Saturday, May 31, 2008

Open Thread

It's Saturday. NPR related comments welcomed, as always.

A Provocative Piece

For once, when anti-Muslim/anti-Arab hatemongers in the US lay their ignorant, xenophobic cards on the table, wouldn't it be refreshing if the media (in this case NPR) simply called it out for the racist ideology that it is? Sadly, as Arianna Huffington has pointed out in her latest book, Right is Wrong, the establishment media (such as NPR) have gone to great lengths to accommodate and normalize the most extreme views of the right wing:
"A key to understanding the fanatical Right’s takeover of the Republican Party and how these ideas spread to the rest of the country is looking at the role of the media—not the Fox News pseudo-newsmen or the talk radio blowhards—but the respectable, supposedly liberal media. Without the enabling of the traditional media—with their obsession with “balance” and their pathological devotion to the idea that truth is always found in the middle—the radical Right would never have been able to have its ideas taken seriously."
So when the venomous Michele Malkin and the Little Green Brownshirts Footballs blog attacked Dunkin Donuts for featuring Rachel Ray wearing a scarf that looked like a keffiyah, it would have been great for NPR to put such anti-Arab/anti-Muslim activism in context. Given all the Arab/Muslim bashing in the media, is it any wonder that US torturers at Gitmo have included anti-Islamic tactics in their repertoire, that a Marine was filmed singing an anti-Islamic song, that a US soldier used a Quran for target practice, and that a Marine in Fallujah was evangelizing the locked-down residents of that city with "Christian" coins?

Instead of just naming the anti-Keffiyah attacks as another example of the far-right's strategy of expanding the general Islamophobia that pervades the US, NPR treats it as reasonable, or at best subjects it to some slight ridicule as if it's just harmless overreacting. And so on Thursday's ME we get Robert Smith trying to be funny: "conservative commentators noted that the look was popularized by fashion icon, Yasser Arafat. Perhaps they have uncovered a vast donut conspiracy...." Jamie Tarabay follows up on Thursday's ATC, sadly opening the piece with
"Rachel Ray is one of Dunkin Donuts most prominent spokespeople...there's a provocative piece of black and white clothing draped around her shoulders in one online ad...."
Provocative piece of black and white clothing? I'm sorry but what's "provocative" about it, unless you are walking in lockstep with a bunch of hardcore pro-Zionist, Islamophoic rightwingers? Tarbay's piece does include some criticism of the anti-keffiyah attacks, but overall it presents this latest far-right action as deserving balanced, mainstream consideration. Not surprising really; that was the same premise that underlay the really disturbing NPR "Intelligence Squared" segment I heard in April on whether radicalism dominates Islam (imagine them doing a similarly inflammatory slant on Judaism or Christianity).

Friday, May 30, 2008

Hat Tip

Many thanks to reader Ellen for this great link to Utah Phillip's "Talking NPR Blues" (I think NPR Check has found its fight song). Ironically, I've got to give a nod to NPR for airing a fine tribute to Phillips on Thursday's ATC. Of course "Talking NPR Blues" wasn't mentioned, but Bill Harley who presented the piece included Phillips' radical side, for example noting his aphorism that (take note NPR) "the most radical thing in America is a long term memory."
For more on Phillips see this recording site (where the photo came from) and this tribute (which is part of a great larger project).

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

His or Her Own Truth

It's kind of interesting to hear NPR's take on Scott McClellan's published book about his time as official White House liar. The gist of McClellan's book is that he lied, Cheney lied, Bush lied, and Rove lied - that the Bush Administration was run on propaganda and lies (and that the press went along with it). So how does NPR cover this story?

There were two stories on ATC. The first with Don Gonyea is striking for how it opens with Noah Adams using the current White House frame: "Today the White House called former Press Secretary Scott McClellan 'disgruntled,' and that is because two years after leaving the Bush Administration, McClellan is speaking for himself." I can think of a lot of ways to open the report, and that was definitely not one of them.

Gonyea's report sums up McClellan's book: "says the war was unnecessary and a blunder sold to the country in a way that ruled out any other option....criticizes the press for not being tough enough in the run up to the war. " His report also includes criticism of McClellan from Rove heard on a Fox News clip saying that it 'sounds like a left wing blogger,' and current a statement from White House Press Secretary Perino noting "we are puzzled. It is sad."

Compared to Gonyea's summary, the second report is a real stinker. You might think that the role of a news organization is to find out if the allegations of a disclosure-book are true - do they fit with what can be investigated or is already known? You might expect a report to provide a context, at least noting that the Bush Administration has lied about wiretapping, has lied about its treatment of detainees, etc. Not a chance. Instead NPR turns to a Washington hack reporter, Peter Baker (who spread the Jessica Lynch propaganda, determined that embedding was good for journalism, and felt Bush's private anguish).

