Archive for the ‘The New York Times’ Category

What the Times Didn’t Tell About McCain

February 27, 2008

What the Times Didn’t Tell About McCain

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20080227_what_the_times_didnt_tell_about_mccain/

Posted on Feb 26, 2008

By Robert Scheer

As Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain twisted briefly in the wind kicked up by that New York Times story suggesting he had swapped political favors for the personal favors of an attractive lobbyist for the telecommunications industry, I kept waiting for the public policy punch line. Surely the Times would spell out just what it was that McCain had delivered to big media beyond what the paper originally reported: an all-too-typical congressional request that the FCC speed up its review of a broadcast licensing dispute.

Vicki Iseman, the lobbyist in question, is praised on her company’s Web site for her “extensive experience in telecommunications, representing corporations before the House and Senate Commerce Committees,” and for “her work on the landmark 1992 and 1996 communications bills.” Now that’s a biggie, because the 1996 legislation, although you would never have learned this from the mainstream media at the time, opened the floodgates for massive media consolidation, thus rewarding media moguls for their many millions in campaign contributions. McCain was a big player on that Commerce Committee at the time, and I expected a Times revelation as to just how Iseman got McCain to help gift the media barons with their dream legislation.

The revelation never came, because the annoying reality is that McCain was one of the rare Senate opponents of the telecom bill that Iseman was pushing—as opposed to The New York Times, which like every other major media outlet pushed for the legislation (in the case of the Times, without ever conceding its own corporation’s financial bias in the matter). McCain was one of five senators (and the sole Republican) who, along with Democrats Russ Feingold, Patrick Leahy, Paul Simon and the great Paul Wellstone, voted against the atrocious legislation, which President Bill Clinton signed into law.

The Times, which now has the temerity to question McCain’s integrity on telecommunications policy, ran a shameful editorial back then, under the headline “A Victory for Viewers,” insisting after the passage of the legislation that “there was one clear winner—the consumer.” Seven years later, the paper’s “Editorial Observer,” Brent Staples, bemoaned one direct consequence of the passage of the Telecom Act, under the title “The Trouble with Corporate Radio: The Day the Protest Music Died.” Noting that “corporate ownership has changed what gets played—and who plays it,” Staples observed that the top two radio owners went from having a total of 115 stations before the act was passed to 1,400 between them afterward.

This concentration of ownership in all media was the inevitable result of the legislation that the media moguls sought. That far-reaching impact was obvious only one year after the act’s passage, as Neil Hickey noted at the time in the Columbia Journalism Review: “ … far and away the splashiest effect of the new law during the last year has been the historic, unprecedented torrent of mergers, consolidations, buyouts, partnerships, and joint ventures that has changed the face of Big Media in America.” He then offers a staggering list of massive multibillion-dollar mergers consummated during that first year.

One of the early winners was Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which quickly became the biggest owner of television stations, bolstering its lineup of media properties such as TV Guide, HarperCollins and Twentieth Century Fox; quite a gift from legislation signed by President Clinton, which perhaps explains the warm relationship that subsequently developed between Murdoch and Hillary Clinton. Murdoch sponsored a fundraiser for Clinton’s senatorial re-election campaign in 2006, but when asked during the Iowa primary about Murdoch’s vast media holdings, including Fox News, the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, Clinton ducked the question. Avoiding any reference to Murdoch, she conceded that “… there have been a lot of media consolidations in the last several years, and it is quite troubling.”

It’s not easy to maintain an evenhanded appraisal of McCain as he appropriates the Bush mantle. Of course, I wouldn’t vote for him; he is willing to let the Iraq war go on for a hundred years, and at the rate of at least $200 billion a year, that makes a mockery of his efforts to defeat earmarks and other wasteful government spending—beginning with the massive waste in the Pentagon budget that he has done so much to expose. His capitulation on President Bush’s use of torture is even more appalling. But it is absurd to attempt to pigeonhole McCain as a patsy for corporate lobbyists when he has been in the forefront of key efforts to challenge their power.

McCain in NYC AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Mac in NYC:  John McCain courts the crowd in New York City’s Rockefeller Center on Super Tuesday.

Et Tu, New York Times?

February 15, 2008

Et Tu, New York Times?

By Tariq Ali
Source: Counterpunch.org

Tariq Ali’s ZSpace Page

(4 February 2008) The New York Times’ recently awoken sense of justice was dormant when Musharraf sacked the independent-minded judges, whose sin was ordering the release of the ‘terrorists’ imprisoned without proof or trial.


“And when a leading Pakistani journalist at a London news conference asked a reasonable question about the security services, Mr. Musharraf implied that he was an enemy of the state. Such intimidation is especially chilling coming from a leader whose chief political rival, Benazir Bhutto, was recently assassinated. In a nation with democratic aspirations, journalists have every right to question leaders. He still doesn’t seem to get that.”

– Editorial in New York Times, February 1, 2008

You have to hand it to the New York Times. With so much to write about they can still find time to kick General Musharraf where it doesn’t really hurt. It’s not that the sentiments expressed in the editorial are wrong. Obviously journalists should and must question their leaders without being denounced as traitors. Equally obviously elections shouldn’t be rigged. Thinking a thought unacceptable to the state should never be a furtive occupation.

What a pity that the paper of record did not lead a chorus of disapproval when Musharraf sacked all the independent-minded judges of the Supreme and High Courts in the country, or when lawyers were being bludgeoned into submission by the cops on the streets of every major Pakistani city. Neither the leaders of the US/EU combine or their media were too upset by that development. Ther judges, it was whispered, had become too proactive and were ordering the release of disappeared ‘terrorists’ who had been imprisoned without trial after ascertaining that there was no proof to detain them. This challenged the fundamentals of Guantanamo and the violation of civil liberties, the suspension of habeas corpus in Britain. Just like the Queen Bee and her drones, the politicians ordained and the global media networks and tame journos followed suit,

But values have been shifted around for this was certainly not the case in Pakistan where the prevailing feeling was that something was seriously wrong. Both the print media and the non-State TV channels carried reports after serious investigations and screened daily coverage of the campaign to defend the Judges. In other words they supplied citizens with information that can only enhance democratic accountability. It was for this reason that Musharraf imposed a temporary State of Emergency. He sacked the Judges and imposed new curbs on the media. He wanted Pakistani journalists to be more like their Western counterparts.

In justifying the attacks on the media he would often say that Pakistani journalists were rude, did not respect authority and should learn how to behave. He sometimes cited the US and British press and how well they treated their leaders. How right he was and so he wanted to bring the Pakistani media into line with their US and British counterparts. Surely the NYT should be in favour of all this. How can we forget their courageous stand when Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld were preparing to go to war? Or the slavish support for Bush not just from Fox but all the networks. Or the ghastly Tony Blair’s neutering of an already tame BBC and firing of its Chairman and Director-General because it occasionally reflected the views of the majority of citizens (staunchly anti-war)?

And do we need to go back to the atmosphere of fear and intimidation of any critical voice after 9/11? Remember the attacks on Susan Sontag, Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky? Was the word ‘treachery’ never mentioned on that occasion? Did not journalists at that time have ‘every right to question their leaders’ but didn’t?

And if one looks back at Pakistan’s record number of military rulers should not the NYT editorial writer have looked up the material of history? S/he would have found at least one NYT editorial supportive of Generals Ayub, Zia and Musharraf.

I end with a modest proposal: let us transplant the current generation of Pakistani journalists (including those sacked on Musharraf’s orders) into the US media (especially the TV networks) and send an equivalent number of US journalists to Pakistan. FoxNews can remain as it is, the US equivalent of Pakistani state TV. It will damage Pakistan but might be beneficial for the United States.

Samantha Powers, Genocide, Zinn, Herman

February 8, 2008

To the Editor:

 

Samantha Power has done extraordinary work in chronicling the genocides of our time, and in exposing how the Western powers were complicit by their inaction.

 

However, in her review of four books on terrorism, especially Talal Asad’s “On Suicide Bombing” (July 29), she claims a moral distinction between “inadvertent” killing of civilians in bombings and “deliberate” targeting of civilians in suicide attacks. Her position is not only illogical, but (against her intention, I believe) makes it easier to justify such bombings.

 

She believes that “there is a moral difference between setting out to destroy as many civilians as possible and killing civilians unintentionally and reluctantly in pursuit of a military objective.” Of course, there’s a difference, but is there a “moral” difference? That is, can you say one action is more reprehensible than the other?

 

In countless news briefings, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, responding to reporters’ questions about civilian deaths in bombing, would say those deaths were “unintentional” or “inadvertent” or “accidental,” as if that disposed of the problem. In the Vietnam War, the massive deaths of civilians by bombing were justified in the same way by Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon and various generals.

 

These words are misleading because they assume an action is either “deliberate” or “unintentional.” There is something in between, for which the word is “inevitable.” If you engage in an action, like aerial bombing, in which you cannot possibly distinguish between combatants and civilians (as a former Air Force bombardier, I will attest to that), the deaths of civilians are inevitable, even if not “intentional.” Does that difference exonerate you morally?

 

The terrorism of the suicide bomber and the terrorism of aerial bombardment are indeed morally equivalent. To say otherwise (as either side might) is to give one moral superiority over the other, and thus serve to perpetuate the horrors of our time.

 

Howard Zinn

*********************

Responce to Zinn on Samantha Power

By Edward S. Herman

Edward S. Herman’s ZSpace Page
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[Responce to Zinn’s letter to NYT’s]

Howard: 

 

Your first sentence in your reply on Samantha Power astounded me. Did you actually read her book? I’m pretty sure you never read my two pieces dealing with her. The long text item below is from a review of her work that I wrote in Z in 2004. You should also read  the following:   Edward S. Herman, “Richard Holbrooke, Samantha Power, and the ‘Worthy-Genocide’ Establishment” (Kafka Era Studies Number 5), ZNet, March 24, 2007 

 

 

 

[part of review article on Power’s book}

 

The cruise missile left also adheres closely to the party line on genocide, which is why its members thrive in the New York Times and other establishment vehicles. This is true of Paul Berman, Michael Ignatieff and David Rieff, but I will focus here on  Samantha Power, whose large volume on genocide, “A Problem From Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide won a Pulitzer prize, and who is currently the expert of choice on the subject in the mainstream media (and even in The Nation and on the Bill Moyers show).

