Noel Sheppard

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Associate Editor

Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014. More here about Noel's contributions to NewsBusters and tributes to him upon his passing.

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A just-released Washington Post/ABC News poll strongly suggests that American attitudes toward the war in Iraq have not been changed by the recent activities and exorbitant press coverage surrounding new anti-war idol Cindy Sheehan:

The survey also suggests, however, that Sheehan's anti-war vigil has failed to mobilize large numbers of Americans against the war. If anything, her opposition has done as much to drive up support for the war as ignite opponents, the survey found.

Eight in 10 Americans--including overwhelming majorities of Democrats, Republicans and political independents--say Sheehan's protest has had no impact on their attitudes toward Iraq. While one in 10 say she has made them less likely to support the war, the same proportion say she has made them more likely to back the conflict.

Yet, what is peculiar about this release is its absence from today’s Washington Post print edition.  The results were posted at the WaPo website at 7:00AM eastern time, and, conceivably were given to the editors too late to make this morning’s paper.  However, one wonders if these numbers had shown huge movements in public opinion as a result of Cindy and Company’s protests if this would have been headline news today.  Moreover, it shall be interesting to watch how prominently these numbers are displayed in tomorrow’s paper if at all.

Josh White’s article in today’s Washington Post concerning the Army meeting its August recruitment goal, but being off track to reach its yearly target, seems to miss or understate some of the positives expressed by the Army’s chief of staff yesterday:

Should the Army meet its goal of recruiting about 10,000 new active-duty troops this month, it will be the third consecutive month in which the service succeeded after several months of significantly missing its mark. Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker told reporters yesterday that he expects the Army to miss its annual goal of 80,000 new active-duty recruits by "a couple thousand," adding that he expects recruiting in September and during the next fiscal year to be "difficult."

To begin with, it appears that some of Mr. White’s numbers don’t match those of the Department of Defense.  For instance, as the article moves forward, Mr. White suggests that the Army’s recruitment goal in 2004 was 72,000.  In fact, according to this DoD report, the goal was actually 77,000, and was bested by 587 recruits.

As such, if the General is correct, and the Army misses its 80,000 goal by a couple of thousand recruits, it would still roughly duplicate its 2004 performance.  Given the casualties, the strength of the economy, and the constant negative press about this incursion, this appears to be quite an achievement.

Fresh from his performance on ABC’s This Week this past Sunday, the New York Times economic writer, Paul Krugman, has a new op-ed today filled with more delicious economic distortions: 

But although many people say "four million jobs in the last two years" reverently, as if it were an amazing achievement, it's actually a rise of about 3 percent, not much faster than the growth of the working-age population over the same period.

Nice factoid, but not altogether relevant.  After all, not everybody that is of working age is actually looking for a job, correct?  Some of these folks may have retired early, or are housewives/househusbands or students.  As such, the more appropriate measure of employment is how many jobs are being created compared to the growth in the labor force. 

A front-page story in today’s Washington Post suggests that Bush administration amendments to a 29-page draft agreement prepared by the United Nations for its upcoming world summit on poverty and U.N. reform have “thrown the proceedings in turmoil”:

Less than a month before world leaders arrive in New York for a world summit on poverty and U.N. reform, the Bush administration has thrown the proceedings in turmoil with a call for drastic renegotiation of a draft agreement to be signed by presidents and prime ministers attending the event.

Unfortunately, nowhere in this article does its author, Colum Lynch, support such an assertion.  In fact, there is not one quote from any U.N. representatives or officials stating that the U.S. amendments have in any way interfered with these proceedings.

Quite the contrary, the article cites officials who state support for the amendments:

New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller today tried her best to write an article without mentioning anti-war heroine Cindy Sheehan, as well as without impugning the president.  Unfortunately, she failed.

In an article about the president’s speech to thousands of National Guard members and their families in Nampa, Idaho, it only took two paragraphs before the story turned from Mr. Bush’s vision of Iraq and his appreciation for the sacrifice these families and their relatives are making into another in a long litany of Cindyfests:

Defending his administration's military stance for the third day in a row, he presented another tough, if implicit, rebuttal to war critics like Cindy Sheehan, the mother of an American soldier killed in Iraq who has generated a monthlong protest outside his Texas ranch. Mr. Bush said, "As long as I'm the president, we will stay, we will fight and we will win the war on terror."

