Yesterday, I wrote about the Senate's despicable vote to grant retroactive immunity to our illegally, unconstitutionally spying telecom companies (link includes full Roll Call Vote, showing where each of our senators stood). Among other things, I noted Glenn Greenwald's comment about The New York Times' framing of this vote:
Here is the first paragraph from Eric Lichtblau's NYT article this afternoon:
After more than a year of heated political wrangling, the Senate handed the White House a major victory Tuesday by voting to broaden the government's spy powers and to give legal protection to phone companies that cooperated in President Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program.
To conserve resources, newspapers should just create a macro of that phrase -- "the Senate handed the White House a major victory today" -- and then just program it to be automatically inserted into every article reporting on anything done by the Senate. That system would be foolproof.
Well, now our other paper of record has delivered on this one-two "victory" punch. Here's the lede of today's Washington Post article by Paul Kane:
The Senate yesterday approved a sweeping measure that would expand the government's clandestine surveillance powers, delivering a key victory to the White House by approving immunity from lawsuits for telecommunications companies that cooperated with intelligence agencies in domestic spying after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
And how did our three major broadcast networks - ABC, CBS and NBC - treat this story on their nightly news programs?
They didn't. If you are unfortunate enough to still get your daily news wrap-up from these woefully inadequate sources, you wouldn't know that yesterday America took a big jackbooted step closer to a full-on police state.
Now, we're right in the middle of an historic campaign season, so these networks can't be faulted for allocating hefty chunks of time to that. But here are just a few of the non-campaign-related stories they deemed more newsworthy than one of the most important pieces of legislation of our time:
ABC World News with Charles Gibson
"Rent-a-Pet" - Description from website: "If you don't want to commit long-term to a pet, you can rent a dog for a day."
Think that's embarrassing? Here's how Gibson introduced the story: "This is a big night for dogs. A beagle by the name of Uno has a chance to make history by being the first of its breed to ever win best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, always a very popular event. But for those who don't own or necessarily want a champion, there's a company that's come up with the idea of renting dogs, one day at a time. One more concession these days to people who can't commit. Is this a good idea? Who would rent a pup? Is it fair to the dog?" Has Charles Gibson lost his mind? Am I watching the last story of a local newscast? Is this The Daily Show? (Please note: this wasn't even the final story of the night.)
"Swimming with Walruses" - Description from website: "Ice swimmers in the Russian Winter." Gibson begins, "A follow-up to a story we did a couple of months ago, when we ran some pictures of men jumping into the Moscow River. At the time, we didn't know a lot about them. Only that they chose to swim in sub-zero temperatures. And we chose to watch them from afar. But we remained intrigued, and so we sent our Moscow correspondent Clarissa Ward out in the cold to investigate." OK, so let's get this straight: in addition to this story trumping the historic telecom amnesty vote, it's a follow-up to a non-story World News had already presented two months ago. And so important did Gibson and team ABC deem it, they dispatched their Moscow correspondent; at a time when foreign news desks are being slashed every day, it's heartening to know that ABC is putting their resources to good use. I guess this Russian story was too fluffy for their Moscow office.
"HGH Goes Mainstream" - Description from website: "The use of growth hormones is a problem in America, and not just among athletes." Obviously this is only "news" because of the current Roger Clemens case. Out of more than 300 million Americans, this report cites that roughly 30,000 of them are currently using HGH by prescription. It's not approved for prescription for cosmetic purposes. But it's unclear from the report how many of those 30,000 Americans are taking HGH for specific medical conditions, for which it is approved through prescription, as the report also notes. It's the kind of sensational story that could've been aired any day this week, or even next week, or possibly next month.
CBS Evening News with Katie Couric
"The Fed Who Infiltrated the Mob" - Description from website: "In an exclusive interview with CBS News, Armen Keteyian speaks with undercover FBI agent Jack Garcia, who infiltrated New York's notorious Gambino crime family, taking down its bosses in 2005." A terribly pressing story, indeed.
NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams
"A Guide to Genetic Tests" (second installment of the three-part series "Who We Are: The Truth About DNA, where chief medical correspondent Robert Bazell explores the role DNA plays in history, health, and the legal system") - Description from website for last night's report: "Tests that examine your risk of developing a disease are widely marketed, but doctors often don't know what to tell patients after they receive their results — and many doctors disapprove of the tests altogether." No argument here on the general worthiness of this report, but rather on the timing. There's nothing urgent about it. Had NBC aired this segment of the series on the following night, it wouldn't have mattered. Most people wouldn't have noticed. And if NBC feared they would, Williams could've easily slipped in a programming note that the segment was bumped one night in order to bring viewers news of the day's major breaking story.
Of course, the clear winner of the evening is ABC World News and Charlie Gibson, with their impressive hat trick of worthless stories.
Never mind our burgeoning police state. I'm worried about how Uno performed last night.