03/30/17

A Fake Bill to Promote Fake News

By: Cliff Kincaid | Accuracy in Media

One of the more newsworthy aspects of the Democratic Party’s turnabout on Russia has been the introduction by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) of a bill to investigate Russian propaganda outlet RT (Russia Today) as a foreign agent. In fact, broadcaster Jerry Kenney had filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice back in 2011 alleging that RT and Al Jazeera were both violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by not disclosing in their propaganda broadcasts that they are agents of foreign powers.

However, former President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice, which supervises FARA, took no action.

Kenney told us, “Shaheen’s sudden concern about foreign influence operations rings a little hollow to me. Her bill seems more like a political prop to keep alive the fake news story of a Russia-Trump unholy alliance. It is a fake bill to perpetuate fake news.” He added, “As far as I know, the Department of Justice has all the tools it needs to enforce FARA. What it hasn’t had, at least under Obama, was the will to enforce it.”

Accuracy in Media has noted that RT hosts Thom Hartmann and Ed Schultz are not Trump supporters or conservatives, but in fact are progressives connected to the Democratic Party. Schultz used to work for MSNBC.

In a brief interview I had with Hartmann, he refused to say how much the Kremlin paid him for his show on RT, “The Big Picture.” He then grabbed my camera.

In a January 19 article, we noted that AIM has published literally dozens of stories over the years about RT’s service to the Moscow regime. We asked, “So why didn’t the Obama Justice Department act on TV producer Jerry Kenney’s complaint that RT should register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act and be labeled as foreign propaganda? That’s what the law requires.”

The answer is that RT didn’t become a problem for the liberals and the Democrats until they perceived that Moscow’s agents had deserted their cause, and that the Russian angle could be used for partisan political purposes against Republicans.

In that AIM article, I also noted that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) dismissed my well-documented 2012 complaint about RT’s open support for libertarian Ron Paul in the 2012 Republican presidential primary. We cited evidence that RT was funded by the Kremlin and prohibited under law from intervening in U.S. elections. The FEC dismissed the complaint, saying RT was a legitimate press entity and a U.S. corporation with First Amendment rights.

Where was the outrage over that ruling?

The stated purpose of the Shaheen bill, the Foreign Agents Registration Modernization and Enforcement Act (S.625), is “to preserve the integrity of American elections by providing the Attorney General with investigative tools” to crack down on foreign agents who unlawfully influence our political process.

“We have good reason to believe that RT News is coordinating with the Russian government to spread misinformation and undermine our democratic process,” said Shaheen. “The American public has a right to know if this is the case.”

The American public who have been reading AIM already know. Plus, RT once aired its own video showing Vladimir Putin reviewing its broadcast operations in Moscow.

It’s no secret that RT is Moscow-financed and run.

Kenney commented, “Now that the Democrats have lost the White House, Shaheen is shocked to see that foreign influence operations are going on here. Where has she been for the last few years as Obama’s DOJ refused to investigate Vladimir Putin’s Russia Today, Qatar’s Al Jazeera and Communist China’s CCTV (China Central Television)?”

Kenney notes that these foreign propaganda operations are packaged as “news” and have been airing on 30 taxpayer-supported public educational TV stations via the MHz Network Worldview, a network offering “international news and entertainment” in English. “To my knowledge, these ‘news’ channels still have not registered or published disclosures as required by FARA, even though there is ample evidence in the public domain that they are actually foreign government propaganda operations,” he says.

If Shaheen is so concerned about foreign influence, he went on to say, “why didn’t she do something to stop the FCC’s recent rule change that fast tracks 100 percent foreign ownership of America’s radio and TV broadcasters? In all fairness to Senator Shaheen, the Republicans didn’t oppose it, either.”

Kenney said that if the politicians in Washington are really serious about foreign influence operations in the U.S., they could veto the new FCC rule by using the Congressional Review Act.

The Shaheen bill has only three co-sponsors, with one, Senator Todd Young of Indiana, a Republican. Young’s involvement as a Republican fellow-traveler makes it a piece of “bipartisan legislation.”

If Shaheen is serious about exposing RT’s ties to Russia, perhaps she could ask fellow progressive Thom Hartmann to provide testimony about RT, including the facts and figures about his Moscow funding that he won’t talk about publicly.

It would be easy enough for him to show up at a Senate hearing. His “Big Picture” program is filmed live and broadcast from the RT America studios in Washington, D.C.


Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at [email protected] View the complete archives from Cliff Kincaid.

03/30/17

When Ted Koppel Was a Serious Thinker

By: Cliff Kincaid | Accuracy in Media

As someone who goes back decades with Accuracy in Media, I remember the days when Ted Koppel, then with ABC News and host of “Nightline,” would cover serious matters and treat his conservative critics with respect. So Koppel’s attack on Sean Hannity of Fox News was a shocker. Something has happened to journalism, and the problem is not with Hannity, it’s with Koppel.

Koppel, now with CBS, attacked Hannity as being “bad for America” because of his opinionated Fox News channel program. But there was a time when Koppel was open to criticism. AIM founder Reed Irvine had many friendly confrontations with Koppel over various issues. When Reed died, Koppel said, “Reed Irvine was, at times, a harsh critic of the television news industry and me in particular, but throughout the many years that I knew him, he was never anything but courtly and personally gracious. Just as I would insist that all other enterprises in our society benefit from the presence of a critical and fearless press, so too the press benefits from being held to high and occasionally harsh standards. Reed Irvine fulfilled that function to the greater good of all.”

