Saturday, April 01, 2006

Ruth's Public Radio Report

Ruth: I want to begin this report by noting that Elaine covered WBAI's Home Fries this week, that Mike twice utilized CounterSpin in his commentaries, and that Rebecca and Kat will be covering a Pacifia Radio program each week, Flashpoints and Guns and Butter respectively.

This week on CounterSpin, the guests were Peter Freyne and Andrea Batista Schlesinger. Ms. Batista Schlesinger addressed the issue of the media portrayals of the immigration legislation as opposed to the reality. I found Ms. Batista Schlesinger's comments to the point and easy to grasp. With regard to Mr. Freyne, I was more confused after the interview than before it.

He was speaking of Christopher Graff who headed Vermont's division of the Associated Press until his recent firing. Why was he fired? Mr. Freyne spoke of the fact that Bill O'Reilly had long criticized him on Fox "News." Mr. Freyne also noted that Mr. Graff put a column by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy on the wires. What the column was about was never stated. Was the issue the content of Senator Leahy's column? If Mr. Freyne addressed that, I missed it. In my area, WBAI's signal cut in and out throughout the week which may have something to do with winter packing up its bags and preparing to turn over the lease to spring.

As always CounterSpin opened with a look a recent news. While I am attempting to keep this report brief compared to last week's, there were two items that stood out during the look back at recent news.

Peter Hart: Here we go again. Supporters of the Iraq war are falling back on the theory that the war's not actually going as badly as it seems. No, the real problem is the news media's relentless negativity. This round seemed to kick off with right wing talker Laura Ingrahm's appearance on NBC's Today Show where she laid out her case by, among other things, calling for Today host Matt Lauer to go to Iraq . . . something's he'd already done. This wasn't Ingrahm's first dubious pronouncement on the subject. On Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor on February 14th, she claimed that journalists could tell the good news if they wanted citing ABC's Bob Woodruff's decision to go out with Iraqi security forces as an example. Woodruff, of course, was nearly killed in the process. This kind of criticism is hardly worth responding to seriously. But that didn't stop ABC's Good Morning America from devoting segments on March 22nd and 23rd to addressing the concerns of their viewers who think they are somehow hiding the good news.
Often these critics suggest that the media should spend more time covering the reconstruction
projects which would show the positive side of the war but there are some other factors worth considering. For starters, the former press attache in Baghdad told American Journalism Review that US military forces stopped taking reporters out on such trips for fear of making reconstruction projects targets for insurgents. And even more importantly, consider a recent USA Today report which recalled some unpleasant facts about the state of reconstruction in Iraq. Electricity production is lower than before the war, only about a third of the scheduled water projects were completed, and just 77,000 jobs were created far below the 1.5 million predicted. Those figures all come from the US government. If anything more media coverage of reconstruction in Iraq might make things sound even worse. But critics like Laura Ingrahm could blame the media for that too.


Steve Rendall: A few weeks ago on CounterSpin, we talked about yet another explosive memo from the run up to the Iraq war. First reported in the February 3rd edition of the London Guardian, the memo of a July 2003 meeting between George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair showed the White House was set to invade Iraq no matter what the status of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. This memo in some respects was similar to other leaked documents including one known as the Downing Street Memo. But there's one big difference, this memo was covered on the front page of the New York Times on March 27th and with the Time's seal of approval it was picked up around the media where some outlets promptly blew this story. On CBS Evening News anchor Russ Mitchell said that QUOTE: "This memo seems to indicate once again that going into the war the British and the Americans had bad intelligence." CLOSED QUOTE. CBS reporter Lara Logan agreed but talked only about the revelation that Bush didn't think there would be ethnic or religious conflict in Iraq. That's an important point but surely not the most damning information. On NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams explained that the story was from the 'now it can be told' file. Though why it could only be told a month after it was first told wasn't clear. Equally unclear was reporter Andrea Mitchell's comment that White House QUOTE "Said that the president's public and private comments were fully consistent." CLOSED QUOTE. As Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher pointed out, the statements by Bush and Blair after their meeting directly contradict the memo. So someone's not telling the truth. You'd like to think there's some appetite in the press to figure out who's lying.

