Thursday, April 1, 2021

Last Call For A Supreme Disappointment, Con't

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court delivered a major Kavanaugh-authored opinion finding the FCC has the right to relax media ownership rules, as the determination of what determines media ownership by law rests with the FCC.

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the FCC was within its legal authority to relax a series of media ownership rules in 2017, when Republicans still held the majority.

In a unanimous opinion written by Brett Kavanaugh, the justices held that the FCC in 2017 “made a reasonable predictive judgment based on the evidence it had” in changing the rules. Back then, the commission, in a party line vote, lifted a ban on owning a broadcast station and newspaper in the same market. The FCC also made it easier for companies to own two of the top four TV stations in the same market, along with a series of other measures.

The public interest group Prometheus Radio Project challenged the changes, arguing that the FCC had failed to adequately consider the impact that they would have on minority and female ownership of media outlets.

Kavanuagh noted that “the FCC acknowledged the gaps in the data sets it relied on, and noted that, despite its repeated requests for additional data, it had received no countervailing evidence suggesting that changing the three ownership rules was likely to harm minority and female ownership.

“Prometheus also asserts that the FCC ignored two studies submitted by a commenter that purported to show that past relaxations of the ownership rules had led to decreases in minority and female ownership levels. But the record demonstrates that the FCC considered those studies and simply interpreted them differently,” he wrote.

He wrote that the Administrative Procedure Act, which spells out how agencies can set regulations, “imposes no general obligation on agencies to conduct or commission their own empirical or statistical studies.”

“In light of the sparse record on minority and female ownership and the FCC’s findings with respect to competition, localism, and viewpoint diversity, the Court cannot say that the agency’s decision to repeal or modify the ownership rules fell outside the zone of reasonableness for purposes of the APA,” he wrote.
The unanimous decision is disappointing, but it's one of those "the law is what the law is" things. The FCC gts to make its own determinations and deliberations on the field where they hold legal sway, because that's what the law says is supposed to happen.
We'll see what this means, but what this should mean is "stop electing Republicans to the White House, America".


Disinformation Innoculation

The Atlantic's Derek Thompson shreds COVID-19 vaccine disinformation con-man Alex Berenson, who remains FOX News's chief source of anti-vax bullshit "medical expert" when he's really just a former New York Times reporter turned Trumpist jackass.

The pandemic has made fools of many forecasters. Just about all of the predictions whiffed. Anthony Fauci was wrong about masks. California was wrong about the outdoors. New York was wrong about the subways. I was wrong about the necessary cost of pandemic relief. And the Trump White House was wrong about almost everything else.

In this crowded field of wrongness, one voice stands out. The voice of Alex Berenson: the former New York Times reporter, Yale-educated novelist, avid tweeter, online essayist, and all-around pandemic gadfly. Berenson has been serving up COVID-19 hot takes for the past year, blithely predicting that the United States would not reach 500,000 deaths (we’ve surpassed 550,000) and arguing that cloth and surgical masks can’t protect against the coronavirus (yes, they can).

Berenson has a big megaphone. He has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter and millions of viewers for his frequent appearances on Fox News’ most-watched shows. On Laura Ingraham’s show, he downplayed the vaccines, suggesting that Israel’s experience proved they were considerably less effective than initially claimed. On Tucker Carlson Tonight, he predicted that the vaccines would cause an uptick in cases of COVID-related illness and death in the U.S.

The vaccines have inspired his most troubling comments. For the past few weeks on Twitter, Berenson has mischaracterized just about every detail regarding the vaccines to make the dubious case that most people would be better off avoiding them. As his conspiratorial nonsense accelerates toward the pandemic’s finish line, he has proved himself the Secretariat of being wrong:

Usually, I would refrain from lavishing attention on someone so blatantly incorrect. But with vaccine resistance hovering around 30 percent of the general population, and with 40 percent of Republicans saying they won’t get a shot, debunking vaccine skepticism, particularly in right-wing circles, is a matter of life and death.

Berenson’s TV appearances are more misdirection than outright fiction, and his Twitter feed blends internet-y irony and scientific jargon in a way that may obscure what he’s actually saying. To pin him down, I emailed several questions to him last week. Below, I will lay out, as clearly and fairly as I can, his claims about the vaccines and how dangerously, unflaggingly, and superlatively wrong they are.

Before I go point by point through his wrong positions, let me be exquisitely clear about what is true. The vaccines work. They worked in the clinical trials, and they’re working around the world. The vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson seem to provide stronger and more lasting protection against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants than natural infection. They are excellent at reducing symptomatic infection. Even better, they are extraordinarily successful at preventing severe illness from COVID-19. Countries that have vaccinated large percentages of their population quickly, such as the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Israel, have all seen sharp and sustained declines in hospitalizations among the elderly. Meanwhile, countries that have lagged in the vaccination effort—including the U.K.’s neighbors France and Italy, and Israel’s neighbor Jordan—have struggled to contain the virus. The authorized vaccines are marvels, and the case against them relies on half-truths, untruths, and obfuscations.
Thompson's resulting takedown is a master class in dismantling a scam artist and grifter like Berenson and long overdue.
We need more Thompson and less Berenson, for sure.

Meathead Matt's Me Too Moment, Con't

The sexual assault scandal surrounding Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz just keeps getting worse, as the federal probe into his misconduct with an underage girl, itself sparked by a case against former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, now involves "at least one minor" and also apparently involves misconduct outside Florida as well.
The federal investigation into Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz is focused on allegations that the junior congressman had a sexual relationship with at least one minor, and is scrutinizing the Republican's conduct not only in Florida but outside the politician's home state too, three sources familiar with the investigation tell ABC News.

The investigation, first reported by the New York Times Tuesday and confirmed by ABC News, has sent shockwaves through Republican circles, particularly among close associates of former President Donald Trump, who considered Gaetz a staunch ally and loyal friend.

"I have not had a relationship with a 17-year-old. That is totally false," Gaetz told Fox News' Tucker Carlson in an interview Tuesday night. "That is false and records will bear that out to be false."

Sources told ABC News the investigation has been going on for months and began during the Trump administration. Former Attorney General Bill Barr was briefed on the investigation's progress several times, the sources said.

One source told ABC News that federal authorities have already interviewed multiple witnesses as part of their probe.

Gaetz has reportedly told confidants he is considering retiring from Congress and possibly joining the right-wing media outlet Newsmax, according to an Axios report earlier Tuesday.

Yet within the last several weeks Gaetz started reaching out to prominent attorneys, according to one source. The source said that one of the attorneys Gaetz asked to represent him was Washington attorney Bill Burck, who represented Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Don McGahn during the Mueller probe. Burck turned down the case, according to a person familiar with the decision.
This is a terrible story and Gaetz should immediately resign, frankly.
Politically though, I can't stress enough that Bill Barr knew about this for months and didn't say a word. The Trumpies seemed shocked by it all too, indicating Donald Trump wasn't told about it. Since Trump can't keep a damn secret, especially if it gives him leverage over someone, he would have blurted it out on Twitter months ago if he had.

Makes you wonder what other secrets that Bil Barr hid from Trump...and what current Biden AG Merrick Garland now knows...
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