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Entries by Harry Shearer from 07/2005

Blair Tries Again

| Posted 07.01.2005 | Media
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Blair now returns, with the WMD and connection-to-terrorism arguments in tatters, to a golden oldie as the Real Reason (no relation to OJ’s Real Killers): After Sept. 11, he told the AP in an interview, it was necessary to "draw a line in the sand here, and the country to do it with was Iraq because they were in breach of U.N. resolutions going back over many years." Try this little test: check out which countries have defied the most U.N. resolutions, an exercise I performed in the leadup to the war. The answers, as of late 2002: Israel and Turkey.

Burying the Followup

| Posted 07.05.2005 | Media
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It took a while for the news to reach these shores, but Spanish voters in the Galicia region have turned out the Popular Party. The reason this item, normally trivial to American readers, might have garnered some journalistic oxygen is that we were assured by so many suddenly learned authorities on the Spanish electorate just last year that the defeat of the very same party in national elections was a sad signal that said electorate had gone Old Europe and voted out its pro-Iraq War leadership to appease the terrorists who bombed the Madrid train station days earlier.

Judy, Judy, Judy

| Posted 07.06.2005 | Media
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Her paper apologized for its pre-war coverage, but demurely desisted from mentioning her copious contributions to it. Is there such a thing as karma? If so, Judith Miller is in the pokey as punishment for helping to get over 1700 Americans and thousands of Iraqis killed for a reason yet to be determined.

Smells Like Local News Spirit

| Posted 07.07.2005 | Media
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Not that I'm biased towards believing anything in the Los Angeles Times, but Wednesday the local dog trainer reported that CBS News president Andrew Hayward has been holding brainstorming sessions on how to reinvent the evening news. My eye was caught by the quote disdaining "a bunch of people you don't know and don't care about". Putting an emphasis on the news being presented to us by people we like, and who like each other, was the insight behind Eyewitness News, the format that turned local television news into the wonderland of useful information we enjoy today.

The Numbers Game

| Posted 07.08.2005 | Media
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A report in today's Age newspaper from Melbourne, Australia, that quotes an Arab spokesman on the state of the war on terror happens to mention, in paragraph three, this interesting statistic: "It had been reported that the number of what the US Government considers significant attacks grew to about 655 last year, up from the previous record of about 175 in 2003." Were we supposed to already know that? Well, yes and no...

Don't Tell Rupert, Don't Tell Tom

| Posted 07.09.2005 | Media
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When the London bombings occurred, sue me, I turned to BBC Radio 4 and BBC World News on television. After all, the news was happening in their front yard. So I didn't get much of a chance, aside from dialing around and seeing that Fox was taking the Sky News feed and MSNBC was taking the ITV feed and CNN was insisting on more airtime for the bizarre Richard Quest, to compare their approach with ours. Fortunately, this guy did get the chance.

Bring Em Together

| Posted 07.09.2005 | Media
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Supporters of the Iraq War keep pushing at the media -- why don't you guys report the Good News? Here's the Bad News, as underreported as can be, tho...

What a Difference a Year Makes

| Posted 07.10.2005 | Media
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John Tierney's Saturday NYT column was a brave attempt to deflate the hysteria that surrounds US terrorism coverage. What caught my eye was this section, near the bottom, natch: "I think that we'd be better off reconsidering our definition of victory in the war on terror... right now the terrorists look more like a small group of loosely organized killers who are less like an army than like lightning bolts -- scary but rarely fatal." The lyrics are new, but the melody is faintly familiar. Wasn't that the gist of what John Kerry was saying in the very same newspaper's Magazine last October?

What's News?

| Posted 07.11.2005 | Media
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The Asia Times suggets that Saudi Arabia, which reputedly has been trying to go nuclear since 1975 (!!), has purchased nuclear materials from our other close friend, Pakistan. This report has been followed up, or refuted, nowhere inside the American media bubble...

The Nub

| Posted 07.13.2005 | Media
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Despite the admirable cloaking of all this in the garment of "the American public," the White House press corp's anger is based on one thing: Scott McClellan lied to the Whitte House press corps. The President, the Vice President, the Army and Navy football teams, the Secretary of State--all of them can lie to any or all of the planets in the solar system, and hey, that's politics. But, stand at that podium, and lie to those people, and let them eventually find out about it, and, brother, you got trouble.

Investing Tips From the Master

| Posted 07.13.2005 | Media
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I normally reserve my serious investment advice for subscribers to my $2000-a-year newsletter, or attendees at my frequent seminars in hotel ballrooms...

BBC Uncensors Itself

| Posted 07.14.2005 | Media
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Despite reports this week that the BBC was backing off use of the word "terrorist" to describe the London bombers -- reports which triggered the usual...

Is a Fact Political?

| Posted 07.15.2005 | Media
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Why is it suddenly "political" to point out that, despite the Telegraph report -- which I linked to, so you don't really have to point me back to it -...

Rising to the Bait, again

| Posted 07.15.2005 | Media
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The talk-radio universe has been angry at the Beeb since the Andrew Gilligan affair. Rupert has ginned up the anger for his own reasons (his Sky News competes with BBC's News 24 in the UK, being one of them), and the Telegraph, though its reporting on the war has been admirably independent of the paper's own editorial stance, is similarly inclined to be, shall we say, skeptical of the value of journalism being practiced outside the private sector.

The Discussion Widens, Slowly

| Posted 07.15.2005 | Media
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The New York Times ran an Op-Ed this week by Prof. Robert Pape. Guess what? Two-thirds of the suicide bombings in the world are committed by people most Americans have never heard of--the Tamil Tigers. Pape's thesis, popular at The American Conservative, Pat Buchanan's magazine, is that most suicide bombing is motivated by anger at a foreign occupation, not by religious fanaticism. One possible conclusion: we're fighting them over there so that we can fight them over here.

Russert Watch, Pinch Hitting

| Posted 07.17.2005 | Media

Arianna has asked me to take the reins of the Russert Watch for a couple of weeks. This week's broadcast had two huge elephants in the studio that went unnoticed for the full hour. First: Like his guest Matt Cooper, Russert had testified to the grand jury on the Plame affair, yet at no point during the interview did the salient fact sally forth to the viewer. The pretense was uninvolved journalist interviewing involved participant: the reality was one pea in the pod interviewing a fellow pea. Cooper almost made news, but Russert saved him. RUSSERT: "…there may have been more sources [than Rove and Libby]?" COOPER: "Yes." And there that line of questioning ends... whatever desire Tim has to get into it vanishes in the morning mist.

The Good News and the Bad

| Posted 07.18.2005 | Media
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First the good news re: the Plame/Rove story: For a case predicted to chill the use of anonymous sources, we've certainly seen more than our share of "lawyers who spoke on the condition that their names not be revealed." Now the bad news. Two different sets of think tanks come up with research and conclusions that strongly suggest the war in Iraq has created, encouraged, increased terrorism.

Invited Contributor--Lawrence Dietz

| Posted 07.20.2005 | Media
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Sure, the current blue plate special in the media business is the Karl Rove/Valerie Plame affair - could there be any subject better suited to journal...

The President Goes Jawgging

| Posted 07.20.2005 | Media
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Yes, it was amusing to see how excited broadcast/cable media folk were, after having gotten their White House briefing, to be able to scoop the President's official announcement of the Roberts nomination by almost an hour. There's gotta be a different word for a scoop that's so assiduously spoon-fed by the scoopee. But I'd rather concentrate on a real scoop -- i.e., what's with the President's jaw? During the announcement remarks, George W. Bush unveiled a (to me, at least) entirely new facial movement, and it was a trimphant debut, since the movement/tic/signal was repeated more than a dozen times.

You Gotta Have Friends

| Posted 07.22.2005 | Media
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Our friend and ally, Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, gave ABC Nightline a day with him, and he used the interview at the end of the day to blame the Brits for not doing more to shut down extremist Muslim clerics. This came just two days after his government announced a crackdown on madrassahs that "promote extremism" and raids on banned jihadi groups. I bow to no one in my admiration for Nightline. But at no time on the broadcast did anyone (hello, Ted) wonder aloud why these "crackdowns" occur in mid-2005, when 9/11 happened nearly four years ago.

Let 'em Eat Yellowcake

| Posted 07.22.2005 | Media
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Here's a lovely irony for your early summer weekend getaway: compare the zillions of column-inches and hours of airtime devoted the last few weeks to the Plame/Rove/Libby investigation, all based on Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger to see whether Saddam was buying yellowcake from that country -- compare all that, I suggest, with the paucity of attention being paid in the US to the current and imminent hunger crisis in, of all places, Niger. We're so obsessed with our own stuff we can't even bother to append an "In other news about Niger" to a Plame Game story...

Not the Vaudeville I Don't Remember

| Posted 07.22.2005 | Media
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The AP, in a story on a joint appearance by President Bush and his mother to promote his Social Security program (yes, not dead yet) says this: And l...

Russert Watch -- Pinch Hitting

| Posted 07.24.2005 | Media

Finally, the roundtable, and finally, the words I've been waiting for--Russert admits he's part of the Plame story: "What we know so far is that in terms of journalists, Walter Pincus and Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post, Russert of NBC, Matt Cooper of Time magazine have all testified, either in deposition or before the grand jury. We assume Robert Novak has testified because Judy Miller of The Times who didn't testify is in jail. And there's been numerous newspaper reports that there's a difference between the testimony of some of the reporters and Scooter Libby of Vice President Cheney's office and Karl Rove of President Bush's office. Bill Safire, what do we make of all this?" What Safire makes of all this is that Judy Miller, who helped promulgate the same questionable intel that Safire was peddling in his Atta-in-Prague columns, shouldn't be in jail. What I made of it was that Russert referred to himself in the third person, as if he were suddenly channeling Bob Dole. Harry Shearer likes that…

News You Can't Use

| Posted 07.25.2005 | Media
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I don't often listen to npr news (reasons supplied on request), but this morning I was awakened by a story concerning dead sea lions washing up on Cal...

When Smart People Dumb Down

| Posted 07.25.2005 | Media
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Greta von Susteren, Dan Abrams, and Jeff Toobin. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're arguably not the dumbest people on cable news, but they'll play dummies on TV. Check out Howard Kurtz' column, in which all three bemoan the lack of pictures as the reason why they won't be doing as much serious coverage of the Supreme Court nomination of John Roberts as they'd really, really like to do. From the little I've seen of it, the Natalee Holloway coverage doesn't have all that many current pix either -- where do you get current video of a missing person? No, it has endlessly repeated family snaps, just as boring (except for the youthful blondness) as the endlessly repeated "class photos" of the enrobed Supremes.