The president said withdrawing troops now - as Ms. Sheehan advocates - would "only embolden the terrorists and create a staging ground to launch more attacks against America and free nations."

As Ms. Sheehan advocates?  Has Ms. Sheehan now been promoted to the title of "advocate"?

Yet, most abhorrent is this:

New York Times reporter Anthony DePalma today perfectly demonstrates the mantra of much of the modern press: Never pass up an opportunity to bash Bush.

In his front-page story entitled “9 States in Plan to Cut Emissions by Power Plants,” Mr. DePalma adroitly accomplishes this credo in paragraph two:

The cooperative action, the first of its kind in the nation, came after the Bush administration decided not to regulate the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

The beauty of this sentence is its derision without specificity. For instance, Mr. DePalma doesn’t elaborate on how Bush blocked such environmental regulations until the second page of the story buried inside the main section in paragraph 23:

The Bush administration's rejection of the Kyoto Protocols has caused deep divisions nationwide, with many local governments attempting to force the administration to taking action by passing their own carbon dioxide rules.

OF COURSE! This is about KYOTO!

A front-page story concerning Iran in Tuesday’s Washington Post was clearly intended to thwart American efforts preventing that country from obtaining nuclear weapons, as well as to embarrass the Bush administration with more implications of faulty intelligence.

In an article entitled “No Proof Found of Iran Arms Program”, Dafna Linzer states:

Traces of bomb-grade uranium found two years ago in Iran came from contaminated Pakistani equipment and are not evidence of a clandestine nuclear weapons program, a group of U.S. government experts and other international scientists has determined.

"The biggest smoking gun that everyone was waving is now eliminated with these conclusions," said a senior official who discussed the still-confidential findings on the condition of anonymity.

Dontcha just love it when media outlets quote unnamed sources in stories with such vast global implications?  Oftentimes, as in this instance, such vague references result in the article being so loosely based in verifiable facts that it is tough to take it seriously.

First it was nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.  Then he was AWOL.  After that came Plamegate.  So, what pray tell will be the next left-wing attack on our president? 

Potentially, the manner in which the Vioxx story was covered this weekend by the New York Times gives us some clues. 

To begin with, a front-page article Saturday by Alex Berenson reported the surprise verdict that gave the widow of a man who died after taking Merck’s painkiller an astounding $253.5 million award including $229 million in punitive damages.

Just in case people missed it, the Times ran another article by Mr. Berenson on Sunday -- again on the front-page -- that appears to move this story in a suspiciously political direction:

(As read on-air by Rush Limbaugh)

One hot and humid weekend this past July, America’s leading Democrats -- including some of the early favorites for their party’s 2008 presidential nomination such as Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), Governor Tom Vilsack (D-IA), and Governor Mark Warner (D-VA) -- gathered in Columbus, Ohio at a conference hosted by the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

Predictably, the press had a hard time controlling its glee when Senator Clinton was announced as the point-person to lead the DLC’s new political offensive -- code name “American Dream Initiative” -- to define the party’s agenda for 2006 and 2008.

As Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times put it:

The appointment solidified the identification of Clinton, once considered a champion of the party's left, with the centrist movement that helped propel her husband to the White House in 1992. It also continued her effort, which has accelerated in recent months, to present herself as a moderate on issues such as national security, immigration and abortion.

Unfortunately, Mr. Brownstein -- much like the rest of the mainstream print media as far as I can tell -- chose not to be completely honest with his readers -- or the American public for that matter -- concerning just how far to the right Mrs. Clinton was going by affiliating herself with this organization, and, maybe most important, what was actually in this “Dream Initiative”. (cont'd...)

In a stunning example of how the mainstream press manipulates public opinion, as well as a clear explanation as to why the majority of the American people believes that the economy is doing poorly despite mountains of statistical evidence to the contrary, the press today decided to largely ignore one of the biggest one-day declines in energy prices in many months.

As I reported here yesterday, oil prices at the NYMEX dropped by almost three dollars per barrel, with gas prices declining by almost ten cents. Yet, after scaring the American public with regular predictions of economic gloom and doom concerning inflationary fears tied to escalating energy prices the past few weeks, America's two most prominent newspapers -- the New York Times and the Washington Post -- must have decided that good news on the energy front wasn’t deserving of the public’s attention.  (cont'd...)

As Clay Waters points out in his previous posting, a New York Times article by Eric Lichtblau sheds some interesting light on warnings issued by the State Department to the Clinton administration back in 1996 concerning Osama bin Laden's move from the Sudan to Afghanistan:

In what would prove a prescient warning, the State Department intelligence analysts said in a top-secret assessment on Mr. bin Laden that summer that "his prolonged stay in Afghanistan - where hundreds of 'Arab mujahedeen' receive terrorist training and key extremist leaders often congregate - could prove more dangerous to U.S. interests in the long run than his three-year liaison with Khartoum," in Sudan.
On the one hand, it is quite shocking that the Times would publish a story so critical of President Clinton.

Yet, maybe most surprising is the continuous reference to America's Public Enemy Number One as "Mr. bin Laden". In fact, thirteen times in this article, Osama is so respectfully referred to.

Are the Times editors compensating for their tremendous discomfort with publishing an article critical of their favorite modern president by raising Osama to a level deserving of the title "Mister"?

Oil and gas prices had their biggest one-day decline in months today after an Energy Department report suggested that the highly-touted shortage that has been all over the news in the past couple of weeks is actually not the case.

The September crude oil contract declined by $2.78 to $63.30 per barrel -- a 4.2% decline -- while September gas fell by 9.86 cents to $1.885 per gallon -- a 5% decline.

According to Bloomberg:

Demand for gasoline fell 75,000 barrels to an average 9.4 barrels a day, the lowest in a month, according to the report.

``There are signs that gasoline demand is tapering off, which has reduced supply fears," said [Tom Bentz, an oil broker at BNP Paribas Commodity Futures Inc. in New York].

U.S. gasoline demand last month was lower than in July 2004 because of higher retail prices, the American Petroleum Institute said in a report released today. The total amount of gasoline supplied in the U.S., a measure of demand, was 9.28 million barrels a day in July, down 0.8 percent from a year earlier, the industry-funded group's report showed.

Isn't that fascinating? Gasoline demand was lower this July than last July. Moreover, crude oil supplies are now 9.6% higher than they were this time last year.

That's right -- I said HIGHER. (cont'd)

The Congressional Budget Office reported yesterday that it is once again reducing its estimate for the fiscal 2005 federal budget deficit due to a surprise windfall of tax revenues, especially from corporations. However, our press seems to be doing whatever it can to once again make up look like down, good look like bad, and an improving condition look like the onset of cancer.

So, have you noticed that gas prices are heading higher?

The San Francisco Chronicle certainly has. In fact, after reading this Sunday's front-page article on the subject, as well a business section cover story from the same issue, one gets the sense that the economy is about to crumble at any moment as a result.

Of couse, that's if you only read the portion of these articles on the covers of their respective sections, for inside the body of the paper, things are mysteriously much less dire:

For almost two years since the current economic expansion began to really pick up steam, impartial economists worldwide have been wondering why so many Americans seem to not believe that a recovery is even transpiring. Unfortunately, the cover-story of the Washington Post’s business section on Saturday, August 6, gives us all a perfect example of why this disconnect between perception and reality exists. 

On the surface, this story was seemingly intended to address the absolutely fabulous employment report that was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last Friday. However, given the party currently in power, the Post obviously felt it was more important to rain on what should have been a very delightful parade rather than stick to the facts imparted by this monthly employment survey.

Mercifully, the opening three paragraphs of this diatribe that appears to be more editorial than anything resembling a serious business piece aptly prepares the reader for the almost suffocating Chicken Little motif: