Will Republicans Dump Him Now?

Resignation would be good. Impeachment would take too long.

From The New York Times:

Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says

The Txxxx administration has been deliberating for months about what to do about a stunning intelligence assessment.

Deliberating or hoping nobody would find out? Wow.

Just Another Thursday

Last night, the Txxxx administration asked the Supreme Court to abolish the Affordable Care Act, even though “Obamacare” has allowed millions of us to get health insurance  and even though, according to the internet, we’re in the midst of a pandemic.

From NBC News:

The Trump administration is asking the Supreme Court to wipe out Obamacare, arguing that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and that the rest of the law must be struck down with it.

The late-night brief, filed Thursday in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, carries major implications for the presidential election. If the justices agree, it would cost an estimated 20 million Americans their insurance coverage and nullify protections for pre-existing conditions.

The Trump administration’s brief comes as the U.S. has recorded more than 120,000 deaths from COVID-19, with nearly 2.5 million confirmed cases. On Wednesday, the nation hit a new record for the highest daily total of new infections reported with more than 45,500.

In a similar vein, the McSWeeney’s site has a list of 759 offenses committed by the president. It’s called:

LEST WE FORGET THE HORRORS: A CATALOG OF TRUMP’S WORST CRUELTIES, COLLUSIONS, CORRUPTIONS, AND CRIMES.

They’ve color-coded the list:

 – Sexual Misconduct, Harassment, & Bullying
 – White Supremacy, Racism, & Xenophobia
 – Public Statements / Tweets
 – Collusion with Russia & Obstruction of Justice
 – Trump Staff & Administration
 – Trump Family Business Dealings
 – Policy
 – Environment

It doesn’t appear you can search the list by clicking a category. More importantly, the list doesn’t include many cruelties, collusions, corruptions and crimes perpetrated by the terrific people who work for the president. (There have been many crimes, etc.)

But they do offer a link where you can get help registering to vote. It’s a government site, so it’s odd that the administration hasn’t shut it down. Their voter suppression task force must be asleep.

Finally, way back in 1979, Senator Edward Kennedy had trouble answering an interview question: “Why do you want to be president?” His stumbling performance was one of the factors that ended his campaign to replace President Jimmy Carter as the Democratic nominee. (YouTube has a brief history lesson.) Carter subsequently lost to Ronald Reagan, who began ruining the country shortly thereafter.

I bring this up because our president was asked a similar question last night: “What are your top priority items for a second term?” Here’s what he said:

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What a guy! What a president!

Remember to register and vote. You can see if you’re registered here and start getting registered if you’re not.

One of Those Disgusting Facebook Stories I Could Hardly Bear to Read

Facebook is a right-wing noise machine and the sooner everyone boycotts it, the better. There are alternatives. You can do a search for “Facebook replacement” and invite your valued contacts to follow you there. Or simply start using this terrific app instead:  Telegram.

This is from the informative newsletter Popular Info published by investigative journalist Judd Legum (he’s especially good at getting corporations to stop sponsoring TV racists):

The success of The Daily Wire, the website run by right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro, on Facebook is mind-boggling. The site has a small staff and primarily aggregates content from Twitter and other news outlets. Typically, its articles are very short, usually less than 500 words, and contain no original reporting.

And yet, last month, The Daily Wire was the seventh-ranked publisher on Facebook, according to the analytics service NewsWhip. Articles published in The Daily Wire attracted 60,616,745 engagements in May. Engagement is a combination of shares, likes, and comments, and is a way of quantifying distribution on Facebook. The reach of The Daily Wire’s articles was equal to the New York Times (60,722,727) and more than the Washington Post (49,219,525).

But that actually understates how well The Daily Wire does on Facebook. While the New York Times published 15,587 articles in May, and the Washington Post published 8,048, The Daily Wire published just 1,141. On a per article basis, The Daily Wire receives more distribution than any other major publisher. And it’s not close.

