How Fox News Could Improve their Coverage of the Netanyahu Corruption Cases

This week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was charged in two corruption cases. If you browse the coverage on different news sites, you will see that not all news sites provide their readers with enough information to fully understand the scale of corruption involved.

Fox News does a good job of providing some of the details, but I think it is critical that Fox tell their viewers what kind of  “tax break” Netanyahu allegedly gave to these two billionaires.

Some of the details sound innocuous and are likely to mislead readers.  By providing fine detail about what Netanyahu received, but without descriptions of what Netanyahu is alleged to have given in return, readers may be left with the misimpression that this case is much ado about cigars and wine between friends.

In reality a Netanyahu is alleged to have arranged to give these two billionaires a 10-year exemption from paying income taxes, which you can imagine works out to a HUGE amount of money for the two billionaires. Fox describes it as as if it were a generic “tax break”.  For all we know, Netanyahu is accused of allowing these two billionaires a higher child tax deduction credit.  Here’s Fox’s description:

It said Netanyahu had accepted gifts valued at 750,000 shekels ($214,000) from Milchan, and 250,000 shekels ($71,000) from Packer. The gifts from Milchan reportedly included expensive cigars and champagne. Police said that in return, Netanyahu had operated on Milchan’s behalf on U.S. visa matters, legislated a tax break 1 and connected him with an Indian businessman. It said he also helped Milchan, an Israeli producer whose credits include “Pretty Woman,” ”12 Years a Slave” and “JFK,” in the Israeli media market.

 

The Times of Israel does a better job of detailing the “tax break” which Netanyahu is alleged to have legislated — a 10 year exemption from income taxes, that Netanyahu tried to extend to 20 years.  For a billionaire, a 10-year income tax exemption is worth a HUGE amount.  As you will read, the tax break in question generated a large amount of corruption, including money laundering for the international drug trade.  The Israeli state comptroller tried to close these loopholes, starting in 2014, but every year, the legislation closing these loopholes was thwarted by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government.

From The Times of Israel:

“The idea was to encourage aliyah to Israel of wealthy people by turning Israel into a tax haven,” Snir told The Times of Israel last year. “The new law definitely gave a nudge and a wink to people who had dirty money and wanted to launder it.”

Under the right circumstances, a beneficiary of the law can end up paying no income tax whatsoever. The law has been taken advantage of by many individuals involved in the online gambling, forex and binary options industries, who typically will register their company in places like Cyprus or the British Virgin Islands and therefore pay no taxes on income from their enterprise, as long as the ultimate beneficial owner is a new immigrant or returning resident. What’s more, when foreign law enforcement officials seeking to investigate such alleged criminals turn to their Israeli counterparts, the authorities here may not be able to provide them with information on their finances.

Israel has consistently been one of the world’s top destinations for millionaires for the past several years — many of them from France.

But the law has attracted criminals as well.

Several thousand French new immigrants to Israel are said to be making their living working in boiler rooms and perpetrating various types of scams against victims abroad. More than ten thousand Israelis, many of them new immigrants, are employed in such fraud industries, which include fraudulent online gambling, binary options, CEO scams, forex, diamond scams, cryptocurrency scams, lead-generation scams and many others.

Alarmed that Amendment 168 was giving rise to increased criminality in Israel, Israel’s state comptroller in 2014 decided to do a random sampling of the bank accounts of new immigrants who had moved to Israel between 2008 and 2012.

One hundred of 600 bank accounts, or one in six, were found to have irregular activity that caused the bank to flag them for suspected money laundering.

Each year since 2014, a provision canceling the reporting exemption has been placed before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation as part of the Economic Arrangements bill. Each year, the minister of immigrant absorption — first Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beytenu), then Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) then Landver again — negotiated to have the provision removed from the bill before the other ministers could even vote on it. Last week, the provision was once again removed from the Arrangements Bill.

the US State Department, Israel is listed as a “a major money-laundering country,” the most egregious of three categories, which it defines as one “whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking.

 

It sure sounds like a “swamp”.

Read the whole thing: The Times of Israel


  1. The “tax break” Netanyahu is alleged to have legislated granted the billionaires a 10-year exemption on from income taxes. A 10-year income tax exemption is worth a HUGE amount of money if your are a billionaire.

