Friday, October 21, 2016

Time Is On My Side

If you thought the Comcast-NBC/Universal deal was bad for the American media consumer and the landscape of competition in a wolrd where information comes from fewer and ewer sources, wait until you see the new AT&T Time Warner merger.

AT&T Inc is in advanced talks to acquire media conglomerate Time Warner Inc, and a deal could come as early as this weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported. 
The talks around the cash-and-stock deal have come together quickly, the Journal reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter. 
Time Warner's shares were up 8.2 percent at $89.77 in late morning trading. AT&T was down 2 percent at $37.87. 
Time Warner, which has a market value of about $65 billion, is an attractive target because of its premium cable channel HBO, the CNN news network, film studio Warner Bros and other media assets. 
AT&T, which has a market capitalization of about $238 billion, has already made moves to turn itself into a media powerhouse, buying satellite TV provider DirecTV last year for $48.5 billion. 
Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes has not been willing to sell in the past. The company rejected an $80 billion offer from Twenty-First Century Fox Inc in 2014.

AT&T and Time Warner were not immediately available for comment.

So a short list of what AT&T would control after this merger:

  • CNN
  • HBO
  • The CW Network (well, half of it, the other half belongs to CBS turns out)
  • DirecTV
  • AT&T Mobile
  • BellSouth
  • Southwestern Bell
  • New Line Pictures
  • Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Cricket Wireless
  • Bleacher Report
  • DC Comics

All under one company's control.  Yeah, this seems like a great idea.  Sign me up, right?  What if the new company decides to tell Comcast and Charter "Hey, we're only going to carry HBO on DirecTV from here on out."  Maybe that won't happen.  Maybe it will.  But these guys would control a gigantic pile of movies, sports websites, two mobile phone companies, a whole crapload of baby bells, a TV network, a ton of cable networks and DC Comics on top of all that.  Who needs cable when you have mobile, satellite, and a whole lot of "last mile" utility poles?

Now you tell me that's a good idea.

And You Can Call Me Al

The annual Al Smith dinner in NYC, a fundraiser for Catholic charities, usually sees both candidates take the stage in a presidential election year to take some shots across each other's respective bows a few weeks before Election Day, all in good fun. Of course this year one of those candidates is Donald Trump, and things went, well, exactly as you would expect them to have gone considering Trump's history.

Donald Trump said Thursday he was in a room full of wonderful people at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York.

“Or as Hillary calls it, her largest crowd of her season,” he said with a chuckle, as Democratic rival Hillary Clinton laughed, too. “This is corny stuff.”

But as his remarks progressed, Trump’s speech turned more biting.

“Here she is tonight, pretending not to hate Catholics,” he said. Several in the crowd booed.

Trump went on: “Everyone knows of course Hillary’s belief that it takes a village, as in Haiti where she’s taken a number of them.” That was met with more jeering from the crowd. Clinton’s smile was still on her face, but she didn’t laugh.

Both candidates were, for the most part, good-natured yet tough on each other, but Trump apparently misread this particular audience gathered in his heavily Democratic hometown. Still, despite the booing spells, Trump got strong laughter from throughout the room at his best jokes. The loudest roar of approval came at the expense of his wife.

“The media is even more biased against me than ever before," Trump said. "You want the proof? Michelle Obama gives a speech and everyone loves it. It’s fantastic. They think she’s absolutely great. My wife Melania gives the exact same speech! And people get on her case! And I don’t get it! I don’t know why!”

At another point, Trump made light of his assertion that Clinton's use of a private e-mail server while secretary of state constitutes a punishable crime.

"We've proven that we can actually be civil to each other," Trump said. "In fact just before taking the dais Hillary accidentally bumped into me and she very civilly said 'Pardon me.'"

Yeah, the guy got the biggest laughs when he went after his wife and the woman he's running against.  I think I'm noticing a pattern here.  Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton may not have Barack Obama's natural comedic delivery gifts, but she does have 25 years of DC fighting experience in arenas such as these. She got some shots in too at the Waldorf Astoria ballroom last night.

Clinton, who spoke second, began with the self-deprecatory remarks and gracious gestures that have been the hallmarks of previous dinners.

She got big laughs when she told the audience: “I just want to put you all in a basket of adorables.”

