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The New York Times’ Brazenly False “Fact Check” About Trump’s Impeachment Trial

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The New York Times’ Brazenly False “Fact Check” About Trump’s Impeachment Trial 

By James D. Agresti

The New York Times has published a “fact check“ by Linda Qiu declaring that Donald Trump’s lawyers “made a number of inaccurate or misleading claims” during the Senate impeachment trial. In reality, much of the article consists of flagrant falsehoods propagated by Qiu and the Times.

“Inciting Violence”

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With regard to Trump’s speech on the day of the Capitol Hill riot, Trump attorney Michael van der Veen said: “Far from promoting insurrection against the United States, the president’s remarks explicitly encouraged those in attendance to exercise their rights peacefully and patriotically.”

That statement is demonstrably true, as the transcriptof the speech shows that Trump asked his supporters to go “to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” Qiu, however, alleges that his attorney’s statement “is exaggerated” because Trump “used the phrase ‘peacefully and patriotically’ once in his speech, compared with 20 uses of the word ‘fight’.”

Qiu’s argument presumes that Trump used the word “fight” to denote physical violence. This mimics the Democrat’s impeachment resolution, which declares that Trump is guilty of “inciting violence” because he said in his speech: “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

However, both Qiu and the Democrats are quoting Trump out of context. The transcriptshows that Trump never called for violence or even vaguely implied that. In fact, it is glaringly obvious that he was talking about legal and verbal fighting. To wit, 10 of the 20 times in which Trump used the word “fight” are found in these statements:

·     Rudy Giuliani has “guts, he fights. He fights.”
·     “Jim Jordan, and some of these guys. They’re out there fighting the House.”
·     “If they don’t fight, we have to primary the hell out of the ones that don’t fight. You primary them.”
·     “The American people do not believe the corrupt fake news anymore. They have ruined their reputation. But it used to be that they’d argue with me, I’d fight. So I’d fight, they’d fight. I’d fight, they’d fight. … They had their point of view, I had my point of view. But you’d have an argument. Now what they do is they go silent. It’s called suppression. And that’s what happens in a communist country.”

Highlighting the duplicity of those who claim that Trump’s use of the word “fight” amounts to incitement, Trump’s attorneys showed video footageof numerous Congressional Democrats using the word “fight” more than 200 times, including more than a dozen timesin which they used the exact phrase for which they impeached Trump: “fight like hell.”

Antifa Involvement in the Capitol Hill Riot

Speaking about the Capitol Hill riot, van der Veen said: “One of the first people arrested was a leader of antifa.” Qiu begins her critique of this statement by changing the word “a” so that it becomes “the.” Thus, she claims that van der Veen said: “One of the first people arrested was theleader of antifa.” Qiu then writes:

This is misleading. Mr. van der Veen was most likely referring to John E. Sullivan, a Utah man who was charged on Jan. 14 with violent entry and disorderly conduct. Mr. Sullivan, an activist, said he was there to film the siege. He had previously referred to antifa—a loosely affiliated group of antifascist activiststhat has no leader—on social media, but he has repeatedlydeniedbeing a member of the movement. The F.B.I. has said there is no evidencethat supporters of the antifa movement had participated in the Capitol siege.

Those four sentences contain five elements of deceit:

1)   Sullivan’s claim that he was in the Capitol only to film the riot is flatly disproven by video footagethat shows him breaking a window, calling for people to “storm” and “burn” the Capitol, and celebrating the riot with an accomplice.
2)   Qiu neglected to reveal that Sullivan was also charged with“interfering with law enforcement.”
3)   Sullivan’s denials of involvement with antifa are implausible given that he:
o  was the leaderof a group called “Insurgence USA,” which sold“black bloc” tactical gear (often used by antifa) and rubber pigs (carried by antifato mock police officers).
o  threatened to physically ripTrump out of the White House in accord with antifa’s missionto use violence against people they deem to be “fascists” (this explicitly includesTrump, his supporters, all police officers, and anyone who stands in the way of their self-described “radical left-wing” agenda).
o  organizedan event called “Kick These Fascists Out of DC.”
4)   Qiu parrots the propaganda of antifa by reporting that they are “antifascist activists,” even though they embrace key tactics and defining elements of fascism, including but not limited to:
o   using “determined youths, armed, dressed in black shirts and organized in military fashion” to fight in the streets (Manifesto of the Fascist Intellectuals).
o   leftist economic policieslike a “strong progressive tax” on businesses, heavy unionization, a minimum wage, and government control of industries (Mussolini’s Fascist Manifesto).
o   the suppression of “all criticism or opposition” (Cambridge Dictionary).
5)   Qiu’s claim that the FBI found no involvement by antifa in the Capitol Hill riot is outdated and out of context. Two days after the riot, an FBI official was asked about antifa involvement, and he replied“we have no indication of that at this time.” Five days after that, the FBI filed an affidavitfor the arrest of Sullivan.

In short, Qiu turned the truth about every major aspect of this matter on its head.

