Tag Archives | media

New Poll Trashes Congress

The newest  New York Times/CBS poll is a disaster for Republicans and the Tea Party and a virtual broadside against Congress as a whole.  The 80% of Americans who disapprove of Congress is the highest number since the poll began in 1977.  Given the acrimony of the past month, these figures are especially significant:

More than four out of five people surveyed said that the recent debt-ceiling debate was more about gaining political advantage than about doing what is best for the country. Nearly three-quarters said that the debate had harmed the image of the United States in the world.

All told, 72 percent disapproved of the way Republicans in Congress handled the negotiations, while 66 percent disapproved of the way Democrats in Congress handled negotiations.

Respondents split evenly on President Obama’s handling of the debt ceiling debate, 47% disapproving and 46% approving.  Tea Party unfavorables jumped from 29% to 40% in a month.  Only 20% of Americans view the Tea Party favorably.

The poll notes Republican calls for deficit reduction are resonating, yet by 2 to 1 Americans think fixing unemployment is more important.

44 percent of those polled said the cuts in the debt-ceiling agreement did not go far enough, 29 percent said they were about right and only 15 percent said they went too far. More than a quarter of the Democrats polled said that the cuts in the agreement did not go far enough.

63% of Americans agree with President Obama on “raising taxes” for those making over $250,000/year.






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How Could Rupert Murdoch Possibly Not Know?

It defies reason. The blatant continuation of phone-hacking by News Corps reporters for four years after the first culprits were arrested might be overlooked in an Inspector Clouseau satire for The Onion.  But if the Rupert family expects us to believe it did not know something was amiss in the empire, their contempt for the public is even greater than their contempt for the law.


It’s unbelievable that Rebeka Brooks, one of the editors during the hacking years, did not know what her reporters were doing.  As a corporate media executive, she must have had a system in place to vet reporters’ articles and verify their sources.  If she didn’t, she committed a gross violation of journalistic standards or deliberately left oversight loose to accommodate a ‘plausible alibi.?  Where did she think all the hot-off-the-press stories coming from?  How were her reporters getting such sensational material?

And it defies logic that Rupert Murdoch did not follow the ‘scoops’ his flagship newspaper and sentimental favorite, News of the World, uncovered. scoops that drew 2.5 million to its Sunday edition.   Again, one One would expect a CEO to more aggressively monitor their investigative units than any others, especially when reporters from those units had been convicted of wrongdoing in the past.  If News of the World failed to implement new systems to insure integrity within its investigative teams after the original arrests in 2007, that is enough to infer their complicity in what happened afterwards.

The sleaze drips down the cozy relationship between British politicians and News Corporation executives.  Why in the world would the British PM need to meet officials of News Corp. 26 times in 18 months?   Why would the head of Scotland Yard meet News Corp. executives 18 times during his own police investigation of phone-hacking?

This is political pornography. The real shock is that all this went on openly, as if all the players were sure that ‘nobody else’ would find and follow their trail.  Unfortunately, the code of silence worked for years.

The Greeks got it right 2500 years ago.  The great and powerful are brought down by a fatal flaw they don’t see in themselves . Hubris destroyed Oedipus as fast and surly as it did DSK and the lengthening list of executives associated with the Murdoch empire.   Of course, Oedipus took honorable action: he cut out his eyes because they didn’t ‘see.’  Once the tread is caught, it quickly unravels.

Bloomberg: (UPDATE)

Independent directors of New York-based News Corp. have begun questioning the company’s response to the crisis and whether a leadership change is needed, said two people with direct knowledge of the situation who wouldn’t speak publicly. Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief who Murdoch backed until last week, was arrested yesterday in London.

“The shell of invulnerability that Rupert Murdoch had around him has been cracked,” said James Post, a professor at Boston University’s School of Management who has written about governance and business ethics. “His credibility and the company’s credibility are hemorrhaging.”









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British Public & Parliament Take on Tabloid News

British newspapers pounced Thursday on new reports of clandestine phone hacking by the News of the World tabloid, reportedly including the voice mail messages of relatives of fallen soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. One newspaper said the police planned to make arrests soon.

The developments came a day after Britain’s Parliament on Wednesday collectively turned on Rupert Murdoch, the head of the News Corporation, which owns The News of the World, and the tabloid culture he represents, using a debate about the widening phone hacking scandal to denounce reporting tactics by newspapers once seen as too politically influential to challenge.

It appears the use of phone-hacking by the Sun and News of the World, first uncovered in 2007, has grown since.  British public opinion drew the line at revelations by The Guardian that Murdoch employees hacked the family phone of a teenage abduction/murder victim and perhaps others, including innocents killed in Britain’s 20005 subway bombing by terrorists.

