Tag Archives: CNN

Israel Sends The Wrong Message

At some point in the near future, apparently the date is being kept a secret, a groups of ships, called the Freedom Flotilla 2, will be sailing from Greece to the Gaza Strip. You may remember that this happened about a year ago. In that case, nine people were killed by Israeli soldiers in what was a complete debacle for the Israeli Defense Forces. Let me be clear that I think Israel has every right to be wary of this situation. The Gaza Strip is controlled by a group that does not recognize Israel, and has made the destruction of Israel its top priority for years. I believe that Israel has every right to ensure that the supplies carried on this convoy are for humanitarian uses only. If there are any weapons they should be confiscated as that would surely be illegal weapons trafficking. Israel, however, is making me question the validity have their concern. Namely, they are engaging in a tactic that is akin to dictators. They’re threatening journalists.

An article in the Christian Science Monitor reports that Israel is threatening to ban journalists from the country for up to a decade if they are on one of these ships. Journalists go where the story is. It is true that they often go where there is no story also, but trying to keep the media out of this just leads to the idea that Israel wants to suppress the story. Journalists are banned from Syria right now for exactly that reason. The Syrian government does not want the truth to get out about what they are doing. By keeping journalists out they are preventing an accurate narrative to be written. This allows them to fill the void with the story they want everyone to hear.

I don’t think Israel is comparable to Syria. Israel is a democracy that does not oppress its people. Some will argue that instead Israel oppresses the Palestinians, who it is worth noting, were kicked out of their homes in the late 1940s. Palestinians have a legitimate problem with Israel and the Western world. So when Israel engages in suppressing journalists, it makes them look like they have something to hide. More importantly this tactic will not work. We’ve seen it in Arab countries all year. The mainstream media isn’t needed for information anymore. The use of Facebook and YouTube has exploded. Through the internet videos will be seen, information will spread. Israel can count on one thing. The YouTube videos, and Twitter feeds will not be favorable.  The mainstream media uses a code of ethics in what it reports. The social media world does not. Israel’s opponents will use all of these outlets to spread their message whether it is fair or not. The mainstream media is the only hope Israel has of getting an objective story out there.

Israel’s best plan is to stop this flotilla as peacefully as possible. Inspect the cargo, and make sure that CBS, CNN, The New York Times and others get a good look at it. If anything is illegal or bound for violent use, it will get reported and Israel will be vindicated. If it is all humanitarian aid, everyone will know. Then Israel can say it was protecting itself, but found nothing illicit. There is nothing wrong with Israel trying to prevent weapons from entering Gaza so that they can be used to hurt Israelis. Trying to suppress journalists, however, sends a terrible signal. It says that Israel isn’t sure that they are protecting themselves. This effort will hurt the Israeli cause not help it.

Today I Praise Republicans. Well, Three Republicans.

A couple of Republican Senators caught me by surprise on Sunday. Both Sen. Tom Coburn, and Sen. Saxby Chambliss said that raising government revenue should be considered in the attempt to balance the budget. This goes against not only the Republican budget proposal in the House, but also the Republican talking point that the governments problem is spending not revenue.

Coburn and Chambliss are both part of the “Gang of Six” who are Senators looking for a budget compromise in the Senate. Coburn has come under fire from conservative activist Grover Norquist who says he is going back on his word. Specifically, Sen. Coburn signed an oath with Americans for Tax Reform that said he would not vote to raise taxes. Coburn’s repsonse was very direct. He said:

“Well, I think which pledge is most important, David , is the pledge to, to uphold your oath to the Constitution of the United States or a pledge from a special interest group who, who claims to speak for all of American conservatives when, when in fact they really don’t.”

For a Republican to fire back at a conservative special interest group like that caught me way off guard. Sen. Chambliss was far less fiery when talking about revenue. On CNN, he said:

” Now, if we don’t want to pay the debt back, then we could just not worry about the revenues. But the fact is we’ve got a $14 trillion debt staring us in the face, and revenues has to be on the table if we’re serious about attacking that debt.”

Both quotes come from this NPR story.  It’s important that two Republican senators have put raising revenue on the table. Democrats have already acknowledged that spending needs to be cut. Now, we at least have a group working at both sides of the problem, revenue and spending.

Coburn’s idea for raising revenue is certainly going to be a hard sell to Republicans. He wants to eliminate tax deductions, and credits in the tax code. This will cause businesses and individuals to pay more in taxes. Republicans have often called this a “tax increase.”  As the Boston Globe reported  last July, House Republicans opposed the act to give healthcare to 9\11 first responders because it included a “corporate tax increase.” The bill would have prevented foreign corporations from not paying taxes on profit earned in the US.