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What explains The Daily Wire’s phenomenal success on Facebook? Popular Information revealed part of the answer last October. But the full story is much darker.

Popular Information has discovered a network of large Facebook pages — each built by exploiting racial bias, religious bigotry, and violence — that systematically promote content from The Daily Wire. These pages, some of which have over 2 million followers, do not disclose a business relationship with The Daily Wire. But they all post content from The Daily Wire ten or more times each day. Moreover, these pages post the exact same content from The Daily Wire at the exact same time.

The undisclosed relationship not only helps explain The Daily Wire’s unlikely success on Facebook but also appears to violate Facebook’s rules.

How to convert bigotry and fear into shares and likes

The network of large Facebook pages promoting The Daily Wire are all run by Corey and Christy Pepple, who are best known as the creators of Mad World News. Facebook pages controlled by the Pepples include Mad World News (2,176,003 followers), The New Resistance (2,857,876 followers), Right Stuff (610,809 followers), America First (577,753 followers), and American Patriot (447,799 followers).

The reach of these pages is massive. Content posted to these five pages has generated more than 31 million engagements on Facebook over the last three months, according to CrowdTangle, an analytics service owned by Facebook. To put that in perspective, the reach of the network over this time period exceeds the New York Times (28 million engagements), the Washington Post (20 million engagements), and HuffPost (19 million engagements).

How did the pages like Mad World News and The New Resistance grow so big? They did it by exploiting racism, religious bigotry, and violence.

Here is how it works. Most of the content on the five pages in this network consists of links to MadWorldNews.com and TadHaps.com, two websites owned by the Pepples. These sites identify incendiary stories — that are frequently months or years old — that prey on prejudice and fear. The sites then rewrite the stories with no indication that the story is old. This generates a “new” link that is able to thrive in Facebook’s algorithm.

For example, TadHaps.com published a story on June 19, 2020, with the headline “Family Displays ‘Southern Pride’ Sign, Stranger Confronts Them With Gun.” The article describes how a man named Mark Wilson was standing on the side of the road with his family, waving Confederate flags. According to Wilson, a man drove up and pointed a gun at him and other family members. The man then drove away without harming anyone.

It’s not mentioned in TadHaps article, but the incident occurred five years ago, in 2015.

On June 20, 2020, the TadHaps article was then posted to Mad World News, The New Resistance, Right Stuff, America First, and American Patriot Facebook pages. It quickly racked up about 5,000 total engagements on Facebook.

Other stories published on TadHaps in the last few days include a remorseless Black gang member who dragged a police officer behind a stolen car, a fast food restaurant that was changed the name of menu items to be more respectful of Muslims, and a 13-year-old girl who was raped by five men. None of the stories mention that these incidents occurred months or years old.

The purpose of TadHaps is not to inform but to manipulate the Facebook algorithm by recycling old stories that elicit emotional reactions from conservatives.

The Daily Wire’s tactics and Facebook’s rules

Why do these toxic Facebook pages keep sharing content from The Daily Wire? Do the Pepples just really like Ben Shapiro’s site? The Daily Wire did not respond to a request for comment. But the behavior of these pages strongly suggests that The Daily Wire and Mad World News, LLC, the company owned by Corey and Christy Pepple, have a business relationship.

The Daily Wire is the only website outside of those owned by the Pepples that is shared by these five pages. And each of the five Facebook pages shares at least ten Daily Wire links every day. Conspicuously, the Facebook pages share the exact same links from The Daily Wire at the exact same time.

For example, all five pages shared this article from The Daily Wire on Aunt Jemima at 7:30 PM on June 19, 2020.

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These pages all shared this article from The Daily Wire from Chick-Fil-a at 9:30 PM on June 18, 2020.

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The pattern repeats over and over again, ten times or more every day. It’s behavior that strongly suggests that Mad World News, LLC is being paid to promote content from The Daily Wire.