Other accusations against News reporters are paying police officers for information and – the most bizarre – lending two murder suspects a News truck to spy on the chief detective in the case.

The significance of conservatives as well as liberals denouncing the tactics of Mr. Murdock’s operations is great.  Murdock has supported conservative politics and causes his entire life.  James Cameron tapped a former editor of the News as his spokesman after taking over as Prime Minister a year ago.  Yet even conservatives used harsh language against Mr. Murdock’s outrageous hubris and influence.   One conservative MP,  Zac Goldsmith, had these words .

“There is nothing noble in what these newspapers have been doing,” he said. “Rupert Murdoch is clearly a very, very talented businessman — he’s possibly even a genius — but his organization has grown too powerful and has abused that power. It has systematically corrupted the police and in my view has gelded this Parliament, to our shame.”

The more serious criticism of Murdoch’s media empire in the US, particularly Fox News and The New York Post, has been their sensationalism and looseness with facts.  What effect the British investigations and impending arrests of  News reporters and agents will have on Murdoch’s business holdings long-term is not known.  Some in Parliament, however, are calling for Britain to block his next grand purchase of Sky Pay-TV.

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De Tocqueville Betrayed

The media coverage and attention-grabbing shenanigans of the O.J. Simpson trial almost twenty years ago look tame by today’s standards.  America needs a backlash against overindulgent, superficial, self-satisfying media personalities who pass themselves off as ‘journalists’ and claim they deliver ‘what the viewers/readers want.’   In the past, the NYTimes own reporters may have themselves come upon the inconsistencies in the case instead of just reporting six weeks later what the AG’s office discovered.  The excuse that ‘we give people what they want’ just doesn’t wash it anymore.  Commodus, the most infamous of late Roman dictators, gave his people what they ‘wanted’ also: gladiator and human-against-wild beast shows reduced Roman culture to venal, gross distractions while he whittled away the Empire’s defense.

The most serious result of the NY AG’s office inept handling of the DSK will no doubt be its effects on women’s willingness to report rape and their subsequent ability to get over the trauma in one piece.  New York prosecutors are responsible for igniting a media circus around sex and power can set back progress made in the US to put strong anti-rape laws on the book and is of special concern to French women.

“I hope this is going to help the victims to speak,” Ms. Nini {French writer about girls and teens) said. “If D.S.K.,” the initials by which Mr. Strauss-Kahn is known here, “is really guilty, I think this affair {exposing the jerk} is going to help women,” she said. But if he is found not guilty, she said, “there is a risk that women will not be taken seriously anymore….others pointed to interviews with nine female politicians published May 31 in the daily Libération, under the headline, “Sick of the machos.” They described “incredibly gross jokes” in the National Assembly and feeling the need to wear trousers to make a speech.

The scathing remarks by the French about the ‘brutal’ intersection of media, criminal justice, power and publicity that drive these high-profile cases should give Americans a different type of pause.


In an editorial this weekend, Le Monde wrote that “the least one can say is that the vagaries of the American procedure” had “condemned Dominique Strauss-Kahn before even the start of a serious inquiry.” Criticizing the “media-judicial machine,” the paper said the costs to Mr. Strauss-Kahn were heavy, including the loss of his job and his political future. The paper said that with the American system of an elected prosecutor dependent on the voters and the way it functions with the press, with police leaks and “terrible photos illegally transmitted to the press and then also illegally reproduced by certain newspapers — everything was done to place Mr. Strauss-Kahn in a situation of extreme weakness before even the beginning of an inquiry.”

This belies the great 19th-century Frenchman and political philosopher, Alexis De Tocqueville, who definitively captured the American psyche in his famed book, “Democracy in America.”  After declaring his admiration of the ‘most democratic country in the world’ and his faith in the down-to-earth, equitable spirit of the American people over 150 years ago, he’s turning over in his grave today.

Noëlle Lenoir, a former European affairs minister, said many French felt insulted. “People were shocked by the media circus,” she said. “They thought the prosecution was making common cause with the tabloids. So there is a bit of revenge for what is seen as very anti-French behavior.”


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Professor Juan Cole Targeted by Bush’s White House

In an extensive article in today’s New York Times, National Security Correspondent James Risen reports that a retired CIA operative was asked by the White House to ‘investigate’ Professor Cole’s life and come up with damaging information.  Professor Cole writes the widely-read Middle East blog, Informed Comment, and strongly opposed the Bush invasion of Iraq.  He has printed several articles or opeds that I have authored.

“A former senior C.I.A. official says that officials in the Bush White House sought damaging personal information on a prominent American critic of the Iraq war in order to discredit him.Glenn L. Carle, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information on Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who writes an influential blog that criticized the war.”

