Wednesday, 20 February 2008


Ken Berwitz

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am no fan of Chris Matthews, who I often call Chis Mouthews because of his nonstop mouth.

But credit where credit is due.  And all credit to Matthews for showing a Texas state legislator named Kirk Watson up as a blithering idiot. 

How did he do it?  By asking a simple question:  What are Barack Obama's accomplishments.  Matthews asked the question and refused let this blithering idiot dodge it.  Matthews made Watson out to be a complete fool, while simultaneously demonstrating to his audience what a nonentity Obama is (If you have trouble with the video below, just click here ).

See for yourself:

Thanks again Chris.  This time you did yourself proud.  Long may you continue in this vein.

steve schneider the problem is that matthews is a hack for hillary. he slipped up on tuesday when he said that he was worried about obamas momentum he then corrected himself and said they, meaning the clinton campaign. regardless, he did point out that obama has no qualifications to be president, but neither does hillary. steve (02/21/08)

Ken Berwitz Steve: I hear you. But since Obama, at least right now, is the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination, it is fair to say that Matthews is not covering for Hillary so much as he is putting the wood to the eventual nominee. It is worth remembering that Matthews was a big-time supporter of McCain in 2000. I wonder if this bears on his performance in the video. (02/21/08)


Ken Berwitz

Yesterday I blogged about how personally insulting and vicious keith olbermann was toward Republicans Karl Rove and President Bush. 

I pointed out that david shuster was suspended for far less, and that it seemed clear there was a double standard in which MSNBC allows it to be open season on Republicans, but will apologize for even small indiscretions or mistakes if they could possibly hurt a Democrat. 

With this in mind, please read the following Associated Press report.  The bold print is mine:

NBC reprimands employee for using picture of bin Laden behind Obama story

Feb 19 07:25 PM US/Eastern


NEW YORK - NBC News said Tuesday it has reprimanded the employee responsible for mistakenly flashing a picture of Osama bin Laden on MSNBC as Chris Matthews talked about Barack Obama.

"This mistake was inexcusable," MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines said.

It happened during the opening of "Hardball" Monday evening. Matthews was previewing a story on the controversy over Obama's use of another politician's words, and a picture of bin Laden briefly flashed on the screen beside him with the headline "Words About Words."

The Obama campaign immediately called NBC to complain, and Matthews apologized on the air a few minutes later. When "Hardball" was rerun later that night, a picture of Obama replaced the picture of the terrorist leader.

The mistake was made by someone in the network's graphics department whom MSNBC would not identify. The network did not explain exactly how the mistake was made nor detail the punishment for the employee.

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor noted the apology and said the campaign had no other comment.

It's hardly the first time the presidential candidate and terrorist leader have been confused in the media. CNN apologized last year for promoting a story on the search for bin Laden with the headline, "Where's Obama?"

One other time, CNN's Alina Cho reported that "Barack Obama's campaign has been dogged by false rumours, among them that Osama is a Muslim, Obama rather."

Even former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney misspoke on the campaign trail last October when talking about terrorism. "Actually, just look at what Osam, uh, Barack Obama said just yesterday ..."

As long as it's a slip of the tongue, people should just get over it, said Barbara Wallraff, who writes a syndicated column on language.

"Don't we have other things to complain about?" she said.

Wallraff noted how changing one letter can also transform "Bush" to "bust" or "lush." She said the spell-check on one of her computer programs always suggests "Osama" as a substitute when she types "Obama."

It's far different if something like this is done intentionally, she said.

This has been a rough month of apologies at MSNBC. Reporter David Shuster was suspended for two weeks for saying that Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign had "pimped out" daughter Chelsea by having her make political phone calls. And Matthews apologized last month after suggesting that Clinton's political prominence was due to her husband's infidelities


Yesterday olbermann indicated that President Bush's actions in Iraq are giving aid and comfort to al-qaeda.  Specifically he said that years from now al qaeda will thank President Bush for what he is doing.

No apology necessary. 

olbermann has indulged his pathological hatred of Bill O'Reilly for years, calling Mr. O'Reilly things like "a sorry excuse for a human being" and many, many more that are as bad and worse.

No apology necessary.

