Monday, March 30, 2009

25 to 24 in 47 seconds

ME on Friday morning dedicated an entire 47 seconds to the news that the Obama administration is set to issue new fuel economy standards for automobiles, requiring 30.2 mpg for cars and 24 mpg for trucks by 2011. You might argue that 47 seconds is plenty long for an article about the technicalities of federal regulations -- I sometimes work on fuel economy regulations, and the specifics can indeed be mind-numbing -- but Steve Inskeep somehow missed the most interesting (and perhaps alarming) part of the story: The standards announced Friday by the Obama administration are even lower (worse) than the standards proposed last year by the Bush administration. Bush had proposed 31.2 mpg for cars and 25 mpg for trucks.

If he had covered the story a little more deeply, Inskeep might have reached all the way back to January 26 when President Obama ordered his Department of Transportation to develop higher automobile fuel economy standards, saying: "The days of Washington dragging its heels are over." Maybe the issue was mentioned in subsequent articles this same weekend on the continued bailout of GM, but if it was I missed it.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Restoring Faith

I'd love to know what it costs NPR to station Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Afghanistan. I heard her on the morning hourly news bulletin and then later this afternoon. Here's her report:
"Karzai told reporters that he welcomes the increased American focus on Taliban and al-Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan. Those sanctuaries have soured relations between Afghan and Pakistani officials. He also says the plan will help restore Afghans' faith in western efforts in their country (Karzai: 'It's exactly what Afghan people were hoping for and seeking, therefore it has our full support.') The strategy also calls for sending forces to provinces in southern and eastern Afghanistan to fight the growing Taliban threat. Meanwhile in the southern province of Helmand, Afghan and coalition forces killed 12 militants Friday night during a raid of their compound."
Good thing she's actually there and can verify what Karzai said, including that awesome, exclusive voice recording of Karzai himself speaking -wow! And it's amazing that she was able to scoot down to Helmand province to confirm that those twelve Friday night "kills" were actually "militants." I mean, seriously, if she weren't actually there, I might think that she was just reading this crap on Voice of America and Stars and Stripes.

Tristan Who?

(Click on photo to see the actual graphic in context)

How about NPR's stellar coverage of the Israeli attack on US citizen Tristan Anderson? Click the graphic below to see for yourself.

Coming 6 years after the murder of Rachel Corrie, I guess one shouldn't be surprised. As Mondoweiss points out, this is typical for the US press - but, really, with the videotaped evidence of the unprovoked attack and with ABC and even the AP covering it, you might think it would get a mention. Oh, but wait, unlike the Rachel Corrie killing, which NPR did cover, the US State Department hasn't cleared the way for our intrepid NPR journalists by calling for a probe first.

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Friday, March 27, 2009


When the armed-and-dangerous (and well funded, and well connected) in Washington cook up their insane (and murderous) ideas for global victory, you can count on NPR to spice up the crock o'crap and serve it up as a perfectly tasty and rational proposal. All that's needed is a quick trip to the pantry of well-funded/connected (and dangerous) think tanks that are soooo... fond of the projection of US power. This morning was a case in point with experienced tank chef Jackie Northam chattering on about a splendid recipe for drone-bombing the Baluchistan province of Pakistan.

The range of opinions Northam puts in the pot is telling:
How's that for a tasty bowl of CSIS, CFR, DOD, NATO, RAND soup....mmm, mmm, good. Anybody have a knife?

In fairness, I have to give Markey a nod. Despite his claim that there appears to be at least passive support for Baluchi Taliban within Pakistan's military, he points out that US bombing in Baluchistan would "cross a red line" and "fuel further unrest" (unrest!!?). Beside that tepid dissent, the rest of the piece features Northam cooking up the apocalyptic alarmism that Juan Cole and other analysts (hee-hee) have derided:
  • "Cordesman and other analysts say the Taliban operates openly in Baluchistan...."
  • "Removing the leadership in Quetta could severely disrupt Taliban operations in Afghanistan. Some analysts say if the Pakistanis won't do it, the U.S. should take action."
Go Jackie, go! Drone on.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lethal Contradictions

NPR's Wednesday ATC touts the praise that a counterinsurgency expert has put on Obama's coming Afghanistan strategy. Who is this expert brought on for an interview with Robert Siegel? It would have to be one of NPR's two favorite counterinsurgency hucksters: Super-Duper Soup-with-a-Knife Nagl or Kill-and-Cull-em Kilcullen.

