Friday, July 28, 2006

Middle East & coverage or lack of it

Firstly, thank you again to C.I. and Rebecca for their help with "From the Mixed-up Mind of Eric Alterman" which really is a joint post between the three of us. Anyone curious about the second name journalist will be disappointed. He apologized. I didn't have time to address both last night and 'up and down defending' Alterman seemed more important. When I was discussing them both, C.I. just listened to my reasoning -- Rebecca was all for Alterman. This morning, C.I. left a message to call ASAP as soon as I was done with my session. I did and we discussed e-mails -- I had already decided that I'd read thirty of them today. I wasn't in the mood to wade through more nonsense about how I was going to rot in hell for defending the Lebanese or the Palestinians. C.I. said, "Well tell Sunny to print up the top thirty right now before the apology isn't in it."

The second writer? C.I. knows him. I said, "You could have told me that last night." C.I.'s response was that it had to be my decision on which one to address last night. So C.I. phoned him and I ended up getting an apology with a note that he'd be happy to apologize over the phone and he included his office number. I called him and we're fine. Near the end, I made a point to say I wasn't posting on him and he said I could if I wanted but I don't see the point in that. He apologized, we spoke. We both have a disagreement and will always have one but the issue's resolved. He said C.I. phoned and started with, "I don't care what you're doing right now, I'm taking twenty minutes of your time and you're going to listen." We laughed about that and a few other things so it really is fine.

The other e-mails? I've gone back and forth on that. I don't believe you promote hate speech so, on the one hand, I'm opposed to quoting from them. On the other hand, I think it's important to understand the reactionary element that does go on. I was talking to Sunny about this and explained that with enough tensions right now, I'd hate to have something up here, a quote or passage, that I then comment on and have some reactionary come by and think, "That's just how I feel! Let's kill 'em all!" So Sunny suggested that I wait on that because the situation's already tense enough.

I will note that those lecturing 'holyness' might ask themselves why they feel they can reduce others to animals? And not just that but animals that it's more than fine to kill, that need to be killed according to many of the e-mails.

Do they really believe, maybe they do, that another living person is worth killing? A child? That's what really bothered me the most about the e-mails, depressed the most, the violence they felt someone deserved (violent death) because of where they were born. I'm old enough to remember when this country was repeatedly whipped into a frenzy over Russians. I'm also certainly familiar with the missionary zeal but I thought the goal there was to "save the souls" and it's just an interesting to hear from apparently religious people who just want to kill.

"Israeli Attacks Escalate in Palestine" (Free Speech Radio News)
Israeli troops withdrew from Northern Gaza early this morning after a bloody two-day sweep that killed over 30 Palestinians. Saed Bannoura reports from the West Bank that Israeli forces continue nightly raids there, taking 22 Palestinians prisoner last night alone:
Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians have increased this week, particularly in the Hebron area. And in Jerusalem today, Israeli police have been preventing anyone under 40 years old from praying in Al-Aqsa Mosque, firing tear gas and concussion grenades at worshipers. Meanwhile, negotiations appear to be underway for a possible release of the Israeli soldier captured by Palestinian resistance fighters in Gaza. Abu Obeidah is with the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, who are holding the captured soldier: "The issue of the soldier we are holding prisoner is not just an issue of the Qassam Brigades, or Hamas, it's an issue of the Palestinian people - there are over 10,000 Palestinians inside the Occupation's prisons, behind bars. The Palestinian people are united, all factions are united. No Palestinian politician can demand that we release the captured soldier with nothing in return." Earlier this week Palestinian groups offered terms for a truce, but the Israeli side has thus far refused to negotiate. So far, the latest round of Israeli attacks has killed over 100 in Gaza.

How does this go on year after year? I think I know one explanation, via those hate filled e-mails. Israel is the "good child." It's the "spoiled child." The US (government and a chunk of the population) acts like a parent playing favorites. Actions that are wrong are wrong when the Palestinians (the "bad child" in this analogy) does them. Actions that are wrong when the "good child" does them? Never addressed. The apple of the parental eye can do no wrong. Ever. So over and over, people look the other way or make excuses. That's why Israel's been able to ignore UN resolutions and international law repeatedly. Like a spoiled child in a playground, it can hit the Palestinians and get hit back but, when they run to Mommy and Daddy, they get told, "Oh, it's not your fault." A neighbor asks, "Was your child in a fight?" and protective parents respond, "Oh yes, that bad Palestine. Why, I don't think we can even let poor little Israel play in the sandbox anymore because that bad Palestine is just so mean."

Time and again, Israel can do whatever it wants and there's no attempt to address its actions. Instead, its: "Here, have a cookie. You are the best. You don't worry about that mean Palestine. You are the best."

That's what I meant this week when I said the press reported ('reported') as though sides were already chosen ("good" and "bad"). A soldier was never "kidnapped" (soldiers are captured) and that one event has allowed them to tear through the occupied territories, destroying everything they wanted to (such as the only power plant) and grab whomever they wanted (such as government officials) and the response has been, "Oh our child is the nice one. Our child is the good one."

In fact, as Normal Solomon has pointed out, some press response has been to justify the the actions and insist that Israel can kick or beat any other child in the playground just because they're the favored child. What is that sort of "judgement" or "evaluation" that Solomon's critiquing but playing "faovrites"? It's not level headed, by any means.

My analogy is not intended to suggest that either party is a child but I'm really sick of sports analogies (no offense to Betty, I followed and enjoyed her's) which are often done to death. I could speak of treating it like a sporting event and Israel as the home team but I think there's something more than rooting for the "home team" going on here. If the home team screws up, someone's going to holler, "You bums!" That never happens. Israel's treated not like a home team but like a favored child. It's accomplishments are praised and its embarrassments are hidden away. The US response is like that of the parent of a forty-year-old man who's been living with a guy for ten or twenty years, never dates a woman, and, if you speak to the parent in denial, you'll be told, "Oh Israel's so thrifty. It shares an apartment to cut down on living expenses. Now let me tell you . . ." as they move the topic to something else.

A thinking parent would look at the situation and say, "Israel's gay." But a parent invested in a myth of who they think the child is (and that the child is not gay -- I'm actually thinking of a patient (and disclaimer, some details are changed to protect the person's confidentiality) I had last year on for this example -- will look at their adult male child, living for countless years with another man (in a one or two-bedroom apartment) and deny, deny, deny.

No reality can enter the picture because the parent has their own reality of "good" and "bad" and, based upon those judgements, the child either is something or isn't something. Before I get e-mails saying, "You're against parents!" -- there is healthy parenting and there is unhealthy parenting.

In the case I'm thinking of, the mother had decided gay was "bad" long ago. She had a forty-year-old gay son. He knew he was gay. He had attempted to discuss that with his mother over the years and, when she sensed on some level where the topic would be going, she would repeatedly change the subject. She had all these problems and was on all these medications which resulted from self-medicating (with a prescription) because she couldn't and wouldn't face reality. She had a daughter who was the "bad" child. The daughter was always "trouble." The woman had decided a long time ago that everything her son was perfect and up to her standards and everything the daughter did was imperfect and an embarrassment.

This was not loving your child because the women didn't know her children. The son was more apt to hide the things he knew she'd disprove of. The daughter was more apt to let it all out there. It is fine to love your children and disagree with things they do, actions they take. It's wrong to deny reality.

When she came to me, she was stressed out beyond belief and nothing was helping at this point (medication wise). It quickly became apparent that she had vested herself in the "good" child giving her grandchildren and he hadn't. At one point, someone had made a remark that possibly he and his boyfriend could adopt and that had sent in her into a tailspin (leading her to seek help) because she couldn't understand why anyone would say such a "nasty" thing about her son.

Did she really love her son? She wanted to. She certainly wanted to. But she didn't know her son enough to be able to love him. For repeated sessions, she would harken back to that conversation but never provide details of the "nasty" thing that was said. She would only say how rude it was to "gossip" and how the woman who'd said that was jealous (and offer a long set of examples for why the woman was supposedly jealous). She had a gay son, an adult gay son who'd been living for years with a partner. Because of her own disproval of gays and lesbians, she couldn't see her son as he was.

Just as I'm not attempting to suggest that Israel or Palestine is a child, I'm not attempting to suggest that sexuality is equal to armed aggression.

The woman couldn't embrace her son because she didn't know him. She embraced a myth and denied evrything that didn't fit into that myth. The responses of the US government, a large part of the press and a healthy portion of the people (led by the government and the press response) do the same with regards to Israel. What they deem "good" they see in Israel, what they deem "bad," they see in others.

