In reporting what it called a "big win" for Senate Democrats in killing off drilling in ANWR, this morning's Today show aired footage of gorgeous snow-capped mountains, similar to the file photo to the right.
There's only one little problem. The drilling in ANWR won't take place anywhere near those mountains.
It will occur on barren coastal plains far away. A few years ago, attempting to break through the ice-jam of blather over the issue, the National Review's Jonah Goldberg took a trip up there himself. Here's one of the photos Jonah took, giving an idea of the area in which drilling would take place. Them's some mighty small mountains!
1. On the Finkelstein-strike beat, MRC’s Scott Whitlock says NBC reporter Michelle "Canoe Girl" Kosinski used the I-word ("illegal") for the first time on "Today" in reporting, "The illegal strike is taking a toll on the city’s economy, says the city’s mayor."
2. Scott also notes that CBS’s "Early Show" brought up the other I-word ("impeachment") again this morning, as co-host Hannah Storm asked CBS analyst Gloria Borger about the NSA surveillance hubbub, "What is the fallout of this going to be? Some people are already talking of impeachment proceedings." Borger shot that down: "Well, I think that’s a bridge too far." That's milder than Jonathan Turley's encouraging words about Bush's high crimes yesterday.
Ever since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in late August sending oil prices to $70 per barrel and gasoline above $3 a gallon, the media have been in a panic over a return of ’70s-style inflation. Such concerns reached a fevered-pitch in October when a gauge of consumer prices rose by the largest amount in 25 years. Yet, when the Labor Department released numbers last week showing that inflation had declined by the greatest percentage in 56 years, rather than using this data to ease the public’s concerns about rising prices, the press either downplayed the report or totally ignored it.
The December 21st edition of Today featured a rather alarmist report by Andrea Mitchell about domestic spying. The story, complete with requisite pictures of Abu Ghraib, aired at 7:15AM. It started off with Katie Couric's ominous introduction. She stated that with regard to spying, "some are wondering if Americans are losing their civil rights in the process.
When it comes to the Transport Workers Union strike in NYC, the Today show just can't bring itself to pronounce the 'I' word, for illegal.
In contrast with his reticent Today show appearance yesterday, this morning NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg took off the verbal gloves, repeatedly condemning the union for its illegal strike, which violates the Taylor Law prohibiting public employees in New York from striking. Among other things, Bloomberg stated that striking union members would be fined two days pay for every day the strike lasts.
But whereas Today expressed concern for the plight of commuters and the city's economy, and Katie made sympathetic noises in her interview of Bloomberg, the show remained terribly bashful when it came to reporting the undeniable fact that the strike is illegal.
On Tuesday morning, the network morning shows all began with full stories on the New York City transit strike (no doubt involving dozens of struggling network employees). As I remarked today to Mark Finkelstein on his strike blog post, the New York-based media has an annoying tendency to elevate itself into the center of the news universe on local issues. (Put the same event in San Francisco or Seattle, and the national media would barely whisper.) And now, an example: merely a few weeks ago, at Halloween time, Philadelphia also had a transit strike. As Rich Noyes pointed out to me, it drew an 800-word story in the November 1 New York Times headlined "400,000 Hit by Philadelphia Transit Strike." Major morning show hubbub? Of course not.
Let's get one thing straight: the the Transport Workers Union strike in NYC is illegal. Even the New York Times, in this article, had to acknowledge that stubborn fact:
"The state's Taylor Law bars strikes by public employees and carries penalties of two days' pay for each day on strike, but the transit union decided it was worth risking the substantial fines to continue the fight for what it regards as an acceptable contract."
In addition to the tremendous inconvenience the strike inflicts on the seven-million largely working-class people who use the transit system daily, the economic loss has been estimated at as much as $400 million per day.
Behavioral scientists long-ago determined that, when it comes to changing behavior, positive reinforcement works better than punishment.
With that in mind, this column has made it a point to record those [rare] occasions on which the Today show gives 'fair & balanced' treatment to the news.
Let the record therefore show that on December 19th, 2005, Today gave reasonably even-handed treatment to the revelations that President Bush has authorized, without court order, the surveillance of phone calls suspected of being Al-Qaeda-related.
There were two outside guests. Katie first interviewed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. She asked the obvious question: "What legal authority does the president have to avoid the normal process of obtaining court-approved search warrants before eavesdropping is conducted?"
While sugarplum fairies dance in other heads, Matt Lauer dreams of US withdrawal from Iraq and envisions democracy in Iraq as having negative consequences for the United States.
As reported here, Lauer set the stage earlier this week, couching Today's coverage of the then-impending Iraqi elections largely in terms of their potential for troop withdrawal.
Matt was back at it again this morning. At the top of the show, Lauer teased election coverage this way: "If the various factions there can work together it could make it easier for our administration to get US troops out."
Lauer interviewed Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Biden, both in Iraq as election observers.
When Karen Hughes cited a poll that showed growing optimism in Iraq it was no surprise that Matt Lauer was already armed with a poll he preferred that showed the opposite. In the 7:00am half hour Lauer asked Karen Hughes about America’s image in the Middle East: "When you travel around the world especially to Muslim countries, places like Pakistan and, and Egypt and Saudi Arabia when you talk about the subject of Iraq do the people that you talk to see U.S. forces there as occupiers or liberators"
Karen Hughes: "Well I think Matt actually it's very interesting. One of the things I came home with was the impression that people around in the region look at Iraq and they have a, a view that I don't think is supported by the Iraqi people themselves. They look at Iraq and they see the daily violence. And a lot of people told me, they worry that Iraq is not better off when in fact polling shows that the Iraqi people themselves believe their lives are pretty good and that they feel, I saw a poll this week 71 percent of the people in Iraq feel that, that their lives are good now and they're even greater numbers are optimistic that their lives will be even better a year from now. And so I think that's important that people in the region see that the Iraqi people themselves feel that they are better off than they were under the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein."
Permit me one more morsel from the Geoff Dickens basket of bias. Today's Matt Lauer interview with Tim Russert naturally followed Katie's space trip with Ramsey Clark. Amazingly, Matt said Clark's lawyering for Saddam was a problem for....Bush? What? Isn't Clark's lawyering an embarassment for Democrats? Doesn't his resume say he was an attorney general for a Democratic president, who ran as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in 1974? Apparently, none of that matters when everything is Another Problem for Bush:
Lauer: "Let's talk about what Mr. Clark said. Interesting you know he said that the U.S. has tried to demonize Saddam Hussein. He says he doesn't recognize demons only human beings. You can do anything you want to a demon they have no rights. How much does Ramsey Clark complicate this issue for the administration?"
Katie Couric's interview with Ramsey Clark today started out way too soft. As Clark made completely bizarre claims about mistreatment of poor Saddam, the NBC graphic said only "Defending Saddam: Ramsey Clark Inside Iraq." (Unlike Bush-shoving headers like "Rhetoric vs. Reality," or on the Plame case, the evil-or-evil choice "Dirty Politics or Broken Laws?") Katie Couric began by questioning the dictator's lawyer about the latest news: Windows Media Player or Real Player
It's hard not to reproduce the entire transcript of Katie Couric's interview with Ramsey Clark today. MRC's Geoff Dickens transcribed it all, since I said "transcribe Clark's insane parts" and he said "it's all insane." Let's start with where Couric does her job as a journalist. Near the end of the interview, Couric finally arrives where she should have begun, on the grave human rights abuses of Saddam. Windows Media or Real Player
Couric: "He's being charged with killing, the killing of 148 people from the village of Dujail in 1982. He's also likely to face subsequent charges, the gassing of 5000 people in the Kurdish, Kurdish village in March of 1988. The, the Iran-Iraq war during which about a million people were killed. The invasion of Kuwait and the violent suppression of the Shiite uprising back in 1991. Do you believe he is guilty of any of these crimes or any crime at all?"
Clark: "Katie I believe absolutely in the presumption of innocence. Not as a rule of law but as a rule of life. If you can't presume someone is fair, you can't judge them can you? Not to presume fairness is to prejudge. That's prejudice. So of course you presume but you think a lawyer's supposed to go around talking, 'well I think he's guilty of this or that or maybe this?' Can a lawyer do that for his client? What kind of a relationship can you establish with your client if you don't have a good relationship how can you represent him effectively? So the very question is asked all the time and it's not a good question."]
Allies Establish Beachhead in Normandy: Can Troop Withdrawals Begin?
Somehow, I doubt that was the headline in the wake of D-Day.
Yet this morning, the Today show viewed the impending Iraqi elections largely through the prism of bringing US troops home.
The graphic read "Iraq Votes: What Elections Mean to America", and Matt Lauer set the tone, introducing reporter Richard Engel in Baghdad by asking "what does [the election] mean for the future of US troops there?"
Engel picked up theme: "Sunni participation in this election could reduce violence over time, allowing American troops to be pulled out sooner. But there are very real dangers. If the next government excludes a religious or ethnic group, it could trigger more insurgent attacks, more Iraqi infighting, meaning more time in Iraq for American forces."
E! Online (via Yahoo) reports that the upcoming second season of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" will feature "original 'Access Hollywood' host" Giselle Fernandez, better known inside the MRC as a former CBS News and NBC News reporter. (She's not the only journalist tapping toes: ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne is also in the cast.) The story features the TV writer's academic omnipresence, professor of pop culture Robert J. Thompson, cracking on ABC's lack of star power.