In the world of Baker and NPR there is no real truth. There are only individual perceptions. Norris asks Baker " does the version of events described by Scott McClellan...square with what you actually heard on the other side of the podium?" With what you heard on the other side of the podium! Not how does it square with what actually happened - only with what he heard in the White House press room. It gets worse. Baker tells us that truth will emerge, not from hard work and investigation (which he opposes anyway), but
"piece by piece. You know everybody tells his or her own truth as he sees it with his or her own self interest obviously involved.....we have Doug Feith's book...pretty soon Don Rumsfeld' year probably Karl Rove's book....all these together I think you get a broader truth of what was happening inside the White House."
Oh yeah, Feith + Rumsfeld + Rove = TRUTH! How could I have missed that?

Baker sums up this world of shifting reality by noting that "all of us you know, we don't experience life the same way. You and I will remember this interview in somewhat shaded, different ways and that's certainly true of the big decisions that any presidency's involved in."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What Do NPR Hosts and Al Green Have in Common?

On ATC MeeShill Norris says of Al Green, "Listen to that voice. After all these years he still has the magic and when you sit down to talk to him, as I recently did, it's also clear that he's still in love with life, and with the sound of his own voice."

Well, damn! Al should feel right at home with all the NPR yakkers.

Then we get treated to Al Green singing "Michele Norris, Michele Norris..." and MeeShill saying "Man, I never thought I'd hear Al Green singing my name."

That's as far as I could go with this piece. Mercifully, the radio does have an off button.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Killing Your Customers is Such a Bad Business Model

While Jimmy Carter is having a late-in-his-career Ben Franklin moment, denouncing "one of the greatest human rights crimes now existing on Earth," NPR on Tuesday morning scuttles to the high moral commercial ground to argue against the final solution to the Palestinian "problem" in Gaza. Just in case you might think it that wiping out Palestinian civilians through the ghetto tactics of unemployment, starvation, incarceration, lack of medicine, etc. is one of those crimes against humanity like collective punishment, Renee Montagne firmly reminds us that the Palestinians are to blame:

"...since Hamas took over Gaza almost a year ago Israel has frequently shut down the border crossings in response to Palestinian rocket or bombing attacks...."

Later in the report as if reading from the same IDF-approved script, Gradstein says, "the crossings between Israel and Gaza are frequently closed. Israel says that's in response to Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks." I guess the 2003 starvation of Gaza was in response to the Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks that the Israelis knew would be coming in a few years (perhaps the Pre-Cogs told them!)

With blame firmly established, the story focuses on the pain and deprivation that the slow killing of Gaza's residents is having...on Israeli famers! Montagne, not only blames the Gazans in her introduction but also explains that "the ongoing Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip is hurting farmers in Israel...costing Israeli farmers hundreds of thousands of dollars."

I imagine that some of you reading this are still chaffing at my use of the phrase "final solution" above - but, heck, I'll let Gradstein explain:
"Some Israeli politicians are calling on the government to permanently severe ties with Gaza, to completely seal the borders, to cut off electricity and fuel supplies and to stop all exports to Gaza."
If you read that too fast, I'd suggest reading it again - and really taking it in. It's a hell of a statement. If you get a chance you should hear Gradstein reading it on air, giving it the matter-of-fact treatment - as if it were a proposal to increase a sales tax or put in new street lights. Of course if you are like most moral, compassionate human beings you would wonder what this might mean for the already besieged civilians of Gaza. Not NPR, not Gradstein - the next words out of her mouth are "farmers like Eschel and Herzog say that would mean bankruptcy for hundreds of Israeli farmers."

Man, those poor Israeli farmers, better put a little extra something in the next whopping US foreign aid package for Israel.

(Click on image for source.)

The Temple of Dumb

(graphic features Steve, Renee and Bob)

So I had a little problem a week ago with NPR pimping the Indiana Jones movie(s). Since then they've gone at it two more times - last Thursday on ATC and today on ME. Nice advertising NPR.

Open Thread

NPR related comments are welcomed.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Skip the Great Public Piety

NPR insults us again, broadcasting at the top of each hour and during ATC the Occupant's praise of those for whose deaths he is responsible. Enough to make any decent person sick. Even Garrison Keillor can call a spade a spade, noting in his essay "
On Memorial Day we'll hear about men who gave their lives for their country, but many lives were not given, they were taken, and taken stupidly and carelessly. And there has been great public piety about those men and their "sacrifice" on the part of politicians who blithely sacrificed them."
If NPR and the rest of the corporate media had done half their job, the only speech Bush would be giving would be his final statement before being sentenced in in a federal court or The Hague.
BTW, it's interesting to note the disappearance of Joe Galloway, who used to be a regular on NPR.

