Friday, February 26, 2010

Head Over to the Team Blog

For the time being I'll only be posting at the NPR Team Check site. I've shut down the comments on this blog to prevent any problems from spammers or trolls. The next Q-Tips (open thread) post will be over at the new site.
See you there.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed.

NPR Team Check

What are you waiting for? Be sure to visit NPR Team Check; it's up and running. During this transition period, I'll put up my posts here and there. Eventually, I'll let this blog go dormant and post only at the Team Check site.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dronespeak: Temple-Raston Goes Radical

[cross-posted at NPR Team Check]

Running a series called "Going Radical," NPR claims the mantle of "investigative journalism" as it works to shore up the military and foreign policy interests of the United States. Instead of investigating how - under the rubric of a "war on terrorism" -
NPR throws its resources into supposedly explaining the radicalization of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be Christmas bomber of Flight 253. What this "investigation" dutifully refuses to explore is any detailed assessment of the grim human toll of US foreign policy in Central Asia and the Middle East and why this policy continues to win recruits to extremism and terror. Daring journalism also would seek answers as to why Abdulmutallab was allowed onto a US bound flight even thought the "intelligence community" had it's eye on him, and would want to find out exactly who helped Abdulmutallab get on Flight 253 in the first place. But if you are a believer in the exceptional goodness of US foreign policy and the nobility of the US war on terror, then NPR won't disappoint.

The star of NPR's Going Radical series is Dina Temple-Raston (NPR's resident FBI spokesperson). She hosts three of the features in the series:
  • Her Thursday morning piece is a thing of twisted beauty. In a matter of minutes she is able to conflate anti-Guantanamo, anti-torture activism with terrorist extremism. She notes that ex-GITMO detainee Moazzam Begg spoke at a University College London 2007 "Terror Week" event. First she ties Begg to Abdulmutallab by stating, "People who attended the conference say Begg and Abdulmutallab were sitting next to each other" and concludes that "when Abdulmutallab started meeting people like Moazzam Begg, he was exposed to vitriolic and very anti-American views." What is it with these people who've been kidnapped and tortured by the US being so vitriolic and anti-American? - sheesh!
  • On Thursday afternoon Temple-Raston is back to highlight a character who features in all three of her reports, a Hitchenseque fellow named Shiraz Maher who used to recruit for Islamic extremism, but is now firmly in the camp of rationalizing Western exceptionalism, state repression and aggressive Zionism. His writing can be sampled in Standpoint Magazine where he takes a stand on Israel's annexation wall:
    "We tend to hear only about Israel's because of the news coverage and hippy activism it attracts. No other security fence has attracted quite as much attention and theirs - that despite Israel suffering a torrent of terrorist attacks from 2000-2003....where is the ‘fairness' and ‘consistency' that Islamists and their leftist cheerleaders continually complain about?"
    It is telling that there actually is another former recruiter with a similar story to Mr. Maher's. His name is Maajid Nawaz, but instead of excusing the "western" security state or Israeli aggression - he brings a far more compassionate, nuanced approach to the lessons he's learned.
  • Finally on Friday afternoon Temple-Raston - like our President - plays the role of judge, jury and executioner. Remember Anwar al-Awlaki, the US citizen targeted for assassination by the US government (see post below)? Speaking of al-Awlaki as if she were discussing him receiving a traffic ticket, Temple-Raston explains that
    "The U.S. has been trying to bring him in for questioning for years. After the Fort Hood attack, it even launched a missile strike on one of his houses in Yemen, but he survived the attack."
    Hey, but he deserves extrajudicial execution because Robert Siegel opens the piece with the damning evidence that
    "He's admitted to knowing Abdulmutallab. But their relationship, according to intelligence officials, goes far deeper than that. In fact, NPR has learned that al-Awlaki may have been in charge of a small terrorist cell and that Abdulmutallab may have been his first al-Qaida recruit."
    Still not convinced? Temple-Raston lays it on:
    "He is the same radical imam who was implicated in the Fort Hood shootings last year. He was in email contact with the suspected shooter, Major Nidal Hasan. And, apparently, he blessed that attack and then called Hasan a hero"
    "Al-Awlaki has always been a propagandist. If he actually mentored Abdulmutallab while he allegedly trained to bomb a U.S. airliner, that would mean al-Awlaki had moved into an operational role in the organization."
    Still not ready to lynch? Nothing like a huge dose of fear to nail the case: "What's more, officials tell NPR that they believe al-Awlaki was put in charge of more people than just Abdulmutallab. They believe he trained an entire cell of English-speaking recruits. Apparently, Abdulmutallab named names and provided locations to authorities. Law enforcement officials are looking for those young men now. Officials say they don't believe the young men are in the U.S."
A final note about Temple-Raston's choices of "experts" in these pieces. As mentioned she leans heavily on Shiraz Maher, and she also features a man of similar politics in the reports - Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion which focuses only on Islamic radicalization - not Euro-American radical militarism. Interestingly, the other former-recruiter I mentioned above Maajid Nawaz - also runs a center against radicalism that is well worth exploring and highlighting - unless your main interest is in promoting the US "war on terror."

Monday, February 15, 2010

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Big Yawn

Two early events in our US government's dismantling of due process and the rule of law stand out in my mind. First, the very public release by the US in January 2002 of the photos of detainees at Guantanamo. Could there have been a more brazen display of official US contempt for its international obligations for the humane treatment of prisoners? The second shocker for me occurred in June of 2002 with the seizure of an American citizen, Jose Padilla, on his arrival at O'Hare airport in Chicago and his subsequent transfer to incommunicado detention in a military brig. NPR's coverage of Padilla's kidnapping was presented by NPR with complete sympathy to the government's actions. Barbara Bradley reported the story for ATC on June 10, 2002, and pointedly noted that the "advantages" of moving Padilla's case to "military custody" included no right to a speedy trial, no need for evidence, and the fact that he could be held indefinitely.

Anyone who listens regularly to NPR news knows that - in deference to the US security state and its purposely amorphous "war on terror" - NPR has demonstrated nothing but a thinly veiled contempt for Constitutional protections required for detainees and suspects - whether US citizens or not. So when another big story recently broke regarding a significant US government assault on Constitutional guarantees, it's no surprise that NPR - by omission - again displays a disregard for our laws and basic constitutional principles. Though not a surprise, it is appalling.

I know it's quaint but the 5th Amendment seems pretty clear about the rights of any "person" (excepting members of the military in cases involving "actual service") not to be "deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." So shouldn't it be a BIG story when we find out that the previous and current US presidents have been ordering the assassinations of people - including US citizens(!)? Not on NPR; search NPR for "Dennis Blair" the US Director of National Intelligence who recently testified about "killing an American" and you will find nothing about the assassination program...absolutely nothing!

The assassination program also points toward another NPR-censored story. One of the targets of the US assassination program is apparently US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki who the US - and NPR - ties to the Christmas bombing attempt (and who apparently sympathizes with terrorist attacks on US civilian targets). The truly stunning news about the Christmas bombing attempt is the apparent role played by the US intelligence and law enforcement "community" in preventing the would-be bomber's visa from being revoked. Alex Lantier of the WSWS has an excellent write up of the story and you can watch for yourself the testimony of Patrick Kennedy before the US House here (the recording is 3 hours long, but the relevant material comes at the 34:28:00 point and also at the 2:55:25 mark). The testimony is not an airtight indictment, but its potential implications are disturbing at best, and at the worst imply that someone in the intelligence "community" wanted to have a major terrorist event occur during this period of the Obama administration. Like the rest of the mainstream media, NPR gives this story no coverage whatsoever - sticking with the original nonsense that it was a "failure to connect the dots.