But ah, Giselle! She was rather unforgettable a decade ago, when she was hosting the weekend "Today" show. On May 20, 1995, she sounded like she was at a Young Democrats meeting when she asked Labor Secretary Robert Reich: "Why are we leaving such critical decisions up to the Republicans? Why didn't we come up with another more, perhaps, realistic deficit reduction budget plan?"
Friday morning, NBC Today show reporter Natalie Morales was covering the snow fall in Central Park. Upon completing her report, at 7:54AM EST, the camera pulled back to reveal two ice sculptures of co-hosts Matt Lauer and Katie Couric. (Ice portraits might be a more appropriate term -- the ice was carved with images of Lauer and Couric from approximately the waist up.) [Audio available here]
Lauer remarked, "No harm intended to the fine artists, but they look a little like our tombstones."
A short time later, the camera showed a small dog suspiciously trotting around the two blocks of ice. With mock horror, Lauer yelled, "Oh, no you don’t!" Returning at 8:00AM, after a local break, Morales revealed: "The dogs have really taken a liking to the ice sculptures. And Katie, they seem to have a particular liking for your ice sculpture, if you know what I mean. A yellow snow issue."
Couric understood what had been done to her image: "I know, I know."
Was Matt Lauer wearing a Palestinian support scarf this morning?
Alright, I can already hear some folks out there chuckling at the notion.
But before you dismiss this as the product of the over-active mind of an MSM-bias hunter, consider:
So-called "Palestinian support scarves" have become items of radical fashion chic. Check out this web-site, which advertises "Palestinian support scarves," explaining:
"The traditional Palestinian headdress has become a symbol of support for the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation. From political ralliesto talk shows, supporters of the Palestinian cause have begun donning this traditional scarf as a show of solidarity." [emphasis added]
It’s long been known that NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams dropped out of the George Washington University in 1979 to intern in the Carter White House’s correspondence office sorting letters. But in the 7:30 half hour of Thursday’s Today we learned that 13 years earlier, in a 1966 letter to President Lyndon Johnson, he had proclaimed his commitment to the “Democret” party. Williams came aboard the Today show to plug a National Geographic book for which he wrote an introduction, Dear Mr. President: Letters to the Oval Office from the Files of the National Archives. As viewers saw Williams’ 1966 handwritten letter to Johnson, Lauer noted how the seven-year-old Williams “signed off the letter ‘one of your young Democrets,' not Democrats." Williams quipped: “You know, I was a young sycophant is what I was. And yeah, we've done Democrets. I think that's a chewing gum product. We've looked it up. It is no political party and for a registered independent it's now very embarrassing." Lauer razzed him: "Independart, you mean." Williams replied: "Oh, very funny." (Full text of the letter follows.)
Has Katie Couric watched too many westerns? You know, the kind where the sheriff shoots the gun out of the bad guy's hand?
You'd think so, given the repeated questions she posed to a former air marshal in the wake of yesterday's shooting of a frantic passenger claiming to have a bomb aboard an American Airlines flight .
Katie's guest was former air marshal Tony Kuklinski, who stated that "by all accounts I've seen, what [the air marshals] did was necessary."
Katie wasn't so sure:
"Do they always shoot to kill, Tony? In other words, I guess the average person hearing this [on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Katie?] might think: isn't there a way where they could have shot this person and not killed him? Wounded him or incapacitated him in some way without killing him?"
The forces of NBC, in the persons of Matt Lauer and Barry McCaffrey, launched a major attack on the enemy this morning. No, not on Al-Qaida or the Baathist dead-enders. We're talking of a real MSM enemy: Donald Rumsfeld.
Lauer began the assault by using yesterday's release of a videotape featuring Al-Qaida deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to promote the notion of bad US troop morale. Lauer noted that Zawahiri was looking relaxed, answering questions, not bothering to be armed, and asked NBC employee, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, whether seeing such a tape motivated or frustrated the troops.
When McCaffrey didn't respond with a negative assessment of troop morale, Lauer tried another tack to produce the desired result:
Brian Williams has wrapped up his first year anchoring the “NBC Nightly News,” and he is presenting himself as this year’s new face of the TV news kingdom. He’s a knight on a white horse raging against poverty and indifference, especially in the poorer sections of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. He believes the issues of race, class, oil, war, and the environment make Katrina the “monumental story of modern times.”
The NBC anchor shared his thoughts with Howard Kurtz on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” Kurtz asked the obvious question: Has Williams become a crusader? “I don’t think so,” said Williams. But, wait, Kurtz pointed out, you signed off the other night in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans saying “This is a neighborhood that’s been left to die.” Kurtz suggested the anchor’s message “is government is not doing enough,” to which Williams responded, “I’ll let others reach those kinds of sweeping conclusions.”