Turns out that Wednesday's story features Kilcullen playing a bit of Jekyll and Hyde - something that Siegel completely misses (no surprise there). As the kindly Dr. Jekyll, he tells Siegel:
"The accidental guerrilla is a person fighting us not because they hate the West - but because they've been co-opted by a very small clique of radicals in their area, and/or because we just turned up in their valley with a brigade, shot their cousin you know, dispossessed their land and so on - and it's a backlash against our presence. "
To deal with this he suggests that the US-NATO forces need to
"...focus a little less on full-time main-force guerrilla columns...and focus more on protecting people where they live. That is building relationships with people in local villages, in valleys, major towns and so-on....partnering with local communities to make them self-defending."
Sounds downright hunky-dory. But when Siegel asks how long "we" will be in Afghanistan Mr. Hyde reveals:
"I would say that we have three to five years of major engagement with Afghanistan and of that a substantial amount will be heavy combat in the next year or two. If that goes well - and that's a big if - then we will probably find ourselves in a situation where we need to support the Afghans from perhaps one step back if you like, as they handle the problem for another five or ten years or so - and then after that they will handle the problem."
A year or two of "heavy combat"? You'd think Siegel would ask his esteemed expert how the US and NATO are going to engage in heavy combat without slaughtering more civilians and how that won't create more "accidental guerrillas"? Apparently the thought never entered Siegel's mind.

Back to being the gentle Jekyll, Kilcullen claims that "....the way they [counterinsurgencies] end is you drive the threat down to the level at which the locals can handle it, and then they just handle it." As is always the case on NPR, there is no reality check on the atrocities and carnage that have been the hallmarks of the counterinsurgencies that Nagl and Kilcullen are so enamored of.

Lastly, something worth reading is a telling (and very defensive) reaction from Kilcullen to a review by Andrew Bacevich of Kilcullen's Accidental Guerrilla book.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Recruiting for the Homeland

Click on each picture for the rest of the story...

Got Blood?

On Saturday NPR returned to the scene of the crimes of El Salvador's 1980s bloodbath - a US-nurtured extreme-right orgy of torture and murder against organized labor, the poor, church leaders, and leftists (and their families, friends, associates, or potential associates).

There were a few problems with the report. Jason Beaubien's reporting isn't great; he does a little plastic surgery on history, claiming "The Reagan administration jumped into the Cold War conflict spending billions of dollars to fight the Marxist guerrillas while Cuba and other communist states backed the FMLN." That's a rather tidy and truncated version of the long history of US support for the murderous right in El Salvador - gathering steam and corpses especially in the 1960s. It also ignores the historical record of who killed most of those 75,000 plus civilians in the "Cold War conflict." But the really nasty propaganda is front loaded by Lianne Hansen in introducing the report:
"The FMLN is a coalition of left wing groups, but it's dominated by the communist party. One of the biggest questions after the FMLN victory is how far to the left the President Elect Mauricio Funes will move El Salvador."
Dominated by the communist party? That's a stunning assertion. Dominated by revolutionaries and former guerrillas - okay. But the communist party? In all the articles I found, the communist party is mentioned as important, but not dominant. In the report Jason Beaubien comments that "El Salvador appears at times to be stuck in the Cold War." (Psst, Jason, I think El Salvador's not the only one!)

Finally for Hansen to claim that "one of the biggest how far to the left...blah, blah, blah" is quite telling. No surprise, but that seems to be the big question keeping some Foxes awake at night. That's definitely the question of the profiteers and oligarchs who have exploited El Salvador mercilessly, but it's not the question troubling the Catholic Church in El Salvador or the progressive movement in the United States.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

pitchfork rebellion

I didn't intend to write about a four-day-old article, but as I was sorting through NPR's coverage this week of the AIG bonuses, I came upon this gem from Mara Liasson on Tuesday's ATC. The premise of Liasson's article "AIG Complicates Obama's Strategy" is that "a wave of populist outrage" over the AIG bonuses presents political difficulties for the Obama administration. However, something ugly was going on with Liasson's use of the word "populist."

