Sunday, July 26, 2015

That Which Is Lost With the Ed Show

Distressing Developments Dept. - The Ed Show on MSNBC is being cancelled. I don't really like Ed Schultz--he carried over far too many bad habits from his years in right-wing talk radio for my liking--but his show was indispensable when it came to an extremely important issue, the Trans Pacific Partnership.

As I've noted in the past, the corporate press has almost entirely ignored this, a massive trade deal developed first by the Bush Jr. then by the Obama administration. In 2012, a draft portion of the negotiation leaked. Writing in the Nation, Lori Wallach of Public Citizen characterized it as
"a stealthy delivery mechanism for policies that could not survive public scrutiny. Indeed, only two of the twenty-six chapters of this corporate Trojan horse cover traditional trade matters. The rest embody the most florid dreams of the 1 percent — grandiose new rights and privileges for corporations and permanent constraints on government regulation. They include new investor safeguards to ease job offshoring and assert control over natural resources, and severely limit the regulation of financial services, land use, food safety, natural resources, energy, tobacco, healthcare and more."
The corporate press has largely buried not only the details of the TPP but its mere existence. On MRC Watch back in May, I wrote:
Liberal publications and orgs have been trying to draw attention to this matter for years now, while the big dogs of the corporate press — those big dogs the MRC insists are so slavishly devoted to heathen liberalism — have almost entirely buried it.
For years, liberal press critic Project Censored has assembled a list of important stories that received little or no coverage in the previous year; in 2013, the Trans-Pacific Partnership finished at #3. In March 2014, Steve Rendall of liberal media critic Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) noted that
“TPP would seem to be a major story with significant real-world impact. But despite its apparent newsworthiness—and two major leaks, providing grist for reporting and debate—there were no stories about TPP on the three major network news shows in the year following Barack Obama’s 2013 State of the Union mention of the agreement. The same goes for cable channels CNN and Fox News.
“The only thing preventing a total blackout of TPP on national commercial TV was MSNBC, where the Ed Show practically made TPP a feature of the program, offering critical coverage and commentary in 25 segments. TPP was also discussed once on Melissa Harris-Perry (12/14/13), when it was briefly criticized by The Nation’s John Nichols.”
Shortly after, FAIR launched a petition demanding that the major networks stop their blackout of this story; others have done the same.
It didn’t seem to help. In February, liberal press critic Media Matters undertook a study of tv news coverage of the TPP.
“A Media Matters transcript search of the CBS Evening News, ABC’s World News Tonight, and NBC’s Nightly News from August 1, 2013, through January 31, 2015, found no mention of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. By contrast, PBS NewsHour mentioned the TPP on during eight broadcasts, most of which were substantive discussions of the trade agreement.”
Among the cable news operations, “CNN and Fox News each mentioned the TPP during two broadcasts,” while MSNBC was the only outlet to give the matter any real attention — it was covered in 71 broadcasts, mostly the Ed Show.
On Monday — three days ago — Media Matters followed up. From 1 February to 10 May, the network evening newscasts had continued their complete blackout — not a single mention from any of them. The PBS Newshour had done 6 additional segments on the subject. Among the cable outlets, CNN hadn’t offered a single new mention while there had been 10 on Fox News. Again, only MSNBC devoted any notable attention to the matter, covering it in 53 segments.[2]
Print coverage has been pathetic as well. In April 2014, FAIR examined the attention given the TPP by two of the largest papers in the U.S.:
“In the year between Barack Obama’s 2013 and 2014 State of the Union addresses (2/12/13– 1/28/14), the New York Times and Washington Post had a combined total of 18 news reports discussing TPP, featuring 48 sources.
“TPP received a small fraction of the attention the papers devoted to stories of much less import, such as the Benghazi and IRS stories portrayed as scandals by the right—without much of anything scandalous behind them (FAIR Blog, 5/17/13, 6/25/13). Benghazi was mentioned in 618 stories in both papers. Using the search terms ‘IRS’ and ‘conservative’—according to the IRS scandal storyline, the agency singled out conservative groups for harassment—turned up 444 stories.
“In the two papers combined, sources favoring TPP (31) outnumbered those opposing (14) by more than 2-to-1. Three sources were expressly noncommittal. The Post presented an almost 3-to-1 ratio of supporters to opponents (16–6) with one noncommittal source, while the Times featured a nearly 2-to-1 imbalance (15–8) with two noncommittal sources.”
While barely covering the story, print outlets have managed to circulate all manner of nonsense about the deal and its critics.

And now, while Obama, in continuing to negotiate the deal, operates under fast-track authority just granted him by congress, the only major national news outlet to devote any real coverage to this subject is about to become extinct.

--j.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Networks Ignore IRS Non-Story, Dickens Fumes, Bozell Raves

MRC Watch Dept. -  "What’s it going to take," asked a flustered Geoffrey Dickens on Wednesday, 8 July, "for the networks to start seriously reporting on the IRS scandal again?" The item that had him in an uproar: a "stunning revelation" by Judicial Watch. A "bombshell" that "has yet to be reported on any of the Big Three (ABC, NBC, CBS) networks." For those familiar with Judicial Watch, a crackpot right-wing nuisance-suit mill, this hardly comes as any surprise. The org's history is a quite-long list of "bombshells" that turn out to be duds. The newest, yet another, was just the latest in a long line.

Here's how Judicial Watch reported it:
"Judicial Watch today released new Department of Justice (DOJ) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) documents that include an official 'DOJ Recap' report detailing an October 2010 meeting between Lois Lerner [of the IRS], DOJ officials and the FBI to plan for the possible criminal prosecution of targeted nonprofit organizations for alleged illegal political activity.

"The newly obtained records also reveal that the Obama DOJ wanted IRS employees who were going to testify to Congress to turn over documents to the DOJ before giving them to Congress. Records also detail how the Obama IRS gave the FBI 21 computer disks, containing 1.25 million pages of confidential IRS returns from 113,000 nonprofit social 501(c)(4) welfare groups  – or nearly every 501(c)(4) in the United States – as part of its prosecution effort. According to a letter from then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, 'This revelation likely means that the IRS – including possibly Lois Lerner – violated federal tax law by transmitting this information to the Justice Department.'"
The conservative Rage Machine has long pushed the narrative that the IRS wrongly targeted right-wing groups. Dickens, in recounting the story, includes a quote from Judicial Watch head Tom Fitton:
"The FBI and Justice Department worked with Lois Lerner and the IRS to concoct some reason to put President Obama's opponents in jail before his reelection. And this abuse resulted in the FBI’s illegally obtaining confidential taxpayer information. How can the Justice Department and FBI investigate the very scandal in which they are implicated?"

Dickens also includes a Fox News graphic using part of that quote, and, indeed, that's the characterization of this information that has gone all 'round the righty blogosphere since Judicial Watch published it.

The problem?

Not only is there nothing in the new documents that supports that characterization, the documents refute it.

In the first place, the documents don't show anyone trying to "concoct" ways to send Obama's opponents to jail, not "before his reelection" or at any other time; they don't, in fact, even mention "President Obama's opponents." Rather, the documents show there was a meeting in Oct. 2010 between IRS and Justice officials "to discuss recent attention to the political activity of exempt organizations." What activity?
"The section's attorneys expressed concern that certain section 501(c) organizations are actually political committees 'posing' as if they are not subject to FEC law, and therefore may be subject to criminal liability."
In short, the responsible parties were discussing tax cheats and what is to be done about said cheats. Shorter version: they were doing the jobs for which they're paid. Really scandalous stuff.

On the other hand, the assertion by Judicial Watch that the IRS provided to the Justice Department 21 disks "containing 1.25 million pages of confidential IRS returns from 113,000 nonprofit social 501(c)(4) welfare groups" is flat-out false--an outrageous lie. The disks contained the 990 forms for those orgs, which is public information. It is true that some non-public information from a handful of groups was also included on the disks but it appears to have been entirely accidental. The Wall Street Journal reported that
"the IRS said it recently identified 33 tax returns on the disks—out of a total of 12,000 returns—that inadvertently included 'some nonpublic information.' The agency said the 33 groups represented a wide spectrum of organizations and most don't appear to have any connection to political activity."
That Journal report, it's worth noting, was published over a year ago, which gives a good indication of how impervious to facts these right-wing faux-"scandals" can be. And the fact that these were the 990s on "nearly every 501(c)(4) in the United States" -- one thing Judicial Watch did get right -- conclusively refutes the assertion that this was part of any effort to target "President Obama's opponents" or right-wing groups in general.

The other big "revelation" was that "the Obama DOJ wanted IRS employees who were going to testify to Congress to turn over documents to the DOJ before giving them to Congress." An email from a Justice official to a lawyer representing the IRS employees reads
"One last issue. If any of your clients have documents they are providing to Congress that you can (or would like to) provide to us before their testimony, we would be pleased to receive them."
The Justice Department was, at the time, investigating what happened at the IRS and again Judicial Watch is trying to offer a sinister characterization to someone who, without so much as a hint of impropriety, is merely doing his job.

That's the substance of the latest Judicial Watch "bombshell, the one Geoffrey Dickens would have you believe the press is negligent in failing to cover.

His boss, MRC chief Brent Bozell, was even more outraged. On his best days, Bozell is as hostile to understatement as he is to facts but the hilarious, nail-spitting hate-rant against the press he unleashed the next day has to be read to be believed:
"The networks' refusal to cover these devastating revelations borders on being complicit in a cover-up of criminal misconduct by a tyrannical administration using Stalinist tactics against its political opponents."
And so on. Read the whole thing for a look into the black little heart of the unhinged fascist half-wit at the head of the Media Research Center.

--j.


[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog that disapproves of unhinged fascist half-wits, faux "scandals" and those who whine that the press doesn't cover non-stories.]
The networks’ refusal to cover these devastating revelations borders on being complicit in a cover-up of criminal misconduct by a tyrannical administration using Stalinist tactics against its political opponents.  - See more at: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/nb-staff/2015/07/09/bozell-media-silence-irs-scandal-borders-being-complicit-cover#.hafdzy:6sbb