Archive for the ‘Business’ Category
Quite an interesting article by Scott Shane in the NY Times, giving the nuts and bolts of constructing a fake news story to make it succeed as a meme.
It was early fall, and Donald J. Trump, behind in the polls, seemed to be preparing a rationale in case a winner like him somehow managed to lose. “I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged, I have to be honest,” the Republican nominee told a riled-up crowd in Columbus, Ohio. He was hearing “more and more” about evidence of rigging, he added, leaving the details to his supporters’ imagination.
A few weeks later, Cameron Harris, a new college graduate with a fervent interest in Maryland Republican politics and a need for cash, sat down at the kitchen table in his apartment to fill in the details Mr. Trump had left out. In a dubious cyberart just coming into its prime, this bogus story would be his masterpiece.
Mr. Harris started by crafting the headline: “BREAKING: ‘Tens of thousands’ of fraudulent Clinton votes found in Ohio warehouse.” It made sense, he figured, to locate this shocking discovery in the very city and state where Mr. Trump had highlighted his “rigged” meme.
“I had a theory when I sat down to write it,” recalled Mr. Harris, a 23-year-old former college quarterback and fraternity leader. “Given the severe distrust of the media among Trump supporters, anything that parroted Trump’s talking points people would click. Trump was saying ‘rigged election, rigged election.’ People were predisposed to believe Hillary Clinton could not win except by cheating.”
In a raucous election year defined by made-up stories, Mr. Harris was a home-grown, self-taught practitioner, a boutique operator with no ties to Russian spy agencies or Macedonian fabrication factories. As Mr. Trump takes office this week, the beneficiary of at least a modest electoral boost from a flood of fakery, Mr. Harris and his ersatz-news website, ChristianTimesNewspaper.com, make for an illuminating tale.
Contacted by a reporter who had discovered an electronic clue that revealed his secret authorship of ChristianTimesNewspaper.com, he was wary at first, chagrined to be unmasked.
“This topic is rather sensitive,” Mr. Harris said, noting that he was trying to build a political consulting business and needed to protect his reputation. But eventually he agreed to tell the story of his foray into fake news, a very part-time gig that he calculated paid him about $1,000 an hour in web advertising revenue. He seemed to regard his experience with a combination of guilt about having spread falsehoods and pride at doing it so skillfully. . .
Continue reading, and there’s lots more—I didn’t even get to the good part.
You may recall a previous post, in which a fake-news publisher observed:
When did you notice that fake news does best with Trump supporters?
Well, this isn’t just a Trump-supporter problem. This is a right-wing issue. Sarah Palin’s famous blasting of the lamestream media is kind of record and testament to the rise of these kinds of people. The post-fact era is what I would refer to it as. This isn’t something that started with Trump. This is something that’s been in the works for a while. His whole campaign was this thing of discrediting mainstream media sources, which is one of those dog whistles to his supporters. When we were coming up with headlines it’s always kind of about the red meat. Trump really got into the red meat. He knew who his base was. He knew how to feed them a constant diet of this red meat.
We’ve tried to do similar things to liberals. It just has never worked, it never takes off. You’ll get debunked within the first two comments and then the whole thing just kind of fizzles out.
I think that is in effect saying that the liberal arts work.
Lee Fang reports in The Intercept:
LABOR SECRETARY TOM PEREZ, one of the leading candidates for chair of the Democratic National Committee, has stumbled in recent days when asked about his position on money in politics.
Asked at a DNC forum in Phoenix last Saturday whether he will “revive President Obama’s ban on corporate donations to the DNC” and a ban on appointing lobbyists as party leaders, Perez demurred.
“It’s actually not that simple a question,” Perez responded, adding that such a move might have “unintended consequences.” Perez argued that such a ban might impact “union members who are lobbyists,” though the question explicitly only addressed corporate lobbyists.
Speaking to the Huffington Post, Perez has refused to clarify his position on resurrecting President Obama’s ban on lobbyist donations to the DNC, which was overturned by former DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., during Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency.
The only firm restriction on special-interest money Perez has announced is that he will not accept lobbyist donations for his own campaign committee formed to support his bid for DNC chair. But even this position has come under question.
The Intercept recently obtained a fundraiser invite for Team Tom, Perez’s DNC chair campaign committee, for an event on January 26 in Washington, D.C. The event invite clearly prohibits lobbyist money, but the host committee — the individuals sponsoring the event — included several federally registered lobbyists and individuals working in the lobbying industry.
One of the event’s sponsors, for instance, is Bryan Tackett, a lobbyist with the firm Drinker Biddle & Reath, who is registered to lobby on a number of issues, including on issues related to the overtime rules released by the Labor Department under Perez’s leadership.
Reached for comment, Tackett said, “As a private citizen, I support Tom Perez’s bid for DNC chair and I failed to inform his team of my background in lobbying. They have informed me of their policy to not accept lobbyist donations and I respect their decision.”
The Intercept also raised the issue with Perez’s campaign staff. Xochitl Hinojosa, Perez’s spokesperson, said: “There are currently no lobbyists hosting the happy hour or any finance events for Team Tom. If a lobbyists was on a previous invite, we removed them once we were made aware they were a lobbyist.” . . .
Is Trump deliberately picking people who are qualified for the jobs he gives them? Perhaps. Maybe he doesn’t want his appointees getting view more favorably than himself, and given his current popularity levels, he has to go to the bottom of the barrel to get people less qualified than he is.
Politico has a report on Pruitt, but Kevin Drum points out that Pruitt is astonishingly (and perhaps deliberately) ignorant of some serious environmental problems, such as lead. Drum writes:
Well, we’ve now officially gone from this:
Clinton proposes goal of ending lead exposure in 5 years
— Ben Adler (@badler) April 13, 2016
Pruitt on lead exposure’s dangers in children: “I don’t know. I’ve not looked at the scientific research on that.”
— Rebecca Leber (@rebleber) January 18, 2017
If Pruitt had been asked about the effects of zirconium dioxide on Alzheimer’s disease or something, then sure. Nobody knows everything, after all. But lead paint has been in the news for something like 50 years now and Flint’s water pipes have been in big, bold headlines for the past two. You’d have to work pretty hard not to be aware of what lead does.
Still, if you’re bound and determined never to regulate anything, no matter how dangerous, then I suppose it pays to aggressively shut your eyes to environmental dangers of all kinds. Welcome to the New Model EPA, folks.
Always, it seems, tradeoffs must be made, and capitalism is (as we see around us) not an unalloyed benefit. Via Colin Marshall’s post at Open Culture:
Jason Kottke blogs:
I posted earlier about Atul Gawande’s piece in the New Yorker on the importance of incremental care in medicine. One of the things that the Affordable Care Act did was to make it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to people with “preexisting conditions”, which makes it difficult for those people to receive the type of incremental care Gawande touts. And who has these preexisting conditions? An estimated 27% of US adults under 65, including Gawande’s own son:
In the next few months, the worry is whether Walker and others like him will be able to have health-care coverage of any kind. His heart condition makes him, essentially, uninsurable. Until he’s twenty-six, he can stay on our family policy. But after that? In the work he’s done in his field, he’s had the status of a freelancer. Without the Affordable Care Act’s protections requiring all insurers to provide coverage to people regardless of their health history and at the same price as others their age, he’d be unable to find health insurance. Republican replacement plans threaten to weaken or drop these requirements, and leave no meaningful solution for people like him. And data indicate that twenty-seven per cent of adults under sixty-five are like him, with past health conditions that make them uninsurable without the protections.
That’s 52 million people, potentially ineligible for health insurance. And that’s not counting children. Spurred on by Gawande, people have been sharing their preexisting conditions stories on Twitter with the hashtag #the27Percent.
The 27% figure comes from a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation:
A new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis finds that 52 million adults under 65 — or 27 percent of that population — have pre-existing health conditions that would likely make them uninsurable if they applied for health coverage under medical underwriting practices that existed in most states before insurance regulation changes made by the Affordable Care Act.
In eleven states, at least three in ten non-elderly adults would have a declinable condition, according to the analysis: West Virginia (36%), Mississippi (34%), Kentucky (33%), Alabama (33%), Arkansas (32%), Tennessee (32%), Oklahoma (31%), Louisiana (30%), Missouri (30%), Indiana (30%) and Kansas (30%).
36% uninsurable in West Virginia! You’ll note that all 11 of those states voted for Trump in the recent election and in West Virginia, Trump carried the day with 68.7% of the vote, the highest percentage of any state. The states whose people need the ACA’s protection the most voted most heavily against their own interest.
Oh and one last thing. . .
Sign that things are out of whack: World’s 8 Richest Have as Much Wealth as Bottom Half of Global Population
Gerry Mullany reports in the NY Times:
How concentrated has wealth become in the globalized modern world? Here’s one answer: Just eight of the richest people on earth own as much combined wealth as half the human race.
That’s a notable change from last year, when it was reckoned to take 62 of the superrich to match the assets of the 3.6 billion people in the poorer half of mankind.
The charity Oxfam does the math each year and publishes its results just in time for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where many of the spectacularly wealthy are often among the attendees, along with diplomats, political figures, and business and cultural leaders. The Oxfam report on inequality is on the agenda for discussion at the forum.
Oxfam bases its figures in part on Forbes’s annual list of billionaires and the magazine’s estimates of their wealth. This year, Oxfam said, new data gathered by Credit Suisse about the global poor led it to lower its estimates of their assets, and revise its findings about how few rich men — the eight are all men — were needed to equal the wealth of 3.6 billion people.
Megan Twohey and Steve Eder of the NY Times probably join Trump’s rapidly growing blacklist for this report:
It was 2005, and Felix Sater, a Russian immigrant, was back in Moscow pursuing an ambitious plan to build a Trump tower on the site of an old pencil factory along the Moscow River that would offer hotel rooms, condominiums and commercial office space.
Letters of intent had been signed and square footage was being analyzed. “There was an opportunity to explore building Trump towers internationally,” said Mr. Sater, who worked for a New York-based development company that was a partner with Donald J. Trump on a variety of deals during that decade. “And Russia was one of those countries.”
The president-elect’s favorable comments about President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and the conclusion of United States intelligence officials that Moscow acted to help Mr. Trump’s campaign have focused attention on Mr. Trump’s business interests in Russia. Asked about the issue at his news conference last week, Mr. Trump was emphatic on one point: “I have no dealings with Russia.” And he repeated: “I have no deals that could happen in Russia because we’ve stayed away.”
The project on the old pencil factory site ultimately fizzled. And by the time Mr. Trump entered the presidential race, he had failed to get any real estate development off the ground in Russia. But it was not for lack of trying.
Mr. Trump repeatedly sought business in Russia as far back as 1987, when he traveled there to explore building a hotel. He applied for his trademark in the country as early as 1996. And his children and associates have appeared in Moscow over and over in search of joint ventures, meeting with developers and government officials.
During a trip in 2006, Mr. Sater and two of Mr. Trump’s children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, stayed at the historic Hotel National Moscow across from the Kremlin, connecting with potential partners over the course of several days.
As recently as 2013, Mr. Trump himself was in Moscow. He had sold Russian real estate developers the right to host his Miss Universe pageant that year, and he used the visit as a chance to discuss development deals, writing on Twitter at the time: “TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next.”
As the Russian market opened up in the post-Soviet Union era, Mr. Trump and his partners pursued Russians who were newly flush with cash to buy apartments in Trump Towers in New York and Florida, sales that he boasted about in a 2014 interview. “I know the Russians better than anybody,” Mr. Trump told Michael D’Antonio, a Trump biographer who shared unpublished interview transcripts with The New York Times.
Seeking deals in Russia became part of a broader strategy to expand the Trump brand worldwide. By the mid-2000s, Mr. Trump was transitioning to mostly licensing his name to hotel, condominium and commercial towers rather than building or investing in real estate himself. He discovered that his name was especially attractive in developing countries where the rising rich aspired to the type of ritzy glamour he personified. . .
Late in the article:
. . . Mr. Trump said his efforts put him in contact with powerful people there. “I called it my weekend in Moscow,” Mr. Trump said of his 2013 trip to Moscow during a September 2015 interview on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.” He added: “I was with the top-level people, both oligarchs and generals, and top of the government people. I can’t go further than that, but I will tell you that I met the top people, and the relationship was extraordinary.”
When asked about Mr. Trump’s claim that he had “stayed away” from Russia, Alan Garten, general counsel for the Trump Organization, said it was a fair characterization given that none of the development opportunities ever materialized. Mr. Trump’s interest in Russia, he said, was no different from his attraction to other emerging markets in which he investigated possible ventures. Mr. Garten did not respond to questions about whom Mr. Trump met with in Moscow in 2013 and what was discussed. . .