Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ruth's Public Radio Report

Well COINTELPRO was an illegal effort on the part of the FBI, under J. Edgar Hoover, to destroy opponents of the Nixon administration. They planted what they called 'black propaganda.' They would fake letters and sent them in to columnists in Hollywood that would slander the person they wanted to destroy with made up stuff. I mean they destroyed Jean Seberg. She ended up killing herself because of what the FBI did. I write about that in my book. In some instances people were assassinated. They just . . . It was a vigilante group under the auspices of the FBI and Hoover that would, you know, result to almost anything to destroy people who opposed the policies of the government and I was one of those targeted by COINTELPRO. And eventually what I found out was not only the FBI, but the CIA and other government agencies had followed me, had tapped my phones. I mean, when I was here in Berkeley, making Steelyard Blues, my daughter was going to the Blue Fairyland pre-school that was run by the Red family and right there in my FBI files are descriptions of the Blue Fairyland and, you know, her going to school. They even followed my daughter. They broke into my house, they rifled through my stuff, they turned over my bank accounts. And the CIA, later, because I sued them, admitted it was the first time that they had opened the mail of a US citizen. They were trying to get me on sedition because you need to be able to prove criminal activity. Well they never, there was no basis for it and people kept telling them there's no basis for this . . . But they kept it up. They kept it up.

Ruth: The quote is Jane Fonda answering how the government spied on her in an interview with Sasha Lilly on Against the Grain. The interview took place in April of 2005 and it and other memorable moments were included in Tuesday's Against the Grain as C.S. Soong and Sasha Lilly celebrated the third year anniversary of the program. If you have not had time to sample the program, this broadcast provided you with a good overview of the various topics this KPFA show addresses regularly.

It was a strong week for Pacifia Radio with all the stations noting International Women's Working Day Wednesday. WBAI devoted 48 hours to IWWD, broadcasting special programs Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday, a caller expressed the opinion that while he had enjoyed the programming, he would prefer that they had done it in longer segments instead of half-hour ones so that topics could have been addressed at length. That is a difficult call because while all the segments were worthy of further discussion, there was such a large scope covered, it truly was an international celebration and I kept the radio tuned to WBAI exclusively throughout the 48 hours.

While rocking my grandson Elijah to sleep, I dozed off at one point Thursday morning and woke to hear Janet Coleman, of The Christmas Coup Players and Cat Radio Cafe, discussing menapause with two other hosts and callers for a segment on that. The callers were just as interesting as the three hosts and Ms. Coleman suggested that possibly WBAI needed to create a hotline for this topic, with one of the other hosts adding that it should be a "Hot Flash Line." We heard speeches from Shirley Chisholm with commentary by Shola Lynch who directed and produced Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed; Wakeup Call presented a conference where Betty Friedan heard from women of the Third World who were less than pleased with what they heard in her comments on feminism; a wonderful discussion involving three Congress women, two of which were Cynthia McKinney and Maxine Waters; voices of African women; a conversation on the contributions of women to the Zapatista movement with a specific look at the accomplishments of the late Comandanta Ramona; on First Voices, co-host Tiokasin Ghosthorse stepped aside to let Mattie Harper solo as part of IWWD and she addressed topics that included the possible impact of South Dakota's recent anti-reproductive rights legislation on Native Americans in South Dakota; there was amazing music throughout, both recorded and live; and so much more. Short of making it a three day celebration, or longer, which I would support, I do not know how WBAI could have provided so many voices, so many topics and so many issues without providing half-hour segments.

All of the Pacifica stations and many affiliates participated in this but WBAI devoted two full days to the celebration.

Other standouts this week included Law & Disorder which took a hard hitting look at the Guantanamo prisoners. Throughtout the discussion, they provided many of the songs played to torture prisoners and advised you to picture yourself blindfolded and to turn the volume up considerably. Nina, Mike's girlfriend, e-mailed me that this week's show was the first one she'd listened to but "I'm hooked now." This is a personal favorite program of mine and if you listen, Monday on WBAI, at other times on another radio station, or online, I think it will become one of your favorite programs as well.

