Questions, questions, questions ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Recall that the director of the American Jewish Committee denounced me when I pointed out that, together with neocon Jewish pundits, organizations like AJC that pursued hawkish policies were fundamentally at odds with the view of the American Jews they purport to represent. What are we to make of this memo described in the Forward, in which AJC employee Debra Feuer seeks to stir up trouble amongst Jews for Barack Obama with a series of insinuations and irresponsible allegations, all of which have to do with Obama being insufficiently hawkish and failing to pay heed to the discredited line of the neocon creed? And note the extraordinary number of weasel words:

In one section, the memo said that Obama's approach to Iran's nuclear program "raises questions," while another portion suggested that Obama expected more from Israel than the Palestinians in resolving the conflict between the two.

[...]

Obama "appears to believe the Israelis bear the burden of taking the risky steps for peace, and that the violence Israel has received in return does not shift that burden," Feuer writes.

[...]

"The Senator's interpretation of the NIE raises questions," wrote Feuer, without elaborating further. She went on to list a half-dozen statements the Illinois lawmaker has made in support of renewed diplomacy with Iran, and note that "he also calls for negotiating with other rogue states, notably Syria."

Under a section titled "Of Further Note," Feuer takes note of Obama's presence at a fundraiser headlined by the late Edward Said in 1998, and public suggestions by Ali Abunimah, a Chicago-based Palestinian activist, that Obama was more openly critical of the America's approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before his first run for Senate.

The AJC has disowned the note as a matter of public relations. But its revelation by the Forward indicates what's really going on with some of these organizations, who profess to represent the views of American Jews as they work purposefully to undermine the leaders who most closely represent their views.

A few questions for some editors and reporters at The New York Times:

1) Yesterday, the Times reported here that "Newsday's online audience even surpassed The Wall Street Journal's last month. The huge jump was in large part attributed to the popularity of an animated cartoon by Walt Handelsman." Um, excuse me, but shouldn't it be mentioned here that the Journal is available on line only by paid subscription, while Newsday is free?

2) The Times reported here that "[t]he leader of one of America's most venerable civil rights groups kicked off his annual celebration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in what might have once seemed an unlikely fashion: by ringing the opening bell Friday morning at the Nasdaq stock exchange. Roy Innis, the national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, clapped and cheered beside Dennis Bassford, the chief executive of Moneytree Inc., a chain of check-cashing stores, as the towering video screen outside Nasdaq's media center beamed the scene onto Times Square. The stock exchange's chief marketing officer, John L. Jacobs, joked, "It's your job to turn this market around!" Shouldn't the Times point out the Roy Innes has turned CORE into an anti-civil rights organization that speaks up for racists and right-wingers who need the cover of an organization that trades on people's ignorance of its true purpose? Innes accepts massive payments from foreign dictators and gives his son, Niger Innes a top position in the organization, which has as much to do with civil rights as it does with sending men to Mars.

3) And what about this? The Times reports:

Mr. Rangel fired back, claiming that Mr. Obama had injected race into the presidential campaign and arguing that Mr. Obama had no legitimate basis for objecting to the point Mrs. Clinton was trying to make. "How race got into this thing is because Obama said race," Mr. Rangel said. "For him to suggest that Dr. King could have signed that act [the Civil Rights Act of 1964] is absolutely stupid. It's absolutely dumb to infer that Dr. King, alone, passed the legislation and signed it into law."

Is it not incumbent on the Times, somewhere, to point out that Charlie Rangel is completely full of it, and that Obama never, for a second, suggested that King "could have signed the act"? What good is a newspaper that lets politicians lie?

OK that's enough with the Times. Here's someone else who's losing it, Bob Novak. He writes that "McCain by any measurement is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination." Columnist Robert Novak labels McCain the front-runner -- oh, really? Well, here's one measurement, buster: delegates. Romney, not McCain, is the front-runner, but don't tell the McCain-loving MSM that delegates pick the nominee, not reporters.

