Monday, June 30, 2008

Follow the Leader

Someone needs to tell NPR News that their role is to question, push, probe and investigate those who wield power - not wait those in power investigate themselves, and then go after the story. Then it's too late. The Army report on the Iraq War is a case in point. Where was NPR in 2002 when the Bushists were ramping up the sell job on the war, in 2003 as the illegal invasion announcement was being made by the Aznar, Blair and Bush troika in the fricking Azores, in 2003 as the first ugly stories of US-British torture began leaking out of Iraq, in 2003 when Jay Garner was shown the door, etc....?

So now we get Andrea Seabrook talking to the discredited Ret. General Sanchez and revealing their racist attitudes toward those killed in the war (see below), and on Monday morning Guy Raz talks to - you guessed it - more discredited generals. Amazingly, one of his primary sources is Robert Scales, the same shill for the Pentagon propaganda program and war profiteer that NPR got busted for, and - despite NPR's promise to reveal such connections - no mention is made of Scales' scandalous background. Raz also talks to surgin' Jack Keane (an AEI and Bush right-winger and a big counterinsurgency cheerleader.)

I'm not suggesting that it's not reasonable to talk to some generals about a self-critical Army report, but it's the same closed bubble that was revealed in the NPR Ombudsman's response the Pentagon propaganda scandal: NPR is dominated by military spokespeople, many of whom have been thoroughly discredited. It's especially ironic that compared to these military/security talking heads, we almost never hear from the people who were right all along on the war - not now, but back in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006....

Some Animals are More Equal Than Others

(link to great illustration for the title)
Andrea Seabrook talks to Ret. General Sanchez, and of course says nothing about his responsibility and lies regarding torture at Abu Ghraib, but she does confront him with some lives that are worth more than other lives:
"It is so easy to talk about, for both of us, to talk about the civilian mistakes, the military mistakes and so on, but we have to remember that there were so many US military lives lost during this period that the army is now admitting mistakes were made in. How do you read this report if you're a parent or wife or a husband of someone who was lost during this time?"
True enough, the thousands of US lives lost and tens of thousands severely injured for an immoral, illegal war, are horrible - but what about the 250 Iraqis who have died for every 1 US military life lost? Oh them? Are they actually human? Not in NPR world...

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cut and Pasted

This past Wednesday, I contacted the NPR Ombudsman's office with a polite, but thorough critique of NPR's customary unsubstantiated, uncorroborated parroting of the US-NATO military press releases regarding killings that coalition forces have carried out. I included quite a few links to make the case that such releases are often false, or at least contradicted by local sources.

Well, Ms. Holley Simmons at the Ombudsman's office must have sat at the keyboard and entered a few words in her trusty template which apparently is constructed as follows:

Dear [_______________],

Thank you for contacting the NPR Ombudsman. Our office invites you to sign up to have the weekly Ombudsman column sent to you. Enter your email address where prompted on the right-hand side of our webpage at

As for your email, we appreciate your thoughts regarding NPR's coverage of [___________].

Making decisions about covering the events that impact our everyday lives is never easy. We make every attempt to ensure that the segments and stories you hear on NPR programming, and the attention devoted to them, are valid and appropriate.

We welcome praise, as well as criticism, and your thoughts will be taken into consideration.

Holley Simmons
Office of the Ombudsman

That was it. In the first blank was my name, of course; and in the second blank Simmons typed in "the air strikes in Afghanistan." Now that was a day's work! Whew, quite a thoughtful, well reasoned response - and the personal touch was just heart warming. I just can't wait to sign up for the "weekly Ombudsman's column" - just what my junk mail folder needs...

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Yes, kids, if you had your handy Family Radiation Measurement Kit set up next to next to the radio Friday evening you would have realized that you'd been exposed to more lethal radiation than these dummies at a test site (great source!).

Though it's no news that there is a real risk of non-state terrorists eventually setting off a nuclear device in the US (e.g. Chomsky has repeatedly commented on this issue and the Union of Concerned Scientists has noted this problem, too). So, you might ask yourself why, just as the presidential election election race is heating up, does NPR decide to dedicate a story focused on the "possibility of a single relatively primitive bomb set off by terrorists in a U.S. city that could potential kill hundreds of thousands of people"? David Kestenbaum tells us:
"....the Cold War is over. No one worries about thousands of megaton bombs wiping out the country. No, the concern now is a single much smaller bomb, like the one dropped on Hiroshima. Til Jolly with the Department of Heimat Homeland Security set the tone: 'there are those who would like to do this to us. Is it likely? I don't know'..."
Actually, NPR could have done quite an interesting program on the nuclear threat, including the fact that though the Cold War is over, there is still a grave threat from an accidental exchange as nearly happened in January of 1995. Regarding non-state terrorism and nuclear weapons, they might have looked at how nuclear non-proliferation is a key to reducing the chance for such an event, and how recent US policy is going away from non-proliferation and has undermined the NPT. Another key would be making US foreign policy less violent and aggressive, thereby reducing the conditions that encourage the growth of terrorist tactics and ideologies - something the Bush administration has been exceptionally inept at.

