Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year - Open Thread

No stories have motivated me to post during the last few days...a good sign perhaps???

Feel free to add any NPR related comments.

Until next year...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Swiss Cheesing History

One of my biggest gripes about NPR is how the distasteful historical record of the United States is redacted in stories where it should feature prominently (e.g. Guatemala, East Timor, Colombia, etc.) The recent coverage of Pakistan is striking in this regard.

Here are a few interesting remarks aired on NPR in the last two days:

Dec. 27, 2007 - ATC : (Siegel) "Pakistan has never been a place of stability, politically or otherwise."

Dec. 28 2007 - ME: (Northam) "Bhutto was a critical component of the Bush Administration's plans for Pakistan to try to bring democracy to the country and stabilize it."

Dec 28, 2007 - ATC: (Siegel) "...the history of the country as one abnormality, one aberration after another" and "when you try to sort out what is the root cause of the political problems...what is it...what's missing?"

In this last piece Siegel is talking with Adil Najam, a professor of public relations at Boston University and editor of the blog, All Things Pakistan. The piece was really strange in that Najam commented that three things explain Pakistan's troubled history: "our history," "our geography," and "our impatience." In the history the United States never came up (odd); even the BBC has a rather harsh take on that bit of history: "Last, but not least, the Americans have tended to use their crucial financial and military support selectively against democratic governments." Najam then examines geography, mentioning Pakistan's neighbors India, China, Afghanistan, and Iran. He notes that this and its strategic location have meant that "outside forces always [have been] very interested in Pakistan." But again no mention of the United States.

For a great antidote to this selective amnesia check out this great post on Manan Ahmed's blog, Chapati Mystery. Manan was on today's Democracy Now! along with Tariq Ali and it is well worth watching/listening to.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Very NPRish

In the "Open Thread" below readers have commented on NPR's series about blogs. The inimitable Steve Inskeep sets the tone for this sad waste of news time that occasionally rises to mediocrity. On Monday's Morning Edition show (12/24/07) we get a "radio version of a weblog" repleat with cutesy little sound effects such as echo-chamber sound to indicate hyperlinks and a corny "boing" to represent clicking on a link. The beginning of the piece features a montage of voices blathering on about trivia and Inskeep chimes in "Ok, random people I've never heard of talking - this is pretty much how it is when you're going, surfing blogs." He later adds, "fragmented thoughts, this is very bloggish."

This opening salvo in the series sets the bar pretty low. We hear a lot from one of the earliest daily personal diary bloggers, Justin Hall, we tells us "to receive attention from strangers is so flattering and that's what weblogs offer." And keeping with the stupid and inconsequential, Inskeep reveals, "I can post my own comment about everything that's been going on, so let me do that now, and I want to begin not by talking about something that Justin Hall actually said but about my feelings...what I FEEL anyway..." (Irony, thy name is Inskeep!)

Christmas morning's present to listeners isn't much better - in spite of Raed Jarrar's blog getting a mention. In case you thought yesterday's stupidity was a fluke, Inskeep jumps right back in with "This week on Morning Edition we're asking a cosmic question: If a tree falls in the blogosphere does it make a sound - a sound that makes sense?" He goes on to wonder, "Maybe you even think they all [blogs] sound like this:" a cluttered audio montage of tabloid gossip, juvenile remarks, and trivial comments then follows. Renee Montagne then talks to Sarah Boxer of the NYT who is putting blog posts into a book. Montagne is just amazed that bloggers might write something worthy of publishing; shocked she exclaims "blogs that were compelling enough to make the leap - get this - into a book!" OMG! Boxer seems harmless enough, she does cite Jarrar's blog, but her ear for the bitter and sardonic is pretty wooden. She really loved the blog by a marine in Fallujah (blogs from sites of war crimes are sooo cool). The post she chose was one where the marine is amused by the PX overstocking supplies. He writes, "sometimes it's just weird, like panties, lacy black women's panties." He just can't imagine what the US military could be planning to do with all those women's panties! Boxer also hasn't a clue what a media critic is. She sneeringly notes "Bloggers who profess to be against the mainstream media, kind of want to be part of that. It's still something to go for."

Wednesday's piece was probably the best of the bunch. It dealt with the risks to bloggers in countries such as Egypt, and the US military's paranoia about soldiers blogging too freely.

Today's feature was a bland one about a Chicago mom of six turned unoffensive humorist who has landed a book deal! Wow. Of all the great bloggers to feature, we had to get this. We'll see what comes tomorrow...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


On Christmas Eve's ATC, NPR once again airs a piece on refugees from Iraq without focusing at the main story - that the US is doing NOTHING to solve a humanitarian crisis of its own making. Instead, in some twisted homage to the Christmas season, we get a feel-good piece about one poor Iraqi woman and her three children who are living in Atlanta after years of trying to get in to the US. This single mom has finally landed a job as a domestic at a hotel. Seriously, I'm happy that this one Iraqi and her children found a way out of the hell that the US has turned Iraq into, but the piece is manipulative, and reminds me of CNN's and sicko-Gupta's self-promoting "Rescuing Youssif" story.

