Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hustle and Flow

I about had to choke this morning when I heard Morning Edition's piece on Goldman Sachs in the wake of Bush's choice of Paulson for Secretary of the Treasury. Frank Langfitt spoke to former Sachs employee, Lisa Endlich, author of Goldman Sachs: The Culture of Success, and she said that being brought up in the culture of Goldman Sachs was "like being brought up in the Kennedy family or brought up in the Bush family--public service was an end in itself." I swear I'm not making this up! Public service an end in itself! The Bush family! (How about the Corleones?) Consider just a few of our nation's recent "public servants": James Baker III, George Schultz, Frank Carlucci, Richard Darman, George H. W. Bush, Arthur Levitt, John Snow, Michael Deaver... All these individuals have turned their government experience into very profitable careers (usually in lobbying, consulting, investing, and, of course, war profiteering). Additionally, these "public servants" frequently hustle back in and out of government to keep the money flowing.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Brought to You By Goldman Sachs

NPR's ATC this evening was a great commercial for Goldman Sachs. And the coverage left me wondering why Henry Paulson hasn't been sainted yet. Wow!

Rah! Rah! for the Rich

This evening on All Things Considered Don Gonyea covers the Bush's new Treasury Secretary appointment, Paulson. He frames the economy story as being one where the "economy is strong and unemployment relatively low," but the foolish public just doesn't understand how great things are going. Well I have a little news for NPR, the economy stinks for most of us. Minimum wage is stuck at $5.15 an hour ( a princely sum of $ 10,700 per year for full time work). Real wages continue to drop for all but the richest Americans (according to US Government figures). Health insurance costs (for we lucky ones that have any) continue to soar--my own family health insurance choices are between a lousy $6,500 a year plan or $8,600 a year plan (that's for a 20/80 percent plan with copays and deductibles). College costs are soaring. No thanks, NPR, it's not that the public is misinformed, it's that the public knows they are getting royally ripped off.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Israel Good - Hamas Bad

Eric Westervelt reporting from Ramallah on moves by PA President Abbas is complelled to repeat (as NPR always does) that the Hamas Charter calls for the destruction of Israel. This seems fair enough--since the charter is (in my opinion) a grossly extremist document religious intolerance. However I don't recall similar citations being given when the extremist Likud party governed Israel. Likud's party platform, like the Hamas document, is loaded with religious zealotry and calls for the destruction of Palestine. How else can one read its assertion that Israel's eastern border must and alwayswill be the Jordan River, that all of Jerusalem will be the Israeli capital, and that Palestinians may hope for some submissive semi-autonomy in the future. NPR's constant reference to the extremist nature of Hamas' charter seems meant to show that Hamas could never negociate or compromise, and yet, as the past has shown--even extremists such as members of Likud can and do compromise--in spite of their rhetoric, platforms, and charters.

Lincolnesque Laugher!

Thanks for the comic relief NPR for highlighting Pres. Bush' commencement address at West Point. NPR decided to seriously consider Decider Bush's remarks in league with Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (and also FDR's remarks on war dead). I think NPR may be "turning a corner" here; they are definitely doing "a heckuva job!"

Haditha Coverage Coverup

NPR tries to cover the Haditha massacre. They do a thorough job of reporting on how the investigation into the likely murder of several dozen unarmed Iraqis will spoil the memory of the Marine whose killing was the most immediate trigger for the massacre. They also report on how the massacre might affect the image of the US military (esp. as repercussions from the Abu Ghraib scandal are finally waning). BUT what about the effect on the families, friends, coworkers of the massacred Iraqis in Haditha? Do they count for nothing?

Also NPR fails to look into whether this incident is an aberration or does it fall within a pattern of behavior. I know from reading the Marines' magazine Leatherneck, that all armed opposition forces to the US military actions are now called "terrorists." Also NPR might have done well to look at the Human Rights Watch report from way back in 2003 that looked at "legally questionable" civilian killings by the US or their report on the Fallujah killings long before the US destruction of that city.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Memorial Day Notes

  • I had to wake this morning hearing NPR talk about this day being for those who died "defending their country." I wish NPR wasn't helping the myth that our war dead were killed while defending our country? How were Korea, Vietnam, Haiti, Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, and Iraq defending our country? Couldn't they just say" killed in conflicts while serving in the US military?"
  • Yesterday Linda Wertheimer presented a piece on Memorial Day/Decoration Day in which she said, "We do what every country does in war time: we count the cost, primarily we count the cost in lives--2654 when I checked this morning." This fails to mention that the dead we count are only US/ally deaths. In this particularly nasty Iraq War we'd have to go about a hundred times higher to count the dead of Iraq who've been slaughtered in this US campaign. The racism of not counting "them" never ends...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bold Moves

