Obama Aides Have No Option But To Hammer Fox

I disagree with my friend David Corn that Fox is just a “distraction, an irritant” from the point of the Obama administration. Writing in Politics Daily, David urges the White House, which has launched a series of ferocious attacks on Fox, to cool it. As a media counsel, I would argue that the White House is right to go for Fox. To all intents and purposes, Fox along with Rush Limbaugh and some other talk radio conservatives constitute the Opposition and whatever the GOP leadership may say they represent the leadership of the GOP and as such they have to be confronted  forcefully.

It isn’t that the White House has to do this because there is a chance they might be able to convert the three million-strong diehard audience of Glen Beck, for instance. I think it highly unlikely that they would be successful in that endeavor. What is more important is that other cable news outlets tend to follow the Fox agenda, if only indirectly and Fox can generate tremendous amounts of misinformation and disinformation to skew the trajectory of coverage and debate on other channels and in the press and online. I think this was what Rahm Emanuel had in mind when he urged other outlets to stop “following Fox.”

The unfortunate reality is that because of staff cuts, a decline in media standards and the pressure of 24/7 news, too few media outlets bother to check facts and information — even when coming from Fox – and just go ahead and report even to the extent of reporting opinion as fact.

David is surely right, though, when he castigates the White House for trying to isolate Fox by, for example, deciding to withhold administration guests from Fox News Sunday. And the administration should not ignore David when he urges the White House to opt for “strategic derision”, which he describes as “good-natured belittling”. “Don’t demolish Fox, demean it.,” says David.

Ridicule is a great weapon but I am not too sure it should be that good-natured to be effective in the current political arena. Too foppish, too weak and it looks like it is just a game — as serious as Jon Stewart, say. Jonathan Swift’s ridicule or Samuel Johnson’s – two ancient masters of the craft — contained a lot of indignation

Talk About The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

The Bank of England governor Mervyn King has delivered a speech in Edinburgh arguing that stricter and more interventionist regulations won’t be enough to control the risks Britain’s large banks pose for the country’s economy. He wants them broken up and for the retail banks to be separated from  investment banks with the former avoiding the risky stuff and the latter being allowed to be more adventurous. Shouldn’t his words of warning also apply to his own bank? Isn’t the Bank of England “too big to fail” and hasn’t it also taken on some highly risky bets recently?

What is also odd about his speech is his claim that investment banking was to blame for the financial crash. It was but only up to a point. Sub-prime mortgage lending by retail banks in the US was what brought us all low. Yes, the scale of the lending was boosted by the the securitisation market, but seperating institutions will not prevent that happening again. Sorry to say but capitalism involves risk.

Afghans To Re-Run Election – Deja Vu

Following up from my Perfect Storm post. With Karzai’s agreement for a re-run of the election, we have now  an imperfect storm. Questions: How will vote-rigging be avoided this time round? With the Taliban rampant, is it likely that we will see an increase in turnout?

The way Karzai acceded to a run-off doesn’t augur well. He was begrudging in the extreme and as the New York Times pointed out “you could almost hear his arm being twisted” by Secretary of State Clinton and other allied leaders, including Britain’s Gordon Brown and France’s Bernard Kouchner.  Is Karzai likely to become the kind of credible partner President Obama says is necessary before agreeing to the dispatch of reinforcements to Afghanistan?

Even now Karzai seems reluctant to accept that nearly one-third of his first-round votes were stolen. Does anyone really think that vote-rigging of that magnitude is somehow not connected with Karzai himself?

And to stress the point I made above. How is this election going to be more credible and fair than the last? Election day is only three weeks away. Much of the fraud was also connected to a faulty registry of voters that international observers knew had problems with it months before the summer election. Is the register going to corrected? Of course, not as there is not enough time.

And how to ensure that the runoff is fair and credible when many of the poll-workers who were responsible for the fraud last time will be involved this time? They can’t all be sacked as there is not enough time to train replacements.

And when Karzai wins, which he is likely to by all accounts, will he see the errors of his way and transform himself into the leader people had high hopes he was many years ago? Again it is his begrudging acceptance now of the runoff that suggests that a re-elected Karzai will be no different from before. A priority for the next Afghan government must be to root out corruption, including the corruption within the Karzai family, notably his brother. After that basic services must be improved – that change could well be more important than the sending of additional troops. It has been the neglect of the economy and the country’s infrastructure by the allies and by the Afghan government that has so far doomed the democratic experiment in Afghanistan. Why should people believe democracy is a good thing when they have no reliable running water or electricity even in the capital of Kabul?

The failure of the Afghan government to deliver services along with widespread corruption has fueled the insurgency as much as the presence of foreign troops.