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Media oversight

StrasWebPr*sident Donald Trump has nominated Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras for a seat on a federal appeals court. This is part of his first step in packing the federal courts with right-wingers. There is nothing to stop him from doing so, and it will remain one of the worst aspects of the Trump legacy probably for decades.
 

Corporate news outlets have been going out of their way to try to portray Stras, a former clerk for SCOTUS Associate Justice “Corrupt Clarence” Thomas, as really just a pretty harmless moderate. That seems to be based mostly on comments from retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page to the effect that they agreed more often than one might think. I’m presenting a couple of reality checks, that should be clicked on and perused in their entirety if you want to actually be legitimately informed about this.
 

Mr. Justice Carpet Bagger (The Cucking Stool)

 
With Stras’ Appointment the Minnesota Supreme Court Lurches Right (MN Progressive Project, and note the oracular foresight displayed in the final paragraph.)

 
Yeah, Governor Mark Dayton will get to pick Stras’s successor, and that’s some consolation for those of us who live here in Minnesota. But rulings from federal appeals court justices potentially affect all Americans – decidedly for the worse, if those rulings are made by the likes of Stras.
 

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trump6(In Part 1 I blogged about the Great American Stupid. In Part 2, about voting numbers and trends.)
 

There is no question that corporate media (CM) horrifically failed the American people in the 2016 election cycle. By treating Hillary’s email server as the very scandal of the millennium, while Donald Trump’s virtually endless litany of failings as a candidate for the highest office and as a human being were presented as just more tidbits in the here-today-gone-tomorrow news cycle (in which actual policy issues went virtually unmentioned, in any meaningful way), CM unquestionably played a key role in the disastrous outcome.
 

I’ve never seen anything like CM’s open, flagrant bias in this one, and my paying attention to presidential campaigns goes back to 1972. (Yeah, I was all of 11 at the time, but intellectually precocious. And a fervent Nixon Republican. But that’s another matter.) But the thing is, I don’t know that much of CM really wanted Pr*sident Trump to actually win; I don’t think they actually believed that he really could, any more than, for example, I did. Trump was seen more as ultimately harmless entertainment (and, of course, ratings-bait) than as a real threat. The intent was to create a close election, and blunt Democratic downballot gains. And as far as the fallout now coming down on corporate media, because of it all…well, everything about “President Trump” is too serious, and disturbing, a matter for any gleeful schadenfreude, on my part.
 
As always, sweeping statements like those in the first paragraph above, while possessed of ample truth, require a measure of qualification, here in the messy, uncertain world of…reality. How much influence does corporate media really have? Let’s consider some numbers.
 
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minnesota_state_capitolAt least, that seems the readily apparent interpretation, to me.
 

Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner Myron Frans held a state Capitol news conference Wednesday to say the budget proposal Dayton released in January and updated last month is fiscally responsible, while the House and Senate GOP plans are not.
 
“The Legislature’s math just does not add up,” Frans said.
 
Frans accused Republican leaders of using “fuzzy math,” as well as “phony savings” and delayed payments to pay for a large tax cut bill. He suggested many of the bills could be headed for vetoes if not altered.
 
Frans highlighted several examples in the finance bills for Health and Human Services and State Government.
 
“The legislative budget bills we have seen are not serious attempts to govern Minnesota,” Frans said. The bills are designed to be talking points to start negotiations with the governor from an imaginary position, a made up starting point if you will.”
(MPR)

And here’s an example of that “starting point.” Legislators in the Party of Trump actually have the gall to call it the “Minnesota Way.” They should be saying the “ALEC Way.”
 

The Minnesota budget blueprint produced (March 20) by majority House Republicans seeks hefty tax cuts and aims to pare down expected costs in publicly subsidized health and welfare programs.
 
GOP leaders said their framework would deliver long-overdue tax relief given a sizable state budget surplus. The plan would make $1.35 billion in tax cuts the next two years with the details to come later.
(MPR)

 
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I’m posting this – with appropriate credit and a hyperlink, as always – and readers can make up their own minds, again as always. I will note that I took the trouble to “unlike” some pages, after reading this.
 

