Friday, June 30, 2006

Semantics Matter

On All Things Considered tonight, Melissa Block introduced a segment on USA Today retracting a part of its story on the NSA wiretapping as occuring while "the rhetoric is heating up against other newspapers for disclosing government efforts to thwart terrorists." This is a significantly slanted way to describe the US Government activities that have been revealed -- illegal/warrantless wiretapping, sweeping secret bank record surveillance, warrentless domestic phone datamining, and setting up secret "black site" prisons. I question the value of any of these to "thwart terrorists." The secret detention/torture prisons have arguably helped al-Queda recruit terrorists and sympathizers. The data mining and wiretapping policies seem part of a broader strategy of the Bush administration to expand executive power and sidestep constitutional checks and balances. It would be more acceptable if she had just said revelations of controversial secret activities that the Bush administration claims are needed for state security.

Inskeep's Sympathies

NPR morning edition this week has featured a series on US interrogation/torture in the "War on Terror"-- not a bad idea since the US has made torture part of its official strategy since 9/11, and since being an apologist for torture has gained mainstream acceptance since 9/11. What is really striking is to listen to the tone and tactics of questioning that Steve Inskeep uses with the speakers interviewed for this series. Today he is speaking to a former Army interrogator who frankly discusses the use of torture (long term, severe isolation, enforced painful positions, forced injurious and degrading exercises, threatening hooded suspects with dog attacks, etc) and Inskeep casually says, "did anybody ever ask you to go beyond the kinds of (pause) well let's call it abuse if you don't mind; the kinds of abuse you've described of prisoners." Throughout the series Inskeep never indicates that torture is a moral outrage. He never brings up the idea that torture and abuse is a fundamental assault on the ideals and laws that our nation is supposedly defending in the "War on Terror." He also never brings up the likelihood that the US torture practices have created more insurgents and future terrorists. For a striking contrast in journalistic quality I'd recommend readers to listen/view the June 30, 2006 Democracy Now! show in which Dr. Stephen Miles is interviewed (the same Dr. Miles interviewed by Inskeep two days ago--see my previous post.)

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Trying to make sense out of the Israel/Palestine conflict by listening to NPR is a hopeless challenge. Take Steve Inskeep's report this morning. Describing the IDF attack on Gaza Inskeep says, "Israel continues it military moves in and around the Gaza Strip and all these moves came after an Israeli soldier was captured." I know memory is short in the US, I think we can stretch it back further than this past Sunday morning. The Israeli assault didn't begin after the capture of the soldier. In fact the past several weeks have seen heavy Israeli military action against Gaza which have killed many civilians--the most infamous being the family picnicking on the beach. It also fails to contextualize the conflict in which Israel blatantly colonizes the occupied territories (take a look at the maps if you doubt this) and -- according to Human Rights Watch -- holds approximately eight thousand Palestinian political and security prisoners and more than six hundred Palestinians under administrative detention (detention without trial or charge, which can be indefinitely renewed). NPR and the US mainstream press in general consistently downplay (or completely ignore) Israel's violations of international law.

Speaking to Inskeep, Linda Gradstein does at least mention that Palestinians in the West Bank are angry because Israel has hit civilian infrastructure in Gaza...which she notes leaves about 700,000 inhabitants without electricity and many without water (which is likely to lead to sickness and death for children and the infirm). Does Inskeep ask more about this targeting of civilians? No, but he does remind us that "the other side" has escalated the conflict by killing the captured settler. The crime of killing a captured belligerent is a terrible deed--a war crime in fact, but it was not carried out by a sovereign government and in no way compares to the nearly forty years of assaults on the Palestinians or the current overwhelming use of force being inflicted on them.

Inskeep & Hadley

This morning Steve Inskeep interviews National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about the great progress being made in creating security in Iraq. (I'm not kidding.) Here are a few things you may not have been aware of: there are 264,00 troops in the Iraqi Army and among them there are only a few "instances" where their loyalty (to the US/Iraqi "Government") is in question. The Iraqi armed forces did not fall into sectarianism after the Samarra bombing of the Golden Mosque in Feb. 2006. And Iraq is "“a country that is on the road to democracy, able to defend itself, and can be a source of stability in the region." These are reasonable wishes for someone in Hadley's position to have, but what about proof? Has NPR or Inskeep ever heard of doing research before conducting an interview (maybe bring along a few notes with statistics, numbers, facts, etc.)? Inskeep does ask Hadley about the June 2006 memo leaked from the US Embassy with Ambassador Khalizad's name on it. By any measure this memo is astonishing, shocking, sobering, frightening, grim, etc (you decide). In it we learn that Iraqis working for the US Embassy reveal a pervasive fragmenting of Iraqi society, a downward spiral into radical Islamic repression (of women especially and even of children wearing shorts!), a fear and distrust of even the Iraqi guards who controll access to the Green Zone! You really have to read the memo if you haven't yet (here's the PDF link to it). Hadley's response is stunning: "“one of the things I found is that there'’s not a lot that surprised me about that memo....and there wasn'’t a lot new in it."” Does Inskeep challenge that, or provide some details from that might surprise the listeners? No, not a word.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Quite an Adventure

