Lying Media Bastards

December 28, 2007

Wrapping It Up

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Our pals at Eat the State have come out with their annual Media Follies list, summing up the “stories that should never have been stories, stories whose reporting largely missed the point, and stories barely told at all in mainstream US media.” A nice way to look back at our horrible year, with enough sarcasm to let you read it all with minimal retching.

As Eat the State is a local publication based out of Seattle, the national Follies list is followed by their list of media atrocities specific to their neck of the woods.

Posted by Jake on December 28, 2007 8:35 am

December 27, 2007

Death of Bhutto

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The shocking news of the day is the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister and recent presidential candidate Benazir Bhutto. I am no expert on Pakistan, so I’ll only make a few comments here.

First, my previous impression of Pakistan as a nation top-heavy with Islamic radicals seems to have been exaggerated and not-so-informed. My understanding at present is that most Pakistanis are looking for a fairly secular society, with only a small fraction of militants and jihadis seeking theocracy. I used to worry that the radicals would topple Musharraf, take power, and control the nation’s nuclear weapons, but analysts smarter than me say that the nuclear weapons are firmly in the control of the Pakistani military, who are their own faction in the country’s political game, not just servants of the government. It sounds like the military would be unlikely to give nuclear access to coup plotters, unless the military itself fragmented and started taking sides.

Second, Benazir Bhutto was corrupt as hell (I’ve heard estimates that she and her husband took almost $2 billion in bribes and kickbacks while in office), and not that popular with the Pakistani people. For some decades now, the country has had to deal either with military dictators or moderate-sounding kleptocrats. Shortly after Bhutto’s return and Musharraf’s decree of “emergency”/martial law, many Pakistanis publicly stated that they didn’t believe Musharraf’s claims that he was trying to protect the nation, nor did they believe that Bhutto was some sort of savior of democracy. They felt that both figures were simply out for their own power, and the Pakistanis wished they’d both go away.

Third, Al Qaeda has apparently taken credit for the assassination, but obviously we have no idea if they are actually responsible or not. If you’re willing to kill thousands, you’re probably not above telling a lie here and there. Bhutto supporters and fellow presidential candidate Nawaz Sharif are blaming Musharraf and the military (Sharif also seems to be positioning himself as the heir apparent to Bhutto, hoping to gain her followers). Musharraf is blaming Islamic terrorists.

Some possible future developments:

- the murder and its aftermath can give Musharraf an easy excuse to maintain martial law, and/or postpone the scheduled elections. “Public safety” and all that.

- Nawaz Sharif is vowing to boycott the upcoming elections, claiming that there can be no democracy with Musharraf in power. Can’t argue with him on that point. Honestly, though, I would not be surprised to see some sort of negotiating and wrangling between Sharif and Musharraf behind the scenes to share power in some way in the future.

- And of course, the possibility of some sort of rebellion or coup is not out of the picture. If Musharraf uses Bhutto’s death as an excuse to continue martial law, the Pakistani people may see it as a sign that they will never have democracy with Musharraf, and take action to get rid of him.

Some Pakistani reaction to the killing can be found here, a little bit of recent context on Pakistan from Juan Cole here.

Posted by Jake on December 27, 2007 10:40 am

Pods of War

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I recently discovered a podcast that reviews political podcasts (“Podcast Liberally”) that happened to review my own podcast. Listening to a radio show in which someone talks about your own radio show is weird (even weirder when it includes an excerpt of you talking on your show). I think I’m going to have to play a clip of it during one of my upcoming shows, to make things as surreal/meta/Moebius as possible. Their conclusion: pretty good show, but too much damn music. They also don’t like my use of background music while I’m talking. Maybe they’ve got a point there… Thoughts, anyone?

I spend a fair amount of time these days commuting by car and walking for exercise, which gives me a lot of potential listening hours per week. In the past year, I’ve jumped on the podcast-listening bandwagon, and now try to cram my ears full of political/newsy audio goodness as much as possible. Some of the shows I’ve discovered since then are excellent. Some turned out to be duds, some I’ve tired of, some are too politically timid. I’ve also found that I can’t listen to daily podcasts very well; if I miss a day, I lose track and the unlistened-to shows just stack up in a tidy pile. But I thought I’d list some of my favorites, and ask for suggestions from y’all on shows that you think are worth a listen.

Background Briefing/Live from the Left Coast- I can’t praise this show enough. Very smart and informed host Ian Masters gathers very smart and informed guests, and asks them vital questions about issues and events that are, or may become very important– generally with emphasis on international politics and power games in Washington. Technically, these are two separate shows that air on LA’s KPFK, but they are essentially a single two-hour block, with the second hour containing longer interviews and call-in questions from listeners. I’ve been listening to this show regularly for around eight years now, and it is significantly responsible for my political smarty-pants-ness.

Antiwar Radio- Podcast feed made up of selected interviews by Charles Goyette of KFNX talk radio in Phoenix, AZ and Scott Horton of KAOS Radio in Austin, TX. Smart interviews with smart people on issues relating to the Middle East, the war on terrorism, the neconservatives in Washington, and attacks on American civil liberties. Both hosts are Libertarians, but their ideology doesn’t usually get in the way of their interviews (except for their occasional compulsion to spontaneously declare that presidential candidate Ron Paul is a paragon of virtue, made of solid love, who will smite our enemies and lead us into a new golden age).