There is no sense of proportion in the coverage coming out of the Middle East. There is only a selection of sides and events that fit into their notions of "good" and "bad."

The response in the press is to ignore obvious realities or stay silent. In "And the war drags on . . ." last night, C.I. addressed some questions visitors had asked. One was if C.I. thought Lebanaon didn't deserve financial aid? The question arose from the fact that C.I. had repeatedly commented on the decision of Iraq's puppet/prime minister to announce he was giving $35 million in aid to Israel. That wasn't about Lebanaon for C.I. It could have been victims of a tsunami and C.I. would have raised the same issue. C.I. likened it, the $35 million in aid, to a man at a dining out, grabbing the check for the table with grand fanfare and then, as an aside, whispering to a woman that she'd have to "help" him out.

I actually know the example C.I. was thinking of because a mutual friend (more C.I.'s friend than mine, she's more my acquaintance) is still outraged by that. She was the one who had to "help" him out. Everyone at the table thinks he's wonderful and successful but she paid that bill. It's happen repeatedly in the short time she's been seeing the man and she's quite ticked off about the whole thing. (As are friends and you can include me on that list.) It's never "we" can get the bill, even. It's always him announcing that he will get the bill. She and the people at the table usually take turns but since she's been dating this man, he's picking up the check (and allowing her to pay) everytime they go anywhere.

C.I.'s comments on the proposed aid were in line with you don't offer to foot a bill you can't pay. (If Iraq does have $35 million lying around, why are the children suffering from malnutrition?) When we were on the phone the second time today (our first call was brief because I was between sessions, we had a longer talk during lunch), I brought that up because the previous statements at The Common Ills had been very clear to me and I was surprised that there was confusion over it. (C.I. excerpted from someone's else's post that asked that question as well and that post may have been the reason for the question, my opinion.) C.I. told me the question didn't "bother" because with so many visitors complaining from one perspective, it was actually good to know that there was a visitor who was seriously concerned about Lebanon and needed clarification on that.

I understood that because, law of averages, there must be some people from outside the community who come here and read something without thinking, "Oh, she's being so anti-Israel." There must be some that agree. Just law of averages. But the ones I hear from are the visitors calling for the deaths of all Arabs "in those countries," etc.

We talked about that because Sunny had informed me this morning that a certain someone had written of how he wasn't silent on the issue because he was ignoring it, he just didn't have anything to say on the topic. Apparently that man's only opinions come to him when he was cable and broadcast news. He's stayed silent on this topic not because he's covering anything of value (or anything that couldn't have been covered in the nineties for that matter) but, my opinion, because he doesn't want to address the issue.

C.I.'s addressed it. C.I.'s foucs, as members have demanded (not requested, demanded) is Iraq. The community feels (and I'm a member of the community and I agree with this sentiment) that there is not enough coverage of Iraq from mainstream or independent media. Whenver anything else arises, Iraq is immediately forgotten. It's not put on the backburner because the coverage in what passes for "calmer" these days is such that Iraq's been on the backburner for about three years now. But it loses out completely when a new story comes along.

Some stories are in need of coverage, the immigrant rights movement being one. Some are just nonsense. When the internet works itself into a tizzy over Boston Public, for example, that strikes me as nonsense. Not because the show is a bad show (I've actually watched that show and found it entertaining) but because it was treated as though it was a statement by the Democratic Party. That's just one example. There are other instances where I think, "You know that author/pundit/anchor has been doing that for years and it's been cited for years so why is it a driving story?"

Time and again, Iraq takes the backseat. Looking at the response to Judith Miller online, it's become very obvious that it was, as C.I. noted during and after, a case of "bash the bitch." Miller is gone and with it the interest of so many in the coverage of Iraq. They may note Bully Boy's statement but they're not noting individuals now, are they? Collectively they are silent.

I think Miller deserved the criticism she got. I'm not upset that she's no longer with the New York Times. But do people really think the coverage is any better with her gone? Where is the same sort of keen eye given to the work of Dexter Filkins, Micheal R. Gordon, etc? It's not there. The Washington Post runs a story on a military propaganda campaign (against the American people) and whose name pops up in it as the go-to-guy? Dexter Filkins.

If that had happened before Judith Miller left the New York Times and the name had been Judith Miller, you better believe all the 'brave' critics would be screaming from the rooftops (or at least from their keyboards). But it didn't happen. Dexter Filkins has not been the subject of the sort of probing criticism that Judith Miller was. "The Lies of the Times" includes no place for criticism of Dexter Filkins.

Why is that?

The reason the community demanded that the focus of The Common Ills be Iraq is because one person can't do everything and C.I. is only one person. The Iraq coverage from The Common Ills didn't pull punches, didn't decide that a woman could be slammed for her bad coverage but we'd look the other way on the fact that she had a male co-writer participating with some of the worst stories. The Times over reliance on the laughable SITE wasn't being noted by countless websites. A few others were addressing it, I'm sure. But C.I. didn't say, "Okay, I don't know anyone criticizing SITE, so I better not touch this." Quite the contrary.

If you'd mentioned SITE to C.I. months before the critiques of it started coming from The Common Ills, you would have gotten a blank stare. C.I. kept seeing it pop up and sent out a call to friends (I got the e-mail but I knew nothing about them) asking about the organization. When C.I. got responses and found out about Rita Katz and her group, C.I. didn't look around to see if Slate (I'll use them because I actually read them regularly) was critiquing it or anyone else. C.I. started posting on it.

But a lot of people seem to be attempting to figure out what the "hot" or "sexy" topic is and we get tons and tons of the same topic (same story) at site after site -- and usually the "hot" or "sexy" topic isn't worth that much coverage.

Or take another example, Chris Hedges. I love Chris Hedges' writing. I think he's been very brave about the Middle East and consistently raised issues that others shied away from. Is there another site (e-mail me if there is) other than The Common Ills that's said Chris Hedges needs to name his second source?

If you're a visitor from outside the community you may not know what I'm talking about. Mother Jones magazine did a story on how Chris Hedges (and others) were tricked by a bad source. Two programs aired on television as a result and Hedges wrote (I believe co-wrote) an article in the Times about alleged training camps, this is right after 9-11, teaching people to hijack airplanes. The story is bogus. Hedges spoke with the author of the Mother Jones article and discussed a source who was a fiction. (Hedges didn't create the source. The source was provided to him and other journalists and the source misrepresented himself in every way.)

It was an important story but it didn't get a great deal of attention. What else didn't get a great deal of attention? The story in the Times co-written by Hedges (the paper hasn't run a correction on it all these years later although PBS has provided a correction to their coverage) mentions two sources -- the one outed by Mother Jones and one that we have no idea the identity of. C.I. said Hedges needed to name the other person. He does need to.

He's named one because he was burned. That story was a fiction. The article the paper ran mentions two sources. Who is the other source?

That's why the community wants the focus on Iraq, that sort of thing. Anyone (anyone who subscribes to the Times or is willing to pay for the archived article) could have gone and read it. No one did. The author of the Mother Jones article was interviewed about his article and no one ever raised the issue, "Now in his Times' article, Hedges wrote of two sources. The Mother Jones article quotes him on only one source. Who is the other source?"

It matters. The issue of the resitance to the war matters as well. But exactly what is happening with Jeremy Hinzman (to name only one)? He's appealing the decision that would result in him returning to the United States. (During Vietnam, Canada took in war resisters or "draft dodgers" and AWOL soldiers. Welcomed them.)

He's vanished from the world for all intents and purposes. He could use some support right now before the verdict on his appeal comes in. Brandon Hughey and Patrick Hart as well, to name only two other names I know of and know of from The Common Ills. Did the story stop mattering or did it just lose its "hotness"?

I think the story still matters. I'm not surprised that the mainstream media has ignored it. I am disappointed that the alternative media has not made a strong effort to get Hinzman's name out there repeatedly before the appeal is decided. Sunny showed me a website that wrote "Finally, the New York Times writes about Ehren Watada." (Can you steal anymore obviously from C.I.'s Sunday entry entitled "NYT: Finally reports on Ehren Watada"?) They ran that Tuesday of this week (Tuesday or Wednesday) (the New York Times story -- "Officer Faces Court-Martial for Refusing to Deply to Iraq" -- ran on Sunday). Sunny searched that site and Ehren Watada had been mentioned only once before (when he first announced his decision). There was nothing in that one entry that said, "The Times isn't covering this." The site wrote about the conference and then, weeks and weeks later, remembered Ehren Watada and wanted to slap down the paper for not covering him.

