Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Pardon - A Kid's Perspective

On September 8, 1974, I was 11 years old and was just beginning the 7th grade. My father was an ardent Nixon supporter and defender of the Vietnam War, and my mother one of Nixon's "silent majority" supporters. I was old enough to know that the past summer's Watergate hearings were historically very important, and that I should be watching them - but I found the narrative and details confusing and kind of boring (after all it was summer and I was 11). I was basically a conservative kid, growing up in a conservative Catholic household in the South. At the time I looked with awe upon all US presidents, thought Kissinger was a genius, and figured that our country had to be doing the right thing in Vietnam--in other words to say I was no Nixon critic is an understatement.

But, I do distinctly remember being stunned when the new President gave a full and complete pardon to Nixon on that fateful September day. I had been raised under the the naive American ideal that no one (not even the President) was above the law - and yet here was a man who was clearly being put, not only above the law, but out of the reach of the law. As time went on, it would only goad me even more that the pardon allowed Nixon to live off of the taxpayers on a generous pension that far exceeded the salaries my working parents ever attained, and allowed him to worm his way back into the public sphere as an "elder statesman" instead of the enemy of the Constitution that he clearly was. I'd say he made out pretty well with the help of his dear friend, Gerald Ford.

So now, more than 30 years later, I have to hear the Gerald Ford love-fest on NPR day after day. How many times have I heard them replay Ford's hypocritical statement, "My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men." I've yet to hear one NPR reporter comment on the sad irony of that phrase "laws and not of men" - when Ford in fact turned that on its head just a month into his presidency by protecting the man from facing accountability of the laws.

Personally, I could care less about "hating Nixon" or the desire for revenge, but what irks me about NPR's slavish coverage of the legacy of Ford's pardon is its complete lack of consideration of how it has encouraged further presidential attacks on the Constitution--Reagan's shadowy shredding of checks and balances to fund his drug-running thugs known as the Contras, and of course George W. Bush's more overt assaults on basic Constitutional rules such as habeus corpus and unreasonable search and seizure protections. In my opinion Ford's pardon set a precedent of impunity that has emboldened Constitutional outlaws who gravitate to the White House, offering them the knowledge that they will never be held account for their high crimes and misdemeanors.

Oddly enough, one of the best articles I've found on the Ford pardon is in Slate which co-produces Day to Day with NPR. So maybe NPR could bring on the author of the article, Timothy Noah, for a little corrective angle on the infamous Ford Pardon. But I doubt they will.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Bells

If you've never read it, check out Poe's poem "The Bells." Before you subject yourself to Linda Wertheimer's banal bell tribute to Gerald Ford on today's Saturday Morning Edition, consider these lines from Poe's lovely work:

Hear the tolling of the bells,
Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!

Or better still listen to Phil Ochs fine rendition of the poem (it's free).

Now gear yourself up for the Wertheimer's minutiea of how the bells will ring at the National Cathedral for Gerald Ford's funeral. You'll learn how the biggest bell will ring slowly 38 times for the 38th President, how there will be a muffled bell ringing where the bells will have their clappers wrapped in leather "to soften the strike and signal that this is a somber and important occasion." The details and the weepy emotionalism are excruciating. Linda tells us that on Tuesday she'll listen to the funeral on the radio ("maybe sneak a peak at TV"!) - but she'll "also step out on [her] back porch and listen to the bells mourning his death and marking his life."

I'd like to recommend that she do a little compassion exercise while she's worshiping deceased Dear Leader. She could imagine that the great, big bell ringing just once a minute for each of the 250,000 East Timorese that Gerald Ford helped to wipe off the face of the earth. That minimal tribute would take 4167 hours or 174 days. I guess that would be asking a lot of any sane person, so how about just one peal each second. That would only take about 70 hours, or not quite three days. Or she could - like NPR - just figure that those people's lives not only don't merit a ringing of bells, but aren't even worth mentioning.

Nukes and Newborns

Senior NPR analyst Dan Schorr was on a roll today. Summing up the past year he offers, "I think one can say about the year 2006, it was the year when the era of non-proliferation ended. All these years the United States, in company with others, has been trying very hard to hold the line, no more, no more…that era is over." Dan might want to get on the phone and try to talk to Mordechai Vanunu, he might have a slightly different idea of when non-proliferation ended. (But to do that would break the NPR taboo of ever holding Israel to account for its rogue-state behavior. Or perhaps Schorr considers the US plans for mini-nukes to be part of "holding the line."

From this nonsense Schorr jumps on the "Birth Pangs" wagon of Middle East analysis. Here's his razor sharp insights regarding the spread of Islamist movements: "We have this kind of revolution of the Islamists which are trying to introduce Koran all over the world and everywhere and to some extent they are at least successful in killing infant democracy..." Whoaa Dan! Killing infant democracy? Oh yea, like the little baby in Lebanon that the US and Israel tried to nurse with a million cluster bomblets this past summer!

Shoveling Shuster

This morning's piece on the "history" of Saddam Hussein presented by Mike Shuster is a dishonest charade of journalism - but as is often the case on NPR - not without a few choice bits of unintended irony (For instance, Shuster might as well be describing US foreign policy instead of Saddam Hussein's life when he says it "was permeated by violence – in wars, in coups successful and unsuccessful, in assassination, treachery and terrorism.")

NPR's audacity in broadcasting this misinformation is something to behold. Shuster mentions Hussein's attempt to assassinate Iraqi leader Qasim in 1959, but doesn't mention the CIA's active role in the affair. He talks about Hussein not being a "household" word until Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, but he doesn't mention is that Hussein was a much-favored household word in Reagan-Bush administrations that were very supportive of the dictator (and his lethal chemistry) throughout the 1980s. Shuster also fails to mention US ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie's green light given to Hussein for his "blitzkrieg" invasion of Kuwait. Shuster describes the inhuman post-Gulf War UN sanctions with their death toll of half a million Iraqi children (which even Madeline Albright endorsed and did not dispute) as nothing but "an international propaganda struggle." Shuster even has the gall to try and justify the Bush-Cheney campaign of lies leading to the US invasion of Iraq by blaming it on Hussein's intransigence.

For a remarkable contrast let me highly recommend Juan Cole's post today on Informed Comment that lays out a readable, documented, and cogent history of the US-Hussein dictatorship and the amazing slide show by Eric Blumrich at (this link was also highlighted by Juan Cole).

Friday, December 29, 2006

Bedtime Stories

NPR joins in the cover-up of the US (and British) role in the creation and support of now-executed dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. Under the premise of debating whether networks should air the videotaped execution of Hussein, ATC brings on David Folkenflik who narrates the following fairy tale: "Saddam Hussein is an unusually familiar dictator for American viewers. The US has led two wars against him and he’s been interviewed by CBS and CNN several times over the years. When US forces took Baghdad, they created a powerful symbol for television viewers by toppling his statue…and then US troops found his spider hole hideout…after Saddam’s capture his dental exam was videotaped and shown on American networks. His trial was televised, including his repeated outbursts, and now his death is about to be chronicled."

"Unusually familiar dictator"--I'll say! "Powerful symbol for television" (i.e. staged propaganda). "Dental exam was videotaped" (Geneva Convention violation). "His trial was televised" (kangaroo court). Goodnight kids, sleep tight.

If you look for any substantive coverage from NPR news about US support for Hussein's dictatorship, you will find nothing. If you search all of NPR you will find one puny report on Day to Day with all the information provided by Mike Shuster.

Mojo Economics

This morning NPR cheers about how great Wall Street is. First Jim Zarroli tells us "If nothing else 2006 will be remembered as the year when the stock market regained its mojo, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average finally broke out of its post 9/11 stupor and began setting records again. On Wall Street these days there is optimism to spare."

Then Renee Montagne follows with a piece to remind us that "the impact of that stock market mojo that Jim just mentioned is champagne corks popping well ahead of New Year’s Eve." Montagne then brings on yet another right-wing analyst, James Glassman of the far right American Enterprise Institute (an NPR favorite), the National Review, and the rightist-freee market web site to talk about the bloated bonuses of investment company CEO's. Glassman states, "It would be nice if perhaps the people wouldn’t take so much money and distribute it back to the shareholders or more back to the employees, but 'Hey this is Wall Street.'"

So for those of you who with jobs who worry about health insurance premiums eating up any salary increases you might have, for those of you with no health insurance, for those of you with jobs that don't pay a decent wage, for those of you with no jobs, and for those of you concerned about the squandering of our national wealth on war--calm down, and remember "Hey, this is Wall Street!"

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gradstein Plugs the "Right" Policy

Far right, or extreme right might be a more apt description for the US-Israeli policy of stoking civil war in Palestine, a policy that Linda Gradstein euphemistically describes as an Israeli government decision "to strengthen Abbas as he moves to challenge the ruling Hamas movement." It is frightening to hear how blandly Gradstein notes that Israel is funneling weapons (2000 AK-47s and 2,000,000 rounds of ammunition) to Fatah, and then has the gall to conclude that the talks between Olmert and Abbas that produced this lethal Christmas present "is just part of a flurry of diplomatic activity that raised hopes for renewal of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks." Raised whose hopes? The hopes of the compromised and antidemocratic Abbas? Where is any evidence of Palestinian hopes?

This sadly truncated reporting is nothing new and not surprising from the ethically compromised Gradstein. It also fits with NPR's pattern of focusing on extremism of Palestinians (such as Hamas' anti-Semitic charter), while ignoring the brutality of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory and the extremism of Israeli leaders (such as Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman) and parties (e.g. Kadima's platform declaring that "the Jewish people have a national and historic right to the Land of Israel in its entirety " or Likud's which states, "The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river" i.e. the West Bank!)

From NPR's coverage, listeners get a lopsided impression that Israel is the legitimate, moderate, restrained, and ready to compromise "partner for peace" that is faced with intransigence and extremism from the Palestinian side. If NPR's coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict were more fair and thorough listeners would be shocked at how provocative and one-sided the US position is in the conflict and how the continual claim by the US and Israel that you can't negotiate with extremists is clearly hypocritical and false--of course you can. It is through negotiations, compromise, verification mechanisms, third party mediation, and concrete actions that extremists (on all sides) will modify their positions.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Compare and Contrast

NPR is rightly giving a lot of coverage to the continuing horror of genocide and warfare in Darfur. Now imagine if the slaughter in Darfur led by the Sudanese government had been given the go-ahead by a sitting US President, and imagine that the US was continuing to supply the Sudanese and the Janjaweed with the weapons they were using. You'd hope that when that President died, NPR would give significant coverage of such vile behavior.

Today offers a comparable situation. By any comparison, the Indonesian genocide against East Timor was as grievous as the situation in Darfur. At the time, President Gerald Ford was an active participant in launching the genocidal invasion of East Timor by Indonesia in 1975 and his administration continued to arm and support the Indonesians. In addition to that disgrace, Ford contributed to the horrors in Chile, Argentina, and Angola. That is the history, but on NPR's eulogies for President Ford you won't hear one word about it. Here's what was aired this morning:
  • "...he successfully led the country through a difficult period." (Renee Montagne)
  • "...a man whose calm and straightforward demeanor helped steer the nation through some turbulent times." (Pam Fessler)
  • "Every American young and old owes [Ford] a heartfelt thanks." (from the 2000 Republican Convention)
  • "Did he in fact help heal the nation?" (Renee Montagne) and John Greene answers "There’s no question that the country believed he helped heal it."
NPR neglected to mention the Ford - East Timor connection last month, and today continues this whitewashed history. Listeners do have other options, especially Democracy Now! which had much fuller coverage this morning of the Ford legacy.

Open Thread - Wednesday

NPR related comments welcomed.

The Year of the Thwarted

Break out the champagne! Mary Louise Kelly declares that "You could call 2006 the year of the thwarted attack." She headlines this Bush commercial with the alleged Heathrow Plot of August 2006 and wraps it up by noting, "Here in the US security officials were also busy trumpeting foiled attacks. In June the FBI announced the arrest in Miami of seven homegrown terrorists..."

We then are subjected to three "experts" on terrorism:
About the only interesting fellow among these three is Mueller, who argues that the terror threat is overblown. Notable is that none of the guests talks about the crass and rather Orwellian use of threat alerts and fear-mongering by the US government to justify attacks on civil liberties (eg. the dictatorial Military Commissions Act) and continued funding of its bloated war industry. There is also no attention given to the likelihood that US-Bush policy has created a new generation of sophisticated and battle-trained terrorists who will be a around for many years to come. And finally, given that the report opened with Kelly "trumpeting" the thwarted Heathrow and Miami attacks, it is significant that the two plots are not held up to any scrutiny, even though the Heathrow allegations were problematic in many ways and the Miami plot was a farcical construct of the FBI and Gonzales.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

But Steve, the Reality Is

Morning Edition does a righteous thing today, interviewing one of the "kooks" (see previous post) for peace, Rev. James Lawson. There was an illuminating exchange between Rev. Lawson and Steve Inskeep. Inskeep posed the following question to Lawson: "Why do you think the tactics of nonviolent protest have seemingly been less effective in recent years—you could go through a list of people who have gone to various institutions that they don’t like and gotten arrested at the gates, you could mention soldiers who have declined to return to the war in Iraq and have turned themselves in for arrest, you could go on and on, and yet…?"

At this point Lawson interrupts to state the truth of the matter, "But Steve, the reality is, that public education, academia, and the media [my emphasis added] have kept people from receiving the information about nonviolent struggle in the world..."

Lawson nails it on the head, day in and day out NPR overwhelms its listeners with pro-violence, pro-military thinkers and apologists, while folks like Medea Benjamin, Cindy Sheehan, Kyle Snyder, and Camilo Mejia never get fair airtime (even though Inskeep has reveled that he is aware of their existence).


On Christmas day ATC, Robert Siegel opens a humorous Christmas piece as follows:

"First, the downside: we’re looking at the end of a three day holiday weekend - millions of us go back to work tomorrow; empty boxes and ugly, undressed trees start turning up curbside waiting for disposal, talk of goodwill and peace on earth will soon start to sound like the rantings of kooks and idealists once again."

Such a sentiment explains a lot about the attitudes toward peace activists at NPR news. There is no irony or hyperbole intended in Siegel's remark - just a hard, mature look at reality. NPR overwhelmingly turns to pro-military think-tank dwellers, current or former government officials, and current or former military members to fill out its reports on issues of war and peace - but leaders of the peace, fair trade, pro-union, human-rights, or other progressive movements are never given equal representation (and rarely given any time for that matter).

Considering the current state of the world brought to us by NPR-favored realists, pragmatists, pundits, and leaders - I'm proud to be one of the kooks and idealists that Siegel is so contemptuous of. And frankly, a look back at the past proves that we have been proven right!

(the graphic of the real "kooks" shows them in action in Miami in 2002 and comes from this site.)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Holidays from Pottersville!

Totally Wild - The Other Twins

This morning features fun and merriment with NPR's White House twins, Don Gonyea and David Greene, presided over by Andrea Seabrook as the breathless (you can literally hear her gasping in astonishment) host.

Seabrook opens the party with: "TWO...THOUSAND...AND...SIX – when this year began the White House was in an optimistic mood. Millions of Iraqis had just voted...there was hope that would lead to other progress in the war, maybe even bringing large numbers of American troops home this year..."

Well yes, if you were a gullible, uninformed knucklehead you believed this "optimistic" outlook. But those of us in the reality-based community (Cursor, Common Dreams, Informed Comment, etc.) knew there were no corners being turned, only an endless downward spiral.

Seabrook continues, "The White House also saw the beginning of 2006 as a chance for a fresh start after all the criticism following the federal response to hurricane Katrina the previous fall...." Ah yes, "all the criticism," not to be confused with the easily documented facts of criminal negligence and incompetence of Bush and Co. regarding Katrina.

The tragicomic part of the sequence comes when Seabrook asks Donnie and Davie about their standout moments from the past year. David Greene talks about his attendance on the Bush "stealth trip" to Iraq. He says he was "literally being kidnapped to Iraq on very short notice" and "it was something out of a spy movie." Seabrook keeps gasping and can be hear saying "Oh wow!" When he is done she exclaims, "That is totally wild! Ok Don, can you top that?" Don then recounts the crazy thrills of visiting Graceland with Bush and the Japanese Prime Minister and says "my favorite thing about that day...was how uncomfortable President Bush looked."

There was something horridly unseemly about all this jocularity regarding our miserable little failure of a President who is prone to strutting, lying and warnography. Nothing about his murderous disaster of Iraq or his many other failures throughout the year. Just amazement at being able to serve the naked emperor or as Seabrook says at the end, "That’s the thing about you guys, I mean you cover the executive branch, but you also cover THE GUY, I mean the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!"

Saturday, December 23, 2006

More Troops

"Gentlemen, would a larger military necessarily aid in fighting terrorism?" So begins Scott Simon as he talks to two militarists to educate us about increasing the size of the US Army and Marine Corps. Now a person of intelligence and curiosity might ask a few different questions:
  • Gentlemen, is the US foreign policy of global military and economic expansion one of the reasons for terrorism?
  • Gentlemen, isn't he history of US counter-insurgency actually a policy of state terror against impoverished civilians?
  • Gentlemen, couldn't one argue that the US military industrial complex has no interest in ending terrorism, and in fact seeks to provoke extremists by its violent, arrogant posture in the Middle East?
  • Gentlemen, isn't the idea of trying to end terrorism with military operations really a fraud and a a scam that only creates more terrorism, enhances antidemocratic forces in the US government, and creates billions in profits for war profiteers?
You won't hear such questions on NPR. As always, to explore questions of militarism, NPR turns to pro-military, establishment apologists like today's guests, General Scales and Bruce Hoffman.

Hoffman says, "Well certainly more troops would be enormously helpful…the key in fighting this type of warfare whether its counterterrorism or counterinsurgency."

And what different angle does General Scales offer? He states, "That’s true, but the importance of having a robust ability to put ground troops into affected regions is to prevent that [insurgency] from happening…"

Finally in case you, the skeptical listener didn't quite get the point, Scott Simon sums it up: " need an expansion of the Army and Marine Corps to maintain whatever has been gained…" To which Hoffman chimes in, "That’s it exactly."


Open Thread - Weekend

NPR related comments welcomed.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Open Thread - Friday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dead on Arrival

Imagine that a small group of extremists infiltrated the US government and guided it into a war of aggression based on false intelligence manufactured by this group. Imagine that the war turned out to be a complete fiasco creating a ruined country and a vast training ground for terrorists, killing over half a million people, and costing nearly half a trillion dollars. Now imagine that NPR uncovers the fact that this same group of extremists was being consulted by the President for advice on how to continue the war even though a majority of voters had just rejected the war in a national election--that would be quite a scoop!

That's exactly the story that NPR broadcast this morning, but not as a scandal uncovered. Instead Guy Raz presents the new war plans of the far right American Enterprise Institute as something rational and legitimate; he tells us that we, as Americans, "have to give it one more try." This is the same AEI at the heart of the entire Iraq-Middle East War Project referred to above.

Raz gives ample airtime to Frederick Kagan and Eliot Cohen of the AEI as if they and the AEI had nothing to do with the disaster unfolding in Iraq. In their rejection of the Iraq Study Group recommendations, he tells us that it was "dead on arrival in Kagan’s view." This is followed by Eliot Cohen stating, "the truth of the matter is I think the study group is pretty much dead on arrival." I hate to break it to Raz, but what is dead on arrival is his integrity as a reporter.

Open Thread - Thursday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Iran, Syria, and "Salvador" Sepp

This morning Renee Montagne talks to Kalev Sepp about the need to secure Iraq's borders. Here's Renee launching the piece with her completely unsubstantiated accusations against Iran and Syria: "There are six countries surrounding Iraq – Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Iran – the most problematic of these borders are with Syria and Iran; black market oil is being smuggled into those countries, weapons and foreign fighters are flowing out to Iraq. That’s according to Kalev Sepp of the Naval Post Graduate School..."

Beyond the "according to Kalev Sepp" attribution, Montagne doesn't offer a shred of evidence for her claims. I've yet to find any independent sources that can confirm strong Syrian support for foreign fighters crossing its border into Iraq (any more than Saudi Arabia). And the idea that Iran is arming and supporting the Sunni insurgency is ridiculous. Iran's interests are with its SCIRI allies in Iran. Sepp states that Iran in particular "helps move terrorists" and "the most lethal forms of the improvised explosive devices" across its border. As if the insurgents needed more lethal weapons from Iran when they were able to loot and cache them after the invasion.

Who is this Kalev Sepp and should we trust him? Here's what he has to say about the horrors of murder, rape and torture that the US inflicted on El Salvador in the 1980s, "During the 12-year-long Salvadoran Civil War, 25 SF[Special Forces] field advisers and 30 staff advisers were the core of the effort that trained the 50,000-man Salvadoran Army that battled insurgents to a draw and forced them to accept a negotiated end to the war." This nightmare of unspeakable US-sponsored atrocities against a civilian population he calls "America's success." And Sepp should know, he was one of the US Special Forces advisors helping the Salvadoran killing machine of which he's so proud.

Open Thread - Wednesday

NPR related comments welcomed.

A Journalist?

Following Jackie Northam's surge report (see previous post), Steve Inskeep gives us a clue as to what is considered journalism at NPR. Mentioning the Iraq Study Group's ideas about reorganizing the Iraqi police forces, Inskeep states, "the national police would move from the Interior Ministry, which is dominated by Shiite Muslims, to the Defense ministry, which is led by a Sunni. To understand what that would mean we called Bing West. He’s a former Assistant Secretary of Defense who now visits Iraq as a journalist..."

If you think Bing West is a journalist, visit his web site. The man is a tireless promoter and salesman of the US Marine Corps - his work is proudly one-sided in its praise of all aspects of the Marine Corps and its missions of projecting US imperial power. That is fine as far as it goes, but it is not journalism. It's propaganda - colorful and intelligently written - but propaganda nonetheless.

Consider this bit of blather from the interview with Inskeep. West is doing his part for the current MSM project of showing how in spite of all the good and noble efforts of the US, the Iraqis are primarily to blame for the mess in Iraq (and like NPR and most of the MSM he seems to be softening up the public for some sort of US assault on Muqtada al-Sadr and his forces):
  • "I mean we’re doing all the jaw-boning we possibly can, the issue is when is Maliki going to start doing the things that he knows as the prime minister he has to do – which is reaching out to the Sunnis on one hand and stop sheltering that renegade punk Sadr and his Shiite militia."
For those with time on their hands here is a link to a far more interesting exchange between Bing West and Robert Fisk from a little over a year ago (at the link you can listen to the talk or read the transcript).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Best Shot Possible

As Harry Shearer has pointed out, NPR owes us all an apology for its deadly lack of journalism leading up to the current horrors in Iraq. But instead of apologizing, NPR seems determined to push on with more lousy reporting on Iraq. Consider what Jackie Northam served up this morning.

Reflecting the utter contempt that NPR shows for the November 7th voters' rejection of the continuing occupation of Iraq, Renee Montagne says, "Here’s a look at one way Americans hope to change the situation in Iraq: boosting the number of US military advisors who train the Iraqi army…Jackie Northam examines the promises and challenges of this option." Then Jackie Northam comes on with, "Most generals, politicians, and defense analysts talk of increased training for Iraqi forces as the highest priority and the best shot possible for US success in Iraq."

I was taken aback by the way Montagne describes it as "Americans hope" when she means a tiny minority of political and military leaders--and "promises and challenges." What promises? And then Northam has the gall to describe the Bush-Pentagon plan as "the best shot possible for US success." I hate to break it to Northam, but outside of the closed world of establishment think tanks she lives in the reality is that the US project in Iraq is already a failure, a disaster, a criminally miserable fiasco. There is no "success" for the US to pull from Iraq, and the sooner NPR comes to grips with this the sooner they will quit trying to sell this load of bunk to their listeners. NPR's reporting sounds more and more like the Bush foolery of "turning a corner" in Iraq.

It's no big surprise that Northam is so out of touch with the failure of the Iraq project, almost every report she files is filled with establishment-centrist or right-wing think tank "fellows" or loyal ex-military, ex-government officials. Consider this morning's guests:
  • Ret. Army Major General William Nash, senior fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations, who according to Northam “says adding to the number of military advisors is a very reasonable approach…”
  • Andrew Krepinevich of the CSBA says, “the US advisors can help the Iraqis improve their military skills..."
  • Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Open Thread - Tuesday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Jokers Wild

Guy Raz offers us this about Rumsfeld's replacement, Robert Gates. According to Raz, "He’s a pretty well known figure here in Washington…he’s basically been described by colleagues I’ve spoken to as a technocrat, highly competent manager, somebody who’s not necessarily ideological…" Raz needs to learn to interview some people besides Washington insiders because there are those who think that Gates is less than "highly competent" and is ideological.

Then in response to Renee Montagne, who says, “when it comes to Iraq…the talk is about a possible surge in troops," Raz responds, "…you know you can think of it as sort of doubling down your bet or sort of one last push to see if a temporary increase in troops you know in hot spots like Baghdad and al-Anbar could reduce a good deal of the violence..."

Nothing at all about how a surge in troops is utterly contemptuous of the November 7th vote repudiating the war in Iraq. And is there a more crass way to describe sending more troops in to the nightmare of Iraq than as "doubling down your bet?" Lastly, someone needs to tell Raz that neither a capital city of 5-7 million people wracked by sectarian horror, nor a huge province of a country is a "hot spot."

Wisest of Wise

Cokie Roberts tells us this morning that Clark Clifford [who replaced McNamara as Secretary of War in 1968] "was considered one of the wise men of Washington, and that’s who you’re hearing from a good bit now—that whole Baker-Hamilton commission was considered the elder statesmen of the two parties coming together to give their advice and one of the wisest of wise men according to many people in Washington is Colin Powell who yesterday decided to break his silence on the war in Iraq.

Wise men? One of the wisest? In what way is Colin Powell wise? Frankly he was a complete and complicit tool in the whole Iraq War project and used his "reputation" to sell it. Based on his behavior, he is either a complete idiot, or a self-serving liar. Given his past I'd put my money on the latter.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Safe Indignation

I think it is right for NPR to highlight the grotesque nature of the Holocaust denial conference in Iran. Moral disgust seems appropriate, and that such a conference has been organized by the sitting president of a country is an indictment of that government. On Weekend Edition Saturday Scott Simon weighed in with his usual smarmy, self-righteous overtones, and then on Weekend Edition Sunday Daniel Schorr brought his indignation to the fore. Fair enough, about getting beyond the obvious clear-cut issues and going into the terrain of discomfort? Consider Glenn Greenwald's Unclaimed Territory remarks on the media coverage of the conference in which he notes that the media should take sides when established facts demand it -- but not only in risk-free issues like denouncing Holocaust deniers.

When will NPR take a complex look at the full range of cynical manipulations of the Holocaust to further political agendas? What about defenders of the crimes of Israel who use the Holocaust to justify every wrong of the Israeli state and who paint every critic of Israel as an anti-Semite? Consider the lies and distortions offered by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in its campaign against Jimmy Carter's book on Palestine or note the rabid attacks on Carter from the likes of David Horowitz, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck. NPR could do a lot to rectify this situation by giving some airtime on its news broadcasts to Jimmy Carter (I'm still waiting) or dissenters such as Norman Finkelstein who has made the use of the Holocaust his life's work.

Or NPR could continue in "safe mode" with denunciations Holocaust deniers and with its miserable coverage of the injustices being committed by the US and Israel against the Palestinians.

Soul Searching

David Greene is quite the comedian this morning; he says, "The mood inside the Bush White House this month has been one of soul searching." Soul searching? Zounds! Yes, and one might suggest that the mood inside the Scrooge's counting house at the beginning of "A Christmas Carol" was charitable! Could there be a more soulless bunch of scoundrels than those currently occupying 1600 W. Pennsylvania Avenue? Who knows, maybe Greene actually did mean the statement as a kind of joke, like the yuk-yuk humor of Bush when he made his "Those WMDs gotta be somewhere" schtick back in 2004 (see picture).

Clearly searching for souls among the souless isn't limited to the White House. NPR reveals a heartless, crass attitude toward killing civilians in the rest of this piece which "examines" the use of body-counts in Vietnam and Iraq.

After airing Bush's desperate trumpeting how over 5000 of the "enemy" have been killed or captured in Iraq in the past three months, Greene tells us that since the Vietnam War, "public officials and military analysts have said the body count device was a mistake: giving out those numbers may have fed anti-American sentiment and angered civilians on the ground. The lesson was not forgotten." Then we get to hear Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Peter Pace remind us that the use of body-counts "can negatively impact the safety of our forces on the ground."

So the problem with body counts is not that its use leads to indiscriminate killings so that "adequate" kill-numbers can be reported, and the problem is not with the US killing and causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands (and in the case of Vietnam, millions) of civilians--no, the problem is that it creates "anti-American sentiment" and "negatively impacts the safety of our forces!" That is a soulless ethical calculus indeed.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Saint Rumsfeld

Forget that Donald Rumsfeld is a liar, a war monger, and a torture advocate. On Friday Morning Guy Raz had the inside scoop on the kinder, gentler Rummy: "for the past three years, every few days, far from the white hot camera lights, Rumsfeld and his wife Joyce have quietly made their way to Walter Reed Medical Center They go there to cheer up the injured troops back from the front...."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

60 or 20 or 8.5?

On Wednesday morning NPR turns its business sights on education. Featured is RAND author and academic researcher Dan Goldhaber. Renee Montagne notes that Goldhaber's research "says the link between teacher quality and student performance is so critical, schools have to experiment with ways to encourage better teaching..." Larry Abramson then begins the report by saying , "For a long time school systems have paid more to teachers with advanced degrees or lots of experience but education researcher Dan Goldaber of the University of Washington says there’s still no reason to believe that approach will boost student achievement." This is followed immediately by Goldhaber telling us, "Seems like the best way to figure out the quality of a teacher is based on her or his performance in the classroom, and if you want to reward that characteristic then you have to look at somehow linking pay to their performance."

What is interesting in all this is that if you look into Goldhaber's research, you'll find that even he admits that "students’ socioeconomic background was a far more influential factor" in student achievement. In fact, from a presentation Goldhaber gave in Minnesota, it would appear that this socioeconomic factor represents 60% of the influence, while all the variables that schools can control represent 20%! Then within this 20% of influence on student achievement, teacher quality accounts for about 40% - and the percent of "teacher quality" that can be measured is only 3%.

What is glaringly obvious is that "teacher quality," while important, is small (Goldhaber's research puts it a 8.5% of effect on student achievement) in comparison to the whopping 60% effect of socioeconomic factors. So the obvious solution for better education is to find ways of improving the socioeconomic health of the nation (more just income distribution, universal healthcare, available childcare, etc). Instead NPR and Goldhaber keep the focus on the idea that the best solution is merit pay for teachers (with that pay attached to student performance on standardized tests). So once again, it is teachers - and especially those pesky teachers' unions - that are the targets for curing the shortcomings of our public education system. God forbid we question the basic social and economic structures of our society, that might smack of class analysis!

Open Thread - Thursday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It Must Be the Season

Did you miss the "you owe your freedom to the military" wreath story on Monday? No sweat, NPR brings it out again for ATC tonight. On a day when the US death toll in Iraq hit 2937, am I supposed to feel touched and patriotic because a wreath manufacturer in Maine is putting 5000 donated wreaths on graves in Arlington?

Joshua Gleason, opens the piece with a Hallmark touch: "the musty sweet scent of balsam fir is just overpowering..." Later when the wife of the owner of the company tells Gleason that she writes back when someone's letter is personal, he asks her "What do you say when you write back?" And she answers, "“What do you say when someone writes to you and says, ‘I buried my son in April?’ I try to say is what we do is to thank people like them.”

And that worship-the-security-state, simple-minded viewpoint is about all you'll get from NPR these days. Regarding each of the nearly 3000 deaths of our young citizens and each the half a million deaths of Iraqis I'd offer the patriotic anger of veteran Kevin Tillman:
  • Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.
  • Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.
  • Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.
  • Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.
  • Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.
  • Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.
  • Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.
Frankly, using the Christmas season of peace to promote soldier-worship is grotesque - and it doesn't do one thing to end the war in Iraq, prevent another such horror, do justice to the people of Iraq, or help returning vets and their families with their struggles. NPR should be featuring people who are really supporting the troops -- those calling for the impeachment of Bush, Cheney, and Rice, for an end to the funding of the war, for reparations to Iraq, and for the speedy withdrawal of the troops. That would be worthy of the season.

Got Oil?

NPR wants us to believe that the idea that the US invaded Iraq for oil and the control of oil is nothing but a misperception. On Monday's ATC Robert Siegel interviews Amy Jaffe, head of the oil industry-backed Baker Institute Energy Forum and member of the Iraq Study Group.

Refering to the Iraq Study Group oil recommendations (see this report on them) Siegel asks her this puffball question: "...does the discussion of oil suffer here from the pressure of not wanting to make our discussion of Iraq sound like it is all about oil?" (See, it just sounds like it's all about oil.)

Jaffe's response is well worth considering: "...well you know we are a little bit hindered by this whole blood for oil debate. The sensitivity about whether we be perceived as quote-unquote 'stealing the oil' is part of the reason why the sector is so messed up today….we didn’t want to be seen as quote-unquote 'getting involved in the oil' and so there was a proclivity toward projects that were tinkering at the edges…we were so busy trying to fix the surface equipment that we didn’t mind the store on the oil fields, cause we’re so afraid to touch the oil fields..."

Notice how she quickly shifts from the present (the current business of the Iraq Study Group) and into talking about the whole Iraq war project itself and how the US "sensitivity" about not wanting to be seen as "stealing the oil" is why things are so messed up today. Working at the Baker institute, Ms. Jaffe surely knows that there's a good reason for not wanting to be seen as "stealing the oil" - because that's exactly what the US war plans and implementation were and are all about [and not just the oil but the whole Iraqi economy]. If you doubt this you should take a look at Greg Palast's documented work on the whole sordid affair: you can read about it on his web site, on the BBC, or watch it on YouTube. Or you can settle for the reporting of NPR and be assured that the real problem with US projects for this New American Century is just one of misperception.

Monday, December 11, 2006

All Hail the Soldier

Steve Inskeep ends the often creepy business bit of Morning Edition today by saying, "and our last word in business today involves patriotic philanthropy. " Patriotic philanthropy: that's an interesting concept! This philanthropy involves Morrill Worcester, a wreath entrepreneur from Maine, placing wreaths on graves at Arlington National Cemetery. After telling us how his business has grown to over 500,000 wreaths a year, Worcester says, "I personally owe a great deal to the people that gave me the freedom to do what I do and that’s the way I feel about it." Montaigne and Inskeep then tell us in hushed and solemn tones how Worcester wants to build a movement to wreath all the national cemeteries, and which plots at Arlington are being wreathed this year.

I'm sick of people saying that we owe our freedom to the military. Frankly, it's a statement unbecoming of a free people, and where does someone get off telling me that my freedom required the invasions of Mexico, Haiti, Nicaragua, the Phillippines, Vietnam, Grenada, etc. The only war that seems to qualify for gratitude is WWII - and that was also won by the soldiers of Stalin's Red Army - at a for more terrible cost - but I don't generally notice the military worshipers among us getting all grateful and sentimental for them.

Having known a lot of military veterans in my life - friends, family, teachers, scout leaders, etc. - I can say that I have a world of compassion for the suffering, losses, and trauma that many soldiers experience. And I can respect those who try to be just and honorable in the military. But I have the highest regard for those who refuse to participate in unjust wars or who expose wrongdoing in the military (as at Mai Lai or Abu Ghraib).

Frankly, as I see our history, it is the runaway slave, the abolitionist, the rebel, the noncomformist, the strikers and labor leaders, the radicals and activists who have preserved and expanded our precious freedoms. These are the US heroes I thank when I'm counting my blessings of liberty.

(Image credits go to Northwestern University Library's WWII Poster Collection.)


NPR did a fine thing this morning by interviewing Peter Kornbluh of the Chile Documentation Project of the information-rich National Security Archive. Kornbluh helped set the record straight on the direct ties between the US government and General Pinochet leader of the 1973 coup in Chile.

Open Thread - Monday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tortured History

According to Tom Gjelten here's what happened in Chile in the early 1970s: "[Pres.] Allende was implementing socialist economic policies in Chile, with disastrous results." And because of these disastrous results, "Gen. Pinochet finally agreed with other military officers that they had to stop Allende."

Later in the piece Gjelten does mention that the US supported the coup, and tells us that "having secretly undermined the Allende government, U.S. officials were quick to praise Pinochet when he brought in American economic advisers and instituted radical free-market reforms in Chile." So which was it--the disastrous socialism or the secret undermining of the US? The paper trail clearly shows that the coup was made in the US and supported for years of brutal repression.

Finally, in the mixed-up history of Gjelten-world the Chilean dictatorship ends - not because of the bravery of opponents of Pinochet and human rights activists- but due to efforts of the United States and Elliot Abrams! Yes, Abrams, the pardoned convict of Iran Contra and point man for torture and dictatorships throughout Latin America in the 1980s.

If you get your history of Latin America from NPR, you will have a very strange understanding of events there - one that would, however, square well with the human rights thugs who have found a comfortable home in the current Bush administration.

Towering Lies

Here was a stunner on Weekend Edition Sunday today: "Ronald Reagan was deep in the Iran-Contra scandal, was accused of having countenanced a plan to trade arms for hostages and diverting the proceeds illegally to freedom fighters in Central America." Freedom fighters! So says historian Michael Beschloss during a report today on high-profile US government commissions. That there is anyone who still can call the torture loving, murderous, drug-running Contras freedom fighters with a straight face is unbelievable--and that the reporter doesn't question it is a shame.

Speaking of the sham Tower Commission that saved Reagan's political career at the cost of weakening the constitutional separation of powers, Beschloss describes it as "one that actually worked." Yes, if you are a fan of executive power running roughshod over constitutional limitations--or if you believe the Contras were the "moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers."

Just What is it?

Which Juan Forero do we believe? The one on November 27, 2006 who broadcast an economist in Venezuela complaining that the Chavez government would be "better off spending its gasoline subsidies to promote mass transit" or yesterday's Forero who noted "all the money the [Chavez] government is spending at home. Venezuela’s government is building subway lines..." Hmm...sounds like mass transit to me!

In yesterday's piece, we hear how "the economic growth has been astounding here since 2003," BUT "many economists and businessmen here say the economy is far from healthy and in fact what it is is schizophrenic – it is one of the world’s fastest growing but it produces few jobs, consumerism is rampant, but few want to invest."

The main thrust of yesterday's piece is to claim that Venezuela's economy is only doing all right because of the "oil boom" -- even though economist Mark Weisbrot has noted "the government has budgeted conservatively to create a cushion against any decline in oil prices. It has based its 2007 budget on an average oil price of $29 a barrel — far below this year's average of $58 a barrel." Forero uses telling phrases that reveal his anti-Chavez bias:
  • schizophrenic: describing the economy as such is both offensive to people with schizophrenia and a way of writing off the economic achievements of Venezuela under the Chavez government.
  • The Bolivarian bourgeoisie: How Forero describes those profiting from "lucrative" government contracts. The implication is that there is at best hypocrisy in the claims of socialism of the government and perhaps even corruption.
  • A fine veneer: how Forero describes the effects of Venezuelan government spending on infrastructure projects. Frankly, I'd be happy for a little veneer of social spending on schools, transportation, and health care here in the USA!
As I've noted before, Forero has a less than shining history as a journalist. His low point came when he parroted the US Government line about the coup against Chavez back in 2002. Forero's track record really has to make you wonder who he works for besides NPR and the NY Times.

The Consumerist Manifesto -- Nothing to Lose But Your Chain Stores

Saturday's Weekend Edition features one of those pieces that makes me shake my head. Virginia Postrel, a "style" editor and contributor to the Atlantic Monthly is brought on because she has written an essay in that magazine called "In Praise of Chain Stores." Talking about chain stores actually could be an informative topic. There is an interesting history to chain stores and they probably aren't going away, and they contribute to some serious problems such as traffic congestion (local relevance), sweat shop globalization, depressed wages and benefits, outflow of capital, environmental sprawl problems (and creative solutions) , and frankly the "just plain ugly" factor (take a look at beautiful Chandler, AZ mentioned in Postrel's essay).

Instead of any sort of thoughtful discussion of these issues, Postrel seems to have been brought on for her achievement of reducing the complexities of this topic to one critique--"The problem with chain stores is they make every place seem the same, that America is too homogeneous, you can’t tell what city you’re in...." and then distorting this critique with her own fabricated and silly reason for it--"...a lot of the based on the idea that we want places to be exotic when we go to them, we want them to have local color, and we want that local color to hit us over the head..."

And her main argument in favor of chain stores is simply that they bring more varieties of more stuff into more towns than any local businesses could ever do! More stuff? More variety? That's it?

Scott Simon does at least ask, "How do you react to the argument…that good smaller scale, distinctive businesses have been just driven out of business by chain stores?" But, Postrel is let off by just saying that "really well run local businesses can compete well" against chains. Of course she is not asked to provide any evidence for this, though there is evidence to the contrary. It is worth noting how rarely someone who is touting a position that embraces the status quo is challenged to provide any factual evidence for their views, whereas those who challenge prevailing systems are more rigorously challenged.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Open Thread - Weekend

NPR related comments welcomed.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Kirkpatrick Through a Kristol Ball

When I heard that Jeane Kirkpatrick died in her sleep, I couldn't help but think of the hundreds of thousands who were not so fortunate - but instead were butchered by the armies and in the torture chambers of the "mildly repressive" authoritarian regimes that Kirkpatrick so loved during her sorry tenure on this planet. Does NPR mention even one of her bloodthirsty darlings -- Pinochet of Chile or the "Dirty War" generals of Argentina? Not a peep! The closest to criticism of Kirkpatrick NPR can come is to say "hers was a sharp and sometimes biting voice" (Steve Inskeep) or "a blunt and forceful advocate of the administration's policies" (Deborah Amos).

On Morning Edition after a brief tribute, NPR trots out the discredited William Kristol to share feelings about Kirkpatrick. Kristol has nothing but praise for Kirkpatrick's thesis that authoritarian regimes are so much better and likely to become democratic than any tainted with "socialism" (which gets slurred as totalitarian). Kristol claims that it is the US that gets credit for the democratization of Korea and the Phillippines (not the activists and radicals who fought the dictatorships there)!

Then on ATC Robert Siegel talks to Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institute (again!--click on "Brookings" label below). From Siegel we hear that "we knew her as the ambassador and vigorous speaker" while Mann tells us that she was "a formidable individual" and "did make a difference in that regard."

Here are a few Kirkpatrick gems I would have liked to hear:
  • In her "famous" paper "Dictatorships and Double Standards" she wrote of Somoza and the Shah "both rulers, therefore, sometimes invoked martial law to arrest, imprison, exile, and occasionally, it was alleged, torture their opponents."
  • Speaking of the four Maryknoll nuns raped and murdered by the army in El Salvador she said, "The nuns were not just nuns, they were political activists, and we should be very clear about that."
Kirkpatrick was disgusting when alive, and this whitewash of her legacy is pretty revolting too. I guess NPR is just warming up for the Kissinger-fest that will follow his death.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cato Schmato

Robert Siegel talks to Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute this evening on ATC. There are some standout statements in this piece:
  • Robert Siegel: "and you think that more of them [libertarians], perhaps wisely you say, might now be holding their nose and voting left with the Democrats...."
  • Brink Lindsey: "...people on the left are pining for the economic stability of the 1950s and are unreconciled to the more competitive more entrepreneurial more globalized economy that has emerged in the 80s and 90s and the current decade."
I hate to break it to NPR, but the Democrats are NOT LEFT! People who vote Democrat are NOT "voting left!" Yes there are a few good left-of-center Democrats (Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Lee come to mind), but the Democratic Party as a whole is a center-right party (most favor militarism, bloated defense spending, global military bases, exceptionalism in international law, predatory global corporatism, etc. ) Yes, they are, in general, to the left of the Republican Party when it comes to social values and to some regulatory easing of corporate excesses-but being left of far right doesn't make one a leftist!

I can assure Mr. Lindsey that no leftist I have ever known longs for the "economic stability" of the 1950s(???) And leftists aren't anti-globalization, in fact most leftists I know want equal global rights and protections for workers and wonder why corporations and capital can go wherever conditions are most favorable (repressive and cheap!), whereas workers who try to go where conditions are better are labeled "illegals."

If NPR thinks that the universe of political thought in the US is Democrat equals left, Republican equals right, then that explains a lot about how simplistic so much of their reporting and analysis is and how cozy NPR is with US power and hegemony -- which is too bad.

Open Thread - Thursday & Friday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Stay In Your Lane

The Iraq Study Group releases its findings and NPR is all over it:

Now this is a fine sampler of mainstream and far-right opinions. But where's the leftist, progressive input? There's plenty of provocative critiques from blogs such as Crooks and Liars (whose visitors far outnumber Redstate's), Needlenose, GlennGreewald, or even Daily Kos for example. Come on NPR, let's expand the range!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Soup With a Knife

Did you know that "in all the plans for redefining the strategy in Iraq, there’s one thing everyone agrees on: pumping up the number of US combat advisors training Iraqi security forces." All the plans? Pumping up the numbers of advisors? That's what Deborah Amos wants us to believe this morning on NPR. Amos apparently has never heard of someone like Helena Cobban of the Christian Science Monitor or the Congressional Progressive Caucus; they have plans that have nothing to do with "pumping up" advisors.

But NPR has singled out one of the brains of the US Army, Rhodes scholar and head of "the new Army program to train the trainers" in Iraq - Lt. Col. John Nagl. Nagl's expertise is counter-insurgency. He has written lovingly of the British destruction of the communist insurgency in Malaya in the 1950s -- a pattern that it sadly seems is being pursued by the US in Iraq.

From Nagl we hear about how great the training of Iraqi forces is now going to be, though he reminds us that "these are long hard wars - my favorite quotation is from Lawrence of Arabia, ‘Making war on insurgents is messy and slow like eating soup with a knife.’ This is a long, hard process. Historically defeating an insurgency has taken eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve years...."

I actually think it is newsworthy to report on and interview someone like Nagl. But where is the critique of counter-insurgency? Where is a look at the ugly truths about British counter-insurgency that Nagl is so impressed with? And of course there is nothing about the sordid history of US counter-insurgency. It would have been interesting to hear Nagl challeneged about his premises, and statements such as this from the new preface to his book: "The United States is working diligently in Iraq, as it did in Vietnam, to improve the lives of the people." Now that's a whopper!

Instead NPR offers its usual fare limiting the debate to its narrowest of margins and then promoting the opinions of someone who will never question any basic assumptions and myths of US foreign policy.

Fast Food News Flash!

Oh wow! Did you hear the big news? McDonald's is putting children's gyms in some of their restaurants--amazing isn't it! Gosh, and Dunkin Donuts which has just the greatest coffee in the world is trying to make inroads into the south! Holy smokes, and if you were lucky enough to live near the Outer Banks of North Carolina, you could have stocked up on FREE Doritos that washed ashore from a cargo container that fell off a ship--imagine that! Golly, who knew that news from Morning Edition could be so yummy and have corporate appeal too! I'm lovin it!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Colorful Bolton

So Bolton is finally going to be out of the UN. And after his lowly performance there, here's what NPR's Jackie Northam offers us: "John Bolton’s short tenure as ambassador to the UN was contentious, controversial, and thanks to his gift for pithy statements, colorful."

This is a pretty sad way to describe a figure like Bolton. Even a mainstream publication like MSNBC/Newsweek gives a far more informative and unflattering portrait of Bolton's shortcomings. Pithy statements? Colorful? Maybe Northam was thinking of the Bolton of July 2006 -- when his words had a distinctly blood-spattered tinge to them? Or perhaps pithy was how she interpreted the occasion mentioned in the MSNBC/Newsweek piece when he called a close ally of the US at the UN an "international civil servant" because the man dared to offer Bolton some helpful criticism?

Glib and shallow pieces like this stand in such stark contrast to what NPR is capable of offering - as in Daniel Zwerdling's rich, substantive, and humane piece on the mental health struggles of Iraq war veterans.

The Occupation is Over!

Reporting on Abdelaziz al-Hakim's chat with Bush in the White House today, Michele Kelemen let it be known that the cleric and head of the "Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was a proponent of the war to topple Saddam Hussein and a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council when the US was occupying Iraq…"

Good Lord, I can remember the occupation of Iraq just like it was yesterday, or this morning, or....