Sunday, March 23, 2008

TV: Broadcasting False Narratives

TV's big narrative last week was that the country gets to talk about race. You saw it on chat and chew after chat and chew. If TV was finally going to address race, it would probably require noting who has prevented race from being honestly addressed for several decades. It would probably require noting that Barbra Walters can host a 'documentary' exploring the 'after life' but race is off-limits. Most of all, it would require noting that race in the United States does not boil down to just Black & White.

But you're never going to get an honest exploration from the media that lives on, thrives on, the stereotypes and the silences. Last week was no different. The usual set-up was a sea of White faces with one token African-American guest invited on. We'll get to the faces of all present soon enough but it's worth noting that the set-up was no different, nor the direction, on one of the few major TV shows that an African-American actually hosts: Washington Week. Wall St. Journal's David Wessel stepped gingerly to the question he posed to Gwen Ifill, noting first that her father was a man of the cloth and then tossing a question at her leading her to note that she would now be the guide for all White people.

That really is what happened repeatedly, over and over last week. The other tokens in White Gas Baggery Land usually jumped right in to offer their opinions so credit to Gwen (who we've certainly slammed before) for at least noting how bizarre this 'role' was. In fairness to those who never bothered, they were invited guests and not the hosts of the show.

We have a real hard time believing that, come Sunday, Gwen's going to any church espousing hatred. And, honestly, we have a real time believing the gas bags on parade last week -- White and African-American -- spend much time in church. Not calling them non-believers but noting that if they aren't guests for the Sunday Chat & Chews, they're front and center before their TVs watching to see the pearl of wisdoms offered up.

Equally true that gas baggery is its own subset of the species and not one infamous for being in touch with Americans. It's not supposed to be, as Noam Chomsky has long noted, it's about the manufacturing of consent. [The New Press has issued The Essential Chomsky in paperback, edited by Anthony Arnove and with a list price of $19.95.]

And you saw that on Tuesday, before Barack Obama gave his speech -- following and 'responding' to the week prior when ABC's Good Morning America's broadcast of clips from Jeremiah Wright's sermons in which he declared that AIDS was created by scientists to destroy the Black race and beseeched the Lord to damn the United States.

Bambi hadn't even delivered a word yet already you were being told it was a "major speech" and that it was on "race." It wasn't just Corporate Media trying to manufacture consent, it was the dregs of Panhandle Media as well as anyone who watched Tuesday's Democracy Now! or listened to KPFA where both Amy Goodman and Aileen Alfandary ignored a Monday speech Hillary Clinton delivered on Iraq -- didn't even mention it -- to drool over Bambi's upcoming speech.

Even a casual news consumer should have been asking why a speech delivered on Iraq (during the fifth anniversary of the start of the illegal war) was being ignored while a speech not yet delivered was being pimped?

Bambi delivered the speech. He did not address the damning of the United States, he did not address the junk-science (at best) conspiracy theory that AIDS was a plot. He spoke about race. Wright had offered, in sermon after sermon, a critique of race relations (if race is reduced solely to Black and White) and Bambi focused on that -- likening his White grandmother and Geraldine Ferraro to Jeremiah Wright. Wright is the man who brought non-believer Bambi to God, he is the man who was his pastor for twenty years, he is the man who inspired him, the man whose words inspired the title of one of Bambi's book, the man who presided over Bambi's wedding, the man who "blessed" the Obama mansion, the man who served on Bambi's campaign for president.

Geraldine Ferraro noted that Barack Obama was getting better press coverage than any female candidate would of any race and her comments echoed the critique that Peter Hart had done for FAIR's Extra! a year before. Ferraro's remarks echoed Bambi's own remarks (as quoted by Hart in the article and as noted here). Ferraro, a passionate for her country Italian-American, did not damn the United States, nor did she offer up junk science. Nor did she offer up anything as embarrassing as Obama defender John Kerry who declared last week, sounding a great deal like men on the left and 'left' that Rebecca wrote about on Thursday, "Because he's African American. Because he's a black man who has come from a place of oppression and repression in through the years in our own country." In that statement, Kerry explains (unwittingly) why Obama's maternal grandmother has been buried.

First off, we assumed his maternal grandmother was dead. We were shocked to learn she was alive and thought it was further testament to the way the press has played this election cycle. We've seen a second or third wife of Barack Obama's paternal grandfather on CNN (repeatedly) vouching for Obama whom she met once in the 90s. It's not just the fact that the woman only met him three decades after he was born that had us raising eyebrows, it's that she's not the wife who gave birth to Obama's father. We're not sure whether it is five or six multiple wives that his paternal grandfather had. We do know it was multiple marriages, not marry-divorce-marry. In Obama's paternal family, men were expected to have more than one wife which is why his own father was already married before he came to the US and reportedly married Obama's mother. His father would continue the multiple wives tradition. So it was always an eyebrow raiser to see Wife Number Two or Three of the multiple wives offered up as "grandmother" by CNN. (We noted polygamy last here.)

