Monday, November 29, 2010

It's What for Dinner

Peter Peterson must be one pleased bankster, turns out his $1 billion dollar attack on Social Security is paying off handsomely (has been for some time: here and here) - and his propaganda gets free and seemingly endless airtime from NPR - mainly through Maya MacGuineas, a paid propagandist for the Peterson Institute. Do a quick search of her as "heard on the air" on NPR and you'll see she's their latest go-to "expert" on attacking Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. She's always introduced on NPR as the "president of the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget" (Ydstie on Monday's ME). Of course, the "Responsible" in this committee's title rings about as true as "Democratic" does in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

So what Peter Peterson cat food "solutions" does Ms. MacGuineas repeat for listeners to NPR? Here are a few choice spoonfuls:

On Saturday's ATC, the painfully clueless Audie Cornish let MacGuiness toss these doozies out there without any challenge:
"Just like you can't go on borrowing forever in your own household. That's not sustainable for the federal government...We put these policies in place before without paying for them, they're still there on the books and they're going to be exacerbated as more people are aging and health care costs are growing...." [those old, lazy freeloaders...sheesh!]

"So in the '90s....a lot of things came together and helped us get out of that fiscal hole...which was great until it loosened Congress' resolve. And then, suddenly, it was tax cuts and spending increases everywhere...." [and about that $8 trillion dollar housing bubble?]

"And what we need to do is have a adult conversation about the different kinds of trade-offs....the co-chairs of this White House commission, Erskine Bowles and Al Simpson, have changed the game by putting forth an honest, straightforward plan about the kinds of things that will be involved."
Anytime you hear these hacks talking about rising health care costs or paying for mistaken policies, you have to ask why they never mention the savings of getting rid of our bloated private insurance "health care" system and never talk about the role of private speculators in creating the debt crisis they are so concerned about.

There was more on Monday's ME with MacGuineas and John Ydstie teaming up:
Ydstie: "But now the cost of Medicare threatens to crush the whole federal budget. And Social Security benefits for the baby boom generation will add to that burden..."

Ms. MacGuineas: "When it comes to Medicare and health care in general, we just don't know how to fix it."

Ydstie: "While a growing population of elderly is part of Medicare's problem, the largest threat is the rising cost of health care....But, without a doubt, the biggest challenge for deficit wranglers is reining in the long term growth of entitlements for the elderly....The President's fiscal commission hopes it can deliver a road map to lower deficits and debt later this week." [Oh yeah, the President's fiscal commission...meeeeeooooowww....]
Maybe NPR realized it was a tad unseemly to have Ms. MacGuineas be the only voice of Peterson, so on Monday ATC, they went fishing for another Peterson clone and found, "chief economist Diane Lim Rogers of the fiscal watchdog The Concord Coalition." And guess who owns the Concord Coalition? You betcha!

The Monday ATC piece offered more of the same with Scott Horsley explaining:
"Both plans would curtail Social Security benefits for future retirees, while increasing payments to the neediest seniors. In other words, both plans involve compromise." [Compromise - oh goody!]
Painfully, NPR promises there will be more: "On Tuesday's Morning Edition, we explore the choices for dealing with the debt."

Never Too Late to Plug the Leaks

(Yes, that is Michele Kelemen, though I provided the fetching cap.)

The dike of secrecy ain't just leaking; it has collapsed, thanks in large part to WikiLeaks. But NPR's Michele Kelemen still thinks she can channel the little Dutch Boy and plug those holes. A news agency's first story on any major event can be quite telling; consider NPR's initial story on the latest WikiLeaks document release that ran on Sunday's ATC:
Audie Cornish: "Michele, there's a lot to cover, but let's talk about that last cable we just heard. That is a directive to essentially spy on other diplomats at the United Nations. And what have you learned about that?"

Kelemen: "....The U.S. government apparently wants these diplomats to learn about potential links between U.N. organizations and terrorist organizations and to learn about corruption in the U.N."
It funny how the Guardian had a few other truthy ideas about what the US was up to in spying on UN officials and provides a healthy context for the likely criminality of such actions.

Noting that reported harm and danger from previous WikiLeaks have been proven to be lies, Glenn Greenwald asks today, "Will that prevent media figures and many other people from running around this week mindlessly parroting the Government's claim -- without pointing to any specifics or other evidence -- that WikiLeaks has endangered lives with this latest release? Hmmm, let's see how NPR answers the call,
Kelemen: "...the White House was reminding people today that these are not expressions of policy. It's just field reporting....That said, the U.S. does worry that these disclosures could put diplomats at risk, as well as their sources, you know, human rights activists, journalists, bloggers."
Bloggers? Uh oh!

