This morning, New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller announced the paper will follow NBC's lead and allow its reporters to refer to the conflict in Iraq as a "civil war."
Keller said in a statement to Editor & Publisher:
"After consulting with our reporters in the field and the editors who directly oversee this coverage, we have agreed that Times correspondents may describe the conflict in Iraq as a civil war when they and their editors believe it is appropriate. It's hard to argue that this war does not fit the generally accepted definition of civil war. We expect to use the phrase sparingly and carefully, not to the exclusion of other formulations, not for dramatic effect. The main shortcoming of 'civil war' is that, like other labels, it fails to capture the complexity of what is happening on the ground. The war in Iraq is, in addition to being a civil war, an occupation, a Baathist insurgency, a sectarian conflict, a front in a war against terrorists, a scene of criminal gangsterism and a cycle of vengeance. We believe 'civil war' should not become reductionist shorthand for a war that is colossally complicated."
Amid all of the media excitement of NBC’s choice to grandly pronounce the ongoing violence in Iraq a “civil war,” some (like MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann) are gleefully touting NBC’s editorializing as a “Walter Cronkite moment,” referring to the then-CBS Evening News anchor’s 1968 editorial declaring that the U.S. had become “mired in stalemate” in Vietnam.
In their desire for a U.S. retreat in Iraq, journalists had previously pronounced Cindy Sheehan’s protesting in Crawford, Texas and Democratic Congressman John Murtha’s calling for a withdrawal of troops to be “Cronkite moments” of the Iraq war, each time apparently hoping that the weight of the media's pessimism finally forces a change in U.S. policy.
Has it at long last begun to occur that John F. Kennedy is fading from the perennial lists of historian's picks of the "top most influential" historical Americans? If this latest survey of Historians is any indication, it just may be.
And it is about time, too… unless you are a hero worshipping journalist like Peter S. Canellos of the Boston Globe who is calling foul in his piece this morning titled, In pantheon, whither JFK?.
The Atlantic Monthly asked 10 eminent historians to rank the 100 most influential Americans of all time, and Kennedy did not make the cut. Worse, he was named on only two ballots.
Only TWO. Gosh, this is a calamity.
Canellos goes on to reveal others on the list, a list that includes the presidents before and after JFK, and informs us why these historians didn't put JFK on the list and why the two who did, did so.
Imagine a world where the media felt their primary obligation was to inform society of important events and issues “with an openness to consider the different views out there before arriving at any conclusion.” Sounds like heaven, right? Well, NB member ‘lostincyberspace” has shared a fabulous editorial from a Malaysian newspaper called the Sun Daily that should be must reading for American editors and journalists:
When people pick up their newspaper in the morning, they have one thing in common - no matter what their personal interests and views may be. They want news and views.
They want to know what happened in the community they call home, and the larger world which the community is inextricably a part of.
They want to know about the decisions that are being made that could affect them, and the community and world they live in.
They want to know about the different views that exist and are being debated out there.
They want to have a say in these because they would be affected, directly or indirectly.
The editorial gloriously continued (emphasis mine throughout):
Yesterday, with considerable ruffles and flourishes, 'Today' announced, as noted here, that NBC News would henceforth be referring to the situation in Iraq as a "civil war." Those curious as to why NBC would devote so much attention to what amounts to little more than an argument over semantics got their answer this morning. By shaping the language, NBC apparently seeks also to shape US policy.
In a segment narrated by NBC foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, we heard first from presidential historian Michael Beschloss, who declared:
"The Bush administration has a huge incentive to keep people from calling this a civil war. They know once this war is branded that way, Americans will essentially say that's not what we do, let's get out."
The Michael Richards N-word outburst at the Laugh Factory drew not one, but two columns in Newsweek from black staffers. Both praised praising society for coming to the point of outrage over such remarks. Both mildly mocked the obligatory "Kramer" trip to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson (while not mocking Sharpton and Jackson). Both revisited a long history of racism. Ellis Cose recalled a South African woman who was beaten, raped, subjected to electric shocks, and strangled within an inch of her life. Raina Kelley went big-picture: "The politics of black and white really began 400 years ago, when, in 1619, Virginia settlers took ownership of slaves from a Dutch man-of-war." And both worked in George Allen’s Macaca remark (only one worked in the RNC ad against Playboy-party man Harold Ford.)
Barbra Streisand not yet having weighed in with her advice to the Republican party as to how it might regain power, we'll have to settle for the counsel that WaPo columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr. generously offers in his column of today, Can the GOP Find Its Center?
His advice boils down to a two-part program: forget about conservatism already, and Be Like Bill.
Dionne begins by proclaiming that "this fall's election defeat . . . revealed that the Barry Goldwater-Ronald Reagan political settlement has expired," by which he apparently means that conservatism as a winning political philosophy has gone the way of the parrot in A Fish Called Wanda. E.J. thus goes on to deride Republican leaders such as John Boehner and Mike Pence who in the wake of the GOP's defeat call for a return to traditional conservatives principles, chief among them that of limited government.
