Sunday, December 30, 2007

TV: Charlie Rose by any other name would still be as bad

The networks are trying to kill us. That's what we decided on December 24th as we realized we'd again have to cover a 'news'/public affairs program airing on PBS. Not that PBS' hands were clean. We thought of all our PBS friends begging for attention in our reviews for years and okay with our calling out Washington Weak and even encouraging us to do so at one point just to get a little attention, how they might quibble even when we called out an alleged documentary or 'news program' and how, in recent weeks, they've taken to asking if we could take a look at programming elsewhere.

Watching last Monday's installment of The Charlie Rose Show, we grasped quickly that Rose was the shooter but that the shooter's always the patsy. It takes a lot of work at the top to plot a conspiracy.

Our mental state was assisted by the fact that Rose, of course, makes the perfect patsy. He is, in fact, the text book example since heads of state, gas bags and even Jaqueline Bisset have all been able to pull the wool over his willing eyes throughout his too long career. Even in our worst moments of agitated mental state, we knew Rose wasn't smart enough to have hatched the plot on his own and we began to fantasize that he was actually part of a sleeper cell that had been laying low and waiting for the day to . . . take who out? Certainly, our friends couldn't have thought years ago that we'd end up wasting so much of our lives weighing in on bad TV?

Intense reactions such as our own are not the usual response to Rose's program which is a snore fest more often than not. But it's rare, even as bad as PBS is, for it to be so bad. And if he'd paired the segment with a half-hour of our nemesis Patti Heaton, we'd probably still be clinging to our delusions. Instead we were just left with two bottom feeders.

Sarah Sewer (aka Sarah Sewall) seems to exist in this life not only to do damage around the globe but also in order to justify the hate on display towards intellectual women in so many Woody Allen films. The pompous, unattractive War Hawk, who appears to think her hair is drapery, is on a mission that goes far beyond, "Even Brooke Shields may now be plucking the eyebrows, but I'll maintain the Groucho Marx look until they grow together!" They seem on the verge.

Sewer was paired with the Bay Area's own Little Liar Monty McFate. We spewed our diet sodas as we saw Monty trying to go for 'gamine' with a too-short hairdo that made her look about as attractive as Jane Wyman -- in any year. All that do did was bring out her lantern jaw, her tiny teeth and, fringed around the painted in cheekbones, emphasize the Reptilian Eyes she's long sported. They say you get the face you deserve after forty but, truth is, Mother Nature gifted Monty early on.

We weren't sure whether Monty was attempting to play the Marci to Sewer's Patti de Pastilles de menthe or the Alice B. Toklas to Sewer's Gertrude Stein but we did enjoy the sucking up Monty did to Sewer for two main reasons. One, Sewer was basking in it and looking even more the pompous fool than usual. Two, we know Monty. We know how she operates. She butters up a dupe right before she attempts to steal credit. Monty's a backstabber and a publicity hound so we are eager to see exactly what damage she'll inflict on Sewer before this is all over.

Monty started out as a child desperate for attention, prone to larger-than-reality tales (to put it kindly). Nothing was ever Monty's fault when caught. When faced with the fact that no other child could be to blame, Monty offered grandiose lies. Due to her obvious lack of looks and the fact that she was so pathetic, adults wrongly took pity on her. It sent the wrong message. All Monty has instilled is that lying is a great way to get attention and we see that she continues to pursue that path.

For those not in the know about Sewer, when not appearing on TV to look like an unwashed freak who just pulled her hair to one side, is a Bloody War Hawk. Some call her a War Whore, but we try to avoid that term and just call her a War Hawk with an "ugly" sometimes tossed in. As a War Hawk she operates out of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy which is really just a fancy way of saying she's a Destruction Pusher. There's no place on the globe that she doesn't feel her big nose can be stuck in and should be stuck in. Granted, it is a large beak, a ski run -- if you will, and it probably is difficult for her to contain it in her so-so dwellings, but not only does no one need to see it, no one wants to.

As an Ugly War Hawk, she needs a running buddy and, as many stunted woman know, when you're butt-ugly, you hook up with someone even more butt-ugly so that you can be the 'pretty' one of the pair. Hence her hooking up with Monty who currently bastardizes and betrays the social science of anthropology in order to target populations for military operations.

Monty and Sewer teamed up with Mad Maddie Albright and other demented nut jobs to offer up the International Women Leaders Global Security Summit, which Rose was more than happy to promote. 'Global Security' isn't about peace and none of the women involved are 'leaders' -- though calling them criminals wouldn't be stretching the truth.

Monty's official bio by the org notes she's "a cultural anthropologist who works on defense and national security issues" and that she's a professor ("adjunct," not full) at the War Hawk institution John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. It's a threadbare bio but, when you're having to hawk that she published in Joint Forces Quarterly, there's not a great deal you can say about her work in her alleged field. Sewer's official bio brags about her work on "counterinsurgency and U.S. strategy in the 'long war'." It says nothing to the effect that "in her free time, Dr. Sewer likes to bite the heads off of kittens and set puppies on fire," but maybe that's implied?

Monty and Sewer worked on a little thing called the US Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. You may have seen that piece of War Porn advertised. Ourselves, we remember the third of the page advertisement that ran in the October 2007 issue of The Progressive (page 28) which included a blurb from The Problem From Hell Sammy Power. When Our Modern Day Carrie Nations is blurbing you, you know you're on the path, if not the eve, of destruction.

We have no idea whether it was the talk of personal odors that prevented Rose from mentioning Sammy by name, but he was happy to offer his own blurb: "More than 2 million copies were downloaded from the internet!" We'd guess that Mein Kampf is also highly popular on the internet and we're equally sure that the 'value' in that is about the same as in the counterinsurgency manual.

Monty was playing the femme to Sewer's butch and blushed that she thinks she "wrote in total about 13 pages of that." Monty playing modest may have charmed Rose (it doesn't take much) but it's equally true that Rose is both a moron and a hack. Monty's back peddling wasn't for Rose's benefit (he wasn't pressing). And it may have played differently to those who don't know Monty. As two who do, it was classic Monty: My lies explode in my face and I begin disowning them.

It's step one in her distancing herself from the manual if it continues to receive critical attention -- not on Rose's program, never on Rose's program. But in the real world, the pages Monty's responsible for (chapter three) are being ripped apart -- remember Monty's an 'academic' -- for plagiarism and out and out theft.

Anthropologist David Price documented the theft in great detail in October (CounterPunch) and noted:

The most damning element of the Manual's reliance on unattributed sources is that the Manual includes a bibliography listing of over 100 sources, yet not a single source I have identified is included. My experience with students trying to pass off the previously published work of others as their own is that they invariably omit citation of the bibliographic sources they copy, so as not to draw attention to them. Even without using bibliographic citations, the Manual could have just used quotes and named sources in the same standard journalistic format used in this article, but no such attributions were used in these instances.

Is it too cruel to point out that those sort of allegations aren't exactly new to Monty?

No need to fear when sitting down at that tacky table (which had at least been polished for a change) with Rose. (Again, one of us has that same table, but in original, hand carved form, not a carbon copy knock off that appears to be made out of tack board. And it's used as a computer desk.) He's not interested. In fact, he's been so disinterested in illuminating the realities about the illegal war that the only way he could out do himself at this point would be to come back in another life as a military issued jock strap. Cheerleading he can handle.

And bemoaning. He found it just awful that politicians weren't echoing the War Hawk work that Sewer and Monty were doing, "You don't hear candidates talk about this."

"We do actually," Sewer said in full repression mode. She went on to whine that War Hawk Barack Obama "gave a speech" incorporating their plans for War Eternal but it was lost as people focused on other things. Still, Sewer assured Chuckie, "at least one candidate has done that."

Smirking like the valet that mistook himself for an insider, Chuckie offered, "I'm familiar with some of the people behind the scenes that you know" who wrote Obama's speech. He means, among others, Sammy Power. But she's become such a drag on the Obama campaign that no one's mentioning her, not even her buddy Chuck. Yet, watching, we had to wonder what PBS thought of that nonsense? He's familiar? So what? Are people watching Public Broadcasting to have Charlie smirk about things he knows but doesn't intend to impart? Isn't he required to mention the names he knows? He brought it up, he wasn't under grand jury questioning. Exactly what, if anything, can our PBS friends find to defend in that moment? (Our answer, when the calls come in, will be "Not a damn thing" only we'll be use stronger language.)

Charlie knew a great deal more than he let on. He knew, for instance, that Sewer's been working with the military for more than the "about seven years" that she claimed. The reality is that Sewer's entire career has been bought and paid for by the military just like Monty's. (Armed Service Committee, Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance, et al.) If they couldn't suck off the military-industrial-complex, both women might have to get real jobs and, truth be told, they're not qualified for anything else short of staging their own coup in a Latin American country.