The CIA is prohibited by law from spying on American citizens.  The CIA says the WH asked why Professor Cole was invited to CIA-sponsored conferences on the Middle East.  But Risen reports on incidences that go much further.

At least one issue the report raises is what role the Bush White House may have had in sabotaging Prof. Cole’s appointment to the Yale University faculty (as they had in outing former CIA disarmament expert Valerie Plame) at the time of the first WH request for information on Cole. :

Around the time that Mr. Carle says the White House requests were made, Professor Cole’s conservative critics were campaigning to block his possible appointment to Yale University’s faculty. In 2006, conservative columnists, bloggers and pundits with close ties to the Bush administration railed against him, accusing Professor Cole of being anti-American and anti-Israeli. Yale ultimately scuttled the appointment.




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Israeli Reactions: Good Speech, Now What?

Nahum Barnea, a widely read columnist for Yediot Aharonot, who accompanied Mr. Netanyahu to Washington, wrote that while the prime minister spoke well, the visit’s results were worrying. He listed them as “a president whom the Israelis suspect and the Arab world scorns for having yielded to the dictate of the Israelis; negotiations that had a slim chance of being renewed before the visit and now have no chance at all; a Palestinian Authority and an Arab League that are more determined than in the past to reach a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly on a state within the 1967 borders, which is a resolution that has quite dangerous consequences for Israel.”  – Ethan Bronner, NYT

Israeli reaction to Netanyahu’s visit in taking an introspective turn.  Most Israelis were hoping for some agreement to move the peace process forward.  As Nahum Barnea indicates in the quote above, the looming UN vote on Palestinian statehood is of high concern to many Israelis and their PM came back empty-handed on ways to address that and other issues.

What are the risks here?  Everyone knows the US will vote against statehood in the General Assembly and use its veto on the Security Council in support of Israel.  However, if the Palestinians are able to garner European support for a UN declaration of statehood, the consequences could be startling.  A decisive UN majority, including major European states, in support of Palestinian statehood would set the process in motion.  Palestinian statehood would change the character of the peace negotiations.  Instead of  between occupied and occupier, talks would be between two (nominally) independent states.  The UN charter and international law forbid one state to indefinitely occupy another, at least without authorization from the UN.  Therefore, Israel would face legal judgments, lawsuits and, perhaps most threatening of all, a new, more powerful divestment movement pattered after the popular 1980s international movement that forced governments, pension funds and other big investors to divest their holdings in South Africa under Apartheid and that was successful in weakening the Apartheid regime.

How can UN recognition of a Palestinian state be avoided?  That was a key strategic issue President Obama raised in his speeches and with Mr. Netanyahu.  Only the re-start of serious negotiations between Israel and the PLO (Abbas) on the two-state solution would persuade the Palestinians against petitioning the UN.  In meetings I attended with President Abbas this month, he clearly indicate his preference for a negotiated settlement and willingness to call off the September vote if the Israelis seriously wanted to negotiate.

Here is a sampling of other Israeli reaction:

A Kadima statement said: “After a difficult week, which peaked in a superfluous clash
with the US that highlighted the terrible relationship that Netanyahu has brought about in
this relationship in the last two years, it is time to begin taking action. After two years of
impasse and rejectionism, Israel is at one of its lowest diplomatic points in its history, its
vital problems are exposed on the table and it is in a worrying process of becoming
isolated” (“Anger on the Right, And on the Left,” Arik Bender et al., Maariv, p12).Speaking to Channel 2, MK Shaul Mofaz responded to Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s speech to Congress: “Netanyahu didn’t say anything new,” he said. “He has
no plan, he is leading us to a conflict with the world in September and if the people of
Israel have a choice between conflict and elections, I’m confident that they will choose
elections” (“Shaul Mofaz: ‘Netanyahu didn’t say anything new’,” Gil Hoffman,
Jerusalem Post Online).
MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said: “Netanyahu’s speech was no more than an election ad
and an attempt to create a false impression of willingness to enter negotiations.
Netanyahu’s policy will lead us to international isolation and to a bi-national state”
(“Anger on the Right, And on the Left,” Arik Bender et al., Maariv, p12).

