Important breaking stories with too little news coverage

Summary: Here are a few of today’s big stories that have gotten too little attention. At the end are suggestions about places to find interesting or useful insights not found in the mainstream news.

News

I’m often asked what sources I use for news, and what are the big stories of the day. Here some major stories that journalists undercover or I believe misinterpret — trends that deserve attention (with the best shown last). At the end of the post are recommendations about useful sources.

(1) The most important graph in American politics.

Trump’s survival lies in the hands of the Republican majority in Congress. They will move against him if he threatens to seriously damage the party — and they can do with little political risk. The former seems likely to happen eventually, as Trump stumbles clownishly from crisis to crisis. The latter requires a collapse in the public’s support for Trump — the most important trendline in American politics today.

See the results of Gallup’s daily poll asking about people’s approval or disapproval of the job Donald Trump is doing as president, based on telephone interviews with approximately 1,500 national adults; It is a three-day moving average; the margin of error is ±3 percentage points.

Gallup poll of Trump job approval

Both the approval and disapproval lines appear close to breaking their trendlines — the rising disapproval trend is about to break down, the falling approval trendline is about to break out. The sharp moves are two datapoints — representing four days of polls.

Why the rising support for Trump? We can only guess. I vote for a “rally around the flag” effect responding to Trump’s sabre-rattling at North Korea. Since 9/11 American’s are belligerent, getting excited at the thought of attacking small nations. Trump — careless, ignorant, a bully — well represents much of America.

Others echo his madness, such as this CNN op-ed by Hamish de Bretton-Gordon: “Accepting North Korean nukes is not an option.” How dare North Korea develop the only sure defense against America’s efforts to overthrow regimes it does not like (e.g., Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria — and dozens more during the Cold War)! Trump’s grandstanding — risking nuclear war — has boosted his ratings.

This might encourage Trump to further aggressive moves against North Korea or elsewhere. Much as with Clinton’s launching missiles at Sudan in December 1998 to distract the public from Monica Lewinsky’s testimony to Congress — which ultimately got him impeached by the House (acquitted by the Senate) and a five-year suspension of his law license. See details here about the attack and about its hasty and ill-advised planning. The use of war to boost a president’s ratings is mocked in “Wag the Dog” (1997).

Our threats — and perhaps war — ignores the safer alternatives. We could guarantee North Korea’s territory from invasion and other attacks, or take William Lind’s advice and be creative. Ignore the propaganda; see other posts about North Korea. We enjoy attacking small nations and even weaker non-state actors. While satisfying — all bullies love kicking the weak — how long until one of them hits back at us?

The major media’s stories about North Korea’s threat are ludicrously biased. They seldom mention that North Korea is reacting to large war games nearby in which the US, Japan, and South Korea simulate an invasion of North Korea. They also include one of the great fear-mongering war horses: EMP weapons. Journalists love these stories, and seldom mention the many debunkings by experts (see this summary).

Update from Reuters: Putin rebukes America’s belligerence and urges a more rational response.

“Russia condemns North Korea’s exercises. We consider that they are a provocation …{But} ramping up military hysteria will lead to nothing good. …It could lead to a global catastrophe. …There’s no other path apart from a peaceful one.”

(2) Another warning about AIs causing WWIII.

Friday’s post discussed the dangers posed by the coming rapid evolution of AI in Films show us how smart machines will reshape the world. One film showed Musk’s scenario: Colossus – The Forbin Project (1970), based on a the book of the same name by B. F. Jones (1955). Rapid and uncontrolled evolution of AI systems creates the potential for many strange futures — some astonishing, some unimaginable to us today.

Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook
Available at Amazon.

(3) An inflection point for Antifa.

Political violence is like a virus in its ability to spread through a nation, as both Left and Right support “their” street-fighting thugs (example here). The Left’s strong support for Antifa’s violence — as they attacked the Right’s events — put America on the fast track to serious violence (example here). But we may have passed an inflection point. First journalists began to turn against Antifa’s violence, no longer concealing their actions and making excuses for them. Now even Berkeley’s mayor condemns them. See this story by CBS News 5 KPIX.