    Read more: The Times of Israel 

Do Single People Read the Bible Differently? *

In this article, I’m going to attempt to persuade you that no one really interprets the Bible literally.  Rather, we weigh different parts of the Bible against one another, looking for the reading that seems most persuasive.  As part of this process, a person’s background can affect one’s biblical interpretation, making people of different backgrounds better able to see each other’s blind spots.  These claims may seem obvious to some and sacrilegious to others.

I’ll start, by revisiting one of the most commonly read parables in the Bible — the Parable of the “Prodigal Son”.

How Americans Interpret the Parable of the Prodigal Son  Differently

If you were to ask a North American Christian why the Prodigal Son returned, you would get a variety of answers, but one of the more common responses I’ve heard is that the Prodigal Son squandered his money on prostitutes and chose to return to his father once his money ran out.  In fact, the allegation about the prostitutes that we remember is not explicitly part of the story’s original narrative, (Luke 15:13) but rather it is an accusation made by the older son when the younger son returns (Luke 15:30).  It is the older son’s accusation that is stuck in our memories.

How Others Interpret the Parable of the Prodigal Son

By contrast, if you were to ask Christians from another part of the world, particularly a place that has experience with famine, you would find that a greater number of them would mention the word “famine” in their answer. (Luke 15:14)

How Experience Affects How We Read

The story of the Prodigal Son illustrates how our own experience shapes how we read the Bible and what we remember.  North Americans below the age of 80 do not have direct experience with famine and so our memories don’t connect to this part of the story as strongly as do the older son’s allegations of sexual immorality.

For North Americans, “Sexual Immorality” is a more familiar concept than famine; we focus on it more easily; and it imprints itself more strongly in our memories.

Who Are You in the Parable of the Prodigal Son?

Some of you may be familiar with the Bible Study practice of empathizing with the different characters in a Bible story.  In this story, we might ask:

  • Have you ever felt like a prodigal son?
  • Do you sometimes feel like the older son; or if you have children,
  • Do you identify with the role of the Father?

The Bible includes many rich stories that contain insight from a multitude of perspectives and if we want to experience the Gospel most fully, we should consciously try to empathize with each of the characters in a parable.

How Does Being Single Change One’s Focus? *

As a second example of how who we are shapes how we read the bible, consider the case of 1 Corinthians 7, which the NIV Translation titles “Concerning Married Life”. Christians who are single are less likely to quickly scan over Pauls’s writings regarding singleness, much as many Americans scan over the famine in the story of the “Prodigal Son”.  I put an asterisk in the above paragraph heading because by “Single” I specifically meant to describe not just people who haven’t yet married, but people who are single and who are open to the possibility of remaining single.  These people are more likely to read the Bible with a mind receptive to Paul’s message on singleness.  On the other hand, singles who aspire to marriage or who have internalized society’s marriage norms are less likely to pick up on Paul’s instructions.

What Would Paul Have Us Do Regarding Marriage and Sexuality?

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul responds to a request from the church at Corinth concerning the subject of sexuality and marriage with a recommendation coupled with a series of concessions meant for those who fall short of the goal.

Most people who are marriage-minded focus on the concessions, but Paul is clear in saying that he wishes that all the unmarried and widowed believers would remained unmarried, as he is (1 Corinthians 7:8).  In the next verse, Paul gives the concession that if believers are not practicing self-control they should marry.  “For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Grandfathered into this arrangement are all those currently married.  Paul grants that married couples should remain married, but he advises the widowed not to remarry.

What Reason Does Paul Give for his Recommendation?

Paul does not always give rationales for all his recommendations, but in chapter 7 he gives several, though I doubt many people can recall his most significant reason.

Some readers will pick up on verse 28:

But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

Some marriage-minded readers might also cite verses 29-31, arguing that Paul thought the end of the world was coming soon, and that if he’d have known that the world would continue for over 1,000 years, he would have approved of marriage out of a need for children.  But notice that once you suggest the possibility that Paul was wrong about the timing, you are speaking against the ideal of literal inerrancy and you lose the ability to apply this interpretive mode to Paul’s other writings.

No, Paul’s claim in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 goes straight to the core of the “First Commandment”:

32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

That’s quite a charge against married people — that in choosing marriage, they are choosing to divide their love for God— as forbidden by the first commandment: (Mark 12:28-34)

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[b] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no commandment greater than these.”