MK Zehava Galon of Meretz said: “In Congress they applauded, in the Middle East we’ll
cry. Even Netanyahu knows that there is no peace without a compromise on the 1967
borders and dividing Jerusalem” (“Anger on the Right, And on the Left,” Arik Bender et
al., Maariv, p12).Minister Limor Livnat said: “In a brilliant speech, the prime minister presented the basic
principles for true peace while maintaining security for Israel and Israel’s continued
existence alongside a Palestinian state” (“Anger on the Right, And on the Left,” Arik
Bender et al., Maariv, p12)  (Likud)

For the first time, a right wing prime minister declares that he intends to give up parts of
Judea and Samaria,” said MK Tzippi Hotovely. “The prime minister should realize that
this is not acceptable to the absolute majority of the Likud faction” (“Anger on the Right,
And on the Left,” Arik Bender et al., Maariv, p12).  (Likud)

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Anatomy of Obama-Netanyahu Political-Media Event

Well, now it’s clear.  Not only did President Obama address the AIPAC (American-Israeli Political Action Council) national conference with words almost identical to his Middle East speech last Thursday night, he received repeated applause.  Among other things, Mr. Obama reiterated the formula ‘1967 plus swaps’ from Cairo.2.  And astonishingly, after rebuking the President days before,  PM Netanyanu was quoting his authority:

“Now, the precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated.  We’ll be generous about the size of the future Palestinian state.  But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4th, 1967.  Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967.”(Emphasis added)

What is going on?  For four days, Mr. Netanyahu went out of his way pointing a finger at Mr. Obama’s Cairo.2 formulation.  Now he’s quoting  it!  I didn’t see any news reports that Mr. Netanyah apologized for misrepresenting the President’s remarks from the time he arrived until his speech to Congress.

President Obama was gracious in telling AIPAC attendees that his remarks were “misrepresented several times.”   Words diplomatically chosen:  Obama’s remarks were misrepresented, they were not misunderstood.  If they had been misunderstood the two leaders would have clarified their respective stands during a two-hour meeting the next day. Instead, the meme that President Obama had thrown Israel ‘under the bus’  became established media truth and was milked for every ounce of political blood it could draw.

Conservative media and politicians outdid themselves in whipping up false debate about what Obama never said, and the so-called East Coast ‘liberal’ press was not better.

There’s simply no excuse: not one major reporter or commenter thought or had the guts to interrupt another corrupt feeding frenzy and say:

“I think Mr. Netanyahu made a mistake here.  We are contacting Netanyahu’s press secretary now to clarify exactly why Mr. Netanyahu is interpreting the President’s remarks in a way seeming at odds with the record.  We’ll return with the Israeli response asap…….Meanwhile, in other news……”

The politics on display over the past week are hardly new. The PM stayed far away from real issues for which he had no answer, and avoided ones like settlements on which Israel is most vulnerable.  To fill the space, Mr. Netanyahu blew up the 1967 non-issue with symbolic importance and divisive meaning.  Mr. Netanyahu wanted and created a controversy, giving the signal to his conservative partisans in the US, now smelling blood, to go on attack

Dissecting Mr. Netanyahu’s speech to a Joint Session of Congress confirms this scenario.  The speech said nothing original, creative or in any way profound.

Most telling?  The PM failed to respond to President Obama’s challenge to AIPAC that the time for peace is running out because 1) demographic changes will mean Israel losing either its Jewish or democratic nature in the near future; 2) the changes in Arab states will put more pressure on Israel because it can no longer depend on the Mubaraks of the region suppressing a popular youth movement impatient for a Palestinian state; 3) for better or worse, the Palestinians have world opinion on their side.

What is Israel going to do?  I’d like to know. So would a lot of others. Does Netanyahu disbelieve challenges cited by President Obama? Is he in denial?  Is he racing head strong into his own self-imposed prophesy?

Sad to say it took the President of the United States to raise the level of discussion over Israel’s future by defining the strategic issues facing it.  The Israeli PM seemed content with a dog-fight.


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Poll Shows Arab/Muslim States’ Dim View of US

The latest Pew Research Center Report on how people in Arab and Muslim states see the US and President Obama was released yesterday.  It’s not pretty:


With the exception of Indonesia, Obama remains unpopular in the Muslim nations polled, and most disapprove of the way he has handled calls for political change roiling the Middle East. Moreover, many of the concerns that have driven animosity toward the U.S. in recent years are still present — a perception that the U.S. acts unilaterally, opposition to the war on terror, and fears of America as a military threat. And in countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Pakistan, most say their own governments cooperate too much with the U.S.


The poll was conducted before the death of Bin Laden and the Hamas-Fatah deal.  Both would likely drive up unfavorable and disapproval categories.  How long can the US afford to have favorable ratings below 10% across the Muslim world and confidence in Obama above 50% only in Indonesia and only 10% in Turkey. Obama seems strangely out of touch with Arab and Muslim nations.  Western, Arab and Muslim elites were taken by surprise when the wave of Middle East and North African democracy movements broke out in Tunisia.  But public disgust with ossified, corrupt governments had been simmering for decades.  Pew poll numbers on Arab and Islamic countries’ views of America began plummeting a year ago.  It would be condescending for the Administration to think that the election of the first African-American President and a great speech two years ago would move the favorable needle up without the concrete follow-up on Middle East peace and troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan.


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