Apr
27
2009

The Dark Side of MSNBC's 'Crazy Political Uncle'

Noting that, "for the last decade or so, Washington has indulged Pat Buchanan as a sort of crazy political uncle" by having "agreed to forget about his long track record of racially questionable commentary and writing," TPM Muckraker's Zachary Roth and Justin Elliott (4/24/09) have caught a column "for the far-right web magazine, Human Events," that doesn't quite jibe with the image portrayed on Buchanan's "frequent MSNBC appearances, where he plays a mostly well-mannered, if hardline, conservative." The commentary in question asserts that "family-and-faith, God-and-country" America "does not comprehend how the president could sit in Trinidad and listen to the […]

Apr
27
2009

Lots of Blame – No Accountability

A New York Times op-ed by Roger Cohen saying that, because post-September 11 "journalists did not meet the challenge of holding the executive branch accountable," he is "wary of the clamor for retribution. Congress failed. The press failed. The judiciary failed," has moved First-Draft.com blogger Athenae (4/24/09) to declare that "I really think I hate this about our pundit class more than anything": Well hey, so long as everybody screwed up, it's all fine! So long as there wasn't a single voice raised in opposition to what was done, so long as we didn't shout down anybody who had a […]

Apr
27
2009

'Criminalizing Speech' to Fight 'Terror'

Reporting on New York's Javed Iqbal receiving a 69-month prison sentence for "assisting Hezbollah… by providing satellite television services that included broadcasts by the party's television station, Al Manar," Peter Daniels (World Socialist Web Site, 4/27/09) mentions that the broadcast packages included "Christian evangelists as well as Hezbollah" before explaining how the law under which Iqbal was charged had been amended by the Patriot Act after the September 11. The revised statute was used to target individuals accused of providing aid to organizations designated as terrorist by the U.S. State Department. Iqbal's prosecution had the effect of criminalizing speech and […]

Apr
27
2009

The Post Stands Up for the Poor Rich

Today the Washington Post devoted front-page real estate to an examination of how some wealthy people who don't think of themselves as wealthy will suffer under Obama's proposed tax plans. Their primary example is Gail Johnson, who, along with her husband, earns about $515,000 in a typical year from the chain of preschools and after-school programs they own: "You hear 'tax the rich,' and you think, 'I don't make that much money,' " said Johnson, whose Rainbow Station programs are headquartered near Richmond. "But then you realize: 'Oh, if I put my business income with my wages, then, suddenly, I'm […]

Apr
27
2009

Zakaria: Obama in the Middle

Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria is giving Obama high marks on his first 100 days in office in the magazine's May 4 issue. What's interesting, though, is when Zakaria explains why. He writesthat while the country is more liberal than its been in 20 years, he(predictably enough) zeroes in on Obama's geniusin charting a "middle course": no changes to NAFTA, noserious challenge to corporate power ("the old Democratic hostility to big business doesn't resonate so strongly anymore"), no real challenge to Wall Street ("he has steered a careful middle course on the bank bailouts") and noaccountability for Bush-era torture ("he does not […]

Apr
27
2009

O'Reilly Tortures Fox Torture Poll

Fox host Bill O'Reilly has been passionately defending Bush-era torture for some time. But onApril 23 he went further; not only does torture "work," butit is actually broadly popular, too: According to a new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, most Americans want tough interrogations of top terror killers. When asked if they would support using torture on Osama bin Laden to get information, 56 percent say they favor doing that, including 42 percent of the Democrats polled. Thirty-nine percent oppose. So there is little doubt that most Americans believe, in rare cases, tough interrogation is necessary. A poll thatasks whether Americans […]

Apr
26
2009

Bush Lie Lives On as Pro-Torture Spin Point

David Swanson has noted (Consortium News, 4/23/09) that, as "much of elite U.S. punditry is backing away from torture," the Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby is bucking that trend with an April 22 column in which "he both opposes torture under all circumstances and excuses it given the current circumstances." Jacoby's main justification for U.S. torture tactics are "the successes with which they have been credited"–such as "the foiling of Al-Qaeda's planned 'Second Wave'–a 9/11-like plot to crash a hijacked airliner into a Los Angeles skyscraper." Swanson gives the lie to this zombie resurrected from the graveyard of Bush administration propaganda: […]

