Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bobmark Regevsiegel Speaks

First, a few positives: NPR actually allowed some Gaza residents to speak about life under Israeli bombardment (NPR's contracted news producer and a Gaza professor) and interviewed a UNRWA spokesperson about humanitarian conditions.

But sadly NPR's previous suppressed and distorted coverage of Gaza allows a massive amount of disinformation to continue unchallenged. A case in point was One-Approach-Bob Siegel's sympathetic interview with Israeli spokesperson Mark Regev (not the first time he's been coddled on NPR).

Here are a few of Regev's claims that faced no scrutiny whatsoever - so I've included a few basic informational follow-ups that any half-informed reporter could have asked:
I realize it's a tall order asking NPR news readers to know more than the White House and State Department press releases, but - for God's sake - it's not that hard to find the history and context of the violence in Gaza - violence which everyone else in the world knows is fully backed, funded and enabled by the US government.

Monday, December 29, 2008

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Shoes for Me-Shell

The one benefit of NPR's seamless (seamy) integration into the corporate media (e.g. Liasson and Williams on Fox, Roberts on ABC, and Norris on Chris Matthews) is that we get a further glimpse into the sensibilities and "character" of these characters.

Here is Michele Norris playing comedian on The Chris Matthews Show yesterday (on the clip slide forward until the counter is down to about 3 minutes, 50 seconds). After showing the video clip of the shoes being thrown at Bush, Matthews says laughingly, "Michele, this is the real world out here; this isn't even a side show; this is a carnival of 2008. What was the Chutzpah prize?"

To which all Me, all Shell answers:
"I gotta go with the flying shoes. I mean, someone who would throw a pair of Oxfords - Oxfords, it doesn't even look like he bothered to untie those shoes - at a sitting President, with the President of his own country standing next to him was [cackling and comments] that takes part of his anatomy [more laughter]..."
Yeah man, that is some funny, funny stuff. I mean a guy who "covered the U.S. bombing of Baghdad's Sadr City area earlier this year and had been 'emotionally influenced' by the destruction he'd seen" is just rich for ridicule. What Chutzpah, what a nut case! You'd think like maybe a million of his countrymen had been killed in the war or 4 million displaced - har,har...

And Oxfords! hee, hee, and not even untied! No wonder no one at NPR heard Muntazer al-Zaidi cry out "Killer of Iraqis, killer of children!" (McClatchy again) as he was being tackled and beaten after throwing the shoes at Bush.

And really, who cares if this heroic journalist (and not just a hero to Arabs, thank you very much) has been tortured - it's just so darn hilarious...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Real Achievements

Peter Kenyon was talking about PA head Abu Mazen's rather stunning assertion that Hamas is to blame for Israel's latest Gaza slaughter. Kenyon offered this little plum:
"Abbas has always been a pragmatic politician, more interested in securing real achievements for his people than in being their hero."
No qualifications offered, no facts or evidence put forth to buttress such a glowing statement, and no indication that many people might just consider Abbas a hapless pawn of the US and Israel at best and a stooge and craven puppet at worst.

What Do They Pay This Guy?

Juan Williams was on Saturday morning with Scott Simon (what a combo!). Supposedly "news analyst" Williams was going to provide some insights on Pres. Elect Obama's proposed stimulus plan. Williams was nearly hyperventilating:
"'s the problem...a plan that could reach a TRILLION dollars Scott! You know a billion here and a billion there and soon you're talking a trillion [Simon can be heard snickering in the background] and what you've got is a feeding frenzy...then you've got people who are doing some really strange things - the zoo and aquarium group want some tax breaks for zoos and aquariums Scott...I don't know if you Scott Simon need a tax break but this would be the time to he [Obama] is coming in with a deficit, the deficit is going to grow larger..."
Seriously, this sniping rubbish passes for commentary. As Krugman points out about people like Williams (and Simon), "Here’s how I see it: the opponents of a strong stimulus plan don’t really have an alternative to offer. They don’t even have a really coherent critique." Amen.

