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Williams 'Paralyzed' with 'Fear' by Paper vs. Plastic 'Dilemma' --5/8/2007


1. Williams 'Paralyzed' with 'Fear' by Paper vs. Plastic 'Dilemma'
Apparently, it doesn't take much to flummox Brian Williams. He wrapped up Monday's NBC Nightly News with a whole story devoted to a "paralyzing question" which "can make otherwise competent adults quake with fear." The dilemma? "Paper or plastic" at the grocery store. "The grocery store dilemma," he teased, "'paper or plastic?' What is the right answer to that paralyzing question in the checkout line?" Williams introduced the eventual May 7 story by fretting about how people "are made to feel like the fate of the planet hinges on our decision." Maybe if you're a self-obsessed environmental extremist with too much free time, but I doubt most people feel such pressure and are able to easily make the choice without liberal guilt. Williams asserted: "Tonight...we take on the question that can make otherwise competent adults quake with fear. We've all been there. You come to the end of the checkout line and then comes that question, 'paper or plastic?' For that one brief moment, we grocery buyers are made to feel like the fate of the planet hinges on our decision. Is there a correct answer?"

2. NYT: 'Ruthless, Us-Against-Them' Sarkozy Wins French Presidency
Paris-based New York Times reporter Elaine Sciolino continued to nurse her long-standing grudge against Nicolas Sarkozy, the tough-on-crime presidential candidate of France, in two stories, one before and one after Sarkozy routed Socialist candidate Segolene Royal to win the presidency. Before the vote, she fretted that "while Ms. Royal has pledged to protect and unite France, Mr. Sarkozy has often taken a ruthless us-against-them attitude" and complained: "In this election, authority apparently is deemed to be more important than compassion." After the election, she declared that "the election was a triumph of raw ambition, efficiency and political sleight-of-hand."

3. PBS Host Thunders: 'Why Shouldn't We Be Outraged' at George Bush?
Here is the kind of debate that's common on taxpayer-subsidized PBS: two liberals arguing over the right degree of rage over President Bush on Iraq. Should it be white hot? Or just hot enough that you don't burn your mouth on it? On Thursday night's edition of his eponymous show, Tavis Smiley interviewed Washington Post columnist David Ignatius who worried out loud about finding some degree of national unity in the Iraq end game, and suggested Bush hatred is running contrary to the national interest. Smiley tried to suggest he was asking "devil's advocate" questions, but his angry tone and finger-pointing body language gave his personal opinion away: "Far be it for me to argue with you, but let me just take the devil's advocate position on this, just to press you a little bit more on this. Why shouldn't we be outraged? Why shouldn't we be angry with George Bush?"


Williams 'Paralyzed' with 'Fear' by Paper
vs. Plastic 'Dilemma'

Apparently, it doesn't take much to flummox Brian Williams. He wrapped up Monday's NBC Nightly News with a whole story devoted to a "paralyzing question" which "can make otherwise competent adults quake with fear." The dilemma? "Paper or plastic" at the grocery store. "The grocery store dilemma," he teased, "'paper or plastic?' What is the right answer to that paralyzing question in the checkout line?" Williams repeated his terminology in plugging the story before an ad break: "What is the right answer to that often-paralyzing question at the checkout, 'paper or plastic?'"

Williams introduced the eventual May 7 story by fretting about how people "are made to feel like the fate of the planet hinges on our decision." Maybe if you're a self-obsessed environmental extremist with too much free time, but I doubt most people feel such pressure and are able to easily make the choice without liberal guilt. Williams asserted: "Tonight, as part of our ongoing series of reports on the environment, 'America Goes Green,' we take on the question that can make otherwise competent adults quake with fear. We've all been there. You come to the end of the checkout line and then comes that question, 'paper or plastic?' For that one brief moment, we grocery buyers are made to feel like the fate of the planet hinges on our decision. Is there a correct answer?"

[This item was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Reporter Anne Thompson turned to a left-wing activist group, naturally unlabeled, for the answer: "To find out what to do in the grocery store, we turned to Alan Hershkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Plastic bags threaten wildlife along the coast. So if that's where you call home, Hershkowitz says the choice should be paper. In the heartland, he says, it's plastic."

She elaborated: "To make all the bags we use a year it takes 14 million trees for paper, 12 million barrels of oil for plastic. The production of paper bags create 70 percent more air pollution than plastic. But plastic bags create four times the solid waist, enough to fill the Empire State Building two and a half times. And they can last up to a thousand years."

