Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Halloween Ghost

ATC had a piece remarking on the death of one of the great villains of the 20th century - P.W. Botha.

Are Immigrants to Blame Here?

That was the first and only significant question that Steve Inskeep had for David Wessel, deputy Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal after he talked about wages in the US: how they are stagnant for middle income workers, declining for lower income workers, and heading toward the stratosphere for CEOs.

Immigrants? That's not the first reason that came to mind for me, but it's fair enough to ask--if it were followed by a few more questions about other possible causes of low wages in the US. Here are a few questions that Inskeep should have asked:
  1. Did the US-led assault against unions, socialists, Indigenous people, the Catholic church, and the poor throughout South and Central America (e.g. Guatemala, Haiti, El Salvador, Chile, etc.) in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s unnaturally depress labor costs for mulitnationals doing business there, eventually undercutting US wages as those companies moved jobs out of the US?
  2. Did the US support of rightwing dictators and military juntas throughout Central and South America throughout the Cold War create the social upheavals and poverty that caused and still cause so many Latin Americans to come to the US as undocumented workers?
  3. Has our own massive "defense" spending weakened the US middle class by undercuting funding for infrastructure, education, health care, worker training?
  4. Did the deregulation of the Reagan-Bush I years lead to CEO salary gouging?
  5. Did the vaunted welfare "reform" of the Clinton years lower wage and living standards?
  6. Does steadily falling value of the legal minimum wage in the US create a permanent underclass?
It's hardly surprising that such questions were not raised given that the report is limited to the opinions of a Wall Street Journal employee and Steve Inskeep who literally cackles at the "humor" of 1993 CEOs making 131 times the average worker's salary compared to the 370 times the average CEOs now make.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ugly and Uglier

Here's how Adam Davidson, on Morning Edition, described the Bolivian Supreme Decree 28701 and its implementation of May 1, 2006:

"It all started six months ago this week. The populist leader Evo Morales told all foreign companies they had exploited his country and they had to hand over control of almost everything they own in Bolivia or else they’d be forced out of the country at gunpoint. They had to do this by November 1st. To make things clear he sent army troops to surround many of the gas fields. Things were ugly and soon got uglier. "

Here are a few problems with Adam Davidson's biased, sloppy, and distorted report:
  • "six months ago" - The seizing of Bolivia's gas resources occured in the 1990s in a massive privatization of five state owned gas companies organized by the World Bank and IMF.
  • "almost everything they own" - Davidson apparently just made this up. It is nowhere in the decree (which I read through in Spanish). This type of exaggeration was common in press coverage back in May of 2006.
  • "forced out of the country at gunpoint" - Sounds dramatic, but Davidson again is writing fiction. I have yet to see or hear of any such threat from the Bolivian government.
  • "to make things clear he sent army troops" - Pure opinion on Davidson's part. It is as reasonable to assume that, knowing his history of South America, Morales feared that significant assets would be removed by the gas companies and the army was sent in to prevent such theft or sabotage.
  • "Things were ugly and soon got uglier." - Davidson doesn't give one fact to back this up. Was anyone arrested, killed, harassed, deported?
Davidson ends the report describing today's deals signed in Bolivia. He says of President Morales that "he gets majority ownership of the fields." Where this comes from I have no idea. Morales himself gets nothing from the deals. The deal affects state control and revenue. Portraying Morales as personally profiting from the deal is a lie and a smear.

Yes something was ugly and got uglier. But it wasn't what happened in Bolivia.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Road Tripping in Afghanistan

After noticing this post from Common Dreams today, I went back and listened to Renee Montagne's peppy exchange with Scott Simon regarding her trip to Bamiyan, Afghanistant -- where the ancient Buddha statues were tragically destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

Montagne relates that her trip to Bamiyan took 10 hours and Simon notes that his took only 6 hours. Wouldn't it be more valuable for NPR reporters to try and reach the site of alleged NATO bombings of civilians? Or at least try to talk to witnesses of the event who are not US/NATO spokespersons? The answer is obvious.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Holy smokes, NPR gave air time to the Video the Vote founder, Ian Inaba. We actually got to hear about the People for the American Way and the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law and voter disenfranchisment! BUT before you reload those six-shooters listen to the second half of the report where Pam Fessler comes on to reassure us that most of the problems will be due to new machine glitches and confusion over new rules. Though there have been "some efforts to intimidate voters," she assures us most problems will be the fault of human error and confusion.

Drinking Koolaid, Serving Koolaid

This morning Mara Liasson continued shilling for the Republican's incredible disappearing-votes machine. But it was her attempt at hip lingo that made me laugh. When Simon asked if Democrats are being unrealistic about winning one of the houses of Congress on November 7th, Liasson said, "Well, I think the Democrats do have a chance to pick the next speaker, but I do think there’s a little 'drinking the Koolaid' out there. People are looking at these national polls and assuming that the Democrats are about to make huge gains." It was funny to hear those words coming from Mara Liasson. As Wikipedia describes it, the phrase means "to become a firm believer in something; to accept an argument or philosophy wholeheartedly or blindly." I think we know who's drinking the Koolaid!

Then this evening on ATC I was treated to extra large cup of Koolaid by NPR's David Greene who spends far too much time "traveling with the President." Greene was with Bush in southern Indiana at a campaign rally which he described as Bush's "first open, old-fashioned campaign rally" of this season. He said he was "really feeling the kind of electric atomosphere" and that Bush drew "an excited crowd." I wondered if it was like those good old-fashioned campaign rallies of 2004 where dissenters with the wrong tee-shirts got hauled of to the pokey? Or maybe it was like the "town-hall" meetings on Social Security where a bumper sticker could get you booted. But who wants to live in the past when you can hear our own cult leader-in-chief (rumored to be buying land in Paraguay!) "talking about the War on Terrorism, really getting the crowd revved up." Drink up...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Hendren's Magic Marker

ATC's piece by John Hendren on East Timor is missing a few bits of information. In a pattern all too common on NPR "news," any history that might expose the underside of US foreign policy is simply omitted - even when the information is central to the story. Hendren accompanies Adm. William Fallon, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, on a visit to East Timor. Hendren and the admiral come away with the conclusion that those East Timorese just can't get it together to lead and their country is "a failed state." Not a surprising conclusion given that NPR's "history" of East Timor starts in 2002! Imagine reporting on history of the political situation in Rwanda, Kosovo, or Chechnya by only covering events since 2002.

Even the CIA (!) has to acknowledge the power of history in shaping the current tragedy of East Timor. Their World Factbook, describing Indonesia's ravages in East Timor after 1975, says "an unsuccessful campaign of pacification followed over the next two decades, during which an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 individuals lost their lives." And then on the rampage that Indonesia launched when East Timor voted for indepence in 1999, the CIA writes "anti-independence Timorese militias - organized and supported by the Indonesian military - commenced a large-scale, scorched-earth campaign of retribution. The militias killed approximately 1,400 Timorese and forcibly pushed 300,000 people into West Timor as refugees."