The hypocrisy of Williams "concerns" about wasted government money are astounding. I don't recall a single critique from "people are praying for you" Williams regarding the hundreds of billions of dollars poured down the Operation Iraqi Fiefdom rat hole?

Since so much of NPR's support comes from listeners, it owes it to us to post the salaries of all its on-air hosts and reporters so we can decide if our donations to NPR stations are such a good idea after all. Also, NPR should require Foxistas such as Williams and Liasson to disclose how much loot they receive for their efforts on that dismal outlet.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Q Tips

NPR related comments are welcomed and encouraged. Please keep obscenities to a minimum...thanks.

Defending Missile Defense

The US isn't the only one selling missile defense. Arch foe of Iran, Peter Kenyon, teams up this morning with Sec. of War Robert Gates and Centcom Commander David Petraeus to frighten us about the Iranian threat - again. Starting the sales pitch is Linda Wertheimer:
"US officials also want the UAE to purchase another missile defense system for more than twice that amount. As NPR's Peter Kenyon reports, they're hoping to deter the potential threat from Iran."
Kenyon doesn't disappoint:
"Gates made sure to remind delegates of the threat from Iran. [reluctant servant Gates] 'Now when it comes to Iran's missile is clear that this year Iran has tested...can hit any country in the Middle East...has continued its pursuit of a nuclear program...geared toward developing nuclear weapons...'"
"General David Petraeus, head of the Central Command, followed up with a five point plan for enhancing security in the region - near the top of the list missile defense. [Petraeus] '...expand existing bilateral air and missile defense initiatives...multilateral cooperation in this defensive missile defense measures underway are vital elements of regional deterrence...'"
"US officials have been making the case for a Persian Gulf missile defense system for several years now. As gulf economies boomed in recent years...the argument took on a sharper edge: invest in protection against Iranian missiles or risk losing the confidence of overseas investors."
You have to admire the skill with which NPR seamlessly combines US military (and corporate weaponsmakers') propaganda into this report. Never is the assertion that Iran is a threat called into question (and conveniently, no mention is made of why the UAE would be a target of Iranian missiles).

Kenyon does mention that the effectiveness of anti-missile technology has a "mixed record at best" and that missile defense could spark a new arms race, but he closes his report with this Orwellian twist:
"Analysts say it's not clear when missile defense technology will be a truly effective deterrent...."
Missile defense [even if it is technically successful] is the opposite of a deterrent. At best it can be seen as defensive, and practically, it is likely to encourage offensive adventurism on the part of those who possess it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

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NPR related comments welcomed.

F air and B alanced I nformation

Dina Temple-Raston takes on her role of press spokesperson (e.g. 7/27/08, 7/06/08, 10/05/07, etc.) for the FBI and Renee Montagne lends a hand, too. Reporting this morning on the Fort Dix convictions, Montagne makes this astounding claim for the FBI:
"The challenge for the FBI was to decide when to move. Arrest the men too soon and the case against them could collapse. Wait too long and an attack could actually happen."
Temple-Raston, however, is not satisfied to make this claim only for the Fort Dix case, but extends it to all FBI terrorism cases:
  • "Their [the FBI] attempts to make terrorism arrests preemptively before an actual attack takes place have met with mixed results."
  • "In the Fort Dix case, they held back and allowed the evidence to earlier cases law enforcement tended to move in early."
  • "Monday's guilty verdict has made the Fort Dix case Exhibit A for those who say law enforcement has found the right balance between moving too soon and losing a conviction, or waiting too long and risking an actual attack."
  • "....says Europe has been trying to get the United States to strike this balance for some time."
Temple-Raston doesn't offer a single shred of evidence to back up her assertion that the FBI has moved on cases too early because of the possibility of imminent attacks. In fact in the Liberty City case, one of the most egregious examples of the FBI rolling out a weak case, even the Wall Street Journal (!) noted that the political benefit of the Bush administration seemed to be the motivating factor:
"When the seven men from the Liberty City area of Miami were arrested a few months before the 2006 elections, then-AG Alberto Gonzales said the men had been taped promising to fight a 'full ground war against the United States.'"
Temple-Raston simply claims that what the FBI learned in the Liberty City case was that "boots and crazy talk aren't enough to convince a jury." Boots and crazy talk? Now that is a professional assesment....

