NPR Embraces Hate Groups

 Culture, Featured, Gay Issues, Media, NPR, Radio, Religion, Right Wingnuts, Society  Comments Off on NPR Embraces Hate Groups
Jan 192012
 

Edward Schumacher-Matos
Ombudsman
National Public Radio
635 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Dear Mr. Schumacher-Matos:

Last October during the fundraising campaign for my local NPR station, WUSF, the host of NRP affiliated shows “World of Opera” and “Soundprint” was fired from those shows based largely on objections by Fox News personalities due to her involvement in the occupy movement. I spoke with people at the local station as I reconsidered my support of the station. I do not support Rupert Murdoch and his Fox News network, and if NPR was going to allow Murdoch’s organization to make programming decisions, then you were effectively acting as a Fox News affiliate. That would be something I could not tolerate.

I was encouraged to write NPR at the time, but elected to let that one pass without further comment. However, two recent stories aired on NPR raise far more serious concerns in my mind about reporting decisions at NPR.

Let me start by saying I have been a listener/member/supporter of NPR and local NPR affiliates for twenty-five years or more. I listen throughout the day, into the evenings, and most certainly on the weekends. The voices of NPR have been a comforting, stable presence in my life as I’ve moved from the Greensboro/Winston-Salem, NC area, to Tampa, FL, to Dayton, OH and back to Tampa. Through some good times and dark times in my life, I’ve been able to tune in to find outstanding reporting, thoughtful analysis and commentary, and wonderful music. As both the federal and state governments have moved to cut funding for public radio, I have always been a person who writes and calls my congressional representatives and legislative representatives insisting they support this very worthy cause.

Unfortunately, last Friday I heard a report on Morning Edition by Barbara Bradley Haggerty concerning the confab by religious conservatives in Texas. Ms. Bradley-Haggerty interviewed Brian Fischer of the American Family Association (AFA) for the story. The AFA has recently been designated a Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) due to some extremely vile and often violent language used against gays and lesbians, women, and Native Americans. Most of this language come directly from Mr. Fischer.

I called and talked with Ms. Bradley-Haggerty about the story. This conversation raised even more concerns about Ms. Bradley-Haggerty’s ability to report impartially on Christian-based stories.

First, I recognize she needs someone to interview. According to her account, she was on deadline, had put out about 20 calls and Fischer was the first to return her calls. This strikes me as a poor way to select interviewees. I went on to question her use of Mr. Fischer pointing out that the AFA was an SPLC designated hate group, and that she had never identified the AFA as such. She got rather prickly at this observation, and responded that it would be ridiculous because, “The SPLC names many organizations as hate groups.”

Well yes, I suppose they do, but the word, “many” is somewhat relative. Had I been the judge of what constitutes a hate group, the AFA would have been on the list long ago, and there would most likely be many more on this list. I believe this shows that the SPLC gives thoughtful consideration and accumulates adequate supporting evidence prior to issuing such a designation.

But here’s where I think Bradley-Haggerty tipped her hand. She claimed the AFA was a large and influential organization (lots of people would question that), and their status with the SPLC was not the issue. I pointed out that she had never reported, as a separate story, that the AFA and the Family Research Council (FRC) had received the designation at the time it was announced; despite her assertion they were “large and influential” organizations. Her response was to raise her voice, making clear she was angry, and state, “Of course not, because they’re religious organizations.” She then said I was being abusive (I never raised my voice, never made demands, I merely asked questions she was obviously uncomfortable answering), and that she was ending the conversation.

I think it is clear that Bradley-Haggerty brings a belief system to her journalism. It is not appropriate for her reporting to be clouded by her affinity for particular “religious” groups, and her belief they must always be right since they are “religious” in nature. I don’t think I need to remind you that many of the worst atrocities of history were perpetrated by “religious” organizations (yes, even many that claimed to be Christian), and many atrocities have been aided and abetted by so-called religious organizations.

