As noted previously on Newsbusters, the violent Muslim protests against the publication of cartoons lampooning Islam has clearly put The New York Times in an uncomfortable position. The rioters, while to the Times an embattled minority in the West, are attacking free speech. Not good. But their most vocal critics are conservatives. Indeed, the Times describes the paper that first ran the cartoons as “conservative.” Can’t side with them.
In today's “Critic’s Notebook” piece, headlined "A Startling New Lesson in the Power of Imagery" and featuring a photo of children holding a sign "Danish People Not Welcome Here," writer Michael Kimmelman unwittingly describes the paper’s dilemma halfway through his meandering 1,396-word item:
But the Mohammad cartoons are “gratuitous assaults on religious symbols” and won’t be run by the paper.
Just yesterday, the Times wrote, in an editorial on the Danish cartoons of Mohammad, that “The New York Times and much of the rest of the nation's news media have reported on the cartoons but refrained from showing them. That seems a reasonable choice for news organizations that usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols, especially since the cartoons are so easy to describe in words.”
Apparently the Arts pages didn’t get the memo, because it runs a photo of Chris Ofili’s dung-clotted “Holy Virgin Mary” painting in Wednesday’s Arts section story by Michael Kimmelman, who also calls the Danish cartoons “callous and feeble.”
The debate over the propriety of intelligence-gathering by the Bush administration is complicated, and the programs themselves can lose their secrecy (and effectiveness) the more they are debated. The media aren’t monitoring the debate. They started the fight by blowing the lid off the NSA activity in the New York Times, and they’re pushing the fight day and night, clearly coming down against Bush, that arrogantly unconstitutional rogue.
When given a choice between more information about our intelligence-gathering methods and less safety, or less information about our intelligence-gathering and more safety, which do the public choose? The public tends to prefer more safety. The media prefer more information. And the media would prefer the public believe it agrees with them, even if it has to cook a few surveys to establish that canard.
In part of their coverage of the Coretta Scott King funeral this morning, ABC focused on the attention paid to Hillary Clinton and her 2008 presidential prospects and how "Republicans are scared." ABC's Jake Tapper was able to bring in RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman suggesting on "This Week" that she wouldn't do well because she's an "angry candidate" and then former NPR reporter Mary Ann Akers (now of the Capitol Hill paper Roll Call) fussed that dredges up old Hillary stereotypes. His most colorful language is that everything Hillary does is "dissected like a cadaver on CSI." His evidence was a New York Daily News story focusing on a new ring her husband gave her.
But Tapper did not focus on another New York paper whose coverage of Hillary has been ignored by most. Even I missed the chance to harp on her appearance in San Francisco at the end of January in that "interview with Jane Pauley" fundraiser for the local bar association. The New York Sun reported she had some nasty things to imply about Republicans and black voters (which might have been MORE topical after the King funeral yesterday). Apparently, Team Bush is delaying hurricane aid for political gain, a "deliberate policy of neglect," she claimed:
No more than a couple years ago, headlines invoking Britney Spears in a "lap" controversy might have brought to mind images of graphic goings-on in the Champagne Room.
But time marches on, and Britney-the-new-mother is now caught in a lap-gate of an altogether different sort after photos were snapped of Britney driving her car with her four-month old son in her lap rather than secured in a car seat. In the latest development, according to this LA Times article, a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy went to her Malibu home on Tuesday "to collect information for child welfare investigators" in connection with the matter. For the record, Spears says she was feeling hounded by paparazzi and drove off with the baby in her lap to escape them.
The Washington Post downplayed the Wellstone-funeral elements of yesterday's funeral for Coretta Scott King. The front-page article by Darryl Fears had a bland celebratory headline, and as the article jumped off the front page, Fears claimed "The six-hour service, held in a lavish black church in the wealthy, majority-black Atlanta suburb of DeKalb County, seemed to strive mightily to project a theme of inclusion and the setting aside of political differences."
Riiiiiight. His evidence? "Politically charged" speakers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton did not speak. But he soon noted Joseph Lowery's crack about weapons of mass destruction. "Still, political tensions occasionally burst through the veneer of reconciliation." But a few paragraphs later, Fears included Sharpton among the "civil rights legends" in attendance:
I’m having a hard time understanding Chris Matthews lately. On the one hand, in the past couple of months, his Sunday program has been by far the most balanced of the broadcast network political talk shows save “The McLaughlin Group.” Yet, something odd happens when he steps on the soundstage of MSNBC to host “Hardball” – his ultra-left, San Francisco Chronicle columnist side emerges…and then some.
