Posted on Categories PBC, Podcast Info

Info on Podcast #71

Joe Lauria, independent investigative journalist
Joe Lauria, independent investigative journalist

Journalist Joe Lauria on US escalation in Afghanistan and the UN's role in the fraudulent election, especially American Peter Galbraith. This is the 12th installment of the Boiling Frogs interview series, co-hosted with Sibel Edmonds. Lauria relates the latest developments in the United Nations, including the controversies involving the elections in Afghanistan, the removal of Peter Galbraith, and the liability of having an American as the second man in office. He discusses the recent UN report on the Taliban’s funding, including heroin related funds and associated outcomes, the chronic and widespread corruption within the Afghan government, and President Obama’s dilemma when it comes to Af-Pak. The interview also includes his perspective on factors contributing to the fading away of the traditional roles of the press in the US, the media blackout on ‘deep politics,’ shortcomings of amateur news blogs, and more!
Joe Lauria is an author, foreign affairs correspondent and investigative reporter. He has covered the United Nations for 19 years for numerous newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, the London Daily Telegraph, the Montreal Gazette and the Johannesburg Star. Joe is a member of the Sunday Times of London’s investigative unit. He is co-author of A Political Odyssey, a look at America’s defense industry and the false threats it thrives on. Get more at www.boilingfrogspost.com
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Posted on Categories PBC, Podcast Info

Info on Podcast #70

David Krikorian, challenger to GOP Rep. Jean Schmidt of Ohio, on Schmidt's efforts to squelch Krikorian's First Amendment rights; attorney Jeff Haas on the govt. murder of Black Panther Fred Hampton 40 years ago; Arlo Guthrie sings Alice's Restaurant. Krikorian ran against Mean Jean in 2008, got 17% of the vote as an independent. After he announced he would challenge her again in 2010 as a Dem, Schmidt filed legal actions over Krikorian's sharp criticism of her support from Turkish interests. Schmidt's lawyer is Bruce Fein, an erstwhile friend of the PBC show for his support of impeachment for Bush and Cheney; Fein is counsel to the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund and an apologist for Turkey's denial of the Armenian genocide.
Jeff Haas has written The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther PBC covered the trials that followed the murders as a young talk show host in Chicago in the '70's, and he asks Haas to compare the illegal actions of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI with those occurring now. Haas appears in Berkeley at Books, Inc on Monday 11/20 at 7pm, and at City Lights in San Francisco on 12/1 at 7pm. Look for an in-depth conversation with Haas in a few weeks here, and get more info at www.hamptonbook.com And we continue our Thanksgiving tradition of playing the full length version of Arlo Guthrie's hippie classic, Alice's Restaurant.
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Info on Podcast #69

British journalist Andy Worthington returns to update us on the delayed closure of Guantanamo and the Obama decision to try KSM and others in Federal Court in New York. Worthington is the author of The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison and is co-producer and presenter of the new documentary Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo. We talk about the complacency of most Americans about the torture and detention schemes, about Binyam Mohammed (now released) and Shakar Amer (still held in isolation at Gitmo), and about the utter lawlessness of the Bush policies. We also talk frankly about Obama's challenges from fellow Democrats that have hindered the plan to close Gitmo. listen_button

Posted on Categories Podcast Info

Info on Podcast #68

Journalists Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald discuss Afghanistan and how US foreign policy and military decisions are based on miscalculated and misunderstood Afghanistan politics, history, and culture. This is the eleventh installment of the Boiling Frogs interview series, co-hosted with Sibel Edmonds.
Gould and Fitzgerald talk about the "real" history of Afghanistan; how the media misled the public by not laying out the fundamental facts about what was really going on, and the consequences; the differences between Pakistani Taliban and Afghani Taliban, and how our policy since 2001 has been emboldening them; the role of Pashtuns; and more!
Fitzgerald and Gould, a husband and wife team, began their experience in Afghanistan when they were the first American journalists to acquire permission to enter behind Soviet lines in 1981 for CBS News and produced a documentary, Afghanistan Between Three Worlds, for PBS. In 1983 they returned to Kabul with Harvard Negotiation project director Roger Fisher for ABC Nightline and contributed to the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour. They continued to research, write and lecture about the long-term run-up that led to the US invasion of Afghanistan. They are featured in an award winning documentary by Samira Goetschel. Titled, Our own Private Bin Laden which traces the creation of the Osama bin Laden mythology in Afghanistan and how that mythology has been used to maintain the "war on terror" approach of the Bush administration. Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story published by City Lights, January 2009 chronicles their three-decade-focus on Afghanistan and the media.
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Info on Podcast #67

