Friday, February 29, 2008

Spreadin' the Surge

If I were working for John McCain's BS Express and spreading it on thick about the blessings of the Surge™ I might say something like "McCain's political fortunes have improved with the apparent success of the troop surge...but the surge and success were a long time in coming." Sure I'd know that it was a complete lie, something any reporter could could debunk in a flash by doing a little, tiny bit of reading in say maybe The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Dahr Jamail's dispatches, or Juan Cole's analysis. Amazingly, Senator McCain has a full-time volunteer spokesperson at NPR who says exactly such rubbish; his name is Scott Horsley.

Horsley wasn't satisfied with just selling the Surge Success Story, he also jumped on the McCain band wagon of revisionist make-believe about the Vietnam War being lost because "civilian leaders had mismanaged the war." Horsley tells us that "McCain spent nine months...studying how America had entered and lost the Vietnam War. He didn't conclude the war was wrong, but...he did resent how badly civilian leaders had mismanaged the war and how ineffectually senior military commanders had resisted." Just in case you reasonably think that McCain's deluded thinking may be a danger to others and better suited for the Straight-jacket Express, Horsely reminds us at the end of the piece that "McCain himself is a student of history." Yeah, and Scott Horsely is a great reporter, too!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Open Thread

Got NPR related comments? Leave 'em here.

Newspeak from Oceania

If I were a radio broadcaster working for the Ministry of Peace I'd start my report on the guy who heads up the Pacific Region of the world's most bloated war-making organization by saying,

"This morning we're going to take a look at a military leader who spends his days presiding over peace rather than war."

But wait, that would be plagiarism since that's exactly how Steve Inskeep begins Tuesday morning's NPR report on Admiral Timothy Keating of Pacific Command. In case you missed the subtle Inscreepy® message, he finishes by reminding us that Keating "spends his days preparing for but trying to prevent conflicts in the huge Asia Pacific region."

Mike Schuster (hanging out at the West 2008 warlove convention) takes over the boot licking at this point. Schuster reveals that Keating's "previous assignments seem to have prepared him well for the Pacific Command." Pointedly Schuster tells us that
"Keating has traveled throughout the region, and he has gotten good marks so far from many of the experts who follow US policy in Asia - among them Ralph Cossa of the Pacific Forum in Hawaii."
There's that favorite NPR ploy: a vague and unsubstantiated phrase like "many of the experts." What "experts?" From what agencies? And specifically what outside independent perspective does Ralph Cossa represent? Let's have a look. From his bio at the Center for International and Strategic Studies we learn that he
  • served in the U.S. Air Force from 1966 to 1993, achieving the rank of colonel
  • served as special assistant to the commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Command
  • served as deputy director for strategic studies at the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies
  • served as a national security affairs fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University
I'd say we've been served!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How 'Bout Them Apples?

Morning Edition has been interviewing "conservatives" this week. Of course conservative is a virtually meaningless term encompassing a vast terrain from the basic rightwing Republican conservative like Chuck Hagel to the far right, trash-talking brownshirts of the airways like Rush Limbaugh and...

...Glenn Beck! That's right, this morning NPR went bobbing for guests and came up with a doozy: Glenn Beck. Yes, that class act radio/TV personality who called Cindy Sheehan a "pretty big prostitute," warned Muslims about ending up in concentration camps, and claimed that " if you're an ugly woman, you're probably a progressive as well." (Oh and there's more.)

Steve Inskeep interviews Beck and does he brings up some of these unsavory remarks to put Beck's opinions in perspective, and perhaps to challenge them? Not a chance. Inskeep puts quite a shine on Beck:

Of Beck's racist mockery of John McCain, Inskeep states matter-of-factly: "The radio and TV host went on to refer to Senator McCain as Juan McCain which suggests an issue where conservatives disagree - immigration."

Inskeep says nothing when Beck says, "Let them bottom out and this is - boy this is tough medicine. Let Barack Obama get in."

Again silence from Inskeep as Beck characterizes the elections of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton as a "swing to the extreme."

And lastly when Beck says of former Senator Rick Santorum, "the guy is a Winston Churchill in many ways," not only does Inskeep not laugh out loud at such rubbish, he actually praises Beck:
"Does it say something about the lack of leadership in the conservative movement if you as a relatively well informed conservative look around and Santorum, a guy who was defeated in 2006, is the only name that comes to mind, that excites you?"

