Sunday, April 13, 2008

Truest statement of the week

"I saw in the media it’s being reported that my opponent said that the people of Pennsylvania who faced hard times are bitter. Well, that’s not my experience.
"As I travel around Pennsylvania, I meet people who are resilient, who are optimistic, who are positive, who are rolling up their sleeves. They are working hard everyday for a better future, for themselves and their children.
"Pennsylvanians don’t need a president who looks down on them, they need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families."

-- Hillary Clinton, "Hillary Clinton Reacts to Sen. Obama’s Newly Discovered Characterizations of Pennsylvanians," ( thumbnail2

A note to our readers

Hey --
Finally done. We swore we'd be done three hours ago. Earlier we swore we'd be done even sooner. Didn't work out the way we hoped.

We give big thanks to all who survived this edition. That includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,

What have we got?

Truest statement of the week -- We were at a loss for truest and considering not doing it this week. We also debated including Bambi's statement of insult and noting it was "truest" because it reflected what Barack really feels about the voters. Then Ty checked the e-mails and discovered Mia had suggested a truest. Thank you, Mia. When we saw what she was highlight, we were all in agreement that it was the only choice. We also kicked ourselves for not thinking of it since all other community sites had highlighted it.

Editorial: Panhandle Media Exposes Itself -- This is a rush piece in terms of Ava, Betty and C.I. have proposed this for weeks. We've wanted to do it and we've never gotten around to it. We were tired and didn't go through everything we planned but we think there's more than enough to make it interesting. This is the piece Rebecca mentions in the roundtable (at that point, it was still unwritten).

TV: The Big Blather -- This posted without a title. My (Jim's) apologies on that. We were tired and I didn't realize I hadn't come up with a title. I tacked that on quickly and all the usual readers who complain I 'defaced' Ava and C.I.'s masterpiece with my title will actually have something to complain about this week. We almost didn't have a TV piece from them this week. It was a very busy week last week and as Ava pointed out, "We can't do everything. We can't follow the 24 hours plus of Congressional hearings and still be able to offer up a TV commentary." Add in that they thought they could grab something on Saturday but instead ended up changing their plans. (They were lobbying a super delegate Saturday -- a last minute thing.) They got back (late, very late), took a three hour nap and Ava said, "No TV piece, leave us alone." Then a friend called very early (on the West Coast, but not so on the East where he was calling from) to gripe about a program. "Is it's online?" they asked. It was. They pumped him for details about the commercials, then watched the program online. It's amazing how strong this article is considering that it was unplanned and they didn't think they'd have anything.

"Stop the madness!" cry the Goodmans, "You first," reply Ava and C.I. -- The reason we were okay with no TV commentary from them (which didn't end up happening) was because they agreed they'd review Amy Goodman and David Goodman's latest 'book' this week. Everyone who writes for more book coverage needs to note that they both say "never again." As Dona said when it looked like the edition would never come together, "Don't worry so much, we've got two pieces coming from Ava and C.I. It will be a strong edition." She was correct. This is a pretty amazing piece. And, I'm sure, another instant classic from Ava and C.I. for our regular readers. Repeating, they do not plan to review another book ever again. Ava wants it noted that their two pieces did not delay the publishing of this week's edition. They did both pieces in about 90 minutes with 24 minutes tossed on to watch Chris Matthews' program. They typed their pieces, did their links, did their research ("worked the phones," says C.I.) during that time. But never, ever again, says Ava.

Congress raises economic and legal issue -- This was our big piece for this edition. It took forever to write and one reason why was we were pouring over C.I.'s pages and pages and pages of notes on all the hearings. The print edition version of this is even longer. We edited it severely for the online version, punched it up and it was the last thing we completed (other than the note I'm writing now).

Roundtable -- Another roundtable. We did this first. We tried to cover a range of subjects and we think we did. As soon as this was completed, we started typing this.

Obama's Oswald Cobblepot Moment -- While Ava and C.I. worked on their pieces, we worked on this. It's very lengthy in the print edition. Dona declared it a short piece online so we worked forever editing it down. Illustration done by Kat and Betty's eldest son.

Why aren't we surprised? -- This was the quickest thing we wrote. Dona asked for a short piece and we had no ideas. Someone saw the Cheney's tax returns at the White House site (we don't remember who, sorry) and we lept on it.

The candidate who never stops working -- Hillary's campaign site is posting on Sundays. We did not know that last week. It was repeatedly pointed out in e-mails. C.I. added an HUBdate to last week's edition on Monday morning after the e-mails started coming in. We're including it today to avoid those e-mails. Though Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez are mentioned in one piece, we didn't really cover the political campaigns that much this edition. If your candidate wasn't covered, that's the way it was. We had a lot to do.

Highlights -- While we worked on typing the roundtable and other things, Mike, Kat, Wally, Betty, Ruth, Marcia, Rebecca, Elaine and Cedric worked on this. We thank them for it. C.I.'s "Iraq snapshots" covering three days of Congressional hearings are linked to in this. They aren't linked to in our own Congressional piece. They should be but we were all too tired. Any quote that doesn't have a link came from C.I.'s notes on the hearings.

That's it. Finally. We'll see you next week.

-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: Panhandle Media Exposes Itself

You people are insane! Take a look around -- you're all freaks! You're wasting your time making s**t! Nobody cares! These movies are terrible! I can't take it any longer.

So declares Dolores (Sarah Jessica Parker) in Ed Wood (script by Scott Alexnader and Larry Karaszewski) and since February, when discussing Panhandle Media. For years the likes of Amy Goodman have repeatedly insisted that the MSM has no ethics or standards but utilized the last half of 2007 and the year thus far to demonstrate that neither did they.

For years they held the Clintons accountable for various things. Some reality-based, some crack-pipe dreams (see especially the 'work' of Alexander Cockburn and Jeffy St. Claire on Mena). Well that was all well and good, people are who they are, and that's fine, as long as they're consistent.

Panhandle Media has spent close to a year now demonstrating that they are anything but. They've managed to also explain along the way why they're in Panhandle Media as opposed to real journalism: Their standards are so low and their work so poor that no real outlet would have them.


Take Stab Barbara Ehrenreich and Mother Jones. Stab pimped first in a widely derided article (hailed universally as awful) that took Hillary Clinton to task for belonging to a prayer group. Christ apparently scares Stab and, suffering from Panhandle Media's biggest handicap (the inability to leave your own frame of reference), she's sure it will outrage the nation. Senator Clinton belongs to a prayer group! Summon the town elders!


As if the embarrassment wasn't enough, the laughable Jeff Sharlet took to Stab's blog to defend her (and self-promote his own book). And yet they still couldn't leave well enough alone. Justin Elliott, recent college graduate, is learning something at Mother Jones, but sure isn't journalism. Sounding a lot like a half-pint Kenneth Starr (and nothing like a journalist), Justy calls on Hillary to explain her connection.

The whole episode reeks of Panhandle Media, from Stab's little 'joke' about autism (have you no shame, Barbara?) to the continued promoting of a non-story. They know it's a non-story, they all know that, or else they truly are that stupid. The group they're so alarmed about, the group that Hillary belongs to, guess who else is a participant? Raw Story reports:

Coe, leader of a group called The Fellowship, is a powerful, secretive and well-connected religious leader, widely known among senators across the aisles, and across faiths; but not by the general public. Coe's services have been attended by all three of the major 2008 presidential hopefuls: Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL).

Oh, yeah, Barack's connected as well. Something Stab and Justy and Mother Jones want to ignore as they whisper and smear Hillary. How very sad. How very pathetic. How very Panhandle Media which has demonstrated repeatedly that there are no standards at all and they will sweep all wrong doing (real or suspected) by Bambi under the rug and pretend it's not there.

The man's friend, his longterm friend responsible for $250,000 worth of campaign donations, is on trial and where's the expose from The Nation, The Progressive, Democracy Now!, et al? Where is it? The man's an alleged influence peddler, doing favors for politicians to get favors back (such as government contracts). But that's not an issue. It's not an issue that the only reason the Obamas own their mansion today is because the slumlord, Antoin "Tony" Rezko, agreed to buy the tiny parcel of land next door to it (after Bambi took him on a tour of the property).

As long as we're asking: Where is it?, let's ask that about another story. Drop back to when it was news that the Obama campaign, while the candidate was speaking out against NAFTA, was telling the Canadian government not to worry, that you just had to say something to trick people into voting for you. Goody brought John Nichols on her show. As Ava and C.I. noted at the time:

Despite the fact that the AP had to publish not just the stories of NAFTA-gate but also the memo before Goody could get off her tired ass and note NAFTA-Gate, on Friday, she was eager to set John Nichols up so he could turn an unsourced whisper into a "revelation." It was nothing and not worth repeating. It certainly wasn't journalism but, hey, consider the two goons we were watching.

During that broadcast, the tight-lipped Nichols smeared Hillary and stated taht she was in talks with Canada as well and that he was working on a 'major' story about that. Johnny, we're still waiting. It never emerged because there never was a story. It was a smear campaign, an effort to clamp down on outrage against Obama. "Yeah, well she did it too!" Where's that expose, Johnny? All these weeks later, where's that expose?

Panhandle Media truly is never having to say you're sorry -- or get your facts right.

(C.I. recalls a laughable "lawsuit" that Goody passed off as Academy Award coverage many, many years ago. There was never a follow up because there were no merits to the law suit and Goody was one of the few outlets to put the crackpot on air. This was when her program was only a radio show. Heads would roll! 'Hollywood!' would be brought to its knees!)

Bambi's been repeatedly presented as anti-war or anti-Iraq War when he's anything but the sort. And, after you see this repeatedly, after you see Goodman and the rest bring on Barack Obama supporters and members of his campaign without ever identifying them on air as such, you grasp that they really are that pathetic and just as guilty of everything they've accused others of.

The realities is a lot of malcontents (to be kind) exist in Panhandle Media and it's not about journalism, it's never about journalism. It's about evening a score. It's really amazing, you can pick anything from Bill Clinton's two-term presidency, to hear Panhandle Media go on and on about it and feel safe that no one grasps that they were silent in real time. That includes many with the Children's Defense Fund who, as Frances Fox Piven herself pointed out in real time (but now pretends to forget) did nothing to stop welfare 'reform.' Instead they focused on drive-by shootings. It's real easy, a decade later, to look back and say, "Oh, this was a mistake" or "that was a mistake." But in real time, few were calling it out. Which is why it all sounds like so much whining today.

Prior to their revealing that they had no standards, we assumed we'd sit on the sidelines and just enjoy the fireworks. We assumed Panhandle Media would hold everyone's feet to the fire. But they didn't do that, did they?

