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Media Scoundrels Pillory Chavez Before He's Buried
by Stephen Lendman
His passing made no difference. Media scoundrels don't quit. They spent 14 years vilifying him. They did it unfairly. They haven't stopped.
They're called scoundrels for good reason. They violate fundamental journalistic ethics. They lie for power. They turn truth on its head.
Norman Solomon discusses his recent debate with former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson on the lies that took the United States into war 10 years ago, as well as Solomon's cofounding of online activist force RootsAction.org.
Total run time: 29:00
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By John Grant
"The experience we have of our lives from within, the story we tell ourselves about ourselves in order to account for what we are doing, is thus a lie -- the truth lies rather outside, in what we do."
-- Slavoj Zizek
By Linn Washington, Jr.
The controversial acquittal of a Philadelphia policeman caught on video violently punching a woman at a Puerto Rican Day parade last fall quickly produced a second stink bomb.
The Philadelphia judge who freed fired Lt. Jonathan Josey during a non-jury trial where that jurist brushed aside compelling evidence recorded on that video is married to a Philadelphia policeman.
By Dan DeWalt
‘If the President Does It, It Isn’t Illegal’
-- Richard M. Nixon
By Alfredo Lopez
In the madness of our media-fed consciousness, the greatest threat to an informative news story is time. Given enough time, and the dysfunctional and disinformative way the mainstream media cover news, even the most important and revealing story quickly dies out.
That is, unless we who use alternative media keep that story alive.
Albany The writer is a member of Veterans For Peace.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
On September 10, 2012 the Los Angeles Times published an article with the headline: “LAPD to hold meetings on use of force policies.”
Top Los Angeles police officials announced those community meetings to counter growing criticism about videoed brutality incidents involving LA police officers in the preceding months, that article noted.
By Norman Solomon
With the tenth anniversary of the Iraq invasion coming up next month, we can expect a surge of explanations for what made that catastrophe possible. An axiom from Orwell -- “who controls the past controls the future” -- underscores the importance of such narratives.
I encountered a disturbing version last week while debating Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Largely, Wilkerson blamed deplorable war policies on a “bubble” that surrounds top officials. That’s not just faulty history; it also offers us very misleading guidance in the present day.
By Dave Lindorff
The US government doesn't like Iran. I get that. It claims, on pretty dubious grounds, that Iran might be planning, at some point down the road, to take some of the uranium it is processing into nuclear fuel to a higher level of purity and make it into an atomic bomb.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Cory Booker, the charismatic Democratic mayor of Newark, NJ currently considering a campaign for the U.S. Senate, enjoys extraordinary media exposure -- exposure that exceeds that of many top-tier entertainers and professional athletes. However, that fawning media coverage from CNN to Vogue Magazine of this mayor rarely reports facts like the increasing ire among Newark residents over Booker’s practices and the right-wing political roots of this politician who is generally portrayed as possessing solid center-left credentials.
Ten years ago yesterday, Colin Powell made the Bush administration's case for going to war against Iraq. Much of what he said about Iraq's threats to the United States was false. But the media coverage gave the opposite impression, and most of the pundits and journalists who promoted the justifications for the war paid no price for their failures.
As FAIR reported at the time, even before the Powell address there were reasons to be skeptical of the administration's claims. On February 4, 2003, FAIR published "Iraq's Hidden Weapons: From Allegation to Fact," which made the point that "it has not been demonstrated that Iraq continues to hold unconventional weapons." FAIR criticized coverage like that of the New York Times (2/2/03), which asserted that "nobody seriously expected Mr. Hussein to lead inspectors to his stash of illegal poisons or rockets, or to let his scientists tell all."
As the FAIR release concluded:
The media convey to the public the impression that the alleged banned weapons on which the Bush administration rests its case for war are known to exist, and that the question is simply whether inspectors are skillful enough to find them.
Powell's address was instrumental in pushing a faulty media line on Iraq's WMDs further. That much was clear in the coverage right after his appearance at the United Nations, as FAIR documented on February 10 in "A Failure of Skepticism in Powell Coverage."
