Monday, April 30, 2007

On to Victory with Petraeus

In his interview with General Petraeus this morning, Steve Inskeep says, "General Petraeus' job is to deal with many gunmen, and car bombers, and militias, and political deadlock among Iraqi leaders."

Notice what Inskeep doesn't include in what Petraeus "has to deal with": four years of US heavy casualty air bombing, publicized torture and sexual predation in US run Iraqi prisons, the destruction of cities such as Fallujah, the corruption of the CPA, cultural ignorance and stupidity from the White House on down, etc. Kind of undermines the "mission," eh?

But if you think the US is the blameless "good guy" in Iraq, if you think that the US can "win"in Iraq, and if you think the US mission of Iraq is noble then you'll find no fault with the Petraeus' interview. This is how NPR news always frames the Iraq war; they may feature critiques of the planning and execution of the war, but never question the right of the US to intervene, invade and/or occupy countries in the Middle East. Within this lopsided frame, Inskeep did a "good" interview, asking Petraeus about the lack of enough troops to fit even his own ideas of strategy and asking him how he sees it ending. But that's it.

Tenet Sink

NPR has been giving a lot of coverage to George Tenet's latest whining about being a victim of the Cheney-Bush junta running the White House. I have to confess a certain pleasure in seeing some of the war rats (Tenet, Powell, Feith, and Perle) attacking their comrades as the realities of their crimes in the "war on terror" close in on them creating a sort of moral "Behavioral Sink." Beyond that though the coverage from NPR is sorely lacking in holding people like Tenet to account. As Huffington notes it is really ludicrous to take Tenet's complaining seriously, he's culpable up to his eyebrows in the criminal war in Iraq.
NPR should be educating its listeners on Tenet's documented role in helping to launching the Iraq war based on lies - and in encouraging the violation of international laws through his encouragement of torture and secret prisons.

Open Thread - Monday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Open Thread - Friday & Saturday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Siegel Footstools for McConnell

Sometimes I listen to NPR and think, "Don't these hosts have a few shreds of self-respect left?" Tonight, why does Robert Siegel even bother to show up for his interview with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell? Siegel meekly lets McConnell hack up mess of Bushist talking points on the Iraq war funding bill.

Here's how McConnell gets going before ever being questioned:
"...get serious about providing funding for the troops. The surrender date needs to come out."
"...what is unacceptable is any kind of surrender date."
"...any kind of date that indicates to the terrorists on the other get to win..."
At this point Siegel awakes from his coma to say, "Surrender date, we should say, is your characterization of the withdrawal date." That's a good start, and - ever the foolish optimist - I assumed that Siegel would maintain a polite, but critical stance since McConnell was clearly using the airtime to make a belligerent push for the Bushist line on Iraq. Instead Siegel meekly lets McConnell forge ahead:
"...withdrawal date is same as surrender."
"..none of us are satisfied with the Iraqi performance...our patience is not endless...effort to stay on offense from the beginning..."
"’s no secret, al-Qaeda is in Iraq."
"...this is the same gang that hit us on 9/11; it’s no accident that we haven’t been attacked again since 9/11 because we’ve been on offense."
"...this is the same crowd that killed 3,000 Americans..."
"...we need to stay after them or they’ll be back here."
If this were a debate, one might say that McConnell just wiped the floor with Siegel, but he doesn't seem to mind. Let me suggest a that Siegel dare interject a little reality into his next interview when confronted with this kind of rubbish. He could have made any of the following comments:
"Actually withdrawal is not surrender, that is your way of framing it."
"You say patience is not endless, but you want endless funding of the war."
"There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq until the US invaded and completely failed to secure the borders and committed many attrocities that attracted recruits to al-Qaeda."
"Actually, there are many studies showing that being "on offense" has swelled the ranks of al-Qaeda and that Iraq has given them the best training they've had since fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan."
"Can you produce any proof of your conclusion that "they'll be back here" if we're not in Iraq?"
Yes, he could have asked these questions, but that would require a passion for truth and a sense of integrity. Instead Siegel just allows McConnell to run on and on with one pathetic little whimper of "some would say this is essentially a locally led group that applied for and got the franchise for al-Qaeda." That's it? Good God, you'd think people like Siegel would have learned to be more rigorous with these Bush apologists after being stooges for them in the initial run-up to and launch of this disaster in Iraq.

Raz and Slur Part 2: Playing Reporter

In my previous post "Raz and Slur" I noted how Guy Raz characterized the attendees at an antiwar speech as being "mostly aging hippies" and "draft dodgers."

Unlike Raz, I did a little work and contacted the organizers of the event in Richmond (see flyer here). Here's what Adria Scharf of the Richmond Peace Education Center had to say about Raz's reporting:
"To describe the audience as 'mostly aging hippies' is truly a mischaracterization. At least a quarter of those in attendance were college students and young people in their 20s. Another quarter to a third were members of the faith community whose churches had cosponsored Jonathan Hutto's visit, and the rest were community members, including African American community activists and members of the Richmond Peace Education Center among others."
In our community we've been holding regular Saturday curbside antiwar demonstrations since before the Iraq War began. Invariably some knucklehead passing by yells out of a car window, "Get a job!" It's always a bit amusing because it's a Saturday afternoon and because most of the 30-50 of us in attendance have full time jobs and a lot of us, frankly, look like middle-age, working Midwesterners. Clearly those who yell such things can only see us through the prism of their own warped preconceptions. It's amusing on the street, but when it comes out of the radio, it's disgraceful.

