Friday, 30 November 2007

MAINSTREAM MEDIA COVERAGE? CNN SKATES

Ken Berwitz

So I scoured the New York Times this morning to find an article on CNN's appalling, disreputable, reputation-destroying stacked deck of a debate on Wednesday.  The Times certainly has had ample opportunity to learn that 7 or 8 of the questioners - so far (there may be more we don't know about yet) - were committed Democrats, some actively working for their candidates, who were planted as questioners.  And since over 5,000 questions were submitted, the sheer number of plants among these questioners makes it impossible not to conclude that CNN was in on it. 

What I found was a story buried in the middle of the news section, nowhere near page one, talking about just one questioner, keith kerr.  But the Times did make sure to provide copious explanations and rationales from CNN (presumably this substituted for enumerating all the OTHER plants).  This, I suppose, was supposed to make readers believe that a) there was just one instance of a planted question and b) it was entirely inadvertent on CNN's part.

Do you believe that?  If so, I have some great beans to sell you.  Give them about a week and you can meet a giant in the sky.

Then I had the Today show on.  And guess what?  Not a word about the CNN plants, at least not in the first hour.  Nothing. 

Given Today's sorry history of bias, I can only assume the reason is professional courtesy.

At that point I reflected on what the Times and Today and the other usual suspects did with the Democratic candidates' refusal to debate on Fox News Channel - i.e. the possibility that Fox might inject some kind of bias.  I remembered the week-long coverage and the lead story status it received.  

Then I reflected on how media are covering the blatant reality of bias in the CNN debate.  And I noticed a slight difference:  namely, that the insinuation about Fox got major coverage and the actual bias of CNN was virtually ignored.

Then I just leaned back and yawned.  Because this is the same old same old for venues like the Times, Today, etc.  It is nothing more or less than a reinforcement of what I already know about mainstream media and have railed about on this blog since it began.

But listen to them squeal like stuck pigs if you accuse them of bias.


THE PARTY OF DEPENDENCY?

Ken Berwitz

Here is a Gallup poll which indicates there is a major difference in the self-described mental health of Republicans and Democrats. 

Make of it what you will:.

Republicans Report Much Better Mental Health Than Others

Relationship persists even when controlling for other variables

by Frank Newport

PRINCETON, NJ -- Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their mental health as excellent, according to data from the last four November Gallup Health and Healthcare polls. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health, compared to 43% of independents and 38% of Democrats. This relationship between party identification and reports of excellent mental health persists even within categories of income, age, gender, church attendance, and education.

The basic data -- based on an aggregated sample of more than 4,000 interviews conducted since 2004 -- are straightforward.

The differences are quite significant, as can be seen. While Democrats are slightly less likely to report excellent mental health than are independents, the big distinctions in these data are the differences between Republicans and everyone else.

One could be quick to assume that these differences are based on the underlying demographic and socioeconomic patterns related to party identification in America today. A recent Gallup report (see "Strong Relationship Between Income and Mental Health" in Related Items) reviewed these mental health data more generally, and found that men, those with higher incomes, those with higher education levels, and whites are more likely than others to report excellent mental health. Some of these patterns describe characteristics of Republicans, of course.

But an analysis of the relationship between party identification and self-reported excellent mental health within various categories of age, gender, church attendance, income, education, and other variables shows that the basic pattern persists regardless of these characteristics. In other words, party identification appears to have an independent effect on mental health even when each of these is controlled for. .

You can read the entire article, which has many more data than I am showing, at http://www.gallup.com/poll/102943/Republicans-Report-Much-Better-Mental-Health-Than-Others.aspx#2

What do these findings mean?  I don't know exactly, but you can bet the house, the car and your first-born that Republicans and Democrats will not come to the same conclusions. 


R.I.P. EVEL KNIEVEL

Ken Berwitz

Wouldn't you have bet Evel Kneivel would die in a motorcycle accident -- maybe trying to jump over Idaho's Snake River Canyon again?

In actuality, what did him in at age 69 was diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis (that's what took Robert Goulet also).

Death is his biggest jump of all .  I hope for his sake it is upward.