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Even the Good is Bad

Two short gripes for NPR's weekend coverage:


On Weakened Edition Saturday Michele Kelemen covers the pushed aside role that the US is enjoying in the Middle East. It's a story worth covering as Helena Cobban and Tony Karon have done more ably than NPR could hope to (Kelemen has to turn to "Richard Murphy who was the assistant Secretary of State for the Near East in the Reagan(!!!) years for her severest critic of the Bushist approach to the region.) But even in a critical piece Kelemen opens it with this winner:
"For a Secretary of State who has made Middle East peace a priority this year, Condoleezza Rice is sounding a bit more like an observer than a negotiator..."
Holy crap, if I had a dollar for every time NPR links the name of Bush or Rice to the search for "peace" I'd be as rich as...hmm, I don't know...Kevin Klose ($500,000+).


Ari Shapiro talks to Jacob Soboroff about the Florida election tragedy of 2000. Soboroff actually seems like a nice enough guy with his heart in the right place ( I mean the guy wants elections to be run fairly, and for turnout to be high, etc.) But the focus in this piece is all on the butterfly ballots and hanging chads of the Florida fiasco. There is nothing in this piece - or on Soboroff's Why Tuesday web site for that matter - about the real theft of democracy by the Republican-right that Florida was: the nasty story of removing African American voters, the collusion of Diebold and Choicepoint, and the Republican mob suppression of the recount, the fact that Al Gore actually would have won a statewide recount, etc., etc., etc. Ah, but that is so pre-2001 isn't it?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Open Thread

NPR related comments are always welcomed.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stupid or Dishonest?

I was all set to give a nod of praise to NPR on Thursday morning when they noted that they made a mistake regarding the oath that cadets and faculty take at the Air Force Academy (see my post below). But there was a little problem with their "correction." Renee Montagne said:
"...we mistakenly said cadets quote 'take an oath to support the Commander in Chief.' Members of the military wrote to point out that their oath only calls for them to obey the President not support him."
That's completely untrue. Wednesday morning's NPR report said nothing about an oath "to support" the Commander in Chief. Here's the exact segment in question (again):
"at the Air Force Academy where students and most faculty members take an oath to obey the Commander in Chief."
That's curious, don't you think. Kind of odd to misquote yourself, apologize for the misquote - and then offer a correction that restates what was actually said in the first place!

My reason for posting on this below was two-fold:
  • First, cadets DO NOT take the same oath as enlisted members of the military. There is simply nothing in their oath about the Commander in Chief.
  • Second, the explicit emphasis in the cadet oath - and for that matter in the enlistment and officer's oath - is to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."
And there's the rub. The soul of all military oaths is to support and defend the Constitution (not a person) and anyone with even a bit of brain activity knows who qualifies as the Constitution's greatest enemy - foreign or domestic. One has to admit that it does put active military personnel in a bind: they are sworn to defend the Constitution against its enemies and also to obey the person who is out to gut it - a situation the founders would have found rather shocking.

That brings us back to NPR. Why in God's name would they make such a mind-numbingly stupid error? Either their staff and host are utter incompetents or the "mistake" wasn't an error at all, but a tactic for reinforcing the anti-Constitutional Commander in Chief worship/allegiance that has so run amok of late.

Cuba Calling

"President Bush today challenged the Cuban government to make good on its apparent commitment to reform," says Michele Norris on Wednesday's ATC. She's not kidding. I guess poor Mee-shill doesn't see the irony of the head coach of Team Torture calling for reform on the little island where said team has one of its most notorious little workout camps. Norris finishes her opening lines with "Bush said he would allow Americans to send cell phones to Cubans." That's pretty rich, too. I wonder if it might be some of those same phones that the Decider had tracked while he trashed our quaint little Constitution - and got away with it?

I know, I know - I'm such a fuddy-duddy when it comes to our Bill of Rights. What really matters, according to Tom Gjelten, is "The issue of how the United States can support democracy in Cuba under the changing conditions there..." Democracy...seriously...just like in Haiti, Nicaragua, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, etc.

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


(Creepy image is from the National Guard)

I was listening to Adam Hochberg's report this morning about the (mainly) faculty revolt against Pres. Bush being the invited commencement speaker at Furman University. Seemed like a decent enough report with airtime given to those opposed to and in support of Bush's coming address. However at the tail end of the story came this:
"In addition to speaking at Furman, President Bush is scheduled to deliver another commencement address this month, but it's very unlikely there'll be protesters at that one. It's at the Air Force Academy where students and most faculty members take an oath to obey the Commander in Chief."
Interesting...only yesterday I read Ray McGovern's "Open Appeal to Admiral William Fallon (USN ret.)" published on Common Dreams on Tuesday. In it he notes:
"Two years ago I lectured at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. I found it highly disturbing that, when asked about the oath they took upon entering the academy, several of the “Mids” thought it was to the commander in chief. This brought to my mind the photos of German generals and admirals (as well as top church leaders and jurists) swearing personal oaths to Hitler. Not our tradition, and yet…..

I was aghast that only the third Mid I called on got it right — that the oath is to protect and defend the Constitution, not the president."
The Constitution, not the president! As he points out, the semantics carry weighty implications - especially when the Commander in Chief has shown such contempt for the Constitution. I looked at the oath at the Naval Academy and wondered if the Air Force Academy has one in which obedience is sworn to the Commander in Chief. Definitely not; here it is, right from the Air Force Academy's website:
"I, (name), having been appointed an Air Force cadet in the United States Air Force, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."
No Commander of Chief anywhere to be seen (even West Point's Cadet Oath makes no reference to the Decider).

I'm planning to write a polite letter to NPR, urging them to issue an on the air correction. We'll see...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Open Thread

NPR related comments are always welcomed.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Numbskull News

Listening to Monday ATC's two (count 'em: one - two!) commercials stories related to the about to be released Indiana Jones movie it dawned on me why NPR hasn't been able to cover those other silly stories like the West Coast Longshoreman's anti-war strike on May 1st (NPR's non-coverage), last week's Winter Soldier testimony before Congress (more NPR non-coverage), and the US War on Terror™ version of NCLB (more non-coverage...wait, NPR did cover the free schooling that kid-prisoners in Iraq are getting - I hope they are making AYP).

With an Indiana Jones movie coming out, no wonder these stories get bumped. First it takes a bit of lead up to get to the opening week: a September teaser; deep, archetypal analysis to consider, a little Cannes teaser, a canned Cannes review, then finally Monday's All Things Consumerist one-two finale. There was the "research news" bit on phony Aztec skulls and then the hard hitting piece on the marketing strategy of Lego and Lucas Films as they generate hype (and money) for the coming movie.

If I have my way, NPR's story on Lucas and Lego should be in line for a Peabody. Norris begins the piece with "Lucas Films has had a long and successful partnership with Lego...the two companies are using Legos as what you might call a 'gateway drug' to get kids interested in the movie." (Gateway drug? I'm seeing a new ad campaign for NPR news: "Your Gateway Drug to Cable News.") Norris hands off the story to the capable Nancy Mullane who tells us:
  • of mall shoppers who "watch a Lego designer construct an 8 foot R2D2 entirely out of Lego bricks."
  • of one shopper whose "son has been saving his allowance and last week he bought his first Indiana Jones theme set, 'The Jungle Duel' for $9.99...interest started when Indy showed up in the middle of a Legos Star Wars video game."
  • "at first the two companies collaborated on the Star Wars Lego play-sets, offering a winged fighter and Lego characters Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, but Indiana Jones was another story"
  • "the campaign is working; kids are craving it."
  • that the earlier boy-shopper "wants to buy one of the larger theme sets, it's called 'Race for the Stolen Treasure,' and it costs $29.99, so he's going to start saving for it..."

Look out Barbaro, I think Indiana Jones may have pushed you out of the headlines.

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

And They're Off!

Whew, the Little Laptop that Could is back on NPR on Friday morning. All right, seems that INTERPOL has determined that the computers seized in Colombia's raid on a FARC camp in Ecuador have files that were not tampered with. Notice how the BBC covers it:
  • "Interpol certified the authenticity of the files, not their contents..."
  • "Interpol head Ronald Noble said his team had not analysed the information contained on the drives....he was quick to stress that the fact that the files had not been tampered with did not prove that the information contained within them was totally accurate."
  • "But the files use codes and aliases throughout and nowhere is Mr Chavez mentioned by name."
NPR is a little less restrained:
Renee Montagne gets it rolling with "...the international police agency INTERPOL is backing charges by Colombia that computers seized from rebels show that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been supplying those Colombian rebels with weapons."
Juan Forero then pours it on:
  • " how Venezuela's populist government offered guerrillas help in obtaining surface to air missiles and rocket propelled grenade launches...Interpol announced that the computer files were authentic"
  • "major topic among rebel commanders was the increasingly friendly ties with Chavez's government and the aid Chavez was willing to provide"
  • Forero includes Sean McCormick of the State Department saying that Venezuela's government is "supplying arms and support to a terrorist organization."
  • Forero also notes ""four intelligence officials interviewed in Bogota say Colombian forces have confiscated" Venezuelan provided weapons.
  • He also interviews a "young man who recently deserted" who states that "the one who supplies arms to us [FARC] is the Venezuelan government."
Kind of makes you wonder who's writing the script at NPR, doesn't it? But what else could you expect?

