Sunday, April 09, 2006

Ruth's Public Radio Report

Ruth: First off, I want to mention that Thursday Rebecca covered Flashpoints and Kat covered Guns and Butter. In addition Mike and Cedric have also discussed Law and Disorder. I think that is wonderful and hope you will read their posts.

I will open this report with CounterSpin and start, as CounterSpin does, by noting "recent press."

Peter Hart: Former Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger's death on March 28th was followed by glowing obituaries that mostly played down the messier episodes in his career. Time Magazine dismissed Weinberger's 1992 indictment in the Iran-Contra scandal as a QUOTE "Late rare blemish" CLOSED QUOTE on a long career. In fact the indictment was for
activities occurring in the mid and late 1980s and Weinberger was at the pinnacle of his career. A lengthy Los Angeles Times obituary covered Weinberger's indictment to the Iran-Contra scandal to a few short paragraphs explaining that he was a QUOTE "complex figure" CLOSED QUOTE. Weinberg was indicted for concealing evidence. It was widely believed that his trial would have proved Ronald Reagan's and George H. W. Bush's roles in the scandal.
Two weeks before the trial in 1992, Weinberger received a pardon from Bush. Dana Milbank's Washington Post piece, headlined "A Warm Farewell for a Cold War Warrior" was just as sentimental as that headline. Reporting about how current Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld choked up at how fondly Weinberger was remembered. Milbank added a little sentimentality of his own by inaccurately setting Weinberger's career in QUOTE "a simpler time, before the binary logic of mutually assured destruction gave way to the messy nuances of asymmetrical warfare" CLOSED QUOTE. But asymmetrical warfare, loosely defined as warfare targeting civilians, was no stranger to the Reagan era and the preceding years. Milbank's distinction ignores forty years of cold war history when the U.S. played a central role in killing millions of civilians in countries including Vietnam, Laos, Angola, Congo, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and many more. That those deaths could be summarily erased in the service of fuzzy feelings about a figure like Weinberger is a commentary on the state of watchdog press.

While Peter Hart critiqued the coverage of Casper Weinberger's passing, Janine Jackson critiqued the coverage of Hugh Chavez.

Janine Jackson: Last month the Los Angeles Times reported that the White House would soon be stepping up its efforts against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Well the New York Times seems to be following the same playbook. On March 31st, the paper ran a long piece detailing allegations against the Chavez government made by members of the country's increasingly marginalized opposition. The piece was one-sided by design with the majority of the quotes coming from those seeking to unseat Chavez. The Times did its part by offering up a very typical explanation of Chavez's popularity. QUOTE "Chavez remains hugely popular with a fifty-five percent approval rating in opinion polls for having funneled billions of dollars in oil revenue to the poor." CLOSED QUOTE. Most polls actually put Chavez's approval ratings at about fifteen or twenty percent higher. As to the second point, Venezuela has a state-owned oil company so the fact that those revenues would be spent on the country's people, many of whom are poor, was not exactly a surprise. Why the Times calls that funneling is unclear. A few days later, the Times was on the Venezuela beat again with an April 4th report headlined
"Chavez seeking foreign ally spends billions." The sourcing in this story was also lopsided in favor of Chavez's critics so readers weren't able to hear much that would counter the ideal that Chavez's pushing what the paper called pet projects to enhance his his regional power
or, in the New York Times' construction, QUOTE "provocatively building a bulwark against what he has called American imperialist aims." CLOSED QUOTE. Dissenting opinions were available on the letter pages of the Times with one reader wondering why one country's foreign aid was derided as pet projects by the paper especially since U.S. efforts to spend money abroad were termed, in the very same piece, development programs.

Following two more critiques, Peter Hart interviewed PR Watch's Daniel Price about the fake news that makes it onto the airwaves. The fake news in this case comes via something called "Video news releases." I am assuming that this is some sort of industry term but since it is not not news, I am unclear why coverage on this repeats the term "Video news release"? Would a better term be "Video press release"? That is what they are and the term I will use because I feel including "news" in the term may lead some casual observers to question what the problem is since they are "news." They are corporate advertisements.

