The Year of the Fourth Estate

For us longtime political junkies, the drama of this year’s election is unbeatable. Open intramural antagonism in both major parties, remarkable success of “extreme” candidates (the term meaning here ones that dare point out the utter disconnect between the pols and the populace), embarrassingly poor prediction success by the pundits, and so on. Makes for great theatre, if nothing else.

But I’m beginning to think that all that strife within and between parties is creating something of a vacuum into which the press is inserting itself in rather insidious ways. Take the current controversy regarding Trump and Judge Curiel. Putting aside the point that Trump ought to have enough sense to know that one doesn’t publicly criticize a judge under whom one has a case pending, why is the press making such a big deal over Trump’s suggestion that Curiel, a Latino, may be biased against Trump due to the latter’s remarks about illegal immigration from Mexico? Isn’t this the same press that has been constantly telling us that Latinos won’t vote for Trump, exactly for that reason? Which is it? The press can’t have it both ways.

Today NPR told us that something like 16% of the California primary ballots cast had no choice checked for president. This was supposed to indicate a “Pox on both your houses” attitude among voters. Well, maybe there is some of that, but another explanation is that independents were given ballots without choices available for president! Independent voters could ask for a provisional ballot so as to be able to vote for president, but it’s clear that many didn’t know this. And this worked against Bernie’s chances, as has happened before; why isn’t the press reporting it?

And speaking of Bernie (who, yes, I did vote for), why did the AP choose to poll the superdelegates right on the eve of the California primary, then declaring Hillary the victor, before the largest state in the nation had a chance to vote? And why aren’t they reporting the reason why the party has superdelegates in the first place, which is that the party doesn’t want the populace to have too much say in the election — ironically, exactly the kind of thing that Bernie has been running against?

Since I’m divulging my vote now that the primary is over, I might as well mention that I voted for Rep. Loretta Sanchez in the Democratic primary election for US Senate. Democratic state AG Kamala Harris won a plurality of the vote for that office, with about 40%, with Sanchez getting 18% in second place. Under California’s new system, the two top vote getters face off against each other in the general election, even if they are in the same party. Well, NPR wondered aloud today why Sanchez should even bother to run in November. Really? What about the Republican voters? Sure, some won’t vote for either, but Sanchez is a moderate, and has won twice in the quintessential Republican district, Orange County. Presumably many in the GOP will in fact vote for her. And if the press truly thinks ethnicity is so important to Latinos, won’t she get many of their votes too? Sanchez is currently not well known in northern California (the counties she won were all in the south), but once the general election campaign starts, that will change.

I’m usually not one to bash the press, but this year may be different, just like it is for everything else.



38 thoughts on “The Year of the Fourth Estate

  1. I checked out Loretta Sanchez’s immigration grade on Sad to say she has an F. With regard to reducing foreign visas, she has a C- which is no better than Eric Swalwell. I think that if we want to put our citizens first, we must vote for folks who respect the rule of law and have immigration grades of B or better (especially in the “Reducing foreign visa category”). Then, perhaps we might see some changes in tech jobs for our citizens of all ethnic backgrounds instead of the one or two ethnic groups that dominate the tech industry in both Silicon Valley and Orange County (Loretta Sanchez’s area).

    Incidentally, I must mention that Dana Rohrabacher (R – Orange County) who has “faced off” with Loretta Sanchez in the past, used to have a great grade with NumbersUSA on the foreign visa catagory. His grade is now a D-. His area (after redistricting) now includes Irvine and Newport Beach which has tech companies that profit greatly from low cost foreign workers. I was informed that the Lincoln Club of Orange County, who has members that profit from the visa dynamic have threatened Dana. They said they would find someone to run against him should he not support foreign visas. It is amazing to me how these corporate “elites” can get away with this. They need to be exposed.

    Perhaps Loretta Sanchez has not YET felt the pressure that Dana Rohrabacher has on this issue. Time will tell.