Could have, might have...instead NPR chose to do a simple FEAR! report: "There coming!" "They'll set off a nuclear weapon!" "Oh My God!" "Hundreds of thousands dead!" "The White House vaporized." The hell with FISA! Who needs habeus corpus? No time for inexperience. What we need is a Strong Leader, any suggestions?

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Them Funny Furiners

Those nutty ex-commie Romanians - zey arr zo bakvard. Tee hee. Even slavic sounding music sounds crazy! To think their lawmakers are requiring radio and TV stations to have at least half their news be "up beat." I wonder if a story like this one or "Uncle Wiggly Wings" would count. Uncle Wiggly Wings! God knows we don't want listeners getting bummed out with stories about US pilots dropping something besides candy on children! Har, har...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

America's Fighting Prowess

On Wednesday morning, NPR's Tom Bowman covers two military advisers to McCain and Obama, Richard Armitage and Richard Danzig respectively. After describing Richard Danzing briefly, here's Bowman talking about Armitage:

" contrast Armitage is a blunt and forceful man with a shaved head, a Vietnam combat veteran, who lifts weights and runs an international consulting company. Armitage and McCain share a bond of military service - in an earthy sense - of America's fighting prowess [voice of Armitage comes in] 'notwithstanding high tech weapon systems, it's only an infantryman with a bayonet who can take and hold ground and bend an enemy to our will' and it's that infantryman - rather 150,000 of them currently holding ground in Iraq that separates McCain and Obama more than anything else..."
It is a telling piece of "reporting" - more for what we don't find out than for what we do. First, there is no mention that Armitage most recently was in the news because he was at the heart of the Plame leak scandal. That's just the start, though. Notice the euphemism of "runs an international consulting company." That's the polite way of saying he's a blunt and forceful war profiteer, and part of his long lucrative career was his connection to CACI, identified as one of the main operatives in the Abu Ghraib scandal. There is no mention of his active role in the Project for a New American Century, and - further back in time - his involvement in Iran-Contra and possible connections to covert action related drug-dealing.

Yes, I know this all does take a bit of the shine of that imposing skinhead of his. And that BS about "notwithstanding high tech weapon systems" and "an infantryman with a bayonet" - I think we know which one Armitage has parlayed into his tidy millions. Frankly there's something uber-creepy about that "bend an enemy to our will" stuff - a whiff of the waffen (if restricted try here, and scroll down near the bottom) in that one might say. But that's not going to stop Tom Bowman from linking it right up with the "150,000 of them currently holding ground in Iraq." Zounds! Holding what fricking ground, if I might be so bold to ask?

  • Another drawback of NPR's scant use of substance in its reports is how a little research might actually make a story more nuanced and interesting. Given that the thrust of NPR's report is how different Armitage/McCain and Danzig/Obama view the idea of withdrawing US troops, Bowman could have asked Armitage about his new change of views (a little over a year and a half ago, he was leading the call for withdrawal and stating his mea culpa on starting the war). That would be interesting.

An Endless Supply of Militants

Sickened and frustrated, I sent the following to the Ombudsman:
Dear Ombudsman,

This morning at 8am ET, your newscaster Giles Snyder read the following report during the hourly news summary:
"In eastern Afghanistan, airstrikes have killed at least 22 militants. The US led coalition says Afghan police called for help when Taliban gunmen attacked government offices in two separate towns in Paktika province last night. A provincial governor says surviving militants fled toward the Pakistani border."
As a member of my local NPR affiliated station, I am requesting NPR to be more professional in its reporting and stop its usual practice of repeating as fact claims that are made by US military authorities in Iraq and by US-NATO authorities in Afghanistan.