We've pointed it out before but it bears repeating: How do Katrina vanden Heuvel, Matthew Rothschild, Laura Flanders, Amy Goodman, Tom Hayden et al all end up cheerleading the same campaign. We're talking about people who rarely agree on anything (as Hayden's interviews by Flanders -- who is always testy with Hayden) demonstrate. But somehow they're all on board this year.

"When people ask that question," C.I. responds, "I like to point out the Katrina connection to the Facebook person working the Bambi campaign." Translation, trace the money. Look at the foundations. Those would be the foundations that David Rovics, in an idiotic post that had us all tossing his CD last month, doesn't know exist apparently.

There was never a spontaneous move towards Bambi on the part of the public, they were led there by Panhandle Media which started their 2008 election coverage in 2006 (John Nichols was writing about the 2008 election days before the 2006 mid-term elections took place). Where did all this ill will towards Hillary come from? Panhandle Media.

The intense focus on real media by too many critics has allowed for a basic press principle to be overlooked: Things rarely emerge in one outlet, they bubble up.

And Panhandle Media, with their non-stop trashing of Hillary Clinton, has been ensuring that for two years now. They got behind Barack Obama and set out to trash Hillary. That includes Matthew Rothschild who was alone in pointing out that the 2004 DNC speech by Bambi was pathetic. Those days are long gone for Matty and you might want to wonder how he came to drink the Kool-Aid.

Panhandle Media is largely nothing but a bunch of bit players, a bunch of rejects, who could never make it into the spotlight and were kicked to the curb. They've got a lot of toxic anger and they've infected the political climate to the point that people don't even question the endorsements Bambi's getting. He's running in a Democratic primary. That would be a primary for Democrats. So what's with all the endorsements from Panhandle Media types who aren't even Democrats? Not that they bother to tell you that in their endorsements. Bambi got a Super Duper Tuesday endorsement from one pretending to be a Democrat -- had it been revealed that the author didn't vote for John Kerry in 2004 or Al Gore in 2000, how much weight do you think that "Democratic" endorsement would have carried?

None. Which is why so many hide in a political closet today.

There's a book to be written about this, about how KPFA, for example, can offer a two hour post-debate 'discussion' of the debate and feature a multitude of guests, 'objective' observers when the reality is that all the guests endorsed Bambi publicly but KPFA listeners were not informed of that during the special. They though they were hearing 'objective' commentary. It's how Amy Goodman can host 'roundtables' on the Democratic primary that are really rectangle-tables because, though not disclosed, all the guests support Barack Obama.

That's how you create a mania, you shut out any dissenters (hence the vanishing from Panhandle Media of guests such as Paul Krugman, Joe Wilson, et al). You shut out anyone who supports Hillary Clinton. It's a cute little trick, the echo chamber. Vanity Fair used it for years in their "___'s a star!" cover stories. The reality is ___ usually slept with the director and ___ never became a star if "star" means selling tickets. (We can name four actors and actresses that applies to.) But for a brief time, they were the flavor of the month, they were the talk of the country. They had no skills (and honestly no looks) but Vanity Fair proclaimed them "stars" and, for a few short weeks, people thought that they were.

But here's the thing about hype, it has a for-sale date stamped on it. At some point you either actually produce or the public catches onto the hype. The fact that Obamamania has now subsided indicates Panhandle Media played started the party a little too soon.

We'd like to believe the take-away for them was, "We should have actual standards and apply them fairly." However, the reality is they'll probably just internalize that next time they should wait until late 2011 to start hyping.

TV: The Big Blather

An announcer intones this week, "The Chris Matthews Show is brought to you by Miracle-Gro. It's time to get outside and grow something. It's gro-time." At last, Matthews' entire career makes sense!

Just as Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke would smoke on the commercial spots, during the broadcast of The Dick Van Dyke Show, to back their corporate sponsor Kent cigarettes, Matthews serves up non-stop manure to back up his corporate fertilizer sponsor.

And some say there's no truth in advertising.

Of course, most fertilizer is used outdoors so you may need to move your TV to the backyard when Matthews is on. On with him this week is The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller (reporter) and David Brooks (columnist) as well as The Chicago Tribune's Clarance Page (columnist) and NBC's Kelly O'Donnell (TV product indistinguishable from the network's other O'Donnell, Norah). If that seems like a limited range for a roundtable program, consider the host's limited range and you can argue the whole thing was chasing its tail long before guests were ever selected.

To be a TV pundit, you're never required to be accurate. They're like the folks delivering the weather, no one holds them accountable. They predict the political equivalent of rain and, when it never comes, everyone pretends not to notice. They mainly serve to gas bag in order to increase their own name recognition/brand and to provide cheap programming. Consider the chat & chews the original 'reality' shows -- and about as real as anything else the genre offers.

It's gas bag, gas bag, gas bag over and over and the format never changes. So when some very minor changes are made, The New York Times treats it as though it's revolutionary. That's just how stuck in the mud these shows are (and have been for years). Watching this week's episode, we saw another major change has been made.

Clarence Page was on the program and he's become something of a fixture on the chat & chews but we'd never caught the performance before. We knew he looked like Urkel (Family Matters) and that he has a tendency (which comes off prissy) to pop his eyes to make a point. We really weren't prepared for what we encountered.

A gas bag, to be successful, must summon a commanding presence and make opinions sound like edicts. Never going to happen with Clarence who should stick to the printed word. "My umph"? No, the word wasn't "umph" but who can tell what he's trying to say half the time. It's not a stammer, it's not a stutter and it's certainly not a spoken language that can be easily communicated. Possibly that explains the over-reliance of popping his eyes? (Or maybe he just really did grow up wanting to be Diana Ross back when she led the Supremes?) Of the Olympics, Clarence declared "and -uh -hand uh." What is that? A country we never heard of? (Nod to Samuel L. Jackson's speech in Pulp Fiction.) He also offered up "and-and-and" when, strangely, we thought only one "and" was required. There were so many times when he was offering something other than a spoken language. As a general rule, look at Cokie Roberts, when you want to intone in that 'all knowing' voice, you have to be able to assemble and speak proper sentences.

In the show, no one disputed Lord Matthews. Some did offer a question of a point he raised or expand it in another direction. Not Clarence. He sucked up like crazy -- as though he knew he couldn't afford to offend a host because he really didn't belong in a broadcast medium. If that was the belief Clarence was operating under, let us congratulate him on his wisdom.

Now Chris Matthews, knee deep in Clinton hatred, got so giddy at one point that to describe his voice as "girlish" would be an understatement. He was tossing to David Brooks about a point Brooksy made in one of his columns and Matthews stated, "You wrote a great column" -- his voice was rising on every word and after "column" it probably broke the sound barrier. A dog may be able to decipher what Matthews was saying, but we couldn't.

Most of America doesn't watch The Chris Matthews Show. NBC syndicates it around the country (most stations say "pass) and it's a weekly half-hour of gas baggery. We feel it's important to note that because some may wrongly think we're speaking of Hardball With Chris Matthews (which appears to exist in order to provide Matthews with multiple on air orgasms). During that show, Chris screams and screams some more. In fact, anyone wanting to stand out on that show should probably consider whispering. It would shock not only Chris but whatever audience is left for that show. (David Gregory is being groomed to take over the slot Chris never quite earned. Chris knows that, we're not repeating tales of out of school.) But some familiar only with Hardball might assume that Clarence sputtered so often because it was time for the high melodrama, high screaming Hardball offers. That's not the case. Chris doesn't yell or bark on The Chris Matthews Show. So there was no reason for Clarence to feel put on the spot. No one is put on the spot, it's the most insular yes-man show in existence.

It was meant to provide Chris with a non-confrontational approach that would eventually prepare him for Meet the Press when Tim Russert steps down. But no one's buying it. The ratings are miserable and get worse each year. While Hardball also struggles these days, it's thought that Chris' appeal is strictly as a carny barker: Shouting and shouting some more. We loathe his 'politics' but this isn't about that. It's about a one-trick pony riding his trick to fame and having nothing else to offer. NBC has caught on -- that's why Gregory is now next in line for Russert while Chris has fallen to fifth on the list. (Lester Williams and Andrea Mitchell are among those ahead of Matthews.) Russert has no plans to step down currently but networks always prepare contingency plans for the future. To keep Conan O'Brian, NBC announced a few years ago that Conan would take over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno. As the time for that approaches and Leno's ratings remain solid, some NBC suits are grumbling about that arrangement.

But no one's grumbling about Matthews being pulled from the "on deck" status regarding Russert. As one friend in programming noted, "We didn't damage him, he damaged himself." That's putting it mildly.

On this morning's Today Show (yes, it broadcasts on Sunday -- yes, we know no one watches) amidst taste testing for Lester (a step-up from last weekend's 'revelations' that Lester Williams loves a good crying jag at the movies), Tim Russert appears to do a promo for Meet the Press airing later today. (If the 'tense' is confusing, we heard the promo -- while on the phone with a friend on the Today set -- we didn't see it. It hasn't aired in our area as we write this at 5:00 a.m. PST.) Russert notes that among the topics he and four other gas bags will be addressing is Barack Obama's attack on Small Town America. For those who missed it, that was big news late Friday afternoon and here's what Barack said:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. It's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

That is the sort of topic the chat and chews live for. By Friday afternoon, Hillary Clinton had already issued a response to Barack's comments:

I saw in the media it's being reported that my opponent said that the people of Pennsylvania who faced hard times are bitter. Well, that's not my experience. As I travel around Pennsylvania, I meet people who are resilient, who are optimistic, who are positive, who are rolling up their sleeves. They are working hard everyday for a better future, for themselves and their children. Pennsylvanians don't need a president who looks down on them, they need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families.

We're going through the above slowly. The Chris Matthews Show is appalling and bad television and we're more than happy to lay the bulk of the blame on Chris himself; however, there are other reasons.

Among them is the fact that this half-hour program which first starts airing on Sunday (and airs throughout the week) is recorded on Friday. Matthews wanted to talk about a gaffe on the campaign trail and he naturally went to Bill Clinton because he's hated the Clintons for years. But equally true is that the non-journalist Matthews doesn't grasp news. He grasps what is making big headlines and, on Hardball, those are the topics he gas bags on. His half-hour program is always behind the times because you can't do a show on 'current events' that starts broadcasting two days after you taped it. You can't offer up the equivalent of headlines when they're two days old by the time they reach a viewing audience. On stations today, The Chris Matthews Show will begin airing and those tuning in will wonder, "What's with Bill Clinton? What about Barack's attack on Small Town America?" Some will wrongly assume that Chris' Clinton hatred blinded him to the topic. That is a mistake because there's nothing Chris likes more than pretending he is part of Small Town America and just a 'working stiff'. Had Matthews known of the gaffe and known it would make big headlines, it would have been included in the program.

The show is dead on arrival. You cannot be timely on Sunday morning (and some stations air it later in the week) with a show you tape on Friday. You cannot rely on what was in Friday's new cycle (Friday's starting news cycle) and expect to pull in a large number of viewers on Sunday. Today, Tim Russert will address Barack's attack on Small Town America. Some NBC stations pair the two programs and viewers catching both, one after the other, will scratch their heads wondering why Chris Matthews didn't address it? Tim's got the big gaffe this week. Chris has nothing.

We don't care for Chris, we're not going to defend him. But part of the reason the show runs off viewers is because it is taped too far in advance for what is a round-table on daily headlines.

The other big problem for the show is its insulated nature. Now all the chat and chews are insulated. You never think for a moment that Noam Chomsky or Gore Vidal's about to stroll on set and take a seat. You have an extremely limited range of views that goes basically from the center to the soft-right. (A few years back, it was the hard right but that ran off viewers. You can't out-Fox Fox.) But The Chris Matthews Show is even more insular than the rest.

In this week's program, he references polls. You may say, "Good. We need to know what the average Americans think." If that was your thought, abandon it. Chris Matthews doesn't care about ordinary Americans and, in his polling, won't even pretend to. The 'polls' Chris cites are "The Matthews Meter" and that's a survey of Page, Brooks, O'Donnell, Gloria Borger, Andrea Mitchell, Norah O'Donnell, Howard Fineman, Andrew Sullivan, the aptly named Katty Kay, Joe Klein, Tucker Carlson and David Gregory. You may have quickly spotted some of the limitations of the polling (for example, women and African Americans are underrepresented while other people of color don't even register). But, if you take a moment to think about it, you quickly grasp that Andrea Mitchell (married to Alan Greenspan) isn't worried about the cost of tomatoes. You quickly grasp that, outside of Tucker, no one's worried about employment or how they will make the next house payment.

You should be grossly offended by "The Matthews Meter" because it's a "poll" of the entitled who already have forums to speak to the American people. If the bulk of broadcast and cable chat and chews offer a very limited scope, consider "The Matthews Meter" and the show itself to be the panic room of the pontificators.

Is there anyone in the world who is challenged by the current 'free thought' offered in the already existing chat & chews? If so, Chris Matthews is happy take the A to D limited range of opinion down to just point A. If two gas bags agreeing that Social Security needs to be dismantled (a popular gas bag topic and, during the 90s, ABC's This Week frequently managed to serve up four and five gas bags a week who would say that Social Security needs to be dismantled) is too much for your mind because it's the same opinion opinion twice, The Chris Matthews Show exists for you. There is no give and take, there is only Chris. Chris asks a question -- to one guest -- and the guest replies and Chris has to speak. At the end of the show, as the credits roll, Clarence, seated right next to Bumiller, leans in to hear what she's saying to him and it's honestly the first time any of the guests spoke to one another. Chris filters every topic for the ultimate in viewer safety. Should someone disagree with him in their reply to him, he will immediately correct them and everyone knows not to say another word on the matter.

By contrast, Washington Week looks like a free for all. On that show, Gwen asks a question and then the panelists start weighing in. Gwen doesn't interject after each comment to offer her own opinion and generally lets each person speak and add to what was already said before changing the topic.

Everything offered was useless. It was as though you were at a cabbie convention (although cabbies are more in touch than this crowd). Bumiller did a little better than the rest but she's a trained and practicing reporter. (That said, some of the remarks came close to skirting the paper's policy on reporters offering opinions. Yes, she was asked, but The New York Times' policy is very clear.) We took notes throughout and, looking over them now, we wonder why we even bothered? Fact checking the statements would require Al Franken's research team and more space than we have here.

We believe it was Chris Matthews, and not the over-the-counter sponsor Hydroxycut, that claimed, "This program, I am proud to say, is tough." But who can really tell? They're both providing corporate messages.

Elisabeth Bumiller told you Obama was "a golden boy." Kelly O'Donnell vouched for Barack's ability to reach out to women on the hilarious grounds that, "He lives with a woman and two daughters." Well if that's the test, Kelly, might we suggest that, considering The Family set-up, Charles Manson must have the women's vote sewn up as well?

To stay on O'Donnell's ludicrous claim, prior to Hillary Clinton's campaign, can anyone think of candidates from the two major parties who has gotten this far in the last 100 years that hasn't had a wife? As 'insight' goes, it's right up there with the GOP's claim that Dan Quayle would help attract women voters because he was 'pretty.'

Clarence sounded smitten as he declared of Barack, "I think he's a charmer." He was so amused by his own nosense that he immediately began chortling. Leave that to the audience, Clarence, they will no doubt provide you with your laugh track. Clarence went on to lament that Barack "has not attacked Hillary more." If you're surprised by that remark, Clarence anticipates you reaction and pops his bug eyes as if to say, "Boo!"

The panel operated under the belief that Barack would get the nomination. That's a prediction not a conclusion. The two campaigns are in a dead heat and, as two who are lobbying super delegates, we'd argue the dead heat among the electorate isn't taking place among the super delegates. Barack's attack on Small Town America only increased the tilt towards Hillary who remains the best one for the rest of the ballot (her voters have voted for other offices -- in primaries thus far, a large number of Bambi's groupies show up, vote for their dream date, and leave the rest of the ticket blank) and she's also the only one who can win the big states. Having put foward their personal desire (Barack) as the sure thing, they then operate under the belief that Hillary will try to destroy him if she doesn't get the nomination. Only Bumiller scoffed at that notion ("Of course, she'll help him. . . . Why would she sit this one out?").

Last week Bill Clinton did not make a gaffe. Our hands are tied in how we can talk about this so bear with us. What Bill Clinton did was planned. And it was effective and he took a hit for the Hillary campaign. That didn't register online but you don't have a lot of in touch people online. Matthews chose to highlight the gaffe. And paired it with a clip of George Burns and Gracie Allen. It was all ha-ha-ha funny -- or he thought it was. But funny was hearing the panel discuss John McCain.

He is making a lot of mistakes, Chris agreed. And he wondered "how does his straight talk reputation" survive that? But Chris quickly added, "Everybody likes John McCain because he makes mistakes." As 'proof,' Chris offered up the Bomb-bomb-bomb Iran 'joke' and the '100-years' in Iraq remark. Kelly O'Donnell rushed in to say that these mistakes are a plus for McCain, because they "dilute" expectations and future mistakes -- "he'll make more mistakes" -- thereby building up "immunity" for him in the future. Chris was so pleased with that remark he felt the need to get in touch with his feminine side on air and offer that women "may like the cut of his chin." Chris, that would be chins and we'd assume, having seen you onscreen and in the flesh, that you'd quickly grasp that fact.

But isn't it cute the way they can 'see' a strategy in McCain's flubs but an actual intended flub by Clinton (the Hillary campaign sent out two strong messages via Bill's intended mistake) is cause for hilarity. We don't know anyone in the McCain campaign but we do know two of his former advisors and we called to ask, "Do you think that McCain intentionally makes mistakes as part of a campaign strategy?" No, they didn't. (One intends to vote for McCain in November, the other is undecided at this point. Both expressed alarm at his repeated mistakes on the campaign trail and wondered if his temper was brought up? Yes, by Bumiller.) That's due to the fact that Chris sees McCain as "strategic" and the Clinton's (both of them) as "carnal." That judgment is the reality of why Chris has offered his hatred of both Clintons, non-stop, for years and years. Word to Chris, glass houses, you know the drill.

David Brooks predicted that Hillary will be the next governor of New York and people are wondering where that's coming from? (Real people, not anyone on the show.) That bit of nonsense is coming from the Obama campaign. They think it will get people on the fence over to their side. "Well, Hillary can be governor! And then she can run for president!" Hillary may or may not decide to pursue being the governor of New York at a later date. For that matter, Bill Clinton might elect to pursue it. Anything's possible. But the rumor is being spread by the Obama campaign -- just as they spent weeks and weeks last month assuring reporters that, any day now!, John Edwards was going to endorse Barack. That never happened. But it did create a press buzz that Bambi was closing the race, sealing the deal. One panelist on Chris' show this week was told that very rumor -- repeatedly. We'd love to see a chat & chew where reporters spilled the beans on all the false hype that the campaigns sell them but we won't hold our breath on that.

Hillary Clinton is running for the Democratic Party's nomination for president. She is not running for the vice-presidency, she is not running for a governorship, she is not running to be the president of M.I.T. That's the reality. But the chat & chews don't exist to provide reality, they exist to manage public opinion. Though Chris fails repeatedly on so many levels, The Chris Matthews Show is a remedial effort: repetitive and redundant week after week.

"Stop the madness!" cry the Goodmans, "You first," reply Ava and C.I.

Standing Up To The Madness' slogan is "It Takes Two." The Donny and Marie of the faux left return to handle a cut-and-paste clip job so daunting it truly does take two.

Amy and David Goodman follow up Static and Exception to the Rulers with the just released Standing Up To The Madness which most publishing insiders are already predicting will prove The Law of Diminishing Returns. Exception to the Rulers was a best seller with no qualifiers needed. Their follow up grazed the best seller list and no one informed considered Static to be a best seller. One friend at Hyperion Books compared the latest output to Fleetwood Mac's Tusk, joking, "We're seeing our Christmas bonuses fly out the window." (We were provided with the book prior to release.)

What are we seeing? We won't call it a book. A book generally requires research and/or thought and there's no evidence that the authors bothered with either. But it's difficult to crank out three pieces of product in book form over four years and have much to offer. This offering is dedicated to their mother Dorrie Goodman and you may be asking, "Didn't they dedicate the first book to their parents?" Yes, they did. They billed her as "Dorothy" there and co-dedicated the book to their father. Consider it a sign of how low on inspiration the sister-brother duo is running.


If you need more clues, Exception to the Rulers was 318 pages of text, Static 307 and the latest opus checks in at 228. While it's true that publisher imposed a page limit this go round (diminishing returns and all), it's equally true that when you have only 228 pages, you use them wisely -- a reality the 'authors' failed to grasp as evidenced by the inclusion of 13 continuous pages of Congressional transcript. Clip jobs, by their very nature, don't provide a great deal of insight and the thirteen pages of transcript more than back that up. Either that or we're missing the 'importance' of including such lines as Philip Cooney declaring "That is correct" and, the next time he speaks, declaring 'That's correct," and the next time he speaks, "That's a fair characterization, yes," and . . . Well you get the point.

Consider yourself fortunate because it's a point that escaped the writers.

