Friday, November 30, 2007

Setting the Table

If there is a US or Israeli attack on Iran in the next year or so, NPR will have blood on its hands (and its forearms and its elbows and ...). If you are doubtful just click on the "Iran" label below to see what a loyal drummer for war against Iran NPR has been. This morning was no exception as NPR aired a piece on the "threat" of Iran.

Renee Montagne begins this latest installment with "...analysts say one reason so many Arab states attended the peace conference in Maryland was because of a shared concern about Iran's aggressive moves in the region and especially its nuclear ambitions which many believe are aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons."

Peter Kenyon then comes on and teams up with - guess who? - "expert" analyst, former Israeli Defense Forces colonel Ephraim Kam. Kenyon notes that Kam says "at least for the coming months, efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons remain focused on diplomacy." Kenyon drives home the make war theme of the report: "Left unspoken is the conviction of many in Israel that a military strike may become necessary. Kham says Israel and the US are the only two countries with the capability and the political will to carry this out."

It is galling that NPR broadcasts such sloppy, unsubstantiated propaganda for war on Iran. Montagne's "analysts say" leaves one wondering What analysts? Who do they work for? What is their background? She says "Iran's aggressive moves" without offering one shred of evidence to support such a provocative claim because - of course - there is no such evidence. Any unbiased assessment would note that Iran is not a threat, and that the US and Israel are the serial aggressors in the region (and would point out that Israel is the original and only rogue nuclear state in the Middle East.)

One has to admire Kenyon-Kam's chutzpah. That dreadful passive voice of "may become necessary" is nifty. Necessary for who? Why necessary? And then "political will"? Excuse me, Peter, just who's will are we talking about? (Also, the irony of "will" is excruciating).

Listening to NPR, you get a sense that not only are "all options on the table," but NPR has joined the crazies to fold the napkins, fill the glasses and put out the plates and forks. Come and get it!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Making Sh_t Up!

Guy Raz, NPR's resident warnographer, touts Bush's trip to the Pentagon where W was stumping for unlimited money for his Iraq holocaust.

Here was a stunning statement from Raz:
"The President is popular with the military. As he walked down one of the Pentagon famously long corridors uniformed men and women shouted and applauded; some snapped pictures. Many of them agree with the President's argument that support for the troops requires unconditional Congressional funding for the war."
" popular with the military." Funny, I haven't seen any updated polls of active duty military personnel since last December, but back then Bush wasn't exactly surging in popularity with the military. Take a look at this from the Military Times or this from USA Today/Gallup. So, here it is nearly December, so there should be some new polls out soon. Who knows, maybe Raz will be proved right - but for now he's just shoveling the garbage, making up facts based on his strolls down Pentagon halls.

Is it Guy Raz or the Pentagon?

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Good, the Bad and...

  • The Good
I have to credit NPR with doing a pretty good interview this morning on the dissenting Army captains who published a signed opinion piece in the Washington Post. These officers, who have left the military, offer one interesting take on the war in Iraq. It was especially refreshing to hear them after all the "upbeat" news spinning out of Iraq. Wouldn't it be great if NPR didn't wait for people like these former captains to publish something in the Washington Post and instead did a little more original searching for multiple views and opinions on the Iraq nightmare? NPR's website also links to the website of Luis Carlos Montalvan, one of the captains, which is worth a look.

  • The Bad
Wouldn't be NPR without the bad, would it? Jackie Northam provides one of the stupidest reports on Pakistan and Musharraf that I've heard in a long time. As Porter notes in today's Open Thread below, where is Philip Reeve's expertise on Musharraf and his disappearing uniform? He last talked on the topic over a week ago. Contrast his thoughtful pieces with this worthless filler from Northam:

Inskeep asks her if Musharraf has really given up anything by "taking off his uniform." She responds, "He has given up an enormous amount of power and influence" even though she later admits to Inskeep that he "he handpicked the next head of the army." Then Northam - apparently thinking she's a walking Zogby poll and can speak for the 164,741,924 citizens of Pakistan - tells us "people seem to like him here; they think it's a good choice." In spite of serious human rights shortcomings, Northam reminds us that this handpicked chief "is pro-American though...and most importantly for the US is that he's on board with this fight against terrorism as is Musharraf. And that's important Steve...." Talk about on board - Bush couldn't have said it better himself - or could he?

  • And...
And the ugly? Well there's always plenty of that on NPR, but the commenter, artes moriendi, in the Open Thread below has a deserving candidate - Mara Liasson's sorry piece on the Clintons.

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Moronic Images Emerge

Listening to the coverage of the Annapolis shuffle is painful to say the least. Of course NPR continues to portray Israel and Palestinians as sharing equal responsibility for arriving at "peace." As if Palestinians should welcome the charade of compromise with the state (USrael) that is trying to destroy them as a people.

So this afternoon I had to hear Block talk with AP photographer Edmonds about "iconic" images of handshakes. Even though they talk about how staged these photos are, you could hear the awe that these images arouse in both Block and Edmonds.

The real keeper came toward the end when they are talking about Bush's photo show and Block says, "And the message is 'I am a peacemaker.'" To which Edmonds replies, "Right, all Presidents try to be peacemakers."

Whoa there! - "all Presidents try to be peacemakers." Notice how he doesn't say "try to portray themselves as peacemakers." Dang, the koolaid must be very sweet and very tasty.

It's an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World

Confession: I have bought a cup of Starbucks coffee, and I've even eaten a Dunkin' donut - but it doesn't mean I'm interested in hearing some soul-sucking ad "guru" named Leslie Bielby chumming with Steve-aroo Inskeep about her brilliant ad campaign that's making Dunkin' Donuts a choice brand...

Morning Edition gives 4 minutes and 4 seconds of airtime so Inskeep can point out that "even if I were the Starbucks kind of person that you describe, I'd rather think of myself as the guy in the hard hat, the hard working sort. I'd rather think of myself that way even if I wasn't that way."

Wouldn't he though...

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Beardsley's Bread

A reader, Flávio Américo dos Reis, sent me the following:

Friday morning I heard Eleanor Beardsley reporting on the end of the transportation workers' strikes in France, and I was disturbed by what I heard - this from a woman who admits she's not moving back to the US because, as she says, "It's a nice life in France. People have more vacation, more time, you eat well (and) my husband has a really big job here that he wouldn't have in the US."

But after I read (in the same article above) that after graduation from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, she did a stint in the offices of Senator Strom Thurmond and US Congressman Floyd Spence, and did consultancy work for World Business, Inc. "helping European firms use World Bank financing for trade and investment activities and writing industry sector reports," I began to understand where she was coming from.

So it shouldn't have been a surprise to me when she reported (I think it was during one of those four minute, top of the hour segments) that "the majority of the French people are fed up with the strikers." Oh, really, Ellie? Who did you talk to, your rich buddies on the right bank of the Seine? Because that's not what I'm hearing in the French press, when the teachers also promised to strike in December, and the students continue to strike against Sarkozy's reforms, and the nurses are also promising to go on strike. That's not what I'm hearing or reading. In fact, the majority of the French people believe in something called "worker solidarity" and are quite accepting of "the right to strike" and "collectively bargain," and will not speak ill of their countrymen for exercising that right. Many polls didn't ask the same questions, either: one poll, CSA-Humanité (French communist party) prior to the strikes said there was 54% of the French in favor of the strike, while the right-wing, Ifop-Figaro (Le Figaro is like the Washington Times in France) said 55% were against.

So, it's hard to say "the majority of the French people" opposed the French strikes. I'd be curious to know the methodology used in some of these polls. But the lie "the majority of the French are fed up with the strikers" is good for American consumption. That'll keep the people here in their place.

Open Thread

Got NPR related comments? Let 'em fly.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Myth of Disengagement

As the Annapolis meeting draws near NPR has unloaded a barrage of nonsense about the Israeli Palestinian conflict. It goes without saying, that NPR continues the portrayal of the systematic, violent Israeli destruction of Palestinian life, culture, and society as some kind of balanced conflict between two adversaries. I now have an idea of how NPR would have covered the 19th century wars of genocide waged by the US against the American Indians. There would have been talk of peace conferences and "compromise," Indian terrorism, "legal" and "illegal" settlers, militants and moderates, and nothing of the massacres, broken treaties, brazen land thefts and ethnic cleansing.

But what has stuck out as particularly absurd this time around is the repeated notion that the Bush Administration has been "disengaged" from the Israel-Palestine conflict. Here are some comments from the past several days:
  • Wednesday M.E. Brian Naylor says "as his administration turns its attention to the issue in a way that it has not in the past seven years."
  • Friday M.E. former US ambassador to Israel, Indyk says, "It was a mistake to walk away and watch from the sidelines while the Israelis and Palestinians had at it."
  • On Friday ATC, Robert Pelletreau, former assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs states that "this conference takes place after seven years of virtually no peace negotiations, of US disengagement from Arab Israeli affairs."
Funny how funding Israel to the tune of about 3 billion dollars a year is disengagement. One wonders if Colin Powell's 2002 eight day meander to Israel and the West Bank while the IDF destroyed Jenin, followed quickly by Bush calling Sharon a "man of peace" counts as disengagement. In fact the US was very engaged after Hamas won parliamentary elections and later formed a unity government in Palestine. Likewise the US was quite engaged in training Fatah forces and trying to organize a coup in Gaza against Hamas.

All of which is to say that this "disengagement" farce fits nicely into the longstanding media lie that also portrays the US as an "honest broker" in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Only this time the poor, helpless US has just been "on the sidelines." Unbelievable.

(graphic is an Eakins painting posted on the ExplorePAhistory site)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Squeezably Soft

Did you know that "in the past the United States has been particularly good at exporting hope"? Those were the words of Joseph Nye (intellectual from Harvard) and inventor of the concept of "Smart Power." Yes indeed, millions of civilians from Haiti, Iran, Vietnam, Angola, Mozambique, Guatemala, etc....are resting in peace from all that hope that the US brought them.

People often confuse NPR's occasional critique's of the Bush extremist imperialism with a leftist critique of imperialism in general - it is a fatal mistake. See this earlier post for how devoted NPR is to the US imperial role in the world. Of course to sell this requires some serious distortions of history and fact as the quote from Nye above reveals.

On Thanksgiving morning, as part of NPR's series on American Power, Renee Montagne reveals a lot about how distorted history can get on NPR. After Nye critiques Bush foreign policy for relying far too much on the use of force, and contrasts it with the "soft" power of past years, she says, "So you're saying under, in at least the last few years under the Reagan Administration that there was a nice balance between hard and soft power?"

Holy crap! So the criminals of the Reagan years spreading civil war, torture, rape and genocide thoughout Africa and Latin America had found "a nice balance." Nye, agrees that Reagan was "very adept at combining hard and soft power."

Montagne isn't through though. She then goes on to contrast the evil Chinese with the saintly US efforts around the world:
"China...engaging in Latin America, in Africa, in the Middle East. New markets, oil deals, forgiving debt....its soft power depends to some extent on its willingness and ability in the world to act functionally without morals, not put any conditions on its aid or make demands about human rights when it comes in with its products."
Honestly, as I type this transcription I almost can't believe that I'm not making it up; it's that profoundly dishonest and ridiculous. But Nye can only concur, with "That's true."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments? Put 'em here.

