Sunday, January 30, 2011

Gjelten for the Prosecution

NPR has joined with much of the corporate media in the US in vilifying Julian Assange and ignoring the significant (and damning) material contained in the various WikiLeaks releases - and has been silent on the inhumane and extrajudicial punishment imposed upon Pfc. Bradley Manning in his military confinement as a suspect for the source of many of the WikiLeaks revelations.

You might think that a news organization would focus on the well-documented and internationally infamous abuses of power by the US state security organs (as in the case of Manning), or on the extrajudicial attempts at silencing WikiLeaks and targeting its founder Assange for a sham prosecution under the US Espionage Act (even the Columbia School of Journalism has denounced the US effort).

Then again if you are NPR's Tom Gjelten - and your primary allegiance is to the security apparatus of the United States regardless of its aims or tactics - you cobble together a piece of misinformation aimed at covering up the abuses of Manning and promoting the case for prosecuting Assange. Gjelten's report aired on Thursday's ATC (1/27/11).

Regarding Manning, Gjelten never mentions the UN investigation and Amnesty International's condemnation of Manning's detention, instead describing it himself - telling listeners that Manning
"is held in what the military calls Prevention of Injury status, supposedly because he's a threat to himself. According to some reports, Manning has been depressed. He's held alone in his cell for 23 hours a day under constant surveillance. His lawyer last weekend filed a complaint objecting to Manning's treatment."
In contrast to this euphemistic gloss, Gjelten brings on Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, to give us the unchallenged Pentagon description of Manning's incarceration:
"He's being provided well-balanced, nutritious meals three times a day. He receives visitors and mail, and can write letters. He routinely meets with doctors, as well as his attorney. He's allowed to make telephone calls. And he is being treated just like every other detainee in the brig."
Done with Manning, Gjelten then turns his sights on Julian Assange. Noting that no direct connection has been found between Manning and Assange, Gjelten - friend of the CIA - states,
"If Assange were himself not a party to the theft of the classified U.S. files, he'd presumably have to be charged simply for publishing them. Difficult but not impossible, says Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel."
We then get CIA reinforcement, Smith to tell us,
"It would arguably be made easier if they could establish a link between the removal of the documents by Manning and the transmission of those documents to Assange, but I don't think the absence of that link is fatal to the prosecution of Assange."
And just in case any actual journalists might find Gjelten's "case" unsettling (and unseemly), Gjelten closes his report by turning to the New York Times to bolster his case:
"If government lawyers go after WikiLeaks, they'll probably say it's not a news organization. And they'll have the New York Times to back them up. In an article released on its website, Times editor Bill Keller writes that the newspaper has regarded Assange, quote, as a source, not as a partner or collaborator."
At least one can say that Gjelten is an expert on what is "not a news organization."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Start Your Timers

There's new marketing afoot for Mattel's plastic couple - Barbie and Ken. And with a come-on line like, "...we may be plastic but our love is real" how long will it be before NPR gives this critical news, say, one, two or even three feature stories. After all when all you have to do is repeat the talking points that the generals and government hacks feed you, even a Barbie can be a journalist. When you're listening, don't forget, they may be real, but their journalism is _______________.

Feel free to treat this post as an open thread...with any NPR related comments welcomed.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed - of course!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When the Shit Hits the Fan - Make Brownies!

The bombshell release of The Palestine Papers by Al Jazeera and The Guardian hit the news this week and provide stark evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the Israeli government and the US government in the sham "peace process" - (not to mention the craven subservience and collaborative nature of the Palestinian Authority). As The Guardian editorialized
"It is hard to tell who appears worst: the Palestinian leaders, who are weak, craven and eager to shower their counterparts with compliments; the Israelis, who are polite in word but contemptuous in deed; or the Americans, whose neutrality consists of bullying the weak and holding the hand of the strong. Together they conspire to build a puppet state in Palestine, at best authoritarian, at worst a surrogate for an occupying force."
So what does NPR do when someone else has done all the work for them and hands them a huge trove of damming evidence?

First, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro did a decent job of reporting on reaction by the Palestinian Authority, Palestinians, and the Israeli government.

This modest piece was followed by a sad hodgepodge of spin from the awful Michele Kelemen - a story that the NPR scribe monkeys titled "Release of Palestinian Papers Raises Issues for the US." Raises issues!? Sheesh...

