Monday, September 29, 2008

The Hotter the Fire the Cooler He Gets

To profile Henry Paulson (again!) in the midst of the financial crisis NPR brings in heavy hitter, Yuki Noguchi (who according to her bio at the WaPo "is particularly interested in writing about how consumers interact with technology and Internet subcultures -- the weirder the better.")

Parents might want to send the kids out of the room for this one. Noguchi is probably going to give us the dirt on Goldman Sachs with it's long tentacles into more governments than United Fruit Co. Or, perhaps like Nomi Prins in the Nation she's going to remind us of "the fact that Paulson presided over Goldman Sachs during a period when the firm increasingly transformed itself from a classic investment bank relying heavily on profit from stable fees into something resembling a hedge fund, in which record profits were based on trading bets made with borrowed funds." Probably she'll consult economist Joseph Stiglitz who will tell her that "Paulson and others in Wall Street are claiming that the bailout is necessary and that we are in deep trouble. Not long ago, they were telling us that we had turned a corner." Or maybe...

...she'll just produce some vacuous, uninformative, weirder the better NPR homage to Paulson, using lines like
  • "Garten, a professor at Yale, is no slouch, but he says, Paulson keeps him on his toes."
  • "...he [James Gorder] says Paulson appears to have lost none of the endurance and vigor that made him stand out within an office full of overachievers."
  • "Garten says Paulson's actually better under fire."
  • " with the economy on the line, for Henry Paulson, the game is very much on."
It's journalism without mercy - and the direct quotes of "no slouch" Garten (a professor at Yale!) that she includes; they are hardcore:
  • "one of the most intense people I have ever alert it makes you feel lazy."
  • "....and he came on like a raging bull, and I tell you I couldn't- I simply win a point"
and, of course,
  • "The hotter the fire the cooler he gets."

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Missing the Forest for the Acorn

If NPR had ever done any serious reporting on the unquestionable Republican fraud of the stolen 2000 election, or on the likely fraud of the 2004 election - then its Sunday morning feature piece on some of the problems with ACORN's voter registration drive would be more palatable. But NPR has done no investigative work on Republican-led election fraud and corruption, and - in Pravdaesque style - has actually praised the Republican corruption as an effort to stop voter fraud.

Steven Rosenfeld of AlterNet points out the trivial nature of problems with ACORN's voter registration errors and provides the context for this Republican farce - most notably the connection to the attorney firing scandal, connections that run right up to...the White House! This doesn't stop NPR from giving lots of airtime to Sean Cairncross, the Republican National Committee's chief legal counsel. You'd think he was talking about his bosses and the current administration - not ACORN - when he says:
  • "It is at best a quasi-criminal...organization..."
  • "Is a clear and present danger to the integrity of the election process."
  • "...a threat to public safety."
NPR should be covering the role that this and other phony "voter fraud" charges play in the overall Republican strategy of undermining free and fair elections in the US - particularly since these efforts didn't end with the 2000 or 2004 elections, and - as this ACORN ploy reveals - will continue into and beyond this crucial November election.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

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Friday, September 26, 2008

No One Doubts

Linda Wertheimer apparently never listened to the Lourdes Garcia-Navarro's report that she introduced on Friday morning. Garcia-Navarro does a commendable job reporting on factors besides the Surge™ that have decreased the slaughter in Baghdad, but that doesn't stop Wertheimer from opening with this salvo:
"...the impact of the troop Surge™. The last of the troop reinforcements left Iraq this summer and no one doubts that they helped improve security in Baghdad..."
That's odd, since Garcia-Navarro's report takes a brief look at several of those non-existent doubts. She interviews a Sunni who talks about the ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods (confirmed in the NPR-ignored satellite report), the pre-Surge™ realignment of Sunni insurgents with the Americans (which Juan Cole over at Informed Comment has repeatedly credited to the Sunni realization that they had lost the sectarian war against the Shia), and the cease-fire of Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army.

These factors all point to many doubts about US troops improving security in Baghdad - and Garcia-Navarro's report doesn't even cover some of the more disturbing aspects that are implied in her report. For example, in the (NPR-ignored) satellite study of ethnic cleansing in Baghdad, the authors conclude that the Surge™ had no positive effect on security (unless you count the ethnic cleansing that the Surge™ accelerated). Garcia-Navarro's report also doesn't mention that the Mehdi army ceasefire was largely achieved by...Iran! And finally Garcia-Navarro doesn't even mention the city of walls that has "improved the security" of Baghdad's inmates.