These Facebook pages and their affiliated websites pose as progressive champions, but their content is largely copied, if not plagiarized, from legitimate news and opinion outlets with real reporters and analysts, not rewrite teams. Their goal appears to be making money by attracting millions of readers as unknowing users click on links or share their memes—photos with slogans—because viewer traffic generates advertising revenues via Google ads.
 
Anyone who has a Facebook page and pays attention to politics—and shares with a circle of friends—has seen the vampires’ work. Even professionals in media, information technology and progressive politics often share posts and links to affiliated sites such as Occupy Democrats (5.9 million Facebook likes and 1.1 million monthly U.S. viewers on its website, according to Quantcast), The Other 98% (4.5 million Facebook likes; its related The Other 98 Percent Action Fund has 214,000 monthly U.S. viewers) and USUncut (1.5 million Facebook likes and 2.8 million monthly viewers). Indeed, there are hundreds of other pages and sites like these, such as Addicting Info, with 1.2 million Facebook likes, Liberal America with 754,000 Facebook likes, and a new six-week-old Facebook page, Resistance Report, with 144,000 Facebook likes.
 
Many subscribers and sharers of these Facebook pages don’t know about this content’s oft-pilfered origin nor its parasitic business model. They are unaware that these operations use software like Spike from Newswhip, which is akin to spyware, a big data analyzer that tracks viewership figures of any website to find hot stories. Especially useful is the software’s measure of “velocity,” or how quickly an article is taking off and getting thousands of viewers. Then, within an hour or less, these sites post their version on Facebook — often using the same photo and headline as the original, and linking to their quick rewrite with no credit given to the original article or its author. The rewrites steal the original’s traffic, usurping its popularity and rerouting ad revenue driven from people clicking on the copycats.
(AlterNet)

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66758002I got an email from the Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund which alerted me to the following.
 

(Wednesday) afternoon, Minnesota House Republicans heard a health care reinsurance bill (HF1128) that relies on junk science and misinformation to reduce access to contraception by miscategorizing IUDs and Emergency Contraception as “abortifacients.” This couldn’t be further from reality.

 
Here’s the online front page for HF1128, which appears to be part of the Minnesota Party of Trump’s effort to “repeal and replace” the ACA/MNsure in the state. The noted language is on the bill text page, lines 8.26-8.31. The email includes this link, debunking the “abortifacients” claim.
 
On the same general topic, this is well worth clicking and reading.
 

The anti-choice myth that community health centers could easily fill in for Planned Parenthood if the reproductive health-care provider loses federal funding has become pervasive among conservatives hoping to justify defunding the organization. It’s a claim that has been repeated by anti-choice organizations and politicians alike—and when it goes unchecked, it stands to perpetuate a falsehood that could have harmful consequences. Should the federal government strip reproductive health-care clinics from its funding programs, it will be devastating for millions of people who rely on such providers, not always just for reproductive care.
(Rewire)

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Corporate media, anti-poverty programs, and race

by Dan Burns on February 20, 2017 · 0 comments

mediaLast Friday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reprinted an article from the Washington Post titled “Whites benefit most from government safety nets.” Here’s the Strib link. In the print edition, it was at the top of page A2, and got blurbed above the fold under “Top News” on page A1. It’s based on a study called “Poverty Reduction Programs Help Adults Lacking College Degrees the Most.”
 

People of all races and ethnic groups who lack a bachelor’s degree receive significant help from the safety net, but on two significant metrics, the results for white working-age adults stand out. Among working-age adults without a college degree, 6.2 million whites are lifted above the poverty line by the safety net — more than any other racial or ethnic group. (See Figure 1.) In addition, the percentage of people who would otherwise be poor that safety net programs lift out of poverty is greater for white working-age adults without a college degree than for other adults without a college degree. Still, poverty rates among people without a college degree are substantially higher for blacks and Hispanics than for whites — whether or not safety net assistance is considered.
 
These findings are particularly noteworthy because the election has brought increased attention to the economic difficulties that people without a college degree can face. Largely overlooked in the discussion of these issues to date, however, is the fact that the nation’s poverty reduction programs provide extensive support to adults lacking a college degree, including working-class whites, and that such people would be the principal losers under various proposals to cut these programs that may emerge in coming months.
(Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

(As is often not the case with right-wing propaganda mills, the CBPP describes its methodology in detail. Of course, when you have facts, intelligence, and integrity on your side, you can be a lot more comfortable doing that. )
 
What I find interesting is that the CBPP article, from the title on down, is primarily about how differences in educational attainment affect use of, and benefits from, government aid for the poor. Corporate media is spinning it here to emphasize the racial differences, in a way that directly contradicts the African-American, inner-city “welfare queen” narrative that has been such a key part of right-wing propaganda going back to the Reagan era. And they’re doing this in the context of the openly racist Trump presidency.
 