May he rest in peace.


FYI: CNN BS

Ken Berwitz

Want to see CNN's response to the fact that Wednesday's Republican debate was loaded with questions from Democratic plants?

Well, here it is, courtesy of Fox News (Point of order:  Fox News is the network that was condemned for imagined bias in a debate they never held.  CNN is the network that is not being condemned for real bias in a debate they DID hold).

I have put the most laughable parts of CNN's BS in bold print (and there were plenty to choose from).

CNN Defends Its Use of Democratic Supporters in Republican YouTube Debate

Friday , November 30, 2007

After spending the day facing accusations it stacked the deck against the Republican presidential contenders by having Democratic backers ask video questions during its debate, CNN on Thursday responded that it doesn't know what the fuss is all about.

The cable news network, in collaboration with video Web site YouTube, hosted the Wednesday night debate that had more than 30 voters pose questions to the Republican candidates. It later turned out that several of those questioners are actively supporting Democratic candidates.

"The whole point of these ground-breaking CNN/YouTube debates is to focus on substantive questions of concern to real people and to throw open the process to a wider range of Americans all around the country. CNN cared about what you asked, not who you were. This was the case for both the Democratic and the Republican CNN/YouTube debates," CNN said in a statement issued late in the day.

"The issues raised during last night's debate were legitimate and relevant no matter who was asking the questions. The vested interests who are challenging the credibility of the questioners are trying to distract voters from the substantive issues they care most about. Americans are tired of that discredited low-road approach, and throughout this election campaign CNN will stay focused on what the candidates are saying about the pressing issues facing this country at a critical time in our history.

"Judging by the fact that last night's event was the most-watched primary debate ever, it seems that the audience responded to our focus on plain-spoken questions about important issues," the statement continued.

But Republican candidate Mike Huckabee said news of the involvement of Democratic supporters tainted the debate.

"I think it compromises the integrity of what it was supposed to be and that is a very objective people's kind of debate," he said. Huckabee added that he's happy to answer anyone's questions, but it's a bit untoward if the advertised purpose of the debate was to give Republican voters a chance to question with their candidates.

"If the stated purpose is to give the people a chance to ask Republicans what Republican voters are interested in (in) the primary, I'm not sure that Democrat activists for other campaigns for Democrats are going to know best what Republicans are thinking for their nominee. And that's what does in fact somewhat compromise or even corrupt the process," he said.

Nearly as soon as Wednesday night's debate ended, the Internet started buzzing about one of the questioners a retired Army colonel who revealed himself as gay.

Keith Kerr of Santa Rosa, Calif., challenged the eight candidates via video message and live in the audience at the St. Petersburg debate, on the right of gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military.

The broadcast, however, failed to mention that Kerr, who served as a brigadier general in the reserves, is a member of a gay and lesbian steering committee for Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. He also was an active supporter of 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

Read the Clinton campaign release naming Kerr to the steering committee.

Clinton spokesman Phil Singer has denied that the campaign had any knowledge ahead of time that Kerr was going to participate in the debate, and Kerr said he did not inform the campaign of his plans.

It turns out Kerr wasn't the only Democratic supporter asking questions. Ted Faturos, 20, a student at University of California, San Diego, asked a question about corn subsidies. It turns out the urban studies and planning major also worked as an intern for Democratic Rep. Jane Harman. John Hess, Harman's chief of staff, issued a statement Thursday saying Faturos is no longer affiliated with the office.

"Ted Faturos was a high school intern in our district office for the summer of 2004 only and has had no connection to the office or contact with the congresswoman since, Hess said.

Elsewhere, one woman who identified herself as Journey from Texas, and who has a Web page in which she goes by the name Paperserenade asked the candidates about whether they would prosecute women and doctors if abortion were made illegal and the practice continued. After the debate, she posted a Web video wearing a John Edwards '08 T-shirt. In the posting, she said she was disappointed by the responses she got, particularly from Fred Thompson, though it's the answer she expected.