Open Thread - Thursday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Inskeep and the B.S. Express

What a study in contrasts. Wednesday's Morning Edition piece looking at Straight-Talk-Express McCain's campaign begins with a clip from John Stewart's show of the night before:
Stewart: "How do you quell a civil war when it’s not your country?"
McCain: "I’m saying that we’re paying a very heavy price—(drowned out by crowd applause for Stewart’s question)....I think I know whose side they’re on."
Stewart: "No, they’re on America’s side because they’re patriots." (loud cheers and applause)

In the NPR piece Steve Inskeep talks to Mike Murphy, elite consultant, and former campaign manager for Little Mister Sunshine, John McCain. Consider this interchange:
Murphy: "...the media loved John McCain when he stood up and was feisty against the conventional wisdom of the Republican Party, but when he stands up and fights for a war that a lot of the media elite doesn’t like, all of a sudden he’s no longer courageous (smug chuckle). I think that tells me more about the media than about John McCain, and finally—"
Inskeep (interrupting) "Well, let me stop you there for just a second. We’ll get to your final point, but he is strongly supporting not just the war in Iraq, but the way President Bush is pursuing it right now and that’s something that is unpopular way beyond media circles."

I have heard people complain that young people get more of their news from John Stewart than from traditional news sources--no wonder! Notice how Stewart isn't distracted by McCain's cynical ploy of trying to discredit the audience's response by casting it as nothing but dumb group loyalty to the show's host. Stewart promptly skewers this by insisting that what the audience cares about is the state of our country and the rotten leadership running it and the rotten war ruining it. (A leadership that McCain has been pimping for at least since the Bush reelection campaign of '04).

Inskeep, by contrast offers no principled challenge to Murphy's slur on the media. Even a timid reporter could have demanded a definition of "media elite." Who might that be? Fox News, ABC, the New York Times? When Murphy says, "a war that a lot of the media elite doesn’t like" Inskeep could have interrupted to remind him that actually most of the mainstream media has "liked" this war quite a lot, and for several years running has dutifully reported the nonsense of "turned corners" and "progress." He might have asserted that it's not the media or just public opinion that has sunk McCain, but the gruesome reality on the ground--that "civil war" that John Stewart's audience understands is an unwinnable, unmitigated disaster.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

And the Other Five?

Last week on one of NPR's newscasts a letter from a listener was read complaining about the coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign focusing so heavily how much money has been raised--and then the next morning NPR ran another story about who was ahead in the money chase...

This morning was a pathetic attempt at analysis with Juan Williams "weighing in." As it turns out the Democrats are holding a debate on Thursday in South Carolina and listening to NPR you'd swear there were three candidates in the running--Obama, Clinton and Edwards. Well, I'm sick of NPR not offering its listeners enough information about the candidates and the issues. In a four minute piece we got to hear all about opinion polls for Clinton and Edwards $400 dollar haircut--so what! And not even a mention of Gravel, Kucinich, Richards, Dodd or Biden. Even the local NBC station gets the idea that you name all the candidates and they even have links to their positions--imagine that!

Raz and Slur

It was good to hear NPR reporting on dissent within the military. Then toward the end of the piece Guy Raz unloads a doozy. He describes meeting Navy petty officer, Jonathan Hutto, one of the founders of the Petition for Redress movement. Raz says "I met Hutto few weeks ago in Richmond, Virginia during another one of his lectures; the turnout was modest – mostly aging hippies and a couple of Vietnam-era draft dodgers."

Aging hippies--please! I wonder how Raz arrived at that determination. And draft dodgers--now that's some serious journalism. I'd be willing to wager that whoever was there and didn't get drafted was probably a draft resister. Of course I do look forward to Guy Raz being consistent in the future when he will refer to Dick Cheney and George W. Bush as aging corporate swindlers and draft dodgers (or chickenhawks).

Open Thread - Tuesday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Vocabulary Barrier

Did you hear Mike Shuster talking about the wall the US was trying to build in Baghdad? There was an interesting, but brief moment in the report this morning.

Shuster notes that Iraqi critics of the wall "have made comparisons to the Berlin Wall, to the wall-- the security barrier that the Israelis have built around the West Bank." Dang, you could almost hear him say "oops" when that forbidden word "wall" came out of his mouth to describe the wall that Israel is using to steal occupied land that it wants (oops, I mean the picket fence that the Israelis have put up to make themselves more secure).

By the time ATC rolled around Mike had got it right and said "security barrier" without hesitation. Good boy, Shuster.

Seriously, I don't really expect NPR to call it the "apartheid wall," but for God's sake, I don't expect to hear it called the "security barrier." How about "the controversial wall that Israel claims is for security, though it takes in land not recognized as belonging to Israel, carves up some Palestinian towns, and was condemned by the World Court." That would be a fair description of the facts. But who needs facts.

Open Thread - Monday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Partial Recall

Yesterday on ATC Debbie Elliott reported on the terrible violence raging in Somalia, especially in the capital, Mogadishu. She mentioned the many civilians killed and the more than 300,000 refugees fleeing the city--BUT failed to include one important detail: the United States was involved in creating the devastating conditions that currently exist. The US military was intimately involved with the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia and overthrow of the Islamic Courts Union back in December. This involvement is not new, in fact the US helped back an alliance of warlords which may well have facilitated the rise and popularity of the Islamic Courts Union.

Clearly the situation in Somalia offers no clear case of good guys vs. bad guys, but ignoring the hamfisted-military approach of the Bush administration in this case is unfortunate. And it is not an isolated case; it seems that the Bushists have a sort of civil war Midas touch in foreign policy - something that others have noted and commented on as early as April 2003 and more recently in December of 2006.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Drones, Reapers, and Dinner with the Wife

NPR has a particular fondness for the weaponry of war and domination - both lethal and non-lethal - but yesterday's commercial for the US military's brand new "hunter-killer" drone, The Reaper, sets a new standard.