Kiss the Ashes

I was at the gym when I heard the "Crunch Time" segment about Rudy Giuliani on ATC yesterday. The beginning of the piece was really horrid, a virtual worship ceremony of Giuliani's performance on 9/11. But a little less than three minutes into the piece, some criticism of Giuliani found its way into the report, and I thought "Well, they did offer some dissenting information." Then at home later I noticed the angry comments in the Open Thread post below and figured, all right, I'll give that story another listen. It was a revelation.

First, break the story down by time segments: From beginning to 2 minutes, 46 seconds the piece is 100% positive (downright worshipful) of Giuliani on Sept. 11, 2001. Then the major critique of Giuliani (the inoperative emergency radios and the placement of the Emergency Command Center) air until 4 minutes, 7 seconds. That comes to a whopping total of 1 minute, 21 seconds. The rest of the piece is basically a positive treatment of how the voters already know and like Giuliani. The total time of the report is 6 minutes, 18 seconds; 4 minutes and 57 seconds to the positive and 1 minute and 21 seconds to the negative. If I were Giuliani, I'd take that.

Second, look at the way the positive and negative comments are reported. Jaffe introduces the report by saying there are "some images from September 11th that will never leave us, one of them is Rudy Giuliani marching out of lower Manhattan through the dust and ash of the collapsed World Trade Center." Notice how there is no qualifier such as "for many people," or "some will always remember"; instead Jaffe simply speaks for the collective "us." She authoritatively says he "found just the right tone." We also are treated to a Dave Letterman clip where Letterman emotionally tells his audience "Rudolph Giuliani is the personification of courage."

Here's were Jaffe gets really sly. The critiques of Giuliani are devastating, and Giuliani's spin of his 9-11 performance are essentially big lies. He completely botched the preparations for a terrorist attack on NYC, doing nothing about the radios, and ignoring expert advice about where to place the Emergency Command Center. He ignored the health risks to the crews at ground zero. These were failures that cost hundreds of lives. And of course his police chief was a sleazy criminal who he wanted to put in charge of the "homeland" several years later. Jaffe reduces the overwhelming (and easily confirmed) truths of Giuliani's failures to "some say that difficult situation was made worse by decisions that Rudy Giuliani made before September 11th." Some say? Makes it sound like chit-chat at the barber shop. We hear from one of these "some," Wayne Barret who wrote the Village Voice "Big Lies" piece linked above. And Jaffe concludes his contribution with "Barrett and other critics have also blamed Giuliani for failing to enforce safety the wreckage..." That's it. No attempt to establish facts, just "Barrett and other critics."

Lastly, consider how the whole report is framed. It begins with high praise nailed down with universal truths. It's briefly interrupted by some pesky discontents with their "blame." And then it turns to rightwing pundits to explain that voters "know Giuliani." We hear a lot from Matthew Dowd (Bush pollster and campaign strategist) and Dan Schnur, former McCain campaign advisor. But especially ugly - from a journalistic standpoint - is the way the report ends. Here's Jaffe's closing remark:
"...and to so many voters who remember that day when the nation was under attack and Rudy Giuliani was the one who gave them comfort and made them feel safe."

(The graphic comes from this spot-on send-up of Giuliani's BS from The Onion.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Zero Recall

Morning Edition first ran a piece about Cambodia and the brutal Khmer Rouge years. Funny, I never once heard any questions about the US aerial slaughter unleashed on Cambodia that helped create the conditions for the Khmer Rouge takeover. And, handily, it never came up how the US backed the Khmer Rouge once the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and ousted them. (It's interesting how this twisted version of history so resembles the text that Bush is reading from.)

But heck, that was 30 years ago and the memory does get a bit fuzzy. How about something more recent, like say the joint US-Ethiopian invasion of Somalia way back in December 24th of last year (kind of a little Bushist Christmas present for the people of Somalia).

Listen, if you can stand it, to Gwen Thomkins give her report of the sad plight of Somalis streaming out of Mogadishu. It's one of those Africans as poor, herd-like, violence-prone, hungry, diseased folks pieces that is pretty revolting - especially coming from Thomkins who was complicit in running propaganda operations for the US aggression against Somalia in January of 2007. This kind of "Ministry of Truth" trimming of history is typical NPR fare; in fact just three short months after the US and Ethiopia helped install the "transitional" regime in Somalia, NPR had already erased the US from the list of armed parties involved - imagine that!

Monday, November 19, 2007


Surely, you've done this: tell a dog, "Go get it!" as you fake throwing it's favorite ball or toy. Poor creature runs about half way to where the object would be an then turns in confusion. And so with the departure of the Fran Townsend, Bush's "Homeland" security and "counterterrorism" advisor, NPR chases the invisible tennis ball while missing the main story.

First Melissa Block comes on to interview Townsend. You'd think anyone who's been awake for the last six years might just address the fact that the foreign policies of the United States have made it more hated and targeted than ever before, that the war in Iraq has provided a terrorism recruitment bonanza and hands-on training ground for potential non-state terrorists. Even many stalwart centrists and military loyalists such as Joseph Galloway have nothing but venom for the Bush administrations "war on terror." Just do a quick Google search of "failure of war on terror" and you'll get a huge helping of tips on what to ask one of Bush's wooden-headed quislings for the "homeland." Instead all Block can do is chase after the failure to catch Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri. Yes that is a tactical failure, but is nothing compared to the overall disaster of "counter-terrorism" that the US government has waged.