But a backroom guy accidentally puts up a picture of osama bin laden during a spiel about Obama, which is clearly out of context and 100% a mistake?  MSNBC immediately falls all over itself to apologize, and even edits it out of the video for subsequent airings.

Is MSNBC a sorry excuse for a cable news network?  What do you think?


Ken Berwitz

This is from  It needs no explanation at all:





Ken Berwitz

Why is it that the haters think they can lie at will and nobody will notice?

The latest example (now there's an ephemeral status when it comes to media dishonesty) is from the New York Daily News team of (George) Rush and (Joanna) Malloy. 

Here, from their Monday column, is the hit piece they wrote on Bill O'Reilly.  Please note the sarcastic spelling of Fox News:

Bill O'Reilly is causing yet another stink, but this time it's in the gym. The Faux-news man has relied on one of his minions to wipe the sweat off exercise equipment after he's done. "It was really disgusting," said a nauseated onlooker. "The poor kid followed him around, just sopping up O'Reilly's body fluids.".

I suspect that your first reaction would be something along the order of "eeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwww".  I don't blame you.

But before you go off on what a pig Mr. O'Reilly is, you might want to read this commentary from in their TV Newser section:

One small problem with the item O'Reilly's no Anderson Cooper when it comes to working out. O'Reilly says he "does not belong to a gym," nor "own gym equipment." An FNC spokesperson confirms that he doesn't go to the company gym, either.

On his show Monday night O'Reilly called out the misreporting of Rush & Malloy. Click continued to see the strongly-worded response...


I would think that Rush and Malloy - who, if you clicked on the video, you heard O'Reilly refer to as "the most dishonest people working in the American press today" - had better come up with some serious documentation for their claim.  And fast.

If they can't, then it would be fair to say that this is the quality of "reporting" that we should expect from someone who does do what they talked about in the gym.

And they're calling Fox "faux-news"?  That's like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar calling someone else a tall, Black ex-NBA star.


Ken Berwitz

Before you jump all over me for that title, yes I know Barack Obama was ahead in the polls and that he won. 

I don't judge political polling simply on whether it predicts who the winner is.  I look to see if the polls are accurate in the percentages they give each candidate.

The three polls compiled by , which I posted here yesterday, all showed Barack Obama winning per se.  But they said he would win in a close vote, by 4%-5%.  And if that had happened, you would have seen a far different, far more positive-sounding Hillary Clinton at the end of the night.

But it didn't happen.  Instead, Mr. Obama steamrollered Ms. Clinton by 58% to 41%;  a difference of 17%, which is way outside every poll's statistical margin of error.  And since the issue is accuracy, the fact that these polls were wrong on the side of the winner is immaterial to me.

Here's why:  If those same polls were wrong by as much in the opposite direction, Ms. Clinton not only would not have lost, but she'd have won with room to spare (by about 8%). 

That would have happened with exactly the same difference between reality and what the polls concluded.  And therefore, it was just as likely to have happened as the inaccuracy that favored Mr. Obama.

Now for the big question:  Will this level of inaccuracy - which I have chronicled over and over again throughout the primary season, not just today - have any effect on how completely media rely on political polls for the rest of the campaign?

The answer, most assuredly, is no.  Why give up such an easy way to create "news"?  Just because it's inaccurate?  What are you, nuts?

The chance of media downplaying political polls is slightly less than the chance that nancy pelosi will change parties, become a member of the NRA and open a pro-life clinic.


Ken Berwitz

Here, courtesy of Reuters, is a poll that media will just love to quote from tomorrow.  Honest. 

The bold print is mine:


Americans feel better about future: Reuters poll

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Growing confidence in the future and slightly warmer views of President George W. Bush and Congress put Americans in a better mood this month, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

The Reuters/Zogby Index, which measures the mood of the country, rose sharply to 99.3 in February from last month's 94.2, putting it at the highest level since August.

Approval ratings for Bush climbed to 34 percent from 31 percent last month, and positive ratings for Congress inched up from 14 percent to a still-low 17 percent.

Concerns about personal finances, job security, safety and the direction of the country all eased at least slightly in the last month, brightening the outlook for Americans who had slipped into a funk around the holidays.