 

 Power never  departs from the selectivity dictated by the establishment party line. That requires, first and foremost, simply ignoring  cases of  direct U.S. or U.S.-sponsored (or otherwise approved) genocide. Thus the Vietnam war, in which millions were directly killed by U.S. forces, does not show up in Power’s index or text. Guatemala, where there was a mass killing of as many as 100,000 Mayan Indians between 1978 and 1985, in what Amnesty International called “A Government Program of Political Murder,” but by a government installed and supported by the United States, also does not show up in Power’s index.  Cambodia is of course included, but only for the second phase of the genocide—the first phase, from 1969-1975, in which the United States dropped some 500,000 tons of bombs on the Cambodian countryside and  killed vast numbers, she fails to mention. On the  Khmer Rouge genocide, Power says they killed 2 million, a figure widely cited after Jean Lacouture  gave that number; his subsequent admission that this number was invented had no effect on its use, and it suits Power’s purpose. 

 

A major U.S.-encouraged and supported genocide occurred in Indonesia in 1965-66 in which over 700,000 people were murdered. This genocide is not mentioned by Samantha Power and the names Indonesia and Suharto do not appear in her index. She also fails to mention West Papua, where Indonesia’s 40 years of  murderous occupation would constitute genocide under her criteria, if carried out under different auspices. Power does refer to East Timor, with extreme brevity, saying that “In 1975, when its ally, the oil-producing, anti-Communist Indonesia, invaded East Timor, killing between 100,000 and 200,000 civilians, the United States looked away” (146-7). That exhausts her treatment of the subject, although the killings in East Timor involved a larger fraction of the population than in Cambodia, and the numbers killed were probably larger than the grand total for Bosnia and Kosovo, to which she devotes a large fraction of her book. She also misrepresents the U.S. role—it did not “look away,” it gave its approval, protected the aggression from any effective UN response (in his autobiography, then U.S. Ambassador to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan bragged about his effectiveness in protecting Indonesia from any UN action), and greatly increased its arms aid to Indonesia, thereby facilitating the genocide.

 

Power engages in a similar suppression and failure to recognize the U.S. role in her treatment of  genocide in Iraq. She attends carefully and at length to Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical warfare and killing of Kurds at Halabja and elsewhere, and she does discuss the U.S. failure to oppose and take any action against Saddam Hussein at this juncture. But she does not mention the diplomatic rapproachement with Saddam in the midst of his war with Iran in 1983, the active U.S. logistical support of Saddam during that war,  and the U.S. approval of  sales and transfers of  chemical and biological weapons during the period in which he was using chemical weapons against the Kurds. She also doesn’t mention the active efforts by the United States and Britain to block UN actions that might have obstructed Saddam’s killings.

 

The killing of over a million Iraqis via the “sanctions of mass destruction,”  more than were killed by all the weapons of mass destruction in history, according to John and Karl Mueller (“Sanctions of Mass Destruction,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 1999), was  one of major genocides of  the post-World War 2 era. It is unmentioned by  Samantha Power. Again, the correlation between exclusion, U.S. responsibility, and the view that such killings were, in Madeleine Albright’s words, “worth it” from the standpoint of U.S. interests, is clear. There is a similar political basis for Power’s failure to include Israel’s low-intensity genocide of  the Palestinians and South Africa’s “destructive engagement” with the frontline states in the 1980s, the latter with a death toll greatly exceeding all the deaths in the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Neither Israel nor South Africa, both “constructively engaged” by the United States, show up  in Power’s index.

 

Samantha Power’s conclusion is that the U.S. policy toward genocide has been very imperfect and needs reorientation, less opportunism, and greater vigor. For Power, the United States is the solution, not the problem. These conclusions and policy recommendations rest heavily on her spectacular bias in case selection: She simply bypasses those that are ideologically inconvenient,  where the United States has arguably committed genocide (Vietnam, Cambodia 1969-75, Iraq 1991-2003), or has given genocidal processes positive support (Indonesia, West Papua, East Timor, Guatemala, Israel, and South Africa). Incorporating them into an analysis would lead to sharply different conclusions and policy agendas, such as calling upon the United States to simply stop doing it, or urging stronger global opposition to U.S. aggression and support of genocide, and  proposing a much needed revolutionary change within the United States to remove the roots of its imperialistic and genocidal thrust. But the actual huge bias, nicely leavened by admissions of  imperfections and need for improvement in U.S. policy, readily explains why Samantha Power is loved by the New York Times and won a Pulitzer prize for her masterpiece of evasion and apologetics for “our” genocides and call for a more aggressive pursuit of  “theirs.”

The Greatest Story Never Told by Stephen Lendman

September 14, 2007

The Greatest Story Never Told by Stephen Lendman

by Stephen Lendman
Atlantic Free Press
Thursday, 13 September 2007

No issue is more sensitive in the US than daring to criticize Israel. It’s the metaphorical “third rail” in American politics, academia and the major media. Anyone daring to touch it pays dearly as the few who tried learned. Those in elected office face an onslaught of attacks and efforts to replace them with more supportive officials. Former five term Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney felt its sting twice in 2002 and 2006. So did 10 term Congressman Paul Findley (a fierce and courageous Israeli critic) in 1982 and three term Senator Charles Percy in 1984 whom AIPAC targeted merely for appearing to support anti-Israeli policy.

DePaul University Professor Norman Finkelstein has long been a target as well for his courageous writing and outspokenness. Depaul formally denied him tenure June 8 even though his students call him “truly outstanding and among the most impressive” of all university political science professors. It’s why his Department of Political Science endorsed his tenure bid stating his academic record “exceeds our department’s stated standards for scholarly production (and) department and outside experts we consulted recognize the intellectual merits of his work.”

It didn’t help, and on August 26 got worse. The university acknowledged “Professor Finkelstein is a prolific scholar and an outstanding teacher.” Yet it issued a brief statement canceling his classes and placing him on administrative leave “with full pay and benefits for the 2007-8 academic year (that) relieves professors from their teaching responsibilities.” For now, Finkelstein’s long struggle with the university ended the first day of classes, September 5. Both sides agreed to a settlement, and a planned day of protests was curtailed. But as Chicago Tribune writer Ron Grossman put it in his September 6 column headlined “Finkelstein deal ends DePaul tiff….the underlying struggle between supporters of Israel and champions (like Finkelstein) of the Palestinians continues, not just at the North Side campus but across the academic world.”

That struggle is nowhere in sight in the dominant media that includes major print publications, commercial radio, television and so-called Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio both of which long ago abandoned the public trust in service to their corporate and government paymasters.

In all parts of the major media, no Israeli criticism is tolerated on-air or in print, and any reporter, news anchor, pundit or on-air guest forgetting the (unwritten) rules, won’t get a second chance. Support for Israel is ironclad, absolute, and uncompromising on everything including its worst crimes of war and against humanity. Open debate is stifled, and anyone daring to dissent or demur is pilloried, ridiculed, called anti-semetic, even threatened, ostracized, and finally ignored. In his seminal work on Middle East affairs, “Fateful Triangle,” Noam Chomsky put it this way:

“….Israel has been granted a unique immunity from criticism in mainstream journalism and scholarship….”

Call it the myth of the free press in a nation claiming to have the freest of all. It’s pure fantasy now and in an earlier era, journalist A.J Liebling said it was only for “those who own(ed) one.” Today, they’re giants operating the way Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky explained in their classic book on the media titled “Manufacturing Consent.” The authors developed their “propaganda model” to show all news and information passes through a set of “filters.” “Raw material” goes through them, unacceptable parts are suppressed, and “only the cleansed residue fit to print (and broadcast on-air)” reaches the public. The New York Times calls it “All The News That’s Fit to Print.” By its standard, it means sanitized news only leaving out the most important parts and what readers want most – the full truth and nothing else.

The same goes for the rest of the dominant media that serve as collective national thought control police gatekeepers “filtering” everything we read, see and hear. They manipulate our minds and beliefs, program our thoughts, and effectively destroy the free marketplace of ideas essential to a healthy democracy. In America, that’s nowhere in sight.

The problem is most acute in reporting on Israel. Criticism of the Jewish state is stifled in an effort to portray it as a model democracy, the only one in the region, and surrounded by hostile Palestinians, other Arab/Muslim extremists and whoever else Israel cites as a threat, real or contrived. The truth is quite opposite but absent from corporate-controlled media spaces.

How “The Newspaper of Record” Reports on Israel

This article focuses mainly on the media’s lead and most influential voice, The New York Times. It’s been around since 1851 when it quietly debuted saying “….we intend to (publish) every morning (except Sundays) for an indefinite number of years to come.” Today, it’s the pillar of the corporate media and main instrument of fake news making it the closest thing in the country to an official ministry of information and propaganda. But here’s the Times 1997 Proxy Statement quote media critic Edward Herman used in his April, 1998 Z Magazine article titled “All The News Fit to Print (Part I).” Its management then (and now) claimed The Times to be “an independent newspaper, entirely fearless, free of ulterior influence and unselfishly devoted to the public welfare.” It leaves one breathless and demands an earlier used quote – “phew.”

No media source anywhere has more clout than the Times, none manipulates the public mind more effectively, and where it goes, others follow. It’s most visible supporting all things corporate, foreign wars of aggression, and everything favoring Israel it views one way. That’s the focus below – how the New York Times plays the lead cheerleading role for Israel even when its actions are unjustifiable, unconscionable and criminal.

Freelance journalist Alison Weir founded “If Americans Knew” as an “independent research and information-dissemination institute (to provide) every American (what he or she) needs to know about Israel/Palestine.” That includes “inform(ing) and educat(ing) the American public on issues of major significance that are unreported, underreported, or misreported in the American media.” Below is an account of her in-depth study of how the New York Times betrays its readers by distorting its coverage on Israel.

It was in her April 24, 2005 article called “New York Times Distortion Up Close and Personal.” It drew on the findings from her 23-page report, and 40 pages of supportive data, titled “Off the Charts – Accuracy in Reporting of Israel/Palestine (by) The New York Times.” To be as objective as possible, the study “count(ed) the deaths reported on both sides of the (Israeli-Palestinian) conflict, and then compare(d) these to the actual number….that had occurred.” The findings showed a “startling disparity….depending on the ethnicity of the victim(s).”

The study covered two periods. The first was from the September 29, 2000 beginning of the Al-Aqsa Mosque (or second) Intifada (ignited by Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Temple Mount Al-Aqsa Mosque site) through September 28, 2001. The second ran from January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2004. Deaths counted were only those resulting from Israeli – Palestinian confrontations.

The first study showed the New York Times reported 2.8 times the number of Israeli deaths to Palestinian ones when, in fact, three times more Palestinians were killed than Israelis. In the second one, the ratio increased to 3.6 adding further distortion to the coverage. Reporting children’s deaths was even more skewed, coming in at a ratio of 6.8 for Israeli children compared to Palestinian ones and then at 7.3 in the later study. The latter ratio is particularly startling since 22 times more Palestinian children were killed, in fact, than Israelis in 2004 according to B’Tselem – the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Terroritories. The Times simply ignored them.

In all its reporting in both periods, the Times distorted the facts egregiously. It highlighted Israeli deaths by headlining and repeating them. In contrast, there was silence on most Palestinian ones. The impression given was that more Jews died than Arabs or at times the numbers were equal on both sides. Most often, they weren’t even close.

It was startling to learn that Israeli and other human rights groups documented 82 Palestinian children killed at the Intifada’s outset (most by “gunfire to the head” indicating deliberate targeting) before a single Israeli child died. The Times willfully ignored this in its coverage the same way it obsessed last summer over Hamas’ capture of a single Israeli soldier while ignoring around 12,000 Palestinian men, women and children political detainees held by Israelis illegally. For the Times, they’re non-persons, but everyone in Israel and many outside it know that soldier’s name and still do.

Weir calls this coverage a “highly disturbing pattern of bias.” She presented her findings (”complete with charts, spread-sheets, clear sourcing, and extensive additional documentation”) to the Times’ Public Editor, Daniel Okrent, in a face-to-face meeting, but came away disappointed. It was because of a 1762-word column Okrent wrote in response. It ignored or misrepresented the facts, was unconcerned that most Times reporters covering Israel/Palestine are Jewish, all live inside Israel, and the paper claimed it’s impossible finding “sufficient numbers of high quality journalists of Muslim or Arab heritage to work on this issue.” It is when you don’t look.

Yet, it’s worth noting what Weir believes was a “personal confession” in a single line. Okrent may have slipped up saying: “I don’t think any of us (at the Times) can be objective about our own claimed objectivity.” Confession or not, it led to no change in the Times’ reporting.

Weir updated her report to include Palestinian children’s deaths in 2004 and 2005 from documented information on the “Remember These Children” web site. It uses Israeli and other human rights organizations’ sources with these findings through June, 2007:

— 118 Israeli children under 18 years years of age killed compared to 973 Palestinian youths, most shot in the head or chest indicating deliberate targeting by Israeli soldiers. This information never appears in Times’ reports.

Instead, The Times “marginalizes Palestinian women and Palestinian rights” according to a November 17, 2006 Electronic Intifada (EI) report. Its authors (Patrick O’Connor and Rachel Roberts) state: “The New York Times pays little attention to human rights in Israel/Palestine, downplays….violence against Palestinian women and generally silences (their) voices.”

Since the second Intifada began, B’Tselem, Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) published 76 reports documenting Israeli abuses of Palestinian rights and four others on Palestinian violations against Israelis or other Palestinians. The Times, however, wrote only four articles on them all – two on Israeli abuses and two others on what Palestinians did suggesting both sides shared equal guilt.

Three other Times articles on the conflict focused on a Human Rights Watch report criticizing Palestinian suicide bombings, another HRW one on Israeli actions in Jenin in 2002, and a B’Tselem report on the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) exoneration of soldiers for killing a Palestinian child. The Times also published one article criticizing Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon and one other one critical of Hezbollah during that conflict. It’s the Times’ idea of fairness and balance, that distorts facts, ignores truth, and in every instance betrays its readers.

EI’s writers refer to thousands of New York Times articles on Israel/Palestine since the second Intifada began September 29, 2000. Yet in them all, it “quoted, cited or paraphrased just 4187 words….from human rights organizations in 62 articles, snippets (only) averaging just 69 words per article.” In the same articles, far more space was given to Israeli government denials even when clear evidence proved them false.

Other research shows The New York Times op ed page marginalizes Palestinian voices and completely shuts out its women who are portrayed as passive, docile and at the mercy of men. Readers aren’t told they “balance their dual commitment to the national (and feminist) struggle(s)” by courageously leading the fight against domestic and Israeli violence in the Occupied Territories. The Times also ignores Amnesty International’s emphasis on the occupation’s harmful effects on women in detention centers and from “military checkpoints, blockades and curfews” even though they cause sick and pregnant women to die for lack of aid.

It’s part of the same pattern of selective disclosure and distortion so readers don’t know what’s happening and are led to believe victims are the victimizers. Facts are ignored, international law is unmentioned and reporting “contributes to the dangerous pattern of Western disparagement of Muslim society,” made easy post-9/11.

EI sums up its article stating “If the Times cared about human rights in Israel/Palestine, (balanced reporting, and) valued independent third party perspectives, (it) would have published more than 6256 (total) words….of major human rights organizations (reports) in its thousands of articles” for the past seven years. Instead, the impression given is Israeli crimes are marginal, sporadic, inconsequential, acts of self-defense and not crimes at all. This type reporting sets the (low) standard for the rest of the dominant media and highlights why few Americans question their government’s full and unconditional support for Israeli policy.

The Times willfully ignores the following type information B’Tselem posts and updates on its website (www.btselem.org). From September 29, 2000 through August 31, 2007, it documented 4274 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces or civilians including 857 children. That compares to 1024 Israelis killed by Palestinians including 119 children.

Throughout this period, The Times low-keyed Israeli violence in its coverage but featured dozens of articles on Palestinian suicide bombings and other acts of self-defense it portrays as “terrorism” against innocent Israelis. Left out is what B’Tselem, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), AI, HRW, ICRC and other human rights organizations report:

— willful violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention’s protections of civilians in times of war and under occupation by a foreign power.

— excessive use of force and abuse;

— policy of collective punishment and economic strangulation;

— growing numbers of expanding illegal settlements;

— home demolitions;

— random IDF invasions, air and ground attacks;

— many dozens of extrajudicial assassinations;

— administrative detentions without charge and routine use of torture of thousands of Palestinians including young children treated like adults;

— land expropriation;

— crop destruction;

— policies of closure, separation, checkpoints, ghettoization and curfews;

— denial of the most basic human rights and civil liberties; and

— an overall Kafkaesque “matrix of control” designed to extinguish Palestinians’ will to resist.

The Times willful distortion and indifference to Palestinian suffering highlights its coverage. Like others in the dominant media, it displays no sense of fairness, accuracy or balance in portraying Palestinians as militants, gunmen and terrorists – never as oppressed human beings under occupation struggling for freedom in their own land. In sharp contrast, Israelis are seen as surrounded, beleaguered, and innocent victims acting in self-defense. It’s sheer fantasy, the facts on the ground prove it, but Times readers aren’t given them.

They’re also not told how Israel discriminates against Palestinian Arab Israeli citizens. Patrick O’Connor explained in his March 30, 2006 Electronic Intifada article titled “The New York Times Covers Up Discrimination against Palestinian Citizens of Israel.” He noted the rise to prominence of Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman and his extremist Yisrael Beiteinu party. It advocates “transferring a number of Palestinian towns in Israel to Palestinian Authority (PA) control,” thereby revoking the legalized status of hundreds of thousands of its own citizens. They’re already second class ones and are treated unequally under Israel’s Basic Law that affords rights and benefits to Jews only.

O’Connor notes the Times plays “a leading role collaborat(ing) with this strategy.” It characterizes all Palestinians as militants, gunmen and terrorists while suppressing their “experiences under….occupation (victimized by) Israeli state terrorism, and (the) systemic Israeli discrimination against Palestinian (citizens) living in Israel….”

An instance of Times distortion was from a March 21, 2006 article by Dina Kraft. In it, Israel dismissively refers to “Israeli Arabs” and so does Kraft. They’re not called Palestinian Israeli citizens “to divide and rule, and to cover up the familial, historical and cultural relationship between Palestinians” inside Israel to those in the Territories and diaspora. The Times goes along without challenge, never questioning if a self-declared Jewish state can be democratic without ensuring equal rights to its non-Jewish minority. Ignored as well is Yisrael Beiteinu’s outlandish proposal to revoke citizenship rights for Arabs inside Israel because they’re not Jews.

O’Connor stresses how the Times, Kraft and the major US media collaboratively perpetuate the myth that Israel is “a liberal, democratic state inexplicably beset by Arab/Muslim terrorism.” In so doing, they suppress the historical record that Israel ethnically cleansed 800,000 Palestinians, killed many thousands of others, and destroyed 531 villages and 11 urban neighborhoods in cities like Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem in its 1948 “War of Independence.” They also deny that Palestinians everywhere have close historical, family and cultural ties, yet Israel discriminates against them all unfairly.

In her report, Weir noted what all people of conscience believe: that “readers of The New York Times (and all Americans) are entitled to full and accurate reporting on all issues, including the topic of Israel/Palestine.” In her study period, the Times covered it in “well over 1000 stories,” so it’s deeply troubling how much critical information was omitted.