She told Trump that if he didn’t like what she was saying, “Feel free to stand up and shout ‘wrong!’ while I’m talking.” That was a reference to Trump’s habit of interrupting her comments during the three presidential debates.

Clinton also shifted to more biting tone as her speech progressed, and added that after Trump’s speech that she’ll “enjoy listening to Mike Pence deny that you ever gave it.”

Trump, with his arms folded, laughed.

Still, Joy Reid summed it up best this morning:

For Trump it was being made to look like a national laughing stock all over again like Obama did to him five years ago at that now infamous 2011 White House correspondents dinner.  If you thought his meltdown was bad before...

...stay tuned.  I think the final two weeks and change of this campaign are going to be amazing.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Last Call For Spies Like Us

So if you recall the news that yet another NSA contractor was busted for stealing classified data back in August, well it turns out that there's a whole new level of problematic with what the FBI found when they looked deeper into this rabbit hole.

Government lawyers on Thursday said they would prosecute a former National Security Agency contractor accused of stealing classified information under an espionage law, a move carrying far more severe penalties than previously announced charges.

Harold Thomas Martin spent over two decades pilfering classified information from multiple government agencies, federal prosecutors said in a new filing made in a U.S. District Court in Baltimore. They expected to bring charges that included violations of the Espionage Act, the filing said.

The amount of stolen data is estimated to be at least fifty terabytes, enough to fill dozens of hard drives, prosecutors said, adding that the alleged criminal conduct "is breathtaking in its longevity and scale." Some officials have said the trove may amount to the largest heist of classified government information in history.

An attorney representing Martin was not immediately available for comment.

Among the material allegedly stolen by Martin included a top secret document that contained "specific operational plans against a known enemy of the United States and its allies," the prosecutors said.

U.S. officials announced in a criminal complaint earlier this month that Martin, 51, was taken into custody in Maryland in August and charged with felony theft of classified government material. It did not allege a motive.

The FBI is investigating possible links between Martin and the leak online this summer of secret NSA hacking tools used to break into the computers of adversaries such as Russia and China, U.S. officials said.

In other words, this guy was most likely one of the most successful Russian moles in history.  He stole classified data over more than twenty years and did untold damage to the US intelligence community.

I'm glad this guy got caught but I think we're going to be spending a long time cleaning up after this guy.  I'm old enough to remember Aldrich Ames, and Martin here makes Ames look like a cub scout.

What Actually Rigging An Election Looks Like

Ohio is arguably the key state for Donald Trump, he simply can't win the presidency without it (no Republican has won the White House without it) but the efforts by the Kasich administration and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to throw one million mostly black and low-income voters Ohio voters off the rolls has now been deemed illegal, and those voters will now be able to vote on provisional ballots.

A federal judge in Ohio laid out a plan on Wednesday for the state to restore voting privileges for people who were illegally removed from the state's voter rolls over the past five years.

The ruling stems from a case in which the ACLU and other plaintiffs sued, saying Ohio's process for removing people who had died or moved away from voter rolls was illegal because it purged people simply for not voting and not responding to a letter from the state.

Voting rights cases have become pivotal battlegrounds ahead of the Nov. 8 election between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.

The American Civil Liberties Union and others have challenged laws in Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina over voting rights issues.

In the Ohio case, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said Ohio's process for removing inactive voters was illegal, reversing an earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge George C. Smith.

In response, Smith on Wednesday ordered the state to allow people who had been removed from the rolls to cast provisional ballots on election day.

Those ballots will be checked against voter rolls, and if people were purged in the years 2011, 2013 or 2015, their votes will be counted and their registration restored.

Again, Husted tried to purge more than one million Ohio voters off the rolls over six years for the crime of not voting and not immediately responding to a letter that was often sent to an old address.  That will now be reversed.  How many provisional ballots will be cast, I don't know, but the plan was absolutely to lower turnout and give the state's elections to Republicans.

I'm glad the courts stopped this idiocy.

Something Something Accept What You Cannot Change

If there was somehow any doubt that Hillary Clinton will be the next president (with a commanding six point lead in the RCP average and an 85% chance of winning at Five Thirty Eight) last night's debate all but slammed the door in Trump's orange face.

It’s over. There will be no more presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. (Hopefully.)

The final debate looked, at first, like it could have been pretty normal. At the start, there were some Trumpy moments — but for the most part, it appeared like both candidates, thanks to Trump’s slightly better behavior, were going to mostly stick to the issues.

Then Trump happened. By the end of the debate, Trump had insulted Latino immigrants in Spanish, continued to say that he would not concede the election if he lost, and called Clinton “such a nasty woman.

In many ways, it was a fitting end to what’s been a very odd election season. But it also offered yet another reminder that we are living in very strange times.

But the real signal as to what Trump will do with all that anger when he loses big in November is as obvious as it comes.

Thirty minutes before the debate, Trump’s Facebook page went live with a video. It ran with the message: “If you’re tired of biased, mainstream media reporting (otherwise known as Crooked Hillary’s super PAC), tune into my Facebook Live broadcast. Starts at 8:30 EST/5:30 PST -- you won't want to miss it. Enjoy!” The ensuing show had its own anchors and guests.

For any other candidate, this may come off as unremarkable. But Trump’s wording, the original anchors and guests, and ongoing rumors suggest this is a tease of “Trump TV” — a business venture Trump might launch after his failed presidential bid.

Matt Yglesias explained for Vox:

While Trump and his team do not appear capable of winning a general election in the United States, they certainly have the right mix of skills and experience to operate a successful media company, folding the existing Breitbart and Hannity franchises together with the Trump brand to form Trump TV or Trump Media.

Trump’s people, for their part, haven’t done much to dispel the rumors. Here’s what Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon said recently, according to CNN anchor Brian Stelter’s newsletter:

Bannon did not deny talk about a potential "Trump TV" network or streaming service. When asked if there is anything to the rumors, Bannon responded with a smile and said, "Trump is an entrepreneur." He repeated the answer again later. "Trump is an entrepreneur." He also pointed out Trump's social media prowess on Facebook and Twitter. "Look at the engagement. It's incredible..."

The Facebook Live video, however, suggests that Trump’s team isn’t even bothering to wait until after the election to pull this off.

Donald Trump: red meat salesman in the New Clinton Age.  It's about the only job he's actually qualified for, frankly.  But he'll ride that tornado through the American psyche doing as much damage as he can and will most likely profit from it.

Then again, this is a man that went bankrupt running casinos, a business model absolutely designed to part suckers from their money.  If he can't even get that right, maybe Trump TV won't be long for this world.

I hope.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

In Science We Trust

A new Pew Research poll on which professions are trusted finds Americans believe in the medical community acting in the country's best public interest the most, followed by the US military and the scientific community overall.

About three-quarters or more of Americans are confident in the military, medical scientists and scientists in general to act in the best interests of the public. But fewer than half of Americans report similar confidence in the news media, business leaders and elected officials, according to a Pew Research Center report released earlier this month.

One-third of the public (33%) has a great deal of confidence in the military and an additional 46% say they have a fair amount of confidence. The high ranking of the military is consistent with a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, which found 78% of the public said the military contributes “a lot” to society. 
Similar shares of Americans express at least a fair amount of confidence in medical scientists (84%) and scientists (76%). 
The public expresses less confidence in school and religious leaders. About two-thirds (65%) say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in K-12 principals and superintendents and 53% have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in religious leaders. 
Americans are least confident in the news media, business leaders and elected officials to act in the best interests of the public. Majorities have not too much or no confidence in each of these three groups, a pattern that is shared across the political spectrum. For example, majorities of both Democrats (68%) and Republicans (78%) say they have not too much or no confidence at all in elected officials to act in the best interests of the public, in keeping with previous Pew Research Center studies showing near-record low trust in the federal government.

The survey also shows that Republicans trust professions less overall than Democrats or independents with the obvious exception of the military, and that religiously unaffiliated Americans have serious trust issues with religious leaders overall.

Overall the news media is only trusted by a little over a third of the country to act in the public's best interest, a little less than business leaders at 41%, but political leaders are in the basement at 27% (there's that number again...)

I would think after this election that all three groups would want to take a serious look at themselves as to why so few Americans trust them to act in the public's best interest.

Because for the most part?  They don't.

