Podcast Show #12

The Boiling Frogs Presents Joe Lauria

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Joe 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-LauriaJoe 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.

Here is our guest Joe Lauria unplugged!

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  1. Just finished listening to the Joe Lauria interview. The four blogs mentioned – Propublica, Consortium News, Public Record, and Global Post.com are worth checking out. The larger questions of a responsible outlet for professional journalism are troubling. If we shift entirely over to the Internet as the Christian Science Monitor has done, what happens when the gatekeepers gain more power? It is very difficult even at present to determine if access is the fault of ones own computer or some external site. That is not a problem with a hard copy. As a former teacher, attention span is a serious problem. I noticed Sibel attempted a story form of news. That was a good effort. Hard science fiction is a similar outlet, but both avoid the issue of peer review, which is required in non-fiction, and not required in fiction. Personal contacts remain the best source of communication. I have heard one study, sorry can’t remember where, that states the Internet or email is 8% effective in communication versus a situation where body language and back and forth are allowed. The comments section remains vital for these pieces on blogs. Verification of sources is difficult online since data can be faked. Gustavo Guiterrez in liberation theology stated that the best way to see the whole picture was to live on the outskirts of society. Living in the D.C.urban area may be a center of input, but certainly makes it difficult to get news from hiker communities on the Appalachian trail, backwoods survivalists, much less what it is like for a person in a village in the Sana corridor of Tanzania. At least bloggers, if they are willing, can contribute from their global experience to provide snapshots. The segments are relatively short to hold the limited attention span of media saturated citizens. A final comment occurs to me though regarding foreign news: Homeland Security has made it much more difficult for the average young person to travel overseas and bring back stories with these no-fly lists and computerized border checks in the name of protecting us from the Enemy.

  2. @Simon: All good points on such a complex issue.I am not that familiar with Propublica, but will put it ‘n my radar. Consortium News: I like Parry, and have met him several times. He is solid, but I wish he’d put aside partisanship tilt. But again that’s ‘me’: currently Anti ‘R’ & Anti ‘D’-the two sides of the same filthy coin!

  3. Some other things to consider:
    Homeland Security can make people open their laptops for inspection (and they can be seized as well). What I’ve heard is that they have “wide discretion” re: how long they can hold it.

    When the new Homeland Security rules first started, I found out about them thru a Der Spiegel article (interview with Chertoff). I called several major airlines to see what they knew about this. And NOBODY knew anything. Which means two things. Either it’s industry policy to lie about stuff like this. Or, it’s incredible ineptness everywhere.

    One key aspect of this: Homeland Security people have “wide discretion” in almost every aspect of these regulations. Your appearance, last name, destination. It can be literally anything to put you on the no-fly list.

    Then, when you’re on the list it takes roughly 3 months to get off it. And, you’ll NEVER get written confirmation from them that you were put on it to begin with.

    What if you’re in L.A. and you find out that your wife has been in a car accident back in Washington, D.C.? She’s in critical condition in the hospital. And the Homeland Security people at the airline say you’re on the list. What are you supposed to do? Rent a car and drive almost non-stop for 3 days to get back? If you’re driving alone, how many people can do more than 500 miles in a day?

    For average airline passengers, normal screening can take up to an hour (on a good day). For corporate jet passengers, it takes 10 minutes.

  4. I’m sure there’s a lot that the Airlines don’t know about what DHS does. I’m not sure you can call that ineptness on the part of the airlines.

  5. Let me add something about Peter Galbraith and the Kurdish issue. Galbraith has been involved with South Kurdistan since the 1980s. He was the one who got the news out about Saddam’s ethnic cleansing and the destruction of Kurdish villages by Saddam, as well as the use of chemical weapons by Saddam against the Kurdish people. At the time, Galbraith was an aide to Senator Claiborne Pell and when he reported to Pell about the use of chemical weapons, Pell had him write the Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988. This was at a time when NO ONE else was paying attention to what was happening in Kurdistan–ALL parts of Kurdistan.

