Monday, 07 April 2008


Ken Berwitz

For almost two years, Katie Couric has decisively proved that people do not see her as a credible news anchor.  She has done so by starting with elevated ratings, but then quickly falling far below NBC and ABC in the network news rankings and staying there.

Now, 19 months into her gig as CBS network news anchor, Ms. Couric has come up with a reason for her failure.  I will show it to you via the beginning of a longer article in today's Washington Post written by Howard Kurtz (you can read the entire article by clicking here). 

Prepare to be overwhelmed by the brilliance and creativity of Ms. Couric's explanation; it is like nothing you've ever seen before: 

The Katie-Hillary Bond

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 7, 2008; 7:52 AM

She is trailing in a highly competitive contest against her male rivals, is occasionally covered in a condescending way and faces predictions that she'll be forced out of the race.

Katie Couric understands what Hillary Clinton is going through.

"I identify with her to a certain extent because we share a gender," the CBS anchor says. "I'm sensitive to coverage that can be very subtly stacked against her, maybe a headline that has a little more snarkiness about her . . . I understand that kind of coverage because I've experienced it myself."

The "CBS Evening News" is far more traditional now than when Couric made her much-hyped debut in the fall of 2006, serving up new features and interviews with the likes of Michael J. Fox that ran as long as nine minutes. In fact, the Project for Excellence in Journalism says that last year Couric spent the least amount of time on her signature interviews with outside guests (178 minutes), compared with NBC's Brian Williams (371 minutes) and ABC's Charlie Gibson (308 minutes).

Couric appears more comfortable on the evening news set these days, but the sense of excitement and experimentation that she brought to the 60-year-old genre has long since faded. That eases the pressure on her but makes it harder for her to distinguish herself.

"When we reprogrammed the show and tried to give it a faster pace and make it newsier--though I thought it was newsy before--there was an effort to scale back on those interviews, because unfortunately they take time," she says.

Some of her interviews, says Couric, have been replaced by her field reports from primary states during the campaign. Last week, she did a piece on misstatements by presidential candidates and another on the vice-presidential selection process--stories that at other networks might have been done by correspondents.

Wow.  Katie Couric has failed in the network news rankings because......she is a woman!  Who ever came up with an excuse like that before?'s right up there with "The dog ate my homework".

How lame can Ms. Couric get?  Why not tell the truth, which pretty much everyone I've ever spoken to about her already knows?  Namely, that she was great on morning TV because she has a perky, likeable personality, a great smile and is willing to take lots of chances on-air without worrying about whether she falls on her face (very much like the late, great Lucille Ball) -- but those attributes are not what generate viewership for a network news show.

Maybe the departures from traditional reporting that she implemented when she first started anchoring the news had something to do with it.  Maybe not.  But I would bet on that possibility 100 times more than the idea that the problem is her personal plumbing. 

Please Ms. Couric:  spare us the whining that your personal failure on the nightly news is because you belong to an oppressed segment of the population.  Were you an oppressed segment of the population when you were part of the Today Show, and made untold millions of dollars a year for your success at that time?

Sometimes the reason you don't succeed is because YOU don't succeed, not because the world rejects your gender. 

There are many egotists who need to learn that their failures are their own.  And Katie Couric certainly is one of them.


Ken Berwitz

The following story is from Scott Johnson of  Sit down before you read it:

Too hot for New York Times Radio

David Harris is the executive director of the American Jewish Committee. He has posted an interesting account of the censorship of the AJC's weekly radio ad by the New York Times-owned radio station WQXR:

On behalf of AJC, I do a weekly national 60-second radio spot. The time is purchased as any advertisement would be. For the past nearly seven years, it has been broadcast across the United States on the CBS radio network, on hundreds of stations, without incident.

Earlier this year, we expanded the reach by adding in the New York area WQXR, a popular classical music station owned by the New York Times.

For the week of March 31, here was the text to be aired:

Fifteen seconds. Imagine you had fifteen seconds to find shelter from an incoming missile. Fifteen seconds to locate your children, help an elderly relative, assist a disabled person to find shelter.

That's all the residents of Sderot and neighboring Israeli towns have.

Day or night, the sirens go on. Fifteen seconds later, the missiles, fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza, hit. They could hit a home, a school, a hospital. Their aim is to kill and wound and demoralize.

Imagine yourself in that situation.

The sirens blast. 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The time to seek shelter has ended. The missiles hit.

This is what Israelis experience daily. But, amazingly, they refuse to be cowed. Help us help those Israelis. Visit

The spot was broadcast several times, as is customary, on the CBS radio network, but WQXR refused to do so.

Heres the written explanation from Tom Bartunek, president of New York Times Radio and general manager of WQXR:

In my judgement several elements of this spot are outside our bounds of acceptability. First, the opening line `Imagine you had fifteen seconds to find shelter from an oncoming missiledoes not make clear that the potential target of the missile is not our listening area, and as a consequence, runs the risk of raising anxiety in a misleading way. Second, the description of the missiles as arriving `day or night and `daily is also subject to challenge as being misleading, at least to the degree that reasonable people might be troubled by the absence of any acknowledgement of reciprocal Israeli military actions. Finally, in my judgement the `countdown device and the general tone of the message do not meet our guidelines for decorum.
Stunning, above all, is the reference to "the absence of any acknowledgement of reciprocal Israeli military actions.

In other words, according to Bartuneks logic, the only way to broadcast the plight of Sderots residents over the airwaves is to equate Israels right of self-defense with Hamass and Islamic Jihads right to strike Israel at will.

Harris proceeds to recount another incident of censorship by Bloomberg Radio of the AJC advertisement scheduled to appear a week before the recent incident with WQXR.

Harris places his argument in the context of the allegation by Jimmy Carter, John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, Tony Judt, et al. that criticism of Israel is stifled by "the Jewish Lobby." They have yet to produce evidence as telling in support of their allegation as the incidents recounted by Harris.

This makes a small amount of sense....if New York Times radio is trying build circulation in Gaza.  If not, it is insane.

It is what things have come to with the Israel-hating, Israel-baiting moral equivalency crowd. 

In this connection it should be pointed out that, although people like Robert Malley, Tony McPeak and Zbigniew Brzezinski (among others) do not work for New York Times Public radio, they are just as quick to find a way that Israel is wrong about almost anything.  And every one of them is on Barack Obama's staff.

Do I have to tell you which candidate is clearly favored by the New York Times?  I didn't think so.


Ken Berwitz

My e-mail friend Russ sent this to me today.  It is funny - very funny - but also reminds us of the New York Times' chronic animus against Israel. 

Here it is.  See if you don't simultaneously laugh and nod your head in agrement:

A biker was riding by the zoo, when he saw a little girl leaning into the lion's cage. Suddenly, the lion grabbed her by the cuff of her  jacket and tried to pull her inside.  Her parents screamed in terror, but could not pull the little girl back.

The biker jumped off his bike, ran to the cage and punched the lion's nose as hard as he could.  Whimpering from the pain, the lion jumped back and let go of the girl. The biker then took her to her terrified parents, who thanked him endlessly.

A reporter happened to be in the zoo and saw the whole thing.  He went to the biker and said "Sir, that was the bravest thing I ever saw a man do in my whole life.'

The biker said "the child was in danger, anyone would have done the same thing"

'I noticed a patch on your jacket,' said the journalist.

'Yeah, I'm from Israel and I ride with an Israeli motorcycle club,' the biker replied.

'Well, I'll make sure this won't go unnoticed. I'm a journalist with the New York Times.  I'm going to get this story on tomorrow's front page!

The following morning the biker bought the paper to see if the reporter was true to his word.  And on the front page he saw the headline:



Ken Berwitz

Are you aware of the Absolut vodka ad that was run in Mexico? 

If not, here it is below for you to take a look at.  See if you notice something strange about the map:

At a time when illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States is one of the most contentious and divisive issues we face, Absolut vodka runs an ad telling Mexicans that something like one-third of the USA, including just about the entire Southwest, should belong to Mexico.

Are these people idiots?  Why am I even asking?

Apparently, once the ad ran, Absolut's parent company, Pernod Ricard USA (based in Purchase, New York) received a very large number of complaints.  This caused its PR flak to put out a sort-of apology -- an apology with all the sincerity of a hamas truce. 

Then, when that didn't work, the same PR flak put out a marginally more apologetic statement - which had even less sincerity than the first.

Michelle Malkin has a terrific piece on this, which you can read in its entirety by clicking here.  I am excerpting parts of it below.  Be sure to go to the links Ms. Malkin has provided:

Absolut arrogance and the advertising agency behind the reconquista ad; Update: Absoluts mealy-mouthed response; Update: The Associated Press spins; The very latest 4/6: Absoluts new, genuine and sincere apology

By Michelle Malkin    April 4, 2008 05:35 AM

Scroll down for updatesAbsoluts blog response is heremore photoshops hereWeekend update: The Associated Press spins4/6 A new, genuine and sincere apology from Absolut

 You know what has been heartening the past two days as reaction to the Absolut Reconquista ad continues to pour in? The fact that so many of you still take our sovereignty seriously and are willing to give voice to your concerns without apologizing for it. Im including a sample of e-mails below.

But first: The advertising firm that created the Absolut Reconquista ad is Teran/TBWA. Teran is based in Mexico City. The companys website boasts a pretentious statement of philosophy advocating disruption as a tool for change and agent of growth. (Scroll your mouse over the little buttons in the upper-right margin.) The firm advocates overturning assumptions and prejudices that get in the way of imagining new possibilities and visionary ideas that help create a larger share of the future.

Translation: The company advocates overturning borders that get in the way of imagining new maps of North America that help Mexico create a larger share of the continent.

The LA Times blog has a brief write-up about the ad controversy here:

The billboard and press campaign, created by advertising agency Teran\TBWA and now running in Mexico, is a colorful map depicting what the Americas might look like in an Absolut i.e., perfect world.

The U.S.-Mexico border lies where it was before the Mexican-American war of 1848 when California, as we now know it, was Mexican territory and known as Alta California.

Following the war, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo saw the Mexican territories of Alta California and Santa F de Nuevo Mxico ceded to the United States to become modern-day California, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Arizona.

The campaign taps into the national pride of Mexicans, according to Favio Ucedo, creative director of leading Latino advertising agency Grupo Gallegos in the U.S.

Ucedo, who is from Argentina, said: Mexicans talk about how the Americans stole their land, so this is their way of reclaiming it. Its very relevant and the Mexicans will love the idea.

Oops. Guess he didnt get the liberal talking points manual: Youre supposed to deny that reconquista exists and label anyone who criticizes it and mentions just how pervasive it is as a racist. Im sure hell be re-educated soon enough. Write on the chalkboard 500 times: Reconquista isnt real. And mindlessly repeat what the National Council of La Raza (The Race) claims: Reconquista is just a code word invented by conservative hate groups who are just dreaming the whole thing up.


Update: Absolut responds with embrace-diversity talking points

The In An Absolut World advertising campaign invites consumers to visualize a world that appeals to them one they feel may be more idealized or one that may be a bit fantastic. As such, the campaign will elicit varying opinions and points of view. We have a variety of executions running in countries worldwide, and each is germane to that country and that population.

This particular ad, which ran in Mexico, was based upon historical perspectives and was created with a Mexican sensibility. In no way was this meant to offend or disparage, nor does it advocate an altering of borders, nor does it lend support to any anti-American sentiment, nor does it reflect immigration issues. Instead, it hearkens to a time which the population of Mexico may feel was more ideal.

As a global company, we recognize that people in different parts of the world may lend different perspectives or interpret our ads in a different way than was intended in that market. Obviously, this ad was run in Mexico, and not the US that ad might have been very different.

By Paula Eriksson, VP Corporate Communications, V&S Absolut Spirits


Update: The Associated Press was forced to cover the story. Im not sure why they headline it as Absolut apologizing. (It was one of those sorry if we offended non-apologies. Also note the APs spinning of reconquista ideology as fringe. Yeah, its so fringe that a global corporation incorporated it in a major ad campaign:

The Absolut vodka company apologized Saturday for an ad campaign depicting the southwestern U.S. as part of Mexico amid angry calls for a boycott by U.S. consumers.

The campaign, which promotes ideal scenarios under the slogan In an Absolut World, showed a 1830s-era map when Mexico included California, Texas and other southwestern states. Mexico still resents losing that territory in the 1848 Mexican-American War and the fight for Texas independence.

But the ads, which ran only in Mexico and have since ended, were less than ideal for Americans undergoing a border buildup and embroiled in an emotional debate over illegal immigration from their southern neighbor.

More than a dozen calls to boycott Absolut were posted on, a Web site operated by conservative columnist Michelle Malkin. The ads sparked heated comment on a half-dozen other Internet sites and blogs.

In no way was it meant to offend or disparage, nor does it advocate an altering of borders, nor does it lend support to any anti-American sentiment, nor does it reflect immigration issues, Absolut said in a statement left on its consumer inquiry phone line.
Some fringe U.S. groups also claim the land is rightfully part of Mexico, while extreme immigration foes argue parts of the U.S. already are being overtaken by Mexico.

At least we know the AP is reading your comments:

In an Absolut world, a company that produces vodka fires its entire marketing department in a desperate attempt to win back enraged North American customers after a disastrous ad campaign backfires, a person using the moniker SalsaNChips wrote on Malkins Web site.

Update: Absolut tries again. I think they are starting to get it:

We apologize
Posted Sunday, April 06, 2008, 7:38:29 PM

During the weekend we have received several comments on the ad published in Mexico. We acknowledge the reactions and debate and want to apologize for the concerns this ad caused. We are truly sorry and understand that the ad has offended several persons. This was not our intention. The ad has been withdrawn as of Friday April 4th and will not be used in the future.

In no way was the ad meant to offend or disparage, or advocate an altering of borders, lend support to any anti-American sentiment, or to reflect immigration issues.

To ensure that we avoid future similar mistakes, we are adjusting our internal advertising approval process for ads that are developed in local markets.

This is a genuine and sincere apology,

By Paula Eriksson, VP Corporate Communications, V&S Absolut Spirits

My wife and I have vodka in the house because she likes cosmopolitans (just about the only mixed drink I make well).  I have a bottle of Absolut in the freezer for this purpose.  We will finish it (they've already gotten my money for the bottle) and never buy Absolut again. 

I hope you do the same.


Ken Berwitz

Here is the lead-in to an article in the Philadelphia Gay News, and then an excerpt from its editorial page.  Both talk about the paper's attempt to interview Barack Obama and, more broadly, the entire gay community's attempt to do so:


Clinton talks; Obama balks

By Mark Segal and Sarah Blazucki
2008 Philadelphia Gay News

The Democratic race for president has been heating up for months. And where once eight contenders graced the national stage, only two have made it to Pennsylvanias primary: Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. In these months, an alliance of LGBT papers sought to speak with the top three contenders Clinton, Obama and former Sen. John Edwards to no avail. Now, with the delegate spread hovering around 150, smaller constituencies, including the LGBT community and their superdelegates, are playing a larger role.

PGN invited both Clinton and Obama, as well as presumptive Republican candidate John McCain, to speak with us. Only Clinton granted an interview.


At this point in the Democratic presidential campaign, we're able to view the candidates by their actions. And we have found that Sen. Barack Obama would rather talk at the LGBT community than with them...

The fact is that Obama has spoken with the gay press only twice, and one of those interviews...was in 2004, before he became a U.S. senator. The other limited interview occurred after controversy erupted when his campaign added an anti-gay minister to his tour of the South. It has now been 1,522 days since Obama has been accessible to our community.

Now there is a facet of the Obama campaign that Hillary Clinton should be attacking strongly.  And one that, it seems to me, all people of good will should be attacking just as strongly.

Interestingly, Mark Segal, publisher of the paper, is taking a beating from the usual leftwing (therefore pro-Obama) suspects at dailykos and huffingtonpost, because he is a Hillary Clinton supporter and has contributed to her campaign (all of $1,000).  But I fail to see how that has anything to do with Mr. Obama granting it an interview.  If he did, it would be HIS words, not Segal's, in that empty space on the front page which represented where his interview was to have started.

Look, I don't know who is reading this blog.  You may be heterosexual or homosexual.  You may feel 100% comfortable among homosexuals or 100% uncomfortable or anywhere in between.  I don't care. But the gay/lesbian community is a population segment no more or less than any other.  A large population segment.  And one which primarily votes Democratic.

If Barack Obama is being misportrayed in any way, let's hear about it from him right now. 

If not, and he truly is turning his back on gays and lesbians, then people should know about it - especially during the Democratic primaries.

Clamming up and ignoring these charges hardly comes across as the behavior of a uniter.


Ken Berwitz

We've heard and seen it from numerous mainstream media sources.  moqtada al sadr's "mahdi army" has struck a blow against the USA and the Iraqi army in Basra, Iraq's army has proven it can't fight, the USA has lost another battle, etc. etc. etc.  They can hardly contain their glee.

With this in mind, please read the following Reuters dispatch and see if it squares with anything in the previous paragraph:

Iraq's Sadr to disband Mehdi Army if clerics order

By Khaled Farhan

Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr will consult senior religious leaders and disband his Mehdi Army militia if they instruct him to, a senior aide said on Monday.

The surprise announcement came on the day Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in a television interview, ordered the Mehdi Army to disband or Sadr's followers would be excluded from Iraqi political life.

It was the first time Sadr has offered to disband the Mehdi Army, whose black-masked fighters are principle actors in Iraq's five-year-old war and the main foes of U.S. and Iraqi forces in a recent upsurge in fighting.

Senior aide Hassan Zargani said Sadr would seek rulings from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most senior Shi'ite cleric, as well as senior Shi'ite clergy based in Iran, on whether to dissolve the Mehdi Army, and would obey their orders.

That effectively puts the militia's fate in the hands of the reclusive Sistani, 77, a cleric revered by all of Iraq's Shi'ite factions and whose edicts carry the force of Islamic law, but who almost never intervenes in politics.

"Moqtada al-Sadr has ordered his offices in Najaf and Qom to form a delegation to visit Sistani in Najaf and (other leaders) in Qom to discuss disbanding the Mehdi Army," Zargani said.

"If they order the Mehdi Army to disband, Moqtada al-Sadr and the Sadr movement will obey the orders of the religious leaders," he told Reuters. Najaf in Iraq, where Sistani is based, and Qom in Iran are the main seats of Shi'ite authority.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said he could not comment on the statement by Sadr's aide. Sistani's spokesman, Hamed al-Khafaf, declined to comment.


Maliki ordered a crackdown on the militia two weeks ago in the southern city of Basra, provoking clashes throughout Baghdad and the Shi'ite south that led to the country's worst fighting since at least the first half of 2007.

That fighting ebbed a week ago when Sadr ordered the militia off the streets, but picked up again on Sunday with clashes around the Mehdi Army stronghold of Sadr City, a Baghdad slum.

In the interview broadcast on Monday, the prime minister singled out the Mehdi Army by name for the first time and ordered it to disband.

"Solving the problem comes in no other way than dissolving the Mehdi Army," Maliki told U.S. network CNN. "They no longer have a right to participate in the political process or take part in the upcoming elections unless they end the Mehdi Army."

He said government troops would continue the Sadr City crackdown: "We have opened the door for confrontation, a real confrontation with these gangs, and we will not stop until we are in full control of these areas."

The developments come at a pivotal time, two days before Sadr has called a million followers onto the streets for anti-American demonstrations and one day before the top U.S. officials in Iraqi are due to brief Congress on progress.

General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are expected to say that further withdrawals of American troops should be put on hold after 20,000 come home by July.

The fighting which flared up on Sunday persisted into Monday. Medical sources said a further nine people died and more than 60 were wounded overnight, after 25 people were killed and more than 90 were wounded in Sunday's fighting.

"The Iraqis are taking sporadic gunfire and rocket-propelled grenade fire but we haven't heard about any reports of pitched battles or casualties. They're just firing at the Iraqis and us," said U.S. spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Stover.

The U.S. military announced the deaths of two more U.S. soldiers killed on Sunday, bringing that day's toll to seven, one of the deadliest days for Americans in months.

Three soldiers were killed and 31 injured by mortar bombs or rockets, including two killed and 17 wounded inside the Green Zone compound, where staff at the world's largest U.S. embassy now carry flak jackets and helmets.

Sistani, who almost never leaves his house in Najaf, has intervened in Iraqi politics only a handful of times but on each occasion his rulings have been decisive.

He wields his influence primarily in the form of religious edicts issued in response to questions from followers. (Additional reporting by Noah Barkin and Ahmed Rasheed)

(Writing by Peter Graff in Baghdad; Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia)

Translation:  The USA and Iraqi forces beat the living excrement out of the "mahdi army".  And because it did al-sadr, after five years of fighting, has to find a way to surrender without specifically saying "I surrender".  So he's going to claim he was "advised" to do so by senior clerics whose advice he didn't give a rat's rear about until now.

Remember this the next time you read another doom-and-gloomer about our "losses" in Iraq, published by a propaganda, great newspaper like the New York Times.  Or any of its likeminded print and broadcast counterparts.

Which side are they rooting for anyway?

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