Instead of informing us of how sloppy, dishonest, and undemocratic the FBI has been under the Bush administration and how cases have been rushed for political advantage, Temple-Raston simply manufactures a false dichotomy between the FBI acting or facing a terrorist attack.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Q Tips

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Friday, December 19, 2008


It's a little scary how jazzed NPR reporters get for the CIA and its "colorful" employees.

On Friday morning JJ Sutherland is on to sing the praises report on "reluctant servant" Robert Gates. Inkseep starts off this fair and balanced assessment with the following introduction:
"...he was once a controversial Cold War spy, now he's considered a wise man of national security and something of a rock star."
JJ Sutherland then jumps in with, "In his two years at the Pentagon the reviews have been good." To back this up we hear from
  • Brent Scowcroft, "close friend" and former National Security Advisor : "He's a professional to the core. He is a devoted patriot and someone that I thing everyone can respect."
  • William Cohen, former Defense Department head under Clinton: "Secretary Gates has brought the Pentagon some distance back towards where it optimally would be."
  • And Richard Danzig, former Secretary of the Navy and Obama advisor: "The building collectively heaved a huge sigh of relief after Bob came, and they saw how he worked and how he dealt with them."
And for opinions of someone outside the military industrial complex? Nothing...

As far as Gates CIA career is concerned, Sutherland tells us that Gates "was tough, ambitious and didn't suffer fools...Also an unapologetic Cold Warrior." Sutherland mentions that Gates was associated with the Iran-Contra scandal, and we do get to hear from Mel Goodman a former "close friend" and CIA colleague who alleges that Gates "fixed" intelligence regarding the Soviets and the assasination attempt on the Pope in the 80s.

In the report Sutherland manages to put in a plug for the idea that the US is "winning" in Iraq. He notes that Gates, in his confirmation hearing in 2006, stated that the US was not winning in Iraq. Sutherland then conjectures "Today, Gates might answer differently."

So what is missing?

Notably, there's not one non-Pentagon, non-CIA affiliated source in Sutherland's piece. This guarantees that we'd never guess that Gates accomplishments since 2006 might make him worthy of war crimes indictments.

We never hear from an investigative reporter like Robert Parry, one of the reporters who broke the Iran-Contra scandal back in the 1980s. Parry has some interesting tidbits about Gates, particularly his involvement in delaying the Iran hostage release in 1980.

It would have been fascinating to hear from John Prados of the National Security Archives regarding details of Gates role in the Iran Contra scandal and in Latin American drug dealing, death squads, and mercenaries.

To contact and include sources such as these would require reporters such as Sutherland to have an interest in providing a diversity of opinion on US foreign, military and intelligence policies - as opposed the endorsement of such policies that a story like this represents.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mission Accomplished

Amazingly, the two following letters ended up by accident in my inbox:

Dear NPR,

Thanks so much for your loyal news summary this morning; I couldn't have scripted it better myself. Michele Kelemen did an excellent job representing the US State Department point of view regarding the Somali piracy issue. I've really appreciated your stellar record on muting any analysis of how our own foreign policy has lead to the dramatic rise in piracy. I also appreciate that bit about peacekeeping - nice - we definitely plan to keep Somalia in pieces for as long as possible.

Condeleezza Rice

The other letter was from the big dog himself:

Dear NPR Reporticators,

I felt very gratificated for your kind warm-up for the War Collage speech that I'm going to presentify this afternoon. I just loved how Carl Kasell pointed out that there hasn't been any big terrorism attack on the Fatherland since I assumptioned to power on 9-11. He really warmed to my successful domestic security blanket successfulnesses. I definitely would like to have Carl fill out my legacy report card.