In Andrea Mitchell's report on NBC Nightly News (2/5/03), Powell's allegations became actual capabilities of the Iraqi military: "Powell played a tape of a Mirage jet retrofitted to spray simulated anthrax, and a model of Iraq's unmanned drones, capable of spraying chemical or germ weapons within a radius of at least 550 miles."
By John Grant
In The New York Times February 6th on pages 20 and 21, across from each other, there were two tragic stories centered around the themes of sex, race and power. You might call them love stories, though they were definitely not Hallmark card or Harlequin romances.
John Brennan's performance at his Rejection Hearing in the Senate Lack of Intelligence Committee on Thursday will likely be a contender for this year's Colin Powell Memorial Bullshit Award.
Colin Powell set the standard on Feb. 5, 2003, at the United Nations.
Powell relied on the testimony of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law to persuade us of the supposed need to attack Iraq. Powell recited his claims about weapons of mass destruction but carefully left out the part where that same gentleman had testified that all of Iraq's WMDs had been destroyed.
Think of that. Someone tells you about a bunch of old weapons and at the same time tells you they've been destroyed, and you choose to repeat the part about the weapons and censor the part about their destruction. How would you explain that?
Well, it's a sin of omission, so ultimately Powell could claim he forgot. "Oh yeah, I meant to say that, but it slipped my mind."
But how would he explain this:
During his presentation at the United Nations, Powell provided this translation of an intercepted conversation between Iraqi army officers:
"They're inspecting the ammunition you have, yes.
"For the possibility there are forbidden ammo.
"For the possibility there is by chance forbidden ammo?
"And we sent you a message yesterday to clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there."
The incriminating phrases "clean all of the areas" and "make sure there is nothing there" do not appear in the official State Department translation of the exchange:
"Lt. Colonel: They are inspecting the ammunition you have.
"Lt. Col: For the possibility there are forbidden ammo.
"Lt. Colonel: For the possibility there is by chance, forbidden ammo.
"Lt. Colonel: And we sent you a message to inspect the scrap areas and the abandoned areas.
Powell was writing fictional dialogue. He put those extra lines in there and pretended somebody had said them. Here's what Bob Woodward said about this in his book, Plan of Attack.
"[Powell] had decided to add his personal interpretation of the intercepts to rehearsed script, taking them substantially further and casting them in the most negative light. Concerning the intercept about inspecting for the possibility of 'forbidden ammo,' Powell took the interpretation further: 'Clean out all of the areas. . . . Make sure there is nothing there.' None of this was in the intercept."
For most of his presentation, Powell wasn't inventing dialogue, but he was presenting as facts numerous claims that his own staff had warned him were weak and indefensible.
Powell told the UN and the world: "We know that Saddam’s son, Qusay, ordered the removal of all prohibited weapons from Saddam's numerous palace complexes." The Jan. 31, 2003, evaluation of Powell's draft remarks prepared for him by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research ("INR") flagged this claim as "WEAK."
Regarding alleged Iraqi concealment of key files, Powell said: "key files from military and scientific establishments have been placed in cars that are being driven around the countryside by Iraqi intelligence agents to avoid detection."
The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK" and added "Plausibility open to question." A Feb. 3, 2003, INR evaluation of a subsequent draft of Powell's remarks noted:
"Page 4, last bullet, re key files being driven around in cars to avoid inspectors. This claim is highly questionable and promises to be targeted by critics and possibly UN inspection officials as well."
That didn't stop Colin from stating it as fact and apparently hoping that, even if UN inspectors thought he was a brazen liar, U.S. media outlets wouldn't tell anyone.
On the issue of biological weapons and dispersal equipment, Powell said: "we know from sources that a missile brigade outside Baghdad was disbursing rocket launchers and warheads containing biological warfare agents to various locations, distributing them to various locations in western Iraq."
