Archives for category: Fake News

The following statement was released on New Year’s Day by Community Voices for Public Education, a coalition of parents and students in Houston. As their statement demonstrates, the state takeover is a fraud intended to strip the school district of its elected school board and to replace it with a hand-picked governing board selected by a non-educator who wants to privatize public education.

 

It is New Years’ Day and public education is on our minds.

Will you make a commitment to fight the immoral, unAmerican and racist takeover of HISD?  Call your elected officials and then bring five friends with you to the January 9 rally opposing this takeover. 

Recently, the Houston Chronicle editorial board used misleading facts and misrepresentation to misinform its readers. The Chronicle seems mission-driven to legitimize the state takeover of HISD no matter the cost to its journalistic integrity or actual facts.

When they do this over three editorials, it is no longer an accident; it is propaganda. 

Here are some examples from the most recent editorials.

HISD at a crossroads: Looming State Takeover: The editorial compared HISD’s 81% graduation rate to Dallas’ 88% and Fort Worth’s 87% leaving the reader with the impression that they were better school districts.  The reality is Fort Worth has a TEA 2019 Accountability Rating of “C”(79) and only 53% of their graduates are college, career or military ready versus HISD’s “B”(88) and 63% graduate readiness. Dallas ISD has a “B” (86) rating and only 57% of their graduates are college, career or military ready. By the TEA’s own standards HISD is the better district. How did the Houston Chronicle and Mr. Morath manage to come to a completely different conclusion? Didn’t any of them bother to check the Texas Schools website? https://txschools.gov 

HISD must learn from others and our own past:  This editorial starts with the statistic of 56% of HISD students not meeting grade level expectations as measured by the STAAR test but it never mentions that Dallas ISD has the exact same STAAR performance rating as HISD. Once again, the Chronicle incorrectly leaves readers with the impression that Dallas is a better school district. (Source https://txschools.gov

HISD needs improvement, but where to start? How could the Chron fail to mention the Superintendent? The person who actually runs the district. The person who hires and places the all important principals. The person who would have to actually implement the LBB recommendations. This piece misleads the reader into thinking the Board of Trustees run the district. They don’t! They are a governing body elected by us and accountable to us. If the state takeover proceeds, our democratically elected school board members, four just elected, will be replaced with a board of managers serving at the pleasure of the governor and the TEA.

A call to all Houstonians to participate: In its final editorial in the series, the Chronicle asks us to put blind faith in TEA Commissioner Mike Morath as our unelected torchbearer. His educational experience is one term as Dallas ISD Trustee in which he unsuccessfully tried to turn Dallas ISD into a “home rule” giant charter using the same tactics he is now employing in Houston ISD. Truly, his resume is thinner than most substitute teachers. 

Throughout the series, the Houston Chronicle disregards overwhelming evidence that state takeovers harm students and communities. They also turn a blind eye to the fact that takeovers have been used disproportionately against school districts of color. Furthermore, they have ignored a preponderance of evidence that high stakes testing is a flawed method for evaluating students, teachers and schools. 

And the series pays the barest lip service to poverty/inequity and the effect on children and families. When seven children share one mattress, they do not need a state takeover to do better in school; they need six more mattresses.

If the Editorial Board wanted to facilitate meaningful change in HISD, their editorials should have been grounded in complete facts and they should have used data to inform, not obfuscate. There is no such thing as problem solving through propaganda.

Community Voices for Public Education
http://www.houstoncvpe.org/

 

Arthur Camins salutes teachers as the front line warriors in the battle to restore truth, facts, and evidence against the onslaught of the Trump war on reality.

Yes, Virginia, there is objective reality in the world. No, Virginia, there are no alternative facts. 2+2 really is 4. It is 4, today, tomorrow, and into the future.

We count on teachers to teach students to care about reality and evidence.

Politicians and their corporate sponsors who unabashedly lie with impunity are ubiquitous. Citizens who believe or cynically dismiss the lies are alarmingly common.  As a result, truth telling is now the essential citizen attitude and ability without which democracy, justice, and any semblance of equity are doomed. The nation desperately needs teachers to be leaders in a truth offensive.