Opening the report Siegel tells us that The Predator - the smaller predecessor to The Reaper - "has emerged as the one of the most useful and controversial weapons in the US military's arsenal." However, what follows is Mary Louise Kelly's homage to this new killing machine with barely a mention of why it might be controversial. Consider the following comments that Kelly makes:
  • "...this [heavier payload capacity] is the key advantage a Reaper can offer..."
  • "...a huge step forward for the military."
  • "It can hover for hours waiting for a terrorist target to appear."
  • "It can carry missiles at the same time; if you don’t want to level a whole building, but just take out - say - a single sniper sitting in a third story window."
  • " American lives are risked."
You have to hear the clip about "leveling a whole building" to appreciate how crass and flip her tone is - as if she were talking about taking out the trash instead of trashing people and their buildings.

So when do we hear about the controversy? Kelly briefly notes that "critics have accused The Predator of carrying out assassinations, and asked whether terror suspects who pose no immediate threat shouldn’t be arrested, rather than blown up..." For a thoughtful response we get Lt. Colonel Johnathon Green assuring us that "as long as you have the legal authority and the moral high ground that’s what we’re out there to do is protect our country in the war on terror." Yes Colonel we really have established legality and the moral high ground in Iraq!

With that problem taken care of we hear from Maj. John Chesser, who is training to operate The Reaper. Compared to flying real jets with bombs, he says that The Reaper "may not be as sexy, but we’re definitely going to get the mission done." Oh yea, bombing is so sexy. But Kelly notes there is an upside; since The Reaper is piloted remotely from the United States, after a shift "you get to go home and eat dinner with your wife."

Friday, April 20, 2007

Eyes on the Lies

Listeners to NPR this morning could be forgiven for being befuddled by the analysis of Juan Williams and Deborah Amos. Their discussion of the US attorney firings scandal is a tour de force in doublespeak and mangled logic. Amos gets things rolling with this Orwellian assertion: "…in fact voter fraud has been a focus of Republicans for some time." She might be forgiven if she were saying that committing voter fraud was the "focus of Republicans" but, alas she's not.

Does Juan Williams, the author of Eyes on the Prize, set the record straight? Not a chance; he takes the baton and is off and running, claiming that - for Republicans - voter fraud has been "a concern of theirs for decades. Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist began his public career as a young lawyer in Arizona- this is half a century ago – serving as a poll watcher for the GOP there."

Reread that if you can! Fresh, young lawyer Rehnquist starting out as a humble citizen watching the polls down in Arizona: it's almost a Norman Rockwell painting - except that Rehnquist the racist was in Arizona trying to suppress minority voters, something he continued to do for the rest of his career (culminating in the seizure of the Presidency for Boy George in 2000).

Williams mercilessly soldiers on, "Basically, wherever reports have suggested that people were voting illegally, Republicans have tried to get the law to address the problem or the perception of a problem." Tried to get the law to address the problem - Holy *#%& ! Honestly, I couldn't make this stuff up.

As if aware of the perversity of his assertions, Williams does qualify things a bit: "Let me say here that a recent Election Assistance Commission report said the extent of voter fraud is open to debate today. That report was edited to downplay the expert conclusion that there’s little actual voting fraud taking place." (It was edited all right.) Williams notes that for Republicans "there’s a focus on putting in place voter identification programs" which he observes "reduces voter turnout especially among minorities."

Amos isn't about to let this one go that way. She asks, "And how does this ballot integrity make Democrats react?" Ballot integrity? That is a serious case of turning a phrase on its head, especially considering that the Ballot Integrity Project counters everything that the Republican intimidators have been trying to do.

Laughing out loud Williams answers Amos's question, "Well - absolutely drives them crazy! They see it as voter suppression." (Oh, those cwazy Democrats.)

Amos wraps this one up with a real prize winner: "So when a Republican-appointed US attorney investigates and says, 'No, there’s not a lot of voter fraud, or only a few cases not worth pursuing,' the Justice Department gets caught in the middle." Huh? Caught in the middle? Go figure...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Props to ATC

A tip of the hat to ATC for treating the release of fugitive and terrorist - Luis Posada - with the gravity it deserves. Michelle Norris interviews Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archives (a treasure trove of information on the underbelly of US covert behavior). About the only complaint one could level at this story is that Norris might have challenged Kornbluh a bit more vigorously to substantiate his allegations against Posada (which he no doubt could have easily done).

Really, a fine report that conveys the utter hypocrisy of the US "war on terror."

(source of graphic)

Assuming Too Much

Maybe I'm assuming too much, but if I were going to interview someone with a documented history of being a liar, I'd do my homework and come prepared. Not Steve Inskeep; he approaches his interview with Douglas Feith with the savvy of a drunken frat boy. Consider this sad exchange:
Feith: "He [Hussein] had demonstrated that he was interested in WMD and the danger was that he could take action in the future that would get him in a major fight with us at which point he might use the combination of WMD capabilities and connections to terrorists to hurt us."
Inskeep: "Is there any point in that, that you ended up assuming too much?"
Feith: "I think that was a reasonable assumption under the circumstances."
Inskeep: "Still? You do, ok (mumbling)."
Feith: "Do you not?!"
Inskeep: "It sounds reasonable the way that you put it."
Reasonable to a dolt perhaps. Notice how Inskeep hands over the store to Feith on this bit of chicanery. What kind of "major fight" and what "connections to terrorists"? Not a peep from Inskeep. Amazingly it continues and gets worse.
Feith: "That’s what we were worried about (chuckling) I don’t think there were reasonable--"
Inskeep (cutting in): "But of course there were analysts making an entirely different, uh—(mumbling)--"
Feith (cutting him off): "No there weren’t. (Pause and then louder) No there weren’t. I mean that’s just false – I, I, hope you can do something to clarify this point. This notion that there were analysts who were saying that Saddam Hussein was not a threat – there was nobody saying that!"
At this point Inskeep just concedes. Unbelievable! In fact there were many who dissented about the "threat" posed by Hussein - Inskeep is just too lazy or sympathetic to Feith to do any research. A little digging around would have found veteran intelligence professionals, a former UN inspector, a scholar, and other intelligence experts challenging the Hussein "threat." Furthermore many experts denounced the illegality of and security dangers posed by the coming invasion of Iraq.

In addition to helping Feith cover up his war-criminal behavior, Inskeep provides the usual fawning, personal touch. We learn that "Professor Feith has graying hair and rounded glasses. He looks comfortable on campus..." and that students who take his class at Georgetown have "come to respect their professor." Finally Inskeep gives a little free advertising to Feith for the book he is writing which will "grapple" with his role in the Iraq War. Inskeep notes that it's "a memoir that’s about 400 pages long" and that "as Professor Douglas Feith writes his book on the war, he concedes his version of events is very different from the popular view." Maybe he can call it My Struggle.

Open Thread - Thursday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Songs of Experience

"And it bears the fruit of Deceit,
Ruddy and sweet to eat;" - William Blake

This morning begins a series of "conversations with people of long experience"(!) Steve Inskeep interviews Iraqi exile and professor,Kanan Makiya, who was a key champion for the invasion of Iraq. Makiya was the person who assured Bush that US invaders would be greeted with "sweets and flowers" (yum.)

This interview continues the campaign of blaming the Iraq horror on the Iraqis and not on the criminals who launched and prosecuted this war of aggression. From Makiya we get "Did I really think there could be democracy? Yes. The failure lies in the leadership – Iraqi leadership above all." That's convenient, isn't it? Not Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, Feith, Wolfowitz, etc., but the hapless Iraqis! As the interview goes on we get this enlightening interchange:
(Inskeep): "Are you on some level saying that Iraqis were unable to see the opportunities that people like you were pointing to?"

(Makiya): "I had a hope; that hope turned out to be wrong...I don’t know the language; I can’t find the words in which to say it was wrong to support the overthrow of that particular regime. I don’t have the moral language to say that and I challenge anybody to give it to me."
Challenge accepted! God knows you won't get "the moral language" from Steve Inskeep. Here's my answer to to NPR and Makiya:

Makiya, you are supposedly an intellectual, a person familiar with history. So what were you thinking in looking to the US government and military as agents of "liberation?" With the exception of the liberation of countries under Nazi rule in WWII, I challenge you to name one US-led military operation that has led to liberation? In places like Haiti, Guatemala, Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Grenada the US has acted to crush democratic forces with extreme violence. In fact the very forces you turned to for the "liberation" of Iraq were those who had propped up the dictator you wanted to see deposed.

Secondly, as a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies you have no excuse for having ignored the many persuasive arguments given against the invasion by activists, scholars, and even the senior Bush's advisor. Eerie how prescient those arguments are, isn't it?

Of course we get nothing of this history from NPR. As in the past they seem happy to pretend that the US did nothing fundamentally illegal and immoral, and in fact launched the war on noble principles.

The "Long View" series will apparently only get worse--tomorrow NPR promises to feature the villainous Doug Feith...ugh.

Open Thread - Wednesday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I Am Padilla

"I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." - Eugene V. Debs
I've been thinking a lot about NPR's coverage - or lack thereof - of the Padilla case. I can barely stand to listen to NPR's treatment of Padilla's latest sham trial as if it were a typical criminal case notable only for "the circuitous route the government took in bringing Padilla's case to trial." What NPR never takes head-on is the fundamental assault on our most cherished Constitutional protections that the Padilla 3 year and 8 month detention and torture represents.

As I listen to the latest drivel from Greg Allen and Liane Hansen and hear them consider how strong the government's current "case" against Padilla is, I keep wondering when will they ask the most crucial question: "Why aren't people being held accountable and brought to trial for the illegal detention and torture of this innocent citizen?" And yes, I assert forcefully that Mr. Padilla is innocent until proven guilty (a quaint position I'll admit).

I think what disgusts me most about NPR is their utter moral relativism and servility to the government framing of issues. Do they give a crap about our Constitutional protections against arbitrary detention and guarantees of a trial by jury? Is there any depravity they will categorically denounce, even if it is sanctioned by one or all of the branches of the US government? Will they ever just call torture torture without qualifying and minimizing it? What is clear is that NPR clearly believes in maintaining standards such as giving the Office of President undeserved deference and respect - repeatedly playing without challenge speeches by and assertions of Bush as if he hadn't already proven himself a sociopath and liar.

I remember the utter shock and horror I felt when I learned of Padilla's seizure and subsequent disappearance. As the falseness of the "dirty bomb" claims have proven, there was no reason for such draconian actions, except to establish the precedent of allowing US citizens to be detained, disappeared and abused at the whim of the President--a precedent which NPR buttresses with its silence and timidity.

Open Thread - Tuesday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Monday, April 16, 2007

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

A reader of this blog commented in the "Open Thread" section today on the presence of Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn on Democracy Now! together -- amazing. This reader prefaced the comment with the note "not NPR related," however, I would beg to differ. Contrast such a feature with this "analysis" from Cokie Roberts:

"And the President and Vice President both over the weekend made strong cases against the Democratic plan to set a time period for US troops to withdraw from Iraq…both called the Democratic plan irresponsible…the surest route to failure…ridiculous…irresponsible…"

Does Roberts think that repeating the propaganda of Bush and Cheney is analysis? Then noting the problems dogging this stupid, violent, corrupt administration represented by the latest scandal involving Wolfowitz, Roberts hypothesizes that "it’s indicative of what happens six years into an administration. Everybody starts to get tired and arrogant and sloppy and administrations start to fall apart at this point."

Ah, so you see, in Cokie-World, the implosion of the Bush administration has nothing to do with the fact that this administration has been ignorant, arrogant, flouting laws and treaties, violating civil and human rights at will, and launching wars of aggression with manufactured intelligence - no, it's just the six-year slump that happens to all administrations.

So what will it be: discussion and analysis with Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky on Democracy Now!, or seat-of-the-pants idiocy from NPR?

Open Thread - Monday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Twister for the Twisted

Or maybe Twister for mass murderers. Liane Hansen talks with imperial wunder-boy Thomas Barnett about US foreign policy. She begins the piece with this crass attempt at wit: "American foreign policy in the 21st Century is starting to look a bit like a game of Twister: the war in Afghanistan...right hand red if you will...the US became more assertive and involved in other foreign policy pursuits: Iraq, left hand yellow...."

I must just be a hopeless wuss, but I wonder if the 3000 plus victims of "our" tidy little air war on Afghanistan would think is was such a fun game--and God knows the 600,000+ (probably over a million by now) victims of our "left hand yellow" move would have other ideas too.

Barnett's attitudes are as imperial and arrogant. He notes that "the break up of Iraq really forces the fights that need to occur now that Saddam has gone...all going to be tricky and overlapping..." To which Hansen wonders, "Where should the United States actually focus--are there real solutions or is it just a matter of keeping the fires from burning out of control." Oh and the reason for the horrors sweeping the Middle East have nothing to do with the rapacious, violent means of US foreign policy; as Barnett says, "my argument is globalization is finally penetrating a part of the world to which it hasn’t found much purchase..." The old Thomas Friedmann canard of those backwards Arabs finally getting "penetrated" by globalization. Yikes!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Open Thread - Weekend

NPR related comments welcomed.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Juan's Wild Hair

The Imus incident offers a look into which way NPR leans. It would be possible to look at the coarsening effect of popular rap music on the culture and language--fair enough; God knows there's a lot of racist, misogynist lyrics in rap. Steve Inskeep and Juan Williams cover that angle this morning. Hey, but what about the angle that looks at the vulgar, rightist, misogynist garbage popular in the media? Williams and Inskeep don't go near that.

A fascinating aspect of this morning's piece and last Tuesday mornings similar "analysis" between Inskeep and Williams is the obsession with attacking Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Again, Sharpton and Jackson have their shortcomings, but here is the Inskeep-Williams interchange from Tuesday:
(Inskeep) - "Juan, I have to ask you, you published a book last year that criticized protest tactics of people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson who are now leading the protest against Don Imus. Now, without minimizing what Imus said, is there any danger that there’s some overkill here?"
(Williams) - "Well there’s danger there could be a backlash, I mean what you see is that people, I mean lots of people, Steve, in our position, sort of in the media...what they’re saying is maybe this is a little bit of overkill, so they’re going to get caught, potentially a backlash from doing too much and from the idea that he has to go on Al Sharpton’s show, that Jesse Jackson is leading the protest. It looks like the same old dance..."
And then today Williams lays into Sharpton and Jackson: "...many of the rappers have been given a free pass by the same people who would, you know, criticize and condemn the Don Imuses...but it seems to me that the Al Sharptons, the Jesse Jacksons have allowed that kind of dehumanizing, wrong-headed language to go out in rap music..."

Well, well, well...Williams is sounding A LOT like rightist Michelle Malkin. The problem with this tact is that Sharpton has taken on the ugliness of rap - even recently (some might question how effectively) - and one of the earlier crusaders against gross rap was C. Delores Tucker a member of Jackson's Rainbow PUSH.

Open Thread - Friday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Fighting Poverty

NPR takes a look into Paul Wolfowitz's tenure at the World Bank. Tom Gjelten does a so-so job discussing Wolfowitz's "campaign" against corruption as head of the World Bank. Two big problems with this little NPR piece. First, Renee Montagne introduces the report as follows:
"When he was the Deputy Defense Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz was a leading advocate for the Iraq War. His enthusiasm for the cause made him an early target of opponents of that war. In 2005 President Bush named Wolfowitz as the US choice to head the World Bank, but fighting poverty can be almost as controversial as waging war."
Now that just killed me! His enthusiasm made him the target? How about his ignorant, venal, vicious arrogance and willingness to unleash "Shock and Awe" on the human beings of a non-threatening nation? And then to add the insult of saying Wolfowitz is "fighting poverty" and that fighting poverty is "controversial."

The second problem relates to the first. Gjelten never mentions that the World Bank is not universally considered a "poverty fighting" institution - and in fact is considered a key player in the neoliberal project of impoverishing the globe through structural readjustments.

For challenges to NPR's myopic view see this site from the Bank Information Center and this information from Global Issues. Wikipedia and Sourcewatch also have more balanced assessments.

Open Thread - Thursday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Iran - Again

NPR is back to being a rebroadcaster for anti-Iran propaganda from the Pentagon. Tonight Mike Shuster reports on the Pentagon's return to its hollow claims of blaming Iran for arming and training Iraqi insurgents.

Shuster gives unchallenged airtime to Major Marty Webber who, blaming Iran, claims, "This is the stuff that has been coming into this country since coalition forces have - you know - come in and liberated Iraq." Liberated?

Then Shuster introduces Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell: "He called any Iranian involvement in Iraq outside interference." Outside interference, from a general who happens to be about 9000 miles from home; I'll give Shuster credit for getting that one out without a snort!

Caldwell's voice then comes in: "The death and violence in Iraq are bad enough without this outside interference. Iran and all of Iraq’s neighbors really need to respect Iraq’s sovereignty and allow the people of this country the time and the space to choose their own future." Wow! How can you even begin to unpack this nonsense.

It's telling how much time and attention is given to this unsubstantiated "news," while the other Iranian news of note was the likely truth of the claims made by the recently freed Iranian diplomat, Jalal Sharafi. Given the long and sordid history of US (and Iraqi security forces) torture practices in Iraq over the last four years, you might think that NPR would give some serious airtime to Sharafi's claims that he was tortured with US complicity - especially since today Sharafi allowed himself to be physically examined by a Red Cross representative and an Iraqi ambassador.

Maybe we'll hear about it on Morning Edition tomorrow - or maybe not.


NPR covers the Wolfowitz sleazy favors at the World Bank. Amazingly, they offer nothing of Wolf's criminal responsibilities for the war in Iraq and the rampant corruption and favoritism in that project of "this new American century." Would it be so hard to offer just a little background for this unindicted war criminal, such as that offered by the BBC when Wolf first came to the World Bank. Other than contributing to the US of Amnesia, the story does a pretty good job of explaining the current controversy.

A Seat for Ajami

This from yesterday's exceptionally bad Morning Edition:
(Inskeep) "And did you get a sense that things were improving?"
(Ajami) "Yes, absolutely. There is a tremendous sense of optimism, some hope invested in this security plan, and some hope invested, to be honest with you, even in the arrival in Iraq of General David Petraeus."
When I heard that I didn't know who to be more disgusted with--Fouad Ajami for being such a lying sycophant, NPR for bringing on this Iraq War apologist again, or John Hopkins for giving cover (and money) to such a craven war monger.

With Ajami we really enter the land of the surreal. "Tremendous sense of optimism." That's a doozy. Ajami goes on to put the blame for the triumph of Shiite extremism in Iraq at the feet of the Sunnis who he charges with putting their faith in the insurgency. Ajami is always looking to put the blame for the Iraq disaster anywhere but on those responsible (no surprise, since as Inskeep tells us in this piece, Ajami is "a writer who sometimes advises the White House.")

As I posted last year, it is very telling to see where blame for the disaster of Iraq will be placed. Instead of seeing the US role in fostering the Shiite extremism in Iraq NPR continues to try and convince us that the main problem is the Iraqis themselves.

(Note: graphic came from this site by way of the now defunct Billimon site, with arrow added for Defendant Ajami.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Avoid Politics

When you hear Steve Inskeep say "avoid politics" be afraid. Translated it means "go along," "no dissent," "don't protest," and it means Inskeep likes it. So today he sings the praises of Conor Oberst's latest CD: "Conor Oberst...first captured the public attention as a protest singer with ambitions that brought to mind Bob Dylan. Now at the advanced age of 27, Oberst seems to have out today; it mostly avoids politics."

Yes $300,000 Inskeep(see p. 7 of this PDF link) likes mellow. The excerpts featured on this sad little report sound more like Muzak than music (Inskeep: "...strings and girl group harmonies"), which is a shame because Oberst has a great sound.

The web write-up of the story is even more offensive, stating, "Bright Eyes' new album, Cassadaga, mostly shies away from political screeds."

Monday, April 09, 2007


Juan Williams just can't let the Bush-version of the Pelosi trip to Syria go. He's back on to parrot the charges of Bush, Cheney, and the Washington Post. Here's his "analysis" with the sharp Steve Inskeep: "Nancy Pelosi was off to the Middle East, specifically to Syria, and she went there to talk to Bahar al Assad, the leader of Syria, but didn’t get too good a reaction—the Washington Post said it was a foolish trip…Bush said it was unfortunate…Cheney said it was bad behavior..."

Instead of following the obvious story which is why did Olmert lie about what he told Pelosi, Williams and Inskeep - like the rest of the pack - just pick up the Bush-Post line and run with it. Ruff!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Vocabulary Lesson for "Airy" Shapiro

(Graphic from eBooks@Adelaide)

Airy: 1. Of or relating to air [especially hot air!]. 2. Unreal, illusory.

Airy Ari talks to Liane Hansen this morning as he tries to prop up the sullied character of Consigleri Gonzales and cast aspersions on the Senate Judiciary Committee. First, here is how Airy characterizes the assertive letters of the Committee Chair Sen. Leahy: "The letters tend to be very pointed, almost snarky." SNARKY?

Snarky: 1. Crotchety, snappish. 2. Sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner.

Shapiro then describes one of the letters as demanding evidence of why the President claims there was no wrongdoing and lists evidence indicating wrongdoing. True it's not the subservient Congress that Shapiro has been comfortable with for the last 6 years, but it's not snarky. And if you look at Leahy's website you can find one of these letters to the White House and it's simply direct, professional and to the point.

There is a marked change in Shapiro's tone when the when Liane Hansen asks what Gonzales is doing to prepare for his upcoming April 17th testimony. Shapiro states, "This is his biggest make or break moment....his greatest opportunity to convince Congress and the American public that he deserves to remain Attorney General despite those mistakes." Now if that isn't a positive framing of the story. I wonder if Shapiro knows the following word:

Biased: 1. Giving a settled and often prejudiced outlook to.

Open Thread - Sunday - something different

NPR related comments welcomed. I've added this Sunday "Open Thread" because of the fine comment posted by Willie, a reader, regarding this morning's story on a blogger in the Green Zone. I've reposted Willie's in the comment section of this post.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Vocabulary Lesson for Scott Simon

In his chit chat with Daniel Schorr this morning Scott Simon had the following to say about the war spending bills passed in Congress: "...the struggle over an emergency spending bill that congressional Democrats have made hostage to some kind of timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq."

That is an interesting way to put it, "made hostage"...hmmm. Given that the US troops were sent into the deadly situation they are in on false premises and outright lies, it is a funny turn of phrase to use. Also given the images of hostages that have emerged from this sickening conflict, Scott Simon seems to need a little graphic refresher of what hostages are and what they aren't.

Here we see Iraqi insurgents holding hostages:

And here we see the US Senate in session:

I realize that for the ideologically challenged, it is a difficult distinction, but there is a difference!

But Even the Washington Post

Robert Siegel's interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offers a peak into NPR's ideological baseline (with an emphasis on base!). Siegel has this to say to Pelosi: "You have been criticized not just by President Bush and Vice President Cheney for this trip, but even the Washington Post editorial page devotes an editorial called 'Pratfall in Damascus' about your visit and talks with President Assad."

Only someone who's idea of legitimate political discourse is so extremely narrow and constricted would make such a nonexistent contrast between the WaPo's editorial pages and the Bush-Cheney ideology. A quick look on Common Dreams turns up several reports on the Bush-infiltrated, pro-war bias of the WaPo editorial page (not to be confused with some of it's actual reporting which can be pretty good at times.) If you can bear to look at the actual "Pratfall in Damascus" editorial, you'll see that it might as well have been written by a Bush-Cheney speech writer as these excerpts reveal:
"As any diplomat with knowledge of the region could have told Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Assad is a corrupt thug whose overriding priority at the moment is not peace with Israel..."
"...the attempt by a Democratic congressional leader to substitute her own foreign policy for that of a sitting Republican president."
"Ms. Pelosi rammed legislation through the House of Representatives that would strip Mr. Bush of his authority as commander in chief to manage troop movements in Iraq."

If you doubt that Siegel has an ideological bias favoring US (and Israeli) imperial dominance in the Middle East (as opposed to compromise and justice) consider the following grotesque statements made by Speaker Pelosi that went completely unchallenged:
  • "...we are interested in peace in the Middle East, with Israel, to go to Damascus and say to President Assad the same message that President Bush has for him....there is no division in our views..."
  • "The message that we carried from Prime Minister Olmert was the exact message that he gave us, he is a man of peace..."
  • "...what we went to the Middle East was to convey a message of where we are in agreement with the President…what we stand together on."
If ever Pelosi deserved criticism, it is for these assertions, but they square nicely with the ideology of NPR so she gets a pass--and if this is the best that the leader of the "opposition: party in the House can offer, we are in some seriously deep doo-doo.

Blowing Smoke

First, a tip of the hat to NPR for hosting an interview with Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance on yesterday's ATC. A visit to the DPA website is well worth your time, as they take issue with the whole concept of the "war on drugs;" it is also a great resource for young people wanting serious information on illegal drugs and their dangers. It's too bad NPR also didn't contact one of their usual think tanks, the libertarian CATO Institute, which also challenges the "war on drugs."

Sadly, though, this interview is lost in the general smoke screen of John Burnett's whole series which accepts the basic premises of the "war on drugs." On the same ATC, Burnett has a piece that is critical of John Walters, the current "Drug Czar" - what a title! The main thrust of the piece is that the current "Drug Czar" is not pursuing the "war on drugs" with adequate vigor. From Burnett we learn that "Walters has also had rocky relations on Capital Hill; four members of Congress, all prominent drug warriors..." - prominent drug warriors, give me a break. And lest we as a nation slack off in this glorious drug war Burnett has these pearls of wisdom for us:
  • "...what troubles people who’ve dedicated their lives to fighting drugs, is our short memory."
  • "Antidrug activists say this is precisely the time not to back off."
  • "If there’s anything 38 years of the drug war has taught us, it’s that we forget it at our peril."
Over the top boys...and on to VICTORY!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Big White Lie

Yesterday afternoon NPR's Michelle Norris reported on Florida s latest moves to rescind parts of its laws stripping felons of their voting rights. This report was remarkable for what went unsaid. First, no mention was ever given to the role that felon disenfranchisement played in the Jim Crow south. Secondly, and perhaps even more shocking, is that there was not one reference made to the pivotal role of fraudulent felon disenfranchisement carried out in Florida (as noted in The Nation, Mother Jones,, and the AP) during the stolen election of 2000 which put George Bush in the White House. It's a stunning omission. It would be like reporting on Army Corps of Engineers flood projects without mentioning the debacle of the levee failures in New Orleans.

I thought perhaps that I was being a bit hard on NPR and that maybe they had given coverage to the fraud of the Florida "scrub lists" in the election of 2000, but if you search "DBT" (the company that carried out the scam) on NPR's website you get NOTHING! If you search "Database Technology" (the full name of the company) you do get ONE decent report by Phillip Martin from December 2000--but there is nothing else, no follow up whatsoever.

Open Thread - Friday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Failings Will Happen

This morning we learn how the US has the "best trained armed force that we’ve ever had." We learn that after hearing about how sensitive and gentle the US military is in extreme situations in places like Iraq. I loved how in the audio clip of JAG training, the US didn't shoot a guard who raised his weapon...that was pretty funny.

Listening to this piece on NPR you would never know that Abu Ghraib was not an aberration, but was the standard operating procedure for abusing detainees in Iraq (the aberration being that it was indisputably caught on film). Instead Ari Shapiro tells us that "when the military has high profile public failings like the Abu Ghraib abuses or the massacre at Haditha, JAGs investigate." See, it was just a public failing--and JAGs took care of it.

We also hear from a retired JAG who runs the oxymoronic "Center for Law Ethics and National Security" at Duke University. According to Shapiro this man "says failings will happen." That's reassuring.

What I find really aggravating about this piece is that I actually would like to hear from some JAGs -- those who have shown the integrity of opposing the treatment of detainees in the sham of the "war on terror" -- and not these sorry apologists.

White Lies

A kind reader pointed out this morning's insulting take on the Brigham Young University protests against Dick Cheney coming to deliver BYU's commencement address. Howard Berkes spends a lot of time talking about the colors that Republicans are wearing--blue--and then goes on to mention that the protesters against Cheney will be wearing white. He informs us that white is the color of surrender! Subtle isn't it.

If Berkes had done a little poking around he might have realized that white is often the color of peace, and has been employed by the women's suffrage movement in the US, by Cuban women dissidents, by G-8 anti-poverty protesters, Italian anti-globalization activists, and the immigrant rights demonstrators of 2006. So much for surrender.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Open Thread - Wednesday & Thursday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Governor General Koppel

Koppel weighs in on the British military personnel that Iran is holding prisoner. Here was the telling moment of Koppel's commentary:
"Either that or the British will dispatch an envoy to eat humble pie, apologize for the intrusion and get their people home again. It's humiliating and outrageous, but we're in no position to have another war in the Persian Gulf."
Hmmm...and did Koppel express any such indignation over the US seizure of Iranian officials in Baghdad in December or later in Irbil in January? I guess it's only "humiliating and outrageous" when the underlings do such things, but it's our right and prerogative -- and military punishment would be justified if only we were in a better position to act.

What Was I Smoking

Here's a little quiz. Guess the source of this quote:
" is our judgment that the war on drugs has failed, that it is diverting intelligent energy away from how to deal with the problem of addiction, that it is wasting our resources, and that it is encouraging civil, judicial, and penal procedures associated with police states. We all agree on movement toward legalization..."
THE NATIONAL REVIEW! For God's sake, even The National Review can surprise--but not NPR. What was I smoking when I saw that NPR was doing a series on "the war on drugs" and wondered if they might actually question the whole premise of the war on drugs. Not a chance, just as they never dare question the premise of the similar farce called "the war on terror."

You might hope that any serious coverage of "the war on drugs" would look back at the anti-Hispanic roots of anti-drug laws (particularly anti-marijuana laws). Any thinking person (and apparently there are some even at The National Review) would have to ask oneself what is the purpose of the war on drugs if it isn't just to make the police powers of the state more robust and to criminalize certain sectors of the population (ahem...Black folks!) To get a sense of this it is worth doing a Google search of "war on drugs" and "black codes" (here are the first three results--one, two, and three.)

So it was that Mondays ATC piece looks only at the failure of the "war on drugs" to stop all drugs coming in to the US and today's piece is a bit of hogwash from Juan "Plan Colombia" Forero where we get to here how Plan Colombia has helped "reduce the violence" in Colombia--wow!

Open Thread - Tuesday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Little Mr. Sunshine

Opening Morning Edition's piece on Iraq is "Straight Talk Express" McCain trying to pass off a load of b.s. about progress in Iraq: "Things are better, and there are encouraging signs....Never have I been able to drive from the airport. Never have I been able to go out into the city as I was today."

Instead of taking on McCain's lethal dishonesty and obvious con job, NPR gives him an assist with Steve Inskeep talking to Lourdes Garcia-Navarro about "some progress" in the security situation in Iraq. Garcia-Navarro is a bit more sanguine than the upbeat Steve Inskeep. She notes that "last week alone 600 Iraqis were killed...US soldier deaths are not down either...official figures from Iraq’s government shows that in general, civilian deaths were up last month about 15%..." but she does add that "the good news, it has to be said, is sectarian murders, yesterday there were 24 victims in the capital. The numbers we’re seeing go from the 20s to the 40s, and that is really much, much lower than during the height of the blood letting." She also notes what Juan Cole of Informed Comment predicted months ago: the insurgency has stepped up its attacks outside of Baghdad.

Here is the part that really got my goat. Inskeep observes, "I want to make sure I understand this. You’re saying that in recent weeks extra American troops have put their lives on the line to buy time for the Iraqi political process and so far at least people have not used the time."

Well, Inskeep, they have put their lives on the line not to "buy time for the Iraqi political process" but because they've been ordered to do it by their bumbling commander-in-chief who ignored his own Iraq Study Group and the will of the voters in a gamble to save the failure, the disaster, the horror of his making that is Iraq. They're sacrificing to buy time all right, time so that Bush can finish his term without the failure becoming an utter defeat before he leaves office. Yes, its the bloody calculus of this soulless President - and now Sunshine McCain - who feel that thousands more Iraqi and American lives are a worthwhile price for their political ambitions.

Open Thread - Monday

NPR related comments welcomed.