You must know that the credibility of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan has been proven to be lacking. The McClatchy News service has recently confirmed that the US military practiced the systematic use of torture for nearly two years early in the Afghanistan War. Also the Afghanistan War has been marked from the start by high levels of civilian casualties from US airstrikes, numbers which the US military has denied. It was only last May and June that media attention was focused on the extremely high numbers of civilian deaths in Afghanistan and the US and NATO's reluctance to admit their responsibility.

You also must know that disputes over US-NATO claims about its airstrikes in Afghanistan have not diminished. A brief look at RAWA, a respected Afghan women's advocacy group, reveals stories on June 11, 2008, June 14, 2008, and June 23, 2008 that call into question the credibility of US-NATO authorities regarding their actions in Afghanistan.

I know you must be very busy and I'm not assuming you will have a chance to read all the links I've included in this letter, but I felt it was important to convey to you that this is not just a matter of opinion and perception. NPR is practicing poor journalism and doing its listeners a grave disservice by repeatedly restating the statements of US-NATO military authorities as if they were factual.

If NPR is going to persist in broadcasting the statements of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, it is essential that these statements be qualified by disclaimers such as "Previous coalition assertions frequently have been inaccurate or disputed by witnesses," or "Our staff were unable to independently confirm any of these figures through observation or interviews."

Thank you for your time, and you should be aware that I am posting this letter, and any response I receive, on my blog, NPR Check.
We'll see what comes of it...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Breakfast of Champions

Today's menu on Morning Edition was remarkably similar to yesterday's menu. There's more patriotic feasting on the war dead and their relatives served up yet again with gobs of syrup. But wait, today's offering had a bit of a twist: a bit of pungent sausage starts things off. Renee Montagne was waiting tables and though it was the same old rotten sausage as before, we got a a real Support for the Troops™ treat!
Montagne: "We begin in Bangor, Maine where American soldiers have stopped as they head overseas...At the terminal in Bangor the outbound soldiers have a last chance to call loved ones. It's also an opportunity for a group of volunteers to show their support for the troops....Bill Knight and his fellow volunteers have greeted more than 670,000 troops in the years since the Gulf War began. He's a veteran and he remembers soldiers being heckled when they returned from Vietnam; now he says he's there to give soldiers top notch treatment.
If this tasty brunch left you hungry, don't worry; at NPR's Homeland Buffet it's all you can eat, all the time.

Like a Hit and Run for Health

The "news" summaries this morning were just packed with information. Here was Eleanor Beardsley reporting on Sarkozy's trip to the Middle East:

"With fears that the US drive for peace will slow down as November's election approaches, journalists say France's Sarkozy could be political partner in the peace process in the Middle East."

Yep, I imagine that all those Gazans and West Bankers are just scared to death that the US Drive For Peace™ will slow down - oh no! What will we do if the there are no more Quartets, and Roadmaps, and Annapolis Conferences, and Summer Rains, and...

More Militants

Who needs reporters when the US military can provide the news for you? I heard this on the 5-minute "news" summary this morning:
Giles Snyder: "In Afghanistan a NATO airstrike killed more than a dozen Taliban fighters early today. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Kabul."

Nelson [pictured above with Michael Mullen]: "The airstrikes came as the militants fled into the mountains following a predawn ambush in Paktia province."

Open Thread

Comments regarding NPR are always welcomed.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Schmaltz and Schlock

It's kind of interesting to look up the meanings of schmaltz ("mawkishness, oversentimentality") and schlock ("of low quality or value"). Then take a listen to NPR's piece this morning on mothers who have met in Section 60 at Arlington Cemetery where war dead of Afghanistan and Iraq are buried. Here's a sample of the report where Ari Shapiro plays it up as reporter-counselor-chaplain-sensitive guy:

Shapiro: "You must all feel like you know each others' kids by now?"

[general positive reaction] One of the women says, "My husband said, 'Isn't it so sad that we never got to know Brian, and we never got to know Justin and Dylan and Eric' and I said but I feel like I know them so well."

[to which Shapiro replies]: "And if it hadn't been for Brian and Justin and Dylan and Eric and Nicholas, you all would never have met each other."

[Group reacts sympathetically, agreeing]

Shapiro concludes: "I mean what a gift they could give to you that you all now have this group these connections...."

Honestly, I hate posting when the NPR vultures settle in on the war dead, because I don't want to offend anyone who has lost a loved one in a war. It's a horrible thing, but this syrupy grief voyeurism and pseudo-counseling is really shameless. Listen to the piece and ask yourself if there even one provocative question? (e.g. "How does it feel when you hear someone like Scott McClellan now confessing that the war was sold on misinformation and was unnecessary?" or "Do you ever think about the families of the one million Iraqis or the tens of thousands of Afghanis killed in this war?") There is not a single challenging question.