I don’t see that as a tax increase. Our tax code says you should pay this much. It then says if you do certain things the government will give some of that money back (a tax credit) or not tax you on that income (a tax deduction.) This is the government’s way of influencing our behavior. It is a version of positive reinforcment. For those of you not schooled in psychology, positive reinforcement is when you provide a reward for a certain behavior with the intention of increasing the probability that the same behavior will reoccur. So, when the government offers a tax credit to first time homebuyers they are trying to increase home ownership by giving a financial incentive. Taking away that tax credit is not really raising taxes it’s just not providing that incentive.

I like to use the metaphor of a retail business, perhaps a grocery store. When you walk into a grocery store everything has a price. It’s usually listed right on the shelf below the item. From time to time the store wants to encourage you to buy particular items. Maybe they have a large supply of something and they want to move some product. For a time that item costs less. As people buy enough of a particular item, the store will end the sale. Did the store raise prices? Not really. The price of that item did technically go up, but it just went to the normal rate. In the same way, when the government says a particular tax credit or deduction is expiring, they aren’t raising taxes. They are really just saying we need to start paying full price again.

Perhaps thats not important right now, but I wanted to make a point. In the end I applaud Sen. Coburn, Sen. Chambliss as well as Sens. Conrad, Durbin, Warner, and Crapo for trying to do real work for the people of this country. I hope they are successful in finding a good compromise.

How to Build a Cable News Network

Information has never been as available as it is today. If you are curious about a subject, a quick Google search is all you need and any number of sources will tell you just what you want to know.  Another form of constant information has been the 24-hour cable news network.  Whether you prefer Fox, MSNBC or the techy-gadget nonsense of CNN, news is merely a remote click away.  So I started to examine these networks to figure out how they work, why they are popular, and do they really provide us with anything.  FOXNews has been the leader of this industry for sometime now so I used them to provide me with an answer how to be successful with a news network.

Their are two important parts of cable news; the ideology, and the talent. News is supposed to be impartial. The basis of journalism is objectivity. Reporters show the facts and just the facts. Unfortunately, the facts are kinda boring, and often too complicated. So, the first step in building a successful cable news network is to make “news” only a fraction of your programming. You have to fill the rest in with opinion programming.  Opinion programming presents information, but only the information which fits your network’s ideological slant.  You see, being reasonable or middle of the road isn’t interesting. You need partisans to drum up your viewership.  Once you have your ideology firmly in place, it’s just a matter of hiring the right people to drive it home.

The Morning Show

The morning show is very important. People see it before they go to work. This makes it equal to some of your evening programming. A viewer who watches in the morning will probably watch later. All you really need is what I call the “doofus sandwich.”  The doofus sandwich is easy. You just find a couple of average seeming guys, not to smart, but also not to dumb, who will plug the slant you have chosen.  In the middle you put a woman.  This woman needs to reflect the “aw, shucks, this news can be confusing” mentality that reminds people, that women are a bit less qualified for the tough news stuff. Don’t shy away from smart women, just make sure she can play the part.

The Midday News

Midday is when you put in some of what you call “news coverage.” The timing is important. First, most people are at work at can’t watch it. This allows you to claim objectivity, but not really follow through. It is the perfect slot for the “Hot Woman Anchor.” You just find an attractive woman and set her to reporting the news, or what you call the news. No one really sees it, but you will draw a few men on their lunch break who just like looking at the pretty lady.  Your ideological slant can remain because most people don’t watch, but you can still say you provided “news.”


Primetime is the bread and butter of cable news. Like all TV, the evening is when the majority of people have a chance to relax and watch. It is important to pull your viewers in. So, you need the essential “Trinity” of primetime cable news: The Blowhard, The Conspiracy Theorist, and the Hyper-Partisan.

The Blowhard is the easiest to find. He is simply a person who says whatever he thinks and tells the people who disagree with him that they are idiots.  Name-calling is common with The Blowhard.  You can find people like this of all ideologies (I will be glad to be one if you pay me. I’m doing it for free right now.) Because they don’t necessarily follow any a strict script and just say whatever they think, they can be unpredictable. For the most part you should easily find one who will bring you some viewers.

The Conspiracy Theorist is harder to find, but you will know a good one when you do.  They see evil behind every door, underneath every floorboard.  One of the major tactics of the Conspiracy Theorist is asking questions; horribly misleading questions. An example of this strategy would be saying, “Is the President a Muslim? I don’t know.”  The point is to leave the idea in your viewer’s minds, while being able to deny that you actually said the question was true. It’s a rare skill. In fact, not all cable stations have one, but if you find one, they’re a gold mine.

The Hyper-Partisan can be difficult to find. This is mostly because they have absolutely no ethics at all. While the Conspiracy Theorist may seem crazy, they believe what they say. The Hyper-Partisan does not. The Hyper-Partisan believes that everything his party does is right, and what the other party does is wrong. Even if they are doing the exact same thing.  This is a host that speaks directly to the ideological base of your network. They are very important, but it is also somewhat difficult to find journalists who are willing to forsake ethical behavior for a paycheck. If you get a good one, hang on to them.

Follow this model and I think you could build a cable news network that is successful. The question is, “Does your network make this country better or just make you money?”