And guess who helped the Indonesians invade East Timor back in 1975, keep them armed and supplied while they tried to "pacify" those 100,000 - 250,000 people? The United States of course (and other European governments). By covering up this history, NPR is aiding those who committed the slaughter of East Timor and helping the Bush administration as it continues to try and rearm Indonesian military with no strings attached.

Addendum: a reader, apparently from the East Timor and Indonesian Action Network (ETAN), suggested the following informative links:

Do THE Math

A few days ago Karl Rove told Robert Siegel that whatever polls Siegel was looking at didn't matter because he - Karl Rove - had "THE Math." And then today on Morning Edition Mara Liasson and a guest commentator were discussing the poll numbers that continue to indicate that Republicans will lose (at least) the House in November voting. Liasson, commenting on Republican optimism, wondered "if they know things we don’t know," and was quick to remind listeners that "polls are not predictions." These sorts of statements really are maddening! NPR should be doing the work of discussing and investigating the kinds of voting manipulations and fraud that were so fruitful to Republicans in 2000 and 2004 (see previous post).

Given the incredibly dismal state of affairs in Iraq/Afghanistan and the pathetic growth of the middle income wages, and the Foley scandal, etc... it really is hard to imagine the Republicans holding on to power in both houses of Congress. November's voting will be an interesting test of whether the Republican machine can pull off a really big steal (surely, ripping off so many unexpectedly challenged seats will be harder than targeting a few key states such as Florida and Ohio in 2000 and 2004 to only[!] steal the presidency.)

If NPR was at least reporting on the facts that are known about cage lists, challenging voters, uncounted votes, and Republican-connected Diebold junk voting machines, then people might not be so complacent when election results fly in the face of reality.

I'm very hopeful about the November vote, but I also have a nagging sense of dread that I'll wake up Wednesday, November 8th, to hear how Republicans have pulled off a stunning upset by "defying the experts" and have kept both houses of Congress. And instead of angry citizens taking to the streets to as in Mexico, it will be quiet and secure in the Homeland as Mara Liasson reminds us (as she did today) that Republicans succeeded because they have the "advantages in turning out their vote and money," and they are better than Democrats at "finding and targeting voters" -- I'll say!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Like a Big Carnival

"Whitehouse officials do interviews with radio reporters; it’s like a big carnival right outside the whitehouse with a giant tent." That's how Juan Williams describes the scene on yesterday's Morning Edition. Apparently favored reporters get special treatment, because as Williams tells it, "in my case though, I was invited to go into the Vice President’s office in the West Wing."

Most of the interview is transcribed at the NPR site and it's really a sad piece of journalism. Focusing on the current violence in Iraq Williams asks, "if the generals are telling you the right information about what they need" to which Cheney -- of course -- says they are great generals who are giving good advice. Here Williams might have followed up with statements from some of the dissenting generals who know what happens to good advice, but instead he just asks timidly, "So they're not telling you what you want to hear, you don't think?" Cheney answers "No."
Williams then questions the quality of intelligence gathered in Iraq and lets Cheney get away with saying "
And obviously there were problems with intelligence in Iraq early on." For informed journalists that's a hanging curveball right over the plate. Williams just freezes and watches it go by. No challenge about how Cheney falsified, distorted, and cherry-picked ("fixed") intelligence to launch the war on in the first place.
One of the hardest moments of the interview to stomach was - ironically - the part where Cheney talked about stomachs. Williams has asked Cheney about his criticism of Democrats and use of the phrase "cut and run," and in responding Cheney says, "What the enemy's banking on is that they can break our will, that the American people don't have the stomach for the fight." Williams just sits there and lets this lying chickenhawk say this with no challenge--not once but twice! (For more on Cheney's strong stomach Williams might want to read here.)
Probably what is most frustrating are all the questions that are never made: Cheney's manipulation of intelligence, his insistence on the al-Qaeda link in Iraq, his role in torture and providing cover for torturers, and his grossly distorted assessments of progress in Iraq. Williams would do well to watch PBS's Frontline on Cheney before he meets with him next time--that is if he can find the time when he's not running around the Fox studios or ducking into the Whitehouse sideshows.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Truth Buried Again

NPR has an odd story about Colombia this morning. The report deals with victims' of the atrocities committed by Colombia'a rightwing paramilitaries. There are some really unsettling (dare one say "spooky") aspects to NPR's report. The first thing that struck me was the NPR reporter -- Juan Forero. His name was new to me and I noticed that he's not listed as one of the NPR voices even though Inskeep introduced him as "NPR's Juan Forero." So I did a little poking around and found Forero has a less than savory history in journalism (see this report from FAIR and look over this angry, but informative website).

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the "report" was the omission of one key player in the four decades long Colombia tragedy--THE UNITED STATES! To discuss the torture and death squad paramilitaries without mentioning the kindess shown them by the US does show an abundance of chutzpah. But since NPR won't dig up these ugly tidbits I'll do it for them: take a look at the history of the paramilitaries from ZNet, the benevolent attitude of the US noticed by CNN in 2000, and the continuing help shown the paramilitaries in the "Drug War" in 2001. Finally for some of the latest human rights news on Colombia take a look at Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International's excellent report.

You Won't Believe This Joke I Heard

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone tells you of a joke they heard, and how offensive it was to them. Then they retell it to you- with great relish -reminding you all the while how shocked they were by it. I had something of this feeling about the story on ATC yesterday regarding Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic minority leader in the House of Representatives.

The story is supposed to cover the fact that many Republicans believe that villifying Pelosi is key to winning elections in November. What we get is a forty second clip of rightwing Republican Roger Wicker of Mississippi villifying Pelosi's character and record: "frankly a very left wing San Francisco liberal like Nancy Pelosi, and we ought to cite chapter and verse showing the votes she had cast on national defense, all of the times she had opposed these tax cuts for middle Americans and all the huge spending increases that we would have had votes prevailed over time."

This does convey the BS and spin that Republicans lay out there, but what about NPR's fact check or counterpoint to these accusations? NOTHING. Wicker's remarks just sit out for listeners to take in. There is no demand for specific votes on "national defense," "tax cuts for middle Americans," or "huge spending increases." Wicker was not challenged by the reporter or by a follow-up look at her record (and his!), or even by an ally of Pelosi to take issue with Wicker's remarks. It is interesting that the story ends by noting that most voters know almost nothing about Pelosi--so for these voters the "information" they get from NPR today will be nothing but distortion lifted "chapter and verse" from the Republicans' campaign notes.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Muse of Comedy

Someone at NPR has a wicked sense of humor or else Thalia, the muse of comedy, had a hand in Morning Edition today. At the beginning of the show Steve Inskeep reported on the White House's decision to drop its "stay the course" rhetoric. And then at the end of the show, Inskeep glibly reported on the mishaps of drivers who have obeyed their automatic navigation systems and done stupid things like run into toilets and piles of sand. Imagine drivers being so stupid as to listen to instructions like "turn here" or "keep driving," almost as stupid as the media reporting for years and years without question a President and his minions who keep telling us "We have a plan for victory," "We're turning a corner," or "Stay the course."