Another questioner, Leeann Anderson, asked about the danger of lead toys from China. Anderson, an activist on the issue, is reportedly an assistant to Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers of America. The union endorsed Edwards earlier this month, and Anderson's question is posted on the steelworkers' YouTube page next to a picture of Edwards.

David McMillan, a screenwriter from Los Angeles who asked the candidates why they thought the vast majority of African Americans don't vote Republican, has pictures of himself on his Web site attending a fundraiser for Barack Obama as well as several parodies bashing current and former Bush administration officials Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales.

But McMillan told FOX News he attended the Obama fundraiser in Los Angeles in mid-August as well as an Edwards event the same night, "not as a supporter, but as 'citizen journalist.'" He added that for professional purposes, he would not announce his political affiliations or which candidate he may vote for next November.

As for Kerr, he has been an activist against the military's don't-ask-don't-tell policy for years. He appeared on CNN twice in 2003 discussing his opposition to the policy that says service men and women will be dismissed from service for revealing their gay orientation. But as if reading from that policy Wednesday, Kerr told FOX News that CNN "never asked" him if he is a Clinton supporter so he "never told."

Kerr submitted the question for Republican candidates at the video debate "a couple months ago," and said last Saturday CNN called him and said they'd like him to come to the debate. He said the cable news network paid for his flight, his hotel and his transportation to and from the event.

According to the Clinton campaign, members of Clinton's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Steering Committee have endorsed Hillary Clinton for president "in their individual capacity" and work with the campaign on several areas including political outreach, communications, policy advice and counsel and fundraising.

The retired officer said his activities with the Clinton campaign are minimal. He receives e-mails from the campaign and has been invited to a fundraiser in San Francisco. He said he offered to pay "some token amount like 100 bucks" to attend the fundraiser, but as of yet has given no contribution.

"I have not done any work. Several friends asked me if I would allow my name to be listed and I agreed. She's been such a strong advocate for gay rights," he told CNN on Thursday.

He added that he had been a Log Cabin Republican for a long time and recently changed from Republican to independent in California. He said he had supported the GOP but "these guys are just partisanly homophobic."

Not all the questioners at the debate were Democratic supporters. Jay Fox, who asked a question about the candidates' positions on gun control, confirmed to FOXNews.com that he is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. He said that he had seen speculation online that he may have been a phony, but confirmed, "I actually am a Republican."

Fox, a senior film production major at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., said he is undecided but likes both Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo. He also said despite the safety lecture from Duncan Hunter after he tossed his gun in his video, he thought Hunter answered his question adequately.

Following the debate, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper said in a broadcast statement that Kerr's political ties to Clinton were unknown to the network.

"We don't know if he is still on it," said Cooper. "We are trying to find out that information. Certainly, had we had that information we would have acknowledged that in using his question, if we had used it all."

CNN said that before deciding to use Kerr's question and fly him out to the debate, it had verified his military background and that he had not contributed any money to any presidential candidate.

Afterward, Senior Vice President and Executive Producer of the debate, David Bohrman, issued a statement. "We regret this incident. CNN would not have used the general's question had we known that he was connected to any presidential candidate."

Watch Anderson Cooper's comments regarding the Hillary supporter.

During the debate, Kerr said he wanted to know why the GOP candidates think that "American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians."

Candidates Hunter, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and John McCain all answered the question. Hunter said it would be "bad for unit cohesion" for openly homosexual people to serve in the ranks. Huckabee said the the Uniform Code of Military Justice states that such "conduct could put at risk the morale." Romney said that in the midst of a war is not the time to change policy, and he would listen to recommendations from military leaders. McCain said he respects the general's service to the nation but believes the leaders in the field when they say the present policy is working. .

How does CNN have the cajones to claim this debate opened the process "to a wider range of Americans around the country"?  How does CNN have the cajones to claim it only cared what you wanted to ask and not who you are?  If either of those claims were true there is no way in hell that the questioners would be stacked to the gills with Democratic plants.  Is CNN trying to tell us this happened RANDOMLY? 

Next thing you know, the network will be telling you that keith kerr just happened to a) be in the audience, b) up front and c) in an easily accessible aisle seat.  Pure coincidence. 

These people must think we've all been lobotomized.