Tom Hayden asks, "Why Die for Karzai?" and Gov. Don Siegelman asks, "Can I get some justice from Justice?" Hayden was an anti-war activist in the '60's, one of the Chicago 8 defendants, and served in the California Assembly and Senate. We talk about Obama's pending decision on troop levels, Hayden touts the new resolution from the California Democratic Party calling for a planned withdrawal of US forces, and offers advice to activists. Gov. Siegelman was the Democratic governor of Alabama until he experienced a stolen election and political prosecution driven by close friends of Karl Rove. Siegelman is now hoping the Supreme Court will review the case, as the Holder Justice Department is not supporting his calls for investigation and a new trial.
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Posted on Categories Podcast Info

Info on Podcast #66

The Health Care Debate: Angela Bonavoglia talks about the Stupak amendment and undue influence by Catholic bishops; Dr. Len Saputo and Byron Belitsos on the defects of the House bill. Film reviewer Gary Chew on Pirate Radio. Bonavoglia is the author of Good Catholic Girls: How Women Are Leading the Fight to Change the Church, and we discuss the huge rollback of abortion rights intended by Stupak, and the role of the Catholic bishops in its passage. PBC concludes that this is a poison pill and that the overall bill will make things worse. Saputo and Belitsos chime in, and argue that true reform is unlikely to come from a Congress beholden to the insurance and health industries. They also have just published a paper called The Infection Deception, which raises major questions about the true extent of the epidemic and the value of vaccine efforts. Please read this report before you get a vaccination! Gary Chew says the new Pirate Radio movie is fun for radio geeks, but not a great film. Read his review at www.tulsatvmemories.com
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Info on Podcast #65

Stephen Kohn, counsel to whistleblowers. This is the 10th installment of the Boiling Frogs interview series, co-hosted with Sibel Edmonds. Kohn explains whistleblowing as a civil liberties and a First Amendment issue, the role of whistleblowers as enablers of congressional oversight, and discusses the legal and political implications involved in whistleblowing. He talks about the broken Merit System Protection Board, the abuses of secrecy laws and State Secrets Privilege, the current status of whistleblower protection laws in Congress, the case of Halliburton whistleblower Bunnatine Greenhouse, the current administration’s highly disappointing stand against national security whistleblowers despite President Obama’s endorsement prior to his elections, and more!

SteveKohnStephen M. Kohn is the Executive Director of National Whistleblowers Center, one of the nation’s foremost experts in whistleblower protection law, and the author of the first legal treatise on whistleblowing, Protecting Environmental and Nuclear Whistleblowers: A Litigation Manual. Since 1984, Mr. Kohn has successfully represented whistleblowers in numerous cases (both at trial and on appeal), has testified in Congress on behalf of whistleblower reforms, and has worked directly with the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee on drafting the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate whistleblower law. Mr. Kohn has a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law; an M.A. in Political Science from Brown University; and a B.S. in Social Education from Boston University. In addition to his books on whistleblower law, Mr. Kohn is the author of Jailed for Peace and American Political Prisoners.
More info at Sibel's new website, www.boilingfrogspost.com
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Posted on Categories Rap Report

A Plague of Pundits

A virus unsettles the nation … and, no, it’s not swine flu. Rather, it is a plague of pundits currently hardening our national arteries with a vast over-supply of ill thought-out yet deeply felt positions. Written, spoken, broadcast, blogged or tweeted, these messages are delivered by Americans who believe in their God-given right to express themselves, often at a decibel level inversely proportionate to a lack of understanding. Along this “pathway to punditry,” things have taken a turn from the merely annoying to the truly preposterous, witness Fox News’s feature, “Kid Pundits” as an exemplar of our mania to talk rather than listen.

“Pundit,” you may know, is a Sub-continental Indian term like “avatar,” “cheetah,” “coolie,” or “dinghy,” intellectual “loot” (another one) appropriated by British colonialists, and adopted into American English. “Pundit,” also written as “Pandit,” (as in Nehru) is an honorific for the learned Hindu advisors to judges during the British Indian Raj. “Pundit” grew to have a meaning similar to “maestro” of which America has had too few, our “maestro pundits” including Henry Adams, Walter Lipmann, Richard Rovere, Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid, David Brinkley, William Safire, Daniel Schorr, George Will and few others. Except for the final two, all are pundificating from some far more literate place.

Today’s “pundi-monium” began early in the ‘00’s, as cable news networks began to saturate the TV screen with a hail of tyro-pundits. These “experts” were multiplexed, often Hollywood Squares-style, across the screen waiting their chance to out-elucidate their rivals to win the coveted opportunity to climb the “pundit pole,” garnering precious additional square inches of the television screen, until, finally, they are pundificating solo with Keith, Chris, Sean, Bill or Larry.

An important characteristic of what we might call, “The New Pundocracy” is the acceptance of the unalienable popular right to sound off on any topic, any time, and any place. The result of this rampant and ubiquitous punditry is that in a world of unedited, un-reflective, and ultimately self-cancelling blab, very little gets accomplished. Worse, it is now politically inopportune to question the “right” to say or write anything that flits across the brain-pan, leading us to the point where “freedom of expression” perhaps the Enlightenment’s greatest legacy, is now wrongly conflated to “all opinions are created equal.”