With the final line "Linda Froschauer, president of the National Science Teachers Association, available at the right price," Keith Olbermann of MSNBC Monday named Froschauer his "Worst Person in the World."
How did Ms. Froschauer get labeled a policy prostitute on MSNBC? The organization she heads declined a donation of 50,000 DVD copies of Al Gore's documentary-editorial "An Inconvenient Truth."
Yep. Apparently that movie is so good, people have to be paid to turn down 50,000 copies of it.
As movie producer Laurie David said in an indignant op-ed in the Washington Post (one of four pro-global warming theory articles the Post ran over the last two-day weekend, by my count), the movie's producers donated the 50,000 DVDs "for educators to use in their classrooms."
All year long, the media were disgusted with the new Medicare prescription drug benefit that became available this January thanks to George W. Bush and a Republican Congress. It was too confusing. It was too expensive. It wasn’t going to save anybody any money. It was just a big payoff for Bush’s friends in the pharmaceutical industry.
Well, almost three weeks after the polls closed, it must be safe to report the truth: 80 percent of seniors are satisfied with the new benefit. So said the Boston Globe Monday (emphasis mine throughout):
A transcript posted at the blog Think Progress quotes NBC as factoring in a story from now-discredited source Jamil Hussein about Sunni worshippers being burned alive as a major factor in NBC's decision to declare a "civil war" in Iraq [emphasis added]:
The news from Iraq is becoming grimmer every day. Over the long holiday weekend bombings killed more than 200 people in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad. And six Sunni men were doused with kerosene and burned alive. Shiite muslims are the majority, but Sunnis like Saddam Hussein ruled that country until the war. Now, the battle between Shiites and Sunnis has created a civil war in Iraq. Beginning this morning, MSNBC will refer to the fighting in Iraq as a civil war — a phrase the White House continues to resist. But after careful thought, MSNBC and NBC News decided over the weekend, the terminology is appropriate, as armed militarized factions fight for their own political agendas. We’ll have a lots more on the situation in Iraq and the decision to use the phrase, civil war.
On Monday's Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann suggested that the recent decision by NBC News to label violence in Iraq as a "civil war" was comparable to the 1968 decision by Walter Cronkite to declare the Vietnam War a "stalemate," as the former CBS News anchor lost confidence in America's ability to win the war. Olbermann led the show quoting from Cronkite's 1968 statement, including the proclamation that "the only rational way out would be to negotiate," as the Countdown host contended that Cronkite had "truly matched his signoff 'And that's the way it is.'" Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the November 27 Countdown show:
Brent Bozell, the President of the Media Research Center, the parent of NewsBusters, appeared alongside Democratic strategist Laura Schwartz on Monday night's Hannity & Colmes on FNC to discuss the decision by NBC News to call the situation in Iraq a “civil war.” (Earlier NewsBusters items by Mark Finkelstein and by Geoffrey Dickens on how on Today Matt Lauer insisted NBC made the decision “after careful consideration,” as well as an evening show update on NewsBusters from Brent Baker on how NBC admitted the “civil war” term would erode support for the war.) Bozell contended: “Of course it's a mess over there. That does not mean it's a civil war and that's what the question was. And when Matt Lauer and NBC make the editorial determination that it's a civil war that's an editorial and that's a biased judgment on their part.” [The segment is 40 minutes into the show which will re-run at 12 midnight EST, 11pm CST, 9pm PST]
At one point Bozell told Alan Colmes to “hush,” leading Sean Hannity to propose: "Brent, you get the award for the Phrase of the Year: 'Alan, hush.'" Bozell earlier recalled how back in August of 2005 Lauer repeatedly pressed soldiers in Iraq to admit they had low morale, prompting one to fire back: “If I got my news from the newspapers also I'd be pretty depressed as well." (Links to that incident, with video, below the break)
On FNC's Fox News Watch on Saturday, conservative columnist and FNC contributor Cal Thomas took to task MSNBC host Keith Olbermann for Olbermann's "inaccuracies" and "hot air" as the show's panelists got to voice their picks for the second annual "Turkey of the Year" award, which allows each panelist to dishonor media figures for disreputable behavior. Olbermann, who often uses his Countdown show's regular "Worst Person in the World" segment to attack conservative public figures, was called out by Thomas as someone who "is the greatest contributor to global warming because he spews more hot air than any other cable television show host." (Transcript follows)
Twelve hours after the Today show repeatedly announced how NBC News had decided to call the situation in Iraq a “civil war,” as if that decision was major news itself, Monday's NBC Nightly News led with the term and conceded it could “erode” public support for the war. Meanwhile, CBS and ABC didn't go quite as far as CBS's Katie Couric referred to how Iraq “slips ever-closer to civil war” and ABC's Charles Gibson suggested “you can call it anarchy, you can call it chaos, you can call it civil war...”