There were some dark clouds. For the first time, a majority of Americans, 54 percent, expect a recession in the next year, up from last month's 48 percent, as a housing downturn and credit crunch take their toll.

Despite worries about a recession, the number of Americans who think the country is on the wrong track shrank to a still-high 62 percent, down from 68 percent.

"People are adjusting their expectations. They see a recession coming but they still feel better about their future," pollster John Zogby said.

The mood swing followed a month in which Bush and Congress worked together to approve a package of measures designed to give a short-term boost to the economy, while U.S. deaths from the war in Iraq continued to fade from the headlines.

The intense interest in the U.S. presidential race as voting began across the United States, with compelling races in both political parties capturing public attention, turned the debate from the present, Zogby said.


"The focus now is on the future. There is going to be a new president and a new Congress and people feel good about that," he said.

Eight of the 10 measures of public opinion used in the Index rose, with one dropping slightly and one staying the same.

The number of Americans who feel very secure in their jobs jumped 7 points in a month, to 50 percent from 43 percent, and the number who gave positive marks to their personal financial situations climbed to 56 percent from 52 percent.

Positive marks for the Bush administration's foreign policy climbed 5 points to 28 percent from 23 percent, but approval ratings for economic policy stayed exactly the same at a low 22 percent.

More Americans feel very safe from foreign threats and more are fairly or very proud of the United States, but the number of Americans confident their children will have a better life fell slightly to 64 percent.

The Index combines responses to 10 questions on Americans' views about their leaders, the direction of the country and their future. Index polling began in July, and that month's results provide the benchmark score of 100.

A score above 100 indicates the public mood has improved since July. A score below 100, like the one this month, shows the mood has soured since July.

The RZI is released on the third Wednesday of each month.

The telephone poll of 1,105 likely voters, taken Wednesday through Saturday, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Hmmmmm, I wonder how this is going to go over on the Today show. I'm counting on a feature story tomorrow morning.

After all, President Bush's ratings are up.  They are double those of congress.  For a President whose low approval ratings have been relentlessly covered to rise this way must be pretty significant, right?

You would certainly expect stories galore on what a poor job Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are doing and speculation about why the electorate considers them so deficient, wouldn't you? 

I mean, that's what they do when President Bush's numbers are down the tubes, isn't it?

And we certainly know that media are fiercely neutral and treat the Democratic congress no differently than the Republican President, don't we?

Excuse me for a second.....(snort, snort, snort).  Aaaahhhhhhhhh


Ken Berwitz

Today's lead idiotorial in the New York Times is in two sections.  It equates Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan and fidel castro of Cuba as dictators. 

If you want to read the complete idiotorial (and have the stomach for it) you can click here.  I am going to comment only on the first part of each section.

Twilight of the Dictators: A Chance for Pakistan and the U.S.

After years of American enabling and billions in American aid, Pakistans Pervez Musharraf, was to put it delicately trounced in Mondays parliamentary elections. The results are much better than the United States could hope for, and more than President Bush deserved after overinvesting in the former general and his anti-democratic excesses.

First of all, let's put the lie to Pervez Musharraf as a dicator.  He may be hardline, he may be personally corrupt and he may have overstepped his legal powers, both politically and otherwise.  But the reason his party lost was that he allowed FREE, MULTI-PARTY ELECTIONS.   That doesn't happen in a dictatorship.

This would never have happened under fidel castro.  Not once has castro's Cuba allowed free, multi-party elections.  There is only one legal party and that is the communist party.  Voters have a choice of a communist or no one. 

Therefore, to compare Cuba and Pakistan in this way is to display either ignorance and/or malevolence and/or idiocy.  Your call.

Now let's talk about what the US hopes for.  We hope for a Pakistani government that will be our ally in the war against terrorism and which will do whatever it can to help us find, and get rid of, terrorists wherever they are - very much including within Pakistan itself.

Before Musharraf became the head of state Pakistan was a terrorist-supporting country, perfectly comfortable with the taliban in Afghanistan. 

And now?  Pakistan is STILL terrorist loving and taliban supporting. 