For purposes of political hyperbole I sometimes characterize corporate media as all about just pandering and propagandizing to conservatives. It’s really more complicated than that. Among other things, they don’t want to lose paying customers whatever their political views, which can and often does lead to strange and erratic juxtapositions and so forth.
 
But maybe this is evidence (and it’s far from the only piece, since Trump’s “election”) of something of a shifting agenda here, what with Trump’s pitiful approval rating – historically low for a new presidency, which usually gets a “honeymoon” – and his own attacks on and threats against corporate media. We’ll see.
 

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trump5The best of the aggregating/predictive sites (not Nate, not after this cycle) has Hillary all but an infinite certainty to win. The Pollster average gives her a six point lead, and that’s probably skewed a little low right now because of outsized influence from lowballed tracking polls, purporting to show things in a virtual tie despite Clinton’s enormous leads among everyone except old people and middle-aged rednecks. (Those lowballed polls will probably continue to creep upward, “herding” in aggregator parlance, in the remaining time, and their proprietors will claim after it’s over that they were accurate all along.) And in one-sided elections, at least recent ones, polling averages have tended to understate actual margins of victory. That being said, Senate control is not the sure thing that it should be, and the House appears to be a long shot.

 

Corporate media has basically placed itself on the side of the most loathsome vileness, in the person of Donald Trump. Its portrayal of Trump’s sexism, bigotry, pathological (and extremely dangerous, if elected) narcissism, and just general horrific failure as a human being as being less “newsworthy” than Hillary’s emails just leaves one flabbergasted and appalled. I mean, we know corporate media’s political “coverage” had gotten really, really bad, but this? The calculation of the reprobates in charge there is clearly that since Trump can’t win (he has, after all, made it very clear that he’ll consider media his slavish lackeys, if he‘s prez), it’s fine to continue to pander to corporate media’s own conservative base, and help to blunt any Democratic downballot wave in the process. That is despicable and corrupt to an extreme. We have to figure out how to hold corporate media accountable for it, and make it happen.
 
Comment below fold.
 
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One of our missions, for sure. The title of this is paraphrased from a line of dialogue in a famous movie. 2:50 in this clip:
 

 
I’ve been known to fantasize about somehow being Harvey Keitel in that scene, and the bosses of corporate media (CM) are Brad Pitt, and I’m miraculously in a position to get in their faces and make it clear that they are g*d-damned well going to shape up, right now. But like I said, fantasy.
 
One of the infuriating things is that CM is so smug. They know that they own the airwaves and the newspaper printing presses, and as far as a majority of the populace are still concerned they’ll get the last word, and there’s nothing we progressives can do about it.
 
But the reality is that they have been getting consistently worse for decades, continuously more and more nothing but a shameless, despicable fount of plutocratic/war pig propaganda, and their behavior during this election cycle has plumbed depths more deep and vile than ever before. Is there a way to make them shape up or go under? (Is them going under even really desirable, given all of the livelihoods at stake? And most newspapers do still have worthwhile content here and there.)
 
I haven’t been able to come up with a way. Here are some musings.
 
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Why I think the rural/urban divide is drivel

by Dan Burns on October 19, 2016 · 0 comments

farmhouseOK, not entirely “drivel.” It must be acknowledged that on the whole city and country residents have tended to vote differently. (It’s been that way for a long time, though one could well get the impression from establishment punditry that the “divide” has only become really fundamental to Minnesota politics pretty recently, just as things are really starting to look demographically bleak for conservatism. Coincidence, no doubt.) But the phrase “rural/urban divide” is primarily a misleading construct being used politically, especially by corporate media, to help continue to con people into voting for conservatives.
 
