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He Called the President WHAT!?

I heard it myself.  Today, MSNBC’s senior political analyst, Mark Halperin said President Barack Obama “acted like kind of a dick yesterday” while discussing politics on “Morning Joe.”.

Joe Scarborough seemed genuinely in a panic over Halperin’s language, as he scrunched his face and barked instructions to his control room, “Delay that. Delay that. What are you doing? I can’t believe … I was joking. Don’t do that. Did we delay that? Did that work?”

(Scarborough earned his seven-second delay button, along with a knuckle rap from his bosses, back on November 10, 2008 when he dropped an F-bomb, live on the show. )

Mika Doesn’t Like the “D” Word

As soon as this morning’s “d” word was uttered, Mika Brzezinski recoiled in a full body cringe: her left arm went over her stomach, she turned her head away from Halperin and buried her face in her right hand, all within a split second moment of embarrassment and revulsion. Read the rest of this entry »

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GOOD NUTRITION STARTS AT HOME, EVEN WHEN “HOME” IS WHERE THE WHITE HOUSE IS

The Presidential Sunday Menu: the Superbowl of fat and salt

Tomorrow, Michelle Obama begins a three-day publicity blitz which will include appearances on the Today Show, Live With Regis and Kelly, then traveling to Atlanta to speak about gardening and healthy eating. She will unveil a new public service ad created by the Ad Council. And she will host, along with the surgeon general and various cabinet secretaries, a series of conference calls with members of the medical community, school administrators and healthy school advocates, physical activity advocates, mayors, and other community leaders.

FIRST LADY CELEBRATES ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF WAR ON FAT, EXCEPT FOR SUNDAY

The First Lady has accomplished a lot in the last year since declaring war on obesity.

Michelle: hey there, don't forget those fruits and veggies

She began by installing a vegetable garden in the White House, a great example followed by Americans coast to coast including me.

Then she convinced Wal-Mart to lower prices on fruits and veggies and cut fat, sugar and salt their foods.

For the past few months, according to the New York Times, her soldiers in the war on fat have been holding private talks with the National Restaurant Association to get restaurants to offer smaller portions, plus children’s meals with carrots, apples and milk instead of french fries and soda.

Over the past year, she has pressed for “front of package” labels to warn consumer of high salt, sugar and fat content. She’s asked beverage companies to redesign their soda cans to include calorie counts. She’s pushed Congress to require schools to provide healthier lunch menus (a long way from the Reagan era when the debate was whether or not ketchup was a vegetable.) And her suggestion that restaurants be required to print nutrition information on menus quietly became part of the President’s landmark health care law.

So what’s up with that Superbowl Sunday menu the First Lady offered her guests? It was a buffet selection missing only the engraved invitation to the nearest coronary care unit: bratwurst, kielbasa, cheeseburgers, deep-dish pizza and Buffalo wings with sides of German potato salad, twice-baked potatoes, assorted chips and dips and ice cream. I’m getting chest pains just reading it.
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IT’S NOT YOUR MOTHER’S MOTHER JONES: OLD “LEFTY” HAS GREAT  24/7 COVERAGE , ANALYSIS

It’s been five days of hard work for many of us searching for the inside, untold, and full story of the revolution in Egypt and its global implications.  I certainly didn’t find what I needed on any of the broadcast networks or even cable news channels.

CNN did have great video on Thursday and even convinced Piers Morgan to dump his Colin Firth interview and roll live with it. CNN has great reporters there led by Ben Wedeman and Nic Robertson who live and breath the region and are the most nimble and knowledgeable.

But you can get their coverage and a whole lot more if you follow the Mother Jones updates 24/7 and link to YouTube.

You can also hear the silent screams of those frustrated by what they’re seeing day in and day out.  Like those from the Abu Muqawama blog from the Center for a New American Security, an independent and non-partisan  non-profit research group based in Washington, D.C.