The report by Kathy Lohr had the gall to point out how little Jordan does for the refugees that have flooded that country. The part of the report that had to make any self-respecting person want to throw up was Lohr playing the woman saying "Thank you America" about five times. Here's the write up of it off NPR's website:
"I am very happy America, going here. My children [are] going [to] school. I am very happy. I am [able to] sleep. Thank you, America. I am going [to work in the] morning. Thank you, America. I am [able to] eat. Thank you, America. Every time, thank you, thank you, America."
I don't blame this poor woman for saying this at all; what's she going to say, "Thanks for f---ing up my country you bunch of ignorant, violent imbeciles. I always wanted to flee my country and commute two hours to and from work each day to clean hotels in Atlanta - Thank you!"?

NPR should be calling, knocking, emailing, calling, and calling all their precious contacts in the State Department and the Pentagon and asking, "So what have you done and are you doing to address the 4 million plus refugee problem that you created?" When they've done that about fifty times, and pointed out that the US hasn't done jack, then they can work on some "Welcome to Bailey Park" b.s. like this pathetic report...ugh...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Facts on the Ground

You have to love the absolute absurdity of Andrea Seabrook's interview with Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post on Sunday's ATC. The gist of the story is that the drop in US casualties in Iraq is due to Iran "tamping down" Shiite militia violence in Iraq.

There's one little problem with this meeting of the delusional minds. There is no substantiated evidence of Iran having a role in US troop deaths in Iran. All this bogus talk about deaths of US troops due to Iranian "meddling" really heated up about a year ago. This line about Iran killing US troops was pointed out as being a bit of a Pentagon-cooked fantasy by McClatchy News early on, but NPR has never let a lack of evidence stop it from repeating Pentagon statements - especially regarding Iran. Even a magazine like The American Conservative (!!!) saw through this sloppy propaganda back in September - but not NPR.

What is really amazing is that this interview assumes that Iran was supplying the deadly EFP weapons, that they were training US-killing Shiite militias, and that now that killing has stopped. De Young says, "No one's saying that the flow of weapons has stopped; they actually don't know this. You know that Iran, according to the administration, is responsible for most of these sophisticated roadside bombs that have been a huge cause of US casualties in Iraq." Does Seabrook challenge the premise?

Not a bit, she swallows (gulps) and says, "Did they say why they think Iran is acting in a more positive way?"

Seabrook notes that Gates and the Pentagon are still suspicious of the Iran and De Young explains this by telling her, "part of that is because they really just look at facts on the ground; they say, as the State Department says, that there's no real evidence that these weapons aren't still coming and the Iranians are not still training." Wrap your head around that.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Zwerdling, Watson, and Weird Iran

First kudos to Daniel Zwerdling for his Thursday ATC reporting on the horrid treatment of Iraq vets suffering from PTSD and brain trauma. Not only should NPR be running his stories; he should be training their staff in how to do stories. I was fascinated by how doggedly detailed his work is. He'd quote an assertion by someone, and then talk about tracking down as many sources as possible to verify or contradict what was alleged. He would constantly note who was willing to talk and who refused. It was stellar, and the exception. More!

Second, kudos to NPR and Morning Edition for featuring the story about "The Axis of Evil" comedy troupe and their Middle East tour. I noticed that the reporter for this was Ivan Watson - the only NPR reporter who showed humanity during the Israeli/US slaughter of Lebanon in the summer of 2006. In the current Islamaphobic times we are living in, it really was refreshing (and dare I say brave) of NPR to air a piece that showed a rich and varied Arab/Islamic culture across the world. More!

Lastly, in the one step forward, two steps back category was tonight's piece about the potential nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The piece opens with one of those vague "experts say" fear statements: "but experts say some of this renewed interest is sparked by fears that Iran will acquire a nuclear weapon and they worry about a future arms race." However, NPR does break the usual taboo and refers to Israel's lawless nuclear arsenal:
  • "Cairo analyst says there are genuine energy needs driving some of these demand for nuclear plants, but having watched the west fail to stop Israel from acquiring what experts say is a powerful nuclear arsenal, Arab states are now watching a defiant Iran pursue uranium enrichment."
  • "...the nuclear free argument was primarily meant to put pressure on Israel's nuclear program and it led nowhere."
Holy smokes! Amazing. But wait, the piece began with the Iran boogie man and so it must end with this truly bizarre statement:
  • "For much of the world the primary nuclear issue of the moment is Iran and Arab states appear to be wondering if they can rely on America and the West to stop the Iranians from acquiring the bomb or if instead they should be trying to catch up."
Rely on America and the West? You've got to be joking.

