Monday, March 31, 2008

Open Thread

NPR comments welcomed.

Among Fools

I realize that Sunday was a slow news day - so little happening in the world, nothing worth investigating, no misdeeds by the powerful. I guess that explains why NPR would choose to have the braying Andrea Seabrook chuckle and giggle her way through a four and a half minute segment encouraging listeners to get their hands on the Harvard Lampoon's April edition spoof of National Geographic. Seabrook is all in stitches talking to the two editors (guys) about how the center photo of a lion is actually one of those computer montage images made up of tiny photos of - get this - women's breasts. Man, is that some sophisticated, original humor or what?! What will they think of next?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Increasingly Sucked

Let's take a look at NPR's coverage of the al-Maliki government's attempts to crush the rival Mehdi army starting in Basra (and how the the gentle giant of the US has been blindly and helplessly pulled into this defining moment).

On Friday's Morning Edition:
  • Dina Temple-Raston says to Renee Montagne, "technically what he's [al-Maliki] taking on, and this is what the American line has been too, is they're taking on rogue elements of that army, because technically there's a cease what they're saying here is that the fighting is just among these rogue elements who were trained in Iran and aren't listening to Muqtada al-Sadr."
Trained in Iran? Says who? Where's a shred of evidence? Has Temple-Raston ever heard of Iran and Daawa (al-Maliki's party), SCIRI, and Badr Corps? Has anyone at NPR?

On the hourly reports on Friday afternoon:
  • (Early afternoon, Jack Spear): "the US has been increasingly sucked in" to the fighting.
  • (Later in the evening) Jack Spear says, "the Iraqi Government stalled...but as NPR's Anne Garrels reports, the US may now have to assure its success." (Garrels comes on) "...but now that the Iraqi forces have started the offensive US officials can not afford to let them fail."
Funny that there is no mention in these reports about Cheney's mid-March visit to Iraq and his likely pressure on al-Maliki to attack the Sadrists. Nothing about how al-Maliki's Shiite allies are closer to Iran than any of Sadr's forces. Nothing about the absurdity of the US occupation not knowing what al-Maliki was planning. Is anyone really stupid enough to believe that al-Maliki could mount a major military offensive without the knowledge, planning, assistance, (and permission) of the US occupation? NPR thinks so...

Some Rather Significant Enablers

Steve Inskeep merged with Ret. General Jack Keane on Morning Edition Friday to talk about the Basra offensive in Iraq. Surging General Keane had this to say:
"the Iraqis wanted to do this by themselves and I can understand our commanders certainly letting them go ahead and give it a try, but I suspect that at a minimum we'll probably have to provide some rather significant enablers to assist them...."
He might as well have said, "the Pentagon would like to handle all the reporting out of Iraq, but since we have to pretend that we have a vigorous free press in this country, I suspect at a minimum they'll have to rely on some rather significant enablers like you and Robert Siegel..."

There was no mention given of Keane's extreme Bush-right positions and his affiliation with the militarist American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Needless to say, there were no dissenting opinions raised about the role of the US in Iraq and in this particular series of events. Inskeep might as well have been Keane's AEI office assistant with these kinds of questions:
  • "Were you impressed with Iraq's preparations?"
  • "Are you had the right idea, to try to grab control of this very important southern city...but may not have coordinated it well with the American assets."
  • "OK, so are American troops needed then in Basra?"
With hard questions like this, is it any surprise that Keane feels comfortable making the following unchallenged assertions:
  • "He's got the right idea, the execution I think may be a little wanting...they can still get this right as time evolves...war is a trial and error...they're in the lead here and we're in support."
  • "...what works best is when US forces and Iraqi forces are working side by side together, that kind of partnership that has certainly produced the rather dramatic results...."
  • "...the entire [Iraqi] military - though it's made significant progress, and I'm encouraged by how much progress they've made...."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Real Cream Puff

In Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, I recall that the packing house workers are scammed by being shown a crappy house that's been slapped up with a fresh coat of paint to hide what a piece of junk it really is. After a short while of living in the house the poor families realize they've been had. Can it be just over a year ago that Bushco was slapping some super-duper Surge™ paint on its destroyed house of Iraq and daring to sell it as a real bargain fixer-upper? I have to admit that appalling as it was, I was in awe of the chutzpah of Bush, and stunned by how ready the press was to put its money on the whole scam. In spite of the slight downturn in fresh corpses from the US built Iraqi Carnage Factory, there never was any "success" of the Surge™. Yes, there was an eventual lowering daily US troop deaths and headline grabbing car and truck bombings, but what movement was ever made toward solving any of the core problems plaguing the Bush-Iraq project? The real success of the the Surge™ was its role in postponing the coming implosion of Iraq long enough for Bush and friends to hand this disaster off to the next administration. In that sense the Surge™ was a total success...until now.