It's telling to see what a news organization can do with its resources (e.g. McClatchy painstakingly putting together the big picture of the torture state that the US has become) and to compare it to the fare that NPR offers.

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

An Existential Crisis

When NPR hunts down two "experts" to talk about nuclear proliferation, you'd better have your seatbelt on. This Sunday morning the talk is of India, Pakistan, and Iran. Of course the main nuclear outlaw in the Middle East is conveniently not included (until the talk gets around to attacking Iran). Auntie Liane chats with George Perkovich and Michael Krepon, two heavyweights in the intellectual world - both have written reams of books and articles. Seriously, the two seem pretty dang smart, so why, when the talk gets to Iran, do they say such things as:
"Iran feels fairly ascendant...and so they're always willing in principal to negotiate if it's to accept your surrender, but if it's on the terms that the US and others would seek which is 'Hey, hey Iran, here's what you need to do,' they're not interested."
"Accept your surrender"?! Does either Hansen or Krepon interject to say, "Whoa, wait a minute; the US position on negotiation with Iran is that to talk Iran must capitulate on the core issue of uranium enrichment. Isn't that a surrender and then we'll talk position?" Do either of them even ask politely, "Could you give one example of Iran asking for surrender?" But wait, Perkovich isn't done; he continues:
"The Iranians pretty much quit negotiating in the summer of 2005...have taken the position of we're going to do what we want and you can't stop us. So it would be kind of a breakthrough if actually they decided yes, we're prepared to negotiate...."
"I think Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has testified...Iran fundamentally is deterrable. The problem is that Israel isn't as convinced of that - and has reason not to be so convinced - so one thought is the Israelis might come to a crucial existential decision which says, well you can't just sit here and let them do that, so military action may not be perfect, may not solve the problem, but it's better than doing nothing."
Existential? You have to wonder about these kind of buzz words, especially when they originate out of the White House; and you have to question the integrity of a scholar who is simply willing to pick up such language and run with it. Again, neither of the other participants in this otherworldly exchange suggest that actually Iran may be undergoing a bit of an existential threat when it considers what's "on the table": the US blessings of liberty bestowed on Iraq and Israel's gentle interventions in Lebanon in '82 and '06 (not to mention Israel's arsenal of peaceful nuclear weapons).

Oddly, both speakers eventually indicate that they think the military option and the threat to use it is not such a great idea. However, that gets buried under the bulk of their discussion which demonizes Iran and makes the case for justifying a US/Israel military option.

Back from Hungary

(Me in Heroes' Square in Central Budapest)

Hello all. I'm back from Budapest. It was a great experience to see a little bit of Hungary, and was especially nice to not hear one minute of NPR programing. There is a lot to think about visiting a country like Hungary that suffered so badly under brief Nazi domination and then long Soviet occupation. One can't help but conclude that outlets like NPR News would have done quite well, thank you, under the long communist regime. With its shifting relativism, lack of any moral center, fawning to the powerful, and willingness to simply repeat government pronouncements as truth regardless of how blatantly ridiculous - or reprehensible - NPR News would have been right at home.

And so dear NPR loyalists, from Memento Park in Budapest, Vladimir salutes you!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Taking a Vacation

Hello readers. It's summer and that means I'm taking some time off. I'm going to Budapest and will be back in about a week. I'll post an open thread in the morning before I take off.

A Ham and Williams on Reilly

Be sure you haven't eaten if you want to take a look at NPR's esteemed news "analyst," Juan Williams performing on the O'Reilly Show. Warning: it is one of the most nauseating smear pieces I've ever seen. If you'd rather skip it, here's a little taste of how this NPR "journalist" acquitted himself:

O'Reilly: "Juan, they want to shut Fox News off. You've said that many times....they don't want any dissenting voices....they don't want any dissent; they're fascists right?"

Juan Williams: "Well, that's the problem. If you look at the numbers - not numbers done by Fox News, but numbers done by independent pollsters - what they say is conservatives, conservative consumers are the ones who think the media are most biased. Liberals for the most part don't think that...."

He's not done. Williams claims, "If you went to the conference this weekend, they have such anger and fury. Anybody who has anything good to say about America is a dupe, is a non-critical thinking person, lacking faculty...."