Finally, there is Iran. Ah yes, there is always the boogie man of Iran. Juan Cole points out that the released cables reveal how much BS the Bush/Obama warministrations have foisted on the public - especially in relation to the absurd idea that Iran has been helping out the Taliban [something old Fair and Balanced Sorya Sarhadi Nelson has been commended for]. Seems like Kelemen couldn't help but sing about the evil TENTACLES of Iran:
"And the ambassador, Stephen Beecroft, writes that the metaphor most commonly deployed by Jordanians when they talk about Iran is that of an octopus whose tentacles reach out insidiously to manipulate, foment and undermine the best-laid plans of the West and regional moderates. It says that Iran's tentacles include its allies Qatar and Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories."
Oooooh, so scary!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Q Tips

Another open thread where readers can weigh in with NPR related comments.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Extreme Home Makeover: the NATO Edition

(For source of photo, click here.)

Sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cry. This morning Scott Simon was checking in with NPR's Afghanistan bureau chief, Quil Lawrence. After hearing from Lawrence how "Afghan military commanders and government ministers...seem to be on the same page as the generals and the NATO officials..." Simon asked a good question, "And can you give us any insight into how regular Afghan citizens might be viewing this debate now?" That led to this from Lawrence,
"Well, I find that Afghans outside the government or that aren't working with the Americans are living in an absolutely completely different reality from the one that I hear described by U.S. generals, by NATO officials, by congressmen and U.S. senators who come here.
For example, down in Kandahar, where they certainly have seen fierce fighting and killed many, many Taliban fighters down there, but at the same time villagers down there have been evicted from their homes by the violence. They see that their homes are now - and their fields are still so littered with Taliban landmines and booby traps that the U.S. military has actually had to bulldoze or sometimes rocket their houses just to clear them."
Well, dang what do you know, seems like there's a new Nobel Prize winning strategy emerging in Afghanistan - kind of a 21st century update of "destroying the village in order to save it." And Simon's horrified reaction is...
"Might they reflect that the picture the U.S. is presenting at NATO meetings and elsewhere is just a little hopeful?"
A little hopeful? Sheesh...oh well, I guess he was saving his profound humanity for the Afghanistan dog hero that was accidentally euthanized. Notice, too how the web scribes for NPR describe thwarted attackers against NATO combat forces as "terrorists."

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness of Heft and Humanity

After hearing NPR - on Tuesday's ATC - tout Robert Siegel's selection for the 2010 Chancellor Award, I decided to email Columbia University's School of Journalism's Abi Wright (Director of the duPont and Chancellor awards) and Nicholas Lehmann (Dean of the Journalism School and chair of the Chancellor selection committee). I've yet to hear back from either, so I've decided post the letter here (with no changes).
Dear Abi Wright and Nicholas Lehmann,

I'm contacting you to ask how Columbia University's School of Journalism can justify giving the Chancellor award to Robert Siegel. In the award announcement on the School of Journalism web site, Mr. Lehmann states:

"Robert Siegel brings intellectual heft and a profound humanity to his reporting."

I find this disturbing given that I have been closely following NPR reporting and can provide several examples of Mr. Siegel exhibiting an utter lack of intellectual rigor and a rather callous attitude to the sufferings of people when they are victims of US foreign policy. For example:

Siegel was instrumental in selling the phony intelligence that led to the Iraq War

And where is Siegel's "intellectual heft" as he fails to inform listeners about the basic background of Conservapedia's Andy Schlafly or challenge Schlafly's biased statements Again, where is "intellectual heft" or "profound humanity" in the long overdue piece Siegel hosted on torture/rendition flights where he is chuckling during this discussion of one of the most barbarous aspects of the US War on Terror?

