Senators’ Confidential Worries About Democracy Itself

Reading Time: 3 minutes Amid the constant fracas of daily political life, it is often hard to see the big picture of power in America (and, for that matter, the world.) In researching my book, Family of Secrets, I came to a fresh appreciation of this big picture, assembling a vast amount of new evidence of the extent to Read More

Keeping The War Far From Home

Reading Time: 2 minutes The other day, I received a press release about an upcoming event. The release had been forwarded to me after the event, and, since I found it compelling,  I wondered how much media attention it got. The answer in a minute…. But first, the release: DETROIT — On  June 26, at 2pm, a group of Read More

Oil Execs On Safety: “I Am the Walrus..”

Reading Time: 2 minutes In a remarkable display of finger-pointing, oil company executives went after BP today, claiming that if they had been running the Deepwater Horizon rig, no accident would have been possible. But as several congressmen pointed out, all the companies’ safety procedures are absurdly inadequate. Which raises the question: how well do we, as a society, Read More

Examining Split Hairs In a Disaster

Reading Time: 2 minutes There’s some fancy footwork going on, but the New York Times doesn’t seem willing to deal with it head on. Let’s consider a short section of an article on the New York Times’ website, headlined U.S. Plans ‘for Worst’ in Gulf, Seeing Risk in Leak Strategy. The section deals with BP’s culpability: Mr. Dudley denied Read More

Bush's New Bankruptcy

Reading Time: 2 minutes Just read breaking news that the Texas Rangers baseball team—the entity that put George W. Bush on the path to the presidency–has filed for bankruptcy. According to Bloomberg News: The Texas Rangers, the Major League Baseball team controlled by billionaire Thomas Hicks, filed for bankruptcy after the planned sale of the team fell through. The Arlington, Texas-based Read More

No Sunshine On Sunstein's Dark Spots

Reading Time: 3 minutes Recently a New York Times Magazine article profiled Cass Sunstein, the most powerful man in government you never heard of. And it absolutely buried the lead—the main reason to take an interest in this fellow. Under the decidedly benign headline “Cass Sunstein Wants to Nudge Us,” we learn that Sunstein, a close friend of President Read More

Taxidermy, or the Big Game of Freebies

Reading Time: 2 minutes I’m constantly struck by ways in which the privileged and the powerful manage to define the terms of discussion. Things like “welfare reform” and “compassionate conservatism.” Hard to be against those things, unless one knows something about what the nasty business they really involve. Thus, I was intrigued by a recent essay from Martin Lobel, Read More

Cancer Warning Ring Any Bells?

Reading Time: 2 minutes A recent column from Nicholas Kristof illustrates, almost inadvertently, why the rise of new, less cautious media organizations (like-well, whowhatwhy.org) is so crucial. Headlined “New Alarm Bells About Chemicals and Cancer,” the essay describes a new report on cancer from a presidential board …warning that our lackadaisical approach to regulation may have far-reaching consequences for Read More

Finance Bill Bad—Oops, Too Late

Reading Time: 2 minutes An article about financial reform legislation seems too little, too late—and points out the need for better journalism in this area. Headlined “Senate Financial Bill Misguided, Some Academics Say,” this New York Times article of May 3 was buried on Page A16 of the paper edition, and easily missable on the website. Note the warning Read More

The Game That Goes On and On: A Swiss Bank, A President and the Permanent Government

Reading Time: 1 minute A little-noted presidential golf outing opens the door to an intrigue-filled world of financiers, murky international interests, money-laundering, tax evasion, and politics as not-so-usual. — Last August, the presidential press corps followed Barack Obama and his family to Martha’s Vineyard for their brief vacation. The coverage focused on summery fare—a visit to an ice cream Read More

Some Analysis is Foreign to Us

Reading Time: 1 minute Timeless morsels are, well, timeless. Hence, I bring to your attention this phase from an early-March article in the New York Times. The reporter, writing about the Iraqi elections, noted [T]he elections may be a cautionary lesson, as politicians struggle to cobble together a coalition to rule. Iraq’s politics are more vibrant than the institutions Read More

Letters to Jackie, But What About Jack? How to Avoid the Heart of the JFK Assassination

Reading Time: 2 minutes When it comes to the biggest and most troubling stories of our time, corporate-owned and conventional public news outlets have a tendency to do an end run around the controversy and go straight to the most emotionally satisfying but least consequential aspects. Take the assassination of the 35th president. Recently, the media were full of Read More

What Obama Is Up Against

Reading Time: 5 minutes The first anniversary of Barack Obama’s historic election finds many of his supporters already grousing. Fair enough: Obama has been more vigorous in some areas than others. But one essential question goes unasked: How much can any president accomplish against the wishes of recalcitrant power centers within his own government? We Americans harbor a quaint Read More

Déjà vu, all over again. And again. And again.

Reading Time: 2 minutes As the New York Times reports, Large batches of e-mail records from the Justice Department lawyers who worked on the 2002 legal opinions justifying the Bush administration’s brutal interrogation techniques are missing, and the Justice Department told lawmakers Friday that it would try to trace the disappearance. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Senator Patrick J. Read More

Enforced Conformity is Deadly for Democracy

Reading Time: 1 minute Lately, from conversations and reading posts on the Web, I have been struck by how many people have developed hardened positions on the assassination of JFK based on inadequate information. Lots of people, for example, are unaware of the extraordinary number of witnesses who told stories that ran counter to the official version produced by Read More

A Fresh Wind

Reading Time: 3 minutes Traditional journalism organizations as a matter of practice eschew and even sometimes demonize the work of independent journalists who document apparent high-level collusion against the broader public interest.  “Conspiracy theory,” they sniff. Yet with the fast-changing media landscape, even the most cautious enterprises are suddenly suffused with the spirit of the muckrakers, who were unafraid Read More