Sunday, May 18, 2008

TV: The return of I Dream of Jeannie

Ourselves, we were always Bewitched fans. For many reasons including the fact that, outside of Roseanne, you'd be hard pressed to name another half-hour network show that featured more female regulars. I Dream of Jeannie had Barbara Eden and not much else. While the wonderful Elizabeth Montgomery's Samantha was engaged in the world, raising children, etc., Jeannie more or less was a spouse who just hit the bottle while Tony did whatever he wanted. Who knew Larry Hagman was playing Ted Kennedy?


So it was a little shocking last week to grasp that I Dream of Jeannie could be seen as a template for two half-hour programs airing today -- one on TV, the other on radio. On PBS, Gwen Ifill is clearly attempting to be the Jeannie most are familiar with. She grins a great deal and pretends to master whatever the mortals are discussing. So it was no surprise to see her on Friday devote a half-hour to spin. Not questioning it, not examining it, just wallowing in it as assorted gas bags tossed out nonsense.

Hillary Clinton won West Virginia and that was dismissed . . . Well, because the press dismissed it. The gas bags told you it wasn't important because . . . the media declared it unimportant. Excitedly citing Barack Obama's evening news timed announcement with aging boy-toy John Edwards, it was gas bag city. Should the networks have gone live to that? It was a question the gas bags didn't ask and Jeannie Gwen avoided.

What did the win say? There was no time wasted examining that. It was all as if you were watching five teenagers texting "OMG". They quickly moved on to how Barack Obama will probably announce Tuesday that he's the nominee. Did they question that?

Of course not.

They live to hate Hillary (and Gwen lives to fit in) so they didn't even take the time to point out the damage to the Democratic Party if that takes place. No, we're not just talking about a splintering party splintering even more. We're talking about money. We're talking about spending. As The New York Times reported last week, the RNC has raised $31 million so far to spend on their candidate (presumably John McCain) in the general election while the DNC has only $6 million on hand. If Barack declares himself the nominee on Tuesday, there's a good chance that $6 million will have to be used from Tuesday through the election.

See, if Barack declares himself the candidate while another candidate is still in the race (one who has now pulled ahead of him in the popular vote), he is circumventing the process to become the nominee. If the DNC does not call him out on it, then they are going along with and designating a nominee before the race was over and while another candidate was still in the race. Point? Such an act would mean Barack was no longer in the primary, that the DNC had declared their candidate and that federal guidelines for a general election now applied.

No, you insist, that only happens once the convention is held!

We'd encourage you to read Dan Balz and Thomas E. Edsall's "Kerry Ponders Delay in Party Nod" from May 22, 2004. In it, The Washington Post's Balz and Edsall explain how the DNC and John Kerry campaign, worried that they would enter the general election sooner than the GOP due to the party conventions scheduled dates, were toying with the idea of holding the convention in July as planned but not declaring Kerry the nominee until after the convention: "Campaign officials confirmed that they are actively considering an extraordinary plan, under which Kerry would not be formally nominated at the Democratic National Convention in late July and instead would be designated as the party's nominee weeks later, around the time of the Republican convention at the end of August." So if Barack declares himself the nominee on Tuesday and is not rebuked by the DNC for such an action, don't be surprised when Republicans begin filing complaints with the FEC and insisting that the DNC allowing Barack to anoint himself the nominee in the midst of a competitive race was the same as an acceptance speech and that, therefore, rules for general election spending now apply to Barack.

That would have been a very interesting discussion for Washington Week to offer but they don't offer interesting discussions, they just give play-by-play of the horse race while Gwen beams like Jeannie.

Jeannie had a sister, an evil one, also named Jeannie. And we think of FAIR's CounterSpin as that character. While Gwen beams and blinks as fluff flies around her, CounterSpin actively promotes fluff while pretending they're offering some reality.

The 'look at recent news' ("the week's press" in a week ending on Thursday because that's when they record the show) was interesting this week and really interesting depending on how you listened to the program. If, for example, you went to the FAIR website, you heard a completely different broadcast than what WBAI listeners heard on Friday. On WBAI, CounterSpin was 'live' for the pledge cycle. So the hosts were Peter Hart and Janine Jackson. In the same episode (or same talking points) sent out across the country, Hart and Steve Rendell hosted.

Peter Hart covered a story on the episode the rest of the country got while Janine Jackson covered it live on WBAI. It was about Carol Williams' Los Angeles Times article on Luis Posada Carriles. Kind of. In the broadcast version, Hart referred to a "letter" and listeners might have wondered what all of that was about? Jackson, doing a more 'high-octane' version, let it slip that the exchange between Williams and a reader were e-mails. So FAIR's now exposing private e-mails?