Mary Louise Kelly interviews Bob Grenier, ex-CIA secret agent and head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center (a name that Winston Smith could appreciate). The story lead is that he had problems with the US approach to interrogations of detainees in the so-called "War on Terror." However all we hear from him regarding torture of detainees is that "the law is being strictly obeyed." Alright Kelly, ask him, "What law? The Geneva convention? The Universal Declaration on Human Rights? Other quaint international laws?" She doesn't say a thing. We do learn that Grenier is for "some form of due process" and thinks disappearing people isn't good. Oh, and we also learn that his year after 9/11 was "quiet an adventure." Well that's one way to describe it...

Guy Gushes

Guy Raz interviews Madeleine Albright, daughter of Josef Korbel and Korbel's "star pupil" at the University of Denver, Condoleezza Rice. However, to call this worshipful chat with Albright and Rice an interview is really too kind. Raz goes along with portraying both Albright and Rice as idealists consumed with a zeal for spreading democracy. There is a little space given to Albright's critique of Bush foreign policy--mainly that it has discredited the American image abroad, but he doesn't bring up any serious issues with either interviewee. He doesn't mention a peep about Albright's role in the sanctions on Iraq that are estimated to have killed 500,000 children ( a number she deemed as acceptable). He doesn't question Rice on the contradictions of believing in democracy while supporting the illegal invasion of Iraq, the dictatorship of Pakistan's Musharraf [ok, on June 29th it is reported that Rice did insist that Pakistan needs to hold elections], Israel's repressive occupation, Uzbekistan's Karimov, Putin's war on Chechnya, etc. Instead NPR gives this drivel nearly ten minutes of air time. I hope the State Department at least sends Guy Raz a thank you card--he earned it.

A Different Standard

Steve Inskeep conducted an interview with Dr. Steven Miles this morning the way a journalist should conduct an interview: he questioned his guest's premises, he challenged assertions, and he requested evidence. In this case the guest was a critic of US torture policies and practices--especially the failure of doctors in uniform to expose the US torture of detainees.
Compare this interview to any interview of US policy apologists on Morning Edition; I've never heard the pro-military/pro-US policy folks subjected to such rigorous demands for proof. Fortunately Dr. Miles was informed and prepared with irrefutable evidence.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


NPR had two misleading reports out tonight regarding Iraq. Combing through the first one reveals some interesting information and the second one is at best a distraction.
  • In the first Philip Reeves, embedded with US and Iraqi troops, reports from Ramadi. Melissa Block introduces this report saying, "Building up viable Iraqi security forces is at the top of the US agenda in Iraq. If US troops were to withdraw before Iraq has effective forces of its own many predict there would be a bloodbath with dangerous consequences for the entire region." I'd question that. Is that the top of the US agenda--and what facts is that based on?" I also hate that anonymous "many predict" construction. One could reasonably argue that the US staying in Iraq will make the current bloodbath worse, and is already making the region more dangerous. When Reeves does report on the Iraqi soldiers of the first battalion, first brigade, their "progress" is pretty sorry: he notes that the brigade troops are mostly Shia, have a high attrition rate (about 30 of 130 on leave quit with each rotation)...and must pay bribes to get in. BTW reporter Tom Lasseter "embedded" with these troops in 2005 and had some disturbing news about them.
  • The second part of the NPR report has a progressive consultant/professor and Republican consultant arguing about the "withdrawal debate" and how it's "framed." Michele Norris moderates and says, "In the debate of when and how to begin withdrawal US troops from Iraq, Republicans have cast the Democrats as the "“cut and run"” party for their constant criticism of the President and for pushing for a speedy withdrawal. Democrats, for their part, say the Bush administration has misused intelligence, misled the public, and mishandled the ongoing war in Iraq." This portrayal of the argument as equivalent is dishonest. In fact there is a Republican slogan for describing withdrawal advocates and on the other side are Democratic allegations that can all be held up to the harsh light of evidence. If NPR were doing it's job it would be investigating and reporting on these allegations. How this debate is being framed for votes by the two parties is not very informative, unless the report is investigating the truth or lies behind the frames.