O'Reilly, warming up to Williams, notes, "But the hatred Juan. You're an African American, I mean you know this much better than I do. The hatred level at that conference...."

Then Williams, turning reality on it's head replies, "Bill, you should know this for yourself because you've been victimized, vilified, demonized....we're talking about the future of this country. You've got to realize, they're making it difficult to have a civil, logical discussion."

I definitely sent NPR's ombudsman a complaint, asking if they have any standards that apply to their staff working outside of NPR, and requesting that they terminate their relation with Williams.

Can We Please Take "On the Table" Off the Table?

One of NPR's most crucial roles as an enabler of unchecked power for the US state is to normalize the most grotesque and barbarous activities of the US. The support of torture states in Central and South America becomes a positive "counterinsurgency" strategy - and it's victories are praised as in yesterday's piece and many others. Civilians killed by the US and its allies are barely mentioned, and if mentioned are usually lumped together as "insurgents" or "militants." And of course our torture is never torture, just "enhanced interrogation" or "harsh interrogation."

You'd think there might be limits to encouraging the banality of evil, but not on NPR. The supreme crime of Nuremberg (that quaint trial of the 1940s), as eloquently spelled out by US Justice Robert Jackson in his opening statements was the Crime Against Peace:
"A basic provision of the Charter is that to plan, prepare, initiate, or wage a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements, and assurances, or to conspire or participate in a common plan to do so, is a crime."
Count 2 against the defendants in the trial included:
"All the defendants with divers other persons, during a period of years preceding 8 May 1945, participated in the planning, preparation, initiation, and waging of wars of aggression, which were also wars in violation of international treaties, agreements, and assurances."
So it is that I am really sickened to hear the matter-of-fact tone that NPR uses in discussing the Bush Administration's threats to wage a war of aggression against Iran. Here's Inskeep and Gonyea this morning:
  • Gonyea: " a press conference yesterday with European Union leaders - when asked about Iran - the President did not say something he has always said when talking about Iran: that all options are on the table in dealing with the Iranians. It made some of us think that perhaps he had taken the military option off the table. Well, guess what, he was asked about Iran today and he said not once but twice that all options are on the table, so if there was a slight easing of the rhetoric yesterday. It was back in place today.
  • To which Inskeep responds: "But wait a minute. One of the questions here is can the US and Europe agree on how to handle Iran? Is Germany saying that all options are on the table?"
Honestly, if there's another war crimes trial in the future, NPR should have several seats reserved - in the docket. Have these mouthpieces for war ever considered demanding from officials EXACTLY what "all the options" are? Do they include surprise attacks, tactical nuclear weapons, terrorist bombings within Iran, assassination, etc? How do military options square with international laws and treaties?

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Putting a Shine on a Dirty War

Juan Forero has an absolutely triumphalist piece on ATC tonight about the losses of the FARC and the successes of the Colombian government. He mentions that the people of Colombia have suffered "pain from the long guerrilla war - one that's cost thousands of lives." He notes that "mayors and small town dignitaries...praise the army for having pushed back the rebels...but they say they're still suffering." He states that the war has "touched every part of the country" and that "for years FARC guerrillas have destroyed small towns and attacked military posts," but "a modern fleet of helicopters and fighter planes regularly pound FARC units." Forero tells us that Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos "says he expects the guerrillas to continue with acts of terror..."

I'm not interested in covering up the crimes of the FARC; they have committed many war crimes in their struggle against the Colombian government. BUT any review of the crimes of torture, massacre and terror in Colombia over the past several decades will put the huge majority of the blame squarely at the feet of the Colombian government (and of course its benefactor, the US). Whether it is Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch (which is very critical of the FARC) the main purveyor of violence and terror in Colombia has been the state and its allied paramilitaries. The 2001 Human Rights Watch report linked previously states:
"Most political killings by far, over 50 percent, were the work of paramilitary groups, which continued to work with the tolerance or open support of units of the Colombian security forces. Eight percent of political killings were attributed to anti-government guerrilla groups and 10 percent to unidentified forces. Two per cent were linked directly to the security forces. The balance could not be attributed to a specific group."
Though, according to Amnesty International's 2008 report, civilian killings are down in Colombia, the government has hardly cleaned up its act - and has done almost nothing to hold anyone accountable for the horrendous crimes of the past.

Some victory...

Even Gonyea Had to Snicker

Bush is off to Europe. Renee Montagne asks Don Gonyea, "and Don does there seem to be any nostalgia as the President - you know he's got seven months before he leaves office - as the President makes this final go round of these European capitals?"

Nostalgia?! Is she out of her mind? Let's see would that be nostalgia for the good old days of 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, or March of 2008? Even Don Gonyea had to hem and haw:
"Eeaaaaaaahhh....I, I, I don't know that nostalgia is really what we're seeing here...perhaps just the tiniest tinge of it...I mean he's never been popular in Europe, at least not in Western Europe..."
Now there's a polite understatement. But, don't be misled. Gonyea wasn't about to let such foolishness get in the way of his staying on the war message du jour:
"...he [Bush] wants them to take the threat posed by Iran and its potential to become a nuclear power very seriously."
Notice how Gonyea simply asserts that Iran is a threat. He doesn't say the "alleged" or "claimed" threat. He just owns it as fact, when it is anything but... And it's not just a few people who recognize that Iran is not the real threat to peace.

Monday, June 09, 2008

That Ron's a Crack Up

I had no idea what a sense of humor Ron Elving has. He was talking politics with Andrea Seabrook on Sunday's ATC. Here's what he had to say about Sen. Obama and former President Clinton:
"...on the other hand when he starts talking about Barack Obama being in the best moderate tradition, that's going to be a tougher sell. The numbers are just not there to make him look like some kind of a, well even a Bill Clinton style moderate, and of course many people would suggest that Bill Clinton was more of a liberal than a moderate, certainly a center left kind of Democrat. It's not really going to be possible to sell Barack Obama as a center left."
Oh yeah, Bill Clinton that "liberal," "center left kind of Democrat." Boy do I remember those times; he was a regular Eugene Debs when it came to NAFTA, bombing Iraq, bombing Sudan, bombing Serbia, demolishing welfare, and pushing that single payer health care program. And God knows, compared to Clinton, Obama's a regular Marxist, ready to send leftist missiles into Iran and Pakistan, turn his attention to Latin America, and take us to the New Jerusalem.

Hee, hee...funny guy!

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

More Crock(er)

NPR finally got around to reporting on the neocolonial Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that the Bush administration has been trying to secretly impose on the US and Iraq. Patrick Cockburn, the reputable reporter (the guy has been right on virtually everything he's reported out of Iraq) broke the story on the SOFA this past Thursday, and then followed it up on Friday with a real stunner of how the Bushistas tried the Corleone approach of making Maliki an offer he couldn't refuse. Contrast Cockburn's dogged and accurate reporting with the unending lies and spin of "our man in Baghdad," US Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Hmmm, how to decide. Should you trust a reporter with intergrity and a track record of accurate reporting or a US Government agent with a history of being a liar? For NPR and Michele Kelemen it's a no-brainer, she says
"The US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, has been spending a lot of time lately denying reports in the media that the US is, for instance seeking long term military bases in Iraq....Ambassador Crocker accused Iran of deliberately misleading Iraqis about this to try to make the talks more complicated. He said little about what the US is actually seeking."
I'll give NPR credit; this nonsense about Iran making up the leaked details of the SOFA was a new one for me.

Though Seabrook introduces the report by claiming that "the talks are not going especially well" for the SOFA, I beg to disagree; fortunately, they seem destined to fail. Unless, like NPR, you support the "baldly neocolonial terms sought by Washington" (Juan Cole), then you can only be pleased that this antidemocratic, secretive attempt to continue the occupation forever has been leaked and is probably going to be thwarted.

More Selfless Amnesia

Listening to NPR, I sometimes have those Winston Smith moments. Yesterday NPR producer Davar Ardalan presented a piece on her grandmother, who worked in Iran as an officer in the US Navy and public health nurse. Her grandmother was part of Truman's "Point Four Program" (a sort of precursor to USAID). The story was interesting enough, but amazingly there was not one mention of the 1953 CIA-led US-British coup against Iran's democracy.

However, Aradalan did mention that her grandmother did not live to see the 1979 revolution or the US embassy takeover.

Given the context of the times (near daily threats of US or Israeli attacks on Iran), the fact that the 1953 coup became the boilerplate for other bloody CIA coups (esp. Guatemala and Chile), and the obvious blowback of destabilization, tyranny and war that the 1953 coup continues to produce, you might think that some mention of it would come into the essay. It's an obvious chance to educate an American audience that continues to be ill-informed about Iran. Also, on a personal level I wondered "What did her grandmother think of the coup?" and "Was she involved in any way?" etc.

