Sunday, October 25, 2009

The gas bag journals

Left, center, right, what’s on their minds?

The minds of the American people?

Oh, please, the American people are rarely reflected in the gas baggery -- they're hardly ever acknowledged in the gas baggery. But what's the gas baggery focused on? Real issues or pushing talking points? Things that matter or blindly cheerleading their own?

You sort of already knew the answer to that one, didn't you? So did we. Let's dive in.



War and peace are the basics. Everything else follows. And despite the fact that the US engaged in three wars (Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan), war is of little concern to the gas bag set. War is front and center to only four magazines: the right-wing National Review, the libertarian Reason, the leftist ISR (International Socialist Review) and the Democratic cheerleader The Nation.

Starting with the last, The Nation runs a cover photo of US soldiers (stationed somewhere -- it's all unclear, a bit like the magazine's politics) which was taken by Getty Images' Joe Raedle and add this quote to it:

I see an opportunity to accomplish American objectives in Afghanistan while avoiding a course of action that could derail plans for your presidency just as the Vietnam War ruined the presidency of Lyndon Johnson.

What are they speaking of? The Afghanistan War. In a pandering editorial ("Against Escalation" -- unwritten subtitle "But for the continued Afghanistan War") which reveals just how ethically corrupt The Nation has become, they ask a series of questions including this one: "What is the goal of a counter-insurgency mission?"

That is the best The Nation can do? It can't explore counter-insurgency, let alone call it out. It can't even question it? (Counter-insurgency is war on the native people and has a long history that's fairly well known even if 'left' gas bags this century have tried to act as if that history is unknown.) The best they can do is ask what are the goals of this attempt to destroy a native people?

How pathetic.

And even more pathetic is that this less than a page editorial (it takes up a little less than two-thirds of the page) is pretty much it for the "cover story" except for William R. Polk's "An Open Letter To President Obama" which is two and two-thirds pages of text and pretends to be about Afghanistan.

It's really about how Polk taught at the University of Chicago just like Barack Obama did. It's about LBJ (for some reason, the "B" or "Baines" is never included by Polk), it's about Vietnam, it's about Pakistan, and India, and Kashmir, and Palestine, and about Polk's trip to Afghanistan in 1962 (we’re now well into the second page) and it's about the rise of the Taliban, and suddenly it's about US General Stanley McChrystal. Uh, what about the US invasion in 2001?

Look for it, search for it. Polk can't find it. One minute he's yammering on about the Soviets and suddenly, skipping many years, the US has Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan. (For those unaware, Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor, publisher and leading non-thinker at The Nation, and the magazine supported the 2001 War On Afghanistan.)

Polk offers a non-linear mosaic that is somehow supposed to persuade a sitting US president (it's presented as an open letter) but this mosaic approach probably won’t even interest the few who still read The Nation.

And that's all you got.

Surely, you may insist, Katha Pollitt is covering Afghanistan.

You would be wrong. The World’s Ugliest Feminist is busy babbling away about self-help. She's against it. And for Pollitt, that qualifies as both a brave stance and something important to write about. She is truly as hard hitting as the late Erma Bombeck.

The libertarian opinion journal Reason is focused on "The Unknown War: The defeat of communism 20 years ago was the most liberating moment in history. So why don't we talk about it more?" Having read the issue, we reply: "Why doesn't Reason talk about it more?" The 'big' article is actually a commentary from Matt Welch which is basically two pages of text. Two pages of text qualifies as a cover story? In what world? Welch ends his brief lament as follows:

Ironically, the one consistent lesson U.S. officials claim to have learned about the Cold War is the one that has the least applicability outside the East Bloc: that aggressive and even violent confrontation with evil regimes will lead to various spring-times for democracy. It is telling that the victors of an epic economic and spiritual struggle take away conclusions that are primarily military. Telling, and tragic.

Reason should talk, eh?

ISR and Natioanl Review are focused on Iran. The latter offers swinger John Bolton's "A-Jad's Gang: Our Options on Iran." For almost three pages of text, Bolton explores the options he's created for a US policy with regards to Iran. He laments, "Sad to say, Obama's Iran policy is not much different from that of George W. Bush in his second term." There are four options, as Bolton sees it:

1) Allow Iran to become a nuclear power

2) Use diplomatic tools and sanctions (as Bolton states Bush did)

3) Regime change. He refers to internal problems and "spontaneous protests" but Bolton's long history would indicate regime change would be led by the US. Whether US troops would 'officially' be sent in is something he ignores while insisting the US must "press for regime change, overtly and covertly".

4) War: "the pre-emptive use of military force against Iran's nuclear infrastructure." And this is the option that interests him the most -- as evidenced by the fact that he spends so many words on it despite stating "President Obama is all but certain not to use force" -- all but certain not to use force? Then why give the option so much prominence, Bolton?

International Socialist Review also tackles the issue of Iran and opens with a letter from editor Ahmed Shawki which briefly notes Iran but what he really wants to do is whine about celebrities.

Which is a real shame because when they're not resorting to knee-jerk reactions and actually addressing real issues they can offer quite the read. Alone among the magazines, they devote real attention and space to their cover issues. Lee Sustar and S. Sepehri contribute "Iran: Rebellion and reaction" which runs from page 13 to 22. And if that doesn't blow you away, ISR grasps that a cover topic needs more than one article. Pages 22 and 23 is Phil Gasper's "Which side are you on? Why are some U.S. leftists siding with the repressive Iranian regime against pro-democracy protests?" No soft soap from Katha Pollitt about self-help here. Then they move into an interview with Iranian-American Kouross Esmaeli entitled "A fight for more freedom and openness" (conducted by Hadas Their) which runs from pages 25 through 27. That's three serious articles on the issue of Iran -- their cover theme. Those who enjoy reading and read to be informed will get the most out of the current issue of ISR.