If that’s the case, The Daily Wire could be violating Facebook’s rules. Facebook allows pages to be paid to post content, but the sponsorship must be disclosed using Facebook’s branded content tool.

We define branded content as a creator or publisher’s content that features or is influenced by a business partner for an exchange of value. Creators must use the branded content tool to tag the featured third party product, brand, or business partner with their prior consent. Branded content may only be posted by Facebook Pages and profiles and Instagram accounts with access to the branded content tool.

The activity also appears to violate Facebook’s prohibition on coordinated inauthentic behavior, which includes a ban on activity to “artificially boost the popularity of content.”

In response to an inquiry from Popular Information, a Facebook spokesperson said it investigated the behavior of these pages and found no violation of Facebook’s rules….

The notorious Mad World News

There is no reason that the network of Facebook pages run by Corey and Christy Pepple should have flown beneath Facebook’s radar. Years ago, the Pepples became notorious for exploiting Facebook with poisonous content.

At first, Mad World News was effectively the couple’s blog: they rewrote published articles, added their own commentary as “Christian Conservatives,” and shared their posts on Facebook. As the Pepples’ blog gained traction on Facebook, they began including digital ads and experimenting with the type of stories they featured. Divisive stories, in particular, performed disturbingly well. “We [all] like division…We thrive on it,” said Christy Pepple to The New York Times’ The Daily in 2018. At the time, the site drew roughly 20 million views each month. One month the Pepples made more in digital ad revenue from the site than their combined salaries in the previous year, according to The Daily.

Most of this revenue, however, is generated from deceptive, if not outright false, content. NewsGuard reports that Mad World News repeatedly makes “distorted or misleading claims, including about discredited conspiracy theories”…

In May of this year, NewsGuard flagged a Mad World News piece that accused Anthony Fauci of conspiring with Bill Gates as part of “sinister plans to ‘set up’ President Donald Trump.”

The outlet frequently runs stories targeting Black, Muslim, and immigrant populations. Recent story headlines include: “Atlanta Cops Walk Out In Protest Over Democrat DA’s ‘Sick Secret’ In Brooks Case,” “NYC Black Man Knocks Down 92-year-Old White Woman, Thanks to BLM & De Blasio,” and “Millions Donated to ‘Defund the Police’ Secretly Directed To Biden’s Campaign.”

Despite this, Mad World News’ stories rarely elicit “disputed” labels or disclaimers from Facebook. On the site’s “About Us” page, the platform attempts to excuse itself of fact-checking procedures, claiming that its content “expresses a personal opinion, advocates a point of view, or is self-promotional” and should be treated as such “for the purpose of fact-checking.”

The Daily Wire’s history of playing by its own rules

The Daily Wire’s apparent business relationship with Mad World News isn’t the first time the site has been caught flouting Facebook’s rules. Last October, Popular Information revealed a clandestine network of 14 large Facebook pages that purported to be independent but exclusively promote content from The Daily Wire in a coordinated fashion.

The network clearly violated Facebook’s prohibition on “inauthentic behavior,” which includes concealing “a Page’s purpose by misleading users about the ownership or control of that Page.” But Facebook refused to take action. “Our investigation found that these are real pages run by real people in the U.S. and do not violate our policies,” the company said.

Months later, after Facebook implemented a new policy around page ownership, The Daily Wire was forced to acknowledge it owned and controlled 13 of the 14 pages in the network. Facebook has still taken no action.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a relationship with Shapiro, who Zuckerberg has hosted at his home. According to a source who has spoken with Shapiro, Zuckerberg and Shapiro remain in direct communication.

Unquote.

Meanwhile, some good news for a change. From The Washington Post:

A massive shift away from Trump in six key states indicates serious trouble for his reelection bid. White voters, young voters, old voters and independents are all much less inclined to vote for him in battleground states.

It’s too soon for Happy Dancing and we can’t un-elect Zuckerberg, but we can regulate the hell out of Facebook.

