Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Q Tips & Summer Break

NPR related notes and comments welcomed.

I've currently been posting about once a week, and I anticipate posting far less over the summer months. I'll open a new Q Tips/open-thread post anytime comments reach the 100 mark.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tough Minded Hope and Faith from Rev. Ron Elving

If you've ever wondered why - when it comes to economic issues - NPR's content almost always echoes the Washington Consensus favoring the wealthy and privileged, you need look no further than Ron Elving, "the senior Washington editor for NPR News, where he directs coverage of the capitol and of national politics."

On Weekend Edition Sunday I was listening to Liane Hansen discuss what she called "twin burdens of the federal deficit and debt" with Ron Elving when I heard him make a remarkable statement. Hansen has just asked him, "And what about the other group, the senators who had a bipartisan group looking into what, a long term global deal on the deficit...?" To which Elving replied:
"Yes and a lot of us were holding out a good deal of hope and faith in that group, but this week the so-called "Gang of Six"...suffered a major blow, a perhaps crippling blow. They lost one of their members, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma."
It is truly a remarkable statement. Notice that Elving didn't say "a lot of people" or "many politicians" etc., but included himself in the congregation of those who held out "hope and faith" in this senatorial "Gang of Six."

Well, that got me wondering just what is the take on "this small group of senators [that] has spent four months in dozens of secretive meetings" on budget issues. No surprise: the group is not progressive and not interested in representing the poor or lower middle classes; its range of "acceptable" options for the budget lies somewhere between Paul Ryan's extreme-right gutting entitlements and Obama's center-right hopey-changey death by a thousand cuts for entitlements.

Amazingly, Reverend Hope and Faith Elving isn't done preaching his articles of faith. Speaking of Paul Ryan's intellectually vacuous rip-off-for-the-rich budget plan (which NPR blessed as inspired long before it landed fresh and steaming on the House floor), Ron Elving says "what Paul Ryan has done,...come forward with something tough-minded, something politically unpopular..."

Lastly, when Liane Hansen asks Elving if he sees any hope on the horizon for the budget, he shows where his treasure lies:
"This week on Wednesday, there is a public event in town sponsored by the Peter Peterson Foundation - this is an anti-deficit outfit, private informal group. And it is billed as the Fiscal Summit 2011. It will bring together the remaining Gang of Five from the Senate, and also Paul Ryan - the man from the House - and also former President, Bill Clinton..."
There you have NPR's senior editor giving his endorsement to a conference organized by the Slash-Entitlements-for-the-Benefit-of-Billionaires Institute (aka Peter Peterson Institute - whose success shaping NPR (and mainstream media) coverage of the deficit "crisis" I've posted on before.

Of course listening to NPR, you would NEVER know about the People's Budget from the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Something that actually represents the polled opinions of the people Congress is supposed to represent, is workable, and threatens the the most wealthy and privileged in Rev. Elving's congregation is simply heresy for NPR. Don't believe it? Check out NPR for the proof. Search NPR's on-air content for the following and see what you get:
Amen! Church dismissed...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It Was the Dirty Hippies Again

Thanks NPR for this Wednesday morning gem of a statement regarding the arrogant, patriarchal, sexually stunted and twisted, and rabidly misogynist leadership of the child-raping Roman Catholic Church:
"A five year study of sexual abuse by priests in the Roman Catholic Church in the US concludes that neither celibacy nor homosexuality was the prime cause. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports the study focuses blame instead on poorly trained priests swayed by the sexual freedom of the 60s and 70s."
Craig Windham read this tripe during the top of the hour news bulletins this morning.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Q Tips

NPR Check critics - doing the heavy lifting since 2006. Light or heavy - NPR related comments are always welcomed.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Holy Grail, The Best of the Best, and an Epic

This week, Rachel Martin and Tom Bowman could barely contain their almost erotic excitement over the US JSOC operation that resulted in the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

On Monday afternoon, May 2, Martin was positively ecstatic:
"Intelligence officials tracked the courier for years. They knew his operational nickname. They watched his comings and goings and communication patterns, never knowing if he was really leading them to the Holy Grail or a dead end."
Then on Wednesday morning, May 4, Tom Bowman joins in with what FAIR has pointed out is "Superhuman" worship of the Navy Seals who killed Bin Laden (a worship that ignores any controversy of these commando units).
"There's a unit called Navy SEALS and then there's SEAL Team Six. They're not the same....the commandoes who slipped into bin Laden's compound this week are a cut above."
"The best of the best, he says, is SEAL Team Six."
Finally, today on Weekend Edition Saturday, sock-puppet / JSOC-puppet Martin is back on the put a little Homerian gloss on the glorious victory of killing Bin Laden. CIA Hayden (see post below) is up off his cot in the NPR offices to bring his serious expertise to bear, telling us, "But what happened Sunday and what happened in Khost are part of the same epic." Just in case you didn't get the fact that the killing of Bin Laden is one of the greatest military/intelligence feats in the history of the world, Rachel Martin echoes Hayden:
"The final chapter of that epic has now been written. The agency that took the risk at Khost that cost seven lives, took another chance last week — only this time, it paid off."

Zone of Cooperation

On Thursday's ME, finishing up a series (see Tues. ATC & Wed. ATC) of cooperative reports on "enhanced" and "harsh" interrogations (known under US domestic and international law as torture) - Tom Gjelten was on with his handler, former CIA Director Michael Hayden, to set the record straight on the "debate" about "enhanced interrogations."

In the Thursday piece, Gjelten is explaining how some of the first leads in tracking down Osama Bin Laden's courier came "from detainees who were interrogated while in CIA custody." Gjelten tells us that "about a third of the CIA detainees were subjected to what the agency euphemistically called enhanced interrogation techniques." So far, so good. It's helpful that he describes CIA spin as euphemism. A listener might expect that the next step would be to have someone from the ACLU or Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch come on to detail just what these now-admitted techniques (and unadmitted ones) were and how many detainees didn't make it through the enhanced care of the CIA.

The CIA and US military need not fear that Tom Gjelten or NPR would dare shed any light on the gruesome details of US torture. For an unbiased description of the techniques, Gjelten turns to - guess who? - former head of the CIA, Michael Hayden, who gently explains,
"They range from something as innocuous as something called the attention grasp or the facial grasp. You know, grabbing somebody by the lapels or grabbing them by the chin, to a variety of things that had to do with sleep and diet or stress positions."
God, and to think I used to think that US POWS in Vietnam were tortured...silly me, now I know they were just subjected to "a variety of things" like "stress positions."

Just to be sure that you can't accuse NPR of not being "fair and balanced," Gjelten tosses out that old NPR sop of some say: "Critics of enhanced interrogation techniques say they're tantamount to torture." See, it has nothing to do with law, treaties, or actual facts - it's just some anonymous "critics" who allege that its kind of like torture. In case these unnamed "critics" might undermine the very serious and important Michael Hayden, Gjelten notes that critics have also pointed out that real information came from detainees "after the harsh interrogations stopped. And General Hayden says he wouldn't be surprised by that."

And here's where Gjelten really enters his zone of cooperation, handing the microphone to the good General Hayden himself: "
I'm willing to concede the point that no one gave us valuable or actionable intelligence while they were, for example, being waterboarded. The purpose of the enhanced interrogation techniques was to take someone who was refusing to cooperate with us and to accelerate the process by which we would move from a zone of defiance to a zone of cooperation."
Well, I hope NPR will now do a piece (or two or three) debating the positive and negative effects of the enhanced interrogation sessions that the North Vietnamese applied to US POWs. Given that the civilian slaughter waged against Vietnam by the US military makes the events of 9/11 look like nothing more than a disturbing footnote in the history of atrocities, and given that the North was successful, then maybe all that enhanced treatment to move US prisoners from "a zone of defiance" to "a zone of cooperation" helped them win the war and was justifiable after all.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

A Tale of Two Cities - NPR and US Exceptionalism

This morning on Weekend Edition Sunday, I heard the following:
"...but the fact is...this is all unconfirmed. We know the government...has lied on several occasions about civilian casualties and strikes and damage, and frankly, we only have their word so far for what happened."
Isn't that the standard that ought to apply to all reporting? It seems reasonable that when a government has been proven to have lied about civilian casualties (e.g. here and here), lied about its reasons for going to war, and lied about the torture and murder of detainees then shouldn't all unconfirmed claims by that government be treated with skepticism and always be prefaced with the qualifiers included in the quote above. The answer is a rather obvious, "Yes." But on NPR there is one standard for countries and forces that the US government opposes and a completely different standard for the US government and its closest allies. Despite a long record of systematic lying about war, civilian deaths, and the abuse of detainees - I have - over the past five years - documented how NPR consistently grants official US statements the weight of confirmed evidence (or simply ignores stories where the evidence points to systematic lying and wrongdoing).

The quote above, from Sunday's Weekend Edition, is about the war in Libya and the lying government in question is the government of Libya's Gadhafi. The war in Libya - and especially the siege of Misrata - offers a unique opportunity to highlight NPR's embrace of American exceptionalism.

The forces of the Libyan government have attempted to destroy the rebel forces in Misrata in operations that are chillingly similar to the US military's destruction of Fallujah in Iraq. Misrata and Fallujah have about the same population size, about half-a-million for each. In April 2004 in Fallujah, as documented by the intrepid Dahr Jamail, the US used cluster bombs, indiscriminate sniping of civilians, and attacks on medical facilities. George Monbiot documented further war crimes of the US November 2005 assault on Fallujah - including the use of white phosphorous, thermobaric weapons, and the refusal to allow males of "fighting age" to flee the city. As in Misrata, US forces illegally focused their operations on hospitals and medical facilities. In spite of these illegal and barbaric tactics, you can search NPR in vain for stories on these crimes (cluster bombs- nothing, white phosphorous - mentioned after Pentagon admitted it, sniping civilians - nothing, attacking the hospital - nothing). Not only has NPR never reported the US war crimes against Fallujah, it has actually celebrated the assault.

Consider that NPR's censorship of the US horror show in Fallujah is now into it's eighth year, but in the less than two months of Libya coverage we have been given extensive coverage of every crime that the Gadhafi forces have perpetrated on Misrata. For example, in just this one Morning Edition report from April 13th, we hear the following from refugees:
  • "We heard the Gadhafi troops were kidnapping people."
  • "The Gadhafi forces aren't differentiating among their targets. They're attacking the young, the old, women, dragging people from their houses."
  • "In the streets of Misrata I've seen bodies, I've seen them burned. The snipers are shooting people at random."
And a few days later on April 17th Lourdes Garcia Navarro reports on Misrata,
"From rebels that I've spoken to, Gadhafi's forces are shelling civilian areas - we are talking grad missiles, mortar fire, tank fire. A few days ago came the first reports of cluster bombs, which are banned by international law for use in civilian areas."
It's too bad that it is really impossible to imagine NPR ever providing such immediate reporting on US military actions and their impact on civilian populations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, etc... or to imagine that they would ever give such well deserved qualifications of the lack of credibility that should always be given to any official statements issues by the White House, the US military, the State Department, NATO, etc.

Medicare 'Math' - NPR Style

After hearing Saturday's All Things Considered slam on Medicare hosted by Guy Raz, I contacted Dean Baker who writes the Beat the Press blog on economic misinformation in the media at the (Center for Economic and Policy Research) CEPR Website. With his permission I've cross-posted his take-down of NPR's sloppy anti-Medicare report.

[originally posted at Beat the Press]

Is NPR Unable to Get Access to Data on Health Care Costs

It seems that NPR is unable to get access to data from the OECD or even the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services. If it were, it would not have so badly misinformed listeners about Medicare costs yesterday.

NPR told listeners that Medicare's costs are unsustainable and that the reason is that patients do not see the cost of their treatment. Actually, private sector health care costs have risen as rapidly on an age-adjusted basis as Medicare. Furthermore, health care costs in the United States average more than twice as much per person as costs in countries like the United Kingdom and the Netherlands where patients see a much smaller share of their costs than they do under the Medicare system. If the United States paid the same amount per person for health care as these or any other wealthy country it would be looking at huge budget surpluses in the long-term, not deficits.

The article also mentioned Representative Ryan's plan without pointing out that the Congressional Budget Office's projections show that it would hugely raise the cost of providing care to retirees. The CBO projections imply that the Ryan plan, which was passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives last month, would raise the cost of buying Medicare equivalent insurance policies by $34 trillion over Medicare's 75-year planning period. This is almost 7 times the size of the projected Social Security shortfall.

In this context it is probably worth mentioning that the Republicans in Congress have targeted NPR for budget cuts.