And of course Wertheimer's "no one doubts" doesn't even consider the opinions of the Iraqis, and why should she when NPR can't even report on how many of them have died between "liberation" and the Surge.

Inskeep Squeaks

If you missed Steve Inskeep's interview with President Ahmadinejad of Iran on Wednesday morning, brace yourself.

First Inskeep (like the rest of the mainstream media - with the exception of, say, Larry King!) continues the the debunked allegation that Ahmadinejad wants to "wipe Israel off the map." He says, "You have spoken about wiping countries off the map...." and "As you know Mr. President, you are known in much of the world - and not only in the United States - as the man who wants to wipe Israel off the map. Are you?"

Ahmadinejad actually answers the question, and in doing so asserts the right of Palestinians to vote on how they want to be ruled - which he believes would lead to the dissolution of Israel as a Zionist state. This mention of elections prompts Inskeep to attack on Iran's presidential elections. He correctly and critically notes that Iranian candidates had to be approved by Iran's conservative Council of Guardians. From this critique he goes on to claim that in the US election for president "anyone may put his name on the ballot in the United States." That's pretty funny! He then mocks the eight choices for president that Iranians had, saying "...eight people and the political spectrum from about here to here - and I'm holding my fingers an inch apart..."

Inskeep obviously doesn't have a clue about who ran for Iranian president back in 2005. If he did, he would have noticed quite a diverse spectrum of ideology among the candidates. Ahmadinejad correctly notes that the US presidential election offers an even narrower range of ideological choices and he challenges Inskeep (fingers and all) by asking, "Why do you assume that your system is better than everybody else's?"

Caught red-handed (or red fingered in this case) Inskeep squawks, "I assume nothing Mr. President. I ask questions." The scariest part is that I think he actually believes this is true...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

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A Free Market Wall Street Creature His Whole Life

That's how Robert Gross describes Henry Paulson for NPR on Tuesday's ATC. NPR seems to have scoured the landscape for someone with enough chutzpah to sing the praises of Czar Paulson. Voila, they found Gross of Newsweek who thinks Paulson is the "right man at the right time."

Here's Gross' Paulson (or maybe just gross Paulson):
  • "...he spent 32 years on Wall Street working for Goldman Sachs - which is really the elite among the elite of investment banks. So he understands the capital markets, what's going on on Wall Street."
  • "Paulson has the tools, the experience, the contacts, and the instincts to hammer out these kind of deals involving financial firms."
  • "...worked in the Nixon whitehouse...Harvard MBA...investment banker..."
  • "...very disciplined, hard working, hard charging...focused on execution, details, getting deals done."
  • "...has a great amount of stamina."
Compare this homage to Salon Radio's interview with Richard Sheehan, who tells Glenn Greenwald,
"Paulson was among those that were creating the problem, rather than warning about the problem. In his role as CEO of Goldman Sachs, Goldman -- under his watch -- created a whole lot of CDOs [collateralized debt obligations] that now are under the heading of 'toxic waste.'"

Turning the Lights Off

I'm still waiting for NPR to report on the satellite evidence that debunks NPR's routine touting of the amazin' success of The Surge™. The Reuter's report on the satellite evidence quotes the team that analyzed the evidence:
"Our findings suggest that the surge has had no observable effect, except insofar as it has helped to provide a seal of approval for a process of ethno-sectarian neighborhood homogenization that is now largely achieved."
Science Daily, covering the report quotes its authors:
"By the launch of the surge, many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country, and they turned off the lights when they left."
Pretty sad and horrible. And NPR? Seems like they like the lights off, too.

Monday, September 22, 2008

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Big Stick of Enforced Amnesia

NPR's constant erasure of the US role in the history of Latin America comes in very handy as they offer a completely one-sided report on the expulsion from Bolivia of US Ambassador Philip Goldberg. The report is not really a report, but a transcription of Golberg's claims against Bolivian President Evo Morales (with back-up provided by the aptly named Michael Shifter who worked for that favorite spawn of Reagan, the National Endowment for Democracy).

Kelemen (taking the side of the US State Department) says:
"Goldberg called it a roller coaster ride, saying President Morales often used the US and the US embassy as a foil, a distraction from the problems inside Bolivia....he says the Bolivian government aired what he called a propaganda infomercial about him on TV."
Goldberg then follows:
"It was a vile piece of propaganda, accusing the United States, accusing opposition members, too of taking instructions from the US, making links with people I never met. It really is a sad display."
It's a vile piece of propaganda only if you are completely ignorant or completely dishonest about what the US has been up to in South America for well over a hundred years. Jim Shultz of the Democracy Center of Bolivia, in an excellent post on the crisis in Bolivia points out:
"The U.S. has a long history of intervention in Latin America, and Bolivia has not been spared. For nearly two decades Bolivian governments been pressured by Washington to wage a "War on Drugs" in Bolivia, with serious collateral damage to human rights."
And of Goldberg, Shultz notes
"Goldberg himself, who took over as Ambassador shortly after Morales' 2006 inauguration, has proved to be an inept diplomat over and over again. In June 2007 the military attaché at the Embassy in La Paz, a U.S. Army Colonel, decided to have a relative carry down 500 rounds of 45-caliber ammunition packed in her suitcase. The event spiked Bolivian fears of U.S. intervention and Goldberg made the public uproar even worse by going against the advice of senior aides, trying to downplay the incident as a minor mistake.

Last February, a young U.S. Fulbright Scholar revealed to ABC News that an Embassy official had asked him to gather intelligence on Cubans and Venezuelans in Bolivia. It also turned out that the Embassy was systematically asking U.S. Peace Corps volunteers to do the same – a direct violation of the laws governing both programs. Again Goldberg tried to downplay the incident as an innocent error. The Morales administration threatened to prosecute the official involved and he left the country."
You won't hear that on NPR!

For a rather biting take on Bolivia and the US role in destabilizing that country is always provocative. Or you can cozy up with the US Government (the same one that had nothing to do with the Pinochet Coup of 9/11/73) side of the story by tuning into NPR or reading the Washington Post.

Of course, no NPR story on South America would be complete without a BushCo. approved swipe at Venezuela's elected President, Hugo Chavez. Kelemen trots out Michale Shifter to end the piece, including this:
"Chavez seems to have in this moment got a bit feisty. The challenge for the US is how to sort of deal with this situation in a sort of step by step calm quiet approach which is not always easy."
Ah yes the feisty natives, and the need to walk softly - seems like I've heard that sentiment somewhere before...hmmm.

Yanked - Fatsis Hits One Out of the Park

If you haven't yet heard, Yankee Stadium will be gone after this week, and a new Yankee Stadium will take its place next week. On Friday's ATC NPR's favorite sports yakker Stefan Fatsis, who NPR again and again reminds us has "written on sports and the business of sports for the Wall Street Journal." With a pedigree like that you can guess that there was nothing at all about the scam of taxpayers forking out hundreds of millions so that sports franchises can get rich, and nothing about the likely fraud involved in this particular sports stadium ripoff. No all Fatsis can do is salivate over it's opulence:

" get to the actual new stadium, which is going to be just a monument to modern sports capitalism. It should be a money printing machine if Wall Street and the riches of New York don't totally vanish in the next few months. And it should make the Yankees an even greater economic power in baseball than they currently are. Luxury suites selling for up to 800,000 dollars a season."

Yeah, a money printing machine. That is rich.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Q Tip Fun

Saturday's ATC "Science Out of the Box" featured the use guessed it - Q Tips!
Andrea Seabrook in her silliest radio voice, kept asking her guest, Otolaryngologist Dennis Fitzgerald "Why does it feel so good?"

Well, Andrea, Q Tips here on NPR Check feel soooo good, because NPR has gotten away with years of pouring rubbish into its listeners ears, and for once we listeners have a chance to clean all that gunk out. It's amazing what it does for your hearing - and unlike actual Q Tips in actual ears, the benefits are endless, and there are never harmful side effects.

BTW, as always, NPR related comments are always welcomed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Calm Down Children

This will be brief: mercifully I've cut back on my NPR listening, but the coverage of the financial crisis has been maddening. After hearing Democracy Now!'s excellent feature this morning with Michael Hudson and Nomi Prins I was struck with how uninformative NPR's reporting on the Wall Street meltdown is. My God, they haven't even mentioned the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in their coverage!

Honestly NPR's main message seems to be right in line with administration: calm down, everything's all right. Here's just a bit of what I've heard recently:

On Morning Edition, September 15, 2008: NPR turns to David Wessel of the Wall Street Journal. He says,
"They [things] don't look good, but they don't look as bad as some people anticipated..."
" doesn't seem to be the end of the world, at least not this morning."
"...if you have money and are willing to gamble you can make a good deal. When the economy comes back, when this episode ends over as it surely will end some day..."

On Morning Edition, September 16, 2008 Montagne opens with "As dire as the recent news has been, financial advisers say consumers and long term investors should not panic."
Frank Langfitt adds "...but even among the drumbeat of grim news some analysts caution ordinary Americans not to overreact."

All Things Considered, September 17, 2008 · NPR turns to Diane Brady, senior editor at Business Week. According to Michele Norris, "She's here to help us make sense of the government's plans for AIG."
Brady calmly explains that "What they're trying to do here is contain the crisis, that's the big issue."

I have to say the whole thrust of NPR seems to be to try to reassure listeners that - in spite of common sense - things are not so bad. And of course they are not about to address the structural systematic criminality and hypocrisy of the deregulated financial systems that have brought the economy to this point. Also I have yet to hear from one dissident economist who critiques the system. If you have heard one please note it in the comment section.

Monday, September 15, 2008

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wall to Wall to Nearly Nothing at All

I happened to take a look at Craig Murray's blog a few days ago and noticed his interesting piece about the recent Airline Bombing Plot jury decision. This got me to wondering about NPR's coverage of this case.

Let's do a little time traveling, with our stopping off point being August 10, 2006. If you've wisely forgotten what miserable events were roiling the news back then, I've pasted in the screen shot (click for larger view) of just some of NPR's Morning Edition coverage of the foiled "mass murder" plot to supposedly bomb multiple airliners. As you can see there was no lack of hype to NPR's coverage. NPR considered the "plot" so significant that it devoted a separate web page to the story. It's important to note that not everyone was so sanguine about these US/British claims: early on, Craig Murray cautioned skepticism, noting that both Blair and Bush were in sorry political shape and needed some big, positive PR (especially with US midterm elections coming in November).

Well, what do you know, travel forward from August 10, 2006 to September 9, 2008 (just a few short days ago) and the apocalyptic plot has shrunk to a British jury convicting 3 of the suspects on conspiracy to murder charges. Yes, the men were apparently plotting to set of bombs and kill innocent people (no small matter), but the original story was clearly one of "over-egging and exaggeration of the plot" as Obsolete has noted in an excellent post on the implications of the decision.

So given all the "Oh My God, Mass Murder, Super Terrorist Attack" coverage that NPR devoted to the allegations, surely they will provide some substantial coverage of the fizzled conclusion of this story. Let's see: ah, ha! one little, teeny tiny story on Morning Edition of September 9, 2008 with Renee Montagne talking to Rob Gifford. In the piece Gifford's tone is defensive, mostly blaming the complex nature of the case for the failure to win a bigger conviction:
"But frankly speaking, intelligence officials here are completely dismayed by this verdict, and really it has highlighted some of the problems in complex cases like this....They weren't sure the plot was far enough along, and indeed that has proved the case because the jury has come back and has not convicted the men of conspiracy to blow up airplanes."
Interestingly, NPR didn't even mention that if there was a major plot afoot, it was US intervention that undercut the British surveillance of the suspects. Not the first time that the US has intervened for short term public relations benefits at the cost of securing real intelligence (e.g. Milan and Miami).

So we have a story of politicians lying about a non-existent massive terror "plot" for their own political gain or we have a story of the investigation into an actual massive terror plot being derailed for political gain. Either way I'd humbly suggest that this deserves more than just one little cursory chat between Rob Gifford and Renee Montagne on Morning Edition.

Friday, September 12, 2008

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More Than Ten Militants

This morning (Friday) during the news summary Giles Snyder reads this from his script:
"In eastern Afghanistan US led forces have killed more than ten militants. The military says in a statement that the militants were killed during fighting that targeted the network of a veteran Taliban commander northeast of the capital of Kabul. Separately coalition troops detained two militants in a raid."
You have to love that forceful (should we say Northful?) opening sentence - not a shred of doubt there. Which is odd, given that the source of the "facts" has a long and proven track record of lies and cover-ups when it comes to killing "militants" who turn out to be women, children and wedding parties.

Given the very recent little horror of slaughter that the US committed and tried to hide, this blurb from NPR comes off as their giving the finger to listeners. I've written NPR over and over again complaining about their unquestioning repetition of Pentagon claims regarding "militants" being killed, but they obviously feel no compunction to maintain even the barest standards of journalism when it comes to repeating the claims of the US military - how Foxy of them...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

One Important Question

Consider this assessment of Iraq offered by Bob Siegel on Tuesday's ATC:
"Despite recent security gains in Iraq, one important question remains: 'If American troops leave, is the Iraqi army ready to assume responsibility for the country's security?'"
The unstated premise of Siegel's question is that American troops have brought security to Iraq. Let's just say that 5 years (and counting), 5 million refugees (and counting) and one million (and counting) dead Iraqis is one a hell of a legacy of security for the Iraqi army to maintain. No wonder Siegel questions whether it is up to the task.

The reduction of the eventual exit of American forces from Iraq (hopefully sooner rather than later) to just one question is pretty silly (and continues the McCain lie of selling of the Surge as some kind of great success). There are actually endless questions remaining; I'll suggest a few of the obvious:

  • Will the people responsible for the war crime of invading Iraq ever be brought to justice?
  • Will the US ever pay reparations for the destruction of infrastructure that it wreaked on Iraq?
  • Will the corporations who swindled the US and Iraq out of "reconstruction" billions ever be held to account?
  • How many foreign extremists have been created by the Iraq War?
  • Will the US soldiers physically and psychologically wounded in Iraq ever receive the services they deserve?
  • Will Baghdad ever be a religiously, ethnically mixed city again?
  • How will the sectarian divides created by the US war play out in the next several years?
  • Will the Shia-dominated government of Maliki seek to crush the Sunni minority once the US forces are gone?
You can probably come up with a few of your own...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Q Tips

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As some of you may have noticed, I've cut back a bit on my listening and blogging on NPR. For the time being, my goal is to update NPR Check at least once a week.

Bubble Talk

Scott Simon was curious about the blogosphere and why on earth people would read blogs. So for answers he turned to someone outside of Washington and the establishment media - okay, at least outside of NPR -Jose Antonio Vargas of the Washington Post.

Simon: "Do people turn to the blog [sic] because they think they're not getting information from mainstream media?"

Vargas: "I think there's a feeling of that. There's a feeling that they're not getting enough, or they're not getting it in context, at least the context that they want to get it. I mean I think one of the things that the Internet has affected in terms of our news culture is that people want to read what they want to read. If you're a conservative who likes to support Sarah Palin you tend to visit sites that are supportive of her. If you're critical of her you tend to visit sites that are critical of her. Of course that's just one side of it; there are readers online who are honestly and carefully looking at information and weighing things in, but I would also say that in this highly partisan use environment and partisan electorate that we have, people are drawn to information that they want to see."

See, news outlets like NPR aren't failing to inform you - about US secret prisons and torture, the million plus dead Iraqis, Israel's nuclear weapons, US support for death squads in Latin America, etc., etc. - it's just a feeling you have. And worse than just a feeling, it's just your own narrow prejudice of wanting to read what you want to read, you close-minded, highly partisan blog reader! Shame on you...

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Comedy Nails It

I listened to most of the speakers at the Republican convention on Wednesday. Any observant person had to note the nasty, sneering (dare one say "elitist") tone of the speakers as they mocked Obama's resume, and especially his work as a community organizer. When they weren't being downright vicious, there was the down-home, folksy (volksy!) militarism of Huckabee who thinks that great teaching means group think indoctrination where elementary students get no desks for a day so they can learn that every right as a human being they have comes from the US military.

So this morning it was stunning to hear Dan Schorr offer up this assessment of the two conventions: "...both conventions found unity....candidates were all busy extending hands across the invisible barrier." Extending hands?

Then when Simon asks, "How did governor Palin do in your estimation?" Schorr replies: "I think she did awfully well, I mean everybody thinks she did awfully well. This woman, known in Alaska, not very well known anywhere else, stood up there read a speech, whoever wrote it, it was a good speech- and very well delivered. But I must say that for all the main speakers at both conventions, they've all now learned how to speak. Nobody really fell on his face, but I would say the star was Mrs. Palin."

Holy smokes, "everybody thinks she did awfully well." And it "was a good speech." And most importantly "they've all learned how to speak."

Sadly, the best mainstream coverage of the convention was on Comedy Central. As my graphic shows, Colbert nails the mean-spirited ugliness of Guiliani's speech, and John Stewart accurately parses the message of Republicans to people like community organizers who want to make their communities better: "F_ _ k You!"

Yep, it's a little different take than the swooning of NPR's Liasson who characterizes Palin on Thursday morning: "an instant star....on her own terms....came back with an adlib....down to earth and self-confident....cheerfully took aim at Obama." Cheerfully?! Could I make this up?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Boot Licking Good

Ever wonder how NPR might cover the emergence of a police state and the gutting of the Constitution in the United States? No need to speculate: consider how they cover federal, state and local police hiring informants to spy on legal dissent, raiding homes of law abiding citizens with frivolous search warrants, ordering preventive detentions of citizens, and illegally assaulting and arresting reporters: they don't.

Not only does NPR not cover the illegality of police behavior, but during many of the hourly news summaries I've heard in the last several days they've blamed any violence on demonstrators and linked police actions to demonstrators who've committed vandalism (without any suggestion that some of these could well be the actions of mole/provocateurs).

Monday, September 01, 2008

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