Don't Let Patriotism Mar Olympics; NBC: Women Good, Men Bad; No Snow?: Global Warming; CNN Off Track on Amtrak; Alter's Obsession
1) Don't have much U.S. patriotism at the Olympics. NBC's Matt Lauer pressed the President of the U.S. Olympic Committee to agree: "We have to also be careful and draw a line not to let our patriotism get in the way of the games in general."
2) "New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd hit on a simple truth today," NBC anchor Tom Brokaw trumpeted Wednesday night in devoting a story to her theme that in Enron "the dividing line between those who appear to be in the wrong and those trying to stop them" is "very clear. Most of the wrongdoers are men. Most of the whistle-blowers are women."
5) CNN's free ad for Amtrak's speed. CNN's Michael Okwu recounted how it took him about the same three hours to travel between CNN bureaus in Manhattan and Washington, DC on both Amtrak and the Delta Shuttle as he gushed that Amtrak cost $100 less. But it sure helped Amtrak that in both cities CNN's office is literally across the street from the train station.
6) Newsweek reporter Jonathan Alter scolded Don Imus for not questioning MRC President Brent Bozell over the failure of Bozell's "little newsletter" to have denounced Jerry Falwell for an intemperate post-September 11 remark. But in his obsession, Alter was wrong in every charge he made about the MRC's newsletter.
7) Novelist Norman Mailer told the BBC the U.S. is "living a halfway corrupt life." Mailer lamented to the London Telegraph that "this patriotic fever can go too far," rued how "America has an almost obscene infatuation with itself" and asserted: "The right wing benefitted so much from September 11 that, if I were still a conspiratorialist, I would believe they'd done it."
"Don't let our patriotism get in the way of" the Olympic games, NBC's Matt Lauer cautioned on Thursday's Today from Park City Utah, site of the games set to open tonight. Lauer pressed the President of the U.S. Olympic Committee to agree with his proposition: "We have to also be careful and draw a line not to let our patriotism get in the way of the games in general."
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this exchange on the February 7 Today:
Lauer: "You are expecting even a greater
wave of patriotism here in the United States, in this particular time than
other countries have shown when they've hosted the games."
The front page of the New York Times sets the news agenda for all of the networks, but on Wednesday night NBC Nightly News took its cue not from a Times news story on the front page or somewhere inside the paper, but from a columnist. NBC devoted an entire story to the theme behind Maureen Dowd's column on Enron which, as anchor Tom Brokaw endorsed it, "hit on a simple truth today. The dividing line between those who appear to be in the wrong and those trying to stop them. It's very clear. Most of the wrongdoers are men. Most of the whistle-blowers are women."
Most, but not all.
Brokaw introduced the February 6 story on how one sex has proven itself superior: "This unfolding Enron mess can be difficult to follow. Even financial experts are baffled by how complicated it is. But New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd hit on a simple truth today. The dividing line between those who appear to be in the wrong and those trying to stop them. It's very clear. Most of the wrongdoers are men. Most of the whistle-blowers are women. NBC's Jim Avila from Houston tonight on the Enron gender gap."
Avila outlined the
thesis: "The boys of Enron: grandfatherly Ken Lay, dot-comer Jeff
Skilling, financial wizard Andy Fastow and Andersen fall guy David Duncan,
the accountant who signed off on it all. Backed by a board of directors,
one woman shy of all male, now being fitted for Hollywood black
But NBC's story was no more accurate than the Erin Brockovich movie.
Thursday's newspapers carried a preview of congressional testimony to be delivered on Thursday by Enron lawyer Jordan Mintz, a man, who maintains that he warned of financial shenanigans last May, three months earlier than Sherron Watkins wrote her memo.
Washington Post reporters Susan Schmidt and
Peter Behr began a February 7, 2002 story: "A senior Enron Corp.
lawyer raised red flags more than a year ago about the corporation's
approval of supposedly arm's-length deals with partnerships managed by
Enron insiders, new documents show. He has told House investigators he was
The Post reporters elaborated: "Rep. James C. Greenwood (R-Pa.), chairman of the [Energy Committee's] oversight and investigations subcommittee, said last night that the Mintz memos tell more about the thinking of senior Enron executives than the scathing internal report a special committee of Enron's board of directors issued over the weekend. 'I think this goes to state of mind,' he said."
Mintz had issued warnings more than a year ago: "Mintz raised concerns about the partnerships that Fastow ran in December 2000 in a memo to Causey and Buy about a proposed new entity called LJM3, which was never formed. In another memo to the same two officials last March, he recommended changes in the approval process for deals between Enron and existing LJM partnerships."
Speaking of the New York Times, in a February 6 story an overseas reporter for the newspaper described Finland's 59 percent income tax rate, "even on lower income brackets," as "relatively steep." One wonders how high a tax rate would have to be for the Times to consider it just plain "steep."
The MRC's Tim Jones caught the description deep in a story headlined, "Not in Finland Anymore? More Like Nokialand." Reporter Alan Cowell in Helsinki, Finland looked at the influence of Nokia, which employs 22,000 in Finland.
