Monday, January 15, 2007

Thoughts on media reform

This is a bonus joint-post going up at community sites.

The media's collapse, said actor and activist Jane Fonda in an earlier speech, shielded the government's own failures.
Telling the story of
Abeer Qasim Hamza, a 15-year-old Iraqi who was raped and murdered by U.S. soldiers, Fonda criticized the news media's impotence in covering the war.
"The cold-blooded murder of Abeer and her family is a tragedy," Fonda said. "But it's almost as great a tragedy when her story and all the other stories that are difficult to hear and difficult to accept are buried in the back of news pages and quickly shuffled off the nightly news." She added: "A truly powerful media is one that can stop a war, not start one."
A founder of the Women's Media Center, which advocates for greater representation of women in media and in newsrooms, Fonda said American journalism takes pride in balance but "forgets that the world is not divided only by right and left."
"During the coverage of the 2004 elections," she added, "journalists were more than twice as likely to turn to a male source than a woman."

The above, noted by Cindy, is from Trevor Aaronson's "Fonda Wraps up Media Conference: Advocate for women in newsrooms says journalism forgets divide not just right and left" (Memphis Commerical Appeal via Common Dreams). That's a jumpoing off point for a joint entry. Participating are:

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

Fonda's comments strike at the heart of the problems with media today. They address the issue of Abeer, Iraq, and the portrayal of the 'other' (anyone who's non-White, non-middle-aged, non-straight, and non-White). As Rebecca has argued, Abeer's story is the story of Iraq.And what did the media do with it?

Independent media ignored it. Early on (June), it looked like there might be some interest in but that was quickly dropped as independent media marched off elsewhere. It never really bothered to pick up the story after it was done completely ignoring Iraq. No article in The Nation ever ran on Abeer or has run as of today. A fourteen-year-old girl was gang raped, murdered, her five-year-old sister was murdered, her parents were murdered and the initial blame for the war crimes was 'insurgents.' The reality was that the war crimes were committed by non-Iraqis. In November, James P. Barker admitted to his involvement in the war crimes (he entered the home as part of a plan to rape Abeer and kill her and others in the house). His court confession also included the actions of others. Since they've yet to be tried, or to confess, you can toss "alleged" in front of their names if you like.

But Abeer was raped and killed and where was the media when the details emerged?
The Washington Post, the Associated Press, Off Our Backs and Robin Morgan were accounted for, they weighed in. Where was everyone else?

The New York Times specialized in a funny sort of reporting. Before the defense could present their legal argument in an Article 32 hearing that was held in August, the New York Times, supposedly presenting objective reporting, managed to run an opinion piece as reporting and somehow managed to argue the defense's case. In a piece published before the defense had presented their case. In a defense that a military legal expert said had no known basis in legal history. Wow. Those New York Times reporters (Carolyn Marshall and Robert F. Worth) are certainly amazing. They predicted it all -- and without any help from the defense! What seers are they.

The New York Times specialized in another kind of reporting on the war crimes -- never mentioning Abeer's name. To name the victim would be to give a face to her and since their own 'reporting' had already crossed the line into advocacy journalism (not anything wrong with advocacy journalism but the paper self-presents as 'objective') it was very clear that their interest wasn't in the truth, wasn't in reporting what happened, but in rendering Abeer and what happened to her invisible. How do you, as reporters at the paper repeatedly did, cover the trial of men accused of gang raping and murdering Abeer and never manage to mention her name?

You do it very carefully when you're interests are in managing and mitigating public opinion. Better to make her a faceless victim if you're interested in continuing to sell the illegal war which the paper is interested in doing.

Now the paper's actions should have been called out. So you might think you got that. You didn't. If in no other way, The Nation could have covered Abeer as a media topic. There media columnist could have addressed the way the paper of record rendered Abeer invisible. But he wasn't interested in that. AlterPunk was interested in useless articles such as his lengthy take on why the New York Times shouldn't run unsigned editorials -- a column that ran in a magazine (The Nation) which runs unsigned editorials.

He was interested in getting upset that he'd recently learned the New York Times' policy on quoting from comments on websites was questionable. In a piece where they rushed to lynch Janet Jackson -- a piece riddled with inaccuracies, only a few of which resulted in corrections by the paper -- it was apparently okay to 'doctor' a quote from a website. The paper is aware of the docotring -- at every level -- and they issued no correction on that. If AlterPunk wants to feign shock about the Times' 'quoting' from websites, he might do better to know the paper's history on it.) (Altering quotes, failure to research your articles, presenting half-baked theories that blow up with the most basic examination and not even grasping that just because you say something was or wasn't a number one doesn't make it true didn't result in the arts section's version of Judith Miller being banned from the paper for anyone interested. We could also touch on the topic of allowing people to create titles for themselves and the paper running with them. That started in the arts section and then, as the Times well knows up through the editorial offices -- carried over to the front page of the news section. The defense on that, expressed by the editor responsible for the front page piece, was that the executive in question didn't like his actual title so he preferred to use a title that doesn't exist. That may be the executive's wish but if the company wanted him to have that title, they'd give it to him. (They haven't and his being billed by a title he doesn't hold has caused anger at the company and caused those still expressing disbelief to note that when you're 'friends' with writers at the paper you can write your own ticket in what passes for 'objective' reporting.) Maybe the Cindy Brady of the faux left can next tackle that?

Probably not because it's safer for all involved (safer translates as coverage and book reviews) to offer up useless topics (unsigned editorials? A pressing issue in the bull pens of high school papers, no doubt) .

And independent media played 2006 safe and cowardly with few exceptions.

Today, John Nichols and Katrina vanden Heuvel write of Dr. Martin Luther King. It may be less than generous to note that the magazine's choosing to note him on the federal holiday in his honor. It's pointing the obvious to note that the passing last year of Coretta Scott King produced no article -- in print or 'online exclusive.' So it strikes us as a more than apalling that the same magazine who didn't appear to give a damn about Coretta Scott King now rushes pieces on MLK to their website.

Like Abeer, Coretta Scott King meets the defnition of an 'other.' African-American, a woman, she couldn't get any traction. The media critic for The Nation couldn't even note that the paper of little record didn't editorialize about her passing -- though, in the same week, they could note a playwright (and personal friend of Gail Collins) who died. Her passing didn't rate a column either. The closest to a column, and the only mention in the editorial section, was Bob Herbert's tacked on one paragraph noting she had died.

What does that say? What does the above say?

Quite a lot and if people want to address media reform, they better do seriously. The Nation is the left magazine with the largest circulation so we'll focus on it.

In 2006, when both Katha Pollitt and Naomi Klein were on leave while they worked on books, two prime spots were open to be temporarily filled. When two strong voices are absent and they happen to be female, you might think The Nation would fill those spots with women. But apparently having nearly wall to wall contributions from male writers wasn't quite enough for "Nobody Owns The Nation," they needed more male voices.

This operating belief goes a long way towards explaining why a freelancer placed her article on Abu Ghraib last year not with The Nation but with a fashion magazine (Marie Claire). The Nation should be leading and it isn't. That's in terms of what gets covered and who gets to cover it. (Already in 2007, their appalling low number of pieces written by women threaten to match the disgraceful numbers for 2006.)

Is the nation White, male, middle aged and straight in all regards? No, but if you got that impression from reading The Nation in 2006, your mistaken beliefs were certainly supported by the magazine.

Alternative media is supposed to provide an alternative, to present what media could be. (On a lower budget, granted.) Offering what the mainstream provides (often the worst it provides -- such as handicapping political races as though they were horse races) but with a left/Democratic spin (for many in independent media, the 'left' view is determined by what the DNC decides it is) isn't an alternative. It's a negative, a photographic negative, it's the bizarro world, it's just not an alternative.