Mr. Kasell defintitely went above and out of the bounds of dutifulness in crediting my securification of America for my undisputed electoral reelection victoriousness in 2004. And it was a nice little twist of argumentation for him to note that the problem with the Iraq Freedom Campaign is weariness.

Thanks Carl, oh and I'm a big fan of the wit and suffocafistication of that Wait Wait funny show you do on NPR. I just loved the funnin' you had with CIA Hayden.

George W. Bush

If you missed the news summary this morning, here are the sections that Rice and Bush were referring to:
Kelemen: "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who was in the Security Council for the vote says the resolution goes a long way to help countries coordinate their response to what she called 'the scourge of piracy.' It authorizes nations to pursue pirates not only at sea, but on land in Somalia. Rice said the council should also address the root causes of the piracy problem: the poverty, instability and lawlessness that have plagued Somalia for decades. She said it's time for the UN to consider a peacekeeping operation though that will be a much longer diplomatic battle."

* * *

Kasell: "President Bush speaks today at the US Army War College in Carlyle Pennsylvania. He plans to return to the theme that helped him win a second term: preventing another terrorist attack against the United States. The President is expected to point to his record on national security emphasizing that terrorists have not struck again since the 9-11 attacks when Homeland Security became his focus. The President is also expected to promote the steps the administration has taken such as reshaping the intelligence community and disrupting terrorist financing. Mr. Bush won a tough reelection battle in 2004 largely because of his advantage among voters on the national security issue. Since then a turbulent second term has eroded his public approval, the country has grown weary of the war in Iraq, and more recently the staggering economy."

Monday, December 15, 2008

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tampering with a Crime Scene

Sometimes there's silence when war crimes are being covered up - and sometimes there's just plain old disinformation. This morning Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, reporting on Bush's trip to Iraq opts for the latter:
"In many ways the Iraq War defined Mr. Bush's presidency....more than 4200 US service members have died, not to mention tens of thousands of Iraqis..."
Imagine the firestorm of criticism that would result if NPR reported that "hundreds of US service members have died." And imagine how galling it would be if NPR continued to do this not once but over and over. The outrage would be immediate and well deserved.

And yet, NPR reporters feel completely comfortable reducing the Iraq death toll by a factors of ten. In June of 2007 John Ydstie silently accepted the low figure of 75,000 deaths "on both sides of the Iraq War," and in August of 2007 Robert Siegel used the comforting rhetoric of "tens of thousands of Iraqis" having died in the war. And sometimes it's simply deafening silence or distortion when reality intrudes on the fantasy of Iraq that NPR and the US government is trying to sell. As Media Bloodhound points out, NPR is right in the mainstream on this coverup of the slaughter that the US has wreaked on Iraq - but that doesn't make it any less criminal...

As always, for more on the well researched Iraqi civilian death toll take a look at Just Foreign Policy.

Q Tips

NPR related comments are always welcomed.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mission: Whitewash #1

A reader noted in the Q Tips section below that the AP reported (and the NYT and the Voice of America and...) on the Senate Report on Torture which tied the US torture of detainees to Rumsfeld and other top Pentagon officials. The reader noted having searched NPR's site for coverage of the report, but come up empty handed!

Also, as I noted in a post on Wednesday, NPR relegated the damning testimony of a leading US interrogator to its Talk of the Nation program. In contrast, a spot on Friday's Morning Edition is given to US Army interrogator, Eric Maddox, who has co-authored a book (Mission: Blacklist #1) about his role in capturing Saddam Hussein. Maddox makes the US interrogations in Iraq from the summer through December of 2003 sound like they were being run by the Boy Scouts.
Inskeep: "Did you end up like those detectives on television with a bulletin board of some kind covered with photographs and names and lines connecting...?"