This week Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army cease-fire looks like its about over and the production of corpses in Iraq seems to be ramping up again. On NPR, in spite of some decent reporting on the ground from Garcia-Navarro, the whole framing of the issue is how the end of the cease-fire threatens all the wonderful blessings of Surge™. Here's a sampling of the coverage:
  • Morning Edition, March 24, 2008 (Guy Raz): "from Petraeus and Admiral Fallon it's pretty straightforward, come August, General Petraeus wants to see a temporary freeze on the troop withdrawals. He basically wants to see whether 135,000 troops will be able to have the same impact on security and stability as a 160,000..."
  • All Things Considered, March 24, 2008 (Anne Garrels): Younis, an Iraqi, "credits the US troop surge with improving security."
  • Morning Edition, March 25, 2008 (Lourdes Garcia-Navarro): ""Well, that's right, the surge is credited with working for three reasons....So the surge is being reversed now."
  • Morning Edition, March 26, 2008 (Inskeep): "Just when many reports were focusing on improvements to Iraq's security, the country is facing a grave challenge, maybe the worst challenge to Iraq's security in more than a year."
It amazes me how this narrative develops a life of its own: the Surge™ was successful, security was so much better, things were really looking up and now those darn sectarian militants are ruining all the progress. Seriously, when I read a piece such as this one from about how the Surge™ first accelerated blood-letting and ethnic cleansing, I just wonder how anyone with a heart could consider it a "success."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Open Thread

New week, new comments. NPR related insights and observations welcomed.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


In the Open Thread below a reader kindly posted his letter to NPR complaining about Andrea Seabrook's typically insipid report on the current credit/banking crisis. In his letter he noted that
"Sole expert commentator Marvin Goodfriend is correctly identified as a Carnegie Mellon economics professor, but NPR omits the fact that he directs the market-oriented Gailliot Center for Public Policy. According to the Carnegie Mellon website 'the center's goal is to develop original and pragmatic solutions to public policy problems that limit government intervention and allow markets and the private sector to evolve and adapt.'"
I've not posted much on NPR's coverage of the subprime/ credit/ investment/ banking mess because - in spite of my suspicions that I'm being snookered by NPR's coverage - my basic knowledge of the economics involved is pretty limited. But the reader's letter to NPR got me wondering who does NPR turn to for "explanations" of the mess? A brief glance at the stories of late reveals that for the most part, the experts are people involved in the banking industry on both the private and government sides (and often both!):
(Weekend Edition Saturday 3-22-08) "Over the past week, the Federal Reserve has made a serious of unprecedented moves to shore up confidence in the shaken investment community. Former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder explains what the moves mean for taxpayers and the rest of the economy."
(All Things Considered, 3-20-08) "Keeping up with the fast pace of recent economic news and understanding the ramifications of this week's developments is no easy task. Laurence Meyer, vice chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, talks with Michele Norris, Robert Siegel and Adam Davidson."
(All Things Considered, 3-21-08) "After a busy week at the Federal Reserve -- assisting with JP Morgan Chase's takeover of Bear Stearns and allowing big investment houses to get emergency loans directly from the central bank -- how does the Fed chief rate? Yale economist Robert James Shiller, Smith Moore analyst Juli Niemann with Noah Adams."

So it goes.

As I've written before, I don't think there's a problem interviewing some of these people who are insiders, but where is a historical perspective challenging the deregulation champions of the 80s and 90s [we hear from Rubin but not from Reich]? are the left leaning critics of US banking/investment policies? I heard Dean Baker once on Morning Edition, but why not more Krugman, Weisbrot, or even Danny Schecter who's been warning about a credit crisis for a long time?