Georgia’s Absentee Ballots

Regarding Trump’s statements about electoral fraud, Trump attorney Bruce Castor stated: “Based on an analysis of publicly available voter data, the ballot rejection rate in Georgia in 2016 was approximately 6.42%. And even though a tremendous amount of new first time mail-in ballots were included in the 2020 count, the Georgia rejection rate in 2020 was a mere four-tenths of one percent. A drop-off from 6.42% to 0.4%.”

Once again, Qiu attempts to refute a statement that is entirely true. She does this by alleging:

Georgia elections officials have repeatedly debunkedthis claim, which conflates the overall rejection rate for mail-in ballots in 2016 to the rejection rate specifically for signature mismatch in 2020. (Ballots can also be rejected for arriving late or not having a signature, among other reasons.)

In 2016, Georgia rejected about 6.4 percentof all returned mail-in ballots and 0.24 percentof those ballots because of signature-matching issues. It is unclear what the 0.4 percent refers to, but in both 2018 and 2020, Georgia rejected 0.15 percent of mail-in ballots because of signature-matching issues.

To the contrary, it is abundantly clear what the 0.4% refers to: the overall rejection rate—just as Castor said. Ballotpedia detailsthe components of this 0.4% figure as follows:

This total was calculated by adding all accepted absentee/mail-in ballots received electronically or by mail (1,327,126) with the total number of rejected absentee/mail-in ballots received electronically or by mail (4,602) and dividing the total number of rejected ballots by the sum.

As of Jan. 7, 2021, the Nov. 3, 2020, absentee voter file provided by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office was last updated Nov. 16, 2020. Following communication with the Secretary of State’s office, there are no plans to update the file further and any such updates, were they to occur, would take place on an ad hoc basis.

Using raw datafrom Georgia’s Secretary of State, Just Facts confirmed Ballotpedia’s work and calculateda rejection rate of 0.35% in 2020.

That said, the rejection rate of 6.4% in 2016—used by Castor, Qiu, and Ballotpedia—comes from a secondary source(the U.S.Election Assistance Commission) that appears to be inconsistent with the primary source(Georgia’s Secretary of State). Ballotpedia mentionsthis discrepancy in a footnote and calculates a rejection rate of 2.9% in 2016 using the primary source data. Just Facts confirmsthat these calculations are accurate.

Regardless of whether Georgia’s 2016 mail-in ballot rejection rate was 6.4% or 2.9%, the 0.35% rejection rate in 2020 was at least 88% lower. This means that if Georgia had the same rejection rate in 2020 as in 2016, at least 34,000fewer absentee ballots would have been cast. In comparison, Joe Biden’s margin of victory in Georgia was 11,779 votes.

Georgia’s Signature Audit

With further regard to potential fraud in Georgia’s election, Castor said: “President Trump wanted the signature verification to be done in public. How can a request for signature verifications to be done in public be a basis for a charge for inciting a riot?”

Qiu attacked that truthful statement with the following barrage of misinformation:

This is misleading. Contrary to Mr. Trump’s belief and Mr. Castor’s repetition of it, Georgia does verify signatures. Georgia’s Republican secretary of state notedthat the state trained officials on signature matching and created a portal that checked and confirmed voters’ driver’s licenses. In a news conferencelast month debunking Mr. Trump’s claims, Gabriel Sterling, a top election official in Georgia, explained that the secretary of state’s office also brought in signature experts to check over 15,000 ballots. They discovered issues with two, and after further examination, concluded that they were legitimate.

Neither Castor nor Trump said that Georgia doesn’t verify signatures. Instead, Trump questionedthe integrity of the signature verification process in Fulton County, Georgia. This county is a Democratic Party strongholdwith an extensive history of corruption.

Moreover, the signature match of more than 15,000 ballots that Qiu characterized as “debunking Mr. Trump’s claims” does nothing of the sort. This is because it was performed in Cobb County, not Fulton County. Trump directly addressed this matter in his speechon the day of the riot:

We’ve been trying to get verifications of signatures in Fulton County. They won’t let us do it. The only reason they won’t is because we’ll find things in the hundreds of thousands. Why wouldn’t they let us verify signatures in Fulton County? Which is known for being very corrupt. They won’t do it. They go to some other county where you would live. I said, “That’s not the problem. The problem is Fulton County.”

Summary

In direct contradiction to a so-called “fact check” by Linda Qiu of the New York Times, genuine facts prove the following about the circumstances surrounding Trump’s impeachment trial:

·     On the day of the Capitol Hill riot, President Trump explicitly encouraged his supporters to protest “peacefully and patriotically.”
·     In the same speech, Trump told his supporters to “fight” legally and verbally, not physically.
·     An antifa leader was arrested for participating in the Capitol Hill riot, during which he called for people to “storm” and “burn” the Capitol, broke a window, interfered with police, and celebrated the riot with an accomplice.
·     Antifa activists, who claim to be “antifascist,” embrace key tactics and defining elements of fascism.
·     In Georgia, the overall rejection rate for mail-in ballots in the 2020 election was 0.35%, or at least 88% lower than in the 2016 election.
·     Despite repeated requests by Trump, a signature audit of mail-in ballots has not been performed in Fulton County—a Democratic Party stronghold with an extensive history of corruption.

