Saturday, June 30, 2007

Iranian Terror Networks - Oh My!

I sent in the following to the NPR Ombudsman today:
On your hourly news reports today NPR had Craig Windham report that "US troops killed more than two dozen insurgents today..." This was followed by Rachel Martin stating that "military officials say troops conducted two early morning raids in Sadr City looking for militants thought to be helping Iranian terror networks..."

There was NO evidence to support this claim and allegation. The allegation of Iranian "terror" networks is extremely provocative and groundless unless independently verified.

Two dozen militants? Which NPR reporter was on the scene? Did they inspect the bodies? Did they talk to locals in Arabic and determine that they were "militants." Just what is a "militant" anyway. Or did the frequently dishonest US military talking heads say they were militants and NPR just dutifully passed it along.

And then Rachel Martin and "Iranian terror networks!" I challenge NPR to produce one, just one, factual bit of evidence tying Iranian agents to the purposeful targeting of civilians in Iraq.

Powerful Reporting!

Korva Coleman reading the headlines on Saturday Weekend Edition stated that the British police had found and defused two "powerful" car-bombs.

Powerful? I'm VERY pleased that these cars loaded with gasoline (apparently about 50 gallons) and propane tanks and nails did not detonate and were disarmed--that is great! But perspective and information is what NPR should be providing, not information that hypes the threat.

A more accurate description would be "crude" car bombs as opposed to truly powerful car bombs of the ammonium nitrate sort that was used in Oklahoma City or the high-explosive types used in Iraq.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Just the First Step

In a recent Open Thread on this blog a perceptive reader noted, "Add Rachel Martin to the Army's secretary pool. She takes great dictation." I'll just let the record speak for itself. Here's today's All Things Considered's latest on "progress" in Iraq.

Siegel, primes the pump with "...despite the violence the US military says there are signs of progress in the effort..." and "
Petraeus... said success may take more time than Washington is willing to give."

And then there's Rachel Martin:

  • "Petraeus points at a colorful market bustling with traffic and shoppers....he shakes hands and asks if the tea is any good....these are the kinds of interactions General Petraeus wants to use to gauges success in Iraq....”
  • “Petraeus is a week and a half into the most significant US offensive in Iraq to happen under his watch, and while dozens of al-Qaeda members have been killed and some key insurgent strongholds have been cleared, Petraeus says that’s just the first step."
  • "Petraeus says it gets down to fundamentals..."
  • "Petraeus insists that the surge is helping root out the militants who wage these attacks..."

This all has a familiar ring, doesn't it -"signs of progress," "bustling markets," "dozens of al-Qaeda members" killed [they had their membership cards on them no doubt], blah, blah blah? Maybe next time they'll mention "turning a corner"!

You certainly can see the outlines of the where this is going: Iraq could have been won if only the politicians and the impatient public had given it more time to work. Sounds like 1973 all over again.

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Chess and the General's Boy

On Morning Edition today Inskeep sucks up to talks to Major General Lynch (Major Propaganda) about operations in Iraq. There's no problem talking to major players in the US military about what's going on in Iraq, BUT there was not one critical, skeptical, confrontational moment in the interview (which is pretty outrageous given Lynch's penchant for delusional optimism). Most of this morning's interview consists of Maj. Gen. Lynch blabbing away without ever being asked to substantiate his claims - for instance:
  • "...and then kill or capture the leaders of those terrorist networks."
  • "...this deep in the operation we’ve killed or captured about a 180 of the insurgents…"
Call me cynical, but I'd have a few basic issues to raise. This conflating of terrorist with insurgent is remarkable, does he mean al-Qaeda, Sunni insurgents attacking armed forces of the occupation, Sunni insurgents attacking civilian targets, Shiite government connected militias, etc. And equally important, I'd challenge the number of "insurgents" killed or captured given the regular (and very recent) US habit of calling anyone it slaughters "militants" "insurgents" or "terrorists."