“A large number of masked Antifa activists were seen jumping the barriers at a largely peaceful demonstration in Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Civic Center Park on Sunday. Some began attacking Trump supporters at the rally. …KPIX 5 news crews observed that most of the conservative demonstrators in the park were Trump supporters who repeatedly denounced Nazis and racists.” …{Jesse Arreguin, Berkeley’ mayor, spoke about} the black-clad activists who showed up in force and took over both the protests and the park.” Mayor’s remarks:

“I think we should classify them as a gang. They come dressed in uniforms. They have weapons, almost like a militia and I think we need to think about that in terms of our law enforcement approach. … I think we are going to have to think ‘big picture’ about what is the strategy for how we are going to deal with these violent elements on the left as well. …We also need to hold accountable and encourage people not to associate with these extremists because it empowers them and gives them cover.”

CBS also noted two other statements by the mayor that in effect supported Antifa’s violence. He applauded the police for enjoying coffee and donuts while watching Antifa bash heads. Then he recommended that Antifa be rewarded for its violence by Berkeley U cancelling “Free Speech Week.”

“And while it didn’t look good, the mayor also praised Berkeley police for holding back and ceding the park to the anarchists when the group jumped the barriers. …the mayor also called on UC Berkeley to call off next month’s Free Speech Week featuring Milo Yiannopoulos.”

Progress is always incremental. Let’s applaud Mayor Arreguin even for baby steps. Let’s hope other on the Left (both liberals and far Left) will follow his example.

Video of the CBS News 5 KPIX story.

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(4) Sources for your morning reading.

I subscribe to the daily summaries of stories by National Review and Alternet to cover Left and Right, Naked Capitalism for the Center-Left, and Zero Hedge for weird fringes. I have subscriptions to and skim the WaPo, New York Times, London Review of Books, NY Review of Books, the Marine Corps Gazette, and Science. I get many leads to good stories from Twitter. These posts gives tips to help you modify your own list.

  1. A guide to sources of geopolitical insight on the Internet,
  2. Suggestions for your daily info diet. You are what you read!
  3. Economics can help understand events in America and the world. Here’s where to find those answers.
  4. Finding insights in the seas of information & misinformation.

(5)  For More Information

If you found this post of use, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also see these posts about journalism, about information and disinformation, about reforming America – steps to a new politics, and especially these…

  1. ImportantPolitics in modern America: A users’ guide for journalists and reformers.
  2. Journalists suffer from the crisis crisis, warping America’s vision.
  3. We live in an age of ignorance, but can decide to fix this – today.
  4. Ways to deal with those guilty of causing the fake news epidemic.
  5. The secret source of fake news. Its discovery will change America.
  6. A new year’s gift: two tools to help discover truth in the news.
  7. Trump brings the crisis in journalism to a flashpoint.
His Gal Friday
His Girl Friday

My favorite film about journalism.

His Girl Friday with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell (1940). One of the great screwball comedies, it captures many aspects of journalism. For example, see the scene where journalists hear about a jailbreak — and each writes a very different story about the event.

This is one of the few films I have seen with great acting, a strong plot, fast pacing, and wonderful dialog. The only flaw, in my opinion, is the ending. It shows no character development. That’s realistic, but I prefer more optimistic films.

15 thoughts on “Important breaking stories with too little news coverage

  1. Re: The Trump approval graph, it seems like there have been several comparable jumps in his approval rating in the past – around 6/22, 7/23, and so on. Did anything meaningful happen in those periods?

    If I had to put money on an explanation, my guess would be that he didn’t screw up the Harvey response – at least so far. Perhaps that plus yelling at Kim-chan are why he’s going up in the polls a little. I suppose time will tell.

    1. SF,

      As usual, we can only guess at “why”. I doubt “didn’t screw up Harvey response” would produce such a large move — and there is a long history of American’s cheering belligerent moves by the president. This was nicely mocked in the 1997 film “Wag the Dog.”

      The significance of this — which I didn’t explain (I’ll add a paragraph doing so) — is that it encourages Trump to further aggressive moves. That is a bad thing.

  2. Typo? “Here some major stories that journalists undercover” doesn’t sound quite right but I’m not sure what it should be, perhaps “journalists keep undercover?”