Jury's Out

Today's interview with Alan Dershowitz is pretty bizarre. Dershowitz wants to give the President (yes HIM!) the sole authority to order torture when it will clearly save lives, even though he begins the interview saying, "I don'’t think torture is ever acceptable."” The interview is a hodgepodge of assertions and contradictions, however his basic premise is that there are cases where torture can save many innocent lives--and this power to torture should be vested in the occupant of the White House. (He offers no evidence to prove that torture has ever saved innocent lives--but does spend quite a bit of time relating the hearsay of Israeli secret service agents who've told him about torture that has "worked.")
Oddly, there is a lot to agree with in the interview: Dershowitz asserts several times that the US is practicing torture, ending the piece by saying , "We doing it and denying it." Dershowitz also decries the disgusting, widespread nature US torture.
Inskeep does a fair job of asking some probing questions of Dershowitzargumentent, and the report ends with a trailer for tomorrow's continuation of the series in which a doctor being interviewed describes Dershowitz as being "dead wrong." We'll see if NPR does as the series progresses--they jury is still out.

Makes Me Nervous

NPR and most media outlets have understandably been covering the Buffett mega-charity story. They've also been covering the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation too. The coverage I've heard has all been positive. First let me say, that I'm glad that Buffett has decided to give his money to worthy causes--I was pleased to hear that he is an advocate for estate taxes and for abortion rights. I'm also glad that Gates has used his money for saving the lives of perhaps hundreds of thousands of children with vaccines and with encouraging innovative school programs within public schools. But the question nags: Is it really healthy (for democracy, security, etc.) to have such massive concentrations of wealth in the hands of individuals. What if the world's next wealthiest individuals decide to use their massive wealth to support radical racists, or extremist militias, or clandestine prisons, etc.? It is also worthwhile to mention where some of the extreme wealth has come from: a lot of Buffett's from the problematic Coke Company and Gates, of course, from Microsoft which has used monopolistic practices (see 2000 article and more on EU practices a story that is breaking even as I write--see BBC News) to maintain its hold on operating system and Internet browsing software.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Perle Wisdom

All right, I don't mean to be too hard on Dan Schorr, but tonight's piece on Richard Perle was confusing at best. Schorr is responding to an opinion piece by Perle published Sunday in the Washington Post. Schorr describes Perle's career as "a neoconservative working from the inside to stiffen the spine of the President." (I swear I'm not making that up!) Schorr essentially restates Perle's points from his piece attacking Bush's policy on Iraq for not being more aggressive. What Schorr doesn't do is educate his readers in any meaningful way about Perle's rather distasteful policy views and activities. I'll try to do that without even turning to partisan sources. Let's just start with Perle's 2000 paper, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," written with Israeli PM Netanyahu and the Likud party in mind. Notice who Perle is working for in writing this piece--Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (see their scary Mission Statement). Also notice that this paper lays out the Israeli Zionist mission of having the US remove Saddam THREE years before the invasion. For more of the Perle flavor see the letter to Clinton that he and his cohorts at Project for a New American Century sent. Schorr could also have let us know about Perle's resignation from the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. Lastly it would have been a service to readers to just put this rather nasty figure in the context of all the folks underpinning this current Bush administration--the neocons (thanks to the Christian Science Monitor).

And the Point of this Story Is?

Tom Bowman interviews the family of Marine Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III who is one of the Marines charged with murder in the killing of an Iraqi in Hamdaniya, Iraq. If you ever catch the Daily Show you know the schtick where they show clips of reporters covering "breaking news" with comments like, "I can't tell you anything right now," or "We don't know what's happened yet." This NPR piece has the same feel. Obviously, the family of a soldier is going to be shocked if that soldier ends up getting charged for murder while in a war zone. Obviously, friends and family of an accused are not going to say, "Well, you know how it is when you are occupying a country that you're government has illegally invaded--it gets messy and sometimes you just have to kill someone because you've been in so many violent and dangerous situations." That would be news! As in this similar piece on CNN a few days ago, family and friends usually emphasize what a good person the accused as always been and assert that person's innocence. So why does NPR waste its air time doing this story where these predictable outcomes are all we get?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Amnesty for...well...uh...nobody!

