If the Kids' TV Show Doc McStuffins Is Teaching White Kids to Be Colorblind, I Want None of It

Alternet - Media Culture - 1 hour 40 min ago
Race still matters, even if the folks at Disney would like to pretend otherwise.

When Thurgood Marshall argued for the desegregation of public schools before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case known as Brownv.Board of Education, he drew evidence not only from legislative history and legal precedent, but also from research in the social sciences. One of Marshall’s most powerful and convincing arguments involved dolls.

The so-called doll test, pioneered by Mamie and Kenneth Clark, a black married couple who were both psychologists, presented black children, aged 3 to 7, with identical baby dolls, different only in their color: half were white, half were brown. When asked to select which doll they liked best, which doll was the nice doll, which doll looked bad, a majority of black children in tests conducted throughout the country said they preferred the white doll, that it was nicer, and that the brown doll was “bad.”

In offering heartbreaking evidence of how fully (and early) children absorbed lessons of racism, as demonstrated by how they saw these baby dolls (and by extension, themselves), the Clarks’ doll test has endured as an intimate reminder of the damage prejudice can inflict on the innocent. Sadly, it’s not just a historic artifact: when CNN’s Anderson Cooper aired a special in 2010 that included his own version of the doll test, viewers saw black children (and this time, white kids, too) attribute good qualities to the white dolls and bad ones to the black dolls.

All of that’s to say, kids and toys and race have a long history, as noted this week in the New York Times, which ran a front-page article about the surprising “crossover success” of the Disney television show “Doc McStuffins” and its spinoff toys. Aimed at kids roughly the same age as those who first encountered the Clarks’ dolls, the animated show focuses on a little girl who aspires to be a doctor, like her mother (her father is a stay-at-home dad). Wearing a kid-sized white doctor’s coat, Doc fixes up her injured dolls and stuffed animals. It’s all pretty adorable—at least for the audience it’s aimed at (parents may find the show, like most Disney kid offerings, a little too sugary).

What makes Doc stand out among her peers is that she’s African American. Hence the Times coverage of her appeal: black kids love her because she’s black, like them, and they don’t see a lot of lead characters on TV who are. And white kids love her too, especially girls, who don’t often get to see little girls on TV playing at things like doctor. She’s even got a healthy following among little boys, according to the Times, which is unusual at a time when both children’s entertainment and toys have become increasingly gendered.

All of this is good news, right? And yet, something about the Times article leaves me a bit uncomfortable. That may be, first, because New York Times trend articles are notorious for confusing short-term pop cultural phenomena for actual trends. “Doc McStuffins” is popular right now, and that’s great. As the mother of a black child (albeit a son a few years too old for the show), I’m convinced that shows and toys featuring black kids as heroes and heroines are a good thing (even more important, I think, are books that do the same — the We Need Diverse Books campaign is a great start in that direction).  

But as a white person myself, I can see that the issue of crossover success is itself problematic. After all, the most popular TV show of the last few decades was a crossover game-changer, but whether “The Cosby Show” actually lessened racial prejudice among whites is debatable (there are academic papers arguing both sides of that one, as a piece on the 538 blog unpacks). Although it certainly helped introduce white America to an African American family that was stable, loving and successful, some feel it backfired: if the Huxtables could afford a brownstone, why were any black folks complaining about intractable poverty and housing discrimination?

The notion that entertainment and consumer products highlighting people of color has any appreciable effect on white people is, it seems to me, a highly hopeful – and ultimately, naïve – way of looking at how race and racism actually work in America. Let’s look at how the show’s creator talked to the Times about what the show – and Doc’s race – mean for kids:

“The kids who are of color see her as an African-American girl, and that’s really big for them,” said Chris Nee, the creator of Doc McStuffins. “And I think a lot of other kids don’t see her color, and that’s wonderful as well.”

So, the black kids see Doc and feel proud because she’s black, and the white kids – don’t see her color? If that’s the case, it’s hard to see why her crossover success, such as it is, even matters. Or perhaps the show’s creator is hinting at a kind of stealth diversity training; making a lead character black but in such a way that white kids won’t even notice, sort of like those cookbooks that teach parents how to hide vegetables in the mac-and-cheese. Only problem is, just as hidden veggies don’t teach your kids to eat well, an approach to race that depends on (or even advocates) colorblindness doesn’t teach your kids anything real about race or racism, which is what all our kids need to learn.

I’ve been particularly lucky in this regard. I grew up white in a very white state, but my father was a professor of African American history, and from the start he raised me with an implicit goal of racial consciousness and anti-racist commitment. That included reading the stories of Anansi, the African trickster spider, or books like “I, Charlotte Forten, Black and Free,” a novel based on the life of one of Philadelphia’s influential free black abolitionists, and seeing movies like “Sounder,” which tells the story of a family of black sharecroppers. That framework of history allowed me to understand the Huxtables of “The Cosby Show” as the strivers they were – people who had succeeded in a country that still erects obstacles to social and economic mobility, many of them racial, a couple whose ancestors probably included a sharecropper or two.

I doubt Disney is going to tell us much about history in “Doc McStuffins”— history isn’t Disney’s strong suit, any more than it is America’s —but I think it’s significant that Doc’s mother is a doctor (like Cliff Huxtable). For black kids to see black adults attain that kind of career success is empowering; it’s the good side of aspirational propaganda. For the white kids who love the show and the doll, I would hope their parents look beyond colorblindness and see what their kids could get from the show once they notice Doc is black.

Yes, more white kids should watch shows with black lead characters, and play with black dolls, and – especially! – read books with black kids in them. But white kids are going to learn most from what their parents say – and what they don’t say, but do. Seeing race is the first step, acknowledging racism the (harder and more important) second. But all our kids will be better off once we learn to do it.

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The Media's Pro-Israel Bias: Why Does TV News Look Like a Netanyahu Ad?

Alternet - Media Culture - 7 hours 16 min ago
No one is asking the Israeli officials parading across the screen the hard questions.

Here are a few questions you won’t hear asked of the parade of Israeli officials crossing US television screens during the current crisis in Gaza:

  • What would you do if a foreign country was occupying your land?
  • What does it mean that Israeli cabinet ministers deny Palestine’s right to exist?
  • What should we make of a prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who as opposition leader in the 1990s was found addressing rallies under a banner reading “Death to Arabs”?

These are contentious questions, to be sure, and with complicated answers. But they are relevant to understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today. They also parallel the issues routinely raised by American journalists with Palestinian officials, pressing to consider how the US would react if it were under rocket fire from Mexico, to explain why Hamas won’t recognise Israel and to repudiate Palestinian anti-Semitism.

But it’s a feature of much mainstream journalism in the US, not just an issue of coverage during the last three weeks of the Gaza crisis, that while one set of questions gets asked all the time, the other is heard hardly at all.

In years of reporting from and about Israel, I’ve followed the frequently robust debate in its press about whether Netanyahu really wants a peace deal, about the growing power of right-wing members inside the Israeli cabinet opposed to a Palestinian state, about the creeping air of permanence to the occupation. 

So it has been all the more striking to discover a far narrower discourse in Washington and the notoriously pro-Israel mainstream media in the US at a time when difficult questions are more important than ever. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, and a crop of foreign leaders have ratcheted up warnings that the door for the two-state solution is closing, in no small part because of Israel’s actions. But still the difficult questions go unasked.

Take Netanyahu’s appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. The host, Bob Schieffer, permitted the Israeli leader to make a lengthy case for the his military’s ground attack, guiding him along with one sympathetic question after another. Finally, after describing Netanyahu’s position as “very understandable”, Schieffer asked about dead Palestinian civilians – but only to wonder if they presented a public relations problem in “the battle for world opinion”.

As if Schieffer’s position wasn’t already blindingly clear, he went on to quote former prime minister Golda Meir’s line that Israelis can never forgive Arabs “for forcing us to kill their children”.

As way of balance, CBS followed with a short clip of an interview by Charlie Rose with the Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, who was pressed on his willingness to recognise Israel.

There has been fine reporting from on the ground in Gaza by courageous American journalists who have laid bare the price being paid by ordinary Palestinians. That, in turn, has prompted some stiff questioning in American TV studios of Israeli officials about the scale of civilian deaths and shelling of schools and hospitals. Some pro-Israel American pundits admit to have becoming “less pro-Israel”.

But the broader framework of how the conflict is presented in the US is more troubling.

Former MSNBC contributor Rula Jebreal drew widespread attention to the media divide when she condemned NBC News on air, on MSNBC, for pulling its only Arab-American correspondent, Ayman Mohyeldin, out of Gaza, only to reinstate him because of the backlash. “We are disgustingly biased on this issue,” she said.

She has a point.