(The picture? I just liked it. It seemed to capture the holiday irony of this post - am I being the Grinch or Susie Who?)

Open Thread

NPR related comments are always appreciated.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

This Story is a Tricky One, Obviously

(Reagan with "Freedom Fighters")

"The humanitarian toll of twenty years of fighting-some 1.5 million deaths and the massive displacement of populations, famine, and the ruin of the country's economic base-has not figured prominently in international policy on Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch said." (Human Rights Watch Report, 7/15/2001)

Listening to Renee Montagne schmooze with Tom Hanks and Mike Nichols about the film, Charlie Wilson's War, you'd never know the horror that backgrounds the movie. As is so frequently the case, the full history of the story gets mangled on NPR and no attempt is made to rectify it. A healthy antidote to NPR's Hollywoodized glorification of Wilson and Gust Avrakotos (his CIA partner-in-crime, literally) is Chalmers Johnson's piece on the George Crile book Charlie Wilson's War. Johnson points out a few ugly truths: Wilson was no "liberal" as stated on NPR; he supported Nicaraguan dictator Somoza, and Avrakotos was the CIA's man in propping up the Greek facist generals in the late 1960s.

The interview on NPR also continues the line that the US only began supporting Muslim extremists ("Muslim freedom fighters" as Montagne still insists on calling them) after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Robert Gates (yes him!) mentioned in his memoirs that the US began funding the Mujahadeen six months before the USSR invaded and Brzezinski confirmed as much in interviews in 1998. It was a sordid affair indeed. Not only Gates is still with us, but Mike Vickers, a nasty CIA thug with a history in Honduras, was also involved with Charlie Wilson - and is now highly placed Pentagon official.

You'd never know any of this listening to NPR this morning. And it would never even dawn on you that over a million civilians have perished in Afghanistan's Soviet-American nightmare. No instead what you learn is:
  • Its a "rollicking good story." - Montagne
  • "Charlie loved the Davids of the world as opposed to the Goliaths..." - Hanks
  • "Charlie is one member of a colorful trio...there's Gust Avrakotos..." - Montagne
  • "Gust was the real deal..." - Hanks
  • "they both [Wilson and Avrakotos] happen to be guys who tell the truth casually and constantly." - Nichols
  • "this story is a tricky one, obviously..." - Montagne
Frankly it's kind of hard to stomach. But it's nothing new on NPR, consider this earlier post in which Charlie Wilson's War came up on NPR over a year ago.

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Lloyd Bentsen Moment Perhaps

On ATC tonight Melissa Block talks to Time magazine's managing editor Richard Stengel about the decision to name Vladimir Putin Time's Person of the Year. We get to hear Block describe "the icy, impassive eyes" of Putin on the magazine's cover. Later in the interview Stengel says, "you know the person who Putin could end up being like, Josef Stalin, was person of the year twice."

Okay. Hold it! Reality check needed. I really wanted Block to say, "Mr. Stengel, we know about the millions that Stalin murdered, and Putin is no Josef Stalin!" Alas, such correctives were not forthcoming. If this were an isolated event, I'd pass it off to a bit of careless hyperbole, but it fits the pattern of NPR carelessly exaggerating foes of the US establishment (Chavez, Castro, Ahmadinejad, etc.), while glossing over the grotesque faults of our own leaders and "friends." Funny, I don't recall NPR talking about Putin's icy eyes when Bush was covering for his carnage in Chechnya. Look, Putin is no friend of democracy; I know that, but comparing him to Stalin....give me a break.

Coal and Corn


As a resident of Central Illinois, I guess I have to chime in on the "clean coal" FutureGen plant site awarded to Mattoon, IL about 45 minutes south of here. The story was reported on Tuesday's ATC. Melissa Block spoke to Matt Wald of the New York Times. It was a frustratingly 'pro-coal' report.

Wald said, "so you then end up with carbon dioxide, nicely separated, and more hydrogen...and then you have this nice, clean flow of carbon dioxide that you can dispose of....eventually, chemically is absorbed into the rock and never bothers us again."

Block, at least interjects "Theoretically?"

Wald then goes on to insist that "we're going to have to test this out." He ends his interview with sarcasm aimed at critics of "clean coal" saying, "the leading candidate for replacing fossil fuels right now is what I like to call WT, it all sounds better as an acronym, that's wishful thinking."

NPR should have had some spokespeople on from Greenpeace who could have offered some correctives to the myth of clean coal. There is a place for discussion of the pros and cons of carbon sequestering and coal, but all this "nice" "clean" sarcasm is really not helpful.