It really saddens me that a lackluster newsreader and lightweight apologist for US State Department/Pentagon interests such as Robert Siegel garners a distinguished award from one of our nations premier journalism schools. But perhaps I should not be surprised, since as Chris Hedges so recently pointed out, our liberal establishments refuse to take principled, radical stands - opting instead to "pay homage to the marvels of corporate capitalism [and militarism] even as it disembowels the nation and the planet"

Matthew Murrey
NPR Check
I also cc'd the letter to a few other Columbia School of Journalism faculty members, to the editors of the Columbia Journalism Review, to FAIR, Media Matters and Truthdig. If I receive any responses I will post them if given permission.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Q Tips

Q Tips is "Open Thread" for any newcomers here. Seriously, does anyone not use Q Tips to clean out the ears? Feel free to post any NPR related comments.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Warped Times and Time Warps

Israel / Palestine

Amazingly, and almost three years to the day, NPR reprises its typically pro US/Israel coverage of the war on Palestinians with a piece that is essentially a repetition of the piece it ran three years ago. Back then it was the much-touted, amazing Bush inspired Annapolis conference for peace in the Middle East and Michele Kelemen was all over it with Aaron David Miller and Robert Malley representing the State Department far right view and the State Department center right view of the matter respectively. Guess what tonight's ATC piece on the Obama State Department's Unbelievalble 90-day Breakthrough for Israel featured? No really, go out on a limb and take a guess:
Kelemen: "Israeli officials say the package includes $3 billion in fighter jets, continued diplomat cover at the United Nations and a promise that the U.S. won't ask Israel to renew the settlement moratorium again three months from now. Woodrow Wilson Center scholar Aaron David Miller says it's a high price to pay but may be worth it."
Kelemen: "Rob Malley of the International Crisis Group has his doubts and is troubled by the apparent U.S. assurances that it won't push the settlement issue beyond the 90-day moratorium."
Can you say Groundhog Day?


And then there's those crazy stopped clocks of Afghanistan. Exactly 17 months ago NPR and General McChrystal assured us that in 12 to 18 months we'd all know whether or not the Obama Nobel Prize winning Afghanistan Surge™ was working. Well it isn't - as any joker could tell you. But don't let past claims get in the way of NPR's hopeful assessments of the new endless war with magically shifting timelines:

First there's Julie McCarthy on ATC:
McCarthy: "Ambassador Holbrooke said...marks a turning point for American and allied forces fighting in Afghanistan...the United States will be in a transition mode with a target date of the end of 2014 for Afghanistan to take the lead for its own security....said it was important to make clear this is not an exit strategy, but a transition strategy....The U.S. and its allies would remain in Afghanistan past 2014. But for training and mentoring...The 2014 date marks the most concrete blueprint to end the war since the president took office. President Obama has set next summer as a starting point for the gradual drawdown of U.S. combat personnel. His envoy said July 2011 still stands."
Makes perfect sense to me (hee, hee).

Siegel: "Well, 2014, the deadline, is still four years off. What do people think there? Is there any way to judge if these forces can actually be ready to take over by that time?"

Bowman: "Well, it's possible. And four years is a long way off, of course, and that would give them time to build up their junior leaders especially. But be careful by the term they're using - takeover. I think even if all works as planned by 2014, and that's frankly a very big if, there will still be a lot of American troops here helping with training and especially logistics."
Now you understand don't you? The 12 to 18 month window was so we could get all geared up for the 3-4 year window, by which time we should be all set for the 10-50 year plan which NPR will no doubt explain. Also worth noting in this sad coverage was Tom Bowman's super empathetic coverage of the ruthless, cynical JSOC night raids that practically guarantee no end to the Afghanistan tragedy. When Siegel asks what's wrong with the night raids Bowman states:
"Well, this isn't a new complaint. But Karzai is rightly concerned about it. The night raids are more likely to get civilians killed, mistakes can be made. You go to the wrong house or the wrong compound. But the U.S. sees this as critical in their efforts to really bring the Taliban to its knees. A NATO officer I spoke with in Kabul says there have been more than 1,000 raids by U.S. Special Forces troops over just the past several months. Hundreds of Taliban have been killed or captured in those raids. So I think Karzai's complaints will, frankly, be dismissed."
Notice how completely Bowman accepts that the civilians are killed only by mistakes and how he asserts that "hundreds of Taliban have been killed or captured" with absolutely no confirming evidence. I challenge anyone to watch and/or listen to Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley discuss their investigations of these night raids and not be struck by their courageous reporting and humanity as opposed to NPR's lazy and crass attitude toward the misery and horror that the US is visiting upon Afghanistan.