Obama's maternal grandmother is alive. And being smeared in his Tuesday speech as a racist in a story at odds with what he wrote in his overpraised book. Later in the week, Obama was claiming his maternal grandmother wasn't racist just a "typical White person." It was the wrong thing to say but not due to the fallout from Whites offended at being called racists. It was the wrong thing to say because it raises reality.

See you were never going to get a serious conversation about race via Obama. Not from one of his long-winded, meandering speeches and not from the press that has covered him. If Obama believes his maternal grandmother is a "typical White person," the obvious follow-up question is, "What are you?"

And that's the thing the press tries real hard to avoid talking about. John Kerry lies so well that some believe him. Barack Obama is hardly a "typical Black person" because he's not Black, he's bi-racial. Hiding his maternal grandmother away is done to push the lies that were manufactured for his run.

Chief among them are that he grew up poor in the United States. He loves to tell that lie. When he finally lived in the United States, it was after telling his mother he didn't want to live with her anymore (his father abandoned him when he was two-years-old). Not wanting to live with his mother, he was raised by his maternal grandparents in Hawaii. Not only were they White, they were well off. The hidden grandmother was a banking wiz and a woman who broke glass ceilings. You don't hear about that but you hear Barack repeatedly excuse his attendance at a posh prep-school in Hawaii with the assertion that he was on a scholarship. That's mean to continue the lie that he lived in poverty. He didn't. Those scholarships weren't going out to the most needy. It was the typical White scratch White back maneuver. But he plays it off like there was some sort of inner-city battle (in Hawaii?) for a scholarship to this posh prep-school.

Again, his maternal grand parents were well off and he pretends otherwise.

Though he traveled all the way to Africa in the 90s to meet the relatives he never knew, he didn't get around to making it to Kansas (the birthplace of his late mother and where his maternal grandparents hailed from) until it was time for Kansas to hold a primary. That's really puzzling (unless you factor in his hostility towards women). He wanted to know about himself and he travels hours and hours to Africa but can't catch a flight to Kansas? Were he really attempting to connect with his Kansas roots, as opposed to show boating for votes, you would assume he wouldn't just visit his maternal grandparents old home, he would make the journey with his maternal grandmother.

But those humble beginnings (decades before Barack was born) do not reconcile with what happened in Hawaii. His maternal grandfather went to Hawaii to make his fortune, Hawaii having long been a target of US imperialism and having just been made a US state.

You really can't tell the story of Barack Obama's family life and play him as a victim (though John Kerry tries real hard). You can't talk about Barack Obama and race honestly because he is bi-racial, not Black (and certainly not African-American). That was on display in wire reports as well (the ones Aileen Alfandary reads from) where it was declared that his father was from Kenya and his mother was White.

Not everyone in Africa is Black. But if you're going to state, as AP did, that his father is from Kenya, then you state his mother is from the United States (or you go for the "K"s and state, "His father was from Kenya, his mother from Kansas . . ."). You can't have an honest discussion about race with Obama.

You can get lies from the media, you can get reductions but you will never, for instance, hear from the native people of Hawaii about what they thought of Whites like Barack's grandfather 'claim jumping' for a 'gold rush' at their expense.

That is a story of a racism. That is a story of imperialism. And it's so much easier to just pretend that Barack is Black and that he grew up in Philly and not Hawaii. It's so much easier to pretend that the posh prep-school student knows all about racism and suffered. As Dave Lindorff infamously (and wrongly) declared, "I think it is ridiculous not to acknowledge that a black candidate at this level is fundamentally different from all white candidates who have come before or who are now competing. the more so a black candidate who has risked jail by doing drugs, and who has relatives TODAY living in the Third World (Kenya)." He risked jail by doing drugs?

The New York Times has largely taken a pin to that balloon Bambi created to paint himself as 'authentic' in his college years so what we're left with is that he smoked pot in his posh prep-school in Hawaii. As did many others attending that prep-school. It was the seventies and students smoking pot was hardly unheard of. (See That 70s Show.) But Dave Lindorff has to get worked up and turn it into a sign of suffering, a sign of bravery. He's one more attempting to manufacture consent which was all you saw last week.