An analysis by Punditfact of CNN coverage during the first two weeks of the latest Gaza crisis showed that appearances by Israeli officials outnumbered Palestinian officials by more than four-to-one. There were substantially more interviews with what Punditfact called Palestinian “laymen”, but they included the relatives of a Palestinian-American beaten by Israeli soldiers that offered little insight into the bigger picture.

All appearances by Palestinian officials were outnumbered by interviews with a single man: Israel’s former ambassador to the US, Michael Oren,whom CNN hired as a Middle East analyst earlier this year. The network presents Oren as a kind of neutral interpreter, when just a few months ago he was vigorously defending Israel on behalf of Netanyahu’s government. His limited value as an analyst was swiftly exposed by his assertion that Hamas was trying to get Israel to kill as many Palestinian children as possible as part of a media strategy.

The number of guests booked or sources quoted has never been balanced on this issue in the mainstream American press, but more important is the nature of interviews and the broader coverage when Israel and Palestine are not thrust into the news by a fresh surge in violence.

At one extreme is Fox News, where last week Sean Hannity shouted down a Palestinian guest, Yousef Munayyer, because he would not condemn Hamas as a terrorist organisation, then proceeded to terminate the interview.

Munayyer, director of the Jerusalem Fund in Washington, has appeared repeatedly on CNN where he is treated more respectfully. But he told me he is frequently brought on to answer accusations from the Israeli side, rather than explain the Palestinian perspective in the way that Israeli officials and commentators are allowed to lay out their case.

“Most of the time I go on it is to be put on the defensive, in response to a conversation that’s framed around Israel’s security concerns first and foremost,” Munayyer said.

Palestinians should face difficult questions about recognition of Israel, about Hamas’s policies and actions, about how peace would work in practice.

But on the other side, I’ve rarely seen a major channel match that kind of routine close questioning of Israeli officials about the position of a government packed with ministers hostile to a Palestinian state, who advocate annexation of much of the occupied territories and who propose second-class citizenship for Arabs.

Israel’s preferred representatives in the US media – Oren, plus the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, and Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev – all project the country as a liberal democracy, an unwilling occupier that is thirsting for peace.

But that does not fit with the views of leading politicians back in Israel. Naftali Bennett, the economy minister and leader of the most powerful political party on the right, has said: “I will do everything in my power to make sure [the Palestinians] never get a state.”

Danny Danon, the increasingly powerful chairman of the central committee of Netanyahu’s Likud party, openly opposes a Palestinian state and has said the prime minister doesn’t believe in it either. “I want the majority of the land with the minimum amount of Palestinians,” Danon, whom Netanyahu just fired as deputy defense minister for being critical of opposition to a ceasefire, told me last year.

And Israel’s ultranationalist foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, wants a good chunk of Israel’s Arab population stripped of citizenship.

Perhaps none of these men will get what they want. But they hold important levers of power, and good journalism would seem to demand that probing questions get asked about where Israel is headed under such leadership.

That kind of piercing American journalism can be found, mostly in foreign-policy journals and long magazine articles, such as David Remnick’s insightful report in the New Yorker last year on the rising political power of Jewish settlers. But much of the press demonstrates a frightening lack of inquiry, and if the mainstream media won’t do it, others are increasingly willing to do it for them.

It’s no secret that younger Americans do not rely on the nightly news, cable networks or printed newspapers for information in the way many older people do. The internet has opened access to foreign news media, which often has a different take in Israel, and has opened up a stream of links to to first-hand accounts as well as writing by analysts and activists who offer insights and information wilfully ignored by the Bob Schieffers and Sean Hannitys of the world.

There is evidence of a shift in public opinion, mostly generational: a Pew poll this month showed falling support for Israel among younger Americans. Over 65s backed the Jewish state by 60% to just 9% support for the Palestinians. Among young adults, aged 18-29, just 44% were behind Israel with backing for the Palestinians rising to 22%.

As opinion shifts, it will be harder to go on presenting just one side of the story.

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Categories: Media

Part 2: Weapons Expert Theodore Postol Asks, Is Israel's Iron Dome Really an Iron Sieve?

Democracy Now! - 7 hours 25 min ago

Part two of our interview with acclaimed MIT physicist Theodore Postol, who says there is no evidence Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system is actually working. He estimates the Iron Dome, which is partially built by Raytheon, intercepts just 5 percent of rockets fired at Israel.

Click here to watch part 1 of interview.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has urged Congress to approve Israel's request for an additional $225 million in U.S. funding to strengthen the Iron Dome. Hagel asserted the air defense system has saved countless Israeli lives since the start of the operation in Gaza. He wrote, quote, "On behalf of the Administration, I ask for your support in meeting Israel's critical missile defense needs in light of the ongoing conflict in Gaza."

While the U.S. media, news anchors, pundits, politicians have extolled the efficacy of the Iron Dome in deflecting the thousands of Hamas rockets that put Israeli lives at risk, our guest says the opposite is actually true, that Iron Dome is more like an Iron Sieve. We're joined by Professor Ted Postol. He is a professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a physicist and an expert in missiles and missile defense.

We're doing part two of this interview, Professor Postol, because what you are saying flies so much in the face of almost all of the media coverage of Iron Dome, and I'm wondering if you can—well, you could take us back to a previous Israeli assault on Gaza when there wasn't Iron Dome. And how does what's happening today compare with when Iron Dome wasn't there?

THEODORE POSTOL: Well, these comparisons are a little tricky, because the defense system that's saving so many—well, saving lives in Israel is the early warning and sheltering system. And the early warning system has been improved through the use of telephones. So, for example, if you're in a city somewhere where the Israeli radars determine that an artillery rocket is heading in your direction, you will get an audible signal that says you need to take shelter. And then there's a shelter system that's been built in advance all over these areas of Israel, plus you would have a shelter in your home, if you are actually in your home. So all you would need is 10 seconds of warning or less to get in a shelter in your home, and you could actually get to shelters very quickly on the outside, because these shelters are all over the place where the population is dense and the Israeli government has predicted there will be a likely attack.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me quote from Reuters, July 10th: "Israel's Iron Dome interceptor has shot down some 90 percent of Palestinian rockets it engaged during this week's surge of Gaza fighting, up from the 85 percent rate in the previous mini-war of 2012." Professor Postol, your response?

THEODORE POSTOL: Well, first of all, I am sorry to say that the press needs to engage in more due diligence on these matters. Where does this number come from? The number comes from an Israeli spokesperson. Now, if I give a number—and, incidentally, I have a long record of being correct on these matters—you don't hear the press coming to me and asking me, do I believe that number is correct? And if I don't believe the number is correct, why would I not believe the number is correct? This is really—you can really put this back on the due diligence of the press with regard to this matter. They're just not—they're just accepting information from an interested party.

AMY GOODMAN: So can you explain further how this works, how the Iron Dome—how Raytheon built this?

THEODORE POSTOL: Well, the Iron Dome is mostly an Israeli development, although Raytheon is involved. The Iron Dome interceptor has to approach an incoming artillery rocket head-on. So if you saw an Iron Dome interceptor flying a near-vertical trajectory, that would indicate the Iron Dome interceptor is in a near-head-on engagement geometry coming at the artillery rocket. In that geometry, the interceptor has some chance of destroying the artillery rocket warhead. If you see the Iron Dome interceptor engaging the artillery rocket from the side or from the back by chasing it, then it has essentially a zero chance of destroying the artillery rocket warhead. So, if you look up in the sky and you look at the hundreds of videos we now have of the contrails of the—the smoke trails of the Iron Dome interceptors, you can see that almost all the time—there are exceptions, but almost all the time—the Iron Dome interceptors are traveling parallel to the ground, which means that the falling artillery rocket is engaged from the side, or the Iron Domes are—the Iron Dome interceptors are diving to the ground, which means that they are trying to chase artillery rockets from behind. All those engagements are zero probability of intercept. And we're guessing—we're guessing, based on what we have, that maybe 10 percent or 15 or 20 percent of the engagements are head-on. Actually, it's not 20 percent; it's closer to 10 percent. And when you see so few engagements head on, your conclusion is that the system is not working the vast majority of the time. Now, when you—

AMY GOODMAN: But this goes—

THEODORE POSTOL: When you have—go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: This goes to the issue of the proportionality of the attack on Gaza. You know, more than 1,300 Palestinians have been killed. And so often when this issue is raised—and I think it's three Israeli civilians, and of course every death is horrific on either side. But when this issue is raised, Israel just says, "Well, we have an extremely effective Iron Dome system." If it's not Iron Dome, is it simply saying that these rockets that Hamas and other groups are firing off, they're not working? I mean, if their intention is to kill, that they are not lethal weapons, if so few people have died and Iron Dome isn't working?