This sample is a reaction after watching MSNBC’s Morning Joe.  All television news bookers, get out your pencils.

Egypt: People Who Might Actually Know What The %$#@ They’re Talking About (Updated)

January 29, 2011 | Posted by Abu Muqawama – 10:25am | 12 Comments

I was home in Tennessee for a brief 24 hours and woke up yesterday morning to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” which Mama Muqawama likes to watch before work. Nothing against the people on that particular show, because it’s probably just representative of U.S. cable news in general*, but I was absolutely stunned by the willingness of the show’s guests to opine about Egypt without having any actual experience in or expertise on Egypt or the broader Middle East. Is it really that tough to say, “Hey, that’s a great question, Joe, but I am not really the best guy to give the viewers at home a good answer?”

Instead, guest after guest — most of whom are specialists in or pundits on U.S. domestic politics — made these broad, ridiculously sweeping statements about the meaning and direction of the protests.

I traveled to Egypt twice in 2005 and lived there between January and August of 2006 while studying Arabic after having completed my master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies at the American University of Beirut. I am by no means an expert on Egypt. But I like to think I know the people who are, so as a service to the readers, I am providing you all a list of no-%$#@ experts on Egypt. This list is, happily, by no means exhaustive: unlike the lack of informed commentary on Afghanistan, the United States has thousands of people who have lived and studied in Egypt as civilian researchers and students and can thus provide some reasonably informed commentary on events there. The following list is filled with some people whose opinions matter and whose analysis might actually be informed by study and experience. This list is in no particular order except for the first two people on the list, who are both good friends as well as two of the world’s best experts on Egyptian politics.

Issandr el-Amrani, Arabist.net@arabist

Elijah Zarwan, Crisis Group

Michael Wahid Hanna, The Century Foundation, @mwhanna1

Marc Lynch, GWU/CNAS/FP.com@abuaardvark

Steven Cook, CFR@stevenacook

Samir Shehata, Georgetown University

Josh Stacher, Kent State University, @jstacher

Amil Khan, Abu Muqawama, @Londonstani

Max Rodenbeck, The Economist

If you can, follow the live feed on al-Jazeera Arabic, which has made for the most exciting television I have watched since the Red Sox came back from three games down in the 2004 ALCS. (These events are arguably more geostrategically significant.) If you can’t follow that feed, try al-Jazeera English or follow the updates on Robert Mackey’s most excellent New York Times blog The Lede.

*An exception to the rule: Ben Wedeman at CNN.

Update: Someone in the comments suggested Shadi Hamid (@shadihamid), and I second that. Again, my list was happily not exhaustive. There are a lot of very smart analysts out there who can thoughtfully opine on Egypt — in large part thanks to the legions of Arabic-language students who pass through Cairo at some point in their training.

Here’s an excerpt on “why good journalism matters:”
January 26, 2011 | Posted by Abu Muqawama – 11:08am |

Perhaps unsurprising for someone who grew up working in a newspaper, I spend a lot of time analyzing journalism and often criticize journalists. So I need to highlight when journalism is frankly awesome. Do yourself a favor and listen to this amazing audio recording of the Guardian‘s Jack Shenker reporting from inside an Egyptian paddywagonafter being beaten by plain-clothed state security thugs and imprisoned. Pretty freaking great.

On a related note, where the hell was al-Jazeera yesterday?

HERE’S MORE OF WHAT YOU MIGHT FIND ON MOTHER JONES

The human chain protecting the Egyptian Museum from looters

 

 

Here is a sample of  24/7 updates from Mother Jones:

UPDATE 26, Friday 12:20 p.m. EST: The White House has released a photo of President Obama receiving a briefing on the Egypt protests:

What's wrong with this picture?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(What else have you missed?) Read the rest of this entry »

****UPDATE: FINAL RATINGS SINK LOWER

WHEN MORE TUNE IN TO WORLD NEWS THAN ABC SPECIAL, WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO WOW VIEWERS?

A few disclosures will be sprinkled throughout this post, but first, I think I have a news crush on the astronaut, Mark Kelly.  You know how when you meet a guy who’s so spectacular but taken, so you think, “is there a brother like him at home or did they throw away the mold after this one?”  Well he’s got an identical twin.

my news crush began when I saw the healing hand of Capt. Mark Kelly

My news crush on Kelly began the moment I saw that photo: the close up of his hand grasping hers, “hers” being Gabrielle Giffords who the world now knows has been fighting for her life, and now is  just fighting to return to her husband.  Their love story was told by Diane Sawyer Tuesday night in a special edition of 20/20.

This ABC News exclusive,  a story that is still developing daily,  played to all the strengths of Sawyer. (Disclosure #2: I produced Diane’s interviews for 15 years.  I acknowledge this not to reveal any personal bias, but more to state a truly academic knowledge of the art of the interview.)

In the broader Tuscon story, Capt. Kelly was “the get.”  From the start, the killing rampage in Tuscon captured the hearts and minds of America.  Anchors rushed to the scene.  The nation was captivated.   Over 2 million more people watched the combined evening newscasts than the week before.

The individual stories of the victims were both heart-breaking and heart-rendering… the nine year old who wanted to learn about democracy, the 30-year-old congressional aide who had just proposed to his girlfriend, the husband who was killed throwing his body over his childhood sweetheart to save her life.  And now, the story of Gabby Giffords, the congresswoman who was shot in the head by the disenfranchised community college student who appears to be off his rocker.

Tuscon is an epic tragedy with, it turns out, many tenacles. It developed into a political drama as well and not just the debate sparked over use of crosshairs graphics or incendiary rhetoric. After the President of the United States arrived bedside and offered words so powerful and healing, his biggest critics agreed his speech to the local crowd in the gymnasium could mark a turning point in his presidency.

Obama’s revelation that Gabby Giffords had opened her eyes reminded us all, “Yes, we can.”   And when the astronaut, or rather her knight in shining armour agreed to tell his story, their story to Diane Sawyer, I knew it was an hour not to miss. Who better to mine the interview, write the narrative and weave the various threads together into a tapestry of  hope, faith and personal challenges.

*** UPDATED RATINGS Oddly, I was in the minority.  Among adults 18 to 49, ABC News’ “Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly: The Congresswoman and The Astronaut” came in third Tuesday night with a 1.3 rating . CBS’ “The Good Wife” and NBC’s “Parenthood” tied for first with 2.1 rating each.

Among total viewers, (still preliminary) ABC News came in a distant second with an audience of 6.12 million viewers, less than Sawyer averages for World News. “The Good Wife” garnered 11.34 million total viewers. (These are The Nielsen Company Fast Affiliate, Live + Same Day Ratings, 1/18/11, which were posted on ABC.com, and may be adjusted Friday.) Read the rest of this entry »

TUSCON SPEECH MAKES IT ALL SOUND POSSIBLE, UNTIL YOU WALK DOWN PENNSYLVANIA  AVENUE’S  MEMORY LANE

Everyone has weighed in and it’s pretty much unanimous: the President hit it out of the park last night. Glenn Beck said it was “probably the best speech he has ever given.” Pat Buchanan called it “splendid.” A U.S. News and World columnist called it “Reagan-esque.”

Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post said the speech “seemed not to come from a speechwriter’s pen, but from the heart.”  Gail Collins joined a larger chorus who said the speech was transformation in his presidency adding,  “Maybe President Obama was saving the magic for a time when we really needed it.”
As much as anyone, I want to believe.  I want to believe there can be passionate and more civil political debate, one where there’s fighting and horse trading and deal-making and compromises and we all move the country forward.  Yes, I want to believe  the cynical political stand-off is over.  We are all sick of it.   Turns out, we’ve been sick of it for a very long time.
Obama is just the latest in a long line of presidents calling for a return to civility. Read the rest of this entry »