Wednesday, September 30, 2009
"Senators on the finance committee defeated attempts to add the government run option to health care legislation - that's despite the fact that it has widespread public support beyond Capitol Hill."Talk about too little, too late. All summer while rabies was sweeping townhalls and tea parties, NPR never mentioned "widespread public support." I guess once the Insurocrats have passed their pharma/insurance industry overhall and Pres. Obama has signed it, NPR will also mention that other thingy that has wide public support...uh...what do you call that...oh, yeah, single payer.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
'over the next year NPR will explore [efforts to improve teacher quality.] We'll take a look at the latest crop of teachers entering the profession. NPR's education correspondents, Claudio Sanchez and Larry Abramson are in the studio.'Gope notes that Sanchez has favorably reported on the disaster that was "educational entrepreneurs" in Chicago, pointing out that NPR hasn't exactly covered the latest stall of the Chicago experiment.
Gope highlights this sloppy hearsay of Sanchez regarding teacher colleges when he tells Hansen, "There are roughly something like 1300 colleges, and I've had people tell me that only 50 are doing a good job." Ohhh, some people have told him - then it must be true!
I have to say that I'm doubtful that anything original or progressive will come of NPR's series. Sanchez has also shown a fondness for the conservative education star, Michelle Rhee, while Abramson delivered a shameless promotion of a Louisiana junk-science education initiative.
My biggest complaint with NPR and its education coverage is how in spite of the dominant influence of socioeconomic status on student achievement, NPR insists on focusing on the far smaller influence of teachers. In the introduction to the series Hansen states,
"Everyone from President Obama on down seems to agree that a good teacher can make a huge difference in a child's life. American schools have been trying for decades to improve teacher quality. The results are mixed. Over the next year, NPR will explore those efforts and we'll take a look at the latest crop of teachers entering the profession."You have to love how in a month when census reports indicate that income disparity in the US is growing (hitting those at the bottom very hard), NPR takes a fine sentiment about how teachers can make a difference in a child's life (obviously) and turns it into a tool for placing the responsibility for student achievement at the feet of the teachers - instead of the institutions that continue to siphon the nation's wealth into the hands of the richest 1% of the population.
Monday, September 28, 2009
"I just heard Robert Smith's assessment of Oliver Stone's Hugo Chavez film. You think WE'RE snotty at this blog? Smith couldn't help but mock and snipe and complain. 'Stone didn't even ask Chavez one challenging question!' he moans."It is a point well-taken. I heard the review, and was taken aback by Smith's snide and superior attitude. Here's a sample of Smith at his NPR best:
Listen Smith, Stone's not doing public broadcasting. He's doing an independent film. That means he can make a film of Chavez' cufflink collection if he wants to. At NPR, the home of consistently challenging questions, I guess the serious reporters there just don't remember stuff like that."
- [on Chavez' attire] "chic tomato colored turtleneck"
- "he [Oliver Stone] does dabble in documentaries"
- "it might be difficult to call this movie a documentary"
- "the most outlandish things that the US media has said about Hugo Chavez....Oliver Stone takes the film to the opposite extreme....show an angel sent to save South America."
- "Stone, the man famous for his conspiracy theories and questioning of the official story, never asks a single challenging question."
- "he doesn't talk about the Amnesty International report criticizing the country for human rights abuses. Stone never interviews a single average citizen of Venezuela instead he jets around the region to talk to Chavez's allies and hang out with them."
- "the point as always in an Oliver Stone film is that Oliver Stone keeps complete control. That's a trick that even Hugo Chavez might admire."
Well, how about those assertions? Since when is a turtle-neck chic? Dabbles in documentaries...does Smith fancy that NPR ever does more than dabble in journalism? The opposite extreme - as if praising Chavez is the same as claiming he's as bad as Bin Laden or as undemocratic as Castro. Doesn't ask a "challenging question" - not like NPR's history of challenging questions. Doesn't talk about the Amnesty report? Since when does NPR give a rats ass about Amnesty Reports (Colombia, Honduras, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.)? Chavez's allies - I think Smith means virtually all the leaders of South America except for Uribe of Colombia. And what film director doesn't exercise complete control? Oh, but that little swipe helps him slur Chavez.
It is worth considering this piece of unoriginal, lazy and utterly predicable Chavez-bashing in light of Glenn Greenwald's latest piece on how the US corporate and corporate-loyal media treats "good guys" and "bad guys" around the world (even NPR gets a mention!)
Friday, September 25, 2009
Glenn Greenwald takes Insqueak to task for bold questions about torture to that president (OMG!, they can say "torture" on NPR.)
It's also worth reading Greenwald's take on the consistently wrong, pompous warlover (and regular NPR personality) - David Brooks.
As commenters have noted, Tom Gjelten and Peter Overby brought NPR ME listeners a three part commercial from their sponsor ANGA. It's worthwhile to take a look at the comments beneath each story's web link (Part I, Part II, and Part III) and click on "Most Recommended." Let's just say shale ain't the only thing getting drilled... For example, part II of the series had Gjelten claiming that most of the drilling and fracking is done by "mom and pop" operations. An NPR listener wrote
"Another poorly researched piece. The main companies working the Marcellus Shale in NE Pennsylvania include: Chesapeake (7,600 employees), Hess (13,500 employees), and of course Schlumberger (87,000 employees). Fortuna Energy is a subsidiary of Talisman (2,388 employees). These companies have global reach and oil as well as natural gas interests. Cabot (notorious for environmental violations and fracturing fluid chemical spills around Dimock, PA) has 560 employees - again, no 'mom and pop' operation."On the infomercial sidebars that accompany the NPR stories you can see the following:
The perversely named American Clean Skies Foundation is a front organization for the same mom and pop Chesapeake Energy corporation mentioned by the listener [if in doubt, click on the "About US" tab on the "Clean Skies" page, and look at the chairman, Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy Corporation!] Oh, and that friendly sounding, Ground Water Council, is the organization of STATE ground water regulators, which are the very organizations that gas drillers want to deal with to get around federal environmental rules!
This gas series began without any critical reservations whatsoever, touting the shale gas reserves as a nearly limitless supply of clean energy, where the only concern is the economic feasibility of fracking it out of the shale rock. Given the firestorm of criticism evidenced in the comments section under each of the stories, NPR obviously tried to run some hasty last minute, "balancing" operations. They expanded the "series" page to include a May 27th piece more critical of fracking and tacked on a web article also. The final report of the series offers this sad little gassy seep of concern:
"Well, remember, Steve, from one our earlier pieces, to get gas out of shale rock you've got to fracture the rock. They do this by blasting water into it. The concern is that that might cause some contamination of drinking water supplies. There are chemicals that are used in that water."Would have been nice to include some of those concerned stakeholders in this series, like real journalists do. Apparently that would have ruined the three-day, 20-plus minutes of drill baby drill hype that NPR wanted to frack us with.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
The version I transcribed Monday evening about 8pm:
Mentioned Zelaya shifting taxes away from the poor and onto the rich - and
"what really was the final straw was that he was attempting to put together a referendum that would have allowed him or someone else to run for president for a second term and that is when he was arrested. On the morning of June 28th soldiers burst into his bedroom, guns drawn, threw him on to a plane in his pajamas and dumped him on the airport in Costa Rica so that's basically what led to his ouster. Immediately after that, the next in line constitutionally was elevated to the president, and that's Roberto Micheletti..."The transcript on the NPR site looked different and so I listened to it. It had indeed changed - I guess Micheletti wasn't the only one discombobulated by Zelaya's return! Beaubien again notes Zelaya's leftist politics, indicates that he shifted resources to the poor, and
"his opponents say he was basically trying to put in a Hugo Chavez's Venezuelan style socialist state. And on the morning of June 28, he was about to hold a referendum on whether or not the president could run for a second term."One can debate about the legality of Zelaya's attempts to push a non-binding referendum - but the referendum would not have allowed anyone to run for a second term, it only would have allowed people to vote on whether a call for a constituent assembly should be made. You can read the text of the referendum here and get a moderate's reasonable view of the issue.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
It's a good question. I spent a little time searching for polling data on how Czechs and Poles reacted to the US plans to install missile defense in their countries. The remarkable thing was that most polls showed opposition to the US plans outweighed support in both Poland and the Czech Republic. Opposition among Czechs has been far stronger than in Poland and there was some increase in Polish popular support during the Russia-Georgia conflict in the summer of 2008.
The best analysis of polling data can be found here at Monkey Cage, with the added benefit being that the author, Joshua Tucker, includes links to the various polls. Robert Dreyfuss of the Nation did an admirable summary of Eastern European public opinion toward US missile plans back in the spring of 2009.
So given the documented public opposition [somewhat "mixed" in Poland, and adamant in the Czech Republic] to US desires to expand its militarism into those countries - how does NPR present this?
On Friday's ME feature that a blog reader commented on Eric Westervelt claims that "for some there was a sense of betrayal. The Poles had steadfastly supported George W. Bush's policies." Of course by "the Poles" he means the rightwing Polish government. After letting two apologists for the missile "shield" weigh in, Westervelt does note that "Key political elites in Poland and the Czech Republic supported the original missile plan, but public opinion in both countries was always much more divided." Of course no numbers or facts are allowed to intrude in this fuzzy statement.
On Saturday's ATC Guy Raz talks to the Atlantic's James Fallows. Their discussion of missile defense features this interchange:
Raz: "The U.S. has scrapped plans to install a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, a program...that the Poles and the Czechs wanted."So the muddled "much more divided" of Westervelt has been discarded for the completely dishonest assessment from Raz that the US missile defense was something "that the Poles and Czechs wanted" - while Fallows' uses the lazy and dishonest description of "seems to be divided" to ignore overhelming Czech opposition, while defying published data to claim that the less overwhelming popular Polish opposition is actually enthusiasm(!). Hmmm, maybe ignorance is strength after all.
Mr. Fallows: "Opinion in the Czech Republic seems to be divided, whereas the Poles are more enthusiastic."
Saturday, September 19, 2009
NPR is definitely challenged when it comes to counting, math and timekeeping - though they are the gold standard for tallies that comfort the powerful and celebrate death from the skies. But some numbers are just so confusing and troublesome, why deal with them at all - especially if it might ruffle the
So how has NPR done on covering these deadly numbers? Lets consult the NPR
On the 18,000 fatalities:
- Morning Edition - nothing.
- All Things Considered - Dan Schorr mentioned it.
- Weekend Edition Saturday - zilch.
- Weekend Edition Sunday - nada.
- Morning Edition - zero.
- All Things Considered - zip.
- Weekend Edition Sunday - nothing
- Weekend Edition Sunday - not a peep.
- For all NPR programs. Got a guess? It's less than one, but greater than negative one (sort of).
Friday, September 18, 2009
Here's Beaubien introducing Mr. Coup himself, Micheletti:
"The de facto president, Roberto Micheletti, is a big, feisty, grandfather of a man with a crushing handshake."And here's Beaubien summing up Grandpa's explanation for being a coup tyrant:
"Micheletti insists that this was not a coup because Zelaya had violated the constitution. Micheletti was next in line to the presidency and he was quickly sworn into office. He says Zelaya was being controlled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who was plotting to impose a communist dictatorship in Honduras."No factual attention is paid to these outright lies - debunked here and here. Instead Beaubien counters them with the standard, lazy "he said - she said" relativism: "Zelaya denies this." In fact that's the extent of the "other side" that NPR gives in this piece. That may be all we hear from opponents of the coup regime, but Beaubien is not about to deprive Grandpa his microphone. Micheletti gets quite a bit of airtime to make these laughable claims:
"The Zelaya people, they are our brother, our sisters, you know. We love them. But we're going to let them to rule this country because they believe in communist and we are not. We are democratic people and we're going to sustain our democracy."Finally Beaubien just makes up the idea that "both sides" are to blame for the conflict dragging on:
"...the Zelaya and the Micheletti camps. Two groups that appear unable to reach common ground....in every social conflict, eventually the parties come to a point where they sit down and work out their differences. The problem in Honduras...the parties aren't yet ready to do that."This last claim is simply a lie, since the Zelaya camp agreed to the proposals for resolving the conflict as set out by Arias over the summer. Something NPR conveniently failed to report on back when it happened.
Beaubien's piece may be a mish-mash of distortions and outright lies, but he can take consolation in the fact that Grandpa will be very proud of him.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
"The decision would reflect a US determination that Iran's long-range missile program has not progressed as rapidly as previously estimated, reducing the threat to the US and Europe."No mention, of course, that Iran's missile program has NEVER been a threat to the US or Europe - (unless the US or a European country is planning a war of aggression against Iran). Instead the threat is treated as real and factual - just reduced, so it can be pulled off the shelf later.
Click the "missile defense" tag below to see how doggedly NPR has been about hawking the Iranian "threat" all along.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday's Morning Edition featured another NPR exclusive on Afghanistan. Mary Louise Kelly was on to explain all about the Two-Clock Theory of War. Opening the report Renee Montagne explains:
"We begin this morning with Afghanistan and a story about two clocks: one ticks in Washington, the other in Kabul. They measure progress in the war. The challenge: they are moving at very different speeds" [notice the bloodless euphemisms - "progress" and "challenge"].All perspectives in the story are provided by war advocates [Peter Feaver -Bush speech-shaper, warmakers Petraeus, Gates, and Mullen - and Steven Biddle, CFR fellow, who Kelly notes is "part of a team advising General Stanley McChrystal...on his war strategy"].
According to Kelly and all her experts, there are always two clocks in US warmaking: the grown-up, big-boy clock of the presidents, generals, and admirals as they bomb, occupy, kill, and destroy. This serious and mature clock ticks very slowly and takes years to produce progress and - ultimately - victory. Opposed to this is the childish, impatient clock of the American public which whizzes away at double or triple time and leads the uninformed masses to reject the wisdom of the wars that the serious grown-ups are running. Kelly's guest Feaver states that "A longstanding criticism of democracies, but especially the American democracy, is that Americans are impatient. They want to see success sooner than later."
Listening to this report, I realized that there is something grimly comical that Kelly has forgotten to tell us about: The Third Clock.
The third clock is the one that doesn't tick at all. In Kelly's report she notes something I've been hearing a lot about since Obama took over the Afghanistan War: the 12 to 18 month "window of opportunity." In Kelly's report we hear Admiral Mike Mullen state
"I do believe we have to start to turn this thing around from a security standpoint over the next 12 to 18 months."Kelly reiterates this by noting, "So, progress within the next 12 to 18 months. But is that on the Washington clock or the Kabul clock?"
The date of Kelly's report is September 14, 2009. Let's see how the NPR clock ticks out this magical 12 to 18 month time frame.
THREE MONTHS ago, General McChrystal told Tom Bowman, "So, we see it as very, very important, probably over about the next 12 to 24 months, that we absolutely get a trend where we are clearly winning....I think that the next 18 months are probably a period in which this effort will be decided."
TWO MONTHS ago Robert Siegel talked to Sir Jock Stirrup [not joking], head of the British war staff, who stated, "Well, I think our judgment is probably the same that has been reached here in the United States, which is that over the course of the next 12 to 18 months, we need to be able to demonstrate convincingly to our people that we are making the right degree of progress."
ONE MONTH ago Inskeep chatted with Anthony Cordesman of CSIS about the coming victory in Afghanistan. Speaking on the US war policy in Afghanistan, Cordesman claimed, "If these tactics are to work, we'll know in 12 to 18 months."
Holy smokes! NPR's clock must be an Einsteinian relativity clock that appears to be moving normally to everyone at NPR, but in the real world is virtually standing still. What do you want to wager that next summer NPR will still be dutifully reporting on the need to show progress in Afghanistan within the critical 12 to 18 month time frame? Who knows, by then maybe they'll have dropped this catch phrase about Afghanistan and be explaining how the US has "turned a corner."
Monday, September 14, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
On Weekend Edition Sunday, Lynn Neary, speaking to NPR's Tom Bowman about the possibility of more US troops being sent to Afghanistan, asks, "Will General McChrystal be asking for more troops?"
In explaining that McChrystal probably will ask for more troops Bowman states,
"The big effort he's making is protecting the population and to do that you need more troops."And this passes for journalism?
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Part I - School Daze
Mara Liasson - on Tuesday (September 8, 2009) ATC, tries to normalize the wingnut stupidity, insanity and virulence of the Republican-led attacks on Obama's live address to schools. Of his speech she says,
Even though the chairman of the Florida Republican party stated that "I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology....schoolchildren across our nation will be forced to watch the president justify his plans....an invasive abuse of power" - Liasson equates this rabidly stupid, hypocritical attack with the "political sniping" of Democrats who denounced Bush 41's school speech as "paid political advertising" and investigated the use of federal funds in producing the broadcast.
"Inspiring perhaps, but not very controversial. And not unlike the politically innocuous study hard, stay in school messages of previous presidents. Of course, those messages were subject to political sniping as well. Back in 1991, when George H. W. Bush gave a similar speech, Democrats called it political advertising."
Part II - You Lie
Inskeep on September 10, 2009 ME weighs in on Rep. Joe Wilson's unprecedented interruption of Pres. Obama's joint session speech the evening before:
"Now, in the middle of that booing, you can hear Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina shout out, 'You lie!' There's been a lot of the coverage of the etiquette of this. Wilson has apologized, but let's ask about the substance. Was the president truthful in saying that his plan is not going to cover illegal immigrants?"Well dang, there's a lot of reactions one might have had to Wilson's I-thought-I-was-at-a-Tea-Bag-Party outburst. Instead of questioning what role race - and decades-old Republican virulence and hypocrisy - played in Wilson's rebel yell, Inskeep wants to get to the "substance" of his squeal. At least if NPR was going to focus on the "substance" - it might have focused on the depravity of our political culture in general - where a supposedly liberal President is heckled for not being anti-undocumented immigrant enough when he is defending how hard-hearted he wants his healthcare reform bill to be toward those undocumented immigrants.
Blue Texan at FDL really captures the role that Liasson, Inskeep and NPR are playing: the American Right flings the most outrageous, dishonest, and ignorant poo it can and trusts that media outlets like NPR will work their hardest to shine it up as nothing but normal, mainstream, acceptable politics.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Sunday, September 06, 2009
On this blog, several readers have recommended links to various critiques of NPR written by Dean Baker. I have a link to Baker's "Beat the Press" in the sidebar, but I'm happy to refer people again to his work. He does a great job of nailing the shenanigans of NPR news, and occasionally giving credit where credit is due. Here are some recent pointed articles:
Friday, September 04, 2009
Thursday, September 03, 2009
NPR achieved quite a feat Thursday morning: without even mentioning the CIA, NPR aired two CIA-friendly stories. First, NPR featured rehabbed heroin addict, author, filmmaker, and macho-schmaltz purveyor Richard Farrell imagining that his son's going to Afghanistan as a soldier is directly related to his own heroin addiction in the 80's:
"I'm deeply troubled, wondering if my son will be trying to wipe out the crop that nearly killed me 22 years ago. Back then, I was an involuntary customer who helped create a demand for the drug. I was the last link in a system that produced and distributed heroin, the very system my son William will be trying to break."What! is the US military leading a campaign against the CIA and its mujahadeen chums from the 80's? Though the Taliban is now profiting from the heroin trade, poor Farrell is very mixed up indeed, demonstrating a complete lack of awareness that heroin production was virtually zero under the Taliban, and only spiked dramatically under US occupation. As Alfred McCoy has documented, the CIA has been at the nexus of the Heroin trade for a long time. Farrell's ignorance may be genuine, but NPR's spotlighting of this mangled history is inexcusable.
For its second non-CIA, CIA story, NPR turned to "Vahid Brown...an FBI instructor at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center" who is on to "educate" us about the Haqqani Network and its relation to the Taliban. He describes how the Haqqani network extremely brutal, even more violent than the regular Taliban. He explains that what sets the Haqqani Network apart is its "willingness to use foreigners and to cooperate with international jihadists organizations in Afghanistan." What Brown and NPR purposely fail to mention is that the proud father of the Haqqani Network is the CIA. Anand Gopal of the Christian Science Monitor has reported on this sordid lineage. Brown also conveniently omits that fact that the CIA strategy in the 80s, like Haqqani's, was to issue an open invite to the most violent and ruthless international jihadists it could find.
Not bad for a non-CIA infiltrated (hee, hee!) news organization - not one, but two phony history features that cover-up CIA criminality in one morning news show.
The Haqqani story also had a real laugher embedded in it. Brown, explaining the Taliban's reluctance to accept foreigners states, "Mullah Omar and the Taliban are very careful to portray their movement as an Afghan nationalist movement." To which Montagne chimes in, "Because in fact Afghans in general don't like what they call foreigners, as in al-Qaeda foreigners." Hmmm, I wonder what other foreigners Afghans aren't so crazy about?
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Fox News makes no bones about endorsing the extreme-right, proud-to-be-stupid Tea Party Express, but NPR is a bit more subtle in its pro-Tea Bagger coverage. Over the last three days it has provided this reactionary tour frequent, uncritical broadcasting time:
On Sunday's Weekend Edition Liane Hansen introduces NPR's Jay Brady who is traveling with this road show. In a completely uncritical report Brady makes these statements:
- "Well, I've been to four rallies now, in two days, and talked with quite a few people. Most of them, I'd say they're over 40 years old, and in general, they appear to be folks who work pretty hard for a living." (unlike the dirty hippie crowd who show up at antiwar functions).
- "And they talk about all kinds of issues....But I think the one thing that just about everyone had in common is that they feel like they're not being heard." (No mention of the really thoughtful signs about "dictator" Obama, and his birth certificate.)
- [describing the "mood" at the rallies] "You know, they feel a lot like a small county fair. People are serious about what's being discussed at the rallies, but it seems like they're also there to have fun." (I can imagine time traveling Brady using the same description reporting on early 20th century lynchings.)
- "A political action committee from California is sponsoring the bus tour...the Our Country Deserves Better PAC. The goal is to bring together different groups concerned about what he calls heavy handed government policies."
- "At the tea party rally, there were few, if any, fans of Mr. Obama and plenty of critics."
- "...There were also people holding signs criticizing government involvement in health care and excessive federal spending. The scene a few hours away in Ely was similar. This is a place where people are comfortable using language most others left behind with the end of the Cold War." [followed by a woman claiming "We don't need a communist nation. And that's what Obama's taking us to."]
- "Tea Party Express Chief Strategist Sal Russo says people, who come to these rallies aren't super focused on specific issues. He says they are motivated by broad ideals."
- "A lot of people attending these rallies say they feel left out, as if no one in Washington is listening to them anymore."
Still not sold on the salt-of-the-earth charm and idealism of these Tea Party know-nothings? Well, Tuesday evening's spotlight on the singing darling of the tea party mob should win you over for sure. Gosh, but golly, not only is he spouting the Obamunist-communist stupidity and encouraging populist reactionary zeal, but "he's black, has a ponytail and wears an earring"! Brady assures us that
"what's surprising about Marcus is that while he can be a little pointed at times, he also appears to have a lot of fun" and "Marcus knows what he believes and he's sticking with it."One really disturbing angle of NPR's favorable coverage of the public face of this movement, is how it completely ignores how similar the ideology and rhetoric of the Tea Bagger movement is to the resurgent militia movement. Also, as readers have noted, compare this positive saturation coverage of the Tea Party reactionaries to NPR's negative and non-coverage of the anti-war movement and you can't help but notice how far to the right NPR's editorial preferences lean...