An alternative requires providing an alternative. That requires covering topics that the mainstream isn't interested in. That requires creating the kind of media that demonstrates what is wrong with the current system.

If the extent of 'wrong' is that more Republican hacks are tossed on the airwaves than Democratic hacks, then The Nation is doing a wonderful job. If being a party organ for the Democratic Party is an alternative, congratulations to The Nation.

That would explain why coverage of students qualifies in the magazine as covering what an Iowan poli-sci student deemed "Eisnhower Democrats." Look, they're War Hawks, well funded one with the usual crowd of useless names speaking to them and funding them! Oh, look, here's another piece about 'activists' who are overjoyed by their 'success' (they farmed out volunteers to Congressional campaings) and who explain that sometimes you have to stop 'hugging a tree,' 'put on a suit,' and get down to business. Such business doesn't include serious concern over the environment as the dismissive 'tree hugging' reference telegraphs.

Meanwhile, in the real world, students organize to end the war, organize to rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, organize to halt the imprisonments at Guantanamo, organize (and lead!) on the immigrations rights issue.

The immigration rights issue? "Alternative" coverage apparently means you go down to the deep south and speak to White people opposed to immigrant rights. You also toss in a male (of course male) activist. You avoid the students who led the protests, who woke a sleeping nation.You avoid their bravery and maybe you even offer a slap to them that the Mexican flag shouldn't be carried at a protest. Now those words generally come from people who didn't participate in any of the protests so the words are as useless as the owners of the mouths uttering them.

Where is the place at the table for people of ethnicities and color, for women and LBGTs?

The Nation is looking for a publicity director. That's not going to change the opinions of students opposed to the magazine, students who see it as useless and judgmental of them, students who see their own work and the issues that matter to them ignored.

A new publicity director won't conceal the fact that 'equality' has a funny meaning at The Nation. Equality doesn't mean when two female columnists are on leave, you fill their posts with other male voices. Equality does seem to mean that you demonstrate how fair you are by criticizing Harry Belafonte. At last! African-Americans can be slammed equally at The Nation! (If undeservedly.) Now they can't get covered, Coretta Scott King's death demonstrates that, but they've 'achieved' enough at the magazine that they can be slammed.

Will a publicy director speak to the staff about how they conduct themselves in on air interviews?

We think she or he should. We think that's now a requirement after Laura Flanders was called everything but stupid on air. (Flanders an astute journalist, critic and broadcaster.) That hostile, patronizing, impatient and dismissive treatment didn't come from a guest billed as being on the right, it came from a Nation staffer (and Lyndon La Rouche refugee). We think that interview, the hostitility expressed towards Flanders, says a lot. How does anyone at the magazine come to believe it's okay to treat Flanders, or any woman, in such a manner? (It was bullying. Flanders stood her ground.)

Well it helps when the culture is predominately male, predominately straight, and predominately White. And we're speaking of the culture at the magazine. Media reform is suddenly an issue (for a week or so) and we're reminded of the 2006 issue on media reform which played like celebrity even if it didn't make for good reading. Having something to say wasn't apparently a requirement, just name value. (Which led to it playing out like the what-are-they-reading feature in Vanity Fair -- though in fairness to Van Fair, that's a tiny item in the magazine, not something they provide for pages and pages.)

Margaret Kimberley (Black Agenda Report) is very popular with this community, so let's get practical: when does she get invited to the table?

Or does she have to blindly cheer every Democrat to be included?

If impeachment was a topic worthy of a January 2006 cover, why is it a topic dropped when Nancy Pelosi announcing she is pulling it off the table? Last time we checked, she wasn't listed on the masthead of The Nation.

Independent media needs to show some independence. That's independence in thought and in coverage. Talk of media reform is meaningless if alternative outlets aren't willing to provide an alternative currently.

As 2006 drew to a close, CounterSpin finally found a woman they could interview for the full program (a practice common with male guests). We see that and her topic (the way the press covers war) as a big step in the right direction. But having lived through one of the worst years for independent media (2006), we're not about to act like media reform is something required of the mainstream and that the bulk of independent media has done a good (or even an okay) job in the last year. It hasn't.

It has not reaffirmed the core of democracy (that would require covering actions that included more than running for office or urging that readers vote). It has not practiced anything resmembling Brown v. Board in their own coverage. And we're all dying for the moment where a host (male or female) of a panel has the guts to stop a male, who repeatedly cuts off a female guest, by pointing out just how dismissive he's treating the woman and asking him why he thinks that treatment is acceptable? We're also dying to get something other than The Elector.

We're not interested in The Elector and we're not interested in linking to sop. A perfect example would be an article that David Enders has written. Does the writing qualify for sop? No. It's well written. But The Nation feels it's only worthy of 'online exclusive' status -- implying that they grade outside writers much more harshly than they do insiders. (Possibly they're under the mistaken belief that their print editions are awash with Iraq coverage?) While we're glad that both John Nichols and Katrina vanden Heuvel chose, on the MLK federal holiday, to note MLK, we're not interested in linking to the articles because of the magazine's own silence on Coretta Scott King. In fact, community wide we probably won't to link to anything from The Nation other than Naomi Klein or Katha Pollitt. Why?

Why bother? Why bother to link to a magazine that refuses to cover war resisters? They can't get ahold of Kyle Synder? (Puts them in the minority.) No, they just don't want to. They've demonstrated that throughout 2006 and the slam they printed on Ehren Watada is so offensive and does not pass the 'free speech' phrase that's used as a bully club.

Isn't it funny how free speech lets in Christopher Hitchens, La Rouche refugees and sexual predators but it doesn't let it people of color, it doesn't let it in women, it doesn't let in coverage of peace activists and demonstrations, and it doesn't let in war resisters.

Ehren Watada's beliefs about the illegality and the immorality of the war could be backed up with citations from (much earlier) coverage of Iraq that The Nation provided. So he takes a stand and they play dumb. That's not cutting it. At some point, when you know the war is wrong, you have to take a stand. Ehren Watada has done that. The Nation reads like its unsure. A war resister is a cover story, not a sidebar and especially not a sidebar after you've just printed a useless (unneeded and uninformed) quote from a man slamming Watada. That a magazine which says it is opposed to the illegal war continues to be unable to offer one editorial or column in support of Watada or any of the other war resisters to go public in the summer of 2006, while filling pages of the magazine week after week with useless trash like AlterPunk's nonstop shout outs to various men (someday he'll prove he's a real boy, just like Pinochio!) (and when that happens, he still won't correct his lie that Naomi Klein was a fashion consultant to the Gore campaign).

We're tired of it and we think media reform is a useless topic until independent media is willing to practice some of it themselves.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Truest statement of the week

Starting with US war resister Ehren Watada who, in June 2006, became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to the illegal war. Last Thursday, at the Fort Lewis Army, a military pretrial, presided over by Lt. Col. John Head, heard arguments to outline the scope of the scheduled February 5th court-martial.
Today, the supposedly educated (if not enlightened) members of The Seattle Times editorial board issued their own journalistic ruling -- one that they apparently hammered out with bully clubs. Representing the finest of mob mentalities, if not journalism or democracy, The Seattle Times argues that Ehren Watada should be convicted on both counts (missing deployment and conduct unbecoming an officer) because . . . well the system just won't survive otherwise. Having killed the invidual to "save" what they see as a weak and dottering system (otherwise Watada wouldn't have to be convicted -- if they had any faith in the strength and resiliency of the American system, the Nervous Nels wouldn't have argued for his conviction for the good of the system), they embrace a long history of knuckle draggers who chose expediency over true democracy because there's nothing like a moral imperative to have the most closed minded reaching for the white sheets and rope.
For the system to struggle on, the editorial board argues, the individual must be stamped out and the accusers of Socrates couldn't have said it better in ancient times. If they've learned anything from their (limited) education, the only evidence is that, while calling for a judicial death, they stop short of imprisoment because they fear a martyr who could galvanize a public.
So, by their rudimentary and flawed logic, Ehren Watada must be found guilty to give pause to any other service member that might follow in his footsteps thereby defending the "good Nazi" argument overruled in the Nuremberg Trials which found that following orders was not a valid excuse and that each soldier is an individual agent responsible for his or her own actions.
The Seattle Times sees service members as worker bees and one wonders how far they'd be willing to carry out their flawed logic. Were it The Berlin Times in the immediate aftermath of WWII would they editorialize in favor of Nazis sending Jews, gypsies and gays to the gas chambers? Doubtful because the only basis for their stand today is that the individual must be stamped out at all costs due to the board's own deluded belief in the weakness of the American system. (Possibly they'd term it "the American experiment"?). In an apparent correction to Max Weber (and a dismissal of Robert K. Merton's work on Universalism), the editorial board argues that the state must not only use military might as they see fit but also narrowly define "justice" when it suits their own purposes.
In a decade of journalistic cowardice, the editorial echoes many of the themes that saw the punishment of those journalists who, in real time, called out the Bully Boy for his Bunny-Fu-Fu hop around the continental United States on September 11th for what it was (cowardice), and saw a rush to pass off press releases as investigative journalism. The system will survive, it always does, it's modern day journalism that has decayed.
In the real world, where a spine is required to stand erect, Ehren Watada is part of a movement of resistance within the military and The Seattle Times' hoped for guilty verdict hasn't stopped the movement which includes people such as Watada, Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

The above is from C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Tuesday, January 9, 2007 and Mike and Jim both agreed last Tuesday that it was the pick for truest statement of the week. Juding by e-mails to this site, they were far from alone in making that call immediately.

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --
Another Sunday.

First, if you see a "note" in the future and there's no note in it, remember this: "This will be up in a bit. C.I.'s doing the morning entry at The Common Ills. When C.I. rejoins us, we'll do the note. We're including this now so there's a link (for the entry C.I.'s working on)." We posted that
to explain what was going on. Doing that gives five of us a break and allows C.I. to be able to work on The Common Ills entry so that when the "note" is done here, we're all done at the same time.

Second, while waiting, Jess and Ty looked at the e-mails that had come in so far. There was a question about stats for The Nation. That should be in this edition but none of the six have seen the latest issue. (Subscribed copies still have not arrived.) If we have two issues we can cover next week, we'll do so. That feature, as Melanie worried, is not being dropped. Ava and C.I. were smart to start it when they steered the edition. We will continue it and we will cover every issue unless we announce that we're dropping the stats feature.

Now let's give some credit. The following worked on this edtion:

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

We say thank you and also thank you to Dallas who hunted down links and was a sound board. We also thank Rebecca for her work on photo shopping our illustrations.

New content?

Truest statement of the week -- Mike and me (Jim) picked this early in the week. E-mails coming in throughout the week backed up that choice. The only problem with it? As JG wondered in an e-mail, "Why is this running at The Common Ills and not The Nation?" Good question.

Note -- We were off by 20 minutes. That was due to Kat and Dona finding the impeachment advertisement in the paper and wanting that to go with the editorial. It's also true that after Rebecca works on what we send her, C.I. has to send it to The Common Ills and we pick it up from there. Hello (the program used to send the illustrations) can be very slow.

Highlights -- Cedric, Betty, Kat, Rebecca, Elaine, Wally and Mike worked on this themselves -- writing and selecting. We thank them and then some.

MyTV's Fascist House -- Yes, it's back. We get e-mails requesting this all the time. It is a continous feature, a humor collage. It's also a pain in the butt. It's the core six plus Kat working on these. How it works is we keep clipping file of interesting photos. When it's time to do a collage, we all pick out what we think would work. Then we usually debate a theme. (This week's theme is Condi's Middle East Bully Trip won't garner the attention her usual trips do -- the bloom is off that rose.) When we've finally got both down, we begin cutting the pictures based on how we think they'll be used. At which points, we start assembling on our chosen background. Then it's time to recut (to take out edges and also to make them fit better). Then it's time to grab the glue sticks after we all agree on where things are going to go. It's usually at least an hour and half after we grab the clipping file before we grab the glue sticks. It's not a "quick feature" by any means.

Bacon -- we worked on this poem earlier last week and punched it up during the edition with input from all participating. (Text on the collage, FYI, is provided by all participating in the edition.)

File it under "Thank God she was born in 1925!" -- Kat was the one who came up with the suggestion for this feature. We'd forgotten about it but it was in the clipping file for future collages. She was looking at the picture that ran in The New York Times and noticed Big Babs delighted smirk/smile. It was a good idea and we bumped two other things to work on this.

The Little Boy Who Cried WMD -- Yes, we fixed the title since it first posted. Dick Cheney is the pig, note the glasses.

Abeer and Ehren -- Did you know that one of Abeer's alleged gang rapists and the one alleged to have shot her dead was diagonsed, by the military, with what we'll call 'mental issues' before the rape and murders? Hopefully, you did. Did you know that their is a Camp Resistance in support of Ehren Watada? Hopefully, you did. But considering how little coverage both have received in independent media, we won't assume you knew. These are two developments we think you need to know about.

Escalation: The non-plan -- One of our two longest features. It's a look at Bully Boy's foolish and tragic 'plan' to do more of the same. Many links in this feature. The photo is public domain. (Janet e-mailed already to ask about that. It was taken by a White House photographer (tax payer money) and is on the White House page -- public domain. Please note Anthony Arnove is hitting the road to make speaking appearences in conjuction with the new paperback version of IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal. Dates scheduled thus far are noted in the feature.

TV: Ugly Betty, Beautiful TV -- Ava and C.I. were surprised to discover that after their fall 2006 TV commentary, readers thought they'd immediately pick up this show for review. They were actually planning to wait awhile. With both coming down with food poisoning and being busy prior to that, they went ahead and reviewed this after finding out where the show was in broadcasted episodes. There are no spoilers but they strongly urge that if you already like the show, do not miss the broadcast this Thursday. (On ABC. And they say, "Sorry if we didn't note it airs on Thursday in the review. If we didn't, we'll go in and add that.") This is a long commentary. Their regular readers will probably read through it so quick that they may not grasp that but it is a long one (and one of the two longest pieces this week).

Editorial: The unmentionable -- Hey, remember when impeachment was being seriously raised by any number of independent media outlets? While Congress may have to follow Nancy Pelosi's lead when she says it's off the table -- why the hell is independent media? Or is not all that "independent"? Were the scanner large enough, we'd have feature the entire full page advertisement.

And that's it for this week. Hopefully, you found something that made you think or made your blood boil. Hopefully, it'll motivate you to take some action.

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

Editorial: The unmentionable

One sure way to correct the nation's course? Impeach the Bully Boy. There's a site set up for that, ImpeachBush. The illustration is from an ad they ran last Friday in The New York Times (full page ad, page A7) where they note the following:

The illegal war of aggression Bush launched against Iraq has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and killed or wounded tens of thousands of US soldiers.

(For Iraqi deaths see John Hopkins study published in the British medical journal The Lancet 10.6.2006.)

He set up a worldwide network of secret prisons, where torture has become the norm.

He gave himself the power to wiretap, open the mail of, search and indefinitely detain any American.

Each second this president spends in office is harmful to the interests and values of the American people and the Constitution. It is time to take a stand and let the world know that he is not acting with our consent.

Articles of Impeachment drafted by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, available at ImpeachBush.


Demand Congress Impeach Bush. Over 810,000 people have already voted to impeach -- have you? Take action today by going to ImpeachBush.

In the early months of 2006, there were a number of articles on impeachment. There have also been a number of books published (we'll be noting Dave Lindorff and Barbara Olshansky's book in our next book discussion). But the independent periodicals who seemed to all be noting impeachment in the early months of 2006 now seem to have forgotten the reasons why impeachment is a good idea.

No dummies we, we'll recommend the community's pick for impeachment book, The Center For Constitutional Rights' Articles Of Impeachment Against George W. Bush. As Martha and Shirley noted in their coverage of the community's top ten books of 2006, "A list of twenty books instead of ten would include additional books on impeachment. This was the first one published and the most popular among the community. If you purchased this book, you know the biggest problem with it: you can't keep it on your bookcase. Someone sees you reading it and asks if they can read it when you're done, someone sees it in your house and asks to borrow it, or you end up circulating it through your family. The biggest benefit of the book is the discussions that follow reading it."

We'll also echo their selection of an excerpt (pp. 45-46):

A crime against peace is a war that is not authorized by the United Nations or undertaken in self-defense. Self-defense is defined by the UN Charter as the employment of force against an "armed attack." It also includes anticipatory self-defense. A country need not await an actual attack to use self-defense; if it is to be imminently attacked it can try and prevent that attack with force. This is sometimes referred to as "preemptive attack." However, the concept of self-defense does not include a preventive attack. In other words, one country cannot attack another just because at some time in the future it believes the other country might launch an attack.
In attacking Iraq the Bush administration claimed it had the right to make a preemptive attack on Iraq, but the administration did not show that Iraq posed an "immediate threat" or that it was planning an "imminent attack." Therefor an attack on Iraq could not be legal under the doctrine of self-defense. While there were many Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq, and many claims that Iraq violated those resolutions, there was never a Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. That would have been the only lawful basis for the U.S. to attack Iraq. The war against Iraq cannot be justified as a measure of self-defense, nor did it have Security Council approval. Thus, in going to war, President Bush committed and international crime, a "crime against peace," and failed to execute the laws of the United States.

February 5th, Ehren Watada faces a court-martial for refusing to deploy to Bully Boy's illegal war. So February 5th, Watada stands trial for having the strength to say "no" to the war -- courage Congress lacked when they passed their force resolution (which Bully Boy still violated).
Is that how it's going to work? The ones who have the courage to do what our elected leaders couldn't or wouldn't will be punished while, at the same time, Congress looks the other way at Bully Boy's illegal crimes including warrantless spying and the illegal war?

Bully Boy weakly tossed out, January 10th, "Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me." Those ten empty words can have accountability . . . provided Congress chooses to excercise their oversight powers.

What message gets sent to furture occupants of the Oval Office if Bully Boy walks? That you can lie to the citizens, to the Congress, to the world and get away with it? That the Constitution can be ignored.

Ten years ago yesterday, the Supreme Court heard the case of Jones v. Clinton and agreed to let a civil action go foward against the then sitting president Bill Clinton. Not only did the Court's majority opinion (delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens) agree that the civil case could go forward, they also noted: "First, we have long held that when the President takes official action, the Court has the authority to determine whether he has acted within the law.

For those who missed the Jones v. Clinton case, Paula Jones was stating that she was sexually harassed by the then-governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton. The Jones civil action would be steered and aided by the Independent Counsel's office investigating the Whitewater (non-scandal) and the Independent Counsel would spend over $60 million US tax payers' monies only to find no wrong doing in Whitewater although, prior to that, Ken Starr would have already recommended (September 9, 1998) to the House of Representatives the Bill Clinton be impeached for consensual sex between two adults. (For lying about sex? Have you read the heavy breathing Starr Report? It was all about sex.)

So what's the message? Denying a consensual sexual relationship with an adult is grounds for impeachment but lying a nation into an illegal war that results in the deaths of hundreds of thousands isn't? Kevin Benderman, Camilo Mejia, Pablo Parades, Ricky Clousing and others can be court-martialed for refusing to fight in an illegal war but there's no accountability for Bully Boy who started that war of choice?

He lied, he misled a nation, he misled Congress. You either stand up to that or you accept that you've just declared any president can do the same and suffer no consequences. That might be the future of this country but sure doesn't sound like the America we're supposed to take pride in.

TV: Ugly Betty, Beautiful TV

In a fall season with relatively few breakouts, ABC's Ugly Betty stands out. Standing out frequently means standing out as a bulls eye for a number of people to take pot shots at. Which is why, recently, a British gas bag writing for a British paper felt the need to share her belief that it was among the ugliest shows to waft across the Atlantic. Those who remember Benny Hill might point out that the stench wafts both ways.

Her biggest beef was that the show wasn't following the fashion scene -- apparently she's never seen Just Shoot Me. Others who seem to miss the point zero in on the fact that neither Betty nor the actress playing her, America Ferrera, are ugly. Apparently those wags wouldn't be happy unless Mimi from The Drew Carey Show was transplanted into the lead.

Criticisms like the above miss the obvious. At it's heart (and this was true of the original version in Columbia, Betty la fea) it is a Cinderella story. For non-readers, think Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries and a host of other films. Note we said "films." In TV you can get 'reality' 'makeover' shows and a host of other things, you don't get the ugly ducking turning into a swan as the lead in scripted shows. In fact, like the aforementioned Mimi, the looks are pretty much set in scripted shows and someone dubbed 'ugly' is kept around for just that.

This omission is rather surprising when you consider (a) TV recycles everything and (b) films with the Cinderella storyline often do very well at the box office. It's only not surprising when you consider how often TV cups the macho, year after year.

The Cinderella story or the tale of the Ugly Ducking speak to people who hope that someone will see them for what they have on the inside. For women, their popularity may also stem from the freakish period known as puberty when a perfectly workable body begins shifting and sprouting.

It's also true that many women, even extremely beautiful women, tend to rate themselves lower on the looks scale than others would. (In polls where women and men are asked to rate themselves, men must be rating themselves much higher than they deserve or else the polling of males takes place on a cattle call for a Calvin Klein underwear shoot.)

Betty la fea was very popular and has been remade in countless countries. At one point, NBC toyed with the idea of making it into a half-hour sitcom. That was the most serious interest the show (which has been a hit everywhere) ever had from American networks. Until . . .

Salma Hayek. You knew there had to be a woman involved otherwise it would be Universal Bud Bundy Gets a Gun or some of the other crap the networks toss out yearly. The American version differs in a number of ways. First off, the backdrop has been changed. Betty works in the magazine industry, not for a fashion designer. Second, humor is emphasized in the hour long version. Third, the setting is America.

That last point is important and Hayek's behind the scene driving of the show is as well because, while the networks toyed with the idea of launching an American version over nearly a decade, it wasn't always a given that the lead character would be a Latina. In some attempts to sell the show, she was turned into an Anglo.

Not only has the character been kept a Latina, her parents were both immigrants. Her mother is dead and her father, Ignacio Suarez (amazingly well played by Tony Plana), currently struggles to be granted citizenship since he and his late wife were undocumented immigrants who came to the US in the 70s. If you're thinking the network looked at the massive immigration rights protests of last year and thought, "We should work that in" -- well you are naive. Again, credit Hayek.

There have been very few TV shows on the big three with Latinos or Latinas as the lead -- rather strange when one of the most successful sitcoms of all time co-starred Cuban Desi Arnez.

