Saturday, October 08, 2005

Ruth's Morning Edition Report

Ruth: CounterSpin will be our lead. I am glad to know that many of you enjoy the program. Trina e-mailed to say she had gotten so busy in the last year that she had begun missing episodes of FAIR's weekly show but that the talk of the critiques and the humor had her making time in her schedule again. She also asks that I note Extra! which is a magazine that FAIR publishes. Extra! is a bi-monthly magazine and the latest issue, which I picked up after reading Trina's e-mail, features a cover story by CounterSpin's Peter Hart and Steve Rendall entitled "Saving PBS: Time to Unplug the CPB."

At the start of CounterSpin, listeners are offered a critique of recent news.

This week Peter Hart began this section by stating, "On September 28th House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was indicted and charged with illegally funneling money to Texas Republicans in an effort to win Congressional elections and redraw the state's congressional districts." That is such a clear, concise statement but it that sort of clarity is lacking in most of the mainstream coverage of Mr. DeLay's current 'problems.'

Mr. Hart notes that as he begins to address CBS's Face The Nation, a weekly Sunday Chat & Chew, that October first's roundtable featured three Republicans discussing Tom DeLay. Host Bob Schieffer excused the lack of inclusion for Democrats by saying, "Let me just point out, I didn't invite any Democrats to be on this morning because I thought this was a Republican problem and wanted to give you a chance to talk about it." To which Mr. Hart responds, "But how could charges suggesting DeLay was illegally scheming to make the U.S. House of Representatives more Republican be considered merely a Republican problem?"

Mr. Hart also noted that in November, following the election, Mr. Schieffer also had a need to moderate an all Republican panel and concludes: ". . . it doesn't matter whether it's a good news week or a bad news week for the G.O.P., any news is an excuse enough for an all Republican panel."

Janine Jackson then addressed the New York Times' October 5th report by Joel Brinkley on Nicaragua which allowed an unnamed "senior administration officials" to liken Sandinistas and the liberal party to "formely competing mafias." Ms. Jackson pointed out that the paper's policy is supposed to prevent reporters from "granting anonymity for a personal or partisan attack."

Further critiquing Mr. Brinkley's article, Ms. Jackson notes this statement from the article which is not credited to anyone so is presumably Mr. Brinkley's own statement: "Their goal is to regain power without holding an election that neither man could win."

Ms. Jackson: Now they teach in journalism school that you're not supposed to read minds. Like declaring what 'their goal' is without ever quoting them. And you're certainly not supposed to predict the future by declaring the outcome of elections in advance. More evidence that if you're writing about someone that the U.S. government considers 'bad,' the most basic rules don't matter.

Peter Hart then noted Gloria Borger and Ms. Borger's fondness for "Republican talking points. Janeane Jackson spoke of a former Fox "News" reporter now at MSNBC who had gone on the record complaining that while he was allowed to pursue stories on the Clinton administration with vigor, he was not allowed to do the same at Fox "News." Peter Hart noted more stretching, spinning and revisionist tactics from Bill O'Reilly.

The next section dealt with the coverage of attacks on the Endangered Species attack and the guest was Natural Resources Defense Council's Andrew Wetzler. Mr. Hart and Mr. Wetzler spoke of how the he said/she said coverage hurts the actual reporting on the bill coming out of the House of Representatvies and the bill itself.

Mr. Wetzler: First, the bill that was passed through the House of Representatives would completely repeal the protection for so called critical habitat for various species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The second thing the bill would do is give an enormous exemption to the pesticide industry effectively completely exempting pesticide regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency from the Endangered Species Act. And finally, the bill creates an enormous new entitlement program that would funnel tax payer dollars from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Interior's budget to big developers, oil and gas companies and other land owners in exchange for those land owners promising not to kill or injure endangered species on their land.

Peter Hart: So they'll be compensated for following the law?

Mr. Wetzler: Well we don't like to use the word compensated although the media often does. They will be paid by tax payers for following the law which really violates a fundamental premise of American environmental law which is that we don't pay people not to pollute and killing endangered wildlife is no less pollution than polluting the air or polluting the water.

Janine Jackson then spoke with WBAI's Bob Lederer regarding the coverage of the death of Filiberto Ojeda Rios and how "it hasn't been much of a story for the U.S. press."