The point of the interview where Inskeep really earns his medal comes when he asks General Lynch,
"As your troops have gone from town to town has anybody come out of their house and said, 'Where’ve you been?'"
Lynch can barely contain his glee as he chuckles,
"Yes, as a matter of fact they have, and they say, ‘We’re glad you’re here,’ and then they say, ‘are you staying?'"
God, those Iraqis just love us. After Shock 'n Awe, Abu Ghraib, and Haditha who could blame them. But for those few Iraqi dead-enders and those in the last throes, the only worry most Iraqis have is that the US military might go home before the job's done in, say, 25 or 50 years.

(Oh, and the graphic above - Maj. Gen. Lynch'em said without any sense of the ironic that US operations in Iraq were like "
three dimensional chess in the dark." I'll say!)

More "War is Peace"

It would be interesting to know how many times NPR has coupled the name of the "Middle East Quartet" with such words or phrases as "peacemaker," "seeks peace," "promotes peace," etc. It's nothing new, of course, but you'll be counting a long time if you do the research. Does anyone seriously think the Quartet is interested in a just solution of Israel's attempt to destroy Palestinian culture? Can someone name one step that the Quartet has taken to demand that Israel renounce violence and return territory annexed and stolen since 1967? The Quartet may seek "resolution" of the conflict, but it is the same resolution that the US/Israeli expansionists want - subservience and capitulation by the Palestinians. One might hope that the Quartet's move of appointing the discredited Tony Blair as Middle East (NPR has a soft spot for Blair anyway) envoy would highlight the cynical aims of the Quartet, but no such luck. Here were a few of the choice remarks from yesterday and today:
  • On ATC Norris states, "Tony Blair has a new job today….appointed as representative of the so-called Middle East Quartet, that’s the group of nations trying to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians." In the same piece Rob Gifford adds, "...the so-called Quartet, which seeks to bring peace to the Middle East." (That's subtle.)
  • Then this morning Montagne notes "Tony Blair...was offered a new job...that would be promoting peace between Israel and the Palestinians." (No bias there!)
I can't wait to hear who's next on the peace train, maybe that bleeding-heart, peace-loving Henry Kissinger can get called into action before he dies--after all he's buddies with the new British Prime Minister.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Scraping the Bottom

What a relief not to hear NPR for days!

I have to say I was in Massachusetts on Friday when I heard the disgraced Bob Greene, waxing patriotic about Arlington Cemetery. To hear that sad-sack of a sleazeball lecturing listeners on propriety was galling to say the least.

I guess if you are a sentimental, fraud of a journalist, fired for unethical sexual behavior with a high school girl then there's always a spot for you at NPR -- especially if you are pushing the unquestioning worship of the US war dead.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Open Thread - On the Road

I'll be on the road for about five days and out of Internet/News range. Please feel free to comment on any and all NPR News related issues.


Did corporate "down-sizing" ravage towns like Flint, Michigan and make CEOs filthy rich? Does our country have a culture of violence, a foreign policy of violence, and extremely lax gun laws that contribute to events like the Columbine shooting? Does the health insurance industry make money off depriving people of needed treatment and profit off of human suffering?

Instead of debating the core assertions of Michael Moore's body of work, NPR uses the upcoming release of his newest movie Sicko to quibble with the most irrelevant details of his movies and to basically savage him.
Kim Masters is the snide hitwoman assigned the task this time. Last time it was the unctuous Scottie Simon.

Here's an examples:
Moore: “The polls show it’s the number one domestic issue.” Masters: “Actually independent polls including ones by Gallup indicate that health care isn’t number one, but it’s up there.” Interesting because back in March 2007, health care WAS the number one domestic issue - with Iraq being the most crucial issue overall. Yes, there seems to be a slight shift in the latest Gallup poll - but it is irrelevant to Moore's overall argument.

Masters went out of her way to find every critical comment she could from reviewers: "a piece of Gonzo demagogery," "lowered the bar for documentaries," "appalled by his confrontation with Heston." Of Moore's first movie Roger and Me she states,
"instantly critics attacked Moore for fudging his facts to strengthen his case." She fails to mention that many critics instantly raved about the movie too!