What are the limits to Media McCain love? Alas, they do not exist. Here's the front-page analysis from CNN.com this morning:

Analysis: Sparks fly in most contentious debate to date

[...]

Still, there was no clear winner in this Democratic slugfest, the most contentious yet, unless you count John McCain, the Arizona Republican senator who took the gold in last Saturday's South Carolina Republican presidential primary.

Quote of the Day:

"We must recognize that we can't solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Josh Silver
Hometown: www.freepress.net

Hi Eric,

We are in a relative moment of calm in Washington, as Congress remains on winter break and we regroup. Here's a quick summary of key developments, and a couple of very interesting stories that have come out in recent weeks.

Consolidation: Following the FCC's December 18 vote to partially lift the ban on one company owning newspapers and broadcast stations in the same market, both the House and the Senate have introduced legislation that would invalidate the new rules. And it's likely congressional leaders will pursue a "Resolution of Disapproval" this year a rarely used procedure to reverse a government agency's decision. We are working to build political pressure to pass the resolution, and along with partner organizations, challenging the FCC's new rules in federal court. We are also working with the House Commerce Committee in its investigation of the FCC's flawed and slanted procedures. If you want the detailed explanation of all this, let me know.

Internet: We scored another victory this week when the FCC responded to our complaint and more than 20,000 letters from our activists -- and launched an official investigation into Comcast's blocking of web content. Free Press is quoted in a Wall Street Journal story today on the issue. Comcast blocking BitTorrent is the canary in the coal mine for corporations that seek to take over the Internet. The FCC is also investigating Verizon in response to another of our filings for blocking text messages NARAL Pro-Choice America tried to send to its own members. We'll keep on the public pressure to make sure the FCC doesn't drag their feet and that these would-be Internet gatekeepers can't get away with censoring free speech anywhere text messages, phone calls, e-mails or the Internet.

We are moving beyond the narrower debate over Net Neutrality -- the principle that protects the free flow of information on the Web -- and toward an "Internet for Everyone" agenda that seeks to get super-fast, affordable, neutral Internet service to every American, rich and poor, urban and rural. To do it, we are building one of the largest public interest/industry coalitions ever -- and we'll need it working against the mighty cable/phone lobby. The kicker with this issue is that every single person and industry in this nation wins with our Internet vision except for the cable and phone industries with their government-sanctioned duopoly control of Internet service.

Now, two interesting reads and a funny: John Hockenberry, former NBC reporter, wrote a brilliant essay on the problem with the television news industry that is a must-read. He included a section about how NBC's parent company General Electric had long done business with Osama bin Laden's family, and that GE didn't want him talking to the family. His story was subsequently dragged into the Bill O'Reilly-Keith Olbermann dogfight, and that part of his story has been called into question.

Another must-read: Eric Boehlert's superb piece about how miserably the press and the polls blew New Hampshire. "Virtually all the corporate press does these days is shallow, polling-based horserace coverage, and now it can't even get that right."

And the funny: The Onion comes up with a Daily Show-esque riff on the bullshit that is television news.

Name: Susan
Hometown: Philadelphia

The Nevada Caucuses just ended. It was scheduled on Shabbat. No one noticed or complained. The GOP primary in South Carolina and the Democratic primary will be on Shabbat. Yet, no one noticed. Chris Matthews mentioned it once.

I am not Orthodox, but I try to keep Shabbat in my own way. I would not have voted in Caucus on Shabbat. Abraham Joshua Heschel called Shabbat "a cathedral of time." Btw, Heschel marched with MLK in the South and also opposed the Vietnam War.

The South Carolina primaries ended or will end after sunset and did not or will not exclude many Jews completely, but still it was insensitive. Just another example of how diversity never seems to extend to Jews.

Where is are the people that talk about Jewish power and influence? Well, Jews couldn't even prevent primaries and Caucuses from being on Shabbat.

PS: For those who don't know, Sabbath is the English translation of Shabbat.

Eric replies: Ditto on Springsteen seats. It's really shameful.

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