Today NPR talked with a Midwestern corn farmer (and ethanol investor) about the energy bill. Living in Central Illinois, one hears a lot about the glories of ethanol - but very little about the many downsides (this link is worth visiting just for the photo of Bush huffing ethanol!). NPR has done a somewhat better job on ethanol, as in this piece from about two years ago, but they will need to have a lot more about the health and environmental problems of ethanol specifically and corn in general which Michael Pollan writes and lectures about extensively.

I'd be happy to hear from readers who know more about these two subjects than I do.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

He's Like a Supercharged Castro!

Michelle Norris opens the smear-commentary on Venezuela by Ana Flaster, whose family left Cuba in the 1960s. Norris says:
"Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is known for picking fights with other world leaders like...his criticism of President Bush....
She [Flaster] says her relatives are obsessed with Chavez. He reminds them of Cuba's Fidel Castro, but she says there's one big difference: Venezuela's oil wealth makes the Chavez rhetoric more powerful."
Flaster and NPR need a serious reality check here. There is, in fact, one huge, overwhelming difference between the two leaders: Chavez has been elected repeatedly in open, free and fair elections.

Of course NPR doesn't like to look much into elections: they might discover that some countries get an incompetent, mean-spirited, authoritarian, relgious wacko for President with the help of Brother Jeb, Supreme Court interference, mob action, vote fixing, disenfranchisement, etc.

Wouldn't it be great to hear a commentary on NPR that examined the social justice accomplishments of Chavez in Venezuela. Or if they want to obsess on Castro, I'd love to hear one comparing the dreaded Fidel to some of the lovely Latin American leaders that the US has backed in during his time as the head of Cuba. NPR could compare numbers: opponents jailed and killed, literacy improvements, nutrition, health care, human rights, elections, political prisoners etc. True, Fidel would come out as a dictator with many flaws, but his crimes would barely register on the old tote board. US "friends" and allies in the region would outstrip him in every category - except for the ones involving improved standards of living.

That's a commentary I could listen to.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Playing with Zero

I was listening to Andrea Seabrook on ATC this weekend talk with Earl Blumenauer, a Democratic Representative from Oregon who wants the US to get moving on giving asylum to Iraqis who have worked with the US forces in Iraq. They talked a bit, and I have to say the usual NPR discourse on Iraqi refugees is worth commenting on.

In her discussion Seabrook talks about the US government promise to resettle 12,000 Iraqi refugees. Seabrook tells Blumenauer,
"you've been very critical of the Bush Administration's work with refugees so far, saying that the government has not done nearly enough. The Bush Administration itself has in some ways stepped up their action here; the Department of Homeland Security now says they will resettle at least 12,000 Iraqi refugees in the United States next year."
I suggest Seabrook pull out a calculator and punch in a few numbers. Take that "stepped up" number of 12,000 ("incredibly generous" as US spokesperson Rosenzweig told NPR back in October) and divide it by the number of exiled refugees (2,000,000). And what do you get? 0.006. In news-talk that's 0.6%; that's right 6 tenths of one percent! Or perhaps one should include the 2 millions internally displaced refugees in that number and you get 0.3%! Wow! Incredibly generous! Hey I realize that 6 tenths of a percent is more than zero, but not by much.

Let's say you buy the government's case that accepting a flood of Iraqi refugees into the US is a huge security risk (should've thought about that before March of 2003, eh?) then at the least the US ought to be FULLY funding the care of refugees in Jordan and Syria. Let's look at Uncle Sam's own numbers. According to the State Department, in 2006 the US provided $43 million in humanitarian assistance to internal and external refugees. Let's see, that's $43 million split between 4 million recipients: golly, that's $10.75 per refugee for 2006 -like winning the Lotto. But wait, the State Department "stepped it up" in 2007 to "almost $200 million." Now we're talking some real money - $50.00 per refugee - time to paaaarty! What more could our generous government do?

Sarcasm aside, you'd expect these paltry efforts to be described for what they are: almost nothing, scandalous, disgraceful, etc. Instead NPR uses the large sounding numbers, saying things like "accepting thousands of refugees" or "millions of dollars." Back in August of this year Amos said "the US government is the largest donor, $30 million, in a UN program to get the children of Iraqi refugees back to school" [in Jordan]. Of course that's for 50,000 students, $600 per child, for an overwhelmed Jordanian system trying to cope with kids who've missed two years of school already. It's pathetic.

You might expect a reporter to simply put it bluntly to US officials when talking about the refugee crisis: the US invaded Iraq, destroyed the society, botched any reconstruction and so it's our government's obligation to pay for it one way or another. Instead you get pieces like today's or the one in the October 2007 with Paul Rosenzweig of Homeland Security claiming that the US is so incredibly generous and that the US has no special obligation to Iraqi refugees. All Amos can say is "but we do have 130,000 troops there," as if that is why the US owes them so much.