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

The Apology that Wasn't from the Story That Isn't

A little flashback to Tuesday ATC's story on Rev. Hateful Hagee's apology and it's acceptance by the William Donohue, President of the Catholic League of Rightwing Bigotry and Hate. Here's Michelle Norris' report:
"...a controversial supporter of Senator McCain's issued an apology today. It came from John Hagee, and evangelical pastor. McCain sought his endorsement earlier this year despite Hagee's habit of making comments that many find offensive....But now the pastor has sent a letter to the head of the Catholic League, William Donohue, expressing quote 'deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful.' Donohue quickly issued a statement accepting the apology and he wrote, 'This case is closed.' Senator McCain...called Hagee's letter helpful."
Norris puts in some nifty rhetorical slights of hand. She simply calls it an apology (even though it's a typical non-apology). She also qualifies Hagee's slimy bigotry as "comments that many find offensive" and she simply notes Donohue's acceptance without any information about Donohue's extreme right-wing anti civil liberties bona fides and allows his "case closed" pronouncement to stand unchallenged.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

No Comment Needed

Thursday Morning Edition's coverage of Bush in the Knesset:
"...another thing linking the US and Israel is concern over Israel's neighbor, Iran, and its nuclear ambitions."
"Well the speech was part the two countries have this unbreakable bond and that the US will always stand behind Israel and that includes in opposing Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions. He said that letting Tehran atomic weapons...."
"...and one of the reasons why the President is here is he's trying to push along negotiations towards a peace deal between Israelis and the Palestinians."
"last night there was this lavish event at a convention center and Mr. Bush and the First Lady received a standing ovation and the Israelis just heaped praise on him and the US."
And then on Thursday's ATC:
"and one reason for his visit to this area is to push the two sides to make more progress in their negotiations."
"...the President said terrorist groups are driven by power...and he dismissed the argument the US should try to negotiate with them..." [Bush talking about the unsourced Sen. William E. Borah quote 'Lord if I could only have talked to Hitler'] President Bush said that was the false comfort of appeasement which has been repeatedly..."
See if you can tell where Bush ends and Northam begins...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

To the Heart

On Tuesday morning NPR's Renee Montagne talks to Michael Oren, who "served as an officer in the Israel Defense Forces, in the paratroopers in the first Lebanon War, and as a liaison with the U.S. Sixth Fleet during the Gulf War, and an army spokesman in the second Lebanon War Center" (definitely not a militant!) NPR innocuously identifies him as "a senior fellow at the Shalem Center." Montagne lets Oren spread the BuSh with nary a whimper. He states that "Israel faces existential challenges: a threat from a rapidly nuclearizing Iran, from Hizbollah and Hamas terrorists..." and he's not joking! Toward the end Montagne gets deep: "Just a personal question to you...what do you personally hope to see in your lifetime?" Oren responds, laying it on how "Israel is an extraordinary success story; there's really nothing like it...grew out of the ashes of the Holocaust."

To "balance" Tuesday's discussion Montagne is back on this morning, Wednesday, to interview Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian columnist and scholar. You know it's going to be an NPR special when it begins with "President Bush arrived in Israel this morning in hopes of reviving the Middle East peace process." After a few modest questions about Kutab's memories of Jerusalem in the 1950s, Montagne closes with this doozy: "Just a last question, and this one is in a sense to the heart. If you can speak for Palestinians, how much sympathy is there for people, the Jews, who lost so many and so much before they found a homeland in 1948? Is there sympathy, or is 60 years of loss for the Palestinians, has that made that sort of something impossible?"

Think of the questions she might have asked:
  • "Do Palestinians still have any hopes of achieving peace with a nation that has stolen their land, tortured them, slaughtered them by the thousands, etc.?"
  • Or "Does it seem ironic that a nation that uses the Holocaust to justify its existence, treats Palestinians with such violence, brutality and racism?
  • Or how about simply "How on earth have Palestinians maintained their humanity in the face of such empty promises of "peace" from the US, Israel, and even its own corrupt leaders?"
Oh my, those questions might ruffle a few feathers here in USAIPAC. Instead Renee opts to reach in "to the heart" and rips it right out.

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pushing for Peace

So Bush, with his anti-Midas touch of bringing war, death and misery to everything he touches, is off on a Mideast tour. Inskeep tells us Tuesday morning that "This is the day that President Bush travels to Jerusalem...The President will also be trying to make peace...NPR's Jackie Northam reports on the President's efforts to make progress before he runs out of time." Bush making peace and progress! Seriously, one has to be a liar or a fool to repeat such nonsense. Of course this complete acceptance of the Bushists as "peacemakers" is nothing new on NPR, where Sec. of State Rice is a "peace pusher" and Bush has "big goals" for the region.

