Originally Published: 4/7/2018
Sinclair Propaganda: I covered this months ago when Sinclair’s proposed purchase of Tribune first came to light. Sinclair Broadcast Group issues “must-runs” to its stations, “short video segments that are centrally produced by the company.” The segments “advance a mostly right-leaning agency.” (TWW, Sinclair & Tribune, 5/13/17) Sinclair has been taking over many television stations. Andy Kroll at Mother Jones reported that Sinclair is well on its way to reaching 75% of all American homes. And, according to Andrew Jay Schwartzman, a senior attorney at Georgetown’s Communications and Technology Law Clinic: “The most important force shaping public opinion continues to be local, over-the-air television.” In fact, a 2017 Pew Research study found that 37% of Americans say they often get their news from local television news. That’s higher than cable news (28%) or network television news (26%). It’s far greater than the percentage of Americans who say they get their news through newspapers (18%), radio (25%), social media (20%), and even from news websites (33%). So, with its growing power and strong connection to the Trump administration, Sinclair is getting careless about showing its true agenda. “On local news stations across the United States last month, dozens of anchors gave the same speech to their combined millions of viewers.” (NY Times) “Must-runs” went out to all their stations (almost 200) requiring news anchors to record a promo about “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country.” According to The Concourse, the directive “brought upheaval to newsrooms already dismayed with Sinclair’s consistent interference to bring right-wing propaganda to local television broadcasts.” But most of the stations ran it anyway. Deadspin put together a terrifying 98-second video that shows how far Sinclair is willing to go to bring right-wing propaganda into your home. However, there was 1 station, Fox 47 in Madison Wisconsin, that refused. A spokesperson said: “WMSN/FOX47 Madison did not air the Sinclair promotional announcement during our 9pm news this weekend. Rather, we stayed true to our commitment to provide our Madison area viewers local news, weather, and sports of interest to them.” (Think Progress) I wonder how long those people will have their jobs. Let me make something clear. Sinclair stations, any stations, have the right to air their views - conservative or liberal. The problem here is with media consolidation where all stations are owned by a handful of businesses, all with the same ideology. This means there is no discourse, no discussion, no alternative views. Just everyone repeating the same stuff. That’s propaganda. Blame it on Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich who pushed through the Telecommunications Act. John Oliver did a new rant where he explains how and why this is happening and what it means. (You Tube) But just to refresh your memory, here’s the John Oliver segment that I posted last year that was such a hit. (You Tube)
Central & Eastern Europe: Racism has gone mainstream in central and eastern Europe. Today, far-right racist views are “openly expressed by mainstream political leaders in parts of Central and Eastern Europe, part of a populist surge in the face of globalization and mass migration.” This truly is frightening. “In many places, the shift to the right has included the rehabilitation of Nazi collaborators, often fighters or groups celebrated as anti-communists or defenders of national liberation. In Hungary and Poland, governments are also eroding the independence of courts and the media, prompting human rights groups to warn that democracy is threatened in parts of a region that threw off Moscow-backed dictatorships in 1989.” (AP)
Israel: Palestinians, holding a protest on the Gaza/Israel border, were attack by Israelis. At least 18 were killed and more than 750 were wounded “making it the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.” (Washington Post) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “thanked his troops for ‘guarding the country’s borders’ and allowing ‘Israeli citizens to celebrate the [Passover] holiday peacefully.’” (Al Jazeera)
Russia: Trump imposed new sanctions on 7 of Russia’s richest men and 17 top government officials as punishment for its interference in the 2016 election and other Russian aggression. The sanctions are supposed to penalize some of Russia’s richest industrialists. (Guardian)
Syria: Trump instructed the Pentagon to begin planning for withdrawal of troops from Syria but he didn’t set a date. (Washington Post) FAIR noted that the media went crazy, citing Russia as an excuse for staying and pointing out all the journalistic pieces generated by the fighting in Syria. FAIR also noted that the job of the military is to wage war and the U.S. military - under Trump - has a great deal of power. Thus, the day after Trump made this statement, the White House announced that the U.S. is committed to “continuing to fight the Islamic State in Syria.” (NY Times)
California: A video from the Stephon Clark protest shows a Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputy “accelerating into a protester,” a 61-year-old retired bus driver. The video was shot by a legal observer. (Sacramento CBS)
Florida: U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom rejected the arguments of the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU), a right-wing group, that Broward County was “shirking” its duty under federal law to remove ineligible voters from its voter rolls. Bloom ruled that Broward County was already “adequately maintaining its voter file.” ACRU has been bringing similar cases around the nation. (Mother Jones)
Kentucky & Oklahoma: Thousands of teachers in both states walked off the job “shutting down school districts as they protested cuts in pay, benefits, and school funding . . .” (NY Times) According to the Guardian, the health costs are eating away any of the puny raises teachers may get.
Kentucky: State legislators passed a bill cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations while raising them on 95% of the rest of the state’s residents. Governor Matt Bevin (R) has the bill on his desk. No one is speculating as to what he’s going to do with it. (Washington Post)
Massachusetts: U.S. District Judge William Young in Boston ruled that “assault weapons and large capacity magazines covered by the 1998 law were most useful in military service and fall outside the scope of the Second Amendment’s personal right to bear arms.” So, he upheld Massachusetts’ law banning assault weapons, including the AR-15. (Reuters)
New York: It has amended its gun control laws. Now people convicted of domestic abuse in New York will have to turn over all firearms, not just handguns as was previously the case. The former law also applied to some, but not all, misdemeanors. The new law adds serious misdemeanors. (CNN)
Wisconsin: Voters rejected NRA-endorsed and Governor Scott Walker’s (R) pick for the state supreme court and elected liberal Rebecca Dallet, 56% to 44%. “Her win narrows the pro-Walker conservative majority on the court to 4 to 3 - and marks the first win by a liberal to an open seat since 1995.” (Think Progress)
Tariffs: The tariff wars are going strong. China “hit back” against Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum (TWW, More Tariffs, 3/3/18) by raising tariffs up to 25% on 128 U.S. products, including frozen pork, wine, and certain fruits and nuts. (Reuters) Trump unveiled his list of tariff products: electronics, aerospace, and machinery. “Trump’s latest protectionist move threatens to upend global supply chains for corporations such as Apple and Dell, raise prices for American consumers who have grown accustomed to inexpensive electronics, and aggravate tensions between the world’s 2 largest economies.” (Washington Post) Then China retaliated with threatening tariffs on soybeans, cars, and some airplanes. (Washington Post) So, the wars are going to hit Trump supporters the hardest. (Salon) Soybeans, corn, cotton, sorghum, wheat, and tobacco are included in China’s additional tariffs. Check out the various charts. (Washington Post) In retaliation, Trump is considering slapping another $100 billion in additional tariffs on Chinese goods. (NY Times) Analysts are blaming the “rising tensions” between the U.S. and China for stocks taking a dip. (NY Times)
Mexican Border: Trump said he plans to deploy the National Guard to the southern border to confront what he calls “a growing threat of illegal immigrants, drugs, and crime from Central America.” (NY Times) Indeed, later it was announced that he is going to sign a proclamation to do this. (Washington Post) Isn’t this a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act?
Excessive Force: Once again the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to shield police officers from excessive force lawsuits. In a 7 to 2 decision, the justices reversed a Ninth Circuit Court decision requiring a cop to face a civil jury trial for shooting a woman 4 times. Dissenting were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. (District Sentinel)
Detainee Abortions: U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan approved a request by the ACLU to bring a class action suit on behalf of 4 undocumented teenagers seeking abortions, allowing all to receive abortions until the case is finally decided. “Previously the issue was decided on a case by case basis, leaving the teenagers vulnerable to disruptive tactics, including efforts to redirect them to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and block them from undergoing the procedure.” (Think Progress) The NY Times has an interesting piece on Scott Lloyd, the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, who oversees the assistance program. As such, he is responsible for undocumented children who enter the U.S. without the parents. He staunchly opposes abortion. “He has instructed his staff to give him a spreadsheet each week that tells him about any unaccompanied minors who have asked [for an abortion] and how far along they are in their pregnancy. In at least one case he directed staff to read to one girl a description of what happens during an abortion. And when there’s a need for counseling, Mr. Lloyd’s office calls on someone from its list of preferred ‘life affirming’ pregnancy resource centers.”
More Deportations: Trump is going to start pressuring U.S. immigration judges “to process cases faster by establishing a quota system tied to their annual performance reviews.” Judges will be expected to clear at least 700 cases a year to receive a “satisfactory” performance rating. (Washington Post) That’s right. Their raises will be tied to how many people they deport.
School Discipline: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that black students continue to be disciplined at school more often and more harshly than their white peers, often for similar infractions.