    • I have absolutely NO illusions that Loretta would do the right thing on H-1B. Zero.

      In fact, other than Bernie, there is NO Democrat who wants to do the right thing on H-1B. There used to be several, but they have all clammed up.

      There is no way that Harris would do right on H-1B either. I used to like her, but now she has become another Hillary, a manipulator, in my view.

      Thanks for sharing the point about Rohrbacher. I had not known about his switch. See comment on Trump’s sudden reversal on H-1B last August.

      In other words, it is hopeless. If American techies would be willing to become activist on the H-1B issue, they could stop H-1B dead in its tracks. But they are not. End of story.


      • The reason American techies are not willing to become activists on the H-1B issue is because the H-1B visa program does NOT significantly harm US workers. I can prove this by using statistics.

        According to the 2015 Taulbee Survey, “When comparing all departments (computer science) reporting this year to all departments reporting last year, there was an increase in bachelor’s degree production of 26.9 percent overall, and 21.6 percent per department.”

        If the H-1B program were truly harming US workers then enrollments will not be increasing. Parents will not be spending over $100,000 (tuition, fees, books, housing, opportunity costs) to send their kids to college for a computer science degree. This H-1B stuff has been well documented for at least five years. It even became an issue in the presidential campaigns. I don’t think one can claim buyer ignorance.

        Yes, “experts” can cite “high” underemployment rates for recent STEM graduates of around 40 to 50 percent as “proof” that we do not need the H-1B visa program; however, the free market has determined that a 40 to 50 percent underemployment rate is not “high” as evidenced by increasing enrollments and increasing tuition rates above the inflation rate.

        In the 2010 Taulbee Survey, “Anecdotal reports suggest that, once again, growth in enrollment is being constrained at institutions not by student interest, but by enrollment caps in place in university computer science departments. Free of these caps – in place because of faculty or infrastructure limitations –enrollment figures might have reflected even larger increases.” Apparently the sky is the limit for the production of bachelor computer science degrees.

        If the H-1B program were harming US workers then one should expect declining enrollments, lower tuition, and college closings. Parents still find value in spending over $100,000 for a computer science degree. The H-1B guest worker program doe not appear to be a major problem. Perhaps an underemployment rate of 90% and college costs of $500,000 will drive techies to protest the H-1B visa issue.


        • As all but the most rabid free-marketeers will agree, the free market is a myth. One of the major problems is lack of knowledge of market conditions.

          In the case of the tech labor market, there are huge issues of lack of knowledge. First and foremost, the industry lobbyists continually bombard the populace with statements of a major tech labor shortage; these are false statements, demonstrably so, but the ones who show it have tiny voices compared to the industry. Indeed, the ACM and many individual CS Depts. have run big promotion campaigns to increase the number of majors, promising great careers.

          Second, as I’ve said many times, the main adverse effect of the H-1B program is on older workers. The new graduates generally do well in the labor market. They are impacted too, but usually not in obvious ways, and they are generally satisfied. So, parents are satisfied too.


          • “As all but the most rabid free-marketeers will agree, the free market is a myth.”

            And as you, more than anybody, have pointed out repeatedly Norm, H-1B employees are not exactly “free” (as in “free market”) to just jump up from their keyboards one day and loudly proclaim that they are leaving, because they got a better offer from the company down the street. They are stuck, and are effectively indentured servants.

            Me personally? I like “free market” economics. Unfortunately, in this country (U.S.) the term has been re-defined by the 1% to only mean that they have to compete with one another when bidding on slaves to be purchased off the auction block, rather like things were in the pre- Civil War deep south. (I hope that Joe Anon will forgive the slaves if they have a rather different interpretation of the term “free market”.)


          • The H-1Bs that are most immobile are those being sponsored for a green card (meaning, the Intels, not the Infosyses). The other H-1Bs are fairly mobile, though if the employer promises later sponsorship of a green card, the effect is the same.


        • “If the H-1B program were truly harming US workers then enrollments will not be increasing.”