Now if you are a marriage-minded person, like most of society, this interpretation of the seventh chapter of 1 Corinthians is likely going to face a lot of resistance in your mind, even though you will recognize that marriage may compete with other worthy goals.  If you are particularly practical, you might ask how we are supposed to continue to procreate as a species if all the “best” people stay single.  More philosophically, you might critique Paul for assuming an economy of scarcity, saying something like:

Is there is only a finite amount of love to go around?  If I have a child, will it really mean less love for my spouse and less love for God?

Because a plain and literal interpretation likely challenges at least one of your beliefs, you will likely consider alternatives to the plain literal version I just described.

I talked through an early version of this article with a father of eight and he did not undergo an immediate change of mind, phoning his unmarried children to discourage them from marrying.  I have yet to meet even one parent who says to their child: “Don’t marry.  I want no grandchildren”,  out of a desire for their child’s undivided devotion to the Lord. Yet that appears to be the position Paul advocates if you take a plain and literal interpetation.  You may find some other bible verse to negate what Paul is saying here, or may make some other explanation, but your eventual stance on this will be to choose some reason/s not to take Paul literally.

Our Actions Reveal Our Beliefs

Sometimes when we talk about literal biblical interpretation, we use examples that have a bearing on how we interpret other parts of the bible, but not much effect on our everyday lives.  For example:

“Did the creation happen in 6 literal 24-hour days”?

This question affects how we read the Bible, and what we may think about various scientific theories, but this is mostly a hypothetical question compared to the question of whether marriage is an ideal, rather than a concession.

I’d like to suggest that we can know more about what we really believe by keeping track of what we actually do, rather than by our assent to intellectual positions that have little bearing on our lives.  And we can’t faithfully believe in Paul’s recommendation that it is better to stay single, while encouraging all of our children, friends, and grandchildren to get married.

Weighing the Evidence

Now some of you may say: It’s just one chapter of the Bible, and there are many other parts of the Bible that support the traditional view of marriage, and marginalize Paul.  As they say in law, “the preponderance of evidence” speaks in favor of marriage. That is a valid position, and one I myself favor.  I wrote this article to raise your awareness that you weigh the scripture through various factors, rather than read the bible literally; and that people of different perspectives can help us see things that are in our blind spots.

About the Next Article

In the next article, I’m going to argue that, if you read the Bible literally, there are two views of sacrifice in the Old Testament:

  1. The conventional view that God commanded the Israelites to make sacrifices to Him.
  2. The view of the Psalmists, Hosea, and Jeremiah that God did not desire or command the Israelites to make sacrifices.

The Art of the “Deceptive Answer”

How Trump used “Weasel Words” to Trick Us into Thinking He Agreed to Testify Under Oath.

There is so much media attention to President Trump that it amazes me that I haven’t heard anyone else debunk the conventional wisdom that President Trump agreed to testify under oath“100%.”  This would be true if he had stopped speaking at that point, but in the 9 quick sentences that followed, Trump used a tricky distraction technique to take back his word.

What Trump actually agreed to was the following:

  • Trump may, or may not have asked James Comey for his loyalty, but if he did, Trump didn’t ask Comey to put his hand on the Bible when Comey’s allegiance was requested.

 

Trump’s tricky answer is either a strange accident, or an example of a “master manipulator”1 practicing his craft.  The creator of the Dilbert comic strip, Scott Adams, has been arguing for a long time that Trump’s “persuasion skills” are the best he’s seen.

In the rest of this post, I’ll compare Trump’s skill at the “trick answer” to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s attempts to trick the public, showing you how Trump takes deception to a whole new level.

What is a “Non-Denial Denial”?

The non-denial denial is a statement that is designed to appear to the uninitiated like a legitimate denial of an allegation.  It is used to deceive the public, often by answering a different question than what was asked or implied.

Let’s compare how Bill, Hillary, and Trump execute assertions and denials using various tricks:

Jump to Section on: Bill | Hillary | Trump

1) Bill Clinton: Use a Word with a Private Definition

Sometimes a non-denial denial hinges upon the definition of the word, which the politician has carefully selected to mislead the public.

Watch Bill Clinton slyly slip in the term “sexual relations” into this press event so as to give hope to supporters looking for an excuse to still believe in him.  (The term “sexual relations” was chosen because it was defined to not include oral sex).