Every day in every classroom, students offer explanations and claims. Some are true, while some are not. Teachers’ critical follow-up response is, “How do you know that?” That applies whether it’s a mathematics solution, an analysis of a historical event, a scientific explanation about how the natural world works, or an interpretation of a piece of literature. The essential expectation is that students’ reply to, “How do you know that?” should feature relevant and sufficient evidence.  Most important is helping students develop the disposition that truth matters.

“I just know it,” “It’s what I think,” “It’s my opinion?” “It’s what I read somewhere,” “You/He/She/They told me,” and “I saw it on Facebook, TV News, etc.” are all insufficient.  Students can and should develop the habit of mind to search for reliable data, learn how to interpret that data to establish evidence to justify, reject, and revise conclusions. They need to develop the inclination and skills to do so across multiple disciplines. Unless that happens, we cannot hope to reverse the alarming dismissal of evidence in the public arena.  This is job one for every teacher.

More than ever, citizens must be armed with the tools to combat lies, propaganda, fake news, and hoaxes.

 

Jack Hassard taught science and science teachers for many years.

He clings to the old-fashioned idea that “facts are facts.” 

He is offended by the idea of “alternative facts” or the charges of “fake news” used to discredit anyone that Dear Leader disagrees with.

A fact is verifiable. An opinion is not.

He writes:

As science teachers, we think of facts as a repeatable observations or measurements. In short, they can be verified.

For instance, observations and measurements are dependent upon the observers and instruments used to make the measurements.

The Uncertainty Principle

There are limitations in our ability to observe.

There are limitations in our ability to observe. Werner Heisenberg worked out this idea in 1927. He proposed the Uncertainty Principle. The Uncertainty Principle meant that there was a limit to measuring very small particles in the quantum world. Moreover, Heisenberg said that there was always an uncertainty if one measures the momentum and the position of particles.

In the same vein, the classical world that we live in, there are still limitations to our ability to describe and measure. For example, if we say that the temperature outside is 35º C, the temperature can be verified. However, you could ask where was the temperature taken, in full sunlight or in the shade. What kind of instrument did you use.

In any of these cases, the statement can be considered a fact (and not an opinion). But, if you said that it’s very hot outside. That’s an opinion. Another person could say the temperature is fine with me. That’s another opinion.

Pay attention. Facts are facts. A dictator tries to control what is fact and what is opinion. Hold to truth.

Audrey Watters begins each of her posts at HEWN with a description of a bird. Then she gets into the story, the story in this one being an “epistemic crisis,” a society where truth itself is doubted, experts are dismissed, and everyone is entitled to not only their own opinions but their own facts.

I particularly recommend her links. I enjoyed the one about Mr. Rogers. It compels to think about ourselves, who we are, what we believe, why. The kinds of questions we asked ourselves when we were adolescents but then got hardened into our lives as adults.

If all facts are subjective and dependent on religious and personal views, there is no such thing as fact, truth, objectivity or science.

Ohio’s dumb Republican-controlled legislature isn’t on the verge of passing a law that puts religious belief and science on the same plane.

So it is not surprising that believers in a Flat Earth are on the rise., according to CNN.They can’t find proof that the world is round, so they don’t believe it, even though you can see the curve of the earth’s surface from an airplane window at 35,000 feet, even though astronauts and satellites have taken pictures from outer space of the earth as a sphere.

Faked photos, say the Flat Earthers.

Is stupidity contagious?

Or does it flow from the top?

The county leaders in Citrus County, Florida, rejected the library’s request for a subscription to the New York Times. The Times, they said, was “fake news.” They don’t want the local citizens to hear any point of view that contradicts the Dear Leader.
This is the quintessence of ignorance. Do they also censor every cable news station except FOX?

By Antonia Noori Farzan / The Washington Post

Posted at 11:46 AM

The librarians of Citrus County, Florida, had what seemed like a modest wish: a digital subscription to the New York Times. For about $2,700 annually, they reasoned, they could offer an easy way their roughly 70,000 patrons to research and catch up on the news.