Tuesday’s installment was a perfect example. In fact, Matthews’ San Francisco liberal side came out so strongly that he should be ashamed of his performance. First, he spent much of the hour gushing over former president Bill Clinton’s “passing of the torch” to his wife at Coretta Scott King’s funeral. Then, he actually compared bloggers to Danish cartoonists. Finally, during a discussion concerning King’s funeral, he didn’t have the spine to suggest to his guests what likely the majority of Americans are thinking: A funeral is not the right forum for a former American president to be condemning the policies of the current president, especially in his presence.
There's been speculation today that Democrats and their MSM allies would turn on erstwhile hero John McCain in the wake of his breathtakingly critical letter to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama - whom we are legally required to refer to as "a rising star of the Democratic party."
But at least one MSMer with impeccable Dem credentials - Chris Matthews - was reveling in the cat fight this evening.
Obama and McCain apparently had a gentlemen's agreement that they would cooperate in a bi-partisan way on a lobbying reform bill. But it seems that Obama back-tracked, withdrew from the agreement, and came out in support of Dem leader Harry Reid's highly partisan proposal.
McCain unloaded on Obama with a letter he made public containing, among others, these jabs:
Monday’s front page at the Washington Post had one of those sunny-for-Democrats wishful-thinking pieces, headlined: "Handful of Races May Tip Control of Congress." Reporters Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza insisted Democratic gains were inevitable:
The result is a midterm already headed toward what appears to be an inevitable conclusion: Democrats are poised to gain seats in the House and in the Senate for the first time since 2000. The difference between modest gains (a few seats in the Senate and fewer than 10 in the House) and significant gains (half a dozen in the Senate and well more than a dozen in the House) is where the battle for control of Congress will be fought.
On last night's (Monday's) Hardball NBC's Andrea Mitchell portrayed Hillary Clinton as a centrist in defense of Ken Mehlman's charges of Hillary Clinton being too angry. Hardball host Chris Matthews postulated that Republicans were playing the gender card in portraying Hillary Clinton as emotional. Mitchell said that it wasn't necessarily a gender-based attack but agreed that the it was an attempt to "demonize her," and "try to make her seem more extreme than I think she really is."
Mitchell also used the terminology of the far-left in referring to pro-life Democratic Senate candidate Bob Casey as "anti-choice."
The following is the complete exchange between Matthews and Mitchell:
Although the Times didn’t join the Philadelphia Inquirer in actually publishing the most controversial cartoon (Mohammad with a bomb for a turban), its tentative stand for free speech is nonetheless braver than the editorial page of the NYT Co.’s subsidiary paper, The Boston Globe.
In his web chat today, Washington Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten stated that there was "nothing wrong" with Tom Toles' now (in)famous amputee cartoon -- a cartoon which, in Weingarten's words, "is deeply critical of a callous administration that deserves deep criticism."
Here's the Q&A from the chat:
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Gene - You are the arbiter of all that is funny. What are your thoughts on the recent controversy over Tom Toles' cartoon depicting a soldier who had lost both arms and legs in Iraq? Does it cross the line, as the Joint Chiefs of Staff are claiming?
Citing liberal Republican Senator Arlen Specter as his authority on whether President Bush's actions were “illegal,” and with “Invoking the 'I' Word” on screen beneath a picture of Bush, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann opened his Monday night Countdown program: “So if the Republican Chairman of the Senate committee investigating the wiretaps says the wiretaps were illegal, and the President says he personally authorized the wiretaps, doesn't that mean the President should be impeached?"
Olbermann proceeded to fondly recall, without any notion that those hearings led to impairing intelligence agencies, how back in the 1970s, “Democratic Senator Frank Church of Idaho and other lawmakers became the first to lift the veil on the super-secret world of the National Security Agency. Our fifth story on the Countdown: Deja vu all over again. New President, new technology, same danger, perhaps. Today's re-make of the cautionary drama beginning with promise, Senate Judiciary Chair Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, repeating, in milder form, his Sunday talk show conclusions that the present-day spying program is or could be illegal." Olbermann soon cued up his guest, John Dean: “Not to put too fine a point on this, but if the authorization of wiretaps without warrants is indeed illegal, as its critics say it is, has the President committed an impeachable offense?” Dean agreed: “Well he certainly has.” (Transcript follows.)
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee for most of the day, yesterday, explaining in some detail why the NSA Terrorist Surveillance program is legal, why it's necessary, and why it is not "domestic spying." It was the lead news story on CBS' The Early Show this morning, and they demonstrated that, while they saw it, it didn't all meet their criteria for news. Obviously, you cannot capture the entirety of an 8-hour hearing in a 2-minute report, but, as always, it is instructive to see what makes the cut, and what doesn't. Here are some of the comments from the hearing, a couple from Attorney General Gonzales and a couple from different US Senators.