The press, already eager pimping the 'greatest speech of our times' before it was delivered, wasn't about to point out that it whimpered, that Barack looked and sounded tired or that the country (including the press) had been taken in by Elmer Gantry.

The primary issue was the damning of the United States and it had nothing to do with the race. It was such an issue that all the usual Bambi groupies who rail against 'conspiracy' talk on AIDS (hello, Richard Kim, hello, Alexander Cockburn) avoided the junk-science that Wright was tossing out as fact to his congregation.

Damning the United States of America. It was avoided, it was not discussed. Michele Norris, making a rare appearance on NBC's Meet the Press last Sunday (noted by Cedric and Wally), would declare that Wright's comments "resonate with a large number of African-Americans." Oh really? A large number of African-Americans think the US should be damned? No, Michele Norris was playing the same game the rest of the press did, the same game Bambi did, try to turn it into a race issue, try to act as if people were appalled because Wright offered a social critique (including calling the the US the "KKK"). Avoid the issue of damning, avoid the issue of patriotism.

On Friday, Bill Moyers Journal explored Body of War, a new documentary, with the filmmakers Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue. The documentary's focus is Tomas Young and Bill Moyers explained of Young, "After the attacks on 9/11 he enlisted in the army because he wanted to fight the terrorists in Afghanistan. He was sent to Iraq, instead. And five days after arriving there, he was shot in the chest and severely wounded. He was 24 years old at the time and will spend the rest of his life in a wheel chair."

Why did he sign up? Patriotism. Why has his brother Nathan served in Iraq after Tomas was wounded? Patriotism. Though some of the 'intelligentsia' may scoff, patriotism does exist and it's not an 'unnatural response.' Had Iraq Veterans Against the War's Winter Soldier been televised last week on any of the major channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS, CW, MSNBC, CNN or Fox 'News'), America could have been exposed to multiple veterans explaining that they signed up for patriotism. They might have heard Garrett Reppenhagen explaining in the last panel on Sunday:

The men and women that I served with, many of them, that was their career, that was their job and they took an honor in that and they didn't want to give that up. They might not have wanted to go to Iraq or Afghanistan over and over again, but they did take pride in the fact that they were soldiers and they didn't want to lose that. Many of them have wives and husbands and kids that they're trying to support and they thought that the military would be a good way to do that, a good career and a good job to do that. They didn't ask to be sent to Iraq and to an illegal occupation of another country and basically oppress a people who don't want us there. They just wanted to be used in a just way when all peaceful solutions have been exhausted. That's when they thought they'd be sent in harm's way.

They would have heard Reppenhagen issue a call to join in a struggle to make America a better place: "And they can join this movement and there's a lot of pride and loyalty in joining our army and our corps, and fight for a cause that they believe in, to fight for a cause that will change America for the better and stop these occupations." That's not "America hating" as the loons on the right like to dismiss it, that's about patriotism. With all he's been through and all he's seen, Garrett Reppenhagen still believes in making this country better. He's still fighting to make it better. The word for that is patriotism.

Women's eNews' Dominque Soguel spoke recently with US service members Chrissy DeCaprio, Luz Gonzalez, Carolyn Schapper and Emily Stroia about what they wanted to see in the next president of the United States and the chief answer was "vision, experience and patriotism."

But patriotism was the word the press worked overtime to avoid all last week as they churned out the "great speech!" reports, columns and broadcasts followed by the usual "what he meant to say was . . ." and basically scratched their heads over the fact that a size able number of Americans were not impressed with the speech.

Why would they be?

Wright offered up a perverse Juliet speech on the baloney, "Barack, Barack, decry thy country, refute its name." That was what ABC viewers saw -- though Panhandle Media quickly reduced it to Fox "News" -- when they saw Wright standing before the church and damning the United States in his position as the head of the church.

The media, Panhandle or Corporate, never intended to address race and that was a given before they first started airing their gas baggery. But they rushed to prop up their candidate of choice and, to do so, they had to ignore the damning of the United States.

When you look at Panhandle Media's own silence, you begin to realize that they missed the chance to demolish the stereotype that they were anti-American because, whether it was The Nation or some other outlet, they willfully avoided the issue. It's a very big issue. Wright and Obama have a long-term (20 years) relationship. Barack wants to be president of the United States and he makes Wright his mentor, goes to the church, gives to the church and thereby gives his consent to the damning of the United States.

Trying to make Wright his Juliet, Barack took to referring him to as a family (he'd previously likened him to a "crazy uncle"). Jeremiah Wright was not Barack's family. Jeremiah Wright was his pastor and his friend and when his pastor and his friend damned the United States, Barack had no problem with it. That's how some Americans see it and that's why Tuesday's speech, the big statement, should have addressed it. It didn't. Bambi is in free-fall now and will continue to be because this thing is toxic and viral.