THEODORE POSTOL: Well, one has to realize—you know, one has to know some simple technical facts. First of all, most artillery rockets are carrying warheads in the 10-to-20-pound range. So if you're sitting in a room and the rocket comes through the roof and explodes in the room, it will kill you, and it will kill everybody else in the room. If you have 10 seconds or 20 seconds of warning and you go into the shelter that's, by law, built in your home, and the rocket happens to hit your home, you won't be killed. It can even hit the shelter, and you won't be killed. So, sheltering and early warning are extremely critical to keeping the death toll down. Now, the odds of an artillery rocket going through the roof and into your room are very low. They're high enough that if I were in Israel, I would advise you, and I would do so myself: I would take shelter, because there's—you know, the inconvenience is small relative to being killed or injured. But most of these rockets are landing in open areas, landing between buildings, landing outside buildings. And the real danger is that this relatively low-lethality warhead lands within 10 or 20 feet of you.

Now, if you just lie on the ground—let's say you're caught in the open, and you can't go to a shelter—the Israeli government itself will tell you that your chances of being a casualty from a falling artillery rocket are reduced by 80 percent—80 percent—if you simply lie on the ground. And the reason for that is the lethal range of these low-weight warheads is not very large, and they are blowing fragments out sort of like a shotgun, and if you get close to the ground, unless you're very unlucky and the thing lands on you or lands very close to you, you're not going to be injured by the explosion. So, although these artillery rockets are fantastically disruptive, with regard to the functioning of Israeli society—and I think that that is true, and because of that, there's a psychological and political leverage associated with these artillery rocket attacks—they are not killing people, as long as people are taking shelter and sheltering is available.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Postol, I'm looking at a Boston Globe piece on the Iron Dome and Raytheon being a key in the Israeli defense plan. And it says, "For Raytheon, the Israeli contracts—part of a 'coproduction' deal with Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems—present a potential financial windfall. Much of the work would be done at Raytheon's Tucson, Ariz., missile systems plant, as well by subcontractors across the country." Can you talk more about exactly what Raytheon does and if this Iron Dome system is now being sold to other countries?

THEODORE POSTOL: Well, I'm not aware of sales to other countries at this point. I haven't been following that part of the issue. On the question of foreign aid, in this case to Israel, it's very common—it's almost always the United States government requires that foreign aid largely be spent with—using American companies. And in the case of Raytheon, they are the premier company for basically building missiles and interceptors of all kinds. So, it's a natural business arrangement for Raytheon to be a big beneficiary of an agreement like that, because the money goes to Israel in a virtual way, but it basically is spent in the United States.

Now, this brings—this raises the question of the cost of these interceptors. The Israelis are saying—some Israelis are saying that the interceptors cost $20,000 each. Now, the reason for lowballing this number—I'll give you a sense of what it could cost—is because the interceptors, the Iron Dome interceptors, are intercepting rockets that might cost $500 or $1,000 each. So there's an issue of how much you should pay, assuming the system is working, for stopping an artillery rocket, especially if the passive defense, if the taking shelter, saves lives. And, you know, for example, how many artillery shells cause $20,000 or $100,000 worth of damage. And the actual cost of an Iron Dome interceptor is almost certainly well over $100,000, not the $20,000 that some Israeli sources seem to be saying. Now, just to give you a sense of how off the cost could be—again, we don't know at this point—another interesting fact, there's so much we don't know, yet people are throwing money at this. There's a comparable missile in its cost called the Sidewinder. It's an air-to-air missile that Raytheon manufactures and sells. The Iron Dome interceptor is very close to an air-to-air missile. It's a very small missile, weights about 200 pounds, and so does this air-to-air missile—different design, though. That costs $400,000 each. So how is it possible to build an interceptor that has the same advanced technology—it's not exactly the same, but similar—and roughly the same size, and it only costs $20,000 each? There's a significant question there about whether the Congress and the American people have accurate information about what this system is really costing.

AMY GOODMAN: So you're raising very serious questions about the effectiveness of Iron Dome. Hundreds of millions of dollars—in fact, more than the Obama administration has asked for—is being discussed in Congress to pour into this.


AMY GOODMAN: Mainly to Raytheon and other U.S. companies. Have you been called by anyone in Congress to testify, to raise your concerns?

THEODORE POSTOL: Of course not. Congress is not interested in information. What I can tell you, I have not been directly involved, but I have been privy to discussions with members of Congress who have oversight responsibilities, who have acknowledged in those discussions that they have no idea whether Iron Dome is working or not. And I can also tell you that the U.S. government has not been given any information on the performance of Iron Dome. So, when Susan Rice, the national security adviser, makes a statement about how well Iron Dome is working, somebody should ask Susan Rice what's her source, because I can tell you that there—and she should have a source. She should be able to tell you, you know, "We had the following national laboratory take the data from the Israelis. They looked at it. And let me tell you, this thing is working well." Instead, she gets on television and talks about this working well. Somebody should ask her, somebody in the press corps should do their due diligence and ask her, "Where did you get this information?"

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I mean, it's not just Susan Rice, the national security adviser. It's President Obama himself. This is what President Obama said.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There's no country on Earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets. And I'm proud that the Iron Dome system that Americans helped Israel develop and fund has saved many Israeli lives.

AMY GOODMAN: That's President Obama.

THEODORE POSTOL: Again, Mr. Obama should be able to answer the question of which American technical institution has obtained the data from the Israelis and verified the accuracy of the data and verified that the performance levels are what they are. I know that the Israelis have the data. They have radar data. They have video data in the visible. They have video data in the infrared. They have substantial amounts of data that they could and should make available to the United States, to our technical institutions, and have this data reviewed and certified. And any politician, whether it's the president or his national security adviser, who makes a claim that this system is performing that well, should be able to point a finger at the specific agency that has the technical resources to review this data and has obtained this data from the Israelis. This is just an outrage.

AMY GOODMAN: Theodore Postol, I want to thank you very much for being with us, professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a physicist, an expert in missiles and missile defense. We'll link to your piece in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that's headlined "The Evidence That Shows Iron Dome Is Not Working."

THEODORE POSTOL: Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman.

Categories: Media

A Venerable Jewish Voice for Peace

Democracy Now! - 12 hours 51 min ago

By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan

The Israeli assault on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip has entered its fourth week. This military attack, waged by land, sea and air, has been going on longer than the devastating assault in 2008/2009, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians. The death toll in this current attack is at least 1,300, overwhelmingly civilians. As this column was being written, the United Nations confirmed that a U.N. school in Gaza, where thousands of civilians were seeking shelter, was bombed by the Israeli Defense Forces, killing at least 20 people. The United Nations said it reported the exact coordinates of the shelter to the Israeli military 17 times.

Henry Siegman, a venerable dean of American Jewish thought and president of the U.S./Middle East Project, sat down for an interview with the Democracy Now! news hour. An ordained rabbi, Siegman is the former executive director of the American Jewish Congress and former executive head of the Synagogue Council of America, two of the major, mainstream Jewish organizations in the United States. He says the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories must end.

“There is a Talmudic saying in the ‘Ethics of the Fathers,’” Siegman started, “‘Don’t judge your neighbor until you can imagine yourself in his place.’ So, my first question when I deal with any issue related to the Israeli-Palestinian issue: What if we were in their place?”

He elaborated, “No country and no people would live the way Gazans have been made to live ... our media rarely ever points out that these are people who have a right to live a decent, normal life, too. And they, too, must think, ‘What can we do to put an end to this?’”

Click here to read the rest of the column posted at Truthdig.

Watch the 60-minute interview with Henry Siegman on Democracy Now!, which was aired in two parts.

Categories: Media

Video: Norman Finkelstein & 25 Others Arrested at Israeli U.N. Mission Protesting Gaza Assault

Democracy Now! - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 1:00pm

In New York City, a group of demonstrators blocked traffic by laying down in the streets outside Israel's Mission to the United Nations on Tuesday. Twenty-six people were arrested after refusing police orders to disperse. The action was organized by the author and scholar Norman Finkelstein.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: [echoed by the People's Mic] Who's prepared to get arrested will go down to the first light over here, and 10 of us will just lie down in the street

Well, I've been sitting in front of my computer for the past 21 days, morning and night, watching the horror unfold, and I felt I wasn't doing enough, I wasn't rising to the occasion, I wasn't acting commensurate to the horror. So I decide it's time to do something more, time to go past the computer, remove myself from the computer and get arrested.

OK, go! Lie down.

PROTESTERS: Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Occupation's got to go! Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Occupation's got to go!

GEORGE KHOURY: My name is George, and I'm here to protest against the racist apartheid state of Israel and the crimes they're committing daily against innocent Palestinian civilians. The mainstream media is ignoring their suffering and what they're going through, and we need to draw attention to it as much as possible in any way we can. I think I'm going to get arrested today.

LIZ ROBERTS: My name is Liz Roberts, and I was coming out to demonstrate at the Israeli Mission to the U.N. I arrived just to see an action unfolding. People were blocking the street, lying down in the street, chanting "The occupation has to go." And people are completely beside themselves with grief over what's happening to people in Gaza. There were probably about 20 or 24 people arrested. It was a very diverse group of people, multigenerational, multiracial, for really their outrage against what's happening to Gaza.

