Showing posts with label Donald Trump Related. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Donald Trump Related. Show all posts

20 January 2021

Favale Media's "Donald Trump Farewell Video" Features Four Long Years Of Lowlights In Just Four Minutes [Video Included]


REM predicted the end of the world as we know it would start with an earthquake but for many it started with a descending escalator carrying Donald and Melania in Trump Tower on June 16th, 2015…and it's been all downhill since then.

Now with Trump's presidency officially ended, Favale Media has captured the last four years of lowlights in a commemorative video featuring Radiohead's "Creep".
"Regardless of political affiliation, every presidency in modern history has been fodder for comedy," said Vinnie Favale.
Comedians had a field day in 1952 with Vice President Nixon's "checkers" speech. In 1963, Vaughn Meader had the number one album ("The First Family") spoofing JFK. Nixon's Watergate and Clinton's Monicagate were a goldmine for Johnny Carson's monologue writers and Reagan, Bush 41, Bush 43 and Obama made their own fair share of gaffes to keep the late-night talk show writers busy.

  • But Trump's presidency presented a whole different challenge for the comedy industry.
Favale says "Unfortunately old the expression 'it's all fun and games till somebody gets hurt...then it's hilarious" never applied to Trump. Claims that he could shoot someone on 5th avenue and get away with it and exaggerating the size of his inauguration crowds were relatively harmless…contesting the election results and instigating the riot at the Capitol not so much."
Prior to the attack on the Capitol, Favale was going to take a lighthearted approach. "There were so many moments to choose from, I thought I might just highlight the silly stuff and use the Village People as the soundtrack. But then Trump's comments at his "Save America March" rally and the ensuing attack on the Capitol by his loyalists forced Favale to change the tone of the video.
"The thing about the Trump is that for every silly video clip there are like ten horrific ones and the footage from the January 6th riot was just too difficult to ignore."
  • Using the aptly titled "Creep" from Radiohead, the video came together pretty quickly.
"It's sad that it all had to end this way and I think we all are looking forward to the inevitable Biden grandpa memes."
Favale Media's "Donald Trump Farewell Video" Features Four Long Years Of Lowlights In Just Four Minutes
Favale Media's "Donald Trump Farewell Video" Features Four Long Years Of Lowlights In Just Four Minutes (screengrab)
Favale Media specializes in Live Events, Films, Musical Theater, Scripted & Unscripted TV Programs. Vinnie Favale is a veteran of CBS, David Letterman, The Howard Stern Show and a founder of Comedy Central.
SOURCE: Favale Media

14 January 2021

Trump's Twitter Ban Obscures The Real Problem: State-Backed Manipulation Is Rampant On Social Media

Trump's Twitter Ban Obscures The Real Problem: State-Backed Manipulation Is Rampant On Social Media
Trump's Twitter Ban Obscures The Real Problem: State-Backed Manipulation Is Rampant On Social Media (ozrimoz/Shutterstock)

Donald Trump’s controversial removal from social media platforms has reignited debate around the censorship of information published online. But the issue of disinformation and manipulation on social media goes far beyond one man’s Twitter account. And it is much more widespread than previously thought.

Since 2016, our team at the Oxford Internet Institute has monitored the rapid global proliferation of social media manipulation campaigns, which we define as the use of digital tools to influence online public behaviour. In the past four years, social media manipulation has evolved from a niche concern to a global threat to democracy and human rights.

Our latest report found that organised social media manipulation campaigns are now common across the world — identified in 81 countries in 2020, up from 70 countries in 2019. The map below shows the global distribution of these 81 countries, marked in dark blue.

Trump's Twitter Ban Obscures The Real Problem: State-Backed Manipulation Is Rampant On Social Media
The countries marked in dark blue experienced industrial disinformation campaigns in 2020. (OII, Author provided (No reuse))
In our report, we focus on the use of “cyber troops”, which are teams from the government, the military or political parties which are committed to manipulating public opinion on social media. Cyber troops regularly conduct what we call “computational propaganda” campaigns.

Computational propaganda involves the use of programmed bots or humans to spread purposefully misleading information across the internet, often on an industrial scale.

To do this, computational propagandists make use of an extensive toolkit of disinformation tools. Political bots amplify hate speech and create the impression of trending political messages on Twitter and Facebook. The illegal harvesting of data helps propagandists target messaging at specific, often vulnerable individuals and groups. Troll armies, meanwhile, are regularly deployed to suppresses political activism and the freedom of the press.

In 2020, we identified 62 countries in which state agencies themselves are using these tools to shape public opinion. In other countries included in our study, these tools are being used by private organisations, or foreign actors.

Disinformation for hire

Despite the Cambridge Analytica scandal exposing how private firms can meddle in democratic elections, our research also found an alarming increase in the use of “disinformation-for-hire” services across the world. Using government and political party funding, private-sector cyber troops are increasingly being hired to spread manipulated messages online, or to drown out other voices on social media.