But when their request came before the Citrus County Commission last month, local officials literally laughed out loud. One commissioner, Scott Carnahan, declared the paper to be “fake news.”

“I agree with President Trump,” he said. “I will not be voting for this. I don’t want the New York Times in this county.”

In a move that is now generating intense online backlash, all five members of the commission agreed to reject the library’s request. The discussion took place on Oct. 24, the same day when the Trump administration announced plans to cancel federal agencies’ subscriptions to the Times and The Washington Post. While there’s no apparent connection – the Citrus County meeting began several hours before the Wall Street Journal broke the news of the new edict – the controversy unfolding in central Florida highlights how politicians nationwide are parroting the president’s disparaging rhetoric about the media.

While the Citrus County Commission is technically nonpartisan, the area, located amid the swamps and springs north of Tampa, is deeply conservative. At the Oct. 24 meeting, the proposal to budget several thousand dollars for a Times digital subscription was met with immediate disapproval and suspicion.

“Do we really need to subscribe to the New York Times?” Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. asked.

The other men seated at the dais chuckled.

“I actually was going say that,” Carnahan responded. He had seconded a motion to hear the item only so that they could have a discussion about the Times, he said, volunteering his opinion: “I don’t agree with it, I don’t like ’em, it’s fake news, and I’m voting no.”

Suggesting that a lack of resources wasn’t the problem, Carnahan said that the library could take the thousands of dollars that an institutional subscription to the Times would cost and ″do something else with it.” And community members who really wanted to read the paper could simply sign up for home delivery. “I support Donald Trump,” he concluded.

Flanked by a county flag depicting frolicking manatees, all four commissioners who were present agreed to turn down the request. When a fifth commissioner, Jimmie Smith, returned to his seat and learned what he had missed, he took no issue with denying the library funding.

“Why the heck would we spend money on something like that?” asked Smith, a former Republican state representative.

 

The Washington Post FactChecker Glenn Kessler and his team announced today that Trump had passed a total of 10,000 lies. That is a record, even for him! And he still has another 20 months to go in his term!

It took President Trump 601 days to top 5,000 false and misleading claims in The Fact Checker’s database, an average of eight claims a day.

But on April 26, just 226 days later, the president crossed the 10,000 mark — an average of nearly 23 claims a day in this seven-month period, which included the many rallies he held before the midterm elections, the partial government shutdown over his promised border wall and the release of the special counsel’s report on Russian interference in the presidential election.

This milestone appeared unlikely when The Fact Checker first started this project during his first 100 days. In the first 100 days, Trump averaged less than five claims a day, which would have added up to about 7,000 claims in a four-year presidential term. But the tsunami of untruths just keeps looming larger and larger.

It seems that the longer he is in the White House, the easier it is to say whatever he wants, without bothering to discern whether it has any factual basis.

Also, he has gotten rid of anyone who restrained his impulse to lie or distort the facts, like General Kelly.

About one-fifth of the president’s claims are about immigration issues, a percentage that has grown since the government shutdown over funding for his promised border wall. In fact, his most repeated claim — 160 times — is that his border wall is being built. Congress balked at funding the concrete wall he envisioned, and so he has tried to pitch bollard fencing and repairs of existing barriers as “a wall.”

Trump’s penchant for repeating false claims is demonstrated by the fact that The Fact Checker database has recorded nearly 300 instances when the president has repeated a variation of the same claim at least three times. He also now has earned 21 “Bottomless Pinocchios,” claims that have earned Three or Four Pinocchios and which have been repeated at least 20 times.

About a fifth of his lies are told at his campaign rallies, where he gets up without a speech and riffs on whatever crosses his mind, whatever makes him angry, free associates about his enemies and critics and alleged accomplishments.

When the president of the United States lies wantonly and when he calls the press “the enemy of the people,” you can see we are on a downward trajectory in which there are no truths and no objective facts, whom do you believe? George Orwell wrote about this phenomenon.