    The act was not passed in Congress because American farmers wanted to keep their business with Saddam.

    After the first Gulf War and the failure of the Kurdish and Shi’a uprisings, Galbraith was the first one out of the Kurdish region with videotape showing the Kurdish people fleeing into Turkey. Still, even with documented evidence of the suffering of the Kurdish people at the time, it took the genocidal Bush I administration WEEKS to help alleviate the situation it created.

    Now, I know people who fled at that time. I know that they walked from Dohuk to the Turkish border with only the possessions that they could carry. I’ve been to that part of the border where they crossed. As you face Turkey, at the old gate that crosses the road (this border crossing is not used anymore), to your left is a large mound that is also fenced off. That mound is the mass grave of hundreds of Kurdish children who died at that place because of exposure and disease caused by the very unsanitary conditions. They died because the US and Turkey refused to help them. As far as I’m concerned, that was murder. The elderly died, too.

    If you travel the roads in that part of South Kurdistan, you see the skeletons of old vehicles along the sides of the roads. These were vehicles that were abandoned as the people fled northward. The roads were clogged with people walking and cars could no longer continue. Some people carried their elderly and infants as far as they could in these cars, knowing they’d have to abandon them at some point. Well, they are still there as testimony to that horrible time.

    The people I know returned to homes that were looted by Saddam’s army and one of the only things they have left to remind them of their ancestors is a very small photo album which they were able to carry the three times that they had to flee Dohuk during Saddam’s time, including after the 1991 serhildan. In the years following that exodus, there was no food, no fuel, nothing. My friends remember that time as the worst of all.

    And Peter Galbraith was the one who alerted the world to those events. A lot of this information about Galbraith was documented in After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness?–a great general read on Kurdish politics and history, by the way–by Jonathan Randal and A Problem from Hell by Samantha Power.

    Galbraith has spent a lot of time with the Southern Kurds when others ignored what was happening their and he became known as something of a weirdo by the Establishment because he had become emotionally involved. Maybe that’s where he gets the characterization–from the Establishment, no doubt–as “opinionated and a forceful personality” that Lauria mentions. If that’s the case, then we need more “opinionated” and “forceful personalities” around, as far as I’m concerned.

    What I find interesting is that Galbraith’s connections with DNO and Kurdish oil were exposed shortly after he pissed everyone off by throwing a stink bomb at the Afghan election garden party. Would those who wrote about Galbraith’s DNO connections have done so if he hadn’t pressed the Afghan election issue in public? I doubt it very much.

    About heroin money funding international banks . . . .That information came out in a little, bitty, itsy bitsy piece from Reuters back in January of this year. No banks were named at the time. Lauria says that they UN person he spoke to about it recently also didn’t name any banks. So why are the banks being protected? It’s like, Hey! Let’s go after those EVIL Afghan poppy farmers, but make damned sure to protect the likes of those who are really profiting! These banks should be exposed and the individuals at the banks who are involved with this should be exposed, too, and may they all meet the same end that the last czar of Russia and his family met.

    As far as the news industry goes, when and if it does reorganize itself, it’s going to have to PROVE itself. I think that media criticism is the best aspect of news that blogs can take care of, with criticism of content, sources, etc. It’s the only way to try to make these news organizations be honest. Criticism, criticism, criticism. And if they can’t handle it, then get the hell out.

    I don’t see why anyone should waste money on purchasing newspapers because if I want to know what’s going on with, say, the State Department, I can go read the press section at the DOS (or you can substitute any other government/corporate website in place of the DOS); I don’t need some official state media propaganda lackey telling me what the DOS said in its daily briefing by printing the handouts the DOS gives them. I can read DOS propaganda for myself and read between the lines by myself. The newspapers, and the rest of the media for that matter, simply add a veneer of their ancient muckraking role when they publish DOS statements.

    However, that veneer has completely worn away. There’s no real muckraking left in the media. They hold NO ONE in government (or business, as Lauria mentions) accountable and the last eight years of lies a la Judy Miller should be more than enough proof of the illegitimacy of the media. Those years should also be more than enough proof as to why there must be criticism of media from the general public.

    I don’t know if the failure to purchase papers is a generational thing. It may be simply that those who came of age in the last decade realize that the publication of the lies of the corporatocracy are not worth paying for.

    Anyway, I agree with Peter B. that it was a great conversation with Joe Lauria.

  6. Kingfisher says:

    “Galbraith has spent a lot of time with the Southern Kurds when others ignored what was happening their and he became known as something of a weirdo by the Establishment because he had become emotionally involved. Maybe that’s where he gets the characterization–from the Establishment, no doubt–as “opinionated and a forceful personality” that Lauria mentions. If that’s the case, then we need more “opinionated” and “forceful personalities” around, as far as I’m concerned.”

    Galbraith also green-lighted Iranian arms to Bosnia, and fostered the influx of mujaheddin (read AQ) to the Balkans.

    Emotional involvement can also lead to the deaths of thousands of American’s.

  7. Emotional uninvolvement has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Kurds.

    But I get your point, KF. The Turkish government has been saying it for years: Kurdish blood is much cheaper than Turkish blood . . . or American blood.

  8. Good points by Lauria. Especially re: consultants. The same can be said for radio and TV as well. What’s more important? Your look, the “happy talk” on camera. And not the actual job itself.

    Ex: think back to the very beginning of CNN when it was an actual news network. How many people remember Bernard Shaw? Now, it’s a complete waste of time (IMO).

  9. mcthorogood says:

    My ears perked up when the discussion turned to the media, our neglected fourth estate. The podcast mentioned ProPublica dot org, PubRecord dot org and ConsortiumNews dot com. Joe also mentioned GlobalPost dot com, a site that partners with the CFR, Falafel Bill O’Reilly and Ms. Huffington; partners that have hidden agendas.

    Also important are those sites which supposedly analyze the reported news and expose the spin, such as ProjectCensored dot org, and FAIR dot org.

    On your blog you might include a short list of links to important media sites.

    Keep up the good work.

  10. @Mcthorogood: I respect their opinions, however, that doesn’t mean I agree with them. I’m still checking Propublica: Founder comes from Wall Street Journal (a big minus, it is funded by a ???’able foundation with own purpose, and some of the top guys seem pretty pro-Istrael. They may do some good work, but I don;t consider them trustworthy.

    I follow Asia Times, Anti War, and a very few others, plus several solid organizations.

  11. I’ve been so busy lately I hadn’t had a chance to finish Mr. Lauria’s interview till today. I just thought I’d mention an interesting quote I heard a couple of years ago. Charlie Rose was interviewing the head (editor in chief?) of Wired magazine. He asked why, since Wired is obviously a zine about all things electronic, it wasn’t a purely online journal. The owner said that if paper had only been discovered after the internet and websites it would still have been hailed as a great discovery and he thought there would always be a place for print media. I have to say I agree with him. The balance will change and there will be less of it. But I can’t imagine it will ever go away completely. But an interesting twist is that there’s now a company that is selling book printing and binding machines that can print whole books and bind them on sight in very short order. See here

  12. Sibel, in the future, may I reccomend as a guest when discussing the topic of Afghanistan or Pakistan is Eric Margolis. He’s writing for Sun Broadcasting in Toronto Canada, and by nationlity he is American. He is a Vietnam Vet, and has covered the world as a journalist for the last 25 years. He’s knowledgeable about most of the hot spots throughout the world, and best of all, brings no partisian crap to the table.
    He can be reached at http://www.ericmargolis.com

  13. @hatchcar: You certainly may, and thank you. I agree with you on Margolis-I’ve read a few pieces at AntiWar.Com, and I believe I’ve heard him on Scott Horton Show (Antiwar Scott, not the other guy with the ‘D’ headquarters;-)

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