Beta Files Podcast
Subject: Local News
April 6, 2018. China Fires back at Trump and Wall Street takes the hit, David Hogg disses O’Reilly, Elon Musk is sleeping at the Tesla factory again, Julian Assange lost internet privileges, and Sinclair Broadcasting sets the new standard for low journalism. I’ve got a bad feeling about this – I’m the Barbour and this is the Beta Files…
Welcome to the BetaFiles week five. On the show this week, Trump goes on another rampage, calling out China, Democrats, and Jeff Wapo Bezos. The fun just never seems to end with this guy.
Trump’s trade war kicks into high gear as China does its best impression of the Empire Strikes back, we’ll look at how Wall Street took the news. And after ending the program, Trump claims he’s done messing around with negotiations over DACA, promising to enlist the National Guard to help patrol the southern boarder as caravans of Hondurans are heading north for asylum. His foreign policy is becoming clearer by the day: isolation at all costs, literally.
We’ll also take a look at Tesla and their latest hiccup, and check in with Spotify as it went public this week, could this really mean the legitimization of streaming music? We’ll discuss…
Dr. J is here to discuss a special topic close to both of our hearts, and in the final segment, a look at local news and the revelations this week that Sinclair Broadcasting is casting a large conservative net across the country in a effort to promote a Trumpian agenda even further.
But first, a couple of follow ups to stories reported over the past few weeks.
In a shocker, Facebook announced Wednesday that the actual amount of users affected by the Cambridge Analytica scandal could be as high as 87 million. That’s 37 million more than originally reported, but Zuckerberg promises that the tech giant will inform each and every user affected if and when their data was used in the Cambridge Analytica scheme.
The announcement came as part of an extended statement that outlines what changes the social media network is planning on making when it comes to users personal data, and that it would start sending out messages to users around April 9. So keep an eye out on your messenger account – you might get a personal note from a Zuckerbot.
In another developing story, David Shulkin, the former head of the VA, has been on the defense this week after his departure from the cabinet position, as he has claimed, through op-eds and cable news appearances, that he was fired from the post – a claim that contradicts the White House’s stance which claims that he resigned from the post. If it is proven that he was fired, then Trump’s pick for the post would be null as policy with the VA states that the President can only choose an interim director if the current director “dies, resigns, or is otherwise unable to perform the functions and duties of the office.” A statement on Monday from the White House noted that John Kelly “offered Shulkin the opportunity to resign” – a shady way of pushing an employee to do as the administration wants, in my opinion.
Shulkin has noted that the reason for his departure stems directly from the fact that he refused to go along with plans to privatize the VA, which appears to be the direction that Trump wants to go in. However, he has been quoted as saying he has comfort and confidence in his successor, noting that the key to running the VA will be Jackson’s ability to choose a good team around him that will help him with the affairs of the agency. Shulkin, and so many of us watching, can only hope that Jackson is able to demonstrate the liabilities of privatizing the VA, and lobby the president and his administration that taking the VA away from public oversite would lead to more disruption and chaos in the second largest department in our government.
We’ll keep you posted on the story as it continues to develop.
And now – HEADLINES…(soundbite)
So much to talk about this week, so let’s get started…
Trump’s trade war appears to be in full swing as China has retaliated to an announcement from the administration over $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese made technology and manufactured goods. Beijing announced earlier in the week that it would counter the new tariffs by imposing their own $50 Billion tariffs on agricultural goods coming from the US. The announcement created a wild Wednesday for the stock market as it erased a 510 point loss following the announcement, to a 230 point gain in closing. The 510 point plummet came as soon as the markets opened on Wednesday after futures released earlier in the morning predicted a massive hit to Wall Street. However, as the day progressed, the market did a 700 plus point swing and finished strong with a gain. The reason for the swing seems to be that traders realized that the impending trade war that may or may not be underway is in the early stages, and that further negotiations between the US and its largest lender continue. Thursday saw markets open strong.
China was only one of the targets Trump took aim at this past weekend, as he returned to one of his pet projects in the form of Amazon, complaining that Amazon is screwing over the Post Office by using them as their personal “delivery boy” – basically a term meant to insult, but actually depicts exactly what the post office is meant to do. Be a delivery boy.
The President claimed that Amazon was paying $1.47 less per package than other retailers, however, the number is inaccurate in depicting what Amazon pays per package as the number was taken from a study based on Citigroup, not Amazon. The discrepancy doesn’t matter to the president or his supporters, as Amazon’s stock price dropped Monday by 4 points, a full 7 points since last week, losing nearly $50 Billion in value as Trump has relentlessly attacked the company for no apparent reason. The citing of the Post office problem is shining light on a non-issue, as the post office has reported gains since the Amazon deal, showing not a problem with Amazon, but rather exposing the fact that Amazon may have singlehandedly saved the post office through their deal.
Pundits suspect that the war of words from Trump stem from the fact that Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s fearless leader and founder, also owns The Washington Post which has been highly critical of the president since his campaign. Much like the attempt to foil the AT&T merger with Time Warner over his contempt with CNN, Trump is trying to use his power in office to derail a business that he takes issue with after it critiques him and his policies. The tactic is working, though after the NASDAQ took a hit, traders are demanding that Trump lay off Amazon as it creates a ripple effect through the markets. Unfortunately, according to an article in Vanity Fair, the stunt is part of a larger plan by Trump to mess with Bezos and cause the tech giant as much trouble as possible. This is the day we live in, our President is bullying just because he can bully.
Bully, bully, as Teddy would have said…
A so called caravan of Hondurans are making their way to the US for asylum from drug lords and a corrupt government, and thanks to Fox and Friends, Trump knows about it and is furious about it. In several tweets and statements over the weekend and early week, Trump promised to pull aid from Honduras, work with State Governors to get National Guard soldiers to the boarder for increased security, and announced another threat to pull out of NAFTA as it is currently being re-negotiated. The “caravan” of an estimated 1,000 refuges has been halted in Mexico waiting to see where they may proceed.
The call for the National Guard came Wednesday when Trump noted that too many immigrants who cross over are part of a “catch and release” program – a practice where immigrants are captured, and then let go until they are called in to court for their hearing. Trump wants the National Guard to help with the capture and holding of the immigrants who get in until their court date so they cannot integrate into the populace, causing what he sees as public safety issues. However, the timing of the announcement and heightened rhetoric over immigrants seems suspiciously geared towards stopping the caravan, and future groups who continue to attempt to flee from a drug ridden central and south America. Opponents site his hatred of all things natural brown, a color he tries to achieve only to end up with an orange tint. It may be a simple case of tan envy on behalf of our President.
Related to the boarder story is another announcement from the tweeter in chief, as he stated over the weekend that all negotiations over DACA are over, and he is walking away from the table. Claiming non-compliance by Democratic leaders, and complaining about Mexico’s reluctance to strengthen their own security, the President is causing more issues over a problem he caused, and claiming that DACA is dead and useless.
However, in a story from The Washington Post, the administration has approved over 55,000 applications just this year for renewals to deferment from deportation. Politico ran another story fact checking the tweets from Sunday and Monday, and noted how Trump’s claim that current immigrants trying to get in want to take advantage of DACA, but the reality, as the article points out, is that only immigrants who came in before June 15, 2007 are able to take advantage of the program. In addition to this, immigration is only taking and reviewing applications for renewals, and not fielding applications for new protection.
Politico also notes his claim that the Democrats are at fault for what he calls the failure of DACA, even though, as noted before, he was the one who ended it and created the problem in the first place, and Democrats have been lobbying both Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnel to bring DACA to the floor for debate. There have so far been two Senate bills that were presented, and lost the votes needed to pass, including support from Trump himself, so the real question is – how’s that spray tan doing, Mr. President?
Teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky went on strike this week, leading to increased attention of the crumbling education system in our country. Oklahoma teachers aren’t demanding pay increases, but instead increased funding for schools and facilities. The system in Oklahoma has faced some of the largest cuts in education over the past few decades, leading to an average of about $8000 spent per student, vs the national average of $11,400. The cuts also hit school budgets hard in terms of facility maintenance, supplies, and technology.
Teachers in Kentucky marched on their state capital for pensions, which, like Oklahoma, led to the closing of schools in dozens of districts across the state. Kentucky state legislators are considering pension reform which will cut huge amounts of retirement and health plans of current teachers in the state.
The two strikes this week, spurred on by the successful West Virginia walk out several weeks ago which led to better compensation for public instructors, appears to be the beginning of a new wave of educators shedding light and demanding change for the past practices by Republican led state legislatures who have slashed education budgets tremendously over the past few decades. Teachers in Arizona are threatening another strike if they do not receive a 20% raise and additional funding for schools, demands that Governor Doug Ducey said would not happen.
There are more rumblings in other states as educators are fed up with inadequate funding, supplies, and pay while having the demands of standardized testing, poor results, and increased set backs in terms of where the US stands with other modernized nations with education. It is clear that teachers and administrators are arming themselves to fight a long-term battle to get the funding back that has been taken away slowly since the 1980s.
Tesla made headlines this week when production of the Model 3, Tesla’s first production car built with an affordable price tag of $35,000 for the base model, missed another deadline, leading to massive concerns from investors. The company, who will owe $230 Million in November, and another $920 Million next March, took credit hits as Moody’s downgraded their bonds to junk bond status, sending fear through investors as they finally are starting to question Musk’s ability to produce what he promised.
Tesla claimed to be able to produce 5,000 Model 3’s a week by the end of last year, and were only producing an actual count of 222. The latest revised number of 2,500 units a week has still not been met as Bloomberg reports that only 1,026 a week on average. This worries speculators, as they wonder how the company will be able to get the investor’s money back in time for when the loans are due. Musk himself tweeted out last week that he was back to sleeping at the factory again. We’ll see if it helps get the cars finished in time…
In a related non-related story, Spotify went public this week, earning a market value estimated at $26.5 Billion. The day it went public, Sony announced selling 17% of it’s ownership stake of the company for an estimated $250 Million, cash the label claims it will share with it’s artists.
The interesting thing about Spotify going public this week, and its strong market presence, is the new question over how Streaming has taken over the record industry. CD and download sales have plummeted over the past few years in the wake of iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify, but Spotify is different from the other two as it introduced a unique way to stream: a free service, and a subscription service, that has actually, against the odds given by the record industry, been shown as a success. Now, the music industry is in the throws of a revolution that actually began back in the late 90s with Napster, and is finally seeing fruition through the face of Spotify.
Julian Assange had his internet taken away by Ecuador after the embassy in which he is hiding, “out of concern that he was harming [Ecuador’s] relationships with Britain and other European nations.” Although the Embassy did not publish details, there is speculation that the action is based on the fact that Assange complained on Twitter about the expulsions of Russian diplomats from Western countries last week. Now, it can only be assumed, Assange is viewing the world through hot-spotting his laptop from his go-phone.
Finally, in a seriously hilarious dis, David Hogg, one of the faces of the Parkland teens, responded to a comment by Bill O’Reilly who stated that Hogg was being manipulated by “powerful, shadowy radical groups.” When pressed about O’Reilly’s comments during a televised interview, the smartass teen said, “I’m pretty well lit, and I don’t see any shadowy figures behind me.”
And that’s the headlines, or some of them, for this week…(exit soundbite)
Dr J Segment:
Ok –it is time to welcome my dear friend and colleague Dr. J. who is here to join me in a short discussion about teacher’s pay…What’s up, man?
As always, thanks to Dr J for stopping by and talking with us.
For my final segment this week, I want to look at local news, and what is happening to the medium right now.
Local news has always been the one place where citizens could go to find unbiased, current news that mattered to them and their community. Feel good stories about neighbors, important coverage of local councils and their votes, celebration of local schools, and of course half correct weather predictions that we forgive them for when they are so far off, they might as well have asked a magic 8-ball.
Doppler radar, news vans, traffic helicopters, and in-depth reporting of the county fair are all staples of the local news network. One final staple: the news was all about the community and the communal spirit…until now.
As you have probably heard, Sinclair Broadcasting was busted earlier this week for sending out a scripted announcement piece for all of their television affiliates to read on air. Deadspin, a sports news site, released a video that went viral immediately on Facebook and Twitter that showed several dozen channels reciting the same speech that warned about fake news being spread by the MSM, claiming that “some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think.’” The irony of the message is that it is doing exactly what it says…for Sinclair.
Leading to this problem: local news is no longer local. Although Sinclair news owns only two of the dozen local stations in my area, other stations have reverted to Sinclair style commentaries that deal with a larger, politically charged focus, leading to both conservative and liberal bias bleeding through.
It is the last battlefield in the war for unbiased news, and journalism is losing. As local News Papers continue to struggle to remain relevant in a digital world, local news stations have a couple of legs up on them: people need to know the weather, they need to know what is going on in the community, and they need to know how long it will take to drive to work, or drive home. But the infusion of politically tainted stories into the news cycle is going to lead to another division in America smaller than the red and blue boundaries – the one between yards.
Main stream media is perfect for politically driven stories that are built to either re-affirm existing beliefs, or help establish talking points for the party, but Local news is supposed to be about home, about local issues that do not concern a national audience, about how we all interact with each other on a daily basis, and continue to work towards a communal good. It is not the space for political talking points.
What Sinclair represents is a dangerous moment in our history. Autocracy is built on two things: fear and a unified message. In our case, the unified message is that of fear, and it is coming from Washington Republicans and being spread all the way down to, now, local stations.
Oliver’s point is clear, and I agree: we need to get away from this as much as possible, and the best way to do so is to fight it in all possible means.
And so, starting on next week’s podcast, I will have a new segment simply called “The Local.” But, I need your help. If you have a local news story that you want me to read on The BetaFiles, send it to me through an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include what name you want me to use, and the city or town the story is coming from.
You can also go to our website thebetafiles.com and use the links on our contact page to send us your story through Facebook and Twitter.
Just do me one favor – keep it real, and interesting. There’s a point to this, don’t ruin it…
And that’s the show for this week. Next week, we’ll have another fun look at the headlines from the week, Dr J will join me for a fun discussion about who knows what, and so much more. For Dr J, I am The Barbour, thank you for coming by. Make it a great day, and always remember, as long as the sun rises there is opportunity. Take it…
This has been the BetaFiles