Stunning, isn't it. That's our listener-support dollars at work. If you thought this was fun, tomorrow its back in the bowl for "drown it in the bathtub" Norquist of the Americans for Tax Reform front. I can barely wait.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Liberal Media

This morning Liane Hansen hosted one of the most misleading discussions on the 2008 elections that I've heard to date. She was talking to Mindy Finn and Joshua Levy about the stunning turnout of young voters in this primary season. Finn is weighing in for the right ("a Republican strategist, and former director of e-Strategy for Mitt Romney" according to NPR's website) and Joshua Levy weighing in for the non-partisan ("a company that tracks how the 2008 presidential candidates and their supporters are using the Internet" according to NPR). And who is representing a liberal, Democratic perspective?

The discussion is all about how energized and active youth voters are. But wait, I've been following the primaries, and what I've learned is that the turnout among Democrats hugely surpassing that of Republicans. Secondly, the amazing youth turnout is a phenomena of the Democratic primaries (especially the Obama campaign), not the Republicans. I thought maybe I had imagined these facts, so I went poking around CNN's results pages. Here's some of the numbers:
  • California: total votes - (Dem.) 4.375 million, (Rep.) 2.51 million ; (Dem.) 16% were 18-29 yrs. old, (Rep.) 10% were 18-29 yrs. old.
  • Wisconsin: total votes - (Dem.) 1.09 million, (Rep.) .403 million ; (Dem.) 16% were 18-29 yrs. old, (Rep.) 11% were 18-29 yrs. old.
Similar numbers can be seen in South Carolina, and in Florida where the DNC disallowed the Democratic vote, and yet the Democrats still outpolled Republicans and the 18-29 vote shrank to 7% for those inspiring Republicans. Maybe it's McCain's 100 year plan or his Bomb Iran singing skills that fails to rally those silly young people. Really a fair report would try to uncover what it is that is motivating the flood of young voters to support the Democratic candidates (and what is keeping them from the Republican cause.)

Further maddening was Liane Hansen's failure to challenge Finn's description of the New York Times report as a "smear story" or to challenge her to back up the following ludicrous claim: "A majority of the right is getting behind John McCain, and if not specifically getting behind him, at least going against the efforts that they see by the liberal media to crush him." Wouldn't it be great to hear a reporter (that's you Lianne) say, "What liberal media? Name some specific examples of liberal bias against the Bush administration, the Repubican candidates, the war in Iraq, the torture of detainees, etc."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Open Thread

NPR related comments are always welcomed.

Protecting the Population

This morning I was wondering where that "hard reportin' " Scott Simon was that I had been hearing about. He was chatting with another counter-insurgency soldier/intellectual, Col. H. R. McMaster, who had his genius on display way back in Feb. 2003, when he wrote that, "It seems as if the George W. Bush administration has kicked the Vietnam syndrome. Maybe it is time for the rest of us to do the same." See, that's the kind of sharp thinking that gets you gigs at the big think tanks like the Hoover Institution and the International Institute For Strategic Studies - and NPR air time, of course!

I just loved when the Colonel stated that "as the natures of the conflict in both Afghanistan and Iraq evolved from more conventional campaigns...they shifted to a...counter-insurgency campaign that placed a premium on protecting the population." Man, that takes some serious chutzpah to put that one out there - I do believe a trained-monkey-of-a-reporter might have a few questions about those 1,000,000 plus souls who somehow slipped through the population protection safety-net there in Iraq (not to mention the 4 million plus who opted for their own population security plan by fleeing). But let's listen to Scott Simon's challenge to this utter Pentagon hogwash:


That's right - nothing.

The Colonel's not done, though. He surges on with this gem, "What we endeavored to do over the past year is to help move the various communities in Iraq to stop this very destructive cycle of sectarian violence." Well yes, the US surge did help "move" the various communities all right, but what about the context of the US policy of creating sectarian division and using sectarian death squads? Let's give Hard Hittin' Simon another listen:


There it is again. Hello darkness my old friend.