The Other Side: The 5 Stages Of Trump

I'd say this clinical autopsy of the Trump campaign from David Freddoso at the DC Examiner is about as antiseptic as it comes, as at this point we're well past ignoring the GOP elephant in the room that is Donald Trump's unprecedented meltdown.

One of the strongest arguments Trump made during the primary in support of his own candidacy was his promise to self-fund. In focus group after focus group, with voters across the ideological spectrum, the pledge proved widely popular. It gave his supporters — and many rank and file conservatives who viewed Trump with skepticism — comfort that Trump possessed the means to fund a competent campaign, despite Trump's dismissal of a typical finance or campaign infrastructure. Even establishment Republicans were heartened by the notion that, if nominated, Trump would not divert resources from the rest of the Republican ticket. 
As winter turned to spring, Trump secured the nomination and his campaign made no attempts at online or direct-mail fundraising. This was a critical error on his team and a missed opportunity to seize financial support from a dedicated and fired-up grassroots base. Warning signs about Trump's lack of fundraising were dismissed by members of the press and justified by his apologists due to recurring assurances that Trump was worth billions and would self-fund. 
As spring turned to summer, not only did Trump refuse to put significant sums behind his effort, but he structured his campaign to use donor money to reimburse himself for campaign loans. Predictably, high-dollar donors sat on their wallets and publicly questioned Trump's commitment to victory. They demonstrated little desire to fund an organization that came across as dedicated to subsidizing Trump companies as opposed to field offices, staff and basic campaign operations. 
As Trump capitulated to pressure and filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to forgive his loan, he continued to use costly and inefficient Trump facilities, airplanes and products. This was occurring as Clinton's operation encouraged frugality with donor funds, similar to the Mitt Romney, Barack Obama and George W. Bush campaigns before it. 
Now it's crunch time. Unsurprisingly, Clinton has the resource advantage to put more states in play with each passing week. The burden has fallen to the Republican National Committee to finance, organize and execute a national ground game in support of Trump as well as endangered House and Senate Republicans across the country. Establishment Republican donors, most of whom were ardent supporters of Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, have stepped up to give significant funds to Trump victory programs with the RNC. Some are even funding a top-tier super political action committee effort in an attempt to soften Clinton's support in targeted Senate states.

Despite Trump's claims to be worth $10 billion and his insinuations that he owns a store worth more than Romney, Trump has put only slightly more of his own money into his campaign than Romney dedicated to his first campaign in 2008. When you take into account all the campaign money squandered on Trump companies, Trump may actually spend less than Romney did in 2008.

Yes, and keep telling yourself that the reason Trump is going to get mauled is because he didn't spend enough money.

Really is no hope for these guys, is there? Hey "principled conservatives", ask yourself why this race has been over since May.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Last Call For Supreme Obstruction

If you think either President Obama or a future President Hillary Clinton will be able to make any Supreme Court nominations with a GOP-controlled Senate in charge, well the "moderate" John McCain would like to put an end to that notion.

Almost immediately after news of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death broke, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) proclaimed that “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.” And, with rare exception, this has been the Senate GOP’s message since Scalia’s seat became vacant — let the election happen first, and whoever wins that election gets to pick the next justice. 
Nevertheless, in a Monday interview with a Philadelphia radio host, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) admitted that Republicans will continue to block anyone the next president nominates to the Supreme Court — at least if that president is Hillary Clinton. 
“I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up.” 
“The strongest argument I can make” for why Pennsylvania voters should reelect Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, is that a Republican Senate can “ensure that there is not three places on the United States Supreme Court that will change this country for decades.”

Scalia's seat on the court has been vacant now for seven full months.  There's no reason to believe that a lame duck session will approve his nomination unless voters give control of the Senate to the Democrats again.

We can do something about that in a few weeks, guys.

Trump Cards, Con't

An increasingly erratic and desperate Donald Trump continues to accuse Democrats and the entire US government of "rigging the election" at his rallies, Trump and his surrogates are specifically accusing the Obama administration of allowing massive voter fraud at poling places.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his surrogates amplified their rhetoric on the racially charged issue of voting fraud, accusing Democrats of systematic cheating that could throw the election to Hillary Clinton.

Trump said in a Twitter message Sunday that the Nov. 8 election is “absolutely being rigged” at polling places and through media coverage. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said election fraud was a sin committed almost entirely by Democrats in America’s inner cities, where populations tend to be heavily minorities.