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Return of Masbrow

Well, I've been on the road recently as well as having been sequestered in an intensive meditation retreat, so I was necessarily deprived of NPR for 2-3 weeks. It's hard to describe the serenity that sets in after a period of abstinence of that kind. However, I feel refreshed and recharged and once again ready to listen critically and doggedly to our nation's only public news organization. Since I've been back, not much has caught my ear, besides the airtime, previously covered here by Mytwords, given to the despicable John Bolton(who should never be allowed to hold forth on anything) and this little piece of analysis by the doddering Daniel Schorr.

I think Schorr has done some good work in the past, but his pieces on NPR over the last few years have seemed to have a definite "inside-the-beltway-pro-establishment" perspective combined with a "crotchety old know-it-all"style.

The subject is the deterioration of British-Russian relations, and Schorr concentrates on diplomatic tit-for-tat of the kind that was common during the Cold War:

"The British Council is a non-governmental organization devoted to spreading British Culture around the world. For years it has operated two centers in Russia. They give English lessons, they stage Shakespearian plays, that sort of thing." Schorr seems to think that Russian claims that the centers are a front for espionage are outrageous. Why? Because the British government and the British Council say so, and those Russians are "totalitarian".

Actually, using these kind of NGO's as cover for spying has a long history in Russia and the Soviet Union, both by Britain and the United States.

Why is Schorr always so credulous as to Western Governments claims? You'd think that with all he's seen he'd be a bit more skeptical,but I guess these NPR mouths will never learn, no matter how much time they have to do it.

Spoof News - Better Late Than Never, Sort of

I have to comment on Friday's ATC report on the ACLU lawsuit against Jeppesen Dataplan company. This story is striking for NPR news in that it actually sheds some light on the US torture and abuse of detainees in the so called war on terror, but it was troubling for several reasons.

If often strikes me how NPR is so unbelievably late to covering such stories, and only follows once the path has been cleared and well trod. According to the Sourcewatch entry on Jeppesen, the foreign press (Spain and Portugal) first implicated the company in CIA torture flights back in the summer of 2005. But as early as October 2006 The New Yorker was reporting on the Jeppesen involvement in torture flights. However, if you search NPR, you'll only find a mention of Jeppesen on Morning Edition back in May 2007 when the ACLU filed the suit, and then on this past Friday's show. You get a sense that NPR waits until the evidence is practically handed to it before daring to do investigative reporting. Siegel opens up the piece by stating "there is now a sworn court declaration lending weight to allegation that the CIA flew terror suspects to secret locations for interrogation." Allegation? Guess what Siegel? There was a September 2006 report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (go to page 84 in PDF) confirming the CIA "rendition" of suspect Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi to Egypt where he was tortured into falsely claiming an al-Qaeda connection to Iraq (his confession was the "hard evidence" Powell presented at the UN before the US invasion of Iraq).

Another problem with this report is how NPR often minimizes the atrocities committed by the US or its allies. In describing a detainee's description of his time in the hell of US detention prisons in Afghanistan, Shapiro tells us "there's some familiar details here, sleep deprivation, loud music. He says he tried to commit suicide three times, once by trying to hang himself, once with pills and once through slashing his wrists." Sleep deprivation, loud about down playing the real horrors of the US secret prisons. Shapiro also closes the description on an upbeat tone noting, "toward the end when his treatment improved...even describes a movie library that include European soccer films and Jackie Chan movies."

I think the most revolting aspect of the piece was the cavalier chuckling of Robert Siegel during the interview with Shapiro. You'd never know that the information they are discussing involves the most barbarous treatment of human beings imaginable and the official participation of our government in it. Shapiro is describing the sworn testimony of an employee of Jeppesen and there is this sickening interaction:
"he later described an instructor of his saying we do spook flights, and this is a quote: 'I specifically asked him whether he had said spoof flights [Siegel chuckles lightly] or spook flights [Siegel chuckles heartily] and he replied spook flights.'"
(graphic is from Jeppesen's website)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Was That Richard Harris or Dana Perino?

On ATC Siegel talks to Richard Harris about Al Gore's comments at the Bali Conference yesterday. Siegel tells us that Gore "condemned the Bush administration stance" and then he asks Harris, "why does he say the US is being obstructionist?"

Now, if you are with that outrageous leftist paper The Chicago Tribune you might have answered that question like this:
"But the U.S. has been singled out at the meeting as the biggest obstacle to progress, not only because it has attempted to remove targets and deadlines for emissions cuts from any deal but also because it has blocked agreement on issues like the transfer of clean technology from richer to poorer countries."
On the other hand if you are the brilliant White House Press spokesperson, you offer this spin:
"Obviously, those comments are not constructive to a conversation where everybody wants to get together for this meeting to talk about a framework for moving forward."
Finally, if you are Richard Harris of NPR you say,
"Everyone wants a framework for an agreement to come out of this meeting and one that charts out all the key ingredients for a treaty but the US came in here saying they wanted as little detail in that framework as possible, and Europe wanted more detail."
Whose press notes is Harris reading from anyway?

