In Other News

Behind all the trending news of the week, the news that is so interesting and full of implications about the Trump White House (Hope Hicks is leaving, Jared has no security clearance, Trump v Congress and the NRA on guns, shades of the DACA summit) news which we love to speculate about – and behind the news today of the tariffs on steel (25%) and aluminum (10%) –  there is plenty of other news about subjects I have been following that gets little coverage on television. Some great articles have been written recently on these topics.

First topic: Unions

The decision in front of the Supreme Court is about something called an agency fee which allows unions to charge fees in lieu of dues to non-members of the union (because  non-members also benefit from the wins unions get on behalf of employees). In this case the unions we are talking about are public employees unions, although there would be implications for all unions.

The opponents of the unions, mostly Conservatives, right-wingers, the Koch brothers, contend that they favor “right to work” laws, laws which get rid of the possibility of charging an agency fee to non-members. Right to work laws hurt unions and, in the long run, employees by robbing the unions of power, of funding, and of leverage. Right to work laws sound like they favor employees but they actually favor employers. This matter was argued in front of the Supreme Court on Monday, 2/26/2018.

An interesting article in The New York Times describes the matter as more heated than one would think. The lawyer presenting the case for the unions is a former colleague and friend of Neil Gorsuch, a member of the same law firm. That suggests some black-robed drama right there as they are believed to be on opposite sides in this case.

The Conservative Supremes accused unions of bringing cities to the brink of bankruptcy to which the unions responded that this is not the point of the case. But evidence of the Freedom Foundation and other right wing groups meddling in the business of the court suggests that the fix is in. If this doesn’t highlight the partisan nature of this Supreme Court then you are clearly blinded by you own political (right wing) bubble.

“Confronted with such briefs and articles, some judges might pull back and think twice about overturning a 40-year-old precedent for reasons so obviously grounded in policy rather than law. But if the effort was to shame the five justices who now hold the upper hand, I think it most likely backfired. The voice that came through to me was one that said: “Oh, yeah? Save your breath. We’ve got the votes and — in case you’ve forgotten — life tenure besides.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/01/opinion/supreme-court-labor-unions.html

Second Topic: Sinclair Broadcasting – Conservative creep

Sinclair Communications/Broadcasting is still pursuing its merger with Tribune Media even though this puts them over the current limit of  ownership as set by the FCC.

The FCC admits that they are custom-building their policy for Sinclair as we are told in this article from The Daily Beast.

http://thebea.st/2CIv4LZ

But Variety calls out Sinclair’s proposed scam of selling off the media outlets which put it over the FCC limit but signing management agreements with those same outlets so as to maintain control over those markets. If the FCC is forced to stick to existing rules Sinclair has strategies they hope will make their merger happen anyway.

http://variety.com/2018/politics/news/newsmax-sinclair-broadcast-group-fcc-1202713846/

“Newsmax, the conservative news outlet, says Sinclair Broadcast Group’s plans for station sales are a “sham” to gain FCC approval for its proposed   acquisition of Tribune Media.”

Third Topic : Changes at the New York Times

The New York Times has made editorial changes which have created “an op-ed crisis.” NYT was reliably left-leaning and moderate – but after the 2016 election the op-ed section has turned more activist, as have most readers on the left. James Bennet seems to be unhappy with that slant and is trying to introduce “balance”, which means more right wing input, and he is also moving to give new authors coverage, but the new authors he is choosing do not please the traditional NYT reader. The right wing, which has its own 24/7 television channel and plenty of talk radio coverage has been whining about unfair coverage by mainstream media. It is my contention that if the right said anything that could be mistaken for good policy then they would not have to whine and tattle. I am thinking about switching my subscription to the Washington Post.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/02/new-york-times-op-ed-crisis-james-bennet

Fourth Topic: Deportation

ICE and the mayor of Oakland, California are involved in a conflict over deportations because she keeps warning residents about upcoming deportations.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-oakland-mayor-ice-20180228-story.html

150 to be deported in California is a story reported in the UK press.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5444129/ICE-arrests-150-illegal-immigrants-California.html

From Syracuse, NY, another sanctuary city, we have more news about deportation.