But most realities escape the writers' attention. For instance, their focus is Americans standing up. (For someone who promotes a world view on her program Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman's frame of reference is intensely provincial.) The historical start-point they go to is the Montgomery Bus Boycott which was neither the start of the Civil Rights Movement nor the start of rebellion and resistance in the last century. We know why they did that but we'll be kind and not out their diaper rashes. We will steer you to page 201 which contains a little more reality than one Panhandle Media Biography on ___ usually provides. As one of us (Ava) noted in a roundtable over two years ago, the popular tale offered of one person was neither full nor accurate. Again, you can check out page 201 but grasp that, while breakthrough for Panhandle Media, so much more is still not being said.

What gets said in the book is either a retread or 'inspirational.' Consider it a bound-version of sister Goodman's radio/TV program. A lot is included from that and a lot's not included. In this volume subtitled "Ordinary Heroes In Extraordinary Times," they feel the need to 'cover' the 'big events.'

Panhandle Media embarrasses itself so often that it's difficult to keep track of all the groaners. But certainly Jena 6 was among the biggest bits of nonsense (the coverage of it). The Goodmans offer up 23 pages on Jena 6 and who knew it was the biggest news of this decade? (It gets more pages than any other topic.) Jena 6 brought out the worst in independent media. They weren't content to tell a story worthy of telling, they found it necessary to embellish the tale. That didn't start with Laura Flanders telling 'jokes' about six males beating up one male. But it certainly didn't end there and when Goodman chose to end her Democracy Now! coverage, she did so by letting people (including but not limited to Al Sharpton) present 'facts' that were in direct contradiction to her own reporting on the program, to what participants (including the mother of Robert Bailey) had told her on air.

Amy and David, good diaper babies who still haven't grown up, want to reduce the narrative to the most simplistic form. Possibly that's a good thing because at 23 pages, it's already too long. But they're interested in portraying those 'bad' small towns -- you know where Whites run amuck and apparently African-Americans have been trapped there? Reading some of the Goodmans' babble -- and it is heavy on the psycho-babble -- you may have enough common sense to grasp that if there was something to stand up against for years and years, the adult citizens of Jena, LA should have stood up a long time ago. You'd grasp that because the Goodmans want to make the tale (and they are far from alone on this) a tale of all Whites oppressing all African-Americans in Jena. To do that, the siblings have to leave a lot out.

The Goodmans quote liberally from an interview Amy did with Robert Bailey (and Theo Shaw, Democracy Now!'s "Judge Reduces Charges in Jena 6 Case But Refuses to Overtun Mychal Bell Conviction," September 5, 2007). They also clean up the quotes from the program, but we'll get back to that. What stands out here, or should stand out here, is the way the Goodmans render Jena as all on one side, all on the other. In the interview quoted at length over the 23 pages, they leave out Robert Bailey explaining of the nooses that were hung on a tree, "Everybody was mad about the noose." He goes on to clarify that -- was Amy Goodman sleeping during the interview? -- with, "The whole school was mad, not just black people. The whole school was mad. It was some white boys who wanted to fight them boys for hanging the nooses in the school once they came back."

If you caught the September 5th broadcast, you caught that information. You never came across it again. It was a detail that didn't fit the narrative and was quickly tossed aside. It's not a detail that fits the even more embellished narrative the Goodmans try to sell in their book. In the book, all White people are against the African-Americans in Jena. It's dishonest, but what can you expect from liars who were never really interested in "six" to begin with?

The victim in the assault -- and it was an assault, a fight is one-on-one -- later ran into trouble. He was expelled for having a shotgun in his truck. That's not a groundbreaking development in the south and it's a rare week when that state or Texas or Arkansas doesn't have at least one student expelled for that. The reasons offered by parents and other supporters usually go something along the lines of he was hunting over the weekend and forgot. We don't buy that. We've spoken at high schools in the deep south. We don't know what the male in question was planning (or not planning) but we do know that it's not uncommon for some young males to violate school policy and have guns in their cars to show their friends. In the wake of Columbine, that may be a scary thought for some but it's also reality. We have no idea why the victim stored his shotgun in his truck in the school parking lot and neither do the Goodmans but the inference they want you to walk away with was he planned to start shooting. (There is no evidence to back that up but the Goodmans broke free of the factual orbit some time ago.)

The gun being found in the car happens long after the six were arrested for the attack, long after everything. It's offered as an "update." What's curious is that Justin Purvis doesn't require an update. Kids, all kids, do dumb things, do bad things, it's part of growing up. Purvis' actions after leaving Jena offer an example about the assault in Jena. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the 19-year-old Purvis attended high school. He was arrested. For what? Someone messed with his car's tires. He didn't know who. He didn't know enough to go to authorities. He instead attacked a younger student. He choked the student so badly that there were hand marks around the student's neck and he banged the students head against a bench.

Our feelings on Jena 6 was always that the adults failed, especially those in charge of the school itself. But Purvis' actions (click here for the arrest report) after Jena 6 go to the nonsense of jump-on-the-bandwagon that Amy Goodman, Laura Flanders and so many others did.

For the record, you won't find a lot of football players in Panhandle Media. You'll find a lot of males who were tormented by football players in their own school days. So right away this was a challenge to Panhandle Media -- which is basically made up of The Breakfast Club minus Emilio's character (Katrina vanden Heuvel is Claire). In their book, the Goodmans try to tread the line by noting how important football is in the town of Jena. (As in most small towns, the local high school game is the week's big Friday event.) Due to the importance a town places on it, you often find some boorish (and worse) behavior from football players in that region. But Panhandle Media never wanted to entertain that possibility. They wanted to make Bell a Saint.

When ESPN is providing more reality than Panhandle Media, there's a problem. Whether Bell should or should not have been tried as an adult (we don't think he should have been), the fact remains that he had previous convictions and was already on probation. Panhandle Media wasn't interested then and isn't interested now. One of Bell's convictions was for assaulting a young female. Where does a football player get it into his head that he can assault a woman? A sense of entitlement. The whole town's behind the football team and he can do whatever he wants because -- until graduation -- he's a god. That's part of the Jena 6 story and it's part that Panhandle Media has ignored. Were it six White people, their take on it would have been completely different and everyone knows that.

Along with ignoring Bell's priors, they also had to elevate the six up to academic excellence. We have no idea what their grades were but these were not well educated high schoolers. We noted the interview with Bailey and Purvis that Amy Goodman did for her program earlier and how she left certain things out in Standing Up. In the book, she quotes Bailey declaring, "I used to always think the KKK chased black people on horses, and they catch you with a rope." As we've already noted, he also declared, "The whole was mad, not just black people. The whole school was mad. It was some white boys who wanted to fight them boys for hanging the nooses in the school once they came back." We're not trying to pick on Bailey but he was 18-years-old when he made that statement. Those words are not the words of an academic scholar. That they are the words of someone completing high school is appalling ("them boys," etc.). What you appear to have had was a lot of star athletes getting a pass on their schoolwork and that's not uncommon in any school setting for any race.

The basics of Jena 6 are that a string of events took place. Most trace it back to August 2006 (though some argue the events were not inter-related) when nooses were hung from a tree following the question by Justin Purvis (who told some outlets he was joking) of whether or not African-American students could sit beneath a tree. It would be interesting to know who was sitting under that tree because the media never showed a great deal of interest. We'll guess it was the wealthy (for that town) because on school yards across America, the 'powerful' students select what areas are 'their' areas and which ones aren't. We would guess that the bulk of the school was not 'permitted' to sit under that tree. Following Purvis' question, African-Americans sat under the tree and the nooses followed. (There is a report that this had nothing to do with that and had to do with White students, having watched Lonesome Dove, wanting to send a message to one or more White students about an unrelated issue. Ourselves, we think that's unlikely but, not being there, we don't know. And, unlike the Goodmans, we won't intentionally leave out details to shape a narrative.)

When that took place, our opinion has always been that the school should have immediately stepped in and grabbed this very teachable moment to educate the students. We think their failure to do so encouraged all that happened. Why they failed is something they'll have to answer to. Some say they were trying to downplay it and some say it was racially motivated. Ourselves, we suspect the latter but we really don't know.

Hanging the nooses was offensive but kids do offensive things all the time. Those in charge (at school or at home) are responsible for checking the behavior and explaining why something is offensive. There was no effort made on the part of the school to address this with the student body. Punishment of some form was passed on to the students who hung the nooses. Whether you think the punishment was sufficient or not for those individuals, there's no denying that this was a school event and should have been dealt with school wide.

Back to the book, the Goodmans not only reduce it down to 'good' and 'bad,' they also reduce young adults to "students." Robert Bailey went to a party at one point during all of this (December 1, 2006) and was "hit over the head with a beer bottle" by what the Goodmans describe as "white students." These were not high schoolers, these were older adults and the man charged wasn't even a college student. But that's a division they erase because they're churning out a narrative. The newspaper The Town Talk reported it like this:

On Dec. 1, there was a private, invitation-only birthday party at the Fair Barn. Around 11 p.m., five black students tried to come into the party but were told by a woman that they weren't allowed inside without an invitation. The boys persisted, saying they had friends inside. A white man then jumped in front of the woman, and a fight started.

A group broke the two up, and the woman asked the white man, not a student, and the black students to leave the party. Once outside, another fight started between a group of white men, not students, and the black students. Police were called, and a white man was arrested. He pleaded guilty to simple battery.

The Goodmans tidy that up to "Robert Bailey was beaten by a group of white students when he showed up a private party." It's not journalism, it's not reality and it's not true.

On December 2, 2006, at a gas station (Gotta' Go), an incident took place. To read the Goodmans it involved "one of the white men who'd beaten Bailey" the previous night. That would be one of "a group of white students" according to them. It was not White students and Amy Goodman knows that unless she's brain dead. Robert Bailey's mother, Caseptla, explained to Amy Goodman (though Goodman apparently wants to pretend that never happened):

Well, that incident happened on Saturday, December 2nd, the following day, where Robert and two of his friends, Theo Shaw and Ryan Simmons, were going to Gotta-Go Grocery. And once they got there, they say Matt Windham, who is a man, not a student at Jena High School, and Matt Windham -- I guess they had come upon each other, because Matt Windham was involved the previous night with the white gentlemen that beat my son the previous night at the Fair Barn, where -- rather attacked my son at the Fair Barn. So once they came upon each other, I guess it was on.

You know, Matt ran to his truck, from my understanding, pulled a shotgun, a sawed-off shotgun with a pistol grip, and my son wrestled with him to get the gun from him. And the other two gentlemen proceeded then to fight, and they took the gun from him and left the scene running. You know, I'm sure they were -- I know they were in fear of their lives. They were afraid that this man was going to shoot them, you know, especially in the back, running away from the scene. So they were scared. I'm sure Matt Windham was scared. You know, but he chose to run to the truck and pull the shotgun, not our children.