Our research found state actors working with private computational propaganda companies in 48 countries in 2020, up from 21 identified between 2017 and 2018, and only nine such instances between 2016 and 2017. Since 2007, almost US$60 million (£49 million) has been spent globally on contracts with these firms.

Additionally, we’ve uncovered relationships between hired cyber troops and civil society groups who ideologically support a particular cause, such as youth groups and social media influencers. In the United States, for example, the pro-Trump youth group Turning Point Action was used to spread online disinformation and pro-Trump narratives about both COVID-19 and mail-in ballots.

To achieve their political ends, smear campaigns against a political opponent are the most common strategy employed by cyber troops, featuring in 94% of all the countries we investigated. In 90% of countries we observed the spreading of pro-party or pro-government propaganda. Suppressing participation through trolling or harassment was a feature in 73% of countries, while in 48% cyber troops’ messaging sought to polarise citizens.

Social media moderation

Clearly, debates around the censoring of Trump and his supporters on social media cover only one facet of the industry’s disinformation crisis. As more countries invest in campaigns that seek to actively mislead their citizens, social media firms are likely to face increased calls for moderation and regulation — and not just of Trump, his followers and related conspiracy theories like QAnon.

Trump's Twitter Ban Obscures The Real Problem: State-Backed Manipulation Is Rampant On Social Media
Donald Trump was banned from Twitter in the aftermath of the Capitol riots (pcruciatti/Shutterstock)

Already this year, the prevalence of computational propaganda campaigns throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and in the aftermath of the US election has prompted many social media firms to limit the misuse of their platforms by removing accounts which they believe are managed by cyber troops.

For instance, our research found that between January 2019 and December 2020, Facebook removed 10,893 accounts, 12,588 pages and 603 groups from its platform. In the same period, Twitter removed 294,096 accounts, and continues to remove accounts linked to the far right.

Despite these account removals, our research has exposed that between January 2019 and December 2020 almost US$10 million was spent by cyber troops on political advertisements. And a crucial part of the story is that social media companies continue to profit from the promotion of disinformation on their platforms. Calls for tighter regulation and firmer policing are likely to follow Facebook and Twitter until they truly get to grips with the tendency of their platforms to host, spread and multiply disinformation.

A strong, functional democracy relies upon the public’s access to high-quality information. This enables citizens to engage in informed deliberations and to seek consensus. It’s clear that social media platforms have become crucial in facilitating this information exchange.

These companies should therefore increase their efforts to flag and remove disinformation, along with all cyber troop accounts which are used to spread harmful content online. Otherwise, the continued escalation in computational propaganda campaigns that our research has revealed will only heighten political polarisation, diminish public trust in institutions, and further undermine democracy worldwide.

About Today's Contributor:

Hannah Bailey, PhD researcher in Social Data Science, University of Oxford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

7 January 2021

QAnon and The Storm of The U.S. Capitol: The Offline Effect of Online Conspiracy Theories

QAnon and The Storm of The U.S. Capitol: The Offline Effect of Online Conspiracy Theories
A supporter of President Donald Trump, seen wearing a QAnon shirt, is confronted by Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber during the invasion of the U.S. Capitol.(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

What is the cost of propaganda, misinformation and conspiracy theories? Democracy and public safety, to name just two things. The United States has received a stark lesson on how online propaganda and misinformation have an offline impact.

For months, Donald Trump has falsely claimed the November presidential election was rigged and that’s why he wasn’t re-elected. The president’s words have mirrored and fed conspriacy theories spread by followers of the QAnon movement.

While conspiracy theorists are often dismissed as “crazy people on social media,” QAnon adherents were among the individuals at the front line of the storming of Capitol Hill.

QAnon is a decentralized, ideologically motivated and violent extemist movement rooted in an unfounded conspiracy theory that a global “Deep State” cabal of satanic pedophile elites is responsible for all the evil in the world. Adherents of QAnon also believe that this same cabal is seeking to bring down Trump, whom they see as the world’s only hope in defeating it.

The evolution of QAnon

Though it started as a series of conspiracy theories and false predictions, over the past three years QAnon has evolved into an extremist religio-political ideology.

I’ve been studying the movement for more than two years. QAnon is what I call a hyper-real religion. QAnon takes popular cultural artifacts and integrates them into an ideological framework.

QAnon has been a security threat in the making for the past three years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has played a signficant role in popularizing the QAnon movement. Facebook data since the start of 2020 shows QAnon membership grew by 581 per cent — most of which occurred after the United States closed its borders last March as part of its coronavirus containment strategy.