The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK":
"WEAK. Missiles with biological warheads reportedly dispersed. This would be somewhat true in terms of short-range missiles with conventional warheads, but is questionable in terms of longer-range missiles or biological warheads."
This claim was again flagged in the Feb. 3, 2003, evaluation of a subsequent draft of Powell's presentation: "Page 5. first para, claim re missile brigade dispersing rocket launchers and BW warheads. This claim too is highly questionable and might be subjected to criticism by UN inspection officials."
That didn't stop Colin. In fact, he brought out visual aids to help with his lying
Powell showed a slide of a satellite photograph of an Iraqi munitions bunker, and lied:
"The two arrows indicate the presence of sure signs that the bunkers are storing chemical munitions . . . [t]he truck you [...] see is a signature item. It's a decontamination vehicle in case something goes wrong."
The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK" and added: "We support much of this discussion, but we note that decontamination vehicles – cited several times in the text – are water trucks that can have legitimate uses... Iraq has given UNMOVIC what may be a plausible account for this activity – that this was an exercise involving the movement of conventional explosives; presence of a fire safety truck (water truck, which could also be used as a decontamination vehicle) is common in such an event."
Powell's own staff had told him the thing was a water truck, but he told the UN it was "a signature item…a decontamination vehicle." The UN was going to need a decontamination vehicle itself by the time Powell finished spewing his lies and disgracing his country.
He just kept piling it on: "UAVs outfitted with spray tanks constitute an ideal method for launching a terrorist attack using biological weapons," he said.
The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this statement as "WEAK" and added: "the claim that experts agree UAVs fitted with spray tanks are ‘an ideal method for launching a terrorist attack using biological weapons’ is WEAK."
In other words, experts did NOT agree with that claim.
Powell kept going, announcing "in mid-December weapons experts at one facility were replaced by Iraqi intelligence agents who were to deceive inspectors about the work that was being done there."
The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK" and "not credible" and "open to criticism, particularly by the UN inspectorates."
His staff was warning him that what he planned to say would not be believed by his audience, which would include the people with actual knowledge of the matter.
To Powell that was no matter.
Powell, no doubt figuring he was in deep already, so what did he have to lose, went on to tell the UN: "On orders from Saddam Hussein, Iraqi officials issued a false death certificate for one scientist, and he was sent into hiding."
The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK" and called it "Not implausible, but UN inspectors might question it. (Note: Draft states it as fact.)"
And Powell stated it as fact. Notice that his staff was not able to say there was any evidence for the claim, but rather that it was "not implausible." That was the best they could come up with. In other words: "They might buy this one, Sir, but don't count on it."
Powell, however, wasn't satisfied lying about one scientist. He had to have a dozen. He told the United Nations: "A dozen [WMD] experts have been placed under house arrest, not in their own houses, but as a group at one of Saddam Hussein's guest houses."
The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK" and "Highly questionable." This one didn't even merit a "Not implausible."
Powell also said: "In the middle of January, experts at one facility that was related to weapons of mass destruction, those experts had been ordered to stay home from work to avoid the inspectors. Workers from other Iraqi military facilities not engaged in elicit weapons projects were to replace the workers who’d been sent home."
Powell's staff called this "WEAK," with "Plausibility open to question."
All of this stuff sounded plausible enough to viewers of Fox, CNN, and MSNBC. And that, we can see now, was what interested Colin. But it must have sounded highly implausible to the UN inspectors. Here was a guy who had not been with them on any of their inspections coming in to tell them what had happened.
We know from Scott Ritter, who led many UNSCOM inspections in Iraq, that U.S. inspectors had used the access that the inspection process afforded them to spy for, and to set up means of data collection for, the CIA. So there was some plausibility to the idea that an American could come back to the UN and inform the UN what had really happened on its inspections.
Yet, repeatedly, Powell's staff warned him that the specific claims he wanted to make were not going to even sound plausible. They will be recorded by history more simply as blatant lies.
The examples of Powell's lying listed above are taken from an extensive report released by Congressman John Conyers: "The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War."
David Swanson is the author of War Is A Lie at http://warisalie.org
By Tench Phillips, co-owner Naro Cinema
Each of the last few years I have compiled an annual list of the year's best films and divided them into fiction and non-fiction categories. Since "best of the year" lists are so prolific, my own focus is on non-fiction documentaries that don't receive as much media attention.
The PBS Nova broadcast "Rise of the Drones" was sponsored by drone manufacturer Lockheed Martin--a clear violation of PBS's underwriting guidelines.
As Kevin Gosztola reported (FireDogLake, 1/24/13), the January 23 broadcast was a mostly upbeat look at surveillance and weaponized drones. "Discover the cutting edge technologies that are propelling us toward a new chapter in aviation history," PBS urged, promising to reveal "the amazing technologies that make drones so powerful."
Some of that technology, unbeknownst to viewers, was created by the company described as giving Nova "additional funding" at the beginning of the broadcast. Lockheed Martin, a major military contractor with $46 billion in 2011 sales, is the manufacturer of drones used in warfare and intelligence, including the Desert Hawk, the Falcon, the Stalker and the Tracer. In December 2012, Lockheed bought AME Unmanned Air Systems, maker of the Fury drone (New Times, 12/19/12).
Nova's history of unmanned flight technology included comments from Abe Karem, dubbed the "father of the Predator" drone. His current company, FireDogLake's Gosztola noted, has a business relationship with Lockheed Martin.
The show did not entirely skirt the controversies over drones. A section of the broadcast dealt with drone pilots firing on targets in countries like Afghanistan or Pakistan. Viewers, though, are told that drone pilots have distinct advantage over conventional pilots. One drone operator talks about how, after a strike, a drone can "stick around for another few hours to watch what happens afterwards." A more critical look at drone wars might have mentioned these are the same circumstances under which U.S. drones have attacked rescue workers and funeral processions (Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 6/4/12).
The show does not ignore the question of civilian deaths--though it says "the facts are hard to come by" and that "there are not fully reliable counts of civilian deaths." Nova does mention that some estimates are that 30 percent of those killed are civilians, and talks about one attack that killed 23 civilians in Pakistan.
But, in keeping with the generally upbeat tone, Nova tells viewers that technology will help turn things around. "Drones can strike with pinpoint precision," the programs explains, "but their visual sensors are limited in ways that can lead pilots to make mistakes." Not to worry, though; "engineers are working to create new sensors that can see more in greater detail than ever before."
The program's sponsorship tie to the drone industry were never mentioned--though there were opportunities to disclose that relationship. In addition to Lockheed Martin's connection to one of the interview subjects, the show discussed a U.S. drone that was captured by Iran--without mentioning that it was manufactured by Nova's underwriter. And when Nova discusses the drones of the future, it's talking about the kind of miniature drones Lockheed Martin is developing to provide "constant surveillance capabilities" (TPM IdeaLab, 7/4/12).
Though the broadcast included an underwriting announcement at the beginning ("Additional funding from Lockheed Martin: Inspiring tomorrow's engineers and technologists"), that credit was removed from the webcast, and the company is not credited on the Nova website for the episode.
So can a corporation really provide "additional funding" for public TV journalism that discusses its own interests? PBS rules would seem to say no. The network has three tests that "are applied to every proposed funding arrangement in order to determine its acceptability":
* Editorial Control Test: Has the underwriter exercised editorial control? Could it?
* Perception Test: Might the public perceive that the underwriter has exercised editorial control?
* Commercialism Test: Might the public conclude the program is on PBS principally because it promotes the underwriter’s products, services or other business interests?
On the perception test, PBS explains:
When there exists a clear and direct connection between the interests or products or services of a proposed funder and the subject matter of the program, the proposed funding will be deemed unacceptable regardless of the funder's actual compliance with the editorial control provisions of this policy.
The policy is intended to prohibit any funding arrangement where the primary emphasis of the program is on products or services that are identical or similar to those of the underwriter.