This word trick gave those who wanted to believe in Clinton a reason to withhold judgement for a while.  If I were to score this trick on execution, I would give it a 9 out of 10, but note, Bill still got impeached.

2) Hillary Clinton: “Wipe Like with a Cloth”

Bill Clinton had the “gift”.  He was a “natural” as they say.   Hillary is said to be great in a one-on-one or small-group setting, but she couldn’t spin the media like her husband.  Watch as Hillary tries to redefine the term “wipe” in reference to her private email server:

In fairness to Hillary, she was responding to a live question, rather than acting out a prepared script. I’ll give Hillary a 2 out of 10, but acknowledge that it was a difficult defense.

 

3) Donald Trump: “100%.  I Didn’t Say Under Oath.”

Donald Trump was recently facing questions about his earlier vague denial of James Comey’s testimony.

After Trump appeared2 to deny the earlier Comey claim, Trump was asked a followup question about whether he would be willing to testify under oath that he had not asked Comey for a pledge of loyalty.  Notice how Trump twists the question from whether he would be willing to testify under oath into a misdirection about whether he asked Comey to pledge his loyalty under oath.

Here’s an excerpt from the full transcript:

(Note: The clip begins by Trump trash-talking ABC New’s Jonathan Karl, the journalist asking the question, and interrupting him, causing Karl to trip-up in posing the question.  The question should be: “did you ask Comey for a pledge of loyalty?)

< View entire transcript

KARL: And did he ask for a pledge of loyalty from you? That’s another thing he said.

TRUMP: No he did not.3

KARL: So, he said those things under oath. Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of events?

TRUMP: 100%. 4 I didn’t say under oath — I hardly know the man, I’m not going to say I want you to pledge allegiance. Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance, under oath? I mean, think of it. I hardly know the man. It doesn’t make sense. No, I didn’t say that, and I didn’t say the other.

KARL: So, if Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you about that you’d be willing to talk to him?

TRUMP: I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you, Jon.5

 

Trump’s Misdirection was a Success, Judging from the Media Coverage

We don’t know what the outcome of this long-term legal and public relations “war” will be, but Trump seems to have succeeded in this minor battle, which involved a very difficult feat — a real-time non-denial denial, which Trump turned into a persuasive “positive” — 100%.  Many people now actually have the impression that Trump wants to testify. Trump’s answer seems a little bizarre, but the newspaper stories portray Trump’s answers as a full-throated denial, which is the goal.

Deception for Sport

Dilbert creator, Scott Adams, thinks Trump will never actually testify under oath.  Perhaps Trump will say that he wants to testify but his lawyers advise against it, or, like in the case of his taxes, he will give cascading series of other excuses.  With this performance, Trump also leaves open the option to claim that he misheard the question, while further giving him a feeling of dominance — that he can manipulate the media with impunity and win.  It’s almost as if Donald does “deception” for sport.

“Cheating, Fair and Square”

I’m giving Trump a 9.5 out of 10 for degree of difficulty, but in some ways it is riskier to use deceptive tricks rather than an outright lie, because if the trick is uncovered, its existence is tantamount to an admission that you are lying.  I don’t have any special insight into Trump’s psyche, but if I had to guess why he acts in this way, I think it’s because deception has become a game to him.  Donald games the public for the same reason he games his taxes, stiffs his business partners6 and dupes Trump University students7 — the thrill of feeling like you got away with cheating, fair and square.”

If Trump succeeds in this deception, a Republican-controlled House and Senate make his prospects better than Bill’s.  Trump just needs to make sure he doesn’t lose the House in the mid-term elections.

The Alternative Option: Take the 5th

There is another option which Trump described in 1998 when Chris Matthews asked him about what Bill Clinton should have done.  Trump said Bill should have taken the 5th and attacked the Special Prosecutor for being out to get him.  This is a strategy he later seems to have adopted in the Trump University case with Judge Curiel, which he later settled.

Update: Trump Surrogates go after Mueller.

 

Related:

 

Copyright Release:

Note: You are free to use the contents of this post, including direct quotation of indefinite length without paraphrasing.  I expressly waive copyright to this post, so as to encourage its circulation.