NPR's coverage of Israel's expansionism has a brutal Groundhog Day repetition to it. As in the past the range of opinion stretches from what the State Department thinks to what the State Department thinks. Jackie Northam produces the report and here's the diverse range of expert opinions she offers us:
  • Stephen Hadley, Bush's National Security Adviser who talks about the US commitment to Israel, to which Northam adds that "as part of that commitment President Bush will continue to push for peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians...."
  • Jon Alterman who as his bio mentions "served as a member of the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State and as a special assistant to the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs." This genius actually wrote the following this January: "Bush’s dedication to the theme of freedom in the Middle East is genuine. In his formulation, appreciation for the rights of the individual in the Middle East would expand liberty, undermine extremism, and enhance the security of Americans, Arabs, and others." Now that is some hard hitting scholarship, eh?
  • Aaron David Miller (again) who informs us that "the US has to keep pushing both sides...Because if they (the Bushists) don't hand something off, the next President will walk away from this issue as quickly as George W. Bush walked away initially" (once again the same junk about Bush "walking away" from the Israel/Palestine conflict.)
I wish the misery and sadistic violence that the US and Israel keep heaping on the Palestinians didn't exist. Then there might be some humor to this repetitious charade of Bush and Rice pushing for peace in the Middle East, but I have to say it really just makes me sick at heart. Honestly, how much longer will NPR keep up this myth of a "peace process" or even the mirage of a two state solution, when everything that the US and Israel have been doing over the past 15 years has been to destroy any such solution?

(graphic is from the Bush's talk with the BBC where he says, regarding Iran and Syria, "So what's there to negotiate. They know my position.")

Monday, May 12, 2008

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Secret Tapes

What a scoop! In my super-secret, cyber-strong inbox, I received the official transcripts of the meeting between an anonymous NPR producer and Kathy Lohr as they worked out the details for yesterday's Morning Edition feature feature story on a 56 year old Vietnam Vet, newly recruited for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here's an edited version:

(WARNING: The excerpts in large bold italics are actual excerpts from the feature that NPR ran on Friday morning.)

(Producer): Kathy, you know my buddies in the Pentagon feel like we're not doing enough to support the war effort. They've loved our pieces on Army Strong, aircraft, drones, and counterinsurgency, but they're a little peeved at Danny Boy's poking into the post-war treatment of vets and said it's hard on the old recruiting efforts. So I told 'em, we've sent Dan as far away from veteran hospitals as we could, and that I thought you might come through with a feel-good gung-ho piece yourself - any ideas?

Lohr: Funny you should ask. I've got a great lead on a Georgia Vietnam Vet who, get this, is reenlisting at the age of 56. I think I could spin this baby faster than a stop loss turnaround! It'd be a great boost for prettying up the Vietnam War with its lies and millions of civilian dead. I can just hear our guest saying "I stood tall in a place of hell with other Americans doing a job that no one else wanted to do. I have no regrets. I'd do it all over again you know. That's what it's all about." I'll be careful to avoid the irony that anyone would be stupid enough to want to join in another illegal, immoral war based on lies and causing over a million deaths (because we definitely don't do that around here).

Producer: But Kathy, the guy's 56. Don't you think he's a bit too old to project the All-American Super Warrior image we want?

Lohr: No, no, no. That's the beauty of it; it'll be the he's old but "more than ready" storyline. I'll be sure to mention his "infectious smile" and that "he's a take-charge kind of guy." We'll get a lot of details about his physical prowess in there, stuff like "in the two minutes allotted for each exercise this 56 year old completes 47 push-ups and 60 sit-ups" and how in a 2-mile run "Owens finishes in 17 and a half minutes then he drops, does another 25 push-ups and runs back to encourage others." God, I get hot just thinking about it!

Producer: Yeah, sweet. I like it. A story like this will help blunt all the bad poll numbers that keep dogging the Decider and the Iraq War. Beautiful.

Lohr: Thanks. I thought you'd like it. And I see it ending on an upbeat call to arms for the glorious struggles in Afghanistan and Iraq. I'll be sure that I mention that "This new, or should I say old, recruit is ready to be back in the thick of things." I'll have to be careful that we actually have him saying, "My intention is to be on the front lines with them and supporting the war effort the best I can," - wouldn't want listeners to think that was me saying that!

