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CONFLICTED: MSNBC’s Muddled Reporting on Common Core & Charter Schools

8:24 pm in Uncategorized by amerigus

common core cartoon

Last fall, I asked whether MSNBC hosts like Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes (my two favorite) are pressured not to cover issues like hydrofracking or GMO foods by their bosses (see “Is Rachel Maddow Going Easy on MSNBC Advertisers?“). No one knows whether or not they had to sign confidentiality agreements governing editorial control of their shows, or what, if any influence there may be by new ownership. Media watchdog FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) notes that Maddow’s history of reporting on the shady dealings of ALEC becomes awkward as MSNBC’s new parent Comcast is a celebrated corporate member of ALEC with plans to exploit the Common Core ”juggernaut” selling their wares to schools.

As a teacher, I’ve watched the charter/Common Core debates go mainstream of late, including reports on CNN, ABC, CBS, the Washington Post, Newsweek, Stephen Colbert, The Nation, Mother Jones and many more. But NBC and MSNBC are different because they were previously involved in promoting Common Core. Researching the record of MSNBC hosts, I soon learned of their divisions (which could be a good thing). Let’s go through it:

It started with MSNBC blogsman Trymaine Lee. I thought it odd that he wrote so articulately about the charter school controversy, while Morning Joe gives obvious preference to charter school principals with air time and promotion.

CHRIS HAYES: had a real teacher on the air one time (a BadAss Teacher from the 45,000+ member Facebook group) in a balanced debate against a charter proponent, while Hayes stayed neutral. Hayes noted keen interest in “Common Core” as an issue held against Jeb Bush’s by his competitors, but misspoke about Common Core’s component parts. He did interview Diane Ravitch here and reported on Michelle Rhee’s “bombshell” cheating cover-up here. But why would his news instinct take him away from Common Core, the latest tea party stampede, and subject of Glenn Beck’s next book?

[Update: Hayes ran segments on Common Core both Thursday and Friday, see addendum below]

RACHEL MADDOW: Noticeably absent on the issue of Common Core, charters and #Rheeform in general, but has concerns about career readiness and smartness deficits. In thoughts about raising expectations made at a 2013 appearance at her alma mater Stanford, Rachel asked “who is going to write the stuff that goes into Wikipedia?”

This is the first part of the classic Common Core pitch — we’re so “low” we need to do something. The second part is the Common Core lobby’s assertion that changing standards helps, a claim in major dispute. So Rachel avoids the subject on her show, but basically can’t believe how poor the resumes of her job applicants are.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: a charter school true believer, Morning Joe’s show is the on-air home for Eva Moskowitz of Harlem Success Academy. The only example found of Common Core coverage was an article on the Morning Joe web page which spoke of the “botched” rollout, top-down inflexibility, lack of teacher input and data mining.

ED SCHULTZ: Ed also didn’t wade into Common Core waters but spoke out here for public schools, calling the charter school vacuum of student talent and funding the “new segregation”.

STEVE KORNACKI: Did a panel on Common Core but concentrated on GOP infighting and attacks against Obama instead of the nuts and bolts of the policy. You’d think wonks like Steve Kornacki or Chris Hayes might delve into the bipartisan affront to accuracy with Common Core’s evaluations, if they had a green light. But not so far.

In a different segment, Kornacki stood mute as former VA governor Jim Douglas parroted the specious claim that a standards overhaul somehow will improve performance. The data was there to obliterate the assertion, had Kornacki been read up:

Higher standards are the goal, but without in-classroom, hands-on support (particularly tackling non-academic obstacles to learning), little will change. After a decade of corporate pork spending, the achievement gap only worsened, right up to last year – so say the tests.

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: A definite charter guy, @lawrence is a longtime board member at Codman Academy, a charter school in Dorcester, run by his former Harvard classmate.

AL SHARPTON: Also mum on Common Core, the Rev continues to praise charters today but has a sordid past, accepting half a mil to endorse NYC’s charter expansion with the tacit help of the Bloomberg administration. Not his best moment, because most of the money reportedly went to just one person on his staff, a well-connected state Democratic party official. Yeeech. But Rev Al did speak out against charter maven Eva Moskowitz for eclipsing Bill de Blasio’s pre-K rally in Albany with a decisively bigger counter-rally (which we learned was secretly hatched by Governor Cuomo).

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY (herself a teacher): Hosted a highly staged live forum Oct 2013 on MSNBC starring David Coleman of The College Board, the Common Core’s top developer. Coleman spoke persuasively to a live audience stacked with school kids. Amid the softball questions, Harris-Perry hinted at ‘controversy’ but was mostly decoration as Coleman expounded at length, as seen in this clip.

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Rachel Maddow: Iraq WMD Fraud Exposé Will Cause “Political Upset”

11:37 am in Uncategorized by amerigus

Rachel Maddow - Caricature

Rachel Maddow - Caricature

Rachel Maddow is looking to ruffle feathers, going where Obama or Congress wouldn’t dare to tread, in publicizing the “deceptions” of the Bush Iraq Team which launched a long and costly war.

Because of a ten year mainstream media whitewash, it’s been generally accepted that “mistakes” resulted in a war that claimed over 4,800 US troops. But this week, MSNBC will rock the boat, suggesting false pretenses took us to war, meaning the nation should start debating consequences.

Rachel Maddow is teasing there will be great “political upset” when the documentary Hubris: The Selling of The Iraq War airs on Monday Feb. 18.

If proven deliberate, the Iraq WMD intel debacle could constitute domestic and international war crimes. Someone must have had a long fight behind the scenes to get this controversy on the air because most of the facts have been readily available for years through indie media, articles (and even in drips and drabs on MSNBC). A book version of Hubris was co-authored by David Corn and Michael Isikoff in 2007.

Perhaps most striking is the way most media has ignored Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a top level Bush administration insider who has offered to testify directly against Dick Cheney and others. So what actionable allegations will Maddow present?

Plamegate was just one WMD related scandal resulting in conviction. Scooter Libby lied to investigators, taking the fall for Vice President Cheney before having his sentence commuted by President Bush. But that story is old, so what’s new, what’s different?

Running With Curveball’s Lies
The saga of ‘Curveball’ also creeped out into US media in fits and starts. If networks truly wanted ratings or public trust, they’d have fought over blockbuster exclusives showing how the Iraq war was built on shameful lies. But we saw the opposite – a reluctance to report basic facts about the sole “eyewitness” claiming to be an “Iraqi chemical engineer”.

Curveball (aka Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi) was the main reason given for the US invasion of Iraq. In truth, the Iraqi exile had no bio-weapons knowledge, but fed claims about mobile labs to the BND (German intelligence) knowing the Bush administration was itching for war.

Officials within the BND, CIA and DIA all surmised Curveball was lying. These dissents were somehow “lost in the shuffle”, the supposed honest “mistake” that gave us the war. But there are plenty of whistleblowers saying otherwise and even naming names, if the media and Congress should begin to listen.

MSNBC has promoted this TV special with a graphic showing Iraq Team principals Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice dramatically walking down a Texas dirt path. But Colin Powell isn’t in the shot. This means MSNBC may be editorially sympathetic to Powell’s point of view. They will include interviews with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s Chief of Staff.

Powell’s former sideman has been blowing the whistle since 2005, even offering to testify against Cheney, Tenet and deputy CIA director John McGlaughlin, claiming the Office of the Vice President breached protocol, making agents within the CIA do Cheney’s bidding.

We’ll hear Secretary Powell did doubt Curveball and the White House. Wilkerson described these reservations on PBS in 2006, which put Powell in the position of either outing Cheney and the Iraq Team who set him up, or keeping his mouth shut to protect them. Hiding his own skeletons, Powell did not speak out, rolling over for the “hoax” that ruined his career.

Col. Wilkerson has admitted he personally brought graphic artists to the White House to “sex up” the WMD diagrams Powell would use, based off cocktail napkin drawings made as Curveball received expert coaching. Wilkerson has always said he would take responsibility for his part in the charade.

But then in 2011, another Wilkerson interview with Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald brought more disturbing revelations to light. Just as the US stood on the brink of war, Powell rejected Scooter Libby’s 50-page report, calling it “bullshit” as he threw it into the trash.

Col. Wilkerson said his boss sent word he would refuse to sign off on the WMD evidence. But within an hour, George Tenet unveiled “compelling” new evidence tying Iraq to the 9/11 attacks. Powell was told of a new link between Saddam and bin Laden, a high-level al Qaeda terrorist had admitted everything. This was the clincher for Powell, who would go out to make the fateful speeches to Congress and the UN that would sanction the war and destroy his credibility.

Beating Lies Out Of “The Libyan”
Powell wasn’t told for over a year that it was actually a Libyan detainee named Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi who was tortured and punched in the face for 15 minutes in a secret Cairo “rendition” site, before agreeing yes, he had witnessed a meeting between Iraqi officials and al Qaeda.

But al-Libi recanted everything, admitting he lied to save his life. By 2009, al-Libi was found dead in a Libyan prison cell after human rights attorneys took an interest in him. But the CIA knew al-Libi made it up long before, according to a classified report filed way back in August 2002. The FBI officials who first aprehended al-Libi also believed he had lied, but they were dismissed from the case in a turf dispute.

The lead torturer was Egyptian intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, a strong ally in George Tenet’s off-the-books rendition program, later appointed vice-president of Egypt by Hosni Mubarak. Suleiman continued relations with Leon Panetta through the Obama years, dying mysteriously in a US hospital last July along with a wealth of secrets.

Will Maddow’s special show how illegal torture, rendition and secret alliances with dictatorships gave us the crucial lies that steamrolled all resistance to the Iraq War? And if so, why didn’t MSNBC air these reports as they first broke? Why now? What’s changed?

Maddow Unmuzzled?
It’s possible Rachel Maddow may have pushed for more latitude in a new contract. The timing suggests Maddow and other MSNBC staff were given a longer leash after Obama’s re-election, a bold move leftward for the network. MSNBC has also made headlines for regularly topping the ratings of Fox News and Sean Hannity, with Maddow making gains in key demographics. Also completed just last week was full transfer of MSNBC parent NBCUniversal, away from GE, who has defense interests, to Comcast, the media and communications colossus.

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