Some gas bags took to saying that you can't take a few lines out of context. There is no context for a person of the cloth using their power to damn the United States and a presidential candidate being okay with that. It's end of story. There's no need to rush off and buy more crap that Wright's burned to disc and sift through the man's sermons. That is so blantantly offensive to so many Americans -- of all races -- that it's really the end.

Gas bags on program after program ignored it and preferred to speak of what "Black" Barack said about race -- largely that Whites like Ferraro and his grandmother were racist and Wright was his family. That's what Barack wanted them to focus on, that's why he made it the thrust of his speech. But Americans are not easily directed as some in the press like to believe. On this Sunday, it will be discussed in many church parking lots across the country and all the hype the press churned out pre- and post-speech really won't matter. Last Tuesday, Barack should have made clear that he found it offensive that the United States was damned. He should have stated that over and over and admitted that it was a mistake for him not to break with the church, that it was a mistake for him to give his money to the church, that it was a mistake to put Wright on his campaign (where he remains because, as Larry Johnson pointed out, that photo the Obama campaign floated on Friday had to come from Wright).

That's all Americans really cared about, an explanation and an apology from a man running to be president of the United States for electing to embrace a man (for 20 years and counting) someone who damns the United States of America.

A lot of people miss the point of the media's flag pin lapels and think it was just an attempt at show boating post-9-11. While that was certainly part of it for some people, it's equally true that journalists are supposed to (by the nature of their profession) be objective. The flag pins became popular because it was thought they wore them and it puts to rest -- throughout their on air report or commentary -- that they were proud of their country and let what they were saying be absorbed. It was hoped, by many, to be short-hand. It wasn't a cheap tactic, the way so many insisted. We think it was the wrong tactic but we do grasp that everyone utilizing the pins wasn't attempting to be disingenious. But patriotism really isn't a topic for the media because it as odds with objectivity. They stumble over it badly so frequently not because they don't care about the country they are part of but because there is a natural road block that demands objectivity or the appearance of it.

We're not insisting that those in Corporate Media aren't patriotic. We know that many of them are. But this is a topic they naturally shy from. That was true long before the right-wing echo chamber came along to insist (wrongly) that holding leadership accountable was unpatriotic. So we do understand that some missing the boat last week did so due to the nature of the topic (and we would have understood that even if we hadn't heard that repeatedly from friends in real media). The thing we heard most often last week was that if the polling demonstrated it was a problem, the press would tackle the subject.

At present, to tackle the subject would look like they were injecting it because Barack had ("cleverly" said one reporter at one of the top three dailies) ignored the subject and the Clinton campaign hadn't really "pounced" on the issue. A friend at NBC, on Friday, confirmed that he too saw all that followed the speech as "shallow" talk on the part of all Corporte Media and asked what we were seeing on the road speaking out against Iraq?

What we're seeing is real offense to Wright's damning of America and a greater offense at Barack Obama that he thinks he can continue to embrace Wright and continue to ignore what happened.

The Obama campaign knows that as well which is why they avoided the issue and tried to shift the ground by focusing the speech instead upon race. The hope is that the damning of America, if ignored, will die down. Which only demonstrates how out of touch the campaign is.

But the narratives have been out of touch all along and the press can't be let off the hook for that. Barack Obama is a first-term US Senator and there are two other credits that usually get trumpeted. The first is "He was president of Harvard Law Review!" That's really not much for a man of forty-something years, is it?

And it's really not anything that excites the average American though it bowls over the elitests in Panhandle Media. The second thing is a 2002 speech, before he was in the US Senate or running for it, where he accepted the spin the White House was presenting (he was not right as the narrative tries to maintain) but argued for containment which, for the record, would mean a continuation of sanctions -- the same sanctions that Hillary Bashers hold her responsible for. The same sanctions that they tell you killed millions of Iraqis. So his pretty words were pretty pathetic even in 2002.

But he accepted the White House's argument. Here is what he said, after declaring he wasn't opposed to war in and of itself:

Now let me be clear - I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity. He's a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.
But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

"Contained" is sanctions -- the same ones that Jeremy Scahill decries today and did at Winter Soldier. There were no chemical or biological weapons. There has never been any proof that Saddam pursued nuclear capacity. But those were White House talking points and Mr. "I Was Right!" was as wrong as so many others.

He also wasn't in the US Senate and has noted, to the press, repeatedly before 2007, that he didn't know how he would have voted had he been in the Senate.