I think that takes hubris. C.I.'s gone over this day in and day out, made that point repeatedly. While others were obsessed with whatever they were obsessed it, C.I. provided commentary on Watada and noted, repeatedly, that the paper hadn't covered this story. Noted that the only thing at the paper about Watada was from the AP. (As has been disclosed elsewhere, C.I. wrote about the paper's lack of coverage of Watada the Saturday before the story ran -- at the urging of a friend with the New York Times. C.I. had written about at length for several weeks, repeatedly each week -- at least three times the week before the story ran.)

"We Are the New York Times!" lisps one man whose writing probably does reflect that because it's so bad. He's a Miller critic. He not a Michael Gordon critic and he's not a Dexter Filkins critic.

While many worked themselves into a frenzy over Bully Boy's hot air about the New York Times ("We Are the New York Times!" is only one example), C.I. noted, from the start, Bully Boy was attempting to reach out to that base and, unless the paper was charged with criminal activity and the opinion makers stayed silent, the whole thing was really unimportant -- Bully Boy boasts and the Times gets to look brave. There's hot air and there's contributions. C.I. makes contributions, day after day.

An entry may be humorous (Dexy as sob-sister has made me laugh repeatedly) and use the humor to make the point or it may be a straight critique. But it's never as useless as "We Are the Times!" or some similar "hot topic" that, in the end, isn't really about a pressing story.

Iraq is off the radar. (Good or bad reporting, the Times is covering it and I'll give them credit for that. While also agreeing with C.I.'s point that you don't do your "today in Baghdad" briefing in the midst of Saddam Hussein articles -- repeatedly -- and call that coverage. As C.I. pointed out, when there is a mass kidnapping of 17 people, that's a story by itself. That's not to be blended in as a small point in an article about Saddam Hussein's hunger strike or something else.)

The situation in the Middle East outside of Iraq has been covered at The Common Ills. C.I. slides in bits and pieces because the focus (demanded/requested) is Iraq.
The reason for the focus is because so few even cover it. I picked up a magazine this evening (I'm at Mike's and came in to attend the meeting, Wally's visiting as well) as I drove in. (I am addicted to bookstores.) The magazine has one real mention of Iraq in it, it comes in an interview and it's one or two questions. (Though I like the interview subject, I wasn't impressed with the interview. The subject has spoken at length on this and other topics. The interview wasn't a probing one. It struck me as very superficial but I went to the site I think is the most superficial online and, sure enough, there's a link.) That's coverage of Iraq?
I'm not reading People or Newsweek. I bought an independent magazine (one that I often enjoy). The issue went to print before Gaza and Lebanon caught the mainstream attention. So where is Iraq? What's the pressing issue? (There is a really bad book review and that may be someone's idea of discussing Iraq.)

Iraq is on the backburner day after day until something else flares up and then suddenly Iraq vanishes from the coverage. The snapshot was created to counter the waves of Operation Happy Talk. I believe, I may be wrong on this, that the Times had done a story (end of the month wrap up) about how low the American troop fatalities were and C.I. was bothered by that. So this was just a one to two paragraph planned thing, Monday through Friday, to combat that sort of nonsense. (As C.I. and I have both noted, but it's almost the end of the month so it needs to be noted again, the press runs with their "end of the month" stories and never corrects them. What do they need to correct? The fatality figures. The military has a tendancy to add one or two -- or more -- names to the month's list a few days after the new month has begun and the press has already reported X.)

The community responded to that, embraced it. There wasn't time for highlights and for the snapshot. Something had to give. C.I. put it to the membership and they went with the snapshot. (Highlights take far less time to do, it should be noted. Tracking down news of war and peace on Iraq can take several hours. With highlights of op-eds, Jess and Ava could work the e-mails and present C.I. with a list of ten to twenty of the suggested highlights they felt were the strongest and C.I. could pick three or four from that list.) The snapshot is time consuming. The coverage of the inquiry into the death of Jake Kovco today bothered C.I. and, when we were on the phone while I was having lunch, I was warned that if another call came through, it was being taken. C.I. was calling journalists in Australia to confirm something ("walk me through" was probably how C.I. put it) before the snapshot went up. (Testimony was delivered that Kovco was reprimanded for 'playing' with his gun. Twice. The testimony was from someone who had direct knowledge of only one incident. Therefore the second incident he was speaking of was "hearsay." But the Australian press was running with that testimony. C.I. didn't think that was appropriate and was also questioning what else was stated. You'll find a link to what few wanted to cover -- refuting that testimony -- in their press coverage and that resulted from the phone calls/"walk me through"s.)

Sunny has pointed out that the Jake Kovco story is one that most Americans don't know. He died in Baghdad on April 21st. His body was supposed to be shipped back to Australia but what arrived was someone else. Their equivalent of Donald Rumsfeld took to the airwaves with theories and speculation (while the family was mourning and before the body had arrived home). Kovco died with two roommates present. Both roommates have offered confliciting testimony. When the investigation started, the investigators were surprised to discover that the crime scene had been cleaned, that Kovco's clothes had been discarded. The pistol (Kovco's) thought to have been used had DNA on it -- some of which is Kovco's, some of which isn't. The mother (Judy Kovco) has walked out on the inquiry at least once and the widow (Shelley Kovco) has left at least once. (Judy Kovco has publically referred to the "Keystone cops.") But this isn't a story to be covered in the United States?

Jake Kovco may have shot himself and he may have shot himself accidentally or intentionally. But there are a number of questions that need to be addressed (including conflicting testimony, the crime scene clean up, etc.). The same media that turned a Michael Jackson case into a circus (a front page one in the New York Times) does not see this as worthy of coverage?

When Americans were held hostage in Iraq, Ted Koppel turned Nightline into "America Held Hostage." When the United States started an illegal war, he covered it (badly) but he didn't make it "Day 151: Iraq War." He moved on to other topics, returning to Iraq every now and then. (Surprising since anytime I've seen his not-so-frequent Times column, he's writing about Iraq.) The administration started an illegal war. The conflict continues. Nightline's not dedicated itself to it, but who has? Listen to public radio and you can find worthy shows on any number of worthy topics. But where is the daily (or even weekly) program focusing on Iraq?

Independent media as a whole isn't doing its job. The United States wages an illegal war and it's treated, as Mike so rightly noted, as an after thought. Radio programs seem to think that a headline here with an occassional report covers it. It doesn't. As C.I. has pointed out, there are many stories to be told. Stories on the peace movement in this country, stories of Iraqis, stories of the funding, stories of . . . It's a long list. It's not surprising that corporate media would take a pass (Nightline seemed to see its mission best as daily tracking Democratic presidents. When Republicans waged war or anything else, it was less likely to be a continued focus.)

Supposedly, there's a consensus among independent media that the war is illegal and needs to stop. I wonder how that happens when the war's not on a back burner let alone a front one? One of the few nice e-mails this week (from visitors) asked me why I note the snapshot each entry? He said it was at The Common Ills and wondered why it was here in full as opposed to just a link?

I don't have the time to do a snapshot. I do appreciate the time C.I.'s putting into those. I also know the topic is important. I'd love to tell you that it just occurred to me one day that since the topic was one dropped from day to day and knowing the work C.I. put into those, I decided, "I'm going to print it in full." That's not what happened. A number of us participated in a roundup for the gina & krista round-robin (Keesha, Brent, Carl, KeShawn, West, Mona, Brandon, Mike, Rebecca and myself with Gina and Krista moderating). Carl brought up the issue of snapshot and noted how much information it was delivering each day. He felt that those of us with regular blogs (Betty and Wally do humor sites, he rightly made a point to exclude their sites due to the focus they have for them) shouldn't ever do a post on a day with the snapshot and not include it. His point was that, yes, the snapshot was available at The Common Ills but a link wasn't noting what was going on. He, rightly, challenged us to either do our own or note it in full each day. Now anyone with a site could reject that. But those of us present agreed that were in error for not including it each day. Even if someone's already read it at The Common Ills, it's a reminder that Iraq isn't "liberated" and the troops are not home. We took the issue to others. Everyone agreed. The Third Estate Sunday Review tries to note it but it's not always easy to get a full edition up in a marathon session. Otherwise, it's noted everywhere except the humor sites. (And that's noted, the round-robin roundtable, with the permission of Gina and Krista as well as everyone participating in the roundtable, just FYI.)