PROTESTERS: Hey, hey! Ho, ho! The occupation's got to go! Hey, hey! Ho, ho! The occupation's got to go!

Categories: Media

Bill O'Reilly's Pot Lie

FAIR Blog - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 10:47am
Bill O'Reilly edited the New York Times editorial calling for marijuana legalization in order to make it easier for him to debunk.
Categories: Media

Media Hype and Gaza's 'Terror' Tunnels

FAIR Blog - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 4:04pm
CNN and NY Times hype Israeli claims about Hamas tunnels--and omit some important facts.
Categories: Media

CBS' Host Bob Schieffer's Absurd Claims on Gaza

Alternet - Media Culture - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 1:37pm
The 'Face the Nation' host's comments come as Israeli attacks in Gaza has killed over 1,000.

Recent controversies over coverage of Gaza suggest that reporters can get into trouble over appearing too sympathetic to Palestinians (NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin) or too critical of some Israelis (CNN's Diana Magnay).

But some opinions are perfectly acceptable. On his July 27 show, CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer went on a rant about Palestinians:

In the Middle East, the Palestinian people find themselves in the grip of a terrorist group that has embarked on a strategy to get its own children killed in order to build sympathy for its cause, a strategy that might actually be working, at least in some quarters.

Last week, I found a quote of many years ago by Golda Meir, one of Israel's early leaders, which might have been said yesterday. "We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children," she said, "but we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill their children."

When he uttered these words, Israeli attacks on Gaza had killed over 1,000 people, the vast majority of them civilians, including several hundred children.

To suggest that Hamas desires that Palestinian children be murdered is offensive and irresponsible in the extreme. It's the basic mistake of worldviews like antisemitism and Islamophobia: assuming that the people you hate lack basic human motives and instead are driven by their inhuman, alien perspective.

When Schieffer notes that this Hamas scheme "might actually be working, at least in some quarters," he clearly means to exclude himself. As we noted earlier (FAIR Blog, 7/15/14), Schieffer expressed serious concern for Israelis who feel threatened by Hamas rockets–but no similar concern for the Palestinians who were dying due to Israeli attacks.

Perhaps Schieffer does not exhibit any concern for Palestinian lives because to do so, in his mind, would be to help Hamas win sympathy. Instead he refers back to Israeli icon Golda Meir's callous assertion that Israel is forced to kill Palestinian children–a comment that would be only cited, one would hope,  to demonstrate how political leaders should not react to the killing of children.

This is not the first time that Schieffer has exhibited this kind of attitude towards Palestinians. Back in 2006 (FAIR Action Alert, 7/19/06), Schieffer likened the conflict to an old fable:

Finally today, when the war broke out in the Middle East, the first thing I thought about was the old story of the frog and the scorpion who were trying to cross a river there. The scorpion couldn't swim, the frog was lost. So the scorpion proposed a deal, "Give me a ride on your back, and I'll show you the way." The frog agreed, and the trip went fine until they got to the middle of the river, and then suddenly the scorpion just stung the frog. As they were sinking, the frog asked, in his dying breath, "Why would you do that?" To which the scorpion replied, "Because this is the Middle East."

In Schieffer's scenario, Palestinians are the scorpion, stinging the helpful Israelis. As he explained, Israel had withdrawn from Gaza, just like the Palestinians had demanded, and yet decided to start a war anyway: "Why would fundamentalists in Gaza and Lebanon choose to provoke this war at this time? There is no real answer except this is the Middle East."

As FAIR pointed out, Schieffer's sketch of that history was totally misleading: Israeli did not withdraw from Gaza, but simply redeployed its forces around its border, controlling access via air, sea and land to maintain a devastating blockade.

But to him the history clearly doesn't matter. What matters is that CBS viewers know that Palestinians want their children to be killed–because this is the Middle East.

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Why Is Israel Attacking Gaza?

FAIR Blog - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 5:45pm
Journalism about the current violence is bound to focus on the death and destruction in Gaza. But there remains ample space to ask whether the war was launched to punish Hamas for something it had nothing to do with.
Categories: Media

7 Best Jon Stewart Clips on Israel

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 3:43pm
With his brand of cutting insight, the 'Daily Show' host offers his take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Last week, Jon Stewart addressed how hard it is to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in a sketch called “we need to talk about Israel.” Though he mocked both sides, to a certain extent, the bulk of the sketch went after those who see themselves as “pro-Israel” and see Jon Stewart as a self-loathing Jew.

Now, from what I can tell, having been called a self-loathing Jew myself, the term applies to people who make any criticism whatsoever of the Israeli government. One can easily make the case that more diplomatic solutions, dovish approaches if you will, are more helpful for the state of Israel and Israelis than more military or hawkish ones. That makes some of the self-loathers more “pro-Israel” than the ones who blindly support the government.

Stewart is one of the few public mainstream Jews with the chutzpah to say anything critical of Israel’s policies. And as a Jew, I appreciate the way he’s been doing this ever since he took over the Daily Show. So, without further ado, I present 7 great Daily Show skits on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


1. West Bank Story - Challahfax vs. Halalifax 


John Oliver and Aasif Mandvi debate whether Halifax belongs to Muslims Halalifax or to Jews, Challahfax.

The Daily Show
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2. The Matzorian Candidate


Stewart covers the Republican Jewish Coalition forum, AKA “The Great Tuchus Kiss Off,” where “incredibly religious Christian presidential candidates” are “fighting over who loves Jews more.”

The Daily Show
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3. Donors Unchained - Quid Pro Quo


In this episode Stewart is particularly fearless, as he goes after Sheldon Adelson’s ability to not only sway politics, but sway Israel-related politics. We learn that Chris Christies apologized to Adelson for daring to call the West Bank “Occupied Territories.” Stewart responds by asking the audience a rhetorical question: “Still don’t think money has a more general corrupting influence on politics? Cause I can tell you this. My family is full of 80 year old Jews who would very much like to tell poiticians what words they can and cannot use to describe Israel. But as of this taping no presidential hopefuls have flown to their house to solicit that opinion.”


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4. Crazies of Summer


Here Stewart pretends to me touched by the IDF’s charitable policy of giving Palestians advance warning (10 minutes) before bombing their houses. He then asks, “What are the Gazans supposed to do? Evacuate to where? Have you fucking seen Gaza?! Israel blocked this border and Egypt blocked this border. What are they supposed to do? Swim for it?!


5. Crazies of Summer


In the same segment, Stewart goes on to explain how the outfits of the reporters in Gaza and Israel capture the asymmetry of the conflict: “The Gaza reporter looks like an extra from the hurt locker. While the reporter in Israel looks like he’s gonna bang out his stand up and then head to a jimmy buffet concert. They’re a living political cartoon for the war in the Middle East. “


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6. Let's Break a Deal



In this segment, Stewart mocks the politicians who were undermining President Obama’s negotiations with Iran by pushing for the Iran “Nuclear Weapon Free Act.” Stewart feigns confusion over why Democrats would oppose Obama’s nuclear diplomacy and then cuts to former democratic Congresswoman lobbyist Jane Harmon, who says, “big parts of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States being against it, the country of Israel being against that’s ah a stiff hill to climb.” Stewart then continues with fake calm, “ Oh well that makes sense The senators from the Great State of Israel are against it and we don’t want to go against the senators from the Great Sta.. wait a minute that’s not in our country that’s a whole other country entirely. Why do we have to listen to them?”

He then pretends to explain why Israel’s special treatment makes sense. “I mean Israel is our ally and I guess Iran is pretty provocative….” Stewart then cuts to a Fox News reporter who says there were “Some outrageous comments from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the recent nuclear deal between the U.S. and other Western powers.” Stewart then adds, “Ooh, outrageous comments from Rouhani. Ooh, I have them right here, actually. Here's what he said. ‘Secretary of State John Kerry turned up here, acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor. ... The American security plan ... is not worth the paper it's printed on.’ You can't talk smack about America and not get hit hard, Iran! That shit don't... (listens to earpiece) wait, I'm sorry, I'm being told... I'm sorry, that statement wasn't from the Iranian President Rouhani, it was from the Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon. I apologize. I'm sorry, I apologize. He was talking about the Palestinian peace talks situation, and his lack of interest in a two-state solution. That's my bad.

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7. How do you solve a problem like Sharia

March 8, 2011

Here, Stewart not only goes after Islamophobia but the Israeli settlers in the West Bank. We learn that Congressman Peter King is holding hearings on radicalization of American Muslims, because these Muslims are not doing enough to stop homegrown terrorism. Stewart says, “Wow. It’s not enough for US Muslims to be law-abiding. To avoid Congressional investigation, they have to be actively stopping terror plots.” Then he adds, “Oh my God. Wait until they find out I’ve done nothing to stop the West Bank settlements!”