Caseptla Bailey wasn't present but she has been consistent in all of her statements and we find her believable. So we'll easily accept the recounting that she provided, all details of it. We think Robert Bailey did a foolish thing in holding onto the gun having decided to disarm the man and we think it was also foolish for Bailey and friends to try to disarm if they were able to run away. They're not the police and if there was another alternative, they should have sought it. But possibly, the run away time present at the end of the encounter wasn't there at the beginning. Allowing for that possibility, the immediate next move was to go to the police. You do not take someone's gun and bring it back to your home unless you want to be arrested for theft. That should be clear to adults but Robert Bailey wasn't an adult then and we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. However, no one should be surprised that Robert Bailey was then arrested having failed to report the incident to the police and having taken a weapon that didn't belong to him. He was a kid. Kids do stupid things. It's part of growth and learning.

But nowhere do the Goodmans acknowledge that. Nowhere do they point out that even if someone points a gun at you or might point a gun at you, you're not allowed to keep it as a trophy. It's evidence of a crime, if you report it. But it's never yours to claim.

Robert Bailey's mother has always struck us as the most grounded of anyone in Jena. Our belief is that, had Robert went to his mother immediately, she would have stated, "Okay, good for you, now let's call the police and turn the gun over to them." He didn't do that and that's not a crime. But when an incident takes place and you walk off with someone else property, if that person complains to the authorities and you are in possession of their property, you have created a mess for yourself. And that's what kids do, over and over, and parents steer them along and provide gudience but they have to know what's going on and if they don't (because their children didn't tell them about it or something else), problems get worse.

Let's stay on Robert Bailey for a moment because someone's going to e-mail the site to ask, "How could you leave out the video!" On his MySpace page, Robert Bailey once posted a video of himself with hundred dollar bills which has led to claims that he has profited from the whole Jena 6 experience. It was a dumb thing to do, to make that video and post it. It does not indicate that he's getting rich off Jena 6. Money was donated to them and to their defense. There's no crime or shock that he might have access to some of it (even if access is only saying, "Mom, can I see the money for a minute? I'm making a video"). Equally true is that his mother has stated that was not Jena 6 money, that was money he earned from a job. There have been many contradictory stories throughout the coverage; however, Caseptla Bailey has always been upfront and consistent and she should be taken at her word. We have a lot of respect for her and we think she's a parent who was both active and really cared.

By contrast, another parent lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area throughout these events. Bell's father. When his son was repeatedly put on probation, the man wasn't there. He wanted to show up after the fact and act as if he was an expert on the situation. Bell's problems were out of control. When a juvenile is repeatedly placed on probation, both parents need to be actively involved in their child's life and you can't do that by phone. As the man offered one pronouncement after another, once the media frenzy hit, no one pressed him on why it took the final blow to get him back to Jena. He should have moved back sooner if he wasn't able to have his son move in with him. That's just basic. Your son is spiraling out of control. By all accounts, he had talent on the football field. That's not going to get him anywhere if he's running into trouble with the law. We're not going to blame Bell's mother because we'll assume her hands were more than full and she was dealing with all that she could handle. But a father's who is not present when his son is placed on probation four times really has no business showing up after they want to try his son as an adult and preaching to the world. Accept some ownership for the blame because your child was a child and you were supposed to provide leadership but had other things you wanted to do.

Again, this wasn't one slap on the wrist, Bell was placed on probation four times previously.

The Goodmans don't touch on that either -- but then they don't even note Bell's previous problems with the law. It doesn't fit into sainthood and that's what they're selling. This sainthood goes a long way towards explaining why Purvis, after the protests and march, could end up in another region and think it was okay to assault a student instead of going to the authorities. If nothing else, the fact that he was 19-years-old should have been conveyed to him, it should have been made clear that he was no longer a juvenile and that any fight on school grounds would result in stiffer punishment. Consider it another teachable moment wasted.

In their introduction, amidst talk of "psychic damage," the Goodmans tell you that they are offering "stories of struggle in this book [which] illuminate and dignify the brave efforts taken by ordinary citizens and soldiers to defend their communities and their nation." That is not the the story of Jena 6 unless the Goodmans are endorsing violence. Six young males ganging up to attack one male and to kick him repeatedly after he's passed out is hardly Ghandi material. We think the embrae of the revisionary Jena 6 narrative goes to the fact that the Goodmans actually support armed revolution and would enjoy their attempting to address that in the future.

If it seems as if we've focused a great deal on Jena 6, it's because the Goodmans do. Let's back up there because their latest 'collaboration' has the same problem their two previous 'books' did. Throughout this volume, credited to Amy and David Goodman, you will come across confusing sentences. "As we talk on his porch," the Goodmans will write of a conversation in Jena, "We ask" the Goodmans will write of interview with Billy Wayne Fowler, "he told us one evening" of interviewing Robert Bailey. Who is "us," who is "we"? Those are interviews Amy Goodman did for Democracy Now! and why are they being passed off as a joint-sibling product? Though an improvement over the "I" in the previous volumes (how do two writers use "I" in their first person book to begin with?), it's a falsehood because David Goodman wasn't present for those interviews. What exactly is David Goodman's role in these 'books' that read like the transcript to one of Amy Goodman's many speeches?

It's a question worth asking because you'll be hearing a great deal about "Amy Goodman's new book" as she hits the circuit to promote it (she has an upcoming appearance -- with David -- in Houston). Along with asking her that, people might want to ask her about the Iraq War because, for an ongoing illegal war, the most shocking thing about Standing Up To The Madness, is how little attention it receives and how little attention war resisters receive. Do they need to assault a woman to get a little Panhandle Media love?

Twenty-three pages are spent on Jena. Sixteen are spent on war resisters. There are two 'covered': Agustin Aguayo and Ehren Watada. It only serves to demonstrate how little Democracy Now! has covered war resisters. In the fall of 2006, the program lost interest and -- if you haven't figured out already -- the 'book' liberally raids from the program. Mark Wilcox was the really the last one covered for resistance. They brought on Kyle Snyder afterwards but mainly because he was news elsewhere. (Snyder had returned from Canada to turn himself in after working out a deal -- he quickly discovered that the deal didn't exist and he self-checked out again. He currently resides in Canada with his Canadian wife.) That was it and that was 2006. Despite the fact that 2007 saw many more war resisters emerge, Amy Goodman hasn't had time for them. In the 'book,' sister and brother write, "By 2007, soldiers were deserting the army at the highest rate since 1980" -- and we won't argue that point. We will, however, note that this happened with no coverage from Democracy Now!

James Burmeister, Skylar James, Phil McDowell, the brothers Kamunen (Leo, Leif and Luke -- who left in December of 2006 but went public in 2007) and Brad McCall are not a full of list of Class of 2007 war resisters who went public. But they and others were never interviewed by Amy Goodman for her program. (Trust us, Brad McCall is not press shy.) Class of 2007 also included the historic Eli Israel who became the first to publicly resist while serving in Iraq. Once he announced his resistance, he sent out a public plea for support.

You might think "going where the silences are" Amy Goodman would be all over that but she wasn't. She's never even mentioned him on her sorry-ass program. She's done a lousy job covering war resistance -- so much so that her audience isn't even being steered by her to the campaign to get safe harbor status for US war resisters in Canada -- a measure that the country's Parliament debates this month. [ Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.]

War resistance has dropped off her radar so readers of the latest volume may be surprised to find out that Aguayo has appealed to the Supreme Court. Though other Pacifica programs have had Aguayo on, since receiving her $500,000 grant from The Nation magazine, Goodman has steered clear of the topic of war resistance. Consider her Bought And Bossed. The Goodman's 'book' 'coverage' of Watada is even more embarrassing.

The Goodmans leave out key details of the story such as when they simply write that the February 2007 court-martial "ended in a mistrial." Over defense objection. That's a key point and it goes to the double-jeopardy issue. But by the time the court-martial rolled around, Democracy Now! wasn't interested in Watada and, in fact, 'farmed out' the topic by reairing a report from the website Truthout. Well if CBS News can be in talks with CNN to farm out their reporting, why not Goody airing coverage available elsewhere? It's not like it was important, he was just the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy, right? The whole brief section is insulting to Watada and to his stand and to his family. For those not in the know, Amy Goodman got a rare primetime CNN appearance as Watada's February court-martial approached. It was an embarrassment as she allowed herself to be shouted down by another guest and sat there in stoney silence. But the Watada case got her on CNN. So people had a right to expect that she would cover the court-martial. She didn't.

The Goodmans' insulting 'coverage' of Watada in their 'book' last less than six pages. In six pages they more than manage to insult. Take Bob Watada -- or as readers of the 'book' may ask, "Who?" He's mentioned in a single sentence despite the fact that he (and Ehren's step-mother Rosa) went on repeated speaking tours to raise awareness of his son and despite the fact that Bob Watada addressed the big January 2007 DC peace rally, he's reduced to a single sentence. Carolyn Ho gets mentioned a little more due to the fact that Amy Goodman interviewed her for Democracy Now! -- but it's no better than Bob comes off. When we got our advanced copies, we photocopied the Watada section to see if we were the only ones offended and we weren't.

The biggest offense cited in this section is when they are talking about Ho, Ehren's mother, and offer:

"I totally support him," Ho says now. "And I will continue to speak out until justice is served."

For those not in the know, that's from a December 2006 interview. "Says now"? Carolyn Ho put her life on hold for the court-martial and for the events leading up to the court-martial including the Decemeber 2006 pre-trial. She took time off from her job (time she couldn't afford to take off) to speak to members of Congress and to rally support for her son. She did that repeatedly. She came to the mainland (Ho lives in Hawaii) over and over so for the Goodmans to write "now" as if this was a 2008 comment (2008 is "now") is just flat out offensive.

It doesn't end there and the thing that enraged us the most was Amy Goodman's desire to forget holding the powerful accountable and instead suck up to her guest list.

The brother and the sister write:

Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka, whose grandson is serving in Iraq expressed his support for Watada on Democracy Now! "I admire his position, "he said. "It's a position that has grown with him being reared and brought up in Hawaii in a diverse population and with diverse culture and a care for people. And what he has done is so difficult for any young man to take a position like that, to the point where he is willing to resign his position as an officer and to leave the service of the United States. But he bases it on the mistakes that this country has made. And so, he needs to be admired for that."