So it's no surprise when 'anthropologist" Monty brags her role is "making force more precise in its applications" and Sewer wants to dismiss with all rules of warfare by casting doubt on "whether we'll ever have the luxury of a conventional foe." Or when Monty, speaking of the anthropologists joining her in betraying their field and academic study, declares" their main job is to advise the commander on the ground". It's not shocking when Sewer reveals all her ignorance and xenophobia by asserting that Iraqis "need to recognize that there are limits to our power as great we are." Maybe it's Sewer that needs to recognize the fact that the Iraqi people want foreign forces (including the US) out of their own country? Maybe she should save humming "How Great Thou Are" for a church pew and get off her damn high horse -- or is she waiting for someone to knock her off?

In a moment when Sewer attempts to illuminate a point she's fumbling, she only illuminates how power hungry, mad and crazed she is, "We're betting on a horse and trying to shape and tame it at the same time." Who's the horse?

We knew who the dogs were, we saw them, Sewer and Monty, on our TV screens. But who's the horse and how dare you pass yourself off as an academic, even one that's provided non-stop oral service to the military-complex, and make such offensive and insensitive remarks on TV. Iraq is a country. It was a country before the US invaded. The idea that a foreign country can (or should!) "shape and tame it" is offensive.

Sewer came close to unhinging in public when she went into rapid-fire mode, spitting out sentences about the failure of states, her desire to create "a strong, international force," how the illegal war must not be seen "as a failure" and her "concern" that, if Iraq is seen as a failure, "we'll move towards isolationism" or, worse, send in the military to "strike him and get out" (as opposed to occupying -- and "him" wasn't identified by the War Pig). That truly does concern Sewer because her whole existence, her belief system such as it is, is rooted in the notion that she, and only she, possess the wisdom to decide. She's a hairy-legged version of the Bully Boy with better vocab. Or maybe she's just the preacher delivering the harangue at the end of Joni Mitchell's "Tax Free" (Dog Eat Dog):

I think we should turn the United States Marines loose on that little island south of Florida and stop that problem!
I am preaching love!
I am!

In a too little noted article over the summer ("Harvard's Collaboration with Counter-Insurgency in Iraq"), Tom Hayden asked, "Should a human rights center at the nation's most prestigious university be collaborating with the top U.S. general in Iraq in designing the counter-insurgency doctrine behind the current military surge?" It's a question that Rose knew not to ask.

Hayden goes on to explore "former Pentagon official" Sewer (again, she's worked with the military all her adult life) and notes how, in the intro to the manual, she scrubs away any reality about the US role in the death squads in El Salvador and he goes on to explain how the counter-insurgency is deception and intended to force Iraqis to turn to the US for 'protection.' Again, Rose knew not to raise any of those points.

Monty dug her own grave -- with that mouth, she's never been able to stop herself from doing so -- by rushing to prop up Robert McNamara's Vietnam-era crimes (crimes even McNamara has distanced himself from, see Fog of War) and maintain that, if her program had existed then, grave mistakes wouldn't have been made. To clarify for those who didn't watch the train-wreck-in-progress as it grew, Monty's been 'rebelling' against the sixties her whole life. She's never known a damn thing about them, but she's made rebellion her goal forever because, in the Bay Area, it got her a little attention (in a "Is she for real?" kind of way). Think of her as Ann Coulter's ugly sister. As frightening as that should have been to most American -- Monty's rewriting history to claim that the earlier illegal war should have been fought and could have been 'won' -- equally alarming should have been the snarl (in fairness, that's her attempt at smiling -- as dozens of childhood photos can demonstrate) as she spoke excitedly of additional wars, "new things coming down the line like Africom." If there were any doubts left as to how far from her field she is, Monty proved it by explaining that to learn about Africa, "I generally read The Economist." A conservative publication, yes. But in terms of her field, it's much worse than that. The Economist is a British publication. 'Anthropologist' Monty is stating that to learn about Africa, she goes to a publication from outside Africa. For those who don't grasp it, that's a bit like flat out saying, "To get real information, I can't depend upon the people in the area! I need a White, European translation!"

To be clear, because we will hear this in the phone calls from PBS friends later today, Charlie Rose's embarrassing fact and question free interview isn't necessarily a reflection on PBS. We've noted he's a hack, we've noted that we don't think PBS would find his playing insider baseball with viewers ("I'm familiar with some . . . " but never naming) amusing or up to the standards of PBS -- certainly not the mandated standards but also not the standards in practice -- such as they are. We will note that NPR, on October 10th, could explore the realities Rose avoided -- could and did on The Diane Rehm Show with USA Today's Susan Page filling in for Rehm. David Price and Monty both appeared on that show (Rose didn't feel the need to offer a dissenting view). Others did as well. Early on Monty gave her usual press-friendly lies about how her work follows anthropological standards.