Speaking with Moyers on Friday, Phil Donahue took you back to that time period, "Certainly the White House scheduled this vote to precede the the November 2002 election. You know? How is it you've got Congress people facing reelection in three weeks. Now, how do you vote on the war? And how does that influ-- remember, we're an angry nation. This is October 2002 — the election being November. How are you gonna vote no on the pressure, especially when you remember how angry we were. I mean, it was very difficult to say no or dissent in this country at that time."

It was a year after 9-11 and, from the safety of the Illinois legislature, Barack Obama didn't have to decide, from the safety of the legislature, he didn't have to think about the country or the people of a state he was representing because he wasn't voting on the issue. In 2007, suddenly he was all ready to attack and, in fact, attacked John Edwards in a debate. For reality, here's Elizabeth Edwards explaining to Ruth Conniff (The Progressive) what the 2002 resolution was:

And the resolution, if you remember, was forcing Bush to go to the U.N. first. Of course, we expected him to actually listen to the U.N., which didn't happen. The resolution was actually a slowing technique, so he [John Edwards] felt like maybe it wasn't ideal but I think he made a very difficult and good faith decision.

It's amazing to hear the defense of Wright's remarks coming from the same group that wants to reduce a resolution down to the title. 9-11 was a year prior. The United States was attacked (even if Wright wants to blame the United States, the reality is that citizens and the government are not the same thing -- it's a distinction some on the left will make with regards to the state of Israel but seem loathe to make with regards to the United States). An election was weeks away, the media had helped the White House whip up hysteria (starting in 2001 with Chris Hedges' front page article for The New York Times falsely linking Iraq to al Qaeda). It was a difficult decision to make. What if the White House was right? Barack Obama bought into the White House lies but argued for the continuation of sanctions in his public speech. No wonder he repeatedly stated that he didn't know how he would have voted. It's a bit hard to vote against the 2002 resolution when you're convinced the White House is telling the truth about WMDs.

For those in Congress who voted for it, some, like John Edwards, weighed everything including the fact that United Nations approval was necessary before a war could begin. (For those who are really slow, that's why, after the resolution passed overwhelmingly in both houses, the Bully Boy did not launch the Iraq War immediately -- the resolution did not authorize that.) They took the resolution at its word as well as Condi Rice (and others) offering assurances that the United Nations would have to sign off on any war.

That did not happen. What happened was the UN weapons inspectors had to flee Iraq (and you saw it on your TV) because Bully Boy made the decision to invade Iraq without UN approval.

We wish Moyers would have pursued that topic with Donahue because it's an important conversation to have. Donahue spoke of never wanting to see this happen again and that's a comment that was voiced very often when public opinion turned against Vietnam. (Donahue was opposed to the Iraq War before it started.) But the reality is that for thirty years, Americans remembered a lesson from that earlier illegal war but all it took was 9-11 to give Bully Boy the pass to start another large-scale illegal war. As Donahue briefly noted, there were huge passions at the time. They were fueled by the White House and the media, yes, but they were also present in many Americans. 9-11 was a tragedy. It was preventable, but it was a tragedy. It was not treated as a tragedy. There was no day of mourning declared. Instead Americans were urged to get back to work (not that they had ever stopped) and that allowed the tragedy to be avoided, emotions to be suppressed. The only acceptable emotions were anger and rage and don't kid that they didn't fuel and benefit the White House.

Don't kid that a year after 9-11, the mood was high and that people like Max Cleland would lose their Senate seats in the 2002 elections for being falsely linked to terrorism. Don't kid that when Republican Senators, such as Olympia Snowe, were publicly hesitant, ads weren't run against them as they faced re-election.

Did the members of Congress who voted for the resolution do the easy or the hard thing? Only they know. Only they know what they were weighing and what they gave more weight to. One who voted for the resolution and was facing re-election told us two weeks ago that you had to remember the time "and what Bush was already pushing through Congress." For him, it came down to vote for it, let the UN decide, save his seat and try to work inside Congress to prevent the Bully Boy from destroying the country more. That's a valid concern and he, rightly, noted it was one we never gave any weight to in our criticism of him (to his face) over the last few years. The Iraq War did start. It was being floated at the time but it was hardly the only thing on the White House agenda. And other members of Congress, noting that a UN resolution was said to be required before the Iraq War could start, may have also felt there were other battles to pick because inspections would work.

They were wrong. But they were weighing other things and we will note that. And we wish Donahue and Moyers had explored the time period more. Mainly because 2002 no longer matters.

