Daily Archives: October 22, 2010

Photo Of The Day: Mill Building On Shawsheen River

Published October 22, 2010

Mill Building on Shawsheen River (photo frogger/Flickr)

Mill Building on Shawsheen River (photo frogger/Flickr)

Photographer photo frogger, who appears to be brand new to Flickr, got the Hubbub Photo of the Day on Tuesday along the Shawsheen River.

New England’s natural beauty never gets old. Have a good weekend!

2 Views Of Williams’ Firing From Muslim Bostonians

Published October 22, 2010

This is my last post on this topic, at least for now. But I want to bring the conversation back to real people.

NPR fired news analyst Juan Williams for saying he gets “nervous” when he sees people in “Muslim garb” on an airplane.  What do two Bostonians who are Muslim think about it?

M. Bilal Kaleem:

NPR is “Channel No. 1″ on my car radio’s speed dial — I love them — I think they run one of the few media institutions where the standards of journalism are being maintained in this era of polemics.

M. Bilal Kaleem (courtesy photo)

M. Bilal Kaleem (courtesy photo)

But I think NPR may have reacted too quickly in firing Juan Williams. It seems to me that his remarks on Fox News arose out of a set of prejudiced stereotypes he holds about Muslims: that the average “visibly Muslim looking person” is a potential threat to his safety. It is tragic (and personally hurtful) that an educated and rational media figure would maintain such unexamined prejudice, even if at an irrepressible emotional level.

Still, it did not seem to me that his comments tried to proclaim Muslims to be in league with terrorists or that Muslims are responsible for terrorism. I wish I could say the same for media figures such as Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly (or political leaders like Newt Gingrich), and dozens of others leading public figures. Their nefarious goal often seems to be to deliberately stoke fear of all Muslims — they go out of their way to tie all Muslims to extremists in a seeming effort to marginalize them from having any influence or credibility in the public sphere.

Meanwhile, it seemed Juan Williams was trying to express his instinctual gut reaction to “visible” Muslims. It is a sad commentary on our times that public figures like him feel free to share their unreasonable prejudices about Muslims in a manner that they would not do with any of their other irrational prejudices regarding other minorities. But in my opinion while having such a prejudice is tragic and hurtful, it does not merit being fired. Had he made it his deliberate goal to continually stoke fear of Muslims (as others I have mentioned), then it would be justified to let him go for the sake of NPR maintaining a balanced journalistic image.

M. Bilal Kaleem is president of the Muslim American Society of Boston and a Dubin Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.


Mohamed Brahimi:

I have no question in my mind that the firing of Juan Williams was just and justified.

Mohamed Brahimi (courtesy photo)

Mohamed Brahimi (courtesy photo)

Mr. Williams’ statement is wrong because it constitutes a logical fallacy known as ad populum — “If many believe so, it is so.” This is why I think that NPR should have fired Mr. Williams — not only because of his bigoted comments, but on the grounds of his poor analysis.

Muslim garb? Really? People are now defined by the clothing articles they decide to put on?

I guess I have been wearing Christian garb all my life.

This is reductionism at its best. What does that say about the quality of Mr. Williams’ analysis? I am hoping this will tell him that there is no room in NPR for people who can’t tell the difference between paranoid rant and bonafide political analysis.

Fox News has already stepped up and offered Williams a $2 million gig to spew his racist garbage. Good riddance, brother.

Mohamed Brahimi is president of Muslim American Civic and Cultural Association.

The Wit And Wisdom Of Barry Wilson

Published October 22, 2010

Every time he gets back from court, WBUR’s David Boeri has a story to tell about Barry Wilson, the attorney representing Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner in his corruption trial.

On Radio Boston today, Boeri described Wilson as a mix of Danny DeVito, Jesse Ventura and Jerry Garcia. He even got into the character a bit. (I’m not sure which is funnier — David Boeri doing Barry Wilson, or Barry Wilson doing Barry Wilson.)

In Boeri’s story for Morning Edition today, we hear two sound bites of Wilson’s exchange with reporters outside the courtroom yesterday. Here’s the unedited audio of the full exchange:

Boeri: Counselor, we see the video today, and now the witness says he did give you cash.

Wilson: So what? You know, a lot of people say a lot of things in that court. We don’t now what happened. I told you, We haven’t seen the fat lady yet! Ya people, you know what I mean, you gotta slow it down, speed it up. What day? What day was it?

[more dialogue]

Boeri: Counselor, have we closed off one option, now that we know the witness is saying, “Yup, thats the money that I gave Counselor Turner?”

Wilson: Excuse me. If you’ll pay attention. There are a lot of things that were said that were different than were said by other people. I can only give you so much, ’cause I can’t really say anymore than what you see  there. But if you’re all paying attention, I think we had a few inconsistencies, and I think we had some wiiiiide openings that everyone ought to be paying attention to.

Reporter: What are the openings?

Wilson: I am not going to answer that question. You can do better than that, dear!

Reporter: Well, you’re saying pay attention.

Wilson: I’m saying paying attention, think! What do you want me, to be in the judge’s barn tomorrow? Noooo, no, no.

[more dialogue]

Wilson: We’re done!


Ashbrook On Williams: ‘I’m Sorry To See A Bridge Gone’

Published October 22, 2010

WBUR’s Tom Ashbrook, host of nationally syndicated On Point, on the firing of erstwhile NPR news analyst Juan Williams:

There is something very sad about this, because Juan may have been wrong or right, but he was a kind of a bridge. I mean, NPR wouldn’t let him call himself “NPR news analyst” on Fox for the last while here. But people knew. And people who watched Fox saw him. And he wasn’t always out here in this dangerous territory. I’m sorry to see a bridge gone.