Feminism is a real issue and topic (Katha Pollitt not withstanding) and two magazines are concerned with it. Dissent and -- no, we're not joking -- Newsmax.

Dissent features Ann Snitow's "Women's Anniversaries: Snapshots of Polish Feminism since 1989." Is it distressing to anyone else that Dissent -- the Democratic Socialists of America's chief hangout -- rarely seems concerned with American feminism?

For seven pages, Snitow offers easy, breezy 'analysis' such as the following:

1) "But like everything else in the new Poland, feminism is moving fast."

2) Following an especially superficial paragraph, on 'the new economy,' Snitow offers, "Abortion can be a figure for what was happening more generally."

3) "For divergent reasons, people are deeply ambivalent about this new possibility for women's -- and everyone's -- autonomy."

If you think the third item is explored in the article, you're thinking like a writer. Sadly, Snitow wasn't. Again, it's easy, breezy "snapshots".

Heidi Hartmann does a far better job with "Women, the Recession, and the Stimulus Package" which includes this:

As a labor economist, I am most often struck by the gains women have made in the labor-market -- they are working more and more consistently, preparing themselves through education and training for lifelong participation, and earing more per hour and over their lifetimes than previous generations. Yet the bottom line is that women experience more poverty than men do across all age groups. Figure 1, which displays Current Population Survey data for 2007, shows high rates of poverty for girls and boys (but slightly higher for girls) and a steadily declining rate of poverty for men as they age, with men aged sixty-five and older having the lowest poverty rates. For women, the story is dramatically different. For the cohort aged eighteen to twenty-four, who are in the early childbearing years, the poverty rate climbs even higher; it falls gradually thereafter, never falling as low as men's rate, and rises dramatically again at older ages.

Newsmax features "The Newer Feminism {21 Women Who Are Redefining Womanhood}" and uses Sarah Palin as an example on their cover. Give it up to Newsmax, a magazine we don't agree with politically but which, we'll note, offers 18 pages on their cover story. Only Newsmax and ISR appear to grasp that the cover story is supposed to be something readers can sink their teeth into. "The Newer Feminism" leads off the coverage with an article by S.E. Cupp which is a blend of backlash falsehoods and some real issues (some of which stem from misunderstandings) that one would expect from Newsmax. A caption of the eighties proclaims, by photos of Jane Fonda, Sandra Day O'Connor, Geraldine Ferraro and Madonna, "By the 1980s, women's issues were in the hands of a bold mix of influences." The strongest section of Cupp's article is when she addresses attacks on Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in 2008.

In Clinton's case, the attacks were perceived as coming from her opponent, Barack Obama, while in Palin's case, they came from self-proclaimed feminists themselves.
Comedian Margaret Cho called Palin "the worst thing to happen to America since 9/11."
Actress Roseanne Barr called her "bad Mother Palin," and liberal talk-radio personality Randi Rhodes joked that "she's friends with all the teenage boys. You have to say no when your kids say, 'Can we sleep over at the Palins'?' No! NO!" And comic diva Sandra Bernhard warned that she'd be "gang raped in New York City."

Cupp's article is worth reading. Laura Schlessinger offers "'Feminine Wiles' Will Always Serve a Useful Purpose" which lowers the discourse considerably but that's what homophobic 'Dr.' Laura does. Andrea Tantaros explores "Feminism Now Defined by Each and Every Woman." And, remember this is Newsmax, a feature entitled "Women Who've Done It Their Way" explores 21 women: Indra Nooyi, Kathy Ireland, Danica Patrick, Sarah Palin, Katherine Spiller, Nancy Brinker, Suzy Welch, Venus and Serena Williams, Arianna Huffington, Joyce Meyer, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Martina McBride, Ivanka Trump, Oprah Winfrey, Margaret 'Meg' Whitman, Carly Fiorina, Rachel Ray, Erin Burnett, Laura Schlessinger and Michelle Obama.

Moving on to non-topics. Harper's magazine wastes their cover with "Twilight of the American Newspapers." As a general rule, a death can be news. "___ is dying!" rates as gossip. Someone explain the difference between the two to Harper's. The New Republic's also interested in gossip, as evidence by Enrqiue Krause's "Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Romance With Power." The issue should be infamous for the female hatred on display as they have Sarah Palin -- in a cartoon entitled "White House Watch" by Drew Friedman, getting off leafing through Levi Johnston's Playgirl spread. First, Johnston's allegedly going to pose for the online edition. Second, "White House Watch"? We weren't aware Palin was in the White House. Just another example of a loser who can't find humor or call out a sitting president. Drew Friedman, you're an idiot and a joke.

Mother Jones wants to talk climate as a theme -- well that and Glenn Beck. They lower their own IQ by choice, you understand, like Madonna, they do it by choice. They also inform you that you can "Put your kid on our cover! See page 4". They explain they -- Monkia Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery -- already have. How nice to use the magazine you edit to pimp your own family. When you return to real publishing, let us know.

And then there's Maude. Or at least Extra! The 'monthly' 'magazine' from FAIR. Truth, it rarely makes 12 issues a year. Truth, it's barely a newsletter and calling it a 'magazine' is a disservice to actual ones. They're all about alleged health care but they've been carrying Barack's water -- well his piss -- for some time. If you listen to their radio program CounterSpin, you've already heard -- weeks and weeks ago -- anything worth reading in the 'magazine.' And that's the truth.
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