Archive for the ‘MSM’ Category

UsefulIdiot

Herr Drumpf has declared China and Russia to be our friends because (the FBI says) they hacked the DNC’s emails (and modified some of them) in order to sow discord in the party’s convention.  While I’m irritated that a handful of emails were ugly they’re not game changers or smoking guns and the DNC has reacted appropriately to smooth things over.  I’m much more concerned with the fact that Putin is purposely interfering with our Presidential election, which is unprecedented in our country’s history to my knowledge.  What’s worse, it appears to be working because our Media, which can’t resist a controversy, is blowing the email story out of proportion and because Herr Drumpf, who relies on Russian oligarchs for money (the same oligarchs that put and help keep Putin in power), is saying that he would essentially abandon our NATO partners to Russia’s encroachment.   Either Herr Drumpf is actively working for Russian interests or he’s their Useful Idiot.  And you know we’re headed for some serious trouble when the best we can hope for is that a Presidential candidate is a Useful Idiot for an expansionist Russian dictator.

 

h/t Ashby at BobCesca.com

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I heard a story on NPR yesterday about a recent Bloomberg poll that asked:

Do you support banning Muslims from the United States for a while?

65% of Republican voters said yes and a surprising 18% of Democratic voters said yes.  They did not interview any Independents so it’s safe to assume that more than 37% of American likely voters support what is essentially an unconstitutional and unethical policy.  If that doesn’t worry you maybe their answer to the follow-up question should.  They asked a second question that states it even more clearly…something like “even if it’s unconstitutional and goes against everything that America stands for and it makes us less safe” do you still support it and they STILL answered yes.

They then talked to a focus group of Trump supporters.  Most of them were college educated (so claiming their ignorant isn’t an answer to this conundrum). When asked why they supported the ban it was VERY clear there were two main reasons:  1) fear and 2) spite. The spite is something many online have speculated about.  Essentially they think Trump challenges the status quo and the “elites”, which they define as the media.  They believe the media elites are looking down on them (and they are and rightly so) calling them bigots.  Well if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…But instead of shaming them, it only makes them madder and makes them support Trump more.  So that’s why we’re seeing his numbers go higher every time he says something awful–so the online and media speculation was correct.

What it all boils down to is these two important points.  First, they are SO afraid of more terrorist attacks that they will trade long term safety (and scoff at rational policy as presented by Pres. Obama and any Democratic nominee) for short term safety (as offerred by Trump).  I.e., they know it’s wrong they just don’t give a f*ck.  Second, the left and the Media telling them it is wrong, makes them so angry that they are willing to cut their nose off to spite their face.  It’s like telling your 4 year old, ‘if you do that one more time I’m going to spank you’ so, of course, they do the forbidden thing out of defiance.

When you really understand the dynamic here and you look at how many Americans probably feel this way, it is incredibly disturbing.  Maybe we should be concerned about the Democratic Party’s nominees chances in the general election.  Fear is contagious and so is anger.  These two emotions have been the main impetus behind some pretty ugly things in our history like the Internment of the Japanese during WWII.   This could be another one of those defining moments.  Unfortunately this decision will most likely be made by people with the mentality of 4 year olds.

There’s nothing I hate more than hypocrisy. Unfortunately, I see it every single day in our news media. Who controls the majority of our news media is primarily to blame and the number of people who control it has been shrinking for decades. In 1983 there were 50 companies who controlled the majority of our news and information and now there are only 6. And when such consolidation happens, it means fewer individuals shape the news and that news will inevitably be shaped by their individual opinions, journalism be damned. Let me give you the perfect example.

Yesterday, I heard that Robert Redford had a new movie out called “Truth” about Rathergate. Some background–You may recall that Rathergate refers to the scandal that ended the long illustrious career of newsman Dan Rather. Two months before the 2004 Presidential election, “60 Minutes” aired a Rather segment critical of President Bush’s service record in the Air National Guard in the early 1970’s based on a set of memos called the “Killian Documents”. The memos turned out to be forgeries and Rather retired, quite unwillingly, a year later. The award-winning producer who broke the Abu Ghraib prison tortures, Mary Mapes, was fired and never worked in the field again. Mary Mapes did write a book, however, and the film is based on that book.

Interested in the movie I viewed the trailer online and saw that the New York Daily News had a review so I read that too. It panned the movie and used it as a platform to excoriate Mapes and Rather, as if the destruction of their careers had not been enough punishment. I would like to think that such a scolding comes from a wellspring of journalistic integrity and a desire to protect the profession. After a little more=e digging, I decided, unfortunately, that’s probably not what is going on here.

The author of the piece is Don Kaplan, TV editor for the NY Daily News, for whom I struggled to find any bio information. However, what I did find is that the paper is owned and run by billionaire Mortimer Zuckerman, a long time supporter of the Democratic party, who also happens to be a big supporter of Israel and Jewish causes. He has been accused by John Mearsheimer, Harvard political science professor, as being part and parcel of the “Israeli Lobby” in the U.S. Zuckerman’s response in the conservative paper, the New York Sun, to that accusation was as follows:

I would just say this: The allegations of this disproportionate influence of the Jewish community remind me of the 92-year-old man sued in a paternity suit. He said he was so proud; he pleaded guilty.

While I won’t speak about Professor Mearsheimer’s accusation as to whether Zuckerman and the Israeli Lobby have an outsized influence on US foreign policy (although I do have an opinion), I think it is fair to say that Zuckerman has a bias towards Israel when it comes to foreign policy. At this point you’re asking, what does this have to do with Rathergate and a journalistic scolding disguised as a movie review? Well I’m getting there, be patient.

In the lead up to the Iraq War one of the biggest and loudest cheerleaders supporting the Bush Administration’s desire to invade was Mortirmer Zuckerman. While the UN was saying we needed more time to investigate whether Saddam actually had WMD, Zuckerman took a very public stance saying that we didn’t need a smoking gun and assured everyone that Hussein was “clearly lying” about having abandoned WMDs. According to Robert Wright of The New York Times , Zuckerman’s writing during the build up to the invasion was “melodramatic, borderline-hysterical” about the imminent threat that Saddam posed to the U.S.

What did Zuckerman and many others base their opinions on, the opinions that shaped the national debate and led us into a disastrous war? Their world-altering opinions were based on information coming out of the White House that was in turn being trumpeted by papers like the NY Daily News and the New York Times, and at the Times specifically by Judith Miller. Indeed, while Judy Miller cooled her heels in jail for Contempt of Court she had visits from her rich and powerful friends in the Israeli Lobby including Mr. Zuckerman. I’m not making an accusation based entirely on association, there is plenty of evidence that Zuckerman’s published opinions were the same as Miller’s and that he knew the same people she used as sources and that they have both attended public and television events to discuss their shared opinions over the years.

Now we get to the meat of matter.  Why was Miller in jail and why is it important to my reasoning here? She was incarcerated for refusing to be questioned by a federal prosecutor regarding her sources during the grand jury investigation into the outing of CIA officer, Valerie Plame. We learned later that her source was actually “Scooter” Libby, Assistant to President George W. Bush. We also know that many of her sources were people who had some history with the administration or were actively in the administration per her own admission in a recent book and in recent interviews.  This demonstrates the types of sources she used in her reporting before the Iraq War that was so instrumental in convincing the people that we were justified in our invasion.

Judith Miller’s defense, which has been repeated by Zuckerman in his continuing justification for the Iraq War, was that they’d successfully relied on those sources before in regards to other stories and felt they were accurate. Miller was part of the NY Times team that won the Pulitizer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for it’s 2001 coverage of global terrorism before and after the 9/11 attacks. She says she used many of the same sources. Relying on a set of experts, who were essentially Administration lackeys and subject matter experts who had worked for and owed their standing to said Administration, for explanatory reporting the birth and growth of Al Qaeda when that group had openly taken responsibility for 9/11 is NOT the same as relying on that same set of people to develop a casus belli

Furthermore, relying on those experts when the information about Al Qaeda could be found elsewhere and easily cross-checked is NOT the same as the run up to the Iraq war when the ONLY intelligence we had was being filtered and massaged by the Administration, essentially a single source. In the debate in the U.K. over whether to join us in Iraq much was made about the fact that the information came from a single source, but not here in the good ‘ol USA.  To our everlasting regret, the media did not cross-check the information–and this includes Zuckerman.

And there WERE other sources to be tapped. What about Joe Wilson and the trip to Niger? Judith didn’t investigate the President’s claim that Saddam tried to buy uranium in Africa or she would have discovered Joe Wilson. What about Richard Clarke? He has said that from the day Bush entered the White House Clarke was warning Condolezza Rice about Al Qaeda but she and the President were already fixated on Saddam. Rice and Bush said that Al Qaeda was just a distraction from Saddam. The CIA repeatedly told them not to ignore Al Qaeda and that Saddam was the real distraction. In fact, they were so certain of the impending 9/11 attacks and so NOT worried about Saddam that they did a couple of telling things. First they asked Joe Wilson, a non-agent, a non-CIA employee and a diplomat, to go to Niger and investigate whether Saddam had bought enriched uranium there. If they felt it was a serious lead, they would have sent a team. Sure enough, the rumor was just that and Wilson reported that fact to the CIA at the time and later as an opinion piece in the NY Times in 2003.  That didn’t stop President Bush from claiming that Saddam tried to purchase uranium in Africa. The second thing they did occurred on July 9, 2001. The CIA’s Counter-terrorism Center staffers were told in a meeting by a senior official that they should resign so that when the Al Qaeda attack occurred they couldn’t be blamed.  Ironically, the Administration did just that. So, it was abundantly clear to the CIA that Al Qaeda was the imminent threat and Saddam was not.

Why didn’t Judith Miller check with any of those other sources? If she could get high level sources in the Administration wanting to go into Iraq, why could she not find people that thought we shouldn’t because there were plenty of those both inside and outside of the Administraton? She had Scooter Libby as a source and he was involved in the outing and/or cover-up of Valerie Plame, wife of Joe Wilson. The CIA and Wilson was practically doing a jig under her nose. Why wouldn’t you try to get both sides of the story because we were talking about going to war–it was too important to get wrong. War is costly and convincing us to go to war based on lies is ethically abhorrent.

And later when the Administration waved around articles by the likes of Zuckerman, Miller, Robert Novak and others  saying ‘see here’s proof, Saddam is an imminent threat’ why didn’t she publicly say something like ‘wait a minute, it doesn’t work like that’. That’s like me reporting as an anonymous source to my local paper that the moon is made out of cheese. They in turn report ‘our sources say the moon is made out of cheese’, and then I take that paper as proof to my friends and family and say, ‘see I told you the moon was made out of cheese’. It was her’s and their obligation as journalists and as citizens of a country about to go to war to get the opposing side of the story and failing that, to stand up and say something when they used their articles as “proof”.

Another defense that Miller, Zuckerman, and others use to excuse their shoddy journalism (and in my opinion, spectacular failure in their civic duty) was to say “but Saddam wanted to hurt us and would have if he was given the opportunity”. That’s some specious bullpucky there. If intention and desire were the criteria by which we establish a case for war we would have to bomb half the world. And while we are still hearing all kinds of excuses and non-apologies from the likes of Miller and Zuckerman (who can forget Miller’s smirking interview with Jon Stewart), what happened in Rathergate?  Rather admitted he made a mistake in judgment and apologized and Mapes, while she didn’t apologize did admit she made mistakes.

So what was the result of the shoddy and agenda-filled reporting in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq? The Iraq War resulted in over 36,000 dead and wounded U.S. soldiers, killed and wounded over 100,000 Iraqi civilians (some claims are as high 600,000) and displaced 5 million more, and we spent $1.7 trillion of the national treasure. What were the consequences of Dan Rather’s story? Dan Rather’s very distinguished and respected career in journalism ended far too soon and Mary Mapes had her professional livelihood destroyed. It had no effect whatsoever on the election. Let me be clear here…I’m not advocating for Redford’s movie, nor justifying what Rather and Mapes did. In both cases they made huge journalistic mistakes, that could have affected (and in one case did affect) the course of our nation.