NBC's Brian Williams teased: “A critical week for the President and the civil war in Iraq. Is the way out through Iran and Syria?” Then, over a graphic of “IRAQ” with “CIVIL WAR” beneath, Williams led: “Tonight there are moving parts on several fronts, all related to the fighting in Iraq. This begins what may be a crucial week in determining future U.S. involvement in what has become a civil war in that country.” Reporter Andrea Mitchell asserted: “While Washington looks for answers, the violence in Iraq is spiraling out of control. Today NBC News joined other major news organizations in calling it a civil war.” After a clip of presidential historian Michael Beschloss who contended,: “If you define a civil war as a country where a lot of groups are struggling for power, and that's primarily the struggle, Iraq is in a civil war,” Mitchell acknowledged the impact of using the term: “Today the administration objected strongly to news organizations calling it a civil war. Many experts say that the White House has a huge incentive to avoid that term because it could further erode public support for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq.”
"Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts" the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, something Congressman Charles Rangel seemingly never picked up. In the Fox News Sunday segment which featured Barney Frank attacking Fox News, host Chris Wallace presented to Congressman Rangel findings from a Heritage Foundation Study that the military are in fact from a healthier economic background and better educated than the general American public. Rangel, with the facts in front of him, reverted to his original talking points disputing those very facts. He even made a John Kerry-like claim implying those serving in the military are not particularly patriotic or even very smart. The question is, will the mainstream media pick up on it?
Another exasperating storyline from the MSM: the economy may be just fine overall but its screwing over 20-somethings who have to live with mom and dad.
My colleague Dan Gainor wrote up a review of the media's reheating the tired old storyline:
In the November 26 “World News Sunday” story “Young & in Debt,” anchor Dan Harris talked up the story about twentysomethings “forced to move back in with their parents.” ABC and USA Today each told stories of young men and women facing mountains of debt from school, credit cards and more.
Rather than focus on how self-made those debt mountains were – up to $165,000 in the USA Today story – both reports dwelled on how twentysomethings were “struggling to pay” for their living expenses.
ABC’s John Berman introduced viewers to Todd Townsend, who moved in with his mother because of $50,000 in debt, "mostly from student loans." "But he's not living there because he wants to," Berman said. He then explained to viewers the horrors of that choice, including living in two bedrooms next door to one another and even sharing a bathroom. "You share a bathroom with your mother?" asked Berman incredulously.
Berman wasn’t finished. "Moving back home can provide some financial relief; you get free food and laundry. But there are some pretty serious drawbacks." According to Townsend, who didn’t like to admit he lived with his mother when he met women, "it's not sexy."
If it's that unsexy, why go on national TV so even more young women know the answer to "my place or yours?"
I already linked to Flopping Aces, read his bust of the AP here. Given that, or even aside from it, should this, (registration required) via the AP, be in the main Iraq story in the Chicago Tribune today?
Separately, police and witnesses said U.S. soldiers shot and killed 11 civilians and wounded five on Sunday night in the Baghdad suburb of Husseiniya.
"We were sitting inside our house when the Americans showed up and started firing at homes. They killed many people and burned some houses," said one of the witnesses, a man with bandages on his head who was being treated at Imam Ali Hospital in the Shiite slum of Sadr City. The police and witnesses spoke with Associated Press Television News on condition of anonymity to protect their own security.
On Sunday’s "60 Minutes," CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan insisted the US had been defeated in Iraq. During an interview with General John Abizaid, the top US Commander in Iraq, Logan asserted, "We hear very little about victory in Iraq these days. We hear a lot about how to manage the defeat." It appears Ms. Logan suffers from selective hearing. While many Democrats and some Republicans talk about Iraq as a lost cause, sources such as Senator John McCain and White House officials still insist victory is not only possible, it is imperative.
General Abizaid dismissed Logan’s claims, and maintained that "defeat" was her word not his. However, Logan persisted in proclaiming that the United States had been beaten.
On this morning's Today show, as first noted here, NBC News officially declared Iraq to be in a state of civil war as Today co-host Matt Lauer greeted viewers with the following announcement: "As you know for months now the White House has rejected claims that the situation in Iraq has deteriorated into civil war and for the most part news organizations like NBC have hesitated to characterize it as such but after careful consideration NBC News has decided a change in terminology is warranted. That the situation in Iraq with armed militarized factions fighting for their own political agendas can now be characterized as civil war. We're gonna have more on the situation on the ground in Iraq and on our decision coming up."
The Tampa Tribune published an article Monday about how wrong the hurricane predictions were this year, and addressed some of the costs to Florida residents (emphasis mine, hat tip to NB member Full Monte):
With cataclysmic predictions that hurricanes would swarm from the tropics like termites, no one thought 2006 would be the most tranquil season in a decade.
Barring a last-second surprise from the tropics, the season will end Thursday with nine named storms, and only five of those hurricanes. This year is the first season since 1997 that only one storm nudged its way into the Gulf of Mexico.
Here are some of the important statistics (italicization mine for emphasis):