Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Exposing Themselves

If you've linked to any stories lately on NPR's website you'll know that they heavily advertised Ben Stein's cinematic misinformation, Expelled. This has justifiably raised a few eyebrows - and hackles. For a thorough debunking of Stein's anti-science, religious-right, dishonest movie visit the Expelled Exposed website.

It's bad enough that NPR makes money airing such slimy advertising, but they take it to the next level Tuesday morning with Greg Allen reporting on the Florida legislature which has passed a creationism bill for its public schools. NPR's report is a disgrace, from it's web title "Bill Lets Fla. Schools Teach Evolution Alternatives" (name one legitimate alternative!) to the overwhelming pro-creationist content of the report. As the late Stephen Jay Gould lamented back in 1981 (!) - must this utterly bankrupt, non-scientific fraud of creationism be taken seriously again and again - and yet again?

Renee Montagne sets the frame for the piece, stating that "the Florida legislature has been considering evolution...passed bills that would allow or require teachers to present alternate theories of how life evolved. Proponents say at issue is academic freedom, critics say the bills would introduce religion into public schools." It just kills me to see the two "sides" of this issue held up as if they deserve equal credibility and respect. NPR also just accepts -and uses!- the far right's fraudulent terms of "academic freedom" and reports as if there exist legitimate scientific "alternate theories" of evolution.

Greg Allen's coverage of the Florida bills gives brief time to Democratic critics, but the bulk of his report is filled with advocates for junk science. We hear frequently from Republican state representative Allen Hays. Including a soundbite of Hays boldly asking, 'What are you afraid of? Are you afraid our students are going to learn how to critically analyze a theory.'

Allen tells us that "the bill passed by a wide margin in Florida's house on Monday. It requires teachers to provide their students with quote 'a thorough presentation and scientific critical analysis of the theory of evolution.'" Informing the public would require a serious journalist to seek out and include representatives of the scientific community who would note that the actual "scientific, critical analysis" of evolution is exactly what has established it as the only scientifically accepted theory of life's development, diversity and dynamism.

Instead of seeking scientific opinions, Allen presents "one of those pleased by yesterday's vote was John West of the Discovery Institute, that's a group based in Seattle that promotes intelligent design and has long worked to raise questions about evolution. West says Discovery has written model legislation on this issue of academic freedom for states to consider." We hear West speaking about how 'that model legislation certainly has influenced debates in various states and in the senate version of the Florida bill, parts of it were adapted from this model language.' " Apparently on NPR, any group of far-right, anti-intellectuals who have money and and clout are treated as a legitimate voice for "academic freedom," and are given unchallenged air time to promote their cause.

Sadly, Allen's not done serving the anti-science lobby. His next act is to embed a commercial for the movie Expelled into his report. He states that "similar bills are also being considered in Louisiana and Missouri. In Florida the precipitating factor was the adoption, earlier this year of science standards for public schools that for the first time mentioned evolution. And as that idea was being discussed in Tallahassee a new film came to town." This is followed seamlessly by an audio trailer for the movie - complete with a music track, sound effects and voiceovers:
'I made a movie.' 'Join Ben Stein in this year's most controversial documentary film.' 'If they value their careers they keep quiet about their intelligent design views.'
Then it's right back to Allen reporting that "the sponsor of the bill in the house, Helen Hays, was one of the legislators who attended a private screening of Expelled, a movie by conservative economist and social critic, Ben Stein. Hays says if people wonder if there's a scientific controversy about the teaching of evolution they should see the film." How nice of Allen and his sound editors to include that little plug of "they should see the film."

The irony of NPR running this fundamentalist-friendly coverage as news and then later in the show having Steve Inskeep scoffing at Iran's top prosecutor warning against the influence of "western" toys is priceless. Hard to see what's so funny for smug Inskeep since NPR has no problem with religious fundamentalism - as long as it's of the "christian" variety.

ASSIGNMENT ALERT: I have a little homework for the nitwits at NPR who were involved in producing and airing this report. Go online and read (for free!) the book Science, Education and Creationism before you produce your next piece on the religious right's assaults on education. I realize it might offend your dutiful commitment to giving equal time (and more) to any right-wing position regardless how unfounded and spurious it is, and yes, I know it the book is produced by those wacky, partisan folks from "The National Academies Press (NAP) was created by the National Academies to publish the reports issued by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council, all operating under a charter granted by the Congress of the United States" - but it will do you good to expose yourself to what the nutty scientific community actually thinks...however difficult and painful this might be for you.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sucking the Pacifier

("A compact 45 year old with a shaved head and an easy manner." - Bowman describing Col. H. R McMaster, 4/28/08 , ATC)

"The best beat in town" Tom Bowman was on ATC last night to present "hard charging colonel with a Ph.D.," H. C. McMaster.

Michelle Norris opens this Pentagon script: "In military circles Army Colonel H. R. McMaster is a celebrity. In the 1990s he had a new Ph.D. and a widely read book...but he's not simply an academic, he's also proven himself on the battlefield. Two years ago as a combat commander McMaster pacified Tal he has a new help make Iraqi government ministries run more efficiently." (Seems like he's a celebrity in NPR circles, too.)