On NPR this evening Craig Windham reported on the "amnesty" plan being put forth by Iraqi PM al-Maliki. Windham states that the plan contains “an offer of amnesty to insurgents who were willing to renounce violence and who had not been involved in terrorist attacks against US or Iraqi troops.” Then to drive home the point NPR has GOP Senator Mitch McConnell and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin both denouncing any amnesty for insurgents who have killed US troops (BTW, I actually like our Illinois Sen. Durbin). NPR would do it's listeners a service to remind listeners that attacks on belligerent occupiers is not terrorism--unless a number of civilians are actually or likely to be killed in the attack. I find it terrible that our citizens in the military are being killed in Iraq; it is sad and tragic, but the blame lies squarely with the leaders who launched the war of agression against Iraq. Many in the Iraqi insurgency have committed disgraceful war crimes and terrorists acts, but attacking occupying troops does not qualify as such.

Privileged Boy

A tip of the hat to Dan Schorr today for mentioning the fact that in 1968 Lt. Gov. Barnes of Texas (after getting a request from Congressman George H. W. Bush) helped get young George W. into the Texas Air Guard in spite of his low test scores. Barnes is quoted from his book as saying, "I want to make clear how ashamed I am of what I did; for every privileged boy like George W. Bush that I helped another young man was shipped to Vietnam." Schorr also points out that W's long absence without leave (and without punishment) has never been accounted for with evidence by W or his handlers.

"Alleged" Covers a World of Sins

It's interesting to note how often NPR uses the word "blames" or "alleged" when the US or its close allies are accused of crimes or atrocities--but simply reports as facts what are cleary "alleged" or "claimed" events.
  • Today in covering the Palestinian attack on an Israeli outpost, Linda Gradstein mentions that one of the reasons given by Hamas for the attack was the June 9th killing of seven Palestinian civilians on a beach which impartial evidence indicates was casued by an Israel artillery shell. Gradstein states that Hamas "blames" Israel for the deaths and that Israel "blames" it on a Palestinian landmine--which is exactly what the IDF wants reporters to say.
  • Earlier in the week I heard NPR state that in Haditha, Marines are "alleged" to have killed unarmed civilians, when--in fact--there is no disputing that about 24 unarmed civilians were killed by Marines. The allegation is that the civilians were massacred in cold blood and not killed in a firefight in which Marines were taking hostile fire.
What you will NEVER hear on NPR is that the US Military killed "alleged" Taliban fighters or "alleged" insurgents or "alleged" terrorists. Instead NPR simply reports as facts the numbers given by the US Military (and its allies) even though there are frequently differing accounts given on the ground by local victims, doctors, etc.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Nasty Things About Americans

Dan Schorr and Scott Simon "analyze" the week's news. Schorr mangles the significance of the really interesting Pew Report about attitudes toward the US in Europe (see my earlier post about this). Based on absolutely NO evidence Schorr states, "Young kids grow up in any European country and they are told look at the savage Americans who torture people in Guantanamo and that's the way they are brought up now and its very sad." Kids are told? By whom? Schorr can't even entertain the idea that the results might indicate that the respondents actually read and think critcally about world events--especially about the effects of the US actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. And why is it sad? In this lack of critical imagination Schorr is a lot like our Decider popping off in Europe on the "absurdity" of the poll results. Schorr goes on to state that its a "very sad commentary" that though there is cooperation among the "military aides" of the US and Europe this is followed by these Europeans going back home to "say nasty things about Americans." What's sad is this shabby analysis; we listeners deserve far better. Frankly one of the most interesting things (and surpising) about the Pew Report is the table I've posted at the beginning of this post. Notice how many US respondents consider the US in Iraq to be a "great danger"--31%! Maybe there is hope after all...

Friday, June 23, 2006

National Pentagon Radio

Today, Friday, hopefully brings an end to Morning Edition's full week of reports that would make any Pentagon PR team proud. Today featured Ret. Major General Thomas Wilkerson talking about his father's "work" in Vietnam keeping his subordinates from breaking the rules of war and generally stating how professional and honorable the Marines are. I keep wanting someone interviewing military people from Vietnam to ask, "So just who did kill the 2-3 million Vietnamese?" Then just in case you haven't had enough of how great and decent and just US warrior culture is, we get to hear from none other than General Peter Pace, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the Pentagon.
Except for retiring reporter Galloway's piece (see earlier post) on Monday criticizing the incompetence of the Pentagon's civilian leadership's handling of the Iraq war (not it premises, not its illegality, not the lies and arrogance that launched it, etc.), this past week on NPR offered a daily parade of US military personnel talking about the Iraq War from the perspective of the US military. (Something you can get if you want--and can stomach it-- from the Department of Defense website.)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Very, very, very, very successful

Those four verys are the words of Staff Sgt. Earl J. Catagnus Jr. during this interview Thursday morning conducted by Steve Inskeep. Catagnus was the leader of a group of Marine snipers who worked to "remove" insurgents from houses during the battle of Fallujah in November 2004. Ignore the likelihood that at least a thousand civilians were killed in the November 2004 destruction of Fallujah. Ignore the probability that the assault probably produced more insurgents and sympathizers than it killed. Instead sit back and listen in awe with the fawning Inskeep as he hears how "successful" and "careful" the US was in its assault on Fallujah. This completely one-sided Pentagon propaganda is inexcusable. If you are looking to make up your own mind about Fallujah, I'd recommend Wikipedia's external links section of its article on the siege and also this from the Guardian Unlimited of the UK.

In Bed

If you were active in the military, stationed in Iraq, active in combat near Ramadi, had lost many comrades to death and injury, and were identified by name on the air--what would you say if a reporter asked you "Should the US withdraw the troops now?" Well, obviously any fool can guess that someone in that situation is going to say they want to stay and finish the mission. But this uniformative set-up interview is what we get from Philip Reeves and NPR this morning. Being embedded with the US unit in Ramadi, how can Reeves ask the hard questions like: "How would you feel if it's true (as many intelligence experts and scholars assert) that the war has actually helped al-Queda grow and become more effective?" or "How would you feel if it's proven that all the reasons for invading Iraq were made up so that a small group of people in the US Government could try out their ideas about reshaping the Middle East and improving the climate for US business there?" or etc. etc. Instead, this worthless report clearly illustrates the deleterious effects of "embedding" reporters with the US Military. BTW if you want to know what US Troops think about the war in Iraq you can listen to anecdotal embeds or you can look at the poll conducted with anonimity by Zogby International--you decide! If you're curious you can even see a PDF copy of the questionnaire given to the troops.

An Aside

When I first started this blog two months ago, I imagined that I might have something to critique about NPR's coverage once or twice a week. I've really felt overwhelmed by how persistently pro-Pentagon, pro-US Government NPR is. Sigh...

Standing Up Hitchens

What a strange use of time on yesterday's All Things Considered. Guy Raz gave an 8+ minute send up of/interview with Christopher Hitchens. The interview begins with Raz romanticizing Hitchen's consumption of "4 double-scotches and 3 merlots" during their meeting; Raz states that it has "very little effect on his disposition" and helps "fertilize his brain." Frankly I don't care that Hitchens abuses alcohol and that Raz is impressed. I care about the distortions, lies, and lack of facts behind Hitchens defense of the war in Iraq. This is never addressed. Instead the interview allows Hitchens to define the situation as a moral one in which he has made the just and correct decision while his "far-left" detractors are essentially supporters of Islamic terrorists. NPR claims that "none of HitchenÂ’s former fellow travelers contacted for this story were interested in revisiting the break." What does this mean? Does it mean that people contacted were going to be restricted to discussing only the "break" with Hitchens (the drama) and not the substantive issues? Then no wonder. And just who was contacted? And why call them "fellow travelers" (an old, Cold War term used to describe non-member supporters of the communist party)? It was also interesting that the only sound-bite against Hitchens was a rather ugly ad-hominem attack on him by George Galloway [BTW, a tactic that Hitchens also uses].
If NPR frequently interviewed people who have changed politics (I'm thinking of people like Kevin Phillips [who used to be on NPR more frequently], Chalmers Johnson, John Perkins, etc.) then I'd feel more forgiving about this lackluster interview with Hitchens, but I doubt we'll be hearing much from principled, informed dissenters anytime soon on NPR.
Anyone looking for an articulate rebuttal to Hitchen's rightwing arguments should take a look at this article by George Scialabba and published in N+1.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

It Gives Us Meaning

NPR is working overtime this week promoting the appeal of idealistic, mythic warrior culture while ignoring the hard news that they should be investigating. They are offering a "leadership" series that began on Monday with an interesting piece by Joseph Galloway who begins his piece by noting that he "loves soldiers." At least his piece brought out the callous and incompetent leadership at the top of the chain of command, but it still keeps up the image of the nearly holy status of the US soldier. The next two pieces have Steve Inskeep interviewing two US Marine officers on June 20,2006 about training/leading US Marines in Iraq and then again on June 21, 2006 about training/leading Iraqis. One of the most stunning aspects of these interviews is that one of the Marines led troops during the US assaults on Najaf in the summer of 2004 and the other led troops in the US assault on Fallujah in November 2004. Any serious news story on Fallujah would have to at least bring up the serious allegations that the assault/destruction of Fallujah was a war crime (see the scholar/author/reporter Helena Cobban's piece on her blog or just Google "Fallujah war crime". The people at NPR who are bringing us this pro-military schlock would do well to read Chris Hedges' book War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and really wrestle with the issues of how war perverts human behavior on all sides of armed conflicts. Or they could just keep acting as an nPR outlet for the Pentagon.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Echo Chamber on North Korea