What do you mean now? One of us was the recipient of private e-mails to FAIR from a journalist -- ones that were never requested, just forwarded. That e-mail was responded to by Jess. Jess' e-mail was passed on by the curiously named FAIR to The Nation magazine. FAIR's right up there with Richard Nixon, if you ask us. In sending out a journalists e-mails (plural), they didn't have his permission. In passing on Jess' e-mail, they didn't have permission. On the broadcast (recorded) version, they probably confused people with talk of 'letters.' Jackson was allowing for no confusion and thought she was doing stand-up -- ham-fisted stand-up -- and we will assume that she figured Carol Williams and The Los Angeles Times would never know what was done over NYC airwaves.

LCP is a terrorist. Williams did not identify him as such in her article. She responded to an e-mail asking why that was by explaining that LCP's legal counsel was now stating that he did not have a strong enough grasp of English and misunderstood the question. She explained it was "cumbersome" to go through all of that. Whether you agreed with her on the "cumbersome" aspect or not, she did take the time to respond and was, in fact, in agreement on the issue. So ridiculing her e-mail -- as Jackson especially did -- was pretty low. LCP is litigious and what Williams appeared to be referring to was the back and forth that might ensue had she labeled him a terrorist (LCP's legal team demanding a correction from the paper). That reality never entered into Hart or Jackson's recorded or live 'analysis.'

The e-mail Jess wrote was attempting to be nice as well. FAIR had 'discovered' a news story weeks and weeks after it had already been addressed at The Common Ills. Rebecca had called it "theft" and called FAIR out on it. Instead of writing Rebecca or even writing to Rebecca through the public account at The Common Ills (Rebecca does have her own e-mail account), FAIR thought the thing to do was to whine (to C.I.) at the public account of The Common Ills. And to supply a journalists e-mails. We think, and have stated without naming FAIR, that Jess is owed an apology for his e-mail being forwarded. (C.I. heard about the forward from The Nation and got a copy of it from The Nation.) FAIR never saw fit to apologize to Jess and why that is, why they felt the need to forward what Jess assumed was a private e-mail to a FAIR member in a panic (they don't like to be called out for theft), appears clear having listened to Jackson's attempt to channel Jackie Mason. Maybe she thought she was onstage at The Green Room Theater on Bleecker?

In the recorded program, Rendell labeled support for Hillary "centrist" and in the live broadcast Hart did. Not a surprise when you consider how the organization called "FAIR" has been silent on the rampant sexism during this campaign cycle. It should also be noted that since the start of this year (when primary season began), CounterSpin has featured 32 males as guests (including co-host Peter Hart who was a "guest" -- billed as such -- for the January 11th broadcast and interviewed by Rendell and Jackson) and only 6 females. That doesn't sound very "FAIR," does it? 19 episodes, two guests per episode. In 19 weeks, FAIR has demonstrated that women have a right to be heard . . . almost one-fifth of the time. In October of 2006, we were calling out the imbalance on CounterSpin while noting that FAIR was calling out PBS' NewsHour for featuring "four times as many male sources as women." FAIR's currently doing a worse job than The NewsHour and, back in 2006, they found the one-fourth figure appalling. Today, they just stay silent on sexism and promote Barack non-stop via their "media advisory" e-mailings.

They see racism everywhere and Hart and Rendall (in live and recorded form) would both call out Sean Wilentz "diatribe" noting how the Barack campaign had consistently cried "racism" in this election cycle. (See Wilentz' "Race Man" at The New Republic). They'd insult him as a Clinton supporter (an ugly thing to be in the mind of FAIR) and as a "centrist" but some may have puzzled over the sneering charge of "liberal." Isn't liberal a good thing?

Oh, cookie, you've been out of the loop too long. 1968, endlessly celebrated by lazy media (see Time's cover story and Amy Goodman's nonsense) was reached in 2005. We're now up to 1972 and "liberal" wasn't just something Phil Ochs was ridiculing, it was ridiculed by all the radicals -- be they Communists, Socialists or anarchists. Which is FAIR?

You got an example of it when they interviewed the increasingly silly Bill Fletcher Jr. He already embarrassed himself whining that "red-baiting" was going on to Amy Goodman weeks ago. He was back to float that false charge on CounterSpin. Criticism of Barack's spiritual advisor and pastor was "red-baiting." We weren't aware of anyone calling Wright a Communist. Did we miss it?

No, Fletcher sees "red-baiting" everywhere. Or feels the need to talk of it constantly. It's the old Freudian axiom about the criminal having the compulsion to confess. Fletcher was slamming conservatives and liberals. And that might have struck listeners (of the recorded or live versions) as strange but he was 'helpful' and explained he himself was a "progressive" and a "leftist." Those are certainly interesting words. Bill Fletcher Jr. is a Socialist and there was a time when he had no trouble admitting it -- just like he had no trouble publicly praising the Communist Party for what he saw as their accomplishment in helping to end apartheid in South Africa. But that was years ago and it's really important that the words Socialist and Communist not be used today. Apparently a memo was sent out which is why so many of Barack's 'supporters' in Panhandle Media are now "Democrats." We're guessing the memo explained: "If you don't word it carefully, it will be clear how much Red support Barack has and how an orchestrated campaign is taking place to create the myth of a 'movement'."

So there was Bill Jr. pretending to be a progressive, disowning his previous public disclosures of being a Socialist, slamming conservatives and liberals for their 'attacks' on Jeremiah Wright, insisting the press had no reason to focus on Wright. Who was focusing on Wright? Isn't that a bit of stale topic by now? We aware of the rumors that Michelle is amen-ing and adding to a Wright sermon and that video exists of that. But really, what was the point?

When the press (the Real Press) was recently focusing on Wright there was the fact that Wright was in the midst of a publicity tour. Forget Peter Hart's shameful statements that the whole matter was resolved with Barack's laughable speech in Philadelphia, Wright went on a publicity tour. Wright, Fletch insisted, was never a part of Barack's campaign. He wasn't speaking for the campaign and he wasn't part of the campaign. He was just, you know this is coming, like family.

Forget that Wright was pulled at the last minute from Barack's ceremony announcing his campaign for the presidential nomination. There's also the fact that Wright served on "Obama African American Religious Leadership Committee" for his primary run (Wright is the final name listed in the December 4, 2007 press release). He would remain on that committee until March 14th. Bill's lying about his own political leanings for some reason so it's not all that surprising that he'd also lie about Wright's involvement in Barack's campaign -- but it was sad.

It was sad to listen to Peter Hart as well but, during the live broadcast, he was so 'off' that he referred to Extra! as a monthly magazine when FAIR puts that magazine out bi-monthly (or tries to). Hart didn't condemn Geraldine Ferraro while rushing to prop up Fletcher's 'racism is trying to take down Obama' nonsense, but then he really couldn't. He made the same comments as Ferraro a year ago in an article Extra! published. He did kind-of, sort-of try to raise the issue of Wright's comments about AIDS, but that wasn't to be explored.

Anyone remembering Norman Solomon and Jeff Cohen's efforts to play gatekeepers and 'impose' orders on Pacifica in 2002 about what they could air, who they could book and what premiums they could offer may remember both men claimed that 'crackpot' theories had no place on the left. Solomon was billed as "a FAIR associate" in the live broadcast on WBAI Friday (they were giving away his documentary) and Cohen, of course, is a co-founder of FAIR. Back in 2002, they were screaming that theories were hurting their left! (Ourselves, we though Katrina vanden Heuvel was the source of left embarrassments.) And CounterSpin's Steve Rendell was sliming journalist Michael Ruppert to the Boston Globe as someone "circulating unsupported conspiracy theories". So with all that in mind, many must have found Friday's CounterSpin to be a laugh riot.

Jeremiah Wright claimed in sermons and while on his publicity blitz last month that AIDS was created by the US government to eliminate African-Americans. That would be crackpot science. That would be "unsupported conspiracy theories." But FAIR, who seems to feel its role is policing the left not on the foundation payroll, was happy to wipe that aside.

Joe Klein and others, Bill just knew, were using the 'that' as a side issue. 'That' was about the depth it went into because after a half-hearted attempt by Peter to introduce the topic (he never quoted Wright which would seem the logical thing to do), it was dismissed by both.

FAIR was sending out the message, intentionally or not, that 'those crazy Black folk' should be allowed to spout off any crazy, crackpot theories because, apparently, what else can you expect from 'those people'? It's an insulting message for FAIR to send, a condescending one and a paternalistic one. But remember, Bill Fletcher Jr. wasn't the only ridiculing liberals.

Call the colorist! Their radical roots are yet again showing. It was not a pretty image.

At one point, Bill referred to "polls" where a significant number of Americans (according to him) stated that they would not for a "Black man." He quickly added "or a woman." When mentioning articles, he would cite the publication, but these "polls" were just out there. We found it interesting that he mentioned "or a woman." We know why he did: He didn't want to be seen as undermining his crush's shot at the Democratic nomination, better make sure people know there are obstacles for Hillary as well!