QAnon and The Storm of The U.S. Capitol: The Offline Effect of Online Conspiracy Theories
Aggregate growth of QAnon membership in Facebook groups and pages between January and September 2020. Data collected and visualized September 4, 2020 courtsey of CrowdTangle.

As social media researcher Alex Kaplan noted, 2020 was the year QAnon became all of our problem as the movement initially gained traction by spreading COVID-related conspiracy theories and disinformation and was then further mainstreamed by 97 U.S. congressional candidates who publicly showed support for QAnon.

Crowdsourced answers

The essence of QAnon lies in its attempts to delineate and explain evil. It’s about theodicy, not secular evidence. QAnon offers its adherents comfort in an uncertain — and unprecedented — age as the movement crowdsources answers to the inexplicable.

QAnon becomes the master narrative capable of simply explaining various complex events. The result is a worldview characterized by a sharp distinction between the realms of good and evil that is non-falsifiable.

No matter how much evidence journalists, academics and civil society offer as a counter to the claims promoted by the movement, belief in QAnon as the source of truth is a matter of faith — specifically in their faith in Trump and “Q,” the anonymous person who began the movement in 2017 by posting a series of wild theories about the Deep State.

Trump validated theories

The year 2020 was also Trump finally gave QAnon what it always wanted: respect. As Travis View, a conspiracy theory researcher and host of the QAnon Anonymous podcast recently wrote: “Over the past few months …Trump has recognized the QAnon community in a way its followers could have only fantasized about when I began tracking the movement’s growth over two years ago.”

Trump, lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, and QAnon “rising star” Ron Watkins have all been actively inflaming QAnon apocalyptic and anti-establishment desires by promoting voter fraud conspiracy theories.

Doubts about the validity of the election have been circulating in far-right as well as QAnon circles. Last October, I wrote that if there were delays or other complications in the final result of the presidential contest, it would likely feed into a pre-existing belief in the invalidity of the election — and foster a chaotic environment that could lead to violence.

QAnon and The Storm of The U.S. Capitol: The Offline Effect of Online Conspiracy Theories
A shirtless man known as the ‘QAnon Shaman’ was one of the high-profile members of Trump supporters who invaded the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Hope for miracles

The storming of U.S. Capitol saw the culmination of what has been building up for weeks: the “hopeium” in QAnon circles that some miracle via Vice-President Mike Pence and other constitutional witchcraft would overturn the election results.

Instead, QAnon followers are now faced with the end of a Trump presidency — where they had free rein — and the fear of what a Biden presidency will bring.

We have now long passed the point of simply asking: how can people believe in QAnon when so many of its claims fly in the face of facts? The attack on the Capitol showed the real dangers of QAnon adherents.

Their militant and anti-establishment ideology — rooted in a quasi-apocalyptic desire to destroy the existing, corrupt world and usher in a promised golden age — was on full display for the whole world to see. Who could miss the shirtless man wearing a fur hat, known as the QAnon Shaman, leading the charge into the Capitol rotunda?

What will happen now? QAnon, along with other far-right actors, will likely continue to come together to achieve their insurrection goals. This could lead to a continuation of QAnon-inspired violence as the movement’s ideology continues to grow in American culture.

About Today's Contributor:

Marc-André Argentino, PhD candidate Individualized Program, 2020-2021 Public Scholar, Concordia University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

13 October 2020

Nashville Music Duo Brother Gabe's House All Set To Anger Trump's Base With Controversial New Single 'Mother Freedom' [Video Included]

Nashville Music Duo Brother Gabe's House All Set To Anger Trump's Base With Controversial New Single 'Mother Freedom'
Nashville Music Duo Brother Gabe's House All Set To Anger Trump's Base With Controversial New Single 'Mother Freedom' (screengrab)
This October 13th, Nashville-based southern rock duo Brother Gabe's House are exploding into election season with their fiercely political new single 'Mother Freedom' — and they're not afraid to speak their mind.
The song was penned by Gabriel Jordan (AKA Brother Gabe) as a response to the destruction of American democratic values that he, like most of the world, has witnessed with horror over the last four years. Beke Love (Brother Gabe vocalist), worked out the melody and brought his words to life.

Occasionally a song will surface at just the right time to define a crucial moment in American history — Bob Dylan's 'The Times They Are A-Changin'', for example, or Green Day's 'American Idiot'. These songs exploded on the American music scene equipped with enough zeitgeist to make them eternal. 'Mother Freedom' by Brother Gabe's House hums with that same potential.
"The lyrics came to me quickly. I almost felt as if Mother Freedom herself had grabbed my hand and taken the pen. I felt like a spectator actually." – Gabriel Jordan
As America faces economic uncertainty, pandemic and social unrest not seen since the 1960s, 'Mother Freedom' is the heart cry of a nation. With the country's most important presidential election in a century just weeks away, this powerful song could not be timelier.