The Daily Show
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6 of the Most Outrageous and Ignorant Celebrity Rants Supporting Israel’s Assault on Gaza

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 3:09pm
You wouldn't believe how ignorant these celebrity rants are.

The Israeli assault on Gaza has sparked intense, and often vitriolic, debate across the U.S., and the entertainment business is no exception. A number of Hollywood celebrities have come out in protest of the bombardment of the people of Gaza by Israeli air strikes and artillery, a signal that the mainstream discourse in the U.S., Israel’s number-one ally, is shifting. But the opposing side has also come out swinging.

Pro-Israel celebrities have voiced support for the assault, lambasting other stars in the same business for critiquing the state they support. The high-profile back and forth is a window into how polarizing Israel has become after decades of largely uncritical support in the U.S.

Here are six pro-Israel celebrities who have spoken up in recent days.

1. Joan Rivers. This American actress and comedian delivered what celebrity news website called a “rant”in support of Israel over the weekend.

Speaking to a TMZ reporter who caught her at an airport, Rivers slammed U.S. media coverage of Israel’s attack on Gaza for being too sympathetic to Palestinians. She said “BBC should be ashamed of themselves. And CNN should be ashamed of themselves.” But what was even more striking was her calls to “wipe” Gaza out.

“If New Jersey were firing rockets into New York, we would wipe them out,” said Rivers. (The analogy only works if New York occupied and put New Jersey under a crippling air, land and sea blockade.) Asked about civilian casualties in Gaza, Rivers echoed Israeli army claims by saying, “don’t put your goddamn things in private homes! I’m sorry, don’t you dare put weapons stashes in private homes.”

Rivers also unleashed a torrent of criticism at Selena Gomez, the pop star who sent out an Instagram post praying for the people of Gaza. “Let’s see if she can spell Palestinian,” she said.

2. Howard Stern. Long a supporter of Israel, Stern did not hold back when a caller on his radio show said that Israel was to blame for the current crisis. His profanity-filled ranton SiriusXM went viral. 

“I’m so tired of the bullshit. If you’re anti-Israel than you’re anti-America. It’s the only democracy over there, it’s the only friend we have who’s willing to fight and stand up for what’s right.” said Stern. He also lashed out at Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, who is one of the most prominent supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel over human rights violations. Stern said Waters should “shut his mouth.”

3. Bill Maher. The comedian is a darling of liberals, but when it comes to Israel, the host of HBO’s “Real Time” is all for war.

Maher kicked up a storm of controversy over a Twitter message he sent that read: “Dealing w/ Hamas is like dealing w/ a crazy woman who's trying to kill u — u can only hold her wrists so long before you have to slap her.”

On his show, he agreed with conservative guest, Daily Caller writer Jamie Weinstein, on the Gaza conflict. “If it’s your father, your brother, your uncle who’s firing those rockets into Israel, who’s fault is it really? Do you really expect the Israelis not to retaliate?” said Maher. He also got in a crude anti-Muslim joke. “Jews have, I think, 155 Nobel Prizes, Muslims have two. That seems like kind of a big advantage for team Hebrew.”

4. Jon Voight. Speaking at a pro-Israel rally in Las Vegas, the Academy Award-winning actor said that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry “do not really have Israel’s back covered as they say they do. Instead of telling Hamas to stop sending rockets into Israel aimed at its civilian population, they say Israel has to stop killing civilians. What a travesty of justice.”

5. Omri Casspi. The Israeli basketball player, formerly of the Houston Rockets, has used his public platform to defend the state he was born in.

“600 missiles been fired from GAZA by Hamas in the last 4 days. NUMBERS DONT LIE. STOP LYING,” he tweeted on July 12. That tweet came after his former teammate Dwight Howard sent out a message that read, “Free Palestine.” After a firestorm of controversy, Howard deleted the tweet, saying he would not comment on international politics anymore.

In an interview with the Sacramento Bee, Casspi doubled down on his position. “I think of the people in Gaza… they think Jewish people are monsters with three heads. But Hamas is using humans as shields and building tunnels under people’s houses. What do we do?”

6. Mark Pellegrino. Americans may not know his name, but they probably know his face. Pellegrino has appeared in the popular television shows “Lost” and “Dexter” and the movie The Big Lebowski, among others. His social media messages have been supportive of Israel.

“Great quote from an Israeli Lt. Col: ‘Israel uses weapons to safeguard civilians. Hamas uses civilians to safeguard weapons.’” he wrote. He added: “not Israel's fault that those terroristic cowards hide behind children and fire rockets from apartment complexes. then display the bodies of the children they used as human shields to shame the Israelis. The shame is entirely on Hamas.”

Bonus: Jeff Halevy. "The Today’s Show" fitness correspondent won’t be well-known to most Americans. Nevertheless, he is on TV a lot, and he is also voicing support for Israel on Twitter. Responding to journalist Michael Tracey, Halevy said: “Israel shouldn't eradicate those who preempted the action by firing missiles at it?” He followed up with more tweets, including one that read: “Israel sought peace when it gave Gaza to the Palestinians in 2005 & all they’ve gotten in return is incessant rocket fire.”

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CBS Host: Palestinians Force Israel to Kill Kids

FAIR Blog - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 3:00pm
CBS host Bob Schieffer shares his theory that Palestinians want their kids to be killed.
Categories: Media

15 Funniest Twitter Suggestions for Shows on New Sarah Palin TV Channel

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 2:46pm
"Death Panels, She Wrote," and lots, lots more.

The Twittersphere was quick to respond to the hilarious news that Sarah Palin will start her own TV channel on the Internet, so she can get around all that icky "politically correct" stuff she hates in the mainstream media, and just talk to folks unfiltered. For only $99.95 a year, you can be a subscriber, although given her past patterns, it's not clear Palin will stick with it for an entire year. Something better might come up.

Numerous wits proposed show titles under #PalinTVShows.

Here's a sampling of the best suggestions with their author's Twitter tags. Sarah, listen up. Some very good ideas here.

1. "Really Easy Jeopardy"


2. "Back Alley McBeal"


3. "Death Panels, She Wrote"


4. "I Love Lucy But Deport Ricky"

@DavidCornDC (yes, that David Corn)

5. "Meet the Press . . . Never"


6. "Say Yes to the Confederate Flag Dress"


7. "James and the Giant Impeach"

@lizzwinstead (Yeupp, again. She's good.)

8. "The Sorest Loser"


9. "My Three Guns"


10. "Sarah the Vocabulary Slayer"


11. "Who Wants to Be a Shill-ionaire"


12. "Gone With the Windbag"

@FrankJPaladino (again)

13. "Camo Is the New Black"


14. "Mama Grizzly Addams Family Values"


15. "The Weakest Wink"







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Why the NYT's Call For Marijuana Legalization Is a Huge Deal

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 1:58pm
The paper of record linked the govt's marijuana ban to the disastrous alcohol prohibition policy of the 1930's.

The New York Times editorial board made history Sunday, as the first major national paper to call for an end to marijuana prohibition. And how they did it is half the story -- with rare flash and panache, as well as the intellectual and moral substance to back it up.

The Times' editorial has the feel of legendary CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite coming out against the Vietnam War. They dropped a bomb on our country's disastrous war on marijuana with unprecedented force.

Some people think of the Times' editorial page as a liberal mouthpiece -- but when it comes to marijuana prohibition and the drug war, they've been extremely cautious and conservative. In previous decades, the Times did as much as any other media outlet to legitimize drug war hysteria and its disastrous policies.

For them to pull no punches in rejecting the prohibitionist policies that their predecessors embraced speaks to the broader inter-generational transformation underway in America -- not just with the issue of ending marijuana prohibition, but also LGBT rights and other issues as well. It gives us hope that America can evolve, both morally and intellectually, in a more enlightened direction.

Just look at the content. The paper of record forcefully called the federal government to end the ban on marijuana, linking marijuana prohibition to the failed alcohol prohibition policy of the 1930's, while noting that marijuana is a less dangerous substance than alcohol. They also cited our country's massive, racially disproportionate numbers of marijuana arrests as further provocation for their position.

But the content is only part of the story -- the paper also put passion and juice behind it. The cover of the Sunday Review was splashed with an enormous image of an American flag, with marijuana leaves replacing the stars. I have never seen a Times editorial take up three-quarters of the cover of the Sunday Review.

In addition to the cover editorial, two Times' columnists wrote accompanying pieces, "Let States Decide on Marijuana" and "The Public Lightens Up About Weed."

These editorials had the feel of a manifesto and a campaign for the Times, and the paper announced that they were just the start. There will be a six-part series on marijuana legalization in which editorial staff examine a range of related issues such as criminal justice, public health, regulatory models, and so forth. As the "paper of record," the Times' advocacy on this issue has already created a tidal wave of media attention, with TV coverage on theSunday morning shows and a worldwide echo of follow-up stories.

