Sunday, February 27, 2011

65 and a Half Men (Women and Children)

Here's a brief glimpse into recent activity at the NPR memory hole:
Then again NPR doesn't have unlimited resources and has to focus on the stories that really matter...such as Ronnie Reagan's Hollywood buddy and Charlie Sheen's personal implosion....

RheePulsive, RheePugnant, and Rheevolting

Mouth-taping, achievement-exaggerating, bullying, arrogant, and downright dishonest darling of education "reform" Michele Rhee will probably be on NPR a lot more in the future now that she's started her own "advocacy"/lobbying organization called Students First. Who can resist someone who loves children so much that she's willing to attack teachers to prove it? Amazingly Oprah loves her, while Diane Ravitch (who once peddled Bush's No Child Left Behind snake oil) doesn't.

But if you're someone who ignores policies that drastically benefit the wealthy and increase poverty (which is the single greatest factor in ruining the educational opportunities for EVERY child) and instead focus on destroying the rights of job security won by unionized educators, then NPR has lots of airtime for you. In fact this past week Michelle Rhee was the NPR star on Wednesday's ATC and Saturday's ATC. Hey, if you can't beat 'em, join em: l

Tales from the Slick Adventures of Students-First Lady

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Echo Chambers, Mirrors and Henny Penny Temple-Raston

Juan Cole and NPR Check reader, informedveteran, recommended Tom Englehardt's excellent piece on the Washington Echo Chamber's reaction to the revolutions sweeping the Middle East. Englehardt writes:
"It would seem like a good moment for Washington - which, since September 12, 2001, has been remarkably clueless about real developments on this planet and repeatedly miscalculated the nature of global power - to step back and recalibrate.

As it happens, there's no evidence it's doing so. In fact, that may be beyond Washington’s present capabilities, no matter how many billions of dollars it pours into 'intelligence.' And by 'Washington,' I mean not just the Obama administration, or the Pentagon, or our military commanders, or the vast intelligence bureaucracy, but all those pundits and think-tankers who swarm the capital, and the media that reports on them all. It’s as if the cast of characters that makes up 'Washington' now lives in some kind of echo chamber in which it can only hear itself talking."
(Enter Dina Temple-Raston stage far-right)

Dina was not about to let her bread and butter (banging the al-Qaida fear drum) get drowned out by the inspiring and historic events in North Africa and the Middle East. On Thursday's ATC she dragged out a trio of "those pundits and think-tankers who swarm the capital" to rattle on about the terrifying opportunities that the uprisings provide to al-Qaida. The statements of these "experts" provided some rich irony:

Bush stooge Juan Zarate said,
"That is to say, al-Qaida has been very good at focusing the attention of their constituents and of the world on this idea of the far enemy. That is that all of the world's problems, all of the angst and grievances of the Middle East can be blamed on the United States, or at least can be affected by attacking the United States."

Seems to me there was some other terrorist organization that focused its constituents' attention on a far enemy and blamed every problem on a distant foe.
Then Temple-Raston trots out NPR regular & CIA-award winner, Bruce Hoffman to state that al-Qaida will
"exploit whatever issue is served in front of it, and do so equally adroitly. So for now it will focus on the near enemy."

Oh my God, enemies of freedom and civil rights focusing on the "near enemy"!
Lastly Temple-Raston highlights the expertise of Rick "Ozzie" Nelson whose "last military assignment was with the Joint Special Operations Command" (can you say JSOC?) Regarding Yemen and Libya, special operative Nelson explains that al-Qaida's leadership is
"probably best positioned to exploit the weakness in those countries."

Imagine the cynicism of a group that exploits weakness and upheaval in troubled countries to indiscriminately murder civilians.
Seriously, one of the things that I love about these uprisings in the Middle East is how starkly they expose the history of US government actions in the region as being based on complete contempt for the human rights and dignity of the actual people in the region. The fact that al-Qaida apes Washington in its contempt for the people it claims to champion and - like the US government - is willing to use extreme methods of violence to achieve its aims is almost laughable compared to the decades of such behavior by Washington.