 


  1. Dilbert creator Scott Adams says that “persuasion” is not good or bad in itself.  Persuasion is a tool that can be used for either good or evil. When persuasion becomes “manipulation”, I no longer see that as neutral.

  2. I say appeared because I think it more likely that Trump was asserting that the reporter’s wording wasn’t an exact match.

  3. Technically Trump is correct because, by rattling him, Trump was able to trip Karl up into misstating the question.

  4. All the soundbites end here with “100%,” but watch the next 9 sentences that negate the affirmation.  If Trump really meant “YES”, he could have said “YES.  ABSOLUTELY” and left it at that.  I can see no other purpose for these next 9 sentences other than as weasel words.

  5. Trump is only committing himself to affirm to Mueller the nonsensical response that Trump did not ask Comey to swear loyalty to him under oath.  Furthermore, technically speaking, Trump did not commit to making the statement to Mueller while under oath.

  6. Even though Trump could have paid his suppliers, he had some of his corporations  declare “strategic bankruptcy.”  He is extremely wealthy now, but he takes pride in stiffing those who worked for him.

  7. Trump was deeply involved in the marketing of Trump University, but had no role in the actual teaching.   Some of the seminars were taught by timeshare salesmen just looking for a quick buck.

Digital Marketing Ideas for Writers

I originally wrote this post for Emtiaz Zourob, but others may find it useful.

One of the things writers and other artists often need to do is promote their work, so learning some basic marketing skills can be helpful.

One of the simplest things an artist can do is to purchase the rights to a website address (or domain name).  After this is done, consider signing up for this username on a variety of social networking sites, even if you don’t plan on using the social media site immediately.

  1. Get your own domain name.
    • A domain name is a permanent internet address that you can own the rights to
    • Examples:
      1. openpolitics.com (my domain name)
      2. emtiazzourob.com,  or
      3. emtiazalnahhal.com
    • I found Emtiaz’s site on blogspot:
      1. emtiazalnahhal.blogspot.com
      2. Blogspot is good, but it would be better if the Emtiaz owned her own address, independent of blogspot.com.
    • Having your own domain name is sort of like owning your own home rather than renting.  The owner of a domain name can customize the site, add additional features, and switch to a different hosting provider without having to change the site’s address.
    • You can purchase your own domain name for about $10-15/year.
    • There are many different companies through which you can purchase  a domain.
      1. I use namecheap.com.
      2. I would recommend gandi.net if your site might be controversial because I think gandi will be more likely to stand up for you if others are trying to censor you.
  2. Optional: Switch Your Blog to Your Own Domain Name.
    • After you have purchase your own domain name, you no longer need to rely upon a company like blogspot or wordpress.com for hosting and you have the future flexibility to switch providers.  For example, you can switch from emtiazalnahhal.blogspot.com to emtiazalnahhal.com (or whatever name you choose).
    • I can help you with the hosting and transfer if you like.  Talk to me more if you’re interested in this.  This would likely also mean a switch in software from blogspot to the free version of wordpress.
  3. Register for Twitter.
    1. If you don’t already own your username on twitter (@timlangeman in my case), I would sign up, if for no other reason than to reserve your name.  (It’s free to sign up)
    2. Unlike Facebook, Twitter is public by default.  If you want to get a message out to the public, Twitter can be more effective than Facebook, but Facebook is good for restricting shared material to friends.
  4. Get Business Cards to hand out at readings.
    • On your business card, list the domain name that you purchased in step 1, your twitter username, your email address, and any other info you want, such as phone number
    • Your physical address may change if you move to a different apartment, but your gmail address and domain name can always stay the same.
    • There are many places to get business cards.  I don’t have experience ordering my own cards.
      1. I’ve heard advertisements for vistaprint.com and moo.com but I don’t know how good they are.
  5. Get your own Email Lists
    • You can collect email addresses from people at readings and put a signup form on your website.   As you collect email addresses you can categorize them based on language or interest.  You can send some emails to the whole group and others to a subgroup (like English speakers).
    • The advantage of email lists is that you can target different types of people when you have a book to sell, or an event to publicize, even if those people don’t necessarily follow you on Facebook or Twitter.
    • There are many sites that offer group email functionality.
      1. Constant Contact is a popular site for non-profits
      2. I recommend MailChip if you’re starting with a small list because MailChip is free for lists smaller than 2000 people.