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2018/02/once_tolerated_now_targeted_illegal_immigrants_in_cny_caught_in_crackdown.html

This article asks what happens to family members left behind after deportations.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/opinion/american-families-immigrants-deportation.html

Fifth Topic: New Study on Segregation (and it is not good news)

A new study shows that segregation and inequality are worse, and makes the argument that these issues will not be solved by privatization. This article includes excellent graphs and charts.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/28/opinion/the-unmet-promise-of-equality.html

Sixth Topic: Climate Change

The New York Times adds to its Climate Change series with another article headed by a spectacular video showing permanent changes on the Louisiana Delta caused by rising seas.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/24/us/jean-lafitte-floodwaters.html

Seventh Topic: Conspiracy Theories (How they go mainstream)

https://www.salon.com/2018/03/01/how-right-wing-conspiracy-theories-grow-mainstream-pundits-give-them-power/

 

I could go on but I won’t. Clearly there are stories about the White House and then there are the other news stories that describe the aftereffects of what goes on in the White House and Congress. Keeping an eye on how Conservative policies are working is a must if we someday hope to overturn these policies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sinclair Broadcasting on Immigration

Sinclair Broadcasting has once again left its biased fingerprints all over my local news. It looks as if this right wing media propaganda outlet has learned to be a bit more subtle about the stories they force on local news outlets. They have abandoned their easily recognizable mouthpiece, Brian Ephstyen for new sources that do not identify their leanings, unless you are a listener who pays attention to sources.

October 6, 2017 on the evening news there was offered up, in some detail, the report of a group called FAIR – (Federation for American Immigration Reform) giving us data (collected by the group) which tells exactly what illegal immigrants cost Americans (supposedly a lot).

There is enough divisiveness already in my county in the middle of New York State to call out a tar-and-feather incident against “cheating” immigrants and “favored” refugees at the slightest provocation. And here are our most popular local news stations reporting data designed to turn up the level of anger almost to the boiling point.

Apparently Sinclair does not realize how apolitical most of our residents are most of the time. But there may come a time when people begin to see that they don’t have to tune into Fox News or Rush Limbaugh to get their righteous indignation levels topped off. They can get a great dose of “stranger danger” right on their local news.

Here are some of the numbers offered up by FAIR and Sinclair. They are presented in the new graphic format favored by Donald Trump which we are beginning to see everywhere, especially in presentations of data summarized by Congressional committees. The Russia committee in the Senate had such a chart done in blue and white information chunks (pictographs and numbers, the new hieroglyphics) when they moaned on camera yesterday about being unable to talk with the author of the Russian dossier.

 

 

 

But who is this group FAIR and do they live up to their name or did they adopt it to throw us off the scent? They are definitely a right wing group and they have fought to get immigrants out of America for some time. There is no fact check data yet on their latest report because it is very new, but there are fact check reports dating back to 2002 which call into question the supposed facts of this extreme group.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that definitely leans left, but which has a solid reputation and is not usually considered a propagandist organization has a few things to say about FAIR.

“FAIR leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements. Its advertisements have been rejected because of racist content. FAIR’s founder, John Tanton, has expressed his wish that America remain a majority-white population: a goal to be achieved, presumably, by limiting the number of nonwhites who enter the country. One of the group’s main goals is upending the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended a decades-long, racist quota system that limited immigration mostly to northern Europeans. FAIR President Dan Stein has called the Act a ‘mistake’.”

Follow the link above to the article which contains much more evidence in case you are unconvinced by this little tidbit.

Why would my local news station include such a bogus study unless it was ordered to do so by Sinclair? The national news we used to be offered came from more mainstream sources, mostly the Associated Press or similar outlets. In this case we were told that this was a study by a research group called FAIR. All a listener had to do was look up the group on the internet to see its bona fides but I doubt that many people did that. The story was not reported in print on the site at cnycentral .com used by the local news channels, and there was, once again, no place for comments or public feedback on the site.

Did the story make a splash? I am guessing that those who heard it and agreed with it may have gotten a smug smile on their face to congratulate themselves on how they were able to make such correct assumptions, and that this article proves that immigrants are taking money from hard-working Americans. But, considering the source, does it? I have yet to hear any backlash against the story. But I am writing this, and perhaps someone will send an editorial to the local paper, if they will print it, which I doubt.

Syracuse University lost Si Newhouse this week and they are grateful for all he has done to make Syracuse an important center for training journalists and for the communications industry, but as I understand it, the Newhouse family are possibly the very Conservatives who are forcing local journalism away from the middle road and into the fringes of the nuts on the right wing. I would not want our college to lose its academic clout, but I would hope that we might see a more moderate trend coming back into at least our local print news.

If Sinclair Broadcasting is controlling your local media market call them out whenever you get a chance. They will not tell your neighbors where their news is coming from or that it might possibly be designed to sway their feelings in order to nudge them to agree with the opinions endorsed by Sinclair Broadcasting Group.