Friday's CounterSpin was anchored by Peter Hart and Janine Jackson. In their opening segment on current headlines, Ms. Jackson addressed two print pundits:

You'd be hard pressed to find many media folk who think the war in Iraq is going smoothly. But the recent spike in violence and the threat of civil war certainly does not mean that the war's critics were right about anything. Amid rising Sunni-Shia violence, Ronald Brownstein of the Los Angels Times had this to say in a March fifth column QUOTE: "the war's changing nature undermines the argument from many on the left that the U.S. presence is primarily fueling the violence. That seems increasingly untenable at a point when U.S. troops look like the only thing preventing Iraqis from tearing each other apart."
So the left is still wrong? But is it really a stretch to suggest that the current violence has something to do with the US invasion? And on Brownstein's second point, US commanders in Iraq were fairly clear in announcing that the upsurge in violence was going to be handled primarily by Iraqi security forces ... at least that's how his paper was reporting it.

Over at the New York Times, foreign affairs columnist Tom Friedman counseled on March 3rd that the American public was going to remain patient, they support the White House's goal of democracy building in Iraq, wrote Friedman. Quote: "That is why there has been no big anti-war movement." Never mind the millions of activists who marched even before the invasion. Friedman does note that if the American public loses faith in that mission, QUOTE:
"you will the see the bottom fall out of US support for this war."
It's hard to know what would qualify to Friedman as low public support. The CBS/New York Times poll at the end of February already showed only 29% of Americans think the Iraq invasion was worth it. Proving once again that the talking heads are often a few steps behind the people they're speaking for.

Peter Hart spoke with Amitabh Pal about press coverage of India and Bully Boy's proposed nuclear deal. Mr. Pal, managing editor and writer for The Progressive, was also a guest on Tuesday's KPFA The Morning Show. Ms. Jackson spoke with Eric Deggans regarding the now forgotten cries for a national discussion on race and class following the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Deggans had praise for NPR and The Chicago Tribune while advising that the ball was apparently being dropped by "progressives" and "Democrats" who are not pressing hard enough for this discussion. I am not sure how many news sources Mr. Deggans follows; however, Democracy Now!, The Morning Show, Law and Disorder and many other programs have had no difficulty in continuing to cover the evacuees and the factor race and class played in both the immediate after effects as well as the factor of race currently with both the rebuilding of New Orleans and their upcoming elections -- two topics that Mr. Deggans failed to address. Possibly NPR and The Chicago Tribune have not been covering these issues?

Mr. Deggans struck me not as a "media critic" but a "media enabler." He offered plenty of excuses for the mainstream media doing a lousy job. These included that it has "been hard for TV News outlets to find the time" and, on NPR, "It is public radio and they really only have so many reporters, so many producers." What, Ms. Jackson wondered, is needed for the issues of race and class to covered? Mr. Deggans continues to excuse the mainstream media and offers a very weak suggestion that if Democrats and "progressive" politicians would speak out more, the press would cover it. Considering that this excuse is often offered as to why they refused to cover the lead up to the Iraq war from anything other than the administration's point of view, I do not see this as a "solution" or as "media criticism." It sounded to me like lazy thinking, excuses and enabling a media system to continue to not do their job. It did not sound like media criticism.

NPR has a huge amount of money to spend covering stories they care about. If you read Mr. Deggans article on this topic, you will find NPR's Michele Norris confessing to being confounded about media (and her own?) coverage of Katrina, you will find NPR's Susan Feeney admitting that "It's not a good excuse. . . . We have a responsibility to raise issues no one else is raising. (But) we have not done the big step back on poverty, and boy, we really want to." Ms. Feeney, the only thing stopping you is you. I read her statement over the phone to my friend Treva who replied, "Want in one hand, ___ in the other and see which one fills up first." Mr. Deegans noted those lame excuses in his article and added to them in his comments on CounterSpin. That did not strike me as media criticism. It is not the politicians' job to do the media's. It is up to the media to find the stories and to provide coverage. Amy Goodman and the staff of Democracy Now! have not needed elected Democrats and elected progressives regularly speaking out in order to cover the topics of race and class. The mainstream media needs to be accountable for their own actions and Mr. Deegans would do well to attempt to hold them accountable in the future.

The Morning Show addressed issues all week without needing politicians in order to do so. Mia e-mailed asking that I note Friday's conversation on Iraq where Andrea Lewis spoke to Phyllis Bennis and Elaine Hagopian about some of the distortions and some of the realities we are seeing unfold. Ms. Bennis noted that in the conversations of a civil war in Iraq or a potential one, there seems to be an assumption by some commenting that Iraq will then become a war zone when, in fact, under U.S. occupation, it has been just that. Both women agreed that the press has covered the conflict in generalities reducing it to a Shia-Sunni duality when it is much more complex. Ms. Hagopian stated, "This is not simply a Sunni-Shia strife" and that if the troops left there would be far less to stir up in what Ms. Bennis characterized as "a kind of low intensity political civil war. . . that pits supporters of the occupation, some of whom actually support it and some of whom support it defacto because it's the only way they can get a job, and those who oppose the occupation enough to get rid of it." Both women had comments on Donald Rumsfeld's statements to Congress this week. Ms. Hagopian noted that, "Rumsfeld's always pie-in-the-sky or trying to blame it on someone else. . . . I think he and Condolezza Rice just basically lied. . . . They have really not understood the forces that are against the occupation. . . . Rumsfeld, this is his trademark: Everything is okay . . . and it's not our fault, it's their fault." Ms. Bennis pondered what lay ahead and when low-level troop withdrawal might take place under the Bully Boy's current plan, "We will see a great fanfare with the return of some U.S. troops . . . It's hoped that we will forget about the 60,000 to 70,000" that would still remain in Iraq on the permanent basis. Ms. Bennis made the comment that unlike the fatalities, the returning would not be hidden away as the Bully Boy staged elaborate parades to sell yet another wave of Operation Happy Talk.

Also on Friday's show was a wonderful discussion, in the last half hour, of Dinah Washington's career, life and accomplishments. (Ms. Hagopin and Ms. Bennis are interviewed by Andrea Lewis in the first half-hour.) Zach e-mailed asking if it was true that he missed Matthew Rothschild on The Morning Show this week? Yes, Zach, if you weren't listening Tuesday, you did miss it. Philip Maldari and Andrea Lewis discussed the topic of impeachment with Mr. Rothschild, editor of The Progressive. This was also the same broadcast that Amitabh Pal appeared on. Mr. Rothschild was on in the first half-hour and Mr. Pal was on in the second half-hour of the program.

On impeachment, Mr. Rothschild stated, "I think the legal grounds are incredibly strong and that's why I think it's important for us to keep pressing the case for impeachment . . . because if we don't, what essentially that we're saying is that it's okay for Bush to be doing what he's been doing, for him to be violating these laws. And it sets the precedent for the next person to come in and say, 'I can decide what laws I want to obey and which ones I don't. The last guy did it."

Andrea Lewis noted that Matthew Rothschild would be in California in May and that they would like to have him on then so there is a heads up for Zach to a possible next appearance.

Here is another heads up, Sunday at 9:00 a.m. Pacific time, 11:00 a.m. Central, and noon Eastern time on KPFA:

Sunday Salon
In our first hour... A look at how the world's religious leaders teach us about war, and how we apply the lesson. We'll talk with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Chris Hedges ("Losing Moses on the Freeway: The Ten Commandments in America"); Muslim thinker and theologian Hamza Yusuf, founder of the Hayward, CA-based Zaytuna Institute, and independent photographer Kael Alford, whose work documenting the American bombing of Baghdad and the impact of the war on Iraq, is featured in the new book "Unembedded." All three of our guests will participate in the Saturday March 11th event in Berkeley: "Does God Love War?" The free event is at 7:00 p.m. at the martin Luther King Jr Middle School Auditorium, 1781 Rose Street.

In our second hour... First, two veterans events, marking the 3rd anniversary next week of the US invasion of Iraq, then... Iran, India, and Pakistan: The Bush Administration's foes and favorites in nuclear policy. Joining us: Pakistani journalist and author ("Taliban") Ahmed Rashid; and Angana Chatterji, professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology (California Center for Integral Studies) and author of the forthcoming "Violent Gods: Hindu Nationalism in India's Present"
Listen to past shows, get contact and reference info for guests, see announcements of upcoming programs, and more at:

Also Sunday, Houston's KPFT has this special broadcast:

Ladies Day 2006
Sunday, March 12
8 am to 2 pm
Our annual gathering and on-air tribute to the history and music of the women of blues, soul, jazz, R&B and more. KPFT's tradition was started by the late Kathleen Kern, "the Blues Broad," and is now carried forward by the "Blues on the Move" crew. It is in conjunction with International Women's Day.

The six hour special begins at 8:00 a.m. central time, 9:00 a.m. eastern time and six a.m. Pacific time.