The point is that Zuckerman and his paper have some kind of nerve to spank Dan Rather and Mary Mapes for not doing their due diligence and failing to verify their sources, when he and many other powerful, influential people printed stories while failing to do the same thing. Moreover, it just goes to show you that as the number of people who control the news and journalism in this country continues to shrink, this kind of hypocrisy will not only continue, it will get worse and will lead this nation into more disastrous decisions.

 

Sources:

http://www.businessinsider.com/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-america-2012-6

http://www.amazon.com/Truth-Duty-Press-President-Privilege/dp/0312354118
http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv/robert-redford-truth-article-1.2381935
http://www.amazon.com/Israel-Lobby-U-S-Foreign-Policy/dp/0374531501
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/16/AR2005091601646.html
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1451669399/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1451669399&linkCode=as2&tag=bobcescom-20&linkId=2KWKQW7BOE7ZO7Z5
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/06/opinion/what-i-didn-t-find-in-africa.html?pagewanted=all
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/leadup-iraq-war-timeline
http://icasualties.org/iraq/
http://www.conflictandhealth.com/content/2/1/1
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/14/us-iraq-war-anniversary-idUSBRE92D0PG20130314
http://www.nysun.com/national/kalb-upbraids-harvard-dean-over-israel/29470/
http://www.nysun.com/national/kalb-upbraids-harvard-dean-over-israel/29470/

I have been asking myself what has happened to journalism in this country for a few years now. I heard two stories on NPR recently where they spent less than 5 seconds on the fact that the Planned Parenthood videos are less than honest and really didn’t address the origin and veracity of the videos. I was and am still so incensed I felt like writing an email to NPR (see said email to NPR at bottom.)

Matt Taibbi’s tweeted something that was very on point today. Glenn Greenwald first tweeted this:

On the ludicrous conceit of “objective, opinion-free journalism

with a link to an article. Someone named The Meteor Guy tweeted back to him and another person:

@ggreenwald @JulianPhilosphy keep separate the facts from the opinions is one of the basic rule of journalism.

And then Matt Taibbi responded:

That couldn’t be more incorrect. Which facts you choose to present IS an opinion.

I think it comes down to them, NPR and the rest of the media, being terrified of the “liberal bias” label. Their fear makes them leave out key facts in almost every single controversial story. And as such are, inadvertently I think, presenting an opinion. An opinion that will affect national opinion, which will in turn affect support for Planned Parenthood. The end result is that they are carrying water for the conservative agenda. Inadvertent or not, it’s just flat out wrong and it’s piss poor journalism. I for one am sick of it.

 


Sent 8/6/2015 via Contact Us form at NPR.org

Yesterday morning I listened to an NPR report on the latest sting video of Planned Parenthood. The reporter (sorry don’t remember her name) spent less than 5 seconds on its questionable nature. She characterized it, downplayed it, so that it came off as “excuse making” by Planned Parenthood. For example, she said something like ‘Planned Parenthood as part of their defense pointed to statements that had been edited out of the video’. That is VASTLY different from the truth. The guy making the video had an agenda and he significantly altered the video in order to make it look as if Planned Parenthood was guilty of committing a crime. That needed to be said but it simply wasn’t. In the real world that’s called framing. Instead the story came across as one of the “poor optics” for Planned Parenthood. This is the exact same thing that happened to Acorn and they are now defunct.

In addition other reports and opinions expressed on NPR’s other shows has been about the optics as well. I don’t want to hear about optics in the news. I want to hear as many facts as you can put into the time slot. NPR used to be the one news source I could go to to get some semblance of reality and avoid the horse race reporting and biased news presented by the rest of the media. But over the last year that has been disappearing. Sadly it seems NPR has bowed to political pressure not to appear as “liberally biased”. NPR is over correcting and it means you are leaving out facts that are vital to understanding a story and presenting it fairly. If the reality has a liberal bias, report it and let the chips fall where they may. And vice versa, if the reality has a conservative bias, then report it and don’t worry about the shrilling of the right or the left.