If you have missed the news coverage of this topic, corporations are creating their own press releases. That is something that they have always done; however, decades ago they would present this in text form and, from time to time, newspapers would run the press releases an actual news article. The same thing is occurring today and the newer feature is that the press releases are in video form. Local stations have been airing the video press releases as "news."
There has been little disclaimer and, as Mr. Price noted, efforts have been made to pass the p.r. spokespersons off as the press and as reporters for the local stations by saying, "Now here's ___ with that story." In 92% of incidents where stations aired these Video press releases, no original reporting was added by the station. Mr. Price stated that it might seem like this would be an issue for smaller stations since they would have lower budgets but, in fact, their study found that the Video press releases could be found in "Every major city, we got big market stations." More information and ways to make your voice heard on this issue can be found at PR Watch.

Ms. Jackson interviewed Jeff Faux who was the president of Economic Policy Institute and is the author of The Global Class War. Their discussion revolved around the global economy with an emphasis on the coverage of the French protests over proposed changes to the labor laws. Even when Ms. Jackson is left panning for gold with a guest, I always enjoy her own work in the interview but it is always twice as enjoyable to hear her interview someone who does not minimalize the obligations or actions of the press. Mr. Faux was such a guest and I strongly recommend the interview. Ms. Jackson noted in her opening that the coverage of the French protests took a point of view that the efforts the protesters opposed were a historical march and a norm which led to a ridiculing of those opposed to the proposals. This was one of the many of the points that Mr. Faux was able to elaborate on. "News you can use," as Ms. Jackson noted, might allow for questioning of different situations but instead the mind set was that there is only one way and those with other ways must be brought up to date, up to speed. Mr. Faux spoke of this and offered additional examples of past coverage including NAFTA.

KPFA's Living Room airs on Thursdays and Fridays each week. I will note something that was not mentioned on the Friday broadcast. A guest brought up special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's press conference on the indictment of Scooter Libby. This press coverage was carried live by many outlets including Pacifica. Kris Welch and her guests followed up the press conference with an examination of the information Mr. Fitzgerald had announced. That was not true of all outlets and those lucky enough to be listening to KPFA were provided with perspective and analysis.

The latest on the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame is that court papers indicate that the Bully Boy authorized Scooter Libby to leak classified information to the press. On what exactly was authorized, the White House is not saying. Ms. Welch and her guests addressed this topic Friday.'s Jason Leopold suspects that this is "an explosive revelation because for the first time it places the President . . . at the center of this campaign to discredit Joe Wilson. If in fact, he did authorize Libby to leak the National Intelligence Estimate to a reporter it was simply done to undercut Joe Wilson." Mr. Leopold felt that the court papers indicate that there are multiple White House participants who were involved in attempts to discredit Mr. Wilson whose "What I Didn't Find In Africa" ran in the New York Times and countered claims by the administration regarding "yellow cake." Mr. Leopold noted that Scooter Libby met with Bob Woodward on June 27, 2003 and discussed the National Intelligence Estimate, "three weeks before the National Intelligence Estimate was declassified." I will mention that Mr. Leopold has a forthcoming book entitled News Junkie.

Another guest, Larry Johnson, former CIA intelligence analyst and member of Veteran Professionals for Sanity, feels that we have a "rogue president." The blaming the misinformation the administration put out in the lead up to the war on the intelligence community is "a lie," Mr. Johnson explained. There was no consensus of opinion among the intelligence community and, in fact, there were segments that were quite vocal about the fact that the assertions about Iraq's weapons systems were inflated. "What is clear out of that," Mr. Johnson stated, "is that there was no consensus among the intelligence community."

Robert Parry was the third guest. Ms. Welch and Mr. Parry addressed how the latest revelations effected the Bully Boy at a time when he is already polling poorly. Ms. Welch wondered how much or how little the issue of Valerie Plame might be effecting perceptions of the Bully Boy? Mr. Parry felt that effect from this and the other scandals was forcing illusions to be shed. He noted that past press coverage of the Bully Boy had quite frequently included the description of the Bully Boy as "a straight shooter" but that this was not currently the case.