Steve Inskeep interviews Christopher Hill this morning on NPR. Hill, assistant Sec. of State for East Asia, is the State Department's negotiator at the six party talks regarding North Korea. Inskeep's interview followed an unquestioned/unexamined rebroadcast of Sec. of State Rice's stern warnings to N. Korea about a possible launch of an unarmed ICBM. Inskeep's interview is remarkable for its absolute one-sidedness and adherence to Bush administration policy. Inskeep doesn't ask any of the hard questions of Hill that one might expect: Did the Bush administration's first term refusal to negotiate with N. Korea actually make the situation worse? Did the aggressive invasion of Iraq prompt N. Korea to step up its desire for nukes as a deterrent to being next on the US invasion list? How does the US anger over the missile test square with its own missile defense plans or its recent threats to use "smaller" nukes against Iran? Instead Inskeep even outpaces the Bush folks by asking if N. Korea has helped with furthering Iran's nuclear weapon's program. I think Inskeep is sometimes confused that he's supposed to be an independent journalist, and not a PR man for the Department of Defense or Department of State.

Monday, June 19, 2006

No Greater Test of American Optimism?

Commentary at NPR continues to disappoint. Today Ken Harbaugh tells us that there is "no greater test of American optimism than the ordeal that is Iraq." He also tells us that the US military's task in Iraq is "to bring hope to a country burdened by its own traumatic past." What can any honest, decent thinking person say to this ridiculous commentary?

Gonyea Nonsense

NPR really needs to find sharper analysts. This morning Don Gonyea analyzes the relationship of the EU to the Bush administration and offers us unsubstantiated fantasy. Steve Inskeep, noting that many European allies were unhappy with the invasion of Iraq, asks Gonyea, "are they any closer to the Bush administration than they have been in the past." Gonyea responds, "They do seem to be getting closer; the fights over the war between the US and EU, all the rancor that we saw in recent years has subsided significantly and shouldn't really play a role in this summit...." How odd; my understanding is that the debacle in Iraq continues to thoroughly influence US/Europe relations. Yes, the public insult and rancor coming from Washington toward European countries who didn't support the war has stopped due to the disastrous outcome of the invasion, but one could factually argue that the Europeans have moved further from the Bush administration, and that the Bush folks have just had to adjust--and this is exactly what an analyst from Time magazine did in this piece back in Feb. 2005. (BTW, Time is no bastion of left/liberal perspectives.) For a more updated analysis that also notes reasons why Europe (not the people but the leaders) and the US administration are "closer" take a look at this piece from the Council on Foreign Relations (also no left-leaning organization).

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Listen Up Winston!

This from Sunday Weekednd Edition: "This weekend, the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union -- The Quartet that since 2002 has worked together seeking Middle East peace...."

And this from Orwell's 1984: "The Ministry of Truth -- Minitrue, in Newspeak -- was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Schorr Gets It Half Right

In commentary on today's morning Weekend Edition Dan Schorr points out what hardly any other MSM outlets noted regarding Bush's trip to Baghdad: the secrecy, dissembling, and high security suprise drop-in on the Green Zone shows the near complete absence of security in the Iraqi capital--including the inablity of the US forces to provide conventional security that usually accompanies state visits. He didn't mention the fact that the US must have serious concerns that the highest levels of the Iraqi "Unity" Government is infiltrated by insurgents if they can't even give PM al-Maliki more than a five minute warning!
On the negative side Schorr allows NPR host Yidstie to again describe the deaths of three illegal detainees at Guantanamo as suicides. (This may seem trivial, but I think it is essential that when prisoners are seized and held extrajudicially and die in custody, one must be skeptical about the conditions of the deaths (not to mention that more than a few detainees held by US forces in the "War on Terror" have been killed by torture. see a, b). Schorr follows up this by only considering how the deaths have effected the image of the US and the Bush administration--nothing about the victims of the prison camp at Guantanamo and how it is a frontal assault by the Bush administration on international law and basic rights enshined in our own Constitution.

Burying a Bombshell

In a story on Saturday Weekend Edition about NATO troops set to enter Afghanistan, John Ydstie mentions that a Pew poll finds that Europeans consider the US military in Iraq a greater threat to peace and security than the government of Iran! That's significant, and seems worthy of serious discussion and analyses. But the context in which it comes up is as he is interviewing U.S. Ambassador to NATO Victoria Nuland. She buries the important implications of this poll by noting that Europeans are just shy about any military actions due to their history of such bloodletting during the two world wars. (Or maybe the Europeans are actually read and think about events in the world.)

