Saturday, December 24, 2005

Ruth's Morning Edition Report

Ruth: CounterSpin, which I listen to on WBAI, featured Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and journalist Michael Massing of The New York Review of Books and Columbia Journalism Review. Before the interview segments, the show provided a run down of "the week's press" as it does each week.

What is Time Magazine's Joe Klein's issues with teachers? Did he wet himself in the second grade and some teacher didn't have a clean pair of children's under pants on hand? In a recent column, Joe Klein praises California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for "taking on public school teachers." Mr. Klein apparently believes that the real terrorists are to be found at our chalkboards across the country. Mr. Klein also had praise for the Bully Boy for his freedom lip service regarding Lebanon, Senator Lindsey Grahm for his efforts to privatize Social Security and Senator Obama Barrak for his condemning advocacy groups opposed to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts' nomination. Why does Mr. Klein hate us for our freedoms?

Another item addressed a recent study by NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin who studied the use of think tanks by NPR. In 2004, FAIR, the parent organization of CounterSpin, studied NPR's use of think tanks and concluded that it relied on right-of-center think tanks. Now Mr. Dvorkin has come to similar conclusions, one year later. Mr. Dvorkin found that 239 guests were from right-wing think tanks and that 141 guests were from left-wing think tanks. To reach those totals, Mr. Dvorkin had to classify the centrist Brookings Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) as left-wing. "Without them, the study would have shown zero progressive think tanks," Steve Rendell noted.

However, the CSIS has "historically been rather conservative" and, when arguing FAIR's 2004 study, Mr. Dvorkin stated that FAIR's classification of CSIS was wrong because "they have left and right on staff." Which means that in 2004, Mr. Dvorkin felt that CSIS was, at best, a centrist think tank; however, one year later, Mr. Dvorkin feels that CSIS is now left-wing one.
A lot can, apparently, happen in a year. Or perhaps Mr. Dvorkin changed his own classification because, as Mr. Rendell noted, "Without them [Brookings and CSIS], the study would have shown zero progressive think tanks."

Janine Jackson was on this week. Ms. Jackson, Mr. Rendall and Peter Hart host CounterSpin with two appearing on air each week. Two apologies are in order. First, apologies to Mr. Rendall whose name I have spelled "Rendell" in the past. Reading through the latest issue of Extra!, also put out by FAIR, I saw the C-Span article that had been highlighted here this week and noticed the correct spelling of Mr. Rendall's name. My apologies for having mispelled it in the past. The second apology goes to Ms. Jackson and members who enjoy her commentaries. I enjoy them too but I rarely note them because she just tickles me. This week, I swore I would take notes and include her. I know she addressed an academic study by two professors. I remember that they were claiming liberal bias in the media. But her delivery always delights me and I find myself laughing and not taking notes. So my apologies to Ms. Jackson and members who enjoy her commentaries that have e-mailed asking why I rarely go over them here. It is because I am laughing too hard to take notes.

Michael Ratner was interviewed by Steve Rendall and they discussed a number of issues in the news. This included the NSA tapping of American citizens and the administration's attempts to justify this spying. Mr. Ratner found the argument "sbusrd. It's an assertion of power that goes way beyond anything I've seen. . . . It's really the usurping of our Constitution and our checks and balances. . . . It's criminal and impeachable."

Mr. Ratner tied the administration's argument to earlier administration arguments. Such as when President Dwight Eisenhower attempted to seize steel mills during the Korean war and the Supreme Court found that he did not have that power and President Richard Nixon's argument that could "wiretap without a warrant domestic activists opposing the war" which was also found to be a power that he did not have.

Mr. Rendall raised the issue of the New York Times sitting on the story of the N.S.A. tapping for over a year and Mr. Ratner found that "chicken hearted" and wondered, "How they could have waited a year on something the president was saying 'I am above the law'?"

On the issue of domestic spying, the Pentagon spying on activists, Mr. Ratner traced that back to the actions of then Attorney General John Ashcroft following 9/11. He noted that we are now back to fighting battles that we won in the seventies and eighties all over again.

The so-called torture ban that has been so widely applauded by the mainstream media was not something that Mr. Ratner found praise worthy. He noted that the ban had "always been there" but that the McCain amendment now provides a loophole where, if you torture and if there is a government memo or legal opinion authorizing the torture, the person conducting torture now has a legal out should their be criminal or civil prosecution for his or her actions.

The Grahm-Levin amdendment also raised issues because it strips Guantanamo detainees of their right to be heard in the courts and allows them to be held for any length of time at the whim of the executive branch and based upon "evidence" that resulted from torture.

Ms. Jackson conducted the next interview which was with journalist Michael Massing. Mr. Massing had previously explored external issues that impact the press and is currently exploring internal issues such as "the need for access. Access journalism has become a big part of our reporting . . . and often inhibits them [the press] from doing the kind of reporting that we need."

He also addressed self-censorship and felt that following 9/11 there was self-censoship within the profession and that it was "a big factor that doesn't get talked about in the profession." He noted that the press on Iraq has not given as much attention to issues such as checkpoints in Iraq despite the number of Iraqis killed as a result of misunderstanding hand signals and other issues. This is a story that is a component of life in Iraq but it is not addressed in a manner that reflects how common place the tragic events are.

Ms. Jackson asked about the idea of balance and, while defending the model itself, Mr. Massing took issue with a number of distortions it can provide. "Journalists too often don't let their readers know what the reality is," Mr. Massing stated. "Readers are often sort of not clued in as to what the reality is."

Touching on the reaction of the press to poverty in New Orleans, Ms. Jackson noted that they seemed to be "discovering poverty. Are most reporters out of touch?"

Mr. Massing felt that as the profession has become more professionalized and more prestigious, many reporters have been cut off from various groups of people that earlier generations would have mixed with. He noted the D.C. correspondents dinner and how news organizations and the elected and appointed officials easily mix at that. He also noted that many reporters in D.C. send their children to the same schools as the officials.

Pacifica's WBAI is the station I listen to CounterSpin on as well as Law & Disorder which aired Monday. [Note WBAI archived broadcasts can be accessed here.] The hosts of Law & Disorder are Michael Ratner, Dalia Hashad, Michael Smith and Heidi Bohosian. Unless Law & Disorder is now a weekly show, which would please me, I am unable to figure out the schedule.

The issue of air marshalls moving from planes to land travel was discussed. Trains and ferries will now be their scope as well and they will be working in larger teams. Also addressed was what to do when the F.B.I. comes calling? "If the F.B.I. wants to talk to you, call a lawyer," Michael Ratner stated. "Call the ACLU, the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitonal Rights." The ACLU provides a pamphlet you can download, in various languages, entitled "Know Your Rights." In addition, you can request one at (212) 549-2517.

Two guests addressed developments in Mumia Abu-Jamal's case. The third circuit has agreed to "to hear some of the infractions" involved in the case that resulted in Mr. Abu-Jamal being on death row. The two guests were Jaff Mcakler and Robert R. Bryan, both attornies of Mr. Abu-Jamal, who addressed the issues the third circuit appears ready to hear which included the prosecutor instructing the jury that "You can feel okay about finding him guilty because even if you do find him guilty, he's going to have appeal after appeal" which may have resulted in the jury dismissing reasonable doubt and the burden of proof being lowered. In addition racial bias will be reviewed. As has long been part of the public record, a court stenographer has stated she overheard the judge stating, "Yeah, I'm going to help fry the n___."

A third attorney was brought on, Bill Moffet, to discuss his successful defense of professor Sami Al-Arian. Professor Al-Arian is the man whom the government attempted to get terrorism convictions on due to his support for Palestinian causes. Mr. Moffet stated that rather than play on the government's field, the defense he argued was based upon First Amendment rights and that the jury's verdicts supported those grounds.

Lori e-mailed to ask if I heard "Woodstock" played during one of the moments between segments. I did hear the song but I believe it was Joni Mitchell's version from her Ladies of the Canyon album due to the piano. However, it may have been Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's version.

The final guests were the authors of Actions Speak Louder Than Bumper Stickers which is a book featuring cathy bumper stickers with facts on the back of each one. Some of the slogans on the bumper stickers include:

"One Person One Vote Offer Not Valid In Florida"
Mark Twain's "Suppose You Were An Idiot, Suppose You Were A Member of Congress. But I Repeat Myself."
"Democrats Think That The Glass Is Full, Republicans Think That The Glass Is Their's."

KPFA's The Morning Show featured Michael Ratner as a guest on Thursday. Philip Maldari conducted the interview and they addressed the topics of spying and torture. The Jose Padilla case was also addressed. The administration wanted to avoid the Supreme Court ruling on whether Mr. Padilla could be an enemy combantant so they moved him from a military tribunal to a civilian court, dropped the enemy combantant tag and attempted to force the courts to play along. "The court said you are toying with us," Mr. Ratner noted commenting on the court's refusal to grant the change in venue. "This was a serious blow to the administration." The issues of whether or not Padilla can be transferred from the category of enemy combantant to a criminal court and whether or not the government can detain citizens without trial will now be addressed by the Supreme Court.

Later in the program, Andrea Lewis interviewed two authors, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, who provided tips for would be authors. The authors have written Putting Your Passion Into Print: Get Your Book Published Successfully! and the interview is filled with information and humor. Ms. Lewis worked in publishing so not only were her questions informed, she was also able to provide publishing suggestions as well.

If you missed Thursday's broadcast, you also missed Jennifer Stone's commentary which included discussing the Mary Poppins books and the author of the series, P. L. Travers. The Morning Show airs on KPFA Mondays through Friday and is a two hour blend of news, public interest, arts and much more. Cindy e-mailed requesting that members check out the show and to remember that you can listen to it (and all Pacifica programs) online.