A 9/11/07 Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) Action Alert provides more evidence of NYT cover-up and distortion. It’s titled “Whose Human Rights Matter? NYT on Hezbollah and Israeli attacks on civilians.” FAIR cites two recently released Human Rights Watch (HRW)investigations of Israel’s war against Lebanon in which The New York Times highlighted “unlawful attacks against Israel” while giving short shrift to “unlawful attacks committed by Israel.” This is de rigueur at The Times so the FAIR report is no surprise.

It noted the NYT ran its own 800 word story supportive of Israel on 8/31/07 titled “Rights Group Accuses Hezbollah of Indiscriminate Attacks on Civilians in Israel War” accompanied by a photo of “Israeli civilians at risk from Hezbollah rockets.” In sharp contrast, it settled for a 139 word AP report on Israeli unlawful attacks under its own headline titled “Israel Criticized Over Lebanon Deaths” with no photo. Even worse, The Times report on Israeli infractions omitted key information about the claim that Hezbollah used Lebanese people as human shields. HRW found no supportive evidence, and its executive director, Kenneth Roth, said the Israeli government’s assertion was false.

The Times also failed to reflect the dramatic disparity in civilian deaths on each side. HRW estimated Israel killed about 900 Lebanese civilians out of a total 1200 death toll in the country while Hezbollah killed 43 Israeli civilians plus about 80 IDF personnel. FAIR’s conclusion: The Times values Israeli lives far more than Lebanese ones. No surprise.

FAIR raised an additional point as well from its 12/6/06 Action Alert. It refuted a Times report as false that Israeli attacks on civilians were legitimate “since Hezbollah fired from civilian areas, itself a war crime, which made those areas legitimate targets.” Again, standard practice at The Times that values fake news above truth, accuracy, fairness and balance.

Weir hoped a public airing of her findings on The Times would lead to better reporting at the “paper of record.” It never did and just got worse following Hamas’ dramatic democratic January, 2006 electoral victory. Afterwards, all outside aid was cut off, Hamas was marginalized and politically isolated, and Israeli repression got stepped up in an effort to crush the fledging government by making the Territories “scream.”

It came to a head June 14 following weeks of US-Israeli orchestrated violence. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas declared a “state of emergency” and illegally dismissed Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and his national unity government. He appointed his own US-Israeli vetted replacements days later with The New York Times in the lead supporting the new quisling coup d’etat government. Noted journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger explains the first casualty of war is good journalism. It’s as true for reporting on Israel, especially on the pages of “the newspaper of record” that sets the low standard others then follow.

That standard excludes discussion of the powerful Israeli lobby with AIPAC just one part of it. Noted figures like John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government are persona non grata for their heroic work documenting its powerful influence on US policy toward Israel and the Middle East. Noted scholar and activist James Petras makes the same compelling case in his revealing 2006 must-read book titled “The Power of Israel in the United States.” The record of “the newspaper of record” includes none of their findings and conclusions proving when it comes to truth in reporting, it’s absent from its pages. It’s especially pronounced in its coverage of Israel/Palestine.

More Evidence of Corporate Media Distortion on Israel-Palestine

When it comes to shoddy reporting, most notably on Israel/Palestine, there’s plenty of blame to go around. It’s found on major US broadcast and cable channels, most all corporate-owned publications here and abroad, the BBC, CBC, Deutche Welle, other European broadcasters, and what passes for so-called public radio and broadcasting in the US. An exception is Pacifica Radio, the original and only real public radio in the US. Its provides excellent coverage, especially on KPFA’s daily Flashpoints Radio with the best of it anywhere on-air from its co-hosts, contributors and top quality guests.

The opposite is true for so-called National Public Radio’s (NPR), but its public broadcast (PBS)counterpart shares equal guilt. Many people naively turn to NPR as an acceptable alternative to corporate media disinformation without realizing it’s as corrupted by capital interests and big government as all the others. Its president, Kevin Klose, is the former head of US propaganda that includes Voice of America (VOA), Radio Liberty, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, Worldnet Television and the anti-Castro Radio/TV Marti. He’s ideal for the same role at National Public Radio, and it’s why he got the job.

NPR never met a US war of aggression it didn’t love, and it’s especially attentive to the interests of its corporate paymasters like McDonald’s (with $225 million of it), Allstate, Merck, Archer Daniels Midland, and the worst of all worker rights’ abusers, Wal-Mart, that NPR welcomes anyway. In its space, there never is heard a discouraging word on any of these or most other major US corporate giants.

Then, there’s the issue of fair and balanced reporting on Israel/Palestine that’s absent from NPR programs all the time. The media watchdog group FAIR exposed it in its study of NPR’s coverage of Israeli/Palestinian violence in the first six months of 2001. Over virtually any period, Palestinian deaths way outnumber Israeli ones. Yet NPR in the period studied reported 62 Israeli deaths compared to 51 Palestinian ones at a time 77 Israelis and 148 Palestinians were killed. It meant “there was an 81% likelihood an Israeli death would be reported on NPR, but only a 34% likelihood” a Palestinian one would be.

The findings were similar each way FAIR examined the data. They showed one-sided pro-Israel reporting the way it is throughout the dominant media. The result (then and now) is NPR betrays the public trust. It suppresses real news in favor of the fake kind it prefers. It violates its claim to be “an internationally acclaimed producer of noncommercial news, talk and entertainment programming” and its mission statement pledge “to create a more informed public – one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciations of events, ideas and cultures (through) programming that meets the highest standards of public service in journalism and cultural expression.” It’s pure nonsense. On all counts, NPR fails badly.

The Electronic Intifada web site showed how badly. It was in a February 19, 2002 article titled “Special Report: NPR’s Linda Gradstein (its Israel correspondent) Takes Cash Payments from Pro-Israel Groups.” Ali Abunimah and Nigel Parry (its co-founders) discovered Gradstein violated professional journalistic and NPR ethics and policy by accepting cash honoraria from pro-Israeli organizations in the past and currently to the date of the article.

Gradstein is notorious for her pro-Israeli bias and being paid for it makes it worse. Hillel is one of her paymasters, and in one instance openly acknowledged it considered Gradstein an Israeli propagandist. Other Israeli groups apparently do as well as Gradstein openly violated NPR’s stated (but uninforced) policy not to accept these fees. Instead, she regularly takes them and likely still does.

The EI writers concluded “for some reason or other, Gradstein is effectively exempt from NPR’s own regulations. These revelations only broaden existing concerns about the integrity of NPR’s Middle East reporting and honesty of Linda Gradstein….the sad truth is that Linda Gradstein rarely meets (the minimum) standard(s)” of journalistic ethics and integrity. This is common practice at NPR and at the rest of the major media as well.

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)

The dominant US media have loads of firepower and freely unleash it supporting Israel. They need no backup help but get it anyway from CAMERA, a powerful Boston-based pro-Israeli media lobby group. The organization was founded by Charles Jacobs in 1982 and claims to be “non-partisan….regard(ing)….American or Israeli political issues (and takes no position) regard(ing)….ultimate solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict.” It calls itself “a media-monitoring, research and membership organization devoted to promoting accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East.”

It claims “Inaccurate and distorted accounts of events in Israel and the Middle East are….found everywhere from college radio stations to network television, from community newspapers to national magazines (to the) Internet.” They’re also in “fashion magazines, architectural publications, encyclopedias….travel guides, and even dictionaries.” They’re “inaccurate (and) skewed (and) may fuel anti-Israel and anti-Jewish prejudice.”

CAMERA’s on guard to fight back with plenty of dues-paying members to do it – 55,000 well-heeled ones plus “thousands of active letter writers.” They monitor all media and its journalists everywhere for one purpose – to resolutely support Israel and combat all criticism it calls “anti-Israel bias.” CAMERA tolerates none, not even modest in tone on issues too minor to matter. They do to CAMERA that views everything in black and white terms with no gray allowed.

Muslims are bad because they’re Muslims and not Jews. Jews, on the other hand, are good because they’re Jewish. This for CAMERA is fair and balanced meaning support Israel, right or wrong, and you are. Dare criticize, you’re not, and be targeted full force with all CAMERA’s hard-hitting tools – mass letter-writing, articles, op-eds, monographs, special reports, full-page ads in major publications, the CAMERA Media Report critiquing “bias and error,” CAMERA on Campus doing the same thing, CAMERA Fellows training students in pro-Israeli thinking, and focused attacks on “media bias” and journalists anywhere even mildly critical of Israel.

CAMERA is effective because it’s unrelenting, focused and well-funded. It “systematically monitors, documents, reviews and archives (all) Middle East coverage.” Its staffers “contact reporters, editors, producers and publishers” demanding “distorted or inaccurate coverage” be retracted and replaced by “factual information to refute errors.” For CAMERA, it means support Israel without compromise or be hounded until you do.

Two Examples of Truth in Reporting Banned in the Dominant Media – First from Bethlehem

Pacifica’s KPFA Flashpoints Radio co-host Nora Barrows Friedman has become the electronic media’s most courageous voice on Israel/Palestine. An example was her disturbing story from Bethlehem August 21 for Inter Press Service that was unreported in the dominant media. It’s a dramatic example of sanitizing ugly parts of a story to prettify Israeli actions or simply ignoring it as in this case.

Friedman reported the Israeli military has been cutting and destroying apricot and walnut trees for months to make way for its scheme in the village of Artas, southeast of Bethlehem. It’s a concrete tunnel (along with the apartheid separation wall) for raw Israeli settlement sewage (excrement and waste). It’s to be dumped on Palestinian land even though its toxicity will endanger the health and welfare of its residents. It will destroy crops and poison the land rendering it useless for agriculture.

Artas villagers have been “active and defiant….over the last year after unofficial information” about the plan leaked out. It’s still ongoing, nonetheless, as Israeli bulldozers continue uprooting crops and orchards in preparation for construction to follow. Non-violent protesters (on their own land) “have been shot at, beaten” arrested and imprisoned for defying expropriation of their property. Israel frequently does this throughout the Occupied Territories for the parts it wants. In this case, it’s for land to dump raw untreated toxic sewage waste on from its settlements.