Orwell wrote in his essay, “Looking Back on the Spanish War”:

I know it is the fashion to say that most of recorded history is lies anyway. I am willing to believe that history is for the most part inaccurate and biased, but what is peculiar to our own age is the abandonment of the idea that history could be truthfully written. In the past, people deliberately lied, or they unconsciously colored what they wrote, or they struggled after the truth, well knowing that they must make many mistakes; but in each case they believed that “the facts” existed and were more or less discoverable. And in practice there was always a considerable body of fact which would have been agreed to by almost anyone. If you look up the history of the last war in, for instance, the Encyclopedia Britannica, you will find that a respectable amount of the material is drawn from German sources. A British and a German historian would disagree deeply on many things, even on fundamentals, but there would still be a body of, as it were, neutral fact on which neither would seriously challenge the other. It is just this common basis of agreement with its implication that human beings are all one species of animal, that totalitarianism destroys. Nazi theory indeed specifically denies that such a thing as “the truth” exists. There is, for instance, no such thing as “Science”. There is only “German Science,” “Jewish Science,” etc. The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, “It never happened” — well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five — well two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs — and after our experiences of the last few years that is not such a frivolous statement.

Dana Milbank spots a NATIONAL EMERGENCY!

I hope this is not behind a paywall. Then you could see the picture of the Honduran baby in diapers, brushing his teeth, and the video of the “caravan.” In a few weeks, that baby will be separated from his parents and put into a cage.

Milbank begins:

This is an emergency!

A caravan of unarmed, destitute people, many of them women and children, is snaking its way through Mexico toward the United States at the breakneck pace of about three miles per hour. Still 1,000 miles from America, the ill-nourished pedestrians travel as a pack for protection against gangs; the few who make it to the border, perhaps next month, will likely apply, legally, for asylum.

But the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth is in a panic.

“Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan,” President Trump tweets. Without evidence, he adds: “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy.”

Yes, a national emergy! So urgent Trump doesn’t have time to add three letters to make it “emergency”! This is bad. Unpresidented, even. Covfefe!

Trump, again without evidence (or, in this case, logic), says Democrats arranged the caravan (from their little-known party headquarters in Honduras, presumably) but have now decided their brainchild was a “big mistake.” Trump accuses the bedraggled migrants of “an assault on our country” and says the group contains “some very bad people.”

The genius in Trump’s pre-election emergency: The asylum seekers, if they reach the border at all, won’t arrive until after the election. Therefore, he can frighten everybody about the menace they pose, and voters will be none the wiser.

The flaw in Trump’s pre-election emergency: Others can play this game. Using the same evidentiary standard Trump has used — none — I have identified various factual explanations for why the caravan spooks the president enough to declare a national emergency. The migrants in the caravan:

●Have his tax returns and are planning to release them.

●Are members of Nikki Haley’s presidential exploratory committee.

●Have the Russian kompromat on Trump.

●Are Russian colluders coming to turn themselves in to Robert Mueller.

●Are climate-change scientists.

●Have the n-word tape Omarosa claims to have heard.

●Are Simon & Schuster employees carrying a reprinting of Bob Woodward’s “Fear.”

●Are deported mothers coming to reclaim the detained children Trump lost.

●Are accountants coming to put Trump’s businesses into a blind trust.

●Are Saudi bankers coming to demand Trump repay their loans.

●Are vendors and business partners stiffed by Trump.

●Are Trump University alumni demanding their money back.

●Are hedge-fund managers coming to thank Trump for protecting their carried-interest loophole.

●Are threatening to release Brett Kavanaugh’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendars.

●Are all clients of Michael Avenatti.

As Trump likes to say: We’ll see what happens!

Alternatively, and again using Trump’s standard of proof (“I think the Democrats had something to do with it”), it would be 100-percent accurate to say Trump is the one who thought up and financed the caravan, for the purpose of fabricating a wedge issue two weeks before the midterms. It would be similarly accurate to conclude that the caravan, when it arrives, will be loaded, like the old Wells Fargo wagon, with good things for Trump.

Maybe the caravan will finally deliver on all those unmet promises that have so far eluded Trump and substantiate his unsupported claims:

●Tax cuts for the middle class.