Sinclair We Heart Free Speech

Our free press is one of America’s greatest strengths. This is one of the “campaigns” of Mr. Trump that I find most disgraceful; his attacks on the media. He assaults the very best of our media and venerates all of the worst of it. He calls the media that tries to honestly report the events of the day “fake news” and he relies on all of the media which the rest of think of as “fake news”. Since our print media is already struggling to stay alive in these days of the internet, I am worried that Donald’s constant barrage of insults against the free press will leave us with only news that leans to the right, and made-up news.

Much of our pride in America is tied up in our free speech. We feel a bit superior to a nation like Russia or China with only state-sponsored news. Even so, we have lost some of our freedom because money is now speech and we don’t have enough money to buy as much “speech” as some Americans are able to these days. Even worse, now we have a “strong man” in charge who is trying to kill off sources of free speech. The best sources of news refuse to print unearned praise of the current occupant of the White House, so 45 is trying to suppress all our nation’s leading news sources.

Other powerful and wealthy men like the Koch brothers are trying to subvert media sources from within by buying them and then forcing them to print news stories they like or even ones they invent. I am very worried that the Conservative push to control America is going to take away the freedom of speech we have always enjoyed in our media.

History has taught us one way dictators destroy the free press is to make us begin to question which stories are factual and which stories are not. There used to be a fairly clear divide between commentary and news. Those lines are now being blurred. Before the 2016 election we all saw stories on Facebook that seemed extremely biased and some which struck us as too ridiculous to even bother to read. There were stories we had to hide so we wouldn’t ever have to see them again. Perhaps we attributed these stories to devotees of Fox News and never guessed that powerful people were deliberately planting “fake news”, or propaganda, on Facebook. But there were plenty of people on Facebook who would bury you in troll-speak if you dared express an opinion, in a comment, opposite to the “fake news”

I don’t like the Conservative agenda of today’s Republican Party and I make no secret of this. I do not believe that anything these folks want will be good for America, except perhaps training programs for workers and infrastructure investments (not pipelines). But Conservatives have been very effective at bamboozling, lying to, propagandizing, and convincing many Americas to believe that they have good ideas and that the Democrats don’t. If we are not careful the right – the GOP – will not just control the government and 30+ state governments, they might just become the only political power in America. What will we hear on our media then?

Well, I know where you can get a foretaste. Recently John Oliver outed the business plans of the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, a Conservative media group that owns local TV news stations in 81 local markets and that is trying to double the number of stations under its influence through a merger. In my mid-size city Sinclair bought three TV local news programs on different networks and two of those stations are the most popular stations for local news, the news broadcasts people listen to every day and every night. Syracuse, NY was cited by name by John Oliver on this national network (HBO) and this is a rare thing indeed unless the news is about snowstorms.

So far the most noticeable feature of the “takeover” is that these stations are obligated to air commentary a number of times each week by a Trump supporter named Boris Epshteyn, “Bottom Line with Boris”. Katy Waldman at Slate.com in her article with the title “News. Traffic. Weather. Trump” begins her article like this: “the face of Boris Epshteyn, chief political analyst for the behemoth Sinclair Broadcast Group, is glowing like an oversized egg about to hatch the world’s most affable chicken. ‘Let’s take a look at the White House press briefing,” he suggests genially, the corners of his mouth lifting. ‘What it is, what it represents, and how it serves the American people.”

Here’s a little sample of Boris in action.

I’m unsure that there is any path right now that would put news in Syracuse back with an owner who wants to offer segments that fairly present both sides of an issue or that take a brave stand when called for. But the word about Sinclair Broadcasting Group invading my local news is a depressing development and another sad step away from free speech. When will our politics, which has moved so far to the right, make a move back towards the center or to the left? That is difficult to predict. It could take many years to change US policy now that we have let Conservatives take over our politics, and have allowed them to be so invasive in our media dialogue and government. Will we lose our free speech rights? Will we become afraid to speak out if we disagree with laws or approaches to future crises that are sure to arise? Government-approved media could happen here. There is, as they say, “a slippery slope.”

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/07/how_boris_epshteyn_and_sinclair_bring_trump_propaganda_to_local_news.html

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2017/07/john_oliver_sinclair_broadcast_group_cny_central_syracuse.html

http://www.syracuse.com/business-news/index.ssf/2017/05/sinclair_broadcast_group_tribune_media_fox.html

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2013/11/syracuse_tv_stations_sold_ownership_sinclair_broadcast_group.html