A Rebel? Well, Just Because

There's a lot of things a person might call John Boehner - lobby pimp, corrupt sleazeball, gross opportunist, unbridled hypocrite - though understandably a journalist should simply stick to describing the behaviors that merit these names, and avoid outright name calling - unless that journalist, NPR's Andrea Seabrook, is shamelessly enamored with the future Speaker of the House and breathlessly lauds him as "Boehner the rebel and Boehner the compromiser. "

Such was Morning Edition today. How's this for a hard-hitting examination of Boehner:
  • "There really seem to be two Boehners: Boehner the rebel and Boehner the compromiser."
  • "Boehner was one of a few Republicans who wrote a simple, succinct document that outlined an agenda of vast reforms in Congress: the Contract with America."
  • "This is Boehner the rebel: tough, conservative, ideological, uncompromising. He entered the Republican leadership ready to fight for reforms and a smaller government, regardless of the political price."
She's not joking - honestly. And as for Mr. Compromiser? Again Seabrook:
"This is where we enter the era of Boehner the compromiser. In 2001, he took over as chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee....[and] began to work with Democrats on a massive overhaul that would be dubbed No Child Left Behind....Boehner the compromiser called [it] his proudest achievement in his decades of public service."
Let's just recap that, Boehner dared to work with Democrats who willingly gave the Republicans everything they wanted in a suck piece of educational legislation that is even now noted as a failure by one of it's earliest "intellectual" champions. That's how NPR defines compromise. I guess when Obama's Catfood Commission recommends amputations for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid while spending on our Nobel Laureate's forever wars keeps rising, Compromiser John will be there to reach across the aisle (and Seabrook will be there to swoon).

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Take it Away

I thought I'd put up a new open thread post so that it's at the top of the blog.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

NPR Pitches a Shut Out

The day after Brazil's Presidential election I got an email from a fellow NPR critic in Wisconsin who noted:
"My, my! Yesterday, Brazil just elected its first female president with 56% of the votes and nary a word about it on National Public Radio... nor any mention of it on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Brazil is not Palau: it is larger than the continental United States and is the 8th largest economy on earth.

Nothing on News on the Hour. Nothing on Morning Edition.

Well done, Skippy!"
Ok, I thought - surely NPR is just a working on a more in-depth story on the Brazil election. As the AP reportage on the election points out, not only is Brazil the 8th largest economy, it's predicted to be the 5th largest economy by 2016. But here it is Tuesday evening and - guess what? - NPR has done nothing - ZILCH - on air regarding the Brazilian election. Compare this to the coverage the World Series has garnered on NPR. What gives?

I'm not here to trash sports, I watched the World Series and enjoyed the pitching dominance of the Giants. And speaking of pitching, there was definitely news to cover: Game 3 featured a war criminal, admitted felon and torturer throwing out the ceremonial first pitch - oops, never heard that on NPR. Hmmm, maybe NPR's discomfort with naming torture torture, might explain its shutout of Brazil's presidential election. After all, Brazil's president elect Rousseff was a victim of the US-backed torture regime that ruled Brazil in the 1960s and 1970s. One can see that for NPR it might be hard to talk about Rousseff without mentioning the fact that torture ( I mean enhanced interrogation ) and its export from the US to South America has a long tradition.

NPR's blackout on the seamy role of US foreign policy and global predatory capitalism in South America may also explain why the death of Nestor Kirchner of Argentina also merited such in-depth coverage.

Boneheads and Infotainers

Granted, NPR has trouble distinguishing Tea Party Brown Shirts from the Civil Rights Movement, and it's own ombudsman rues not having more Beckian viewpoints presented in its coverage - but this weekend poor Andrea Seabrook and chuckling Guy Raz can't seem to tell the difference between Jon Stewart and Glenn Beck or their rallies.
Seabrook: ....I mean, think about it. Some of the biggest political movement in terms of rallies this year have been organized by non-politician...
Raz: Yeah.
Seabrook: ...infotainers.
Raz: Incredible.
Seabrook: And they were very much alike. People at both the Glenn Beck rally and his rally were very nice, calm, happy. I mean, the Glenn Beck rally was more like a church picnic.
Yep, Jon Stewart and Glenn Beck (and their respective rallies) are almost identical - just good old infotainers, except one likes to describe his opponents as a virus and call for their eradication. I bet that Glenn Beck rally was just like a church picnic, can't wait for the bonfire later...

In the Open Thread comments below goopDoggy succinctly notes how the other subtext of Seabrook's "report" is to disparage antiwar protesters as "chanting, you know, screaming people."