● “Beautiful” and cheap health insurance for everybody.

●The benefits of Trump’s trade war.

●Lower prices for prescription drugs.

●A $1 trillion infrastructure package.

●The FBI “spy” who infiltrated Trump’s campaign

●The payments from George Soros for protesters.

●All the money and jobs promised from Saudi weapons deals.

●His missing contributions pledged to charities.

●The guy who impersonated Trump’s voice on the “Access Hollywood” tape.

●President Barack Obama’s instructions to tap Trump’s phones.

●All those coal mining jobs that are coming back.

Maybe the migrants are those 3,000 Puerto Ricans whose hurricane deaths the Democrats faked. Or they are coming to build a border wall. Or they are Mexican bankers coming to pay for it. Or they are carrying Trump’s promised ethics rules on their backs. Maybe they will bring proof, finally, that Antonin Scalia was murdered and Obama was born in Kenya.

The only limit is Trump’s imagination — which is prodigious.

“We’re going to be putting in a 10 percent tax cut for middle-income families,” Trump claimed Monday, as he has repeatedly the last few days. “It’s going to be put in next week.”

Huh? A tax cut? Next week? Even Trump allies were baffled. Congress isn’t in session until after the election. How is he going to make good on this bluff?

It’s a national emergy! Quick, load a tax cut onto the caravan!

Peter Greene writes here about a speech that Betsy DeVos gave at the National Constitution Center, defending free speech and truth.

“The final stretch of her speech is remarkably like the home stretch of a sermon. Get out from behind your twitter id and recognize you are talking to real, live human beings. We aren’t all saints. DeVos actually admits to having had some bad ideas. She (or someone in her office) turns some nice phrases, like a call for meeting with “open words and open dialogue, not with closed fists or closed minds.” And she calls to embrace a “Golden rule of free speech: seeking to understand as to be understood.”

“There is so much cognitive dissonance to process here. DeVos works for a man who exemplifies the opposite of everything she is saying. And there is very little one can point to in her own conduct, her own filling of the USED office, to show her stated beliefs in action. What exactly has DeVos done to understand the public education system and the people who are committed to what she once called a “dead end.” What has she done to understand the teachers who work in public schools? What has she done to understand any of her critics since she took office? Or, after all these years, is she comfortable in the belief that she knows everything she needs to know about all those things.”

Recently we have had some exchanges on this blog about whether it was right or wrong for big media companies like Facebook and Apple to delete the vile slanderer of murdered children, Alex Jones.

I said that he has no more right to put his content on a private platform than I have a “right” to have my opinions published by a newspaper. When they reject me, I don’t claim censorship. Others disagreed, and thought it was dangerous to ban hate speech, slander, and lies.

Well, for those worried about Alex Jones’s ability to reach his audience, here is good news for you:

“Just days after Google, Facebook and Apple purged videos and podcasts from the right-wing conspiracy site Infowars from their sites, the Infowars app has become one of the hottest in the country.

“On Wednesday, Infowars was the No. 1 overall “trending” app on the Google Play store, a metric that reflects its sudden momentum. Among news apps, Infowars was No. 3 on Apple and No. 5 on Google, above all mainstream news organizations. And the app stood at No. 66 overall on Google, excluding game apps, while on Apple it reached No. 49, above popular apps like LinkedIn, Google Docs and eBay.

“The Infowars app, which includes news articles and the shows of the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, had likely been downloaded a few hundred to a few thousand times a day on average after its introduction last month, said Randy Nelson, head of mobile insights at Sensor Tower, which tracks app data. Now, it is likely getting 30,000 to 40,000 downloads a day, Mr. Nelson estimated based on its ranking.”

I will continue to hope that Mr. Jones loses the many lawsuits filed by those he has defamed and injured, including the families of the children and educators massacred like animals at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2014. Because of his vicious claims that the massacre was a hoax, that no one died, and that the victims were actually child actors, these bereaved families have been subject to death threats. Our Founding Fatheres would have put him in the stocks.