The points above don’t address every falsehood in the fact check, but they reveal a pattern of brazen dishonesty and/or incompetence by the Times.

James D. Agrestiis the president of Just Facts, a think tank dedicated to publishing rigorously documented facts about public policy issues.

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Sowing the Wind and Reaping the Whirlwind: California and its Epic Wildfires

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California
Photo credit: Patrick Luscri

Like the 2018 Camp Fire, California’s Dixie Fire is epic. It has burned more than 220,000 acres and at least 40 structures. It’s the largest conflagration since the Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise. Sadly, California wildfires are becoming as common as Florida hurricanes. Why is this happening and who’s to blame? In a word, California.

By mismanaging its forests and water sources and enabling a power provider to place profits over people, the Golden State has sown the wind and is reaping the whirlwind.

Why is every California fire season scarier and more destructive than the last? The reasons can be boiled down to these:

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  1. Decades of forest mismanagement caused by environmentalists shaping policy
  2. Co-opted Northern California watersheds and water supply diversion
  3. Hotter temperatures and historic drought conditions caused by climate change
  4. Failing PG&E infrastructure
Forest mismanagement

We live five miles from the southeastern edge of the Dixie Fire. Our little mountain town of Quincy is under an evacuation warning. Many of our fellow residents live in areas of mandatory evacuation and some have lost their homes. Local firefighters and forest experts have known for years this was inevitable.

It’s common sense, really. When forest undergrowth and dead limbs and logs are allowed to pile up between trees, you may as well stack logs at their bases and light a match. Wise forest managers remove forest floor fuels and keep forests from growing dangerously dense.

Foolish forest managers allow undergrowth to flourish in order to “protect” ecological environments of certain species at the expense of overall forest ecology. This hands-off approach is pushed in Sacramento by those who think we’re only one species sharing our environment rather than caretakers of our environment.

Wise gardeners prevent weeds from diverting moisture from produce plants by removing them. This ensures a healthy garden. Why wouldn’t smart forest management include removal of undergrowth and dead or dying trees?

Water diversion

A few years ago, state biologists “gill-netted” vast quantities of fish in our local Silver Lake in order to prevent them from feeding on a certain frog. This decimated the fish population in favor of the frog population. How is this an ecological balance?

Similarly, allowing natural water sources to feed rivers and streams provides better hydration for trees—and raises critical moisture levels for forests. Diverting water from Northern California sources when levels are low exacerbates the deadly dryness of moisture-starved Sierra forests. Shouldn’t there be a better balance based on water levels?

As climate change continues to affect moisture and heat, smart and balanced water management becomes more critical. Yet California continues to base policy decisions reactively rather than proactively. If Northern California watershed areas burn for lack of moisture, poor water management will be partially to blame.

So will California’s reliance on hydroelectric power over traditional (and more effective) fossil-fuel plants. The state gets nearly 2/3 of its power from non-fossil fuel production, which is why it has to buy electricity from states like Oregon, Arizona and others.

Failing PG&E

Failed PG&E power lines are responsible for devastating California wildfires for the last five fire seasons. According to PG&E’s initial report the day the Dixie Fire started, an employee responding to an outage noticed a blown fuse at Cresta Dam in a heavily forested area of Butte County around the Feather River Canyon. He found two blown fuses and a tree leaning on a power conductor. He also found a fire on the ground near the base of the tree.

When the 2018 Camp Fire erupted, a PG&E employee noticed flames caused by a faulty transmission line in Feather River Canyon. Many of these lines are supported by electrical towers from the early 1900s. PG&E customers pay modern rates for modern electricity delivered via century-old towers.

In fairness, PG&E is finally taking steps to modernize its infrastructure with underground line burial and other measures. Sadly, these measures are long overdue and are too little too late for victims of the Camp Fire and now for those dealing with the Dixie Fire. Worse, PG&E seems to be continuing their foot-dragging regarding reporting system failures when they point to a wildfire start.

Closed market

According to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), PG&E ignored regulations that require it to report wildfire-related infrastructure failures within two hours of the event. PG&E took five days to report the Dixie Fire-related failure to CPUC. As a state agency, CPUC answers to Governor Gavin Newsom and Sacramento politicians. PG&E is supposed to answer to CPUC, yet is still failing to follow the rules.

Not only is there a lack of meaningful accountability, the relationship between California and PG&E is dysfunctional. The average citizen wonders why Sacramento continues enabling a repeat offender of a power company. Another question is why California refuses to open up its utility market to competitors in order to force PG&E to modernize its infrastructure.

Something has to change or California will continue to burn every fire season. Close to home, people in our community love living in Northern California, but the Golden State will lose even more citizens if residents have to flee the flames every summer.

 

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The Most Important Scholar You’ve Never Heard Of

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Thomas Sowell is many things. He’s a historian, an economist, philosopher, and more. He also may very possibly be the most important scholar that you haven’t heard of. Thomas started life on his own at age 17 when he moved out into a homeless shelter and later was drafted into the Marine Corps. Later, he graduated from Harvard and went on to study government regulations coming to some remarkable explanations and solutions. PragerU tells Thomas’s inspiring story in this video linked below.

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