Television news has provided a rich soup for miasmatic pop punditry. Instead of reportorial heavy-lifting, today’s TV journalist often seem content to poke their microphone under the nearest nose, and ask the sina qua non of innocuous news coverage; “how does it feel?”

Innocuous question leads invariably to flaccid answer, like; “It’s a good experience for me,” “My family taught me to do the right thing,” “I’m here because I want everyone to know that my classmates are not criminals,” etc. These are the building blocks of personal punditry designed to turn the conversation away from any actual issue to the self-referential. In confessional America it is simply not enough to live a moral life. We also need to be a “role model” most especially for ourselves.

This “me model” of personal punditry comes clear during call-in radio shows or live forums where actual questions are simply bad form. Instead, the presenter is greeted by a personal manifesto in which audience members expound on how they personally experienced the book or movie in question.

It is television advertising that has done the most to establish this “Everyman a Pundit” era through what we might call “manifesto commercials.” Early among these was a series of ads by British Petroleum in which “average” Americans pundificate on their prescription for solving the environmental crisis. The question is asked: “What do you think cars will be running on in the future?” A woman in a shapeless orange t-shirt suggests “grass, leaves, trees, garbage.” “Hydrogen fuel cells” propounds a bike-toting earth-mother. “Give me that solar car and I’m there,” adds a twentyish Asian-American. “We really need to be conscious about what we put in our cars, just like what we put in our bodies,” states a college student, ponytail exiting back of baseball cap.

The BP ads set off a rash of “people as pundit” advertising that spread, like Mad-Ave H1N1. In ads for American Express, Aleve, DanActive, J.G. Wentworth, ScottTrade, the National Guard, Verizon, Gold Bond Powder, Bayer Aspirin, Playtex, and others, pundificating “real people” became star product pitchers. The irony is that these ads pretend that American consumers are the stars of their own television series, when real control and authority is evaporating faster than mom’s 401k.

Most recently, Internet-based social networking has struck a blow in the name of popular punditry. The inclusion of space for public commentary permits every bit of content on the web to chase its own tail, with ongoing, real-time commentary, often simply semi-illiterate rants that become permanently attached, like a malign conjoined twin, to the text of a story. Worse, the notion that everyone has a right to their own opinion has morphed into the notion that everyone has the right to their own facts.

There are several possibly remedies for America’ current Plague of Pundits. We might consider creating a “Pundit-Cap-in-Trade” market where opinions could be bought, sold, swapped and out-sourced. India, which gave us punditry in the first place, might be a particularly good market. We might also find ways to provide material for overworked TV pundits by pairing them with seasoned, out-of-work print journalist. These could fill in the news gaps at the same time reminding their charges of CBS’s Eric Sevareid’s 1977 sign-off in which he urged his fellow pundits, “to retain the courage of one’s doubt as well as one’s convictions.”

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Richard Rapaport is happy to pundificate at the drop of an opinion. He can be reached at rjrap@aol.com.

Posted on Categories PBC Comments, Politics

One Small Step for Better Health Care; One Giant Step Backward for Choice

I'm not very excited about the health insurance reform that squeaked through the House last Saturday night. There are a few morsels in those 2,000 pages, like striking pre-existing conditions from the list of reasons for denial of coverage. But with coverage mandates, $400 billion in subsidies and a teeny weeny public option (designed to fail?) and the elimination of the Kucinich state-level single payer option, the Pelosi package was teetering on the edge of worse-than-doing-nothing.
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Posted on Categories Podcast Info

Info on Podcast #64

Nomi Prins, author of It Takes A Pillage
Nomi Prins, author of It Takes A Pillage

Nomi Prins talks about Democrats' moves to weaken Sarbanes-Oxley and the plans to pay out record bonuses; Robert Dreyfuss talks about the "Generals' Revolt" against Obama re: Afghanistan. Prins is a former Goldman Sachs managing director, and the author of the new book "It Takes A Pillage"; she also talks about Glass-Steagall and its repeal under Clinton, and the obscene bonuses projected by Goldman Sachs this year. Prins is speaking in San Francisco at the Commonwealth Club on Tuesday, November 10. Dreyfuss talks about his recent article in Rolling Stone on the leak of Gen. McChrystal's report and Obama's response, and suggests that Obama should have fired McChrystal. We also talk about the range of bad options Obama is facing vis a vis the Taliban and al Qaeda; about Hillary Clinton's recent visit to Pakistan, and about her stop in the Middle East and her controversial comments on Israeli settlements. In his blog at www.thenation.com Dreyfuss states that Obama's peace efforts there are a failure. listen_button