Those aren't words anyone likes to hear, but it is the truth. All the dead, Iraqis and foreign fighters, are not coming back. Those who lost loved ones, like Judy Kovco whose son Jake was the first Australian to die in Iraq during this illegal war, have lost them and they know it better than anyone. The dead are not coming back tomorrow or the day after. They are gone. These are real losses.

Iraq is like an open wound from a gun shot at this point. The bleeding continues, Iraqis and foreign fighters, and 2002 really isn't the issue in 2008. That's hard to grasp for some on the left as evidenced by last week's nonsense that 'addressed' an ongoing, illegal war by dropping back to 2002 or 2003. The year is 2008. The dead are dead, the wounded are wounded, the money wasted is gone. None of that is coming back.

And it's really offensive that someone thinks one of the three things he has to offer in his run for president is that he was "right" about the Iraq War in 2002. (He wasn't, he bought into the myth of WMDs. He was in favor of sanctions.) The 2008 election will not undue the selling of the illegal war. The 2008 election could help end the ongoing war. The only ones who are going to end the illegal war are the American people. But when one of the candidates (Barack Obama) has a foreign policy advisor (Samantha Power and she was still was his chief advisor -- bragging constantly about how he text-ed her cell phone repeatedly) going on the BBC and declaring that his campaign pledge to withdraw combat troops (and only combat troops) within 16 months of becoming president isn't a pledge, isn't binding, and that he'll actually decide what he'll do after he enters the White House, red flags should be flying.

When Power, Sarah Sewall and so many other of his advisors are promoters of counter-insurgency (attack civilians) strategies in Iraq, that's a red flag. When he talks of adding more mercenaries in Iraq, if he becomes president, that's a red flag.

But because of a 2002 speech (in which he accepted the same lies of WMDs that so many others did), he's supposed to get a pass. He's supposed to also get a pass on his Senate voting record (note how that brief record isn't anything he's running on). Until the summer of 2007, he repeatedly voted to fund the illegal war.

As Elizabeth Edwards noted to Ruth Conniff:

And honestly, the other candidates? Obama gives a speech that's likely to be extraordinarily popular in his home district, and then comes to the Senate and votes for funding. John, the first time funding came up, he was already suspicious. What he said was we've got two issues, one is information and the other is not trusting your President. And he gave plenty of speeches at the time saying, "I'm not voting for the $87 billion because he has no plan." You've got to do that for the men and women who are there: You've got to have a plan. And he didn't vote for the $87 billion, and never voted for any dedicated funding. So you are going to get people behaving in a holier-than-thou way. But John stood up when he was in the Senate for exactly the thing he's asking these people to stand up for now. . . .

In a holier-than-thou way? Exactly. Again, the Iraq War is an open gun shot wound that continues bleeding. What you did or didn't do in 2002 really doesn't matter today if you're in the Senate and/or running for president and aren't attempting to end the illegal war.

Past words are not going to stop the bleeding, only what you do today will.

Obama's campaigned on distraction. He's offered a pledge to pull combat troops and it's one that doesn't end the war (even if it were binding, which Power revealed it wasn't) and talk of replacing troops pulled with mercenaries. That's not an anti-war candidate. He hasn't been called on it anymore than he's been called on for endorsing Jeremiah Wright's damning of the United States. When he does get called, they like to distract, to get the press talking about something else.

You saw that at the end of last week when Bambi gave his pretty speech (yes, we are aware he appeared inspired by the words of one us in last week's roundtable as so many e-mails have pointed out) and talked about the need to rise above and then, on Friday, peddled to the press photos of Jeremiah Wright at a White House breakfast -- one of many members of the clergy attending -- when Bill Clinton was in office. The speech wanted to say, "Wright is my family and let's all forget about it." On Friday, the campaign did what it always does, run from the high ground it claims it wants in order to dive into the gutter.

Speaking with members of Congress last week and hearing them bring up Obama (not favorably), we were bothered and reminded of a long running storyline on the sitcom Friends. Ross and Rachel had an argument, Ross slept with another women, Rachel called him a cheater and he maintained it wasn't cheating because Rachel had said they should take "a break." As Barack falsely amplifies his "I was right!" words regarding his lame speech in 2002, the reaction of members of Congress is a lot like Rachel and would suggest that, far from being a uniter, his (wrongly) insisting that he was "right" is as much an impedient to ending the illegal war as Ross' continuing to insist "We were on a break!" was to his relationship with Rachel. Those in control of the US Congress, regardless of party, largely voted for the 2002 resolution and we're really not in the mood for four years of Obama playing Ross from the White House and (falsely) insisting, "I was right!" That's not going to end the illegal war (though ending it isn't really a goal of Obama's anyway).

