Monday, September 05, 2005

Surprisingly strong Monday NYT (Gall, Wilgoren, Broder)

Jonah writes, "I don't have time to open the Times today. I'll check later tonight or first thing Tues. morning and if there's no 'must read,' I'll just toss it and focus on Tuesday's paper."

There are few other e-mails like Jonah's and if you're going to skip a day of the Times, Monday's is the easiest to skip in any week. It's a skimpy paper that's usually got very little national coverage and even less coverage from D.C. and, in terms of international coverage, unless the paper's your only source for news, you've already heard of and/or read of what's covered on Monday.

That said, today's paper is the strongest Monday they've seen in some time.

If you have time for one international article in the Times, it should be (my opinion) Carlotta Gall's "Return of Former Communists Stirs Up Afghan Elections:"

President Hamid Karzai has encouraged many of the rogues of Afghanistan's recent history to take part in the elections in an effort to unite the country and foster political stability. A senior security official, who asked not to be identified to avodi angering the political factions, said that he saw little threat from the former Communists because they had no military power, but that the jihadi leaders were still a menace. Yet the return of the Communists to public life is reopening the violent struggle between Communists and Islamists that tore this country apart in the 1980's and made it the arena for the last proxy conflict of the cold war.
The mujahedeen, who were backed by the United States in their struggle against the Communists, are watching with anger and some confusion as their enemies regain positions in the government and may win a sizable bloc in Parliament in American-supported elections.

D.C. wise, the paper offers coverage, including 3 and 5/6 pages of Rehnquist. (If you're interested, feel free to search it out. Certainly all the clip-job bios -- high and low brow -- will be recycling the points made.) On the subject of the court, Brady e-mails to note Jennifer Loven's
"Bush Nominates Roberts as Chief Justice" (Associated Press) story that he found on the AOL home page. Not even a Supreme Court Justice yet, and Bully Boy wants him elevated to Supreme Court Justice (take that, Scalia!). The sense of entitlement that is the hallmark of the Bully Boy flaunts itself yet again.

This is not a Constitutional crisis, this is not a crisis for the Supreme Court. Sandra Day O'Connor has not mooned her colleagues nor pulled a Linda Lavin and loaded up the station wagon to head to Arizona. She's staying where she is until her vacancy is filled. We have eight sitting Justices currently. (Eight Supremes if you prefer, which is five more than needed for a Motown recording.) We've had eight before.

Roberts has yet to be confirmed (hearings start tomorrow -- and as Ruth noted Saturday, they will be carried live on Pacifica radio). Only a Bully Boy would think that Roberts is entitled to be elevated to Supreme Court Justice when he's yet to serve on the Court. It's the sort of thinking that allows a weak governor of a state where the governor's of little importance to think he's got the know how to run the nation -- and haven't we all seen how that's turned out?

If we haven't, start by checking out Jodi Wilgoren's "In Tale of Two Families, a Chasm Between Haves and Have-Nots" in the Times. Brenda says it's the sort of reporting the paper should have been doing all week and Lloyd also rates it as his favorite story on the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina thus far. From Wilgoren's article:

It was moving day for the families of Gaynell Porretto and Tracy Jackson, the first page of the next chapter in their Hurricane Katrina horror stroies.
Mrs. Porretto's four-car caravan crammed with a lifetime of photo albums, a few changes of clothes and coolers of drink pulled up to a yellow house with a wide front porch that she had just rented for $600 in the humble hamlet of Arnaudville, La.
It is 125 miles from the storm-sacked home in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, half the size for twice as many people, but she can see the church steeple from the yard, and her son is signed up for football at the nearby high school.
"I have a ZIP code!" she said, exulting. "It's the happiest I've ever been."
Outside the New Orleans airport, Ms. Jackson's four sickly and starving children, ages 1,3, 5, and 7, were sprawled on a skycap's cart as she slogged through the sweaty, snail-like line, the baby atop a blue plastic bin filled with what they had scrounged from strangers.
It is all they have, their 2,000 cash savings burned up with their belongings -- including birth certificates -- in a post-flood fire at their apartment in uptown New Orleans. Even as they waited to board a plane, they did not know where they were taking it.
"I'm just hoping it's a better place," she whispered. "I've never been on an airplane before, I'm afriad of heights."
Two families displaced by the same disaster, both facing uncertain futures as they moved forward on Saturday, but in completely divergent circumstances.