Melissa Block introduces the piece, asking "And how does the U.S. try to revive talks when all sides seem to be losing credibility?" as if the complete lack of US legitimacy and credibility has not been exposed in these documents. From there Michele Kelemen turns to Professor Kurtzer of Princeton who states that one thing the documents show is that the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians
"are far narrower than people would have assumed....therefore...the has evidence that the bridge can be built."
Kelemen then turns to - as she says -
"Another U.S. veteran of the peace process, Robert Danin, of the Council on Foreign Relations, cautions against reading too much into the documents."
Kelemen and NPR definitely take this advice to heart, and - instead of any scrutiny or critical assessment of these damning records of the US/Israel/PA attempt to destroy any hope of justice for Palestinians - opts to continue airing the views of other US official participants in the peace process sham. As if to drive the point home that the revelations will have no effect on Michele Kelemen and NPR's determination to echo the views of the US State Department, Kelemen allows State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley to have the final word:
"The best and only way to fundamentally resolve the core issues, reach an agreement and end the conflict once and for all is through a negotiation, not through unilateral statements, unilateral actions."
Unbelievably, it's not meant as some kind of sick joke...

NPR Black Sites ***Updated***

UPDATED below [1-26-11]

Just checking in on the torture and authoritarian-watch clock at NPR.

Remember Gulet Mohamed - that young US citizen held, probably tortured, illegally prevented from travelling, and grilled and harassed by the FBI? A week ago I posted on NPR's silence regarding his treatment. Since then, the ACLU sued to get Mohamed off the no-fly list and succeeded in getting him home. Even the Washington Post covered his return. How's NPR doing with on-air coverage? Still nothing, not a word...

And what about Bradley Manning, the young army private - convicted of no crime - who is being held in conditions that are so atrocious that even Amnesty International has weighed in on his case. NPR's on-air coverage? Absolutely nothing about his ill treatment - zilch.

As if to prove that it is nothing but a pro-torture mouthpiece for the new, enhanced Yes We Can Security States of America, NPR finally gets around to covering Gulet Mohamed by covering up his torture, and providing FBI disinformation as a bonus! On Wednesday ME [1-26-11] Jamie Tarabay discusses Gulet Mohamed's situation of being on the no-fly zone - but the fact that he was tortured by the Kuwaitis (with likely US approval) and then grilled relentlessly by the FBI is NEVER mentioned! Tarabay also states as fact that the numbers on Big Brother's no-fly list are "smaller than you think." She's speaking with FBI propagandist, Timothy Healy, director of its Torture Screaming Center Terrorist Screening Center :
Tarbay: "The actual number of people on the no-fly list isn't as high as you might think."
Healy: "About ten thousand. And then the U.S. citizens on the no-fly list is even much smaller, between 500 and 1,000."
Several commenters at the NPR site noted that there are mainstream news reports that show these numbers are probably off by a factor of about 50!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Tale of Two Teens

If the security apparatus of the United States assists a client state in disappearing and detaining an American citizen, torturing him, and keeping him imprisoned so the FBI can aggressively interrogate him - how long does it take NPR to report on this assault on the rights of a citizen?

The horse hasn't even left the gate on that one. The story of Gulet Mohamed's detention and alleged torture was broken by the NYT on January 5, 2011, and as of the evening of January 18, 2011, NPR has yet to give ANY airtime to the case. As of tomorrow we'll be at two weeks and counting...

However, if you are an American citizen arrested on the evening of November 26, 2010 for planning to bomb a public event in Portland, Oregon, how long will it take NPR to jump on the case? The answer is four days (that does not include the immediate on-air hourly news-updates which NPR doesn't archive for searches). On November 30, 2010 there will be a full story on the case itself, and additional report featuring confrontational questioning of the mayor of Portland challenging the wisdom of his city's not fully joining a federal security "anti-terror" organization.

The complete lack of coverage of Gulet Mohamed's ordeal is no accident. It has been written about extensively since January 6, 2011 by Glenn Greenwald - and a "big follower" of Greenwald's writing is none other than NPR's go-to "Counterterrorism Correspondent," Dina Temple-Raston. Here is what Temple-Raston said to Greenwald on Nov. 5th at the NYU Constitution and National Security Conference [beginning and ending time is indicated]:
(53:16) "Hi there, I'm Dina Temple-Raston with National Public Radio, and I'm a big follower of yours Glenn and I like your stuff very much, but I'm sorry I'm going to have to correct you on a number of very basic points that clearly, uh, our representative from the FBI feels uncomfortable correcting you on..." (53:32)
The stark nature of attention and promptness NPR devotes to stories promoting the enhancement of state encroachment on individual liberties versus its complete lack of interest in reporting on the crimes of the US security apparatus is telling in this case. Both central figures in these events are about the same age, are American citizens, and were born in Somalia - and when it involves Somalia and the US "war on terror," Dina Temple-Raston is usually all over it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Q Tips