So I believe Bradley-Haggerty is not able to impartially report on religious news. Certainly, if someone is unfit to host a show about Opera because of their beliefs about society writ large, then Bradley-Haggerty’s clear bias renders her journalistic judgment suspect.

That said, I’d like to take some time to point out the primary reason any reasonable and fair-minded person would object to NPR given any legitimacy to Bryan Fischer. Below is just a small sampling of some the public statements Fischer has made:

  • “Homosexuals in the military gave us…six million dead Jews;”
  • “Homosexuals should be disqualified from public office;”
  • Has called on Christian conservatives to breed gays and progressives out of existence;
  • Has called gay sex a “form of domestic terrorism;”
  • He has said only gays were savage enough for Hitler;
  • Has compared gays to heroin abusers;
  • Has directly compared laws against gay soldiers to those that apply to bank robbers;
  • He once invoked a Biblical story about stabbing “sexually immoral” people with spears, saying we need this kind of action in modern day;
  • He has spoken out against gays serving as public school teachers;
  • He has questioned why Medals of Honor are given to people who save lives (rather than take lives), saying we have “feminized the Medal of Honor;”
  • He has said that open service will “assign the United States to the scrap heap of history;” He commiserated with Bradlee Dean, and who has blamed gay activists for dead gay kids, saying that: “If we want to see fewer students commit suicide, we want fewer homosexual students;”
  • He said the only acceptable “culture war” truce would have gays giving up their demand for equality;
  • He painted Native Americans as innately cursed because they “cling to the darkness of indigenous superstition;”
  • He says men always get the final say in a male/female marriage and that women are only fit to be President if an equally-abled male candidate is unavailable;
  • The guy who said “homosexuality represents an evolutionary degrade”…”evidence of a species devolving;”
  • And most recently he’s been claiming HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. ((List from the Good As You website))

 

As if that whole incident weren’t bad enough, the very next day, Joel Rose did a story on All Things Considered about the results of this meeting. His “go to guy” for a quote, none other than FRC head, Tony Perkins. Mr. Perkin’s and his group (also designated by the SPLC as a hate group) has said some of the following:

  • Perkins has sought to position gay and lesbian Americans as a kid-threatening disaster in need of “ex-gay” therapy;
  • They have published and distributed brochures that compare same-sex marriages to those bonds which might exist between a man and a horse (complete with horse photo);
  • He has likened LGBT people to terrorists, calling LGBT rights a battle of “good versus evil;”
  • He has claimed that DADT repeal proponents are “willing to jeopardize our nation’s security to advance the agenda of the radical homosexual lobby;”
  • He has said the gay activists who challenge FRC are “held captive by the enemy;”
  • He has written that same-sex marriage will be “opening the door to all manner of moral and social evil;
  • He has tweeted that gays don’t need to “be a slave to feelings;”
  • Peter Sprigg of the FRC has called on U.S. gays to be either “exported” or criminalized. ((List from Good As You website))

 

But maybe most egregiously, Perkins has claimed that, gay teens kill themselves because, “they know that they are abnormal.”

When you put people like this on the air when attempting to cover legitimate news stories, you infer on them an air of legitimacy. My question to NPR is this (and I want you to please think seriously about it), substitute the word “black” or “African-American” in any of these sentences, and tell me if you would invite these people on your shows for anything other than a report on their extreme beliefs? I don’t believe the NPR I know would. Bradley-Haggerty herself conceded in our conversation that she would most certainly not call the Grand Wizard of the KKK for a quote on this story, but somehow, NPR has decided that LGBT people are the last group open to such vile name-calling and baseless accusations, and you lend your hard-earned credibility to these hate groups when you seek out their comments on legitimate news stories.

I believe in this Republic and the great American experiment. I respect the right of Mr. Perkins, Mr. Fischer, the AFA, the FRC, and Ms. Bradley-Haggerty to believe however they wish. I would defend their right to go into the public square and say these things, hateful and hurtful though they are, but what I will NOT do is help them purchase their megaphone.