Bowman is on to tell us how his (Mc)Master is going to fix Iraq: "Now he's putting the finishing touches on a report: a string of recommendations on how to make Iraq work." Where you might ask, does McMaster's expertise come from? Why from the miracle of Tal Afar of course! The siege of Tal Afar was off limits to the US press, but some news did leak out and it wasn't pretty. But Bowman won't let that get in the way of telling the story according to McMaster/Bush (seriously):
[McMaster] " of the lessons of Vietnam is that you really have to pay attention to the local conditions." [Bowman] "He brought Tal Afar under control with those lessons. A mixture of aggressive combat power and essential services. The city was an ethnic sectarian cauldron...President Bush devoted an entire speech last year to what Tal Afar was like [Bush blabbing]...then the President talked about how Tal Afar had changed [more Bush fantasy]. Iraqi forces helped McMaster take control of Tal Afar, but countywide they were too green. To clear hold and rebuild other Iraqi cities more American troops would be needed in what would later be called a Surge."
That this regurgitation of unverified, unsubstantiated Pentagon, White House, McMaster spin is presented as "news" does boggle the mind. Has Bowman ever been unembedded in Tal Afar, interviewed refugees from Tal Afar, worked with unembedded locals from Tal Afar? Has he done one whit of independent reporting on Tal Afar at all? That would be so tiresome, and complex, and he might have to drop such great lines as the following from his reports: "What McMaster accomplished in Tal Afar came through a good plan and sheer force of will. To acheive the same thing across Iraq will take far more than a hard charging colonel with a Ph.D."

Open Thread

NPR related comments? Let 'em fly.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Six Figure Fools Meet Five Figure Problems

Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne wonder why people don't save anymore, but instead get into debt. To answer this vexing problem they turn to Tim Hartford of the Financial Times. Just so you'll think $337,499-a-year Renee and $331,701-a-year Steve [see the IRS 990s here] are one of us, Renee introduces this segment with: "We owe it to ourselves to consider all the debt we piled on ourselves." Then Steve and Renee do a little back and forth yucking it up:
Inskeep: "...back in the early 1980s Americans saved more than 11% of their income; last year on average Americans saved one half of one percent."
Montange (chuckling): "Steve, uh, that's no savings..."
Inskeep: "Well, basically; although perhaps some people are wondering how'd they manage to save half percent..."

Hartford comes on to make the case that what is fueling high debt among Americans is the availability of loans - which hints at, though never names the deregulation and rise of predatory lending from credit card companies. But Inskeep is more interested in putting the problem on the people in debt. He asks, "Is there something about the availability of credit itself that causes people to go off the rails and make bad decisions?"

Of course it never even occurs to buckrakers like Inskeep and Montagne that a lot of folks turn to credit because their real incomes are shrinking. Let's see what leftist propaganda I can find to support this wild idea? I've got it, how about the Marine Corp Times!

Here's a little information for you two clowns from the five figure crowd like myself. In 1993 I was making about $23,000 a year as a social worker and my second son had just been born. Employer based family health insurance was costing our little fambly about $3000 a year in premiums and rent was running about $500 a month. Let's just say things were kind of tight. Now that the kids are growing up our family income is closer to $60,000, but health insurance is over $7000 a year, gas costs have tripled, public school fees and clothing are more expensive, and the price of food is shooting up (and we just can't wait to spend, spend, spend on college).

Do you 1/3 of a million dollar dimwits at NPR get it? Yes, some people make bad decisions in this crass consumer culture that you worship on NPR, but many of us go into serious debt to fix the broken car, get braces for the kids, repair the leaking roof, buy decent food, pay for heat, etc. Yeah, we just go off the rails for all these luxuries; crazy ain't it?

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

It's So Cool

Andrea Seabrook talks to "Colonel John Forsythe, call sign 'Ripper'" about the retirement of the US stealth bomber, F-17A, called "the Nighthawk." Seabrook gets really excited about this bomber. Here's a taste of this love fest:

Seabrook: "It's the plane that I always call the Batman symbol."
Ripper: "It does look like the Batman symbol."

Seabrook: "This plane the Nighthawk has had a big role in many US conflicts over the past thirty years: both Iraq wars, Serbia, the Panama invasion just to name a few, how is it used in combat?"
Ripper: "...allows us to go right to downtown Baghdad, downtown Belgrade, any target set within a country we can get to..."

Seabrook: "Do you think there's anything you'll miss though, about the Nighthawk?"
Ripper: "One thing about the Nighthawk, particularly because of its physical appearance, It's really etched in the national psyche."
Seabrook: "Yeah, it's so cool."
Ripper: "It is."

I agree, there is just something so cool about bombing cities whether in Panama, the first Gulf War, or Serbia; it's like seeing the Bat Light bouncing off the clouds.

From Alternate Universe #265

Or was it Alternate Universe #264 - you'll have to decide. John Yidste (mercifully filling in for Scott Simon) was talking to Aaron David Miller about the situation in Israel/Palestine, when Miller makes this statement:
"I think the main point here John is that the story of the Arab Israeli negotiations right now is not an American story. There are some hopeful signs, but neither of them involve right now a primary role right now for the United States. First you've got historic negotiations underway for the last year between Abbas and Olmert - an empowered Israeli Prime Minister and an empowered Palestinian President - on the four core issues that drive the conflict."
Whatever your opinion about the conflict in Israel/Palestine, where in God's name does the descriptor "historic" apply to the goings on between Israel and the truncated government of Abbas? And "empowered" to describe these two pathetic leaders Olmert and Abbas; that was a new one for me. I actually thought I misheard it from the radio, and went to NPR's website to relisten.