But it's not laughable if you are one of the media "professionals" who depend on the Washington echo chamber that Englehardt critiques. In that case you have to keep hammering on the same discredited themes that earn you access to the "expert" think-tankers and counterterrorism wankers that populate your predictable reports. These reports are predictable that you'd think a journalist would be embarrassed. Not Temple-Raston, she was back on Saturday morning squawking about the terrible danger of al-Qaida rising Phoenix-like from the turmoil in Libya. Want to guess who her experts were? Bruce Hoffman, Juan Zarate, and Rick "Ozzie" Nelson. Now where have you heard those names before?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

If it Talks Like a Fox

(disclaimer - graphic is slightly altered from the actual screenshot from NPR)

His name is Larry Abramson and he counts like a FOX:
On Saturday's ATC,. Referring to the thousands of anti-union protesters who came to Madison - and were massively outnumbered by pro-union activists - Abramson said, "But today, as you mention, there were thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of Tea Party supporters and other supporters of the governor's plan,..." Talk about just making crap up.
On Sunday's Weekend Edition he crowed that "supporters of Governor Walker...brought in some Tea Party firepower." He said, "One local remarked he'd never seen so many conservatives gathered at one time in notoriously progressive Madison." And according to Abramson, the Capitol building in Madison isn't an important symbol or platform for getting labor's message across any longer; it "has turned into what amounts to a giant performance space."
Well dang, if it counts like a FOX, talks like a FOX, and scoffs like a FOX - it must NPR reporter!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Party's Over Entitlement Freeloaders

Dean Baker has been calling NPR on its economic BS for a quite a while. One of his most pointed attacks against NPR (and the rest of the lovin'-the-rich-and-powerful media) has been to continually remind his readers that unless discussions of the so-called deficit crisis do not cover the $8 trillion housing bubble scam and the savvy criminals businessmen who created and benefited from said scam, then you are being sorely misinformed. This misinformation is not unintentional, but part of a sustained class warfare featuring attacks on middle and lower classes and an intentional downplaying (or downright ignoring) of the the real crises of unemployment, wage stagnation, and health care robbery (Yes we can, but....)

Did I say economic BS? Did I say misinformation? Brings to mind a certain radio news organization that stands for nothing, doesn't it?

Reader JayV of Blazing Indiscretions earlier in the week pointed out two stinging Dean Baker posts about economic rubbish on Thursday's Morning Edition featuring two Senate deficit squawkers. Baker pointed out that Senator Warner (and the interviewer Inskeep) are stupid when it comes to the basics about Social Security, and that the whole framing of the deficit crisis and its targeting of Social Security is...well...a bunch of crap. I would also add that the report was presented as the case of a Democrat and Republican willing to compromise...but the compromise was that the Democrat was willing to attack Social Security while the Republican was willing to lower income tax rates and reform deductions - some compromise!

If Saturday is any indication, NPR's Attack Entitlement's Posse shows no signs of letting up. In the morning, Scott Simon had a chummy talk with a freshman GOP representative who is a "fiscal and social conservative" and let him claim that his vote against a Pentagon-opposed jet engine "was Defense cuts first." He also let's him set the frame for slashing the budget by claiming: "We have a $1.3 trillion deficit for the year....What has to happen is we have to have a fundamental change in the trajectory of spending in Washington." Nothing from $300,000 a year Scottie about the government's trajectory of revenue when it comes to taxation of the rich or corporations.

If the morning seemed bad, Linda Worseheimer on ATC was, well, a lot worse. In a 10 minute hate-fest against entitlements, she featured NPR's favorite Catfood Queen, Maya MacGuineas who calmly explained that
"well, there's no question that all attention is on the budget now...the biggest parts of the problem are in the rest of the budget: mandatory spending or entitlements."
Apparently, Maya wasn't hitting the Elephant in the Room talking points hard enough, so Wertheimer pushed her,
"...that's the biggest deal isn't it: that not even the very excited budget cutters in the house have got to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid?"
To which Maya responded,
"That's the elephant in the room...they are very beloved and people look forward to their checks, but bottom line - they are unsustainable; they will bust the budget."
What does NPR do to balance this mugging of all those self-centered freeloaders "looking forward to their checks"? Wertheimer brings on far right Senator Tom Coburn...I'm not kidding. Just in case Sen. Coburn has an off-script decency moment, Wertheimer steers him along regarding budget cutting:
"I think there's sort of general agreement that not enough has been done...Let me ask you about the big entitlements. Do your think the Congress is anywhere near contemplating addressing those portions of federal spending..."
Coburn's not about to let that softball get by without hitting it out of the park:
"We have to get the fraud out of Medicare...we need to drive down health care costs and you're not going to do that with a centralized government operation on that. Everybody in the country is going to have to sacrifice - and that means the wealthiest and those experiencing the safety net."
Wertheimer, near the end of the report mentions that Coburn was on the President's Catfood Commission and says,
"Your group did try to address the big entitlements, the elephants in the room...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Q Tips

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The NPR Has No Clothes

Given that I've been running this blog for almost five years now, I thought I should weigh in on the current NPR and PBS funding cuts issue. As much as I detest how squarely NPR News supports unbridled corporate and US government power, I take no pleasure in seeing a Republican and far-right mobilization to cut off all public media funding. However, I've been unable to bring myself to sign on with the current campaigns to support NPR and PBS funding, and so I'm posting the following, hoping it will spur debate:

NPR, It's Just Not That In To You

Many progressive and liberal activists have probably received emails from and exhorting them to, respectively "Sign the petition to save NPR and PBS" and "Sign our letter now and urge your member of Congress not to play politics with public media."

Leftists and progressives make bold claims about NPR reporting. In 2009 Megan Tady of In These Times, referring to NPR, wrote, "Public broadcasting provides some of the country’s most hard-hitting journalism....Public media produce some of the best reporting and programming on radio...." In 2010 FreePress President, Josh Silver, asserted that "Public media like NPR play a crucial role in America, providing original, in-depth journalism..."

Unfortunately these claims have no basis in reality. The painful truth is that - like the national Democratic party and the Obama Administration - NPR's signature news shows - Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition Saturday/Sunday - relentlessly exhibit nothing but contempt for leftists, progressives, and antiwar and social justice activists while constantly airing reports that bolster US militarism, corporate power, and legitimize radical rightwing ideology and movements. If you doubt me, I have assembled almost five years of evidence on this blog. For skeptics, I'll offer but a few examples that are the rule not the exception.
I didn't even mention the well-known cases of NPR's refusal to call torture torture, or how NPR smears leftists when they die.

Chris Hedges recently derided liberals because they "make passionate appeals to work within systems, such as electoral politics, that have been gamed by the corporate state. And the result is to spur well-meaning people toward useless and ultimately self-defeating activity." And such are these worthless drives to save NPR and PBS funding. Notice that the campaigns to save NPR and PBS funding make no demands and insist on nothing more than the status quo.

It is a shame that organizations like MoveOn, which claims 5 million members, or Free Press are not tying the campaign to save government funding for public media to demands that NPR offer more diverse and critical journalism. The campaigns of these organizations should mobilize their members and supporters to contact their local NPR stations and demand that NPR news programming be improved within a year or be dropped. This demand should be backed by a pledge to cut off membership support if these modest demands are not met.

Glenn Greenwald recently made an astute observation about politics in Washington: "There's a fundamental distinction between progressives and groups that wield actual power in Washington: namely, the latter are willing (by definition) to use their resources and energies to punish politicians who do not accommodate their views, while the former unconditionally support the Democratic Party and their leaders no matter what they do."

Progressives have a choice with public media: produce journalism that challenges the powerful or use their resources and energies to punish them. That is a campaign I could sign on with.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sixteen Long Grueling Days

Back on January 29th I asked you - dear readers - to start your timers to see how quickly NPR would jump on the Mattel marketing bandwagon for Ken and Barbie. Boy, did NPR ever prove me wrong. Given all the crucial news stories they are probably working on even now - the arrest, torture, and 9 year prison term given to a human rights activist in Iran Israel (still waiting), the first hostage to complete his life sentence [as opposed to being murdered - still waiting] at Gitmo (still waiting), George W. Bush's indictment on torture (still waiting), the US teen tortured in Kuwait with likely US approval (still waiting for more than pro-FBI propaganda), etc. - NPR took sixteen full days to finally catch up on the Ken and Barbie story.

NPR featured the plastic pair on Monday's painfully named All Things Considered. It was NPR's sweet little Valentine to its listeners...and of course, Mattel - whose permission I did not get for the creepy graphics.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Tank Diving with Jackie Northam

Jackie Northam is one of the worst of the Think Tank Scrapers at NPR. She gained early recognition on this blog for her tanking prowess way back in Oct. 2006, again in Dec. 2006 and March 2007, and was still going strong in March 2009. So on Thursday morning when I heard that Northam was covering US and Israeli talks focusing on Egypt, I wondered how deep her think tank plunge would go. I think she may have set a new low mark in this area.

Northam's first "expert" is Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations. The most stellar part of his bio has to be his role as
"Former head, Office of the Quartet Representative, Tony Blair, in Jerusalem" (Tony Blair...ouch!).
Danin also has been employed and recognized by the US State Department with "Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards."

Northam's second guest, Aaron David Miller, from the Woodrow Wilson Center is also a standard State Department award winning expert. As Miller's bio indicates:
"...he served at the Department of State as an advisor to six secretaries of state, where he helped formulate U.S. policy on the Middle East and the Arab-Israel peace process....received the department's Distinguished, Superior, and Meritorious Honor Awards."
But it is Northam's third expert that sets a new low standard. To bring in the Israeli perspective Northam features Dan Schueftan, a professor who has made the following classy and nuanced remarks:
  • "The Arabs are the biggest failure in the history of the human race.”
  • "While Israel sends while sends a sophisticated satellite into space, the Arabs come up with a new kind of hummus." "
  • "There is nothing more fucked up under the sun than the Palestinians."
  • "The Palestinians are a repulsive part of the Middle East, let’s leave those ratbags."
  • "All over the Arab world they fire shots at weddings in order to prove that they have at least one thing that is hard and functional and can shoot."
How's that for a diverse line-up? And what do these three have to say about the situation in Egypt?
  • Danin makes the relatively innocuous comment that "There have been a few comments out of Israel, but for the most part they're keeping quiet, and that is wise."
  • Miller also contributes a rather dull observation: "I think the administration is doing a lot of hand-holding and minding of the Israelis. But then again, why would the Israelis bet on our assurances?" Later his comments expose his State Department roots, noting that "The critical point will come once the transition is secured and once a process of political reform is underway, to see exactly how constraining the new Egypt is to American interests, how hostile it may be toward Israeli interests."
  • Schueftan - speaking like the Neocon that he is - rails "There has been almost unanimity here in understanding the significance of the American policy vis-a-vis Egypt, namely you can't trust the Americans. More specifically, you can't trust Barack Obama.
Of all the substantive reflections and analyses that one could find on the effects that the Egyptian uprising might have on Israel and US behaviors in the region, this lousy lineup is the best that Northam and NPR can offer.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Nonstop Praise of Reagan

If he'd been alive, Ronald Reagan would have turned 100 on Sunday, February 6th. Starting on the morning of February 3rd, NPR began running numerous stories on Reagan's legacy. Listen to the first six stories and - aside from two brief mentions of the Iran-Contra scandal and one mention of the Beirut barracks bombing as a "failure" - you will hear no criticisms of the Reagan presidency. A couple of the stories (e.g. 2-4-11 ME & 2-5 WE Saturday) - positively framing Reagan as a pragmatist - noted that contrary to popular beliefs, Reagan did raise taxes and deficits - and did negotiate with the Soviets.

Only in the seventh and final piece, Sunday's ATC interview, is any pejorative assessment of Reagan voiced; the director of an HBO Reagan documentary, after noting many positive aspects of Reagan, states that Reagan "came in many ways to betray that [small town] America...hurt the very America that I know he identified with." This one critique is lost in the flood of praise heaped on Reagan:

  • (Tom Brokaw) "A pure product of Main Street, Heartland America...People were comfortable with him from the start."
  • (Pete Wilson) "Brilliant."
  • (Jaffe) "If there was any was over where Ronald Reagan ranked in the pantheon of American presidents."
  • (Liasson) "...upbeat, forward-looking and self-consciously optimistic - the definition of Reaganesque."
  • (Lou Cannon) "The American people aren't fools. Reagan was able to run on Morning in America because for millions of Americans, it was morning in America."
  • (Liasson) "Doug Brinkley says President Obama is wise to identify himself any way he can with the 40th president."
  • (Doug Brinkley) "Reagan...He's in the DNA of America at the moment. He is beloved by the American people."
  • (Wertheimer) "Ronald Reagan...was part of almost every campaign, mostly invoked by Republicans, but also occasionally by Democrats and sometimes by President Obama." (Fallows) "You could take this as a good sign of the possible harmony and unity in American history that....representatives of all political parties and all political heritages find things in this background, of this tradition they want to align themselves with."
  • (Reagan hometown local) "Nice man. Good person."
  • (Hansen) "...his stature has continued to rise among well as with the general public."
Somehow, NPR inadvertently left out a few details regarding that "upbeat, forward-looking" "nice man" who was Ronald Reagan: his disastrous War on Drugs, his deadly lack of action on AIDS, his promotion of terror, war and torture in Central America and Africa, his riddled-with-criminals administration, his assault on the environment, his crushing of wages and war on unions, and his success in creating a sophisticated, murderous organization of Islamic extremists. Other than that, it was a very fair and very balanced assessment of the Reagan years.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Velvet Gjelten Covers Iron Fist

Tom Gjelten weighed in Thursday morning to explain how US-supported torture states are one of the greatest assets to the United States in its "war on terror." Gjelten - in yet another NPR report [see Wednesday's ME piece] warning of the grave terrorism & security threats produced by a free, open Internet - used the uprising in Egypt as a chance to once again champion the benefits of torture and authoritarian rule:
Gjelten: "Egyptian democracy activists, nevertheless, complained the Obama Administration moved too slowly. If so, that could be because pushing too hard in Egypt on one goal could set back progress somewhere else. Promoting Internet freedom, for example, might have been seen as competing with the goal of fighting terrorism. And that's an area where the U.S. relies on Egypt, according to Richard Clarke, a counterterrorism adviser to Presidents Clinton and Bush.

Clarke: "The Egyptian role in counterterrorism has been essential to us for the last 15 to 20 years. They've been one of the best allies we've had in the fight against al-Qaida and other radical groups.
On its face this all sounds rather bureaucratic, bland, and acceptable. Gjelten uses positive terms like "progress" "fighting terrorism" and "relies on Egypt," and former US official Clarke speaks in likewise euphemistic and glowing terms: "role in counterterrorism" "essential to us" and "one of the best allies..." But consider for a moment what these empty words and phrases actually refer to.

Among the Egyptian security services techniques that have been so "essential" to "progress" are documented cases of severe beatings, electroshocks to all parts of the body, suspensions resulting in dislocations, whippings, sexual assaults, rape, threats of rape, torture of children, torture of victims in front of family members, drownings, and of course murder and disappearance. What Tom Gjelten (and NPR) are praising is Egypt's role as an "international centre for interrogation and torture on behalf of other states as part of the 'war on terror'."

Back in the summer of 2009, when Alicia Shepard was pushing her defense of NPR's refusal to call torture torture, she wrote on her blog, "To me, it makes more sense to describe the techniques and skip the characterization." Putting aside the fact that Shepard was well aware that NPR never did or would describe in detail what the US was doing to its detainees, can you imagine how different Gjelten's (and ALL NPR's slanted Egypt coverage) would be if the actual practices and their effects on real human beings were described and the US foreign policy "characterizations"/euphemisms were dropped? Imagine if Gjelten said,
"Having an Egyptian state where detainees know they will be sodomized with sticks, raped, cut with razors, beaten and hung from hooks so that their bones are broken and joints dislocated really helps the US fight terrorism and keep its Middle East agenda in place. It is essential that Egyptians are so terrified of being held by state security forces in Egypt that they dare not organize against US wars on Muslim countries or US/Egyptian support for Israel no matter how unpopular these policies are."
That would be eye-opening! Obviously, such honesty would require a universal standard of decency and morality - instead of one that assumes US government/military goals carry the greatest moral weight with everything else being secondary [not to mention the inherent anti-Arab racism that assumes Arab people deserve nothing but poverty, torture, corruption and dictatorship as long as such conditions support US foreign policy goals.]

Finally, Gjelten's stance is not even internally consistent within the limits of its own sick reasoning. Looked at in a detached and cold-blooded light, one can easily demonstrate that instead of aiding counterterrorism, the US support for torture states (and its own torture practices) serve to swell the ranks of extremists and potential terrorists. In 2005 Naomi Klein wrote how torture is an essential ingredient in the radicalization of extremists. Chris Zambelis brings the issue up to date in 2008 and Glenn Greenwald makes a similar case in 2009. A detached observer might also note that torture produces radically false information, such as the torture confessions in Egypt of al-Libi used to buttress the launch of the Iraq War. Any rational person would have to at least consider that one of the main reasons for supporting torture regimes is to produce more violence and terrorism, thereby sustaining the endless "war on terror" and justifying the grotesque injustices (and spending) involved in this cynical enterprise.

Gjelten concludes his homage to the Iron Fist with this gem:
"The Obama administration may learn whether a new government there, one that more vigorously supports Internet freedom and other democratic values, could be as strong a counterterrorism ally as the Mubarak regime has been."
Gjelten is one scary character...

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Q Tips

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