Friday, June 16, 2006

O'Hanlon Oh No!

NPR Morning Edition on Thursday trotted out the Brooking Institute's O'Hanlon again..this time to discuss measures of "progress" in Iraq. Please see my previous post on O'Hanlon (a very rightwing-biased fellow). This time O'Hanlon was a little more forthright on where his numbers were coming from (the US Gov. ) and he wasn't quite so upbeat on the readiness of Iraqi security forces (admitting that what they may be most ready for is fighting each other!) If you want to see the full Brookings Institute Report, it's availible in PDF format here.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Sources Please...

Two issues that NPR reported with certainty on today caught my attention. First, NPR asserted that three inmates at Guantanamo killed themselves. Second, NPR--during All Things Considered--noted that 30,000 Iraqi civilians have died in our current war there. Really? Does NPR have some kind of unrestricted access or independent source to confirm that the three dead prisoners at Guantanamo actually did kill themselves. Shouldn't any journalists worth their salt question the accuracy of authorities holding prisoners when that authority has been proven by evidence (and signing statements) to sanction and practice torture and abuse? Reports should say "the alleged suicides" of three captives with no access to due process.
As far as the 30,000 number. Where does that number come from? From Bush's mouth back in December 2005. Apparently, Bush was basing his numbers on Iraq Body Count, which is problematic in that it is based on news reported deaths in Iraq--reporting that is severly restricted (besides, the Iraq Body Count is now up to 40,000). Couldn't NPR more accurately state that "according to respected sources, in October 2004 well over 100,000 civilians had been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and this number probably at least has doubled since then." To do these things would require that NPR not be biased toward the US Government foreign/military policy which I have yet to see.

Why So Bad?

Linda Wertheimer interviewed Philip Reeves about the "security" initiatives of al-Maliki. I find it strange that the tone of Reeves' report from Baghdad is positive. He indicates great hopes that the al-Maliki government can bring stability to Iraq. Reeves has done some excellent reporting in the past when he worked for The Independent of London. Today he comes across as a naive believer in the "unity" government in Iraq. Nothing is discussed of the disastrous forces at work in Iraq and the destabalizing effects of the US presence. No mention of the complications in the south, especially Basra, between Shiite militias of the Badr and Mahdi forces, nothing of the Kurdish near indepence and dictatorial moves in the north, nothing of the absolute wreck of the infrastructure created by the Bremer tenure, etc...Do all reporters get worse when they go to NPR?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Lap Dogging the Prez

Today Bush gave a press conference after his stint/stunt of a Bagdahd trip. NPR offered "analysis" before the conference got underway; it was astounding! Joe Palca questioned NPR's Senior Foreign editor, Loren Jenkins in the minutes before the conference got underway. Palca asks Jenkins (who said he's been back to Iraq several times in the last three years) what the impact of Bush's trip might be and Jenkins says, “I would think from the Iraqi point of view it was very more affirmation that the US is there to stay and to help them out which is what the US policy has been and what we’ve been telling them.” Stunning, how with his few junkets to the Green Zone, Jenkins presumes to speak for the Iraqi viewpoint (does he even speak Arabic?) I wonder what the viewpoint is of the hundreds of thousands of dead, injured, orphaned, widowed Iraqis is? Also the US is there to "help them"? (like FEMA helped New Orleans perhaps). Oh and don't forget that helping out Iraq is what US policy has been all along. What stuns me most about this arrogant and stupid commentary is that if one looks at Jenkin's bio at NPR, it is filled with prestigious accolades and awards which explains something about how rotten so much of the MSM is.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mr. Bluster and Buffalo Bob

I heard at least two on-the-hour news updates from NPR regarding Bush's swooping in (see earlier post on Chavez) on Iraq's PM al-Maliki. NPR actually gave time to David Green who is "travelling with the President" to essentially reiterate (echo) Bush's statements. Green actually repeated Bush's nonsense about wanting to "look him in the eye" and that the "US keeps its word." This is reporting? This really is more like the Howdy Doody show (although who's the bigger dummy is debatable). There was no critique of the Bush policy in Iraq, no critique/analysis on how this stealth visit might be perceived in Arab countries (it was mentioned that Mr. al-Maliki didn't even know Bush was coming until 5 minutes before they met). Can one imagine a foreign leader popping in unannounced to the White House to give the Pres. a pep talk...even I'd feel insulted!