So that's why we include it in full. C.I. started The Common Ills with very strong, very clear opinions of the war. Members count on that. They do care about other issues (and C.I. would probably love to go a day without Iraq -- the snapshot is becoming a nightmare as calls are made day after day to ask, "What am I missing here? This isn't playing out for me.") but at a time when the death toll for all in Iraq continues to rise, when the troops aren't home, when there is no end in sight, there needs to be coverage and, quite frankly, there isn't.

I am not slamming Dave Zirin here. I enjoyed his book and think he's a wonderful voice. He covers sports and if it wasn't for his writing, I wouldn't be following any sports coverage. The World Cup became a story for the left. Maybe it should have been? Maybe it shouldn't have been? But it did become a story for the left with a number of people (who don't usually make sports their beat) rushing to cover it. That's all well and good if they're covering Iraq seriously. If you've taken care of that, each issue or each program, sure, bring in World Cup if you want. But the truth is, most weren't covering it.

I'm thinking of one program in particular (members will know the one I mean) that decided this was an issue. This same program didn't have time to note that the US military was keeping track of the dead in Iraq, a bodycount of Iraqis. That's not covering your bases. A bodycount, despite denails, was news. If you're not covering that and you're covering the World Cup, you're not that different from Dateline or any other useless lifestyle "news" magazine. Nancy A. Youssef breaks a story and the response is silence (with the exceptions of Aaron Glantz and IPS). If the indepenent media can't find the time to cover that, they've got no excuse for their nonsense about what was said on broadcast and cable television, about what sporting event is going on, etc.

That Iraq has to fight for coverage in the mainstream media isn't a surprise. That our independent media chooses to make it compete with 'soft' features is shocking. It's three years after the illegal invasion. I've yet to see an alternative magazine offer up a weekly or biweekly or monthly peace colummist (who writes about the peace movement as opposed to attempting to cover the 'moods' of the world). It's three years later and I've yet to see an "Iraq Watch" weekly, biweekly or monthly column. It's three years after the war and to judge by the so-called criticism, Judith Miller left the Times and the Iraq coverage became excellent. It's three years later and there's not one public broadcasting program that's focus is Iraq. Why do we need the snapshot? That's why.

Those wondering why the war drags on? Look to what's offered three years later and what isn't offered. If the war matters, if gathering in DC matters, if not voting for candidates who support the war matters, if the bodycounts matter, if any of this matters at all, where is the coverage?

It's splattered here and there. It's an after thought picked up when things are calm elsewhere or there's not a 'hot' or 'sexy' story. If the independent media wants to end this war, they're going to need to step up the coverage of it. They're going to need to quit playing around and start addressing realities. When C.I. noted that there wasn't a public radio program that was reporting only on Iraq, Jess read an e-mail to the public account that wondered why that was needed?

The person felt that the war could be covered with everything else. "Like gumbo" he wrote. (I think he was thinking of another dish.) He also felt that even a half-hour weekly program wouldn't have "enough to cover."

When it's covered with everything else and it has to fight with everything else, it loses. If you haven't noticed that, you've not paid attention to the coverage. As for not being enough to fill a half-hour, there's enough on Iraq to fill a daily hour long program and still not cover everything. There are demonstrations, there are fasts (and note how little coverage that's gotten, the mainstream's actually beginning to cover that more and the independent print media still hasn't shown interest), there are people returning, there are the headlines, there can be discussion, there can be press criticism. There are any number of things that could be offered. That C.I.'s the one raising the issue and not someone in public radio is rather sad.

I stopped buying one magazine (the community will know which one) because it does see itself, now, as a lifestyle magazine for the left. That's not surprising since they brought on board a writer who famously spent the post-2004 election period arguing that the US needed to stay in Iraq. (The writer would split hairs over that interpretation. Tom Hayden rightly critiqued that writer's half-assed opinion.)

If you think the horse-race coverage of elections comes solely from the mainstream media, you obviously haven't been paying attention to your print magazines. (Or noted that one woman needs to stop identifying with the beltway -- that might explain her bad writing in a current edition -- unless she's willing to leave independent media.) But as November gets closer and closer, watch for Iraq to become more and more of an after thought as we're all supposed to get caught up in the election.

Week after week, there's some issue we're supposed to be caught up in. Hurricane Katrina was a worthy one, for example. (I would argue the effects of the hurricane that then hit Florida were also worthy but the press, mainstream and independent, wasn't concerned about that -- some Floridians without power for over a month and it wasn't "news.") But week after week, month after month, there's always something that needs to be covered right now (somethings really don't) and, as a result, a three-year-old illegal war drags on.

I keep thinking of Danny Schechter's attempts to do a protest against the media in March of this year as a result of their Iraq coverage and remember how little attention that received. I didn't expect the mainstream media to provide me with coverage. I did assume that the independent media would. He organized the protest with very little help. That's not because he was shy. He would have gone on any show, sat down for any interview, to get the word out on that. Few were interested. Was that the weeks we were supposed to be getting on board for a Marine invasion of Darfur? I forget now but it was some appalling (for the left) cry that was going out that just had to be covered.

Danny Schechter did his protest and a number of people showed up. Not as many as should have shown up (because most didn't know about it) and not as many as he would have enjoyed. But some people did focus on Iraq. Others were busy organizing and reporting on the "Bring the Troops Home and Send Them To Darfur" religious movement.

I think about that now and it upsets me so much. C.I. did note the protest at The Common Ills. C.I. apologized (at The Common Ills) after for not working it more. At the time, I didn't think that was needed and wrote it off as a C.I. thing. (C.I. knows Schechter.) C.I. was already focused on another demonstration and covering a number of other issues. (That's just online activities.) If you'd asked me, I would have said, "Yes, that deserved a lot more coverage -- or any -- in the lead up." But I was under the impression, then, that the independent media was breaking their backs to cover Iraq. (By the way, if you're someone who did cover Danny Schechter's protest, before or after, consider yourselves patted on the back. There were very few of you who made the effort despite the importance of the event. And I'm speaking of the traditional outlets, not blogs.)

That's not the case. To use another example, let's talk about Ehren Watada. Protests were scheduled earlier in June. There was no build up to that from the independent media and there was no real coverage of it either. (Truthout was an exception and I'll add them to my blogroll.) Watada was worthy of coverage when the story of his refusal to deploy to Iraq broke. Then it was silence. (The same with Suzanne Swift. As Mike has pointed out, a promised, recorded interview with Swift's grandfather never aired despite on air claims that it was coming later in the week . . . several weeks ago.) Then he was charged and suddenly the independent media wanted to cover it. It was really weird to get two tiny segments on that, in an hour long show, that both included, "We only have X seconds" and "We only have a minute." Why did we only have that short amount of time?

Because Iraq was an after thought. An hour long show that 'only has a few seconds or a minute' has treated Iraq as an after thought.

The same week, supposedly we were going to learn about the fasters to bring the troops home. But that was another final segment where there wasn't time to address that. The guest was fasting, had been arrested and I forget what else. All of which was crammed into a tiny segment.

It's not just that these weren't the lead segments, it's that when the time rolled around for them, there wasn't time for them. That's treating war as an after thought.

Watching Watada be dropped like a hot potato and then suddenly be a pressing issue after he was charged made me think of Danny Schechter's protest. It went on despite the lack of coverage. But it's true that he got burned and that everyone who attempts to organize right now is getting burned. They're shoved to the side and it's often for "lifestyle" features. That's not cutting it. It's three years later and that's not cutting it.

More recently, repeated time on air and in print has been made to tell us how outraged we should be over the election in Mexico. (**Listen to Matthew Rothschild's Progressive Radio where Elizabeth DiNovella is the guest for Rothschild's interview.**) Not to inform us, not to tell us, but to outrage us. Independent media, in all its forms, has not kept their eye on the ball. They've avoided seriously addressing Iraq.

Some rest on past coverage. Some don't even have that. There are protests coming up, not the ones for individuals (those won't be covered) but the big ones in September.

[**Radio link added. Dona pointed out to me I'd forgotten to add it. I'll include it in Monday's post in case anyone's already read this. I was about to fall over this morning when Wally came in and told Mike and I what time it was so I rushed to get this posted and missed adding some links -- I'm sure there's another one missing in this post.]

Before those come up, independent media should take a strong look at what it's providing. They should be covering the protests before they happen. If they can spend all that time attempting to build interest in a foreign election, they can surely spare the time attempting to build interest in domestic protest of an illegal war launched by the US.