    Regarding Trump’s poll bump: I agree with your analysis and dread the day that Trump realizes that he can retain enough popularity to stay in office by continually tapping the collective US reflex of rallying around the President during times of potential military action. It’s a logical extension of our wars without end and it benefits the military so they are likely to support him on this.

    Trump lives by the rule that anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Once he realizes that he can keep most of his problems at bay by sabre-rattling; he’s going to do it a lot, perhaps even manufacturing issues like a WWF wrestler trying to get more air time against management’s wishes (which is a pretty good analogy for what will be happening). Eventually this behavior will exhaust national willingness to support the President in a crisis and Trump will be deposed. But the next President, who will be facing real crises (possibly caused by Trump’s manufactured crises), will not have cause thank Trump for this.

    1. Pluto,

      Thanks again for notice the headline. “Undercovered” is a word, but not a great use of it here. I changed it. Also, I forgot to thank you for catching a typo yesterday.

      As for Trump’s sabre-rattling, SF’s comment suggests that the implications — which you nicely described — were not clear. So I added a paragraph of explanation.

  3. The public saber rattling about North Korea has been going on for a while without any noticeable improvement in Trump’s numbers. The effective response to hurricane Harvey (As opposed to say, Katrina) may be a factor here. The photo op of Trump serving meals didn’t hurt either. I’ve been wrong before, but I don’t think Trump is any immediate danger of being removed. As you say, it would require some degree of Republican support, and that would require them to take actual responsibility for something. Not bloody likely.

    I don’t know if the turn against Antifa represents a momentary outbreak of sanity or just a realization that Antifa has less tactical utility against Trump than many on the Left believed. I suspect the latter, but I’ve been wrong before.

    I’m not sure how being highly successful at raking in government subsidies qualifies Elon Musk as an expert on AI, but I’ve been wrong before.

    I keep wanting to cue up the song “I’ve Been Wrong Before” By Abney Park

    1. Man who laughs,

      (1) “The public saber rattling about North Korea has been going on for a while without any noticeable improvement in Trump’s numbers.”

      I disagree. The past weeks say a massive intensification of US rhetoric — and resulting news coverage. Magnitudes matter.

      (2) “but I don’t think Trump is any immediate danger of being removed.”

      Does anyone disagree with that?

      (3) “I don’t know if the turn against Antifa represents a momentary outbreak of sanity”

      As I said in the post, it is a “baby step”. Let’s applaud and hope for more.

      (4) “I’m not sure how being highly successful at raking in government subsidies qualifies Elon Musk as an expert on AI”

      That’s a bizarre description of Musk’s accomplishments at Tesla and SpaceX. More broadly, I wonder if anyone is an expert when it comes to long-term predictions about AI. Subject matter experts are often myopic, seeing near-term trends clearly but being very wrong about the long-term (sometimes exaggerating, sometimes underestimating).

  4. FM, since you’ve been observing financial news longer than me, I’m curious for more detailed thoughts on Zerohedge. My understanding is that they were fringey but still “required reading” (not really required, but commonly read — akin to Dealbreaker or Matt Levine) among finance professionals circa 2010, especially for their coverage of the rise of HFT. But by the time I joined the financial industry in 2013, they already had a reputation of being a little off the deep end. I still get value from reading them, now and then, but just as a reflection of the alternative media zeitgeist. Obviously conventional MSM types view them as Russian stooges, which I doubt is fully accurate. Their finance-specific coverage is pretty uniformly permabear/goldbug, with occasional interesting exceptions (e.g. they covered the July 2017 silver flash crash more promptly/prominently than outlets like WSJ or Bloomberg, IIRC. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-07-07/silver-tests-overnight-flash-crash-lows).

    Is there any simple way to summarize how Zerohedge has evolved over the last several years? (Granted, I don’t think there’s a simple way to summarize how the NYT has evolved during the same time frame, and yet I’m confident it has (d)evolved.)

    1. Sflicht,

      (1) ZH profited from the incompetence of the financial media. They provided a front page with real time stories that financial people wanted to read. The morons running the financial press provided nothing remotely as good. They still don’t. The commentary was often exaggerated or outright ignorant. For example, screaming about big moves in non-seasonally adjusted numbers when the SA numbers were flat.