Scott the Talking Horsley

Well dang, seems like two Democrats were missing from the Iowa debate last night. Kucinich and Gravel didn't pass muster for the Des Moines Register because they don't have rented office space for their statewide campaign director. Gravel has pointed out the creepy silence that greets the erased candidate and Scott Horsley gave it his own little ironic spin when he said, "The debate also provided a forum for some of the lesser known candidates in the race." Man, is that rich or what? No mention that Kucinich has garnered more online progressive Democratic support than any other candidate. Even CBS, in covering the exclusion, noted that Kucinich pulls the same national support as Biden or Richardson, and more than Dodd.

NPR joining in this erasure of left-leaning candidates is especially painful given that no votes have been cast, the Iowa vote is just three weeks away, and as Horsley said, "Half the Iowa caucus goers say they're still willing to change their minds about which Democratic candidate to support..."

Wait, wait, don't tell me, how many candidates was that?

"Clop. Clop. Clop. Clop. Clop. Clop."

Oh yeah, six...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

This Is a Pro-Agency Story

That's what John Kiriakou tells Robert Siegel in an interview on ATC tonight. I'm inclined to take him at his word, too. There's something fishy about this whole Kiriakou fellow. Are we really supposed to believe - as he tells Siegel - that he didn't get CIA permission before going public about the waterboarding of Zubaydah? Frankly the whole Kiriakou episode smells of a carefully planned story/leak. When I first heard him on ABC news the other morning, I assumed he was still an active CIA asset (though claiming to be retired), and was getting out the "ticking time bomb" and "torture saves American lives" line because evidence of CIA torture was going to be exposed anyway as relates to the contorted destroyed-tapes story. Who knows?

What I do know is that Seigel's interview was about as compliant, dull and unremarkable as such an interview could be. Seigel obviously did no homework on the Zubaydah case or he might have challenged the absurdity of Kiriakou's claims that "it worked in that case. And I firmly believe that American lives were saved because of it." Siegel could have simply said, "Can you back up that claim with any evidence besides your own words?" He might have asked how a mentally ill prisoner's tortured testimony could possibly have saved lives? He might have asked how Zubaydah's confessions coming about two months after his capture provided actionable intelligence. Or he might have mentioned that another "high value" CIA detainee's torture yielded "information" that has cost thousands of American (and over a million Iraqi) lives!

All these what ifs would assume that Siegel is really interested in getting at the truth. Instead he comes off as either lazy or complicit, letting Kiriakous get away with saying, "this is a pro-Agency story to be honest with you...the agency is a group of very hard working, very patriotic individuals out there all over the world risking their lives every day to make the United States a safer place. It's an intelligence success story." He really said this!

And Kiriakou must have loved being interviewed by someone who lets him end the interview by stating that the Zubaydah case is "something that Americans should be proud of."

Well, I'm not. I'm disgusted by it, and I'm disgusted that NPR can't challenge this stupid Jack Bauer "saved lives" rubbish. Anyone who knows about torture (much of which is sponsored by the US government) knows that there is no "ticking time bomb" scenario; what there is are hundreds of thousands of innocent people subjected to the ultimate tool of state terror - the violation of their bodies and minds. And once in a while, some poor victim of torture may be guilty of some kind of crime, but they are the minuscule exception.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Good Ship Condi Rice

Thanks to readers for noting the revolting homage to Condoleeza Rice served up by Steve Inskeep in his interview with the coward-journalist, Elizabeth Bumiller. Incredibly lapdog Bumiller and Inskeep talk about how unbelievably smart Rice is. Bush (who wowed Bumiller durng Colbert 's finest performance) not only mentors her, but she mentors Bush! That does explain a few things about US foreign policy doesn't it? Not mentioned are the lies of Rice, including that little "mushroom" remark or the bunk about al-Qaeda and Hussein that Rice was still harping on in Sept. of 2006. Good God, listening to NPR's piece, you'd never realize what a failure Rice's career has been.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

This I Know

"Aghast and disgusted" was the reaction of one reader of this blog to Weekend Edition Sunday's broadcast of its "This I Believe" segment. It's an appropriate reaction. The essay, by a war criminal former interrogator at the US-run Guantanamo prison camp should have been left on the editing room floor (or better yet dropped in the garbage). In it the pseudonymous "Alex Anderson" unloads some real doozies:
  • The detainees I worked with were murderers and rapists.
  • Some committed crimes so horrific that I lost sleep wondering what would happen if they were set free.
  • There was one detainee, Mustaf....He'd committed murders and did things we all wished he could take back.
Commentary or not, this is a staggering bunch of rubbish to run on a news show. There is not one shred of sourced evidence to back up these statements. According to the essay, and NPR's website, the woman who wrote and delivered the essay was a US soldier for one year in Iraq, a private contractor there for another six months, and then an interrogator at Guantanamo. (The irony of her focus on rape and murder is painful given her history in Iraq.)