Readers of the 'book' would be under the impression, from the above, that Akaka is advocating for Watada. However, he's not. That interview aired May 4, 2007. The Goodmans end the quote before Akaka had finished responding. What he says (on the program) immediately after "that" is:

But he has had a difficult time to convince the military courts, as well, to just let him resign. But for me, we'll let the courts decide that. But I admire his position. It's very difficult, and we know that we all love our country, and I know he does too. But his reasons are, as I said, moral and that's really basic for anybody as he makes a difficult decision as he has.

Akaka offered no support to Watada. The issue in May 2007 was double-jeopardy and that issue wasn't addressed and the Goodmans fail to point out that Akaka was one of the members of Congress Carolyn Ho personally lobbied. And she should have some pull with Akaka since Bob Watada is good part of the reason Akaka ever made it into the Senate, having worked his ass off for Akaka and other Democrats in Hawaii. To provide some perspective, Akaka didn't just refuse to stand with Watada, he did so in May 2007. In November 2006, he was re-elected to another six year term. He will be 88 years old when his term is up. Courage is standing up for Ehren Watada. Courage is not saying, "It's a matter for the courts." It's a pathetic response from a pathetic man who risks nothing by standing up for Watada. Akaka, if he's foolish enough to run for the Senate again, doesn't do so until 2012. He is worthless and shameful.

But it doesn't fit the Goodmans' happy little narrative so, while rendering Bob Watada invisible despite all the work he has done, they selectively edit (including "for me" being vanished from the quote they use) Akaka's remarks to make it sound as if the dottering old fool did something brave when bravery is not one of the attributes anyone would ever credit Akaka with.

The duo's concluding chapter runs eleven pages. You might falsely assume that's a good thing but they're bound and determined not to offer a conclusion but an infomercial. They write, "People often ask us in our travels, 'What gives you hope?'" Really? As two who hit the road each week to speak out against the illegal war, our most often asked question has to do with how many nights we'll be staying in the hotel.

The writers attempt to build a sermonette and, like Amy Goodman's begging during Pacifica pledge drives, you know all the inflated talk is only leading to one thing: Fork over your money.

How do you stand up to madness? If you didn't ask, don't worry, they do. And their first answer is "Support independent media." And their first example of it, big surprise, is Democracy Now! Like the panhandler on the street who won't take "no" for an answer when requesting cigarettes (that you don't have), they go on for 24 lines about Democracy Now! By contrast, the legal organization the Center for Constitutional Rights gets only ten lines. They go on to 'instruct' that you should "say no" and "stand together" and if you're wondering how stupid the authors think you are, the better question is how stupid are the authors that they think these remedial basics make for a concluding chapter or anything 'informative.' Apparently fans of The Player (Tim Robbins, who starred in that film, blurbs the book on the back cover), they start repeating the catch phrase from that film, "Now more than ever." Attempting to create some excitement . . . off the backs of others.

"Now more than ever -- and always -- we must stand up to the madness," they conclude in their final sentence. Ourselves, we think the easiest way to "stand up to" any madness is to stop purchasing (and selling) easy-assemble-'books' that are nothing but clip jobs. We're pretty sure we've heard everything in the book a million times before and would suggest that, before the siblings Goodman decide to destroy more trees in their pursuit of 'authorship,' they take some time to actually write something as opposed to the copy and paste nonsense they've offered. When we told friends at the publishing company that this was going to be a chore to review, we were told we'd probably work harder on our review than the 'authors' did on their 'book' -- and were then begged to include that when we wrote the review.

See, reality is that the book deal is coming to an end shortly and that some feel played. They feel they're not getting books (they aren't) and they're bothered by the decreasing sales of the siblings. Marketing's at a loss on how to sell this non-book. Does the left need a feel good menu? ("If they did, wouldn't Katrina [vanden Heuvel]'s ditherings be selling?" asked one at Hyperion.) Is this what passes for a kick-start-the-movement-field-manual? No, it's just another copy and paste production in a world that already has too many 'books' from 'authors' who lack the skills to provide genuine thought and analysis. People at the publishing company are confused because they really liked Exceptions to the Rulers. That 'book,' the first by the siblings, covered a broad landscape beginning largely in the 90s. All those stories have now been told and re-told. All the Goodmans appear to offer at present are collected scraps. Standing Up To The Madness won't come from the likes of short-sighted mental midgets.

Congress raises economic and legal issue

It was the week of the Operation Happy Talk and so jazzed on that were so many that somehow the fact that 20 US service members in Iraq were declared dead got overlooked (to put it kindly). Two names have not yet been released but the other 18 were: Specialist Matthew T. Morris, Captain Ulises Burgos-Cruz, Major Stuart A. Wolfer, Colonel Stephen K. Scott, Private 1st Class Shane D. Penley, Staff Sergeant Emanuel Pickett, Staff Sergeant Jeremiah E. McNeal, Sergeant Richard A. Vaughn, Specialist Jason C. Kazarick, Sergeant Michael T. Lilly, Sergeant Timothy M. Smith, Major Mark E. Rosenberg, Staff Sergeant Jeffery L. Hartley, Specialist Jacob J. Fairbanks, Sergeant Shaun P. Tousha, Sergeant Jesse A. Ault, Specialist Jeremiah C. Hughes and Technical Sergeant Anthony L. Capra. If it seems curious to you that 20 deaths from last Sunday through Saturday could fall under the radar, it seems curious to us as well. Especially when the big talk of last week was that the Iraq War would be evaluated.

Of course that didn't happen via the White House. They supplied Congress with General David Petraeus (top commander in Iraq), US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullens. That's about all that they supplied.

But the White House is far from the only one to blame. The hearings kicked off on Tuesday, April 8th. That's when Pathetic Democrats of America launched their healthcare (not warfare!) campaign ("Activisim With Inspiraton," they proclaimed offering little evidence of either). The Pen felt the day was the perfect day to send out e-mails on their new impeachment play -- and begging for money for a Congressional race.'s Bob Fertik was also reaching for your wallet as he urged you to subscribe to Consumer Reports for the Faux Left (Mother Jones).

Though The Nation magazine appeared unaware (at noon Tuesday) that the hearings had started, at least they were e-mailing a thank you to those who donated money (as opposed to again begging for more money). (If you doubted how serious the financial situation is at The Nation, you had only to look at Katrina vanden Heuvel's pale, wan face in the group photo the e-mail contained.) Most pathetic of all (we didn't call The Nation's e-mail pathetic, to be clear) was

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee which sent out one of their typical please for money and didn't have the good sense to promote the hearings (which might have actually drummed up money since some Democratic members of Congress were on fire Tuesday) and instead went with "The Road to Victory Goes Through New Orleans." Was Chuck Schumer unaware of the hearings that had started four hours before the panhandling in his name was sent out?

To its credit, CREDO sent out an e-mail on the hearings ("No More Funding For War In Iraq!" on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday Shirley Golub (challenging US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi) sent out a fundraiser via The Pen and somehow managed to focus solely on impeachment and forgot the war. Not convincing us to vote for you, Shirley. For the record, we don't believe for a moment that the 2009 Congress will impeach the Bully Boy after he leaves office (yeah, we've heard US House Rep John Conyers float that 'plan,' we still don't believe it) and think it's honestly pathetic that so many candidates are running on that. But we're not seeing very many period who were aware that hearings were going on.


Credit where it's due, CODEPINK may have been the only organization last week to send out a mailing on the hearings ("Is General Petraeus Telling The Truth?" which went out Wednesday morning) and included: "While General Petraeus says the presence of the U.S. military helps reduce violence, 71 percent of Iraqi women say they do not feel protected by U.S. soldiers and 65 percent report that US soldiers are only making security worse." (The Nation's Wednesday e-mail alert on one blog post about the hearing was cancelled out with the next day's mailing which found nothing about the hearings.)

There was a lot to be disappointed in. On the Democratic side, Tuesday's biggest disappointment was Senator Barack Obama who stumbled and fumbled and demonstrated that he really does think merely showing up is enough.

Among the most noted embarrassments from Bambi was this 'question':

"Should we be successful in Mosul, should you continue, General, with the effective operations that you've been engaged in, assuming that in that narrow military effort we are successful, do we anticipate that there ever comes a time where Al Qaida in Iraq could not reconstitute itself?"

It popped up all over the net and was purge of the "uh"s that he was so repeatedly fond of. For the record, Barack showed up at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday determined to jump in line as opposed to waiting his turn (yes, that is a character trait for the entitled prince). Senator Bill Nelson waived him ahead, declaring that Barack was pressed for time. Heaven forbid a little thing like the Iraq War keep him. Having been waived ahead, Bambi stammered through his entire meandering 'questioning' and used up his alloted time. But the world owes Bambi something (we have no idea why) so he demanded an additional minute and then took seven. He still didn't accomplish anything -- a portent for a Bambi presidency?

It was a very embarrassing performance for a sitting Senator let alone one who wants his party's presidential nomination. By contrast, Senator Hillary Clinton was one of the stars of Tuesday morning's Senate Armed Services Committee. (In the morning Petraeus and Crocker testified before then, then the duo moved on to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.) Clinton not only came prepared, she was also able to absorb and question the testimony being offered by Petraeus and Crocker during the hearing. We should probably add, she didn't ask for any special favors and waited her turn to speak (which is determined by seniority).

Senator Carl Levin, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, had questioned Petraues about Iraqi Prime Minister (puppet of the occupation) Nouri al-Maliki's assault on Iraq, about how the US was maintaining that it knew nothing about the assault until it commenced.

Petraeus made several statements in response including that they "had a Friday night heads up" and discussed it in a Saturday morning meeting prior to the assault starting. Clinton noted that she found Petraeus' comments of interest ("I was struck by it, so I wrote it down") and noted that in addition to the Friday heads up, Petraeus spoke of plans in place prior to that, US plans,

in a region that the British are still responsible for (they still haven't withdrawn, they're still stationed at Basra Airport). "What did you mean by the resources you were planning to deploy and over what length of time?" Clinton asked. Petraeus acknowledged that prior to the "Friday heads up," the US had "a plan [which] was being developed" regarding Basra but al-Maliki skipped over that plan and insistead upon "moving up the time table and compressing . . . the resources". Translation, this al-Maliki stand was merely his leaping ahead of action that the US was already planning.

Senator Clinton is advocating for a withdrawal (of some form) and noted the attempts to smear those calling for withdrawal. "I fundamentally disagree" with that, she said of the criticism that withdrawal "is irresponsible or demonstrates a lack of leadership." Having done work before showing up (pay attention Barack), Clinton was able to back up her questions with news reports -- she cited both Thom Shanker's "Army Is Worried By Rising Stress Of Returns Tours" (New York Times) and Cameron W. Barr's "Petraeus: Iraqi Leaders Not Making 'Sufficient Progress'" (Washington Post). On the former, she noted the strain that military was under and on the latter she noted Petraeus' own statements. "No one feels there has been sufficient progress" in Iraq, Petraeus told The Post and Senator Clinton pointed out, "Those are exactly the concerns that my colleagues and I raised when you testified before us in September." She noted his statement then, before Congress, of how no progress would mean careful thought and informed Petraeus, "We're there now."

