Nov 1 2006

Letters to the Editor

The Mideast Is Not Pinball

I am a great admirer of your organization and publication, but I must comment on your August 2006 Update with regard to the front-page story on Israel [“Mideast Blame Game: Leading Papers Ignore Israeli Contribution to Conflict”].

Bias in reporting the news is always fair game and your criticism is generally on the mark. However, different standards apply to editorials. Your article treats the editorials as if they were news stories. You are entitled to disagree with the conclusions of the editorial writers, in particular their opinion that the recent conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon were instigated by Hamas and Hezbollah.

Without rehashing all of the arguments, there is certainly as good a case for the editorial position as there is for an opposing position based on some of the facts that you cite. I fail to see how these editorial opinions constitute biased journalism, any more than do the cartoonish editorial opinions of the Wall Street Journal, both of which are legitimate expressions of a point of view and labeled as such.

Certainly, the fact that Israel was prepared for the conflict with Hezbollah does not mean that they instigated it. Any military would be derelict if it did not have contingency plans. In the case of Israel, with what has been described as the third most powerful army in the Middle East dug in on their border and continuously shooting rockets into populated Israeli territory, the fact that they had a contingency plan for responding should certainly not be news.

Just one thought about who the instigator is. What do you think would happen if the Arab governments and the militias threatening Israel unilaterally disarmed? What do you think would happen if Israel unilaterally disarmed?

Sheldon L. Baskin

Chicago, Ill.

I am a subscriber to Extra!, and I hope that you had the Middle East geopolitical scene in mind while you were approving the cover story on page 8 of the September/October 2006 issue of Extra! [“Lives in the Balance: Media ‘Vexed’ by Civilian Deaths in Lebanon”] by Peter Hart.

With national boundaries being crossed by hostile rockets and with an insurgent militia, integrated into both the civilian populace and government representation, that hides and fires its rockets from civilian homes, how can the number of comparative civilian casualties be measured like a pinball score?

Doesn’t it seem to be a measure coming from a very detached and meaningless place? If foreign rockets were falling on NYC, wouldn’t Peter Hart’s pinball score be irrelevant?

Kenneth C. Brown

Sebastopol, Calif.

On Thomas Friedman and CAFTA

Re: “Proud of His Ignorance” in “Sound-bites” in the August 2006 Extra! Update:

Most people are unaware that both NAFTA and CAFTA are not free trade agreements at all. Using a deceit similar to calling a rocket that kills people a Peacekeeper, both include trade restrictions that protect intellectual property such as DVDs and, more importantly, patented drugs that cause developing countries to pay far more for these essentials than they would go for in a truly free market.

If the truth were told about these agreements, they should be called simply “trade agreements.”

Perhaps if NAFTA and CAFTA had been properly named, then Thomas Friedman might not have been so quick to endorse them . . . perhaps.

You guys are great. . . . Keep it up.

Larry Racies

New York, N.Y.

Two Views on NewsHour

Thank you so much for studying the content—or lack thereof—of the PBS NewsHour program anchored by Jim Lehrer (Extra!, September/October 2006).

The statistics you compiled may surprise some people. Not me. I’m constantly amazed at the overwhelming “inside the Beltway” mentality of the people responsible for this overrated program. Its interview segments are a regular parade of official sources, with pronounced middle-of-the-road or right-leaning viewpoints. A range of views from A to B.

Performance by the show’s hosts (Lehrer and Gwen Ifill) and interviewers is almost always underwhelming. Pertinent questions are frequently left unasked.

And remember, though I realize this happened years before your survey period, this program gave a nationwide television platform to the discredited and disgraced former New York Times reporter Judith Miller. She appeared night after night on the NewsHour during the lead-up to the Iraq invasion in early 2003, spinning her web of inaccuracies and outright lies about WMDs in that country.

In my opinion, as much of a disgrace for Jim Lehrer and PBS as for Judith Miller and the New York Times.

I am so glad you have decided to puncture the pretentious “balloon” that is this program’s supposed integrity and excellence. Keep up the good work.

David Goll

San Jose, Calif.

I just read your article by Steve Rendall accusing PBS’s NewsHour of tilting “too heavily toward Republicans” . . . yada, yada, yada.

Three things, liberal persons:

(1) Assuming your research to be true, please remember that Republicans on the NewsHour are usually answering asinine accusations made by the likes of you. They are treated hardly better than convicted liars.

(2) You have apparently never watched on PBS: A) Frontline, which just last night regurgitated the Abramoff story that was nothing more than an attack on the whole Republican Party, saying “please vote Democrat next month”; B) POV, which is led by the left-of-left Bill Moyer; or C) Tavis Smiley. All of these programs are extremely left-wing and there is no conservative counterbalance.

(3) Having redefined “is” you have now set out to accomplish the same for “bias.” I do believe you and your kind will finally destroy the English language.

Billy Sandlin

Jacksonville, Fla.