Steve Inskeep reporting for the IDF--oops--NPR

After a mediocre report from Linda Gradstein and a lopsidedly pro-Israel report from Eric Westervelt this morning on the escalating violence between Israel and Palestinians, Steve Inskeep asks Eric Westervelt, the reporter on the ground, "Do the Israelis have any other options here [to stop the rocket attacks from Gaza into Sderot]?" Westervelt goes on to answer that the main options are commando raids or a full invasion to establish "buffer zones." Nothing is mentioned about Israel's options of stopping the use of airstrikes, artillery barrages, illegal imprisonment and assasinations, or of using backdoor-diplomacy to maintain the 16 month old ceasefire, etc. He mentions that there are politcal/military risks for Israel in an invasion, while barely mentioning the horrors that such an invasion would visit on the civilians of Gaza. Once again NPR shows that its coverage of the Israel's actions in the occupied zones and the armed conflict between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinians will always at its core be from the Israeli military's viewpoint. This is too bad, not only because it is poor journalism that fails to address the historical, moral, and legal aspects of the conflict-- but it also fails to cover the the wide range of opinions that exist among Israeli's themselves.

Back to the Republic of Ignorance

Back from Spain I had to wake up to Morning Edition's story on poverty in Latin America. Michelle Kellerman asked, "Why is Latin America so poor?" NPR turns to the banking industry for answers! I thought history might be a good place to start looking for such answers: conquest, pillage, genocide, slavery after the arrival of the Europeans and more recently invasion, military coups, assasination of union leaders, systematic torture and death squad governments, drug running, etc. (all these provided and/or nurtured along by the US since the days of US-Mexican war [remember good old Thoreau?] and continuing unabated right up to the present [plan Columbia and the failed coup against Chavez]). But NPR doesn't want you to learn any history. Instead the problem is that credit for the poor is too hard to get. Astounding!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Off to Spain

I won't be posting for about a week. I'm heading to Spain for a week. Please add any interesting NPR news to the comments if you come across this post. Thanks. Gracias...

Is This What We Lifted Colonial Rule For?

Excuse me? Daniel Schorr continues do a hatchet job on history in talking to Lynn Neary about East Timor this morning on Weekend Edition. Discussing the recent violence in East Timor, does Schorr address the near genocidal killings of the Indonesian Army (with US backing and blessing) from 1975 until independence in 1999? No, instead he cites other troubled countries--which underwent the ravages of colonial rule before winning their independence--and asks "is this what we lifted colonial rule for?" Interesting way to frame it isn't it. Who is the "we" and was it "lifted" or fought off with terrible losses and sacrifice?

Theocrats at Loggerheads

NPR turns for analysis of the Iran crisis to extreme right wing theocrat, Joe Loconte, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation and the Ethics and Policy Center. Loconte twists the Iran story in several key ways. He continues the misquotations in the MSM about Iran wanting to "wipe Israel off the map" (see Juan Cole's May 20, 2006 analysis of the mistranslation of this phrase). He also claims that Iran claims an inalienable "right to develop a nuclear arsenal." Iran has made no such claim, but certainly could make a case for wanting a nuclear arsenal since it seems that just such an arsenal has helped N. Korea avoid armed aggression from the Bush administration. NPR's coverage and Loconte's commentary continues the MSM coverage of Iran's nuclear ambitions completely out of context--Iran being threatened by a non-NPT Israel armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons and also being threatened with nukes and/or military strikes by a US administration that has already demonstrated an ability to launch wars of aggression. It would be great to see NPR balance the dominance of US Government viewpoints in the MSM by offering dissenting points of view, but I'm not holding my breath.

It's Not My Lai...Not My Lai...Not...

Friday's All Things Considered (ATC) gives voice to retired army general, , analyzing the massacre at Haditha. Scales who was a unit commander in Vietnam said he was "deeply, deeply saddened" about the killings in Haditha, Iraq. In his analysis Scales notes that in both Iraq and Vietnam young soldiers confronted the "faceless brutality of the enemy."(Makes one wonder where the face was/is on the US napalm, cluster bombs, carpet bombing, "relocation" camps, etc.) Some of us may wonder if Haditha is just the tip of the iceberg (how many Hadithas have we not heard about), but Scales reassures us that (in Haditha) "“those charged with finding the truth will do so with celerity and dispatch."” You can decide if the Pentagon has shown any inclination toward "finding the truth with celerity and dispatch." Frankly the record indicates the opposite.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Worried about the US failure in Afghanistan? Relax, NPR's Morning Edition interviews the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ronald Neumann, who assures us that his security camera view from the embassy in Kabul indicates that all is well; the discontent and anger at the US you thought you saw in riots there recently are nothing but just run of the mill mob actions. Why does NPR think that the words of US government officials constitute news--especially with no counterbalancing critiques? US government spokespeople have repeatedly shown themselves to be inaccurate, biased and/or completely dishonest.