Saturday, June 16, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: This report's focus is bad radio so I will be covering both Pacifica and NPR. I will start with Pacifica.

Leigh Ann Caldwell attempted to sell the symbolic, non-binding Pelosi-Reid measure as "Troops out of Iraq" repeatedly in Mach. It was not that but to hear her reports on Free Speech Radio News or to hear her on WBAI or KPFA you would never know that. I have covered this before as have others and I have spent five hours on e-mails so, if this is news to you, you can use Technorati or Google search*.

As the D.C. correspondent, Ms. Caldwell is looked to as an expert which makes it all the more frightening when she is so obviously wrong. In the capacity of D.C. expert, she was brought on as a guest for KPFA's The Morning Show Tuesday and listeners should have asked for their pledges back. During a discussion with another guest and host Philip Maldari, Ms. Caldwell . . . I have no idea what she was attempting but it was not reporting. None of the 81 e-mails on this topic were from people who mistook it for reporting either.

The subject of I. Lewis Libby was addressed. For background on that, I will note Bill Moyers from his Friday broadcast of Bill Moyers Journal:

It is well known that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby--once Vice President Cheney's most trust adviser--has been sentenced to 30 months in jail for perjury. Lying. Not a white lie, mind you. A killer lie.
Scooter Libby deliberately poured poising into the drinking water of democracy by lying to federal investigators, for the purpose of obstructing justice. Attempting to trash critics of the war, Libby and his pals in high places -- including his boss Dick Cheney-- outed a covert CIA agent. Libby then lied to cover their tracks. To throw investigators off the trail, he kicked sand in the eyes of truth. "Libby lied about nearly everything that mattered," wrote the chief prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.
The jury agreed and found him guilty on four felony counts.

That very clearly sums up what Mr. Libby was convicted of and explains how offensive what he did, while a sitting member of our government, was. So listening to Ms. Caldwell Tuesday repeatedly state how "harsh" his sentence was took us well beyond what we expect from news and straight into the Gas Bag Beltway. Mr. Libby has not received a "harsh" sentence and Ms. Caldwell's asinine commentary might play well in the Beltway but she is supposed to be reporting to the real world.

Mr. Libby did something very offensive to American democracy and justice which led to him being sentenced to thirty months in prison and fined $250,000. Is that "harsh"? Considering the trust and faith he was supposed to be representing, I do not believe that can be called harsh. But if we leave opinion and go to the facts, we discover that the crimes Mr. Libby was convicted of could have resulted in a one-million-dollar fine and up to twenty-five years in prison. Instead, Mr. Libby has received approximately an eighth of the maximum sentencing time and one-fourth of the maximum fine. That is not "harsh."

Ms. Caldwell would do well to stick to the facts and leave her questionable judgements to the right-wing spin cycle. As embarrassing as that is to Pacifica news, it got worse.

Mr. Maldari, like myself, does not appear to be a computer expert. That is not a problem. It does mean that he will have questions from time to time, as do I, and I credit him with his courage in asking them. One of things that has been revealed in the Gonzales Gate coverage is that Karl Rove, and others but Mr. Maldari was asking of Karl Rove, were circumventing federal guidelines and laws on the preservation of White House communications by e-mailing from something other than their assigned White House e-mail accounts while conducting White House business.

Mr. Maldari explained that he was confused by that revelation and he wanted to know, from Ms. Caldwell, whether this meant that Karl Rove was leaving the White House to e-mail from other computers?

I went back and forth on whether to include that detail because it would be easy for some to ridicule Mr. Maldari for that question. I do not ridicule him for it. He had a question and he had the courage to ask. He noted he was confused by the revelations and Pacifica's D.C. expert was present so it was the perfect time to ask a question that Ms. Caldwell should have been able to answer.

If you assumed that Ms. Caldwell was going to explain about Blackberries and accessing different e-mail accounts on any computer, you were wrong. She responded that was correct. That is not correct. Karl Rove was not running to GOP headquarters every time he needed to send an e-mail from something other than his assigned White House account.

Ms. Caldwell should know better. Ms. Caldwell was asked a direct question and she gave the wrong answer. If Ms. Caldwell, the D.C. correspondent, does not know any better than that, it goes a long way towards explaining the host of mistakes she has been making recently. This reflects poorly on KPFA and on Pacifica Radio. If that is what Ms. Caldwell has to offer, then other programs need to stop bringing her on as a guest. Larry Bensky could have answered Mr. Maldari's question quickly and accurately. I do believe Mr. Bensky stated he was available for guest spots even though he had shut down his program Sunday Salon.

Turning to NPR, as most of the community did last week. I listened online at the national feed and learned a few things. In a report on tariffs, I learned that NPR will go to any lengths to promote free trade. The story attempted to convince America that tariffs only impact the working class. On a higher note, a report on the fortieth anniversary of Monterey Pop, featuring Michelle Phillips, was worth listening to even if the usual sexism was on display. Ms. Phillips was known in that time as Mama Michelle and a member of the Mamas and the Papas. She was also married to "Papa" John Phillips. So it is surprising that these reports continue to tell you of how Mr. Phillips and Lou Adler are responsible for Monterey Pop. As Kat wondered this week, is this an attempt to endorse the sexist notion that a husband's money is his own? As a member of the group and a sometimes songwriter, Ms. Phillips contributed to the family income and Mr. Phillips was not using "his" money.

The Monterey Report was obviously the high point of my listening week being that I am old enough to remember when it was current news. The low point? A program called News & Note which appears to exist so that a clubber, who used to go the Red House before too many shootings made it the Dead House, can pretend to practice journalism.

The show is offensive. It is offensive because it does not meet NPR standards for public affairs programming and, most of all, it is offensive for what it chooses to present to the public.

The actor Isaiah Washington was fired from Grey's Anatomy. This followed his using a slur on the set to refer to a gay castmate and then his again making homophobic remarks, this time in public, at the Golden Globes. If you follow the news, you may think that it is why he was fired. If you heard News & Note, however, you were informed that it was a White Gay Conspiracy. I seem to remember Mike Ovitz getting into hot water for floating similar crazy claims; however, NPR seems to think this makes for quality programming.

Apparently wishing to top that report, which aired repeatedly on the Wednesday feed, on Thursday we were informed, during a supposed discussion of the candidates running to become the Democratic nominee for president in 2008, that Asians and Latinos were breaking the law by voting even though they are not citizens. In fairness to the 'host' and the guest pushing that nonsense, Mary Frances Berry, it should be noted that this false charge seemed to derive from the fact that they were unaware that voters in presidential elections had to be citizens. As C.I. noted Thursday, damage control appeared to Ms. Berry rushing to assure that "their children are legal even if they're not".

This show is objectionable. It is hosted by an African-American woman so possibly we are not supposed to call it out? But having insulted Asians and Latinos in this country, citizens and non-citizens, and having pushed the lie of a White Gay Conspiracy, that is the reality. Apparently McFries buys a great deal of junk chatter hence News & Note.

News & Note also wants to cover the "arts." Which is why someone felt Malcom-Jamal Warner, one time TV child actor, was a guest worth having. Should I assume All Things Considered will next be interviewing Anson Williams?

Until last week, I had the pleasure of not knowing News & Note even aired. I find it objectionable that NPR thinks their programming has to be dumbed down in order to attract African-Americans. I think that when hosts are so ignorant of the laws for national elections, they should not be allowed to discuss the subject. However, restricting the host from that topic would only leave her with conspiracies and failed TV stars who last tasted fame by association in 1992. Possibly the best thing to do would be to replace the host before she offers the next offensive segment partly funded by tax payer monies?

[*C.I. note, by the end of March, Caldwell was no longer selling the Pelosi-Reid measure as "Troops Out Now." She was now pushing the notion that, in her words, "I know it doesn't go as far as many Democrats would like in cutting the funding." As far? That the Pelosi-Reid measure cut any funds was certainly an interesting interpretation.]