'Mother Freedom' - The Video:

  • 'Mother Freedom' is the first single from the duo's debut album, set for release in March 2021.
  • 'Mother Freedom' will be available on all digital streaming platforms from October 13th 
Nashville Music Duo Brother Gabe's House All Set To Anger Trump's Base With Controversial New Single 'Mother Freedom'
Nashville Music Duo Brother Gabe's House All Set To Anger Trump's Base With Controversial New Single 'Mother Freedom' (screengrab)

About Brother Gabe's House:

Brother Gabe's House is a southern rock duo based in Nashville, comprised of Gabriel Jordan and Beke Love who first met at a local writer's night. The pair soon formed Blended 328 — a country group that became a U.S. music ambassador, sharing American values with at-risk youth around the world.

  • Although Blended 328 disbanded, Beke and Gabriel continue their music journey through Brother Gabe's House.

Bonus Video:

7 August 2020

The Simpsons and Spinal Tap Star Harry Shearer Brings You Donald Trump As You've Never Seen Him Before [Video Included]

The Simpsons and Spinal Tap Star Harry Shearer Brings You Donald Trump As You've Never Seen Him Before
The Simpsons and Spinal Tap Star Harry Shearer Brings You Donald Trump As You've Never Seen Him Before (Screengrab)
A new video depicting Donald Trump performing a song in praise of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is today revealed as being the work of The Simpsons and Spinal Tap star Harry Shearer

Son in Law, which premiered on YouTube, is the first track to be released in a cycle of satirical songs inspired by the last four years of US politics and in particular the often mercurial behaviour of the current occupant of The White House. 

The Simpsons and Spinal Tap Star Harry Shearer Brings You Donald Trump As You've Never Seen Him Before
The Simpsons and Spinal Tap Star Harry Shearer Brings You Donald Trump As You've Never Seen Him Before (Screengrab)
  • A new song will be released each week throughout the summer and autumn.
The "Son In Law" video uses groundbreaking motion-capture animation to portray the US President lionizing his senior advisor and husband of his daughter Ivanka. At one point it shows the spookily real Trump with his hand casually hovering over the nuclear button on his desk in The Oval Office, whilst extolling the virtues of his daughter's curves.
Harry Shearer says, "You can't fire family, but you can sing about them."

The video was conceived and produced by Harry Shearer with Matt Hermans of The Electric Lens Company in Sydney, Australia. The On Set Producer was Harry's long-time collaborator, cinematographer Matthew Mindlin. 

COVID-180, out today, is the second song in the series and has Shearer as the Leader of The Free World as he dances to his own tune in a dizzying reality-distanced spin away from the virus that has swept the world.

Written by Shearer, the old-style New Orleans R&B song has The Simpsons star on vocals in an eerily accurate impersonation of the President of The United States. 

 He is joined by a band of top New Orleans musicians who include David Torkanowsky of The Astral Project and Stanton Moore Trio on piano and organ, The Metres star George Porter, Jr. on bass, Raymond Weber of Dumpstaphunk on drums, leading saxophonist Brad Walker, Scott Frock of Delfeayo Marsalis' Uptown Jazz Orchestra, on trumpet, and one of New Orleans' top trombonists Jon Ramm. 

The track is mixed by long-time Harry Shearer musical collaborator C J Vanston at The Treehouse North Hollywood and produced by David Torkanowsky. It was recorded in New Orleans and Los Angeles.

The Simpsons and Spinal Tap Star Harry Shearer Brings You Donald Trump As You've Never Seen Him Before
"COVID-180" by Harry Shearer
  • Harry Shearer has vocally portrayed every US president of his lifetime. Donald Trump is the third he has portrayed physically, having previously played Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan on screen.

SOURCE: Harry Shearer

1 February 2020

Trump Cancels Obama Landmine Policy; Ensures Civilian Suffering With New Mine Use Potential

Trump Cancels Obama Landmine Policy; Ensures Civilian Suffering With New Mine Use Potential
Trump Cancels Obama Landmine Policy; Ensures Civilian Suffering With New Mine Use Potential (image via
The Trump Administration has announced a deadly landmine policy shift, effectively committing the U.S. to resume the use and stockpiling of antipersonnel landmines. 

Landmines are devastating, victim-activated devices that cannot discriminate between the footstep of a child or that of a soldier.
"This move is a death sentence for civilians," says Jerome Bobin, Canadian Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion. "There are acts in war that are simply out of bounds. Nations, even superpowers, must never use certain weapons because of the superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering they cause. Landmines fall directly into this category. There is no use for landmines that cannot be accomplished by other means that do not so significantly and indiscriminately kill and maim civilians."
The move is a direct reversal of President Obama's 2014 commitment that inched the U.S. closer to compliance with the 1997 Ottawa Convention, known as the Mine Ban Treaty. President Obama's move left only the Korean peninsula as an exception, due to ongoing mine use in the demilitarized zone.

