Tuesday, April 4th, 2017


The Truth About Fake News

Trump has called journalists the enemy of the American people, and has repeatedly referred to CNN as fake news (more often than not, deploying all-caps). But if CNN and Trump are at war, it's the most symbiotic war ever waged. CNN thrives when there's one story to cover all day every day. Trump thrives when he is that story (as he has been on CNN since the early days of his campaign). From the NYT Magazine: CNN Had a Problem. Donald Trump Solved It "It's hard to imagine that either Trump or Zucker would be where he is today without the other. Trump's foray into reality TV gave Zucker a prime-time hit when he badly needed one; now, Trump's foray into politics has given Zucker a big story when he badly needed one. It's a symbiotic relationship that could only thrive in the world of television, where the borders between news and entertainment, and even fantasy and reality, have grown increasingly murky."

+ And it's not just CNN. As Mathew Ingram reports, "last year, adults over 18-years-old watched over 27 billion minutes of national cable television news programming per week. That's almost 45% more than they watched in 2015." Trump said we'd get tired of all the winning. And for chief revenue officers at media companies, that might very well be true.


Rural Plasticity

"In this town of 16,000 -- located near the Texas border in Oklahoma's Bryan County, where Trump won 76 percent of the vote -- excitement about Trump's presidency has been dulled by confusion over an agenda that seems aimed at hurting their community more than helping it." Many of Trump's key supporters are continuing to support the man who gave voice to a community that felt it had been silenced by past administrations (and geopolitical trends). But that support is facing a test as "the president's proposed budget would disproportionately harm the rural areas and small towns that were key to his unexpected win."

+ "The surge only underscores the deeply uneven world of what economists call non-metro America, where the recession never ended in some places and is barely remembered in others." The decline of rural America is a very real story (and one that, contrary to popular perception, has been widely covered by the media). But it turns out that we're only getting half the story. Here's the NYT on Twin Falls, Idaho. A region that, like many others, is bucking the trend and thriving.


Assad Story

"When he reached the scene, there was no smell, he said. He found people lying on the floor, unable to move and with constricted pupils, he added. Mohammed Rasoul, the head of a charity ambulance service in Idlib, told the BBC that his medics had found people, many of them children, choking in the street." The sick and seemingly endless war in Syria took another turn for the worse as a chemical attack in Idlib kills 58 (so far), including many children.

+ CNN: "White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday that a gas attack in a rebel-controlled area of Syria was perpetrated by the forces tied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and are a 'consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution.'" I'm no cheerleader for the Obama administration's Syria policies. But for the White House to react to this mass murder by blaming the past administration marks a sick and disgraceful new low in what has become an obsessive modus operandi.

+ And as John McCain points out, the attack comes just days after the White House made clear that removing Assad was no longer a US goal. (Assad is a Putin stooge. Let's see if we hear some harsh words for our new partners in Syria.)

+ "I just want to let everybody know that we are very much behind President al-Sisi -- he has done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation." Egypt's President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi got a very warm welcome in the White House.


Cold War Kids

"By now, it is widely recognized that Russia is waging a campaign of covert political manipulation across the United States, Europe and the Middle East, fueling fears of a second Cold War. But it's less understood that in international airspace and waters, Russia and the U.S. are brushing up against each other in perilous ways with alarming frequency." HuffPo Highline: This Is How The Next World War Starts: "With one miscalculation, by one startled pilot, at 400 miles an hour. And now that Russia is determined to destabilize the West, this scenario is keeping the military establishment up at night." (Somewhat hyperbolic title, very interesting article.)


On a Wing and a Payer

"There's the traditional activity -- the one with jets -- which involves pricing seats for as much as possible, collecting a bag fee, and selling some food and drinks while keeping a close eye on costs. The other business is the sale of miles—mostly to the big banks, but also to companies that range from car rental firms to hotels to magazine peddlers. The latter has expanded so much that it accounts for more than half of all profits for some airlines." (And unlike the miles, those profits have no blackout dates...) From Bloomberg: Airlines Make More Money Selling Miles Than Seats.


Of Friends and Enemies

This is probably not what most people mean when they say they want more followers. According to the WSJ, "tourists from Britain and other countries visiting the US could be forced to reveal mobile phone contacts, social media passwords and financial data under 'extreme vetting' practices being considered by the Trump administration." (I wonder if they can block someone for offensive tweets...)


Control Balt Delete

"It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies." And with that, Jeff Sessions ordered an examination of all reform agreements between justice department and local police forces -- including Ferguson and Baltimore.


Fox Getting Lonely Hen House

Aside for settlements that amount to little more than a rounding error, Fox News has never paid much of a price for its storied history of sexual harassment. That could change. In the days since the NYT reported on multiple settlements involving Bill O'Reilly, big advertisers from BMW to Allstate are pulling their ads from the network's top show. (I wonder if it makes sense to pull ads from only O'Reilly's show. The organization clearly enabled this from the very top.)


Buy Me Some Peanuts and Crack

"In the early '80s, an A/C repairman, an unemployed photographer and a Major League mascot became the dealers of choice for the city's sports stars – and changed baseball history along the way." Let's ring in the new baseball season with a look back at the cocaine kings of the Pittsburgh Pirates.


Bottom of the News

Verizon is going to put AOL and Yahoo together and form one brand called Oath. (Before you judge the name, you should know that those were the only four letters left after all the hacks...)

+ How Trader Joe's wine became cheaper than bottled water.

+ Scientific American: We Deceive Ourselves to Better Deceive Others.