My all-time favorite, though is the comment that "The vested interests who are challenging the credibility of questioners are trying to distract voters from the substantive issues they care most about"  That one takes the cake.

"The vested interests"?  What is this, an out-take from "A Christmas Carol"?

"Challenging the credibility of the questioners"?  No one is challenging their innate credibility.  They are all perfectly acceptable as DEMOCRATIC PLANTS who ask questions that Democrats are most interested in and framing them in ways that are geared to elicit defensive adjustments from Republicans instead of serious answers.  Yep, they're credible all right.

If this was such a hotsy-totsy idea, how come CNN didn't stack the Democratic debate two weeks before with Republican questioners?  Oh, wait, I know why.  They couldn't, they were too busy stacking it with Hillary suckups.

Then they accuse the ACCUSERS of a "discredited, low road approach"?  That's like accusing the three little pigs of trying to catch and eat a wolf.

If anyone here is discredited it is CNN.  And if ever there were a self-inflicted disgrace, this is the one.


GLOBAL WARMING UPDATE

Ken Berwitz

I post this without commentary, because it doesn't need any:.

Canadians should brace for coldest winter in almost 15 years: forecast

TORONTO - After years of warmer-than-normal winters that spurred constant talk of global warming, winter this year is expected to be the coldest in almost 15 years and should remind everyone of what real Canadian cold feels like, Environment Canada said Friday.

With the exception of only small pockets of northern Canada and southwestern Ontario, this December through February is forecast to be one of the harshest winters in recent memory across the country, said senior climatologist David Phillips.

"It is somewhat remarkable that we're seeing the same situation from coast to coast to almost coast - from Vancouver Island to Bonavista, Nfld., we're showing the country as being colder than normal," Phillips said.

"The last time Canada had a significantly cold winter was back in 1994, more than a decade ago, and this may very well rival that one in terms of coldness."

1994 started with a bang of winter weather and Canadians across the country shivered through temperatures as cold as -42C - and that was before factoring in the wind chill.

Environment Canada's forecast for precipitation suggests much of the country is due for normal amounts of snow, although some cities could get more than usual, including Calgary, Regina and Toronto, which infamously called in the army in January 1999 to deal with a heavy snowfall.

The precipitation forecasts are less reliable, but Phillips said a colder winter would likely result in a lot of white Christmases across the country - defined as two centimetres of snow on the ground at 7 a.m. on Christmas Day.

Even if the forecasts don't hold true, Phillips said the weather will almost certainly be worse than the last couple years for much of the country.

Last year, a number of traditionally cold and snow-covered cities like Quebec City, Ottawa and Timmins, Ont., had a green Christmas for the first time in decades.

And places like Moncton, all of Prince Edward Island and Toronto had only two-thirds of their normal snowfall.

If there is a bright side to the gloomy forecast that most Canadians will probably curse, it's that snow and cold in the winter is good for the economy, Phillips said.

When Canadians see snow outside their windows they'll likely get into the Christmas spirit and start shopping, he said. And others will see the snow and make immediate plans to head south.

"I always think it's good for the economy when weather is behaving like it should, when winters are cold and summers are hot," Phillips said.

"With the Canadian dollar the way it is and with this colder than normal weather, it very well may be that the busiest people in the country are travel agents."

Phillips said the forecast for cold weather is being triggered in part by La Nina, a period of lower than normal temperatures in the Pacific Ocean.  .


WHEN 15 DAYS IN JAIL JUST ISN'T ENOUGH

Ken Berwitz

Here is the latest news from that bastion of tolerance and stability, the Sudan.

Remember that teacher who asked her class of 7 year olds what they wanted to name a teddy bear, 20 of the 23 students said "Muhammad", so that's what the teddy bear was named?

Remember that she was arrested and jailed for doing so?  Remember that her sentence for the 'crime' of giving a teddy bear a name - the name her STUDENTS selected - was 15 day and 40 lashes - with the lashes subsequently dropped (would they have done that for a Sudanese national)?

Well, that may not be good enough to satisfy the intellectuals and religious scholars in the street.  Please read this, from the Associated Press via Fox News.  The bold print is mine:.

Thousands in Sudan Call for British Teddy Bear Teacher's Execution

Friday , November 30, 2007

KHARTOUM, Sudan  

Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied Friday in a central square and demanded the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear "Muhammad."

In response to the demonstration, teacher Gillian Gibbons was moved from the women's prison near Khartoum to a secret location for her safety, her lawyer said.

The protesters streamed out of mosques after Friday sermons, as pickup trucks with loudspeakers blared messages against Gibbons, who was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in prison and deportation. She avoided the more serious punishment of 40 lashes.

They massed in central Martyrs Square outside the presidential palace, where hundreds of riot police were deployed. They did not try to stop the rally, which lasted about an hour.

"Shame, shame on the U.K.," protesters chanted.

Click here to view photos.

Calls by FOXNews.com to Sudan's permanent mission to the United Nations were not returned Friday.

The protesters called for Gibbons' execution, saying, "No tolerance: Execution," and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad."

Gibbons' chief lawyer, Kamal al-Gizouli, said she was moved from the prison for her safety for the final nine days of her sentence.

"They moved this lady from the prison department to put her in other hands and in other places to cover her and wait until she completes her imprisonment period," he said, adding that she was in good health.

"They want, by hook or by crook, to complete these nine days without any difficulties, which would have an impact on their foreign relationship," he said.

Several hundred protesters, not openly carrying weapons, marched from the square to Unity High School, about a mile away, where Gibbons worked. They chanted slogans outside the school, which is closed and under heavy security, then headed toward the nearby British Embassy. They were stopped by security forces two blocks away from the embassy.

The protest arose despite vows by Sudanese security officials the day before, during Gibbons' trial, that threatened demonstrations after Friday prayers would not take place. Some of the protesters carried green banners with the name of the Society for Support of the Prophet Muhammad, a previously unknown group.

Many protesters carried clubs, knives and axes but not automatic weapons, which some have brandished at past government-condoned demonstrations. That suggested Friday's rally was not organized by the government.

A Muslim cleric at Khartoum's main Martyrs Mosque denounced Gibbons during one sermon, saying she intentionally insulted Islam. He did not call for protests, however.

"Imprisoning this lady does not satisfy the thirst of Muslims in Sudan. But we welcome imprisonment and expulsion," the cleric, Abdul-Jalil Nazeer al-Karouri, a well-known hard-liner, told worshippers.

"This an arrogant woman who came to our country, cashing her salary in dollars, teaching our children hatred of our Prophet Muhammad," he said.

Britain, meanwhile, pursued diplomatic moves to free Gibbons. Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke with a member of her family to convey his regret, his spokeswoman said.

"He set out his concern and the fact that we were doing all we could to secure her release," spokeswoman Emily Hands told reporters.

Most Britons expressed shock at the verdict by a court in Khartoum, alongside hope it would not raise tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims in Britain.

"One of the good things is the U.K. Muslims who've condemned the charge as completely out of proportion," said Paul Wishart, 37, a student in London.

"In the past, people have been a bit upset when different atrocities have happened and there hasn't been much voice in the U.K. Islamic population, whereas with this, they've quickly condemned it."

Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, accused the Sudanese authorities of "gross overreaction."

"This case should have required only simple common sense to resolve. It is unfortunate that the Sudanese authorities were found wanting in this most basic of qualities," he said.

The Muslim Public Affairs Committee, a political advocacy group, said the prosecution was "abominable and defies common sense."

The Federation of Student Islamic Societies, which represents 90,000 Muslim students in Britain and Ireland, called on Sudan's government to free Gibbons, saying she had not meant to cause offense.

"We are deeply concerned that the verdict to jail a schoolteacher due to what's likely to be an innocent mistake is gravely disproportionate," said the group's president, Ali Alhadithi.

The Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim youth organization, said Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir should pardon the teacher.

"The Ramadhan Foundation is disappointed and horrified by the conviction of Gillian Gibbons in Sudan," said spokesman Mohammed Shafiq.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, said Gibbons' prosecution and conviction was "an absurdly disproportionate response to what is at worst a cultural faux pas."

Foreign Secretary David Miliband summoned the Sudanese ambassador late Thursday to express Britain's disappointment with the verdict. The Foreign Office said Britain would continue diplomatic efforts to achieve "a swift resolution" to the crisis.

Gibbons was arrested Sunday after another staff member at the school complained that she had allowed her 7-year-old students to name a teddy bear Muhammad. Giving the name of the Muslim prophet to an animal or a toy could be considered insulting.

The case put Sudan's government in an embarrassing position facing the anger of Britain on one side and potential trouble from powerful Islamic hard-liners on the other. Many saw the 15-day sentence as an attempt to appease both sides.

In The Times, columnist Bronwen Maddox said the verdict was "something of a fudge ... designed to give a nod to British reproof but also to appease the street."

Britain's response applying diplomatic pressure while extolling ties with Sudan and affirming respect for Islam had produced mixed results, British commentators concluded.

In an editorial, The Daily Telegraph said Miliband "has tiptoed around the case, avoiding a threat to cut aid and asserting that respect for Islam runs deep in Britain. Given that much of the government's financial support goes to the wretched refugees in Darfur and neighboring Chad, Mr. Miliband's caution is understandable."

Now, however, the newspaper said, Britain should recall its ambassador in Khartoum and impose sanctions on the Sudanese regime..

This, folks, is what fundementalist Islam is all about.  Read it well.  Learn from it.  And remember that if we do not successfully fight radical Islam they will end our civilization and subject all of us to this way of life. 

Not in Sudan.  Not in Iran.  Not in Saudi Arabia.  Here.


A KHASUREN DIE KALLEH IS TSU SHAYN

Ken Berwitz

(The title of this blog is explained further down)

Silly me.  I always thought the New York Times didn't have a comics section.  But now I know better.  The Times does have a comic section and it is on their front page. 

If you can't laugh at the following article, published today, which seeks out and finds negatives in the fact that Iraqis are streaming back into their country because of how improved things have become - then you have no sense of humor.

Here it is.  I dare you to read it without laughing:.

Iraq Lacks Plan on the Return of Refugees, Military Says

Michael Kamber for The New York Times

Iraqi refugees who returned from Damascus, Syria, gathered at a hotel in Baghdad Thursday to receive money for resettlement.

Published: November 30, 2007

BAGHDAD, Nov. 29 As Iraqi refugees begin to stream back to Baghdad, American military officials say the Iraqi government has yet to develop a plan to absorb the influx and prevent it from setting off a new round of sectarian violence.

Michael Kamber for The New York Times
 
A mother led her daughter to a car waiting in Baghdads Mansour neighborhood Sunday after arriving from Damascus, Syria.

The Iraqi government lacks a mechanism to settle property disputes if former residents return to Baghdad only to find their homes occupied, the officials said. Nor has the Iraqi government come forward with a detailed plan to provide aid, shelter and other essential services to the thousands of Iraqis who might return. American commanders caution that if the return is not carefully managed, there is a risk of undermining the recent security gains.

All these guys coming back are probably going to find somebody else living in their house, said Col. William Rapp, a senior aide to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, speaking at a two-day military briefing on measuring military trends for a small group of American reporters in Baghdad.

We have been asking, pleading with the government of Iraq, to come up with a policy so that it is not put upon our battalion commanders and the I.S.F. battalion commanders to figure it out on the ground, he added, referring to the American and Iraqi security force commanders.

When sectarian violence soared in 2006, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis fled to Syria and Jordan, or moved to safer areas in Iraq. But now that the American troop reinforcement plan and a new counterinsurgency strategy have helped reverse a rising tide of car bombings and sectarian killings, there are signs that Iraqis are starting to return.

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has hailed the development as an indication that security is beginning to improve. As if to underscore Mr. Malikis point, 375 Iraqi refugees arrived Thursday in a convoy of buses from Damascus, Syria, escorted by heavily armed policemen. After the lengthy journey, the tired Iraqis were ushered into the white marble affluence of the Mansour Melia Hotel in Baghdad to receive a promised government payout to people returning to the capital.