Failure rate

The announcement states, "The Department of Defense is issuing a new landmine policy. This policy will authorize Combatant Commanders, in exceptional circumstances, to employ advanced, non-persistent landmines specifically designed to reduce unintended harm to civilians and partner forces."
Non-persistent mines are typically laid on the ground surface, and they should be able to destroy themselves within a relatively short period of time—from few hours to days.
"Don't be fooled," warns Alma Taslidžan Al-Osta, Humanity & Inclusion's Disarmament and Protection of Civilians Advocacy Manager. "Everything that man creates has a failure rate. The idea that so-called "advanced" landmines will be safer than older types of devices, is absurd. What happens if they don't neutralize as intended? Our teams see, first hand, how weapons often marketed as "self destructing" continue to injure, maim, and terrorize civilians all over the world on a daily basis.

We also see how quickly and regularly civilians move from one area to another to avoid conflict. What if they enter a mined area and such self-destruction hasn't happened to the mines around them?"

Mine Ban Treaty

The U.S. is one of the few countries that has yet to join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, sharing ranks with China, Egypt, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Russia. There are 164 States parties to the treaty, making the ban on landmines a universal norm of international humanitarian law. However, the great paradox of this policy shift is that for nearly 30 years, the U.S. has refrained from using or trading antipersonnel landmines.

What's more, the policy change sends a very negative signal, essentially handing a blank check to States or groups willing to continue or expand their use of landmines, which had significantly decreased after the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty. "Canada cannot remain indifferent to this dramatic American movement," Bobin adds.

Humanity & Inclusion's decades of experience with clearing landmines, as well as taking care of survivors of landmine explosions, leads to the conclusion that no use is safe.

 "We oppose in the strongest terms the idea that military commanders will feel empowered to use mines," Bobin notes. "The safest landmine is the one that is never produced."

Backward step

"Make no mistake, this is absolutely a step backward," Bobin adds. "This significant and negative development is a thunderclap for all of the thousands of individuals who have survived contact with a landmine, as well as the family and friends of hundreds of thousands who have not."
Humanity & Inclusion runs projects to minimize the impact of landmines on civilians in dozens of countries, returning land to communities through demining, teaching people to spot, avoid and report explosive remnants of war through risk education, and providing support and care to victims of landmines. The organization works to raise the visibility of these landmine victims and their communities, so that the world is reminded of the scourge of landmines.

Mine Ban Treaty

The Mine Ban Treaty prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of antipersonnel mines. It is the most comprehensive international instrument for eradicating landmines and deals with everything from mine use, production and trade, to victim assistance, mine clearance and stockpile destruction. The treaty has been signed in Ottawa in 1997.

The International Campaign against Landmines received the Nobel Peace Price, Oslo, December 1997
The International Campaign against Landmines received the Nobel Peace Price, Oslo, December 1997 (image via Humanity & Inclusion)

About Humanity & Inclusion

Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for its work banning landmines, Humanity & Inclusion (the new name of handicap international), is an independent international aid organization working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 38 years. 

Humanity & Inclusion is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, and winner of the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize

Humanity & Inclusion takes action and campaigns in places where "living with dignity" is no easy task. In 2018, Humanity & Inclusion's projects directly benefited 2.1 million people.

Related Video:

20 January 2020

Bennett Wales & The Relief Releases New Politically Charged Protest Single 'Hey Otto' - Song Grieves Torture and Death of Otto Warmbier by Brutal North Korean Regime [Video Included]

Bennett Wales & The Relief  - "Hey Otto"
Bennett Wales & The Relief - "Hey Otto" (screengrab)
Bennett Wales & The Relief (BW&TR) announced the release of the first of 10 singles slated for this year. "Hey Otto" is a visceral rock-and-roll lament for the detainment, torture and death of Otto Warmbier, amidst a widely publicized 2016 North Korean media spectacle and cover up. Echoing the best efforts of time-honored protest troubadours like Dylan or Marley, the new single harbingers the release of BW&TR's sophomore collection, "Album II." 
"Otto's story is one that we just had to tell," said BW&TR. "Like most of the country at the time, we were stunned by his treatment at the hands of the vicious, dictatorial regime in North Korea – all for the relatively tiny crime of a simple poster vandalism. He was brutalized by North Korean officials, then sent home in a vegetative coma from which he later died. And to make matters worse for his family, the POTUS sided with the official North Korean cover story. It's the kind of gut-wrenching tale you just can't make up, and exactly the sort of story that needs to be told right now about what's still going on in the world."
"Hey Otto" is one of the featured singles from BW&TR's much anticipated new record title: "Album II." Other songs on the upcoming album include "I Got Bills" and "Wolfstep." The first talks about trying to keep one's head above water in a world that is continually growing more expensive; while "Wolfstep" is a melodic musical howl marking the need to remain steadfastly and aggressively dedicated to one's goals.

The Video:

  • BW&TR is currently planning an intensive 2020 tour in Virginia and the greater East Coast, with specific date announcements forthcoming. For news on the upcoming tour, album, new singles and other info, follow Bennett Wales & The Relief on social media and Spotify: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Spotify.

About Bennett Wales & The Release:

BW&TR is the unique rock-and-roll creation of a group of five musicians who came together after gaining prominence playing in and around the Tidewater region of Virginia. BW&TR features the musical talents of Mike Fischetti (bass), Caleb Little (keys), Brock Bittner (guitar), Drew Orton (drums) and Bennett Wales (vocals/guitar). Their debut album, "Flood Without Water," personifies their heart-thumping, kick-down-the-door musical approach.
    Bennett Wales & The Relief
    Bennett Wales & The Relief
    SOURCE: Bennett Wales & The Relief

    16 December 2019

    Half of Americans Say Donald Trump Deserves Coal in His Stocking

    Half of Americans Say Donald Trump Deserves Coal in His Stocking
    Half of Americans Say Donald Trump Deserves Coal in His Stocking (image via
    It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and as carols are sung and eggnog is sipped, it's time to start thinking about what presents one might find under the tree. But some politicians should be nervous that they may find coal in their stocking instead. 

    Half of Americans (49%) say President Donald Trump deserves coal in his stocking at Christmas and this includes almost one-quarter (22%) of Republicans, seven in ten (71%) Democrats and over half (54%) of Independents. This is from an online survey conducted by Regina Corso Consulting among 2,049 U.S. adults, 18 and older between December 10 and 12, 2019.

    The leaders of Congress fare a little better. Over one-third of Americans (35%) say Speaker Nancy Pelosi deserves coal in her stocking and this includes almost two-thirds of Republicans (63%), over one in ten Democrats (13%) and over one-third of Independents (36%). 

    Three in ten U.S. adults (29%) say Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell deserves coal including one-quarter of Republicans (24%) and one-third of Democrats (32%) and Independents (33%).

    Looking at four of the top contenders for the Democratic nomination, three in ten Americans say former VP Joe Biden (31%) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (30%) deserve coal, almost three in ten (28%) say Senator Bernie Sanders does and one in five (21%) say Mayor Pete Buttigieg deserves coal. Just around one in ten Democrats say each of these deserves coal and one-third of Independents say VP Biden (33%) and Sen. Warren (33%) do while around one-quarter of Independents say Sen. Sanders (27%) and Mayor Pete (23%) deserve coal. Over one in ten Americans (15%) say none of these seven politicians deserves coal.

    This goes hand in hand with the fact that four in five Americans (81%) say that politicians seem to have forgotten what the holiday season is all about. And, politics is causing change – almost one-quarter of Americans have taken people off their holiday giving lists because of their political views (23%) and have stopped sending holiday card to people because of their political views (22%).

    Bonus Picture:

    (Via The Brexit Comic Facebook Page)
    "Trump and Trumper - For Don and Boris every day is a no brainer."
    "Trump and Trumper - For Don and Boris every day is a no brainer."

    More Donald Trump Related Stories:

    Half of Americans Say Donald Trump Deserves Coal in His Stocking
    Click here for more Donald Trump related stories...

    8 October 2019

    Trade War: Containers Don't Lie, Navigating the Bluster

    rade War: Containers Don't Lie, Navigating the Bluster - book cover
    Trade War: Containers Don't Lie, Navigating the Bluster - book cover
    Today the decorum of trade negotiations has been replaced with a trade war reality show leaving the world as a whipsawed spectator. For the first time in history, the curtain of trade negotiations has been torn off, creating a turbulent, emotional environment of fear, anxiety, and hope. Global markets and businesses both large and small are trying to navigate the Twitter storms of President Trump—the threats, declarations of winning, and blame. This rhetoric has intentionally buried and distorted the truth of the trade war. That is, until now.

    Best-selling author Lori Ann LaRocco has written a detailed examination of the current global trade and tariff wars, entitled: Trade War: Containers Don't Lie, Navigating the Bluster. The book tells the true story of the trade wars through the experiences of American farmers, industry, ports, and markets, in the words of those involved and impacted, and with the trade data, which does not lie.

    The flow of trade is agnostic and does not play favorites. Ninety percent of the world's trade is transported by water. The magnitude of the water superhighway is extraordinary. More than 9 billion tons of cargo—the equivalent of more than a ton for each person in the world—is transported by over 86,000 ships each year. This tremendous volume provides the tea leaves for divining the story of trade negotiations.

    China is not the only country in a trade war with the United States. It is a multifront war involving Turkey, Russia, the E.U., Japan, and India. Canada and Mexico were also included but recently worked out a trade deal, which has still not been ratified by Congress. This global trade war has impacted U.S. industries ranging from agriculture to steel, motorcycles to whiskey.

    Some markets were simply wiped out with the stroke of a pen.

    "Our European buyers told us they wanted to put all shipments on hold until the trade talks get settled out," said Tom Lix, CEO of Cleveland Whiskey. "Once the tariff was official, shipments were then canceled. The E.U. made up 15 percent of our overall revenue. Now it's gone."
    Join author LaRocco as she leads readers through fake headlines, Twitter rants, and geopolitical calculation on a story about globalization in the throes of change. Read how businesses, individuals, and even countries are victims, villains, and heroes as told by actual trade data. Ms. LaRocco notes, "China wants a basket of trade and they are doing just that. If they cannot trade with the U.S., they are finding alternatives."

    According to the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), the United States soybean industry would need to have a 92 percent market share with every country that is importing soybeans right now to make up for the loss of trade with China. The volume of the trade shows the uphill battle of the soybean farmer.

    Ms. LaRocco has dug deep into U.S. trade, and while businesses have been successful in expanding into new or existing markets, the fact is China is not buying, and the empty bucket of China is difficult to fill. "It takes seven Vietnams to make a China," explained Gene Seroka, executive director for the Port of Los Angeles, the United States' largest port.

    The changing patterns of trade reveal the truth. Containers don't lie.

    Praise for Trade War: Containers Don't Lie, Navigating the Bluster:

    "If you want to understand the nuts and bolts of President Trump's trade war—how we got here and its fallout on global trade, industry and the economy—then you must read this book. Lori Ann LaRocco is masterful at weaving together a clear picture of the trade war, which will become more important to all our livelihoods as it rages on." – Mark Zandi, chief economist, Moody's Analytics
    "Whatever side of the debate you are on LaRocco's extensive research on the impact of the trade war speaks for itself. Trade War: Containers Don't Lie, Navigating the Bluster provides tremendous data on the impact of the flow of global trade. Very compelling!" – Gerald Storch, Founder and CEO of Storch Advisors, Former Vice Chairman Target, Former Chairman and CEO Toys "R" Us and Former CEO of HBC (Parent of Saks, Hudson's Bay, and Lord & Taylor)
    "LaRocco's book shows you the underlying truth of this trade war. The export and import data shows the dramatic trends of how quickly tariffs have impacted the competitiveness of the United States. Import growth from U.S. competitors cannot be spun away with rhetoric. In the pursuit of 'fair trade,' the American farmer and other industries have been negatively impacted. The equilibrium of a free trade world has been thrown off. The 'benefit' of this multi-front trade war has yet to be realized. The indisputable proof based on the flow of trade only shows disruption." – Anthony Scaramucci, SkyBridge Capital Managing Partner
    "Lori Ann has done an excellent job of using readily available data combined with personal interviews to lay out the real life effects of our current trade war and the structural changes that are underway as a result. I found the insights provided to be most helpful in pointing out many of the difficulties that lie ahead." – Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) Former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
    "President Donald Trump trade policy is the most significant and risky presidential economic policy decision of the past half century. Lori Ann's book provides a real time account of the events and the real time consequences of the President Trump trade decisions to date. Her research is impeccable and her knowledge of trade routes and evaluation of container trade provides a guidepost that every policy maker should heed. This is a very important book for the future of the U.S. economy because it sounds an alarm about the trade war now before it is too late to take corrective action. Win or lose this trade war, what is happening today in trade will be analyzed and evaluated and criticized and praised for years. This book will be invaluable to that evaluation." – Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) former Banking and Agriculture Committee member
    "Lori Ann LaRocco has provided a first class analysis of current shipping patterns, and their implications for global trade. By doing so, she has given us a book that is a must-read for any student of global trade (and the global economy)." – David M. Rubenstein, The Carlyle Group Co-Founder, Co-Executive Chairman
    "Lori Ann LaRocco's prescient book is a clarion call, and makes a compelling, timely and well-documented case for how our trade flows, our joint production platforms and integrated supply chains, and the openness of our economies and dare I say our societies too, need to be defended, but also explained and articulated to a sceptic and, in some cases, angry public." – Arturo Sarukhan, (former Mexican Ambassador to the U.S., 2007-13)
    Lori Ann LaRocco (image via

    About the author:

    Lori Ann LaRocco is senior editor of guests for CNBC business news. She coordinates high-profile interviews in business and politics, as well as special multimillion dollar on-location productions for all shows on the network. Her specialty is in politics, working with titans of industry. 

    LaRocco is the author of Dynasties of the Sea, Part 2: The Untold Stories of the Postwar Shipping Pioneers (Marine Money, Inc., 2018), Opportunity Knocking (Agate Publishing, 2014), Dynasties of the Sea: The Shipowners and Financiers Who Expanded the Era of Free Trade (Marine Money, Inc., 2012), and Thriving in the New Economy: Lessons from Today's Top Business Minds (Wiley, 2010).

    SOURCE: Marine Money

    28 September 2019

    Intelligence Whistleblowers Often Pay A Severe Price

    Blowing the whistle carries major risks.
    Blowing the whistle carries major risks. (BlueSkyImage/
    When President Donald Trump likened a whistleblower’s White House sources to spies and made a lightly veiled reference to execution, he highlighted a longstanding peril facing those who come forward to alert the public to governmental wrongdoing.

    In many instances, whistleblowers find the abusive power they have revealed turned against them, both ending their careers and harming their personal lives.

    In the private sector, whistleblowers are often ignored and told their concern is not part of their job description – and are commonly retaliated against by being demoted or fired.

    When a whistleblower is in the U.S. intelligence and national security sphere, they’re often speaking out about misdeeds by powerful figures – and, as a result, have frequently faced death threats, physical attacks, prosecution and prison.

    The new whistleblower report that alleges wrongdoing by the president is a reminder of the vital importance of holding wrongdoers accountable, regardless of their level of power. When those acts affect national security, whistleblowing is even more important. But as I’ve found in my whistleblowing research, whistleblowers in this arena have far fewer legal protections from retaliation than those in corporate settings or elsewhere in government.
    From left, NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake, William Binney and Kirk Wiebe, who all alleged retaliation from the government.
    From left, NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake, William Binney and Kirk Wiebe, who all alleged retaliation from the government. (Rob Kall/Flickr, CC BY)

    Targets of retaliation

    The consequences for government whistleblowers in the last 20 years have been harsh, in part because laws about classified information have made it difficult for people to publicize wrongdoing on sensitive issues.

    After William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe alleged in 2002 that their employer, the National Security Agency, mismanaged intelligence-gathering software that potentially could have prevented 9/11, their homes were raided and ransacked by the FBI as their families watched. Ultimately, the NSA revoked their security clearances and they were forced to sue to recover the confiscated personal property.

    Another NSA whistleblower, Thomas Drake, alleged in 2002 that the agency’s mass-surveillance programs after 9/11 involved fraud, waste and violations of citizens’ rights. He became the subject of one of the biggest government leak investigations of all time and was prosecuted for espionage, which he ultimately settled through a plea agreement.

    A third NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden has spent years in exile, fearing an unfair trial should he return to the U.S.

    Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning has spent years in federal prison for releasing classified documents regarding U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Difficult consequences can come not just from the government but also from the public and the media. The New York Times has come under criticism for revealing identifying details about the current whistleblower’s position.
    Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning
    Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. (Composite from Laura Poitras and Tim Travers Hawkins/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA)

    Few protections

    Most laws governing federal whistleblowers lay out a procedure for coming forward with concerns, offer protections for confidentiality, and prevent recipients of information from harassing, threatening, demoting, firing or discriminating against the person raising the complaint.

    Whistleblowers reporting securities law violations to the Securities and Exchange Commission have those protections. So do whistleblowers who report on fraudulent billing or claims against the government, such as Medicare or Medicaid fraud.

    It can be difficult to find a balance between the government’s need to protect highly sensitive classified information and the public’s interest in uncovering wrongdoing. As a result, protections for whistleblowers in the intelligence community lack robust protections. The Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 outlines a process for whistleblowers in the intelligence community to raise concerns, but doesn’t explicitly protect the whistleblower from retaliation or being publicly identified. Two executive-branch directives, created during the Obama administration, do bar retaliation against whistleblowers. However, they create a conflict of interest, because the person who determines whether there has been retaliation may be the person doing the retaliating.

    Those Obama-era directives also prevent the whistleblower from seeking an independent court’s review. They do not specify whether and exactly how aggrieved whistleblowers are entitled to back pay or reinstatement of employment, which are common whistleblower remedies.

    It’s no surprise, then, that in the first 10 years after the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act was enacted, no intelligence whistleblower was compensated for retaliation. While there have been no subsequent inquiries or information to determine whether intelligence whistleblowers have fared better since 2009, the law as it stands makes it nearly impossible for them to be protected.

    Whistleblowers bring much-needed attention to matters of interest and importance to the public. Their courage – and willingness to face professional and personal peril – helps bring to light information that others would prefer to keep secret. That helps society as a whole fight injustice, waste, corruption and abuse of power, rather than passively and blindly accepting it.The Conversation

    About Today's Contributor:
    Jennifer M. Pacella, Assistant Professor of Business Law and Ethics, Indiana University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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