I'm providing the snapshot and ending here. I'll address a book review on Monday and I've written four paragraphs on that which I'll save for Monday. If you feel left hanging, I'm sorry. Wally just walked into the room and mentioned the time to Mike and I. He's already posted and it's very late. I had no idea how late. I've been off in my own world on the laptop.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue. And, as
Peter Spiegel and Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) observe: "Bush's decision to increase the number of U.S. troops in violence-racked Baghdad has forced commanders to extend the tours of 3,500 soldiers and appears to eliminate prospects for significant withdrawals of American forces this year."
And as the US administration prepares to extend the tours of duty of 3,5000 soldiers (who were due to leave Iraq),
Hassan Abdul Zahra (AFP) reports that Abdel Azia Hakim (Shi'ite leader; head of Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) declared in a speech today that the security of Iraq should be left to Iraqis. Zahra also quotes Mahmud Mahdi al-Sumaidaie (iman and Sunni Muslim Scholars Association member) saying: "The US occupiers are responsible for what is going on with the violence and destruction -- they are the ones controlling the security file." This as John Tully (Colonel, commander of the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade) informs reporters that in the Shi'ite section "south of Baghdad" attacks on US troops have incresed "by about 25 percent".
In another sign of how bad things are on the ground in Iraq, new "security" measures are being taken by individuals. At the start of this month,
Terry McCarthy (ABC -- America) reported on how fake identification sells for the US equivalent of ten and fifteen dollars and many Iraqis are puchasing them to reduce risk to their lives at checkpoints and noted: "Now many Iraqis carry two IDs in their pockets and will produce one or the other, depending on who is asking for it." Now Antonio Castaneda (AP) reports a swap greater than IDs: "Fearing sectarian death squads, Iraqis are trading homes with trusted friends from the other sect, surrounding themselves with those who share their faith but creating segregated neighborhoods increasingly wary of one other." Castaneda is reporting from Nasser Wa Salaam but notes the problem is not confined to that one location.
AFP reports the bombing of a Shia shrine "to Imam Askar between the towns of Balad Ruz and Mandalay". This as Reuters notes four are dead in Baghdad from a mortar attack on a Sunni mosque while a roadside bom wounded two police officers in Baquba. AP notes that the Sunni mosque bombing in Baghdad has left nine wounded.
KUNA reports: "Iraqi police source added an improvised bomb exploded in one of the patrolling police vehicles on the main street of Kirkuk, while a similar attack targeted Multi-National Force (MNF) vehicle on the way to Kirkuk."
If the police source is correct, that's a new development -- bombs planted in cars of unsuspecting drivers.
In Kirkuk,
KUNA reports the shooting death of an Iraqi soldier. In addition to that shooting, AFP also notes the Kirkuk shooting deaths ofa police officer "and a bystander"; two shot dead in Tikrit; and "a train station official" shot in Baiji.
In addition,
KUNA notes that "a security personnel from the Al-Qadisya area close to Kirkuk power statiion" was kidnapped.
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco in Baghdad continues.
Australia's ABC reports that "a Lance Corporal" has informed the inquriy that Kovco was "reprimanded twice for misuing his pistol during his deployment in Iraq." Whether or not the witness can affirm to two times should be in doubt because the second incident finds the "Lance Corporal" saying he's 'aware' of it as opposed to knowing it or witnessing. At any rate, the "Lance Corporal" has offered that Jake Kovco was reprimanded for "pointing his pistol at the torso of another soldier" which would probably be pertinent if Jake Kovco were accues of killing one of his roommates. As "Lance Corporal" (or "Soldier Four") makes the news with his statements, Tracy Ong ( covers what everyone else seems to have missed: "But other statements tendered yesterday were at odds with Soldier 4's recollection, many saying they had never seen Kovco playing 'quick draw' -- pulling a pistol out of its holster as quickly as possible -- or mishandling his weapons. One corporal from 3RAR said he had never had to 'pull Private Kovco up on his weapon handling'."
On April 29th,
Damien Murphy, Phillip Coorey, Ed O'Loughlin, Tom Allard and Cynthia Banaham (Sydney Morning Herald) reported: "Private Jacob Kovco grew up with guns. They were part of everyday life in his small home town of Briagolong in the Victorian high country. Come April each year, the four-wheel-drive vehicles from Melbourne would roar through the hamlet late on a Friday night on their way to bush camps in the nearby foothills for the start of the deer hunting season."
In peace news,
Honolulu's KITV reports that a demonstration of support was held last night at Kalani High School for Ehren Watada -- the first commissioned military officer known to refuse deployment to Iraq. Showing their support for Watada (who faces an Article 32 hearing August 17th to determine whether or not a court martial is in order) were the Japanese American Citizen's League of Hawaii, the American Friends Service Committee "and others at the Nagasaki Peace Bell near City Hall" -- including: "Hawaii People's Fund, Code Pink Hawaii, Progressive Democrats of Hawaii, Veterans for Peace, World Can't Wait and Not in Our Name." Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that "Watada has again offer to resign his commisson from the Army and is willing to accept any type of administrative punishment in place of court martial" including "a reprimand, fine and reduction in rank". Watada's attorney, Eric Seitz, tells Kakesako that this is the third time the offer has been made (it was refused twice prior). Courage to Resist and are calling for a "National Day of Education" August 16th, the day before Ehren Watada is due to "face a pre-trial hearing for refusing to deploy to Iraq." ThankYouLt.Org notes: "On August 16, the day prior to the hearing, The Friends and Family of Lt. Ehren Watada are calling for a 'National Day of Education' to pose the question, 'Is the war illegal?' This day can also serve to anchor a 'week of outreach' leading up to the pre-trial hearing."
In The Fifth Book of Peace, Maxine Hong Kingston writes: "During war, mothers dream this dream: she -- mother -- is winged, and flies, swooping down upon the son, the brother, soldier, criminal in danger, and picks him up by the straps of his overalls or by his belt, or catches him up in her arms, and flies him high and away. Unable to fly, she would go to the war in her son's place. She would go ahead of him, walk point herself."
With news of the September events in DC,
David Swanson (American Chronicle) reports that Camp Democracy sets up September 5th with many activities and, among many worthy goals, the intent to build "toward the International Day of Peace on September 21". Swanson notes that Cindy Sheehan "will come to Camp Democracy following Camp Casey (Aug. 16 - Sept. 2 in Crawford Texas)".
Sheehan is currently participating in
CODEPINK's Troops Home Fast. It is day 25 of the Troops Home Fast action with over 4,350 people fasting to the end the war all over the world. The AP reports that Diane Wilson has thus far lost "20 pounds from her 170-pound frame" while taking part in the fast. Of fasting, Wilson states: "Ghandi always called it 'soul power' because it's got a real spiritual component to it."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

From the Mixed-up Mind of Eric Alterman

It's been an interesting week e-mail wise as various visitors rushed to spew (mainly for my comments regarding the continued armed aggression by the Israeli government). I even heard from two "names." They aren't names in my book. But surely they are names in their own mind. One's written several times with profanity filled e-mails -- apparently he knows just what wins a gal over. Another has only written once. Which will I address tonight?

Wed, 26 Jul 2006 17:45:44 EDT
whoever wrote
about Eric Alterman and Susan Sontag, is, to be blunt, full of shit.
I defended Susan up and down. I personally got the Economist to retract and apologize for their obituary in which they said she had said we got what we deserve.
Do you check anything at all you write?
I was friends with her, for god's sake.
Shame on you
Eric Alterman

What a sweet talker. We'll assume the e-mail is genuine because who, in their right mind, would pretend to be Eric Alterman?

After I was done wiping the spit off my face (lisping can be cured, Alterman), I did what I didn't want to do -- bothered friends. C.I.'s busy enough, we're all exhausted from Mexico, it's Thursday night and that means "And the war drags on," and C.I.'s been fasting since July 4th. Rebecca's on her honeymoon and the last thing she needs is me butting in. But going through the "sweet" e-mails (did AIPAC put out an alert on me) from the "tough" talking boys, although I avoided calling, I did, as I have so many times over the years, need my two best friends.

C.I. heard about it from Mike and the next thing I knew, I was walking in the front door to a ringing phone. I thank both C.I. and Rebecca for making the time.

That's friendship. That's real friendship. Eric Alterman, sadly, apparently, never had any friends. If he talks like he writes, the reason for that might be rather obvious. (Though, it is also true people might not have wanted to be near him due to the spray factor when he speaks.)

Eric Alterman, full of spit and wanting to spew.

Does Eric Alterman check anything before he writes?

That's our question for tonight.

Here's what I wrote Monday in "Sent By Earth (Alice Walker) and thoughts on the media 'coverage':"

Susan Sontag was strung in the market of public ideas by many. (I will never respect or read Eric Alterman because he joined in the Sontag bashing. Sontag's points were on the money. Alterman demonstrated he was a coward and that he would burn anyone to make sure he was "okay." He's a sell out and a creep, in my opinion, for many reasons, but the Sontag trashing is the most extreme example. When the left could defend their own, many chose to go along with the right and that -- not any election -- caused the silencing of dissent and the refusal to question the Bully Boy for so long. More than what happened on Politically Incorrect or the Dixie Chicks later, that trashing demonstrated that the bullies were out in full force and that they included the left.)

Eric Alterman e-mails:

I defended Susan up and down.

He then goes on to toot his own horn. But did he defend "Susan up and down"?

Maybe he doesn't have a good memory? Maybe his writing bores him as much as it does so many others? Regardless, in his own book, What Liberal Media (one he might consider checking facts for), he writes this sentence (page 201):

While Susan Sontag wrote a short essay in the New Yorker that many people, including myself, found objectionable for its insensitivity to the victims of the attack, she never said she opposed the war.

He found her essay "objectionable." Lord Alterman hath spoken. Hath.

Now he can lisp all the curse words he wants to at me but that doesn't change the fact that the essay that led to the Dixie Chicking of Sontag was, in fact and in print, deemed "objectionable" by Little Lord Alterman.

What a friend doth one have in Lord Alterman.

Again, if his writing reflects how he is, it wouldn't be surprising to learn that's he's struggled with the concept of friendship.

Susan Sontag wrote three paragraphs (strong ones) for The New Yorker. You can read it by clicking here.

He feels Sontag's essay was "objectionable." He's willing to participate in the feeding/dog pile because, where there is hot air, there is Eric Alterman. I found nothing objectionable in the essay. Had I written it and been attacked for it, I would consider it a real blow for a so-called 'friend' to have 'defended me up and down' by deeming it "objectionable" in print. (With friends like Alterman, who needs a lynch mob?)

Possibly he saw it as a "shout out"? Goodness knows, he doesn't mention many women in his book. He lets the false charges that Ann Coulter made against Gloria Steinem stand. Possibly he felt Coulter made these false charges "fairly"? Or maybe it's simply the case, as so much of his writing appears to demonstrate, that Lord Alterman isn't overly fond of women's accomplishments?

For those coming in late (possibly even Alterman -- he may forget a great deal or, possibly, he just pretends to), Sontag was trashed for writing those three paragraphs. The right wing attacked relentlessly. Thank goodness, I'm sure, that Sontag 'friend' Eric Alterman was there to weigh in that the essay was "objectionable."

It's a funny sort of friendship. Possibly Dionne, Elton, Gladys and Stevie can record "That's What Backstabbers Are For" in his honor?

While we wait to see if that happens, before the pampered priss writes another word (smut or psudeo-academic), he should issue a retraction for page 161 of his hideous book. That's where, writing of Al Gore, he notes:

They mocked him, fairly, I suppose, for taking advice from the high-priced feminist writer/consultant Naomi Wolf about his earth-tone wardrobe.

That is incorrect.

It was incorrect when he wrote it. It's incorrect now. It was incorrect in hardcover, it's incorrect in softcover and, no doubt, incorrect in the many landfills the book has found a home in.

If he's unclear of how wrong/false that statement is, he can do a search on "earth tones" or "Naomi Wolf" at The Daily Howler. Bob Somerby, who corrects everyone who repeats that lie, elected to play duck and cover when Alterman repeated it. But it's wrong. Alterman is wrong. Alterman, who wants to lecture me about 'friendship,' has a lie in print. Not a typo. Not a matter of opinion. A lie.

Now Bob Somerby's not the only one who has pointed out that Wolf was not advising Gore on his "wardrobe" ; however, Lord Alterman repeatedly cites The Daily Howler in his own howlingly hideous book. (The three paragraphs preceding the falsehood about Wolf each mention Somerby -- presumably, Alterman is familiar with Bob Somerby's work.) Was it just too good a sexist jab for Alterman to resist including? The way, years ago, some tried to ridicule and devalue Gloria Steinem by falsely 'reporting' that she helped George McGovern with his fashion choices?

Alterman, whom I have never -- thankfully -- met, thinks his above e-mail is the approriate way to initiate contact with a stranger. Again, he may not have had many friends growing up. Or now. Most people don't care for a weak, little, arrogant fop who spits out smut or gets his facts wrong.

He recently, and laughably, wrote "We Are The New York Times!" "We"? Maybe the position of the paper was better reflected by Gerald Boyd's dismissal and derision of Alterman's effete whine for the West Side liberals?

I avoid Alterman's writing. Glad to know he reads me -- maybe he'll learn something. Here's one hint to aid him: To have a friend, you have to be a friend.

Will he issue a correction to the falsehood that's stood in print for three years? Will he publicly apologize to Naomi Wolf?

Probably not. Instead he'll just continue to waste his time with silly little e-mails that make him appear the Junior Priss of the "Left"? What we can count on is that he will continue to provide hoots and laughter. My guess is he's probably been doing that all of his life.

In the end, Alterman's upset and isn't that what really matters?

Possibly his professional writing is so poor because he's too busy selecting profanties for his e-mails? (For a supposed writer, he appears to have a very small word pool to dip into.)

Unlike C.I., I don't have a policy on e-mails. If someone wants to say something, they can do so publicly.

The Cindy Brady of the faux left learned a swear word and wanted to share it with me. I found it so hilarious I had to share it with my readers.

Rebecca's covered him many times but the one I enjoyed the most was "eric alterman is disgusting - who will save women from him?" and I'd also recommend The Third Estate Sunday Review's ""When Poodles Snarl." Lord Alterman's big on slamming people for disclosures (not for failure to disclose but, as others have pointed out, for disclosing) so let me note that I helped with the writing of the latter piece.

Alterman's writing? The headline of his recent "We Are The New York Times!" says it all. In his mind, he's identifying up. Or possibly it's just a sign of that sad trait -- curse of the unpopular? -- which Alexander Cockburn has written of: Alterman loves to suck up.

Regardless, he has once again provided hours of laughter. Thank goodness, he's so willing to play the fool -- again and again -- because the world can use more laughter.

Thank you to C.I. and Rebecca who helped with this entry in every way possible. Somewhere around the 50th e-mail today (really, did AIPAC put out an alert on me?), I lost my sense of humor. Rebecca was there tonight to point out how nice it is that two professional writers (or "writers") read me. Especially since I don't read them. (I stopped reading Alterman long ago.) As C.I.'s said before, "It's always nice to be read."

But, considering the way Lord Alterman embarrassed himself on air with Janeane Garofalo, a frightening thought formed in my mind: Did he consider his e-mail a form of courtship?

If that is in any way possible, let me explain to him that the high school homecoming queen doesn't generally date the eighth grader -- the dirty fingernailed, acne-ridden, chin-challenged, potty mouthed, whining weakling -- with stains on his clothes and a bad odor about him. For similar reasons, I find Lord Alterman repulsive as a man, laughable as a thinker, and pretty much disgusting on every level.

I really have no time for little boys trying to even their personal scores (though it was amusing to watch him and Joe Klein hiss at one another). I also have no use for his published writing which tends to skim the topics FAIR and Media Matters covered weeks prior in far greater depth.

But, in the end, the main reason I have no time for him is that I have a life.

That may not be the case for Eric Alterman.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Music, Middle East and More

Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts but if he encourages you to listen to Justin Timberlake's "Sexy Back," don't. That song is so awful. He played it for me over the phone and I was afraid to speak after. I thought, "Oh Lord, he must like this hideous song." He asked me what I thought and I said, "She singing's flat." He started laughing. I said, "I'm sorry, I really didn't like the song." Then he told me what he thought of the song and that he'd been playing it for everyone to make them laugh. If he had told me, before he played it, "This song is ridiculous" . . . Well, I would've been laughing. But the whole time that awful song was playing, I was too busy thinking, "He likes this. How am I going to avoid hurting his feelings?" It's an awful song that rips off everything (including Janet Jackson -- especially "Throb") and never amounts to anything. But on top of all the stolen beats, lyrics and "To the bridge, ya'll" moments is the worst vocal. If this is what he thinks sexy is, avoid him in bed. Truly. There is no rise, there is no fall. Just this steady monotone chant. I've never heard a more repressed vocal.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue and the Puppet finds how hard the strings can be yanked.
Reuters reports that Hoshiyar Zebari (Iraq's foreign minister) stated that Iraq will condemn Hizbollah just in time to allow Puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki to address the US Congress. Reuters also provides the Puppet's Lament -- noteworthy only due to the laugh factor: "Let us not allow what happened in 1991 to repeat itself, because if it does history will not be merciful to any of us."
"Us"? Pretty strong words for someone who bailed on his own country and wasn't, in fact, in Iraq in 1991. If a struggle wasn't finished in Iraq in 1991 (George H. W. Bush did not march to Baghdad, etc.) maybe the last person to be criticizing should be an Iraqi who was hiding outside of the country? Maybe if it meant so much to him, he should have gone to his country and not expected another country to do the work he was too scared/chicken to do?
If that seems especially harsh, it needs to be noted these thoughts aren't uncommon in Iraq. As the illegal occupation picks one exile after another to be puppet, Iraqis are offended (rightly). If al-Maliki thinks things were left unfinished in 1991, why's he blaming George H. W. Bush -- where was al-Maliki in 1991? Not in Iraq -- he only returned after the US invaded in 2003. He's a funny kind of 'brave,' a funny kind of 'leader,' shouting: "Stand with me! After others clear the way for me!"
There's a reason that various people have loyal followings in Iraq -- they were there before the invasion. They are a part of the country's history. These exiles returning and being appointed to positions of authority do not represent the average Iraqi and that's yet another factor in the hostility towards the puppet government.
al-Maliki was missing his cod-piece but, in front of the US Congress, he demonstrated he could strut and bluster as well as the Bully Boy. How bad was it? So bad Tony Snow has had to declare that "
the president is not a puppeteer in this case." Only in this case?
While that nonsense went on, in the real world, the chaos and the violence continued.
Associated Press notes the death of police officers (also brothers) in Baghdad from a roadside bomb. The AFP identifies one as "Lieutenant Colonerl Khadum Bressam" and notes the death of "one civilian" from a roadside bomb in Baghdad as well as a roadside bomb in Kirkuk that killed one person and left four wounded.
Reuters reports that three police officers were killed in Nahrwan and four others wounded; a wedding was the location for an attack where "Gunmen on a motorcycle sprayed three men with bullets"; and, in Baquba, an attack on a police patrol left with civilian dead, one police officer dead and one police officer wounded. AFP covers the patrol attack in Baquba and also notes that a family that had "gathered their possisions and prepared to flee" were attacked by "gunmen" leaving one family member dead and two others wounded.
AFP reports five corpses were discovered in Baghdad ("tortured and shot").
Also in Baghdad,
Reuters is reporting that seventeen people were kidnapped from an apartment complex in Baghdad ("10 men, five women and two children from different families"). The mass kidnapping comes on a day when "police brigadier Abdulla Hmood, the director of the residency office in Baghdad" was also kidnapped.
Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) continues to speak with actual Iraqis. Is it a civil war? The conclusion of the people Cockburn speaks with is that it a civil war with one telling him, "When our so-called leaders go to Washington they always produce a rosy picture of what is happening in Iraq for the Americans, though they know it is a lie."
In England, the
BBC reports that the families of four soldiers who died in Iraq have won their right to a judicial review. The AFP reports that Britain's Court of Appeal means the defendants "have won a key legal battle in their bid to force a full public inquiry into the legality of Britain's decision to go to war." The BBC notes the families' attorney, Phil Shiner, explaining: "The government now have to produce evidence to a full hearing in the Court of Appeal. That evidence needs to establish once and for all whether the decision to invade [Iraq] was lawful." 114 UK troops have died in Iraq. Also today in England, the AFP reports, Tony Blair was delivering a health care speech when he was interupted by a war protestor who wrote across his chest and back: "Impeach Tony Blair."
In the United States,
a new Associated Press-Ipsos poll reports that, among Democrats, 31 percent i.d. the war "as the top problem for the country while 14 percent listed the economy". For all respondents, regardless of party i.d., the AP reports: "The problem mentioned most often by all adults polled was the war -- in Iraq and conflicts in general -- 22 percent." (500 participants, plus/minus 4.5 error of margin.) Breakdown of the data here.
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco in Baghdad continues.
Ben Doherty (The Age) reports that "Professor Alexander McFarlane, head of psychiatry at Adelaide University" that "[t]he probability that Private Kovco intentionally committed suicide is very low." Speaking with Eleanor Hall on The World Today (Australia's ABC), Conor Duffy reported: "Eleanor, this psychiatrist, his name is Professor Sandy McFarlane, and he specialises in trauma and the state of mind of troops in war zones. One of the first things he said was to rule out suicide as a possibility. He said that Private Kovco was actively planning for the future in his diary, and there were also two occasions in his diary when he'd mused about suicide. The first one was about a month before his death, when he had a dream where he'd shot himself, and he said he ruled out suicide after that and he didn't like the idea of suicide at all. The other time was after a suicide bomber had attacked some building in the green zone, and he was trying to empathise with the suicide bomber and trying to imagine how he could have done this, and he said that he couldn't at all. And I quote directly from what he said, from what Private Kovco wrote, he said: 'They have a f .. ked up state of mind, the sooner they are exterminated the better'. And he couldn't understand those suicidal actions at all."
Malcolm Brown (Sydney Morning Herald) reports that McFarlane stated: "In his diary his sense of vigilance had changed when he returned to picket duties at the Australian embassy. He perceived that this was an environment with a significantly lower level of threat. Private Kovco was in a somewhat playful state of mind."
Doherty reports that Jake Kovco's former roommates ("Soldiers 17 and 19") are returning to Australia "to give evidence in the inquiry next week" and that "another of Private Kovco's comrades, known as Soldier 14, who was on duty with Private Kovco on the day he died" to testify to the inquiry in person in Australia. On that development, Conor Duffy reports that the former roomates "will arrive in Sydney on Friday . . . [where] [t]hey're expected to undergo tests to determine if they are the source of the mystery DNA on Private Kovco's pistol."
In peace news,
Cynthia Oi (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) addresses the topic of war resister Ehren Watada, noting: "Lt. Watada became the object of our discontent, the body mass on which to dump the toxic products of unease generated by the relentlessly horrible war." Courage to Resist and are calling for a "National Day of Education" August 16th, the day before Ehren Watada is due to "face a pre-trial hearing for refusing to deploy to Iraq." ThankYouLt.Org notes: "On August 16, the day prior to the hearing, The Friends and Family of Lt. Ehren Watada are calling for a 'National Day of Education' to pose the question, 'Is the war illegal?' This day can also serve to anchor a 'week of outreach' leading up to the pre-trial hearing."
It is
day 23 of the Troops Home Fast with at least 4,350 people taking part from around the world. The strike is ongoing and people can grab a one-day fast or grab a multiple-day fast while. More information can be found at CODEPINK.

Why was al-Maliki delivering such a misguided speech to the Congress? Maybe he thought he, too, was bringing sexy back? C.I. makes a great point and makes it with humor: Why is al-Maliki running the country? The War Hawks argue that to leave would be to "cut and run" but what is al-Maliki but a story of cutting and running? Things got difficult, he fled the country. He didn't return until the US invaded. [Also check out C.I.'s ""NYT: The big meetup goes bust (Jim Rutenberg reports)."]

On the lastest regarding Jake Kovco, I used the links and was struck by how the press played it (with the exception of the woman who hosts The World Today) as though Kovco fired the gun that killed him. With the presence of additional DNA on the gun and the fact that the two roommates' stories do not match up, I would argue that nothing's yet to be solved. Did he fire the gun (accidentally or on purpose)? I have no idea. But I know that last week Shelley and Judy Kovco were both upset that a witness testified with what they saw as a conclusion (one he wasn't qualified to make). I think the inquiry needs to get it together and the press needs to be less quick to say, "This happened." The rommates are finally going to be compelled to testify. Until they do, I think there needs to be less efforts to say, "This happened." His clothes, Jake Kovco's clothes, were disposed of, the scene was cleaned -- all before the investigation started.

There may be a simple explanation for why someone cleaned up the crime scene and disposed of evidence (the clothes would be evidence). But until they testify at the inquiry, I think the idea that ___ happened goes far from reporting and more towards opinion. I understand to a degree that it is tempting to go with it. Kovco's widow and family do not think he committed suicide. When the most recent expert testifies that he wasn't in a depressed state, that is news. But to me, it's not: "Kovco fired gun by accident." To me, we don't know that he fired the gun.

With all the family has been put through (and the country of Australia) on this, I can understand the urge to trumpet that a witness says he wasn't in a depressed state. But I keep coming back to the fact that he was cleaned up, his clothes were disposed of, the crime scene was cleaned up and the two men in the room at the time of the shooting have conflicting stories.