A Reminder Where the Real Money Is

From Philadephia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch’s newsletter (you can sign up here — it’s free):

>> The billions for a more just, less racist America are hiding in plain sight at the Pentagon 

You couldn’t blame the legions of marchers who’ve taken over some of America’s streets this past month in the name of justice for George Floyd for wondering which army they were fighting. Many protests have been met with weapons of warfare — with choking tear gas (actually, the UN doesn’t even allow that in war!), sharpshooters taking out eyes with rubber bullets, or cops tossing grenades that go flash and bang, occasionally with an armored personnel carrier as a scenic backdrop.

To protesters, the massive response by helmeted robocops is proving their point that America spends too much on policing, and it does! $115 billion a year to be exact. But what if the problem with “militarized police” isn’t only the police but the “militarized” part? … a sickness that manifests itself in warrior cops at home but also drone strikes in an endless U.S. “forever war” overseas.

What if the money to pay for all the social programs that our over-policed cities really need — to hire school nurses and buy new textbooks, and recruit a new kind of army of social workers and drug counselors — isn’t only supporting your local police, but hiding in plain sight on the left bank of the Potomac River?

No political leaders from either party ever ask how taxpayers could possibly afford the $1.5 trillion for the Pentagon’s underwhelming F-35 stealth jet, even as your coronavirus nurse works the ICU wearing a Hefty bag. — Will Bunch

Defund the police? Sure. But real leaders defund the Pentagon.

“Our security investments have been in too many of the wrong places,” Matt Duss, the top foreign-policy advisor to former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, told me this week, in what could arguably be called an understatement. “We’ve need to have a serious conversation about reducing the defense budget.”

Do we ever! The current Pentagon annual budget of $736 billion is larger than military spending by the next 10 biggest nations combined — and we’re talking about places like China, Russia and India. (For the curious, only China’s military spends more than that $115 billion America spends just on cops.) Yet somehow, no political leaders from either party ever ask how taxpayers could possibly afford the $1.5 trillion (yes, with a “t”) that’s gone down a sinkhole for the Pentagon’s underwhelming F-35 stealth jet, even as your coronavirus nurse works the ICU wearing a Hefty bag.

The weird part of this, though, is the way that congressional Democrats — who once could be counted on to at least pay lip service to curbing the military-industrial complex — have thrown in the towel on defense cuts in the Trump era. When Democrats re-took control of the House in 2019, their $733 billion proposal for the Pentagon was only a tad smaller than President Trump’s bloated plan.

“Members of Congress are very concerned about being cast as ‘weak on defense,‘” Duss told me — a problem that’s become deeply rooted in the so-called “war on terror” era, post 9/11. There’s other issues — America’s politically wired allies in the Middle East and elsewhere pushing for a U.S. military presence, and defense jobs scattered across so many congressional districts.

Despite all these roadblocks, Congress, led by Duss’ boss, Vermont’s Sanders, last year turned heads with an unprecedented vote to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen — thwarted, of course, by a Trump veto. Now, in a George Floyd moment where radical change seems possible, Sanders is pushing an amendment to immediate cut defense spending by 10 percent to funnel more than $70 billion into anti-poverty programs.

Currently the most ambitious dreamer among the defund-the-Pentagon crowd is California Rep. Barbara Lee, the only House member to cast a “no” vote on authorizing the anti-terror war in 2001. Her resolution aims to cut U.S. defense spending roughly in half — some $350 million — which would include canceling Trump’s Space Force (the real one, not the badly reviewed TV show) and getting rid of a majority of America’s global archipelago of military bases. Can’t afford it? With a deep economic recession and pressing social needs, can we afford not to?

Taking on the military-industrial complex isn’t a distraction from the demands on the street for racial justice; rather, it cuts to the core of the problem. Whether armed men are firing tear gas into Lafayette Square or Predator drones into weddings in Afghanistan, the amount of money that America spends on suppressing, attacking and killing human beings is obscene. And there’s a new generation, with a new explanation, that’s figuring this out.