Hard Reporting

This morning Scott Simon confessed to having idealized assumptions about Fidel Castro back when he was "of that generation of activists" (say what?). But never fear, the intrepid Simon changed his mind, telling us that "when I first went to Cuba on a reporting trip I retained some of the rosy assumptions of my youth but hard reporting challenges assumptions." Hard reporting - Scott Simon? - now that is funny!

Someone needs to toss a little cold water on Simon when he has these Walter Mitty delusions. Not only does he think he does "hard reporting" but thinks he's on leftist news show and has to challenge some of his colleagues or listeners about being apologists for Castro.

Hey, Simon, you're on NPR, remember? You're basically a mouthpiece for the State Department and an apologist for US militarism, nothing more and nothing less...well, maybe less.

(I noticed that American Experience on PBS is covering Castro & Cuba and it looks like a far more nuanced approach than anything I've ever heard on NPR - although Daniel Schorr had a pretty decent commentary about Cuba this week.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Integrated Systems

Thursday morning NPR aired another war-products commercial. Adam Hochberg was at a trade show and took a shine to the Integrated Tourniquet System designed by Blackhawk! Products Group. It's a uniform for soldiers with 8 tourniquets built right into it - a product worthy of the Yes Men. Gosh, what will they think of next. I'm kind of hoping for the Integrated Healthcare System outfit for the uninsured - just pull a tab and voila! you get a complete physical: blood pressure and heart check, prostate exam, urine test, etc. all without ever having to unzip a single zipper - or see a single doctor. Man, you've got to love the inspired NPR News program directors!

Ignoring the superficiality and stupidity of the piece, the way Steve Inskeep introduces the report speaks volumes about the ideology at NPR. He begins the segment with
"Next, let's look at an effort to improve the odds of surviving the war on terror."
Consider a few aspects of this little Inscreepy® statement:
  • "An effort"
It is an effort all right; an effort to make a lot of money off a product that may or may not help soldiers avoid bleeding to death immediately after they've been seriously wounded.
  • "Surviving the war on terror"
What "war on terror"? Could he be talking about the illegal, immoral, stupid, violent and rapacious war in Iraq, launched by the Bush administration and the US government (a war that has by all accounts increased global non-state terror)? And surviving? Most of the nearly 4000 soldiers killed in Iraq (not to mention the 1 million plus Iraqis) might have survived the "war on terror" if news outlets like NPR had done their jobs from the beginning. Where was the skepticism and investigative reporting starting way back in 2002 as the war on Iraq "product line" was launched?

It really is an amazing statement. I can only guess that Inskeep was wearing his nifty DHS Integrated Statement System suit for journalists: put it on, pull the right (far right) tab and everything you say will dovetail nicely with the policies and goals of both the Department of Defense and The Department of Heimat Security.

Open Thread

Got a comment related to NPR news? Put it here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


On NPR's ethics portion of its website it states that coverage must be fair. Here's NPR's statement:

"'Fair' means that we present all important views on a subject. This range of views may be encompassed in a single story on a controversial topic, or it may play out over a body of coverage or series of commentaries. But at all times the commitment to presenting all important views must be conscious and affirmative, and it must be timely if it is being accomplished over the course of more than one story."

Well, I've heard a lot of Cuba coverage in light of Castro's announced resignation. NPR has touted US government wishes for democracy, Bush demanding free and fair elections (!), human rights abuses, Codrescu's utterly one-sided rant against Castro, etc. Honestly, I don't have any problem with severe criticism of the Castro dictatorship and his human rights abuses. But I'm still waiting for the coverage of ALL important views on the subject - US state terror against Cuba, the Allende example of how the US treats socialists who build open societies, the human rights records of US trained and supported Latin American governments, the ruinous effects of the US embargo, the successes of health care and education in Cuba, etc. Something tells me I'll be waiting a long, long time.

If anyone hears some balanced reporting on Cuba on NPR news in the next several days, please post it to the comments section.

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Let's Just Go Back a Minute

Readers of the blog will know that one of my biggest gripes with NPR is its lobotomization of history. NPR tells history with a scalpel, generally excising history of the US government's less savory actions so as not to offend listeners of the United States of Amnesia. Sadly, one of the NPR reporters I generally like, Sylvia Poggioli, took her turn at the operating table regarding Kosovo. A friend of this blog dropped me an email about Poggioli's piece that aired on Sunday's ATC. He suggested that the history of Kosovo was anything but the square "US good, Serbians bad" narrative aired on NPR.

Andrea Seabrook, interviewing Poggioli says, "Let's just go back a minute and remind ourselves why we watch this situation in the Balkans so carefully. Nine years ago when NATO and the US went to war over tiny Kosovo, let's listen to this cut of President Clinton [sound bite of Clinton announcing bombing]. Sylvia, how did the US and NATO get there?"

Poggioli answers, "It's precisely here in Kosovo that the disintegration of Yugoslavia began. Twenty years ago, Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic consolidated his power by fueling Serbian nationalist sentiments here in Kosovo...after the wars in Croatia and Bosnia, Serb repression here worsened and triggered a guerrilla insurgency that in turn led to brutal mass expulsions of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians. That's when NATO intervened."

I'm not terribly knowledgeable about the Balkans, so I'd welcome any expert comments, but this narrative did sound a wee bit too convenient. Just a little poking around tells quite a different tale (one that fits quite squarely with Naomi Klein's thesis of the Shock Doctrine). Third World Traveler, as always, has a helpful short piece with a different narrative. An article in the Covert Action bulletin back in 1996 has this insightful little analysis of the bloody fragmentation of Yugoslavia:
"Lost in the barrage of images and self-serving analyses are the economic and social causes of the conflict. The deep- seated economic crisis which preceded the civil war is long forgotten. The strategic interests of Germany and the US in laying the groundwork for the disintegration of Yugoslavia go unmentioned, as does the role of external creditors and international financial institutions."
Yes, the World Bank has shock interests in Kosovo (which as Poggioli tells us on today's ME is "overpopulated and mired in poverty" and has "a jobless rate close to 70%"). On its web site the World Bank cites a "reconstruction" goal of
"Developing of an overall economic assessment (e.g., institutions and policies for fiscal management, monetary and banking arrangements, structural issues, in particular, those related to privatization and private sector development, and social protection/poverty-alleviation)" [emphasis added].
This warfare and economic ruin of the new Balkan states was no accident, but part of US policy toward the region, and its push from the US Congress has been cited as originating in the 1991 Foreign Operations Appropriations Law 101-513 (see also Albrecht and Bowman).

To lay blame on the US, some European states such as Germany, and "western" economic institutions in no way minimizes the criminal behavior of the Serb forces and leaders (and Croat forces and leaders). But for NPR to again offer this hacked-up history as anything but the pro-US propaganda that it is indicates what they think of their listeners.

Breathe deeply and count backwards from 10...9...8...

For those who want to do a little time travel, Z Magazine has a pretty good Kosovo archive, although some of the links are dead ends, due to age.

(Hat tip to Flavio.)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Devine Intervention

Scott Simon was chatting this morning with Tad Devine about Democratic Party super delegates. Simon mentioned that Devine was there at the creation of the super delegates following the 1980 election cycle. Here's what Devine had to say:
"They were created for a number of reasons.....a feeling at the time that the activists who were getting elected as delegates at the time during the 70s and 80s really didn't reflect the mainstream of the Democratic Party and that these elected officials [super delegates] would actually be more representative of the mainstream of the Democratic Party. And they were also picked so there would be some mechanism to make sure that there was...a backstop in case someone who was way outside the mainstream was going to be the nominee...."
I about fell out of my chair. This was great. Here was a Democratic Party insider explaining how the super delegate mechanism was created to thwart the voting of the Democratic rank and file activists in the name of some mythical "mainstream" (trans. = center-right, pro-business, etc.) Surely, any interviewer worth his or her salt would home in on these comments, ask some follow-ups, ask for details, clarification, etc. But, I forget, Scott Simon is the one performing this interview.

It would have also been interesting to bring up the string of inspiring "mainstream" candidates that Mr. Backstop has championed. On Devine's biography, available as a Word document here, we learn that Devine
  • "in 1980...worked on President Carter’s reelection campaign as a delegate tracker."
  • "Deputy Director of Delegate Selection in the nomination campaign of former Vice President Walter Mondale and Executive Assistant to the Campaign Manager in the 1984 general election."
  • "served as Director of Delegate Selection and Field Operations in the nomination campaign of Governor Michael Dukakis."
  • "In 1992, Tad Devine was Campaign Manager for Senator Bob Kerrey’s campaign for President."
  • "In the 2000 general election, Mr. Devine served as a senior strategist to the Gore/Lieberman 2000 campaign and oversaw the day-to-day management of the campaign."
  • "In 2004, Mr. Devine served as a senior advisor and strategist to Senator John Kerry’s campaign for President."
Quite a track record of inspiring (and winning!) candidates and campaigns. A good reporter might have asked if a glance outside the "mainstream" might not have been a good idea...unless that reporter is so steeped in center-right ideology that such a concept wouldn't even enter his narrow mind.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Nagl Gazing

Media "genius" for US counterinsurgency, John Nagl, is back on NPR...again (see Aug. 9, 2007 and Dec. 5, 2006). On Tuesday's ATC, Michelle Norris has a friendly chat with Nagl, not once raising the issues of how, in spite of Nagl's intellectual window dressing (and plagarism), US counterinsurgency has always been about crushing poor people with appalling violence.

Norris also does not question the contradiction that lies at the heart of Nagl's argument (see his brief summary here). Nagl tells Norris that counterinsurgency can not be won simply by killing insurgents; he states that "whatever underlying social concerns led to an insurgency developing will reemerge unless you find a way to solve those basic problems." Yeah, well what if the underlying social concern is the fact that an imperial power is occupying your country to control your country's resources (Iraq) or to prop up its oligarchy and protect poverty wages (Central America)? Maybe that's why historically, US counterinsurgency has relied on mass murder, torture, and other forms of state terror (Philippines, Vietnam, El Salvador, Nicaragua, etc.)

Norris never even hints at the sordid and murderous history of counterinsurgency, instead she says, "We're talking about wars that are long and protracted and drawn out and very very difficult." That's definitely how it looks from the point of view of the empire.

Nagl likes Norris' answer. He says, "That's exactly right Michele, the average counterinsurgency campaign takes about a decade so these are long hard slow wars..."

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Israeli Violence Equals Human Rights

Yesterday on ATC Brian Naylor reported on the passing of Rep. Tom Lantos. He states the following with no awareness of the bitter contradictions:
"His experiences with persecution made Lantos the Congressman an eloquent advocate for human rights and a staunch defender of Israel."
By "defender of Israel," he doesn't mean a humane, complex loyalty to the idea of a just state of Israel (as one might find in Tikkun or in a person of integrity such as Amira Hass) - he means the lethal, racist, US-style, AIPAC Zionism that Lantos championed. It's astounding that a reporter could, with a straight face, link "advocate of human rights" with "staunch defender of Israel" in the same sentence and expect to be taken seriously.

Later in the report Naylor says that Speaker of the House Pelosi described Lantos as "shining a light on dark corners of oppression." Apparently just some corners...

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Monday, February 11, 2008

All Pentagon All the Time

Both this morning and this afternoon Guy Raz reports on the Pentagon's announcement that it will seek the death penalty for six detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo. Poor Guy Raz, stuck inside the maze of the Pentagon, just can't find a non-Pentagon point of view no matter which way he turns. According to Raz "the way the Pentagon is describing it, this will be an open trial relatively similar to a civilian court" and "all six men will be able to call witnesses" and "cross examine" the prosecution witnesses, "and examine all the evidence." Dang, sounds like a good show trial to me! In the afternoon Raz turned over a lot of the reporting duties to Kangaroo Court Specialist Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann from the Pentagon. Hartmann assures us that the six prisoners will get "a fair trial consistent with American standards of justice." Ah yes - and Raz will give us a fair report consistent with American standards of journalism, too.

Raz does note that the trial process will take years, and he mentions that "all of the accused men have alleged they were tortured under US military custody - in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the CIA has admitted that he was subjected to waterboarding." But he also repeats the completely unreliable "admissions" of guilt made by Mohammed as if they were acceptable testimony.

What we don't hear is one single intelligent, dissenting viewpoint. Raz apparently has never heard of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, or the American Civil Liberties Union. But who needs those wacky do-gooders when Guy Raz and Pentagon officials can cover all the angles?

Open Thread

NPR related comments always welcomed.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

How About that Wing?

This morning Liane Hansen, noting Huckabee's successes in Saturday's voting, commented that "once again it showed that McCain faces a significant hurdle - the conservative wing of his own party." Conservative wing! What other wing of the Republican party is there? And is there anyone in their right mind who thinks John McCain is not conservative?

I know there are a few (very few) Republicans out there who consider themselves moderate Republicans, but what sway do they have in the G.O.P.? As Harold Meyerson pointed out in the WaPo in September of 2006, the idea of moderate Republicans is a sad joke - they don't have any (zero, zilch, nada) influence in stopping the reactionary, extremist Republican policies from steamrolling ahead.

NPR is not alone in this misrepresentation. Listen to any mainstream news and you'll hear the word conservative being used to describe not only the traditional pro-business, anti-union, big-Pentagon conservatives but also the more radical core of politicians and activists who are bigoted, theocratic, homophobic, fetus-focused, authoritarian, pro-torture, pro-war, corporatist, etc.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Missing the Poppy Field for the Poppies

Barnett Rubin, on the Informed Comment Global Affairs blog, noted back on January 24, 2008, that
"Under the provocative title Poverty feeds Afghan drugs trade, Alastair Leithead of the BBC reports from Helmand and Balkh in southern and northern Afghanistan. His findings, like my arguments, contradict the claim by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (echoed of course by the US) that 'opium cultivation is no longer linked to poverty.'"
This is a crucial issue and is missing from Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson's report from Afghanistan on Saturday Weekend Edition. Her report notes the burgeoning opium harvests coming out of Afghanistan and how this benefits the Taliban. So far, so good. Sarhaddi Nelson mentions that "the UN report noted that eradication has had a neglible effect" but she fails to tell us the most significant fact of the eradication program - that this US directed program is not only failing to stem the growth of poppies and opium production, but is actually fueling the growth of the Taliban and the destabilization of Afghanistan! This is not a new observation: Green Left in Australia reported on this in October of 2006. In August of 2007, Adam Holloway of The Telegraph reported that "while the US wants mass eradication programmes, the Royal Marines believe that eradication fuels the insurgency...." Reason Online had similar news in September of 2007. And then this week a major report from the Center on International Cooperation of New York University (authored by Barnett Rubin) has detailed the stupidity of the US program in Afghanistan.

From Sarhaddi Nelson all you learn is that the poppy fields are thriving and that "farmers there were expressing frustration....they want things like crop subsidies and helping get their goods to market, but all those things are just not moving fast enough for them." Frankly that's just misleading. It's not that they're not moving fast enough; it's that the US policy is - shall we say - ass backwards. All this makes me wonder just where on earth Sarhaddi Nelson gets her information, and just who is she working for anyway?

Open Thread - Weekend

Got something to say about NPR? Put it here.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I'll Drink to That

A real laugher this morning on NPR. Alex Spielgel reports on the promotion of "the family dinner" as discouraging drug use and overall antisocial behavior. Spielgel opens the piece with this:

"....another public figure lent a familiar name to the [family dinner] cause (sound clip from a PSA featuring George W. and the mean-spirited Barbara Bush)....In this public service announcement Barbara Bush goes on to explain that children who eat with their parents are less likely to end up with a drug, cigarette or alchohol habit. Now research has shown that children who eat with their parents are less likely to struggle with substance abuse. The question at issue is only this: does the dinner itself offer some magical protection or is there something else at work."

Whoa. Wait. Stop the train. Surely Spiegel is going to skewer this asinine bit of advertising served up by the Family Day folks at Columbia University. Seriously, could there be a more laughable spokesperson than the compassionate Barabara Bush laying claim to the benefits of family dinners? Yep, the cozy Bush dinners worked wonders on keeping George off the bottle and perhaps snorting a few lines, too. It also helped set the model for Jeb's little family meals. Ah yes, the Bushes, what a fine family!

You might think Spiegel, with her work on this American Life, might have been a tad embarrassed to embed this clip in her piece without even a nod to its bitter irony, but this was Morning Edition after all.

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Seems like NPR expects us to swallow whatever the Pentagon serves up, newsworthy or not. This morning Tom Bowman reports on a terrorist training video for teens. First, whether this video is al-Qaida or just plain insurgent propaganda is unclear (funny how al-Qaida or Iran is behind every bit of bad news in Iraq if you trust NPR). Second, as awful and depressing as the clip of the video is on the NPR website - why does it deserve special coverage? Is the exploitation of children in wars unique to al-Qaida or the insurgents in Iraq? Hardly, it's a worldwide scourge. Is this particular exploitation of children being done by agents who act in our name? No. That would be newsworthy, wouldn't it?

Well, how about the US detention of children in Iraq? Let's see what NPR has done to cover that story - what do you know, virtually nothing! Funny how it was happening way back in 2004 and continuing with new twisted twists in 2007. Does using teenagers as masked informants count as exploitation? And what about that amazing democratic "government" of Iraq that we've been standing up - how have they done with children? Better not touch that one.

Those kinds of stories would take a bit of work to investigate, and let's just say some of those choice interviews with George and Dick might just dry up. Better to just let the US military hand you the videos and tell you how unlike us the enemy is, and how inhuman and fanatic they are, and how crucial to freedom and civilization this stupid war in Iraq is. Gulp. Yum.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Open Thread

NPR comments? Start typing.


In the Sunday story on the lost hydrogen bomb, Guy Raz is introducing the B-47 bomber:
"It was called the B-47; it was really a revolutionary bomber at the time, a really beautiful plane. Here's how military historian, Doug Keeny, describes it:

'The B-47 was a sexy, elegant looking aircraft. It had swept wings, very stylish, rakish swept wings, it had a swept tail. These were all new innovations. It was a jet engined aircraft with pods, they were in pairs.' "
No comment needed.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


Scott Simon felt moved to open his heart and denounce the terrorist bombings in Baghdad. Here are highlights glossed with hyperlinks:

"...the kind of news that can startle and sicken.

Many of those killed were reportedly young school boys....

Every now and then it doesn't seem impertinent to ask 'Why?' What did the people who plotted those bombings think that killing innocents would do about anything?

Several Iraqis in the market told authorities they recognized the women, they were mentally handicapped....mentally disabled adults...respond to attention, how they're so often eager to be helpful. The thought that someone took advantage of these generous instincts is - I can't avoid the word again - sickening.

Those innocent people killed...were the object of the attack. Some people make violence their own ideology, death and destruction their own goals. They may invoke venerated names, even God's, or cite some goal, even peace or freedom as their guiding lights, but killers often say they hear voices. Conventional politics takes so much time, so much compromise. You can lose or win and see little result, so some people try to capture history with a single shot....people don't have to know what you stand for, just what you're willing to do - that's how the thugs in this world can make good people cower.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Hard Hitting Journalism Triumphs

Man, that was some gutsy coverage that NPR gave to the latest survey by Opinion Research Business showing that the US led Iraq war has killed over a million Iraqis. After all that is something that US listeners should know about a war that our nation started and that we are paying for.

I guess I've gotten so jaded and critical of NPR that I would have thought they'd opt for doing something crass and stupid like doing not one, not two, not three, but four (!) reports on the Superbowl this morning and then following it up with one or two big stories on it in the afternoon. But really, you'd have to have to be pretty sick to put hyping a football game over covering our nation's responsiblity for killing over a million people in less than five years. NPR would never do that...would they?

(source of graphic)

Like Royalty

How times have changed. Seems like just yesterday that the US was rounding up mostly innocent Iraqis, packing them into disgusting prisons, torturing and humiliating them and then just wondering how come the battle for hearts and minds was going so bad. Not any more! I know because Corey Flintoff went to Camp Bucca in southern Iraq and talked to the outgoing and incoming commanders of the prison camp. Col. James Brown, the outgoing commander, tells him of the new waiting area, "We want to bring them here, treat them like royalty, make them know how welcome they are." According to Flintoff, Brown wants "Camp Bucca to reflect the American values of fairness and generosity."

We do hear that some visitors are upset at searches and guards that yell at them, but the incoming commander, Brig. Gen. Robert Hipwell, "says he's just as committed to making the visitation program as successful as it can be. But like Brown, he will face the difficulties of running a volatile detention camp and the cultural barriers between Iraqis and Americans." As Flintoff explains, "It may be that no amount of good will and hard work can make the experience a happy one."

Yep, all that good will and hard work just might not cut it...