It's worth noting that the Times' position is not actually that cutting-edge -- they are simply catching up with the majority of Americans who now support marijuana legalization.

And think about what this means for electoral politics. Even though marijuana reform has moved from the fringes to the mainstream of American politics in recent years, support has lagged among elected officials and other major institutions.

The Times has now provided elected officials with more evidence that ending marijuana prohibition and the drug war is not just the right thing to do -- it's also smart politics. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in this year's election, and especially in 2016 -- when Presidential candidates and other key figures will be obliged to take a position on this issue.

Marijuana arrests have been the key engine driving our country's devastating war on drugs. Tens of millions of lives have been damaged because of a marijuana possession arrest. The most powerful news outlet in the world coming on board, with the passion they did, should speed up an exit strategy from this long-lost war.

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Sarah Palin Launches Her Own Channel—Just What the World Needed

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 12:55pm
Now you can subscribe to Palin, unfiltered. OMG! Can't wait! Sarah Palin says she's fed up with traditional news media outlets. So she's starting her own online channel.

In a Sunday video, the former Republican vice presidential nominee announced the Sarah Palin Channel, a subscription-based Web site that she says will offer news, video chats with her and behind-the-scenes glimpses of speeches and political events she attends.

Hot damn, this is going to be some awesome content. Who wouldn't want to pay $9.95 month—discounted to just $99.95 for a year—to get inside "updates on the 'fun' in her household"?

Plus, it's awesome she's giving away some really great free content, like that countdown timer on how many days, hours, minutes, and seconds are left until President Obummer is no longer our commander in chief. I think I'll be checking that every day, because I, for one, am super excited for that day when we finally get a Real American President like Hillary Clinton, who Sarah Palin will obviously endorse because if you're a conservative woman and you can't endorse a female candidate for president just because she's a Democrat then you are obviously sexist.

But the thing about this that makes me most proud to be an American is here is an example of a citizen who has spent her life outside the system, except for those years when she was running for city council and mayor and governor and vice president and maybe president, taking advantage of a technology that is completely outside the realm of government control, except for that little part about DARPA research having been essential to its creation, and using that fearsome individualism to build her own media network outside the reach of Big Government or Big Corporations—unless, of course, she gets her way on Net Neutrality, in which case we won't just be paying a $9.95 monthly fee to her, we'll have to pay an additional $5.00 a month to Comcast or Time Warner in order to be able to access her website. But it will still be totally worth it.

p.s.: In case you were thinking about alternate names for the show, a few ideas:

James And  The Giant Impeach #PalinTVShows
— @lizzwinstead I Love Lucy But Deport Ricky #PalinTVShows
— @DavidCornDC My Three Guns #PalinTVShows
— @Will_Bunch  


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Paul Krugman Lays Bare Latest Corporate Scheme to Rob American Taxpayers

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 11:03am
It's called 'inversion,' and Congress could close this outrageous loophole right now.

If corporations are people, as the Supreme Court says, then why don't they have to pay taxes? Paul Krugman expresses outrage about the latest corporate scheme to dodge taxes in today's New York Times column

Admittedly, corporations do still pay some taxes. "The federal government still gets a tenth of its revenue from corporate profits taxation," the Nobel-prize winning economist writes. "But it used to get a lot more — a third of revenue came from profits taxes in the early 1950s, a quarter or more well into the 1960s. Part of the decline since then reflects a fall in the tax rate, but mainly it reflects ever-more-aggressive corporate tax avoidance — avoidance that politicians have done little to prevent."

The latest of these aggressive tax-avoidance ploys is called “inversion.” And as Krugman explains, it's a purely legal maneuver that allows companies to claim that its "U.S. operations are owned by its foreign subsidiary, not the other way around, and uses this role reversal to shift reported profits out of American jurisdiction to someplace with a lower tax rate."

The company does not need to move overseas to do this. What a quaint and old-fashioned notion. It's all done on paper. Sometimes, it might involve opening an office somewhere abroad. The most egregious current example is Walgreen, which will continue to operate its thriving pharmacy business in the U.S. (have no fear, your local Walgreen's will remain) but for purely tax reasons, is reportedly about to declare itself Swiss, which "will deprive the U.S. government of several billion dollars in revenue that you, the taxpayer, will have to make up one way or another," Krugman writes.

That's what we have legislatures for, right? To rein in these corporate bad actors. Congress could rather easily crack down on this tax dodge. Why doesn't it?


Opponents of a crackdown on inversion typically argue that instead of closing loopholes we should reform the whole system by which we tax profits, and maybe stop taxing profits altogether. They also tend to argue that taxing corporate profits hurts investment and job creation. But these are very bad arguments against ending the practice of inversion.

First of all, there are some good reasons to tax profits. In general, U.S. taxes favor unearned income from capital over earned income from wages; the corporate tax helps redress this imbalance. We could, in principle, maintain taxes on unearned income if we offset cuts in corporate taxes with substantially higher tax rates on income from capital gains and dividends — but this would be an imperfect fix, and in any case, given the state of our politics, this just isn’t going to happen.  Furthermore, ending profits taxation would greatly increase the power of corporate executives. Is this really something we want to do?

Easy question, we know.

Yes, yes, yes, Krugman writes, the system should be reformed. But that does not appear to be happening any time soon, given the current obstructionist posse in the Republican-controlled House. We can't wait for that to get Walgreen's and its like to pay their share.



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6 Despicable Right-Wing Moments This Week: Fox News' Anti-Immigrant Hysteria

Alternet - Media Culture - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 6:45pm
Brian Kilmeade wonders why 911 calls from Spanish speakers have to be answered.

1. Hannity invites Palestinian guest on his show and proceeds to yell at him the whole time.

Fox’s Sean Hannity’s position on the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is that if you have any sympathy for Palestinians including civilians in Gaza, you sympathize with terrorists. Or maybe you are a terrorist. All the more so if you are a Muslim. And so, perhaps, it should not have been surprising when he invited Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of The Jerusalem Fund for Education and Community Development and its educational program, the Palestine Center, on his show in order to shout at him, and not let him speak.

The exchange, and we use the word 'exchange' loosely, went something like this:

“Is Hamas a terrorist organization?” Hannity asked.

 “Do I get to actually speak now?” Munayyer answered.

“You have to answer the question, it’s a simple yes or no question,” Hannity said.

“Sir, you invited me on here as a guest,” Munayyer said. He continued to try to speak, but Hannity wasn’t having it.

“I’m asking a question. Is Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel, is that a terrorist organization?” Hannity shouted. “That’s a yes or no question.”

“Thank you for your question, now I will provide an answer,” Muayyer said.

Hannity kept shouting. Somehow Munayyer could be heard saying:  “It’s very telling to me, and it should be telling to your viewers as well, that the moment you have a Palestinian voice on your program who begins to explain the legitimate grievances of the Palestinians, not just Hamas...”

Hannity cut off Munayyer, shouting at him to answer the question. At one point, Munayyer said that “the United States certainly considers Hamas a terrorist organization we all know that.”

“Is Hamas a terrorist organization? What part of this can’t you get through your thick head?” Hannity said.

Yeesh, rude much?

At the end of the exchange, Munayyer asked again if he would “get to say anything in this conversation.”

Hannity responded, “You had your chance, you didn’t say Hamas is a terrorist organization. Goodbye.”

That’s dialogue, Hannity style.

Watch the video here.

2. Michele Bachmann: Gays want to ‘freely prey on little children sexually.’ Oh, and she might run for president in 2016, yay!

Praise the Lord! Uber-Christian Michele Bachmann said this week she is contemplating a run for president in 2016. She said things like “Practice makes perfect,” since she tried this once before, raised lots of money and attended 15 debates. In February, she said that she didn’t think the country was ready for a woman president. Guess she changed her mind. Or maybe she just doesn’t remember saying that.

Because she does have some very important things on her mind, like her delusion that LGBT people are trying to make it legal to rape children in the U.S. and impose their “deviancy” on the entire country. She shared this hysterically insane view with a Christian radio show called Faith and Liberty.

Right Wing Watch also reported that Bachmann claimed that the “gay community” is taking steps to “abolish age of consent laws, which means we will do away with statutory rape laws so that adults will be able to freely prey on little children sexually. That’s the deviance that we’re seeing embraced in our culture today.”

Oblivious to the fact that she is inciting hate with these statements, she also said that “national hate crime laws” are a form of “tyrannical” oppression that liberals will use to silence Christians in this country. Self awareness is not her strong suit.

And of course, she’s upset with the Supreme Court for striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. When she’s president, things like that won’t happen, and marriage will only be between men and women, possibly multiple men and women, but definitely men and women.

3. ESPN commentator says women should take responsibility for being abused, and is then annoyed by the fact that women "misconstrue" his meaning.