(It actually should be “rural/metro divide.” The idea is to keep outstate residents angry at the Twin Cities metro, which supposedly gets all of the political attention and goodies, and not at places like St. Cloud and Red Wing. But since “rural/urban” has been established as the standard, albeit a (probably deliberately) misleading one, it’s what I’m using here.)
 
My parents grew up on farms, which stayed in the families and where close relatives still live. I’ve sometimes lived in densely populated settings, but mostly in small-town ones. I suppose that this background helps fuel my take (which, as always, is just my take, not some pretense to complete, final, and absolute truth). Which is that when you get right down to it, people – people with families in particular – pretty much have the same problems and concerns, wherever they live. And they share the same kinds of frustrations when those are not being addressed. It’s not just inner-city public school infrastructure that needs a big upgrade. And plenty of metro streets and roads also drive like something out of Wagon Train. And everyone wants good jobs, wherever they live. And so on.
 
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hero_image_main_2If you remember much about the months before the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, it doesn’t take much paying attention to this one to work up a pretty strong sense of déjà vu. In both of those, we also saw polling from September into early October claiming that the race had “tightened” to very close, or even tied, before in the end President Obama pulled away to win by about the margins he’d had right after the Democratic conventions.
 
Various explanations have been mooted for this phenomenon. Here’s a certainly viable one that I saw last week:
 

One way to describe that problem is “non-response bias;” in other words, the responses of those who choose to respond would be different than those you choose not to respond. It’s a phenomenon that we’ve been aware of for a long time … it may have been the primary culprit in the notoriously disastrous Literary Digest poll that predicted a landslide victory for Alf Landon in the 1936 presidential race … but one that pollsters are just now starting to grapple with.
 
A more recent case was the polling spike that Mitt Romney received after a poor performance by Barack Obama in the first debate in 2012. Research after the fact, however, suggested that Romney didn’t suddenly get an influx of new backers, as much as Obama’s backers were demoralized and temporarily​ less willing to talk to pollsters, and Romney was temporarily winning by subtraction, which explained why that debate bump quickly wore off. Pollsters using more advanced techniques … especially Obama’s internal pollsters, who were relying on multiple levels of voter file information to sort voters, instead of just using random-digit dialing and talking to whoever answered … found that there really wasn’t much of a debate effect at all, and the race stayed in pretty much the same narrow band from April on.
 
And pollsters who are willing to dig a little below the surface (and not interested in feeding a horse race narrative in the media) are finding similar things this year.
(David Jarman/Daily Kos)

Be that as it may, there’s another hypothesis that doesn’t seem to be being given much voice, though for me it fairly springs from the data, past and present, like a jaguar. Consider:
 
– Much corporate media is facing further downsizing, if not outright extinction in its current embodiments, any time. (Note, for example, the age distribution among those who still inexplicably get their “news” from the plutocratic/war pig propaganda that is the network TV broadcasts. I don‘t know about their websites and radio, but I doubt that the situation is much different.) They’re desperate for a neck-and-neck race, to hopefully keep people “glued.” We’ve seen how the coverage has been, with the relentless invention of Hillary Clinton “scandals” whenever she so much as blinks her eyelids, compared to the coddling of the most vile and repulsive, and unqualified and dangerous, presidential candidate, in historical context, in U.S. history.
 

I don’t believe that most of the Republicans or corporate Democrats who own and operate corporate media really want Donald Trump in the White House. But they figure that the chances of that are small, and they’re probably right. Probably. (More here and here.) But they are, in addition to ratings and web traffic and so forth, hoping to help mute any Democratic downballot wave. Plus, they’re a**holes. Of a truly fetid, repellent sort.

 
– We’ve known from Day One that Clinton has huge advantages among minorities, women…really, everyone except white people with no post-secondary education. I personally know Republicans who are refusing to vote for Trump, and I suspect that you do, too. Moreover, Clinton’s ground game is state-of-the-art, while it’s doubtful that Trump even knows what “microtargeting” is. It just does not add up that this is tied or anywhere near it.
 
Given the above, to claim that polling commissioned by, or otherwise intended for use by, corporate media and other public entities looking for attention – that is, most of what’s out there – is all on the up-and-up seems to me to be pretty naïve. I do indeed hypothesize (and I’m far from the first to do so) that in all likelihood much of it is being deliberately skewed, in order to make this thing appear closer than it is.
 
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