Now I would like to shift focus and note Extra! I believe most readers know that Extra! and CounterSpin are both produced by FAIR. Extra! is a bi-monthly magazine and C.I. mentioned that the new issue was on the racks. I rushed out to purchase my copy and, thinking others might need a reminder, I would like to focus on a few features from the latest edition. Janine Jackson has a wonderful review of how the media covers the economy and jobs entitled "Good News! The Rich Get Richer" on pages six and seven. Here are the opening paragraphs:

The Bush administration made a concerted effort to trumpet a "booming" U.S. economy in early December, widely understood as an attempt to reverse what polls indicate to be the public's largely negative views on the matter.
There are, of course, obvious reasons the majority of Americans dissent from the White House's rosy presentations of the economy: Most American households are not, in fact, seeing their economic fortunes improve. GDP is up, but virtually all the growth has gone into corporate profits and the incomes of the highest economic brackets. Wages and incomes for average workers, adjusted for inflation, are down in recent years; the median income for non-elderly households is down 4.8 percent since 2000 (Economic Policy Institute, 8/31/05). The poverty rate is rising, as is the number of people in debt.

Just as CounterSpin critically examines the news on radio, Extra! does so in print. This issue also features a CounterSpin interview: "Our Media Refuse to Name This Reality." I remember this interview and believe it lasted the entire program. Jonathan Kozol was the guest, author of The Shame of the Nation.

In his editors note this issue, Jim Naureckas addresses the issue of what happens when a journalist, Charles Hanley of the Associated Press, offers coverage that veers from the official line handed down by the administration. Mr. Hanley was one of the journalists disproving former Secretary of State Colin Powell's United Nations speech in real time but his reporting was largely ignored by other outlets and reporters. Mr. Naureckas concludes:

Most people in media stick to these predetermined plots because the immediate rewards go to those who tell the stories that powers that be want to hear. In the long run, though, history will remember those who continued to practice journalism.

This issue "highlights some of those who did first-rate work in the run-up to the war." There is also time to highlight the recently deceased George Gerbner in an article by Robin Anderson who notes Mr. Gerbner's many contributions to media criticism. Julie Hollar, Janine Jackson and Hilary Goldstein contribute "Fear & Favor 2005" which examines outside influences on news coverage, including advertisers and, in a sidebar by Ms. Jackson, video press releases which are passed off as news reports. Phil Gibbons' "Capote vs. Capote" examines the way many journalists utilized the film Capote to comment on the late Truman Capote but often seemed confused that the film was not a documentary. Frances Cerra Whittelsey contributes a book review of Kristina Borjesson's Feet to the Fire: The Media After 9/11. Steve Rendall offers a report on four who got it right in real time. The four include Scott Ritter, Warren Strobel, Jonathan Landay (both of Knight Ridder) and Charles J. Hanley who was noted by Mr. Naureckas. Though Mr. Ritter was a media favorite prior to the invasion, I am not aware of his reporting and did wonder if a better choice to note the broadcast media might have been Phil Donahue who lost his MSNBC show due to fears that he would continue to question?

There is much to read in this issue and I'm leaving out one article because it is the one C.I. brought up on the phone to me so I am pretty sure it will wind up in Sunday's "And the war goes on" entry. If you are curious, you can pick up a copy of Extra! right now. If you enjoy CounterSpin or if you are unable to listen but curious about it, look for a copy of Extra!

I wanted to note Pacifia Radio's coverage of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the illegal, warrantless spying of Americans authorized by the Bully Boy. Larry Bensky anchored and did an impressive job even when the feed was momentarily lost.

