Saturday, March 25, 2006

Ruth's Public Radio Report

Ruth: Another lengthy report and I will try to keep it more brief next Saturday. There was a great deal to note and most of it has not been included due to space limitations. If you have written about a radio program that I have not noted, please e-mail to remind me. For two weeks now, I have wanted to include a quote by Jane Fonda so I am on my own waiting list if that helps anyone. I will start with the latest from CounterSpin and I have provided commentary on one guest. Those are my opinions, not facts or "facts." Feel free to disagree. The segment is worth listening to but I do find the guest's statements and the writing the guest was on to discuss worthy of note. I disagree with her and think many second-wave feminists will. Before the interviews, Janine Jackson and Steve Rendall took a look at recent news coverage. I usually note one item but there were two items on Iraq that I really wanted to be sure the community was aware of.

Steve Rendal had the first item:

To mark the three year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war FAIR assembled some of the worst examples of the media spin, bold declarations that the war would take only days, that it was over after just a month, and so on. But to some media big shots, that didn't seem, well, fair. Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz wrote on March 20th that once the war started going badly, something Kurtz suggests is arguable, it was unsurprising that QUOTE "those who opposed it from the start would begin kicking sand in the face of those who backed it from the start. Had the war been a smashing success, accusing fingers would undoubtedly be pointing in the opposite direction." It would be nice if the act of holding pundits accountable for their words would not be maligned as 'sand kicking.' especially by someone who fancies himself a media critics. As for what would have happened if the war had gone well, as FAIR documented many proponents of the war were calling for opponents of the war to apologize almost from the start. Kurtz repeated his point on the March 19th broadcast of CNN's Reliable Sources, asking ABC reporter Jake Tapper if it was fair to note how wrong the war's proponents had been? But is it really something to debate? Whether or not it's fair to raise questions about pundits
full throated support for a war that has killed at least tens of thousands of people and costs hundreds of billions of dollars? Tapper for his part seemed to think it wasn't. So it seems like some in the mainstream media don't mind all the chatter that goes on in the newspaper pages and TV studios. What's really not acceptable is when someone tries to hold them accountable for what they've said.

Janine Jackson followed that with this commentary:

And speaking of those war pundits, in the run up to the war the mainstream media pushed anti-war voices to the very margins. Instead relying on officials and other war supporters. Three years on the predictions made by those early advocates have proven off the mark. And support for the war has plummeted. You might think then that the media would now find room for more anti-war voices especially on public broadcasting.
But on the third anniversary of the invasion one of public TV's most prominent programs marked the occasion instead with a panel that skewed heavily in favor of pundits who supported the war in the first place. The March 20th broadcast of The Charlie Rose Show featured six panelists, four of whom were supporters of the Iraq war. Iraq exile Kanan Makiya,
former Council of Foreign Relations president Leslie Gelb, journalist George Packer and academic Fouad Ajami. The other two panelists were conservative scholar Francis Fukuyama
Francis who was an early advocate of regime change in Iraq but was apprehensive about this war and Jessica Tuchman Matthews of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who was skeptical about the war. What's more none of the six experts featured on The Charlie Rose Show supported immediate withdrawal of US forces in Iraq at a time when polls show 20 to 30% of the public support that position and many more call for a timetable. At one point panelist Gelb admitted QUOTE "We now all think Iraq was a mistake in retrospect some few before but not many." While hearing from war advocates who now have second thoughts might be somewhat interesting wouldn't it make more sense to feature anti-war advocates, activists or scholars, the so-called "few" who were correct in warning about the dangers of the Iraq invasion?

Mr. Rendall interviewed Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies to address Bully Boy's press conference this week. The press applause for the Bully Boy focused on "strategies" he used in the press conference as opposed to the "substance" of his remarks. Ms. Bennis noted:

What was evident from this press conference is that Helen Thomas remains the dean of the White House press corps and really the only one with guts in this crowd. The other thing that was so striking was the number of lies that Bush was able to tell in very quick succession, right at the beginning, in answering Helen Thomas's question. It starts with, as you mentioned, his claim that Saddam Hussein had kept US inspectors out of Iraq. Well that was certainly not true. The inspectors were on the ground and the heads of both UN inspections teams had actually already said that they were getting full compliance from the Iraqis and, indeed, that they just needed a couple more months to finish their work. Bush lied about some other things too. His beginning statements were all about Afghanistan which was really interesting given that the question was all about the war in Iraq, because he was answering about how 'they' attacked 'us.' He said, 'They attacked us, Helen, and after September 11th, everything changed.' And she said, "Mr. President, we're talking about Iraq, not Afghanistan.' And he gestured to her with a shaking finger as if he were a third grade teacher an unruly student and I must say that I found it interesting that none of the other journalists responded to that.