So when the next pledge drive comes around, I won’t be calling in, and the next round of letters and phone calls I make about NPR to State and Congressional legislators will not be in support of NPR because neither do I don’t want my tax dollars lending legitimacy and acceptability to such groups and people.

This is a difficult and painful decision for me to make. I love NPR, but there comes a time when lines of responsibility have to be drawn, and you all have acted irresponsibly by presenting only one side of these groups. You seem to be taking a “Foxian” view that all things Christian must be good, and LGBT people are out to destroy society.

I hope that someday Ms. Bradley-Haggerty will no longer be reporting for NPR, and that NPR will make decisions about who they host on their reports based on more than just who returns their calls first. Until then, I must bid good-bye to this important part of my life.

CC:      Gary Knell, President and CEO, NPR
Joyce MacDonald, Vice President, Member and Audience Partnership, NPR
Margaret Low Smith, Acting Senior Vice President, News, NPR
Sheila Rue, Program Director, WUSF
JoAnn Urofsky, General Manager, WUSF

Nov 242009
 

I sometimes wake up during the night with a case of cotton-mouth, so I keep a cup of water on the nightstand beside the bed. Quite a few years ago, when I lived in Greensboro, I had a roommate who owned a restaurant. He brought home some big empty Dijon Mustard jars (probably quart jars) for making big Gin and Tonics and sitting on the porch. I used one of these as my night-time water-glass. It must have had the best silk screening in the world, as the writing was clear and bright for over 10 years of going through the dishwasher.

When I moved to Winston-Salem, then Tampa, then Dayton and back to Tampa that old jar went along with me, and was one of those little things that just made me, wherever I was, feel a little more comfortable because of its familiarity. I know it probably sounds silly, but it is these little things that make up the fabric of our lives…each single little strand.

Throughout life we loose strands of that cloth, but we’re forever weaving in more strands. Such was the case with that jar when I rolled over one night, flipped the pillow around, and knocked the jar to the floor and it finally broke. Just one of those little strands finally wearing out and reaching the end of its life as part of my cloth.

Carl Kasell (2004 NPR/Anthony Nagleman)

But a bigger and more important strand is leaving. Carl Kasell is retiring from NPR as the Morning Edition news anchor after holding the job for 30 years since the inception of the program. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Carl Kasell, and I don’t think I’d ever seen a picture of him until his retirement was announced this week, but I knew that voice as well as that of my best friends.

I discovered Public Radio right after moving to Greensboro. I knew of it, and occasionally listened to classical music, but really didn’t find their whole range of programs until about 25 years ago. Since then hardly a day goes by that I don’t wake to Morning Edition (or Weekend Edition), and I have always had a radio in the bathroom to listen as I get ready for the day.

So Carl doesn’t know me, and there’s not a lot I know about him, but his voice is that of a friend. Something I’ve heard most every weekday morning for the past 25 years. It’s always been a pleasant, calm, but authoritative voice, and has brought the stories of life both great and small. After 30 years of having to get up at 2:00 or 3:00 every morning, and at age 75, I think Carl has earned his retirement. The generous part of me wishes him the very best and thanks him for his many years of keeping me company wherever life took me, but the selfish part of me will miss the constancy of that familiar voice starting my day.

Nov 242009
 

I sometimes wake up during the night with a case of cotton-mouth, so I keep a cup of water on the nightstand beside the bed. Quite a few years ago, when I lived in Greensboro, I had a roommate who owned a restaurant. He brought home some big empty Dijon Mustard jars (probably quart jars) for making big Gin and Tonics and sitting on the porch. I used one of these as my night-time water-glass. It must have had the best silk screening in the world, as the writing was clear and bright for over 10 years of going through the dishwasher.