It’s part of an overall ethnic cleansing scheme to dispossess Palestinians from their lands, one parcel, one village at a time, every devious way Israelis can invent to do it. This time, villagers are fighting back in the Israeli Supreme Court. But based on its past rulings, they have little hope for justice and no hope the major media will help stop the abuse by exposing it in its coverage.

A Second Example: Hamas’ “Goals for All of Palestine”

Mousa Abu Marzook, Hamas political bureau deputy, prepared an eloquent op-ed piece July 10 titled “Hamas’ stand” that got rare space in the latimes.com but none in the New York Times, NPR or elsewhere in the dominant media. In it, he explained Hamas’ July rescue of BBC journalist Alan Johnson wasn’t done “as some obsequious boon to Western powers. It was….part of our effort to secure Gaza from (all) lawlessness…. and violence….where journalists, foreigners and guests of the Palestinian people will be treated with dignity.”

He stressed Hamas never supported attacks on Westerners. Instead, its struggle “always….focused on the occupier and our legal resistance to it….supported by the Fourth Geneva Convention.” Despite that right of any occupied people, Israel and Washington falsely accuse its leaders of ideologies “they know full well we do not follow, such as the agenda of Al Queda and its adherents.”

Marzook “deplore(d) the current prognosticating over “Fatah-land (in the West Bank) versus “Hamastan (in Gaza). In the end, there can be only one Palestinian state,” and its people have every legal right to demand and expect one. He continued saying its “militant stance” is reasonable in “our fight against the occupation and the right of Palestinians to have dignity, justice and self-rule.” It’s guaranteed all peoples everywhere under the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Marzook raised the litmus test issue of Palestinians having to concede Israel’s “putative right to exist as a necessary precondition to discussing grievances, and to renounce” its 1988 charter position “born of the intolerable conditions under occupation more than 20 years ago.” A state “may have a right to exist,” he stated, “but not….at the expense of other states (or more importantly) at the expense of millions of human individuals and their rights to justice.”

Marzook justifiably asked “Why should anyone concede Israel’s right to exist, when it….never….acknowledged (its) foundational crimes of murder, ethnic cleansing (and seizure of) our towns and villages, our farms and orchards, and made us a nation of refugees? Why should any Palestinian recognize (this) monstrous crime….?” How can Israel “declare itself explicitly to be a state for the Jews (alone)….in a land where millions of occupants are Arabs, Muslims and Christians.”

Marzook continued denouncing Israeli hypocrisy referring back to the writings of its Zionist founders. In them, they made “repeated calls for the destruction of Palestine’s non-Jewish inhabitants” saying: “We must expel the Arabs and take their places.” Israeli policy today “advocat(es) for the expulsion of Arab citizens from Israel and the rest of Palestine, envisioning a single Jewish state from the Jordan (River) to the sea.” The international community voices “no clamor….for Israel to repudiate these words as a necessary precondition for any discourse whatsoever. The double standard, as always, is” for Palestinians alone.

Marzook has no trouble “recognizing” Israel’s right to exist. “Israel does exist,” he says, “as any Rafah boy in a hospital bed, with IDF shrapnel in his torso, can tell you.” He referred to a distracting “dance of mutual rejection (while) many are dying (or live) as prisoners….in refugee camps” and Israeli prisons unjustly.

Marzook speaks for all Palestinians saying he “look(s) forward to the day when Israel can say to me, and millions of other Palestinians: ‘Here, here is your family’s house by the sea (we took from you in 1948), here are your lemon trees, the olive grove your father tended: Come home and be whole again.’ Then we can speak of a future together” and can have one in peace but never under occupation.

Try finding that commentary in the New York Times or on NPR. Somehow, it slipped into the latimes.com and maybe in error. Pilger is right. The first casualty of war is good journalism. It applies as well to reporting on Israel/Palestine and most other major world and national issues. Real news and information fall victim to the fake kind in the dominant media. Thankfully, people are catching on, viable alternatives abound in print and online, and web sites like this one provide it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on TheMicroEffect.com Saturdays at noon US central time.

The Pentagon’s latest Big Lie By Mike Whitney

August 10, 2007

The Pentagon’s latest Big Lie By Mike Whitney

By Mike Whitney
08/08/07 “
ICH

The quality of Pentagon-propaganda is really deteriorating.

The War Dept.’s latest fraud appeared in this week’s newspapers under the ominous-sounding headline:

“US Kills Mastermind of Iraq Shrine”

The article is similar to hundreds of other stories we’ve seen in the passed few years boasting of the murder of an “alleged” terrorist kingpin whose evil deeds have prevented democracy from flourishing in Iraq.

Oh, please.

CNN: “Coalition troops killed the al Qaeda terrorist who masterminded the February 2006 attack on Samarra’s al-Askariya mosque and set off continuing violence and reprisal killings between Sunnis and Shiites, the U.S. military said Sunday.” Snip “Haitham Sabah al-Baderi, the al Qaeda emir of greater Samarra, was killed Thursday east of Samarra, said Rear Adm. Mark Fox during a news conference”. snip “Eliminating al-Baderi is another step in breaking the cycle of violence instigated by the attack on the holy shrine in Samarra,” Fox said. “We will continue to hunt down the brutal terrorists who are intent on creating a Taliban-like state in Iraq.” (CNN)

In truth, CNN has no idea who al-Baderi really was or whether he belonged to Al Qaida or not. They just jot down whatever the Pentagon spokesman tells them and then pass it off later as news. It’s the same with the rest of the media. They don’t care. They build their stories on statements from government officials and don’t bother looking for evidence. All they know is that al-Baderi is another unlucky victim in Bush’s war on terror who has been subsumed into the Pentagon’s propaganda war against the American people. That’s it.

So why bother publishing a crazy story like this? It doesn’t change public opinion on the war or convince people that al Qaida is the main enemy in Iraq. So what good is it? It’s just an attempt to show progress in a losing cause by holding up another enemy scalp.

But, that’s not public relations— it’s barbarism. Don’t the Pentagon big-wigs know that? They think the American people relish the idea of assassinating enemy “suspects” without any proof of wrongdoing or judicial oversight. But they’re wrong. People are sickened by it. Can’t they see that?

What is gained by fabricating another goofy story before the dust has even settled on the Tillman fiasco? Why not let the public fully-digest the last “Big Lie” before moving on to the next one?

Remember Tillman—the outspoken NFL star who figured out the war was a fake and started blasting the Bush administration’s lies?

Well, he took three bullets to the head—“gangland style”—in what the Pentagon dubbed “friendly fire”.

What a joke. Is the Pentagon trying to destroy what little credibility it has left?

Apparently.

THIS WEEK’S BIG LIE

I’ve done a lot of research on both bombings of the Golden Dome Mosque and I can tell you that THE MILITARY HAS NEVER CONDUCTED AN INVESTIGATION OF WHAT REALLY HAPPENED. Never. That means the CNN headline is just more empty blather. The few eyewitness accounts that appeared in Iraqi blogs and web sites strongly suggest that US Intelligence agencies and Iraqi troops from the Interior Ministry may have been involved. The theories connecting Al Qaida to the incident are pure speculation with no factual basis.

And yet, here’s what Bush said in a speech just days after the first bombing:

“Al Qaida terrorists and Sunni insurgents… blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam—the Golden Mosque of Samarra—in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq’s Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements; some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.”

How does Bush know who it was? He never ordered an investigation and he doesn’t have a crystal ball. If there’s proof—show us! Otherwise we should assume that he is just trying to blame someone else for his part in turning Iraq into a charnel house.

Those aren’t Al Qaida’s B-1 Bombers dropping cluster bombs and Daisy Cutters on Iraqi cities. And, that isn’t al-Baderi kicking down doors and dragging off civilians to be tortured in some god-forsaken hell-hole. Those are Bush’s planes and Bush’s troops! He’s the one who’s responsible.

Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote just a few months ago after the last bombing in Samarra:

“Less than 4 hours after the explosion, the Bush public relations team cobbled together a statement that the bombing was the work of Sunni extremists or al Qaida terrorists. But, they’ve never produced a scintilla of evidence to support their claims. It may be that the administration simply saw the bombing as an opportunity to twist the facts to suit their own purposes.

After all, the incident has been a propaganda-bonanza for the Bush team. They’ve used it to support their theory that Iraq is “the central battle in the war on terror” and that “we must fight them there if we don’t want to fight them over here”. It’s been used as one of the main justifications for the occupation; implying that the US military is needed as a referee to keep the warring factions from killing each other. It’s all just nonsense that’s designed to advance the administration’s political agenda.

If there had been an investigation, it would have shown whether or not the perpetrators were experts by the placement of the explosives. They might have found bomb-residue which could have determined the composition of the material used. Forensics experts could have easily ascertained whether the explosives came from Iraqi munitions-dumps (as suggested) or from outside the country (like the USA, perhaps?)

The incident may well have been a “false flag” operation carried out by US intelligence agencies to provoke sectarian violence and, thus, reduce the number of attacks on American troops. (That is what the vast number of Sunnis and Shiites believe)

In any event, as soon as the mosque was destroyed the media swung into action focusing all of its attention on sectarian violence and the prospect of civil war. The media’s incessant “cheerleading” for civil war was suspicious, to say the least.

In the first 30 hours after the blast, more than 1,500 articles appeared on Google News providing the government version of events without deviation and without any corroborating evidence; just fluff that reiterated the Pentagon’s account verbatim and without challenge.

1500! Now that’s a well-oiled propaganda system!

Most of the articles were “cookie cutter-type” stories which used the same buzzwords and talking points as all the others; no interviews, no facts, no second opinions; simple, straightforward stenography – nothing more.

The story was repeated for weeks on end never veering from the same speculative theory. Clearly, there was a push to convince the American people that this was a significant event that would reshape the whole context of the war in Iraq. In fact, the media blitz that followed was bigger than anything since 9-11; a spectacular display of the media’s power to manipulate public opinion.