Again, it's the difference between doing the work required and breezing in late and rushing to get your airtime so you can quickly move on.

The Status of Forces Agreement was also addressed by Clinton (and would come up in the afternoon hearing as well) who introduced legislation last December on the issue calling for the White House to seek Senate approval. This is the treaty the White House wants to sign with the Puppet. Treaties must be approved by the US Senate and the administration is trying to circumvent that by calling it a Status of Forces Agreement though (as Senator Joe Biden and others would point out in the afternoon, it's nothing like any Status of Forces Agreement the US currently has).

"With respect to our long term challenge, Ambassador Crocker, the administration" is planning to make an agreement with Iraq, Senator Clinton pointed out and wondered "will it be submitted to the Iraqi Parliament for ratification?" All indications say yes, Crocker responded; however, when pressed by Clinton about the White House submitting the plan to the Senate for approval, Crocker declared no "at this point" because they don't think they "require the advice and consent" the Constitution insists the executive branch submit to. His reponse "seems odd to Americans," Clinton pointed out, when "the Iraqi Parliament may have a chance to consider this aggreement" but "the United States Congress does not."

Clinton, a trained legal mind, demonstrated she knew exactly what she was doing and her points would be repeatedly raised by Senators and Representatives throughout the hearings (with most having the good manners to cite her).

The afternoon found many strong voices on the Democratic side but chief among them was Senator Joe Biden who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was the picture of "on message." From his opening remarks, he clearly identified what the realities were, "The purpose of the surge was to bring violence down so that Iraq's leaders could come together politically. Violence has come down, but the Iraqis have not come together." He noted any gains were "fragile" and was among the many to question the "Awakening" Council. Many more should have questioned them because in both hearings Tuesday and Wednesday, Petraeus' prepared remarks on the "Awakening" Council would include that by paying them ($300 US dollars a month), the US was cutting down on damage to US vehicles. Petraeus was bragging -- to the US Congress and the American people -- that the US military was forking over its lunch money to avoid getting beat up in the playground. It was not a proud moment but an indication of just how lost the Iraq War is.

As Biden noted, there was no political process. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel drove that point home noting that day-to-day events in Iraq was "holding our policy hostage" and he couldn't see any diplomatic "surge" on the part of the White House or anything remotely "Kissinger-esque" in US Secretary of State Condi Rice's non-actions.

If you saw or heard any commentary from the right-wing, you know that Senator Barbara Boxer drove them crazy. No wonder, she used her time effectively and wasn't in the mood for nonsense. She noted the years and years of training of Iraqi security forces (many of whom defected during the assault on Basra) and, after all this money and time, "what concerns me and most of my constituents, you said -- many times -- the gains in Iraq are fraigle and reversable. . . . So my constituents and I . . . have to wonder why the best that you can say is the gains are fragile and reversable?" Boxer noted the strong points Hagel raised and agreed with him that she's not seeing anything on the diplomatic front or any leadership coming from the White House.

She then turned to the militias and noted British reports that al-Maliki will not bring the "Awakening" Council members into the Iraq security forces because he's "concerned about" the loyalty of "about half of them". $182 million a year is how much the US tax payers are paying the "Awakening" Councils, she pointed out, and wondered why the Iraqis weren't footing this bill? If the Iraqi government is supposed to be standing up, why isn't it footing the bill? She promised she would be raising this issue, this $182 million a year of tax payer money, when the White House sent people up the Hill to ask for more money to fund the Iraq War.

Crocker stated what he'd repeat over and over throughout his subsequent hearing appearances (but he said it first to Boxer), he'd take that matter up with al-Maliki when he returned to Iraq. Left unstated was why it had never been brought up before?

For example, on Wednesday at the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Crocker would reply to Republican Representative Dan Orbach's suggestion that any agreement with Iraq should "include a provision that the Iraqi government pay for any security that we're providing them with," by stating, "Uh, Congressman, in the last few days, uh, uhm, had that message emphasized loud and clear. . . . That's uh something" to be discussed. Echoing Boxer, Orbarcher informed him that if the answer wasn't "yes," "there's going to be trouble on the Republican side as well as the Democratic side" when the White House asks for more war funding. It was bi-partisan consensus that most outlets missed.

That committee met Wednesday afternoon. Earlier that morning Petraeus and Crocker appeared before the US House Armed Services Committee and it's chair, Ike Skelton, would wonder, "How do you take the training wheels off" and get the al-Maliki government to stand on their own? Petraeus repeatedly insisted, throughout the hearings, that al-Maliki's assault on Basra was successful and that was never more laughable than when he responded to Skelton that Basra was proof positive that the training wheels had come off.

"Condition based results" was the buzz jargon Petraeus was attempting to inject into the news cycle over the two days and, Wednesday morning, House Rep Silvestre Reyes was one of the few to point out that the violence surges here and then surges there. The "condition based result" appeared to be deploy here, deploy there. And wasn't the 'surge' supposed to prevent that? House Rep Ellen Tauscher had a long range question and, later in the day, people would repeatedly echo her point. She wanted to know what Petraeus planned to do in the immediate future. She pointed out that elections would take place in the US this November and a new president would be elected. "If you report to a commander-in-chief . . . that wants a plan," one for withdrawal, she wondered, "what would you advise?"

He replied he would insist on "dialogue again" about the "risk" of withdrawal and then attempted to obscure the fact that he'd just admitted he would be presenting a case opposed to withdrawal by insisting he was aware the US military was under civilian control ("we are not self-employed, we take orders and we obey.") Tauscher asked the same question of Crocker. The month is April 2008 but apparently Crocker lacks the ability for mid-range planning. He informed Tauscher, "That's looking fairly far into the future uh and I've uh learned to keep my timelines short when it uh comes to do with things in Iraq." In seven months the US will hold elections and the incoming president may be one who advocates for withdrawal but seven months is apparently too far into the future for Crocker to contemplate. The day prior Hagel wondered about the lack of a diplomatic plan and Crocker appeared eager to demonstrate that any planning was beyond his grasp.

Among the members referencing the Status of Forces Agreement was US House Rep Susan Davis who returned to Clinton's questions about the treaty and how odd it was to the American people that the Iraqi Parliament would have a say on their end (as they are guaranteed in Iraq's Constitution) but the US Congress (also guaranteed that right) wouldn't, "That strikes people in our districts as strange. I wonder if you could talk on that" and how such an agreement might or might not "be used as leverage?" Crocker hemmed and hawwed and Davis noted that the Status of Forces agreement could be used for leverage.

Realizing he was never going to provide her with a straight answer (and might ask her to repeat her question for a fourth time), Davis moved on to the "Awakening" Council and how there are concerns that these militias (trained and paid by US tax payers) could return to violence. (At one point, Crocker lectured the Senate that this was a normal part of bargaining -- paying off the 'enemy.') Crocker had no real answer to Davis' question but noted it was something that had been discussed "with the Prime Minister" of Iraq and (insert laughs here) the US was more than prepared to provide these thugs with "job training and employment opportunites." One would think $300 a month was enough to provide them with but Crocker's apparently starting his own Save The Thugs fund.

Wednesday afternoon's hearing was chaired by Howard Berman who, thankfully, noted the length of the hearings thus far, "That's why we are asking both Ambarassador Ryan Crocker and General David Petraeus more or less to summarize the main points of their testimony, at their discretion, a report to Congress that has been heard once in the House and twice in the Senate already. This way, we'll move along more quickly to the questions posed by members of the committee." Of note is that Petraeus written prepared remarks were about a fifth less than Crocker's. This did not change even after Tuesday morning's first hearing when one might have expected Crocker to wonder if he should edit his talking points down.

Despite sticking strictly to the time limits (which allows witnesses to stall and eat up time thereby avoiding answering questions), this was a lively hearing. House Rep Gary Ackerman noted the nonsense of circular logic, how -- all explanations for going into illegal war having proved false, the US is in Iraq today because, as the old WWII song went, "we're here because we're here." He noted the lack of any accomplishments and that Congress' "job is to question. Our job is to raise those points." Ackerman wanted to know what counted for the 'end' because, "How do you know we've won because at the end of this thing, unless we decide it's an end, nobody's going to hand you a revolver, nobody's going to hand you a sword. Nobody seems to know the answer to that question."

That was a point that especially concerned Rep Robert Wexler whose constituents include Esther and Len Wolfer whose son Stuart died the previous Sunday and left behind a wife (Lee Anne Wolfer) and three daughters. "What is the definition of 'winning'?" Wexler asked and then quoted Len Wolfer who wanted to know "For what" did his son die? "For what?" asked Wexler, "for what had he lost his son? What has all this been for and please, respectfully, don't tell us as you told Senator [John] Warner [yesterday] to remove a brutal dictator. What did Stuart Wolfer and the . . . others die for?" Petraeus declared, "National interests." A lie and a non-comforting one at that.

US House Rep Brad Sherman picked up on Tauscher's point about the changes in store, ""Will you begin on November 5th . . . to prepare plans to execute the policies of the incoming president or alternatively, will the incoming president . . . find a dilemma where if they order immediate withdrawal it will be an unplanned withdrawal" which would lead to more of the same currently going on (stuck in a quagmire)? As with Crocker, Petraeus has difficulty seeing into the immediate future ("Congressman, I can only serve one boss at a time.") -- apparently the military doesn't allow for multi-tasking -- news to the enlisted who are expected to do everything but things are apparently different at the top. (Senator Norm Coleman would raise this issue Thursday afternoon as well and there would still be no concrete answer.)

"General, we often hear President Bush and [Senator John] McCain say we must win in Iraq," US House Rep Robert Wexler noted. "What is the definition of 'winning'?"

Wexler explained that he had sought out input from his constituents as to what question they would be asking if they were on the committee. Stuart Wolfer, 36-years-old, died in Iraq on Sunday. He was a major on his second tour of Iraq and "his family was relieved that he was in the Green Zone because they hoped he would be safe there." He was killed in an attack on the Green Zone. He leaves behind a wife Lee Anne Wolfer and three daughters. His parents, Esther and Len Wolfer, live in Boca Raton. Len Wolfer wanted Wexler to ask, "For what?" Wexler explained, "For what had he lost his son? What has all this been for and please, respectfully, don't tell us as you told Senator [John] Warner [yesterday] to remove a brutal dictator. What did Stuart Wolfer and the . . . others die for?"