Ashbrook’s boss, the WBUR general manager, released a statement today saying the Williams firing was “appropriately made” but “without the consultation or involvement of independent local stations like WBUR.”

You can listen to the full hour of On Point’s weekly news roundup.

Chuck Turner Trial Gets More Colorful

Published October 22, 2010

The federal corruption trial of Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner is getting more and more colorful. You have to read this.

WBUR reports:

The FBI’s star witness, Ron Wilburn — who already testified that he gave Turner a $1,000 bribe — now says he also paid a Boston police officer $10,000.

On the witness stand Friday morning, Wilburn said that payment was not made under the direction of the FBI, but he did not elaborate further.

Meanwhile, the Globe reports:

A federal prosecutor and the star witness in the Chuck Turner corruption case engaged in a dramatic shouting match during Turner’s trial this morning, with the witness, Ronald Wilburn, accusing the government of harming him by revealing his identity.

“You gave me up. Hell, you cut off my income. I did it all for you and you gave me up!” yelled Wilburn, who had worked as an undercover informant for the FBI in the case.

WBUR’s David Boeri, who is covering this trial from Boston federal court, tells me he saw something today he has never seen before: A juror stood up during Wilburn’s testimony, pointed at the witness, and said, “Your honor, there’s somebody coaching the witness.” The judge asked for the coach to reveal himself; Wilburn’s attorney, seated in the back, stood up.

Stay tuned.

WBUR GM: Williams’ Firing Was ‘Appropriate’ — But We Had Nothing To Do With It

Published October 22, 2010

After receiving hundreds of calls and e-mails from WBUR listeners, General Manager Paul La Camera released a carefully worded statement supporting NPR’s decision to fire Juan Williams — though it could have been “handled better,” he said — while reminding listeners that WBUR played no part in the decision:

While these events can always be handled better, the decision by the management of NPR to separate Juan Williams was obviously not based on a single debatable episode but rather on a series of breaches in recent periods that brought into question the journalistic integrity of NPR.

This decision was appropriately made on the national level and without the consultation or involvement of independent local stations like WBUR.

It is important to note that NPR and WBUR are separate entities. Content on WBUR comprises a variety of national and local sources, one of which is NPR. However, a plurality of our station’s programming originates here in Boston, including On Point, Here & Now, Radio Boston and the work of WBUR’s 30-person newsroom dedicated to reporting local content that is interwoven throughout the day.

Journalistic integrity and trust are the absolute bedrock principles of any news organization. We at WBUR support NPR or any news organization for that matter in its determination to protect those hallmarks.

As I wrote yesterday, some listeners are withdrawing their financial support of WBUR to protest Willliams’ termination by NPR.

Fact Check: Palin Calls For Congress To ‘Defund’ NPR

Published October 22, 2010

Every time NPR makes a controversial decision, some unhappy people demand the federal government cut its funding.

Sarah Palin, Juan Williams, Mike Huckabee (AP)

Sarah Palin, Juan Williams, Mike Huckabee (AP)

This time, it’s former Govs. Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — paid Fox News contributors — who are jumping to the defense of Juan Williams after his unceremonious firing.

Thing is, NPR receives no direct funding from the federal government for operations. More on that in a moment.

In an open letter to President Obama, Palin writes:

NPR is unable to tolerate an honest debate about an issue as important as Islamic terrorism, then it’s time for “National Public Radio” to become “National Private Radio.” It’s time for Congress to defund this organization.

And Huckabee, in a statement provided to CNN, says:

“It is time for the taxpayers to start making cuts to federal spending, and I encourage the new Congress to start with NPR,” he said.

And now the AP reports:

In response to the firing, South Carolina Republican U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint planned to introduce legislation to end federal funding for NPR, his spokesman Wesley Denton said Thursday night. Denton said the senator would expand upon his proposal in a statement on Friday.

I said it before, but I’ll say it again: NPR receives no direct funding from the federal government for operations. Here is a breakdown of NPR’s funding sources, as provided by NPR.org:

No federal funding here. (NPR)

No federal funding here. (NPR)

The largest share of NPR funding comes from its member stations (including WBUR).

The local stations receive some funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a taxpayer-funded, nonprofit, private corporation, created by Congress in 1967. (Think of it like the Red Cross.)

NPR does receive grants from CPB for special projects, but that funding is not included as part of the network’s operations budget.

So while federal dollars do flow to NPR, the connection is indirect. It may be a fine point, but it’s an important distinction. The federal government can’t “defund” NPR. What Congress can do is cut CPB funding — which has diminished over the years and has, at times, been threatened.

But those CPB funds play a minor role for a large-market station like WBUR (around 6 percent) and represents a much higher percentage for a station in a smaller market, such as Wyoming and Idaho.

Calls to cut taxpayer funding of CPB would mostly hurt small stations — stations that played no part in the decision to fire Juan Williams.

Friday Morning: Wilburn Testifies; Frank Took Bank Cash

Published October 22, 2010

What’s news on a cold! Friday morning in Boston:

Informant Ron Wilburn testified he bribed Councilor Chuck Turner. “The prosecution had what it hoped for: the crucial witness saying that what you’re not sure you saw in the video was indeed money.” (WBUR)

Rep. Frank took donations from banks he helped bail out. “Frank has hauled in thousands from top execs at Bank of America, Citizens Bank, Wainwright Bank, JP Morgan Chase and other institutions that received billions in TARP money.” (Herald)

A reputed Mafia capo was indicted on drug charges. Mark Rossetti is accused of “running a sprawling criminal enterprise that engaged in heroin and marijuana trafficking, gambling, loan sharking, and home invasions.” (Globe)

The gubernatorial candidates are split on the death penalty. Baker and Cahill want it reinstated; Patrick and Stein don’t. (AP)

The Bruins opened at TD Garden with an impressive win. 4-1. (Globe)