There were a few articles that didn’t follow the party-line, but they quickly disappeared into a cyber-“black hole” or were dismissed as conspiracy theories. One report in AFP said that the bombing “was the work of specialists” and the “placing of explosives must have taken at least 12 hours”.

Ah-ha!

The article said: “Construction Minister Mohammed Jaafar said, ‘Holes were dug into the mausoleum’s four main pillars and packed with explosives. Then charges were connected together and linked to another charge placed just under the dome. The wires were then linked to another charge placed just under the dome. The wires were then linked to a detonator which was triggered at a distance.”

Of course, what does that prove? Perhaps, al Qaida has skilled explosives experts? But why not investigate? After all, if this was the “catalyzing event” which thrust the country towards civil war; why not have the FBI come in and take a look-around?

A professional team of investigators could have quickly determined whether highly-trained saboteurs were operating in the area. (which meant that American troops would be at greater risk) Isn’t that worth checking out?

Nope. The Pentagon did nothing. There was no effort at all to find out who might have been involved. It was an open and shut case; wrapped up before the dust had even settled in Samarra.

Very strange.

Apparently, there was at least one witness who was interviewed shortly after the bombing. He said that he heard cars running outside the mosque “the whole night until morning” but, he was warned “to stay in your shop and don’t leave until morning”.

At 6:30 AM the next morning, the vehicles outside the mosque left. 10 minutes later the bombs exploded.

None of the people living in the vicinity of the mosque were ever questioned. Likewise, the Construction Minister Mohammed Jaafar has never resurfaced in the news again. I expect that his comments in the newspaper may have had something to do with his sudden disappearance, but then maybe not. (Bush’s War on Perception the bombing of the Golden Mosque, Mike Whitney)

Here’s an excerpt from another article titled “Information Warfare, Psy-ops and the Power of Myth” http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17078.htm

New Clues in the Bombing

New clues have surfaced in the case of the bombing of the Golden Mosque which suggests that the claims of the Bush administration are false. An article by Marc Santora, (“One Year Later, Golden Mosque still in Ruins”, New York Times) provides eyewitness testimony of what really took place one year ago:

“A caretaker at the shrine described what happened on the day of the attack, insisting on anonymity because he was afraid that talking to an American could get him killed. The general outline of his account was confirmed by American and Iraqi officials.

The night before the explosion, he said, just before the 8 p.m. curfew on Feb. 21, 2006, on the Western calendar, men dressed in commando uniforms like those issued by the Interior Ministry entered the shrine.

The caretaker said he had been beaten, tied up and locked in a room.

Throughout the night, he said, he could hear the sound of drilling as the attackers positioned the explosives, apparently in such a way as to inflict maximum damage on the dome”. (NY Times)

Clearly, if the men were men dressed in “commando uniforms like those issued by the Interior Ministry”, then the logical place to begin an investigation would be the Interior Ministry. But there’s never been an investigation and the caretaker has never been asked to testify about what he saw on the night of the bombing. However, if he is telling the truth, we cannot exclude the possibility that paramilitary contractors (mercenaries) or special-ops (intelligence) agents working out of the Interior Ministry may have destroyed the mosque to create the appearance of a nascent civil war.

Isn’t that what Bush wants—-to divert attention from the occupation and to show that the real conflict is between Shiites and Sunnis?

It’s unlikely that the mosque was destroyed by “Sunni insurgents or Al Qaida” as Bush claims. Samarra is predominantly a Sunni city and the Sunnis have nearly as much respect for the mosque as a cultural icon and sacred shrine as the Shiites.

The Times also adds, “What is clear is that the attack was carefully planned and calculated”.

True again. We can see from the extent of the damage that the job was carried out by demolition experts and not merely “insurgents or terrorists” with explosives. Simple forensic tests and soil samples could easily determine the composition of the explosives and point out the real perpetrators.

The Times even provides a motive for the attack: “Bad people used this incident to divide Iraq on a detestable sectarian basis.”

Bingo! The administration has repeatedly used the incident to highlight divisions, incite hostilities, and prolong the occupation.

The Times also notes the similarities between 9-11 and the bombing of the Golden Mosque: “I can describe what was done as exactly like what happened to the World Trade Center.”(NY Times)

In fact, the bombing of the Golden Mosque is a reenactment of September 11. In both cases an independent investigation was intentionally quashed and carefully-prepared narrative was immediately provided. The administration’s version of events has been critical in creating the rationale for an extended US military occupation of Iraq, but is it true.

Probably not. The so-called “deeply ingrained sectarian animosity between Sunnis and Shiites” has no historical precedent. It is an invention of propagandists in the intelligence services who intend to fragment the Iraqi state so that precious resources can be more easily controlled. “Divide and rule” continues to be the driving force behind America’s aggressive counterinsurgency strategy.

THE SECOND BOMBING OF THE GOLDEN DOME MOSQUE

Here’s excerpt from another article which outlines some of what we know about the second bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque a year later: (The Battle of Gaza, http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17894.htm )

Graham Bowley (“Minarets on Shiites Shrine in Iraq Destroyed in Attack” NY Times) clarifies some of the important details of what took place at the site of the Mosque just prior to the second bombing. He says:

“Since the attack in 2006, the shrine had been under the protection of local — predominantly Sunni — guards. But American military and Iraqi security officials had recently become concerned that the local unit had been infiltrated by Al Qaeda forces in Iraq. A move by the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad over the last few days to bring in a new guard unit — predominantly Shiite — may have been linked to the attack today.”

No reference is made to the sudden and unexplained changing of the guards at the mosque in future accounts in the mainstream press. And, yet, that is the most important point. The minarets were blown up just days after the new guards took charge. They cordoned off the area, placed snipers on the surrounding rooftops, and then blew up the minarets in broad daylight.

The first explosion took place at 9:30 AM. Ten minutes later the second bomb was detonated.

Al Qaeda?

Not likely.

The Golden Dome mosque has been heavily guarded ever since it was blown up in 2006. The four main doors have been bolted shut and not a tile has been moved in over a year. The reason for this is that the Shiites consider it a “crime scene” which they intend to investigate more thoroughly when the violence subsides.

The Shiites never accepted the official US-version of events that “al Qaeda did it”. Many believe that US Special Forces were directly involved and that it was a planned demolition carried out by experts. There is considerable proof to support this theory including eye witness accounts from the scene of the crime as well as holes that were drilled in the floor of the mosque to maximize destruction. This was not a simple al Qaeda-type car-bombing but a technically-demanding demolition operation.

The damning information in the New York Times article has been corroborated in many other publications including an official statement from the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq (AMSI). According to the AMSI, Prime Minister Nouri al Mailiki replaced the Sunnis who had been guarding the site for over a year with Shiite government forces from the Interior Ministry. Their statement reads:

“Security forces arrived yesterday afternoon from Baghdad Tuesday for the receipt of the task of protecting two tombs instead of the existing force there. Somehow they obtained a scuffle followed by gunfire lasted two hours over control of security forces coming from Baghdad.”

So, the Sunni guards were replaced (after a scuffle) with goons from the Interior Ministry. The next day the minarets blow up.

Coincidence?

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki immediately issued statement where he claimed that the al Qaeda was responsible for the attack. At the same time, however, he arrested all 12 of the guards he sent from the Interior Ministry.

Why? Was he afraid they would talk to the media?

The Association of Muslim Scholars said that “last year’s explosion happened after a severe political crisis between blocs involved in the political process to the occupation. After the elections, the establishment of the government was blocked at that time. It is quite similar to the political crisis faced by the government and parliament today”.

The AMSI is right. The destruction of the Golden Dome Mosque took place soon after the Iraqi parliament rejected the US-plan for dividing Iraq. (“Federalism”) This time, the parliament has voted-down the US-plan to transfer control of Iraq’s vast petroleum reserves to the American oil giants via the “oil laws”.

The AMSI sees the bombing as a desperate attempt by the US occupation to break the logjam in Parliament over the oil laws and to conceal the failures of the “surge” by inciting sectarian violence. The only difference this time is that the Shiite militias have been less responsive to US manipulation. In fact, Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr has tried to stop his Mahdi Army from attacking Sunni areas and he has decried the bombing as another plot by US-Israeli intelligence agents operating in Iraq. He said that the incident reveals “the hidden hand of the occupier.”

He added, “This is what the occupiers brought to Iraq: a disintegration plot and fanning the flames of sectarian violence. Destroying the Askariya shrine goes exactly with the insurgents’ beliefs.”

Among Shiites, there’s nearly unanimous agreement that the US was behind the bombing. Middle East expert Juan Cole reports on his blog-site “Informed Comment, that protests have broken out in India, Pakistan, the Caucasus, Bahrain, Iran and other locations where there are high concentrations of Shiites. The consensus view is that the minarets were blown up as part of a larger US-Israeli strategy for controlling the Middle East.

But why would the Bush administration want to unleash a fresh wave of sectarian violence when they can’t even establish security in Baghdad?

Here’s what the AMSI says:

“Sectarian violence is an effective means to enable the militias to fully impose their control on (Sunni) neighborhoods and cities as it did after the bombings of Samarra….The government is also trying to control the capital of Baghdad; seeking to extend its power over other cities that reject the occupation, especially the cities of Baquba and Samarra”.

This is what is gained by the bombings—further ethnic cleansing of the Sunni neighborhoods and greater control over the public through a campaign of terror. It’s all part of a broader neocon strategy that centers on “creative destruction” rather than the traditional US policy of “regional stability

Final Comment

The bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque is a psychological operation (psy-ops) that evolved from the theories of former Counselor at the State Dept, Philip Zelikow, (Zelikow was also executive director of the 9-11 Commission and author of the National Security Strategy NSS) Zelikow “is an expert in “the creation and maintenance of ‘public myths’ or ‘public presumptions’, which he defines as beliefs thought to be true although not necessarily known to be true with certainty, shared in common with the relevant political community. He has taken a special interest in ‘searing’ or ‘molding’ events that take on ‘transcendent’ importance and, therefore, retain there power even as the experiencing generation passes from the scene”. (“Thinking about Political History” Miller Center report; winter 1999)

“In the Nov-Dec 1998 issue of Foreign Affairs he co-authored an article called ‘Catastrophic Terrorism’ in which he speculated that if the 1993 bombing of the World Trade center had succeeded ‘the resulting horror and chaos would have exceeded our ability to describe it. Such an act of catastrophic terrorism would be a watershed event in American history. ‘It could involve loss of life and property unprecedented in peacetime and undermine America’s fundamental sense of security, as did the Soviet bomb test in 1949. The US might respond with draconian measures scaling back civil liberties, allowing wider surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects and use of deadly force. More violence could follow, either future terrorist attacks or US counterattacks. Belatedly, Americans would judge their leaders negligent for not addressing terrorism more urgently”. (Wikipedia)

Zelikow’s theories help us understand how “catastrophic events” are being used to shape public consciousness and create a narrative that advances the political objectives of the people in power. The actual facts about the bombing of the shrine are have been intentionally suppressed while the prevailing theory—that we are fighting Al Qaida in Iraq—has been meticulously maintained with a solid wall of disinformation. The media has played a central role in this process by disseminating the official storyline from every outlet and newspaper without challenging the government’s “uncorroborated” assertions. This has had a deeply corrosive effect on American democracy.

The extraordinary expansion of state power has been legitimized by the deliberate misreading of “catastrophic events”. History, legal precedent and even cultural tradition have been brushed aside in an effort to rationalize a new order in which state repression, autocratic rule and aggressive war are deemed the requisite components of national security. The entire human experiment—dating back tens of thousands of years–is now conveniently divided into two parts: pre-9-11 and post 9-11.

The bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque has been used the same way as 9-11. A “unifying myth” has been build around a “catastrophic event” in a way that serves the overall goals of the political establishment. As we have seen, the facts don’t matter as long as the illusion that we are fighting terrorists is maintained. (According to Anthony H. Cordesman, an Iraqi specialist at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, al Qaida’s attacks make up only 15 per cent of the total in Iraq though they launch 80-90 per cent of the suicide bombings”. Patrick Cockburn).In reality, the US is engaged in a brutal colonial war that has destroyed a sovereign nation that posed no threat to American national security. That obvious fact never finds its way into America’s “free press”.

The Bush administration and their enablers in the Pentagon’s “Dept. of Strategic Information” will continue to promote their threadbare narrative of “foreign fighters and terrorists” until the Iraq mission collapses and the troops are withdrawn.

Until then, many more lives will be sacrificed to preserve the myth of a war on terror. Haitham Sabah al-Baderi was one such victim. His assassination has helped to conceal the fact that 700,000 Iraqis have been butchered without cause in their own country by Bush’s army.FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

see:

Bush’s War on Perception; the bombing of the Golden Mosque by Mike Whitney

The Battle of Gaza By Mike Whitney

The Misery Strategy

August 9, 2007

August 9, 2007

Editorial (NYT)

The Misery Strategy

The path the country has set on since the defeat of immigration reform in the Senate in June enshrines enforcement and punishment above all else. It is narrow, shortsighted, disruptive and self-defeating. On top of that, it won’t work.

What it will do is unleash a flood of misery upon millions of illegal immigrants. For the ideologues who have pushed the nation into this position, that is more than enough reason to plunge ahead.

The latest phase of the crackdown, expected to be announced this week, would require employers to resolve discrepancies between their employee records and those of the Social Security Administration. If the data don’t match, presumably because a worker is an illegal immigrant using a false number, the worker must be fired. There are millions of people in thousands of workplaces who could be caught in that net, and the government is promising to start dragging it zealously, with stepped-up raids around the country. “We are tough, and we are going to be even tougher,” said a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.

Toughness is now the mantra at every level of government. The Senate had struggled for years to erect the immense framework of bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform, coupling stricter enforcement with a citizenship path and an orderly future flow of workers. But restrictionists pushed the unwieldy structure over, and now even its architects have fled the scene.

Senator John McCain, trying to keep his presidential hopes aloft by jettisoning his courage and good sense, has leapt to the enforcement barricades, joining Senators Jon Kyl and Lindsey Graham in sponsoring a bill that is essentially a Minuteman’s to-do list of fence-building and punishments. He has shamefully repudiated his commitment to giving illegal immigrants a way to get right with the country. Senator Arlen Specter, meanwhile, wrote an op-ed article in The Washington Post titled “A Less Ambitious Approach to Immigration,” in which he endorsed the creation of a permanent noncitizen immigrant underclass, saying it is the best we can hope for until “a more hospitable America” emerges.

The federal government’s abandonment of comprehensive reform has been matched by unprecedented crackdowns at the state and local level. Lawmakers this year have introduced more than 1,400 immigration-related bills in all 50 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and enacted 170 of them. Many of the bills severely restrict where immigrants can live and work, and leave them vulnerable to exploitation and fearful of the police. It’s the federal approach of raids and aggression, metastasized across the continent.

The country will have a long time to watch this approach as it fails. The politicians who killed the Senate bill for offering “amnesty” have never offered a workable alternative. Their one big idea is that harsh, unrelenting enforcement at the border, in the workplace and in homes and streets would dry up opportunities for illegal immigrants and eventually cause the human tide to flow backward. That would be true only if life for illegal immigrants in America could be made significantly more miserable than life in, say, rural Guatemala or the slums of Mexico City. That will take a lot of time and a lot of misery to pull that off in a country that has tolerated and profited from illegal labor for generations.

The American people cherish lawfulness but resist cruelty, and have supported reform that includes a reasonable path to earned citizenship. Their leaders have given them immigration reform as pest control.

Stampeding Congress, Again

August 3, 2007

August 3, 2007

Editorial (NYT)

Stampeding Congress, Again

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration has repeatedly demonstrated that it does not feel bound by the law or the Constitution when it comes to the war on terror. It cannot even be trusted to properly use the enhanced powers it was legally granted after the attacks.

Yet, once again, President Bush has been trying to stampede Congress into a completely unnecessary expansion of his power to spy on Americans. And, hard as it is to believe, Congressional Republicans seem bent on collaborating, while Democrats (who can still be cowed by the White House’s with-us-or-against-us baiting) aren’t doing enough to stop it.

The fight is over the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the government to obtain a warrant before eavesdropping on electronic communications that involve someone in the United States. The test is whether there is probable cause to believe that the person being communicated with is an agent of a foreign power or a terrorist.

Mr. Bush decided after 9/11 that he was no longer going to obey that law. He authorized the National Security Agency to intercept international telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans and other residents of this country without a court order. He told the public nothing and Congress next to nothing about what he was doing, until The Times disclosed the spying in December 2005.

Ever since, the White House has tried to pressure Congress into legalizing Mr. Bush’s rogue operation. Most recently, it seized on a secret court ruling that spotlighted a technical way in which the 1978 law has not kept pace with the Internet era.

The government may freely monitor communications when both parties are outside the United States, but must get a warrant aimed at a specific person for communications that originate or end in this country. The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that the court that issues such warrants recently ruled that the law also requires that the government seek such an individualized warrant for purely foreign communications that, nevertheless, move through American data networks.

Instead of asking Congress to address this anachronism, as it should, the White House sought to use it to destroy the 1978 spying law. It proposed giving the attorney general carte blanche to order eavesdropping on any international telephone calls or e-mail messages if he decided on his own that there was a “reasonable belief” that the target of the surveillance was outside the United States. The attorney general’s decision would not be subject to court approval or any supervision.

The White House, of course, insisted that Congress must do this right away, before the August recess that begins on Monday — the same false urgency it used to manipulate Congress into passing the Patriot Act without reading it and approving the appalling Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, offered a sensible alternative law, as did his fellow Democrat, Senator Russ Feingold. In either case, the attorney general would be able to get a broad warrant to intercept foreign communications routed through American networks for a limited period. Then, he would have to justify the spying in court. This fix would have an expiration date so Congress could then dispassionately consider what permanent changes might be needed to FISA.

Congress was debating this issue yesterday, and the final outcome was unclear. But there are very clear lines that must not be crossed.

First, all electronic surveillance of communication that originates or ends in the United States must be subject to approval and review by the FISA court under the 1978 law. (That court, by the way, has rejected only one warrant in the last two years.)

Second, any measure Congress approves now must have a firm expiration date. Closed-door meetings under the pressure of a looming vacation are no place for such serious business.

The administration and its Republican supporters in Congress argue that American intelligence is blinded by FISA and have seized on neatly timed warnings of heightened terrorist activity to scare everyone. It is vital for Americans, especially lawmakers, to resist that argument. It is pure propaganda.

This is not, and has never been, a debate over whether the United States should conduct effective surveillance of terrorists and their supporters. It is over whether we are a nation ruled by law, or the whims of men in power. Mr. Bush faced that choice and made the wrong one. Congress must not follow him off the cliff.

An Immoral Philosophy by Paul Krugman

August 1, 2007

An Immoral Philosophy by Paul Krugman



by Paul Krugman
Common Dreams
Published on Monday, July 30, 2007 by The New York Times

When a child is enrolled in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (Schip), the positive results can be dramatic. For example, after asthmatic children are enrolled in Schip, the frequency of their attacks declines on average by 60 percent, and their likelihood of being hospitalized for the condition declines more than 70 percent.

Regular care, in other words, makes a big difference. That’s why Congressional Democrats, with support from many Republicans, are trying to expand Schip, which already provides essential medical care to millions of children, to cover millions of additional children who would otherwise lack health insurance.

But President Bush says that access to care is no problem – “After all, you just go to an emergency room” – and, with the support of the Republican Congressional leadership, he’s declared that he’ll veto any Schip expansion on “philosophical” grounds.

It must be about philosophy, because it surely isn’t about cost. One of the plans Mr. Bush opposes, the one approved by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the Senate Finance Committee, would cost less over the next five years than we’ll spend in Iraq in the next four months. And it would be fully paid for by an increase in tobacco taxes.

The House plan, which would cover more children, is more expensive, but it offsets Schip costs by reducing subsidies to Medicare Advantage – a privatization scheme that pays insurance companies to provide coverage, and costs taxpayers 12 percent more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare.

Strange to say, however, the administration, although determined to prevent any expansion of children’s health care, is also dead set against any cut in Medicare Advantage payments.

So what kind of philosophy says that it’s O.K. to subsidize insurance companies, but not to provide health care to children?

Well, here’s what Mr. Bush said after explaining that emergency rooms provide all the health care you need: “They’re going to increase the number of folks eligible through Schip; some want to lower the age for Medicare. And then all of a sudden, you begin to see a – I wouldn’t call it a plot, just a strategy – to get more people to be a part of a federalization of health care.”

Now, why should Mr. Bush fear that insuring uninsured children would lead to a further “federalization” of health care, even though nothing like that is actually in either the Senate plan or the House plan? It’s not because he thinks the plans wouldn’t work. It’s because he’s afraid that they would. That is, he fears that voters, having seen how the government can help children, would ask why it can’t do the same for adults.

And there you have the core of Mr. Bush’s philosophy. He wants the public to believe that government is always the problem, never the solution. But it’s hard to convince people that government is always bad when they see it doing good things. So his philosophy says that the government must be prevented from solving problems, even if it can. In fact, the more good a proposed government program would do, the more fiercely it must be opposed.

This sounds like a caricature, but it isn’t. The truth is that this good-is-bad philosophy has always been at the core of Republican opposition to health care reform. Thus back in 1994, William Kristol warned against passage of the Clinton health care plan “in any form,” because “its success would signal the rebirth of centralized welfare-state policy at the very moment that such policy is being perceived as a failure in other areas.”

But it has taken the fight over children’s health insurance to bring the perversity of this philosophy fully into view.

There are arguments you can make against programs, like Social Security, that provide a safety net for adults. I can respect those arguments, even though I disagree. But denying basic health care to children whose parents lack the means to pay for it, simply because you’re afraid that success in insuring children might put big government in a good light, is just morally wrong.

And the public understands that. According to a recent Georgetown University poll, 9 in 10 Americans – including 83 percent of self-identified Republicans – support an expansion of the children’s health insurance program.

There is, it seems, more basic decency in the hearts of Americans than is dreamt of in Mr. Bush’s philosophy.

Paul Krugman is Professor of Economics at
Princeton University and a regular New York Times columnist. His most recent book is The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century.
© 2007 The New York Times
h/t: ICH

Coming Clean in the Capitol

August 1, 2007

August 1, 2007

Editorial

Coming Clean in the Capitol

It took a while, and the process certainly hasn’t been pretty, but the Democrats are close to winning passage of their long-promised ethics reform bill. We suspect it will take a lot more than one new law to break the binding and corrupting ties of lobbyist cash and politics. But the bill, which the House approved with overwhelming, bipartisan enthusiasm yesterday, is a good start.

If the Senate needs further impetus to follow, federal agents supplied it Monday when they raided the Alaska home of Senator Ted Stevens. Mr. Stevens, who denies any wrongdoing, has the distinction of being the longest-serving Republican in the Senate’s history. Unfortunately, when it comes to getting caught up in an investigation of political corruption, he’s just one in a long bipartisan line.

One of the important aims of the new legislation is to let the public see for itself how much money is being traded for access. For the first time, the lavish torrent of campaign money from eager lobbyists to grateful politicians would have to be reported quarterly to the public via the Internet, with tighter scrutiny and penalties for violators. The reports would highlight lobbyists’ so-called bundling, the massing of individual donations into eye-popping packages for politicians and their party committees.

And the bill would require that all earmarks — those budget-busting pet projects that fall like manna from heaven — as well as who’s sponsoring them be identified on the Internet before final passage. The bill would also curb such abuses as corporate-paid gifts and travel. It would end lobbyist-sponsored galas “honoring” ranking politicians at national conventions. It would even ban the ludicrous pensions now being paid to Congressional alumni doing prison time for felonies.

The bill is not perfect. It doesn’t place enough restrictions on the rush of lawmakers into lobbying careers, but it is a major step toward resisting the Capitol corruption laid bare in the downfall of Jack Abramoff. He’s the über-lobbyist whose lavish wooing of dodgy lawmakers led to the Republicans’ loss of Congressional control. In the minority now, Senate Republicans would be foolish to block this urgently needed reform, as some are threatening.

The commitment to reform goes far beyond any party’s campaign pledge. The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, has an opportunity to join the majority leader, Harry Reid, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in delivering bipartisan reform. Voters are watching closely to see if Congress finally has the courage to clean itself up.

Murdoch Seen to Win Control of Dow Jones

July 31, 2007

July 31, 2007

Murdoch Seen to Win Control of Dow Jones

Rupert Murdoch appeared today to have gained enough support from the deeply divided Bancroft family to buy Dow Jones & Company, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, for $5 billion.

Family members and trusts representing about 32 percent of the shareholder vote indicated they would support Mr. Murdoch’s offer, though several details were still being worked out, according to people briefed on the matter.

But a family spokesman issued a statement cautioning that the canvass of family members and trusts was still under way, adding, “Any suggestion that the process has been completed and/or that a particular level of support has been established is at this point premature.”

For Mr. Murdoch, the prospect of acquiring The Journal represents the pinnacle of his long career building the News Corporation into a $28 billion global media empire that already includes more than 100 newspapers around the world, satellite broadcast operations, the Fox television network, the online social networking site MySpace and many other properties.

It also signals the end of an era for Dow Jones and the controlling Bancroft family, an intensely private clan that had allowed The Journal to operate independently and become one of the nation’s most prominent and trusted newspapers, even as its finances deteriorated.

The three dozen members of the Bancroft family had engaged in an intense debate about The Journal’s future. Some argued vociferously that Mr. Murdoch would damage the newspaper’s credibility, while others said that his offer was too good to pass up at a time when the newspaper industry has been struggling.

At $60 a share, News Corporation is paying a heavy premium for a stock that traded around $36 before the offer became public on May 1.

The acquisition of The Journal, along with the planned introduction of the Fox business news channel by the News Corporation in October, makes Mr. Murdoch the most formidable figure in business news in the country.

The deal follows the recent sales of the Tribune and Knight Ridder chains. For The Journal’s competitors and the rest of the industry, it again raises the question of whether newspapers can exist independent of giant media conglomerates as advertising dollars migrate to the Web and readers have access to vast new sources of online information.

As if to mirror to anxiety of the entire newspaper industry, the Bancrofts finally voted on the bid after months of internal debate and shifting alliances within the family, which has controlled Dow Jones for more than a century.

The outcome remained in doubt until the final days, with family members and trustees who control their stock jockeying for position and switching sides, shifting millions of shares from one side of the vote to another.

To the last, people inside and outside Dow Jones who opposed the sale to the News Corporation were trying to arrange alternative deals that would allow some family Bancroft family members to sell and others to keep control of the company.

Brad Greenspan, an Internet entrepreneur, said that in the last few days, he had arranged conversations between one of his tentative backers for such a bid, Intel Capital, and Leslie Hill, a family member who sits on the Dow Jones board.

The Bancroft family, which has owned Dow Jones since 1902, holds 64 percent of the shareholder vote, most of it in a complex series of dozens of trusts with some three dozen beneficiaries. But the bulk of the voting power rests with a handful of members of family’s oldest generation who are the primary trustees, and with family lawyers who are also trustees.

Advisers to News Corporation said it needed family members representing at least 30 to 34 percent of the total shareholder vote to commit to the deal before proceeding with it, assured of topping 50 percent in an actual ballot.

The Ottaway family, with 7 percent of the vote, was solidly opposed to the sale. That left 29 percent of the vote in other hands, expected to be overwhelmingly in favor, but it is hard to estimate what fraction of those shareholders would have voted no, and how many simply have not voted. The deal requires more than half the total votes outstanding.

For Mr. Murdoch, the Dow Jones takeover gives him not only one of the world’s great media trophy properties and a larger voice in national affairs, but also a ready source of material and credibility for his newest big gamble, the Fox Business Channel he plans to begin in October.

Under a deal with CNBC, that channel has the exclusive right to use Dow Jones content and have Dow Jones reporters and editors appear on its programs until 2012. But Mr. Murdoch, whose new channel would compete with CNBC, has long been known for taking the long view, willing to wait years for his investments to pay off.

Dow Jones’s centerpiece is The Journal, with domestic circulation of more than 2 million six days a week, second only to USA Today, but the company also includes many other parts, like the financial weekly Barron’s, Dow Jones Newswires, the Web site MarketWatch and Factiva, an electronic news archive and information service.

Analysts predict that News Corporation would sell some or all of Dow Jones’s 23 small daily and weekly newspapers, most of them in New England and upstate New York.

Mr. Murdoch first made his offer to Dow Jones’s chief executive, Richard F. Zannino, over breakfast on March 29, and made a formal, written bid to the board on April 17, but the news did not break until May 1.

On May 2, Mr. Zannino made a presentation to the Dow Jones board that made it seem to many of them that the company’s prospects on its own were poor and that he favored a sale. He later insisted that he had not meant to give those impressions, but even so, the presentation had a sobering effect, and most of the board clearly thought that Mr. Murdoch’s $60-a-share offer was simply too good to pass up.

That breakfast with Mr. Murdoch set in motion a four-month struggle within the Bancroft family. Factions formed and dissolved, and momentum swung widely as family members changed sides, children were pitted against parents and, in some cases, siblings opposed one another.

For a private, reserved clan that had long frowned on confrontation or aggressive involvement in the company’s affairs, it was a long, uncomfortable conflict, played out with the news media trying to dissect their personalities and rivalries. And for much of that time, shareholders and executives at both companies could do little but watch and wait as the family labored to reach a conclusion.