The piece ends with Moore noting that this attacking report shows that "This is the typical, you know NPR, afraid of being accused of having liberal bias — so, let's make sure we attack him enough in this piece." To which Masters snidely responds, "Did we, Kim Masters, NPR News."

Actually I think Moore was wrong. It's not that NPR is afraid of having a liberal bias; it's a reflection of the basic center-right, pro-business slant that is at the core of NPR's values.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Dirty Dealing

In her inimical upbeat style Renee Montagne (with cheery music in the background) tells us "now the Pentagon is ready to deal again. This time to save archaeological sites in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Isn't that peachy! Too bad it just doesn't square with reality.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Defending the Bully

Listening to NPR's coverage of the Middle East, I always have this image in my mind of a bully killing and beating up his victims, and if one of the victims tries something desperate (such as attacking the perpetrator) there is a barrage of criticism excoriating the victim for being irresponsible and using violence.

If you listen to today's coverage on the situation in the Occupied Territories, you'd never know that Israel has been killing Palestinian civilians at will, stealing Palestinian lands, building colonial settlements on occupied land, etc. The Israeli occupation and destruction of Palestinian society is never even mentioned. It's truly surreal.

Here's how the Sunday Weekend Edition breaks down:

  • First, a report from Zionist sympathizer Linda Gradstein covers the appointed cabinet of AbuMazen in the West Bank. We hear how Israeli Prime Minister Olmert "will provide food and medicine to Gaza" and that he considers the "new cabinet without Hamas in the West Bank could be a partner to peace."
  • Next it's on to Dennis Ross from the neocon, AIPAC-founded WINEP. Ross never gets challenged on his "analysis" of the situation in which he states that "the first challenge is for the US to stop weaponry from reaching Hamas...because if longer range rockets are fired into Israel...the Israelis will feel obliged to do something"(!). His advice to the current administration is "to focus its attention is on the following kinds of priorities"- 1.) Work to make the West Bank a model of success. 2.) Shine a spotlight on the Egyptians because they're letting weapons into Gaza. Ah yes, the old "model of success" approach - just like in Iraq! And the Egyptians - that was a new one for me. I kept wondering when he might meekly mention all those Israeli settlements carving up the West Bank. Lastly he chimes in with how he would advise Bush on his upcoming meeting with Olmert: "...let’s focus together on what is really the crux of the problem right now – the crux of the matter – and it is a competition between Fatah and Hamas."
  • Lastly we hear from Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland who is also with the Brookings Institute (them again!). Supposedly he is going to talk about the "Arab perceptions" of what is going on. The best he can do is insist that whatever approach the US and its allies take will have to include not just the West Bank, but Gaza too. However, there is no condemnation of the US-Israeli policies or actions in the region (which is a strange omission if we are supposedly going to hear "Arab" perceptions.)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Body Counts

"...75,000 people have died on both sides of the Iraq War" asserts Christopher Fettweis, assistant professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. And does John Ydstie mention that this figure is grossly understated based on the respected Lancet Study -which found IRAQI CIVILIAN deaths as high as 655,000 back in October of 2006. No surprise, really, since NPR has made a practice out of savaging the Lancet numbers (numbers which even the Blair government secretly acknowledged as accurate).

Fettweis was trying to make the point that the US loss in Vietnam was a greater "moral" failure than Iraq is - but, hey, there's still a few more years for the US to match the slaughter it achieved in Vietnam.

I will say that Fettweis was at least on to discuss the obvious fact that the US effort in Iraq is a failure.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Bullets not Ballots

There was one half-decent piece from the Occupied Territories of Palestine this week on NPR. It occurred on Wednesday's ATC and featured a Gazan commenting on the attack by Palestinian gunmen against a peace demonstration opposed to the fighting in Gaza. The commentator said:
"Many people here — including myself — think that the West is doing everything it can to weaken the Palestinian Authority. And Israel is, as well. All of their acts are aimed at Hamas, but they have also weakened Fatah, the more moderate faction here in Gaza. This is hypocrisy by the West and Israel as they steal the hope by tightening this economic embargo against the Palestinian people. Desperate people don't think rationally. Desperate people turn radical. And that is just what is happening in Gaza."
Hypocrisy by the West and Israel - OMG! an utterance of truth slipped through on NPR. Let's hear from this fellow again.