And that is precisely the point. Nothing. 1953? What 1953? Instead, talk about selfless Americans bringing the light of civilization to the backward Iranians in the 1950s and be sure to mention those radicals of the 1979 Revolution and the US Embassy takeover. Leave the audience with all their prejudices reinforced and their ignorance intact. When that is the goal, NPR is pretty darn effective.

(Click on graphic for source.)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Lazy as Hell

If you were going to interview a shill for McCain - for example one-time McCain campaign worker and Republican strategist Mark Murphy - wouldn't you do a little homework (or have someone do it for you) and be prepared for the most obvious talking points that any McCain supporter is going to try to pass off? You'd know that your guest was going to try and pass off the usual nonsense that McCain is a "maverick." Maybe you'd peruse the Arizona Republic's website and read up on their "analysis of his Senate votes on the most divided issues in the past decade [which] shows that McCain almost never thwarted his party's objectives." Okay, so maybe that article's a bit to wordy, so you could take a peek at Steve Benen's Carpetbagger Report on it which highlights the Republic's main points. And if that's too heavy on text, there's a nice clear table on the Progressive Media's website which shows how McMaverick voted over the last 8 years in relation to Bush (usually about 90% agreement - and 100% in 2008!).

That way you'd be ready for a little reality check when you're guest pops off with "the Democrat strategy is very simple, I'm not sure it's very authentic, but it's pretty simple: is kind of glue this third Bush term idea on to McCain. Now that might work with a lot of Republicans, but McCain does have a long history of independence, being a classic maverick - so I think it's going to be tougher to do."

And if you were feeling especially non-confrontational, and willing to let that slide, you'd be ready with some handy numbers when said guest really started slinging the BS: "the Obama campaign would say 'Well, If you support the President on 10% of things you're the President,' and I think that people in this election are going to see through that kind of a simple black and white and understand that it's often shades of gray, and that as Republicans go, there's no more independent maverick-minded person than McCain..."

10% of things! What hallucination did that number come from? And Siegel's response? Not a word...of course.

A Little Self Confession

If I should disappear into the loving hands of US interrogators for five years could you please take any confessions and self-professions I might make with a wee grain of salt. Here's NPR in the last two days as they parrot the US CIA/military allegations against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed:
  • Montagne (on ME, June 5, 2008): "Among the group is Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the confessed mastermind of the attacks. He has not been seen in public since his arrest...more than five years ago."
  • Siegel (on ATC, June 5, 2008): "Among them Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has boasted that the attacks were his idea..."
  • Montagne (on ME, June 6,2008): " was the first time the self-professed mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks has been seen in public since his arrest more than five years ago."
For a little contrast look at this report from CTV (Canada). Notice how it opens with identifying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as "the reputed mastermind." The CTV report also mentions a few interesting tidbits that Jackie Northam failed to mention:
"A sound feed to journalists from the courtroom was turned off twice. The first time, a soldier told reporters it was because a detainee was discussing a medication he had been given, which was a privacy issue.
But his defense attorney, Navy Cmdr. Suzanne Lachelier, told The Associated Press later that the prisoner had been discussing his five years as a prisoner of the United States.
The sound was also turned off when another defendant discussed early days of his imprisonment. Judge Ralph Kohlmann said that in both cases sound was turned off because classified information was discussed."
"It's an inquisition. It's not a trial," Mohammed said in broken English, his voice rising. "After torturing they transfer us to inquisition-land in Guantanamo."
Well, what do you know, the audio gets cut when that nasty little topic of torture pops up. I guess the military, like NPR, wants to avoid such a distasteful subject, even when it's been noted and documented.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Open Thread

NPR related comments welcomed.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Maybe a Closed Casket Next Time

Just what McCain speech did NPR's Pam Fessler attend last night? Surely not the one that got universally panned from left and right. Do any cursory search for reactions to McCain's New Orleans, 200 White Folk zombie night speech and you will find nothing but negatives from left and right perspectives, even Fox News!

But that's not going to stop Fessler from repeating all McCain's talking points unchallenged. Of Obama's claim that McCain is essentially a third Bush term, she tells us "McCain said it's just not true, that he's opposed the Bush administration on a number of policies, such as the treatment of detainees, just look at my record he told the crowd." Apparently, Fessler was so entranced with the lovely lime-green background and the dead man talking that she never bothered to look at McCain's sorry record. What Fessler did do was go sniffing around for someone who would provide a choice anti-Obama sound-bite:
"...if the crowd last night was any indication, McCain might pick up support from Hillary Clinton fans who are now looking elsewhere. New Orleans resident Vanessa Stubbs said she'd considered Clinton, but there's no way she'll vote for Obama - after his minister made what she considers racially divisive remarks."