Apr
26
2009

Bill O'Reilly Constructs Imaginary Intelligence 'Wall'

Demonstrating his trademark ability to move effortlessly from belligerent grandstanding to completely fictive political commentary, Fox star Bill O'Reilly claimed on April 22 that current and former attorney generals "Eric Holder and Janet Reno put the wall up between the FBI and the CIA, which led to the 9/11 attacks." But Media Matters points out (4/23/09): in fact, the 1995 Justice Department memo and guidelines to which O'Reilly referred only addressed communications among divisions within DOJ, clarifying longtime unwritten restrictions on the sharing of information between the FBI's intelligence arm and DOJ's criminal division. They had no impact on communications […]

Apr
26
2009

Torture Memos Bring Out True Allegiances of MSM

Writing at Salon (4/23/09, ad-viewing required) of how the "sheer criminality" of George W. Bush-era torture, "really for the first time, has exploded into mainstream political debates," Glenn Greenwald is thoroughly unsurprised by their behavior as "media stars are forced to address it": Exactly as one would expect, they are closing ranks, demanding (as always) that their big powerful political-official-friends and their elite institutions not be subject to the dirty instruments that are meant only for the masses–things like the rule of law, investigations, prosecutions and accountability when they abuse their power. To Greenwald, This remains the single most notable […]

Apr
26
2009

NY Magazine: 'Enablers' of High Finance Self-Pity

Describing his previous "ill-starred tenure at New York magazine" as having been "a crash course in the staggering unselfawareness of Manhattan class privilege," Chris Lehmann (The Awl, 4/21/09) now applies his insight to the magazine's recent "Rage of the Rich" issue, in which Gabriel Sherman "spells out with admirable, if analytically bankrupt, clarity" what Lehmann sees as "the secret conviction coursing through Wall Street's caverns": "Those who select careers in finance play an exceptional role in our society. They distribute capital to where it's most effective, and by some Ayn Randian logic, the virtue of efficient markets distributing capital to […]

Apr
24
2009

Neutral Coverage of Climate Change?

Andrew Revkin's April 24 piece, about how an energy industry group publicly denied links between emissions and global warming even as their own scientists confirmed such links, is pretty damning, if utterly unsurprising. This part leaps out: George Monbiot, a British environmental activist and writer, said that by promoting doubt, industry had taken advantage of news media norms requiring neutral coverage of issues, just as the tobacco industry once had. "They didn't have to win the argument to succeed," Mr. Monbiot said, "only to cause as much confusion as possible." Note that it isn't Monbiot who refers to media's "neutral […]

Apr
24
2009

Banning of Popular Party 'Threatens' Haitian Election's 'Success'

Voter turnout in last weekend's Haitian Senate elections was very low; observers cited in a Reuters report, "Haitians Largely Boycott Senate Election," estimated it at less than 10 percent, which an Al Jazeera report attributed in part to "resentment over the banning of a popular party"–Fanmi Lavalas–as well as disenchantment with the ruling government and poverty. A short Associated Press report published in the New York Times (4/20/09) about the vote had an odd spin on these issues: The success of Sunday's election was threatened by voter apathy and opposition from the Fanmi Lavalas Party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. […]

Apr
24
2009

Media Echo U.S. Gov't Attacks on Chavez

Images of the U.S. media's longtime foe, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, with Obama at last weekend's Summit of the Americas in Trinidad prompted some corporate reporters to take the unusual step of questioning the political motivations behind an official photo-op. On ABC's World News, Jake Tapper referred to Chavez's gift of The Open Veins of Latin America to Obama as a "stunt" (video available here). George Stephanopoulos questioned whether Chavez was not just posing with Obama in order to take advantage of Obama's popularity. "You have to wonder who would win a popular vote between Obama and Chavez in Venezuela […]