A great deal of the inner workings of the FISA court were discussed and I thought that might be worth noting. FISA initially was composed of seven judges but, after 9/11, the number was upped to eleven. The judges serve seven year terms after which they are not eligible to immediately serve another term. The notion of the FISA court as a rubber-stamp court were not dispelled when one FISA justice explained the court's role as being "there to help them" meaning the executive branch. The courts, unless old age has led me to forget the judiciary's role, exist not to serve a branch but to serve a people.

Mr. Bensky noted that the judges were sworn in, that all witnesses who had testified before the Judiciary Committee had been sworn in with one exception: Alberto Gonzales.

My intent was not to write at length, the way I had last week. Already I feel that goal is a lost cause. Braeden asked that I mention that each Wednesday on KPFA's The Morning Show David Bacon delivers an indepth look at labor. Zach asked me to note that Philip Maldari is on vacation, and "missed," Zach writes, which has left hosting duties Monday through Friday to Andrea Lewis who has done "an incredible job." I would have noted Zach's comments even if I had not agreed, but I will back him up on this because Ms. Lewis has done an incredible job. This past week, she focused on, among other topics, the recent elections in Israel, the legislative attacks on immigrants, and on Friday some modern composers. Best of all may have been her interview with Dan Perkins, aka Tom Tomorrow, which aired Thursday. This interview alternated between humor and serious moments and really demonstrated Ms. Lewis' gifts as an interviewer. Among the topics were the current state of the country/world, censorship and how This Modern World's characters came about. On another guest, Kristen e-mailed to ask when Jane Fonda directed a film? A guest this week mentioned that. I checked with C.I. and the guest apparently meant to say that Ms. Fonda produced a film on Native Americans. C.I. states that Lakota Woman was directed by Dan Petrie ("who directed The Dollmaker, among other films") and that Jane Fonda and Lois Bonfiglio produced it for Fonda Films.

Monday on WBAI, Law and Disorder offered a look at the case of Muhammad Salah, American citizen, who was picked up by the Israeli military in the early nineties and tortured. Mr. Salah was imprisoned for five years. In 1993, he was forced to sign a confession. The confession was written in Hebrew, a language he did not speak or read, as Dalia Hashad pointed out. He was interrogated for eighty-five days and the techniques used including hoods and sleep deprivation in a process Michael Ratner noted was "a version of rendention, isn't it?"

The question was directed to the guest from The People's Law Office Michael Deutsch who is representing Mr. Salah. Mr. Deutsch detailed the case, which begins again this month, and how it was a closed proceeding that has kept both the press and the public out. At some point, a heavily redacted court transcript will be presented to the public but in the meantime, a heavily readacted hearing is taking place because there are moments of the hearings that even the defendant and Mr. Deutsch are shut out of as the prosecution and Israeli intelligence offer statements and testimony that the defense is not allowed to hear with the excuse offered that it must be kept from them because it has to do with Israeli national security. Which in no way indicates that a fair trial is taking place, especially when the Israeli Supreme Court ruled against these type of interrogations in 1999.

Another issue was also raisedd.

Michael Smith: This person has already been tried and convicted --
Dalia Hashad: In Israel.
Michael Smith: and now they want to do it to him again. It's like doublejeopardyy.

Ms. Hashad pointed out that it was very "common for Palestinian men to be arrested and interrogated in the occupied territories" and the question was asked of what people could do? Mr. Deutsch suggested writing the U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to "demand that he drop the charges" as well as showing up for the hearings if they are in Chicago.

The next segment, as Heidi Boghosian explained, focused on the case of Haitians held by the U.S. government at Guantanamo Bay. Brant Goldstein, author of Storming The Court and a Yale law student participating in the case when it began in the eighties, was the guest. The background for those not familiar with this topic is that Aristide was overthrown, the first time, and that a number of Haitians attempted to seek refuge outside of Haiti. The United States allowed some into the country for safe haven and denied entry to others. However, the US Coast Guard had taken them to Guantanamo Bay and a couple of hundred were kept there in what was the first U.S. detention camp for H.I.V. positive people. They were kept there and refused entry as well as, for some time, access to theirattorneyss. It may sound very similar to what is going on today.
When Arkansas governor Bill Clinton was running for president in 1992, he made comments indicating he would release the Haitians held there. Then he was elected and, as Mr. Goldstein pointed out, "went back on his word and left the people to languish there."

The attorneys added President Clinton to the law suit "and the case ended up before a Bush appointee" who "issued an order the due process clause applies to Guantanamo because it is under our control." A number of you may wonder why that case then does not apply to Guantanamo today?

The current administration claims that it does not apply. They rest that claim on the fact that the decision was vacated. The Clinton Justice Department was not happy with the judge's finding and, as part of the deal they offered the defense to prevent the case from going to the Supreme Court, they agreed to release the Haitians provided the defense would agree to vacate the decision. The attorneyss were attempting to provide relief to their clients so they agreed to the condition. Had circumstances been different the legal judgement could be utilized today.

As Ms. Boghosian noted, "This is a remarkable story of what law students can accomplish." The book follows the case and it has been optioned by Warner Brothers for a film. Which led Michael Smith to wonder who would play Michael Ratner in the film? Mr. Ratner was a participant in the case. I would suggest Gene Hackman because he is one of the few actors that strikes me as able to convey the intensity and passion Mr. Ratner speaks with. If Mr. Hackman is not available, I would suggest Robert Redford who speaks nothing like Mr. Ratner, Mr. Ratner's voice has a growl to it, but has a long history of political awareness.

Sherwin Siy, with EPIC, an internet privacy organization and not the recording label, was the next guest. He discussed the issue of Google's refusal to turn over their search engine data to the National Security Agency as the Bully Boy has requested and as Yahoo has already done.
Efforts are still being made by the government to force Google to turn over the records.
It was noted that if the administration is successful, searches for protest events and other items could be next on the list of the government's spying on American. Ms. Boghosian noted that the government could even request all information on who was searching the term "impeachment."

The fourth guest was the author of Men Who Stare At Goats which explores how the government developed torture techniques that are currently in use. Jon Ronson was the author and this was the second in the program's four-part series on "Music to be Tortured By."

Thursday on WBAI's First Voices, Indigenous Voices, Tiokasin Ghosthorse and Mattie Harper provided an update to their story, a few weeks back, on Cecilia Fire Thunder, Chief of the Oglala Sioux, efforts to create a women's health clinic on Native American land which the South Dakota government has no control over. As was pointed out, the nearest clinic was four hundred miles away. I am confused as to why Planned Parenthood is not attempting to aid in the creation of this clinic. If the issue is money, as statements elsewhere indicate, I am sure that they could lead a pledge drive and, due to abortion and other reproductive rights being so under attack in this country, gather enough contributions for several clinics. Also addressed was the government's current attacks on the buffaloes which does not appear to be, as the government claims, a result of health concerns since they are not testing the animals, merely locking them away. Think of it as the buffaloes get another lesson in American justice. What appears to be going on is that powerful farming interests want control of public lands and the government is aiding them at the expense of the buffalo and our own rights to public spaces.

Yes, I said I would only discuss two more programs; however, this program and Mr. Nighthorse and Ms. Harper are worthy of the attention. However, since I have gone over, by many hours, the deadline I gave myself, I will end by reminding everyone that this coming Thursday the latest The Christmas Coup Players airs on WBAI, while this Sunday (Sunday at 9:00 a.m. Pacific time, 11:00 a.m. Central, and noon Eastern time) on KPFA:

In our first hour...
A wholesome group of Christians serving God through policy, or a dangerously shortsighted, ideologically extreme administration selling empire wrapped in the Bible? Former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips joins us to discuss his new book, "American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century."
In our second hour...

The story of Vietnam War resistance WITHIN the military is largely untold. David Zeiger has made the first film to tell about it; "Sir! No, Sir!" is now screening around the country, including a run this coming week in the Bay Area. Zeiger joins us, along with two Vietnam veterans/resisters profiled in his film.
Listen to past shows, get contact and reference info for guests, see announcements of upcoming programs, and more at: