The week had a gusher of economic news, and most of it was favorable:
Thursday, 2nd Quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was revised sharply upward to 4.0% from July's initial estimate of 3.4%; the final GDP number for the second quarter comes out in late September.
The most comprehensive quarterly housing report issued, from the government's Office for Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), showed that home prices nationwide increased ever so slightly during the 2nd quarter, and were 3.19% higher than a year earlier. That year-over-year result is greater than inflation during the same period.
The only really bad news I can think of at the moment: Consumer confidence took a hit in two different reports during the week (here and here).
Well of course consumer confidence was due for a hit. With the press, especially Time Magazine, working overtime to make the housing situation look like the crisis of the century, it's a wonder that anyone's getting out of bed to face the day.
Norman Hsu's appearance in a San Mateo County, California courtroom Friday to answer for a 1991 grand larceny charge, prompted full stories Friday night on the ABC and CBS evening newscasts catching up with the case of the fugitive donor to many Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton. On Thursday night, the NBC Nightly News became the first broadcast network program to report on Hsu, in a story from Lisa Myers detailed in this NB item, and on Friday night anchor Brian Williams offered a brief update about Hsu's court appearance.
On Friday's CBS Evening News, Sandra Hughes pointed out how “a large group of Hsu's bundling checks came from this little green house in Daly City, California that Hsu once listed as a home address. The Paw family, which lives here, has given $45,000 to Hillary Clinton since 2005.” Hughes also noted how Clinton has returned $23,000 in direct donations from Hsu, but on ABC's World News, Brian Ross reported that “in the last year Hsu has helped to raise more than a million dollars for Senator Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign” and he highlighted how Hsu “was scheduled to be one of the hosts of a major Clinton fundraiser in California next month.” Ross also saw a pattern, as he recalled a fact which has received little broadcast network air time -- that Clinton's “kickoff Senate fundraiser in 2000 was organized by a convicted felon.”
Thanks to a Wednesday night AP story by David Bauder (Breitbart, WashPost.com) CNN's Jack Cafferty and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough on Thursday highlighted the Media Research Center's new study, “Rise and Shine on Democrats: How the ABC, CBS and NBC Morning Shows Are Promoting Democrats on the Road to the White House” (Executive Summary). It found that, from January through July, the ABC, CBS and NBC morning shows devoted nearly twice the time to stories about, and interviews with, Democratic over Republican presidential candidates, avoided placing liberal labels on Democrats and also overwhelmingly posed questions which pressed candidates of both parties from the left.
NewsBusters and the MRC's CyberAlert regularly criticize Cafferty for his left-wing rants and attacks on conservatives, but we can't complain about his straight-forward summary Thursday night of the MRC's study: “The network morning news shows have given a lot more air time to the Democratic presidential candidates than to the Republican ones. That's according to a conservative media watchdog outfit called the Media Research Center.” Reading replies later in the hour, Cafferty included one which asserted “the media are overwhelmingly biased in favor of the Democrats. 90 percent of the media voted for Kerry.” But Cafferty couldn't resist ending with this one: “All are being fair except for the F-word network!”
Video clip of the August 30 “Cafferty File” segment in the 7pm EDT hour (1:10): Real (2 MB) or Windows Media (2.4 MB), plus MP3 audio (400 KB)
NBC’s "Today" Show’s heart-touching feature on Geraldine Ferraro’s blood cancer survival on Friday morning gave a hint at the ulterior motive that they had for running it. Substitute host Ann Curry introduced the segment, a "Today’s Update" feature by gushing, "She’s always been a ground-breaker, and she is still at it."
In the segment which ran during the 8 am hour of "Today," NBC News national correspondent Jamie Gangel interviewed Ferraro about her nine-year-long struggle against a type of blood cancer called multiple myeloma. Gangel, in her retrospective look at Ferraro’s 1984 run for vice-president, which introduced the segment, reported, "In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro made history as the first woman picked to run for vice president.... Twenty-three years later, she's making history again, but this time, medical history."
Anna Quindlen has advice for the Republican Party: Throw religious conservatives overboard. In her Sept. 3 Newsweek column. "Disinvited to the Party," she lauds the heartland's apparent embrace of Rudy Giuliani despite his serial marriages and "quasi-liberal positions on abortion, gay rights and gun control." To Quindlen, "quasi" means not adopting the actual platform language of the Democratic Party.
