Eric Snowden encore), but without the substantive impact.  Even President Obama observed that the leaked information was “pretty routine stuff.”  We differ.  Deeds of political impropriety, though perhaps “routine” to some, bear on the virtue and integrity of the actors.  Readers are well familiar with the Snowden events.  But the 1971 leak of the Pentagon Papers is a relevant analogy to the Russian hacks leading to publication of the emails.  Both cases involve important considerations of the Constitutionally protected right of freedom of speech and it’s central place in American democracy.

The Pentagon Papers: A Brief History

In 1967, as the war raged in Vietnam, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara requested the Department of Defense to prepare a comprehensive study dating back to 1945 of the U.S. involvement in, and policy with respect to, Vietnam.  In 1968, over 500,000 U.S. troops were in Vietnam. The study was to be top secret. Thirty-six policy experts, historians, and military analysts participated in preparing the report.

Daniel Ellsberg joined the Defense Department in the 1960’s as a Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.  Ellsberg was assigned to draft covert plans to escalate the war.  He was also one of the 36 selected to work on the secret Defense Department report.

The Pentagon Papers and Russian Hacks
Daniel Ellsberg

By 1971 Ellsberg had become increasingly disillusioned with the war and believed that the U.S. government was misleading the American people regarding the likelihood of victory.  With access to the complete study, he covertly photocopied most of the report (now known as the Pentagon Papers), and turned the material over to both the New York Times and the Washington Post.  The Times (along with the Post), over threats from the Nixon administration, published the Pentagon Papers.  The published documents revealed that the U.S. government, from President Truman through President Johnson, had regularly misled the public regarding both the conduct of the War and the prospects for victory.  Publication of the Pentagon Papers further solidified public opposition to the War.

Freedom of the Press Versus National Security

The Nixon administration fought hard to prevent publication of the Pentagon Papers.  For the first time in American history the President claimed that the federal government had the right to restrain publication of information on the grounds of national security.  The government’s claim thus pitted the First Amendment protected right of freedom of speech against claims of national security interest by the President.

An initial injunction preventing publication was obtained against the Times.  However, shortly thereafter the Government failed to get a similar injunction to prevent publication by the Post.  An appeal immediately followed and the matter made its way to the Supreme Court within weeks.

In New York Times v. U.S., 403 U.S. 713 (1971),  the Supreme Court ruled that prior restraint of publication of the Pentagon Papers was unconstitutional.  The Court stated that “only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”  As Justice Hugo Black wrote, “in revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam War, the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the founders hoped and trusted they would do.”

The Court concluded that this First Amendment right superseded the President’s claim that publication of the Pentagon Papers would jeopardize national security: “The word ‘security’ is a broad, vague generality whose contours should not be invoked to abrogate the fundamental law embodies in the First Amendment.”

Two groups of Supreme Court justices led the majority opinion. The first group took an absolutist view.  They believed that, regardless of the nature of any threat to national security from any published material, the courts simply do not have the power to suppress that publication. The second group believed that a restriction on the press could only be imposed to prevent “direct, immediate and irreparable damage” to the country, a standard that was not met in the case.

Theft and Publication of the Pentagon Papers vs. Russian Hacks and Publication of DNC Emails

Publication of the DNC and related emails (whether the result of Russian hacks or leaks), is indistinguishable in effect from publication of the leaked Pentagon Papers. In both cases, the published information contained evidence of deception – by public officials in the case of the Pentagon Papers, and by leaders of the Democratic Party and members of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign in the current circumstances.  Mrs. Clinton sought to be President.

In each instance, the information published posed no threat of direct, immediate and irreparable damage to the United States.  By revealing questionable activity by those who were intimately associated with, and involved with, one of the two leading candidates for the Presidency, the publishers of that information “nobly did precisely what the founders hoped and trusted they would do.”  As to truth seeing the light of day for the American people to judge, the identity of the revealer, whether it be Daniel Ellsberg or the Russian government, is of no import.

Publication of Hacked Emails Serves the Same Purpose as the Publication of the Pentagon Papers

To those who claim that the hacked (or leaked) emails may have unfairly changed the outcome of the election we ask this.  Would it have been better for the war in Vietnam to have longer continued, or for the U.S. government’s clandestine information gathering revealed by Eric Snowden to have remained unknown in the dark recesses of the cyber plans of the United States government?  The American people are entitled to make their judgments based on the truth as it may best be known. Whatever consequences may follow from knowledge of the truth, so be it. Things that are made secret have a way of coming to light.

We await the presentation of any hard facts to prove the invalidity of any of the published emails.

Share This Piece