It would alienate Congress, it would harden positions. But that's really all the bulk of Panhandle Media offered in their Iraq commentaries last week, wasn't it? An ongoing illegal war and all they could do was go back to "I was right!" All those years ago.

Last week, if you consumed the chat & chews you saw very little about Iraq despite it being the fifth anniversary of the start of the illegal war. Bill Moyers Journal was a noteable exception. Let's state clearly that Bill Moyers (and Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue) provided a look at what is going on today as opposed to rushing for sensation (which was the bulk of the tiny write ups and post-broadcasts of Winter Soldier went for). They deserve strong credit for that.

But last week others elected to ignore the Iraq War and instead focus on what they claimed was the race narrative. It was embarrassing, it was superficial, it was a lot of lies. Watching, you may have wondered when the issue of gender was ever going to be examined?

It's been a race where Jesse Jackson Jr. could and did take to the airwaves to lie and stated that Hillary cried in New Hampshire over her appearance. She didn't cry, her eyes teared up and they teared up over not her appearance but over the destruction of women's rights in this country. Jackson didn't get called out for that anymore than Obama supporter Tony McPeak gets called out for (The Los Angeles Times) stating that his candidate choice, unlike Hillary, "doesn’t go on television and have crying fits." Last week, a CBS News poll found:

Voters are slightly more likely to say that a woman candidate faces more obstacles than a black candidate when it comes to presidential politics even as they see racism as a more serious problem for the nation overall, according to a new CBS News poll. Thirty nine percent of registered voters said a woman running for president faces more obstacles while 33 percent said a black candidate does.

And yet that topic isn't considered worthy of exploration. Interesting considering what was offered on 'race' during Washington Week Friday. "If we elect Obama, then we can be done with race" was one choice bit (quickly and superficially questioned but presented none the less). A "speech that sounded like a sermon" (meant as praise). "How did Joe Six-Pack react? It's not clear that they reacted to it the way we did." No, that's not clear but it was clear that women would be overlooked -- unless they could be slammed.

The New York Times' Linda Greenhouse, who covers the Supreme Court and was on to talk about that, asked a very basic question. Could Hillary win the Democratic Party nomination? There was no honest answer given. The honest answer is that neither she nor Barack Obama seem able to win the nomination before the convention because it's been a pretty much evenly split race. The super delegates will decide at the convention. The show really needed an older reporter on last week to explain a misconception regarding super delegates. Many outlets run counts with "pledged super delegates" and the reality is that -- like Obama with Iraq -- there is no pledge. Right now, some super delegates are saying they will support Barack Obama. Anyone who's witnessed a Democratic convention floor battle for votes knows full well that such a pledge is meaningless until it's time to vote. Super delegates can change their minds on the floor of the convention. (Some are going to -- as a result of learning that they were astro-turfed some announced supporters of Obama have stated they will be voting for Clinton at the convention, as we've noted before.) In the delegates awarded in caucuses and primaries, neither Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama appears to be able to hit the magic threshold that would give the nomination to them.

But you didn't get that answer. What you got instead was Alexis Simendinger of National Journal declaring that Hillary could stay in until the convention and come off "more petulant and petty." You might need to read back over that, Simendinger stated that one candidate in a tie appears "petualant and petty" for continuing the race. (This topic will be addressed further in this edition.) We'll assume that's supposed to pass for the discussion of gender by Washington Week.

Last week, you saw two examples of the sexism prevalent in the United States if you paid attention.

You saw Editor & Publisher's Greg Mitchell decide to note the anniversary of Iraq by looking back (like so many others) and he compiled a list of five worthy of applause. No woman made the five although a comic and a singer-songwriter did. The fifth spot was "McClatchy Newspapers bloggers" and that is men and women. Mitchell went on to note that the women had received an award for their journalism and then to offer quotes as he did in all other four spots on his list. But with the other four spots, he let the people 'awarded' speak (in the case of Neil Young, he quoted Young lyrics). Instead of letting the McClatchy bloggers (an important voice) speak for themselves, he chose to quote two White men. In the only time that his column celebrating 'important voices' could have offered words from women, he silenced them -- while claiming their words were important.

Then, on Friday, you may have caught Jeff Cohen's tired act on CounterSpin. Cohen, as with a bad column he wrote, was listing how all the major corporate newspapers ignored Winter Soldier (except The Washington Post). He is not mistaken. But if he's going to list those who ignored Winter Soldier, he would need to include the big websites (especially for magazines) of Panhandle Media and he might start with The Progressive which didn't think Winter Soldier was worth noting when it was going on (they have since published an article written before Winter Soldier) but did think that the Amway convention of the faux left (Take Back America) last week deserved "LIVE" blogging. Winter Soldier was not a political party event. It was veterans offering truths and realities. But the supposedly independent Progressive, overseen by non-Democrat Matthew Rothschild, wasn't interested in promoting it. Let a motley crew of rejects from the Democratic Party stage their own partisan convention and Rothschild's all on board with live blogging of that. Cohen has a lot of nerve lecturing big media while staying silent on the many silences from Panhandle Media.