Ok, so Miller (by far not the worst of the servants of US/Israeli policy) can say whatever nonsense he wants; after all he in this LA Times opinion piece he calls Jimmy Carter's last book "a bad book" and Walt and Mearscheimer's work "another bad book." But where is the journalist during this little interview with Miller. Hello, Yidste, anybody there. There was nothing, no reaction, nada. As if often the case at NPR, the lights are on, but nobody's home.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Grain of Salt with my Prime Rib Please

Any half-witted reader knows that it is the nature of governments to lie, and then to lie some more, and finally to lie again. People of all ilks have pointed out Goebbels' pointed remarks about the power of the big lie (ironic link warning!). Of course, the US is as guilty as any promoting lies that have dire consequences: from Vietnam and El Salvador to secret prisons and torture. The Bush administration, however, has taken this tendency and turned it in to a stock in trade.

So you might expect any thinking person, and especially a journalist, to be extremely skeptical about the latest Bush Administration presentation of "intelligence" on the Syrian facility destroyed by Israel back in September. You might expect it, but not NPR. To serve up this latest dish from the White House, NPR turns to Tom Gjelten. Here's just a sample of his hard-hitting skepticism evidenced on Thursday's ATC :
  • "...the amazing thing Melissa is that they have photos...that were taken inside the reactor by somebody, a spy presumably..."
  • " show definitively that what was being built there was in fact a nuclear reactor."
  • "...however they did have a very interesting picture of a senior North Korean official..."
  • "...they also said that they could support all of these pictures and the conclusions they drew from them with other evidence."
I'm not claiming to know whether or not Syria was building a nuclear reactor or not. The silly video that the Bush folks produced makes a dumbed-down case, but are the photos real, current, actually from the bombed site, etc? NPR doesn't express a hint of doubt, but, as Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, joins the rest of the mainstream media in just repeating whatever the administration claims. For a bit of salt on this juicy story you can read the Greenwald piece, take a look at Larisa Alexandrovna on Huffington Post, David Kurtz on TPM, or Steve Benen on Carpetbagger Report. Or you can just sit at the counter with NPR and gobble it up - yum.

Update (4/27): Juan Cole (through an informed reader) pokes more holes in the US/Israel case against Syria. In his post he also recommends this Farley article in Counterpunch (which spanks Gjelten and National "Pentagon" Radio).

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Pay Scales

Still waiting for NPR to address its participation in the Pentagon's apparently illegal planting of "independent" military analysts on of news outlets to spin war coverage? I haven't heard "boo" on NPR news, but "Talk of the Nation" took it on this past Wednesday. Neal Conan had on Ken Silverstein of Harpers and Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard (a reasonable person would ask, "Why?"). The "meat" of the report was the presence of Brian Duffy, Managing Editor of NPR news.

If you don't already know, NPR hired (and still frequently uses) Major General (Ret.) Robert Scales for "analysis." Turns out that not only is Scales a war profiteer (the company he founded states "In summary, we are new, lean, well-connected and able to meet the needs of any client or individual who wants to work with or better understand our fighting men and women in the land Services.") but he was also an eager participant in the Pentagon's propaganda program. As the New York Times article noted Scales wrote to the Pentagon, "Recall the stuff I did after my last visit; I will do the same this time."

So how did NPR confront this? It mounted an internal review! Duffy states, "We have found in a review since the Times article appeared that there was nothing that the general said to our listeners that was obviously related to or influenced by his outside interests or his participation in this this case we were fortunate in that the general conducted himself with great propriety and provided useful analysis to our I said in a review of our relationship with the general we saw nothing to indicate that his remarks to our listeners were unduly influenced by his participation in this program or by any other of his relationships...."

So all of Scales positive cheerleading of the US war machine in action had nothing to do with his "well connected" company that makes a killing off those connections. And how do we know this? Because NPR's own review of its participation in this sham said so.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Open Thread

Comments on NPR? Put 'em here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

They're Not Kidding

NPR's coverage on the Maliki machinations has been about as close to nonsense as you can get. On one day the situation shows how Petraeus should be made the emperor of Iraq, while on another day it's a struggle against "rogue elements...trained in Iran." Today the spin is that the Basra/Sadr City assaults "have worked out better than it seemed at the time," to use Inskeep's words. Even though Maliki's assault on the Sadrists leaves his favorite Badr militia untouched, Inskeep insists that because "the Shiite Prime Minister showed himself willing to strike at Shiite Muslim militias he built some political credibility."

Westervelt continues this narrative telling us that Maliki "has rebounded militarily and politically." Westervelt also praises the lethal strikes on Sadr City: "Sadr City, the cleric's powerbase in Baghdad is basically penned in by Iraqi and US troops." Penned in?

Westervelt also tries to claim that the Sunni Accordance Front reentering the government is due to the Maliki assaults. Funny but this rapprochement preceded the Basra assault, and seems to have more to do with the US releasing thousands of innocent Sunni detainees.

Lastly Westervelt claims that "the fact is Maliki's crackdown has won him praise and support from Iraqi Sunnis Kurds and some Shiia as well as the United States, key Arab and European states, and the Iranian ambassador to Iraq." Funny how that last little bit about Iran slips in there without comment. That's the big story isn't it? The fact that Iran and the US interests have converged in Maliki's attacks. And there's no comment on how this contradicts NPR's previous coverage alledging that Iran was behind the Sadrists.

Notes and analyses monitoring rightwing, pro-government, and corporate bias on National Public Radio News

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Perfectly Calibrated Renee Montagne

Who but a death worshiping Bushista would ask the following question during an interview about Jimmy Carter's negotiations with Hamas:
"Could though, at this point in time, the Bush administration argue that former President Carter may have upset THE carefully calibrated approaches to Hamas that are being made?"
That was Renee Montagne's query for her guest, Robert Malley, director of the International Crisis Group's Middle East and North Africa program and member of the new group JStreet. Consider how easily she could have asked, "Might the Bush administration claim that Carter's trip undermines its policy?" But, my God, to call it "THE [Montagne's emphasis, not mine] carefully calibrated approaches."

Oh, but maybe I'm overreacting. Perhaps she's referring to the "carefully calibrated" diet restrictions US, Israel, and Europe are imposing on Gaza, or those measured and careful surgical strikes that the US/Israel is using to try to bring peace to Gaza (I mean, who takes Amnesty International seriously anyway?). Really, with all this careful calibration, what's the worst that could happen to those stubborn Gazans?

To his credit Malley answers, "Unfortunately there's not much to upset, because there's not much good happening so I'm not sure what it could be undermining..." In other words, "I'm not sure what the hell you're talking about..."

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Little Laptop that Could

Tom Gjelten has been very busy little operative reporter of late on NPR (gosh, seems like it was just Friday that he was singing the praises of a CIA agent who left his mark on Latin America). He's back on with some unfinished company business on Colombia and that "miracle laptop" taken in the Colombian attack on Ecuador. Despite all the doubt about the truth surrounding the laptop and it's non-evidence, NPR just runs with it full bore.

Here's Montagne: "The fear of a terrorist group getting a nuclear weapon was revived last month. Colombia announced it had found evidence on a seized computer that a rebel army there was interested in buying uranium. Not necessarily to make a bomb but possibly to trade on the terrorism market..."

And Gjelten, follows with: "There's no evidence the left wing rebels in Colombia thought about engaging in nuclear terrorism themselves, more likely explanation for their interest in uranium is that they would have sold it - maybe even to al-Qaeda..."

One wonders if we'll ever get any unbiased examination of this supposed laptop. Probably not, but to treat this legendary little piece of hardware as hard evidence is stunning. Gjelten at least started his piece off with three words of truth - "there's no evidence." Amen!

Generally Speaking

Hat's off to the New York Times for revealing another attack on our democracy by the Pentagon. On page 8 of the online article there is this little gem:
"Some e-mail messages between the Pentagon and the analysts reveal an implicit trade of privileged access for favorable coverage. Robert H. Scales Jr., a retired Army general and analyst for Fox News and National Public Radio whose consulting company advises several military firms on weapons and tactics used in Iraq, wanted the Pentagon to approve high-level briefings for him inside Iraq in 2006.

"Recall the stuff I did after my last visit,” he wrote. “I will do the same this time."

Obviously, the ball is now in NPR's court. Will they come clean on this - and on all their other retired military "analysts"? I'm not holding my breath.

(for one example of Scaly analysis see my earlier post)

Sunday, April 20, 2008


"I've been a big McCain supporter from day one...value hard work and personal responsibility...I believe in smaller government; I believe in the importance of economic liberalism, and a strong national defense." So says Meghan Scheidemann, an 18-year-old freshman at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. Of course, a supporter of McCain can parrot whatever empty platitudes and praises of the candidate they want, but why is NPR giving this individual valuable airtime to repeat these slogans on NPR's Sunday Weekend edition?

Supposedly there is something unique and newsworthy about Meghan's situation. Hansen introduces the segment with "It's exciting to be a first time voter. A chance to have your voice heard, your vote counted. But what's it like to be a first time voter when the candidate you support isn't the one receiving most of the attention?" During the report Meghan continues this line, saying "how little media coverage is being given to my candidate."

Actually McCain gets plenty of media attention, most of it fawning and unquestioning - just like Meghan's piece (and like NPR's coverage of McCain - Feb. 29, 2008, March 14, 2008, and April 9, 2008).

I have an idea! Instead of NPR just being an echo chamber for the McCain campaign, it could do some digging on exactly what he did and when during the Savings and Loan scandals, and on his relationships to the telecom corporations. NPR could report on McCain's reactions to the latest torture memos that show all levels of the White House participated in allowing torture - or on his maverick reaction (did nothing) to Bush's despicable signing statement on the "anti-torture law." It would even be worthwhile to do some reporting on what (and who) his units were bombing - and why - during Vietnam when he became such a "war hero." And of course it would be great for NPR to do even a little reporting on the excitement of being a first time voter when your vote is NOT counted.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Colorful and Agressive

Operative Tom Gjelten is back on the beat, reporting on Jose Rodriguez recent head of the CIA's clandestine service. Rodriguez is under investigation for destroying CIA torture tapes ("videotapes of tough interrogations" as Michele Norris genteelly calls them.).

If you've been living in a cave for the past 50 years or so, and don't have a clue about the CIA's disgusting history of training, installing and maintaining murder/torture states in Latin America then just Google "CIA in Latin America" (even the CIA has documents online!) Knowing this bloody, sadistic history of the CIA, one can only marvel at Gjelten's description of Rodriguez:
"...he spent much of his clandestine career in Latin America establishing a reputation as a colorful and aggressive operative."