Producer: We'll get our web people to put up a real GI Joe kind of page on this war hero, and have Renee remind listeners "To see Tom Owens as he aces his PT test, go to" If we do this right, I'm thinking that old guy ain't the only one in line for medals from the Pentagon.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Open Thread

NPR related comments are always welcomed.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A Balance of Generals - Fair and Balanced Explanation, part II

If you haven't looked at NPR's ombudsman's page explaining NPR's participation in the Pentagon domestic propaganda program, its worth a look. There are a few problems: as mentioned in my post below, NPR simply claims no major distortions took place, and then treats its own assertions as evidence. For example Ombudsman Shepard writes, "While Scales and Rhame may not have been vetted by NPR, it doesn't appear that either had any glaring business conflicts." She later adds, that "both Gjelten and NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman say Scales does not spout the Pentagon's line." Holy crap! I guess if Colorful Gjelten and Hummin' Tom Bowman say it, then it's just got to be true.

Perhaps the most glaring - and unaddressed - aspect of the ombudsman's piece is how it reveals the overwhelming dominance of pro-US military/Pentagon representatives on NPR. Shepard mentions that General Scales of the NYT's report "appeared on different NPR news shows - a total of 36 times in 2003, including 11 times during NPR special news reports in first days of the war" and "since February 2003, he has been on NPR 67 times, most often (28 appearances) on All Things Considered (ATC)." Shepard also refers to yet another retired general NPR hired, Thomas Rhame, and writes that "Rhame has appeared on NPR news shows 48 times -- 43 of them in 2003."

I can understand why NPR might consult an ex-general or two when the country goes to war - but where was any counter-balance to the generals. During the time periods mentioned, did we get to hear from dissenters and leaders of the anti-war movement? Did we get 67 or 48 appearances from the likes of Kathy Kelly, Chalmers Johnson, Noam Chomsky, Scott Ritter, Daniel Ellsberg...etc? How about 30 times, or 20 times? Not a chance.

This complete reliance on US military and security insiders is well illustrated in the lousy reporting on Tuesday's Morning Edition. In one story, Inskeep talks to a West Point analyst, Brian Fishman, about al-Qaeda's Zawahiri answering questions on the web. Of Zawahiri's Q&A tactic Fishman notes "You know this is a fascinating technique. It's not the first time it's been used by an insurgent or a militant organization that we've seen." And Inskeep smugly reminds us, "Now we should mention that this is not a free and open debate. He's choosing which questions to take on and which ones to ignore." I had to laugh at both comments since it made me think of another extremist who took on staged questions and the fate that befell those who weren't part of the script.

Later Guy Raz looks into the US Army's internal debate regarding counterinsurgency. The reporting is strictly limited to members or retired members of the armed forces, and as always, NPR doesn't refer to any of the long, shameful history of US counterinsurgency operations that have tortured and killed millions since WWII.

Perhaps if NPR cut its addiction to generals and former generals they'd actually start asking questions of those in power and challenging the official line. Then instead of covering a debate only after it breaks out in the Pentagon, they'd start the debate themselves. Or NPR could do the hard, slogging investigative work of exposing the US government's exploitation and lies regarding the death of a famous soldier instead of following the story only after his mother has done all the work that they should have been doing all along.

Investigative reporting...challenging those in power? I know, it's a wacky idea.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

NPR's Fair and Balanced Explanation

Back in April NPR was caught with its Pentagon pants down. Seems one of NPR's favorite military analysts was the Foxy retired general and war profiteer, Robert Scales. As the NPR Ombudsman has noted Scales is a frequent voice on NPR. She relates that "Scales appeared on different NPR news shows -- a total of 36 times in 2003...." and "Since February 2003, he has been on NPR 67 times, most often (28 appearances) on All Things Considered (ATC)."