All of a sudden, however, Koppel has decided to go on the attack against conservatives. He is not alone. You can frequently find the rants of the disgraced former anchorman of the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather, on obscure left-wing websites like Reader Supported News. In one of his latest posts, Rather says of President Trump, “… the Russian shadow continues to darken.” This is funny, considering that one of AIM’s investigations of Rather concluded that he had become a vehicle for Russian Communist propaganda when he used the CBS Evening News to broadcast the charge that AIDS had been manufactured by the Pentagon. This was before his career ended in disgrace after being caught using fake documents to smear President George W. Bush.

Now a “special contributor” to the CBS “Sunday Morning” program, Koppel’s confrontation with Hannity was described by CBS as being about the “polarization of politics and the media in the Age of Trump.” The show’s website said that Koppel “charged Fox News host Sean Hannity with contributing to the increased antipathy toward opposing viewpoints that is prevalent in America.” Hannity’s “crime” is offering conservative news and opinion.

Conservative news and commentary are facts of life that should be studied and understood, not ridiculed as beyond the pale. Conservative blogs began the process of unraveling Rather’s smear of Bush, leading to the destruction of the CBS newsman’s career. Hannity offers news and opinion that fill a void and meet the demands of his audience.

As a long-time news analyst, I find it refreshing that at least some professors are taking the rise of conservative journalism seriously and treating it as a subject to be studied. In a “Call for Book Chapters on Conservative News,” professors Anthony M. Nadler and A.J. Bauer are calling on academics and others to contribute essays on the growth and influence of conservative news and opinion outlets.

“Conservative news has become a tremendously powerful platform in the United States, wielding a vast influence on the terms of political discourse,” they note.

Nadler is an Assistant Professor of Media and Communication Studies at Ursinus College and is the author of Making the News Popular: Mobilizing U.S. News Audiences (2016, University of Illinois Press). Bauer is a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow and Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Social & Cultural Analysis at New York University.

It may be the case that liberal academia is looking for an antidote to the success of conservative news and information. But the success of shows like Sean Hannity’s are something to be studied, not mocked as “bad for America.”

“Crucially,” notes Bauer, “reported trust in major news media in the U.S. differs greatly along partisan lines.” This reflects the fact that conservative Americans have rejected the liberal media, and have looked for and found alternatives.

In his preliminary draft for the full project proposal, Bauer writes, “While it is obvious that conservative news cultures have been powerful and among the forces shaping the circulation and norms of political discourse, critical media studies has largely let the story of conservative news slip past its view.”

In other words, the liberals in the media and academia did not see this coming. They didn’t understand the powerful forces of conservative media as a reaction to the liberal media monopoly that is now in the process of disintegrating.

Ted Koppel is in a position to understand and study this phenomenon. Instead, Koppel highlights a “polarized America.” He had a chance to understand the phenomenon of conservative news and opinion, but decided instead to attack it.

It’s “bad for America” when liberals in the media abandon the debate and try to smear their opponents. We didn’t expect this from Koppel.


Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Cliff Kincaid.

03/30/17

WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN?

By: Kent Engelke | Capitol Securities

I think most do not realize how different the world is today from yesterday. Globalism is on life support, the result of Brexit and Trump’s election emphasizing economic nationalism versus multipolarity.

I think the globalist environment could potentially die in the next 60 days. Depending upon which poll one utilizes, the leading candidate in both Italy and France’s national elections are anti-EU. Even if pro-establishment candidates win, the closeness suggests great discord about the current macroeconomic and geopolitical environment.

What does this have to do with markets? Everything.

Since 2008, the vast majority of funds have gravitated to ETFs… ETFs which are primarily capitalization weighted structures where the big get bigger and the small get smaller. Mega capitalized growth issues, which in itself is an oxymoronic term, have greatly outperformed most other asset classes. In my view, this outperformance is a direct result of the globalist environment that grew exponentially under the Obama and current EU administration.

I rhetorically and conjecturally ask if the pathway to outperformance was only this simple by passively investing into some index… As inferred above, passive index investing has outperformed active stock managers since 2008. Some could make the case since 2005.

Yesterday, a WSJ headline stated Blackrock, is that the world’s largest asset manager with $5.1 trillion under management is reducing their exposure to active management in favor of passive ETFs.

What I found interesting, according to the article, active managed funds at Blackrock was only $317.3 billion three years ago and today stand at $275.1 billion, a relative rounding error as compared to their total assets under management of $5.1 trillion.

What happens to the passive investment strategy if globalism does implode? As I opined above, I believe the globalist environment has directly contributed to the capitalization driven mantra, where the mega capitalized growth issues greatly outperformed.

Is this about change? If economic nationalism again becomes the primary global geopolitical and macroeconomic catalyst, yes.

On a lighter note, the Who’s Roger Daltry is supporting both Brexit and bad-mouthed Hillary Clinton. When I read the headline, the lyrics from Won’t Get Fooled Again were loudly echoing:

There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again, no no

Yeaaah!
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

To remind all, Peter Townshend penned these words in 1971 in the midst of the social upheaval of that era and the new breed of politicians that all had erroneously thought had come around.

[Note: The 5/26/2006 issue of the National Review declared Won’t get Fooled Again as one of the 50 greatest conservative rock songs.]

Enough of the classic rock history lesson, equities edged insignificantly higher as data indicated crude inventories were not as great as anticipated. There was little reaction to the UK’s formal triggering of Brexit. Treasuries ended nominally lower in yield.

Last night the foreign markets were down. London was down 0.32%, Paris was down 0.11% and Frankfurt was up 0.01%. China was down 0.96%, Japan was down 0.80% and Hang Sang was down 0.37%.

The Dow should open little changed. The 10-year is flat at 2.38%.