The most common
definition of "populism" is a political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite. Indubitably, there has been plenty of outrage over the use of the taxpayer-funded bailout to give bonuses to wealthy financial executives. However, another common definition of populism, with a much more negative connotation, is: "a political strategy based on a calculated appeal to the interests or prejudices of ordinary people." It is this second connotation that drives Liasson's story.

This was most clear when Liasson claimed that Obama "let the stage directions show, just a little bit," when he joked that a catch in his throat was due to being choked up with anger over the AIG bonuses. Her point evidently being that the entire press conference was merely posturing necessary to "surf a wave of populist anger."

Of course, I don't know the hearts of Obama, Geithner, et al., any better than Liasson does, but this is an extremely cynical take, considering that are very good reasons to have serious concerns regarding the bailout of AIG and other financial institutions. Rather than admit those concerns, Liasson dismissed them as "populist backlash," and described the Congressional debate over the issue as a "fullblown pitchfork rebellion."

The problem, according to Liasson, is not the very real and justifiable concerns about the bailout, but the fact that the Obama administration is now "torn between attacking and defending some of the financial entities it needs to prop up in order to secure economic recovery." Obama's challenge, she says, is to convince voters/taxpayers that "the bailout money won't be used again in a way that insults taxpayers values." Excuse me, but these issues involve significant, quantifiable realities--budgets, salaries, layoffs, not to mention the transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars of public funds--not simply taxpayers' values (read "opinions").

Needless to say, it would be much more informative and useful if NPR were to report on the substance of the economic policy issues, rather than simply engaging in political scorekeeping while dismissing the actual debate as merely calculated posturing to mollify the pitchfork-wielding rubes.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

We will all be long, long gone

[Hello, all. As my signature suggests, my name is Brian and I'll be an occasional contributor to NPR Check, writing once or twice a week primarily on the issues of national politics and environmental policy. I've spent the past 10 years or so working in public policy and politics, and of course listening to way, way too much NPR.]

Although one reader (biggerbox) already beat me to the punch in a comment, this morning's ME article about Antarctic sea ice deserves note. Actually, Richard Harris' explanation of the Nature article and the underlying science was fine: researchers have determined that the West Antarctic ice sheet has repeatedly deteriorated over the past few million years, and is likely to do so again if the surrounding ocean temperature increases by 5C. This finding made the climate researchers "nervous," since such a scenario would probably involve sea level rises of 15 to 20 feet.

However, the article placed a bizarre emphasis on the relatively long time it takes such large masses of ice to melt. Harris noted that the researcher "figures that will take at least 1,000 years, and more likely 2,000 to 3,000 years, " and Renee Montagne introduced the piece by saying, "maybe this will make you feel a bit better, we will all be long, long gone before it could happen." No reason to worry, right?

I can't help but feel that they got the focus a little backwards. For example, Harris notes that "while the full effect may not unfold for thousands of years, it would transform the planet into a place we would not recognize today." However, Antarctic ice sheets are already melting rapidly--losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice per year. Also, although NPR didn't report it, the same climate scientist noted elsewhere that the 5C tipping point was a "rough number," and that "It could be 3C or it could be 6C." Considering that the scientific consensus is that the earth has already been committed to more than 2C of warming by the end of this century, the possibility of reaching 3C, or even 5C, seems far too likely.

It might have been more appropriate to emphasize that the planet is already changing so dramatically that we are now forced to consider the very real possibility that a 527,000 cubic-mile chuck of ice could melt away entirely, whether or not we are alive to see it. Thankfully, the article ends with a glaciologist calling for efforts to curb global warming, but the point is not well connected to the main body of the article, and it would be hard for a listener not to mistakenly take away the implication that the worst impacts of climate change are a thousand years away.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rhee-form Experts

On Monday's ME Claudio Sanchez offers a case study in slick storytelling as he cobbles together another genuflection to Michelle Rhee. Sanchez limits his story to lots of airtime and rhapsodizing about first-year teacher Meridith Leonard who seems to be a critical part of Rhee's media dog-and-pony show (that also includes principal Brian Betts who features prominently in Sanchez's story).

Here's a sample of Sanchez' radio spin:
"Leonard is what school reform experts call a new breed of teacher -mostly twenty-somethings fresh out of college....Many are receptive to the changes that DC chancellor Michelle Rhee is proposing: merit pay and doing away with tenure - all good ideas (pause), says Leonard."

"It's all about change now, says Leonard....It's her first year, but she exudes confidence."

"Leonard's 6th graders have made remarkable progress - this particular class is 100% proficient in reading according to the latest test scores." (I hate to tell Sanchez, but if that's true then whoever had those kids in the last year or two is responsible - not six-month Leonard).

"Leonard doesn't believe poverty is an excuse for kids not learning."

"....that difference [between new teachers and teachers who've been in the system for a long time] reform experts say is what chancellor Michelle Rhee is trying to reconcile as she moves aggressively to try to remake the city's teacher corps. (Audio clip: 'Younger teachers obviously they don't have as much at stake.') Rick Hess is a senior researcher at the American Enterprise Institute. Unlike younger teachers, says Hess, veteran teachers believe they have a lot to lose when people start talking about change..."
As someone who works all the time with many incredibly talented, hard-working, inventive, passionate, and undervalued public school teachers - this kind of lazy journalism drives me crazy. His piece is all about the great value of these "new" unconventional teachers who don't have a clue about the value of unions and instead are so excited about dog-eat-dog competition between teachers rewarded for for high test score student performance . Sanchez twice relies on unnamed school "reform experts" and then quickly slips in the far right think tank, American Enterprise Institute, "expert" Rick Hess.

Not surprisingly this piece (which might as well have been produced by the American Enterprise Institute) relies on trashing teacher unions and trashing (and ignoring) the researched based findings about the effects of poverty on student performance - something NPR has done before.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Same Slaughter, Same Reporter

I think it's time to drug test JJ Sutherland - the man seems to be hyped up on testosterone in a big way. I was going to pass on last week's clipped-sentence tough-guy narration of an Air Force Cross won by a US airman for a firefight and assault in Afghanistan - until I heard him again this morning using the uber-macho style to sing the praises of the the US air-war machine again.

Here's a sample of last week's Sutherland:
"They came in at first light. Giant helicopters swooped into Shak Valley....'kind of trapped ourselves,' he says. Their mission had changed; now it was all about getting out alive....calling in air strikes from above: F-15s, Apaches, A-10s; it goes on for hours....had to call in air strikes practically on top of his own position: rockets, cannons, bombs. Nothing worked. Finally, they had only one option left....a TWO THOUSAND POUND BOMB."
Interestingly, in Sutherland's wargasmic homage he didn't mention a bit of information I found buried in an Air Force write-up of the attack:
"By the end of the fight, between 150 and 200 insurgents were killed, according to reports." We all know how accurate the US military has been about killing "insurgents" (i.e. If they kill you, you're an insurgent).
I also found that Afghans had a bit of a different take on the "mission."

That was last Tuesday, and then there was this Monday morning's quasi-religious worship of the fighter pilot, or as NPR titled it "Same Swagger, Different Jets."

Sutherland was at it again, chopping his sentences into manly Hemingway-size chunks:
"Fighter pilot: confident, swagger, ego...those who survive the competition are supremely confident. Ask any fighter pilot and he'll tell you a dogfight is no place for self-doubt. Results are what matter. Everyone in your squadron knows whether you succeeded or choked....the swagger's the same as it was when Yeager was flying P-51 Mustangs over 9-Gs the blood is forced from your brain. It's hard to breathe, let alone talk, let alone be twisting around in your seat looking for someone trying to kill you....It's hard to imagine hearing this ['I feel the need, the need - for speed - ow!'] coming from a cubicle."
Yeah, nothing like all that supreme confidence when you're napalming peasants, cluster bombing Afghan villages, and flattening cities in Iraq. No place for questioning orders, no place for morality, just swagger - like JJ, radio warrior.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Day Late

On one hand I was pleased to hear Jackie Leyden interview Mark Danner on Sunday's ATC regarding his recent articles in the New York Review of Books and the NYT about the ICRC-documented evidence of torture ordered by the Bush administration and practiced by the CIA. On the other hand it's frustrating that NPR is again the Johnny-come-lately to a story of such importance - covering it only when it is safely established. As Danner notes in his NY Review of Books article, the story of US torture is nothing new - it's been sitting out there just waiting for serious reporting since late in 2002, citing part of an article from the WaPo in December 2002 and noting "A similarly lengthy report followed a few months later on the front page of The New York Times ('Interrogations: Questioning Terror Suspects in a Dark and Surreal World')."

