Stephen Colbert’s satirical TV show recently added a satirical twist to the old adage, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
Its novel “join ‘em” method – auto-tweets that make fun of Fox News anchors and reporters – actually surpasses that network’s methods of false news generation, though. This one is hysterical. Damn entertaining. And (most unlike Fox News stories) some of its messages seem like they could be true, too.
Rob Dubbin, a staff writer with The Colbert Report, created a Twitter account with username of Real Human Praise
. Using a unique algorithm to automatically compose messages every two minutes (a “twitterbot
”), the account quotes the popular Rotten Tomatoes movie review site
, but inserts the names of Fox News personalities.
For example, take the review of “Keep the Light On,”
a 2011 drama about gay romance, replace the film’s title with the name of a FOX show host, and you get: “Huckabee is a mysterious, sexy journey deep into the love affair of two men that always manages to stay true to life.”
Another Fox face merges with an old Beau Bridges flick
to become: “Hannity remains one of the funniest social comedies of the period, as well as the most human.”
A “#PraiseFOX” hashtag closes every tweet.
Let’s back up the story a bit. We all know that Fox News doesn’t tell actual, real news. We know that it defended its promotion of hoaxes in federal court by arguing it has no legal obligation to tell the truth, and can even knowingly distort news with deliberate intent to misinform (and we know that it won that case
). And we’re still learning
more and more about the juvenile methods
that Rupert Murdoch’s media empire uses to acquire its tabloid-style scoops, too.
But now we’re learning something else that most progressive media and bloggers have suspected all along: Fox News paid staff to scour the internet, follow comments about its network and news stories, and blast those sites with defensive replies and attacks on those negative comments.
According to a new book, “Murdoch’s World”
by David Folkenflik:
“Fox PR staffers were expected to counter not just negative and even neutral blog postings but the anti-Fox comments beneath them. One former staffer recalled using twenty different aliases to post pro-Fox rants. Another had one hundred. Several employees had to acquire a cell phone thumb drive to provide a wireless broadband connection that could not be traced back to a Fox News or News Corp account. Another used an AOL dial-up connection, even in the age of widespread broadband access, on the rationale it would be harder to pinpoint its origins. Old laptops were distributed for these cyber operations. Even blogs with minor followings were reviewed to ensure no claim went unchecked.”
You’ve probably seen this yourself, and I’ve encountered it frequently on progressive news sites, labor blogs and social media like Reddit, even comments on my personal website. Known as “trolls
,” folks sign in to a site under an alias, then proceed with argumentative comments and personal insults against other visitors. They also gang-up in down-votes, attempting to make others’ comments become non-visible.
Colbert’s response via Dubbin stems directly from Folkenflik’s revelations. The method takes trolling to a new realm, but at least this one’s funny.
See the segment of The Colbert Report’s November 4 broadcast below:
Joyce Dickerson will challenge Tim Scott
for his U.S. Senate seat, the Richland County Councilwoman formally announced at a press conference in Columbia on November 8.
“I want to be the voice of the people of South Carolina
,” she said.
Her decision to run has many influences, ranging from faith to familiarity with public needs, but feminism plays a role, too, the Democrat previously acknowledged
while still considering a campaign.
South Carolina has no female elected official in the federal government, and ranks second lowest
of the 50 states in number of women in state legislature.
Her commitment to female representation is quite evident; she holds titles
of president of the National Order of Women Legislators, chair of the National Foundation for Women Legislators, former president of the Richland Democratic Women, and member of the Women of National Association of Counties.
Those roles join many others Dickerson’s held and still serves, as well, such as chair of the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority and executive board of the region’s Council of Government.
Dickinson has definite opportunity to use female representation as a platform in her campaign against Scott. In February, he blocked the Violence Against Women Act
from coming to the floor for vote; when the bill did finally arise, Scott voted against it
Also influencing her campaign decision, Dickerson wants to let voters “elect someone they can choose, not that the governor appoints,” she said.
Incumbent Scott was appointed to the Senate seat
by Gov. Nikki Haley in December 2012 following Jim Demint’s resignation
First elected to Richland County Council in 2004, last year Dickerson won a third term, taking 73 percent
of the vote in the Dist. 2 race.
