Link Roundup, 5/4/2018

From CNBC: Why trade wars are dumb, episode #47,895 – they just shift commodities around

From CNN: West Virginia is about to send another wealthy racist moron to the Senate.

From Vox: Michigan Republicans found a way to exempt white people from Medicaid work requirements

From Recode: Maxine Waters is threatening regulation to address lack of diversity in tech

From DefenseOne: An FBI spokesman described how a drone swarm thwarted an FBI action

16 Comments

  1. About Blankenship:

    I had been distantly aware of him for a while, but whenever he was mentioned, it was always as “a felon distantly following in the polls.” Then over the last week or so he started going full retard (Cocaine Mitch, China people, etc), the news started talking about him, and lo and behold:

    https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/05/blankenship-polls-west-virginia-senate-primary-570752

    He’s now surging.

    Candidates have always known that media coverage is essential for amplifying messaging, but ‘populists’ have discovered that it now works even with scandal and indecency. There’s no putting that back in Pandora’s box.

    The media suffers a tragedy of the commons. Huffington Post belatedly tried de-emphasizing 45’s campaign to cut the amplification it was causing, but after awhile it was forced back to reporting on the campaign because the campaign was too serious to ignore. Similarly, it only takes one outrageous statement to go viral for media to then be faced with the dilemma of covering the news of the outrage or seeming to ‘suppress it.’

    Even if all the mainstream news media successfully coalesced around a refusal to report on a certain candidate, that very decision would become news shared widely by alternative media and blogs and would pump up support of people who feel the candidate isn’t being treated fairly. And if the candidate won the office entirely, it would again emphasize the impression that the media is out of touch and refuses to listen.

    Personally if I were a news manager at a media outlet at this point, I would be asking reporters to investigate those 29 deaths and other accidents caused by Blankenship’s companies as well as their finances.

    That may sticnk of bias, but to be clear: 1) Blankenship I’d a man willing to let low income workers die for his own wealth, and people should be asked if a man like that should be their political representative, and 2) Fox News and alt-right blogs do the same thing with other candidates except with conspiracy theories and lies.

    They pull down general candidates with non-existent scandals, their candidates typically have the sort of skeletons in closets that send them straight to court. So get them to court as early as you can in the process so that the news is more about their legal troubles and they’re spending money and time on those troubles rather than campaigning.

    Basically what’s happening at this time in history is all the billionaires who helped get all these politicians elected never ran because they feared their business would be combed through, until 45 proved you can win anyway. Now the gates are open and it’s a waste of their money to support political proxies when they can take the seat themselves.

    So to return things to ‘normal,’ at least as concerns holding businesses and politicians accountable, media outlets should scrutinize the businesses, not the ‘outrageous statements’, of populist primary candidates.

    Simple rule of thumb: if they constantly spout stupid shit, you should wonder how such a stupid person got rich. Answer that question for the voters, and see what happens.

    1. You’re far more generous to the press than I am: you assume they care about principles like “informing the public”. While there are plenty of individual journalists who aspire to a higher purpose, the journalism industry is indistinguishable from the entertainment industry (a reason why Fox does so well in both).

      “News” covers viral stuff for the same reason that blogs and alt-right media do: it brings in eyeballs. Whether that viral stuff was outrageous sh*t that a candidate says, or a cat dancing in a star wars outfit, it doesn’t really matter. Both will be (and have been) shown on so-called “news” programs.

      You say that they feel some sort of moral ambivalence about not covering popular stuff, which is why they feel “forced” to cover events that happen to bring them a lot of viewers and make them money. Huh. I’m reminded of a certain rabbit and a briar patch. The truth is they have no compunction about ignoring popular stuff when they wish to ignore it. When GWB was spouting his lies to get us involved in Iraq, august papers like the NY Times had no problem serving as his mouthpiece. And that included ignoring or minimizing popular opposition. I distinctly remember protests which involved hundreds of thousands of people marching in DC, or tens of thousands in major cities like NYC and Chicago that went unreported, or dismissed with a blip about a “few” protesters marching.