It is difficult to see how PBS could argue that the Nova special does not violate these rules. And PBS wants you the believe they take such matters seriously:
Should a significant number of reasonable viewers conclude that PBS has sold its professionalism and independence to its program funders, whether or not their conclusions are justified, then the entire program service of public television will be suspect and the goal of serving the public will be unachievable.
If PBS really believe these words, why did they allow the Lockheed-funded "Rise of the Drones" to air?
Ask PBS ombud Michael Getler to investigate whether Nova's "Rise of the Drones" violates PBS underwriting guidelines.
Phone: 703 739 5290
By Dave Lindorff
I personally found the president’s inaugural speech not just insipid, but disgusting. It reached its gut-churning nadir near the end where he said:
By Michael Uhl
Jonathan Schell‘s probing review of Nick Turse’s new book Kill Anything That Moves originated on Tom Dispatch and migrated to Salon, where it appeared under the head “Vietnam was even more horrific than we thought.”
By Linn Washington, Jr.
America’s corporate news media love highlighting David-besting-Goliath stories…except apparently, when the fallen Goliath is major media mogul Rupert Murdoch – the billionaire owner of America’s caustic FOX News and other entities.
Open Letter to New York Times Editors
by Stephen Lendman
A personal note: I'm one of your fiercest critics. I'm certainly one of the most outspoken. My critiques are justified. I don't prepare them lightly.
I scrupulously strive for truth and full disclosure. If only Times writers, contributors and editors maintained similar standards.
By Dave Lindorff
The all-out assault on Social Security has begun.
The set-up for the big battle was the Fiscal Cliff charade. That hyped drama in the last days of December was a moment of truth for the Democratic Party and for President Barack Obama to make it clear whether they were still defenders of the New Deal legacy, or whether they were ready to toss Social Security overboard on behalf of the party’s new constituency: the Wall Street gang.
By David Rovics
By Dave Lindorff
Most Americans, their minds focused at the moment on the tragic slaughter of 20 young children aged 5-10, along with five teachers and a school principal in Connecticut by a heavily-armed psychotic 21-year-old, are blissfully unaware that their last president, George W. Bush, along with five key members of his administration, were convicted in absentia of war crimes earlier this month at a tribunal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
By Dave Lindorff
I’ll be brief here. Let’s just note that the heroic teachers who died while courageously trying to protect their kids at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, and the others who survived but stayed to protect the kids, were all part of a school system where the employees are members of the American Federation of Teachers.
By Dan DeWalt
Thank God for the fiscal cliff. With the election over, the media needed something upon which they could incessantly fixate, and our daily updates on the fate of the cliff-hanger negotiations are plenty of fodder to hold us until we have the final Christmas sales figures to talk about.
From Crooks and Liars:
The fiscal cliff once again dominated the Sunday morning talk shows (which isn't a surprise), and entitlement cuts were indeed a focal point by the lead bobblehead of each show. But what I found most offensive was that not one Villager or politician discussed cuts to defense spending as a solution for the Mayan Apocalypse of the federal deficit. In part, the reason the fiscal cliff is coming is because the sequester deal has massive cuts to defense spending, 2013 which is freaking out Republicans.
Defense Spending: This is an area where Republicans are likely to launch a major opposition campaign because defense programs would receive a 9.4 to 10 percent reduction from its 2013 budget of $580 billion, or about $55 billion. Although the president exempted military personnel pay and benefits, defense programs, including weapons and procurement programs, are subject to half of the automatic budget cuts, even though defense programs are about one-fifth of the federal budget. States that have a very large defense presence have been very vocal about opposing these cuts.