Then Pam Fessler comes on to chase the invisible stick by turning to all the pro-establishment experts that NPR can dredge up to talk about Townsend. She talks to David Heyman of CSIS, who as his bio notes has "served in a number of government positions, including as a senior adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Energy and at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on national security and international affairs." Next up is P.J. Crowley from the Clinton Administration, and finally James Carafano from the far right Heritage Foundation, (Of course there is some mild criticism, but obviously none of these people are going to challenge the basic foreign policy actions of the US (both before and during Bush) that fuel terrorism.

(the graphic comes from here)

Open Thread

Got NPR related comments? Post them here.

Sea Sick

Andrea Seabrook is a strange choice for host of Sunday's All Things Considered. She has a bubbly, "Oh wow!" tone with nearly every story, and often reads her script in a deliberate overly emphatic way. It's the insulting tone that people uncomfortable with children often use when speaking to children. Apparently she also thinks her audience is made up of complete imbeciles, too.

Yesterday she was just bursting with enthusiasm for the "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour," which she described as "a new Al Gore-style traveling slide show...about the breakdown of the federal budget."

Regarding the monstrous Federal deficits, you might wonder if the tour addresses the current, deliberate tax policy of the US federal government which transfers wealth UP the income ladder to the wealthiest segments of the US population (a trend that long preceded the rabid Bush administration).

You'd be far, far off the mark if you were thinking about that. No, the targets of the Wake-Up Tour are - want to guess? - medicare, medicaid and social security! As NPR notes on it's website summary of the piece, "What's the biggest problem? Among these experts, it's Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — the promised future benefits for retirees and the poor and sick."

That's not so surprising given that the obvious goal of the Bush administration (and neoliberals) has been to destroy Social Security and Medicare. But what you'll be surprised to learn from Andrea Seabrook is that "what makes the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour different is that this time the warning sirens are not being used to sell a political agenda." Not selling a political agenda! I'm not making this up - and it gets worse. She goes on with this bit of mind-numbing stupidity:
"In fact the tour includes policy experts from across the ideological spectrum. There's Stuart Butler from the conservative Heritage Foundation...and there's Douglas Elmendorf from the left-leaning Brookings Institution."
There it is: the wide open ideology NPR News, from the Heritage Foundation to the "left-leaning" (that is priceless, eh?) Brookings Institution.

Help me, I think I'm feeling a wee bit sick.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Nice Christian Reconstructionists

Scott Simon interviewed Washington Post reporter Hanna Rosin about Patrick Henry University, an far-right, Bible-as-literal-truth based university that has deep roots in the current White House.

The report is a maddeningly sloppy and de-contexualized downplaying of the threat of Christian Reconstructionism and Christian Extremism in the United States. Nothing is mentioned about the armed wing of Christian extremism as evidenced by Blackwater or the takeover of military chaplain corp and the Air Force Academy by Christian extremists.

Instead of a serious discussion of this troubling movement Simon and Rosin engage in the childish nonsense about how "nice" the students of Patrick Henry are. They don't give one bit of attention to the founder and chancellor, Michael Farris and his roots in Christian Reconstructionism, and that in spite of his leaving COR because he supposedly "doesn't believe in theocracy", he still is deeply entwined with the Christian Reconstructionist movement.

Simon tells us that students of Patrick Henry "tend to be smart, thoughtful...and nice" and asks Rosin "so why are some people so frightened by them?" Even though Rosin mentions that students at Patrick Henry call themselves "the tip of the spear" who talk about "taking back the nation," she mainly talks about how amazing the students are. One who lived with her for months is described as "so fabulous, and so smart, and so impressive, and so incredibly successful, and attractive and funny."

Seriously, is there any serious journalist or thinker who doesn't know that agents of the most vile and reactionary change and policies can be "nice," "funny," "thoughful," "smart," and even "attractive?"

A particularly insidious portion of the interview comes when Rosin claims that her "lefty journalist" friends, would ask her - regarding her Patrick Henry boarder - "Why are you harboring Nazis in your attic?" To which the ever "nice" Scott Simon says, "What was she scared of. I mean that strikes me, I've got to say, as a very hard-hearted reaction. You know call someone living in your attic a Nazi just because what, she's Christian?"

My reactions were first, I seriously doubt that Rosin of the Washington Post even knows any leftist journalists. Secondly, I imagine that such comments were not made to her as fodder for critiquing on the air with Scott Simon. Finally, it really pissed me off to hear Simon say that the reactions are because the student is a "Christian." No it is because she represents the Christian Supremacist/Dominionist "tip of the spear." And yes that is something to greatly fear and something that responsible journalists should be trying to uncover and not downplay.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Scott the Knife

Daniel Pinkwater once said that Scott Simon was "without question the best-liked person on NPR, admired and looked up to by his professional colleagues and trusted by the audience. He is as nice a guy as he seems to be on the air.” Yes, it's a well-oiled sound that Simon broadcasts: touchy, feely and very comfortable with US crimes abroad.

Today offered a nifty little glance under the slick Simon veneer. He moves into tabloid, slash mode when he wastes some airtime to mock and ridicule the self-destructive life of British singer Amy Winehouse.

Simon: "Earlier this year Miss Winehouse had to run off a stage mid-song to, regurgitate. She didn't have the flu. At an awards ceremony in London, she got drunk and heckled Bono. In music that's a little like heckling Nelson Mandela....At this week's concert she showed up late, stumbled, and didn't sing very much.....She said to all of those booing, just wait till my husband gets out of incarceration."

It was all played for rather mean-spirited yucks. Yes Simon, someone with eating disorders and substance abuse problems is just sooooo funny - and such a daring target to take on.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Imus Slime Us

On Wednesday's ATC, Melissa Block had a chance to do a little serious journalism on the return of bigot Don Imus to radio and TV. She interviewed RFD-TV president Patrick Gottsch about his decision to simulcast Imus' WABC radio show on his cable network.

Block notes that Imus was "...fired by CBS in April after he made derogatory remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team." She asks Gottsch, "Do you have any worries about taking Don Imus on board...many times before made offensive comments. Does that bother you? Do you worry about alienating your viewers?"

Gottsch answers, "Not at all...saw first hand what these folks [the Imus family] are like
I know for a fact that he's not proud of what happened earlier in the year. People make mistakes and I think he was the first one to admit he made a mistake and that's in the past."

That's it. I mean it. That's all the intellectual, professional thunder poor Block could muster. Does it bother you? Alienating viewers? Here's a few questions that might have made the interview worthwhile:

Why are you wanting to give a platform to a man who back in 1998 was unmasked on 60 Minutes as a racist. Or who referred to public TV journalist Gwen Ifill as a "cleaning lady." Why are you wanting to employ a repeat bigot, homophobe, and antisemite.

Seriously, do these NPR hosts do any preparation for interviews such as this, or just go in cold with a few questions and see what happens. It wouldn't taken more than 10 minutes to come up with a few concrete examples of Imus' career long behavior of airing bigotry for entertainment. Instead a listener to this interview comes away with a positive impression of Imus as a good guy who made a mistake and has paid his due--ugh...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Devil’s advocate, or parrot?

In a Nov 14th Day to Day piece on a Federal Communications Commission proposal to relax rules on media consolidation, host Alex Chadwick passes on a claim by FCC chairman Kevin J Martin that is refuted by overwhelming evidence. Interviewing Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, a member of the Senate commerce committee, Chadwick asks, as if stating a fact, “but [Martin] says, he makes this argument, and he cites specific numbers that newspapers are in very serious trouble, circulation declines over the last years, the rules change will help preserve these really crucial editorial voices. Isn’t he correct in both those assertions?”

Huh? Aside from the lameness of challenging someone with "specific numbers," study after study -- at least one coming from the FCC itself -- says that media consolidation hurts diversity, quality, and localism. Dorgan thankfully sets him right, explaining that media consolidation is not in the public interest, that newspapers are still quite profitable, and “We’ve had galloping concentration in radio, television and newspapers. The last thing we need is additional concentration.”

Astonishingly, Chadwick does it again, repeating Martin’s assertion that to relax media rules in at least twenty of the nation’s major media markets which represent 120 million Americans is “kind of a middle ground.”

Chadwick also fails to mention something that would have served as useful context for the story: the last time the FCC proposed to relax media consolidation rules in 2003 it provoked the largest public comment response in the agency’s history: millions of people wrote in to the public comment period with a staggering 99 percent of them opposed to the move.

Maybe Chadwick was clinging to the tired creed of knock-kneed journalism: that stories must be “balanced” no matter how factually inaccurate one side may be. Instead of propping up the politically motivated leadership of the FCC, Chadwick and Day to Day would better serve listeners with thorough research, and stories that examine and challenge claims that have weak to non-existent factual evidence.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Throwing Whitewash on a Bloodbath

Yesterday I posted about the abysmal Sunday morning coverage of Veterans' Day. As a commenter pointed out, the evening was even worse. Allison Keyes joins in the extreme right-wing slander of the Vietnam anti-war movement, citing hearsay from pro-Vietnam War cheerleaders as evidence.

She's attending the "re-dedication" of the Vietnam War Memorial, presided over by serial-liar Colin Powell. First she hunts down Bill Willington, a veteran dog-handler of the Vietnam and Gulf War era. (Maybe she'll interview one from this current Gulf war next - that should give us some patriotic goosebumps -or goosesteps.) Bill tearily recites the old canard of being attacked at the San Francisco airport:
"It was a rough time back then; got off at San Francisco airport; I got red paint thrown on me and called a baby-killer and a murderer and that's hurt for 30 years."
Next Keyes reports that Colin Powell "said this wall has magic and power." This is followed by a sappy soundbite from Powell, and then Keyes goes for the jugular,
"But former army nurse Mary 'Edie' Meeks touched the audience most deeply. When she came home she destroyed her uniform because of the hate directed at the vets."
Keyes doesn't even qualify this bunk about "hate directed at vets" as being the opinion of Nurse Meeks. She states it as accepted fact.

This myth of pervasive abuse of Vietnam veterans by antiwar activists that Keyes is propagating has been debunked and discredited - and is contradicted by the fact that Vietnam veterans were a major pillar of the antiwar movement. But facts won't deter Keyes passing on this prowar lie. The truth is that what most activists hated was the orgy of violence and barbarism that US leaders perpetrated against Vietnam, and which people like Colin Powell (and now Keyes) continue to praise as something honorable.

Of course Keyes must know that you're not going to find a lot of antiwar Vietnam Veterans showing up to hear a windbag like Powell use the "magic and power of the wall" to disappear the 4 million Vietnames civilians killed by the US in Vietnam. But Keyes surely knows there are still many Vietnam Vets who would be glad to talk about the real crimes of Vietnam and the government abuses meted out to those who were drafted and did time in that war. I just wonder when we'll ever hear from them on NPR.

Open Thread

Same NPR, different day! NPR news related comments welcomed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Schlock and Awww

How one observes Veterans' Day is a foil that reveals one's worldview. On NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday I waited in vain to hear about how current veterans are honored for their service with the freedom to sleep on the streets. Or how many veterans are speaking out against the war (and slandered for or prevented from doing so). How about the virtual conscription of stop-loss that active military face?

I waited to hear something about who benefits from the terrible sacrifices (the numbers often downplayed in the media) of veterans, instead of the silliness about sacrifices made to "defend us."

Instead of anything shedding light on the exploitation of US military men and women in an illegal war of aggression and consequent occupation all I got was a ridiculous in-depth report on the crack (OH MY!) in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, DC (should it be repaired or replaced?) Yes, I'll be losing sleep over that controversy. This was followed by a long, solemn advertisement for the military-religious music CD being released by Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.