One can wish that NPR would follow up this long overdue report with information on the Convention Against Torture which, as Glenn Greenwald noted last month, the US signed under Reagan and ratified in 1994, and which obliges (with no exceptions allowed) the US government to investigate and prosecute any government officials who participated in or were complicit in torture. One can wish, eh?


I'm really wondering how Michael W. Davidson (US Army ret.) scored an interview on NPR for his new book Victory at Risk or why NPR felt compelled to offer him an interview for it. His talk with Hansen lacked any original views or unique insights and instead was a hodgepodge of commonplace predictions (e.g. al-Qaeda setting off a nuke in NYC), conventional beliefs about the US need for massive military might, and pedestrian distortions about US history. As you might guess, none of these were challenged in any way by Hansen.

Hansen launches this one with a rather unappetizing metaphor:
"What do you think the appetite is for Americans to get involved in a war is, given what has been going on for the last eight years?"
Davidson's answer is a doozy:
"The appetite is not where it needs to be, and it's not where it should be...have to address things like strategic visionary leadership...things like will Americans believe a President when he or she says something."
Seems like it would have been a reasonable time to ask how appetizing 4.7 million refugees, 1 million-plus dead civilians, and tens of thousands of wounded and thousands of dead US soldiers is. I know, I know that is such a downer....

Davidson notes that the US will have to be ready militarily when it's next attacked by al-Qaeda, but then later he claims, "we are a global power not because of our warships our warplanes our formations of soldiers and marines. We are a global power because of our commitment to freedom - that's why we have succeeded for 250 years as a nation..."

Seriously, when someone says something like that could the interviewer please just ask if that 250 year commitment to "freedom" included slavery, killing American Indians, lynching, stealing territory, invading other countries, overthrowing governments, disrupting elections, etc. - sheesh...

From the Inbox

I got a thoughtful email from someone who read the comment I posted on the NPR site regarding Alicia Shepard's comments on NPR's "Monkey See" blog [re: "See No Irony" post below]. Here's the email which I'm posting by request from the sender:
You wrote:
"I challenge Shepard (or anyone for that matter) to show any examples in the last 10 years where NPR's main news shows (ME, ATC, WE-Sat or WE-Sun) "held people in power accountable for what they said,[or] put it in context." I've been carefully critiquing NPR for almost 3 years and NPR News consistently echoes and champions the opinions and assertions of the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and free market corporatism."

I've only heard one instance of NPR actually standing up to spin by an

I've never heard anything like it since, and I listen almost every day.

As I recall, there were tons of people who wrote in letters showing
support and calling for more:

Please indicate this on your blog. I couldn't find it anywhere.

Daniel Roesler
I appreciated the work that Roesler did to find this piece and the positive response of listeners. Siegel's interview does fit with my challenge. He does confront a White House spokesperson with what he has said and with what the facts are. Siegel does a decent job of contextualizing the conversation by noting that even for a $60,000 income family of four - health insurance coverage can be extremely expensive and burdensome. However, even as Siegel points out, the support for the SCHIP expansion was shared by most newspaper editorials and several prominent Republicans. I guess what I found most hopeful is that listeners seem to be hungry for a higher quality of reporting even though it's rare on NPR.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

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Friday, March 13, 2009

See No Irony

On NPR's "Monkey See" blog the Stewart-Cramer spanking was posted. If you look at the comments section and click on "Most Recommended" in the little "Recent First" drop-down box, you'll see a post put there by NPR's Ombudsman, Alicia Shepard (Lisa). With not a whit of irony (or embarrassment) she wrote:

Jon Stewart is one of the best journalists in America. We can all take a lesson from him. He holds people in power accountable for what they say, he puts it in context and makes it riveting to watch. That's the definition of a good journalist.

Strangely, I fully agree with Shepard's operating definition of a "good journalist" - but could NPR be further from such an ideal?

I couldn't resist adding my own post. Feel free to visit and "recommend" it if you are so inclined - you don't have to register, just click.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Under Fire

If you haven't heard yet, Chas Freeman - Obama's pick to head up the National Intelligence Council - has been torpedoed by the neocon "pro-Israel" extremists. NPR's threadbare coverage of this important story bears comparison with another Obama appointee who withdrew under criticism of his record: John Brennan.

I posted quite a bit on NPR's (and especially Tom Gjelten's) distortions regarding the withdrawal of Obama's first pick to head the CIA, John Brennan back in late November-early December last year. At the time several significant journalist bloggers strongly criticized the appointment of Brennan due to his praise of intelligence gathered by CIA torture and his explicit support of torture/rendition flights and illegal wiretapping. NPR repeatedly claimed that Brennan's only fault was being a CIA associate during the time that such practices were going on. Furthermore NPR frequently used derogatory terms to belittle the efforts of bloggers to highlight Brennan's documented shortcomings: "a campaign of liberal bloggers," "the hubbub these liberal groups were raising," and "those people who were stoking the fires of criticism."

Compare this with the general and normative descriptions given to the radical crew of Likudist neocons who attacked the Freeman nomination:

On Tuesday's ATC Gjelten stated that "in recent years as a private citizen Freeman has been an outspoken critic of some US policies, especially regarding China and Israel. Because of that his appointment...was vigorously criticized..."

Again on Tuesday, Mary Louise Kelly stated, "Freeman has a record of speaking his mind on policies regarding China and Israel in particular, so Freeman's nomination faced opposition from the start..."

Oddly we NEVER get the substance of Freeman's remarks. His thinking on Israel can be found here, and as Andrew Sullivan points out, the outrageous nature of his "anti-Israel" comments are as follows:
"Tragically, despite all the advantages and opportunities Israel has had over the fifty-nine years of its existence, it has failed to achieve concord and reconciliation with anyone in its region, still less to gain their admiration or affection. Instead, with each decade, Israel's behavior has deviated farther from the humane ideals of its founders and the high ethical standards of the religion that most of its inhabitants profess."
As far as Freeman's China remarks go, they appear to have been dishonestly obtained and purposely distorted. Other rather tame and rational ideas of Freeman's can be seen here. The important story is that the successful attack on Freeman indicates that even mild and perfectly rational critiques of US-Israeli foreign/military policy are not open for debate or discussion. (A policy which dovetails well with NPR's coverage of Israel-Palestine issues.)

Amazingly NPR never presents Freeman's remarks or focuses on the sleazy nature of the organizers of the attack on Freeman. Tonight Siegel had a thin and tepid interview with Freeman offering him the opportunity to rebut one critique of him, which he did quite effectively - but that's it.

Again, when presented with an easy opportunity to offer informative and substantive reports on a pressing issue - NPR fails to deliver.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

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NPRbie's Dream Studio

(click picture for larger version and click here for original)

A few days ago a reader of this blog complained that NPR was overloading it's Barbie coverage with two feature stories in one week. If only it were just two. Yesterday's ME offered another Barbie feature - a 3 minute oooh-aah from Melissa Jaeger-Miller (an aspiring Nprbie - apparently) over Mattel's REAL LIFE BARBIE'S FANTASY MALIBU DREAM HOUSE.

If you think 3 stories is all NPR is up for, just try "Barbie" in their search bar - SCARY! Talk about some serious news, but it's almost spring and that means the Kentucky Derby; I just hope they move on from Barbie to Barbaro soon.

From the Bart Simpson School of Journalism

Whew! talk about dumb. On ATC NPR reported on Obama's lifting of the stem cell research ban and played some decent clips of President Obama speaking to scientists who loudly cheered him. Michele Norris then turns to Joe Palca, one of NPR's expert science reporters to ask, "Now why did this order on scientific integrity draw cheers from the crowd?"

Seems like Norris must have woken Joe up from a nap or interrupted him during an intense round of Tetris. He answers:
"Well, I think Aretha Franklin captured the idea when she said, 'R-E-S-P-E-C-T.' I think scientists have spent the last eight years feeling dissed. That's the way they felt; it wasn't true a hundred percent of the time, but that was the gestalt in the scientific community. And I think now they're saying, they're hearing a president say, 'We love you, and we respect your ideas,' and you know - that feels good."
They actually pay this guy? Does he have access to Lexis-Nexis? Does he read anything these days? A very short search turns up reams of factual material about the Bush administrations dismal record on science from beginning to end; and it has nothing to do with how scientists feel. And to frame Obama's stance on science as "we love you" is pathetic.

The comment beneath the web story nails this one and is worth a look.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Smooth Operators

FAIR busts the media - including NPR - for its lockdown against reporting on a single-payer health plan for the US. So it was rich to hear Maura Liasson covering President Obama's Forum on Health Reform. Liasson feels no irony in stating "even the White House is careful to say it's open to ANY ideas that meet its goals of controlling costs" while never mentioning the single-payer option. Not only does this idea get no mention, Liasson's whole report is a shameless spin operation by two major players for the Hospital and Health Insurance Industry.

We hear a lot from Chip Kahn who's biography notes that
"Prior to joining the Federation of American Hospitals, he was one of the nation's foremost leaders of the health insurance industry. From 1998 to 2001, while serving as President of the Health Insurance Association of America."
Liasson's report also leans heavily on the comments of Karen Ignagni - president and CEO of - what do you know - the America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). We get to hear Ignani explain how she helped wreck the 1994 Clinton attempt at health care reform because her group was "very concerned about the role of government in that plan" but now - according to Liasson - AHIP "wants to help craft not kill a health reform bill." Isn't that sweet?

Liasson also lets us hear from Rahm Emmanuel who claims that the White House approach puts "everyone at the starting gate together." Seems like it would have been a good time to ask why single-payer representatives were only allowed in at the last minute, and why single-payer has been essentially eliminated from consideration by the administration (and by NPR too).

The one story NPR did on single-payer recently (Dec. 24, 2008) was interesting for how much time it spent trying to distort and dismantle the accepted fact that single-payer is viewed rather favorably by most people in the US. A good deal of that Christmas Eve program was turned over to Robert Blendon who tries to spin one poll into a rejection of single payer. NPR cleverly identified Bob Blendon as "an expert in health care public opinion at the Harvard School of Public HealthHarvard School of Public Health." What they failed to mention is that he's on the board of directors of Assurant, Inc., a corporate powerhouse which provides, among other things, "individual health and small employer group health insurance; group dental insurance." An honest oversight, I'm sure...

Friday, March 06, 2009

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Snark is Alive and Well

Just had to love tonight's ATC report giving lots of time to the vacuous whining from Iain Martin who got his undies in a bunch over Obama's gifts to Brown. Golly, if only Obama could have given Brown a gift like, say, an invasion of a non-aggressor with all of its promises of glory, and profit (and a million dead Iraqis).

Seems like NPR goes dredging/drudging for stories in the same cesspool as some other hard-hitting outlets such as FOX, or PolypPundit, Will to Power Line, and Hot Air.

It's Alive

The usually unresponsive OMBOTsman actually does occasionally respond - and with even more than a cut a paste reply. BigGuy, a reader of this blog, sent me the interchange he had with NPR's ombudsman Alicia Shepard. It speaks for itself:

BigGuy wrote to NPR with the following:

Nearly every time Daniel Schorr is on, some person from the Right is also invited to give comments later on. In contrast, whenever Juan Williams or David Brooks is on, someone from the Left is NOT presented. Why do you have so many commentators from the Right? Why so few from the Left? Why do we hear from Juan Williams and/or David Brooks nearly every week, and from Katrina vanden Heuvel and Eric Alterman from the Nation on the Left at most once a quarter, usually only once or twice a year?

To which he received the following response:
Dear BigGuy -- thank you for taking the time to contact the Ombudsman's office. I do however want to correct some misconceptions in your email.

There is never anyone on after Dan Schorr speaking for the right. I do think it would be good if NPR had someone on who had counter thoughts/political leanings than Dan Schorr.

You mentioned David Brook. I checked with NPR's political editor and he is never on without the left-leaning E.J. Dionne. They are always a duo on Fridays -- except when Brooks can't make it and then NPR gets another conservative to sub or vice versa if Dionne isn't able to make it. EJ Dionne is way more liberal than Brooks, who is a moderate conservative.

As for Juan Williams, I don't know that he's so easy to pigeonhole as being on the right or left. One can't make that assumption just because he's also on Fox News, as Mara Liasson is also on Fox.

I did pass on your point to the political editor that you would like to see people like Alterman and vanden Heuvel.

Thank you again for writing. I hope this helps clear up misconceptions. Try to listen on Fridays to All Things Considered and you will hear Brooks-Dionne.

Alicia Shepard
NPR Ombudsman
Needless to say, BigGuy felt compelled to follow up with a few corrections of Shepard's misconceptions:
Thank you very much for your considerate reply. I rarely have received a reply from NPR other than a form letter.

That said, what you wrote below is partly untrue. Whenever Daniel Schorr is on, someone from the Right is also on the Saturday show, although not immediately after, but about 15 to 30 minutes later. Usually, it's someone from AEI or the Cato Institute or the like. It's true that they are not set up to be directly a counterpoint to Mr. Schorr.

Check your records and you'll see that when Daniel Schorr is broadcast, someone like Eric Alterman or Katrina vanden Heuval or Greg Palast is NEVER broadcast on the same show. NPR hardly ever has someone from the Left to give commentary about anything when Daniel Schorr is broadcast.

Mara Liasson and Juan Williams continually skew to the Right as does Cokie Roberts, almost without fail. You say their politics are not clearly on the Right and I should not mistake their appearances on Fox (and ABC) TV as representing their politics. But you are mistaking their appearance for their political convictions. They look like many liberals, but they are conservatives, nearly always. You're handling a radio broadcast so it'd be helpful if you wouldn't be distracted by appearances. All three skew to the Right and sometimes the Center, but hardly ever the Left.

Just because the Right has been "working the Refs" by claiming that NPR skews to the Left for years does not mean that NPR does skew to the Left. That's simply FALSE. NPR does not skew to the Left.

Again, thank you very much for your reply. I appreciate being acknowledged and appreciate the time and trouble taken to write back to me.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed.

If It Walks Like a Hawk, Talks Like a Hawk and Acts Like a Hawk , Then It Must Be...a Dove!

Worse than worthless. How else can one sum up NPR's coverage of the Israel - Palestine conflict?

Yesterday morning first featured Michele Kelemen redelivering Secretary of State Clinton's talking points (Hamas is a terrorist organization, blah, blah, blah, Hamas has to renounce violence, blah, blah, blah, US is giving tons of money to Gaza, blah, blah, etc.). OK, so she's accompanying Clinton on the trip, what else can you expect from NPR?

After that four minute-plus State Department summary what does NPR offer? Who would you go to for expert analysis? How about someone who has "has advised six American Secretaries of State." Yep, NPR serves up the stale ideas of Aaron David Miller - again. Miller has a way with words that only a six Secretary of State big league hitter could have. Here he is explaining Netanyahu:
"He's an ideologue; there's no question - leaning and ensconced in the right. But he's also capable of tremendous pragmatism...the history of peacemaking in Israel has really been a history dominated by the right or the center right. It's really a question in Israel of doves talking the talk, and hawks walking the walk. The right in Israel has been capable of actually making agreements with the Arabs and actually delivering on them."
Miller mentions Netanyahu's negotiations with Arafat at the Wye River and the Hebron withdrawal. Throughout the interview, Linda Wertheimer just nods along like a bobblehead. I think she forgot to see how the actual settlement policies went under Netanyahu back when he was Prime Minister. Nothing about what that great Hebron concession really meant for Palestinians. Nothing about Netanyahu's provocations that even an editor from the rightist WINEP takes note of. Nothing about Netanyahu's Jerusalem expansionist efforts.

It would be hard to do more pro-Likud, pro-Zionist coverage of the Palestine conflict. That someone on an NPR news report can claim in all seriousness - with no challenge from the the NPR host - that a person with such far-right and low ethical standards as Netanyahu is in fact the real pragmatist and the real peacemaker says far more about NPR's current orientation than it does about anything actually happening on the ground in Israel and Palestine.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Something Decent

Today I get a rare chance to make a positive comment about something on NPR news - and with Scott Simon involved, too. Next thing you know, it'll be snowing in Alabama!

On WE Sunday, NPR talked to a former guard about abuses he witnessed at Guantanamo. In spite of a few misfires - e.g. Simon claiming that "there have been few first hand accounts of what the military prison at Guantanamo Bay is really like" - I have to say that (though way too late) it was a good start.

The best part of the story was the reference in the report to the Guantanamo Testimonials Project at UC Davis's Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas. I can't believe I actually learned about a new information resource from NPR! On the story web site NPR even provides this link to the guard's testimony based on the UC Davis site.