Save a spot for ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith in the club for men who just don’t get it. The co-host of “First Take” rambled on about domestic violence this week and how deplorable it is, and eventually asked why women don’t take more responsibility when they are violently assaulted by their partners. He also voiced his bewilderment about why society doesn’t pressure women to “prevent the situation from happening,” and by “situation” he means being violently attacked by a male mate.


There was, of course, an uproar on the Internet, and that really pissed Smith off, because he thought he made it abundantly clear that he thinks it is totally wrong for men to lay hands on women.  Why was everyone focusing on the part of his monologue where he said: “We also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation. Not that there’s real provocation, but the elements of provocation, you got to make sure that you address them, because we’ve got to do what we can to try to prevent the situation from happening in any way. And I don’t think that’s broached enough, is all I’m saying.”

That was all he was saying.

Still, in his eyes, people “misconstrued” his meaning by saying he was blaming women in some way when he laid out the classic abuser's argument that the victim somehow provoked the abuse. He composed quite a long tweet about how ANNOYED he was at that, and how he wasn’t BLAMING women for anything, proving just how much he continues not to get it.

Frankly, he felt a little provoked by it.

h/t Salon, Part. 1.

And Part 2

4. Fox & Friends does not think 9-1-1 should respond to calls from non-English speakers. 'Cause they might not be citizens.

Fox & Friends found a unique, and uniquely mean-spirited angle on the undocumented immigrant/unaccompanied minor story this week. Host Brian Kilmeade grilled a Texas official about providing emergency services to undocumented migrants. Kilmeade wondered if calls from immigrants have to be answered, "even though for the most part, when you get there, you realize they're not even American citizens."

The oh-so-fair-minded discussion was about how in Brooks County, Texas, immigrants are positively "bombarding" the police department with 911 calls. On the positive side, Kilmeade likes this because maybe those pesky immigrants are learning the hard way that crossing the border is no picnic. But on the other hand, can’t the emergency service people just ignore those calls?

To illustrate this humanitarian point, Fox & Friends aired two emergency calls from Spanish speakers who were both identified on-screen as "Immigrant." In one, a clearly distressed man asks for help for a cousin who he describes as turning blue. In the second, a man and a woman are telling the operator that they have not had access to water for a few days.

Why do you have to answer those? Kilmeade heartlessly wondered.

No joke, just a WTF is wrong with these people?

h/t mediamatters

5. Steve King: Obama not American because he was not raised with the “American experience.”

With the whole birther thing pretty much laid to rest except for the most out-there reality-refusers, like Donald Trump, xenophonic Obama haters must come up with another way to attack the president’s American-ness. Enter Steve King, the immigrant-hating, tea-partying Congressman from Iowa who has hit on another way to suggest the president is foreign.

“His vision of America isn’t like our version of America,” he told a crowd at an immigration reform rally this week, a crowd which, shall we say, was somewhat predisposed to disliking 1) immigrants; and 2) black presidents. “Now I don’t assert where he was born, I will just tell you that we are all certain that he was not raised with an American experience. So these things that beat in our hearts when we hear the National Anthem and when we say the Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t beat the same for him.”

Those three years Obama spent not living in America turned him into a furriner, all right.

And Steve King, who 'knows for a fact' that immigrants are just drug mules in disguise with their “cantaloupe calves” is also the world’s foremost expert on what makes the president’s heart beat.

6. Pat Robertson: Your son’s pregnant girlfriend is ‘stained.’

Ever the voice of compassion and reason, televangelist Pat Robertson urged parents whose son had impregnated his girlfriend not to kick her out, despite the fact that she is a “stained woman.”

So kind. And so modern.

Yes, Uncle Pat acknowledged. There was a time when people would have kicked out this "stained woman," and he was a bit nostalgic for that.  In an email, a viewer coincidentally also named Pat told the 700 Club preacher that he and his wife had allowed the unmarried couple to live in their house because they were expecting a baby. But Pat, the email writer, and his wife were very upset because they suspect the son and his “stained woman” were having sex in the house.

The horror. The fornicators.

“It seems like fornication to us,” he wrote. “What is the line for us to help but not enable continued sin? Are WE sinning by allowing them both to live in our house?”

Robertson was most sympathetic and just as upset as the writer that times have changed (about fifty years ago.)

“You know, the old thing was the little girl would show up on the doorstep with a baby, and the harsh father would slam the door in her face and say, ‘Go forth, you stained woman,’” Robertson said. “Look, that kid is going to be your grandchild, and it’s not a question of the fact that you’re now trying to keep them from having sex, they’ve already had sex, and they’re going to have a baby.”

Good that he cleared that up. Also, he was helpful on the definition of the word 'bastard,' which is what that kid is going to be.

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VIDEO: Bill Maher to Neil deGrasse Tyson: 'Republicans Dislike You Because You're a Scientist and Black'

Alternet - Media Culture - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 11:45pm
If there is anything right-wingers hate, it's a smart black man who says humans are insignificant.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist who hosts the hit show "Cosmos," was a guest on Bill Maher's "Real Time with Bill Maher" on HBO Friday night, and Tyson received standing ovation. Rare for a scientist, Maher joked.

But Tyson, of course, has his critics, including the right-wingers at the National Review, who put Tyson on the cover of their print magazine recently with the coverline, "Smarter Than Thou."

Why don't they (meaning Republicans) like you? Maher wondered.

Then he answered his own question by saying, "I think they don’t like you because you’re a scientist, and a black one, and you’re smarter than they are."

Tyson thought it might have something to do with the glorification of "nerd culture" and how people in that world generally vote democratic. But Maher is pretty sure racial jealousy plays a major part, as with Obama.

The other thing that galls the right is how scientists are always pointing out how insignificant human life is, and how random. "That offends them," Maher said.

"Sure, insignificance can be depressing, but there’s another way of looking at it," Tyson replied. "We’re connected genetically to a tree. That's cool."

Maher was skeptical: "C’mon, they have problems with apes."

Tyson insisted that our interconnectedness with the universe was practically spiritual. "We should celebrate that, not be pissed off by that."

Tyson went on to clear up some other misconceptions, like the recent CNN hysteria about solar flares practically hitting earth and wiping out all humanity.

"The sun is gurgling place," he explained, using more words than that..

"Talk slower," Maher said, trying to keep up.

"Sometimes it burps up plasma. Sometimes they head towards earth. When they collide with the earth’s atmosphere, it sets it aglow. Everytime you see the northern lights, we have just been slammed by a plasma pie."

"That damn CNN. Always trying to scare me," Bill said.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! also appeared on the show, making trenchant points about U.S. foreign policy and how the military option should be taken off the table. "Just do the opposite of what Dick Cheney says," she suggested. She and Tyson seemed in full agreement that the death penalty, such as the torturous execution in Arizona this week, should also be taken off the table.

See the Tyson segment here:


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5 Signs of Madness in the Media This Week: Tom Friedman Compares Gaza Disaster to Broadway Edition

Alternet - Media Culture - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 5:53pm
Disturbing coverage, with a hat tip to NYT's skewed Israel coverage.

The mainstream and right-wing media continues to be a bubbling pot of overblown hysteria and wild propaganda against the public interest. Here are some of the more disturbing episodes from this week, from the war on Clintons to the New York Times unbending PR-blitz for Israel. 


War, war, war, planes shot from skies, gore in the Middle East, nothing deters our faithful scribes from serving up reheated delicacies off the putrefying banquet that is Clintoniana.  Is it too much to hope that if we get the salacious stuff out of the way now, we won't have to put up with four —or god forbid,  eight — years of it under a President HRC? Delving deep into the “Who Cares” Files, Lloyd Grove over at the Daily Beastly scans the L section of the index in Daniel Halper’s "Clinton, Inc." book.

Turns out Monica blew off an opportunity to do a commercial wearing a blue gap dress on which she spills International Delight Coffee Creamer, with the comment, “Oh no , not again.” Grove plucked seamy lines from that squirm-inducing, Barbara Walters pitch letter to Monica, and shared it in all its “simpering sycophancy and self-celebration, garnished by veiled threat."  From Grove’s long gloss: “It is no crime to sell your story,” Walters wrote to Lewinsky in November 1998, “but I don’t have to tell you what public opinion will then be: You will be viewed as an opportunist. ‘We have known it all along,’ the critics will say. ‘This is the kind of person Monica Lewinsky is.’…But beyond the payment, I fully believe that no one else could possibly do the kind of interview that I could do. It isn’t only my own reputation for fairness and integrity. It is also that you and I have a trust and respect for each other that will permeate the screen.”       

Mining the same rich vein, scribes at the New York Daily News trolled advance pages of a memoir by journalist Lucinda Franks to find a 1999 interview in which Hillary blamed Bill’s philandering ways on Virginia Kelly’s child abuse — details of which are never shared. The story ran on the front page of Gotham’s left-leaning tabloid


Last week, New York Times' Tom Friedman road-tested themes that he will either use in his next book or his next Davos speech, maybe both. In a column called "Order Versus Disorder, Part 2", he put Gaza in global context. Clearly, Israel is on the side of order according to Friedman. But he also claimed that Israel’s action is original and a sign of things to come.