All this is especially galling given that NPR does have a reporter who often does right by the issues that veterans face - and that would be Daniel Zwerdling.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Between the State Department and the State Department

Poor Palestine. Any time NPR covers Palestine you can be sure that the debate will range between Likud and Kadima or between the US State Department then and the State Department now. Tonight offered a nice example of this wide open debate. Michele Kelemen is covering the "grotesque spectacle" of the Annapolis conference. Siegel sets the table with this lead: "...and now all the talk is about what happens after Annapolis and whether the US will continue to put its diplomatic weight behind negotiations." I love how he sneaks that "continue" in there, disguising the fact that the US has been complicit in the wholesale destruction of the Palestinians and - on the contrary - implying that the US has been pushing for serious negotiations over the years.

Kelemen, fresh off the ropes, tags up and jumps in: "When President Bush called for the conference back in July...the idea was to boost moderates in the Palestinian Authority and build up institutions that would be needed for an eventual state." Wow! Boosting moderates! And building institutions! [translation: promoting peace-lovers like Bombardier Olmert and building settlements].

In the interest of fairness and balance NPR doesn't give us just Kelemen; we get to hear from two analysts. The first is Aaron David Miller from the Woodrow Wilson Center. "For the previous two decades, he served at the Department of State as an adviser to six Secretaries of State, where he helped formulate U.S. policy on the Middle East and the Arab-Israel peace process." [from his bio at the Wilson Center]. That seems like a fair representative of the US State Department point of view. And now for the different point of view...

The second analyst is Rob Malley from the International Crisis Group. Rob's bio at the ICG gives his work history: "Director for Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, National Security Council, 1994-1996, Executive Assistant to Samuel R. Berger, National Security Advisor, 1996-1998, and Special Assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli Affairs, 1998-2001." What do you know, he worked for the US government, too - even the NSC!

Of course neither of these jokers offers any serious criticism of the US role in the destruction of Palestinian rights and culture and with helping Israeli expansionism. Instead both offer mild pessimism about the Annapolis conference. Miller predicts that instead of achieving anything, the conference will "launch - presumably - a very serious permanent status negotiation on these issues." (That's rich!) Malley is a bit more pessimistic, though he says the conference " least allows President Bush, President Abbas, and Prime Minister Olmert to say we're moving forward, we've launched something new, now let's hope something good happens from it."

Good Lord, if NPR opens the debate up any farther, things could get way out of hand!

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

NPR's Point of View

Yesterday Bob Siegel let it be known that waterboarding is either torture or an interrogation technique "depending on your point of view." NPR seems to have settled on its point of view: during the evening hourly news summary tonight I got treated to Jack Spear saying that waterboarding was "an interrogation technique" involving "controlled drowning." Dang, am I ever relieved - if I ever find myself in Gitmo or one of those dandy US black site prisons I'll just remember that being partially drowned, stripped, slapped, kicked, punched, yelled at, kept awake, deprived of bedding, clean water, and sleep, and exposed to extreme temperatures are interrogation techniques - not torture. Thanks NPR.

IDF Approved Script

If the US or Israel launches a preemptive war against Iran, NPR will have blood on its hands. This morning, four minutes and twenty-two seconds into the little five minute news "summary" that runs at the top of the hour Paul Brown read this:

"Israel's Defense Minister says Israel must consider possible military action to stop Iran's nuclear program. He spoke after Iranian Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran has 3000 operational centrifuges for enriching nuclear fuel. Ahmadinejad has called for the elimination of Israel."

This is pure Neocon/Israel Defense Forces rubbish, and NPR knows it. Masbrow has commented on this phony "elimination of Israel" mistranslation. Juan Cole, way back in May of 2006 (!) noted that "gullible and frankly lazy and very possibly highly biased reporters" for the major news outlets were doggedly spreading the mistranslation. It's maddening to have to keep pointing out this utter IDF/Neocon propaganda - but the lie has a virulent life of its own and the cost of ignoring it is very high.

Open Thread & a Victory

NPR related comments welcomed. BTW, a small victory on the Garrels' torture excuses; see the FAIR update.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Depending on Your Point of View

Tonight on ATC Siegel has the gall to say, "Waterboarding simulates drowning and it's either torture or - depending on your point of view - interrogation technique." Where does this guy get off with this kind of moral relativism? Well, Bob, when you take completely defenseless prisoners, lay them down and force them to breathe water until they partially drown that's torture. It's not "interrogation technique" unless you're a morally depraved sociopath (or the US President, Vice President, Attorney General, etc.)

NPR also really ought to quit saying that waterboarding "simulates" drowning. It's kind of like saying the rack simulates being ripped apart. How about just saying that it's a torture technique where a person is partially drowned, but just not usually to the point of death.

Innoculate Yourself

I just have to recommend again Juan Cole's Informed Comment and the great group blog that he is part of called Informed Comment Global Affairs (great stuff on Pakistan). A great way to experience the alternate reality of NPR-world is to read these blogs in the morning and then tune in to NPR . I've noticed how little NPR has focused on the fact that the target of General Musharraf's coup (he's not really the president now is he?) is the judiciary of Pakistan - not the violent Islamists and terrorists cited as the reason for the crackdown.

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Hope It's a Trend

Monday morning I missed the segment of Anne Garrels reporting on Special Forces in Iraq. To be honest, I just wasn't interested in ragging on her coverage - but I listened to it on the web today and was flabbergasted. It's a pretty gutsy piece that implies that US Special Forces in Iraq are brutally torturing prisoners
"I happened on a group of Iraqi prisoners who had just been brought in by a joint US/Iraqi special forces team. It was clear the prisoners had been badly beaten; they were covered in blood."
carrying out extrajudicial killings
"Iraqi witnesses say a US Special Forces team interrogated Ahmed, and then shot him. These same witnesses say American soldiers then shot Ahmed's wife."
and trying to cover up their crimes by keeping the media at bay
"...the special forces were angry that I had seen what I had seen and demanded that I be removed from the base."

"....when the US military was asked to provide more information...and access to those who took part in the raid, the request was denied....a request to speak to the head of Special Operations in Iraq was also denied. "
or by simply lying about what is going on.

"...asked about the raid the US military produced a brief press release. It says, 'Unspecified coalition forces responding to hostile intent killed three unnamed suspects.' "

Like the Tom Bowman piece I recently commended, Garrels actually took the time to speak to IRAQI witnesses and quotes them at length, and lets the US military present its version. But she puts it in a context of corroborative testimony, the evidence of abuse she actually saw, and the way in which military press statements obscure names and locations of such abuse.

Her only misstep is when she tells us, "There is only one thing the US and Iraqi accounts agree on: the main target of the raid, Ahmed Mahmood Ali, was probably not a good guy. Both say he had hand grenades; relatives say insurgent DVDs and a video camera, possibly used to document insurgent attacks, were also found in his possession. However, villagers say the other victims were not likely to have been involved with al-Qaeda..." That silly "good guy" "bad guy"stuff comes off pretty strange in this story. Frankly, I don't see how being an insurgent makes someone objectively a good or bad guy - and it certainly does not mean that that person is an al-Qaeda fighter.

Seriously though, I hope that this practice of investigating US operations, talking to witnesses, seeking evidence, and reporting when the military is being secretive, vague or evasive will continue; after all it's the right thing to do...

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Dr. Gjelten and Mr. Hyde

Only in this absurd time in our nation could a "news" organization report about waterboy/waterboard Bush awarding a Medal of Freedom to a Cuban dissident with no sense of irony. Oh, but this is Tom Gjelten, who cut his sharp little teeth "reporting" on the wars in Central America in the 80s and 90s (see my earlier posts on his coverage of Chile, Nicaragua, or Venezuela to get a taste of his journalism).

It's interesting to note how this detailed report on the political prisoner in Cuba, who Bush is honoring, follows immediately after the report on Guatemala that avoids any mention of the US role in destroying Guatemala's civil society for nearly forty years.

BTW, I'm not in anyway justifying the disgusting treatment meted out to Oscar Biscet by the Cuban dictatorship. It's just the absurdly lopsided attention given to Cuban human rights issues compared to the absence of coverage given to US sponsored atrocities in Latin America.

Oh and we also got to hear about defender of fetuses and the Pentagon, Mr. Henry Hyde - one of Illinois' own.

Who Needs History

Wouldn't it be great if just once when talking about the sorrows of Central America (it's the election and rampant violence in Guatemala today) NPR would provide a little refresher on where all that violence came from. Of course you wouldn't expect Klose-minded Voice of America Public Radio to want to disrespect the homeland.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Neocon Public Radio

As Porter pointed out in the "Open Thread" comments below, NPR brings on a couple of neocons -Kenneth Adelman and Joshua Muravchik - and gives them lots of free airtime to offer their propaganda unchallenged and with support from from Scott Simon. The interview serves two main purposes - to shine a positive light on neoconservatism and to propagate anti-Iran misinformation.

Part I: The Glories of Neoconservatism

Simon describes neocons as "...often former liberals...who thought that liberals had accomodated communist totalitarianism at the cost of human rights..."

Adelman states, " save people in horrendous situations, which is to me the very essence and the very identity of the neoconservative movement."

Simon asks Muravchik, "What about the idea that stimulating democracy around the world was a good thing?" He then asks Adelman, "How do you see the idea of encouraging democracies around the world - is that idea still looking good?"

Simon simply accepts and asserts that neoconservatism is about human rights and the spread of democracy. There is no critique of Neoconservatism's main ideal - complete US military hegemony over the world to protect our "interests." And, of course, there is not one reference to the historical record of neoconservatism's brutal human rights program as practiced in Latin America.

Part II: The Iranian Nemesis

Simon asks Muravchik to respond to the following statement: "You explore the idea that Iraq might have been the wrong war, the wrong time, the wrong place...the United States has been left out of position to confront a threat in Iran."

Amazing isn't it, how a complete non-threat like Iran, is posited as a threat by Simon.

To which Muravchik responds, "Whatever you might have thought about how much connection there was between Sadaam Hussein and al-Qaeda, what was crystal clear was that THE BIGGEST STATE SUPPORTER OF TERRORISM IN THE WORLD WAS THE GOVERNMENT OF IRAN. (Simon can be heard grunting "ummhmm" in agreement).

Not only does Simon not challenge this utterly unsupported assertion, he offers his agreement!

Simon then turns to Adelman "Is the United States just out of position when it comes to credibility on Iran at this point?" Out of position? How about ethically and morally bankrupt.

Adelman claims that "a military solution is impossible in Iran because the main problem is nuclear weapons being developed there, and the nuclear weapons there are hidden buried and dispersed..."

Muravchik accurately corrects Adelman: "Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons," and then rolls on into his own bomb Iran bloodlust, "it has facilities and some of them may be hidden but we know where most of them are, and I believe we can cripple Iran's drive to get nuclear weapons through air strikes...."

Not only are the factual distortions unchallenged in this sorry excuse of an interview, but there isn't even a peep made about the immorality and illegality of an unprovoked air assault on a country that poses no significant threat to the United States.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Anne Garrels, Parrot

So, the Anne Garrels' story involving torture seems to have gotten a lot of attention at NPR; today they devoted their entire letters section to it. For those who did not hear it, let me synopsize:
Steve Inskeep "elicited" this chilling statement from Garrels:

"The three Detainees had clearly been tortured, Er, There was blood all over their clothes, they were in such bad shape they couldn't walk, they had to be dragged on to the chairs, and one of them was just sobbing"

Then Inskeep quotes an astute listener:

"Let me get this straight, Anne Garrels is reporting information obtained from a torture victim, speaking in the presence of his torturers, as if it is credible; has NPR sunk that low?"

But before Garrels can respond to that pithy question, Inskeep throws out the red herring that "a lot of listeners" had a "A more specific Question...were you there for the torture?" Garrels, of course, responded in the negative. In an aside, Inskeep says "...this is how reporting has to be done in this most dangerous situation."

Another veracious comment from a listener is read:

"Torture victims will say anything their torturers tell them to, especially when they're still being held by their captors."

What bothered me about this whole exchange, and was already mentioned in Mytwords' post (down the page) and Porter Melmoth's comments (Open Thread, just below) was that Garrels (with Inskeep's shrewd enabling) spent too much time insisting that she did not witness the torture, did not know she was going to see torture victims, and generally proclaiming her opposition to torture, instead of answering the pertinent charge, that she had reported information she knew to be obtained from torture as if it had any credence.

When she finally did get around to it, Her explanation was, as PM said, lame."The details that were given seemed to gel with other things I had heard from people who had not been tortured", and "They described posing as Sunnis, going into a Shi'ite neighborhood, raping a Shi'ite girl. That incident did occur, we were able to confirm that, that was not made up."

Inskeep then fawns " So, you were working almost like a police officer..."(I'll pass on this).

As I understand it, Torture has historically been most often used to get information about "crimes" the interrogators already know about and so, detailed information about the crime is easily taught to the suspect through "interrogation", so he can then convincingly confess to it.

So the fact that actual crimes were confessed to in detail by the victims in no way increases the legitimacy of the information, or excuses Garrels for parroting it... but it's hard for a parrot to do anything else.

Garrels Twists

As in twists in the wind and twists the truth. Earlier this week I posted on Garrels' Heart of Darkness moment. Fortunately NPR must have been bombarded with complaints from listeners and I saw today that FAIR picked up the Garrels' report two days ago for an "Action Report."

This morning on the "letters" segment of NPR news, Inskeep (who was party to Garrels' torture-sourced reporting) questions her on the phone from Iraq. Garrels' response to listeners' complaints was essentially a four-pronged counter attack:

1) She claims that she made it clear in her original report that she was appalled by the treatment of the prisoners: "...and I think I made it clear that I was as appalled as listeners were by the torture that had clearly occurred." That's interesting, because her original report was rather matter-of-fact about the torture and focused on the extracted testimony of the victims not on their treatment or ultimate fate.

2) She claims that she and her team were not expecting torture and were scared and frightened by the situation: "...and quite frankly NPR was extremely uncomfortable with the situation; we were quite scared. When we got to the location our tape recorders were confiscated temporarily. We were clearly taken in a circuitous route..." Fair enough. I would have been scared too, but then once they were back to safety, why didn't the focus of the story become the brutal nature of militia factionalism and the barbarism resorted to by all combatants in Iraq. Instead the entire focus was on Garrels'/NPR's predetermined story - IRAN's culpability.

3) She claims that she independently verified all the information that the victims were compelled to give. "...the details that were given, seemed to me, to gel with other things that I had heard from people who had not been tortured...." and "The details that came from the questions were such that it lent credibility to the story. There were a great number of details about how they operated, who they operated through, why they did this - and we do know for a fact that they described posing as Sunnis...raping a Shiite girl...that incident did occur; we were able to confirm that - that was not made up." Inskeep (in all seriousness) says, "So you were working almost like a police officer in that sense and taking this information that might well be corrupted information, but trying to match it up with other facts that you knew from your long experience in Iraq."

4) She simply makes up the proposition that listeners don't want to hear about torture and atrocities. "When we saw what we believed to be torture victims we reported it, and in the end if you ignore the reality of what these groups are doing and do not say they tortured these people, then that's even worse." I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Amazing! Garrels is claiming that she is being criticized for doing dangerous investigative journalism to expose human rights abuses, when in fact she has been caught red-handed using torture extracted testimony to make a case against Iran.

I hope that listeners will continue to contact NPR with demands that Garrels and Inskeep be held to account for their misinformation and unethical behavior.

Open Thread

Hear something on NPR that you have to comment on? This is the place.

Colonial Values

Did anyone else find yesterday evening's Dina Temple-Raston report on the FBI's investigation of Blackwater kind of disturbing?

There seems to be no dispute that at least 17 Iraqi civilians were gunned down by Blackwater operatives on September 16th (even NPR cites that figure at the beginning of this report). Now I don't know about you, but I really wouldn't care if one or two or even ten shots were fired at some military/police guards in the center of my city if the result was that they went on a rampage killing 17 civilians nearby! Think about it, seventeen human beings who were just standing/driving/running in the wrong place.

But Temple-Raston focuses on only one issue. She says,
"To find out one key thing - and that's whether or not the Blackwater team actually took fire before they started firing their guns...."
"Well again the key issue is whether Blackwater contractors started the shooting in this square in western Baghdad or whether they were fired on. So they're going through all this ballistic evidence now looking for casings of bullets that perhaps weren't Blackwater guns, weren't Blackwater bullets. That would give some indication that maybe there was a shooting beforehand."
So you see, if the FBI can find any evidence that even one ounce of precious American flesh was targeted in any way, then 17 dead Iraqis is a reasonable price to pay for protecting it.