Saturday, April 15, 2006

Ruth's Public Radio Report

Ruth: It was a week where a number of us in the community went to California. Let me pull a C.I. and say "Translation," do not expect much from this week's report because we were all busy speaking to activists and participating in activities. I will be discussing two programs.

First up is one of my favorites, CounterSpin. As always the program began with a look at recent press.

Janine Jackson: The Valerie Plame story found its way back into the the media last week as special prosector Patrick Fitzgerald filed new papers that shed a little more light on how the White House planned to undermine Iraq war critic and foreign ambassador Joe Wilson. According to the court filing, Dick Cheney's former aide [Scooter] Lewis Libby was instructed by the administration to leak portions of a classified National Intelligence Estimate. in order to counter Wilson's claim that the White House's story of Iraq's attempts to get yellowcake uranium from Niger was unfounded. Some reporters shrugged it off suggesting that everyone in Washington leaks information. As CBS Evening News reporter Gloria Borger put in on April 6th QUOTE "This is just one more opportunity for the Democrats to charge the White House with hypocrisy. But, as one former intelligence official told me today 'If hypocrisy were a crime in Washington, we'd have to build more jails.' " CLOSED QUOTE. NPR analyst Daniel Schorr summarized the story on April 8th by saying that the Intelligence Estimate QUOTE "came up with the possibility that there was indeed an attempt to buy uranium from the country of Niger" CLOSED QUOTE so the White House was very anxious to get that out. But that's deceptive. Some analysts did think there was something to the Niger story but others vehemently disagreed. The White House wanted reporters to know only about the analysis that backed up there ulitmately bogus case. But the Washington Post was the most passionated administration defender. It's April 9th editorial headlined "A Good Leak" argued the White House was right to go after Wilson since he was the one not telling the truth. Washington Post readers were surely confused to read in the same day's paper a long story reporting that the Intelligence Estimate did not say it what the White House claimed it did and, since the White House itself long ago admitted it shouldn't have made the Niger claims at all, the Washington Post is left defending the administration on a claim even they no longer stand by. Now that's loyalty.

Let me note a second item as well:

Steve Rendall: An ongoing military propaganda campaign aimed at exaggerating the importance of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the purported leader of al Qaeda in Iraq was reported in the April 10th Washington Post. The report "Military Plays Up Role of Zacharwi" says the effort has raised Zarqawi's profile QUOTE "In a way some military intelligence officials belive may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks." CLOSED QUOTE. The propaganda not only targeted Iraqis hoping to turn them against the foreign militants, according to Post reporters Thomas Ricks, it also quote "explicitly lists the U.S. home audience as one of its targets of a broader propa campaign" CLOSED QUOTE and boasts of how "a selective leak about Zarqawi was made to Dexter Filkins whose resulting article ran on the New York Times front page on February 9, 2004." Closed QUOTE. Ricks quotes an Army colonel [James A. Treadwell] seemingly shocked by it all, who tells him "You don't psyops Americans We just don't do that." Indeed PYSOPS or psychological operations -- military speak for propaganda operations which target Americans aren't just against Army regulations, they're a violation of federal law.

This week's CounterSpin also included a hard hitting look at the Massachusetts health care plan via an interview Janine Jackson did with Harvard University professor Steffie Woolhandler. Of key interest to the community would be Professor Woolhandler's critique of the press which, as she noted, seems to operate under the belief that if they include a statement from a Democrat and one from a Republican, they have covered a topic. A better approach would be to actually read the legislation, at least the summary, and to examine it as opposed to rushing from one partisan to another and passing off an article as informed. In the case of the health care plan, the extreme poor, only 11% of the state's population, will benefit, a good thing as Professor Woolhandler noted, however everyone from the working poor on up will not. Add to that the fact that the legislation lacks any teeth that would allow it to be enforced and you have a program that benefits the lobby that supported it, the insurance industry. As Professor Woolandler stated, "This is not fooling anyone who is thinking seriously about universal health care."

Missing WBAI's Law and Disorder Monday was a trade off for me and one worth it due to Monday's activities. We were at a rally when it would have been airing. So I had the Law and Disorder spirit if not the program. I was delighted when a young man stopped by C.I.'s that evening with an iPod. I am, quite honestly, still at a loss on how to adequately work mine. He provided a number of suggestions and tips. Derek had e-mailed a question sometime ago and I was unable to answer it. However, I did get the answer Monday and, though I have already e-mailed Derek, I will post it here in case anyone else is having similar problems. If the program you use, I use Juice, is slow in downloading due to your connection, do not attempt to download feeds you subscribe to while you are using the computer for it will only make it slower. That seems so obvious now but it was not a thought that had occurred to me when Derek asked his question. Instead, create a time for downloading. Derek wrote back that he used the suggestion and what worked best for him was to come home from work, boot up the computer and download the feeds while he ate dinner and took care of odds and ends around the house. Then, when he is ready to surf and do his other activities, the programs are already downloaded and he can listen to them that night. He has dial up and noted that there were many nights previously where he would attempt to download and surf only to discover several hours later that maybe one of his feeds, if he was lucky, had downloaded.

While the young man was answering my questions and demonstrating different options, I saw that one of his feeds was Law and Disorder. He was a technically savy. We ended up listening to the program while we ate dinner. Mike and Cedric have both covered the first segment. To that, I will add that the restaurant in Houston, Texas where co-host Dalia Hashad was treated so poorly was Bubba’s Seafood Grill and Bar. Ms. Hashad was traveling from a conference, in Austin, and had stopped in there for a meal. Upon being seated, she was ignored by the staff repeatedly despite the fact that White diners arriving after her were given prompt service. Ms. Hashad was ignored even when she attempted to address the problem in several ways including repeatedly calling out "Excuse me" and getting her own menu after one would not be brought to her. If you have had a similar experience at a Bubba's Seafood Grill or anywhere else, the hosts invited you to go to their website and share your experience. On that, Eddie advised that there was a registration process and that he had not anticpated it would take so long to receive his password via e-mail. He ended up running out of time and asked that I advise that if you are not registered to comment at the site, you "plan your time better than I did."

As Michael Ratner, "You just wanted to have something to eat and not have a fight." But that was not the case at Terminal C, in the George Bush International Airport. If the rIf that explains it. Ms. Hashad spoke of the question that weighs on the mind "How much does my race play into it?" and spoke of the what it feels like to be faced with these incidents of racial profiling on a daily basis.

The episode began with the announcement that Ms. Hashad has left her post at the ACLU, where she was the Arab-American advocate for the Campaign Against Racial Profiling, to move to the director of US programs at Amnesty International. All four co-hosts are members of National Lawyers Guild, Amnesty Interntational and the Center for Constitutional Rights. I do not think I have noted Ms. Hashad's title here before but I believe we did note her new opportunity. (I believe that Heidi Boghosian and Geoff Brady mentioned it when they anchored a special fundraising broadcast.)

Venita Gupta, with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, was the first guest and she discussed the situation in Rome, Georgia where South Asisan immigrants were being targeted by law enforcement in a sting operation that was supposedly intended to reduce the use of meth. In Georgia, it is illegal to sell more than two bottles of Sudafed as part of their supposed crack down on meth. There have been 49 arrests and, of the 49, 44 were South Asian. The number of stores targeted were 24 and, of those, 23 were owned by South Asians. Large retail giants, such as Wal-Mart and Costco, were not targeted in the sting which utilized informants looking to reduce the length of time they themselves were facing.

In some instances, the "crime" is selling four boxes of Sudafed instead of two and/or selling to people who stated, "I'm going to use this to make a cook." Make a cook do what? Someone of my age wonders that; however, it is slang among users for making meth. Why clerks would know that, no fact sheet was given to them nor were they offered training in Meth Lingo 101, is a question the legal system is not interested in pursuing. Just as public schools earn dollars for each student who attends in the first periods each day, law enforcement can earn federal dollars for each arrest made in the so-called war on drugs. So targeting a community that is a minority in the population and avoiding the big retailers can turn a tidy profit.

When this targeted population is faced with a trial, they will take pleas. A citizen would, for instance, be granted a plea bargain of house arrest and that would be the end of it. For immigrants, that is not the case. Once they have taken part in a plea agreement, they are now at risk of deportation and Ms. Gupta noted the INS was often outside the courtrooms ready to begin proceedings.

In response to Heidi Boghosian's question of what length of sentences they would be facing, if found guilty, had they not entered into a plea agreement, Ms. Gupta responded twenty-five to forty years in prison.

Ms. Hashad: For selling sudafed and matches?
Ms. Boghosian: For selling legal products.

That is probably enough to disturb many, as it should, but in response to Ms. Boghosian's question of whether this was going on outside of Georgia, Ms. Gupta noted reports of it taking place in Tennessee, Texas and North Carolina.

For further information and to see what you can do, visit the Racial Justice Campaign. Ms. Hashad noted that Halle Berry has plans to portray Ms. Gupta in a film on this story.

The next guest was Justice Vegas Torrealba who is a Supreme Court Justice in Venezuela.
This segment led to an intense dinner table discussion on the role of the United States in Venezuela so my notes were spotty. It is a wonderful segment and I will zero in on the 2002 attempted coup backed by the United States.

Justice Torrealba noted that in the early stages of the coup there was a huge difference between what was actully happening on the streets and what was making it to TV screens. Venzuela's big media is controlled by foes of Hugo Chavez. By the palace, there were sharp shooters, "one was North America, they had Columbians," who were killing Chavez supporters but this was portrayed in the big media as if those opposed to President Chavez were the ones being shot at and as though they were shot at on the orders of President Chavez.

At a time when the so-called "Chavez problem" is a concern to such "concerned" people as Pat Robertson, the New York Times editorial board and Simon Rosenberg, this section bears noting.

The sharp shooting, as Michael Ratner noted, "was the beginning of the coup." Justice Torrealba explained that despite the military announcing fourteen people had died, at the time of the announced "no one had died." Mr. Ratner wondered, "Why didn't the military kill Chavez when he was their prisoner?"

Justice Torrealba: I think they got scared. Too many people were on the streets. . . . It was amazing.
Ms. Hashad: That's what we need, that's what we need. Millions of people on the streets.

The hosts noted that this had happened with regards to people fighting back against the scapegoating of immigrants, but that it needed to happen with respect to the illegal occupation of Iraq. That is a feat that we would have difficulty with in some instances due to, as Michael Smith noted, the continued attacks on labor unions and the fact that "we really have two capitalist parties" in this country "and that's it."

Justice Torrealba offered a detail of the coup attempt that I was unfamiliar with, "There were two ships right in front of the coast from this country [the United States] and they jammed the communications."

This knocked out cell phone usage and reminded me of some of the targets the administration sought in Iraq. For members who are new to the coup, in December of 2004, Juan Forero wrote one of his usual pieces of "reporting" and the coup was addressed then. At that time, he went to great strides to ignore details in the public documents that spoke of C.I.A. involvement in the coup. His "reporting" was analyzed then and it has been noted since then that the Times finally eased (carefully) to the position of C.I.A. involvement.

The issue of the United States actions with regards to other democracies was addressed later in the broadcast. Mr. Smith did note that in Venezuela that have multi parties who form coalitions and give voters a greater degree of choice but in the United States we are largely left with the two major parties.

Bertel Ollman was the final guest and one that I hope they will have on again. In addition to many years at NYU, Professor Ollman has written numerous books and created the boardgame Class Struggle. Currently, his project is The International Endowment for Democracy which is not to be confused with the National Edowment for Democracy which relies on monies from the Congress (from our pockets) to interject the interests of a few into democracies in other countries (doing a job that, as noted, was previously done exclusively by the C.I.A.). As Profesor Ollman summarized the NED, it has "been around for over twenty years and it basically gets money from the United State government to subvert regimes abroad that Washington disapproves of all in the name of . . . promoting democracy and nation building." By contrast, Professor Ollman's group, the IEFD, hopes to use money "to support democracy in the country that needs it the most . . . Needs it the most, not because we're the worst dictatorship" but because our actions are creating "a greater negative effect to the people all over the world than the actions of any government on the face of the planet."

Thirty-five people sit on the board of the IEFD, none of whom is paid a salary, and they include
Gore Vidal, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Ramsey Clark, Howard Zinn, Michael Smith and Michael Ratner.
You can find out more information about the IEFD online where their appeal can be read in thirteen languages and where they have created an online library.

I was able to catch a small portion of KPFA's Living Room hosted by Kris Welch and Friday's topic was immigration. One guest that I reconized was James K. Galbraith whose "Morning in America Again" was highly recommended by Ms. Welch. Another guest was Professor Roberto Rodriguez. A caller noted the book Elaine covered Monday's WBAI's Cat Radio Cafe, Rebecca covered Flashpoints on Tuesday and Thursday, and Kat covered KPFA's Guns and Butter on Wednesday.

I had a wonderful time this week and Mike has shared some thoughts on the experience so be sure to read that. There was wonderful music, as Kat has noted. We also watched Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein's documentary The Take which I highly recommend. Afterwards, we discussed the film and at one point, I offered that some of what is done reminds me of a film that many people seem unfamiliar with. Elaine had already left but it turns out this is one of her favorite films which surprised me as much as when C.I. pulled it out so we could all watch. The film is Frank Capra's Meet John Doe. For a film from the forties, its look at journalism and fat cats who attempt to utilize parties to control the people and get them to betray their own interests in a manner which may surprise many. The film stars Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper and, especially for younger members who feel that we are in a new period or that the control of the mainstream media is something new to our nation, I recommend that you check out the film.

My grandchildren Tracey, Jayson and Elijah had as much fun as I did. Whomever taught Elijah to stick out his tongue should come forward because I was thrilled he discovered something he enjoyed more than kicking and his parents prefer it to his kicking as well. So, if it was Ty or someone else, claim your credit and receive your thanks.

KPFA's Sunday Salon will cover the following this Sunday (9:00 a.m. Pacific time, 11:00 a.m. Central, and noon Eastern time) :

First Hour
In our first hour

...Imagine being one of several dozen women incarcerated with thousands of men.Harassment, humiliation, and in many cases, rape, are all a part of thedaily routine. So is being called "sir." Outside of prison, transgenderfolks often face a hurtful lack of understanding; inside prison, that lackof understanding can be life-threatening...Attorney Alex Lee of the Transgender, Gender Variant & Intersex JusticeProject joins us, and others, to be confirmed.
Second Hour
In our second hour...

Its been 100 years since the 1906 Earthquake. And 1989 -- when the last bigone hit the Bay Area -- isn't recent history, either. Time to dust off yourearthquake-preparedness savvy...Our guests Ana-Marie Jones of Collaborating Agencies Responding toDisasters, Kiska Icard of the San Francisco SPCA, and others will remind youhow to get yourself, your home, and your family -- including its non-humanmembers -- ready for a rumbler.
Listen to past shows, get contact and reference info for guests, see announcements of upcoming programs, and more at:

Sandra Lupien of KPFA's The Morning Show will fill in for Mr. Bensky as this Sunday's host.