Friday, January 26, 2018

George Carlin on Bipartisan Politics

George Carlin on Bipartisan Politics

Then again, George Carlin believed that politicians can not be honest. 

On Behind the Lines Flanks From the Left

Senator Joe Manchin on Democrat Politics

Two term Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) reluctantly announced his re-election effort for the 2018 election cycle. His candidacy is the strongest of the nine Democrat incumbents who are defending in states which voted for President Donald Trump.  But Machin's blunt talk to fellow Democrats reveals a rift in the Democrat party.  Manchin will likely have a challenger from the left, coming from the "Feel the Bern" wing of the party.

Even Democrats in the leadership are at risk from flanks from the left.  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who was the face of the "Schumer Shutdown" supposedly to advance the DACA Deal, had protests staged around his residence by leftists who thought the Democrats wimped out for only having a three day government shutdown. These are indications that the far left is asserting its authority over the Democrat Party and it is not just centrists like Senator Manchin who will be scorned if they do not dance their progressive tarantella. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Answer Is.... Noprah!

After Oprah Winfrey's rousing speech at the Golden Globe Awards as she accepted the Cecile B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, there was a media driven boomlet promoting her to run for the White House in 2020 against President Trump.

But in an interview with Lifestyle Magazine, Ms. Winfrey shied away from that prospect by declaring that she did not have the DNA  for the campaign. 

So it seems that there will not be a head-to-head contest to be celebrity President.

That is unless Shark Tank's Mark Cuban tosses his hat into the ring. 

On the Missing FBI Texts

Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the Missing FBI Texts

Senator Tom Cotton on the DACA Deal

Senator Tom Cotton on the perils of amnesty in a DACA deal

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Some Thoughts Should Be Kept Close to the ScotteVest (sic)

Scott Jordan is an entrepreneur who developed a line of clothing which allows for fashionably carrying gadgets within the garments.  Jordan even went on ABC's Shark Tank in 2012 in a bid to raise funds for his technology enabled clothing (but Jordan  rejected the the offers). 

ScotteVest snowballed into a $10 million company by 2015.

ScotteVest's pricey e-commerce product line  were often seen advertised on Fox News, presumably to appeal to geeky traveling businessmen who tired of fumbling gadgets when they went through TSA lines.

ScotteVest CEO Scott Jordan may have unraveled this fashion market niche by oversharing on social media.  Scott Jordan had developed a reputation of being an outspoken CEO on social media, pumping products and pimping his progressive politics. However Jordan recently shared on Facebook a smarmy post which revealed marketing strategy while denigrating his customers.

While one could certainly see a small time celebutard who is full of himself to contemptuously sneer at the little people on whom you've made your millions while taking  a chair lift in Ketchum ski resort.  But it is almost unfathomable that he would share this "burn" on social media. It really makes one wonder, to use Jordan's parlance, who is the "f**king idiot?

After Jordan's Facebook faux-pas festered for a few days, the ScotteVest CEO posted an incomplete apology on Twitter, which linked to the original Facebook post. Unfortunately, the Facebook post had been deleted.  

No doubt that this story certainly won't make ScotteVest's media buzz page. But the internet never forgets. The question is whether ScotteVest's customers will be willing to forget that they are considered to be gullible f**king idiots" by the guy profiting from their sales.

Social Media is a wonderful way for companies to reach customers. One need not be "Always Be Closing" when sharing on social media and genuineness is a way to cement bonds with fickle customers of an expensive, niche products.  But denigrating the demographic which lined one's pockets is an odd way to reach out to customers.  A smart CEO would have kept his crass critiques of customers closer to his ScotteVest. 

Enjoy your  après-ski canapés and hope that your cup is not forever full of sour grapes. 

Knob Hill Ski Lodge, Ketchum, Idaho 

Ben Franklin on Excuses

Ben Franklin on Excuses

Walt Whitman on Disposition

Walt Whitman on Disposition

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Is Barack Obama Really Trying to Bridge News Universes?