And just in case the torture and abuse you've read about regarding Gitmo have disturbed you, Alex tells us that "many people would be surprised at the civilized lifestyle I experienced in Guantanamo." In this laid back Caribbean resort Alex "began to meet again with my clients, which is what I chose to call my detainees." In fact, for her interrogation sessions she would "meet, play dominoes, I'd bring chocolate and we'd talk a lot." Golly, a real summer camp rap session!

I've never cared much for the "This I Believe" segment; it often seem to be striving a bit too hard for sincerity, even when coming from serial liars like Newt Gingrich and Colin Powell, but this one crossed a line. This I know: at a time when Guantanamo is still a journalistic and legal black hole, this piece is pure propaganda; and to broadcast someone claiming that a specific group of people are murderers and rapists with no available proof is utterly inexcusable. As in the Anne Garrels' torture story , it's as if NPR has lost any sense of basic standards.

Return of the Living Dead

When trying to convince liberal friends and acquaintances that NPR news coverage does not have even the slightest liberal, progressive or leftist tilt, I often ask them to consider the "expert" viewpoints that are given the lion's share of airtime, or to consider how disputed topics are framed. You can bet the house that if the topic is US foreign policy the extent of the debate on NPR news will range from the neocon far-right to centrist Democrat (at best).

A feature on Saturday's ATC is a case in point. Andrea Seabrook interviews "colorful" John Bolton on the Iran 2007 NIE report. Given that NPR has already devoted large blocks of time to making the neocon case for war on Iran (see my posts of Dec. 7, 2007, Nov. 30, 2007, Nov. 3, 2007, Aug. 23, 2007, Aug. 15, 2007, Aug. 1, 2007, etc.), you might hope to hear some reports on the NIE that challenge the administration and neocon assertions regarding Iran. For example has two former NSC members (hardly anti-establishment!) on to dissect Bush dishonesty about "negotiating" with Iran. On the Informed Comment Global Affairs blog independent scholar Farideh Farhi posited that the release of the NIE was timed to strengthen the punitive sanctions case. Perhaps even more telling is Gareth's Porter's pre-release report on the attempt by neocons to alter the report (his analysis seems vindicated by the release and by the strident, disciplined neocon counterattack covered here by Marc Cooper and here by Khody Akhavi.)

Do we get even a sampling of this rich (and revealing) discussion and analysis? Not on NPR news, and then - to add insult to injury - we are subjected to a 7 minute hurl-fest with Andrea Seabrook and John Bolton, where Bolton (getting a whopping 5.5 minutes of blab time) makes his case that the NIE was a putsch against the White House.

Needless to mention that what we have never heard discussed or analyzed on NPR news is the hype and absurdity that underlies the entire case of Iran as dire threat to world peace - nonsense which is nicely disrobed in a video that I found at this Iran information site.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Best Efforts and Doom

I had to catch the top of the hour news summary around 4 pm and hear that Russia is not interested in more sanctions for Iran despite the "best efforts" of Condoleezza Rice. Then I learned that Russia's veto power on the Security Council could "doom" any effort there.

Any gamblers out their want to wager that you will NEVER hear NPR report on a US veto "dooming" a Security Council resolution against Israel.

Oh My God, As Little as a Year...

As the fallout from the NIE report on Iran's lack of a nuclear bomb program as of 2003 dominates the headlines (and don't even look for the virtually unreported details of Iran's nearly complete cooperation with the IAEA), NPR bends over backward this morning to stoke the fires of FEAR. Here's the blow by blow of this little neocon remix from NPR's science reporter, Christopher Joyce.

  • Montagne: "Iranian engineers continue to make uranium fuel....Experts point out that enriching uranium for fuel leaves a big part of the weapons apparatus intact."
  • Joyce: "You make fuel for a nuclear power plant or material for a bomb the same way."
  • Joyce: "...even if Iran has in fact stopped designing a weapon, the enrichment process is really the biggest single step toward making one."
  • Pierre Goldschmidt (being interviewed): "And clearly Iran is still working and making progress on nuclear material production and on delivery systems with their ballistic missiles."
  • Joyce citing Goldschmidt: "He says there's no evidence that Iran has abandoned efforts to get that capability [nuclear weapons capability] and President George Bush noted in his press conference..."
  • Joyce (wrapping up the story): "could take Iranian scientists as little as a year to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb."
What are we waiting for? Let's load up the bunker busters and stop them while there's still time!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


ATC tries extra hard for some oh-so-lighthearted humor on the Iowa campaign trail. Michele Norris chats with Mo Rocca about holding and kissing piglets. The funny thing is that Norris and Rocca botch an opportunity to do a little real journalism during their visit to the small pig farm of Virgine and Reggie Martin in Bridgewater, Iowa.