That's the opening of the story. Sorry for the length but the excerpt gives you a feel and, if you're too busy this Monday for the paper, it'll let you know whether you should seek the article out or not. It's also true that in addition to Brenda & Lloyd's high rating, other members are noting it as "strong" in their e-mails this morning. Including DK, our newest member, who's in Germany and feels that the coverage from America on this "very American story" has been weak in all the outlets he has access to. (Note: Pru will be interviewing DK for a feature to run in the gina & krista round-robin on Friday. If you're running behind in checking your e-mails, be sure to read Gareth's interview with Skip from this past Friday's gina & krista round-robin.)

Keesha e-mails to note John M. Broder's "Amid Criticisms of Federal Efforts, Charges of Racism Are Lodged:"

Interviews with African-American church leaders, local politicians and residents here made clear the damage that the faltering relief efforts has had on their perceptions of the Bush administration. Mr. Bush and his chief political advisers have mounted an effort to try to court more conservative black voters, particularly since the 2004 election, by encouraging black Republican candidacies and reaching out to black churches.*
But their outreach efforts appear to have been significantly set back. Criticism of the response is coming not only from the black members of Congress and national civil rights leaders, but also from prominent local officials and ordinary residents here.
"There is a lot of anger here in Texas," said the Rev. William A. Lawson, retired pastor of the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston. "Even a lot of conservative whites are angry. This was not the reaction people expected to a disaster of this magnitude. We wanted to see them get off their butts and get over there."
Rodney Ellis, an African-American Democratic state senator who represents a district in Houston, said he was trying to focus on the needs of the evacuees, thousands of whom are in Houston. Mr. Ellis said that the initial federal response was clearly inadequate and that many in the administration bore responsibility, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is black and from Alabama.
"This problem is so mammoth it's not going to go away any time soon," Mr. Ellis said. "There will be ample time for Condi Rice and others in the federal government to redeem themselves and I'm hoping they do that."

Catch the asterick? There's a bit that's left out of the efforts by the GOP to reach African-Americans. I'll steer you towards two columns by Salim Muwakkil that we highlighted earlier this year.

From his "Black Clergy Rebuff Bush" (In These Times):

As I noted in my last column, the GOP is trying to hitch a ride on Christian piety into the black community. But that ride is getting rather bumpy. In January, an unprecedented gathering of the nation’s four largest black Baptist groups issued a joint statement that basically repudiated the thrust of the GOP's outreach efforts. The group gave short shrift to issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, heavily pushed by Bush’s evangelical supporters.
And that was intentional. The Baptists sought to convey their irritation with the GOP's focus on such peripheral issues rather than on the real concerns of black Americans. The joint statement represented the National Baptist Convention (NBUSA), the National Baptist Convention of America Inc., the Progressive National Baptist Convention Inc. and the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America. The NBUSA is the largest black religious group in the nation, with 7 million members. Together the four groups represent about 15 million black Baptists.
"My position on same-sex marriage is not that it is the sole determinant on moral issues," NBUSA President William Shaw told the New York Times. "Marriage is threatened more by adultery, and we don’t have a constitutional ban on that."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, himself a Baptist minister, was a special speaker at the January convention. In a recent interview, he explained to In These Times how he helped unmask the GOP’s distracting tactics. "I asked them [the thousands of delegates] how many wanted a higher minimum wage, a stable Social Security system, more effective affirmative action and an end to the war in Iraq, and thousands of hands were raised," he said. "Then I asked them how many of them were in churches that blessed same-sex unions, and no hands went up. 'Now,' I asked them, 'how did that get in the middle of our agenda?'"