On the question of "Can you envision a time when American troops will no longer be in Iraq?" and the response by the Bully Boy "That will be up to future presidents . . .," Ms. Bennis noted that there were no headlines proclaiming "Bush says that we will be in Iraq permanently." The press played it as if he had stated we would be out in 2009 when that is not what he stated. "What he said is the answer is no. . . . That will be up to someone else, meaning under my watch, they will be there."

Ms. Jackson interviewed Garance Franke-Ruta about a study Ms. Franke-Ruta had done of New York Times columns on abortion. Ms. Franke-Ruta found that columns written by males, the scope was all columns and not just the ones written by the paper's regular columnists, male columnists were weighing in more often on the topic then women and that they were weighing in against abortion. One issue that was not discussed in depth was the fact that women are rarely to be found on the op-ed pages of the New York Times. As was pointed out here when William Safire was retiring, the assumption seemed to be White Male Conservative retires, we must get another one. But, again, as pointed out here, centrist White Male Bill Keller had already been replaced as a columnist by White Male Conservative David Brooks. The issue of gender, or race, was not one the Times appears to have factored into their "qualifications," only political stance.

Janine Jackson did raise this issue and also noted that "on some issues" like reproductive rights, you would expect women to be more visible since women are the ones having abortion. Ms. Franke-Ruta offered comments about "the academy" and how women are not represented in large numbers there or in government. Ms. Franke-Ruta noted that the paper prefers people from those institutions, without questing the preference. However, it is also true that the paper uses other writers as well. For instance, the paper regularly runs humorous columns written by writers. Once a year, readers may get Nora Ephron weighing in on a topic, the rest of the time, humor is provided by men. When those males include Kevin Nealon, I think the notion of 'outside recognition' needs to be questioned. On all areas and topics, the paper prefers to go with men. It has nothing to do with "the academy" unless Mr. Nealon has been announced as the replacement of Larry Summers and I missed that breaking news.

Ms. Franke-Ruta also seemed unaware of the infamous comments made by editor Gail Collins when Maureen Dowd was on vacation that she felt no need to replace Ms. Dowd, the only female with a regular column in the paper, with a woman. Ms. Collins, who was noted as a "first" by Ms. Magazine immediately prior to making those inane comments and who has written about women's history, made it clear that she did not grasp the issue of representation or why it mattered. When John Tierney was selected to replace William Safire Ms. Collins lack of awareness was only underscored.

Ms. Collins statements regarding a replacement for Dowd underscored that nothing changes when a woman "breaks the glass ceiling" if the woman has no interest in being anything other than a "first." (As Ava and C.I. noted in a TV review, "sometimes a first can be a worst.") Why are women absent from the topic of abortion in the columns of the New York Times? The issue goes to why women are absent as columnists period.

Ms. Franke-Ruta seems largely unaware of second wave feminism. The issue of lack of representation of female voices is an issue that those of us who were part of the second wave raised regularly. If she is aware of that wave, she seems unaware that the press often responded, particularly on abortion, that a woman could not or would not be seen as "objective" writing on such a topic. To fight the current battles, an awareness of feminist critique that has come before would be a large assistance to her study.

Ms. Franke-Ruta did note current facts in her comments and her study, which also notes the 90s, provides some interesting numbers. The interview Ms. Jackson did is recommended but in terms of anything beyond number crunching, what Ms. Franke-Ruta is providing struck me as Intro to Feminism -- a six week course that did not even last a full semester. This is a historical issue that has historical feminist criticism as well as an inane press response (e.g. media voices stating that women would not be seen as "objective" when covering abortion). One of the things that the second wave of feminism provided was a light on the contributions of feminists who had come before. That, at this late date, Ms. Franke-Ruta seems to be left with re-inventing the wheel. "Reinventing the wheel" is a feminist term itself, used to note how history strips women of accomplishments and when modern day feminists begin critiquing an issue they are often unaware that the issue has been widely critiqued prior.