When I moved to Winston-Salem, then Tampa, then Dayton and back to Tampa that old jar went along with me, and was one of those little things that just made me, wherever I was, feel a little more comfortable because of its familiarity. I know it probably sounds silly, but it is these little things that make up the fabric of our lives…each single little strand.

Throughout life we loose strands of that cloth, but we’re forever weaving in more strands. Such was the case with that jar when I rolled over one night, flipped the pillow around, and knocked the jar to the floor and it finally broke. Just one of those little strands finally wearing out and reaching the end of its life as part of my cloth.

Carl Kasell (2004 NPR/Anthony Nagleman)

But a bigger and more important strand is leaving. Carl Kasell is retiring from NPR as the Morning Edition news anchor after holding the job for 30 years since the inception of the program. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Carl Kasell, and I don’t think I’d ever seen a picture of him until his retirement was announced this week, but I knew that voice as well as that of my best friends.

I discovered Public Radio right after moving to Greensboro. I knew of it, and occasionally listened to classical music, but really didn’t find their whole range of programs until about 25 years ago. Since then hardly a day goes by that I don’t wake to Morning Edition (or Weekend Edition), and I have always had a radio in the bathroom to listen as I get ready for the day.

So Carl doesn’t know me, and there’s not a lot I know about him, but his voice is that of a friend. Something I’ve heard most every weekday morning for the past 25 years. It’s always been a pleasant, calm, but authoritative voice, and has brought the stories of life both great and small. After 30 years of having to get up at 2:00 or 3:00 every morning, and at age 75, I think Carl has earned his retirement. The generous part of me wishes him the very best and thanks him for his many years of keeping me company wherever life took me, but the selfish part of me will miss the constancy of that familiar voice starting my day.

The Kilogram is Losing Weight

 Featured, Fun Stuff, General, Science  Comments Off on The Kilogram is Losing Weight
Aug 202009
 

According to an interesting report on the NPR, the object that establishes the official and exact weight of a kilogram may be losing weight.

The international prototype of the kilogram is inside three nested bell jars at the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures in Paris.

The international prototype of the kilogram is inside three nested bell jars at the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures in Paris.

More than 100 years ago a salt shaker sized object made of platinum and iridium was forged in London. This was then shipped to Paris where it was shaped and polished and carefully weighed until it was exactly one kilogram (about 2.2 pounds). By international treaty, this then became the international for the exact weight of a kilogram. The problem is, the mass of the cylinder may be changing.

According to the NPR report:

As it stands, the entire world’s system of measurement hinges on the cylinder. If it is dropped, scratched or otherwise defaced, it would cause a global problem. “If somebody sneezed on that kilogram standard, all the weights in the world would be instantly wrong,” says Richard Steiner, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md.

For that reason, the official kilogram is kept locked inside a secured vault at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures near Paris. Scientists are so paranoid that they’ve only taken it out on three occasions: in 1889, 1946 and 1989. Each time, they’ve compared it to a set of copies. In 1889, the copies and the kilogram weighed the same, but by 1989, they had drifted apart. Based on the data, the kilogram appears to weigh slightly less than the copies.

The issue is, scientists aren’t sure if the official cylinder has gotten lighter, or if the copies have maybe absorbed water molecules and gotten heavier, but this is, for scientists a very big issue.

Physicist Richard Steiner adjusts the watt balance. This extremely sensitive scale can detect changes as small as ten-billionths of a kilogram.

Physicist Richard Steiner adjusts the watt balance. This extremely sensitive scale can detect changes as small as ten-billionths of a kilogram.

The solution is to try to develop a constant for the measure. As an example, consider how the meter is measured. Originally the meter was equal to the length of another standard  piece of metal kept alongside the kilogram, but in 1983 it was redefined as the distance light travels in a vacuum over 1/299,792,458 of a second. Because the speed of light is constant, this new definition means that the meter will never change.

Scientists are now trying to use a watt balance to establish a constant number for weight. I’ll let you read the whole story at NPR.