I wondered how NPR would handle this embarrassing revelation, and its now clear that it has opted for a page right out of the Bush playbook: do an in-house review and declare yourself innocent, or even worse, declare yourself justified. And so David Folkenflik declares on the May 1, 2008 edition of All Things Considered:
"Duffy also says Scales did nothing wrong, and that a review of his remarks, in which he was often critical of progress in Iraq, found he wasn't unduly influenced by the Pentagon."
Duffy happens to be Brian Duffy, managing editor of NPR news and his statement is quite a piece of work. So what disinterested third party conducted the review? NPR of course! - convenient, isn't it? And where is one shred of evidence to support Duffy's self-serving claim that Scales "was often critical of progress in Iraq" and "wasn't unduly influenced by the Pentagon"? I did quite a bit of snooping around in NPR's archives and found nothing. But I did find some very typical bits of Scales "useful analysis to our listeners" (to use Duffy's earlier words):
  • January 28, 2003 (as the US prepared to invade Iraq it was having trouble finding allies): (Scales) "the United States, militarily, is far more powerful....we already have bases in the region....and we're also facing a military situation that is a lot less daunting now than it was in 1991. So the need for allies or coalition partners to add overwhelming force is much less than it was." This is followed by Tom Gjelten who states that "Scales, a former commandant of the Army War College, argues that a smaller coalition this time may even work to the US' advantage." [This had to be music to Rumsfeld's ears; less than two months later he was quite the defensive secretary over the world's tiniest coalition.]
  • April 6, 2004 (the security situation in Iraq was fast unraveling for the US ): Eric Westervelt reported that Scales "says the US may have adequate numbers, but not the right type of troops, General Scales says it may be time for the US to create several large specialized quick reaction forces to respond more effectively to trouble spots. [Scales speaking] 'You need a sort of strategic reaction force that's able to respond to these types of emergencies and to pile on in these areas to try to quell the violence and normally that requires large doses of close combat and maneuver soldiers...' "
  • On November 8, 2004 as the US was launching its thorough destruction of Fallujah Scales says of the US assault "They're going to do several things...establish an airtight seal...prep the battlefield... artillery and aircraft dropping relatively small bombs to take out very discreet, very surgical targets in the city such as command and control." Scales, using the same language that Marine General John Sattler used on the eve of the destruction of Fallujah, states that "...the whole purpose of this assault is to break the back of the enemy resistance and principally to attempt to capture the foreign fighters who are the ones who are sort of leading the defense..."
  • On April 19, 2006, during the period when many retired generals were denouncing Rumsfeld's handling of all aspects of the Iraq war and occupation , Scales defends Rumsfeld, agreeing with Rumsfeld that the criticisms were about long term changes in the military. Scales says, "Well, uh, uh, certainly, the secretary has been an instrument of change. I don't think any of us doubt that. But I also contend that the change in the army began before he came on the scene." He goes further claiming that "This is not about Mr. Rumsfeld. This is not about disgruntled generals, it's really about what's in the national interest and that's where our focus was Steve. I mean the real question is to get on with the war, to look forward instead of backward and to figure out where we're going and to establish a secure Iraq that's defined by a free market economy, representative government, and most of all security."
  • On November 27, 2006 when the Iraq War exceeded the length of the US involvement in WWII, Scales had absolutely nothing critical to say about the conduct of the war, but instead launched into a paean for army sergeants ("They are the soul of our army, the glue that bonds fighting units together....) and a bit of nonsense about the post Vietnam war army ("...after Vietnam I saw my army collapse, broken, disheartened and abandoned by the American people. But this army isn't broken, at least not yet, why?)
So where is all that "critical of progress," "useful analysis" that Duffy touts? Hmm, I think somebody is not telling the truth...

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Barbaro Cult

With the Kentucky Derby looming I almost jokingly posted a "Barbaro Watch" this week, but I thought, "Come on don't be so snarky." Well, what do you know, this morning Scott Simon and NPR are back on the Saint Barbaro obsession.

You think I exaggerate? Take a look at the saturation coverage NPR gave Barbaro shortly after his demise. They weren't done with it, either; they followed it up with a Name Barbaro's Brothers Contest. Somehow, I missed even more Barbaro coverage last May (notice the long list of "Related NPR stories" beneath the summary of the report).

Friday, May 02, 2008

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Magic Kingdom, Magic Thinking

These are sad days for satire. How can you satirize building a Disneyland in Baghdad... seriously! Well, instead of going on about how sorry and sad it is that NPR just gobbles up this DOD sham, lets just run with it ourselves. Take a look at this Disneyland Park Attractions link to see a listing of all the wholesome fun to be had at Disneyland. Then let's see what we can offer NPR and their Dept. of Defense buddies for some rollicking attractions at the new Baghdad Disneyland. I'm thinking of Dick Cheney's Wild Ride or Honey I Shrunk the Population.

Post your ideas in the comments section.

After all, as Llewellyn Werner, chairman and shyster of C3, is quoted on NPR's report, "I'm a business man. I'm not here because I think you're nice people. I think there's money to be made here" (or was that the speech Bush gave on the eve of the invasion).

What Mistakes? What Agitators?

NPR's Carrie Kahn continues working damage control for the notorious LAPD. Back in January it was just a communication problem that caused the kindly LAPD to beat the crap out of demonstrators, whereas a few tardy days after the event the coverage was weak in spite of the fact that a local NPR reporter was attacked in the march.

So on the one year anniversary of the march and police attack Inskeep tells us that "This year the police say they've learned from their mistakes."

From there Kahn 's launches in with
"Today's march will undoubtedly start like last year's with the usual rallying cry [march sounds] however, police insist it won't end the same [march sounds, sirens] after being pelted with rocks and bottles by a small group of agitators, riot clad LAPD officers used batons and rubber bullets to disperse the thousands."
Call me skeptical, but where is the eyewitness, video, or photographic evidence of "agitators" provoking the police? As Tom Hayden points out, this storyline is exactly what the LAPD wants to have sold to the public.

Open Thread

Mayday! May Day!
NPR related comments go here.
Mission Accomplished...