The new Senate candidate will speak before the Dorchester County Democratic Party at 9 a.m. on Sat., Nov. 16 at Ryan’s (1314 N Main St. in Summerville
Lindsay Graham (left) and Tim Scott (right)/U.S. Senate
A bill against employment discrimination passed the U.S. Senate by a wide margin on November 7, but not with any help from South Carolina’s senators, the state Democratic Party noted.
Passing by a 64-32 vote
, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act will make it unlawful for an employer to use one’s actual or perceived gender or sexual orientation in any decisions regarding hiring or firing, as well as limitation, segregation or classification of employees or job applicants based on such factors.
Ten Republicans voted for ENDA
, including two who previously declined to support a similar bill in 1996
, but South Carolina Sens. Lindsey Graham
and Tim Scott
both voted against it.
"Senators Graham and Scott's opposition to this common-sense, pro-family and anti-discrimination measure is both bizarre and hypocritical,” said Jaime Harrison
, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, in a press release issued that same day. “All people who work hard and do their jobs to support their families deserve the security and respect of not being fired simply for who they are and how they were born.”
“(T)he last thing our workers need is to have their Senators fighting to protect discrimination instead of moving our country forward,” Harrison said.
Their votes yesterday didn’t vary much from their established voting patterns, however. For example, both Graham and Scott voted against renewal of the Violence Against Women Act
– Scott even blocked the bill from coming to the floor for a vote
– and despite the fact South Carolina has the highest rate of male-against-female homicide
in the U.S.
“Senators Graham and Scott need to do some soul searching and start working for all of the people of South Carolina instead of just Tea Party extremists,” said Harrison.
If ENDA clears the U.S. House of Representatives, the law will be applicable to
employers, employment agencies and labor unions.
House opposition is expected, however, with veiled threats of preventing the bill from coming to the floor for a vote coming from the offices of
House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R – Va.) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Similar legislation entered South Carolina legislature in April when Rep. James Smith (D-Columbia)introduced the “Workplace Fairness Act”
to the State House. With five additional sponsors, state bill H. 4205 is now under review
by the Committee on Judiciary.
Steve Cruz/Getty Images
Sen. Ted Cruz
spoke to church leaders in Columbia, S.C. on November 4, possibly testing the Palmetto State’s waters for the next presidential election.
Texas’ freshman senator addressed about 400 preachers at a “Rediscovering God in America” event, arranged by the American Renewal Project, according to U.S. News
While religion was to be the central theme, Cruz initially focused on political issues such as the economy and the opposing party. Credited for pushing the recent government shutdown
, he told the audience that Democrats were to blame for lack of economic development in the country.
Cruz’s address did often move to the subject of faith, though. Marriage, abortion and even the role of the 10 commandments in government were brought up at the meeting, which closed after pastors laid hands on Cruz in prayer.
While the 2016 presidential election wasn’t mentioned, it was definitely implied, as it was in Cruz’s address at a state Republican Party event in May 2013
shortly after he publicly confirmed interest in the Oval Office.
Yesterday’s attendees were the same local pastors that Newt Gingrich pursued in South Carolina
presidential primary, The State reports
. After meeting the church leaders twice, Gingrich went on to upset Mitt Romney
in the contest.
In a recent poll of Republican voters in South Carolina conducted prior to yesterday’s visit, Cruz came in second
, trailing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie amongst potential GOP presidential candidates.
Taking 17 percent to Christie’s 19, Cruz bested Sens. Rand Paul (13) and Marco Rubio (12), and recent vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (12). Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal finished a distant last with only six percent.
Over a fifth of poll respondents (21 percent) remain undecided, according to the October 27-28 survey conducted by Harper Polling.
Cruz did lead Christie amongst Republican voters in a national poll asking respondents who they thought was current leader of the GOP, though. In Public Policy Polling’s October 29-31 study, Cruz scored 21 percent to Christie’s 17
Want living wages with that?
Pay is so low for some workers that they might be unable to afford the same fast food they make and serve, two new studies, both released on October 15, find. As a result, taxpayers have to make-up the difference, say reports from the UC Berkeley Labor Project
and National Employment Law Project
“(T)he overwhelming share of jobs in the fast-food industry pay low wages that force millions of workers to rely on public assistance in order to afford health care, food, and other basic necessities,” NELP says.
A 52-percent majority of this industry’s full-time employees receive some type of public assistance. They might prepare food, but many need food stamps to purchase their own meals. Add in the costs of Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Children’s Health Insurance Programs and Earned Income Tax Credit, says UC Berkeley’s “Fast Food, Poverty Wages,” and the total in public benefits received by fast-food workers hits $7 billion every year.
And a majority of that high amount – $3.6 billion annually – is due to just 10 companies alone, NELP reports in “Super-Sizing Public Costs.” (See the list of companies below.)
The profits of just six of those 10 fast-food franchises were $7.44 billion in the last fiscal year, though (the remaining four are privately-owned and don’t disclose annual profit). And while their shareholders earned another $7.7 billion, about 1.2 million employees of these 10 companies required public assistance.
That high $3.6 billion in taxpayer-funded aid doesn’t tell the total costs, either; programs like WIC, Section 8 Housing, free/reduced price school lunches, and the Low-Income Heat and Energy Assistance Program weren’t included in the calculations
. Neither was cost adjustments to private health insurance, which increase annually to cover unpaid medical bills of uninsured patients; 87 percent of fast-food workers have no health insurance.
Employees of this industry are standing up of late, though, and with recent demonstrations
in almost 60 cities, calling for improved wages.
Oct. 20, 2012 was a day of infamy for South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and the state’s Democratic Party didn’t letting anyone forget about it exactly one year and one day later.
At an October 21 press conference in front of Charleston City Hall, SCDP Chair Jaime Harrison said the state party will host eight silent vigils in the state, and to remind citizens of their still ongoing risks from the hacking of a state website under Haley’s watch last year.
“Over the next week, South Carolinians will gather in local communities to mark the 16 days that Nikki Haley hid the truth from millions of people,” Harrison announced.
Exact times and locations of the events are still being scheduled, according to Kristin Sosanie, communications director of the state party.
Data including the names, addresses, Social Security numbers, unencrypted bank account information and credit/debit card account numbers of about 3.8 million South Carolinians was stolen last year
from the state Dept. of Revenue’s site. Similar financial information of almost 700,000 businesses in the state was also hacked from the same website.
“This was the failure of Nikki Haley,” Harrison said.
U.S. Secret Service first discovered
the hacking from a foreign Internet address on Oct. 10, 2012, and immediately informed state offices, including Haley’s; the state didn’t block hacker access to its sites until 10 days later.
No public announcement about the incidents was made until Oct. 26, 2012.
“The question is, then,” Harrison asked today, “is [Haley] fit to be governor of South Carolina, not just because of the hacking but for covering it up for two weeks?”
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse told Charleston’s Post & Courier
that the incident was “the largest hacker-related data breach [it] has heard of involving a state government(.)”
The personal risks of the cyber attack could be still be ongoing for five years, Harrison said.
Harrison also criticized Haley’s response to the situation after its public announcement, stating the contract for citizens’ free-year credit monitoring was made without competitive bids, and through a company that used the opportunity to request users pay for additional services. In addition, he noted, the $12 million cost of that Equifax contract was assumed by all taxpayers in the state.
He did encourage state residents to use the offer for one-year extension of that service, however.
South Carolina citizens and businesses may begin application for credit monitoring with CSIdentity Corp
. on October 24, the state Budget and Control Board announced
earlier this month.
“This problem will outlast [Haley’s] administration,” Harrison said, “even when she’s long gone from the governor’s mansion.
“The sad part is she’s just sweeping it under the rug.”
While certainly the best known and most damaging, the October 2012 incident wasn’t the only risk to citizens’ private data last year under Haley.
In April 2012
, the state Dept. of Health and Human Services inadvertently released almost a quarter-million private medical records. In December 2012
, South Carolina’s Dept. of Employment and Workforce website was shut down by a hacker.
Speaking with media recently about the shutdown, House Speaker John Boehner said "We are locked in an epic battle."
Well, a veterans' organization just made a television ad to remind the House GOP what a battle actually is.
Does the government shutdown by House Republicans remind you of some drunken, juvenile prank?
Well, have a few drinks of your own and get ready to fight fire with fire, says a new website that can even help you do it. “Now’s your chance to tell your Representative what you really think of their actions.” Drunk Dial Congress
lets you randomly dial the phone numbers of congressional representatives, giving you avenue to voice your complaints to any and all of them.
site invites you to enter your personal phone number. A return call from a toll-free number will confirm your desire to participate in the antics (“Is this government shutdown making you want to drink?” a slurring voice asks), then begin random dialing to congressional offices. When you get an answer, let ‘em have it.