That does not mean, however, that I only want a centrist view. A variety of opinion is desperately needed and is lacking on all the political shows that I have listened to to include Diane Rehm’s and This Week in Politics. “This Week in Politics” is supposed to present two opposing sides to the political debate. Instead you have E.J. Dionne for the left. He’s more of a Democratic Party supporter….which does not necessarily make him a liberal. He, more often than not, presents mild and ineffectual retorts (if given the time) to snide, condescending rhetoric from David Brooks. David Brooks is a conservative masking himself as a centrist and he does not represent the conservative base in America. Even these two gentlemen, supposedly from opposing sides, took the centrist view on the Planned Parenthood story and the conversation hinged on the bad optics. It shouldn’t be about bad optics and by making it so you feed into those bad optics and as a result carry water for a political agenda. This has been happening with increasing frequency over the last few years.

And finally, while I can see plenty of facts online in NPR articles about the veracity of the videos and how government money to Planned Parenthood is really spent and how they provide crucial healthcare to millions of women, I have yet to hear that on any of the radio shows, which is where most people are exposed to NPR. Like most people, I listen on my way to/from work. Since the radio is how most of your listeners will hear the news, the articles online are of little use in affecting the current national conversation. And make no mistake about it, you are affecting national opinion. If that opinion turns against Planned Parenthood and they lose funding, tens of thousands of women will suffer.

I’m sad to report that NPR has now become the best of the bad and that decline will ensure that I do not rely on NPR for news or anything else in the future.

If one were only paying attention to Faux News and Congress, one would think that Benghazi was and is a scandal of monumental proportions without precedence of any kind.  So much so that many Republicans routinely say they will use it as evidence for impeachment.  They also use it as a wonderful distraction from things that remain unresolved such as our plan to drop bombs on ISIS, Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, Immigration Reform, and our slow moving economy.  Not that it isn’t important–it is and the causes that lead to the breakdown in security at our Benghazi Consulate have since been corrected.

What is most important about Benghazi is how Republicans are using it as a political football by saying it is unique and something that should be laid exclusively at President Obama’s feet.  In reality there have been no less than thirteen, yes I said 13, previous attacks on U.S. Consulates, Embassies and their associated staff and troops abroad during the Bush Presidency from 2002 until 2008 before President Obama was elected.  Bob Cesca over The Daily Banner  has the complete list.  If we want to go further back, there are plenty more.  I distinctly remember the bombing of our marine barracks in Beirut back in 1983 under yet another Republican president, good ol Ronnie Raygun.

When those incidents occurred what did we hear?  Did we see Dems attacking those Presidents?  Or did we see everyone understand that those are dangerous jobs in dangerous places doing important work for our country?   There were no calls for impeachment, no endless investigations that failed to find anything, no scandals, nothing.  Because shit happens overseas in dangerous regions.  But the fact that there’s nothing there to find with Benghazi doesn’t matter to Republicans.  They keep beating that dead horse (just like they did with ACORN).

The GOP propaganda machine has realized that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.   And it doesn’t hurt that the majority of the news media in the U.S. is owned by a very small group of rich conservative white males and their monopolistic corporations. Fortunately for Americans (and my sanity) they can’t change history or hide reality so long as liberal bloggers like Bob, media watchdogs like Media Matters, and individual bloggers like myself keep up the good fight.  So here’s your daily dose of truth–Benghazi was tragic and has been appropriately addressed.  The rate of these kinds of attacks have actually been less under President Obama.  It was not unique or evidence of wrongdoing constituting impeachable offenses.  If it were, then all thirteen of the attacks Bob listed would have been as well.

St. Andrew's Cross, The Scottish Flag

St. Andrew’s Cross, The Scottish Flag

First, I know Scotland is having the big VOTE for independence today and I want to wish them luck.  I know a lot of respected economists are saying it isn’t a good idea BUT my heart says I hope they vote Yes and they can work out the details later.  I seriously doubt that England will shoot itself in the foot by refusing to let them continue to use the British pound for their currency.  If they do, it will be colossally stupid and destabilizing for both countries.  My opinion is definitely colored by my Irish heritage.   Even though Scotland has a longer history of being part of the U.K. than Ireland, it doesn’t change the fact that it originally occurred as a matter of conquest.  I only wish that a united Ireland could do the same.

Second, I’m so very tired of hearing the constant negative press against the President.  It’s like the American media isn’t in touch with reality any more.  They’re just so dead set on being against the Administration (Faux News, I’m looking at you) or they’ve wed themselves to the idea of appearing centrist (even NPR drank the kool aid on this nonsense) that they won’t report what’s really going on.   Here’s what they’re not telling Americans.

Pesky facts about how President Obama has actually improved things in the U.S.

Pesky facts about how President Obama has actually improved things in the U.S.

Do you see the difference in Deficit % of GDP, that’s frigging huge!  And that’s not disputable….it’s a fact.  But try to tell a conservative that the president has reduced the deficit and they will have a hissy fit.  It doesn’t fit into their narrative so it couldn’t possibly be true.  Ht to @BlueNationUnited for the graphic

Jon Stewart on The Daily Show sometimes gets on my nerves with his “both sides do it” tendencies, but in a recent segment absolutely decimates Eric Bolling and Fox News coverage of food stamp fraud.  Video here:  http://www.hulu.com/watch/608697

For those “over the pond” folks who cannot access the video, here’s a summary.

Jon shows Eric Bolling calling him out.  Tape of Bolling saying he is going to take Jon “to school”.  After making fun of Bolling for this ridiculous call out, Stewart walks through their hypocrisy step by step.  He points out that one hippy (who was used as THE example of food stamp fraud on 6 different Fox shows) does not represent the millions of poor Americans.  But okay, we don’t have to argue that point.  Let’s address how much fraud there actually is.  So he show that food stamp fraud is about $3 billion annually and is not anything to sneeze at.  Jon then compares that to the amount of money not paid by corporations due to loopholes in the U.S. taxes every year, which amounts to about $4 billion a year.  Then he shows a clip of Bolling saying that the money lost due to unpaid corporate taxes of “$4 billion is a pittance, a pittance!” in the larger scheme of things.  So $3 billion lost in our effort to feed poor Americans is too much but losing $4 billion to corporations every year is a pittance.  Hmmmmm……

Stewart then asks why do they, meaning Fox and conservatives, think this?  He shows clips of them talking about corporations being “job creators”.  He then shreds this next point like a master.  JP Morgan was instrumental in causing the recent Great Recession that affected the entire world.  They sold sub-prime mortgages and derivatives as triple A investments and the bottom fell out.  They created a whole lot of poor people. Did you know that JP Morgan Chase also administers the food stamp EBT program for 24 states making hundreds of billions a year on that contract alone?  Did you know they get paid per customer?

Jon then supposes that JP Morgan must put that money back into our economy by creating jobs…that’s what conservatives and Fox News claim.  Turns out that is not the case.   To handle the customer support calls on the food stamps program, JP Morgan hired offshore operators who get paid $3.50 an hour.  That’s right–the job creators are creating jobs alright, just not in the frigging U.S.    So no matter what happens, corporations win if the rest of lose and they always make sure we lose.  After all, it’s in their best interest, which is making a profit.

Stewart sarcastically explains this business model for us:

“But don’t think of it as JP Morgan shorting homeowners.  Think of them as going long on hunger.”

He follows that massive wallop with another as he ends the segment.  He says:

So what I’m getting from Fox is this….Exploiting government largess while reprehensible and morally corrupting for an individual is a-okay for corporations.  

Then there appears a picture behind Stewart of a little girl and carton of milk and he says:

So, maybe this will help.  Don’t think about food stamps and head start and programs like that as feeding and helping a small child.

As the milk carton disappears from the picture, Stewart finishes with:

Think about it as investing in promising start-up with a liquidity problem.  

It was an absolutely brilliant takedown.