Maddox: "We did."
On a positive note, in the interview, Maddox advocates non-brutal interrogations ("...does me no good to be threatening or to be brutal...") - although he does use the threat of unending detention as pressure ("the situation of undetermined, long term detention" as he puts it.) But given the the disgusting and systematic US torture and abuse of detainees during that time period, any fool claiming to be a journalist would have a few questions for Good Cop Maddox.

Inskeep could have asked, "What did you know of the torture and abuse that was occurring in Iraq at the time you were stationed there?" If denied, a follow-up might be "You say you 'interrogated several hundred prisoners' and yet you never found evidence of abuse?" In fact what Jack Bauer Inkseep asks reveals a lot about his character:
"There must have been people who immediately cooperated with you and people who were extremely uncooperative - which makes me wonder if you ever did get close to a moment where you really wanted to hit the guy?"
Yep, nothing about rampant torture by US forces (noted by AI as early as June 2003), nothing about massive roundups of innocent Iraqis, nothing about the very tactics that were inflaming the insurgency - no consideration of the possibility that what made Maddox's prisoners so malleable was the knowledge of what awaited them during that "undetermined, long term detention" facing the uncooperative. Instead just Inskeep fantasizing about hitting detainees and a comic book portrayal of the good guys getting their man.

Friday, December 12, 2008

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

What They Carry

Talking about US air power in Afghanistan on Thursday's ATC Tom Bowman informs us,
"Those Predators can carry two 100-pound bombs. There's also a jumbo version, the Reaper, which holds three 1,000-pound bombs."
What he modestly failed to mention is that - when it comes to carrying water for the Pentagon - nothing can compete with the Tom Bowman drone (except maybe Mary Louise Kelly).

According to Bowman drones are going to be VERY important in Afghanistan:
"'s not just helicopters that commanders are demanding, they also want more drone aircraft — the kind President Bush bragged about in a speech this week at West Point." We actually get to hear the Bragger-in-Chief say, "We're arming Predator drones. We're using them to stay on the hunt against the terrorists who would do us harm."
As Bowman notes, "Besides hitting targets, the drones also see the battlefield, which in this case is the entire country of Afghanistan." I think we can all guess that there will be a few civilian casualties when the entire country is the battlefield.

Civilian casualties? Not to worry with the super-vision, high resolution, extra-humane Reaper. According to Air Force Col. Eric Mathewson, who works on a special task force at the Pentagon, the Reaper is so precise that "from five miles away I can pick out what color clothes you're wearing." (I wonder if that means they'll be able to tell when folks are dressed up for a wedding...) If you're still not convinced, the NPR website of the story has a little snuff video of the US "on the hunt" which you can watch - compliments of the Department of Defense.

Unfortunately, this hawking of the Afghanistan air war is just "the second of a three-part series on the American military strategy in Afghanistan." Yesterday it was the buildup of ground troops, today the ramped up air war, and tomorrow will be about supply routes. Dronin' Tom Bowman is working overtime to spiff up and sanitize the bloody, ugly "aimless absurdity" of the Afghanistan war and sell it to us from the Pentagon's perspective. What he'll never tell us is how this rattle-trap, illegal junker of a war is just the latest retread of a Soviet retread of an fine, old British wreck of imperial map stabbing:
Seriously, on Wednesday Bowman talked to Brig. Gen. Mark Milley, a senior American officer in Afghanistan, who said that the incoming US troops "will change the nature of the game in the particular areas we're going to employ them." Bowman noted that "Milley stabbed at a point on a map — a spot near Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, where Taliban forces are blowing up bridges and attacking buses and trucks heading to the city."
NPR's three part series so far has done nothing to indicate the moral cesspool that the US effort in Afghanistan has been from the beginning and the quagmire that it may well become. One only hopes that the incoming Obama administration will have more sense than Team NPR....

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed - but please keep the language in the PG-13 range...

Two Bold Fresh Pieces of ___________ !