Need a few more drinks before you’ll feel brave enough to drunk-dial? Then look over the recipes featured on the site for such mixology masterpieces as “The Bad Representative” or even “The Bloody Bastard.”
Want to partake in the prank but don’t know what to say when someone answers? Just borrow one of the talking points posted on Drunk Dial Congress: “my grandma can’t get her cancer treatment” and “why don’t you make yourself useful and at least mow the lawn?” are just two of the suggestions, which come complete with sources to backup your complaint.
And if you need additional suggestions for topics to discuss when drunk-dialing, then try the new F---You Congress
, another website recently created in response to the shutdown.
For example: “A bunch of WW II Veterans needed to bust their way through a barricade to visit a memorial for their fellow soldiers in DC. A real f---ing bangup job there, Congress.”
This other site also helps you tweet your representative with messages like “Yes, it's seriously this bad. You've reduced us to publicly saying #F---YouCongress.”
The site’s founding organizations – Cultivated Wit
and I Shot Him
creative studios – offer the following explanation for their creation: “Right now, a few Republicans are willing to hurt millions of lives and risk the world economy while others in office pretend they are powerless. F---ing enough already.”
Drunk Dial Congress was just registered on October 6
by Revolution Messaging
, a Washington, D.C. company that also creates mobile phone ads and video commercials. F--- You Congress was registered on October 3
***UPDATE: The founding organizations of F--- You Congress were previously misidentified. Common Cause, Sunlight Foundation and Rootstrikers are listed as resources that site visitors can explore for means "to make a difference."
By now, everyone knows that the federal government is shutdown.
What not enough people know, however, is that government was shut down only because House Speaker John Boehner didn’t allow
a budgetary extension bill to come to the floor for a vote.
If it had been allowed a vote, the bill would have passed, in fact, keeping government offices (and employees and established services and parks and much, much more) continuously operable.
Twenty-eight Republicans in the House verified
that they would have voted for its approval, as well as 200 Democrats. Because that 228 total surpasses majority of the 438 total votes in the U.S. House of Representatives, the budget extension would have passed with no problem.
But it didn’t. Because Boehner didn’t allow it. And the federal government has had to temporarily close dozens of offices and lay off over 800,000 Americans as a result.
This wasn’t a question about that extension bill or its provisions or its fine print, then; the shutdown only occurred because the House never got to vote on it.
So is that legitimate, then? Professional or moral? Is it even legal?
According to 18 U.S.C. § 2384
If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
Note that highlighted line: “prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States(.)”
The only reason that House Republicans are blocking any vote on budget resolution is to delay execution of the Affordable Care Act
, which became law in 2010
, and which was upheld by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2012
And remember that the ACA wasn’t event mentioned in the bill that House Leader John Boehner blocked from coming to the floor for a vote.
And remember that the ACA isn’t in any way relevant to that bill, either; no funding for any segment of it came from the budget resolution, after all, and the next phases of its implementation began the very next day, anyway.
So does this shutdown of the U.S. government over such a non-relevant issue constitute sedition, then?
While that’s a question that only scholarly attorneys and historians could answer, let me offer a layman’s response with another question: what would the GOP do if the president had shutdown the government by blocking a budget resolution that didn’t include provision for or mention of Obamacare, even though Obamacare wasn’t included in that bill?
Wouldn’t Boehner be occupying Fox News nonstop with charges and allegations about sedition? Would or would not the House GOP and its lobbyist supporters have the steps of the capitol littered with lawyers strewing subpoenas? Or do you think they’d just step aside and let Obama’s agenda work its way through without any contest?
This shutdown is without basis or foundation, and it’s without precedent. And it could very well be illegal, too, based on the definition of sedition.
Even if this shutdown response to irrelevant factors doesn’t constitute sedition, it’s at least hypocrisy. Just ask the American public. A recent Washington Post survey finds
that 70 percent of the general adult population (and 71 percent of registered voters, please note) disapproves of what Republicans in Congress are doing. To continue the shutdown, then, House GOP is only shooting itself in its own foot.
For the good of the American public, and for their own self-serving good, Boehner and other House Republicans should end this political trick.
If they don’t, it’s time for the American public to file charges of sedition.