Northam Still in the Tank

In a report on the US Government's use of the term "civil war" in Iraq, Jackie Northam has on the following analysts: Ret. Army Maj. Gen William Nash, Robert Killebrew, "a retired Army colonel, and now a private defense consultant," Anthony Cordesman a military analyst who has been awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Service medal, and "retired army general" Barry McCaffrey." Granted that Cordesman and Nash have some very harsh words for the Bush handling of the war, but no one questions the basic premise that the US had the right to invade Iraq and has the right to project its power anywhere in the world it wants. I find it so frustrating that no one gets on NPR to raise these essential questions.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Open Thread - Monday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

My Endless War

This report on the "restraint" of civil liberties in a time of war really angers me. The report treats the Bush "war on terror" as if it were a war like the Civil War or World War II. Lyden talks to historians who do present a picture of the poor civil liberty conduct of tribunals in WWII--but Jeez, WWII was a declared war, was waged against a state that was invading non-belligerent states, and had a specific end (the defeat of Germany and Japan). The whole thrust of the Bush junta is to have unrestrained war-time powers in a war that will never end. And shamefully, NPR just helps them along with this ruse by giving the "war on terror" a legitimacy that it clearly lacks.

Think Tank

Here's a fascinating little list of people to bring on the air for a news report:

James Dobbins from the RAND Corporation
Bruce Hoffman, from the RAND Corporation
Ryan Henry from the Department of Defense
James Townsend from the Department of Defense
Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute and the Pentagon.

These are the "experts" that Jackie Northam trots out for a piece that is supposedly going to offer listeners out here in the "absorption field" a critique of the US counter-terrorism strategy. The story is introduced by Liane Hansen saying, "The Bush Administration has made combating terrorism one of its highest priorities..." and conlcudes by noting that our biggest problem is a lack of a success in the "propaganda battle"!

I wondered if this story broke some kind of a record for how many Pentagon hacks NPR can squeeze into a single news segment; it surely came close. It's sad that NPR can dip into these "think tanks" and pass it off as informed analysis.


Absolute Support

Sunday Weekend Edition has an awful two-part piece from Broke Bow, Nebraska. In part one Liane Hansen gives three full minutes of this eight minute piece to a pro-war mother with two soldiers on duty in Iraq. The mother says that her sons are serving to "protect our freedom" and that she supports the war in Iraq because "there are times that you have to protect what's yours." It's not so amazing that a US citizen can be so sadly misinformed as to make such statements, but it's a disgrace for a reporter to let such newspeak to stand with no follow-up questions. I was talking to someone who listened to a BBC reporter who ran into similar sentiments in Montana, but then politely asked the person to give a rationale for such thinking--which, of course, they couldn't. Why couldn't Hansen just kindly ask, "Do you ever think that actually that this administration has used the war in Iraq to curb our freedoms?" or "And just what is it that is 'ours' in Iraq?"

In the second part of the Broke Bow series Hansen describes the WWII veterans in a Broke Bow hotel cafeteria by saying, "support for the troops in Iraq among these veterans is absolute." Is that so? I wanted to ask Hansen. Are they calling for the impeachment and prosecution for those who lied to put so many soldiers in harms way? Did they demand debate and a congressional declaration of war before the invasion? Are they demanding investigation and prosecution for waste, corruption, fraud, and negligence in the "reconstruction" effort in Iraq? It's interesting to compare NPR's pro-war coverage with the remarkable open letter recently published by Pat Tillman's brother Kevin Tillman. I wonder when NPR will have him on the show?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

It's a Math Mystery

Tom Gjelten takes on the Johns Hopkins study tonight. Jacki Lyden sets the table by telling listeners, "The number of Iraqis who have died violently since the US invasion in 2003 remains a mystery." Is that so?

The piece is an interesting case of NPR taking a "sideways" approach to discrediting news that doesn't fit the official story. I say sideways, because Gjelten doesn't assert that the Bush 30,000 or the Iraq Body Count's 49,000 is accurate. In fact he quotes a National Democratic Institute guy who thinks the number is more around the 100,000 figure. Regardless of these partial concessions to reality, notice how Gjelten attacks the respected Johns Hopkins study.

After citing the numbers of dead in the report and the breakdown of dead at the hands of US and "coalition" forces Gjelten says with slow, deliberate emphasis, "This would mean US and foreign troops shooting and killing on average 87 Iraqis each and every day over a three and a half year period" and then, with no pause, a different voiceover comes in "...it doesn’t meet the, you know, the plausabiltity test." Again with no pause Gjelten's voice cuts in to say, "Jeffrey White, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, is among those doubting the Johns Hopkins figure" and then finally with no pause, we are back to White saying, "nothing we know about the war in Iraq looks like that." I will admit that it is a skillful bit of sound editing -- worthy of a DIA employee!

Later in the report Gjelten states "Some researchers have criticized the Johns Hopkins surveyors for not using a large enough sample or taking sufficient steps to insure that it was representative of the entire Iraqi population." I'd like to know exactly who these "researchers" are and what agencies they work for.

It's interesting because I did a little of my own math and found that the average of 87 Iraqis killed "each and every day" is not so hard to accept (though it is hard to stomach.) Based on the war and occupation of Iraq lasting 3.5 years I found that the US figure of about 25,000 troops wounded and killed comes out to an average of about 20 US troops killed or seriously wounded every single day. As Left I on the News has noted the typical US response to an attack has been to unleash overwhelming deadly force, a 4:1 ratio of killing seems within reason.

Perhaps what NPR finds really implausible is that our government and its military would slaughter so many people. Maybe they think our country is just too noble and peaceful to do such things. But I did another little bit of depressing math. I calculated the Vietnam War to last 10 years (3650 days) with a death toll of 2 million Vietnamese killed (a conservative estimate) and came up with the figure of 548 humans killed "each and every single day" by the Americans. My conclusion is that 87 killed a day in Iraq by the US meets the "plausibility test" in spite of what Pentagon apologist Jeffery White and NPR wants us to believe.

More "Cut and Run" Nonsense

How does NPR do it? When every thinking person seems to agree that for Iraqis, for the US in blood and money, and for overall global security, the Iraq War is a complete and unmitigated (disaster, debacle, fiasco, tragedy, nightmare, horror show) - NPR lets Retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste, former 1st Infantry Division commander in Iraq, tell Andrea Seabrook that what the situation needs is more US troops and for the US to get on a "war footing." Seabrook lets him get away with saying he doesn't support a policy of "cut and run" but wants changes to assure victory. She doesn't have to be rude by asking him to pee in a cup so they can find out what hallucinogens he's taking, she could just politely bring up the fact that Iraq is well on the way to complete fragmention and civil war, that it has been the tactics of the US military that created and swelled the ranks of the insurgency, and that the very motivations for the war have from the start been corrupt (control of oil, secure bases, and make tons of money privatizating all sectors of Iraq's economy).