Doesn't it seem like this current economic crisis would be the time to have a far ranging, in-depth debate and look at how wealth is generated in this country and who benefits and who loses? Unfortunately, NPR won't be the place where that happens.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Open Thread

As always, NPR related comments are appreciated.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Where Does Bush End and Raz Begin?

Here's Raz reporting on Bush crowing about success to mark the five year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq:
"Since March 19th 2003, nearly 4000 American troops have been killed in Iraq, and nearly 30,000 wounded. The toll in Iraqi lives is unknown, but many times greater. The cost of the war has exceeded half a trillion dollars. But for the President today is less about marking the fifth year of an unpopular war and more about marking the first year since America's prospects in Iraq began to turn around - and that's the anniversary he is more interested in highlighting."
Funny how when it's over a million Iraqi lives its "unknown," but I never hear that said about the figures given for the dead in Darfur or the Congo. And read again how Raz states that Bush is "marking the first year since America's prospects in Iraq began to turn around." He doesn't say that Bush claims the prospects have turned, he just asserts it as if it were true - even though the prospects have not improved at all. The all-out, total level of violence may be down, but it is just being postponed while the fundamental failure of the US in Iraq has not changed one little bit...

How About Some Fact Checking?

This morning Whaaaaaan Williams takes the Obama - Rev. Wright issue to the right. Here he is whining to Renee Montagne:
"...that's the problematic heart of this speech, Renee, the question is why Senator Obama maintained a relationship with Reverend Wright - a man who has said things like you know the government is pumping drugs into the Black community or spreading AIDS among people of color and has said that America's foreign policy is somehow equal to that of the terrorists who attacked on 9-11" (Could Williams be angry at someone equating the millions killed by US foreign policy with the mere thousands murdered by the 9-11 terrorists?)
Then this evening Michelle Norris hammers away at Rev. Otis Moss who is succeeding Rev. Wright regarding the "inflammatory" sermons of his predecessor. Honestly, shouldn't reporters simply evaluate the content of Wright's allegations? Why would someone accuse the US government of being involved in the drug trade? Of course investigating US government cooperation in narco-trafficking can end up costing a reporter his livelihood, and his life.

I have an idea. NPR can do it's famous "fact checking" as they do after candidate debates - and then just let the chips fall where they will. Wouldn't that be interesting?

American Drones

Jackie Northam emerged from Think Tank World to catch us up on how critical "relations with Pakistan's military US national security." Her story simply endorses and builds on the US government's long policy of focusing on maintaining (and engorging) the Pakistani military at the expense of Pakistani civil society.

Ahmed Rashid in an interview in Harper's Magazine offers a stinging assessment of this kind of approach:
"The U.S. has relied upon the Pakistan army in the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960, in the Afghan war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s and so for it to depend again on the army in the war on terrorism is not unusual. The problem is that this is not an external war but an internal war or even a civil war in parts of NWFP [Northwest Frontier of Pakistan]. Here what is needed is a government and local authorities which have the confidence of the people so that they can fight the extremists but also deal with public problems and deliver services. None of this the army is capable of doing and the Americans have utterly failed to realize this."
NPR's Jackie Northam likewise has "utterly failed to realize this," too. But, God forbid history or critical thinking get in the way. NPR can always go dipping into the pro-US government think tanks for backup help. Northam turns to
In and of itself, there's nothing wrong with NPR interviewing these people about Pakistan, but their perspectives are all grounded in an approval of the US as a "soft" imperial power in the world. All are believers in the essential goodness of the US imperial mission in the world. There is no significant range of opinion - which is typical of NPR.

I guess you can't expect much from a story that begins with Steve Inskeep saying, "Here's a question for you: What does Pakistan's military have in common with the game of cricket?
Well, they both have intricate traditions and rules, they're both difficult for outsiders to follow, and according to some observers, the army and the popular sport may be the only two things still holding Pakistan together."

Northam closes her report by noting that the US has stepped up its "counterterrorism" role in Pakistan and states that "there have been several air strikes recently on suspected al-Qaeda hideouts - reportedly from American drones."

Inskeep opening, Northam closing: I'd definitely say American drones.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Open Thread

NPR comments? Fire away.

For Better or Worse

One of the bitterly entertaining aspects of listening to NPR is to wonder how outrageous, ridiculous, and/or stupid the script handed to the on-air "personalities" would have to be before they would balk at reading it. Inskeep had a doozy on Monday morning, introducing NPR's story on Mosul, Iraq:
"We can argue whether it's better or worse, but there's no doubt that Iraq is different than it was five years ago this week."
That is rich indeed! We can argue - challenge accepted.

The case for worse: One million plus civilians killed, over four million Iraqis displaced, almost four thousand US troops killed (tens of thousands wounded), half a trillion dollars spent and counting, the nation of Iraq utterly fragmented and heavily armed, and - of course - all that security that Iraq has brought us...

The case for better: ___________________________________? Maybe Professor Inskeep can come up with something; I'm just drawing blanks.

The story on Mosul also had a notable quote. Montagne was talking to Lourdes Garcia-Navarro about how dangerous Mosul still is. Out on embedded patrol with the US military recently, Garcia-Navarro's convoy came under fire. She described it to Montagne this way:

"And five years later I'm sitting in the middle of a Humvee taking fire from all sides from al-Qaeda in Iraq."

It may sound like quibbling, but how on earth does she know that the fire came from al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)? It might have been any armed Iraqi group, the US isn't exactly welcome in Iraq after all. And if you think this oft repeated distortion of who the US is fighting in Iraq is not a propaganda issue, consider the take of the Weekly Standard and the White House on "al-Qaeda in Iraq." They would have us believe that the fight in Iraq is against AQI. Of course, the reality is far different. Even the Council on Foreign relations admitted in December that "expert estimates on the number of foreign fighters among Iraqi insurgent groups range from a few hundred to over 3,000. Total AQI numbers have been estimated at over 10,000." But the myth of al-Qaeda in Iraq's power and omnipresence is important to the Iraq hawks, after all its the only leg the occupation has left to stand on, and sloppy reporting of this kind only builds their case.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Patriot Act

What "premiered right after 9/11 but...was created before the attacks"? The Patriot Act, right? Yes, and Jack Bauer! According to Pam Fessler this morning, on NPR's scummy commercial for Fox TV's 24, it "premiered right after 9/11, but Jack Bauer's character was created before the attacks."

And who "is always...torturing people" and "willing to risk...the Constitution." Bush? Cheney? Rumsfeld? Well, yes...and Jack Bauer, too!

Now, you might think that a legitimate news show covering a pro-fascist hero like 24's Jack Bauer would be interested in exploring how disturbing it is that a show like 24 has been so popular when it's sick values have had parallel expressions from the bunch of criminals running this country for the last seven years.

Of course that's expecting a lot of NPR. Instead of offering substance, NPR wants to lionize Jack Bauer. According to Inskeep "the 21st century has its own fictional hero [music from 24]. He's a ruthless counterterrorism agent who fights the clock to protect the nation." And Fessler has a hard time keeping her limited wits about her as she gets hot for Jack: "What is it about Jack Bauer that's so appealing?" she asks. She even asks the founder of a Bauer fan website if she's "bothered that we don't really have a Jack Bauer to save the day?"

In case any NPR listeners have a scrap of humanity or intelligence left and are thinking, "This is really sick," Fessler turns to pop culture pundit (pimp?) , Robert Thompson, to bolster her case. Thompson assures us "in a world in which we think that so much is out of control, it is incredibly satisfying to watch a human being who is so completely in control....If real life in the 'War on Terror' we are not going to be able to kick the enemy's butts in noticeable ways, then we are going to demand to see the enemy's butt kicked in our fiction." Fessler also takes comfort in the fact that fans of the show include Cheney and Chertoff!

Fessler manages to include ACLU officer Barry Steinhardt who is a fan of the show to reassure us that "it doesn't mean that you agree with everything that you enjoy; this is pure escapist entertainment." Then we get the morally bankrupt and stupid argument about torture not being utilitarian. "Steinhart points out that when Jack Bauer does it, it always seems to work" and then Steinhart chimes in "Well in the real world torture doesn't work [sounds of a torture session]." Well, I beg to differ. Torture works wonders. It worked for the US in helping Pinochet rule for over a decade, and for destroying Nicaragua, etc. I'm so sick of hearing how torture might be ok if it gave good intelligence. Who gives a crap? Shouldn't torture be condemned because it victimizes the innocent, benefits oppressors, and destroys the dignity of human beings and societies.

A Tip of the Helmet

Democracy Now! is covering this weekend's Winter Soldiers: Iraq and Afghanistan event organized by the IVAW (and covered succinctly on Wired). This essential story was virtually a nonevent in the mainstream media, but NPR did give it coverage on Sunday's ATC.

Credit where credit is due.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Another Chapter in the Glorious History

"Running on the efficiency and effectiveness of the failed state in Baghdad would be an extremely risky strategy if in fact the US corporate media were telling the American people the truth (or even just anything) about what is actually going on in Iraq and Iraqi politics." --Juan Cole, Feb. 29, 2008

Friday's ATC piece on John McCain begins with Melissa Block noting that "McCain said the liberation of Iraq would provide in his words 'another chapter in the glorious history of the United States.' "

Not a bad start. In fact you might expect a news show to use that little gem of a quote as a set up to show what a miserably ignorant, stupid, deluded, arrogant, violence-prone, and absolutely mistaken assertion that was by a man who now wants to run the country...(definitely a threat level of severe). But, alas, this is embedded public radio, and we are about to get treated to McCain's own spokesperson in residence at NPR, surgin' Scott Horsley.

Here's just a sample of the McMenu that Horsley offers up:
  • "Republican Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina says of all the politicians who visited Iraq in those first months of the war, McCain was neither a hand-wringing opponent nor an uncritical cheerleader."
  • "McCain's opinion was not popular at the time...but military analyst Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution says history has vindicated the former Navy pilot turned politician."
  • "McCain told cadets at the Virginia Military Institute last spring, politicians could either bow to public frustration and accept defeat, or pay the political price to succeed in Iraq."
To back up his assessment of McCain Horsley lets NPR favorite, O'Hanlon, add a little punch to the nonsense of history's vindication. Talking about McCain's years of wanting more troops in Iraq, Mr. Hard Power O'Hanlon sees the wonderful "surge" as proving that ""McCain basically had it right...."

Horsley also trots out Andy Kohut of the Pew Research Center. Kohut drifts from talking about his area of expertise, polls - "there's a growing sense that things are improving in Iraq and about half the public now believes that US troops should remain" - to praising the fraud of McCain's campaign - "McCain can say, 'Look, my judgement about going to war may be different than yours, but the policies that I advocated about the way to pursue the war have been working and he can make the case...for being right to some extent." Consider the Juan Cole quote that opened this post and notice the circuitous nature of Kohut's argument: the public perception has changed and this means policies are "working" and are "right." Like NPR's coverage, McCain's "working" policy doesn't have to have any reference to what's actually happening in Iraq, but only how it's selling back home.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Somebody Didn't Like That First Report

Did anybody else notice the dramatic shift in the reporting on the "No al-Qaeda Links to Saddam Report"? Tom Gjelten's Wednesday's ATC report opened by putting the report squarely in the context of the false assertions of a Hussein-al-Qaeda connection that was made by team Bush in launching the invasion of Iraq back in 2003. That is the news, isn't it? Not bad for NPR.

Then on Morning Edition today Gjelten reports on the same story, but this time the deceit of the administration is completely downplayed and what is emphasized is how connected to "terrorism" the Hussein regime was (just not of the al-Qaeda variety)! Funny how the planned use of car bombs and foreign assassination plots were described as al-Qaeda-like terrorism. What do you call it when Israel or the United States do the same things?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Robbins' Fetid Baloney Sandwich

On NPR News what do you call a an outdoor prison camp where the 2000 inmates "live outside, sleeping on cots in hundreds of old canvas tents in the broiling summer heat and the chilly desert winter"? It's "the place called Tent City, Joe Arpaio's most famous invention" where "the idea is to make life tough and humiliating."

And when male inmates are forced to wear "a black and white striped uniform usually worn over pink underwear" that's just "the Sheriff's fashion creation" that inmates "model" for the NPR reporter.

Even when Robbins tells us that "for food the Sheriff serves the inmates green, as in fetid baloney sandwiches" the tone is humorously matter of fact.

I considered writing a parody of Ted Robbins' pro-police state report on Maricopa Sherrif Joe Arpaio, but it was just too depressing to try. His story is disgusting, and echoes the humorous euphemisms that torturers often use to describe their crimes.

It is telling that on a morning when anti-immigrant/nativist racism is making the news, NPR chooses to do a folksy send up of this anti-immigrant, racist, prisoner-abusing Sheriff, Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County in Arizona. CNN covered this creep back in 1999 - and the story has grotesque foreshadowing of Abu Ghraib - inmates exposed to hot and cold weather in run down tents and forced to where humiliating underwear. In fact the Maricopa Sheriff's office drew the attention of Amnesty International back in 1997 for abuses and reported torture with stun guns - and the intervention of the ACLU in 2007 for abuse to a quarantined TB patient. But on NPR Arpaio is introduced by Steve Inskeep as "a man enforcing laws at all costs..." and his perverted practices are described by Robbins as "either innovative or a throw-back to harsher times."

There are times when I think maybe I'm a bit too critical of NPR, and then they run a piece like this and I just think, why would anyone with a conscience want to support this mockery of journalism.

Open Thread

New week. Same NPR. Got comments? Put them here.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

More Florida, More Fraud

Sometimes I'll see the headline of a story on NPR's website and think, "Oh man, they really are going to cover an issue I thought they'd never cover." I missed hearing most of Saturday's ATC and looking at the list of stories saw the commentary/feature "A History of Disenfranchised Florida Voters."

I was stunned. Was NPR going to turn away from its usual complicity in covering up documented fraud and disenfranchisement in the 2000 and 2004 elections? Would it turn away form its previous Orwellian praise of orchestrated Republican vote fraud?

No such luck. NPR dips back into its shallow bucket of shallow commentators - Diane Roberts again. Yes, the same Diane Roberts who found the Republican scam of Florida's 2000 election to be such a rich source of humor. This time she's interested in bringing up a bit of interesting 19th century history, while thoroughly distorting more recent events (I'd say that qualifies her to air on NPR). She lumps the 2000 Republican election fraud in Florida with general "electoral screw-ups" and describes the 2000 election problems as being "dangling chads, the missing ballots, and the all-too-present lawyers." She has the gall to claim that "rent-mobs from both parties protested outside our courthouses" when in fact only the Republicans brought in a mob that actually forced the end of the hand-counting of votes - counting that would have proved that Bush lost the Florida vote.

Ah but that was sooooo long ago.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Open Thead

NPR related comments always welcomed.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Merchant of Death, Lord of War

Thursday evening Melissa Block reports on weapons dealer, Viktor Bout, who was arrested in Thailand. She says he is "known as the Merchant of Death and the Lord of War." Oooooh, imagine that! Block notes that "starting in the 1990s Viktor Bout made a business of providing arms to fuel wars from Sudan to Sierra Leone to Rwanda to Afghanistan...." I can't imagine what kind of sick, disgusting warmongering profiteers would flood the developing world - and especially the continent of Africa - with weaponry.

Block interviews Doug Farah, an investigative journalist, who coauthored a book about Bout. She expresses great surprise that "he fueled conflicts all over the world, [but]...also did a lot of work for the US military it seems." What's the surprise? Has she ever heard of Dick Cheney? Does she ever read any independent articles about US arms exports?

Farah responds, "He did, ironically, after helping to inflame conflicts in Africa throughout the 1990s and even working with the Taliban in Afghanistan and indirectly al-Qaeda...he then flipped and began working with the US military and also for private contractors in Iraq."

Hmm, what other dastardly crew of individuals helped inflame conflicts in Africa and even helped to build al-Qaeda? So why does Farah considers it "ironic," and call it a "flip" when Bout starts working with the US military?

Block's surprise and Farah's framing of Bout's lethal business help to buttress the narrative that in the world there are "bad guys" and then there is the US military establishment and its allies, the "good guys." Even when a story concerns negative behavior of the US (in this report Farah discusses the US government's close work with Bout in Iraq) the report is always based on the assumption that US military and foreign policy is at its core decent, humane and moral.

One Approach

The level of discourse regarding our fellow human beings living in Gaza has me wondering when someone at NPR will casually mention "the Palestinian problem." Israeli Deputy Defense Minster's threat of a "shoah" didn't even merit a whimper on NPR. And then tonight Siegle interviewing the "king" of Jordan tosses this one out there:
"New numbers, new reports out today suggest that in Gaza social and economic conditions are now worse than they have been ever since 1967 and the Six Day War. What do you do about Gaza? Hamas is in control of Gaza. One approach seems to be ignore them or starve the territory so that Palestinians there will turn away from Hamas. What's your counsel?"
"Starve the territory so that Palestinians there will turn away from Hamas"! I swear to God he said that. Listen if you can bear. He just puts it out there like it was any old diplomatic tool of the trade (which it is for the US/EU/Israel). Incredible how such a brutal targeting of civilians is treated as normal. Just this morning Gradstein, referring to Gaza, said "the area is under an Israeli blockade, part of an effort to pressure Hamas."

The double standard is so starkly obvious that it leaves one breathless. Imagine if tonight's news about the gunman's attack on students in Jerusalem was described as a Palestinian's attempt to put pressure on the Israeli government. Or, if as in Gradstein's piece this morning, the victims of the shooting (intentionally targeted like the civilians in Gaza) were described as "caught in the crossfire."

(link to graphic)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Who Wants to Contrast and Compare?

Sometimes the best way to sniff out the NPR ideology is to compare and contrast how they cover two stories. Two examples:

Rezko v. Renzi

Here in Illinois we have more than our share of heavy duty corruption. Lately the latest to face the bar is Tony Rezko. Turns out that Rezko was an early supporter and contributor of Senator Obama. NPR has been all over the story of late, and - given the campaign season - that seems fair enough. However a very similiar story touches Senator McCain. Straight-talkin' McCain has close ties to Rep. Rick Renzi, a fellow facing some very serious felony charges himself. Let's see how NPR covers this sleaze story...Dang! what do you know, 3 puny hits on NPR and only one of those on a news show (and nothing since August '07!). I guess a chummy barbecue is no place for a reporter to bring up such a delicate topic. NPR can take comfort, though. Seems like McCain gets an easy pass from other news organizations, too.

Of Laptops and Lapdogs

Heading south, way south, NPR jumps right on the uraniam chain-reaction fear wagon. You know the "amazing," magical laptop from Ecuador, the one that takes us down the the uranium yellow cake road again. Nothing on NPR to suggest that Colombia's charges are likely a bunch of junk, and were probably aimed at completely derailing Venezuela's ongoing hostage release negotiations. Compare NPR's gullible coverage of this story with its hard hitting coverage of Vanity Fair's recent confirmation of the US role in trying to overthrow Hamas by arming Fatah and stoking a civil war in Palestine. Absolutely nothing, not one story giving attention to this breaking story. I guess it doesn't quite fit NPR's constant insistence that Condi the last peacemaker standing.

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Fair is Fair

Be sure to check out FAIR's critique of a Weekend Edition piece on NPR's dismissive and distorted coverage of an Iraqi press conference.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Quiz Time!

Which statement do you think Melissa Block opened a news report with on ATC yesterday?

A) Whitey Bulger has said that he has developed a new plan for fighting crime on the East Coast.

B) In his retirement Fidel Castro will create a foundation to help impoverished countries run free and fair elections.

C) Iran's President Ahmadinejad was in Iraq to push the new government on improving its human rights record.

D) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives in the region tomorrow. She's trying to restart negotiations toward peace.

E) Pope Benedict XVI is leading the fight for women's rights in the Catholic Church.

(Hint: The NPR story involves interviews with government officials of Israel and the Abbas' Puppetstinian Authority).

Monday, March 03, 2008

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


The underlying ideologies of NPR News become very apparent in how they cover the deaths of various right-wingers (e.g. Jerry Falwell, Jeane Kirkpatrick, or Gerald Ford). So it's no surprise that there has been nothing seriously assessing the gross shortcomings of William F. Buckley's career though his life and work have been featured multiple times on NPR in the last few days (Feb. 27 ATC remembrance and Feb. 27 ATC interview, Feb. 28th ME remembrance, and today Mar. 1 Weekend Ed. Sat with Scott Simon. No doubt that Buckley was a very important figure in US politics, BUT where's the criticism?

You simply have to go elsewhere for information (no surprise there). Check out The Guardian, his greatest hits on Radar, and this refreshing evaluation of Buckley's career based on Buckley's own criteria.