Sunday, September 9, 2018

Last Call For The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

I haven't said too much about the Democrats retaking the Senate because despite being down 51-49, Democrats have ten seats to defend in states Trump carried in 2016.  To think that Democrats would win all ten and then pick up two more seats on top of that in Arizona and Nevada meant that they would have to be perfect 12 of 12 in those contests with zero room for error.

There's now room for error, with Phil Breseden in Tennessee and Beto O'Rourke in Texas making two more Democratic pickups in play.

NBC News released a poll of Tennesseeconducted with Marist on Thursday, and Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen has a statistically insignificant 2 percentage point lead over Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn among likely voters. Among all registered voters, Bredesesn's lead expands to 4 points, 48 percent to 44 percent. Both results are within the poll's margin of error (±4.5 points for registered voters, ±5.5 points for likely voters), but combined with NBC/Marist polls this week from Indiana and Missouri, they suggest Democrats have a shot at winning control of the Senate in November, despite an unfavorable map. 
Bredesen, a popular former governor, and Blackburn are running to succeed Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). Democrats, meanwhile, are defending Senate seats in Missouri, Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri, Florida, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states President Trump won in 2016. They need a net gain of two seats to win control, and their best shots of flipping seats are Arizona and Nevada. 
In NBC/Marist's poll of Indiana released Wednesday, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) leads GOP challenger Mike Braun 49 percent to 43 percent among likely voters, just outside the poll's ±5 point margin of error. In Missouri, Tuesday's NBC/Marist poll found Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and state Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) tied in a two-way race, 47 percent each, and McCaskill takes a 4-point lead if Libertarian and Green candidates are included. All three polls were conducted Aug. 25-29. Political handicapper Stuart Rothenberg, looking at those polls and others in Florida, West Virginia, and elsewhere, sees new hope for the Democrats.

Of course, at this point in 2016, Hillary Clinton had 1 70% chance of winning too, which is about what Democrats have of winning the House back.

There's still plenty of time for things to go wrong, and Democrats cannot forget that.

Another #MeToo Mogul Meets His Maker

Another powerful Hollywood executive is being shown the door, this time it's CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, who is now leaving the network over sexual harassment claims, and the fact they're bad for business, and Ronan Farrow has followed up his July expose' on Moonves with what was the final nail in his coffin.  (Bit of a language warning here.)

Members of the board of the CBS Corporation are negotiating with the company’s chairman and C.E.O., Leslie Moonves, about his departure. Sources familiar with the board’s activities said the discussions about Moonves stepping down began several weeks ago, after an article published in the The New Yorker detailed allegations by six women that the media executive had sexually harassed them, and revealed complaints by dozens of others that the culture in some parts of the company tolerated sexual misconduct. Since then, the board has selected outside counsel to lead an investigation into the claims.

As the negotiations continue and shareholders and advocacy groups accuse the board of failing to hold Moonves accountable, new allegations are emerging. Six additional women are now accusing Moonves of sexual harassment or assault in incidents that took place between the nineteen-eighties and the early aughts. They include claims that Moonves forced them to perform oral sex on him, that he exposed himself to them without their consent, and that he used physical violence and intimidation against them. A number of the women also said that Moonves retaliated after they rebuffed him, damaging their careers. Similar frustrations about perceived inaction have prompted another woman to raise a claim of misconduct against Jeff Fager, the executive producer of “60 Minutes,” who previously reported to Moonves as the chairman of CBS News.

One of the women with allegations against Moonves, a veteran television executive named Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, told me that she filed a criminal complaint late last year with the Los Angeles Police Department, accusing Moonves of physically restraining her and forcing her to perform oral sex on him, and of exposing himself to her and violently throwing her against a wall in later incidents. The two worked together in the late nineteen-eighties. Law-enforcement sources told me that they found Golden-Gottlieb’s allegations credible and consistent but prosecutors declined to pursue charges because the statutes of limitations for the crimes had expired. Early this year, Moonves informed a portion of the CBS board about the criminal investigation.

The terms of Moonves’s potential departure have yet to be settled. Last week, news reports had circulated that he might leave with an exit package of nearly a hundred million dollars. Several of the women expressed outrage that Moonves might be enriched by his departure from the company. Jessica Pallingston, a writer, alleges that Moonves coerced her into performing oral sex on him when she worked as his temporary assistant, in the nineties, and that, after she repelled subsequent sexual advances, he became hostile, at one point calling her a “cunt.” “It’s completely disgusting,” she said of the reports of Moonves’s potential exit package. “He should take all that money and give it to an organization that helps survivors of sexual abuse.”

In a statement, Moonves acknowledged three of the encounters, but said that they were consensual: “The appalling accusations in this article are untrue. What is true is that I had consensual relations with three of the women some 25 years ago before I came to CBS. And I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women. In my 40 years of work, I have never before heard of such disturbing accusations. I can only surmise they are surfacing now for the first time, decades later, as part of a concerted effort by others to destroy my name, my reputation, and my career. Anyone who knows me knows that the person described in this article is not me.” Moonves declined to specify which three encounters he considered consensual.

In separate statements, the CBS board of directors said that it “is committed to a thorough and independent investigation of the allegations, and that investigation is actively underway,” and the CBS Corporation said it “takes these allegations very seriously,” and called the board’s investigation “thorough” and “ongoing.”

Again, hours after this piece was published, CBS announce Moonves was gone as of Monday. Hollywood still has much to answer for, but it's being cleaned up one asshole at a time.

Sunday Long Reads: Playing Duterte Pool

If you want to know where the FAKE NEWS!!! regime of Donald Trump's use of social media and FOX News as state media is heading, ask somebody we know that Trump admires and wishes to emulate.

In August 2016, a handful of crude images began circulating widely throughout Facebook’s Filipino community: a middle-aged man and woman having clumsy sex atop a tacky floral bedspread. The man’s face, obscured by shadows, was impossible to make out. The woman’s was not. She appeared to be Sen. Leila de Lima — a fierce critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his bloody war on drugs.

But the woman was not de Lima.

The senator issued a strong public denial (“That’s not me. I don’t understand”) and internet sleuths subsequently tracked the provenance of the images to a porn site. Still, the doctored photos very quickly became part of a narrative propagated by Duterte, who had accused de Lima of accepting bribes from drug pushers. Duterte, who’d previously threatened to “destroy” de Lima in public, touted the pictures as stills from a sex tape featuring the senator and her chauffeur — the person she'd allegedly ordered to collect illicit payments on her behalf. “De Lima is not only screwing her driver, she is also screwing the nation,” Duterte said in September. If he were de Lima, the president added, he would hang himself. (“We believe the president was referring to another video,” Martin Andanar, communications secretary of the Duterte administration, told BuzzFeed News.)

De Lima was soon beset by disparaging fake news reports that spread quickly across Facebook: She had pole-danced for a convict; she’d used government funds to buy a $6 million mansion in New York; the Queen of England had congratulated the Philippine Senate for ousting her. Six months later, her reputation fouled, de Lima was arrested and detained on drug charges, though she vehemently disputes them. She has now been in jail for over a year, despite outcry from international human rights groups over what they consider a politically motivated detention.

For all the recent hand-wringing in the United States over Facebook’s monopolistic power, the mega-platform’s grip on the Philippines is something else entirely. Thanks to a social media–hungry populace and heavy subsidies that keep Facebook free to use on mobile phones, Facebook has completely saturated the country. And because using other data, like accessing a news website via a mobile web browser, is precious and expensive, for most Filipinos the only way online is through Facebook. The platform is a leading provider of news and information, and it was a key engine behind the wave of populist anger that carried Duterte all the way to the presidency.

Yet some Filipinos say Facebook treats the Philippines as an absentee landlord might, occasionally dropping by to address minor issues but often shrugging off responsibility for the larger, more problematic stuff: the conspiracies that helped land de Lima in jail, the misinformation that has clouded the public’s understanding of a brutal drug war, and the propaganda that continues to damage the democratic process in the Philippines.

“Until we find an effective way to counter” the misinformation problem in the Philippines, de Lima wrote to BuzzFeed News from Camp Crame, where she is imprisoned, “we cannot hope to repair the damage [it’s] already caused and to ensure it can never hijack our democratic way of life again.”

Facebook told BuzzFeed News the images violated its policies and were removed. The company also noted that it eventually prevented links to bogus reports about de Lima from being shared on its platform — but only after de Lima had been arrested.

Yet it is the photos, more than the links to fake news, that show what Facebook and the Philippines are up against. Unlike the fake news scandals in the US, which often sought to drive readers to third-party sites, misinformation campaigns in the Philippines live largely on Facebook itself. It is images, Facebook Live videos, and posts written directly on the platform; a never-ending meme-driven propaganda campaign that’s easier to share and harder to police.

If you want to know what happens to a country that has opened itself entirely to Facebook, look to the Philippines. What happened there — what continues to happen there — is both an origin story for the weaponization of social media and a peek at its dystopian future. It’s a society where, increasingly, the truth no longer matters, propaganda is ubiquitous, and lives are wrecked and people die as a result — half a world away from the Silicon Valley engineers who’d promised to connect their world.

"Weaponized social media" is a very good term, because it's what America is facing under Trump.  It's been fully weaponized by a bloody dictator in the Philippines, and it's being used to destroy and detain Duterte's political foes.

We're not that far away from that happening in the US, either.

Maybe just one election away, at most.

The Revenge Of Obamacare

Eight years after passing it ended up costing Democrats more than 70 House seats and a dozen Senate seats, the Affordable Care Act (and the Republican plans to dismantle it and take health care away from millions in red states with large white working-class voter blocs) just might save the necks of Blue Dog Democratic senators like Joe Manchin in November.

In a state where approval of President Trump is near the country’s highest, Mr. Manchin, a Democrat, was once thought to be deeply endangered in his re-election this year. But the 71-year-old incumbent, who likes to say “Washington sucks,” has a 7- to 10-point polling edge over his Republican opponent, Patrick Morrisey. A lot can happen before Election Day, but for now, he is the envy of other red-state Democrats as the parties wrestle over control of the Senate.

For an explanation, look no further than the issue Mr. Manchin has made No. 1 in his campaign: health care, specifically protections enshrined in the Affordable Care Act, a once-vilified law that has grown increasingly popular now that its benefits are woven deeply into a state with high poverty and poor health. West Virginia has the highest share of its population covered by Medicaid, 29 percent, including about 160,000 who became eligible in the Medicaid expansion under the law.

Mr. Manchin, a former governor and the state’s dominant politician for more than a decade, rarely cites the law’s formal name, much less its toxic-for-West Virginia nickname, “Obamacare.”

But he has relentlessly raised the alarm over the potential loss of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, about one in three West Virginians.

Mr. Morrisey, the state attorney general, practically handed him the issue by joining a new lawsuit seeking to repeal the health care law, which Mr. Morrisey calls “devastating” because of rising premiums in the individual market.

A federal judge in Texas heard arguments Wednesday in the case, which was brought by Republican state officials from around the country. If they win and the Affordable Care Act, or pieces of it, falls, an estimated 17 million Americans will lose coverage. And in a change that would affect far more people, insurers would once again be able to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions or charge them more.

Democrats have seized on the lawsuit to defend endangered senators in red states, including North Dakota, Montana and Missouri.

But few are using it to galvanize votes as aggressively as Mr. Manchin, whose state has epidemic levels of diabetes, heart disease and opioid addiction. His TV ads star West Virginians with pre-existing conditions. He hosts round tables on the topic. And in the Senate, he introduced a resolution to fight the Republican lawsuit.

Running on health care is designed to overcome his chief vulnerability: Mr. Trump’s 60 percent job approval here.

Jimmy Ulbrich, from nearby Dawes, is a prime target. “He is bringing America back the way it should be,” Mr. Ulbrich, 48, said of Mr. Trump. But Mr. Ulbrich, who is disabled, does not like the idea of overturning the Affordable Care Act. “I guess Joe Manchin gets my vote,” he said.

The racist game show host is gonna make America white again, but in the unhealthiest state in the nation, people don't want to lose their government health care, either.

And that's how Joe Manchin, Jon Tester, and Heidi Heitkamp are going to win.

I hate Joe Manchin, he's an asshole and he regularly sabotages progressive legislation.  There's a reason his StupidiTag for years has been "Joe F'ckin Manchin".

But West Virginia gets two Senators like every other state, and if we can get a Democratic one in every red state and win back the House, we'd have a hell of a lot fewer problems.

Give people in red states reason to vote blue.  "I don't want to lose my health care" is a damn good reason, so more power to Manchin.

Maybe it'll work in Texas, too.
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