Probably most interesting story is the one right under Norris' and Rocca's noses. Virgine Martin is an advocate for the small farm and an activist against factory farming. The Martins raise about 600 pigs on their 800 acre farm according to this Radio Iowa link - a small operation which means, according to the Iowa Pork Producers Association, they are a dying breed (in 1978 the average Iowa farm had 250 pigs, whereas by 2002 the average was a whopping 1,518).

There's a lot that NPR could have talked about with the Martins: the health and environmental effects of factory farming, the exploitation of all workers and undocumented workers by the meat industry. Also, NPR might have looked into the cruelties to the animals unleashed by the factory farms.

Obviously, the little picture book image of cute, squealing piglets and aw-shucks Iowans is probably a lot more reassuring to the up and coming crowd that NPR is aiming for. But seriously, it's not just a liberal thing, even former Bush speech writer Matthew Scully is revolted by factory farm animal abuse (and NPR did talk to him waaaaay back in 2002).

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Erasing Candidates

Did anyone else notice that in ATC's coverage of the NPR/Iowa Public Radio debate among Democrats there was nothing about Kucinich and Gravel? That's a shame because the broadcast of the debate ( I heard about an hour of it) was commendable in that all the candidates were given time to respond to the topics and the discussions were interesting.

It seems a real disservice for NPR news to weight coverage of the candidates at this point when not a single vote has been cast. They've essentially taken it on themselves to narrow the field to Clinton, Obama, and Edwards.

Let's Ignore the People Who Live There

"Let's start with the facts," begins Guy Raz on ATC tonight. He's supposedly going to give us the ugly truths about the Afghanistan. He continutes,
"The most suicide bombs since the US invasion, the greatest poppy yield in a decade, the highest level of attacks on NATO and Afghan forces since 2001, and proportional to the size of the force - Afghanistan now produces more US casualties than Iraq. But NATO which is known as ISAT here, the Pentagon, and even the Afghan government - they all believe the long term trends are good."
There's the obvious problem of that "long term trend" wishful thinking...but what struck me about his list of negatives is that there is nothing about the horrid suffering of the Afghani civilians, which in 2007 was a problem: see this from HRW, this from IHT, and this from Marc Herold who has been documenting the Afghan slaughter since the invasion.

Since the beginning of "Operation Enduring Freedom" the US media has had a rather callous attitude toward the civilian suffering in Afghanistan as Marc Herold has pointed consistently

Monday, December 03, 2007

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Robin of Arabia

Sometimes the discourse from respected intellectuals is so smug, ignorant, and self-congratulatory that if it weren't given such serious consideration it would be nothing but laughable blather. But alas, when such junk intellectualism serves to buttress the powerful it gets a lot of traction in the loyalist media. On Weekend Edition Sunday, Liane Hansen talks to Robin Fox, prolific author and anthropologist from Rutgers, about his take on democracy in Iraq which he elaborated in an article, "The Kindness of Strangers," in Harpers (subscribers only).

Liane Hansen opens this piece with a bit of misleading framework: "In the run-up to the Iraq War President Bush argued that toppling Saddam Hussein's regime would enable democracy to take root in the Middle East, but democracy hasn't had an easy time of it there." Let's just be clear, the Johnny Democracyseed storyline was the 2005 Bush attempt to rebrand its debacle in Iraq - and not the original argument for war.

This distortion sets up the basic premise of this interview: that the US is in Iraq to establish democracy, as Fox says we are "wishing it on them." Does anyone with a shred of integrity or intelligence believe this? Hansen and Fox apparently do, and Fox brings a distinctly imperial/racist edge to his analysis, too. Here are a few of his truths:
  • "'s [democracy] a product really of the last few hundred years of very peculiar evolution in northwestern Europe and the vast majority of the world hasn't learned to live this way; it's still living with a tribal mentality."
  • "We've learned the extremely important thing that they never have learned in the Middle East, for example, and that is that when the majority gets the vote, you must hand over power to it. This voluntary relinquishing of power...which seems to us the essence of democracy - how could it work otherwise - just seems like insanity and madness to a great many people in the still tribal world."
It makes me blanch to just repost this stuff. Notice the enlightened "we" contrasted to the tribal "they." What is perhaps most maddening about this interview is how the most obvious and relevant hypocrises of the US role in Iraq and the Middle East are never even mentioned:
It was amusing how Fox uses the movie Lawrence of Arabia as part of his analysis, saying "it's a little, I think, the same in Iraq." He later returns to the film, discussing it as if it were simply history, and not cinematographic storytelling.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Open Thread and Venezuela Reporting

The post that opens this has a minor typo. It notes the date of the transcript as "Saturday Dec. 12, 2007." It should read, "Saturday December 1, 2007."