One would think that given the large number of people who have been falsely seized in the fraudulent war on terror and Iraq (and even standout cases such as the Oregon lawyer arrested in the Madrid bombing case but then soon exonerated) would cause a news organization to treat all US government actions and pronouncements in the "war on terror" with great skepticism - unless that news organization is more interested in representing the viewpoint of the state, a position euphemistically known as being "mainstream."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

In the Mainstream

Imagine if a national radio news organization were committed to providing coverage that had to be "fair, unbiased, accurate, complete and honest." If instead of trying to ape the narrow, acceptable range of opinion and coverage that the mainstream media provides - think how dynamic it would be if that news organization was determined to "present all important views on a subject." Think of the daring stories one would hear if that news organization demanded that it "not approach any coverage with overt or hidden agendas" (including unspoken trust in government spokespersons and a belief in the nobility of military actions and war.)

Clearly, it would be a dramatic change if such a a news organization promised to be "skeptical of all facts gathered and report them only when we are reasonably satisfied of their accuracy....[and] make sure that our language accurately describes the facts and does not imply a fact we have not confirmed." That would definitely be an end to hearing about "militants" being killed in drone attacks and air strikes and "terrorists" being anyone the US government claims is a terrorist.

In these times of obscene financial scams and fraud at the highest levels of our corporate government, just consider how refreshing economic news coverage would be if that imaginary news outlet made "rigorous efforts at all levels of the news gathering and programming process to ensure our facts are not only accurate but also presented in the correct context."

Surprisingly, there is a large, national news organization that is publicly committed to upholding all the standards listed above. Every one of them comes from NPR's published code of ethics. It is a code of ethics squarely at odds with the goal of being mainstream, and yet NPR's ombudsman, Alicia Shepard, repeatedly - and unabashedly - reminds listeners that NPR is determined to be nothing but mainstream. Her most recent statements on the subject came in an interview on WAMU highlighted on her blog,
"NPR started in 1971 as an alternative news network and it has definitely - and more towards the left - and it has definitely and intentionally become more mainstream. I am not advocating that it be mainstream; I am explaining that that is what has happened and that they consider themselves - and I speak of them in the third person - to be like the New York Times or the Washington Post. You can listen to NPR and you can get everything..."
Despite claiming that she is "not advocating that it be mainstream" she then goes on to respond to a caller by stating
"I don't think that you hear a lot of libertarians or socialists or Green Party people on NPR and part of my job is to pass that on. I don't think it's going to change dramatically....I think it's always a matter of balance and what your goals are and what your intention is and as I've said I think NPR's intention is to be more mainstream."
Someone needs to remind Ms. Shepard to read NPR's code of ethics and explain to listeners how it can possibly meet it's commitments while aiming to be "more mainstream." And claiming that "You can listen to NPR and you can get everything..." just doesn't cut it as an explanation, especially considering the evidence to the contrary that this blog has amassed over the years."

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

It's Time for 'The Interesting Comparison' Game

This morning Audie Cornish got to reflecting on the Tea Party movement and the Civil Rights Movement. She said,
"This week, Sarah Palin compared the Tea Party movement to the civil rights movement, saying that the same patriotic indignation drove both efforts, as well as the American Revolution. It's an interesting comparison. After all, the civil rights movement led to two landmark pieces of federal legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965."
Poor Audie Cornish; it's no wonder she's a bit confused. After all, she works at a Tea Party friendly news organization, which in the past week has run piece after piece bestowing the mantle of legitimacy on the Republicorporatist Tea Party movement. Tuesday morning featured a glowing account of Tea Party "star" Keli Carender whose blog profile states, "I will not allow corrupt socialists and communists to infect this country without a hard, hard fight." On Friday afternoon Don Gonyea was at the Tea Party convention in Nashville chatting up some real winners like Susan Curran who "sees President Obama as a threat to the Constitution and a threat to the America she loves." He also played a clip of Tom Tancredo's convention speech : "People who could not even spell the word vote or say it in English, put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House." Fortunately, by Saturday morning Gonyea was back to explain what socialism actually is and demonstrate that only a liar, fool, or ignoramus would accuse Wall Street friendly Obama of being a socialist (JUST KIDDING!). What Gonyea actually did was let Judson Phillips, the convention organizer, comment on Tancredo's speech by saying, "The word socialist ....has a very specific political meaning. It refers to a specific political ideology. And I think it's very clear that that is the political ideology of Barack Obama."

With all the tea vapors and talk of socialism swirling around the newsrooms at NPR, it's no wonder that Audie Cornish just got a little mixed up. So I figured I'd have one of my cartoon friends on to help Audie to play Who's the Civil Rights Hero?

Friday, February 05, 2010

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A Wolf in Shepard's Clothing - Savaging Zinn Again

(my apologies to real wolves)

I had to post on the Ombudsman's repulsive write-up on NPR's Howard Zinn slander. Alicia Shepard's words pretty much speak for themselves so here they are in order of appearance:
"Horowitz, also founder of Students for Academic Freedom, a national watchdog group that promotes tolerance of conservatives on college campuses.
[That is some serious tolerance.]

"Many critics pointed to NPR's even-handed coverage of William F. Buckley, "a figure as admired by the right as much as Zinn was on the left," according to FAIR, which gave its members talking points and urged them to contact the Ombudsman.
NPR was complimentary and respectful in memorializing Buckley....The network was equally nuanced in remembering pioneering televangelist Oral Roberts...."
[It's interesting how Shepard conflates giving praise and respect as "even-handed" and "nuanced." She also manages to get a dig in at the NPR critics as being nothing but unthinking FAIR zombies repeating its talking points.]

"Obituaries are news stories that place a person in time and history -- not tributes. For this reason, Zinn's obituary did need to mention that he was controversial and that some historians were dismissive of his work. But, several professional obituary writers said, Horowitz's harsh comments about Zinn were not appropriate."
[How Shepard squares "not tributes" with NPR being "complimentary and respectful in memorializing Buckley" defies logic. She also pulls out the reliable NPR cudgel of vagueness (i.e. some) in claiming validation from those anonymous historians dismissive of Zinn's work.]

"Adam Bernstein, the Washington Post's obituaries editor, also heard the Zinn obit.

....'It seems to me your story would have been better to get a more-neutral authority who expresses why Zinn was influential and helps the reader/listener understand why many scholars -- not just conservative firebombers like Horowitz -- felt Zinn was not a force for good in academia.'"
[The vague cudgel of "some" is now the sledgehammer of the anonymous "many": "many scholars...felt Zinn was not a force for good..." It's also clever - and cowardly - how Shepard slips this in by way of quoting someone else.]
"After the flood of emails, I asked Sweeney [NPR managing editor] to take another listen.

He agreed the Horowitz quote is harsh in tone. 'That doesn't undermine the legitimacy of using his point of view,' said Sweeney. 'If there is a problem with what Horowitz has to say, it's that he's allowed to wield a sharp tongue without providing any justification or evidence to support his words: more heat than light.' "
[See, it was a legitimate point, just should have been backed up by evidence - which Sweeney fails to mention does not exist!]

"I also asked Alana Baranick, author of "Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers," to listen to the story. She wrote obits for the Cleveland Plain Dealer for 16 years. She thought it was fair to use Horowitz to balance out leftist academic Noam Chomsky, who said "Zinn had changed the conscience of a generation."

"If I had been doing that NPR obit, I would not have cited Horowitz or Chomsky," said Baranick. "I would have looked to less controversial figures for comments. [Quoting] historians, who are not considered political activists, would have been more appropriate."
[This is the kind of idiocy that the NPR Ombudsman consults for advice. As if Horowitz "balances out" a quote from Chomsky. And as if being political activists disqualifies a historian from being taken seriously. Especially given that part of Zinn's legacy was as a scholar and an activist for such radical things like civil rights for Black folks.]

"Critics are right that NPR was not respectful of Zinn."
[Respectful?! I could care less about "respectful." If there is truth to a criticism of someone who dies, let's have it - what else is news for? No, the problem is that NPR news aired completely dishonest and unsubstantiated slurs against one of the leading American historians who was also a decent and progressive activist - but when any rightwinger or Christian fundamentalist kicks the bucket, NPR is there to provide "nuanced" "complimentary and respectful memorializing" while refusing to document their shortcomings - something any journalist worth her salt could do both thoroughly and respectfully.]