The True Voice of America

… if you go back and look at the very first transcript of our [Voice of America] broadcast back in 1942 during World War II, the famous quote is “The news may be good, the news may be bad, we shall tell you the truth.” 

Al Pessin, speaking to Catherine Jacobsen, Committee to Protect Journalists
Sandblast, Task Force Epsilon thriller

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists’ Katherine Jacobsen recently interviewed my friend, former VOA journalist Al Pessin (author of the Task Force Epsilon thriller series). Al is my contemporary, but his words harken back to my father’s Foreign Service career in the US Information Agency.

As I’ve written about before, President Eisenhower created USIA after WWII to tell America’s story to the world, a public affairs operation in tandem with the radio and print journalists of the Voice of America. USIA and the VOA fell under partisan attacks periodically and worked hard to earn the confidence of the Congress during my father’s career. Ultimately, USIA was absorbed into the Department of State, where Dad’s work in public diplomacy carries on in American embassies around the world.

The voa is under attack

Now, the VOA and other news outlets that helped the United States to win the Cold War are under partisan attack.

As Nick Schifrin recently reported on the PBS NewsHour, Michael Pack, CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, ignored a congressional subpoena to appear before Congress over concerns he has politicized and mismanaged media outlets that helped the U.S. win the Cold War. One of those outlets is Voice of America.

Al Pessin joined his former VOA colleagues in signing a letter to the Acting Director of the VOA objecting to the wholesale firing of management and removal of boards of directors as a witch hunt reminiscent of the Red Scare of the 1950s. Even more damaging was the summary visa revocation of foreign journalists, many of whom may face persecution at home for having worked for the United States. VOA journalists — going against a reporter’s grain by becoming the news — put their careers on the line to object.

He has ordered the firing of contract journalists, with no valid reason, by cancelling their visas, forcing them back to home countries where the lives of some of them may be in jeopardy.

Voice of America journalists

Journalists are not spies

Most damaging of all is his public statement, on a podcast, that the VOA is great cover for our enemies.

A great place to put a foreign spy.

Michael Pack, CEO, US Agency for Global Media, speaking about the Voice of America

Pack’s tossed off remark was recorded in an interview with conservative and pro-Trump The Federalist.

It takes a long time to build the credibility of a news organization and just a brief moment to destroy it … It just shows a complete lack of understanding or disregard for the job that we have to do and potentially for the personal safety of the people trying to do it. 

Al Pessin, retired Voice of America journalist

Handing our enemies a win

Congressman Tom Malinowski, D- NJ, put it like this at the hearing Pack disregarded.

If China, Russia, North Korea, or any of our adversaries, had in fact infiltrated USAGM, they could have not possibly done more harm to America’s interests than Mr. Pack has in fact done on his own.

Congressman Tom Malinowski

With friends like Michael Pack — and presidents like Trump — damaging our democracy from the inside, who needs enemies?

Dognapping Home Invasion

In this recent piece for the PBS NewsHour, correspondent Malcom Brabant discusses England’s COVID canine calamity.

As I wrote in a recent post, dog adoptions have soared in Florida during the pandemic. Same thing in Britain. Toilet paper hoarding and puppy housemates have become the English physiological and psychological base in the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs.

Dogs became the must-have thing, after the toilet roll.

Beverley Cuddy, “the canine Cronkite” of the BBC

As dogs become as dear as our own family — maybe more, since people can really get under our skin after six months of lockdown, and a dog is always happy to see you, in a goofy Groundhog Day kind of loop — the Evil Do-Ers have converted our displaced priorities into a new revenue stream (as I learned to say in my previous life as a budget analyst): dognapping.

In the United Kingdom, an unexpected result of the pandemic: a surge in dognapping. Puppy prices have soared during lockdown, and pet thefts have spiked 65 percent in a year.

PBS NewsHour

Sadly, British law equates the loss of a dog with the loss of an iPhone or other personal property. But these are members of a family.

They have got human names. They used to be called Spot and Fido and maybe they lived in the shed. Now they’re on the sofa. They’re on the bed.

Beverley Cuddy, “the canine Cronkite” of the BBC

God speed to the British Parliament in addressing this growing problem.

But that’s not the worst of it. Dogs have taken over people’s homes. Those cute bundles of fur have grown into full on home invaders. Brabant recounts his own experience.

Loki is a typical lockdown puppy. We paid top dollar seven months ago, and haven’t once left him alone. He had an idyllic lockdown. But in common with so many new owners, we have become his prisoners.

Malcolm Brabant, PBS NewsHour Special Correspondent

We feel you, Malcolm. We knew Kumba did not like being left alone when we adopted him in February the Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida. There was trauma in his past: he’d been given up by his owners and left in a shelter in Puerto Rico, where he had remained for months before LRROF flew him to Ft. Lauderdale. He weighed 50 pounds and was so anemic that the LRROF vet didn’t know how he was still upright. By the time we brought him home from his amazing foster mother Kim, he was gaining weight and confidence, but he was pretty unsure about life in general.

Now, we are his prisoners, too. It’s pretty hard to break eye-contact with this guy.

And he’s not a big fan of being on his own even with his toys.

When we left him on his own for the first time, here is part of what happened. Oh, yeah, he is a clever one, chewing on A Dog’s Way Home and making an appetizer of several sheets of my own writing. Who knew dogs could be ironic.

Without realizing, dog owners living through the pandemic may not realize that there is a problem until things return to normal and they’re off to school, to work, to dinner.

The sad fact is that, if you have a dog with an established attachment disorder, you have to be at home in order to get through a behavior modification program. If you only discover it once you’re out to work for eight, nine hours a day, then it becomes almost impossible to rectify.

Sue Ketland, Behaviour and Training Consultant, Wood Green the Animal Charity

Word to the wise. Get out of the house while you have time to get Fido, er Philip, used to life without you. There must be a self-help group for this dog-person co-dependency.

We are going for a drive today. Just the two humans in the household. Although my husband said, “Let’s bring Kumba!”