Cowell wrote: "Indeed, all Finland listened in recent days when Jorma Ollila, Nokia's chairman and chief executive, not only confirmed that growth had slowed last year, but also wondered aloud about lowering Finland's relatively steep income-tax rate (59 percent even on lower income brackets)."
Cowell rued: "In those comments, Finns heard an executive whom they feared may be ready to pull out of the country, jeopardizing the tax base that supports the state's extensive welfare benefits. About 22,000 of Nokia's 54,000 employees worldwide are in Finland -- but they include 11,000 of its main research and development staff, as well as the top management who could work wherever the company chooses to have its headquarters. Another 20,000 people are estimated to work for companies that depend on Nokia for contracts."
For the story in full, those registered with the New York Times can access it by going to: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/06/international/europe/06NOKI.html 
The Early Show crew all agreed on Wednesday morning that global warming is to blame for the lack of snow in New York City.
MRC analyst Brian Boyd caught this exchange during the 8:30am weather update on February 6:
Mark McEwen: "Up and down the East coast,
it's coming our way but we will probably see just rain in the big
Unanimously shortsighted. When temperatures plunge one day to below zero will they worry about global cooling?
CNN's off track tribute to Amtrak's speed and efficiency. In a story aired several times during the day on Thursday, CNN's Michael Okwu recounted his experiment of comparing travel time between New York City and Washington, DC on Amtrak versus the Delta Shuttle. Arriving at CNN's Washington bureau via Amtrak in three hours, Okwu proclaimed: "Almost the exact amount that it took us to leave from New York to get to Washington, D.C. [via airplane], except we did it on the train for about $100 less."
But while Okwu noted that on each end of the trip it only took him five minutes to walk to the train station, he failed to factor the very Amtrak-friendly locations of CNN's bureaus into his evaluation. The CNN Washington bureau (at 820 First St. NE) is literally across the street from Union Station and its New York bureau (5 Penn Plaza) is in a building across the street from Penn Station in lower Manhattan.
While it certainly is true that having train stations downtown, as opposed to airports in Queens and Arlington County, Virginia, reduces travel time from the stations to a meeting at a Manhattan or downtown DC office, most people do not leave to catch a train from next door to the train station or have their destination across the street.
On CNN's American Morning, tri-host Jack Cafferty set up CNN's experiment: "One of the most popular [Amtrak] lines is the so-called 'Northeast Corridor,' train service that connects Boston with New York, with Washington, D.C. But now with the planes flying again, which is better, the train or the plane? Our Michael Okwu did a little comparison shopping."
Okwu recounted, as MRC analyst Ken Shepherd checked the transcripts against the tape, how his day started at CNN Manhattan bureau: "It's about 8 right now. We're hoping to make the 9:30 Delta shuttle, which should take us about -- I'd say, about, 20 to 25 minutes to get there, and we should be on our way. I'm pretty lucky, rarely do I get a cab this fast, at this hour. The shuttle leaves from LaGuardia, the closest airport to midtown Manhattan. Today, traffic is a breeze. I reach the airport at 8:26. Well, that cost me about $20, with tip. We're now about to make our 9:30 shuttle. And we got here in about 25 minutes. Let's hope that we can get into the airport and not have to face too much security." As usual, I have an e-ticket waiting inside. A five-minute wait in line, a quick check of the itinerary, and then the usual questions -- was my bag with me at all times? Yes. The ticket costs $205. The security is priceless. Our plane takes off 20 minutes late because airline staff conducted random baggage and body searches at the gate. It's 10:34."
Okwu questioned a passenger as they walked
inside Reagan National Airport in Virginia: "This fellow was on the
flight with me. Why do you take the plane instead of the train?"
Okwu confirmed: "He's right. The plane's pricier, but faster? We'll see. I arrive at the CNN offices at 10:55. From the time I hailed the cab in New York, it's taken about three hours."
Fast forwarding to the afternoon, Okwu picked up his story: "Our business is done in the Washington bureau, and now I'm trying to make a 2:00 Acela Express on Amtrak back to New York. Luckily, Union Station is just a five-minute walk from the bureau."
A pleased Okwu noted: "After a two-minute wait, I pick up my ticket for Amtrak's new high-speed train. Cost, $145, $60 cheaper than the plane ticket."
Okwu allowed a woman on the train to complain:
"The one thing that, I'll be honest with you, that troubles me, is
the lack of security on the train. Nobody checked my bags, no metal
Okwu relayed: "We arrive at New York's Penn Station at 4:48pm. So now it is almost 5, and the CNN bureau is about a five-minute walk away from here. So that means that it took us about three hours to get from Washington, D.C. to New York City's midtown, almost the exact amount that it took us to leave from New York to get to Washington, D.C., except we did it on the train for about $100 less."
Now try the same trips assuming Okwu worked for NBC News instead of CNN. Getting to LaGuardia from Rockefeller Plaza would probably take the same amount of time, maybe a little less, and it would take a bit longer for a cab ride from Reagan National Airport to NBC's bureau on Nebraska Avenue. But the return trip on Amtrak would take much longer. First, he'd have to get across DC from Nebraska Avenue to Union Station and that would take a lot more than five minutes. More like a good 30 via cab. Second, on the New York end, he'd have to make his way through about 15 blocks of late afternoon Manhattan traffic from Penn Station at 34th Street to Rockefeller Plaza up at 48th Street. And if he worked for ABC News on West 66th Street, that would be about a 40 block trip.