This Is Hell- hosted by Chuck Mertz, out of college station WNUR in Chicago. Depending on the local sports schedule, the shows are usually 1 hour or 4 hours. Sort of plays at being a dumb, funny Morning Zoo, but it seems to do that to disguise its rich vein of intelligence and insight. For example, recent interviews on the show have discussed war in the Congo, Pakistan, the IMF, and corruption in the world of college sports. About 1/2 the show are serious interviews, maybe a quarter is interviews and rants from friends, and the rest is wacky antics. A little obsessed with branding and slogans, but a very good show.

Eat the Airwaves- Weekly half-hour discussion of news and politics with Geov Parrish and Maria Tomchick, editors of Eat the State (the Seattle-based alt-biweekly of “anti-authoritarian political opinion, research and humor”). Cuts to the down and dirty, central, behind-the-scenes reality of current events. Sometimes the show spends more time on local Seattle issues than us non-Seattle folk would like. The show is part of a larger block of public affairs programming called Mind Over Matters, hosted by Mike McCormick, but he really doesn’t speak much during the Eat the Airwaves segment.

Grist- weekly 8-10 minute podcast of environmental news from Grist Magazine. Good info, with a sense of humor and snark by host Todd Hymas Samkara. Occasionally makes me laugh out loud, and is the only podcast who’s intro song even comes close to being as good as mine (this is an epidemic, actually. Nearly all lefty radio shows and podcasts have terrible theme music).

Onion Radio News- quick, hilarious, fake news segments from The Onion, rarely lasting more than a minute and a half.

Onion News Network- short fake news video podcasts by The Onion, done in the style of a 24-hour cable news network. To be honest, I usually just listen to these while driving, so I may be missing half the jokes, but they’re still damn funny.

Weekly Radio Spin- five minutes of reportage about public relations deception, spin doctoring, propaganda, and the ways these forces interact with the news media, brought to you by the Center for Media and Democracy (aka PR Watch). For several months, a show of the same name existed, produced by average Jo(e)s reading news segments off of the CMD’s website. Now the CMD is producing the show themselves. Hosted by Judith Siers-Poisson and Patricia Barden.

Addicted to Race- [currently on hiatus]. Weekly show “dedicated to exploring America’s obsession with race”, hosted by Carmen Van Kerckhove. Discussion of race and racism as it relates to current events, media, and pop culture. Often includes a hip-hop song or two.

Bill Moyers Journal- weekly PBS news program hosted by progressive Bill Moyers, featuring some interviews by Moyers and investigative reports from his news staff. Takes on many important issues of the day, but often in a much more cautious tone than I’d like. Comes in audio and video versions, I’ve only checked out the audio.

Media Minutes- five weekly minutes of news about the media industry and legislation, brought to you by media policy reform group Free Press hosted by Stevie Converse and Candice Clement.

So those are the weekly/sporadic podcasts I like. There are a number of good daily ones that I just can’t keep up with.

Democracy Now!- far-left take on the news by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. Flagship of the Pacifica Radio Network, also comes in TV format, and can be heard/watched via satellite TV as well. Good stuff, with maybe a touch too much sensationalism and self-importance.

Free Speech Radio News- my ideal for how news should be. If I recall correctly, FSRN began when there was a strike at Pacifica, and the reporters wanted to keep doing their work. Essentially, the program is a compilation of reports from local indymedia types around the world. Much more logical and cost-effective to have local reporters talking about the areas and events they know than to fly in foreigners to try to get a grip on the story within hours of landing.

There are also a number of pretty good podcasts via the BBC, Guardian and Radio4All websites.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. Any thoughts or recommendations?

Posted by Jake on December 27, 2007 9:37 am

December 26, 2007

Not “Liberators” So Much as “Destruction Facilitators”

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So Turkey has been invading and bombing Iraq for almost two weeks now. According to Turkish officials, they’ve launched at least three bombing raids, involving over 50 warplanes, killing at least 150 “Kurdish guerrillas” (but surely not a single civilian, surely not).

And in their official press releases, the Turkish government is also thanking the US for their help in the invasion. The US apparently provided lots of intelligence data to Turkey to facilitate their killing of Iraqis and Turkish Kurds. America, always willing to lend a hand, as long as it involves blowing the fuck out of people.

But remember folks, the real enemy in Iraq is Iran. They may not be bombing the country or illegally occupying it, but they are, and always will be, the real enemy. For some reason.

Posted by Jake on December 26, 2007 10:28 am

December 20, 2007

Homeless Profiteering

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Disgusting. The city of New Orleans is demolishing 4500 units of public housing when there are thousands desperate for a place to live. Some activists have managed to stall the bulldozers by chaining themselves to the building. And today, when the New Orleans city council was to have a meeting where they would vote on additional public housing demolitions, the public was physically locked out of the meeting. Then, the police tasered and pepper-sprayed the people trying to get into the meeting.

