Thursday, September 21, 2023

Last Call For Logan Roy Takes A Victory Lap

Having all but destroyed the American political media landscape, FOX Corp. and News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch is stepping down to bask in his dark brilliance.
Rupert Murdoch, the Australian press baron who reshaped conservative media in his image, plans to step down as chairman of Fox Corp. and News Corp.

He will become chairman emeritus of the two corporations, Fox Corp. announced in a news release. His older son, Lachlan Murdoch, will become the sole chairman of both the firms.

"For my entire professional life, I have been engaged daily with news and ideas, and that will not change. But the time is right for me to take on different roles," Murdoch, 92, said in a six-paragraph message to employees Thursday.

"In my new role, I can guarantee you that I will be involved every day in the contest of ideas," he wrote.

Fox Corp. said in its news release that Murdoch will formally resign at a shareholder meeting in November.

The mogul's resignation marks the end of one of the most storied careers in modern media. Murdoch built a small Australian newspaper business into a sprawling corporate empire that, at its height, included a movie studio, a television network and a roster of cable channels.

The media titan's most lasting legacy will almost certainly be Fox News, the 24/7 network he founded in 1996 as a competitor to CNN. The channel cultivated a devoted audience in the decades to come, establishing itself as a pillar of the modern conservative movement.

In recent years, Fox News opinion hosts have drawn intense criticism for pushing conspiracy theories and falsehoods, including airing baseless claims of voter fraud after then-President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden.

Fox Corp. and Fox News were sued over those false allegations, most notably by Dominion Voting Systems, which settled with the companies for a staggering $787.5 million in April, averting what had promised to be a high-stakes trial.

The media magnate looms large in popular consciousness. In the eyes of many progressives and Democratic voters, Fox News is a scourge, while many Republicans regard Murdoch as a folk hero. The Murdoch family's private dramas helped inspire the HBO series "Succession."

Murdoch's departure comes at a pivotal time for the conservative media ecosystem. Fox News remains the market leader in right-wing news, but the channel faces competition from brands such as Newsmax, One America News Network and The Daily Wire.

It remains to be seen whether Fox News opinion hosts under the new corporate regime will continue to bind themselves to Trump, who leads the Republican presidential primary race by wide margins.
It doesn't matter how much of the day-to-day decisions at FOX or News Corp. that dark lord emeritus here handles in the next year or so, if Trump wins, Murdoch gets as much credit as anyone for ending America's 250-year experiment in democracy.

He's one of history's greatest villains. Well, at least in the 21st century he is.

The Country Goes Viral, Con't

As the latest variant of Covid ravages the country this fall, more Americans than ever have given up on vaccines and boosters, and the Biden administration has quietly folded efforts to fight vaccine disinformation after being blocked by Republicans in Congress and by the Supreme Court on what they can actually accomplish.
A Biden administration that vowed to restore Americans’ faith in public health has grown increasingly paralyzed over how to combat the resurgence in vaccine skepticism.

And internally, aides and advisers concede there is no comprehensive plan for countering a movement that’s steadily expanded its influence on the president’s watch.

The rising appeal of anti-vaccine activism has been underscored by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s insurgent presidential campaign and fueled by prominent factions of the GOP. The mainstreaming of a once-fringe movement has horrified federal health officials, who blame it for seeding dangerous conspiracy theories and bolstering a Covid-era backlash to the nation’s broader public health practices.

But as President Joe Biden ramps up a reelection campaign centered on his vision for a post-pandemic America, there’s little interest among his aides in courting a high-profile vaccine fight — and even less certainty of how to win.

“There’s a real challenge here,” said one senior official who’s worked on the Covid response and was granted anonymity to speak candidly. “But they keep just hoping it’ll go away.”

The White House’s reticence is compounded by legal and practical concerns that have cut off key avenues for repelling the anti-vaccine movement, according to interviews with eight current and former administration officials and others close to the process.

Biden officials have felt handcuffed for the past two years by a Republican lawsuit over the administration’s initial attempt to clamp down on anti-vaxxers, who alleged the White House violated the First Amendment in encouraging social media companies to crack down on anti-vaccine posts. That suit, they believe, has limited their ability to police disinformation online. In addition, Congress is clawing back Covid funds once earmarked for vaccine education and outreach. And Biden himself has opted to largely ignore Kennedy’s campaign, concluding there’s no political benefit to engaging with the increasingly longshot challenger or his conspiratorial views.

The approach has given conservative influencers and lawmakers who have embraced Kennedy and other vaccine skeptics more space to promote their views and tout themselves as free speech warriors doing battle against the Biden administration.

And the impact is clear: As another Covid vaccination campaign gets underway, fewer Americans than ever have kept up to date on their shots. Child vaccination rates against the flu are measurably lower than before the pandemic. Even standard childhood inoculations to prevent diseases like the measles are subject to deepening partisan divisions, with recent polling showing Republicans are now more than twice as likely to believe the shots should be optional than they did in 2019. Democrats, by contrast, remain overwhelmingly in favor of childhood vaccine requirements.