      (2) ZH provided valuable info because they (a) had access to closely held quality research (e.g., Goldman’s) not available even to those of us with good First Call access, and (b) grossly violated copyright regs to post it. Over time they either lost their access or got nasty letters from some IB’s attorneys.

      (3) By then they had built up a large audience of non-financial people there for entertainment — and excitement. From the comments, a large fraction of these were far-right kooks. Being good businesspeople, they shifted their content accordingly. Their pages were filled with exaggerated news, fake news, and lunatic news. Much of it is easily written political nonsense, red meat space filler.

      I don’t know how the size of their audience has changed, but the effort to profits ratio must be immense. Esp since I’ve heard rumors that they employ poorly paid drones to churn out much or all of their “coverage.”

      (4) A somewhat similar website is Debkafile, a ZH-like website about geopolitics. They were hot 2007-13; I haven’t heard about them since then. See my posts about it here.

  5. I would suggest that one of Zerohedge’s greatest strengths is its latitude.

    After 10 years of following it on a daily basis, it is clear they have a multilingual staff and access to many paywalled websites in multiple languages.

    The mainstream press should take note – You American/Brit talking heads who fail to mention deals and conditions in the other 98% of the world, *actually do matter.* That’s why everyone reads Zerohedge,

    And that’s also why the internet is winning and the antique mainstream media is becoming ever more irrelevant day after day.

    1. Stanley,

      “they have a multilingual staff and access to many paywalled websites in multiple languages.”

      I don’t believe any of that is correct. Most of what they print from other languages is from other websites. For example, from the Gatestone Institute.

      “That’s why everyone reads Zerohedge,”

      That’s why so many Americans are so misinformed. I can often identify commenters here who read Zerohedge. They’re ignorant and misinformed, immune to logic and facts. They consume ZH like pigs consume swill.

  6. Is that why ZH has been a top a top website for years referenced all over the internet, … and Fabius Maximus …. takes 8 comments per article on a good day and is referenced, um never anywhere?

    “I can often identify commenters here who read Zerohedge.” Like me? The one who uncryptically claimed above to have read ZH for 10 years? Spectacular deductive sleuthing you sniffed out.

    At least you have your righteous ‘integrity’ with which to console yourselves on your website that’s been around for at least a decade with no more impact nor readers than it had 10 years ago.

    But just like the MSM I am sure you will blame that on the woeful intellectual depravity of the average reader and especially stupid uninformed Americans; we the deplorables. Ring any bells?

    1. Stanley,

      “Is that why ZH has been a top a top website for years referenced all over the internet”

      Yes, exactly. There is a large market for exaggeration and misinformation fitting people’s political biases. That’s why you see tabloids at the grocery markets checkout lines, not the New York Times.

  7. FM,

    “I subscribe to the daily summaries of stories by National Review and Alternet to cover Left and Right, Naked Capitalism for the Center-Left, and Zero Hedge for weird fringes. I have subscriptions to and skim the WaPo, New York Times, London Review of Books, NY Review of Books, the Marine Corps Gazette, and Science. I get many leads to good stories from Twitter.”

    Great post as usual, but you fail to give yourself credit as a vital news source! In addition to several that you mention some of my favorite news websites include: The Federalist (conservative), Reason (libertarian), Ars Technica (tech news), and the wire services (Reuters, AP, AFP, etc.). My two favorite sources for science news are Quanta Magazine (https://www.quantamagazine.org/) and Nautilus (http://nautil.us/) – they eschew politics (ahem, Scientific American) and provide outstanding long-form journalism articles that leave me more knowledgeable after reading.

    Keep up the good work!

    SAF

    1. SAf,

      All interesting sites! Note I listed sources of general interest. For example, I subscribe to Stratfor and am on the distribution list for papers of several science associations (AGU, AMS, NBER). I used to read more, but have less time these days. For one reason, writing and reading tend to come from the same time budget.

      Sidenote: I used to subscribe to a dozen magazines. The availability of free info — from a wide variety of high-quality sources — has let me prune that list down. For decades I subscribed to The Economist, Forbes, Fortune, The Atlantic (or Harpers), and Scientific American. No longer.

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