      Let’s do a little experiment: you believe that the press feels “compelled” to cover popular stuff even though they actually don’t want to. Would you say that the number of protesters a movement brings to a rally on the national mall is a reasonable proxy for popularity? And yet, according to this study, the 2017 Women’s March received *129 times* more coverage than that year’s March for Life, despite comparable attendance numbers:
      https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jan/25/media-cover-womens-march-129-times-more-march-life/

      You might say that’s because the March For Life happens every year. Yes, but it’s consistently underreported every year, compared to events that draw significantly less protesters. It’s not a one-off thing d discrepancy due to the enormity of the Women’s March.

      Make no mistake: the press chooses what it wants to cover. No one forces it to cover anything they don’t want to. If you ever watch the brilliant show _The Wire_, it devoted an entire season to the press, and, according to its creator, David Simon — a former reporter for the Baltimore Sun — his entire purpose was to point out what the press *doesn’t* cover. That you can learn more about a city’s problems by learning about the stuff the press ignores, and not wasting time on what the press covers. It is, IMHO, an incredibly astute insight. If the press covers idiots like Blankenship, it’s because it knows we will tune in to watch. And that’s the only thing it cares about.

      To address your second point, that if news “must” cover Blankenship, why not dig into his company, uncover the facts that led to those coal miners deaths, maybe expose the regulatory gaps, govt corruption, business tactics, etc. that lead to such dangerous practices? Easy: that requires work. Work to first understand what *are* the regulatory and business practices of a normal modern day coal mine, then spend months overcoming obstacles to uncover the ways in which Blankenship violated them.

      If you do all that work, at the end of the day, you’ll probably still only get the same number of viewers you get by throwing up the latest poll numbers, dressing them up with some snazzy graphics, and then quote some inane tweet he threw up an hour ago. Same ad revenue, less work. When the press refuses to do this even in a situation like this, where all that hard work has already been done by prosecutors and is now available to anyone who’s willing to read the public court records, what are the chances the press will bother with actual, original reporting of facts that are not already publicly known? So small a chance, that when it happens, it generally wins a Pulitzer. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of Pulitzers a year…

      1. I’m just arguing a tactic that some media outlets could use in a prevalent issue facing campaign reportage today.

        “you assume they care about principles like “informing the public”.”

        The model for my root comment is how The Washington Post sunk Roy Moore’s campaign by unearthing his pederasty. I am getting the impression, considering Roy Moore, Arpaio, Blankenship, and Trump himself, that a lot of these ‘politically incorrect’ people have as little care or concern for the details of laws and business as they do for social mores, and so it’s better for journalists to look into what they’ve actually done than report what they talk about.

        I’m not saying that all media outlets do that, but that they could. The model not only exists, but has a rich history. Many journalists aspire to be the next Bob Woodward.

        “Let’s do a little experiment: you believe that the press feels “compelled” to cover popular stuff even though they actually don’t want to. Would you say that the number of protesters a movement brings to a rally on the national mall is a reasonable proxy for popularity? And yet, according to this study, the 2017 Women’s March received *129 times* more coverage than that year’s March for Life, despite comparable attendance numbers:”

        Okay, so, there’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, you are deeply misinterpreting what I’m saying on several levels. The press isn’t compelled to cover stuff because it’s ‘popular’ as in WELL-LIKED, it’s compelled to cover stuff because it COMPELS INTEREST, which often means covering things people don’t like or covering things people haven’t been aware of but should, as much as it can mean covering something many people are interested in and covering something many people approve of.

        The number of attendees to an event could be five or five thousand, but if it tunes viewership in, the news desk is going to consider whether to spend broadcast time / print space / etc. on it. Outlet to outlet, their decisions of how much to cover and in which way is going to NECESSARILY vary, considering they are human beings and thus imperfect predictors of total interest and also incapable of matching every last viewer’s ideal of what is or is not important and how exactly to present every topic.

        Another part of what I’m talking about when I talk about the media being compelled to cover something, is if they choose not to cover something they don’t think should be covered or is disproportionately covered, and it ends up becoming an influential person or event beyond the significance they assumed it had, then they will have both missed important information and reduced trust in their viewership. A lot of times it’s a gamble.
        All those premises stated, if their aim is to show the populists’ ill-fittedness for office, then merely reporting on their outrageous statements won’t do because it amplifies their message. The Huffington Post recognized that and tried to deprogram the amplification itself rather than change the narrative, but that’s not a useful tactic due to the tragedy of the commons — if HP doesn’t cover the populist, someone else will, and if nobody does, then the lack of coverage becomes news itself to the Breitbarts of the world. If you can’t not cover the danger of another populist, than rather than having the coverage be about the outrageous things he or she says, media outlets should consider digging into what sort of person they are behind the scenes.

        “Would you say that the number of protesters a movement brings to a rally on the national mall is a reasonable proxy for popularity?”

        No. Number of people in attendance is merely one measure of significance. More people vote for American Idol contestants than Presidents. Should the media spend more time talking about American Idol contestants than Presidents?

        But rather than go down the tired old debate about popularity versus quality, the complaint that you’re making here is something of a red herring. My boss knows one of the organizers of the 2017 Women’s March. She is an expert PR professional, who did a lot of outreach directly to media outlets for both the news that they were organizing (and since the media picked up they were organizing, people looked them up and joined the organization process) and the event itself.

        The organizers spent time not only on getting people there, but instructing participants on staying on message, how to respond to expected talking points, and in most cases how to direct media attention toward a key touch person who could speak for the group rather than let the message get mixed signals by each individual participants decision.

        Furthermore, they had post-march plans in place to amplify the messaging, using the march itself as a networking tool for signing people up for newsletters and petitions, and generally turning the actual presence of individual people into political action items across the nation.

        Really, if you are actually curious about the Women’s March on anything other than some numbers game, it’s a masterpiece of marching that you should use as a model to get it right. If you think it’s just the number of people schlupping around with signs, well, let’s move on to a different example you made:

        I remember going to one of the 2003 Iraq War protests. That thing was a fucking mess. Half the picket signs didn’t even have Iraq War content on them but rather some slurry of pot legalization, gay marriage legalization, gun control, prison reform, and even anti-smoking and anti-vaccination stuff. The marchers wandered off from key routes in random groups whenever some genius would get the idea, “Let’s go to [important person’s] house it’s nearby, let’s call ’em out there!” The media could put their cameras in any of these idiots’ faces, where they spent half the time just trying to make a coherent sentence.

        After joining, I wanted nothing to do with those people and decided I’d have to be an activist some other way. It turned me off from protest as a form of activism for years, all through the Occupy Wall Street fiasco and so on, until 2017 showed some highly detailed and effectively organized protests.

        So definitely not all protests are created equal, and how well they are organized correlates strongly to how effective they are.

        On top of The March for Life not having as good PR, it also wasn’t a surging reaction to a novel situation with a new president.

        NOW let’s loop back to popularity: more Americans think Trump is a dumpster fire than think abortion should be illegal. Therefore the Women’s March was more important to cover. 129 times more important? There’s no numerical measure of ‘importance’. History is messy and complicated.

        “You’re far more generous to the press than I am:”

        Whatever man. Every American thinks they know more than ‘the media,’ which always brings me back to the epistemological conundrum: how do you know about all these events, that apparently the media mis- or underreported?

        You know what you know because someone saw fit to tell you. But when you’re thinking of ‘The’ media, you’re not thinking of the outlet you trust. Like why do you trust that Washington Times article? Why are they choosing to report on comparisons between media coverage of two similarly-attended marches? What narrative does that sell? Why does it compel you, enough so to share with me?

        You and I are in the same media landscape. You and I know about many of the same events, issues, policies, and participants of the political stage. Neither you nor I have some specialized access to high level offices. We know what we know because some journalist reported it, moreso than we know what we know because we were there and saw it with our own two eyes.

  2. Interesting

    https://qz.com/1269172/the-epic-mistake-about-manufacturing-thats-cost-americans-millions-of-jobs/

    Claims that it was mainly China, and not automation that is behind America’s manufacturing decline. Economists were blinded by the rise of computer manufacturing to miss the slump everywhere else. This means that manufacturing in America is in the worse shape anyone thought. And that Trump and Bannon were incredibly right to diagnose the problem.

    1. Outsourcing was a staple joke of 90s sitcoms, it doesn’t take a genius to know millions of jobs were threatened by low cost competition from global labor markets.

      Where automation comes on board is that those outsourced jobs are disappearing too, and many policies that attempt to drive them back to the American labor market will probably drive the cost of labor high enough that automation would be cheaper.

      So yes, millions of jobs were lost to China. But that labor is the only way millions of Americans can have access to support structures and opportunity is part of the issue the fascists don’t want to solve because it requires sharing some of their wealth. Hence why coal miners in West Virginia are so desperate to save their shitty, literally cancerous jobs that they’re willing to consider electing a baron who let’s them die rather than invest in the appropriate, but costly, safety measures: because without their cancerous jobs, they die anyway. The solution, to me, isn’t to give them cancerous jobs so that they can die helping Blankenship get richer. The answer, to me, is to use Blankenship’s wealth to invest in infrastructure around his communities so these human beings aren’t facing death when the mines shut down.

    2. Hi Anti-mule
      It rarely makes actual business sense to move your manufacturing abroad – that is if you take all of the factors into consideration

      However US business has been raped the MBA’s who rarely take everything into account and automatically assume that anything that reduces wages is “Good”

      There are the thick ones who are not capable of doing the calculations that take everything into account

      And the Smart ones who know that it’s bad for the business – but can see some wonderful ways of personally enriching themselves out of the move

      1. Moving production abroad is a fantastic way to ease the pain of a major capital investment. Say you have an outdated manufacturing line, burdened with tons (literally tons) of fully depreciated equipment that requires dozens or hundreds of employees to operate around the clock. Automated equipment is available at an attractive price, but it would take 18-24 months to install, test and refine the new processes. During that time the entire manufacturing space will be unproductive.

        As an alternative, you could move your least productive lines to cheap overseas facilities. That gives you more time to make the transition to automated processes, since you’ll still be making products during the switch.

        As that process plays out, some companies see their automation plans stall. Some end up installing their new automation in cheap overseas plants, and some succeed in the move toward automation, bring production back to the US at a fraction of the employment level.

        So yea, it’s a smart move for companies that fit a certain profile and have the agility to manage that transformation. It’s a crappy move for some other companies who find themselves doing for no better reason than that their CEO read about it in a magazine. But there are reasons why it happens.

  3. Off topic, but still interesting. According to federal figures CA is now the 5th largest economy in the world. It has surpassed the UK and is behind the US, China, Japan and Germany. The CNBC article is linked below:
    https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/04/california-has-surpassed-the-uk-as-worlds-5th-largest-economy.html

    What is the secret of CA’s success? IMHO, it is because CA educates its citizens – it has a world class higher education system and a good K-12 system. It builds infrastructure – it is building a high speed rail system from the Bay Area to LA and beyond. It values the contributions of immigrants and integrates them into the society. Look at the contributions of immigrants to the high tech industry. It has a highly energy efficient economy and integrates renewable electricity into the grid. CA attempts to provide health care for its citizens – it fully took advantage of the ACA and the expansion of medicaid. Yes, its taxes are high but they support the people and industry of CA.

    On the other hand, the Trump administration is trying to destroy nationally every program that aids the citizens and the industry, all to increase the profits of a few oligarchs. Yet CA may have more billionaires than perhaps the rest of the US and continually creates more. Maybe, the rest of the US should attempt to emulate CA? Maybe Trump out to phone Jerry Brown and learn something from him? Maybe the US should elect Democrats?

    A final note, here is a link to a CNBC article stating that the CALExit plan is still alive:
    https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/24/calexit-plan-to-divorce-california-from-us-is-getting-a-second-chance.html

  4. Funny how saying “you’re fired” on TV and running some casinos into the ground has devolved into killing 29 people in a coal mine as qualification for public office. At least in West Virginia.

    It was one of many shoot yourself in the foot moments in the HRC campaign, but the “basket of deplorables” is out there. Unfortunately, it seems to be a pretty big basket!

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