Alter's obsession. Appearing on MSNBC's simulcast of the Imus in the Morning radio show on Wednesday, Newsweek reporter Jonathan Alter scolded Imus for not questioning MRC President Brent Bozell, who appeared earlier in the show, over the failure of Bozell's "little newsletter" to have castigated Jerry Falwell for an intemperate post-September 11 remark.
But in his obsession with something which occurred four months ago, Alter was wrong about every charge he made.
On the February 6 show, Alter whined to Don
Imus: "I have a problem with the questioning of Brent, in this
context. He did one of his little newsletters about all the people who he
thought were engaged in Blame America First thinking about 9-11. And it
was a good effort by him because there were some people who their first
reaction in September and October was 'this is our fault, we had this
coming.' It made me pretty sick to read it as well. But offender number
one was Jerry Falwell. Remember that?"
Where to begin with Alter's errors? Let me recite them:
First, the MRC never published a "Blame America First" newsletter. He was referring to the October 1 edition of Notable Quotables, titled "Terrorist Attack on America." The subtitle, "Media Coverage: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly."
Second, the issue did not contain any quote from Peter Jennings. It did feature a quote from Tom Brokaw -- but in "the Good" category. In fact, far from somehow impugning Jennings, last October the MRC published a Media Reality Check documenting how some had mis-reported what he said on September 11.
Third, at the top of every NQ the MRC describes it as "a bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media" -- not in the religious media.
As noted in the December 18 CyberAlert after Alter denounced the MRC on MSNBC.com for not castigating Falwell: "Jesse Jackson, many left-wing professors and some far-left politicians also made some pretty stupid comments, but we didn't quote them either because they are not in the mainstream media. And, unlike Sontag, are not part of New York's literary community given a forum in an establishment magazine or, unlike Maher, do not host a broadcast network show dealing with politics. The 700 Club doesn't pretend to be an unbiased news show so the MRC does not monitor it, just as we never quoted what Jackson said on his old CNN show since we were able to differentiate it from the rest of the CNN schedule. But I'm sure this is obvious to everyone but Alter."
Indeed, following Alter's reasoning the MRC should criticize Alter for not quoting Katie Couric in a story on congressional reaction to Bush's State of the Union address.
To read all the quotes in the MRC's special October 1 four-page edition of Notable Quotables, "Terrorist Attack on America. Media Coverage: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/notablequotables/2001/nq20011001.asp 
To access the Adobe Acrobat PDF of the hard
copy version, go to:
To read Alter's December 14 MSNBC piece, go
An actual case of blaming America first. Novelist Norman Mailer denounced President Bush's "axis of evil" line, telling the BBC "that is opposed to a wake-up call, that's an anodyne." Mailer, who lives on Cape Cod, claimed the U.S. is "living a halfway corrupt life...in terms of world affairs and economics," so "if you are half evil, nothing soothes you more than to think that the person you are opposed to is totally evil."
Talking to a London Telegraph reporter, Mailer lamented how "this patriotic fever can go too far," and bemoaned how "America has an almost obscene infatuation with itself." Mailer asserted: "The right wing benefitted so much from September 11 that, if I were still a conspiratorialist, I would believe they'd done it."
In the past couple of days both OpinionJournal.com's "Best of the Web" and FNC's Brit Hume have cited some of Mailer's latest screeds, but below is the worst of the worst from his two interviews.
-- A February 4 BBC Newsnight interview with
Kristy Wark (sounds like the name of a character on Star Trek). Wark asked
about Bush's "axis of evil." Mailer propounded:
For the complete transcript:
For a picture of Mailer:
-- An interview with Michael Sheldon in the February 6 London Telegraph. An excerpt:
"What happened on September 11 was horrific, but this patriotic fever can go too far," he says. "America has an almost obscene infatuation with itself. Has there ever been a big, powerful country that is as patriotic as America? And patriotic in the tinniest way, with so much flag waving? You'd really think we were some poor little republic, and that if one person lost his religion for one hour, the whole thing would crumble. America is the real religion in this country."
These days, such talk will definitely start a fight in many American cities, yet Mailer is not averse to throwing the first punch. With a mischievous smile, he says: "The Right wing benefitted so much from September 11 that, if I were still a conspiratorialist, I would believe they'd done it."
Like Mark Twain before him, Mailer has a way of saying outrageous things in a perfectly charming manner. At home, he is a congenial host who never raises his voice, and who seems as warm and mellow as a lazy cat at the fireside. To look at his beaming face, you would never suspect that he is the same man who, in 1960, was committed for a short period to a mental hospital after repeatedly stabbing the second of his six wives.
END of Excerpt
The entire article is online, but you'll
have to register with the Telegraph to read it:
I doubt that if he were alive today Mark Twain would buy into Mailer's suggestion that the "right wing" has improperly benefitted from September 11. -- Brent Baker 
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