It is really inexcusable to for a journalist to allow someone to call withdrawal from Iraq "Cut and Run" without a challenge. I'd have loved to hear her say, "Well general, it sounds like you are for an all out 'Slash and Burn' policy," or "Sounds to me General like you just want to pour more troops into the current "Flail and fail" mission." That would be interesting!

Might I Suggest

In reporting on the troubles in Amarah, Iraq yesterday, NPR continued its use of the phrase "anti-American cleric" to describe the fundamentalist anti-occupation leader/cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. I had to laugh. Hey NPR - guess what? - "Anti-American" is meaningless in the context of Iraq because, according to polling data, most Iraqis would fit that description: 90% wouldn't want us as neighbors (!) and 61% approve of attacks on US troops (the percentage would be much higher if the Kurds were excluded from the survey). I have an idea, NPR, how about only noting it when someone supports the occupation. The reporter could say "The uncommon pro-American" leader Mr. So-and-So spoke to us in the Green Zone today."

Open Thread - Saturday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Quiz Time!

All right students, read the following clues and then decide what country is being described:
  1. The president of this country "mouths the words, but the concepts - I fear - escape him."
  2. "It's a corporate state."
  3. In this country there is "a marriage between these corporate entities and the state."
a) The United States
b) Russia

Let's see a show of hands for those who picked the United States. Were you thinking of Bush, Halliburton, Cheney, Exxon, General Electric? Hold on, here's one more clue. When the president of this country came to power "over 30% of the population was under the poverty line; now it’s down to about 17%, 18%."

That does eliminate the US, doesn't it. The correct answer is Russia!

It was laughable on NPR's ATC to hear emminent scholar Marshall Goldman saying so many things about Russia without any sense of how close to home his comments were. There was one striking comment in which Goldman stated that in Russia, "the corporate state," corporations do what the state tells them to do. I couldn't help but think, yes, and in the US the state does what corporations tell them--pick your poison.

It really is sad how debased intellectuals in this country can be. In the beginning of the report Goldman says, "the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute which are funded actually by the US Government and whose purpose is to increase democracy and political participation all over the world." That a scholar could say something so incredibly biased, naive, and untrue is stunning.

Open Thread -- Friday

NPR related comments are welcomed.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

If Only the Whole Country Were Like the Marines

With the war in Iraq drenched in blood, lies, and failure and getting worse, I wondered what NPR's take on it all might be. I was floored by two stories on Morning Edition celebrating the warrior myth and military culture. In a piece on young people (Gen Next) Judy Woodruff pleads with a 25 year old videogame marketer, "but never before in modern American history have we more needed smart, young people like you, and some people would listen to what you're saying and say 'wait a minute, we need you helping at the Pentagon or working for an agency that's going to get us past these huge problems we face.'" The Pentagon! -- I mean the guy had just said that he thought of joining the FBI but "I became a little bit disillusioned….what’s the point of doing all that intelligence work if it's just going to be ignored or manipulated" to justify going to war. I think that's a legitimate concern.

The other story finds Wayne Goodwyn interviewing the family of a marine recently slain in Iraq. Goodman tells us that the father, though "frustrated with the war in Iraq..." is "like his son,...much more frustrated with Americans here at home." Is the frustration that Americans are doing so little to bring the culprits (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld) of this war to justice? Not a chance, it's that "the people in this country, and especially the young people in this country, have got to learn that there's a price to pay for having a country..." This report also has the marine's sister say, "there's a certain mystique about the United States Marines. It's a brotherhood like nothing I’ve ever seen." And Goodwyn finishes the story repeating the father's sentiments: "that's exactly what his son loved about the Marines – the sense of community, the shared purpose, the idea that they were men and women who did more than talk...."

I'm feeling a bit like a broken record on how NPR keeps shilling for militarism, but it's scary. Consider how simple it would be to also talk to some families of slain soldiers who's comments would be a little more pointed and a whole lot more interesting.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

News Well-Slathered

Slate describes Applebee's food as "well-slathered" and the same might be said of this sorry bit of "analysis" from NPR and the land of capitalism gone wild. I thought I was having auditory hallucinations when NPR promised an "Applebee's" look at how national campaigns are won in the United States (you'd have to have a sick mind to make this stuff up). Linda Wertheimer opens up by telling us that in the past three presidential elections "each [winning] campaign reached potential voters by using many of the same strategies and tactics used by businesses like Applebee's restaurant." Wertheimer interviews the former Republican and Democratic campaign strategists, Dowd and Sosnik, who have written a book called Applebee's America.

In the NPR report we are told such nonsense as how the important elements of the campaigns were "establishing a connection...at a gut-values level" and delivering "information in a tactical level" (Dowd). Sosnik, meanwhile, tells us that the candidate who will be successful is the one who can reach "opinion leaders" and can "arm them with information as the Bush campaign did very effectively in 2004." Linda Wertheimer chimes in with "the techniques in 2004 that worked so well for the Bush administration...many voters recognized some gut level connection with President Bush."

I just hope that this kind of disinformation ticks people off as much as it should. Even the stupidest voter knows that it is money that runs campaigns--huge sums of money. NPR might also have mentioned how this money is corrupting and undermining our political system. And this isn't even touching on the ugly truths of the Bush campaign success which was based on police-state tactics of clamping down on "information," smearing the opposition, preventing minorities from voting, and outright fraud.

Frankly, I'm steamed...and worried about how the vote may be subverted next month. I hope Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are wrong in their grim prognosis for what's left of our democracy, but either way this type of NPR fast-food news only helps those who want to keep people ignorant and steal elections.

Close to Home

On yesterday's ATC Robert Siegel had a "cheery" story about the use of Indian names and mascots for colleges and universities. McMurray University of Abeliene, Texas faced sanctions from the NCAA, lost an appeal to keep the name "Indians," and so decided to opt for no nickname at all. Siegel described McMurray as "not so lucky" compared to schools like Florida State University who won their appeals. He also smartly informs us that "the Indian spirit is alive and well on campus."

This story hits close to home. Back in the early 90s I took my sons to a women’s basketball game at our local Univeristy (UIUC) and was aghast at the halftime show put on by "Chief Illiniwek" the University's mascot. What I saw was a young barefooted white guy dressed up in mock-chief regalia and war paint who pranced, high-stepped, strutted, and gestured across the basketball court. Then he stopped for a somber "prayerful" pose as the Alma Mater was sung. It was utterly shameless and embarassing.

The "Chief Illiniwek" controversy reveals some deep and distrurbing truths that Siegel’s news-lite doesn’t even approach. He could have called American Indian Charlene Teters to talk about her experience of witnessing the "Chief’s" dance with her children, of organizing to have the "Chief" dropped, and of dealing with hateful reactions of white fans. He might have talked to the Peoria Indians of Oklahoma. He might have talked to the NCAA about why they think Indian mascots create a "hostile" environment (we’ve had evidence of this here lately).