NPR's Linda Wertheimer and Daniel Schorr touch on the Bush Administration's reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's declaration that Israel will unilaterally set borders. It is sad that Schorr and Wertheimer accept this extreme and illegal declaration as somehow within the realm of acceptable behavior and play along with the lie that Israel has no "negociating partner." Since when do conflict negociations require one armed violent party and one submissive one? Making matters worse, they don't explore the implications of Bush's praise and support for Olmert's "bold move." Could any person on the globe sympathetic with Palestinians desire for a real, viable homeland (and for some justice) not view the US position as shamefully one-sided. It would also be helpful if Schorr or Wertheimer might mention that quaint bit of international law known as the Geneval Convention (see this BBC story) when discussing Israel's expanding borders and "annexed settlements." One can only imagine the rage and anger toward the US that this policy must provoke...

Listeners Get It!

This morning it was good to hear letters read on the air from listeners critical of NPR's superficial feature on Secretary of State Rice ( see my earlier post).

Afghanistan Redux

Today's Saturday Weekend Edition features Ivan Watson reporting from Afghanistan on the suprisingly resurgent Taliban. Watson does a fair job relating what he can from Kabul, but NPR and it's listeners would do well to do a little time travelling with Ted Rall back to December 2001! That seems like ages ago, doesn't it? Maybe NPR would actually consider interviewing Ted Rall...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Blair and Bush - Dumb and Dumber

The Dumb was the content of Blair's and Bush's joint White House news conference last night. The Dumber was NPR's follow-up "analysis" provided by Ron Elving and Deborah Amos and hosted by Linda Wertheimer. NPR could have simply analyzed Bush's and Blair's speeches and answers to questions and then held these up to some kind of scrutinty. As Helen Thomas recently said in an interview, the role of a journalist should be to treat any official version of information with extreme scepticism. They could have pointed out that the main gist of Blair's and Bush's remarks was to lump all non-US/coalition violence in Iraq under one umbrella called terrorism, to claim that this violence is fueled by a hatred of democracy, and to claim that there is a real democratic, independent unity government in Iraq that will be victorious with US/coalition help. Then they could have held these ideas up to the harsh light of reason and reality. Instead, they focused on the most superficial aspects of the speech--how eloquent Blair sounds, Bush's "rather winning" humility, and how the tone of the speakers was "suprisingly frank." It is sad that with the stakes and the cost in human misery running so high in Iraq this is the best that NPR can do.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Iran Bad Cop Good Cop

NPR offered a mixed bag of Iran coverage this morning. Mike Shuster presented the usual vapid reporting on the Iran crisis in which the baseline is that uranium enrichment by Iran must be stopped and that whatever course the US/Europe chooses for this goal must be accepted by Iran. With this frame the main story is whether the US/Europe will be able to get China and Russia to come on board. I would recommend that NPR (and any curious citizens take a look at the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Of particular interest is

Article I

Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices.

which the US has clearly violated in its assitance with covering up Israel's Nuclear Weapons program


Article IV

Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.

which sheds a different light on what Mike Shuster describes as Iran's inflexibility on giving up uranium enrichment.

On the positive side NPR's interviewed retired U.S. Ambassador John Limbert who was posted to Iran back in 1979. Limbert offered a rare dissent from the current war planning. He encouraged direct talks and sharply criticized the talk of military action against Iran. It is refreshing to hear from someone who actually knows Farsi and has had experience in Iran--and besides he's hardly a "leftist."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Afghanistan Lite

reporting from Afghanistan this morning on the possibility that this Monday's airstrikes by the US may have killed dozens of civilians. Ivan Watson had some interesting things to say at the beginning of the interview: mentioning that the area of the strikes was sealed off to reporters, that US airstrikes with heavy civilian tolls are not new in Afghanistan, and that even Hamid Kharzai was nearly killed in such a strike back in 2001. As my partner noted, this was a good opening for Montagne to ask some meaty follow up questions such as why is the area off limits to reporters, or how often can reports be independently verified, or how many civilians are estimated to have been killed by coalition forces, or what about the near-strike on Kharai. Instead Montagne just passed by and asked about other fighting reported in the south of Afghanistan. NPR has the potential to inform, but seems determined to obscure--too bad.