In his dopey column, he overlooked KPFA -- he also lied and claimed he caught the hearings on WBAI out of NYC which only aired them on Friday (it was more important to play old, dusty records on Saturday). In his dumb column, he credited Pacifica Radio stations for their coverage. The reality was that Pacifica Radio stations didn't cover it. We have no idea what the DC station did because no one takes it seriously. (What should be the crown jewel for Pacifica Radio is instead a never ending embarrassment of one music program after another.) But KPFT in Houston, like WBAI, didn't air the hearings on Saturday choosing instead to offer "classic rock" and other nonsense. Los Angeles' KPFK broadcast the hearings and KPFA broadcast them. The hearings originated at KPFA and were anchored by the station's Aimee Allison and Aaron Glantz. (KPFA covers California's Bay Area and, living there, we frequently forget to note that. Our apologies.) Days after his dopey column celebrating alleged 'independent media,' he's on CounterSpin and listing this person and that person. Who does he forget? Aimee Allison and Aaron Glatnz.

Forgetting Allison is especially shocking when he was jawing her ear off on-air Tuesday. But that's how it goes. He can be pleased as punch to appear on KPFA and be interviewed by Allison but when he goes elsewhere, he feels no obligation to note that the woman co-anchored the live coverage.

Years from now, someone stumbling upon a recording of that broadcast, hearing Cohen, would be under the impression that, while Corporate Media ignored Winter Soldier, Panhandle Media went full out. That is not reality. And when a critic can't offer reality, he's really not much use to anyone. When a critic's listing off people to praise and overlooking Allision -- who not only co-anchored the hearings but interviewed him about the hearings last Tuesday -- he's got additional problems. (He mentioned one woman, a personal friend of his for many years and that was an obligated shout-out to a friend who did very little.)

Listening to his dopey comments, especially years from now, people might get the wrong impression that while Corporate Media ignored it, not only did 'independent' media cover it, it was available to all. Such was his supreme denial and/or idiocy that he honestly believes every American has a satellite dish or access to the internet to stream on. If you didn't have a satellite and if you couldn't stream (or if streaming wouldn't work for you due to hearing difficulties -- ) then you were left out in the cold. Along with economic realities preventing many from catching the hearings it's equally true that AP recently reported of US veterans:

U.S. soldiers and Marines caught in roadside bombings and firefights in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home in epidemic numbers with permanent hearing loss and ringing in their ears, prompting the military to redouble its efforts to protect the troops from noise. Hearing damage is the No. 1 disability in the fight against terror, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and some experts say the true toll could take decades to become clear.

With the exception of Bill Moyers, last week saw a lot of 'news' and 'public affairs' programming offer up a lot of lies, a lot of narratives that pretended to be about something they weren't. In some cases they 'explored' an ongoing illegal war by dropping back to the start of the war. In other cases, they pretended to 'explore' race. Realities of the ongoing illegal war, like actual realities of race, gender and the sorry state of the media weren't explored. We felt we were seeing and hearing the "new-told lies" (Hair!).

We really don't think that's going to end the illegal war but, outside of Moyers' show, we didn't catch a single program that seemed honestly concerned with the Iraq War.


If you are able to enjoy streaming and missed Winter Soldier you can stream online at Iraq Veterans Against the War, at War Comes Home, at KPFK, at the Pacifica Radio homepage and at KPFA, here for Friday, here for Saturday, here for Sunday. Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz were the anchors for Pacifica's live coverage. We found Democracy Now!'s coverage disappointing to put it mildly. But you can check there for transcripts. Monday's broadcast had to share time with the My Lai massacre from forty years ago. Winter Soldier was the focus on Tuesday and Wednesday and Goody went for whatever struck as the most sensationalistic bits -- if it bleeds, it ledes. By Thursday it was on to China and the Fed and on Friday it was all but forgotten except for Goodman to claim she provided four hours of Winter Soldier.

Added: Mike's "Hillary talks Iraq Panhandle Media plays dumb" last week also pointed out Panhandle Media ignored Hillary's speech. Our apologies for not remembering and including it in the above. We did ask that it be noted in highlights and noted we'd add a note here.
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