The bottom line: Avoid both, as she concluded: "Re-use and recycle is the environmentalist mantra for plastic and paper. But the best choice, they say, is cloth or canvas and B.Y.O.B. -- Bring your own bags."

NYT: 'Ruthless, Us-Against-Them' Sarkozy
Wins French Presidency

Paris-based New York Times reporter Elaine Sciolino continued to nurse her long-standing grudge against Nicolas Sarkozy, the tough-on-crime presidential candidate of France, in two stories, one before and one after Sarkozy routed Socialist candidate Segolene Royal to win the presidency. Before the vote, she fretted that "while Ms. Royal has pledged to protect and unite France, Mr. Sarkozy has often taken a ruthless us-against-them attitude" and complained: "In this election, authority apparently is deemed to be more important than compassion." After the election, she declared that "the election was a triumph of raw ambition, efficiency and political sleight-of-hand."

[This item is adapted from a posting, by Clay Waters, on the MRC's TimesWatch site: www.timeswatch.org ]

For a February TimesWatch look at Sciolino's hostile approach to Sarkozy, go to: www.timeswatch.org

Sciolino wrote in Saturday's "France to Vote After Presidential Race's Scorching Finale":

He has gambled -- apparently successfully -- during the campaign that by turning hard right he would win over supporters of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the head of the extreme right National Front who made it into the second round of the 2002 election but made it into only fourth place this time.

While Ms. Royal has pledged to protect and unite France, Mr. Sarkozy has often taken a ruthless us-against-them attitude, stressing there is no place in France for young people who do not respect the law or for immigrants who do not embrace French values.

In Montpellier on Thursday, where he made his last campaign speech, Mr. Sarkozy railed against those who do not like him. 'People accuse me of encouraging public anger,' he said. 'But who's angry? The thugs? The drug traffickers? I can assure you -- I do not seek to be the friend of thugs.'

In this election, authority apparently is deemed to be more important than compassion.

END of Excerpt

For the entire May 5 article: www.nytimes.com

"Compassion" that Sciolino apparently wants directed toward the thugs now rioting in protest of Sarkozy.

Sarkozy's win was Monday's lead story, and Sciolino remained hostile:

Ms. Royal had repeatedly appealed to the women of France to vote for her in a show of female solidarity. But Mr. Sarkozy, a conservative who made his reputation as a hard-line minister of the interior, got the majority of the women's vote, according to Ipsos, an international polling company....

He also struck a conciliatory note, reaching out to the huge swath of French people who seem to fear him, especially in the country's ethnically and racially mixed suburbs, where he is accused of fueling tensions with his provocative language and an aggressive police presence....

With his raw, often divisive rhetoric, Mr. Sarkozy will have to change course to neutralize deep-rooted hostility against him, particularly in the tough ethnic suburbs.

About 2,000 people gathered at Place de la Bastille in central Paris to await the election results, with some burning an effigy of Mr. Sarkozy before tearing it apart.

But within two hours of the polls closing, the scene had degenerated into violent clashes between the police and several hundred people in the crowd who smashed windows and set one vehicle on fire....

The election was a triumph of raw ambition, efficiency and political sleight-of-hand. The French president is an odd invention -- part monarch and part elected politician. There is no other elected political office in Europe that comes with as much power and grandeur.

Throughout the campaign, Mr. Sarkozy had portrayed himself as an outsider, an immigrant's son with a foreign-sounding name, a man who never went to one of France's elite universities. He is also the quintessential political insider, however, a longtime figure in party politics and a member of the cabinet of President Jacques Chirac for much of the past five years. But he succeeded in making himself look like a political outsider, distancing himself from Mr. Chirac, who was seen by the French as old, tired and powerless in the twilight of his 12-year presidency.

END of Excerpt

For the May 7 story: www.nytimes.com

Reporter Craig Smith joined in with his "Man in The News" sidebar to Sarkozy's victory, "France's Conservative Dervish." The online subhead: "Sarkozy Wins the Chance to Prove His Critics Wrong." Smith wrote: "Arrogant, brutal, an authoritarian demagogue, a 'perfect Iago': the president-elect of France has been called a lot of unpleasant things in recent months and now has five years to prove his critics wrong."

What does Sarkozy have to prove, given that he handily won the election?

"He has always been nakedly ambitious, pragmatic, calculating and not beyond betrayal to reach his goals.
"He is full of nervous energy, often rocking on his toes when not at the center of attention -- a habit that sometimes makes him look taller than he is in photographs but otherwise draws attention to his small stature."

For the sidebar: www.nytimes.com

The previous version of the article (as first posted online Sunday evening) went on to compare him (unfavorably!) to Napoleon: "Mr. Sarkozy is a tad shorter than Napoleon was. His profile is remarkably similar to that of Louis XIV."

National Review Online's Media Blog caught that: media.nationalreview.com

There's debate on just how short Napoleon really was, so besides being a cheap shot, that sentence is factually muddled as well, which perhaps explains its removal from the print edition.

For daily critiques of the New York Times, check: www.timeswatch.org

PBS Host Thunders: 'Why Shouldn't We
Be Outraged' at George Bush?

Here is the kind of debate that's common on taxpayer-subsidized PBS: two liberals arguing over the right degree of rage over President Bush on Iraq. Should it be white hot? Or just hot enough that you don't burn your mouth on it? On Thursday night's edition of his eponymous show, Tavis Smiley interviewed Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.

[This item, by Tim Graham, was posted Monday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Ignatius worried out loud about finding some degree of national unity in the Iraq end game, and suggested Bush hatred is running contrary to the national interest: "People are so angry in Washington. The debate is so intense that I just worry that we're just slipping a gear as a country. People are almost so angry at George Bush that they want to see this thing fail to spite him, and that should be. That's wrong." Smiley tried to suggest he was asking "devil's advocate" questions, but his angry tone and finger-pointing body language gave his personal opinion away:

Smiley: "Far be it for me to argue with you, but let me just take the devil's advocate position on this, just to press you a little bit more on this. Why shouldn't we be outraged? Why shouldn't we be angry with George Bush?"
Ignatius: "We should be..."
Smiley: "Why shouldn't this be the issue around which we will throw down a gauntlet and be angry? We're losing lives every day, why not this, if any issue, to be just outraged about?"
Ignatius: "We should be outraged. What's happening in our country now is a tragedy, and what's happening to people in Iraq is a tragedy. The question, Tavis, to me is what are we going to do with this? We have made terrible mistakes. How are we going to undo them to the extent we can? How are we going to get through this period without doing even more damage to ourselves and the people we naively came and tried to help?"
Smiley: "But David, we-"
Ignatius: "What's the way to do that?"
Smiley: "But we didn't make those mistakes. George Bush and his administration made those mistakes. So, how do you hold a guy accountable when you send him legislation, he vetoes it, sends it back, and says, 'I dare you to override it?'"
Ignatius: "Well, look at the November elections; you see how you hold him accountable. We have a Democratic Congress now, and we have some powerful Democratic candidates, and I'd be surprised if a Democrat isn't elected in 2008. But there is a separate question, which is you know, how do we protect our country's interests, which transcend George Bush, which transcend this group?
"I mean, they led us into this terrible situation, but it is ours to deal with. What's the right way to deal with it? I've heard from an Arab ambassador something I want to share with you which really stuck with me. I heard this a couple weeks ago. He said, 'There are two kinds of landmines. One that detonates when you step on it, and the other that detonates when you take your foot off. Which kind is Iraq?'
"It's probably both, but if it's in part the kind that detonates when you take your foot off, we as a country -- put aside George Bush and this cast around him -- we as a country have to think really carefully: how do we do this in a way we don't hurt ourselves even more? That's all I'm saying."

To prove that Tavis Smiley is channeling his own opinions, and not just playing a role of devil's advocate, look to the evening before, when his guest was California Democrat Congressman Tom Lantos. Did he ask him questions from the Republican side of the aisle? No. He was angry at the Bush veto of a timetable, and banged away at Team Bush for allegedly ruining America's global image:
"Tell me what your thoughts are, Congressman, on what the image of America is to the world tonight. Many of you on Capitol Hill have been concerned about this image, so now what the world sees is that Congress says one thing, sends it to the president, he vetoes it, but the House that represents the people doesn't have the power to check the president. Talk to me about that in terms of our image around the world....do you think that the damage done to the image of this country by this administration is irreparable?"

Lantos said no, but the image repair job will take a long time. Perhaps Lantos looks back to the heights of prestige America had when Jimmy Carter was bungling through the Iranian hostage crisis? Or when Bill Clinton did nothing while terrorists blew up our embassies and soldiers? Smiley wouldn't be caught anywhere near that neighborhood of questioning.

-- Brent Baker