At a time when radical Muslims are rioting in the streets over images of Muhammad, the Washington Post somehow thinks it's a perfect time to pretend once again that images of communist guerrilla/butcher Che Guevara are cool. In an article headlined "The Che Cachet," Post reporter David Segal writes about how "An Exhibition Traces How the Marxist Revolutionary's Photo Inspired An Army of Capitalists."
This article has been done before. And done before. And done before. But that apparently doesn't mean it can't be done again. And badly again.
The dumbest sentence by far: Segal writes "Rifle-wielding freedom fighters around the world have revered this image the way Christians revere saints." Appalling. The second half is not untrue -- communists and leftists do revere the image like a religious icon of "socialist realism." It's the first half, the idea that communist guerillas are "freedom fighters." As if Marxists ever brought anyone freedom. That's so 20th century...
According to a large story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on January 26th, income inequality is widening. Wrote David Westphal, "income inequality is likely to deepen beyond its growth of the 1980s and 1990s, when incomes of affluent Americans grew more than three times faster than those of the low-income."
"Inequality is growing in all parts of the country," said Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
"Certain trends have been favoring the left for the past several decades. In the early 1960s, transfer payments (entitlements and welfare) constituted less than a third of the federal government's budget. Now they constitute almost 60 percent of the budget, or about $1.4 trillion per year. Measured according to this, the US government's main function now is redistribution: taking money from one segment of the population and giving it to another segment. In a few decades, transfer payments are expected to make up more than 75 percent of federal government spending."
Federal spending has soared 33 percent since 2001 and will continue to surge under President Bush’s budget proposal released Monday afternoon, yet network reporters referred to imaginary “cuts” in programs and departments. On World News Tonight, ABC’s Martha Raddatz outlined Bush’s proposal to increase defense and homeland security spending before she asked: “How to pay for all this? There are no tax increases. Instead, there are a host of spending reductions. On top of the list: Slowing spending on Medicare by $36 billion through 2011." While she at least said “slowing spending,” the on-screen graphic falsely stated about Medicare: "Reduced by $36 billion by 2011.” She went on to recount how “the budget calls for doing away with or making substantial cuts in 141 programs for a saving of $15 billion,” a minuscule amount, zeroing in on how “one-third of the cuts would target education, reducing money for the arts, parent resource centers and drug-free school programs.”
In a web-exclusive story on the web site of U.S. News & World Report, Senior Writer Jay Tolson's article on Muhammad cartoons is headlined "Matters of Faith: Satanic Cartoonery." Satanic? And no quotes? Since when do they use "Satanic" without quotes and mockery? Tolson comes flat-down in the middle of this controversy, believing that free speech needs some respect, but that freedom has been "abused," as Bill Clinton argued. Hmm...Tolson ends by touting the "high-minded sentiments" of one Tariq Ramadan, a Muslim activist the U.S. State Department banned from teaching at Notre Dame. Tolson's theme is the lines are blurred (and guess who's doing the blurring):
Reactions to the cartoon scandal do not simply fall on two sides of an increasingly blurred line between the Islamic and western worlds.
Over at www.mrc.org, we’ve just posted a new study of how ABC, CBS and NBC have covered the NSA surveillance story. It's just as awful as you expected — most network stories were framed around the idea that the program is probably illegal and a shocking violation of Americans’ civil liberties.
Maybe the most interesting statistic is how reporters themselves refer to the targets of NSA’s surveillance. Most of the time, it’s either “domestic spying” or “spying on U.S. citizens,” categories that account for 84% of journalists’ descriptions. Only about one-sixth of the reporters descriptions point out that the targets are either “U.S. citizens suspected of ties to al-Qaeda” or “suspected al-Qaeda operatives inside the U.S.”
James Taranto at Opinion Journal reports today that Fayetteville (N.C.) State University officials have reviewed a tape of Julian Bond's wild remarks there last week, as reported by World Net Daily, and determined it was not completely accurate: "Based on the review, it was determined that nowhere during Bond's speech was reference made to the Nazi Party, nor was the word 'token' used." Taranto elaborates on a conversation with FSU public relations director Jeffery Womble:
We phoned Mr. Womble this morning, and he told us that FSU disputes the WND account only on these two points. That means the following elements are undisputed:
-- "Calling President Bush a liar, Bond told the audience at the historically black institution that this White House's lies are more serious than the lies of his predecessor's because Clinton's lies didn't kill people."