The fact that entitlement benefits aren't part of the sequester probably has Republicans really angry since they can't use that as leverage in this debate. But if pols and pinheads are so worried about the federal deficit, then why aren't defense cuts a top priority? What we hear instead is that severe cuts to federal spending, coupled with bad job growth and raised taxes, will result in a deep financial recession. While the president won on raising tax rates, that isn't the manna from heaven that will fix our economic problems if Obama includes benefit cuts to Medicare and Medicaid for a small raise in rates. Raising the retirement age doesn't do a thing to help lower federal deficits, so why exactly are Republicans asking for it -- and why does it appear that the president is willing to acquiesce to those demands? Since 'defense" makes up over almost 20% of the federal budget expenditures, why is it off limits in this discussion?
On Face The Nation, Bob Shieffer didn't bring up cuts in defense spending once and the only mention I see of it was by cranky ex-Sen. Simpson calling earned benefits/entitlements a 'destructive force" which would hurt defense spending
SCHIEFFER: So you think they've got to do that. But also, don't you think that the Democrats are going to have to agree to some entitlement reforms?
SIMPSON: ...But, yes, I mean, the bizarre thing, not touching the entitlements. The entitlements are the engine on the train driving us to the cliff. They were on automatic pilot. Health care, it doesn't matter what you call it, is on automatic pilot. And it's going to squeeze out all the discretionary budget -- defense, R&D research, all the things you love. Erskine and I always say, what do you love? And they'll name something and we say forget it because this is wiping everything. It's just a destructive force. And no cost containment till down the road..
What's destructive, Mr. Simpson, are austerity measures being forced upon the people during a recession and after an economic downturn.
On Meet The Press, defense spending was not mentioned once, but cuts to entitlements was at center stage, with the host of MTP seemingly negotiating with Republicans for 'big cuts" to entitlements
GREGORY: All right. Well, senator, let me just-- I want to pin you down on one point about Medicare. You say you want to basically put off this discussion until later. But bottom line, should the Medicare eligibility age go up? Should there be means testing to really get at the benefits side, if you’re going to shore this program up, because as you say, 12 years before it runs out of money?
The segment on the fiscal cliff went mostly like that and again, no mention if Republicans would accept big cuts in defense to fight off rate hikes.
On Fox News Sunday, neither Chris Wallace, Senators Corker or Schumer mentioned cutting defense spending when talking about a fiscal deal. They did, however, go large on entitlement cuts with Sen.Schumer actually agreeing that Corker's proposal was good for America.
Corker; So, and a lot of people are putting forth a theory and I actually think it has merit where you go ahead and give the president the 2 percent increase that he is talking about, the rate increase on the top 2 percent. And all of a sudden, the shift goes back to entitlements, and all of a sudden, once you give him the right on the top 2 percent, it's actually much lesser tax increase than what he has been talking about, the focus then shifts to entitlements and maybe it puts us in a place where we actually can do something that really saves the nation.
SCHUMER: Well, bottom line is, if Speaker Boehner ends up where Senator Corker has just said he is, we will get a large agreement. And -- but, Speaker Boehner has not said that. And so, we Democrats realize that there have to be two sides to this bargain.
Corker: The shift in focus and entitlements is where we need to go and, again, it is a shame that we're not just sitting down and solving this. But Republicans know that they have the debt ceiling that's coming up right around the corner, and, the leverage is going to shift, as soon as we get beyond this issue.
Wow. And finally ABC's THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos. And the guest stars were Senators Tom Coburn and Debbie Stabenow along with Congressman (D) Raul Grijalva and (R) Jeb Hensarling. How did they do with cuts to defense spending? Nada, nothing, zilch. Only three mentions of the word defense. Once when George set up what would happen if the sequester kicks in and twice more while talking about DOMA.
Coburn was in rare form by saying we don't really need Medicare or Social Security, anyway.
"The fact is we are spending money we don't have on things we don't absolutely need," he concluded. "And there's no grownups in Washington that will say, 'Time out, stop the politics, let's have a compromise rather than play the game through the press and hurt the country.' We're already going to get another debt downgrade just from what's happening now because nobody in positions of power are willing to do what's important and necessary for our country."
Why do people even vote for these Republicans who want to take so much away from them for a crisis caused by crimes the people who will suffer most didn't commit?