I haven’t researched these events much, but it seems mighty likely that these demolished homes will be rebuilt upon by developers who will make quite a bit of money. That’s why thousands of families will have to live on the streets.

Lot of reports, breaking news, photos and videos at New Orleans Indymedia and the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund.

Posted by Jake on December 20, 2007 7:10 pm

Lying Through the Clever Use of Lies

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I don’t want to spend much time talking about presidential campaigns, but I did get a chuckle at Mitt Romney’s poor damage control today after he was caught lying.

Romney has been trying to play up his civil rights cred by claiming that “I saw my father [former Michigan governor George Romney] march with Martin Luther King.” Except it turns out that that, y’know, never happened. Not a big deal, but kind of a ballsy lie, trying to tie yourself, however tenuously, to the most famous civil rights leader in American history, and Mitt got caught.

And how has his campaign attempted to make this cheap lie faux pas go away? According to Romney’s spokesperson, “he was speaking figuratively, not literally.”

So “I saw my father march with Martin Luther King” means “my dad went to a protest once.”

But let’s not dwell on this (there’s already plenty of quibbling over the minutiae among political and media types); all politicians lie, sometimes they get caught, this was just a particularly funny example.

Posted by Jake on December 20, 2007 5:14 pm

December 17, 2007

Red Herring Nation

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I have read many articles and listened to many interviews lately that try to analyze, critique, contextualize, or otherwise explain the meaning and significance of the recent “Iran has no nukes” NIE report. Almost all of them are interesting and informative, but many continue chugging along the tracks, right past the turnoff to The Point.

The Point is that most of the neocons who call the shots in the US government want regime change in Iran, believing strongly that American interests should prevail in all places at all times, (no matter the cost to other people) and that the best way to further these interests is the use of military force. But due to the pesky remnants of democracy trailing raggedly from the halls of power, these neocons always attempt to win public support first. Knowing full well that Americans would never agree to a war for something as selfish as control over the world’s energy supply, the neocons need to find a reason that Americans would feel justifies a war. What those reasons are, whether or not they are true, and whether or not these reasons remain consistent are totally, completely, utterly irrelevant.

I’m sure you all understand, but I feel that I have to say it again. The Bush administration did not receive intelligence about Iran, weigh the information, and then come up with an action plan. They decided on their course of action first, based on their simplistic, ignorant assumptions, and their almost childlike faith in the power and invincibility of the American military.

Which is why whether or not Iran has a nuclear weapons program is not The Point.

The Point is that powerful people want conquest, and little things like truth, common sense, morality and law aren’t going to stand in their way. The reason that Iran invasion plans aren’t going full steam already seems to be that some of the members of the Bush administration no longer think that an invasion will achieve their goals, and that top-ranking military members are strongly opposed to the invasion, with some apparently threatening to resign before carrying out these battle plans.

I am pleased that this NIE seems to seriously undermine this particular rationale that the necons were using to try to win the American people to their bloody cause, but all the talk about it by anti-war folks is reminding me of the “let the inspectors back in” movement before the Iraq war. Well-meaning people argued that rather than bomb Iraq, we should give weapons inspectors more time to determine whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But since the neocons were never actually concerned about WMDs, such plans were futile from the start.

The only discussion that is important at this point is to expose the warmongers’ methods to the American people, and figure out how to stop them from launching their insane plans.

Posted by Jake on December 17, 2007 12:03 am

December 4, 2007

The Dog Ate My Punctuality

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Sigh. Sorry folks, but I am in Finals Week for my Online Library School, so the time I would really, really, really like to spend recording angry rants, mixing songs, debunking propaganda, and sneering at the powermongers, is instead being spent writing papers, completing projects, and mildly freaking out about my papers and projects. All my shit has to be done by December 10, and then no school for like 5 weeks. Look forward to much textual and mp3 goodness at that time.

Shit, now that I’m here, I’m not going to be able to stop myself, am I?

In two bits of actual “good news” lately, we see that a) Venezuela chose to not give broad new powers to President Hugo Chavez, and b) the revelation that Iran hasn’t been working on nuclear weapons since 2003 may help drag the neocon war plans to a halt.

I’m not totally anti-Chavez; many of his policies seem honestly aimed at helping the country’s poor and historically stomped upon. But he’s also scooping up much power for himself, which is never something you want. So hooray to Venezuela for not handing it to him.

And the new US intelligence report about Iran is a nice warm ray of sunshine on an otherwise blood-drenched day. Most of the rhetoric for an American (or Israeli) invasion of Iran was based on the idea that madman Mahmoud Ahmedinejad (who isn’t actually in charge of the country) was trying to get nukes so he could load them onto the Death Star and steal the Ring from Frodo. The “new” discovery of the no nukes kind of puts a screeching-type halt into that talk. Well, until the warmongers find a new way to spin it. Which took about four and a half minutes: “they may have stopped their program in 2003, but they could start it again at ANY TIME!!!” Bush actually said that it “makes no difference” that Iran isn’t actually working on nukes. But by my calculations, even if Iran restarted their program ten minutes ago, there is a difference: four years.

So, in conclusion, I have to go write library papers.

Posted by Jake on December 4, 2007 9:20 pm

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