Two areas or wrinkles interested Mr. Parry. The first was the interview Mr. Fitzgerald had with the Bully Boy on June 24, 2004. At that seventy minute interview, Bully Boy was accompanied by a criminal attorney. What did the Bully Boy testify to? He was not under oath but "what was discussed" and it is a crime to lie during a federal investigation. The second wrinkle was something noted in the New York Times. On the day that Mr. Fitzgerald announced the indictment of Scooter Libby, prior to that announcement, Mr. Fitzgerald met with the Bully Boy's criminal attorney James Sharp. What was the purpose of that meeting and what was discussed."
The fourth guest was Tom Devine, of the Government Accountability Project. Mr. Devine addressed developments in the Congress. He is advocating the passage of legislation to provide intelligence agency whistleblowers with more protections including the right to jury trials when they feel that they have been retaliated against for whistleblowing and to challenge the removal of a security clearance which can result in a failure to find other employment. The bills, there are two that are supposed to be merged, should go to a floor vote but there are efforts to prevent that from taking place. Calling (202) 224-3121, asking to be connected to the Speaker of the House's office and demanding a vote on the whistle blowing legislation could force a floor vote. The two bills, not yet merged, are HR 5112 and HR 1317. The first addresses the rights of the national security employees and the second addresses whistleblowers in other departments of the government.

As part of an update on the case of Salim Ahmed Hamden, WBAI's Law and Disorder played a sample of the Supreme Court's hearing on March 28th. Mr. Hamden's right to habeas corpus is in question, as is true of all the Guantanamo prisoners, thanks to the Detainee Trainee Detention Act. The government is arguing that the Congress intentionally stripped the prisoners of habeas corpus and removed judicial oversight. This led to an interesting exchange between the government attorney and the Justices. Justice David Souter questioned the lines of argument that Congress intended to strip the prisoners of the writ of habeas corpus and that, even if they did not mean to, they had done so inadvertently so, the government maintains, it is gone now. From his questioning, he did not appear to buy that line of argument and at one point stated, "You are leaving us with the position of the United States that the Congress may validly suspend it inadvertently. The writ is the writ. Now wait a minute, the writ is the writ."

Another segment dealt with the break in at the Brecht Forum on March 16, 2006. The executive director of the Brecht Forum, Liz Mestres, discussed the break in noting that "[t]hey came in through one of the office windows and stole two computers, a boom box and a shopping cart." Other valuable items and equipment was left untouched. Who broke in? Quite often, these type of break ins have been done by the government or its proxies. Michael Smith and Michael Ratner were quite clear, as was Ms. Mestres and Margaret Ratner Kunstler, that this may not have been governmental or governmental sponsored but that with the past history, it was worth considering the possibility that it was. The break in means that whomever did it now has access to the Brecht Forum's mailing list.

Ms. Ratner Kunstler discussed breaks in during the eighties when she was assisting with the solidarity movement for victims in Central America and found her offices broken into "over a hundred times."

"We suspected though that it was Salvadorans, contras ....," Ms. Ratner Kunstler stated. "The reason that we thought that was that given the history . . ."

She further noted that "after Felt & Miller, the FBI utilized surrogates except for cases when they lose a piece of equipment. There's something macho about losing your gun. . . . Michael and I had that experience where a client had a bumper beeper on his car."

Ms. Mestres stated that, "We have to not be intimated by these things. The Patriot Act itself is a forum of intimidation." Ms. Ratner Kunstler noted that when these were occurring previously, publicity was an important tool.

"Publicity made people more aware of what happened and made them more prepared when they did happen," Ms. Ratner Kunstler stated. "We felt that if we kept publicizing, we could maybe stop it. If we couldn't stop it, we could at least make people more comfortable about working" in an environment which was the repeated target of government sponsored break ins.

Michael Smith noted that at his office in Detroit, during the sixties, they had a burglar alarm that went off constantly and they could not figure out why. They thought possibly it was a mouse. Years later, due to another case, it was revealed that the police were entering the office illegally to rifle through the files.

I was speaking with C.I. about this segment and the one thing C.I. asked me to stress was that the databases were of interest, that this is what the snooping on libraries has to do with and to note Matthew Rothschild's McCarthyism Watch article entitled "Spying On Peace Activists at Drake University." This, along with the spying on peace activists by the Pentagon, are being noted because, if it was a governmental sponsored break in, some people may wonder, "Who needs a copy of a database?"

The government's actions in other instances indicate that someone in or some arm of the government feels they do need databases. For people who have followed events of the last few years, lived through the earlier episode of governmental spying or both will hear about the break in at the Brecht Forum and nod but for those who may not have followed events as closely, this may need to be tied together. That was the purpose of the segment on Law and Disorder. If you heard the show or are able to listen, you grasped that but if you are following merely by these reports, you may wonder about a "list of names." Tricky Dick Nixon had a list of names, it was called an "Enemies List." Prior to that, a blacklist existed under McCarthyism. Names and addresses may appear in the white pages if someone has a listed phone number. They might be considered public information. The reasons for the government obtaining a database would be to compile a watchlist.

As always KPFA's The Morning Show had much to offer including an interview with Matthew Rothschild, the Wednesday discussion on labor and Andrea Lewis' interview of Gary Hart that Elaine wrote about. Monday's broadcast is scheduled to include a discussion of KPFA which will be celebrating its 57th anniversary all this month. KPFA went on the air April 15, 1949. I will also note that Howard Zinn was a guest on Friday. He and Ms. Lewis discussed the importance of independent media and issues of empire. They also discussed Iraq and Anthony Arnove's new book Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal which Mr. Zinn has written the introduction to and whose title echoes Mr. Zinn's book Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal.

In e-mails this week, members noted that they were happy C.I. had added individual links to the stations and the archives for KPFA, WBAI and KPFT which are the three stations I tend to focus on the most in these reports. That is largely because of their archives, the suggestions from members and the accessibility of the streams for those who listen online. As C.I. noted, I do not listen to WBAI online, though with the leaves sprouting on the trees, I may soon have to. My granddaughter Tracey was the one who informed last summer that I could listen to WBAI over the radio and that does depend on which radio I'm using and which room I am in. I will also note that Seth is considering covering a Pacifica program at his site Seth in the City. I hope he is able to do so and that everyone in the community works to get the word out on Pacifica.

Lastly, I hope this report flows. On Saturday, most of it was lost when there was the computer incident. With C.I. and others present, I was eager to try posting on my own, with helps on links and tags, and the personal lesson for me may be to stick to e-mailing my posts. I have recreated most of what I was not able to recover. I will add that Law and Disorder did a segment on the protests against proposed punitive immigration laws and encouraged everyone to get involved. My granddaughter Tracey, my grandson Jayson and I were able to come out to California and to meet some of the students making sure that democracy remains alive in this country. Their activism and spirit deserves loud rounds of applause and makes me hopeful, despite the Bully Boy in the Oval Office, for our future.

Today on KPFA at nine a.m. Pacific time, eleven a.m. Central and noon Eastern, Larry Bensky's Sunday Salon will be exploring these topics:

In our first hour...
The Three "Rs"... No, not THOSE three... Revenge. Retribution. Rectification. The story we've passed down from generation to generation about these values fools us into believing our nation's penal system, including capital punishment, is legitimate. That's according to our guest, Judith Kay, author of "Murdering Myths: The Story Behind the Death Penalty."
In our second hour...

Who or Whom? That or Which? She or Her? Which is right? When? And how much does it really matter? Brush up on your grammar, or challenge your beliefs about it with Los Angeles Times columnist, June Casagrande, author of the new book "Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun & Spite," and Geoffrey Nunberg, professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information and the author of a the upcoming book "Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show."

And Rachel e-mailed to note this Monday night program (air time is Eastern Standard Time) on WBAI:

SAMUEL BECKETT 100: A Special Presentation
Monday, April 10, from 9:00-11:00 pm: Commemorate Beckett's centenary and the 50th anniversary of the American premiere of his masterpiece, Waiting for Godot, by listening to a special broadcast of the play featuring the original Broadway cast: Burt Lahr, E.G. Marshall, Alvin Epstein and Kurt Kasner. Hosted and with an introduction by Simon Loekle.