We can see a long-term future where kids aren’t going to get vaccinated in schools, diseases that we once thought had ended will roar back and kids will get sick and die from 100 percent preventable conditions,” said Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown University public health professor who has advised the White House. “This will cost lives in the long term.”
Science won many battles over the last three years, but the anti-vaxxers have all but won the war politically, and it's going to cost thousands upon thousands of preventable deaths in the years ahead.

I don't know how we fix this, either. The Roberts Court has made it clear that the government can't mandate vaccinations, and corporations can't require them for employment. Increasingly, schools are being blocked from requiring them for attendance as entire school districts are getting sick and schools having to shut down because of lack of healthy staff or students.

Hospitalizations are up as I pointed out at the top of the post, and we're in as bad of a situation as we were in 2020, only we have the vaccines ready and much fewer people are using them.

Please get the latest booster. Trust me when I say you never know what's around the corner in life...or death.

Garland, Wreathed In Fire

Jim Jordan and the House Oversight Clown Show came for Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday, and through the fire and flames he withstood it all.
Garland — carefully and deliberately — defended the country’s largest law enforcement agency of more than 115,000 employees at a time when political and physical threats against agents and their families are on the rise.

“Our job is not to take orders from the president, from Congress, or from anyone else, about who or what to criminally investigate,” the attorney general said. “I am not the president’s lawyer. I will also add that I am not Congress’ prosecutor. The Justice Department works for the American people.”

Questioning in the Republicans’ arsenal focused on allegations that the Justice Department interfered in the yearslong case into Hunter Biden and that the prosecutor in charge of that case did not have the full authority he needed to bring necessary charges.

Republican Mike Johnson of Louisiana asked Garland whether he had talked with anyone at FBI headquarters about the Hunter Biden investigation. The attorney general’s response began with a long pause before he said: “I don’t recollect the answer to that question,” later adding “I don’t believe that I did.”

Garland then said repeatedly that he purposely kept the details of the investigation at arms length, to keep his promise not to interfere.

His testimony came just over a week after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., launched an impeachment inquiry into Garland’s boss, President Biden, with a special focus on the Justice Department’s handling of Hunter Biden’s case.

The White House has dismissed the impeachment inquiry as baseless and has worked to focus the conversation on policy instead.

“These sideshows won’t spare House Republicans from bearing responsibility for inflicting serious damage on the country,” Ian Sams, a White House spokesperson, said in a statement Wednesday.

Hunter Biden’s legal team, on the other hand, has gone on the offensive against GOP critics, most recently filing suit against the Internal Revenue Service after two of its agents raised whistleblower claims to Congress about the handling of the investigation.

Republicans contend that the Justice Department — both under Trump and now Biden — has failed to fully probe the allegations against the younger Biden, ranging from his work on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma to his tax filings in California and Washington D.C.

An investigation into Hunter Biden had been run by the U.S. Attorney for Delaware, Trump appointee David Weiss, who Garland kept on to finish the probe and insulate it from claims of political interference. Garland granted Weiss special counsel status last month, giving him broad authority to investigate and report his findings.

Last week, Weiss used that new authority to indict Hunter Biden on federal firearms charges, putting the case on track toward a possible trial as the 2024 election looms.

When asked by Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., whether he had tried to figure out if Weiss was facing any hurdles in bringing charges against the president’s son, Garland said he had purposely kept his distance to keep a promise not to interfere.

“The way to not interfere was to not investigate an investigation,” Garland said.

One Republican during the more than five-hour hearing came to Garland’s defense

Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, a former Justice Department prosecutor, told Garland that he was in an impossible situation after inheriting an investigation into the president’s son and would have been criticized no matter what.

“Do you know what people would have said if you had asked for U.S. Attorney Weiss’ resignation when you became attorney general?” Buck asked Garland. “They would have said that you were obstructing the Hunter Biden investigation and you were firing a Republican appointee so that you could appoint a Democrat to slow walk this investigation.”

He added, “You would have been criticized either way, whether you acted or did not act in that situation.”

Weiss, since 2018, has overseen the day-to-day running of the probe, while another special counsel, Jack Smith, is in charge of the Trump investigation, though Garland retains final say on both as attorney general.

Garland said no one at the White House had given him or other senior officials at the Justice Department direction about the handling of the Hunter Biden investigation. Asked whether he had spoken with Weiss, Garland said he had followed his pledge not to interfere in the investigation but declined to say whether or how often he had spoken with the newly named special counsel, citing the ongoing investigation.
Ken Buck may be the last non-clown in the circus. That doesn't mean much, as I'm sure Buck will be neutered or driven out of the House. But Garland has done his job, despite flames from both the left and the right. 

We'll see how the trials and tribulations go. But what's going on with Donald Trump is not equal to what the Bidens are being put through. Not by a long shot.
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