NPR Ombudsman Lashes Out

Media Matters for for America reports on the recent inaccurate counterattack of NPR Ombudsman Dvorkin against critics of NPR. See the story here; it's worth reading!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Israeli Settlements

NPR Morning Edition discussed the Olmert plans for Israel's border which as Michele Kelemen noted will include "removing some settlements and bolstering some which Israel plans to keep." Could NPR just once include in their reports that these "settlements" are criminal, and are recognized as an international crime by almost all people in the world (except the governments of Israel and the US). They are colonies in foreign territories seized in war. Their construction and maintenance also involve "ethnic cleansing" for which NATO bombed Serbia--remember? How could any listener have an educated opinion of the Israel-Palestine conflict when such basic information is withheld again and again?

Drums of War-Iran

If you want to "get your war on" with Iran then NPR news is the place for you. This morning featured a stunning interview with Gary Samore (who has ties to the old Clinton regime) and is an "expert" on the developing war moves on Iran. He said that if Iran fails to stop uranium enrichment then "the US and others would have to consider whether to use military force" of which the "consequence would be to delay" an Iranian nuclear weapon's program. Oh? I'm always nervous when someone says the US has to consider military force (It's done wonders for Iraq!). Where was this necessity for considering military force when Israel introduced nuclear weapons into the Middle East? Why "have to"? It is truly amazing to hear an "expert" frame a situation so that a weak nation threatened with military aggression by two nations with the strongest militaries on the planet is seen as the problem! (Especially, with one of these nations--that's us--keeping the nuclear first strike option "on the table." Lastly, the consequences of US military force will involve a lot more than "delay." Maybe untold death, destruction, suffering, instability, terror, etc.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Kudos on Gitmo

Sometimes NPR does strong reporting. Tonight on All Things Considered NPR interviewed two Bahrani inmates of Guantanamo who were recently released. They stated at the start that the testimony is at odds with official US versions of events, but the testimony was powerful--and most importantly was from the point of view of people who are at the receiving end of US policy instead of the usual perspective of the policy makers or its apologists. Nice work NPR.

Echo Chamber--Iraq

Steve Inskeep, Ambassador Khalilzad, Cokie Roberts. These are the voices that analyze the appointment of the "new" cabinet of Iraq's Green Zone Government. In a really strange twist, Steve Inskeep comes off as more rightwing than Khalilzad when the ambassador mentions the need to negotiate with Sunni insurgents. He had the gall to seem stunned at a Sunni member of the Iraq parliament justifying resistance to the occupation. His exact quote was, "Didn't one Sunni political leader say last week that insurgents should actually keep fighting, because ending the fighting should be part of the political settlement? You had someone in the government now, part of the government, that supports the use of violence as a political tool." What does Inskeep think the whole US effort in Iraq and the Middle East has been, if not extreme violence as a political tool?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Hayden Go Seek

NPR wants to know if Gen. Hayden can "revitalize" the CIA. So who do they turn to for analyis? Answer: "Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel, tells Linda Wertheimer about challenges ahead." Hey NPR, after interviewing a CIA cheerleader like Smith, how about interviewing a former CIA employee with a less positive memory of the Company. I could suggest a few: Verne Lyon, John Stockwell, Philip Agee, Ray McGovern, or Melvin Goodman would be fine.

Fluffed Rice

NPR just doesn't get it! On Weekend Edition this morning they offer listeners a light piece about Sec. of State Rice's stylish clothes and especially her taste in music. They were inspired to present this musical meander by a similar feature that ran in the British newspaper, The Independent. The Independent can do a piece like this because they are a great news-reporting paper. They do reports on the ugly (dishonest, criminal) side of the work Sec. Rice does and how it devestates the lives of innocent people around the globe. They can get away with a fluff piece about Rice because they've earned it--but NPR? where's their hard-hitting, challenging reporting on the Rice who lies, supports agressive war, covers up torture, and...shops for shoes while the rest of us are drowning?

Friday, May 19, 2006


NPR reported tonight about an alleged "attack" on guards at the Guantanamo prison camp. However isn't it problematic to report US military "news" which in no way can be independently verified. I've noticed in the past that when civilians or "enemy" governments make claims that shed a negative light on the US military, reporters are very careful to state whether such claims can be independently verified. In this story we have Navy Admiral Harris, Commander of Guantanamo, telling us what happened at Guantanamo without any qualifications of his credibility mentioned by NPR. Shouldn't we be told that reporters have no free access to Guantanamo or its inmates? Shouldn't we be told that the US Military has frequently lied about its behavior throughout the so-called "war on terror" (e.g. torture in Afghanistan, the killing of Pat Tillman, torture in Iraq, the use of phosphorous in Fallujah, etc.) This could be done in a "polite" way by saying something such as "US military sources claim that such-and-such happened even though we have no way to verify the claims."