Stubbs: "...with the recent Barack Obama and his church problems, I completely went from a liberal Democrat to a conservative Republican, and I'm very proud to say that I'm going to vote for John McCain this year."

This kind of selective journalistic rubbish deserves some scrutiny. It's clever how out of a tiny crowd of old, white McCain supporters Fessler infers that "McCain might pick up support from Hillary Clinton fans who are now looking elsewhere." She makes it sound like a major trend. I'm sorry but are there more than a handful of morons who really supported Clinton and now back McCain? And then to allow someone to say something so obviously stupid or mendacious as "I completely went from a liberal Democrat to a conservative Republican" with no follow up is inexcusable.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Bordering on the Criminal

Ollie's coming to the White House, and one can only wonder what nice mess he and Bush will put the world in. You might think the focus would be on what these warmongers might be planning for Iran, or on the complicity of the US in Israel's ongoing flouting of international law. NPR instead focuses on the domestic corruption charges facing Olmert (important enough) and manages to slip in "expert" opinions on the "peace" process from a Zionist extremist.

Eric Westervelt is selling this story from Jerusalem. Of Olmert we learn that "critics said he badly mismanaged Israel's 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon." Yep, killing over a thousand civilians and dropping a million cluster bombs is definitely what I'd call "mismanagement." Only when Olmert's sleazy conduct regarding bribes and payoff is brought up does he come in for moral condemnation. From political scientist Rubin Hazan Hebrew University, we learn that Olmert's corruption "borders on the criminal."

The most maddening part of the story is when Westervelt talks about the death march of the "peace" process: "Olmert's trip to the US...and a meeting Wednesday with President Bush will focus on US initiated peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. The talks were going nowhere, even before Olmert's latest crisis says political studies professor Gerald Steinberg of Bar Elan University....Bush's promise for a settlement within a year: 'It was always oversold, the hype, the constant visits of the Secretary of State, the President himself, those things are way overstretching what the traffic will bear.'"

NPR presents Gerald Steinberg as just a "political studies professor." Let's consider a few of the kindly professor's statements and activities:
  • On Israel's 60th anniversary: "The primary goal of Zionism was and remains the re-establishment of sovereignty and self-determination for the Jewish people in our homeland. In addition to fulfilling the 2,000-year-old desire to return to Eretz Yisrael."
  • He attacks human rights groups such as B'tselem because they "take down every Palestinian complaint at face value and write inflammable reports castigating Israel as the aggressor. They do so by leaving out essential context..." And those really "radical" Israeli Arab groups "poison any reasonable dialogue by demonizing Israel, for example by drawing parallels to the apartheid regime."
  • Steinberg also runs a "monitoring" group to keep an eye on extremist NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Could you even dream of someone so partisan for Palestinian radicalism as this fellow is for Zionist radicalism being presented blandly as a professor? Not a chance.

Open Thread

NPR comments always welcomed.

Some Things Considered

As reader Flavio points out in the 'Open Thread' below, Guy Raz did an admirable interview with John Cusak on Saturday's ATC regarding Cusak's new movie War, Inc. I also heard his interview with McClatchy Newspaper's John Landay regarding Scott McClellan's book and the media's role in the run up to the Iraq war. In both pieces Raz interviewed his guests as if he were a curious, informed person attempting to hone in on the serious and important aspects of the story. It really was jaw-dropping in that he was filling in for Andrea Seabrook, who usually hosts the weekend ATC shows with a giggly, oh-my-gosh vacuousness.

And Sunday's ATC, which is generally light fare anyway, wasn't awful either. When the piece on the "anti-folk" comic artist started I cringed, thinking it would be one of those horrid pieces where anyone with a conscience is ridiculed or disdained, and instead it turned out to be substantive with guest and host seriously discussing what it means to be an artist has in this damaged world of ours. I actually came to appreciate what the guest was doing, after an initial negative reaction.

Good Lord, even the piece by Sam Hudzik on Obama's cutting ties with his former church was interesting and thoughtful.

I didn't hear all of both shows, so perhaps I missed something really galling (I hope not), but what I listened to was such a radical departure from the insipid fare usually dished up on the weekend ATC that I was quite surprised.

Unfortunately, Sunday's ATC ended with Guy Raz announcing that next weekend Andrea Seabrook would be back.