There may be a reason for that. It may be a very innocent explanation. Were I serving a jury where I heard a case involving a man killed and found out the roommates (or someone) cleaned up the crime scene and that someone else's DNA was on Kovco's gun, I would say, "Oh, it wasn't a sucided. He must have shot himself by accident." I might think the expert had established that Kovco wasn't in a suicidal state. I wouldn't think that I had a better grasp on what actually happened in the room.

"Senate Passes Teen Endangerment Act" (Feminist Wire, Ms. Magazine):
The US Senate passed the Teen Endangerment Act late last night, a bill that would make it a federal crime for any person other than a parent or legal guardian to accompany a minor across state lines to have an abortion.

At last, unwed teens are now safe from grandparents who prey! That was just the most insulting bit of news. There are teens who cannot talk to their parents. (Or parent. There are many single-family homes in this country.) But they can talk to an aunt or a grandparent. Now that person, that family member they trust, can't help them without committing a crime. This really criminalizes family and isn't the GOP supposed to be the Party so darn concerned with the rights of families? Like Bill O'Reilly, they do a better job exposing their own hypocrisy than anyone could do for them.

I find that legislation offensive.

Phylliss Bennis is someone who studies the Middle East and anyone stopping by that's a community member knows that. My point is Bennis whom I think we all know but about the excerpt below. This is an excerpt. It's a long piece. There are many important sections but I'm pulling two segments.

"Washington's Latest Middle East War" (Phyllis Bennis, Common Dreams):
And For the Palestinians
In Gaza, the potential importance of the Hamas-Fatah unity process in the Palestinian Authority, shaped by the June acceptance by all sides of the "Prisoners' Declaration," has largely been diminished. Certainly the unity process remains important. But with one-third of the Palestinian Authority’s cabinet members and many of the Hamas members of the Legislative Council held in Israeli prisons as potential bargaining chips for a future prisoner exchange, and the US-Israeli orchestrated international isolation and sanctions of the PA still in place, the PA itself is barely surviving, hardly able to help its population cope with the ravages of the Israeli assault, and certainly not doing much governing. The Hamas-led government in the occupied territories also faces a political and credibility challenge from the external, Damascus-based leadership of the divided organization, who some believe have been more supportive of Hamas' renewed military activity than the Hamas representatives in the internal government in Gaza and Ramallah.
In the meantime, the link between the Gaza crisis and the still escalating Lebanon/Hezbollah crisis, has brought Palestine back to the center of regional politics, away from its Oslo and post-Oslo identity as a narrower issue limited to the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip alone. In the process of raising the profile and credibility of Hamas as the centerpiece of Palestinian politics, however, this trajectory has largely sidelined the importance and legitimacy of the Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO. Hamas has never been a member of the PLO. As Hamas' prestige, both within Palestine and internationally, rises, there is a danger that the PLO could be left behind -- and with it, the representation of those components of the Palestinian nation who do not live in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, most importantly the Palestinian refugees and exiles who now number more than 3 million spread around the world.
The Gaza-Lebanon Crisis and the Iraq War
How the new Lebanon crisis (Gaza and the rest of Palestine was of course already in crisis) is affecting the way the US is carrying out of its war in Iraq remains uncertain. But its impact on the wider militarization of the region has already become clear. The US has ratcheted up its provision of both emergency (jet fuel), and regular military equipment (including a batch of replacement "smart" bombs) to Israel. A New York Times article noted that analysts recognize US support for Israel in this war as equivalent to Iran's support of Hezbollah. And the Bush administration just approved just $6 billion worth of new US arms sales to the nervous Saudi government, including Black Hawk helicopters, armored vehicles and other military equipment. The administration justified the sale to Congress claiming that the sale would help strengthen Saudi Arabia’s military and its ability to help the US fight terrorism around the world.
It is also clear that the murderous Israeli assault in Lebanon and Gaza, and their proud endorsement by the US, is ratcheting up even further the already sky-high Iraq-fueled levels of anger towards the US This may lead to another shift in the military situation inside Iraq, with US troops becoming even greater immediate targets. To the degree that sectarian considerations are shaping military outcomes in Iraq, it will not go unnoticed that while all of Lebanon has been made victim of this war, Lebanon's Shi'a and the Shi'a-majority towns and cities of the south, already the poorest of the country, are suffering the most. Also, Hezbollah, now seen regionally as defender of not only Lebanon but Palestine and Arabs in general, is a Shi'a movement. However, the sectarian considerations are likely to remain secondary to the much broader concern that all Lebanese, including Sunni, Christians and all others, and all Gazans, who are overwhelmingly Sunni (as well as West Bank Palestinians, still suffering under occupation and international sanctions), have been made victims by a US-Israeli policy of all-out indiscriminate war against entire peoples.
Israel's ground invasion of Lebanon, whether it becomes a permanent occupation or not, will certainly escalate the crisis further. This is particularly true of Israel's declared intention to establish what Tel Aviv calls a "buffer zone" inside southern Lebanon. Israel has adopted the racist language of the Pentagon in Iraq, describing their goal being to "clean out" Hezbollah strongholds in south Lebanon, and then "hold" them to prevent a return. As Kofi Annan said on July 21, even if Israel "plans to say it’s a 'security zone,' for others it will be an occupation."

World destruction brought to you by the Bully Boy who has paved the way for every other bully and tyrant to act oustide the law and feel good about it.

"Helplessly Hoping: Day 21, Troops Home Fast" (Cindy Sheehan, Common Dreams):
I have been in such a blue funk of depression and worry since Israel's over-reaction---or "over action" in Lebanon in what seems to be insanity escalating out of control. What our media and some world leaders seem to expediently forget is that Israel massacred an entire family on a beach in Lebanon with a rocket and kidnapped two Palestinian citizens before Hezbollah and Hamas kidnapped some Israeli soldiers. Who started the cycle of violence in those countries? Who knows? Who cares! The important question is: who is going to be the courageous one(s) with integrity, wisdom, and compassion that is going to at long last stop the absurdity?
As hard as I may try, I cannot wrap my mind around the fanatical rhetoric coming out of DC and from all over the world and the mindless and seemingly overwhelming support of Israel's right to "defend itself." What Israel is doing in Lebanon by killing hundreds of innocent civilians in a relatively short period of time is like the US defending itself from the tens of thousands of innocent babies, women, and children in Iraq. It is morally reprehensible and just an extension of BushCo's campaign to enrich the voracious war profiteers.
I read yesterday that our State Department
approved a new shipment of bombs and rockets to Israel. With the thousands upon thousands of US made bombs and rockets being dropped on Lebanon by the IDF it makes one wonder if the expiration dates on the bombs were nearing and the war machine needed to sell and ship more bombs so that the CEO's could fill their Hummers, limos, and jets with gas. Naively, I always presumed that the State Department was there to prevent the use of military force, not support it by authorizing more weapons for more efficient killing! Don't we have a War Department for more killing? I feel like I am living in Bizarro World. I have been watching a lot of cable news networks and have heard such one-sided phrases as: "Over 50 civilians killed in Lebanon today, but the real story is in the Israeli city of Nazareth, where two Hezbollah rockets landed." Why is that the real story, Tucker Carlson? It is an immensely tragic story because two harmless children were killed in Nazareth, but how does it trump over 50 civilians being killed in Lebanon? Oh yeah, I forgot! John Bolton said that there is no "moral equivalency" between innocent Arabs being killed and innocent Israelis being killed. It's not immoral for Israel to kill innocent civilians because they are fighting terror with more terror: it's the American Way!

First, I love Stephen Stills' "Helplessly Hoping." It's a song Crosby, Still and Nash recorded. (That's the title of her column.) I love CSN so I have to mention Stills. Now that I've noted that . . . I heard on the radio that Hillary Clinton's Senate opponent had come out making some sensible comments (the radio didn't play it as such) and that Hillary's campaign had denounced the statements. (I'm sorry, I don't live in New York and I don't know his name. I believe he was a guest one weekend on RadioNation with Laura Flanders.) From the beginning, the coverage of the conflict in big media has been less reporting and more choosing sides. I'm thankful for the brave voices who speak out against the one-sided coverage and against the actions taken by the Israeli government. This has been an act of war, in my opinion. I wouldn't have been surprised to see the media try to play it down the middle (that is what they tend to do) but it's been shocking (even considering some of their previous coverage on this area) to realize that the reporting takes a back seat to selecting who is the "good" guy and who is the "bad" guy.