Monday, October 9, 2017

Last Call For Reality Trumps Perception

After the failures of Trumpcare and eleven months of legislative failures and broken promises, it seems like finally the Trump regime honeymoon may be over for Ohio.

Outside the Morgan County fair in McConnelsville, in a rural swath of Ohio that fervently backed U.S. President Donald Trump in last year’s election, ticket seller John Wilson quietly counts off a handful of disappointments with the man he helped elect. 
The 70-year-old retired banker said he is unhappy with infighting and turnover in the White House. He does not like Trump’s penchant for traveling to his personal golf resorts. He wishes the president would do more to fix the healthcare system, and he worries that Trump might back down from his promise to force illegal immigrants out of the country. 
“Every president makes mistakes,” Wilson said. “But if you add one on top of one, on top of another one, on top of another, there’s just a limit.”

Trump, who inspired millions of supporters last year in places like Morgan County, has been losing his grip on rural America. 
According to the Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll, the Republican president’s popularity is eroding in small towns and rural communities where 15 percent of the country’s population lives. The poll of more than 15,000 adults in “non-metro” areas shows that they are now as likely to disapprove of Trump as they are to approve of him. 
In September, 47 percent of people in non-metro areas approved of Trump while 47 percent disapproved. That is down from Trump’s first four weeks in office, when 55 percent said they approved of the president while 39 percent disapproved
The poll found that Trump has lost support in rural areas among men, whites and people who never went to college. He lost support with rural Republicans and rural voters who supported him on Election Day. 
And while Trump still gets relatively high marks in the poll for his handling of the economy and national security, rural Americans are increasingly unhappy with Trump’s record on immigration, a central part of his presidential campaign. 
Forty-seven percent of rural Americans said in September they approved of the president’s handling of immigration, down from 56 percent during his first month in office.

Morgan County is in southeast Ohio, just west of where Interstate 77 comes up from West Virginia into Cleveland.  There's nothing there, whole county has maybe 16,000 people on a good day.  Trump won the county by 41 points last year.

For Trump now to be reduced to breaking even here is saying something.  I know, they're mad at him for not building the wall yet and for not conducting mass deportations, for not destroying Obamacare and for not keeping his promises.  He hasn't gone far enough, he hasn't gotten things done, and he's running out of time. 

There's no real danger of these folks suddenly turning out for Bernie or Kamala Harris or Liz Warren, but there is danger of them not showing up in 2018.  I'm okay with that.

But it also makes me very worried about what Trump will do in order to keep power.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Spencer Ackerman and his national security reporting team at the Daily Beast have been doing a really stellar job of following the Silicon Valley end of the Trump/Russia connection, and how tech giants like Facebook and Twitter were leveraged by Russian front companies to deliver pro-Trump/anti-Clinton propaganda over social media.  Now the Daily Beast reveals that of course Google was involved too through its extensive web ad network, and through promoted YouTube videos.

According to the YouTube page for “Williams and Kalvin,” the Clintons are “serial killers who are going to rape the whole nation.” Donald Trump can’t be racist because he’s a “businessman.” Hillary Clinton’s campaign was “fund[ed] by the Muslim.” 
These are a sample of the videos put together by two black video bloggers calling themselves Williams and Kalvin Johnson, whose social media pages investigators say are part of the broad Russian campaign to influence American politics. Across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, they purported to offer “a word of truth” to African-American audiences. 
“We, the black people, we stand in one unity. We stand in one to say that Hillary Clinton is not our candidate,” one of the men says in a November video that warned Clinton “is going to stand for the Muslim. We don’t stand for her.” 
Williams and Kalvin’s content was pulled from Facebook in August after it was identified as a Russian government-backed propaganda account, The Daily Beast has confirmed with multiple sources familiar with the account and the reasons for its removal. Williams and Kalvin’s account was also suspended from Twitter in August. But the YouTube page for Williams and Kalvin remains live at press time. 
It’s reminiscent of the Russian attempts to impersonate a California-based Muslim group and piggyback off of the Black Lives Matter protests to spread the Kremlin’s message. But this time, the Kremlin operation used real people, not just memes and hijacked hashtags.

The discovery of living, breathing, real-life avatars for Kremlin talking points deepens and complicates the emerging picture of how Russian propaganda reached what Facebook alone estimated last week were 10 million users in the United States—a number considered by many outside experts to be a lowball estimate.

We're just now finding out how deep Silicon Valley's rabbit warren goes when it comes to taking Russian propaganda cash, and actively having their ad and promotion algorithms manipulated for maximum advantage.  If companies can micro-target people with SEO and tailor ads for specific products, why can't it be used for political ads?  And if it can be used for political ads, why can't it be used for much darker political purposes?

And yes the Washington Post is following up with the Russian buys extending to Google's ad network, DoubleClick.

Google for the first time has uncovered evidence that Russian operatives exploited the company’s platforms in an attempt to interfere in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the company's investigation. 
The Silicon Valley giant has found that tens of thousands of dollars were spent on ads by Russian agents who aimed to spread disinformation across Google’s many products, which include YouTube, as well as advertising associated with Google search, Gmail, and the company’s DoubleClick ad network, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss matters that have not been made public. Google runs the world’s largest online advertising business, and YouTube is the world’s largest online video site. 
The discovery by Google is also significant because the ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated troll farm that bought ads on Facebook -- a sign that the Russian effort to spread disinformation online may be a much broader problem than Silicon Valley companies have unearthed so far
Google previously downplayed the problem of Russian meddling on its platforms. Last month, Google spokeswoman Andrea Faville told The Washington Post that the company is "always monitoring for abuse or violations of our policies and we've seen no evidence this type of ad campaign was run on our platforms." 
Nevertheless, Google launched an investigation into the matter, as Congress pressed technology companies to determine how Russian operatives used social media, online advertising, and other digital tools to influence the 2016 presidential contest and foment discord in U.S. society. 
Google declined to provide a comment for this story. The people familiar with its investigation said that the company is looking at a set of ads that cost less than $100,000 and that it is still sorting out whether all of the ads came from trolls or whether some originated from legitimate Russian accounts.

The Russians had this figured out and they executed their attacks flawlessly. And as long as Trump remains in the White House and his GOP enablers remain in charge of Congress, we'll never know to what extent our political system remains compromised, and there's every reason to believe it will remained compromised for the foreseeable future.

If the Kremlin can put people making videos on YouTube, what else is a Russian front at this point?

A Real Corker Of A Fight

The Twitter fight over the weekend between Donald Trump and retiring Tennessee GOP Sen. Bob Corker got pretty heated, Trump accusing Corker of not having the guts to run again in 2018, Corker firing back that the White House was an "adult day care".  It resulted in a brutal Corker interview with the NY Times where the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman said Trump's recklessness would lead to World War III.

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.” 
In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”
“He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.” 
Mr. Corker’s comments capped a remarkable day of sulfurous insults between the president and the Tennessee senator — a powerful, if lame-duck, lawmaker, whose support will be critical to the president on tax reform and the fate of the Iran nuclear deal. 
It began on Sunday morning when Mr. Trump, posting on Twitter, accused Mr. Corker of deciding not to run for re-election because he “didn’t have the guts.” Mr. Corker shot back in his own tweet: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

The senator, Mr. Trump said, had “begged” for his endorsement. “I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement),” the president wrote. He also said that Mr. Corker had asked to be secretary of state. “I said ‘NO THANKS,’” he wrote. 
Mr. Corker flatly disputed that account, saying Mr. Trump had urged him to run again, and promised to endorse him if he did. But the exchange laid bare a deeper rift: The senator views Mr. Trump as given to irresponsible outbursts — a political novice who has failed to make the transition from show business. 
Mr. Trump poses such an acute risk, the senator said, that a coterie of senior administration officials must protect him from his own instincts. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Mr. Corker said in a telephone interview. 
The deeply personal back-and-forth will almost certainly rupture what had been a friendship with a fellow real estate developer turned elected official, one of the few genuine relationships Mr. Trump had developed on Capitol Hill. Still, even as he leveled his stinging accusations, Mr. Corker repeatedly said on Sunday that he liked Mr. Trump, until now an occasional golf partner, and wished him “no harm.” 
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on Mr. Corker’s remarks.

Considering Trump would need Corker's full support on just about anything foreign policy related (Iran, North Korea,  immigration, etc) or just as a reliable vote in general for his tax scheme, pissing Corker off is something that's probably going to cost Trump down the line.

But for Corker to unload like this and confirm that "several of his caucus" feel the same way about Trump is going to make things very uncomfortable for them in the coming days and weeks, as certainly they will be asked if they agree with Corker, and if so, what they plan to do about reining Trump in.

How much of this is kabuki I cannot say, Corker is after all retiring, and that's significant. So is your own party questioning the fitness of a sitting Oval Office occupant to do the job. Whether or not this is the fisrt crack in the dam of Trump support on Capitol Hill remains to be seen, but there certainly now precedent for the Senate GOP to trash Trump openly.

Stay tuned.  Blood is in the water and it's Shark Week.


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