But tonight was not Wednesday (probably never will be again). First we had Eric Westervelt reporting on Hamas' takeover of Gaza and talking about the "quartet of Middle East peacemakers." Then it's Michelle Norris talking to Martin Indyk, former Israeli ambassador and the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. Indyk is all about the "moderate" Abu Mazen and Fatah. Needless to say there was nothing about the US policy of undermining the democratically elected government of Hamas, starving Palestinians, and arming and training Fatah in the hopes of destroying Hamas in a Fatah-led coup.

For better coverage take a look at Tony Karon's piece, Ali Abunimah's piece in EI, or Helena Cobban's article.

Update: Weekend Edition Saturday (6/16) had a pretty good interview with Rashid Khalidi who used to be at the Univ. of Chicago, but is now at Columbia University.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Here's a little challenge to any die-hard believers in NPR's liberal (or even balanced) credentials: Find just one progressive, critical piece on the presidency of Ronald Reagan aired on NPR News in the last 5 years.

Tonight on ATC I had to fight the gag-reflex as NPR aired an adoring commentary on Reagan by Rich Lowry, editor of The National Review. The commentary focuses on Reagan's staged "tear down this wall" speech in Berlin. Michele Norris introduces it by noting that "Lowry says if those words don’t give you goosebumps..."

Then Lowry tells us that "beneath Reagan’s sunny exterior was a stern determination and a hatred of Marxism…conflicts with communist-infiltrated unions in his days in Hollywood." He might have also mentioned that beneath that "sunny exterior" was one of the the most dishonest, corrupt, death-squad loving presidents we've had until - well until now! Lowry is also out to conflate revolutionaries like Che Guevara with mass murderers like Stalin by lumping them all under the label of "communism." He tells us about the "tens of millions of dead bodies in the twentieth century" that Communism left in its wake, but nothing about the millions of corpses left by just the US alone.

Well, it's one thing to give airtime to a Reagaphile like Lowry so that he can pretend that Reagan was worthy of anything but disgust or prison, but one has to wonder where any countervailing opinion is? It clearly is not on NPR.

One interesting little exercise is to search "Richard Lowry" on NPR's site (16 hits) or "Rich Lowry" (25 hits) and then search Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation (what do you know, 1 hit!). Twenty-five to one - sounds like a liberal bias to me! Even add in the editor of The Progressive, Matthew Rothschild (3 hits) and you still get a 25 to 4 hit return. I think NPR is trying to make a Bonzo out of all of us...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Open Thread - Monday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sock Puppet Reporting

NPR is back treating the Bush-Snow Iraq-as-South Korea nonsense as if it were a reasonable approach to ending the Iraq disaster. Flattening history and complexity, Liane Hansen opens up with this salvo:

"There are thousands of US troops in South Korea. They’re guarding against an invasion from North Korea, as they’ve done for fifty years. The deployment has worked. This past week President Bush said the troops helped achieve an objective for all of us, and today the far east is peaceful."
It is worth noting how subtly dishonest this intro is. First, it portrays the US role as solely protective - nothing about the long years of propping up South Korean dictators and protecting US business investments from invasions of labor and human rights activists. And it simply declares that "It has worked" and that "the far east is peaceful." And as in Iraq, the opinions of the people who actually live there don't count for squat (see this Angus-Reid study or this RAND report).