Quindlen's rant is a typical leftist smear, lamenting the rise of the Religious Right and blaming it on ... sheer malice. She fails to acknowledge the political and cultural forces that have assailed every traditional institution from church to the Boy Scouts. She fails to recognize that social conservatives could possibly be human beings with real interests who don't want to turn all personal responsibility for their lives over to government bureaucrats.
Here's her nostalgic look at the Republican Party she used to love:
In light of the Larry Craig scandal, Time magazine's Joe Klein stepped up to the pulpit at the magazine's "Swampland" blog to insist that conservative Christians are being, well, un-Christlike with their moral opposition to homosexuality. Klein points to conservative objection to homosexuality for creating a culture of shame that forces gay men to seek sex in public restrooms.
To Klein, it's the religious right's fault, and boy are they misunderstanding what Jesus --or "Dr. J" as Klein calls him-- was all about (emphasis mine).:
Some people get angry at Craig's--and a long list of theofoolish sexual demagogues'--hypocrisy because they don't consider consensual adult homosexuality a matter of morality at all. Some people are infuriated at people like Craig etc. because they promote the social stigma that forces closeted gay men to find sexual solace in secret, shame-ridden places like public restrooms. Some people are angry enough to actually celebrate Craig's outing because of the untold pain and suffering that people like Craig have caused.
As NewsBusters has recorded, Snow has tangled with biased journalists in his role as the White House's chief spokesman. Perhaps one of the most memorable was an episode in June 2007 reported by NewsBusters contributor Justin McCarthy:
President Bush, left, jokes with members of the press as he stands with White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. Snow, the highly visible White House press secretary, will leave his job on Sept. 14 and be replaced by his deputy, Dana Perino, an administration official said Friday.
The Larry Craig kerfuffle has led to some interesting reversals. Many have argued that Craig was hypocritical for being gay (though he denies it) and voting for the Defense of Marriage Act which made it so that gay marriage in one state would not have to mean gay marriage in another. I don't think that's a persuasive argument since there is no logical reason that gay people cannot oppose gay marriage.
Unquestionably one group of people has been hypocritical here. Not the Republicans or the Democrats. The most hypocritical group in all this has been the self-described mainstream (actually liberal) media. In her column today, Linda Chavez is right on the money:
There is something more than a little bizarre with the latest Washington feeding frenzy over Sen. Larry Craig. Don't get me wrong. I think what Sen. Craig did in the men's bathroom in Minneapolis was gross and sleazy. But is it really worthy of the press attention it has received this week? I just can't imagine a Democratic member of Congress being subjected to the same treatment if the facts, as we know them so far, were identical. [...]
Perhaps the first famous name that comes to mind when it comes to policeman arrests in a restroom is George Michael, the former Wham! singer, who was busted in April of 1998 for lewd conduct in a restroom at Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills. (The act was reportedly masturbation and some public nudity.) This story, with Michael's fame on the wane, drew almost no attention from the same national media outlets who are now pounding on the office door of Sen. Larry Craig and insisting he resign.
A quick Nexis search shows no George Michael arrest stories on ABC, or NBC. CBS offered this anchor brief from Russ Mitchell on the morning of April 11: "In other entertainment news, pop singer George Michael apologized to his fans in a CNN interview in LA last night. Michael was arrested Tuesday and charged with what police called a lewd act in a restroom in a public park in Beverly Hills. He is due in court next month."
On Friday’s "Good Morning America," ABC’s anchors and reporters reacted to Fred Thompson’s entry in the 2008 race with negativity and sarcasm. Co-host George Stephanopoulos asserted that the former senator’s campaign is "never going to catch up on organization." Rattling off Thompson’s problems, the former Clinton aide critiqued, "But he didn't raise as much money as he’d hoped to over the summer. His speeches were a little bit flat. He had a lot of staff shake-ups."
Earlier in the segment, reporter Dan Harris pointedly mentioned the "consternation over the very active role of his wife, Jeri Thompson, a former political consultant 24 years his junior." Both Harris and Stephanopoulos speculated over whether Thompson’s entry into the race is "coming too late."
Additionally, the journalists on GMA treated the former actor’s announcement as a relatively boring, expected event. Harris jokingly asked, "Big surprise, right?" He then went on to deride Thompson’s entry into the 2008 race as "blazingly obvious."
MRC old timers like Geoff Dickens and Tim Graham will remember how in the late 1990s, MSNBC was largely a re-run channel. MSNBC's programming was largely "Time & Again" and "Headliners & Legends," two programs that relied heavily on canned news content and usually consisted of puffy profile pieces.
Well, now with the 10th anniversary of Princess Diana's death, MSNBC's gone back to the bad old days of stale newscasting, running highlights, as it were, from Diana's September 6, 1997 funeral, including Scripture readings and eulogies by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Diana's brother Lord Earl Spencer.
MSNBC is justifying the gauche gimmick as a "Living History Event."
As the networks dwell on the tenth anniversary of the death of a troubled British princess this week, it might be worth remembering that at the time, we noticed the tabloid tendencies toward celebrity deaths at the time were a much bigger media trend than investigations into the scandalous fundraising tactics the Clinton-Gore team used in 1996. Our MediaWatch study at the time noted:
MediaWatch analysts examined fundraising scandal stories in August and September on the Big Three morning shows and evening shows, plus CNN's The World Today. The networks broadcast 686 stories on Diana between August 31 and the end of September compared to just 113 stories about the fundraising scandal. That's a ratio of more than 6 to 1. Isolating the morning shows, collectively they aired 407 stories on Princess Diana's death, while devoting just 36 to the scandal. That's an astonishing ratio of 10 to 1.
It'll be interesting to see how many people spend an hour and a half in the theater this Labor Day weekend watching Leonardo DiCaprio's documentary about how we are teetering on the edge of global warming catastrophe. It sounds like a bummer way to end the summer. But if moviegoers turn to the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips' review of the film for guidance, then the movie may well be tossed into the rubbish heap along with the year's other flops.
Essentially, according to Phillips, "The 11th Hour" tries to cover everything under the sun...and then some. It's a "panicky blur" that goes "broad, but not deep," and begins with a "frenzied montage of global calamity." Gee, for a guy who's been in the movie business since he was knee high to a grasshopper, you'd think Leo might have come up with a more winning formula.
Two years after a Danish newspaper provoked manufactured outrage in the Islamic world by printing a series of cartoons lampooning Islam's founder, a Swedish newspaper may have done the same with a series of sketches:
Marking the beginning of yet another dispute over free speech and religious sensitivity, the government of Pakistan has joined Iran in protesting the publication in a Swedish newspaper of a sketch featuring the head of Mohammed on the body of a dog.
"Pakistan condemns, in the strongest terms, the publication of an offensive and blasphemous sketch of the Holy Prophet in the Swedish newspaper," the foreign ministry in Islamabad said in a statement Thursday.
Which would you find more desirable in your community: a group that advocates to abide by U.S. law, or one that advocates to break U.S. law? Well, leave it to an American newspaper to present a story as if a member of a group that advocates for America is a less desirable person in the community than a member of a group that promotes ideas against America. In a story on the La Raza Council's threat to move their annual convention out of Kansas City, Missouri, the Kansas City Star has labeled the patriot group The Minutemen a "militant group" yet nowhere is there harsh labels in their story for La Raza, the Hispanic illegal immigrant advocates. In fact, La Raza is treated like a completely respectable organization throughout the story with the Minutemen treated as if they should be something to be ashamed of.
When the Larry Craig case broke, I noted the New York Times's unusual diffidence in reporting it. Senator, Arrested at Airport, Pleads Guilty was all the Times's cryptic headline told us, failing to indicate Craig's name, party affiliation, or the crime for which he had been not merely "arrested" but to which he had pleaded guilty.
At the time I surmised that the Times's bashfulness could have been "the triumph of political correctness on matters gay over the paper's partisan impulse." That theory is borne out by the paper's editorial of today, Disowning Senator Craig.
The Times's bottom line on the matter:
Being stupid as a member of Congress is hardly a reason to be ridden on a rail from Washington . . . The rush to cast him out betrays the party’s intolerance, which is on display for the public in all of its ugliness.
Curious aside: whoever wrote the editorial had gone metaphor mad. Check these out:
A majority of Americans - 54% - believe the United States has not lost the war in Iraq, but there is dramatic disagreement on the question between Democrats and Republicans, a new UPI/Zogby Interactive poll shows. While two in three Democrats (66%) said the war effort has already failed, just 9% of Republicans say the same.
Many Democrats, seeing the fact that the surge appears to be working, have realized that their defeatist attitudes and willingness to surrender may cost them dearly in the next election, have changed their tune somewhat, or, like the New York Times, have merely moved the goalposts of what constitutes victory. However, the major media, who have been overwhelmingly in favor of a precipitous defeat seem to be a little slow in reporting that their years of negative reporting and defeatism have not yet managed to dissuade a majority of their countrymen from wanting to win.