Perhaps Katie Couric was only playing the reporter's role of devil's advocate, but one sensed she was speaking her own mind in interviewing Dem Rep. John Murtha on this morning's Today show.
And just what was on Katie's mind? That Iraq would dissolve into chaos and terror were the US to beat the kind of hasty retreat that Murtha advocates.
Murtha repeatedly praised the US military, but when it came down to it, flatly claimed that: "this mission is not something they can accomplish, not something they can do."
Murtha sought to distinguish between terrorism, of the type we fought in Afghanistan, and insurgency, of the kind we face in Iraq. His argument was that fighting insurgency amounts to nation-building that we cannot achieve.
No, I'm not speaking of the situation on the battleground in Iraq. I'm referring to the Today show's attitude toward the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. In recent posts, here, here and here, I'd noted a surprising moderation in Today's tone.
But this morning, it was back to good old Bush-administration bashing. The segment's essence was a questioning of the administration's truthfulness. "Rhetoric vs. Reality" read the on-screen graphic, asking "When Can U.S. Troops Come Home?"
With a little help from his friend Katie Couric, NBC reporter Jim Miklaszewski narrated the segment.
Couric introduced him by noting that this is "a deadly time for US troops," and Miklaszewski began his report by echoing that notion.
As the total number of US dead and wounded were displayed on screen, Miklaszewski observed: "those American casualties continue to climb."
Well, true. But then again, how could the total number of dead and wounded ever decline?
Then it was on to a gloomy take on the training of the Iraqi military. Of all the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, Today chose to play a clip of one who was a caricature of a skinny sad sack, literally being pushed by his US trainer.
I kept waiting for some stern guy from the ACLU to show up. Maybe a Multi-Cultural Sensitivity Trainer from a nearby college.
But, lo and behold, I waited in vain, as the Today show aired a segment this morning on the Christmas Tree controversy sweeping the nation that was strongly . . . pro-Christmas Tree!
Matt Lauer introduced Tucker Carlson of MSNBC, who narrated the segment. And while the bow-tie bedecked Carlson is no Pat Buchanan when it comes to the culture wars, he's at least the MSM's idea of a conservative.
Carlson said Christian conservatives see "secular forces trying to take the Christ out of Christmas," and observed that "this year they are fighting back."
After rejecting overtures from CBS earlier this year, Katie Couric is being actively courted by new CBS News president Sean McManus, the L.A. Times reports:
While the 48-year-old morning host is contemplating the offer, sources
said, it's unclear whether she can formally negotiate a new job until
her NBC contract expires in May.
NBC News President Steve Capus said the network hopes to hold on
to Couric, who has been the face of the "Today" show for almost 15
years. He called the growing speculation about her next step
CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves had unsuccessfully tried to lure Couric
away last spring when Dan Rather left the anchor desk. Since then,
veteran Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer has served as interim
anchor of the evening newscast, a stint he expected would only last a
few months, while network executives pondered how to remake the show.
When McManus replaced news President Andrew Heyward in October, he
announced that one of his immediate goals was to court new talent to
the network. Couric has been his top priority, sources said, with the
news president offering her "the moon" to come aboard.
Sometimes even Marxists get it right, and no, I'm not speaking of John Kerry. It was Karl Marx himself who famously said "history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”
To judge by his treatment at the hands of Matt Lauer this morning, John Kerry: Part Deux teeters on the brink of being dismissed as farce even by his quondam comrades in the MSM.
Kerry was in to offer his critique of Pres. Bush's speech of yesterday in which he laid out his plan for victory in Iraq.
When Kerry argued that "the insurgency has to be dealt with through a political reconciliation," Lauer cut him off peremptorily. "With all due respect," interrupted Lauer, not-so-subtle code for "not much respect is due." Lauer pointed out that "the President talked about the political process as well and laid that out in his plan for victory."
Don't miss my latest writing for the Free Market Project: Media claims about a “housing bubble” are nothing new. Since before the 9/11 terror attacks, the media have been calling the housing market a “bubble” while predicting an imminent, devastating decline. Not only have they been wrong in forecasting such a top, they have thoroughly mischaracterized what an investment bubble is. Now that the market for homes has finally slowed a bit, the media are declaring the bubble has burst.
A Bubble?: Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has denied the existence of a national housing bubble for several years, but the media have used the term repeatedly.
Strong Gains: The increase in real estate values the past five years has not resembled the rapid rise typically seen in a bubble. In 2000, the national median existing-home value was $139,000. This grew to $215,900 by the third quarter of 2005 – a 55-percent nominal increase but a 34-percent inflation-adjusted gain.
Home Sales Still Going Up: New home sales jumped another 13 percent in October. While sales of existing homes were down 2.7 percent from September, the median national price rose to $218,000, a 16.6 percent increase since October 2004.