Ms. Franke-Ruta's study found that 124 columns on abortion have been run by the Times and of those eighty-three percent were written by men (mostly by pro-life men). To offer that more men come from government and the academy is not a "defense" I can get behind. We were making this same argument on representation (on abortion and other topics) decades ago and women were far less represented in the academy and government then. As I searched the reaction to Ms. Franke-Ruta's study I saw a lot of commentary that suggested that she is not alone in thinking this is a new development. This is not a new development.

The fact that the issue was better represented in the late seventies, for instance, not dealt with in the current study, is a direct result of the pressure brought by feminist activists in earlier times and, back then, we did not fall back on excuses of "representation" in the academy or government. As Ms. Jackson notes, if an abortion is had it is had by a woman. The nonsense of "official voices" being more likely to be "male" need not apply to this topic. The "experts" on this issue are indeed women. Excuses, for that is all they are now and all they were then, of the need for "officials" is nonsense and should be called out now as it was earlier.

We were not "experts" then. That was the argument. We applied pressure and we got results. Ms. Franke-Ruta's "explanation" of official-dom was weak and counter to the feminist movement which has always, not just in the second wave, questioned the very notion of "experts" and who decides whom is an expert.

Ms. Franke-Ruta's premise appears to rest on acceptance of the Times' notion of who is allowed to speak and who is not. She questions only the gender of the speaker. (In her article, for instance, she argued that pro-life women in office could be found. An interesting angle considering that her own numbers demonstrate that it is the pro-choice voice has been lost on the pages of the paper.) That is a fatal flaw and feminists should not fall for it or endorse it. Last night, I read the article and, while enjoying the numbers, was not that impressed with her commentary. Women will continue to be shut out with that "expert" premise. Though women have achieved within government positions and on campuses, the next line of defense to hold them out would be, "Yes, but the males we provide space to have longer records." The finish line will continue to move, as we have seen happen more recently.

The New York Times relies on "officials" for their sources in reporting. It relies on them for their columns. To accept the Times' premise in any form is to turn back the clocks. My own impression of Ms. Franke-Ruta's statements is that she was choosing her words carefully in the interview. When abortion is under attack, caution is not the position to take. Nor do I think feminism takes the approach of, "Okay, you can use your elite posturing to make decisions on which voices are included, but we have a few voices that meet your requirements." Gloria Steinem, to name but one prominent and well respected feminist, has never felt the need to meet the establishment idea of "officialdom." Quite the contrary, she has written in an accessible voice to make sure that all voices could take part in the discussion. That is at the heart of the feminism.

What I heard in Ms. Franke-Ruta's voice and read in her comments was a defense of the status quo that wanted to just open the gates a little. Again, Ms. Jackson noted that abortion is a procedure that only women will have. The idea of "experts" based upon who served for what administration or who is teaching and published by what college is not even pertinent to Ms. Franke-Ruta's study when the paper chooses to run a column by a man who wishes, several years prior, that his former lover had not had an abortion. He is writing of a personal experience, there is no "expertise" there.

What the New York Times practices is a form of gatekeeping. At a time when men can write from personal experience but women cannot, the notion of "experts" should be dismissed quickly. That Ms. Franke-Ruta does not dismiss it, that she accepts it and appears to endorse it, goes to the problems with her study. She has done a fine job crunching the numbers; however, she has no real recommendations and either is unaware of or silent on past history.

Ms. Jackson is my favorite interviewer and commentator on CounterSpin. I feel like she pans for gold (and finds it) in her interviews. She did so again this week.

On Wednesday, KPFA's The Morning Show presented non-experts in the sense that the paper of record judges "experts." Faiza Al-Araji and her son Raed were interviewed by Andrea Lewis about the changes in Iraq since the invasion. Both have left the country due to the continued violence and the disengration of rights, particularly women's rights. Ms. Al-Araji is part of speaking tour and the dates for her engagements and those of other Iraqi women can be
found at Global Exchange. These are the type of voices that are shut out in the reporting of the New York Times and on the paper's op-ed pages. Fortunately, Ms. Lewis and The Morning Show never assume that government officials are the go-to people or, indeed, voices that are ever shut out of a debate. Along with the regular labor discussion on Wednesday, the broadcast also featured an interview with author Jane Smiley about, among other topics, her most recent book Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel.

Monday on WBAI, Law and Disorder tackled a number of topics. First up was the case of Zacarias Moussaoui. The hosts, Michael Ratner, Dalia Hashad, Michael Smith and Heidi Boghosian, discussed the efforts by the Justice Department that have undermined the legal principles that are supposed to apply in a court of law. As Mr. Ratner explained, for the government to win the sentencing phase (the government wants the death penalty), they must demonstrate that had Mr. Moussaoui shared knowledge, 9-11 would have been preventable. This is the prosecution's argument. To back up that argument, they have resorted to coaching witnesses. At the same time that the government ignored basic rules by coaching and manipulating testimony, the defense has not been allowed to cross examine witnesses held in custody by the United States. Ms. Hashad noted that judge had instructed the prosecution that testimony was not to be shared among the prosecution witnesses, nor were they to be coached. This is a basic and did not need a judge to explain it. However, even with the instruction on something so basic, the government has been caught coaching witnesses which should lead to the death penalty being tossed out. (A point that has been addressed on other broadcasts of this program.) Mr. Smith pointed out that the prosecution was shaping ("tailoring") witness testimony by sharing the testimonies of other witnesses. With regards to Carla J. Martin, who was caught coaching witnesses, there was much to say.

Ms. Hashad noted, "She not only told them what was going on in the courtroom but she outlined the prosecutor's opening statement It's like a roadmap . . . she outlined for them and gave them talking points basically coaching them . . . . Among lawyers this is something you just never do. . . She's not relieved of her job. She's on administrative duty that she still has her law license, she should be disbarred."

Mr. Smith agreed that it was "crazy that she still has her law license" and then quoted William Kunstler on his experiences in Judge Hoffman's court in the sixties (The Chicago Eight case that became the Chicago Seven):

I learned that the government would stop at nothing including subordination of perjury, fabrication of documents, eavesdropping on attorney-client conference, the denigration of both defendants and their counsel. After Chicago, which was my personal rubican, many of my friends and foes alike tried to convince me that what took place ... was simply aberrational . . . But as time went by, I came to understand that, in cases that worried or upset the establishments, no gutter was too low. I also became conscious of the sad fact that prosecutors and law enforcement agents on both the state and federal level would resort to any dirty trick no matter how heinous to do their master's dirty bidding as well as satisfy their own ambitions.

Two young women, Ann and Laurie, were guests who discussed their rebuttal campaign to the MTA's "If you see something say something" campaign. Ann and Laurie have created postcards and posters showing things you should have seen and should have said something about. Such as the draping of an American flag over the statue of Saddam Hussein that was a part of the pys-ops operation aimed as much at Americans as at Iraqis. As Laurie noted, "in the newspapers we are seeing things everyday . . . about what's happening in the white house that we should be worried about" and their campaign attempts to target that and not enstill fear in one another among the public.

Though they do not have a website, they can be contacted at

Also on the broadcast was Caroline Fredrickson, of the ACLU, who discussed the Patriot Act reauthorization and hoped that people would continue to stay involved in the process despite the fact that the Congress refused to listen. Instead of focusing on that discussion, I would prefer to note a development that I am sure will be addressed on a future Law and Disorder show. Yesterday Charlie Savage broke news with "Bush Shuns Patriot Act RequirementIn addendum to law, he says oversight rules are not binding:"

When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.
The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates.
Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ''a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ''signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.
In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would ''impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties."

These signing statements, used to lay the groundwork to circumvent the law, have been addressed on past episodes of Law and Disorder and I'm sure the news above, which broke on Friday, will be addressed on a future Law and Disorder.

"All Along The Watchtower" was played during the broadcast. Terrance e-mailed to ask who was the man performing Jimi Hendrix's song? That was Bob Dylan who wrote the song and recorded it. If Terrance wondered, chances are someone else did as well so I asked his permission to note this here. He agreed and said to use his name. It seems very recent to me, but in fact, it's almost forty years ago. I would not be surprised if others had the same question.

Thanks to C.I. and Rebecca who both listened to me read the above and suggested where I could cut because, thanks to their suggestions, this report is half as long as it would have been prior. There were many broadcasts that I wanted to note. I will note that Friday on WBAI, there was a special broadcast with the voices of veterans against the war. [Dallas note: Click here for the WBAI archives and scroll down to Friday's "Public Affairs Special" and click on either: Play or Download. The WBAI archives states it keeps programs for ninety days only so don't wait too long.]

But one thing that I have to include is KPFA's Guns and Butter. First off, Kat called this week to ask if it would be okay to discuss Wednesday's episode. I appreciate the courtesy call but it is more than fine for anyone to write about Pacifica programming and I wish more would. While talking to Kat, she noted the broadcast from the week before which I missed due to my grandson's peditrician appointment. Kat has covered this week's broadcast and I am going to note the week's before.

This broadcast aired Joan Mellen's speech on "How the Failure to Identify, Prosecute and Convict President Kennedy's Assassins Has Led to Today's Crisis of Democracy." My granddaughter Tracey and I listened to this together and we recommend that you do as well. Tracey noted that not only did a writer for The Nation trash Professor Mellen in an article but he also attempted to do so in his response to letters complaining about the article. Professor Mellen's speech is reality-based and I would not say the same regarding the writer for The Nation. The best I will say for that man is "CIA apologist" and I will leave my worst to your imaginations since C.I. tries to keep this site "work safe" for those reading on computers at work.

Professor Mellen was on Law and Disorder discussing her then upcoming book in November. I enjoyed her appearance and purchased the book. She makes a strong case in A Farewell to Justice but for those who have not read it (and I know at least two members are on waiting lists for it at their libraries), I would urge you to listen to her speech. It addresses the issues. By contrast, the writer's rebuttal to letters instead attempted to make a case on what he stated was a mispelled name. A mispelled name? Well case closed, the Warren Commission is right!

Not quite. In his first attempt at gatekeeping, the writer resorted to "red" smears and attacks. He is still not able to muster the facts to refute Professor Mellen's argument. He is able to bend and slant and does so freely. To be sure that his is not the last word, you can listen to Ms. Mellen's speech.

If you want to listen to a gatekeeper, just follow the C.I.A. apologist. If you want to hear serious explorations of topics, listen to Guns and Butter. Bonnie Faulkner hosts the program which airs Wednesdays at four p.m. Eastern Time on KPFA. Each week, she tackles subjects that gatekeepers would prefer to keep the gates closed for. This is a popular program with several members of the community. Apologists will not enjoy the show. Those who want to hear topics explored in a manner beyond the official, case-closed verdict that you can find in the mainstream media.

Programming notes for next week. First, Larry Bensky and KPFA will be covering Tuesday's **NSA Hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee** I assume that other Pacficia stations will carry this or some coverage of it as well but I have only heard it noted on KPFA. [Dallas note: Houston's KPFT will air the coverage beginning at 8:30 a.m. Central Time.]

Rachel asked that this program airing on WBAI tomorrow be noted and the time is Eastern:

11:00-noon: The Next Hour
Elizabeth Nunez hosts this hour on the National Black Writers Conference. Her guests include science fiction and fantasy eminence Sheree Renee Thomas; award-winning author and journalist Herb Boyd; and scholar Brenda M. Greene, Executive Director of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY.

Sunday on KPFA, time listed is Pacific Time, Larry Bensky's Sunday Salon will feature:

Activism: The Tricks of the Trade. Tune in for expert advice on organizing and running successful campaign. Guests include: Attorney and organizer Dotty LeMieux, Jakada Imani, of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights Books Not Bars campaign, and Danielle Mahones, Executive Director, Center for Third World Organizing.
And, in our second hour... Round three of the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearings into the Bush/National Security Agency Domestic Surveillance scandal is coming up on March 28th. We'll check in with experts about what to expect.
Listen to past shows, get contact and reference info for guests, see announcements of upcoming programs, and more at:

Also on KPFA Sunday, Cindy asked that I note the following which airs at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time:

Act One Radio Drama
"Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine"By Lynn Nottage. Knocked-up and seriously broke, successful publicist Undine, played by Charlayne Woodard, is plunged into a topsy-turvy world of welfare mothers and drug addicts, and forced to confront the family she left behind. It's a darkly comic rags-to-riches-to-rags tale of falling down and reaching up to find the goodness within. Daniel Breaker, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Melle Powers and Myra Lucretia Taylor also star.

[C.I. note: NSA Hearing Tuesday. Post corrected and correction indicated by "**."]