Of the few attempts, the number that lasted more than one season is even smaller (Chico & the Man and The George Lopez Show are two).

It would be easy to argue (and some foolishly have) that of course the lead needed to be a Latina because the show is based upon a successful telenova. Those making that argument must be under the impression that Bo Derek, Catherine Oxenberg and Tatum O'Neal are Latinas. Hayek, a producer with a strong track record (Frida, In the Time of the Butterflies, etc.) and an actress of considerable talent (and Oscar nominated for Best Actress for Frida), guaranteed that the networks would be interested and that viewers would see something other than the standard masculine storyline that's always supposed to play 'universal' but rarely does. You can't talk about what ended up onscreen without giving credit to Hayek who committed to this show and steered it.

America Ferrera is endearing as Betty. In your standard TV show that would mean she's nothing but a sideliner cheerleading some male. Ugly Betty is her story and, like a friend who can't see how good looking she is, audiences stick up for her because her talents go far beyond endearing. It helps that she also wants. Her wants include happiness for her family (father, sister and *nephew*) and success in her field. In most versions, Betty's in love with her boss and ends up with him. That may prove to be the case with this show as well; however, since it's not a telanova (which conclude their storylines in a matter of weeks), that's up in the air at this point.

Betty's boss, most recently, was Daniel (played by Eric Mabius) and not only did she leave his employment (MODE magazine) to go to work for another magazine (MYW), she also did her part to fix him up with the magazine's editor Sofia Reyes (played by Hayek). Many who've weighed in on the show have complained that Betty isn't "ugly," they've rarely bothered to note she's also not a doormat.

She's considered "ugly" (or awkward) because of the work setting. Like Maya (Laura San Giacomo) in Just Shoot Me, Betty's not been about high glamour. Those who don't get the fact that the Betty's being judged by the standards of her work setting must have missed Vanessa Williams.

Williams plays Wilhelmina Slater who is the creative director of MODE and wants to be its editor (Daniel's job). Those who remember the publicity build up Diahann Carroll got when she joined Dynasty (bragging that she'd be playing "the first Black bitch" on a primetime soap) probably also remember how quickly Carroll's character blanded out in her first full season. Carroll holds a record for Julia, but Williams achieves what was promised (but never delivered) on Dynasty. That's because Williams has a found a role she can build. She does that via stance and movement as much as any dialogue her character's given. Those who remember the disaster that was the Lynda Carter and Loni Anderson team up of Partners in Crime may remember the show's first episode which featured Williams playing an incredibly underwritten part (at least she got an US magazine cover out of it). Even then, fresh off being stripped of her Miss America title, Williams planted herself so firmly that it was obvious she had talent.

In the years since, she's often achieved but the opportunities have been few. A gorgeous woman with a flair for comedy, a way with dialogue and a very (little noted) physical sense of acting should have been cast in lead in after lead in films and should have raked up at least as many shots at TV leads as Geena Davis. That didn't happen. But one entrance by Williams in the show makes up for everything she's suffered through in the past (most recently playing a cruise director type role on a UPN tragedy).

There are people who understimate the talent required for this sort of role. As though a Donna Mills, Joan Collins, Ana-Alicia or Heather Locklear pops up on every primetime soap. They don't. You've got to have serious talent to play those larger than life scenes without making yourself the joke. Williams has that talent and also has the talent to pull off the quieter scenes in a recent storyline that found Wilhelmina ready to embrace something other than the world she grew up (she's the daughter of a US senator in addition to her work at MODE).

The show has a strong cast and a fast pace. In the regular cast, stands out include Ashley Jensen (as Betty's friend Christina), Alan Dale (as Bradford Meade, the publisher of MODE, MYW and other magazines), and Ana Ortiz (as Betty's sister Hilda). Even the guest spots are cast strong (example, Judith Light as Claire Meade, mother of Daniel and wife of Bradford).

The show's weakest spot is Eric Mabius who plays Daniel. Though People magazine finds him to be one of the sexiest men alive, ourselves, we're unconvinced. He bears an uncanny resemblence to the comedian Carrot Top and his too-wounded-for-this-world performance struck us as sappy. The only exception to that were his scenes with Salma Hayek's Sofia which provided a spark that was otherwise missing (whether proposing to her or when informed, by her, early in the show, that she wasn't wearing panties as she climbed on top of his shoulders).

If he does turn out to be Betty's Prince Charming and he returns to the flat performances, we won't see that as much of a happy ending. In fact, too many scenes with his character could turn the show into Bland Daniel.

(For those who don't get just how bland Mabius can be, in 1999 he played Joshua Jackson's closeted jock boyfriend in Cruel Intentions, the one Ryan Phillipe walks in on. Scenes that should have sparked instead sputtered out. He's too stiff for camp.)

We're not too worried about the ending because this is a show that viewers will dictate. All it's going to take is one strong actor who sparks off America Ferrera (the Mr. Big to her Carrie) to have audiences demanding that Betty do better than Daniel. And again, the fact that Betty was fixing Daniel up with Hayeck's Sofia (before she learned Sofia was using him) hints that this Betty has yet to stumble across her Prince Charming.

If you haven't checked out the show yet, what are you likely to stumble across? An hour long show that mixes comedy, drama and melodrama. It's funnier than Melrose Place and it doesn't suffer from the attempts to show, for instance, how deep Jake or Michael or any other male is. In fact, unlike the supposedly female driven shows such as Commander-in-Chief, Alias and Moronic Mars, one of the things you may first notice is how different a show feels when the female lead isn't also the token female in the cast.
But there's only one lead character. As strong as Williams is, and she's quite strong in her role, this is Betty's story. And chances are, it will involve you. Things like Betty and Christina's trip to Boylesque (a male strip club) to get the dirt on Sofia come up quickly and keep the pace moving. (Translation, there are no clip jobs that MyTV tries to pass off during the week as "new" episodes of their telenovas.) When things move to a slower pace, it's due to a strong performance you want to savor (such as Hayek or Judith Light as their reoccuring characters).

From the high camp of the goings on at MODE to the quieter moments of Betty with her family, the show shifts tones and moods quickly and does so in a way that doesn't feel forced or "very special episode" like. No, Betty isn't ugly and no one in her family would call her that. But the show grasps that women do not live on merely one plane. Betty's transitioning from plane to plane, level to level, throughout the day and that's what makes "the bitches" (as Christina calls them) at MODE and their treatment of and attitudes toward Betty all the more complex. If Betty truly was "ugly" (e.g. Mimi), the show would be the standard one-note portrayal of a woman that the networks trot out year after year. Ugly Betty's quite a bit more complex and a lot more enjoyable.

ADDED: Ugly Betty airs Thursdays on ABC. If you already enjoy the show: HEADS UP, YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS IT THIS THURSDAY.

Escalation: The non-plan

On Wednesday, January 10th, Bully Boy announced his 'new' 'plan' for Iraq -- escalation. He tries to sell it as a 'surge.' 'Escalation' conjures how the same failed 'plan' never worked in Vietnam and, most importantly, 'surge' implies that additional troops sent to Iraq to 'secure' the capitol and Al-Anbar Province will only be in Iraq for a short time. As the 'crackdown' in Baghdad, which started in June and continues, demonstrates this is not a short-term plan.

If you waited for a serious discussion of the Bully Boy's so-called new, so-called plan from the mainstream media, you largely waited in vain. Even the PBS hold outs among our readers e-mailed to complain about The NewsHour coverage. To those readers, we ask, "Did you really expect any different?" We mean, come on, in the same week, on air, a PBS host bragged about not paying minimum wage at their own small business, did you really think you could get a serious examination? (You certainly didn't get a serious examination of raising the minimum wage -- though you did understand why the host kept tossing the Heritage Foundation after the on air revelation that minimum wage wasn't being paid at her own small business with four employees.)

Maybe you thought TV 'journalism' might explore the money issue involved in the war? Forget about it. But Joel Havemann (Los Angeles Times) reports today that the "price tag is beginning to reach historic proportions" and that continuing "on the current scale, the funding for the Iraq war -- combined with the conflict in Afghanistan and other foreign fronts in the war on terrorism -- is projected to surpass this country's Vietnam spending next year" ("$660 billion in today's dollars"). Havemann reports that the White House says the escalation will add $5.6 billion in military expenses and $1 billion in reconstruction and other civilian costs" to Bully Boy's running tab that tax payers will have to close out.

Last Monday, WBAI presented a two hour special, THAW ON THE AIR, "Member theater companies of THAW (Theatres Against War) perform an evening of dramatic readings curated by Cynthia Croot." (Those who missed the broadcast, should check the WBAI archives for January 8th and will currently find the special listed under Home Fries which is the program it aired in place of. WBAI does not keep its archives up indefinately. Those reading 90s days after it aired won't be able to listen but can read Rebecca's post on the special.) During the two-hour special, the Guerilla Grrls noted the costs of the illegal war and that many other things could have been done with the money -- for instance, buying 183 million Apple computers, brand new, for public schools or providing mammograms to every woman in the United States (and man too) or even just buying tickets for Bully Boy and his entire administration to travel into outer space.

Money is also going to build the US embassy/fortress within the Green Zone, a great deal of money. On the January 4, 2007 broadcast of KPFA's Flashpoints, Dahr Jamail discussed the embassy/fortress with Nora Barrows-Friedman and noted that, "This was a $572 million contract that was awarded to a very corrupt . . . Kuwaiti construction firm with very direct ties to the Bush administration and this is an embassy that's going to have room for between 3 and 8,000 government employees, it has its own school . . . I don't think we should expect any Iraqi kids at this school, it has the largest swimming pool in the country, yoga studios, barbershops, beauty shops, its own water plant, its own electricity plant, it has apartment buildings. And when it's complete, it will be, it's 21 buildings and the area will be the size of the Vatican City. So that's the so-called embassy that's being built in Iraq so if we talk about when are we going to withdraw troops and why aren't the Democrats talking about withdrawal, this sort of thing, instead why is there talk of a 'surge'? It's because we . . . just need look no further than the physical evidence on the ground, augmented by the US policy like the National Security Strategy and the Quadrennial Defense Review Report -- all of these signs point towards permanent occupation of Iraq just like we have in Germany."

A permanent fortress/'embassy' in Iraq along with permanent bases. Unless the peace movement is going to say "NO" to this nonsense. Thursday, January 10th, on KPFA's Living Room, Antonia Juhasz addressed this topic noting:

This is . . . the critical moment to make our demands very, very clear to the Democrats and one of those demands has to explicity be that this is a war for oil that cannot be allowed to continue and that what the administration is hoping for is that it will suceed in its economic transformation of Iraq which at this point has nearly reached fruition -- which is a new law developed way before the war in the US State Department, then pushed by US corporations, pushed by the successive appointed governments of Iraq by the US government following the invasion -- for a new law that is now, the al-Maliki govenrmenet has now said that it will put this new law forward to the Iraqi parliament that creates an unprecedented oil victory in Iraq. So what it does is give the government of Iraq nominal control and ownership of their oil but every function of the oil industry would then be privatized and turned over to foreign companies and the foreign companies would get a form of contract called a Production Sharing Agreement which is not used anywhere in the Middle East not used anywhere in oil rich countries in fact that gives first 30 years, 30 year contract, and then according to the UK Independent, that the intial contract would give 75% of initial profits to the private companies leaving only 25% for the Iraqis. [. . .] Iraq can best be understood as a pimple of oil that has yet to be plucked. It has certainly the second largest oil reserves in the world possibly larger. It has 80 known oil fields but only 17 have even begun to be developed. It is those undeveloped oil fields which are all completely within the realm of the new law and then the debate, that the president mentioned in his speech, is over a constitutional amendment to address the existing fields, which are now divided between the Shia and the Kurds in the north and the south, and to bring the control of the existing fields back into the central gover of al-Maliki. And what I believe is that the Bush administration is going to hold onto the occupation and make it larger and make it as big as he can until the law passes and US companies sign contracts and then they have to get work. And they need a security force to do that and that is our troops.

No blood for oil, as Howard Zinn noted on Friday, January's 12th's broadcast of KPFA's The Morning Show, remains a very concise rallying cry. The Bully Boy's 'plan' is an attempt to string the war along long enough to allow big business to sign the oil production contracts they want. Though some may see that as something that Iraqis can live with for a 'couple of years,' as C.I. wrote:

Oh, how nice for you -- if not for Iraqis. In a few years (5? 10? 15? . . .), when another government is in place, you believe that the Iraqi people may get some sort of break. In the meantime we're talking about a nation that's lived under sanctions throughout the 90s and is now a war zone. We're talking about a country where the UN estimates 100 die each day. We're talking about a country where malnutrition is a serious issue for children.

The contracts matter, Juhasz is correct, and it's rather sad to hear them dismissed as an issue that can be ignored by someone speaking out against the Iraq war. For all the reasons noted, the refugee crisis, the rising rates of malnutrition, the war torn country and just simple justice, the contracts matter.

So should the will of the people (whom the Bully Boy is supposed to be working for). Friday, CNN reported: "Two out of three Americans oppose President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq, a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Friday indicates. Nearly two-thirds of those polled also say Bush has no clear plan for Iraq." As for the 32% who supported it in the CNN poll, as Wally and Cedric pointed out, with 1/4 of all Americans meeting the criteria for mental illness, Bully Boy's true base may have finally been discovered. A Washington Post - ABC News poll found 61% of respondents are opposed to Bully Boy's planned escalation. A CBS News poll found 53% of respondents opposed and 37% in support of the escalation.

The American people sends a thumbs down to the Bully Boy's plan. What of US troops serving in Iraq? One of the few to speak to them, Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reported
that "to many of the U.S. soldiers who already are struggling to prepare Iraqi troops in Diyala province say that more Americans won't solve Iraq's problems." The Iraqi people? CBS News' Lara Logan reported: ""Iraqis have been talking about nothing else all day, and most of the people we've spoken to say they do not want more U.S. troops here. They don't believe this is going to help." On Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman interviewed Sami Rasouli from Najaf and tied the conditions he was experiencing to the 'plan': "Actually, Amy, for the last four days, I couldn't get a shower -- because there is no electricity, there is no heating, so water's so cold in this harsh winter in Iraq -- because Iraq has a continental climate that's very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. So, as I speak to you, I really stink -- and, as the increasing prices in the economy that's collapsing stink and the Iraq government policy stinks, even the American policy, that so-called surge in Iraq, stinks too because, as you know, and Iraqis know and the others, that the occupation is a form of war. So any escalation in this type of war, the resistance is going to escalate too."

The puppet government? Sabrina Tavernise and John F. Burns (New York Times) reported
that Nouri al-Maliki and his aides were "wary" and "fear that an increased American troop presence" that will undercut Iraq's own efforts at stability. And Michael Abramowitz, Robin Wright and Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post) reported that in the infamous Jordan meeting (preceeded by the snub) al-Maliki "did not ask for more American troops" and he actually wanted "to lower the U.S. profile, not raise it."

Who is in favor of sending nearly 22,000 more US troops into Iraq? US Senator and presumed presidential candidate for 2008 John McCain, of course. (He'll slam the escalation within a year -- faulting it for not sending in more US troops, our prediction.) Tony Blair, prime minister -- for now -- of England favors it -- this as British troops prepare to draw down their number of troops stationed in Iraq. John Howard, prime minister of Australia, favors it as well -- not enough to send any more Australian troops to Iraq, but in 'theory,' if not in 'practice,' he favors the 'plan.'

Senator Ted Kennedy calls Iraq "George Bush's Vietnam." Senator Chuck Hagel declared, "I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam if it's carried out. . . . I will resist it." Senator Russ Feingold observes that the Bully Boy "ignored the recommendations of members of both parties, military leaders, foreign policy experts, and the will of the American people by announcing that he intends to escalate our involvement in Iraq by sending more troops there. Congress must bring an end to what has been one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in the history of our nation. The President continues to deny the devastating impact that keeping our brave troops in Iraq is having on our national security. The American people have rejected the Administration's Iraq-centric foreign policy. It is time to bring our troops out of Iraq and refocus on defeating the global terrorist networks that threaten this country."

As always, war pornographer Michael Gordon (New York Times) attempted to tap down on anti-war sentiment (and sanity and intelligence) by declaring (wrongly) that Congress had little power with regards to the illegal war. The following day, Jeff Zelany (New York Times) offered a slap to Gordo's war porn filled head in noting, "By law, Congress can limit the nature of troop deployments, cap the size of military deployments and cut financing for existing or prospective deployments." Tuesday, January 10th, Michael Ratner (president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-host of WBAI's Law and Disorder) offered some specifics on The KPFA Evening News, "Basically we can look at this in a few ways. One is you [Congress] can cut off the funding and that they have a constitutional right to do. Secondly, they could pass a resolution under the war powers resolution that repeals the authorization to use force in Iraq I think [Ted] Kennedy's argument is something. There better argument in Congress is to say 'We repeal the Iraq War Resolution' -- that would take away the president's authority. So Congress has remedies here. The question is are the Democrats going to be willing to stand up and take them or are they just going to talk? Kennedy, obviously, is going to do more than talk."

On the issue of repeatling the Iraq War Resolution, C.I. explained: "What Micheal Ratner was referring when he noted a second option the US Congress had is something that another Michael apparently slept through (Michael Gordon of the New York Times), the reaction to Tricky Dick's announcement that he would bomb Cambodia led to a Senate vote to repeal the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which was followed by House of Representatives doing the same."

Those are two of the things Congress can do. What about the American people? A number of things. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) interviewed Leslie Cagan (United for Peace & Justice) last week and Cagan spoke of an upcoming event: "in just a few weeks, on Saturday January 27th, people from every corner of the country are gathering here in Washington, where I am right now, to march around the Capitol, to deliver our message: it is time to end the war. The people spoke. The voters of this country had their opportunity in November to make their voices heard. Now we're saying to Congress, 'You need to act on the will of the people of this country.' So on Saturday January 27th, people will be getting on buses and trains and carpools and every other manner of transportation and gathering here in Washington on the Mall between 3rd Street and 7th Street at 11:00 am in the morning and delivering this message. And on top of that, we're asking people to stay here in Washington for a few more days to do a massive lobby day on Monday the 29th". That is far from the only action. For instance, February 5th, the Occupation Project will commence actions that will run through April where citizens will be present at Congressional offices saying "Do not vote for further funding of the illegal war." The Declaration of Peace is also organizing visits to the offices of Congress members, as well as faxes, phone calls, e-mails and letters to Congress members saying do not approve more funding of the war.

You can contact your Congress members and tell them to oppose the escalation. That's the request of a couple who have five children and grandchildren serving in the military. They made that request on Thursday, January 11th's broadcast of KPFA's Flashpoints -- during which Dennis Bernstein devoted the hour to speaking to the families of military members to get their own take on Bully Boy's plan for escalation. (On the broadcast, Anne Roesler, of Military Families Speak Out, rightly dubbed the January 10th speech by the Bully Boy, "the same-old, same-old.")

If the above gives you a better understanding of the 'plan,' great. But don't think for a minute the mainstream media was pursuing these leads (exceptions are noted above). Danny Schechter surveyed the mainstream televised news 'coverage' of the speech and found: "In the aftermath of President Bush's prime-time war cry for escalation from the White House Library, the network newscasters were skeptical about his chances for success but seemed to be impressed by his willingness to stand up for what they think he believes, like some lone but gutsy hero on the prairie."

On the January 12th broadcast of KPFA's The Morning Show, Andrea Lewis wondered what about the people who say that withdrawing US troops from Iraq will lead to further chaos and send the country spiraling? Anthony Arnove replied:

I think we have to acknowledge that people who raise that point raise it two different ways. The cynical group of people who make that argument, pundits, politicans, to say we can never pull out, to justify the US remaining as an occupying power in Iraq for years to come, to justify setting up military bases, permanent bases, in Iraq, to justify the role that the United States wants to play in Iraq projecting its power in the entire Middle East and globally, as Howard mentioned. But then there's also decent people who have a concern for the consequences of the Iraqi people. And I think we have to acknowledge their fears and their concerns for what would happen to Iraq? And we're not saying abandon the Iraqi people -- "This is some kind of isolationist position, we don't care what happens to them." We're saying the opposite. Our point is that every day that the United States continues in Iraq as an unwanted, foreign, occupying power, it makes the situation worse for ordinary Iraqis. It's not ending sectarian conflict in Iraq, it's actually fueling sectarian conflict. It's not ending violence, it's actually fueling violence. The United States occupation is the greatest source of instability in the country. And after every benchmark that we've been told would change the situation there --elections, the constitution, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the execution of Saddam Hussein -- things just get worse. Iraq right now is the world's largest refugee crises in the world. Inflation has skyrocketed, unemployment has skyrocketed, there's less electricty, less safe drinking water, less security for Iraqis which is why poll after poll shows that that they say their life is getting worse and they want the United States to leave and so if we claim that we're bringing democracy well democracy would dictate that we let the Iraqi people determine their own future. But we should support them. We should pay reperations. We owe them a tremends debt, not just for the harm caused by the occupation, but all of the years before that the United States imposed sanctions on the country and, before that, supported Saddam Hussein as he carried out his worst crimes.

Also addressing what fuels the resistance in Iraq was professor Natalie Goldring (of Georgetown University's Center for Peace and Security Studies) on the January 11th broadcast of
KPFA's The Morning Show: "We can't win in Iraq. I don't think it's possible. President Bush, to my mind, is increasingly isolated in painting this picture of an Iraq that is somehow a democratic presence and a peaceful Middle East is miraculously transformed by the American presence. In reality our presence there is making things worse. The Iraqis are in fact worse off if you look at things like their energy production and other key measures of whether people are comfortable in their homes. They're worse off than they were under Saddam which is a really scary prospect. So I don't think we can win. We do need to get out."

Iraqis don't want more US forces on the ground in Iraq, the puppet government doesn't want it, most Americans don't want it, the leaders of England and Australia want it -- provided they don't have to follow suit themselves, activists, authors and experts say it is a mistake, state governors stand to lose power if escalation is carried out, and the non-plan has been strongly criticized in Congress. The speech gave lip service to 'benchmarks' but did not provide any and Robert Gates revealed to Congress that there was no timetable for achievement. This was emphasized again when Condi Rice began weighing in. As C.I. noted: "And Condi's all over the wires with her 'we won't pull the plug on Iraq.' I guess that means they plan to send in Jeb and sherrif deputies?" [Reference to the GOP's embarrassing response to the Terry Schiavo case.]

In the face of all this and more, Bully Boy wants to play dumb (this time, at least, it is playing) and claim there are no clear alternatives to his plan. There are many. One is Anthony Arnove's
Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal which is newly out in paperback -- worth reading on it's own but possibly you'd like to purchase a copy ($13.00) to send to the White House?

In addition to bookstores, Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal can be purchased at:

*Haymarket Books
*Powell's Books
*Barnes and

To promote the new soft cover version of the book, Arnove will be back on the road and some of the upcoming dates include:

*January 17, 7 pm,
New York, NY (with Michael Schwartz)
16 Beaver

*January 20, 7 pm,
Chicago, IL (with Jeff Engelhardt)
University of Illinois-Chicago
Contact: Adam Turl, 773-567-0936,

*January 27, 5 pm,
Washington, DC (with Kelly Dougherty)
Busboys and Poets

*February 1, 7:30 pm, Pasadena, CA
Voices of a People's History of the United States
with Mark Ruffalo, Q'Orianka Kilcher, Benjamin Bratt, Marisa Tomei, Josh Brolin, and Alfre Woodard.
All Saints Episcopal Church

We have mentioned Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal here many times (and highly recommend it) but we'll also note it made the community's top ten books for 2006 and you can read Martha and Shirley's report on it and other books that made the list.

Abeer and Ehren

Two important developments related to Iraq that you may not have heard of.

First, the latest on the gang rape and murder (and attempted buring of the corpse of) fourteen-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi and the murders of her five-year-old sister and both of their parents.

The crimes were committed on March 12, 2006. Originally, the crimes were blamed on Iraqis. In November, James P. Barker confessed to his part (gang rape) and fingered other US soldiers involved.

The press has long portrayed Steven D. Green as the 'ringleader' of the war crimes. Green will be tried in a (civilian) federal court due to the fact that he was discharged from the military before it was reported that Iraqis were not responsible for the crimes, US soldiers were.

Green enlisted shortly after a jail stay and singed a moral waiver to get past the fact that he reportedly had a history of prior drug and alcohol related arrests.

Last week, Ryan Lenz (AP) reported the latest development in the war crimes: In December of 2005, three months prior to the gang rape and multiple murders, Green was diagnosed with "homicidal ideations" by the Army Combat Stress Team and 'treated' with the drug Seroquel and the suggesting that he "get some sleep."

How far up the chain does the blame for the murders and gang rape go?

The second item is about Ehren Watada who, in June of last year, became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. Watada faces a court-martial on February 5th at Fort Lewis. In a show of support, Camp Resistance has been set up "at at off ramp 119, gates of Fort Lewis." Camp Resistance is an ongoing action started and led by Iraq Veterans Against the War. You can find photos and reports on Camp Resistance at the special page Iraq Veterans Against the War have set up to cover the camp.

We think those are two important developments and are disappointed (though not surprised) with how little attention independent media has given them.

The Little Boy Who Cried WMD

There once was a pampered Bully Boy who was bored and had the war lust as he sat in the oval office. To amuse himself and start an illegal war, he cried "WMD! WMD! Mushroom cloud!"
The villagers trembled and tossed aside their own better natures.

But when troops were sent overseas, they found no WMD.
The Bully Boy laughed in front of the press corps, making jokes about how "Those WMDs have to be around here somewhere."

The press laughed along as well, always quick to play their parts as useless stenographers.
The villagers began to notice no WMDs and notice no 'win' for the illegal war either.
Some of the press swore the Bully Boy would never again pursue war with lies.
Congress told him they would not support it.

On January 10th, there was proof that nothing's changed as Bully Boy declared, "A captured al Qaeda document describes the terrorists' plan to infiltrate and seize control of the [Al-Anbar] province." It takes a lot of gall after lying a nation into war to think that your word ranks any higher than shit at this point.

But fortunately for Bully Boy, the press was, as usual, napping. It was a tedious and much hyped speech, so possibly some will forgive them for falling asleep after the fourth paragraph.

That's what must have happened to watch, read or listen to the mainstream press coverage which all zoomed in on ten words: "Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me."

That sop was enough to placate the same press that more closely resembled a village mob when they needed Bill Clinton to spell out the exact nature of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Sex is 'fun.' It allows for easy moralizing and clutch-the-pearls journalism.

Lying a nation into war, fostering a civil war in Iraq, being responsible for the deaths of over 655,000 Iraqis and over 3,000 Americans, that doesn't get the press corps all itchy in the crotch in the same manner.

Which is why ten words of sop were treated as a mea culpa (even The New York Times managed more than ten words when issuing their mini-culpa, kind-of-culpa on their own pre-war reporting). There was no discussion of "where mistakes have been made" -- just the hand claps over the fact that Bully Boy admitted, nearly four years after his war of choice, that mistakes had been made.

The ten words rang hollow but the press pumped them up for all they worth. Those who'd avoided the speech might have even thought that they missed something monumental if they followed the breathless coverage of "Bully Boy Admits Mistakes Were Made!"

The Little Boy Who Cried WMD is still treated as a man of honesty and, after all this time, that may be the strongest indictment of the mainstream press.

As the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf is told at the end of that children's story, "Nobody believes a liar . . . even when he's telling the truth." We think the story needs to be ammended so that the final line reads: "Nobody but the press believes a liar . . . even when he's telling the truth."

File it under "Thank God she was born in 1925!"

And if I die today

She'll be the Happy Mourner

Laughing graveside

Wearing her naugties like a jewel

The Happy Mourner

Has a right to bitch

-- adapted from Tori Amos' "Happy Phantom" off the CD Little Earthquakes.

Who knows what goes through the head of Big Babs Bush?

Seriously. Maybe she's remembering a funny from her fart jokes book? Maybe she's boozed up from a pre-funeral tailgate party? Maybe she's just the cruel person she's always come off as?

Who the hell knows what goes through her alleged "beautiful mind"?

On the eve of the illegal war, Big Babs declared, on the March 18, 2003 episode of Good Morning America, "Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

It's not relevant? 3,000-plus Americans aren't revelant. 655,000-plus Iraqis aren't relevant. And, apparently, neither was former president Gerald Ford.

At his January 2, 2007 funeral in DC, Big Babs was all grins and giggles. Writing in The Washington Post, Peter Baker noted, "Betty Ford, 88, endured the fifth straight day of official ceremony with grief playing out on her face . . ."

No grief on Big Babs face in the photo taken by Stephen Crowley for the January 3rd front page of The New York Times. While Lynne Cheney looked glum, Laura Bush looked on the verge of tears, Hillary and Bill Clinton looked glum, Chelsea Clinton, Condi Rice and Jimmy Carter wore serious expressions, Big Babs was beaming like she was about to stop her son from escorting a grieving Betty Ford long enough to ask the former First Lady to pull her finger.

Big Babs was never known for observing social norms but who knew she'd play gleeful at a funeral? Maybe she was thinking, "Heh-heh, he didn't get on the Reagan ticket in 1980 after all!"

Or maybe it's just that she's, as she once infamously said of Geraldine Ferraro, a . . . Well we "can’t say it, but it rhymes with rich."

Whatever it is, who would want her at their funeral? Thankfully, being born in 1925, she should be gone long before most of us.


Crack of dawn and we hunt down bacon.
Three sip and stops now all been vacant.
One more try as the world is waking.
Flop in the car and stomachs are aching.
In the skillet later, strips are shaking.
TVs on while the eggs are breaking.
News reader mouths story, myth making,
The Peter Lorre of faking,
Pursuing another kind of bacon.
Eyes twinkle, but the soul is vacant.
One more try as the world is waking,
Thought we heard some news that was breaking.
Just the TV, we were mistaken.
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