Many neighborhoods in Baghdad have become largely Shiite or Sunni, as one group drove the other out in calculated sectarian cleansing. Sunnis have moved into Shiite homes, and Shiites into Sunni ones. This segregation has contributed to the decline in violence. But what would happen if the original residents insisted on moving back into their homes?

Ahmad Chalabi, a Shiite politician and former Iraqi exile who made common cause with the Americans against Saddam Hussein, has been charged with developing a plan to provide services.

American officers discussed estimates of the displaced Iraqis at a seminar here on the militarys metrics of assessing violence in Iraq held at Camp Victory.

Recent American military data indicates that for the fourth week in a row, the nationwide weekly number of attacks is at its lowest level since January 2006. The number of civilians killed, as measured by the American and Iraqi governments, continued to decline in November. The number of weekly casualties, wounded as well as killed, suffered by Iraqi civilians, Iraqi forces and American forces, increased last week by 56 percent but was still below the level for most of 2006 and 2007.

The military also lowered its tally of how many Iraqis had joined neighborhood watch groups. The new figure for Concerned Local Citizens, as the military calls the volunteers, is 60,321. The previous estimate of 77,000 erroneously combined the number of volunteers who are currently serving with those who had expressed a willingness to join.

Col. Martin Stanton, who oversaw the count, said he told General Petraeus about the new figures this week.

Military officials said that they were seeking to make greater use of some Iraqi government data to provide a more comprehensive portrayal of the situation in Iraq. Though there are concerns about the reliability of some Iraqi reports, American military data generally understates Iraqi civilian deaths, since American units only report what they observe, officials said. At General Petraeuss recommendation, the Pentagon is expected for the first time to include the Iraqi government data on civilian deaths in its report next month on security trends in Iraq.

While there is no question that large numbers of Iraqis have left their homes, American officials said that the exact number is not available. The International Organization for Migration has reported that the number of internally displaced Iraqis those who have fled their homes but still live in Iraq has grown to more than one million since the February 2006 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra. Among those displaced Iraqis, more than 350,000 live in Baghdad Province, according to estimates by humanitarian organizations. .

Who but the New York Times could find so many bad things about the fact that Iraqi refugees are coming back home? 

Ok, ok, I admit that there are a lot of others.   But most of them are not ridiculous enough to do lead stories about it.

There is a yiddish expression that covers this:  "A khasuren die kalleh is tsu shayn"  In English, this means "(it is) A fault that the bride is too pretty".  In other words, there are people who are so ridiculous that they can find negatives in the most joyous things (even in how beautiful a bride looks).

Well, hasn't the New York Times excoriated the Bush administration for causing all those Iraqis to leave the country?  And now it is excoriating the Bush administration because Iraqis are coming back?

All I can say is, A khasuren die kalleh is tsu shayn


MICHELLE MALKIN ON THE CNN DEBACLE

Ken Berwitz

I know I put up a Michelle Malkin piece on the CNN fraud...er, debate featuring random voices of the community.  But she has written another one that is so on-target that I want you to see it as well.

Here it is:.

CNN'S SCREWUP

MISSES POLITICAL PLANTS

Cooper: Gave extra time to Hillary fan's question.
Cooper: Gave extra time to Hillary fan's question.
 

 November 30, 2007 -- IF any more political plants turn up at CNN's presidential debates, the cable-news network will have to merge with the Home and Garden channel.

At CNN's Democratic debate in Las Vegas two weeks back, moderator Wolf Blitzer introduced several citizen questioners as "ordinary people, undecided voters." But they later turned out to include a former Arkansas Democratic director of political affairs, the president of the Islamic Society of Nevada and a far left anti-war activist who'd been quoted in newspapers lambasting Harry Reid for his failure to pull out of Iraq.

Yet CNN failed to disclose those affiliations and activism during the broadcast.

Behold - the phony political foliage bloomed again at Wednesday night's much hyped CNN/YouTube GOP debate.