Mr. Lederer: Filiberto Ojeda Rios was someone who in his younger days was a salsa musician, trumpeter, guitarist, and went on to spend the bulk of his life, more than five decades, actively involved in the struggle for making Puerto Rico an independent country. He became a founder and leader of Los Macheteros, as you mentioned, also known as . . . the people's army and this is an organization that not only engaged in armed resistance against the U.S. military occupation of Puerto Rico through such actions as an attack on seven U.S. Air Force planes that were destined for El Salvador in the late seventies that were blown up and other operations against U.S. installations but also political organizing on issues such as the role of the U.S. Navy in carrying out target practice bombing . . ., labor struggles, environmental battles to fight against U.S. pharmecutical companies and a whole range of other issues. And he became known, even while he was underground as somebody who called for unity among the different groupings within the independence movement and became someone who was highly respected.

Ms. Jackson: While we use the term 'underground' one of the accounts that I read said that basically in Puerto Rico everyone knew where Ojeda was except the F.B.I. in the sense that he was underground but he would make his presence known and issue statements now and again and was very much felt as a living presence in the independence movement, is that right?

Mr. Lederer: No question. What had happened was that in 1985 the F.B.I. was able to track him down and moved in in a very similar operation to the one that we just saw last month to try to arrest him and perhaps to kill him at that time and so he was, by his own account, forced to shoot back in self-defense. He was arrested, an F.B.I. agent was wounded, and he was tried by a Puerto Rican jury for the assault on the F.B.I. officer and he was aquitted. The jury believed his argument of self-defense. And ultimately, in 1990, while he was on bail awaiting trial for the Hartford robbery he cut off his electronic bracelet and went back underground and, as you said, continued to stay in touch with the movement through annual statements actually granting journalistic interviews and as many U.S. military experts have said over the decades that a guerilla movement can only really maintain itself if it has popular support, people to shelter and protect those who are underground. So indeed, that was the role that he clearly played until the moment of his killing.

Ms. Jackson and Mr. Lederer then addressed the things missing from the coverage in the United States such as the ACLU and Amensty International's calls for an independent investigation. Ms. Jackson inquired as to general themes missing from the accounts?

Mr. Lederer: First you have the U.S. dominated accounts of everything. The criminalization of, in this case it was Filiberto Ojeda Rios, but in general of anyone connected to the independence movement. Some of the headlines from the AP stories, and these either came from AP or they were rewritten, by local newspapers that I found. "Puerto Rican Rebel Dies in F.B.I. Shoot Out." "Man Sought By F.B.I. Dies in Stake Out." "Puerto Rican Man Wanted In Heist Dies." "Wanted Fugitive Is Killed." Now all of these both treat Ojeda as a criminal and also assume the F.B.I.'s side of the story, that it was a "shoot out" rather than an effort to kill him, really, by one side shooting in, which there may have been some shots back in self-defense just as the jury found in 1985. So that was a very consistent trend. You've also mentioned the aspect of focusing on such issues as the F.B.I. beefing up security rather than the question of why is there such mass outrage that even the most conservative sectors of soceity are calling for very stringent measures against what they're considering an assassination, really a death squad type of activity by the F.B.I. The other problem with the media coverage is that there is an utter lack of any historical context being given. Even something directly relevant as the case I mentioned in the late eighties when the Puerto Rican jury aquitted him of self-defense, very similar scenario, would certainly cause some questions about the F.B.I.'s current claim that Ojeda shot first and that they were just defending themselves never mentioned even when they do recite his legal history through the eighties and nineties. And then there's the larger history that's always missing from Puerto Rico's coverage which is the fact that under international law as found through United Nation's resolutions repeatedly, Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States. It is illegally held. The U.S. is required to disgorge its colony and also under U.N. conventions, acts of resistance are legal against illegal colonization.

I will note that Ava gave a rundown of the events of Filiberto Ojeda Rios' death at the end of last week's "The Third Estate Sunday Review News Review 10-02-05" for those needing additional information and that you can also utilize the archives of Democracy Now! to find out more as well as listen to this week's edition of CounterSpin.

The death of Filberto Ojeda Rios was also noted on WBAI's Law & Disorder. This is a program that both Micah and Elizabeth have e-mailed to suggest that I sample. One of the guests was a former attorney of Ojeda's named Linda, I wasn't able to catch her last name, and she drew comparisons to the murder of Fred Hampton. She spoke of the "disrespect for the rule of law and fundamental human rights by the government of the United States" and saw the actions against Ojeda as "a really strong message about who is boss." She noted that the F.B.I. taped Ojeda's wife's face, the fact that he had a pacemaker and a limp. This was noted to underscore that Ojeda was not the person portrayed in the domestic press via official F.B.I. statements.

Another topic addressed on Law & Disorder was the continued hunger strikes at Guantanamo Bay and how little press coverage there has been on this topic. The prisoners have "no family to speak to, no religious counselor to speak to." The only protest, the only control, they have at this point in their lives is the hunger strike. Despite the fact that in June of 2004, the Court's verdict was that the prisoners did have a right to a trial, none of them, one year and four months later, have been given a trial. "The men in Guantanamo know that, they know that over a year ago they should have had a trial." The names of those striking has not been released. The Defense Department originally denied the existance of the hunger strikes, which are said to have begun in June of this year.

For more on this issue, you can go to the Center For Constitutional Rights.

Michael Ratner is one of the hosts of Law & Disorder and members may know him from his appearances on Democracy Now! Mr. Ratner is the President of the Center for Constituional Rights . Dalia Hashad, the ACLU's South Asian Advocate and Michael Steven Smith and Heidi Boghosian, both of the National Lawyer's Guild with Ms. Boghosian being the Director of the NLG, are the three other hosts. Law & Disorder, an hourly program on WBAI, airs alternate Mondays from ten a.m. to eleven a.m. EST.

I do not believe it will air again until November 3rd due to WBAI's pledge drive.

I read C.I.'s Wednesday entry that mentioned Dead to the World and had to listen since Paul Kantner and Jefferson Airplane take me back to my college days. It was a real treat to listen to the program and I will use that as an opportunity to note that most of the Pacifica stations are archiving their broadcasts.

Dead to the World airs on Pacifica's KPFA Wednesday nights from eight to ten p.m. Pacific Time. David Gans is the host but the interview with Mr. Kantner was conducted by Wired magazine's Steve Silberman. During the two hours, Mr. Kantner's life and career were discussed with an emphasis on all areas. Throughout the interview, we were provided with sound clips so if you are someone my age who thinks you might want to share this program with your children or grandchildren (Tracey, Jayson and my eldest son came over to listen the program), rest assured that anyone new to Kantner or the Airplane, or Starship, is given plenty of context and will be able to follow along.

Now for some housekeeping. I did not realize that the Christmas Coup Players would not air Thursday on WBAI due to the pledge drive WBAI is conducting. My apologies for anyone who attempted to listen due to my heads up. Billie wrote that she did listen to see what had tickled me so much but that she enjoyed the documentary The Oil Factor narrated by Ed Asner. Second, on Thursday, Jess read an e-mail to the public address for this account ( to C.I. and C.I. ended up responding to that e-mail. The visitor, unidentified, e-mailed to protest that neocon Robert Kagan was criticized for his NPR commentary on Hurricane Katrina by C.I. As C.I. noted in the response, I am the one who now covers NPR. I have gone through my reports posted here and at no point in any of them have I stated that Mr. Kagan gave a commentary on Hurricane Katrina. During Hurricane Katrina, I did note NPR's coverage which I found appalling at the start and better as the week went on. That is one report and Mr. Kagan is not critiqued for any commentary on Hurricane Katrina nor did I hear him give a commentary.

I asked C.I. about the e-mail and was forwarded it by C.I. because it refers to "you." Presumably that e-mail was meant solely for C.I. (I will abide by the confidentiality guidelines and not name the visitor). My reports are labeled "Ruth's Morning Edition Report" so it should be clear to anyone reading them that a woman named Ruth wrote them. Just as when Kat does a review of a music album, the entry is labeled "Kat's Korner." So I will guess, as C.I. did, that the e-mail was to C.I.

Each morning, as I drink my first cup of coffee and wait for my grandson Elijah to be dropped off, I boot up the computer and read through The Common Ills. C.I. did not make a comment on Mr. Kagan's alleged commentary of Hurricane Katrina. I will also state firmly that no memeber did nor was their any article, entry or posting quoted from outside the community about it. Had there been a mention, I would have noticed it and wondered how I could have missed Mr. Kagan's commentary because I do not care for Mr. Kagan and, if he had given a commentary, I would probably have disagreed with his commentary which would lead me to want to comment on it.

The visitor is clearly mistaken. There was no mention of a commentary on Hurricane Katrina by Mr. Kagan anywhere, in any entry, at this site. If a critique had occurred during that time period, it would have either come from me or from a member and that did not happen.