Katrina: Republican Excuse to Continue Regressive Agenda

 Congress, Corruption, Politics, Society  Comments Off on Katrina: Republican Excuse to Continue Regressive Agenda
Sep 222005
 
  • A nice little tax cut for your wealthy friends – $327 billion
  • Some corporate welfare for your campaign contributors in the oil business – $8.5 Billion
  • Having a king-sized natural disaster to help you try to cut the programs you don’t like for the old and poor – Priceless
  • For everything else, there’s the queers.

With great fanfare, and recalling the "Gingrich Revolution" of the 1990s, House conservatives yesterday proposed a broad set of spending cuts they said would help offset the costs of the Katrina reconstruction effort. Their plan reduces the budget by $500 billion over 10 years, and does so in large part by dismantling programs that invest in middle- and working-class Americans. Progressives can do better. It’s possible to cut far more unnecessary federal spending, accomplish it in half the time, and do so while upholding the principles of fiscal responsibility and concern for the common good.

The proposal announced yesterday cuts substantial funding from several "long-standing targets of conservative scorn," like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the foreign operations budget. The largest proposed cuts are targeted at Medicaid, "the health care safety net for low-income children, elderly, disabled, pregnant women and parents." The plan cuts $225 billion by converting the federal share of certain Medicaid payments into a block grant, and $8 billion more by increasing Medicaid co-payments. Eliminating subsidized loans to graduate students slices off an additional $8.5 billion. $11 billion more is saved by passing restrictive new rules for federal retiree health care and federal pension programs.

A progressive approach to trimming the budget could result in greater savings over a shorter period of time. For example, rolling back the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans would save $327 billion over five years. Cracking down on offshore tax shelters would save $65 billion over the same time period. Simply allowing Medicare recipients to purchase drugs through the mail would save $43 billion over five years. Repealing subsidies to the fossil fuel industry contained in the recent energy bill would save $8.5 billion. Shelving costly and unnecessary weapons systems would save $200 billion. Getting rid of counterproductive agricultural export subsidies would save $30 billion over the first five years along. Giving up half of the 6,371 special earmarked projects of the 2005 transportation bill would save an additional $12 billion. A progressive approach to trimming the budget could cut $688 billion in federal spending over just five years.

 Republican Offsets      Progressive Offsets  
 Title III Program Cuts  $307B    Rollback Tax Cuts for the Wealthy  $327B
Other including DoD and DHS  $333B    Eliminate Offshore Tax Shelters  $  65B
 Cut Federal Share of Medicaid  $225B    Repeal Oil Industry Subsidies  $    8.5B
 Increase Medicaid Copayments  $    8B    Allow Medicare Mail Order Drug Purchases  $  43B
 Eliminate Loans To Graduate Students  $    8.5B    Shelve unnecessary Defense Systems  $200B
 Restriction on Federal Retiree Healthcare and Pensions  $   11B    Eliminate Agricultural Export Subsidies  $  30B
 Foreign Operations Budget  $   37B    Eliminate 1/2 of 6,371 Transportation Bill Projects  $  12B

 TOTAL After 10 Years

 $929B  

 TOTAL Savings after only five years

 $685.5B

Let’s take a special look at some of the cuts included in the Republican Plan. I think most agregious is their call to eliminate "Corporate Welfare." This from a Congress that gave the oil companies, already experiencing windfall profits, huge subsidies in the just passed energy bill. Take a look at a partial list and see if you notice any patterns:

  • Eliminate the Applied Research for Renewable Energy Sources Program
  • Eliminate the Clean Coal Technology Program
  • Eliminate the FreedomCAR Program
  • Eliminate the ITA’s Trade Promotion Activates
  • Eliminate the Advanced Technology Program
  • Repeal the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act
  • Eliminate the Foreign Market Development Program
  • Eliminate the Market Access Program
  • Eliminate the Export Enhancement Program
  • Eliminate the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative

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