From his "The GOP's Quest for Color" (In These Times):

Insistent complaints from right-wing pundits about the media's liberal bias have been effective. Now even the most extreme right-wing notions receive a hearing in the corporate mainstream media.
This tactic has been so successful that the right is now using it to gain more exposure in the black media--a venue they've long criticized as left-leaning. The strategy coincides with the GOP’s aggressive attempts to gain more black votes for elections in 2006 and 2008.
The scope of this new outreach was hinted at by news that Armstrong Williams, a conservative black pundit, was paid $240,000 to promote the Bush administration's "No Child Left Behind" education scheme. Republicans have talked of seeking black votes, but seldom have they devoted resources to the effort.
Because of the right's effective pitch, African-American publications and black-oriented broadcast media now feel an obligation to showcase conservative voices.The Williams fiasco not only revealed the GOP's attempt to exploit this opportunity, but also how out of touch the GOP is with the black community. Williams is dismissed as a political huckster in much of black America.
When choosing its black standard-bearers, the GOP seems to be clueless. Remember when the Republican National Committee’s Ed Gillespie hooked up with boxing promoter Don King during the 2004 campaign? "What's next for the GOP?" asked one Republican blogger, "A photo-op with O.J.?"

Sharon e-mails to note Matthew Rothschild's "The Sickly Bush Recovery" (The Progressive):

So here we are in the third year of what they call an economic recovery, and it doesn't feel like recovery for most Americans.
The latest figures from the Census Bureau tell why.
Most of us are making less, in real terms, than we were last year.
Full-time male workers lost almost $1,000.
Full-time female workers lost $300.
And the poverty rate increased to 12.7 percent. Among those in poverty are an additional 563,000 members of the working poor, according to the
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Remember in Fahrenheit 9/11 when Bush addressed a gathering of fat cats and said, "Some people call you the elite. I call you my base"?
He wasn't kidding.
His economic policies have done nothing to help those who need it the most. Four million more people are poor today than in 2001, when the economy hit bottom.

We may have noted that already. But Rothschild's also worth noting so we can note it again (if this is an "again").

Lastly, here's Ava and my review, "TV Review: Dateline New York ... Warm Fuzzy" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):

Ever wonder why the compartive nobody Brian Williams was picked over Stone Phillips to sit in the anchor chair at Nightly News? We can't be sure but we think it might have to do with the fact that Williams, unlike Phillips, isn't prone to wearing bulky sweaters, with busy patterns, on camera which make him look like Angela Landsbury gearing up for Murder She Wrote: The Reunion!
Maybe they thought it would make him come off like the Mr. Rogers of the news crowd? The show wants nothing more than to give you a case of the warm fuzzies.
Phillips still posseses the best (and sharpest) set of cheek bones of anyone in the "news" set on TV (eat your heart out, Diane Sawyer) but his work on Dateline is all "soft focus." Fuzzy little bits of footage with Phillips doing the Oprah glum-nod, the Oprah dazzling-smile while the voice overs soak every moment in total cheese.
Dateline's a strange sort of "news" program. It's as though, in topic choice and delivery, you're at the kitchen table, sharing a cup of coffee with Ethel Mertz who's catching you up on the goings on in the building.
Crime's a big topic on Dateline, old crime. Nothing too fresh when possible. Which is why Katie Couric interviews the woman raped in Central Park years after the fact (when the woman's on a book tour). It's why this coming Friday's Dateline takes a, we're sure "hard hitting," look at the O.J. trial ten years later. Anything too close to the present might spoil the warm fuzzies.
Watching Stone Phillips, once considered a serious journalist, coo, nod, frown, pout and (most of all) beam, we honestly wouldn't be surprised if they traded in the opening theme music (please do), handed Phillips a guitar and let him open each show strumming while singing "Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood . . ."
So the program that aired Friday was titled "The Long Road Home." And it lasted two hours but it felt more like four. To nutshell it, an American soldier is ordered to return to America from Vietnam and finish his service in America. Rather than do that, he disappears. In the nineties, his wife and two kids finally learn that he's alive as does the military. Sound familiar? Well Dateline reported on it in the nineties. This is an "update."
Watching, we decided "update" stands for "filler." Like the way Stone Phillip's voice over repeats a comment that someone being interviewed just made. Repeatedly. Or the way they tease out details mistaking them for conflict, "When we return . . . you'll find out that we wasted more time with a segment that went nowhere."
"Wait, wait, Ava, C.I., what happened to the soldier?"
After soft, fuzzy footage of him introducing his girlfriend of ten years to his family, we get more of the same with shots of his mother's cooking him breakfast while he promises to come back and visit here for her 80th birthday -- in two years! For over two decades she thought her son was dead. Now, as she heads towards 80 the best he can do is say, "I'll visit you again in two years?" We didn't think all the warm, fuzzy pieces fit well together. But damned if Dateline didn't try their best to soak the whole episode in soft hues and clothe it in the skins of stuffed teddy bears.
In terms of the military, they're not pressing charges. He won't get his military pension, he does get other benefits. We're told all of that when Phillip's does a classic (and standard for Dateline) wrap up that plays like Ward sitting the Beave down, at the end of Leave It To Beaver, to drop some wisdom on the frivolity the episode revolved around. Which, if you think about it, is the perfect point of reference for Dateline.
Hard hitting news comes out of 60 Minutes. Uncomfortable realities, on the rare occassions they emerge on Dateline, tend to come in the form of a sit down interview with the author of a book which allows reality to be several times removed and in the past (usually the deep past). That's rather distrubing when you think about the commercial they always play during Dateline, the one that boasts more people get their news from NBC than any other network. Exactly what are they getting?
We both know people who work for Dateline and the only thing more amusing than watching the program pass itself off as a "news" show is hearing their excuses. "Well have you watched 20/20 lately!" is a popular refrain. But for our tastes, the best excuse (meaning most laughable) came when one was questioned about the "in depth" reporting on the Bennifer phenomenon.
Maybe we're too jaded but the breathless 'news' that "She's still Jenny from the Block!" was matched only by the defense of the 'report:' which went, we're paraphrasing, "Well 60 Minutes just did a report on an opera star!"
We laugh, we kid, we mock our pals at Dateline. (Openly.) But we think that "defense" was telling and basically sums up the show. They're not going for the gutter ball that is ABC's 20/20. But, at the same time, they aren't reaching for the highs of CBS' 60 Minutes either. In fact, they're aspiring to be a teen beat version of 60 Minutes. "They've got an opera star over at the grown ups table? We'll get a pop star!"
We're not sure whether they're content at the kiddies' table (wouldn't they at least prefer more leg room?) or if they truly believe that they have to dumb down to reach the audiences. (They're very proud of their ratings on Fridays and they do usually manage to lead in their time slot -- on a night when most people aren't watching TV, as we like to remind them.)
Look, the folks at Dateline are a great group of people. At a party, we'd rather be at the kiddie table with them, laughing at everyone else in the room. They're intentionally funny (unlike John Stossel attempting to eat corn on the cob . . . at least we don't think that's intended to be humorous.). They play hard. We just wish they'd aim a little higher in their broadcasts.
In the end, the grade we have to give is one that they're quite familiar with, "Does not live up to potential." If you want to live in the house on Pooh corner, Dateline is the show for you. If you're expecting news in what's billed as a news program, you're going to have look elsewhere.

And Marcia guessed correctly, I was attempting to hold it for what would hopefully be the least read day of the site.

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