They leave dead people on the rolls, and then they pay people to vote those dead people four, five, six, seven, eight, nine times,” said Giuliani, one of Trump’s most prominent supporters, on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He added, “dead people generally vote for Democrats.”

Cheating by Republicans is rare, Giuliani said. “They don’t control inner cities the way Democrats do,” he said

These are pretty awful accusations, not to mention the blatantly racist assumption that it's the "inner city", code word for us awful black people of course, that Giuliani is accusing of mass voter fraud.  This is a former mayor of NYC for crying out loud, and yet here we are.

So yes, Trump and his campaign surrogates are openly accusing the Democrats of voter fraud and election rigging weeks before the election has even happened because "everybody knows" Democrats cheat.

To say such rhetoric is dangerous and irresponsible is a massive understatement.  Trump is trying to take the American election process with him in his collapse, and if the events in NC this weekend are any indication, he's well on his way to doing so.  No wonder then that a majority of Trump supporters now agree that the American election system is rigged.

I expect it to be far higher after they lose.  And that will be a disaster for the country.

Our Little Domestic Terror Problem, Con't

Whoever is behind acts like this needs to stop it immediately, because hey, this too is domestic terrorism guys.

The weekend firebombing of a North Carolina Republican headquarters drew national attention Sunday, with one state GOP official calling it an act of “political terrorism.”

Hillsborough police say the incident at the Orange County GOP headquarters occurred when a bottle of flammable liquid was thrown through the front window of the office that housed the local GOP headquarters.

The words, “Nazi Republicans get out of town or else” and a swastika were spray painted on the side of an adjacent building. Officials said the bomb ignited inside the office. No damage estimates were available.

“This highly disturbing act goes far beyond vandalizing property; it willfully threatens our community’s safety … and its hateful message undermines decency, respect and integrity in civic participation,” Mayor Tom Stevens said in a statement. “Acts like this have no place in our community.”

Hillsborough police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were continuing to investigate. The incident took place in Orange County, home of the University of North Carolina in nearby Chapel Hill.

The county is overwhelmingly Democratic. Democrats and independents outnumber Republicans 5-1.

Democrats condemned the bombing. “The attack on the Orange County HQ @NCGOP office is horrific and unacceptable, Hillary Clinton’s campaign tweeted. “Very grateful that everyone is safe.”

N.C. Democratic Party Chair Patsy Keever called the bombing “outrageous.”

“The North Carolina Democratic Party strongly condemns this attack,” she said. “Violence has no place in our political system … Our deepest sympathies are with everyone at the North Carolina Republican Party.”

Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the state GOP, called the bombing “political terrorism.”

“The office itself is a total loss,” he said. “The only thing important to us is that nobody was killed, and they very well could have been.”

Later, Woodhouse said, “Whether you are Republican, Democrat or Independent, all Americans should be outraged by this hate-filled and violent attack against our democracy. … Everyone in this country should be free to express their political viewpoints without fear for their own safety.”

Read more here:

For those of you unfamiliar with NC, Orange County is home to UNC-Chapel Hill and is just west of Durham.  It's very liberal, part of the Research Triangle Park and has a lot of suburban areas, in fact it's about the most liberal county in the state (maybe Buncombe County and Asheville) and for this kind of thing to happen here, well.

Here's the thing though, we've seen Democrats raising money to help the NC GOP rebuild the office. That's a nice sentiment, but it's misguided for two reasons, one, because the NC GOP is most certainly fundraising on this out of anger and not sorrow, and two the Republicans are taking this as a tacit admission of guilt and will blame "violent Democratic rhetoric" for this, as if somehow it's not Donald Trump saying we need Second Amendment solutions to America's problems.

Believe me when I say being raised as a liberal Catholic from a New York family that I intimately understand the concept of guilt and it motivating our actions to take action to be the better world we want to see, but this isn't the way to do it.

Nor do we need to be attacking the folks that did give.  Again, I understand the impulse.  It will not be received in the spirit in which it is being offered, believe me.  Sometimes doing nothing is better in the long run.

I have my suspicions about the incident still.  Whoever did it, needs to face the full extent of the judicial system.  Republicans are already howling for blood as it is.


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