Ex President Barack Obama bemoans lack of commonality on the news during Letterman Netflix interview

During the initial episode of David Letterman's new limited run program on Netflix "My Guest Needs No Introduction", former President Barack Obama laments the lack of a common baseline of facts for the news.

 In some ways, this echoes a theme that Mr. Obama emphasized in his BBC Radio interview with Prince Harry about finding common realities on the internet. And during the speech at the Dallas Police Shooting Memorial, then President Obama lamented political polarization stemming from news coverage.  

Yet is is hard not to appreciate Obama's implication that those watching Fox News are "way out there" vis-a-vis the Mainstream Media represented by  taxpayer supported National Public Radio. His quip served as a laugh line to the Netflix audience at City College, New York. Such a jibe will affirm the biases of coastal elites who cannot fathom how fly over country could vote for a guy like President Donald Trump.  But it inspires a broader question of what is news and what is the prudent way to discern truth on current events. 

Some have fantasized about having a group that evaluates the news for its truthfulness.  But as it has been tried by Politifact's Truth-o-Meter  and the Washington Post's Fact Check with the Pinocchio scale, it has proven to be skewed and lacking. 

It is repugnant to the First Amendment to contemplate having the government take a role in vetting media.  It is bad enough that social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are using "curating" newfeeds to avoid conservative stories deemed as "fake news" and algorithms which shadowbans opinions not in favor with the social media powers that be. 

Then there is the question of how to cover a story.  Recently, CNN launched an advertising campaign with the spot "This is an apple" touting "Facts First".   The Media Research Center's study of coverage of the first eight months of the Trump Administration was 91% negative stories. In another study, the MRC examined one day of coverage on CNN, when 92% of the airtime was focused on President Trump, and CNN used 96 critics and seven supporters to back up their coverage. That hardly seems like facts first or fair and balanced news.

A more difficult thing to detect is the news that the mainstream media chooses not to report. A concrete example is when undercover video exposed that Planned Parenthood clinics were selling baby body parts.  Network news did not give one second of coverage, probably because it sullied a cause with which the networks suits agree. No wonder why there is a populist outcry against "Fake News".

Another niggling aspect is what "news" mainstream media outlets choose to report.  It is interesting to see how much that makes it on a network nightly news is just recycled packages that were creating for fluffy morning news shows. ABC is notorious for cross promoting entertainment programming as news.  The Tonya Harding 20/20 episode seemed to give as much airtime to its affiliated journalists as the protagonists in order to hype a film poised for Best Picture for the Oscars, which will be broadcast on ABC.  One should expect that NBC's News will be chock full of Olympic feature stories (as it broadcasts the Winter Olympics in February) when it is not bashing the Trump Administration.

As a news junkie, it is laudable to seek out news sources which do not comfortably give "confirmation bias".  In addition, it is necessary to vet the reliability of news sources when considering stories.  However, it is dubious that President Obama wants to find a real "baseline of common facts".  His out of this world comment seems more inclined to smear those who do not buy into the line from the mainstream media, shaped by the likes of the Journo-list and then disseminated via papers of record, like the New York Times and the Washington Post, which then dictates the coverage in most of the rest of the media.

As much as one would like to believe that Mr. Obama is trying to bridge news consumption universes, this comes from a leader who gathered lawmakers around a table supposedly to work together on health care and then wanted to dictate terms.  It is likely that politically correct pressure about the consensus on the news would drown out minority opinions and counter facts.  So it would be like the pre-internet "fairness doctrine" days when there was little choice and the public could be simply swayed. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Martha McSally on Courage

Rep. Martha Mcsally announces her bid for US Senate emphasizing combat courage

Today Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ 2nd) announces her candidacy for the U.S. Senate to replace Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ). 

The Republican field is already populated by Dr. Kelli Ward, a candidate endorsed by Steve Bannon, and Joe Arpaio, the 85 year old long-time ex Maricopa County sheriff renowned for his tough treatment of criminal aliens who was recently pardoned by President Trump.

[L] Dr. Kelli Ward [R] Ex Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Arizona GOP candidates for US Senate

Although Democrats need to defend 25 of 33 Senate seats in the 2018 election cycle, including in 10 states in which President Trump carried in 2016, Republicans are worried about losing their slender control of the Senate.  Senator Jeff Flake's (R-AZ) decision not to stand for re-election puts another "safe" GOP seat up for grabs.

In some respects, the GOP primary might be made up of voters with trollish Trump-eteer tendencies (infamously redubbed by Hillary Clinton as the "Basket of Deplorables") who think that strong immigration stances are the way to win via Arpaio's reputation and rhetoric.  Kelli Ward had positioned herself to be a Bannon disruptor of the GOP Establishment,  but now is backing away from "Sloppy Steve" after his fall from grace in the "Fire and Fury" fiasco.  

Establishment Republicans hoping to avoid a repeat defeat akin to the Alabama special electionseem to favor McSally to keep the seat as she has legislative experience and is not an agitating lightning rod. However, when an ex fighter pilot urged her colleagues to "grow a pair of ovaries and get the job done", such a candidate might not be exactly safe for the go along to get along in the so called Senate country club in the District of Calamity (sic).

H.L. Mencken on Politics

H.L. Mencken on Politics

Thursday, January 11, 2018

On the FISA Fracas

Rep. Tom Garrett seeks reformation of FISA warrents

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (1978) is a federal law which allows the federal government to conduct surveillance of foreign powers and agents of foreign powers suspected of espionage and terrorism. FISA delineates procedures for acquiring warrants to a secret court when required.  FISA  has been repeatedly amended since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.  The 2008 FISA Amendment included Section 702, which allows the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to jointly authorize monitoring foreign targets abroad. 

Then President-elect Trump was scoffed at when he claimed that he was "wiretapped" at Trump Tower.  But Mr. Trump felt vindicated when the House Intelligence Committee revealed that some members of his transition team were caught up in FISA surveillance. In the digital age, physical "wiretaps" are no longer necessary.
But there is controversy over how to handle information about American citizens whose communications are caught up in a cyber surveillance sweep.   Additionally, there are serious concerns over approval of FISA warrants which involve partisan politics. 

FISA was due to the renewed for six years by the end of 2017.  However, FISA is now supposed to  to sunset by January 19th 2018 unless approved by Congress.  

As the House of Representatives were considering FISA re-authorization, Conservatives and Libertarian  (and perhaps some civil liberty minded liberal) Congressmen sought to impose some reforms on FISA to limit NSA powers and require warrants before getting most information on American citizens). As Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX 2nd)  put it: "Section 702 was written to go after terrorists but it is being used to go after Americans," as he urged agencies to get warrants.  Rep. Tom Garrett wanted to be certain that FISA scrutiny was focused on foreigners. 

It seemed as if the Trump White House was lending support to the efforts to reform FISA with encouraging social media comments.  However Speaker Paul Ryan contacted the White House and President Trump that partially walked back earlier criticism of FISA.  

The FISA alternative, championed by libertarian Republican Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI 3rd) and Rep. Zoe Lafgren (D-CA 19th) failed 183-233.  The GOP leadership re-authorization of FISA easily passed 256-164, but sponsor Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA 22nd) stripped major changes to unmasking procedures prior to presenting the bill on the House floor.  

The Senate must re-authorize FISA by January 19th.  Libertarian Republican Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and liberal Democrat Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) have vowed to filibuster FISA unless there are provisions that the FBI must obtain a warrant anytime it wants to search information about Americans.  Newsmakers have hinted that explosive news  about abuse of government surveillance will break in the next week.  This may well have an impact on the re-authorization of FISA.