Oh, CNN did make careful note that Grover Norquist (who asked about his anti-tax pledge) is a Republican activist with Americans for Tax Reform. But somehow the network's layers and layers of fact-checkers missed several easily identified Democratic activists posing as ordinary, undecided citizens.

The tallest plant was a retired gay vet, one "Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr," who questioned - or rather, lectured - the candidates on video and in person about the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that bans open gays from the military.

Funny. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was exactly the policy CNN adopted in not telling viewers that Kerr is a member of Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual- Transgender Americans for Hillary.

Sen. Clinton's campaign Web site features a press release announcing Kerr and other members of the committee in June. And a basic Web search turns up Kerr's past support as a member of a veterans' steering committee for the John Kerry for President campaign - and his prior appearance on CNN in December '03.

CNN's moderator, Anderson Cooper, singled out Kerr (who'd been flown in for the event) in the vast audience, giving him a chance for his own filibustering moment. Marvel at it: Not one CNN journalist uncovered the connection or thought it pertinent to disclose that Kerr's heart belonged to Hillary.

When righty commentator Bill Bennett pointed out the facts to Cooper after the debate, a red-faced Cooper feebly blubbered: "That was something certainly unknown to us, and had we known that, would have been disclosed by us. It turns out we have just looked at it."

Cluelessness doesn't absolve CNN of journalistic malpractice. Neither does editing out Kerr's question (as the network did on rebroadcast, to camouflage the potted plant).

The story is far from over: Cooper and CNN still owe their audience - and the GOP candidates - a bouquet of mea culpas for due diligence and disclosure lapses. Beyond Kerr, Internet sleuths have uncovered several other Democratic activists lurking in the YouTube garden:

* A young woman named "Journey" questioned the candidates on abortion. On her blog (easily accessed from her YouTube channel), she declares herself a John Edwards supporter. Post debate, she immediately posted a video wearing . . . her John Edwards '08 T-shirt.

* David Cercone of Florida asked a question seemingly on behalf of the Log Cabin Republicans. He had declared his support for Obama on an Obama '08 campaign blog back in July.

* Concerned mother LeeAnn Anderson asked about lead in toys with her two children in her lap. She is actually a staffer and prominent Pittsburgh union activist for the United Steelworkers - which has endorsed Edwards.

On other questioners, elementary Google searches show that:

* Ted Faturos, who asked about ethanol subsidies, had served as an intern for Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.).

* Adam Florzak, who asked about Social Security, quit his job as a welder and is working with Sen. Dick Durbin's (D-Ill.) staff on the issue.

* Mark Strauss, who urged Ron Paul to run as an independent, had publicly supported Gov. Bill Richardson in July.

Alternative media platforms - talk radio, the Internet and this op-ed page - have spread these facts like kudzu. But the persistent media double standard is obvious to everyone but the manure spreaders at CNN: Had GOP candidates somehow been able to insert their operatives and supporters into a Democratic debate, and had, say, Fox News failed to vet the questioners and presented them as average citizens, both Fox and the GOP would be treated as the century's worst media sinners.

Whether through, as one blogger put, "constructive incompetence" or "convenient ineptitude," CNN has committed journalistic malpractice under the guise of "citizen" participation.

In a now richly ironic interview with Wired.- com before the debate, David Bohrman, a CNN senior vice president, explained why videos were picked not by popular vote, but by supposedly seasoned CNN journalists: The Web is still too immature a medium to set an agenda for a national debate, he claimed. "It's really easy for the campaigns to game the system."

"You've seen how effective the Ron Paul campaign [supporters] have been on the Web," he noted. "You don't know if there are 40 or 4 million of them. It would be easy for a really organized campaign to stack the deck."

What does Bohrman have to say about his crack staff now?  .

CNN, for its part, is trying to tough this out and pretend they've done nothing wrong.  And, truth be told, if all they had to contend with was mainstream media they would probably get away with it.

But it's a new world out there.  And CNN is going to be reamed unmercifully (and DESERVEDLY) for their ambush of the Republicans they clearly hate so much. 

Let's see how long it takes before they realize that stonewalling isn't going to be enough. 

In the immortal words of Ricky Ricardo, CNN has a lot of  'splainin' to do.


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