Susan Page: . . . there was a New York Times article last week which actually prompted us to do this show today. And it did talk about this anthropologist named Tracy, but it wasn't clear to me, Montgomery McFate maybe you know, whether her [full] name was just not disclosed to the New York Times article, or if her full name is not being disclosed to the people she's interacting with in Afghanistan. Do you know -- do you know the answer to that.

Monty [quick intake and slow first word -- always a clue Monty's inventing -- seriously, that was evident when she was a child]: Her name was held from The New York Times story and in other media that's come out of Afghanistan at her own request.

Susan Page: But does she give her [full] name to the Afghanis that she's talking with.

Monty: Yes, she does.

The Times article referred to, "Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones," was written by David Rohde and, sadly for Monty, Rohde joined the discussion after Monty had lied. So he missed Monty's lie that the locals "Tracy" was speaking with knew her name and that the anthropologiest were clearly identified as such to the locals. (For those not following, anthropologists are not allowed to coerce people into being subjects. In an occupied land, people traveling with a military may not be seen as people you can afford to refuse. Monty lied that all information gathering interviews were done with informed consent meaning that the subjects knew they could refuse questioning and knew they were speaking with anthropologists.) Again, Rohde came in late and missed Monty's lies. When he joined the conversation, Susan Page asked him about "Tracy" and these issues, "But the Afghans -- the Afghanis that she's dealing with, do they know her name, her full name, does it seem transparent for them or does she also go just by her first name?

David Rohde: Um, she was transparent with them. I don't think she gave her full name, I think she does identify herself as an anthropologist. I saw her briefly, but I don't know what she does at all times. She personally, um, actually chose to carry a weapon for security that's not a requirement for members of the team, I've been told. And she wore a military uniform which would make her appear to be a soldier, um, to Afghans that she wasn't actually speaking with.

Susan Page: And so you think Aghans knew that she wasn't a soldier even though she was wearing a military uniform and carrying a weapon? Or do you think that they just assumed that she probably was?

David Rohde: I would think that they assumed that she was.

Rohde thinks the locals assumed "Tracy" was US military. Tell us another about informed consent and your academic standards, Monty. Every lie, including that "Tracy" gave the locals her full name, was demolished in those moments. But that hasn't stopped Monty from repeating her lies.

Fortunately for her, she was sitting across from an old whore (we will use the word for Rose) who left "boyish" long ago and never developed into the talent that led so many networks to pin hopes on him. As such, he needs corporate sponsorship and his career wouldn't survive without it. So he knows not to raise the difficult issues. Which is how you got a thirty-one minute plus segment allegedly on counterinsurgency that never asked the basic questions, the basic ethical questions, about the misuse of anthropology or noted the reality that a science is being partnered with a the military in an effort to frighten (or shock -- see Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism) a people in order to create a reaction of learned, infantile dependency upon the occupiers.

To be clear, there's nothing about the Nazi government in Germany that isn't appalling to this day; however, for ourselves, the thing that will always stand out the most is that alleged professionals, allegedly bound by a code of ethics, were willing to ignore those ethics to 'service' a state and target civilians. Seems to us the likes of Sewer and Monty give good governmental hand jobs -- considering their mugs, probably at very low, discounted rates -- but they betray everything academic research is supposed to endorse. For all his efforts to appear learned in age, Charlie Rose is still the same dim-bulb he's always been. If he weren't, he wouldn't be able to whore so well. In Chinatown, John Huston says buildings and whores get respectable with age -- maybe that's why very few call out the nonsense Rose has repeatedly offered since the illegal war began but we're not so kind.

On that note, Mike Kirk and Marcia Bemko are among the names that should be added to "TV: Fumble Line." As noted in that piece, PBS friends called to inquire about what we'd thought of Frontline and what we'd written. We summarized our main points and were greeted with gasps that some of the people, who were happy to dine out on Jessica Savitch's good name after she died, were named. We were told those people might have said that in public, yes, but not for publication and it was just unfair to name them. As they begged and pleaded, we finally agreed (and noted the print edition was long out) to pull the names before it went up online because, although we'd both observed the trashing of Savitch by people whose careers she at least helped if not made, maybe it really wasn't public? After the commentary posted, a friend who'd been at Simon & Schuster during the 80s called and asked, "Did you mean Kirk and Bemko?" Yes, we did. The friend informed us that among the books brought out during the 80s "and one I helped on" was Almost Golden by Gwenda Blair. "Anyone who doubts that those two took their trashing public needs to pick up a copy of that book."

Reader Troy e-mailed us last week to remind us that we hadn't provided any names and wondered if it was due to "the ludicrous claim of 'gotcha' journalism"? We didn't provide them because we have a life and had forgotten. They are included now. In terms of "gotcha" journalism, thank you for also finding it ludicrous, but no friends at PBS would ever accuse us of doing that, we keep far too many secrets buried as they damn well know. The false "gotcha" charge came from a journalist in response to "Ike Turner (Ava and C.I. feature)" and, on that, we'll note the following.

In our TV reviews, one journalist has been praised more than any other: Amy Goodman.

That said, we've also held her accountable and do so elsewhere this edition. She didn't cover Abeer (headlines are not covering the issue). We're happy to provide her with deserved praise (she's earned more than we've ever offered but we're not putting out an Amy fanzine). We're not comfortable calling her out but do when we think it's necessary and we don't mince words when we do on her (nor do we on Tom Hayden or Norman Solomon or anyone else whose work we appreciate and value). Our negative criticism of her (or any whose body of work we admire) is based on the work.

Point? There's a man (not named in this) who we don't like. Readers of this site or The Common Ills might get another impression. In fact, many visitors of The Common Ills think he must be loved. Reality? He made a drunken 'pass' (try assault) many years ago on one of us (C.I.) and, in this decade, insulted one of us (ibid) over the airwaves. It was very rude and it was intended to be. This is the most that's ever been (or ever will) be written about it by either of us. Despite that history, he continues to get praised when it's Iraq related and it's never been, "Let us tell you about the cheating husband who . . ." Nor will it ever it be.

We bring that up because we don't do "gotcha." Maybe our journalist accusing via e-mail has a problem with reading but if we're referencing something, we're making sure it was addressed publicly elsewhere when it comes to journalists because they are so damn thin-skinned. We mentioned Amy Goodman earlier and there is a point to that.

If we ever criticize Amy Goodman, we criticize her for the work done or not done. It's based on Iraq and nothing personal. Maybe someone who ran a blind item -- a thinly disguised blind item -- about Amy Goodman, maybe such a journalist is the last person in the world to lecture us about 'standards'? Maybe even more so when the blind item was intended to embarrass Goodman and had nothing to do with her work?

Now we don't claim to be journalists. TV commentaries are, by their very nature, opinion pieces. And we certainly don't claim to be saints or near the verge of sainthood. Nor do we think anyone even glancing at one of our pieces would mistake us for 'goodly.' But maybe if you're a professional journalist and you're unhappy with the amount of time you received so you choose to 'even' the score by running an obvious 'blind' item about Goodman intended to embarrass her and spread a rumor (which we're not repeating), then you've abandoned the high ground from which to cry "gotcha journalism" at anyone else because you hopped on that bus out of your own desire to even a personal score?

Like Charlie Rose, a lot of journalists preach standards but the reality is those are standards they apply to others. If we've learned anything during the writers' strike thus far it is that the biggest Drama Queens are in the world of journalism, not entertainment. And later today, when the calls come in from PBS friends adamentally disagreeing with our take on a broadcast, we'll not be surprised to yet again learn that we're commenting on something we viewed while they're defending something they didn't even bother to watch.

Somewhere in all of that is the explanation for why The Charlie Rose Show can exist. It doesn't continue airing because it's ground breaking or even entertaining programming. It slogs on because, once upon a time, Rose showed promise and, as long as he doesn't upset anyone by allowing reality to enter the program, he gets a repeated pass. Susan Page, a print journalist guest hosting for Diane Rehm, shows more skill and knowledge of broadcast standards in any one appearance than Rose demonstrates in a full year of programming. But he's in the 'club' and as long as he doesn't 'shake things up' by asking the questions or raising the issues that are never supposed to be spoken of for fear of angering someone, he's a 'news' 'star' and many of his peers will rush in to shore up his exceedingly thin credentials.

We're not trying to be part of the 'club' (a year in the 'club' couldn't pay our monthly travel expenses), we're writing for readers trying to find some iota of truth on broadcast television -- truth in entertainment, truth in news or 'news'. The truth is Charlie Rose offers, in a year, about five programs worth watching. In other words, in a full year, he does about one week's worth of honest work. That's playing "gotcha" on the viewers.
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