          Fallacious retorical argument, which could be restated as: “If mirage lakes in the desert were actually harming people, then people wouldn’t still be walking towards them.”

          Sure, a green 22 year old with a fresh CS sheepskin can make good money… certainly in RELATIVE terms… vastly better than his probable last job, maning the counter on the graveyard shift at the local Gas-N-Go. But try running your thought experiment again with 50 year old engineers with the same qualifications and THEN come back and tell us that there’s no problem.

          Software engineers are a lot like up-and-coming Hollywood starlets… very limited shelf life. Or to quote from the movie The First Wives Club “There are only three ages for women in Hollywood; “Babe”, “District Attorney”, and “Driving Ms. Daisy.””

          “Parents will not be spending over $100,000 … to send their kids to college for a computer science degree.”

          Parents? PARENTS??

          I’m so glad and relieved to hear that parents are now stepping up to the plate and fully funding college for all the millions of bright kids who qualify to get in.

          It’s nice to know that in this election cycle there will be no need to waste even a minute discussing the burgeoning problem of student debt, now that the problem has been totally eliminated by generous and (universally?) well-heeled parents in all 50 states.


  2. “But they [techies] are not [willing to become activist]. End of story.” So pessimistic – first time I think I’ve seen that from you Norm…
    In the past you’ve always expressed hope (perhaps wistful) that they might.

    Regarding your advice “that one doesn’t publicly criticize a judge under whom one has a case pending” – that is certainly true for ordinary people, but for big shots who can create political pressure with their comments, it can actually work. If the judge realizes they are under extra scrutiny, they may take extra pains to be “impartial” (although they wouldn’t admit not being impartial beforehand). I know lawyers who have run up against Trump and his ilk before, and they say intimidation plays a role in these cases.


    • As far as I know, my view of the lack of prospects for genuine H-1B reform have been the same for many years. I don’t think what I said today is any different from what I’ve been saying for a long, long time.

      There is only one thing that has changed, say in the last five years or so: So many people, including staffers in immigration reform groups and reform-minded researchers, are willing to accept FAKE “reform” that won’t result in any improvement in job opportunities and wages for Americans. I presume you know what I’m referring to.


      • I can practically guarantee it. Immigration reform will pass in HIllary Clinton’s first term long long after the ‘deemed’ passage of Obamacare is a distant memory.

        And it will go down exactly like Obamacare – along partisan lines.
        Democrat after democrat like a stinking lizard offers up promises and solutions for H1-B visa and other skilled categories. Except, it MUST BE in no uncertain terms, a part of a ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform. In other words, complete, absolute and a “rolling” amnesty for illegal immigrants, criminals, drug dealers in perpetuity.

        While the pendulum does swing back and forth if the democracy is healthy Professor Matloff, progressive cities like Baltimore have now been Dem run for 70 years. The so called ‘natural’ Ruling parties in fake democracies like India, Mexico, Canada, UK have been in power for decades. The standard of living hasn’t gone up much; the rich have only become richer and created a lot of nationalistic sentiment. The US (like as in California) risks becoming governed by the Ba’ath part of iraq or the communist party of china. One stop shop for all of your tyrannical needs.


  3. “…embarrassingly poor prediction success by the pundits…”

    Geeezzzz. Fuggetabout the PUNDITS. What about THE POLLSTERS? They were saying right up to the last minute that California would be close between Bernie & Hillary. In reality, as we now know, she blew him out by over 12 and a half points! How could they have gotten this SOOOOO wrong? I smell a rat, not in the actual results, but in the pre-primary polling. Might it just possibly be that the pollsters kindly obliged the needs of their primary customers, the media, for maximal drama in order to generate maximal ratings & circulation? (This is reminicent of the bond credit rating agencies just prior to the 2008 economic meltdown. Their customers wanted AAA+ ratings on everything, so they just obliged and took the money. Ethics? Yea, we heard about that once.)

    “I’m beginning to think that all that strife within and between parties is creating something of a vacuum into which the press is inserting itself in rather insidious ways.”

    I’m not BEGINNING to think. Rather, I *have* thought for some time now that what you said here Norm isn’t even the half of it. Not only are various media outlets doing their level best to create drama at every turn… a fact which explains about 90% of the whole Trump phenomenon… but also, in my (rarely humble) opinion, they are nowadays creating canddates, literally from scratch.

    I mean think about it. How the bleep did a third-tier loudmouth New York real estate developer end up with major league name recognition in the political sphere anyway? Could it just possibly be because Fox News gave him a platform to spew whatever gibberish he wanted, week after week after week, for at least the last several years? And he didn’t even have to take time out of his schedule to even SHOW UP, let alone BE GRILLED or ANSWER ANY TOUGH QUESTIONS (e.g. about his wacko birther theories) because Fox literally let him PHONE IT IN, week after week after week. (This isn’t journalism. In journalism, you bring people in for on-camera interviews and then ask tough questions so that the audience can see when they start to squirm.)

    Fugget also about all of this manufactured drama between him & Megan Kelly. That was all just another ratings boosting scheme cooked up by either Roger Ailes or by Murdoch directly. And it worked like a charm.

    Yes, my assertion is that Rupert Murdoch effectively manufactured the current presumptive Republican nominee for President out of (nearly) whole cloth.

    Insidious? Yes, but that doesn’t even begin to cover it. We need a bigger word. William Randolph Hearst manufactured the Spanish-American war. It’s in the history books. Given that, is it in the least bit far fetched to assert that Rupert Murdoch has, in effect, manufactured his own Presidential nominee? (Keep in mind that Murdoch has a vastly bigger audience, and vastly more power than Herst ever had, even in his heyday.)

    Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it… usually in the Spring Semester.

    “…why is the press making such a big deal over Trump’s suggestion that Curiel, a Latino, may be biased against Trump due to the latter’s remarks about illegal immigration from Mexico?”

    Yea, I’ve been wondering about that too. Imagine if he had ONLY decided to bitch and moan… in the middle of a presidential campaign… that SOME judge (ethnicity unspecified) was giving him a hard time in one of the fraud cases against him.

    On this story, the media went after what seemed to them like the biggest attention-getter, i.e. the racist nature of Trump’s remarks. They never even mention what should be an equally HUGE story, i.e. that Trump *isn’t* talking about how to make things better for Americans. Rather Trump is talking about his #1 favorite subject, and his one and only real concern in this contest, i.e. Trump. The only people who give a rat’s ass about Trump’s sordid little fraud case are the parties thereto. And if Trump feels that he’s not getting a fair shake, there’s a well-known legal remedy for that. It’s called a “motion for recusal”. Why hasn’t Trump filed one? Obviously because he prefers to verbally bludgeon the judge in the press instead, where he and his pal Murdoch don’t need to be bothered with annoying formalities like actual evidence.

    “…why did the AP choose to poll the superdelegates right on the eve of the California primary… ?”

    Why have ALL of the press outlets been reporting superdelegate counts throughout this whole process, even though the DNC allegedly TOLD them all NOT to do so:

    “I’m usually not one to bash the press, but this year may be different…”

    My hope is that come November, everyone who lays hands on a ballot will cross out the names Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and will write next to them instead Rupert Murdoch and Lloyd Blankfein. If people want to vote for these characters, that’s up to them. I just want them to realize who they are actually voting for.


    • Nice theory about the pollsters, Ron, but pure paranoia as far as I can tell.

      In some of the elections, the polls great UNDERestimated Sanders’ percentage. And in order for your theory to work, the various pollsters would have had to have colluded, which seems infeasible. Nate Silver, reputed to be a great pollsters, was all wrong about Trump.

      The claim is that Bernie’s young, first-time voters didn’t show up. Here is an excerpt from the SF Chronicle:

      What was most surprising is that while 25 percent of California’s record surge of more than 2 million new registrations was made up of voters aged 35 years and under, they made up only 10 percent of those who had mailed their ballots back by the Monday before election day.

      The various factors I mentioned, e.g. the AP superdelegate announcement and the lack of presidential choices in the independents’ ballots, could well explain a big part of the failure of that group to vote.


  4. Is that judge a natural born US citizen from LEGAL Mexican immigrants? How does Donald Trump’s stance on illegal immigration make that judge biased against him?


    • Let me turn the question to you: The press says that Latino voters will vote against Trump because of his view on illegal immigration from Mexico. Since they are voters, they are either natives or naturalized LEGAL immigrants. How does that make them biased against Donald Trump?

      I said in my posting that the press can’t have it both ways. Yi Shi can’t have it both ways either.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There is a key difference between voters’ decision and Judge’s decision. Voters are free to choose whoever they want to vote for based on whatever standards they set for for themselves.

        I come across news reports saying there are vocal groups of Chinese Americans and Hispanic Americans and even Muslim Americans who are actively supporting Trump so I disagree your claim that media are saying the same thing.

        However, a Judge’s decision is based on impartial and authentic interpretation of laws. Trump’s logic is that the judge’s ethnicity makes that judge unable to make authentic interpretations of laws.(ethnicity->conflicts of interest on Trump’s political standards->inability to make good decisions)

        So I again turn the question to you: does the correlation between ethnicity and inability to make authentic decisions reflect racism?


        • Just plug “Trump Hispanic” into Google, and you will see that the overwhelming majority of items say that the Hispanic vote will hurt Trump. This is fact, not worth arguing about.

          As to the judge, he is human, just like you and me. There are no unbiased judges. You know that. Trump’s statement was based on good reason, if not good political judgment.


          • I oppose your claim that Trump’s statement is based on good reason.

            Why? because the cause-effect relation between one’s ethnicity and one’s ability to do his job is just absurd and does reflect some sense of racism. This is different from voters’ decision which is not based on professional skills/knowledge but only based on one’s personal desire no matter how crazy it could be.

            And in fact, I am more than convinced that Trump University is a fraud and the Judge makes a good decision of letting the case proceed instead of dismissing the case as Trump wants to do.


          • It’s so very easy to accuse people of racism, isn’t it? Since you have been so critical of the U.S. school system, you could be accused of racism too. Unfortunately the word has become largely meaningless these days.

            The law is not like a computer, where every bit is either a 0 or a 1. It is fraught with gray areas, and a judge must make somewhat arbitrary decisions in many instances. Trump was unhappy with several of the judge’s rulings in the case, and suggested that that might be due to a personal bias against Trump on the judge’s part. I really don’t believe that you are 100% sure that Trump is just imagining this. Anyone in Trump’s shoes would consider it a possibility, though as I said, most would not say so publicly.


          • Your defense is different from what Trump said. Trump are free to criticize Judge’s decision and I agree there is no objective standard to assess a judge’s objectivity / subjectivity. I have no problem if Trump just says Judge has made a bad decision against him.

            The fact is Trump does not simply say Judge is biased against him or Judge makes a mistake in his ruling. He thought the judge’s ethnicity undermines the judge’s ability to do his job.

            Do you really accept the logic that one’s ethnicity will undermine one’s ability to do his professional job?

            I am very sure you will strongly disagree if an African American student claims that because you are not African American, you cannot be impartial in assigning grade to him


          • Trump did say that the judge had made bad rulings, unfavorable to him (Trump). He then said that these bad rulings might be due to the judge’s Mexican ethnicity and Trump’s plan to build a wall to keep out Mexicans. Trump’s reaction is quite natural.

            Your African-American example is not analogous at all. For the example to work, I would have to have some perceived prejudice against blacks.


          • “For the example to work, I would have to have some perceived prejudice against blacks”
            so why the judge has perceived prejudice against Trump? Just because the Judge has Mexican ethnicity?

            If the judge’s ethnicity justifies his perceived prejudice against Trump, in my hypothetical scenario, is your lack of African American ethnicity enough to justify your perceived prejudice against African American students? I am sure you will say No.

            You still do not answer my question: do you accept that one’s ethnicity will undermine one’s ability to do his job?(that is the core issue at stake about Trump’s comments)


        • If “a Judge’s decision is based on impartial and authentic interpretation of laws” then why such bitter fights to get women and minorities into the judiciary? The bitter fights for and against Supreme Court Justices is precisely because decisions are NOT based on impartial and authentic interpretation of laws but rather to advance a viewpoint.

          I expect Judge Curiel was put on the bench for the purpose of giving illegal aliens every benefit of the doubt. How often have we seen judges rule correctly on the letter of the immigration law and yet find some way within their discretion to allow the law breaker to benefit from law breaking?


          • Good point. Just look at all those 5-4 vote decisions on the Supreme Court, and similar situations in federal appeals courts and the like. Clearly there is no unique interpretation of the law, and thus bias will play a role, whether conscious or unconscious.


          • First of all, Judge Curiel’s ruling in the question has nothing to do with immigration so your criticism about “Judge Curiel was put on the bench for the purpose of giving illegal aliens every benefit of the doubt.” is very absurd and bizarre.

            Secondly, the so called biased decisions of Supreme court Justice are not some personal prejudice based on ethnicity or political preference. Conservative judges think constitution should be interpreted as something fixed in stone while liberal judges think constitution should be interpreted as a living and breathing document. These two are both valid and very authentic theories to interpret the law.

            This is totally different from saying one’s ethnicity undermines his ability to be a good judge.


          • As you yourself say here, the conservative justices are biased in one direction and the liberal justices are biased in the other direction. Your earlier claim that the law is clearcut is clearly false.

            As to Judge Curiel, go back to the original question, please.


          • 1)Being impartial/authentic is the goal/requirement of any judge. Maybe instead of saying judge’s decision is based on impartial/authentic interpretation, I should say “should be based on….”.

            I never say the law is a clearcut but being impartial and authentic(or trying best to be impartial) should be achieved even with unclear laws. That is requirement for a judge regardless of their particular philosophy.

            2)After some consideration, I do not think bias is a good word to describe difference between conservative and liberal judges. Bias indicates you choose a side not based on merit of that side but based on some ulterior motive.

            The difference between conservative and liberal judges are based on different tools they use to apply laws and all these tools, despite their difference, are all valid in their merits.’

            That is totally different from prejudice based on one’s race/ethnicity.


    • Media reports stated that the judge was a documented Hillary supporter with campaign contributions to her. He should have recused himself from the case. The issue is bias but not racism.


  5. Your question to me “The press says that Latino voters will vote against Trump because of his view on illegal immigration from Mexico. Since they are voters, they are either natives or naturalized LEGAL immigrants. How does that make them biased against Donald Trump?”

    As I said in the beginning, voters’ decision can be biased because there is no law in US requiring how voters should choose their candidate. I can assume a Hispanic American who may have obtained his/her citizenship by amnesty bill in 1986 will have sympathy towards undocumented immigrants and therefore opposes Trump’s no amnesty stance.

    On the other hand, a judge, because of the nature of his job, is required by law to stay neutral and not to be influenced by his political belief. If there is clear evidence that the judge does not meet that standard, he should recuse himself from the legal case.

    Trump’s logic is that the judge’s ethnicity serves the evidence that his ability to make decision is undermined. I simply believe this logic is really flawed and is not legitimate.


    • The point you are ignoring or refusing to accept is that Trump is NOT just referring to the judge’s ethnicity. Instead, the point is that that ethnicity is supposed one that dislikes Trump for his views on immigration.

      Thanks for your contribution to the discussion.


  6. Actually, within my family there are Hispanic immigrants – now citizens – who are opposed to illegal immigration and, in the past, their votes reflect their position on that issue.


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