But it was interesting because it only underscored how silent FAIR has been -- in all its outlets -- on the sexism on display this election cycle. We didn't plan to include CounterSpin in this article. We were going to focus -- in depth -- on Washington Week. Then Marcia brought to our attention an e-mail forwarded to her by Heather. Marcia wanted to know if we knew who sent it. Yeah, we knew. Having heard the Barack love-fest on Friday's CounterSpin (via FAIR's website), Heather e-mailed to note how outraged she was by the failure of FAIR to call out sexism. The reply was that they had -- by linking to some articles in their "media views" page (that's nothing but a link to other sites' writing). The FAIR writer wanted it known that they'd linked to stuff. They hadn't sent out the advisories the way they had done on Barack. They hadn't explored it on CounterSpin or in their own writing. But they provided links to nine pieces written about the sexism.

We don't have time to check out the links but are willing to bet the nine include attacks like 'progressive' and 'Democratic' Betsy Reed's recent attack on Hillary where Reed posed as a feminist. [Added before publication. It did include that! A friend with FAIR returned our call early this morning and noted that "of course" that "crap" got linked to.] What we do know is that this claim in the e-mail FAIR sent out is laughable: "This is in addition to repeated posts defending Clinton against what we saw as unfair press coverage that was not explicitly based on her gender." Raking our minds, we remember FAIR, in 2001, defending Hillary from an attack by Bill O'Lielly where he said she felt "entitled." They've not called out their 'liberal' brothers and sisters who've used the same term. (That piece was written by Seth Ackerman.) What we do know is that in 1999, Jeff Cohen ('founder') was ripping her apart for her Senate run in a FAIR piece. What we do know is that Norman Solomon was ripping her apart in 2006 and insisting that only Fox 'News' types and people who didn't know her record would call her a "progressive." Yeah, Normy, and only sexists would refuse to note Hillary's work on women's rights over the years including the incredible ABA speech prior to becoming First Lady. (Norman has a real problem with women, as evidenced by the media critic's recent cut and paste book on the 'media' and 'war' where he felt the need to slam 'reporters' Jane Fonda and Carly Simon.) Normy was -- no surprise -- pining for a man in that column and working hard to try to build the ridiculous Jonathan Tasini into something. Ask the majority of entertainment writers and they'll tell you Tasini is a nothing and a nothing who hurt the East Coast chapter of the Writers' Guild. (C.I. note: "Norman, I love you, but sometimes you're a real ass." We're both attempting to figure out whether Paul Krugman, by Norman's dichotomy, is a Fox "News" type or just uninformed?)

"Media Views" went with a ridiculous assertion by David Weigel in March about Republicans voting for Hillary in Texas and how they accounted for over half her votes in that state. If they were voting for Hillary, they were damn smart Republicans because Hillary voters (as noted in many outlets) actually voted on other Democratic races. From Patrick G. Barkman's "Scenes from a convention" (Cleburne Times):

More than 80 percent of voters in counties heavily carried by Clinton went on to vote in the U.S. Senate race; only 71 percent of the voters in the counties heavily carried by Obama did likewise. This suggests that Obama voters, who tend to skew younger than average, were motivated mostly by him and not a general enthusiasm for the Democratic Party as a whole; this also suggests that Rick Noriega has his work cut out for him in persuading these new voters to pay attention to his race against the singularly inept John Cornyn in November. And it suggests that Rush, Ann Coulter and all the rest of the Right Wing Howler Monkey Media Chorus have absolutely no influence on the electoral process whatsoever, if they ever did in the first place.

Barkman's an actual journalist in Texas writing for a Texas newspaper but, hey, FAIR prefers to listen to and recommend the non-liberal, non-left Reason magazine writer David Weigel. No one's supposed to notice they rush to the right-wing when it's time to smear Hillary, no one's supposed to question that. Ironic considering their "Media Views" also recommended a link to Aging Socialite's Litter Box where Sidney Blumenthal was falsely smeared as having promoted the right-wing. Even more important is that the piece was written by a man as are the majority of their "Media Views" stamped approvals. Apparently no woman is worthy of regular attention. (Disclosure, The Common Ills was once or twice linked to in Media Views. Years ago.)

So what we have are the two Jeannies who, as on the original show, send the message that women really don't matter in either. Jeannie (well played by Barbara Eden to be sure) was never to be taken seriously and never to be a leader, only a reactor or the cause of chaos. Good Jeannie Gwen just smiles through all the sexism. Bad Jeannie CounterSpin encourages it openly.

Elizabeth Montgomery, you are sorely missed. Not afraid to call out the US funded death squads in Latin America, not afraid to go for challenging in your TV movie choices while everyone just wanted you to play 'cute.' I Dream of Jeannie was the copycat, Bewitched was the originator. It's the difference between the Monkees and the Mamas and the Papas. We live in superficial times, as both Washington Week and CounterSpin prove and contribute to. (Hey, hey, they are the monkees!) Women are not valued and only really welcomed if they'll join in or at least smile at sexist attacks on other women.

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