Sadly, this is where a lot of the press coverage ended, on Wednesday. Despite the fact that Thursday would find US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the chair of Joint Chief of Staffs Michael Mullen testify on the issue of the Iraq War.

First up was the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations where chair Biden referenced reports on the Status of Force Agreement while hearing testimony from the US State Department's David Satterfield and the US Defense Department's Mary Beth Long.

Biden noted the promises being made in the proposal, "We've pledged we're not only going to consult when there is an outside threat, but also when there is an inside threat. We've just witnessed when Mr. Maliki engaged in the use of force against another Shia group in the south, is this an inside threat?" Biden dubbed the proposed agreement "What the United State Will Do For Iraq" and how the "series of promises . . . flow in one direction -- promises by the United States to a sectarian government that has thus far failed to reach the political compromises necessary to have a stable country. We're told that the reason why we're not continuing under the UN umbrella is because the Iraqis say they have a sovereign country. But they don't want a Status of Forces Agreement because that flows two ways. The Administration tells us it's not binding, but the Iraqi parliament is going to think it is. The second agreement is what Administration officials call a 'standard' Status of Forces Agreement, which will govern the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, including their entry into the country and the immunities to be granted to them under Iraqi law. Unlike most SOFAs, however, it would permit U.S. forces -- for the purposes of Iraqi law -- to engage in combat operations and detain insurgents. In other words, to detain people that we think are bad guys. I don't know any of the other nearly 90 Status of Forces Agreements that would allow a U.S. commander to arrest anyone he believes is a bad guy."

Biden noted the "internal threat" aspect being proposed and how these requires the US "to support the Iraqi government in its battle with all 'outlaw groups' -- that's a pretty expansive commitment." This requires the US "to take sides in Iraq's civil war" and that "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out."

It was an important point and one not made often enough (we're not recalling anyone else making it). Biden spoke of his "frustrations" because "we want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist." The agreement itself was one-sided, Senator Russ Feingold agreed, and wanted to know about any conditions in the agreements "that the Iraq government must meet" but was informed that no one in the administration had thought to insert any. Feingold also noted the reality of the puppet government. "Given the fact that the Maliki government doesn't represent a true colation," Feingold asked, "won't this agreement [make it appear] we are taking sides in the civil war especially when most Iraqi Parliamentarians have called for the withdrawal of troops?"

That was apparently as shocking to the two as the suggestion that an agreement might need to include conditions for both sides. Satterfield wanted to claim that the government was legitimate and had popular support (and seemed unaware of the fact Feingold pointed out, that the bulk of Iraq's Parliament favors US withdrawal).

But Satterfield appeared ignorant of many details. Feingold explained to him that Congress could decide to pass a law overriding the agreement. He followed that up by asking Satterfield what he thought that would mean and the response was that the White House "would have to look careful at it at the time . . . It would propose a difficult question for us."

"I would suggest," Feingold responded, "your difficulties are with the nature of our Constitution. If we pass a law overiding it . . . that's the law."

Senator Robert Menendez raised an issue that peace activists should especially pay attention to. The White House doesn't want a UN authorization. If it had that authorization, it would have continue authorization for the occupation of Iraq (it has no authorization for the illegal war). You need to pair that with US House Rep Sheila Jackson's remarks the day before that currently the US is acting without any authorization ("Let me say that I frankly believe we are operating without authority, the 2002 authorization has been completed . . . We should now bring our troops home.") as well as Biden's point in Thursday morning hearing that the White House is attempting to enter into an agreement with the Iraqi government and that if the US is doing that "with a government in Iraq, it's not longer a threat" -- "it" being Iraq. Which again begs the questions of under what authority the US is remaining in Iraq? The legal aspect concerned Senator Jim Webb as well who wanted Satterfield to explain "the international authority after December 31st would come from what document?" The response Satterfield latched onto was "excutive agreement" which, for the record, does not allow for such authority.

"What you're maintaining," Webb pointed out, "is that an executive agreement can bind us -- let me use a better word -- can authorize a continue military presence in Iraq?" Webb noted that no such executive agreement can allow for that and the only way any agreement can is via Senate consent. Though we doubt Congress will pursue this aspect, the groundwork was clearly laid -- in both houses -- to argue that should no treaty be introduced to the Senate and passed by the Senate and should the Iraqi government not renew the United Nations authorization for continued occupation by the US, any remaining legal standing the US has for being in Iraq would expire on December 31st. That's a point for the peace movement to pay attention to.

As Joe Biden concluded at the end of the hearing, "), "I respectfully suggest that you don't have a Constitutional leg to stand on." Again, the peace movement needs to pay attention to that point.

The afternoon saw the Senate Armed Service Committee hear testimony from Gates and Mullen and Carl Levin, the chair, informed Gates early on that there was "no way you can paper over the difference between" Gates' view on the drawdown and Petraeus' view. Levin was referring to the ridiculous statements Petraeus offered under questioning (by Levin) about the drawdown where he attempted to state that a pause was not a pause and that his stating that drawdown would be paused was in way in conflict with Gates' published statements. Levin pointed out that Petraeus refused to use the terms "brief" or "pause."

It's sad to see an adult obviously lie to Congress and it was sad to watch Gates insist that the only difference ("certainly"!) was in the way he and Petraeus described it -- that actually, descriptions aside, they had advocated the same thing. Despite Levin informing him there was no way to "paper over the difference," Gates attempted to do just that maintaing that he and Petraeus were on the same page. At the end of his rope, Gates finally began speaking of "benefits" and saying they include that he is "allowed to hope more than" Petraeus is.

Levin reminded the secretary that his job was to give a clear assessment and "I hope that you're doing more than hoping."

Gates appeared oblivious throughout and no where was that more apparent than when Senator Bill Nelson raised the issue of reimbursment for security (a topic Boxer had raised as Tuesday and that had been repeatedly raised throughout two days of Congressional hearings but Gates had somehow missed the news reports on those). "Based on this hearing," Gates chirped, "I'm more than happy to take this back to the administration." Again, he appeared unaware that Ryan Crocker had (repeatedly) stated he would be broaching the issue with al-Maliki. It was all news to Gates and we'd be very concerned that the US had a Secretary of Defense in a bubble if we believed a word Gates offered Thursday afternoon.

All the more strange when you consider Nelson pointed out that "Senator [Susan] Collins, Senator [Lindsey] Graham, Senator [Evan] Bayh and a whole host of us" had been asking about reimbursment throughout the week's hearings.

Thursday also saw the Bully Boy of the United States offer up an embarrassing speech where he pledged to continue the illegal war and indicated that he was still itching for war with Iran. (In fact Iran appeared to be at least half the speech.) Senator Joe Biden's response pointed out the obvious failures of Bully Boy's speech, "The President confirmed what I've been saying for some time -- he has no plan to end this war. His plan is to muddle through and then to hand the problem off to his successor. So the result of the surge is that we're right back where we started before it began 15 months ago: with 140,000 troops in Iraq, spending $3 billion every week, losing 30 to 40 American lives every month -- and still no end in sight." If the words sting the White House, it's because they're true. As Hillary Clinton noted, "Today, President Bush delivered yet another address on Iraq -- but we've heard enough speeches that are long on promises, short on facts. And the fact is, there will probably be more troops in Iraq after the surge than before the surge. Iraq has barely moved toward political reconciliation, meeting only a few of the benchmarks set out by the Bush Administration at the start of the surge. And violence has once again spiked in Baghdad and Basra. On Tuesday, I asked General Petraeus when he came before the Senate Armed Services Committee what conditions would mean we should change course, given that the surge has failed to achieve political reconciliation. He did not answer. Yesterday I called on President Bush to answer the question General Petraeus did not. But the President refuses to face reality."

The only thing of 'note' in Bully Boy's speech was that US troops would no longer be deployed to Iraq for 15 month tours. It would, instead, be cut down to twelve. And the media lapped that up like cream. The fine print was often ignored. That change goes into effect . . . August 1st. If the change is needed (and it is needed) there's nothing preventing the Bully Boy, in his commander-in-chief role, from changing it immediately. It's sop thrown out in an attempt to

fool the American people that the White House is doing something.

On Saturday, Bully Boy took to the radio to demonstrate how out of touch he is and thinks the American people also are. He spoke of "significant progress" in Iraq and pointed to "three major 'benchmark' laws" being 'passed.' The reality is that in 2007, the White House set 18 benchmarks for the Iraqi government and three passed is pathetic. The reality is that none of the three passed have been implemented. The reality is that there is no progress.

Also on Saturday, House Rep John Yarmuth gave the Democratic response (link has text and audio) in which he noted:

General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker failed to offer a plan to change direction in Iraq and redeploy our troops. Instead, they offered more of the same, with U.S. troops and taxpayers paying the price. "Americans have already endured enormous losses in Iraq. More than 4,000 troops have given their lives in battle and the American people have spent more than half a trillion dollars to prolong our presence there. While the Iraqi government enjoys a multi-billion dollar surplus, American tax dollars are still being used to pay the salaries of Iraqi security forces, and provide basic services to Iraqis.

The hearings ran from Tuesday through Thursday. Surprisingly, they started early for Congress (9:30 a.m.) and lasted long (well after five o'clock). Some questions have been asked about the tactics the Congressional Democrats (and some Republicans) are currently pursuing (including in e-mails to this site). To be clear, what's been done has been done. We're not speaking of the illegal war, we're speaking of attempts to end it. None of that has ended the illegal war. We're very interested in how Congress intends to pursue the groundwork they set up last week on legalities and economics. We're not Bob Gates so we won't be hopelessly hoping.

But we do think some new tactis are being implemented and if that's what it takes to end an illegal war that's lasted over five years (and should have never started), then so be it. If, however, it turns out this was just grand standing on the part of Congress, we will be very harsh in our later critiques.

What we do know at this moment is that KPFA hasn't forgotten that the nation is engaged in an illegal war:

Live On Air and Online at! April 22 from 10am-1pm
Join us on April 22nd for this very important follow up to Pacifica's groundbreaking
Winter Soldier live coverage. We will be following the San Francisco trial involving wounded vets and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In this first class action lawsuit U.S. Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder sue the VA, alleging a system wide breakdown in the way the Government treats those soldiers.
During this special broadcast we will be bringing our listeners live updates from the San Francisco federal courthouse, we'll speak with wounded Veterans attorney Gordon Erspamer, (taking this case pro bono because his father was permanently disabled in World War II and never received proper health care) and speak with Veterans advocates including Veterans for Common Sense, and Vets for America.
Read more about the broadcast
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }