Saturday, August 31, 2019

Last Call For Trump State TV

Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent makes some excellent points here about Trump's fight with Fox News as State television, but the reality is that this is all the media equivalent of pro wrestling kayfabe to give Fox News plausible deniability as a "real" news outlet, and I'm suprised that Sargent can't see the rope-a-dope here.

For days now, President Trump has been embroiled in a public feud of sorts with Fox News, because he’s angry that the network isn’t functioning dutifully enough as his 24/7 propaganda channel.

This is mostly being discussed as another turn in Trump’s ongoing war on the media, one in which his ire has boomeranged on his media supporters. But the story here is bigger than this: Trump’s battle with Fox illuminates the multi-tentacled manner in which Trump is corrupting our democracy and political system, in a new and interesting way.

On Thursday night, Fox’s Neil Cavuto unleashed a lengthy rebuke to Trump. In it, Cavuto pointedly noted: “Mr. President, we don’t work for you.”

This was a response to Trump’s rage-tweet excoriating the network: “We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us anymore!”

Trump is angry, Cavuto argued, because on occasion Fox doesn’t sufficiently whitewash his failures and lies. Cavuto noted that Trump chafes because Fox covers bad economic numbers, market drops and Trump’s ongoing trade disasters, and because Fox has pointed out that Trump lied when he claimed Mexico would pay for his wall, that Russia didn’t interfere in 2016, and that he inherited a recession from Barack Obama.
“To fact check him is to be all but dead to him,” Cavuto said, adding that many Trump supporters had contacted him to tell him that “I am either with him totally, or I am a Never Trumper fully.”

My purpose here is not to defend Fox. Yes, its news anchors sometimes do cover the administration aggressively, but the news coverage also has a heavy pro-Trump tilt, and its opinion hosts regularly traffic in outright pro-Trump agitprop and white nationalist conspiracy theories.

As Margaret Sullivan puts it, Fox writ large and Trump are the “conjoined twins of misinformation.” If anything, Trump’s attacks have given the network a way to hype its largely nonexistent independence from him.

Rather, what’s interesting here is Cavuto’s declaration that many Trump supporters have come to expect and demand from Fox absolute fealty to their leader.

Cavuto deserves some credit. In his rebuke, he exposed many of the false storylines that intertwine in Trump’s preferred narrative of the last few years: Russia never tried to sabotage our political system on his behalf. Trump deserves total credit for what has been good about the economy, having inherited nothing but wreckage from the Obama years. All the recent bad economic news is fake news, as are claims that Trump’s unhinged handling of trade is helping cause it. Trump’s buffoonish vow to subjugate Mexico and force it to pay for his wall has proved to be a mirage

C'mon Greg, you're being played here.  Give Neil Cavuto some credit?  That's exactly the angle that FOX News and Trump are working here.  Of course FOX is state TV.  The point here in admitting what everybody knows is so it can be countered by liberal columnists saying that FOX News deserves credit for "fighting" Trump. 

You can't say in one breath that FOX News is pushing white supremacy propaganda (which it is) and then say they get credit for standing up to Trump once in a while when even they get tired of coming up with excuses for his lies.

This is all 100% kabuki here and it was planned from the get-go.  FOX News can claim they are objective when it comes to Trump, and Trump can rile up his base with a fight tailor-made for them to watch, it's all a good show.  We're no longer asking if FOX being state TV is good or bad, we're now discussing the reframed fight on whether or not they are sufficiently deferential to Trump.

I honestly am shocked that Sargent doesn't get this soap opera.  This is Trump playing the distraction card 101 and he's falling for it, but media folks stick together.  In the end, they go to the same cocktail parties and their kids go to the same private schools and they know each other professionally and personally and they think it's one big game that each of them really has figured out.

I'm tired of it.

The American Dream Is In Canada

America's middle class is vanishing, millions of us are falling through the cracks every year, but north of the border our Canadian neighbors are finding the opportunities that have permanently passed a generation of Americans by.

Everybody knows that the U.S. version of capitalism is rougher and tougher than is the norm in other affluent countries. The rich are richer here, the poor poorer and the welfare state less exhaustive. Not surprisingly, the U.S. scores poorly versus other rich nations in terms of health outcomes, education levels and other such metrics.

Defenders of the U.S. approach can point, though, to the fact that per-capita gross domestic product has remained higher in the U.S. than in all but a few small nations with unique characteristics (Qatar, Luxembourg, Singapore, Switzerland, Norway, etc.) — so much higher that even with the less-equal income distribution here, most Americans continue to have higher incomes than their peers in other large, affluent countries.

Times may be changing, though, and international income comparisons are definitely getting more precise. Five years ago, David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy of the New York Times showed using numbers from the Luxembourg Income Study Database that the median income in Canada had caught up with that of the U.S. as of 2010, and speculated that Canada had probably passed the U.S. since. (The median is the income of a person in the middle of the income distribution, with as many people earning more as earning less.)

Now there’s more evidence. A report released this summer by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, an Ottawa nonprofit, contends that as of 2016 Canada had in fact pulled ahead of the U.S. in median household income, with a $59,438 to $58,849 advantage in U.S. dollars if (and this is a reasonably big if) you use the Canadian government statistical agency’s formula for converting Canadian dollars into U.S. ones. The study also compares incomes in every percentile of the income distribution, and finds that up through the 56th percentile Canadians are better off than their U.S. counterparts.

Canada's middle class is growing.  America's is shrinking.  And it's not just Canada who has caught up to us.

It’s not just in Canada that those in the middle of the income distribution have been gaining on their American peers. From 1990 through 2018, according to the World Bank, per-capita real gross domestic product grew at the same 1.5% annual rate in the U.S., the European Union and the OECD, which counts 36 affluent democracies on five continents as members. 1 In other words, the rough-and-tough U.S. approach to capitalism hasn’t delivered faster per-capita growth, and because growth in the U.S. has been concentrated at the very top of the income distribution, that means Americans in the middle and the bottom have been losing ground to their counterparts in other countries.

As of the mid-1980s, according to Luxembourg Income Study data originally compiled for the Times’ 2014 article, those in the bottom 20% of the income distribution in Canada and at least five European countries were on average better off than the bottom 20% in the U.S., but by the fourth decile (30th percentile to 40th percentile), average U.S. incomes were higher than all but Luxembourg’s. By 2010, U.S. fourth-decilers had also fallen behind Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Canada.

Given the excruciatingly slow pace of economic growth in Europe after 2010, I would guess that the continent’s catch-up march has slowed or stalled since then. My reading of another data source, the World Inequality Database created by French economist Thomas Piketty and several collaborators, 2 is that the middle 40% of the income distribution (the 30th percentile to the 70th percentile) in the Netherlands passed the U.S. middle 40% in 2007, then fell behind again in 2013. Still, the long-run trend is important.

The bottom line: When it comes to improving the lives of the middle class, other rich countries have been doing a better job than the United States.

Obama did what he could considering the massive recession Bush 43 handed him, but America's middle class destruction has only gotten worse in the age of Trump.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Donald Trump continues to be the most infamous Russian asset in US history, and his performance at last weekend's G-7 summit in France made it clear to the world that America now works solely to help Moscow.

Trump's attendance at the G7 summit was peppered with controversy, but none was more notable than his fervent defense of Russia's military and cyber aggression around the world, and its violation of international law in Ukraine.

Trump repeatedly refused to hold Russia accountable for annexing Crimea in 2014, blamed former President Barack Obama for Russia's move to annex it, expressed sympathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and castigated other G7 members for not giving the country a seat at the table.

John Sipher, a former CIA clandestine operative who spent 28 years at the agency, told Insider of Trump's G7 attendance, "If it weren't for his constant shocking behavior and comments that have dulled our senses, this would register as one of the worst diplomatic blunders in years."

Since being booted from the G8 after annexing Crimea, Russia's done little to make up for its actions. In fact, by many accounts, it's stepped up its aggression.

In addition to continuing to encroach on Ukraine, the Russian government interfered in the 2016 US election and was behind the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy in the UK. US officials also warn that as the 2020 election looms, the Russians are stepping up their cyberactivities against the US and have repeatedly tried to attack US power grids.

"What in God's name made Trump think it would be a good idea to ask to bring Russia back to the table?" the FBI agent told Insider. "How does this serve US national-security interests?"

Trump's advocacy for Russia is renewing concerns among intelligence veterans that Trump may be a Russian "asset" who can be manipulated or influenced to serve Russian interests, although some also speculate that Trump could just be currying favor for future business deals.

A former senior Justice Department official, who worked closely with the former special counsel Robert Mueller when he was FBI director, didn't mince words when reacting to Trump's performance at the G7 summit: "We have a Russian asset sitting in the Oval Office." 

Putin, the former GRU spymaster, treats Trump like an asset to be handled.  It's worked to the point of fulfilling Putin's wildest dreams.  Trump continues to be manipulated on a weekly basis by his regular contact with Putin, and in turn Trump makes Putin's case for him on the international stage.

It's obvious to anyone watching, and just as obvious that Putin in 100% in control of the man in the Oval Office.

And we do nothing about it.

Welcome To Bevinstan, Donny Jr.

Donald Trump Jr. came to Kentucky this week to stump for GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, and basically nobody cared.

Donald Trump Jr. spoke to a mostly-empty arena in Pikeville Thursday afternoon, hoping to muster support within a historically Democratic county for the reelection of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

Like much of Eastern Kentucky, Pike County has long been a Democratic stronghold, but swung to the right during the last presidential election in a landslide victory for President Donald Trump.

Bevin won Pike County four years ago with 54.8% of the vote, but he narrowly lost Pike County and many other Eastern Kentucky counties to a lesser-known opponent during the 2019 Republican primary. He received fewer votes in Floyd, Johnson and Pike counties than Democrat Rocky Adkins, the most popular candidate within the region. Adkins lost to Attorney General Andy Beshear statewide.

As Bevin ramps up his reelection efforts, Trump Jr.’s visit illustrates his attempt to lean on President Trump’s popularity as he attempts to win over Registered Democrats who voted for Trump.

During the rally, Trump Jr. acknowledged this dichotomy to the crowd, saying he understood the cultural implications of the region’s historic alliance with Democrats, but that “this is not your grandfather’s Democratic Party.”

Trump Jr. spoke mostly about the successes of his father as president. He railed against Hillary Clinton and the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election by Robert Mueller, and against the media’s perceived bias against Trump.

In an area ravaged by the continuous decline of coal production, Trump Jr. also touted his father’s attempts to bolster economic growth within the manufacturing and energy sectors. He complimented Bevin for similar efforts within Kentucky.

“Bevin is selling Kentucky and bringing jobs here,” Trump Jr. said.

Matt Bevin of course remains the most unpopular governor in America and all the polls show him losing substantially to Andy Beshear in nine weeks, but we'll see.  As Bevin keeps reminding everyone who will listen, the polls showed him losing to Jack Conway four years ago, right up until the polls were off by 14 points.

It was a far cry from the Trump Senior campaign event with Bevin in Louisville last weekend but nobody seems pretty keen on Bevin winning right now.

Bevin's a loser, and Trump doesn't like losers.
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