Siegel, broadcasting from the home city of the "Redskins," could have sought out informed commentary on the issue, but instead he opted for the lighthearted and mocking tone that belittles those who find racist mascots troubling.

Open Thread

Please feel free to comment on relevant NPR issues. Thanks.

Can You Say Israel?

Amazingly NPR can't when talking about nuclear proliferation. If you listened to the sloppy piece by Mike Shuster yesterday on ATC you'd never know that Israel is one of the nuclear villains in the Middle East (not Iran!) and that the US is one of the principle violators of the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty. I've written a lot about these issues in past posts and so won't retread that tire. But this latest propaganda shuffle deserves a some attention.

The two "experts" consulted and quoted in this piece are US government tools: Mitchell Reese and Scott Sagan (notice in his bio it states, "served as a special assistant to the director of the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon. He has also served as a consultant to the office of the Secretary of Defense and at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.")
Here's a bit of what these fellows had to tell us:
  • "....seems to me that Iran is the test case."
  • "key weakness right now of the non proliferation regime is enforcing compliance with international laws and norms; North Korea has violated those, so has Iran. To date they’ve paid little if any price; it’s really up to us to make sure that they do pay a penalty."
Don't fear, Shuster doesn't rely only on his guests to point this discussion in the right (far-right) direction. In case you missed the road signs pointing to Tehran, he reminded us "the North Korean crisis has forced even greater scrutiny of Iran and how the US and other nations will deal with it. Secretary of State Rice made that point yesterday."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Inskeep Pops Off

This morning offered a strange segment with Steve Inskeep dogging on Rahm Emanuel, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. What was especially odd was to hear Inskeep going after Emanuel with a mix of left and pseudo-leftist criticism. Here's an example:
Inskeep describes "anger of democratic activists" as anger of "people who are deeply upset with the Bush administration and also deeply skeptical of the centrism that you [Emanuel] were part of....I'll even put it this way, who feel that the Democratic Party sold them out the last several years -- are far too kind to the Bush administration..."

Now this is really odd given that one rarely hears from these activists on NPR -- and moral, progressive critiques of Republican excesses are never articulated by Inskeep. I had to respect Emanuel's response, "what happened after 9/11...a lot of people bear responsibility -- including your profession and mine...."

It is odd, though, that I agreed with Inskeep's line of questioning about the pathetic role of Democrats in opposing the Bush administration, but Inskeep had revealed his ideology earlier in the interview when he asks if it is helping "when Democratic activists bloggers and so forth in your party are perceived as pushing the party toward the left—going after figures like Senator Joe Lieberman...." This is telling! As if going after Lieberman is any indication of leaning "left." Sadly, I think it shows how far, far right the "mainstream" (that Inskeep speaks for) is that Lieberman is considered as anything except a opportunistic, war-mongering rightwinger.

Lastly it was interesting to compare Inskeep's combativeness with Emanuel to his good-ole boy feel-good interview with Dick Armey yesterday. Inskeep might have wanted to do a little research on nasty Armey as he obviously did on Emanuel and the Democrats.

Open Thread...Here Goes

A reader commented yesterday " You know what your blog needs?

Some kind of open-thread comments section where people can comment on NPR stories while they listen ... "

Sounds like a good proposition. Starting here, I'll try one each day for a while and see if it works out. Feel free to post comments regarding NPR coverage.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Serving the Dark Lord

Inskeep (smug as usual) notes this morning that "the man who spoke these words" may get a seat on the security council. This is followed by an excerpt of Hugo Chavez' latest speech at the UN in which he calls Bush the Devil. Funny, that we never get to hear replays of the bits of nastiness that Bolton has voiced in the past or excerpts of Bush's "Axis of Evil" idiocy.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Bipartisan Militarism

Brooking's Institute hack Michael O'Hanlon (see previous post) returns yet again to NPR this morning. O'Hanlon has just published a new book, Hard Power (written with Defense Department insider Kurt Cambell) and is on NPR to chastise Democrats for not being being tough enough on "security" issues. O'Hanlon says, "our message is really more towards Democrats to say, 'Listen, Democrats got to get in this game because the country needs them to and for their own political good..."

He then goes on to laud Ronald Reagan, just stopping short of posthumously awarding him the Iron Cross: "Reagan is a very popular figure among the military -- and frankly when you look at the basic facts, it's hard to disagree even if you’re a Democrat as I am....he built up the armed forces, he gave people a lot more pride in their military, both within and outside the armed forces....you put all that together and it paints a pretty nice picture in people’s memories of what Reagan did for the armed forces...."

O'Hanlon concludes by advising politicians, "you're only going to be able to be given the trust of the American people...if you first convince the American voter you can protect them the old fashioned way. If you have strong, clear and convincing views on how to employ the armed forces...."

If you can bear listening to this piece, notice how there is not a peep of dissent from Liane Hansen. No challenge to the idea that what our country needs is a massive, agressive security state. No suggestion that our global military establishment may in fact be part of why we are so hated and targeted. Not one mention of the Reagan-led torture, drug-running, and slaughter in Central America. Not one little hint that perhaps the security state and military industrial complex are destroying our republic. And no mention that the "old fashioned" concept of security in the US included an extreme distrust of a standing army and the obvious dangers it poses to a free nation.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Irony Without Irony

I remember how maddening it was in the 80s to hear the smug, self-congratulatory tone most US journalists took when comparing themselves to their Soviet counterparts—even while they themselves did nothing to expose the lies, corruption, and violence of the Reagan administration. This morning Scott Simon dipped into that well of puffery by praising the slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya as if he were in the same league as her. With no sense of irony he states, "She became a journalist, not a propagandist as in the days of Isvestia and Pravda, but a hard-digging investigative journalist of the kind not well known in Russia."

What does Scott Simon know about being "a hard-digging investigative journalist?" God knows he won’t get exposed to one on "Weakened" Edition Saturday. For that matter, what hard-digging investigative journalists are “well-known” in the US? Greg Palast? Juan Gonzalez, Amy Goodman, Dar Jamail, Seymour Hersh? Not exactly household words.

Then Simon plays Politkovskaya's last broadcast in which she challenges the very notions of "terrorism" and the "war on terrorism" in reference to Chechnya. She asks, "why do I put the word 'terrorism' in quotes? Because the vast majority of these people [detainees] have been appointed to be terrorists…this practice…had begun to produce more people who want to take revenge, i.e. potential terrorists.” Simon offers no awareness of how her report could equally apply to the US policy of creating potential terrorists through its own torture and detention policies.

Don't You Just Love Her

NPR reminded us yesterday that Laura Bush is "the most admired Republican right now...far more popular than her husband," and she is "gentle and gracious and ready with praise," -- "a beloved lady." Gosh and golly...though they forgot to mention that she can be a real joker with a nasty agenda.

Friday, October 13, 2006

What Kind of Man We're Dealing With

This morning features a drooling report from Mary Louise Kelly on a shady character from the CIA who now serves torture-boy Negroponte who Kelly fawned over back on September 11th. She's doing a background "report" on Joe DeTrani and her remarks need to be read to be believed:

  • "...you get a sense of what kind of man we're dealing with from a passage on page 268 of the book Charlie Wilson’s War; it was a bestseller a few years back. So our scene is 1984 and the CIA was trying to convince China to become the major arms merchant for rebels in Afghanistan. As the book tells it, that deal was sealed thanks to the efforts of a brilliant young CIA station chief in Beijing. His colleagues called him 'Broadway Joe,' a tribute to his New York roots and big personality. 'Broadway Joe' persuaded China that selling weapons to Afghan guerillas would be the best way to stick it to the Soviets. 'Broadway Joe' was Joe DeTrani."
Then from DeTrani's friends and colleagues we hear that he is "full of life, just a terrific, pleasant person, fun to be with," that he "brings a lot to the table," and that he's "got the credentials; people will listen to him." Kelly finishes the report with a stirring note that "the North Korean regime is vulnerable; US intelligence ought to be able to penetrate it. That’s a mission for which Joe Detrani, aka "Broadway Joe" would seem to be tailor made."

Take another look at those fawning descriptions and recall that she is talking about a man who helped get the weapons for some of the most vile criminals imaginable--the very people who later leveled the embassies in Africa and the World Trade Towers in New York (would she describe that as "sticking it to the Americans"?)

War Good

(source for original image here)
Army Strong? This is the new US Army recruiting slogan making the news yesterday on ATC. Michelle Norris provides a completely uncritical piece on the army's latest ad campaign. Norris interviews Gina Cavallaro, staff writer at Army Times, who says, "they [US Army] are really using their recruiting success in the last year to sort of drum up this patriotic feeling in people" and "...at least for one soldier... got him choked up when he heard that slogan --
'There’s nothing on this green earth stronger than the US Army and that’s because there’s nothing stronger than a US army soldier.' I mean he just lost it, he said, '...and that’s so true we’re the mightiest army in the world.'
This schlock passing itself off as journalism is sad evidence of NPR's pro-militarism. The report could have been an opportunity to discuss the growth of militarism in our society. NPR might have sought the reponses of thinkers like Andrew Bacevich or Chalmers Johnson. Or they could have had a couple of historians on to talk about the attitudes of our nation's founders regarding the danger to democracy that a standing army represents. Instead they opted to jump on board the military bandwagon. All I can say is, "NPR Wrong!"

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Big Victory!

Rumsfeld is not the only one peddling fanstasies on Afghanistan--NPR is pretty good at it too (see previous post of 13 Sept. 06 ). This morning Renee Montagne reports from Afghansitan. Steve Inskeep introduces the piece with this bit of news from the land of make believe: "In the five years since an American-led coalition drove out the Taliban, a lot has improved in Afghanistan. Five times more children are in school, a third of them are girls. A paved highway connects Kabul to Afghanistan's other big cities -- Kandahar in the south and then Herat in the west. A president and a parliament have been elected and for a time the Taliban were gone...." This ignores a history of trouble in Afghanistan (war criminals in the government, negligence way back in 2004, US torture at Bagram, etc.).

Renee Montagne then glowingly descibes the "victory" of NATO forces over the Taliban in Southern Afghanistan: "...in fact last month Taliban fighters dared to take a stand against Canadian troops under NATO command and fight them in a conventional way. NATO says it killed more than 500 of those Taliban fighters. It’s generally regarded here as a big victory for NATO...." I wonder how Montagne confirmed the number of those killed and how many were civilians. It seems that a top British soldier has left Afghanistan with a little different take on things. I noticed that the Guardian, in reporting on the death toll, noted "the toll cannot be verified as the battle zone is closed to reporters and the Taliban often bury their dead within hours."

It seems NPR , like the Bush administration, isn't going to let facts or the lack of them, get in the way of telling a good story. In fact if the victories keep coming like they report them, I think I see a use for the 20 million dollar victory funds recently approved by congress!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

In Fairness to NPR

My previous post of this morning complaining about Anne Garrels' coverage of the John Hopkins report on civilian deaths in Iraq necessitates that I comment on the better coverage on this evening's ATC. Richard Harris (the fine science reporter for NPR) does an admirable job on covering the Hopkins study. He explains the methodology, reports that it was approved by by four independent reviewers, and interviews another researcher who comments on the validity of its procedures and conclusions. It is interesting that he does offer a dissenting view from Michael O'Hanlon, a pro-establishment Brookings Institute "scholar" who frequents NPR. I think that's fine; it's just too bad every report in which NPR is just rehashing the US government line doesn't have such a dissenting counterbalance.

There was another telling moment regarding the sad news of the Hopkins study. John Hendren reporting on the Pentagon's spin of the news (and Rumsfeld and Gen. Casey's dismissive response to the study) states "the poll does have credibility among pollsters; John Zogby of Zogby Research was on CNN earlier and he said 'I can’t vouch for it 100% but I can vouch for it 95%.'" To this admirable bit of reality from Hendren, Michele Norris says, "Hmmm...moving on to North Korea..." Talk about killing any possibility of follow-up.

This morning I recommened Juan Cole's post on this topic. Let me also recommend Helena Cobban's post from her Just World News blog.

Passive Attack

This morning offered an interesting contrast between coverage of a story by BBC radio and NPR. I woke up to hear Dan Damon of the BBC interviewing one of the authors of the latest study by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health--the study, published in The Lancet, concludes that between 426,369 to 793,663 violent deaths of Iraqi civilians have occured since the US invasion of Iraq.
Then about twenty minutes later I heard Anne Garrels of NPR discrediting the report by noting "that the timing and methodology are being scrutinized," that the previous Lancet Report in 2004 was "criticized as high" and that this current study has numbers that are "more than ten times Iraq Body Count."
This offered a real study. Dan Damon is one of the BBC characters that really irks me--he is hard-hitting and aggressive in his questioning with guests whose politics he is at odds with. At times he is even self-righteous and sarcastic. BUT, in this case, his highly skeptical questions about the report were directed at one of the authors of the report, who answered his questions knowledgably and carefully--frequently explaining the methodology and why the numbers differ from other estimates. It was INFORMATIVE--and listeners could draw their own conclusions. Anne Garrels, by contrast, simply provided the negative reactions of nameless critics (who clearly have a stake in keeping the numbers low).
For thoses wanting more, Juan Cole offers a far more cogent look at the report and how it will be attacked.

A Rare Glimpse Inside NPR "News"

Thanks goes to Democracy Now! which yesterday interviewed former NPR correspondent Sarah Chayes. I posted about Chayes being interviewed on NPR back in August and was left then with more questions than answers. The interview on Democracy Now! answers many of my questions. Consider the following excerpt of the interview where Chayes has just described an event in 2002 where US special forces backed a thuggish warlord's takeover of Kandahar from the governor appointed by Pres. Hamid Kharzai (also backed by the US):
  • Amy Goodman: "So why didn't this story end up on Morning Edition or All Things Considered?"
  • Sarah Chayes: "I was told that it wasn't important now, that we would have plenty of time later to talk about inter-Afghan squabbling, and that what was really interesting now was to look at, you know, what a bad fellow Mullah Omar had been. And in my own view at that time, that story ought to have been done in 1996 or 1997. We already knew by this point how terrible the Taliban were. But now, I thought what was important was to look forward, at how is this experiment in nation building going to work. And it was kind of flattering our own, you know, sensibilities to continue telling ourselves how terrible the Taliban were."
Telling, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tripping at the North Korean Border

Tonight on ATC there is a truly otherworldly report from "commentator Lauren Keane" who has lived in China for a year. Keane traveled to the border of North Korea and peers into that country through tourist binoculars. It is a truly strange story in that there is nothing of substance in the report--nothing at all. Keane apparently has no knowledge of North Korea and she fixates on a Ferris wheel that she sees and comments, "From where I'm standing, it seems fake. Is it 3-D? Like a lot of things in North Korea, it looks like it hasn’t budged in years." Funny that she says "a lot of things" though her knowledge of North Korea seems gleaned from her observations through the binoculars. As she states: "That's the thing, when you are an American on the shore of China, looking at the shore of North Korea. All you have is a couple of images seen through a pair of binoculars: a fountain with a fish out of water, and a Ferris wheel that never twirls." Yes that's all you have, so why does NPR give her a full three minutes to share her banal musings?

I have a better idea. At the University of Chicago there's a scholar of North Korea named Bruce Cumings who would be a great guest to have on the show. He's no apologist for North Korea, but he's also not a parrot for the nonsense that comes from our own "Dear Leader." He's written a very well reviewed and interesting book on North Korea, and here's his website, maybe NPR could contact him?


Susan Stamberg on Morning Edition today describes the North Korea nuclear test as "the latest foreign policy challenge for the President who’s also trying to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons technology and trying to manage a war in Iraq that remains bloody and unpopular." Excuse me? Latest challenge? Manage a war? This is just too kind. The N. Korea test is clearly another botched failure from one of the most ignorant and arrogant occupants of the White House that the US has had. And the war in Iraq is not just bloody and unpopular--it is illegal, corrupt, ill-advised, poorly planned, based on lies, destabilizing, murderous, etc.

And then NPR turns to George Edwards, who has remarkable credentials as a presidential scholar, but who laughably says that, regarding North Korea, Bush "may have a chance to improve his image as a statesman." That's rich.

Monday, October 09, 2006

History Not Welcomed

A common thread in my posts on this blog is how stories are frequently stripped of historical context and references -- especially if such history doesn't fit with current US government foreign policy. Coverage of North Korea nearly always fits this profile. Today marks an omnious turning point in dangers of nuclear proliferation--North Korea's likely test of a nuclear weapon. NPR had several pieces on this story today: the response of regional countries, the UN reaction, and an interview with the US Ambassador and head of the delegation on six-party talks on North Korea.
What emerges is half a story, all focusing on the wrongness of North Korea's actions--fair enough for half a story. The half that never even comes up is the Korean War history that helps explain and justify the North's paranoia, the reckless disdain for diplomacy of the Bush administration since coming to office, and the obvious double-standards and hypocrisy of a US policy that shielded Israel's nuclear weapons program, accepted the India/Pakistan programs, and sought to develop new nuclear weapons such as "bunker busters."

Washing Uncle Sam's Hands

(*Source of the image)
Gore Vidal famously calls the USA the "United States of Amnesia." Today's piece on Africa's troubles is exactly the kind of reporting that allows US citizens to coast along with huge gaps in their historical knowledge and--more significantly--their recognition of what states should be held accountable. I commented on this lack of coverage in a previous post on Oto Benga of the Congo. Today's NPR report is more ambitious and therefore even more frustrating. Jason Beaubien touches on the horrors of war in the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Somilia, and the Sudan but there is never discussion of the US flood of weaponry and military assistance to the Congo or the wider region. That is a shame because it this is an pattern of US foreign policy against which an informed/mobilized public could act to demand change. It also might help people understand why real debt relief and non-military assistance is a moral obligation and not just optional charity.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Throw Out the Vote

Yesterday on ATC, Mara Liasson ran a story that presents an unfounded assertion--if not an outright lie--as if it were fact. She stated that in 2004 the Republicans had "a highly centralized and very effective program to identify and turnout voters; in 2004 it helped them win even in the face of strong national antiRepublican sentiment." This might fly if not for Greg Palast and the BBC. You see, Greg Palast doesn't just assert that the Republican's cheated to win in 2004, he provides loads of evidence--purge lists, emails, cage lists etc. If you like you can do the math yourself: First note the US Census Burea's Official number of actual voters in 2004 (125,736,000), then subtract the House Clerk's official vote tally from 2004 (122,349,480) and what do you get--3,386,520! That's right, over THREE MILLION THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND votes disappeared--"poof." I bet you'll never hear those numbers investigated on NPR. And if you think these magical disappearing votes affect Republicans and Democrats equally guess again--the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University has statistics that show otherwise.

So what NPR and Liasson should have emphasized was not that the GOP has a great get-out-the-vote strategy, but that they have an even better Throw-Out-the-Vote strategy--one that worked extremely well in 2000, 2004, and will probably prevail again in a) 2006, b) 2008, c) 2010, or d) all of the above.

Friday, October 06, 2006

RNC Approved

It's been especially bad of late in Iraq. The war has been horrific for the Iraqis and terrible for the US troops wounded and killed there. But that doesn't stop NPR from spotlighting the one US soldier who got "lucky" suriviving a sniper's bullet. Seriously, I'm glad anytime ANY human being is not killed in a war, but given how desperate the Republicans are to divert attention away from the Iraq disaster, it's seems pretty crass to focus on one soldier who escaped serious injury or death when so many others have suffered so much due to the wreckless, stupid, illegal actions of our leaders in Washington. The NPR story informs us that the soldier "will mount his damaged SAPI plate on a wooden plaque with his name the date he was shot...and perhaps a line from a rock song--'I get knocked down but I get up again...'" The report then ends with a hard-rocking excerpt of the song the line comes from--"Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba (a good band which has opposed the Iraq War from the get-go [1991!]). In this NPR story, however, it comes off sounding like a creepy, rightwing gung-ho for war anthem--which is really too bad...unless you are a creepy, rightwing gung-ho for war Republican.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A New Peace Push

Good God, I must have just imagined that Israel has been carving up the occupied territories, savaging the civilian population of Gaza, and degrading Palestinians for decades-- while doing it all with the political coverage and military/economic support of the United States. Linda Gradstein helped clear up my mistaken views. Here's what I learned on NPR today about Sec. of State Rice's trip to Israel.

From Gradstein:
  • "...it hardly seems the right time for a new peace push…but Secretary Rice said that’s exactly why she came."
  • "...her presence was a way of showing Israelis and Palestinians that the US is ready and willing to help both sides if they decide they want to renew negociations."
From Israeli "analyst" Gerald Steinberg:
  • "...the United States doesn't like the idea of releasing terrorists to obtain freedom of kidnapped, or of hostages..." (The "terrorists" he's referring to are thousands of Palestinian prisoners being held illegally in Israeli jails.)
And finally from Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mark Regev:
  • "...we [Israel] have no interest whatsoever of living next to a failed society, a failed state; on the contrary—we'd like to see the Palestinians enjoy economic prosperity and political stability."
Yes, and Dick Cheney is a kindly old man with a heart of gold, George Bush is an honest fellow who has risen to power through his own merits and hard work, and Ariel Sharon was a "man of peace"....

Comic Relief

I've got to thank NPR for the laugher of the California congressman -- Rep. Dolittle--in trouble for ties to the convicted Republican Abramoff. His challenger is Democrat Charlie Brown! How perfect!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

With Yoo and Inskeep Down the Rabbit Hole

Listening to Steve Inskeep interview former Bush lawyer John Yoo (who issued an infamous torture memo in 2002) was about as creepy and unsettling an interview as I've ever heard on NPR. The interview is focused on the stripping of habeus corpus rights from detainees in the "war on terror" and Inskeep does ask some straightforward questions and Yoo answers with a bland totalitarian style. (e.g. Inskeep: "Can they [the government] hold you the entire time" that you are challenging your detention? Yoo: " ...they would hold you during the course of your challenge....you can be held until hostilities are over.")

What was disturbing was how often Inskeep allowed Yoo to make contradictory assertions without challenging him at all. At the beginning of the interview Inskeep asked about US citizens seized as "enemy combatants" and Yoo responded, "If you’re a citizen I think you can go right to Federal Court you have a right to seek habeus review." The obvious question here was "What about Padilla?" But there is no follow up.

Later Inskeep and Yoo have discussed and agreed on the extra-judicial nature of the procedure for the "combatant status review tribunal": it is set up by the defense department, there is no lawyer or independent advocate, and no viewing classified "evidence." Then a few moments later, after Inskeep has brought up the likelihood that innocents will be detained, Yoo states, "there’s always the chance that there will be people who are detained who are not enemy combatants; the same is true of our criminal justice system...that's why we have all these processes, that's why we have all these appeals' levels is to try to correct any mistakes...and to prevent errors." From Inskeep, nothing.

Toward the end of the interview Yoo, commenting on Congress' stripping away habeus corpus rights says, "it would be a lot more expensive, I think what we have here is something very close to the civilian system." Close to the civilian system? What? Inskeep only challenges him on the stinginess of his comment about it being "more expensive."

The last element of Yoo's arguments --which all the Bushists rely on --is that all their means are justified by our being "at war." Yoo states, "this is part of the way the rules of war have worked for a long time...the point of the war is to fight and defeat the enemy...reflects the demands and nature of warfare." This is never challenged by NPR. What war? Where is the enemy? What is the battlefield? When will it end? What are the goals? Who Constitutionally declared it? If NPR keeps buying into the "war on terror" paradigm, then they keep giving these militarists cover. And even within the twisted vision of the "war on terror" NPR never points out how these "war on terror" advocates try to have it both ways: it's a war which requires wartime measures, etc., but the enemy is not really a war-adversary so we can ignore the Geneva Conventions and trample all rules of war even though it's a real war. I get dizzy just trying to find which way is up as I keep falling and falling and falling....

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Lick the Boots

What's with NPR lately? Yesterday Melissa Block does a wimpy interview with Fmr. Attorney General Ashcroft on the release of his self-serving book Never Again. Block lets Ashcroft get away with saying Bush is so underappreciated for his overarching committment to the civil liberties and Constitutional protections. She also has no reaction to his statement that his greatest regret not "selling" the Patriot Act more effectively. She never challenges him on kidnapping, renditions, torture--and when she meekly brings up the illegal surveillance program she doesn't even mention FISA courts and how explicit the law was on the need to seek court approval for the spying.

Then today John Hendren (the Pentagon guy at NPR) offers a puff-ball look at Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld who should be in the docket (with Tenet) for crimes according to HRW. Instead what we get is this:

"there is the confidently dismissive Rumsfeld"
"there is the humble Rumsfeld"
"there is the beleagured Rumsfeld swatting away the pesky doubters"

Then we get to hear about Rumsfeld from Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute who says, "if people want him gone they ought to stop criticizing him." The Lexington Institute is one where one featured articles describes Iran as having a "jihadist government" and another article tries to argue that the real secret about Bush is that he is "liberal."

What we dont' hear is what a criminal Rummy is. Instead it's all just accusations and "pesky doubters." Yuck...

Embedded Junk News

Sunday and Monday ATC feature packaged nonsense from Tom Bowman, who was embedded with Marines for a week in al Anbar province in Iraq. The embed pieces do help one sympathize with the soldiers trapped in the Iraq mess, and trying to survive a horrible situation--but when it comes to useful information about who is responsible for the disaster of Iraq, these embed reports are nothing but misleading propaganda pieces.

Here is what the BBC had to say on September 22, 2006 about the nightmare of al Anbar and how poorly it is going for the Americans (I'm quoting it at length because it is like nothing one encounters on NPR or in the rest of the MSM in the US):

"The US Department of Defense has now provided another measure of the problem it faces. Its latest opinion poll carried out in Iraq indicates that, among the five million Sunni Muslims there, about 75% now support the armed insurgency against the coalition.

This compares with 14% in the first opinion poll the Defense Department carried out back in 2003. It is a catastrophic loss of support, and there is no sign whatever that it can be effectively reversed.

The rise in hostility to the US forces is clearly linked to the onslaught against the town of Falluja in 2004.

This, we are told, was ordered directly by the White House and the Department of Defense after the bodies of four American defence contractors were hung from a bridge in April 2004.

The ferocity of the attack by the US marines persuaded large numbers of Iraqi Sunnis that the Americans were their enemies.

The situation in the country as a whole has never seriously improved since then, and Falluja itself has still not been entirely subdued."

It is sad that it is almost impossible to imagine such a report ever coming out of NPR. In the Bowman report there is nothing of history or accountability, instead we get such John Wayne/Rambo silliness as this: US Colonel "Detru [sp?] is a lean working class guy from Philly. He has a shaved head, eyebrows that angle into a scowl, and a needling wit. He offers Dalup [Iraqi officer] a lesson from the mean streets of New York City: 'Mayor Guliani had police on every corner, and that was proactive policing.' Bowman's report ends with this comment which shifts the blame to the Iraqis: "they [the Marines] want an Iraqi solution to an Iraqi problem."

For a healthy contrast in coverage take a look at this from Knight Ridder, this from Inter Press Service, or read Juan Cole's substantive Informed Comment.