Procurement: Trump signed a new law late last year which allows federal agencies to purchase products “from an approved list of online retailers” without having to go through procurement regulations. Currently federal purchasers can spend up to $10,000 without going through the process but under the new system the threshold jumps to $25,000 for online retailers and eventually climbs to $250,000. While the Washington Post notes that this will provide more profit for Amazon, even as Trump continually criticizes the company, the real problem is with amendment of the Federal Procurement Code. (Cornell Law School) The procurement code was designed to not only promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness but to avoid purchasers from doing things like purchasing at above-market prices in exchange for gifts or favors, using their position for personal gain - or for a superior’s personal gain, avoiding and/or exposing corruption or human rights violations, and many other things leading to corruption.
Scott Pruitt: His questionable spending (TWW, Scott Pruitt, 3/17/18) is in the news again. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief had a rental agreement for a Capitol Hill condominium owned by the wife of a lobbyist who has clients “with distinct interests in EPA business.” He only paid $50 a night - way below market rates - for the room. But, and get this, the room was reserved for him but he only paid for it when he was there. Pretty sweet deal. (Washington Post) Try only paying your rent for the days that you’re there. The lobbyist’s client, Enbridge, got it’s project - an expansion of the Alberta Clipper pipeline (TWW, Alberta Clipper, 10/28/17) - approved. (NY Times) If the connections confuse you, check out this chart from Think Progress. It also has a great explanation of what was going on. By the way, Kevin Minoli, EPA’s designated agency ethics official and principal deputy general counsel, stated that he “lacked key facts” when he concluded that Pruitt didn’t violate any federal gift rules. This is a CYA like I’ve never seen. (Washington Post) But it’s clear that Minoli had to know what was going on. In the last year at least 5 high-ranking EPA officials have been re-assigned, demoted, or requested new jobs “after they raised concerns about the spending and management” of Pruitt. “The concerns included unusually large spending on office furniture and first-class travel, as well as certain demands by Mr. Pruitt for security coverage, such as requests for a bulletproof vehicle and an expanded 20-person protective detail. . . Mr. Pruitt bristled when the officials - 4 career EPA employees and one Trump administration political appointee - confronted him. . . The political appointee, Kevin Chmielewski, was placed on administrative leave without pay.” (NY Times) Apparently John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, has urged Trump to fire Pruitt but Trump, “who is personally fond of Mr. Pruitt and sees him as a crucial ally in his effort to roll back environmental rules, has resisted firing him.” (NY Times)
Environmental Rules: Since taking office, Trump has “sought to reverse more than 60 environmental rules.” The NY Times has a list of 33 rules that have been overturned, 24 rollbacks that are in progress, and 10 rollbacks that are in limbo. The list is extensive. If this goes on for many more years we’ll be back in 1880.
Auto Emissions: The EPA announced that it will be easing the emission standards for cars and trucks. It said that “a timeline put in place by Barack Obama was not appropriate and set standards ‘too high.’” The new standards will effect models for years 2022 to 2025, but they didn’t say what the new standards are. The standards currently are that vehicles get 26 mpg and they must get 36 mpg by 2025. (Guardian) Attorneys general and mayors from more than 25 states are banding together to oppose the new rules. (EcoWatch) I wonder if the auto companies will pay any attention. People are demanding electric and hybrid vehicles. Lowering their standards would probably cost them business.
Mobil CEO: Think Progress obtained footage of an internal Mobil Oil meeting with employees in 1998 where CEO Lucio Noto discusses “the impact of Mobil’s product on climate change.” “This admission occurred as the company worked externally to marginalize climate science and reject any responsibility for global warming and its impacts.”
Unemployment: The U.S. added 103,000 jobs in March. Unemployment holds steady at 4.1%. (NY Times)
New Tax Law, Second Mortgages & HELOCs: The new tax law will cost homeowners some money. Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs) and second mortgages, frequently used by homeowners to fund things like auto purchases and college tuition, will only be tax deductible if they qualify on 2 criteria: the proceeds of the loan are used to make “substantial improvements” to their home and the “combined total of their first mortgage balance and their HELOC or second mortgage does not exceed the new $750,000 limit on mortgage amounts qualified for interest deductions.” The previous ceiling was $1.1 million. So, the key is how the money is used. You can still buy a car, pay college expenses, make business investments, go on vacations, etc., but those amounts will no longer be tax deductible. (Washington Post)