The rest of the report is mostly a paean to Rodriguez for his role in setting the stage for the 1989 US Invasion of Panama. Gjelten tells us that "One of his more dramatic assignments was in Panama in 1989 when the dictator Manuel Noriega was fighting to hold on to power." Gjelten does mention the uncomfortable fact that "for many years Noriega worked with the CIA" but then implies that he became too nasty for the squeaky clean US foreign policy: "the U.S. government had turned against Noriega and his increasingly oppressive and corrupt regime."

A few other tidbits that Gjelten includes are that "Rodriguez worked in Panama at considerable personal risk, with no diplomatic status or official cover...." and that "Rodriquez was bold in his intelligence work....known for his devotion to the intelligence mission." Come to think of it, one could say the same for Tom Gjelten, too.

(The graphic is a drawing by Fernando Botero, Colombian artist who created the Abu Ghraib paintings.)

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Arguing for the Government

So the Miami Six trial ended in another mistrial. There is a gag order still in effect and NPR is determined to make us do just that! Now you might think that a second mistrial would indicate that something is a bit rotten at the core of the government's case. Even in the Reuter's story of the case today they reveal that the initial arrest was greeted with skepticism by some:
"U.S. officials denied there was any political link between the Miami case and the midterm U.S. congressional election in November 2006.

But the election came against the backdrop of a slump in President George W. Bush's popularity and in public support for the Iraq war, and critics of the administration frequently accuse it of exploiting fear of a repeat of the Sept. 11 attacks."
Not NPR though. They are here to explain how honest and sincere the US government is in the "war on terror." Inskeep begins the story telling us that a "dramatic arrest has turned into a legal nightmare for the federal government." Yeah, and what about the legal nightmare of people caught up in these ridiculous cases (e.g. Jose Padilla or Sami Al-Arian).

Greg Allen then files the report by talking to Wake Forest University Law Professor, Robert Chesney. Allen explains that " reason this has turned out to be such a tough case for prosecutors, he says, is because the government intervened in the alleged plot so early." See, Big Brother Uncle Sam was just all anxious to protect us from the big, bad jihadists and that's why the case is so weak. In case you don't get the message, Allen carries on: "at the time of their arrest Justice Department officials talked about this early intervention strategy, saying they were intent on being proactive and preventing terrorist attacks. Chesney says that strategy can make prosecutions difficult."

And this passes for journalism. God help us...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Open Thread

NPR related comments are always welcome.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some Scientists May Cringe

Profiling a 16 year old nonscientist who claims that human activity is not a factor in global warming, David Kastenbaum flatters himself, saying "some scientists may cringe to hear this story." Actually, anyone who wants to think about the complexities of climate disruption will cringe to hear Tuesday morning's sloppy feature offered up as part of NPR's series on "climate connections."

The story employs the odd vocabulary of "some scientists" and "mainstream scientists" to legitimize the type of junk science usually offered up by ExxonMobil. Kastenbaum surely knows that it's not just "some scientists;" it's a consensus of scientists that accepts human activity as a major contributor to global warming. And "mainstream scientists"? As opposed to who? By "mainstream," does he mean scientists on the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or at the National Academy of Sciences, or just those environmental advocates over at the Union of Concerned Scientists?

You have to love how Kastenbaum honors the science deniers with the term "skeptics." We're told that the girl being featured "has a quality you want in a scientist, she is skeptical" and that "skeptics loved the web site" she constructed to present her views. Skeptics? I guess it's those same famous skeptics who have debunked evolution and Wikipedia!

Kastenbaum's piece (and most anti-intellectuals) also exploits the complexities and open nature of scientific hypotheses to imply that everything about a theory is up in the air. Near the end of the piece he tells us "the truth is, for people who want to try to get down into the details, climate change science can get very hairy - there are oceans to consider, which can absorb heat, water vapor, clouds..." and that "scientists disagree on some of the details..." So?

As one reader of this blog pointed out, the areas of disagreement would have made an interesting feature story (including Q & A with with actual climate scientists). Instead NPR chose to focus on a social phenomena of the decidedly anti-scientific culture existing in the US now, and to treat this particular example as a legitimate challenge to serious scientific inquiry. Bushco would be proud.

Open Thread

NPR related comments are always welcome.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Slaughterhouse Jive

When Juan Forero reports you really have to listen, this guy is a slick operative. I saw that he was reporting this morning on "Colombian Army Units Killing Peasants," and thought "Wow, maybe this will be a decent report." It's not.

You know how the bad apples spin carried the day during the Abu Ghraib revelations - well Forero and Inskeep are trying to pass off the same line on the long, sordid history of the Colombian military/paramilitaries atrocities (and the US role in creating and supporting them).

Here's Inskeep carefully enunciating his way through his morning script:
"In recent years the [Colombian] government appears to have made progress...Not for the first time though the government faces questions about its methods. Human rights groups say army units are under pressure to produce results, and that may explain why some rogue army units are accused of killing peasants, civilians..." Dang those rogue army units! If only they could use some of those refined graduates of SOA/WHINSEC.

Inskeep having set the table, Forero carries on with this theme. Here are some lowlights:
  • The war in Colombia "has been marked by atrocities, committed by rebels, by death squads, by soldiers - but little was known about what are called extrajudicial executions until now." Actually a lot has been known for a long time, and though the FARC commits atrocities, the overwhelming bulk of torture and killings have been carried out by the military and its allied paramilitaries.
  • There is "concern among reform-minded officials in the ministry of defense."
  • "The army's reliance on the body contributing to the problem"
  • "The defense minister has issued new rules of engagement...assigned consultants to combat units...and the attorney general's office is also prosecuting dozens of soldiers...
  • "...military officials say there's a command and control problem."
Not only does Forero decontextualize the history of the paramilitaries, but he pushes the argument that the Colombian government and military have cleaned house and are struggling with rogue elements who commit atrocities. Even a cursory look through the human rights records of the Colombian government show that that simply was a lie several years ago and continues to be a lie now.

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Andrea Seabrook talks to Frank Cummings, head of the Financial Crimes Research Center about people who avoid paying taxes by using off-shore tax shelters. Funny, how just today on Bob McChesney's Media Matters I heard Joseph Stieglitz talking about how Halliburton uses tax shelters in the Cayman Islands to cheat us out of paying into Medicare and Social Security (so they can beef up their profits). Not only is this happening, it has a nice, long (and ugly) history. So surely Seabrook brings up this unsavory tax-cheating and war profiteering by a company that has connections to the Vice President? Not a chance. Seabrook is off into the usual giggling inanity as she asks her guest how she would shelter her millions if she were to win the Powerball Lottery. Now that is some kind of journalism.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Two Crocks for the Price of One

On Friday's ATC, Robert Siegel has one of his chummy chats with the powerful, this time with "our man there now in Baghdad," as he calls US Ambassador Crocker.

From the start Siegel lets Crocker spin out a bunch of lies without a murmur of protest. Crocker says, "Progress comes in different forms, the most important was what we saw in February when Iraq's parliament came together to hammer out some hard compromises across sectarian lines to produce three significant pieces of legislation: an amnesty law, 2008 budget, a law on de-Baathification." Political progress? As Carpetbagger Report pointed out in January, this "progress" narrative is no progress at all.

Siegel also lets Crocker claim that bringing US troop levels back to pre-surge occupation levels is some kind of great achievement: "...because the surge has had significant success...and because in that environment we have seen political and economic progress, by July we will have withdrawn 25% of our combat power from Iraq..." Hey let's pop open the champagne!

But the kicker comes when Crocker drops this smelly one on the table: " is completely clear to any informed observer these militias would not be in a position to do what they're doing if they didn't get support from Iran, those rockets that struck in Basra and Baghdad and were fired at the Prime Minister in Basra all were made in Iran." What a surprise, the Iraq boogeyman again. And Siegel's challenge to this is....
"What do you say to Americans who when told that the country faces two challenges there: al-Qaeda in Iraq and Iran. What do you say when they say, If it weren't for our war policy there wouldn't be an al-Qaeda in Iraq and Iraq would be a counterweight to Iran."
Not only does Siegel not demand proof of any kind, he simply accepts the grossly simplistic Bush line that Iraq is all about al-Qaeda and that every problem for the US in Iraq is traceable back to Iran.

Watching Crocker sit in front of Congress and tell lie after lie was disgusting, but no big surprise; after all he's a minion of the Bush administration. But for a supposed journalist at a public news station to repeat and propagate the same misinformation without challenge is a disgrace.

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More Bing for the Buck

On Morning Edition Inskeep talks to propagandist Bing West. Inskeep is pushing a line about the Basra assault: "Iraqi forces tried to remove Shiite Muslim militias in Basra and elsewhere. Their failure raises questions." So the Maliki assault on Basra was about trying to remove Shiite militias. Does that include the Badr Corps that came to Maliki's defense (even a dummy at the National Review realized that)? Does that mean it had nothing to do with oil and coming elections.

Bing West carries on this mindless distortion: "on the good side, he did move against Sadr and he did move against the militias....he did take action that was definitely in the best interests of Iraq; there's no question about that."

And where does this made-up narrative lead? To the necessity of the US staying and leading, of course. Here's Inskeep: "Does this basically mean we're still in a situation where Petraeus has to be the man calling the shots...that they [Iraqis] must follow the lead of the Americans if they're going to succeed." To which Bing West claims that the Iraqi generals would say, "We would prefer to take our cues from General Petraeus."

The stupidity of this is unbelievable. Even the Council on Foreign Relations, no bastion of progressive politics, has a far more nuanced take on the story.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Amazing, Unbelievable, Miraculous, Astounding, Mindbending, Glorious, Immaculate Military Success of the Surge

In the proud tradition of NPR skepticism about the Surge™ (see June 07, September 07, February 08, and March 08) Morning Edition trotted out old one-outlet Surge™ Protector, David Welna. Here he manages to both campaign for John McCain and be a cheerleader for the Surge™ :
"McCain sounded as if he were describing his own near political near-death odyssey last year as a presidential contender - [McCain interlude: 'We've come a long way since early 2007 and quite a distance even since General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker appeared before our committee last September'] but of course what McCain really meant was that a disputed strategy he'd strongly endorsed, last year's US troop expansion in Iraq, known as the surge, is now widely accepted as having been, at least militarily , a success. [Another McCain insert: 'This means rejecting as we did in 2007, the calls for a reckless and irresponsible withdrawal of our forces at the moment when they are succeeding.']"
Oh yeah, that widely accepted, mythically triumphant, amazingly successful Surge. Who but the reckless and irresponsible could argue with that?

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Meeting of the Minds

Steve Inskeep interviews Douglas Feith. Tell your kids to leave the room because it ain't pretty. Consider that Feith is not only a murderous psychopath, with a long, well-documented history of being a liar, war monger, and gross incompetent to boot. You'd think that on a public news program, Feith would be hit hard with questions about not only poor planning for a war, but the more fundamental crime of subverting democracy (with false intelligence) and launching a war of aggression (a crime against peace, the preeminent Nuremberg war crime).

Alas Feith, the "stupidest f***ing guy on the planet" in the words of General Tommy Franks, is being interviewed by the equally competent Steve Inskeep. Inskeep focuses only on Feith's planning before the war, completely accepting that the war was a reasonable, legitimate act of the US government. At one point Inskeep asks about arguments regarding troop levels and training for post invasion Iraqi troops and frames it as "training new Iraqi forces, Iraqi liberation forces, or whatever you want to call them." Liberation forces - that's an unbiased description, eh? During the interview Inskeep pushes, "Whose job was it to force the government to accept some idea or acknowledge that we weren't ready to go to war." The focus is only on being ready, not on launching a war that was unnecessary and illegal. Feith, of course is pleased with the pliant Inskeep and says, "Well that's an important question..."

The bulk of the interview revolves around Feith trying to claim that he pushed a "memo" about the need for law and order after the fall of Saddam. Inskeep just lets Feith sell the line that " I regret that I didn't make more of that memo. Looking back, I think there were a lot of problems that flowed from the lack of law and order...If we had pushed it harder..." To which Inskeep concurs that that "might have mitigated other problems."


Monday, April 07, 2008

Yoo Who

Consider that it was nearly a week ago that John Yoo's torture document was released to the ACLU. It is a damning document, showing that the Bush administration considers the Constitution, domestic, and international laws inapplicable to the President in a time of war. It's a disgusting piece of barbarism dressed up in sloppy legal jargon. In a democratic republic it should be front and center in every news broadcast. Let's see where it ranks on NPR. What you see are two references on the Bryant Project, and if you listen, you'll find it is actually the same broadcast and gives about 45 seconds coverage to the release of the document.

Now look at Charlton Heston coverage...stunning isn't it?

To find coverage of the Yoo/torture issue you have to go to Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Harpers and Salon's Glenn Greenwald.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Juntas That Held Sway

Stories like today's ATC piece on the stolen children of Argentina's disappeared drive me nuts. I remember reading about Argentina's torture state during my college years in the early 80s. I remember the rage I felt at how closely the US was working with the thugs running Argentina, and in fact was responsible for the existence and support of many of the murder/torture states that were running Central and South America for decades.

Tonight Julie McCarthy reports on the conviction of a couple who took one of the babies of the disappeared. Her report covers the horrid crimes of the military dictatorship that ran Argentina without once mentioning the role of the US in giving the green light to the "Dirty War" of 1976-1983, in coordinating Operation Condor, the continent-wide torture/assassination program involving Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. Seabrook begins the piece with "Now to Argentina and a crime that dates back to that country's brutal military dictatorship of the 1970s." Toward the end of the piece McCarthy notes that "among the juntas that held sway over South America in the 1970s and 80s, Argentina's was considered among the most brutal, kidnapping and killing an estimated 30,000 people." She just forgets to mention that the junta that held sway over the juntas was the one in Washington, DC.


In a story on Friday's Morning Edition I heard Jackie Northam say, "he pressed ahead without enough military intelligence or troops." Who could she be talking about? What idiot would do such a thing? Hmmm....

Maliki, of course! Yes, NPR is covering up the mess of the Basra operation so as to make the Bush administration's role look as positive as possible. Northram says "analysts here in Washington say that decision revealed Maliki's weaknesses: he pressed ahead without enough military intelligence or troops, giving the US very little notice of his plans. The offensive quickly began to unravel, threatening to undo recent security gains in other parts of Iraq and forcing the US and Britain to help defend Iraqi security forces."

Nothram works hard in this excerpt, pushing the ludicrous idea (lie) that the Maliki offensive was launched without US knowledge of its extent. But she's doing even more here: she posits that the Basra operation ruined all those miraculous security gains of The Surge™. And not only that, it FORCED the US and Britain to help. You've got to hand it to Northam, she packs a lot of BaSra into one little paragraph.

The tone of Northam's piece was a stunner, too. Imperial prerogatives are simply assumed for the US. Northam states that Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations "says Crocker and the US military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, will have to tell Maliki in unambiguous terms, that the US will not tolerate and similar unilateral actions in the future." And she doesn't flinch a bit as she says, "Wayne White is a former State Department analyst and currently adjunct scholar with the Middle East Institute. White says the US could engineer a coup against Maliki, but it may be better to just let the political process play out..." Could engineer a coup? Echoes of Diem, eh...

The last big accomplishment of Northam's piece is that it not only covers up the stupidity of Bush, Crocker, Cheney, and Petraeus - but it covers up the stunning fact that it is Iran that saved the day in Iraq, essentially pulling the administrations chestnuts from the fire. I'd say that is definitely a defining moment, no?

Where's Weepy Mukasey?

Funny that I've not heard a peep from NPR about Attorney General Mukasey's mucousy exploitation of 9/11 over a week ago. Glenn Greenwald at has been doing yeoman duty covering this with updates on April 3rd and April 4th.

However if you are interested in candidates and bowling, then NPR will be on it.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Purging Truth

Michael Sullivan is spinning Indonesian history, again. In his Thursday ATC piece about China's growing influence in South East Asia, Sullivan includes a short clip from Harry Tjan Silalahi of Jakarta's Center for Strategic and International Studies, and then states,

"He says a 1965 coup attempt by Indonesia's Communist Party helped convince the Indonesian military of China's expansionist impulses. The coup was brutally suppressed by Indonesia's US backed military. More than half a million people - many of them communists - were killed in the purge that followed."

This distortion and pro-Suharto/pro-CIA propaganda of Mr. Sullivan's is breathtaking, really. Notice that the blame for the bloodbath of up to a million humans is laid at the feet of Indonesia's Communist Party even though there is NOTHING in the historical record to definitively support the claim that it was a communist coup. In fact, as the Guardian noted, the coup generals were likely put up to their actions by the CIA. Sullivan also relegates the role of the US to a "backer" of the military, when in reality the US was elbow deep in blood - helping to plan and execute the Suharto counter-coup and holocaust that followed.

That Sullivan works so hard to cover the CIA's role in this horror of the 1960s has to make you wonder just who Sullivan really works for.

Open Thread

NPR related comments are welcomed.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Two Thousand Bucks

There is something truly grotesque about a nation that spends $12 billion a month on wars in two countries and then offers a few of the families of local victims of its wars $2000 a piece for those killed. There is an ugly racist math involved, too, when one considers the compensation given to US victims of 9/11. However, equally grotesque is a "public" media outlet - NPR - praising this crass use of blood money to supposedly win hearts and minds.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Afghanistan on Wednesday's ATC with Michele Norris introducing the story. "Deaths from NATO raids and air strikes have badly damaged relations with the Afghan people, so the US is trying to make amends" Norris assures us.

Nelson then comes on to say how one US raid killed six people, "including a mother and two children." The local governor, she tells us "is not happy...but he's determined to help the military right this wrong, lest the insurgents gain from the tragedy." She describes how US military teams meet with locals who lost family in the raid:
"And so begins a tough 40 minute meeting, a meeting that under international law doesn't have to take place. Nor do American payments need to be made to relatives of the dead which in this case amounts to $2000 for each of the six people killed, but the Americans believe such meetings and payments help keep Afghanistan from ending up back in the hands of the Taliban."
In case you're like me, and thinking that our government and Pentagon leaders are really sick and soulless individuals, Nelson props up the morality of such payoffs by tagging them with an endorsement from Sarah Holewinski, the executive director of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. Nelson also includes a bit of justification for the killings by touching base with Col. Martin Schweitzer, head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and noting that "he says in this case some of the dead...were insurgents linked to hundreds of Afghan deaths."

To be fair, Nelson did convey the weight of the losses suffered by the local people in this Afghan village - and relates their anger. She mentions that one adolescent boy at the meeting lost both parents and that his uncle must now raise him and several orphans. But the human tragedies were undermined by her insistence on the overall morality and noble intentions of the US military.

Set It Up Nicely

As our pipsqueak of a President talks big at the NATO summit NPR is there to help our little tyrant shine his "legacy." As Bush pushes for greater NATO expansion, a thinking person might judge this a good time to question the policy of US/NATO triumphalism and aggressive expansion. Way back in 1998 the "No to NATO expansion Speakers Tour" managed to find a range of critics. Stephen F. Cohen has noted how the US/NATO post Cold War policy represents a tragic, lost opportunity, and in a 2006 article in The Nation he writes,
"The real US policy has been very different--a relentless, winner-take-all exploitation of Russia's post-1991 weakness. Accompanied by broken American promises, condescending lectures and demands for unilateral concessions, it has been even more aggressive and uncompromising than was Washington's approach to Soviet Communist Russia."
Mark Ames, a US reporter living in Russia has also noted the dangers of the US/NATO divide and conquer strategy toward Russia.

On the NPR piece we get to hear plenty from the decider:
  • "NATO should welcome Georgia and Ukraine into the membership action plan, and NATO membership must remain open to all of Europe's democracies that seek it."
  • "I will reiterate that the missile defense capabilities we are developing are not designed to defend against Russia — just as the new NATO we are building is not designed to defend against Russia. The Cold War is over. Russia is not our enemy."
And then for analysis, where does NPR turn? Why, former U.S. ambassador to NATO Robert Hunter! Now that is some daring journalism! I hope Michele Kelemen gets her medal; she tells us that "as for the President's speech, Hunter gives him high marks for recognizing NATO's importance at his last summit of the alliance." And then we get to hear the great Hunter himself:
"The rest of the world is looking to American leadership, and I think he set it up very nicely for the next President — whichever of the three becomes president — because they're going to have a lot of work to do in common."
All's well in the empire...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

An April Fool's Gift

I have to thank NPR's ATC for writing my post tonight. It's an April Fool's spoof piece that is painfully apt:

How perfect that the set up is a composer who's genre is subminimalism. Where have we seen subminimalism before? (Reporters who can't count to a million? Or who can't remember history?)
I love that the fictional composer's latest masterpiece is composed of one note. Puts me in mind of news that has one note.) And finally, how perfect that no matter the instrument (Simon, Inskeep, Siegel, etc.) it's always the same note, and a flat one at that!