Dunking and Violating

Two brief notes from yesterday's (Thur) All Things Considered.
(1) In covering General Hayden's confirmation hearing Larry Abramson defined the torture of waterboarding as "dunking a detainee in water to try and get them to talk." Dunking? I remember dunking friends and being dunked when I was a kid--and I recall it as generally being fun. From what I've read waterboarding means strapping someone down (probably someone nude, cold, and sleep deprived) and using plastic and water to bring them to the point of near-drowning.
(2) In introducing David Greene and Melisssa Block's report on Bush's trip to the US-Mexican border at Yuma, AZ, Robert Siegle descibed the location as the "most violated " section of the border? I had to laugh (and groan)--what an image!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Brooking No Truth

All Things Considered covered Rumsefeld's disclosure in the Senate that a draw-down of US troops in Iraq would be unlikely in 2006. For analysis NPR turned to Michael E. O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution. O'Hanlon said that "Iraqi security forces are getting better." Are they? I have yet to read any factual evidence to support this; on the contrary, it seems the Iraqi security forces are rife with torture/death squad participants with sectarian/militia allegiances. One might also assume that some of the torture/death squad activity is in fact a result of US promotion of the "Salvador Option"[see earlier post here]. He states that there are 50-60,000 "fairly capable" Iraqi troops. Again, where did this number come from? NPR and O'Hanlon apparently think that saying something is true makes it true--regardless of what reality shows to the contrary.

It really bugs me that the best NPR can find is a "military analyst" who writes for the Washington Times and appears on the O'Reilly Show to deride French student protesters and Hugo Chavez with O'Reilly's approval. O'Hanlon has no expertise on Iraqi culture or history and doesn't apparently know Arabic. God forbid that NPR turn to someone such as Robert Fisk or Juan Cole, instead of turning to the old status quo hacks at the Brookings Institution.

Aggressive Passive

Beware of the passive voice! On Tuesday's Morning Edition NPR reports on the activities of the Parsons Co. in Iraq. In a brief report on the failed effort by Parsons to refurbish 20 hospitals and the US Army Corps of Engineers subsequent cancellation of the contract, Renee Montagne says, "American efforts to improve Iraq's failed health care system are seen as a way to show ordinary Iraqis that the invasion three years ago is helping improve their lives." One could spend a lot of time unpacking this interesting statement. I had to listen to the report several times to be sure that she wasn't quoting the Army Corps spokesperson--she wasn't. It was simply an editorial statement. Notice the heavy use of the passive and what it does and doesn't communicate. "Iraq's failed health care system"--that's a soft way to describe it: nothing there about the ravages of 10 years of draconian UN/US sanctions, nothing about the attacks on power and water sytems launched by the US during the 1991 and current war on Iraq, and nothing on the hugely corrupt and bungled work of the Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. This passive whitewash is followed by the passive use of "are seen" to describe American efforts. Are seen by who? Not me, thanks. And probably not by most Iraqis. It's amazing how effective this little minute-long report from NPR is at turning the truth completely on its head--and no one's to blame!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Stirring the Venezuela Pot

On All Things Considered yesterday, May 15th, in a piece by Michele Kelemen, NPR uses a tactic that is very subtle and effective. In a report on the State Dept. improving relations with Libya they also cover the move by the Bush administration to place and embargo on weapon sales to Venezuela. Covering the two stories together seems fair enough. Then they pull their fast one. In discussing Venezuela they interview Professor Richard Feinberg who says the following regarding Venezuela, "the [Bush] administration has generally been restrained in the face of Chavez's purposeful provocations and constant name calling." Later he describes Hugo Chavez's "incessant claims that the US is destabilizing" his government. Bush administration restrained? Provocations? Incessant? These comments serve to bury the recent history of the US in Latin America--some of it very recent (the US supported attempted coup against Chavez in April of 2002). Feinberg is in fact a champion of so-called "free-trade" and has worked for the State Department. He's not the worst "expert" NPR could have found, but once again he nicely buries the long, bloody, and disgraceful history of US foreign policy in Latin America and twists Chavez's accusations and truths into nothing more than "provocations" and "name-calling."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

McCain at Liberty

This Sunday morning's report on John McCain's commencement address at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University did something that really bugs me about NPR (and the mainstream media in general). It completely decontextualizes an event and doesn't inform about core issues. The NPR piece mainly looks at current perceptions of McCain in South Carolina in light of his expected political bid for the White House in 2008. It mentions McCain calling Falwell and Pat Robertson "agents of intolerance" back in 2000 but doesn't explain at all why he would make such a statement. Wouldn't it be helpful to provide a little background on the public statements of Falwell and Robertson (one could find a wealth of seriously intolerant statements from both of these guys)? NPR could also have mentioned the extremely dirty tactics[a, b] (suggesting he was gay, that he was anti-veteran, or that he had fathered unacknowledged children) used in South Carolina in 2000 to undermine McCain's run for the White House (tactics in which rightwing evangelicals were implicated).

Finally, toward the end of the piece it was mentioned that McCain's appearance not only upset some conservatives at Liberty University who consider McCain too liberal, but that his coming appearance at the New School was upsetting some students who consider him too conservative. This supports the silly idea that if you are upsetting liberals and conservatives then you must be getting it right--as if factual events and truth lie in some shifting middle ground between left and right. Couldn't NPR interview a few of the leaders of the New School protest to ask what it is they don' t approve of about McCain's record? Then we can decide what we think. How McCain is perceived may be important to him and his campaign advisers, but I could care less--I want to know what he has done, how he has voted, and what he has said on record.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Trashing the 4th

All Things Considered went on the offensive for the Bush administration's NSA spying/datamining program that was uncovered by USA Today. Robert Siegle interviewed Steven M. Bellovin, network and security expert from Columbia University. The interview was a completely positive send-up of the data mining program of the Bush NSA, featuring "bad guys" and scenarios suspected terrorists having their call patterns traced.

I don't mind having someone explain how the data mining works, but shouldn't NPR have focused on the real importance of the story--a CONSTITUTIONAL analysis of the program ( Fourth Amendment...hello!) Shouldn't there be at least some little peep of critical analysis of what is happening to our civil liberties?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Letters or Infomercial?

The letters read on All Things Considered included a long one about one listeners obsession with Fritos Flaming Hots! Can NPR really justify singling out this superficial letter from the many letters and emails they surely get on weightier topics--such as the assault on the Constitution by Bush and Co., the debacle in Iraq, the coming debacle in Iran, etc.? If anyone knows how do they decide on which letters to read on the air, I'd love to know.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Steve Inskeep in Baghdad

As the horrors of Iraq mushroom with death squad torture/killing squads running rampant, I keep thinking I only imagined that there was a US policy afoot which would use the "Salvador Option" to deal with the insurgency. But doing a little digging I found that it was not my imagination--Newsweek broke the "death squad" story approach back in January of 2005. Does Inskeep make any reference to this policy? I didn't hear it. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

More Saturday Morning Edition

"A Very Likeable Guy" That's the judgement of NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly on the likely new appointee to head the CIA--Gen. Michael V. Hayden. What is that supposed to mean? And frankly who cares? There actually would be a lot of significance to report about Hayden: What did he do at the NSA (he was in charge there throughout the lastest illegal domestic spying operations)? What has he done in the military? What are his opionions on torture, separation of powers, assasination, rendition, etc?

Later in the show listeners also got input from Melissa Boyle Mahle, former CIA operative and author of the book Denial and Deception. She describes Hayden as an "excellent proposition." Of course Mahle joined the CIA in 1988, back when it was ravaging Central America with torture, rape, massacres, etc., and when it was helping to build Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and shoring up Saddam Hussein in his war on Iran.

Lastly, nothing was said about the sordid past of currrent Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte--murder, torture and death squad coach in Honduras and Central America in the 80s. Instead listeners were told that if Hayden leaves, then Negroponte will have "big shoes to fill." Hmmm?

Saturday Morning Edition

Bolivian Natural Gas - NPR's Julie McCarthy was reporting from La Paz on the Pres. Evo Morales' move to take control of Bolivian natural gas fields in order to renegociate fairer contracts with the companies managing them. McCarthy said Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez "swooped into La Paz." That's an interesting phrase which I've yet to hear on NPR to describe the stealth visits to Iraq of Rice, Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney or Blair. McCarthy also gives a lot of airtime to describing the concerns of the minority of Bolivians--the wealthy. She writes, "Some Bolivians fear" the moves of Morales, while "critics have made much of" his comfortable relationship with Chavez. What Bolivians, what critic? Definitely not the poor, the Indigenous, the dispossessed--that is the majority of Bolivians. Who is Julie talking to?