Then we get to Tom Bowman who turns to Tony Snow sound clips, Secretary of Defense Gates, Brookings Institute hack Michael O'Hanlon, American Enterprise Institute rightist Fred Kagan, and former Pentagon official James Miller. No surprise that there is no serious dissent from the US project of staying in Iraq forever. Bowman himself declares that American troops would be
"training the Iraqi forces, serving as a stabilizing presence, and guarding against possible troublesome neighbors – especially Iran."
Reread it and weep: a stabilizing presence...troubling neighbors. Amazing!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Open Thread - Weekend

NPR related comments welcomed.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Highly Charged and Complex

"Highly charged and complex" is how Linda Gradstein defined the "question of land ownership in the Westbank" on Thursday's Morning Edition. A reader of this blog commented, "Heard the beginning and end of the "settlements" story....Neither at the beginning, nor at the end, did they say *illegal* settlements. Was wondering if anyone heard mention of the I word otherwise?"

That didn't come up in Gradstein's piece. Instead she described an Israeli colonizer who "always hoped to have good relations with their Arab neighbors. At the beginning, he says, the villagers of Turmus Aya welcomed them." Reminding me of White southerners I knew as a kid who used to tell us how happy Black people were before all the Civil Rights troubles, we hear this Israeli say "They liked the idea that we were here, because they knew, from other places, that wherever the Israelis come, progress comes. They knew that the village would get electricity and water – they would get work here and that's how it was for quite a few years." Of course, Gradstein adds, "Settlers say that all changed with the first intifada." Ah yes, the good ole days.

The I-word did come up today with Eric Westervelt's misleading piece. The piece might have well been written by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in that it pretends their are legal and illegal settlements in the occupied territory. Funny thing is that only Israel's government and US politicians hold to this fiction. The complete illegality of ALL Israeli settlements built since 1967 in the Occupied Territories is recognized by major human rights groups like Amnesty International and B'Tselem, and by several UN Security Council resolutions such as 446, 452, and 465.

A much more informative and lively discourse on the 1967 wars was held on Democracy Now! today. It featured Israeli historian Tom Segev, Palestinian physician Mona El-Farra (her blog is From Gaza with Love) and U.S. scholar Norman Finkelstein.

In the Shallow End

Inskeep interviews Bono this morning. There's a lot a great questions one could ask Bono in an interview. I would have liked to hear what he thinks his greatest accomplishments are in his work on Africa. It would have been fascinating to ask him if he has any misgivings of getting so chummy with leaders of the G-8 who have helped bring so much misery to Africa. Or what about a recent letter to Bono on debt relief?

Striving for banality, Steve Inskeep says, "I asked a lot of people what they wanted to know from you before this interview and there were a number of serious questions that were thrown out [no kidding!] and then people would say, what's up with the colored glasses, why does he do that?"

We all know what glasses Inskeep wears! I guess Bono has to be polite, but it would have been great if he could have responded by asking,"Are you trying to be stupid or does it just come naturally?"

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Deluxe Occupation

I've given up on ever getting decent coverage of Israel from NPR. If you want to hear Eric Westervelt say, "With Israel's total victory in the Six Day War also came weighty responsibilities, especially the occupation of the heavily populated Palestinian West Bank." Or if you can bear today's comment from Westervelt: "Israeli writer Gershom Gorenberg says those conflicting feelings are widespread among East Jerusalemites who are living under what he calls, 'Occupation Deluxe.'" Then NPR is the place for you. Weighty responsibilities and Occupation Deluxe - damn!

It's striking to compare this tepid coverage with the BBC's look back where we learn that the Israeli military lied to the Israeli public about it's knowledge that it would easily destroy the Arab armies arrayed against it. And on the BBC we hear how the Soviets duped Nasser into attacking Israel because of - guess what - the Israeli's nuclear program at Dimona (that's an inconvenient truth!) For a really fine consideration of what the 1967 war means check out Tony Karon's piece at Rootless Cosmopolitan, Makdisi at Electronic Intifada, or Amnesty's report on 40 years of occupation.

A final note: NPR erroneously reports that Israel is not occupying Gaza, which is not correct but is excellent Zionist propaganda.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Prism

When there is a threat of violence or a violent event there seem to be several reasonable responses. The first is a short term reaction seeking immediate protection and evasion. That makes sense to me. The second, obvious step is to figure out why the violence is happening and considering if there are reasonable ways to prevent it.

With NPR and it's enthusiasm for US Government announcements of "unthinkable," "devastating" and "chilling" plots being "foiled" we definitely get the first reaction--FEAR! The message is "Be afraid, but count on the government to protect you." I thought I was going to choke if I heard Dina Temple-Raston on Saturday hourly bulletins tell me one more time that New York Police Commissioner said this plot should remind US citizens to be vigilant and "look at their world through the prism of 9/11" (I heard this rubbish broadcast at least 3 times that day).

You can hear the excitement in Temple-Raston's voice as she recounts these "home-grown" terrorist plots. On Morning Edition today - noting that this group supposedly sought weapons and aid from the Caribbean - she said "Now we actually have a problem within our hemisphere, and I think that’s what people are going to start focusing on." (It's the imperial "we" in this case!) Talk about speaking in the voice of the authorities.

I hate to break it to Temple-Raston, but we've had a problem in this hemisphere for a long time and it's address is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington 20500 and Washington DC, 20301. But we never hear a serious consideration on NPR of the underlying injustices and atrocities committed by the US government that motivate people who are willing to take up terrorist or political violence. Isn't that the reasonable next step to understanding extremist anti-government behavior or alleged behavior?

Do I think there are possible terrorist plots? Yes. Do I think law enforcement should be countering them? Sure. But do terrorist plots or supposed plots mean that the US government is blameless for the crimes that motivate extremists--obviously not. And until news outlets like NPR cover the crimes of the US they are doing us all a disservice.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


This morning I had to wake up to Liane Hansen saying, "...this week Putin criticized the United States for what he called imperialism [Hansen’s emphasis] in global affairs, and he said, and I’m going to quote, 'It wasn’t us that initiated a new round of the arms race.' What do you make of that tone?"

Her tone is what struck me. She said imperialism very slowly and with utter disdain - as if the term was nothing but jingoistic nonsense. That's interesting because you have to be a fool or liar to deny that the concept of the US as an empire is taken very seriously by people of many political viewpoints. If the US government does not hold imperial ambitions then how does one explain these statements of the official 2002 US National Security Strategy:
  • To contend with uncertainty and to meet the many security challenges we face, the United States will require bases and stations within and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia, as well as temporary access arrangements for the long-distance deployment of U.S. forces.
  • Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.
  • We will take the actions necessary to ensure that our efforts...are not impaired by the potential for investigations, inquiry, or prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction does not extend to Americans and which we do not accept.
And from whom was Hansen seeking insight on this claim of American imperialism? From the fear-mongering Thomas Pickering, a loyal soldier of US global power who has served Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush (Pickering was also, notoriously, ambassador to El Salvador).

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind hearing from such establishment players on NPR , but why is there never any serious counter-perspective? Why don't we hear about Russia from experts like Craig Murray, who also has the dirt on the US-British behavior. Or why not bring on critics of US imperialism such as Chalmers Johnson or Noam Chomsky?

It seems plainly obvious that NPR tightly restricts the limits of what is considered acceptable for debate. Those limits are based in an unquestioning faith in the overall goodness of American power and policy, regardless of any and all evidence that might undermine that faith. It's enough to drive someone crazy...

Friday, June 01, 2007

Read Your Own Blog

The Koppelgänger strikes again. Inspired by the Bush-Snow job comparing Iraq to Korea Koppel continues his defense of endless US occupation of Iraq (because they are sitting on "our oil"). To be fair to Koppel, the "our oil" doctrine has a "distinguished" history.

Funny thing is that the NPR Blog actually does a decent job of presenting the varied opinions on the Bush-Snow nonsense. Too bad Koppel and Inskeep didn't read it. If they had perhaps they wouldn't have come off as breathless with enthusiasm for the Korea comparison - although they'd probably still be keen on keeping US troops in Iraq forever (over the horizon or on those lily pads!)

Here's Inskeep gushing about the Snow comments: "Let’s zero in on the phrase that causes people to THINK [his emphasis] about that South Korean parallel: many years." Wow!

Open Thread - Weekend

NPR related comments welcomed.