Feb
01
2007

SoundBites

The Barnum & Bailey Plot

Reporting on a supposed foiled terror plot (1/22/07), ABC’s Pierre Thomas reported: “Sources tell ABC News that the plot may have involved moving between 10 and 20 suspects believed to be affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Iraq into the United States with student visas—the same method used by the 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists who struck American targets on September 11.” In other words, the plot could have actually involved 46 suspects affiliated with the Barnum & Bailey Circus; the numerous qualifiers were a tipoff that ABC didn’t really know whether anything that the “sources tell” was true. ABC’s intrepid reporters might have asked themselves why this administration, which thinks divulging even the vaguest information about its intelligence gathering methods is tantamount to treason, was volunteering—on the eve of the State of the Union address—details of a secret Al-Qaeda plot that supposedly may be still underway. Such questions apparently did not trouble fellow journalists at the L.A. Times, Reuters or the New York Post, each of whom picked up on ABC’s story—the Post headlining it (1/23/07) as a “Chilling Plot for 9/11 II.”

The Mahdi Epidemiology

A January 8 Washington Post article highlighted the Iraqi government’s official estimate for war deaths: 22,950 Iraqi civilians and police officers died in 2006, according to the Iraqi Health Ministry. This number is dramatically lower than some other estimates of Iraqi casualties, notably the 650,000 excess war deaths since 2003 reported in the Lancet medical journal (10/21/06) by researchers from Johns Hopkins University. But the Lancet study, the Post explained, has been “dismissed...as inaccurate.” And the official numbers put out by the Iraqi Health Ministry “are believed to be more reliable than those issued by other sources because they are based solely on death certificates.” The Post didn’t mention that the Iraqi Health Ministry is now controlled by Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army; the U.S. military has asserted that the Shiite militia’s control of the ministry has “turned morgues and hospitals into places where death squads operate freely” (CBS News, 10/4/06). But for the Washington Post, apparently, when you’re talking about epidemiological survey methods, it’s the Mahdi Army you want to trust, not those amateurs at Johns Hopkins.

The Wisdom of Acceptance

A January 5 news analysis in the New York Times suggested that the Democrats could “spend their energy trying to reverse what they see as the flaws of the Bush administration” and 12 years of Republican congressional control, or “they can accept the rightward tilt of that period and grudgingly concede that big tax cuts, deregulation, restrictions on abortion and other Republican-inspired changes are now a permanent part of the legislative framework.” Which raises the question: If politicians should just continue the policies that helped get their predecessors voted out of office, why bother with having elections at all? Note that most of the Bush tax cuts actually are due to expire in the next few years; by the Times’ logic, the Democrats can “concede” that the tax cuts are “permanent” by voting to make them permanent—or “spend their energy” by doing nothing and letting them expire.

“A Long-Term Loser”

ABC pundit and NPR fixture Cokie Roberts explained on the January 8 Morning Edition that Democrats who question so-called free trade agreements were making a huge error: “It’s a long-term loser. It puts them essentially on the wrong side of history with globalization. And even though labor unions often lose in trade agreements, consumers gain. And so the Democrats have to be very careful here.” Somehow winning elections by siding with public opinion—which has always been skeptical of trade deals like NAFTA—means being on the wrong side of history.

NPR Asks the Tough Questions...

“You know, people are praying for you. People, the American people, want to be with you, Mr. President. But you just spoke about the polls, and they indicate the public, and you know about what’s going up on Capitol Hill with the Congress. Some in the military, even many Iraqis—according to polls—don’t like the idea of sending more troops into Iraq. So I wonder if you could give us something to go on, give us something, let’s say, you know, this is a reason to get behind the president right now.”

NPR’s Juan Williams interviewing George W. Bush (All Things Considered, 1/29/07)

. . . And Knows the Right Answers

Announcing the launch of a new “news and information service” to be aimed at 25-to-44-year-olds, NPR chief executive Ken Stern (1/13/07) declared that “the 25-to-44 age group is underserved by the media and seeking smart, thoughtful content relevant to their lives.” It’s funny how the “non-commercial” NPR has identified as the most “underserved” audience the same age bracket that advertisers pay top dollar to reach.