Under Musharraf, the country has done a considerable amount (far less than I would have liked, but a considerable amount notwithstanding) to rein in terrorism. Importantly, doing anything at all was a massive improvement over what was happening before he became the head of state.

Is Musharraf an ideal ally?  No, not even remotely close.  But you are not going to get anything remotely close.  There are no good guys in this neighborhood.  And most will be far worse than Musharraf.  The reality of the world is that when there are no good alternatives, you take what you can get.  

In Pakistan (as in much of this region) any President is going to be faced with a succession of Hobson's choices that stink to high heaven.  It is the same situation we have with the despicable Saudi government - the one Bill Clinton had to deal with just as George Bush does today.  You do what you have to do.

The reason there have been repeated attempts on Musharraf's life throughout his tenure is because of how much he cooperates with the USA, not how little.  A change of government is almost certain to lower rather than raise the cooperation level.

Finally, what the hell does this have to do with what President Bush "deserves"?  Does the Times think this is some personal deal between Bush and Musharraf?  Are they so completely overtaken by hatred that they think of the possible turmoil in Pakistan primarily as "getting back" at George W. Bush?  This is the payoff?  Have they gone completely out of their minds on W. 43rd Street?

Okay.  Now we move on to the other part of the idiotorial, which talks about fidel castro and Cuba:

Twilight of the Dictators: And a Chance for Cuba and the U.S.

It was age and illness, not the free voice of the Cuban people, that finally led Fidel Castro to announce Tuesday that he is stepping down as Cubas president after a mere 49 years of absolute power. Mr. Castros immediate successor is likely to be his 76-year-old younger brother Ral. Still, the post-Fidel era is clearly at hand, and the Bush administration has done almost nothing to prepare for it.

Cuba is a closed, repressive society. But the administration has gone out of its way to ensure that it has no chance of influencing events there. In the name of tightening the failed embargo, it has made it much harder for academics, artists and religious people to travel to Cuba and spread the good word about democracy, and much harder for Cubans to visit here. Rather than probing the ongoing political transition, the White House has dismissed it in advance as insignificant.

A policy that made little sense in the cold war makes still less in todays age of globalization when America does not hesitate to trade with and invest in other repressive countries (China, for example), recognizing that commerce is more likely than isolation to nurture positive political change.

The embargo provided Mr. Castro with a built-in excuse for his own failed economic policies and ruthless political repression. It made it easier for him to wall ordinary Cubans off from American friendships, political ideas and affluent lifestyles. It handed him a propaganda tool to discredit courageous Cubans who openly campaigned for greater democracy. Continuing this policy of isolation will only make it easier for whoever succeeds Mr. Castro to continue the same repressive policies.

Let's start by noting that the first attack here is not on fidel castro for running his "closed and repressive" government over 49 years and allowing no freedoms to his people.  It is on.....President Bush, for (in the Times' view) not preparing for castro's exit.  That should already tell you where this is heading.

Moving along:  Nice of the Times to call Cuba "closed and repressive".  How about communist.   That's what it is, isn't it?  A communist dictatorship.  But this is the New York Times, and we all know that to call a communist dictatorship a communist dictatorship is to be a wild-eyed right wing nutcake.  So that isn't going to happen. Not among the idiotorial board over in Timesland.

Then let's wonder what "exit" the Times is talking about.  Raul Castro, fidel's brother who was hand-picked by him, is going to be the new Prime Minister.  And fidel will remain as first secretary of the communist party (Cuba's only legal party), which arguably is the single most important position in the country anyway.   So the Times' entire premise is based on absolutely nothing.

Next, what does the Times feel would be adequate preparation for fidel castro's resignation as Prime Minister?  The answer is easing or eliminating the embargo -- an embargo that was started under John F. Kennedy and which every succeeding President, Democrat and Republican alike, has maintained.

Eleven Presidents have done the same thing.  But only one is singled out for the Times' opprobrium.  George W. Bush..

Personally, I can argue both sides of lifting the embargo.  There are legitimate reasons to do so and not to do so.  But what is unarguable is the sick bile that permeates The New York Times -- bile that apparently makes it impossible for its editorial board to think rationally.  

That is why I call today's BS-fest an idiotorial.  If you disagree, I'd love to know why.

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