“I’ve argued for a while now that it is always useful to study the Israeli-Arab conflict because it is to the wider war of civilizations what Off Broadway is to Broadway. A lot of stuff starts there and then goes to Broadway. So what’s playing Off Broadway these days? The Israeli-Arab conflict has become a miniature of the most relevant divide in the world today: the divide between the “world of order” and the “world of disorder.”

Putting aside the appropriateness of using a Broadway show metaphor for the unfolding carnage, his theme is just plain wrong.  The Israeli show isn’t based on an original screenplay at all. In excusing a massive Palestinian civilian death toll as acceptable collateral damage, and aiming for total civil society breakdown, the Israelis are merely producing a lower-budget version of that 2003 American blockbuster called Shock and Awe.


Traditionally, its coverage of Israel has been sympathetic, to say the least, and when the Times is even slightly off message on that nation, staunchly pro-Israel New Yorkers beat up on it. As the body count approached 32 dead Israelis and 718 dead Palestinians (do the math, 1 Israeli = 22.4 Palestinians), the paper of record decided to go in-depth on Page One on how Israeli society might react to a single missing Israeli soldier.

In "A Blast, A Fire and an Israeli Soldier Goes Missing," Jerusalem embeds Kershner and Rudoren,  cinematically recount the disappearance of IDF Sgt. Oron Shaul, in Gaza. 

“It was around 1 a.m. when the decades-old Israeli armored personnel carrier rumbled into the Gaza Strip on Sunday and headed for Shejaiya, a Hamas stronghold on the eastern edge of Gaza City. Seven soldiers were crammed inside, including Sgt. Oron Shaul, 21, from the Golani infantry brigade … .”  

A few paragraphs in, the story explains why this particular incident – tragic, yes – deserved this level of attention, at this time: “Capturing an Israeli soldier — or even withholding a soldier’s remains — can have a powerful impact on Israeli society, more in some ways than death.”  

Putting this unfortunate editorial decision in context:  It’s hard to imagine a Times story going in depth with such dramatic relish from inside the other side, and with a topic sentence like this: “Killing a Palestinian can have a powerful impact on Palestinian society.”


Down in Fortress Texas, Prince Ricky, camo-clad on a speedboat on the Rio Grande, pulled a demonstrably untrue “fact” about murderous illegal aliens out of his hat a few weeks ago. He said of 203,000 “illegal aliens” who had crossed the border in the last five years, they committed 3,000 homicides and 8,000 sexual assaults.

To combat the incoming criminals (who might be using the undocumented children as a ruse), Prince Ricky mobilized 1,000 Texas National Guard troops as a “force multiplier” to a “surge” in state Department of Public Safety officers patrolling the borders of the Lone Star State.

The Austin Statesman subjected those figures to “politifact” check and found them, umm, wanting in veracity. The site consulted a criminologist at John Jay College in NYC, who examined FBI Uniform Crime Statistics for Texas and calculated that from 2008 through 2012, 3,903 persons were arrested on homicide charges in the state. If Perry is right, that would mean almost every homicide committed in the state of Texas was committed by an undocumented immigrant.

Not one to attend to fact-checks pumped out of liberal institutions like colleges, Rush Limbaugh recycled the number for his minions, in a report this week on how the White House was sending a team down to the border.

“Now, if Obama's team of experts — if they get back alive, 'cause, I mean, that news that Governor Perry had last night? I mean, 203,000 people in the last five years were booked into jail. That's not the total number that came across. That's just the number came across ended up in jail— and of those 203,000, 3,000 homicides, 8,000 sexual assaults.”

5. RIGHT-WING SCHOOL PROPOGANDA Republican Florida state senator Alan Hayes plans to introduce a bill that would make Dinesh D'Souza's soon to be released  "docudrama," America: Imagine a World Without Her, required viewing for students in the state’s 1,700 Florida public high schools and middle schools. The Hollywood Reporter broke that story. Among the stunts in the film, which proposes that Americans are under attack by their own government, the former conservative whiz kid-turned-dingbat interviews the President’s Kenyan half-brother George Obama, but insists he’s not a wink-wink, Birther.

We look forward to the sequel, “Florida: Imagine a State Where School children are Force-fed Rightwing Claptrap.”


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Media Titan Rupert Murdoch's Latest Media Takeover Plot Is His Most Audacious Yet

Alternet - Media Culture - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 12:00pm
If the titan is successful in his bid, the mega deal would be bad for everyone.

Rupert Murdoch is one of the world's richest men, and the owner of News Corporation, which operates Fox News, The New York Post, and other major outlets.

In addition to effectively owning countless news outlets across the world, Murdoch is also owner of movie and television powerhouse 21st Century Fox. Earlier this month, Murdoch made a nearly $80 billion offer to have 21st Century Fox takeover Time Warner, a move that was rejected by the company.

But Murdoch has not given up on his quest to merge the two media titans. As The New York Times noted, he is “determined and unlikely to walk away anytime soon, people briefed on the matter said. And he has a track record of pursuing companies that first said no before giving in.” This week it was reported that 21st Century Fox may be planning to increase its offer after its sale of Italian and German Sky TV holdings, which would generate an extra $13.5 billion.

While much of the press has focused on whether Murdoch will be successful in his bid, the bigger question is: what happens if he is?

A Mega Merger That Threatens Everyone

If Murdoch is successful in his latest bid, he will be furthering media consolidation in an era where an increasingly small pool of companies control most of what Americans see. For example, four companies own virtually all of local media, as this interactive map from media freedom group Free Press shows. Some are saying that the merger is itself a response to Comcast's move on Time Warner Cable and AT&T's move on DirectTV – meaning that mergers are leading to more mergers.

A Time Warner merger with 21st Century Fox would allow Murdoch to put companies such as HBO, TNT, and TBS (Time Warner) under the same umbrella as Fox News and FX (Fox has said it would sell CNN to avoid running afoul of antitrust laws). The Los Angeles Times notes that one of the first losers under such a massive merger could be writers and producers:

What would likely be of tremendous concern would be the power a 21st Century Fox - Time Warner combination would have in the creative community, specifically writers and producers looking to make television shows and movies.

The majority of TV shows and movies are produced by just a handful of companies -- Time Warner, 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney Co., Comcast's NBCUniversal and Sony Corp. A merger of two of the biggest producers would eliminate a buyer and give that entity a lot of leverage.

"The increased buying power 21st Century Fox would have is a huge antitrust issue I would expect the Justice Department to look at," said Derek Turner, research director of Free Press, a media watchdog group.

Essentially, the people who do the laborious work producing the television Americans enjoy would be facing an increasingly small cartel-like operation of owners who actually buy their productions, an easy way to further reduce their wages and increase company profits.

Given the benefits to the companies of being able to put the squeeze on those who produce the programming, why was Time Warner hesitant? Vox's Matt Yglesias explains one likely reason: Time Warner's shareholders would likely lose out due to Murdoch's insistence on keeping control of voting shares of the company:

The merger makes business sense, and the price Murdoch is offering — about a 22 percent premium over the current market price of Time Warner shares — is fair. Nonetheless, Time Warner executives and board members are raising one big objection to the merger. Murdoch is offering some cash to Time Warner shareholders, but most of the purchase would be financed with shares of 21st Century Fox stock.

That's a fairly standard practice, except 21st Century Fox stock is a bit unusual — it doesn't carry any voting rights. Like many family firms, Murdoch's company has a two-tier share structure with the bulk of the voting shares in the hands of the Murdoch family. Time Warner's board says it would be a mistake for Time Warner shareholders to swap their voting rights in the company for non-voting shares of questionable value.

The solution to this ever growing world of media conglomerates would be, as the Free Press spokesperson says above, anti-trust actions. One observer has the following advice:

At this late stage, media companies have grown so large and powerful, and their dominance has become so detrimental to the survival of small, emerging companies, that there remains only one alternative: bust up the big conglomerates. We've done this before: to the railroad trusts in the first part of the 20th century, to Ma Bell more recently. Indeed, big media itself was cut down to size in the 1970s, and a period of staggering innovation and growth followed. Breaking up the reconstituted media conglomerates may seem like an impossible task when their grip on the policy-making process in Washington seems so sure. But the public's broad and bipartisan rebellion against the FCC's pro-consolidation decisions suggests something different. Politically, big media may again be on the wrong side of history – and up against a country unwilling to lose its independents [sic].

That observer was Ted Turner, himself the man behind Turner Enterprises and the rise of networks like CNN, writing in 2004. With increasing consolidation that threatens writers, producers, shareholders, and consumers, you have to wonder if Murdoch will be writing a similar column a decade from now.

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