Thursday, April 28, 2005

Wringing out the news

This morning on my (much longer than normal) morning commute to the slug lot, I figured I'd check out the liberal take on the news of the day. As usual, NPR did not disappoint. First was a story about how many folks start smoking in college. Um, duh? Thanks to the former marijuana munching marxist matriculatees who have never escaped from the university (tenure, anyone?), the ideal of the 'college experience' as a time of rebellion and experimentation is alive and well. But I digress. The twist to this 'health story' was that, get this, people are different and some have a harder time quitting than others! Even stranger, men and women start smoking for different reasons, and physiologically react differently to nicotine, meaning that they have different addiction patterns. Any time 'experts discover' that there are differences between men and women, I marvel that anyone is considered an expert who is just now discovering what most of us 'discovered' right around puberty.

The next interesting squeeze came from the news at the top of the hour. After three months of 'stalemate' the new Iraqi government was announced, though many of the top positions remain unfilled. That right there made me wonder, since it has technically been less than three months since the elections were held, and then there was the time needed to count the votes, the time needed to begin to form coalitions… I seem to remember the from my history books that this country took a bit longer than three months, or even three years, to really form. But, while I was still figuratively scratching my head over that one, the next statement really made me wonder who is doing the writing for NPR these days. "The announcement marks the first elected government since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by US forces two years ago." I know that there was an 'election' in Iraq where Saddam got about 99% of the vote, but I was not aware that anyone this side of the Ba'athist party considered it legit. Except, apparently, NPR.

Then there was the 'anniversary' piece about how this date marks the 30 year anniversary of the 'end of the Vietnam war' and 'one year ago today, television viewers got their first look at photos of the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal. Questions still remain about who was responsible for the abuse." Note the obligatory connection between Vietnam and Iraq, though it is really a stretch here. "Television viewers"? The abuse happened months earlier, the investigation had been announced publicly months earlier, but the anniversary was about 'television viewers'. Then there is the issue of passive voice. "Questions still remain…" Of course, that could truthfully be said about any event or fact. "Questions still remain about the roundness of the earth…" by the flat earth society. Sloppy, sloppy. Though, in their defense, NPR never uses this journalistic sleight of hand when dealing with evolution, which is, of course, a well established fact. Or a 'woman's right to choose', which is only 'attacked' by 'religious conservatives'.

The final interesting bit was about a bird once thought extinct: the ivory-billed woodpecker. Now, I have nothing against Woody, but to spend five minutes on grown men saying that they would 'fall to their knees and weep' if they were to catch but a glimpse of this elusive critter makes me wonder why this 'audio postcard' merited the prime 7:05 to 7:10 slot on the morning news. But I didn't have much time to ponder, since by then I was at Tackett's Mill, and off for a long, slow ride to the Pentagon, allowing me to read another 2 chapters of Lynne Olson's excellent book, A Question of Honor.

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