It's a twofer on NPR this morning. There's a gentle 7 minute tea chat between Michele Kelemen and war criminal Sec. of State Rice. A bit later in the program Renee Montagne leads an O'Reilly infomercial for his latest book, A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity.
The only positive element of the Kelemen interview was her use of the word "torture." Kelemen says to Rice, "And Guantanamo wasn't sort of the only issue that tarnished the U.S. image. There is also the treatment of terror suspects, waterboarding, other methods of torture..."

Rice cuts off Kelemen and huffs, "Oh, well, you know that I'm going to have to object, because the United States has always kept to its international obligations, which include international obligations on the convention on torture. The President was determined after Sept. 11 to do everything that was legal and within those obligations, international and domestic laws, to make sure that we prevented a follow-on attack."

And Kelemen's follow up is...NOTHING. She doesn't politely ask, "Are you saying beatings, forced nudity, bolting to the floor and letting people defecate on themselves are keeping with 'international obligations?' I guess that would take a bit of spine. That would take a bit of spine.

Kelemen lets Rice state such comical absurdities as "Well, I'll certainly give my advice to the incoming team, and I'll do so privately. There are obviously some things that are under way. I think that the Annapolis process will eventually lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state." Not once does she even timidly note the string of foreign policy disasters that Rice/Bush have had their hand in.

And of course, it wouldn't be a morning edition interview without the banal. Kelemen asks, "And you've said that we were not — we're not going to hear from you very much. I wonder if you're going to be ready for life out of the limelight, away from the blogs that follow your hairstyles and shoes?" (By shoes does she mean Condi's Katrina shopping spree?)

With O'Reilly, Montagne is downright collegial - chuckling at his jokes, comparing childhood memories (and perhaps wondering when she can get a Mara/Juan gig over at Fox). There's not one mention of O'Reilly's lies, bigotry, hatred, rudeness and general rightwing stupidity.

What They Don't Carry

You've got to love all the coverage NPR News gives to the US interrogator who tracked down al-Zarqawi and recently wrote an explosive piece for the Washington Post on how the Bush, Cheney, Rice, Gonzales torture programs helped kill thousands of US troops.

Can you say, "Memory Hole"?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed.

Crash Test Dummies

If you haven't been reading the Q Tips (open thread) of late, you've missed some excellent commentary on NPR's coverage of the Big Three Auto Crisis/Bailout. I think it's worthwhile to put some of it here - and add a few more links to boot.

Woody commented that NPR has featured Senator Richard Shelby in it's coverage of the Big Three's request to congress. Woody writes that, "Shelby is critical of efforts to save the 'Big 3.' The story quoted him extensively, without ever mentioning that Shelby was NOT an honest commentator: Alabama's auto business--Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota all have (non-unionized) manufacturing plants in the State." As Woody pointed out in another comment, Crooks and Liars exposes how the corporate owned/leaning media has refused to exposed what a hypocrite Shelby actually is.

Another reader, War on War Off, provided this great link to Jane Hamsher's piece at Firedoglake pointing out the truly massive government subsidies provided to the foreign automakers in the US.

In NPR's Friday ME report Frank Langfitt states:
"But other senators remain skeptical, especially Richard Shelby from Alabama, the committee's ranking Republican....some critics of the Detroit companies suggest they should head to bankruptcy court. There, they say, a judge could enforce the tough, painful restructuring necessary for the firms' survival."
Since Langfitt brings up the elusive "some critics" recommending bankruptcy, it's worthwhile to consider another Crooks and Liars link regarding what is not said when Republicans (and Frank Langfitt) suggest the crash test of bankruptcy as a solution.

It's really too bad that all things are never considered on NPR, because the big three crisis offers a rare opportunity to explore the complexities of auto energy efficiency, union work, labor, wages, tax subsidies, previous bailouts, and - of course - the relationship of the auto crisis to the health care crisis.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Q Tips

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

CIA Tom Strikes Again

Agent Gjelten was on this morning defending his CIA buddy John Brennan again (as Yogi Berra said "This is like deja vu all over again"). Gjelten got things rolling with a deliberate distortion (dare I say LIE?) about John Brennan withdrawing his name from consideration to head the CIA:
"liberal bloggers had mounted a campaign against him judging he'd been tainted by his service in the CIA at a time when the agency was using coercive interrogation methods"
No, what the "quaint" liberal bloggers like Glenn Greenwald rejected was Brennan's on the record (News Hour & CBS News) support for criminal kidnapping/torture rendition flights, torture "enhanced" interrogations (CBS News) and illegal wiretapping (CBS).

Gjelten then cites "several intelligence professionals and analysts interviewed by NPR, including Democrats" to suggest that liberal bloggers are against "anyone who served at the CIA during the Bush years." That is simply ridiculous. What Gjelten doesn't ask is whether anyone who actively supported (or quietly went along with) Bush's torture, kidnapping, illegal spying, and "fixed" intelligence programs should now lead US intelligence agencies. On the contrary, he turns to just such a disgraced CIA figure , John McLaughlin (can you say destroyed torture tapes?) to bolster the case for handing over US intelligence to just such people. McLaughlin states:
"Whoever steps into these positions has to be well prepared, schooled in the business, savvy about the world and have excellent judgement about how to proceed. In fact thinking back over recent transitions I would say that more than in any transition in my memory and I've served eight presidents there will be less time for on the job training this time around than at any previous moment."
And just what "well prepared, schooled in the business, savvy about the world and...excellent judgement" folks was old Number 2 McLaughlin working with from 2000 to 2004? I guess he means all those super-smart, perky folks who missed 9/11 coming, fixed intelligence for the Iraq war, and were setting up enhanced detainee hotels in Guantanamo, Bagram, and Baghdad!

I just keep wondering how stupid NPR thinks its listeners are...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How About Contracting Zwerdling?

Holy crap, Daniel Zwerdling demonstrates some of the basics of what NPR ought to be doing all the time: digging up information on government policies, asking probing questions, providing historical context, seeking out varied opinions from those in positions to know information, and providing numbers and data (and pointing what information is hidden from public knowledge or simply unknowable). Perhaps NPR could shut down for a few weeks and hire Zwerdling provide a little in-house training to remind his colleagues that their job is to question and probe the powerful - not just be their loyal spokespersons.

On Monday morning, Zwerdling explores the burgeoning phenomenon of contracting out government services and functions. Amazingly, he puts the privatization of government in a historical context. He notes that some contracting out of government services has always occurred in the US, but "you could say the modern era of contracting began on Jan. 20, 1981, when President Ronald Reagan was sworn into office...Reagan said one of the best ways to solve this problem was to turn over government jobs to private industry. Then, a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, embraced the same strategy....and, actually....did even more to contract out work than Reagan....[and] made it easier for companies to get government contracts without competing. And then came President Bush, who said 'big government is not the answer' and shattered all the previous records for contracting out."

Zwerdling considers the assumptions that underlie privatizing government ("Businesses often know better than government how to do things right — and cheaper.") and then goes to the GAO (nonpartisan agency) for the facts about how so many contracts are completely unsupervised and accountable to no one.

Today, was just as pointed. Zwerdling lays out the vast array of critical government services that are now contracted out, and then he does something amazing - points out the threat that such privatization poses for a democratic society: "federal workers, at least, have to swear an oath to defend the Constitution, just like soldiers do. Not contractors." As a Congressionally appointed oversight commissioner tells Zwerdling, "These contractors, they're not under the normal democratic accountability at all....Contractors are motivated by the dollar."

Zwerdling manages again to go back in time to evoke the warnings of Eisenhower regarding the military industrial complex, and connects it growth to the extensive growth of private contracting.

Imagine if all news reports on NPR had the basic features of this series - I could stop writing this Godforsaken blog! But I doubt that will happen anytime soon. Listening to Zwerdling's reports was refreshing, but ultimately sad for how it stands out as the exception to the usual practice of NPR's news.
(BTW, the graphic is me...of course)