As always, NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Roads Not Traveled

NPR gets credit for getting French-speaking reporter, Eleanor Beardsley into the capital of Tunisia by Friday morning. Her reports have provided some dramatic first-person accounts of police repression and the chaos of the revolutionary scenario in the capital. However, NPR's general coverage lays the blame for the uprising on Tunisia's dictatorial regime and the spike in food prices - while avoiding any in-depth discussion of two important elements of the Tunisian uprising:
  1. The way in which the the Tunisian dictatorship reflects the gross hypocrisy of the US-led "war on terror" which has created increased global repression (and terrorism).
  2. The role that US/European economic neoliberalism has had in bringing on the misery which helped ignite the Tunisian rebellion.
A discussion of these two threads practically begs to be covered, given the WikiLeak cable on the US awareness of repression and corruption in Tunisia - a cable that was widely know and discussed in Tunisia [and terrifies our newest thug ally in the "war on terror."] And more cables on US complicity in Tunisian repression and cronyism were released yesterday. Amazingly, Beardsley trumpets the role of social media in the Tunisian uprising but WikiLeaks is never mentioned (search NPR "heard on air" for Wikileaks + Tunisia and you get zilch as of Sunday afternoon!).

As far as the role of neoliberal economics (and US foreign policy) in compounding North Africa's miseries, not only does NPR completely ignore it, but to explain rising food prices there turns to Gary Blumenthal, who
"served as Deputy Assistant for Cabinet Liaison to former President George Bush, and as Special Assistant to the President for Agriculture Trade and Food Assistance....served as Executive Assistant and then as Chief of Staff to then Secretary of Agriculture Clayton Yeutter, providing oversight of all operations in this large federal agency (110,000 employees) and exercising continuous scrutiny over $65 billion worth of programs including research, education, production, domestic and international marketing, food safety and inspection, nutrition, environment, public affairs, economic analysis, legal counsel and administration matters related to USDA's mission in the U.S. and in 60 countries around the world. He also served with the Foreign Agricultural Service as Legislative Director, and as a Legislative Assistant to Congressman Larry J. Hopkins (R-KY)."
Mr. Blumenthal explains that rising food prices in the Maghreb are the result of increased demand and "imperfect weather." How's that for insight?

Eleanor Beardsley has mentioned several times in her reports that people in Tunis are watching Aljazeera TV - too bad none of Aljazeera's coverage is finding its way into NPR's coverage. I'd also recommend Juan Cole's Informed Comment for far more substantive coverage and analysis of the Tunisian revolution.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Learned Helplessness

NPR and it's stealth Xtian-extremist, Barbara Bradley-Hagerty [yes, her!], must think its listeners are like the poor dogs of Martin Seligman's learned helplessness experiments: after being subjected to pain that they cannot control, they simply lie there and whimper when subjected to shock after shock - even when a way of escaping is provided.

Fortunately, listeners are not always as ignorant as NPR must think they are. On Thursday's ATC, Bradley Hagerty reported on the Army's "Spiritual Fitness" test, and kept the focus solely on the legal/Constitutional issues of the story, while completely ignoring very important facts and context that are essential to a full understanding of the case. Fortunately some of the commenters at the NPR site were not about to let her distort the history of the case.

One listener, providing the relevant link wrote:
"NPR left out a major part of this story, which was reported last week by and then reported by Countdown with Keith Olbermann. The person who is responsible for coming up with this crazy idea is Martin Seligman, who was also the inspiration for the CIA's torture program."
The listener noted that no credit was given to for the story.

Another listener, complimenting the mention of the piece, noted that had covered the war-profiteering and slippery ethics of Martin Seligman angle of this story even earlier. Unsurprisingly, NPR and Bradley Hagerty, made no mention of this either.

Understandably, to fully cover this story, NPR would have to violate its own tortuous Torture-That's-Not-Torture policy. Readers here are under no such restraints and should feel free to read more about Seligman's "unwitting" involvement in the Bush era (now Obama era) torture programs. Martin Seligman's rejection of being complicit with torture is interesting, Scott Horton's Q&A with Jane Mayer is helpful, and Andrew Sullivan's ruminations are worth looking at, too.

I should note that General Warlove appreciated Ms. Bradley Hagerty's narrow focus.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Q Tips

"Parting seas of misinformation since 2006."

NPR related comments, notes and observations welcomed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fourth Estate Finds Third Way

(you can buy the original here)

Mara Liasson's statement on last Tuesday's ATC caught my attention. She was reflecting on Joe Biden's statements made at the time that the Obama/Democratic gift to the insurance industry was signed into law:
"The final girder in the great liberal project - Biden knew what he was talking about. The health care bill will be the last great middle class entitlement, says Jim Kessler of the policy think-tank Third Way."
Well, that was a doozy. And Jim Kessler of this "Third Way" think tank didn't let up:
"With the passage of health care reform, the 80-year Democratic quest to build the best possible safety net is essentially over. And the Democratic Party has to shift from being a party primarily concerned with economic security and dividing up the pie to one that is primarily concerned with economic growth and expanding the pie."
Did you get that? The party's over folks. You know all that redistribution of wealth that the Democrats have been fighting for all these years (hee...hee...) and that glorious safety net (hee...hee...) - those namby-pamby days are over! Too bad there wasn't a journalist around to remind Mr. Third Way that the pie has been growing and growing - it's just that one segment of the population has been eating the biggest pieces.

I wondered about this creepy "Third Way" tank of thinksters. Who are they and why are they getting so much airtime on NPR? No surprise: Third Way is a basic "Blue Dog" corporate-lovin' Democratic think tank - which explains why it has found such a warm welcome at NPR - and, with Obama's appointment of Third Way William Daley, it's star is on the rise.

This infatuation with Third Way seemed so typical of NPR's love of the corporate center that I wasn't going to bother posting about it until the tragedy of the massacre in Arizona broke, and NPR weighed in with it's personal connections to Representative Giffords.

On Weekend Edition Sunday, Scott Simon - lauded Representative Giffords and revealed,
"Our families are friends. We don't talk a lot about politics when we get together as much as kids and parents, great quesadillas, and all the new movies we never get a chance to see. We swap jokes and dreams."
It struck me as odd that a reporter would be close friends with the government officials they are supposed to be scrutinizing - and show no qualms in revealing that information. But Simon is always eager to show his caring, emotional side...and this was an obviously an opportunity he couldn't pass up. Then, on Sunday's ATC Andrea Seabrook had this interchange with Guy Raz:
[Raz] "Andrea, I hope you don't mind, but I'd like to ask you to step out of your reporter's shoes for a moment and just talk about Gabrielle Giffords. So many people seemed to love this person on both sides of the aisle, and you've come to know her pretty well yourself, haven't you?"

[Seabrook] "Yes...Gabrielle Giffords is a wonderful woman. Aside from her politics, we members of the press up here often work with these members of Congress and their staff so closely that we come to think of these people as colleagues. And often, we care more...about how a person is as a person than we do about their politics."
This is truly astounding. Representative Giffords may be a wonderful person, but you begin to suspect that NPR reporters think the Fourth Estate is a social club where they get to be friends with the powerful, instead of an institution that should keep a check on power (though that institution may be so far gone as to be dead). Hearing these unabashed declarations of friendship and collegiality made me wonder how many other officials (military, corporate, and governmental) NPR reporters count among their friends - and how these friendships affect the news that finds its way onto the air.

And that brings me back to Third Way and the tragedy of the assassination attempt on Rep. Giffords. I thought her name seemed familiar, and then it dawned on me that when I was researching the Third Way think tank earlier in the week - I had seen her name and picture on the Third Way website: she's one of the honorary co-chairs of Third Way. Seems like the Beltway social club is a small world after all...

Little Dutch Boy Takes a Wikileak

Back in late November Noam Chomsky pointed out that the cables released by WikiLeaks regarding statements on Iran from Arab and US leaders demonstrated a "profound hatred for democracy" on the part of those leaders. His evidence was that polling clearly showed that Arab public sentiment on potential Iranian nuclear arms - and on what nations were viewed as the greatest threat to peace -
(from the UM/Zogby 2010 Poll - click to see full PDF version)

were diametrically opposed to the policies of their leaders. Even the Washington Times noted the results of the polling.

Contempt for democracy might well describe the editorial stance at NPR, and Michele Kelemen goes at it full bore on Monday evening. Kelemen, one of the many the State Department spokespersons for NPR, recently tried to stanch the flood of ugly coming out of the WikiLeaks cables disclosures, showed her own contempt for democracy by distorting the content of the WikiLeaks cables to favor US aggression toward Iran:
"Diplomatic cables recently released by Wikileaks show that many in this region are worried about Iranian intentions. The ruler of Abu Dhabi was quoted in one as comparing Iranian President Amadinejahd to Hitler, warning he could drag the region into war."
Those are really her words from the broadcast! It's clever how she manages to change a handful of Arab dictators and plutocrats into "many in this region." And you have to love how she manages to ring the Hitler gong [standard neocon propaganda that even Fareed Zakaria knows is rubbish] by repeating the nonsense from Abu Dhabi's crown prince.