Dec 1 2009


John Stossel, Free at Last

Rupert Murdoch’s latest hire, John Stossel, speaking at a Michigan college (TVNewser, 10/6/09):

“I quit ABC a couple weeks ago partly because they didn’t like what I was doing. They viewed it as too biased.”

Yes, ABC execs promoted Stossel to 20/20 anchor, gave him regular “Give Me a Break” commentary segments and one-hour, factually challenged primetime specials (Extra!, 3-4/03)…all because they didn’t like him. It’s scary to think what his bosses would have done for him if they did like him.

Surprisingly Surprised by Public Option Support

The Washington Post October 19 headline over a report about its latest healthcare poll read “Public Option Gains Support: Clear Majority Now Backs Plan.” A more accurate headline would have been “Clear Majority Still Backs Public Option”—since the new poll showed just a 2 point rise in support, from 55 percent to 57 percent, over the paper’s poll from a month earlier (9/10-12/09). In fact, a quick visit to reveals that, with a couple of exceptions, polls have consistently shown majority support for a public plan for months on end; one CBS poll (9/19-23/09) showed 65 percent support.

But this information hasn’t apparently sunk in at the Post, or with ABC World News anchor Charles Gibson either, who seemed caught off guard (10/19/09) by the fact that the public supported a public option (as it nearly always has): “But perhaps the biggest surprise, 57 percent support one of the plan’s most controversial elements, perhaps the most controversial, a government-sponsored health insurance option.”

Now They Want to Debate Single Payer

Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt (10/26/09) warned that the “public option” is just a backdoor way to bring a single-payer system to the United States: “Private companies would have to raise their rates, so more people would choose the public plan, so private rates would rise further—and we could end up with only the public option and no competition at all. Single-payer national health insurance may be the best outcome, but we should get there after an honest debate, not through the back door.”

On the same day, Post columnist Robert Samuelson hit on the same theme: “Many would say: Whoopee! Get rid of the sinister insurers. Bring on a single-payer system. But if that’s the agenda, why not debate it directly?”

Maybe because the people who decide what gets to be debated in corporate media—few of whom have more power to do so than Hiatt—decided that as long as there seemed to be any chance at all that single-payer might be enacted, they would do their best to ignore it? See “Media Blackout on Single-Payer Healthcare” (FAIR Media Advisory, 3/6/09).

What a Difference a Deal Makes

Rocker Jon Bon Jovi arranged an unusual deal to become an “artist in residence” on NBC—which meant he would appear exclusively on that network’s various shows to promote his upcoming album (New York Times, 10/15/09). The deal included a segment on NBC Nightly News—part of the show’s “Making a Difference” series—to promote Bon Jovi’s philanthropic pursuits. Apparently he’s making a difference to NBC’s bottom line by refusing to appear on other networks.

Dobbs’ Choice: Deportation

On October 22 CNN host Lou Dobbs had some supposedly big news on—you guessed it—immigration: “New evidence that the American public wants action on the illegal immigration crisis in this country. A new CNN poll finds the vast majority of the American public wants illegal immigration stopped and most want illegal immigrants now in the country to leave.”

Actually, the poll he was talking about found 37 percent support—far from “most”—for undocumented immigrants being removed immediately. The other half of his claim, about the “vast majority” that “wants immigration stopped,” was based on the finding that 73 percent of respondents wanted “the number of illegal immigrants currently in this country…decreased.” CNN put a political spin on this, with reporter Lisa Sylvester citing a far-right immigration opponent to suggest that “these polling numbers show that comprehensive immigration reform is going to be a tough sell.” But, in fact, other polls (e.g., ABC/Washington Post, 4/21-24/09; CBS/New York Times, 4/22-26/09) show widespread support for giving undocumented workers the opportunity to become citizens or otherwise become legal residents. Such policies would also decrease the number of unauthorized immigrants, which may have been what at least some respondents were talking about when they said they wanted the number of “illegal immigrants” decreased; funny how that kind of decrease doesn’t seem to occur to Lou Dobbs.

Too Big to Fact-Check?

In an excerpt from his book Too Big to Fail (Vanity Fair, 11/09), New York Times financial columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin mentioned as one of the signs of economic crisis in September 2008: “Treasury bills were trading for less than 1 percent interest, as if they were no better than cash, as if the full faith of the government had suddenly become meaningless.”

Of course, bonds have low interest rates when lots of people want to buy them, and high interest rates when investors find them less appealing. As economist Dean Baker pointed out (Beat the Press, 10/13/09), Sorkin’s observation was entirely backwards: Treasury bills had such low interest rates because in the midst of the crisis, the fact that they were backed by the government made them extremely attractive. This is such a basic mistake about investing that it’s a wonder no one at Vanity Fair caught it—and that someone who works as a financial columnist for a major newspaper made it.

More SoundBites

January 2010 / November 2009