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House overwhelmingly passes cheeseburger bill to prevent obesity-related lawsuits, but anchor says everyone involved acted foolishly.

This week:

The front of Wednesday's Sports section features a profile of Washington Wizards center Etan Thomas by Ira Berkow, "A Center Fakes Right, Goes Left, Speaks Out."

"South Park," the popular Comedy Central show about the misadventures of a group of four Colorado boys, criticized the news media Wednesday night for its overhyped coverage of Hurricane Katrina. In the episode, two of the boys, Stan Marsh and Eric Cartman, accidentally crash a boat into a beaver dam, flooding an entire town. In the aftermath, local and national media blame it on global warming, ridiculously exaggerate the extent of the damage, make up stories of rape, murder, "cannibalism," and tell tales of "hundreds of millions" of deaths in a town of 8,000 people.

Video excerpt available in Real or Windows Media.

Here’s a transcript of part of the show, a “South Park Evening News” broadcast where the journalists ridiculously hype the situation:

Maybe somebody at NBC wasn’t too happy that this morning’s Today hosted FNC star Bill O’Reilly. Right at the start of O’Reilly’s interview with Katie Couric, the on-screen graphic included the words: “No Spine Zone,” maybe a mere misspelling of O’Reilly’s trademark “No Spin Zone,” or perhaps a derogatory shot at their cable news competitor. We'll report, you decide.

In the field of media criticism, conservatives have taken up the idea of objectivity, of making a press presenting itself as objective live up to the pledge and give conservatives a chance. Liberals mock the idea of objectivity, creating a stick-figure caricature that objectivity means putting truth and falsehood side by side and not distinguishing between the two.

Is it shtick or sincerity? Bill O'Reilly loves to portray himself as a down-the-middle straightshooter, and there he was this morning on the Today show in full pox-on-both-their-houses mode.

Katie Couric began the interview by asking his take on the Plame affair:

On his Countdown show Wednesday night, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann began his show by hyping an article by the New York Daily News claiming that President Bush "rebuked Karl Rove" two years ago for having a role in the leaking of Valerie Plame's name. The Countdown host also showcased the President's refusal to respond to a reporter's question on the article, and proposed that this revelation implies that the President had lied about his knowledge of Rove’s involvement. The opening teaser showed a picture of the article with the headline "Bush Whacked Rove on CIA Leak" next to a photograph of Bush and Rove while the words "What did the President Know?" appeared at the bottom of the screen.

Olbermann opened the show speculating about what the implications would be if such a story were true, which he referred to as a "bombshell," and listed out his proposed implications while showing them on-screen lined up next to a photograph of Rove: "Mr. Rove would be involved. Mr. Bush would have known Mr. Rove was involved. When Mr. Bush's spokesman said nobody at the White House was involved, somebody would have been lying. And when Mr. Bush talked about what would happen if somebody on his staff was involved, he would have damn well known somebody was and he wouldn't have said anything about it."

A Newsweek article written by Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball currently posted at once again offered the view that the Bush administration lied to journalists about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to justify the March 2003 invasion:

“Oct. 19, 2005 - The lengthy account by New York Times reporter Judy Miller about her grand jury testimony in the CIA leak case inadvertently provides a revealing window into how the Bush administration manipulated journalists about intelligence on Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.”

To bolster their view, Isikoff and Hosenball cited the opinion of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:

“The assertion that still-secret material would bolster the administration’s claims about Iraqi WMD was  ‘certainly not accurate, it was not true,’ says Jessica Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who coauthored a study last year, titled ‘A Tale of Two Intelligence Estimates,’ about different versions of the NIE that were released.  If Miller’s account is correct, Libby was ‘misrepresenting the intelligence’ that was contained in the document, she said.”

Yet, like many journalists that have used CEIP as a reference, Isikoff and Hosenball neglected to inform their readers that CEIP wasn’t always so convinced about the absence of WMD in Iraq. In fact, Eric Pfeiffer of National Journal’s “Hotline” wrote about this very issue in a January 2004 op-ed for National Review:

If we are to believe this article in today's New York Daily News (Wednesday, October 19, 2005), former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger will be signing on to be an advisor on ABC's Tuesday night drama, Commander in Chief. The Daily News also reports that Ron Klain, a longtime aide to Al Gore, will join the show.

Berger and Klain join two others with Clinton connections who currently work on the show. Capricia Marshall, a series consultant, was social secretary at the Clinton White House. Steve Cohen, a writer on the show, was once a communications aide for Hillary.

I'm wondering ... How many former Bush or Reagan staffers are on the show?

     One of the few pieces of major legislation that has recently passed with overwhelming support from both parties was the bankruptcy reform bill, signed into law by President George Bush in April. While a bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress endorsed the bill, the media have lamented the new law’s reforms.

The first words out of Chris Matthews' mouth, at the top of Wednesday's Hardball on MSNBC, raised the specter of Watergate: "What did the President know and when did he know it?” Matthews proceeded to trumpet “the New York Daily News now out in front on this story, reported this morning that President Bush rebuked ramrod Karl Rove over the leak story.” Repeating his tease, Matthews previewed his first segment: “So tonight on Hardball, we try to figure it out again if people in the Bush administration crossed the line separating political hardball -- tough, clean, Machiavellian politics -- and criminality. We're led tonight by the news coverage to that unsavory tandem of questions: What did the President know and when did he know it?”

On Tuesday night, Matthews opened with a dire scenario for a Vice President with a bad temper: “Did the fierce battle of leaks between elements of the Central Intelligence Agency who opposed going to war in Iraq and the hawks in the Vice President's office escalate to actual law breaking? Did the Vice President in an effort to defend himself from an onslaught of charges by Joseph Wilson urge his staff to silence the former ambassador? Did Cheney, through anger or loss of temper, create a climate for political hardball and worse? Did he stoke his staff in the late spring and early summer of 2003 to such a level of ferocity that some of its members crossed the line into illegality? And will Patrick Fitzgerald determine that in doing so, he crossed that dire line himself?"

The USA Today published an op-ed this morning by Sandy Grady entitled “Grounded by Hubris, Greed.” In it, Grady basically wrote Tom DeLay’s (R-Tex) career totally off, while making it clear for the reader that a trial at this point is just a formality:

On Saturday, millions of Iraqis walked with determination to the polls to vote for a new constitution. The turnout was high. The violence was down dramatically from the triumphant elections of January. But the network found all this boring. On the night before the historic vote, ABC led with bird-flu panic. CBS imagined Karl Rove in a prison jumpsuit. NBC hyped inflation.

They say that news is a man-bites-dog story. In the Middle East, how common is a constitutional referendum? Have they had one in Egypt?

When Cindy Sheehan showed up outside of President Bush's Crawford, TX ranch in August, it was, to a certain degree, understandable that there would be some press coverage. She was there, the media was there, there wasn't a lot to write about. But the coverage was weak and biased in almost all cases, carrying her message uncritically, with no evaluation of who she was or what she was saying. The attitude seemed to be that she lost her son, she was criticizing the President, so she was credible and newsworthy, no matter what else there was in her views and attitudes. Indeed, I noted at the time how the Associated Press was acting as a PR firm for Sheehan, as opposed to an actual news organization.