Thursday, June 21, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

Though Americans disapprove of President Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq by more than two to one, they don't seem to be expressing that disapproval to anyone but pollsters. A plan to establish a monthly Iraq Moratorium Day may provide a way for them to do so.
Refitting an idea from the Vietnam era to the age of the Internet, organizers of the Iraq Moratorium Day are inviting ordinary Americans to demand an end to the war in targeted activities in their local communities and viral activities online. The goal is a "monthly expression of determination to end the war."
The initiators, a handful of individuals from different corners of the antiwar movement, are asking people to make a simple pledge:
"I hereby make a commitment that on Friday, September 21, 2007, and the third Friday of every subsequent month I will break my daily routine and take some action, by myself or with others, to end the War in Iraq."
US Labor Against the War and Progressive Democrats of America have already signed on to the Moratorium effort. Individual supporters include some of the usual suspects in the antiwar movement–Susan Sarandon, Howard Zinn, Anne Wright, Tom Hayden and Eve Ensler, as well as Edwidge Danticat, Danny Glover and Gold Star dad Fernando Suarez de Solar. But the movement is also tapping unusual suspects like Adam Neiman, CEO of the fair-trade fashion house No Sweat, actress Mercedes Ruehl and the antiwar Freeway Blogger.
"We felt that it was critical to move beyond the periodic national demonstrations in Washington, DC, New York and/or San Francisco, and instead develop and advance an approach that encourages increasingly massive local actions that suggests, more than anything else, no more business-as-usual," said Bill Fletcher Jr., a Moratorium organizer who is former president of TransAfrica Forum. "The Iraq Moratorium will allow local actions integrally connected at a national level such that each effort is understood and felt to be part of a national movement without at the same time creating a new organization or coalition."

The above was noted by Lucy and it's from Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith's "A Moratorium Wired to Stop the War" (The Nation via Common Dreams). Lucy wondered if it was okay to highlight? Yes, it is. Brecher and Smith covered Ehren Watada (repeatedly) and it's not their fault that someone else made the call that the writing or the topic wasn't worthy of being printed. (It was the topic, let's all be honest, that's what prevented their articles on Watada from being in the print magazine.) They did their part and *no* writer spends that much on a topic for a magazine and thinks, "Gosh, I hope this is an online only exclusive! I'll take a picture of my computer screen and show it to the folks!" This was going in this morning's entry but then the issue of the special needs Iraqi children came up and there wasn't time for both (which is why I noted Lucy in that entry and that her highlight would go up tonight). Writers who do the work can be highlighted especially if we can do via Common Dreams. It is not their fault that, though they covered Watada repeatedly in 2006, his name never appeared in print. It is not their fault that the first time Watada pops up is in 2007 and in an article where he's called a coward. They've done their part. If everyone did, the Democrats might have realized that symbolic 'action' wasn't going to cut it and maybe the illegal war would be over?

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3515. Tonight? 3545. That's thirty deaths announced in seven days. To some, for instance running an article about Hong Kong in a magazine called The Nation while avoiding an illegal war the US involved in? Doesn't say "I care." For the record, the article highlighted at the top? Not in print. Not in the new July 9th issue, not in the issue before it, or the one before that. Iraq is an "online exclusive." Or sometimes it's run a badly abridged article written for -- gotta' abridge it. Can't spend too much time on Iraq!

Now those just visiting the website may have no idea what makes it into print, but the authors excerpted at the top have covered Iraq seriously and their reward has been "online exclusives." The magazine's readers, their subscribers, never get any of that in their mailbox. Doing that is a bit like Congressional Democrats -- who toss out sop when they feel the need to in order to make it seem like the Iraq war really is a priority with them.

The yearly editorials aside, Iraq hasn't been a priority with The Nation. What you decide is worthy (or not worthy) of print says a great deal. A weekly can't do an issue on Iraq and can go many issues without ever even mentioning Iraq. But they want to run with an essay 'winner' that said students are apathetic?

Student Nigel Yin wrote about Adam Kokesh in "The rights of a war vet" (The Daily Egyptian). And The Nation? Not one damn word. Now give Katrina vanden Heuvel a water cooler topic and she'll rush to an idiot's defense and she'll also embarrass herself and anger women. If you missed it, Matthew Rothschild wrote about Kokesh and didn't feel the need to carry water for a hack journalist who launched a sexist attack. I'm going to repeat, you need to be sure to check all community sites on July 4th for a joint-entry we're all working on. (There will also be a joint entry on Labor Day.)

The tone is set at the top and vanden Heuvel has made it very clear that Iraq is not a priority. In fact, though she disappeared her post on American Idol [as Ava noted: "Go to Mike's 'The Third Estate Sunday Review ' for the first section, to Elaine's 'Monday' for the second and then Rebecca's 'cynthia mckinney' for the last part. It is now preserved and out of Katrina's power to make it 'disappear.'"] it did exist days before Cindy Sheehan left the peace movement noting that some would rather focus on American Idol than the war. And sadly, that's been the reality.

But don't pin it on the people. The people care about the illegal war. It's the media that's failing. And when the too generously praised The Nation thinks it can turn Iraq into an after thought, then pin the blame on them as well. And that goes to why a left magazine -- one that identifies as such -- should never put someone in charge who is a member of a centrist organization (the Council for Foreign Relations). After I noted the embarrassing comments by one roundtable member awhile back, friends called to say, "You know her, she's Katrina's friend." No. No, I didn't. The dumpy one? No. With the weak chin? Oh, yeah. They're both on the Council for Foreign Relations. Which is where all the ones who worry about 'respectability' and taste and 'Sweet Victories!' run to while assuring that they're only in it to change the organization from within.

That's how you end up with Katrina vanden Heuvel drawing a line between the magazine and Harry Belafonte whose only 'crime' was speaking his truth (that many agreed with). That's how you end up with centrists popping up all over the magazine including one sexist pig who only has time for 'scantily clad' sex workers but actual female reporters, respected ones, are slammed by him for, basically, being 'emotional.' That's how you end up with a lot of things including 'theme issues' which are the hallmark of a lazy mind. The food issue actually got good ad revenues. Anyone familiar with publishing knows where that leads next.

But the weekly that can offer themes on the important and the minor can't offer a theme issue on the illegal war. The weekly can't cover war resisters. (Ehren Watada as a sidebar is not covering war resisters.) The weekly can only cover wishy-washy veterans (yes, we remember that 'online exclusive' article). The weekly can't cover the peace movement. The weekly couldn't even mention Abeer in real time when the Article 32 hearing into the murder of her parents and five-year-old sister and the gang-rape and murder of Abeer was going on. Not only could the magazine not cover it [Abeer was finally noted in April 2007 and that came via a column by Alexander Cockburn which also ran at Cockburn's CounterPunch] but the Editor's Cut blog wasn't interested -- it wasn't a 'fun' water cooler topic like Dan Rather or Joe Lieberman or American Idol. Who's not taking the war seriously?

It's not the people that are at fault here. A20 of Thursday's New York Times features a sidebar ("More Republican or Democrat?") that covers a number of issues. It's a CBS News - New York Times poll. (They bill it with "/" and not the dash. As if it's a CBS News OR a New York Times poll.) We'll zoom in on Iraq. The question: "Do you think the United States should or should not set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq?" The results? Democrats said yes, it should be 81%. Now, note, the country is not just Democrats and Republicans. But that's all the Times can see. How many Republicans said a withdrawal timetable should happen? 44%.

Over two-thirds of Democrats and over one third of Republicans favor a timetable for withdrawal set by Congress. Who's not serious about the illegal war? Maybe the one running a political weekly that wants to yammer on about American Idol but can't mention Kokesh, Liam Madden or Cloy Richards? Or Kyle Snyder, Mark Wilkerson . . . Get the point?

What you can get is non-stop campaign gas bagging. It's 2007, but look and see what you get in issue after issue. And on that note, returning to Ava and my "Lakshimi shows up late and lost (Ava and C.I.)" from Tuesday, Marci sent in the highlight the next day, "Why Women Hate Hillary" (In These Times), we weren't aware that Susan J. Douglas had written on the topic -- she did. In April. And possibly Lakshimi's article ran in The Nation and not In These Times because Douglas had already covered it (in April) so there was no need for it to be picked up again?

And what made it as a hard hitting column (in April) was churned into endless gas baggery that circled around itself making one mistake after another. Again, that goes to the editor. But the reality is, what was a hard hitting column (in April) in In These Times became a soft, mushy, stupid cover story of The Nation in June. That's really sad. From a publishing standpoint, that's really sad and embarrassing. And it goes to the lack of leadership at the magazine today.

Being editor and publisher of the magazine is a full time job. Someone who needs to 'go slow' because time has been spent on another trip to Russia (who runs this magazine?) which didn't even result in a write up (not even online) clearly is out of their depth. Someone who thinks they can run straight to the sugary topic of American Idol while never addressing hard news from Iraq is the last one to rush to prop up Dan Rather and attack Katie Couric (at a time when, though KvH apparently didn't know this either, CBS aired 11 minutes on Iraq the week prior and Charlie Gibson's ABC program? Two minutes. Two minutes for an entire week. But facts aren't compatible with the water cooler or gas baggery.)

Even so, it should be obvious that 'disappeared' or not, when you've used your political forum to go dizzy over American Idol, you're the last entitled to lecture over declining news standards. And before a coffee fetcher e-mails -- and pisses off Ava -- to note that Ava and I write TV commentaries at The Third Estate Sunday Review, we never asked for that and both said, when the first edition was being put together, "Oh, no, not TV." We cover it because we take a feminist look -- not 'the' -- each week. It's a popular feature that brings in readers. We'd be more than happy to drop the coverage. And especially the expectations that are built up each week. That is not just our 'beat,' it is our assigned beat. A coffee fetcher already wrote in about Sunday's piece noting that it covers daytime TV. No, little boy, it covers the issue of women not getting the credit they deserve. Genie Francis, 31 years later, finally got the credit she deserves. We're also covering Iraq. And anyone reading that just for Genie Francis also learned of Kokesh and Madden.

Here's some more reality. Brad passed on an e-mail from The Nation. We'll include the links in it for fundraising (at the magazine, we don't fundraise here):

One-half million dollars. That's what the latest round of rate-juggling by the United States Postal Service will cost The Nation in the next year. Rate increases go into effect July 15, 2007. We are fighting this increase as best we can, but even if we "win," which is a long shot, we are still facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional postage. Now it's time to accept the reality: The Nation needs your help and we need it now. Click here. Here's the history of this situation:
In an unprecedented move, postal regulators rejected the rate plan submitted by the United States Postal Service in favor of a complex scheme designed by Time Warner, the country's largest publisher!
The new plan gave much lower increases, or in some cases decreases, to mega-magazines like Time Warner's own Time, People and Sports Illustrated, shifting the burden to smaller publications like The Nation.

Well, if it's a pressing issue (I believe it is), maybe the editor and publisher should have been hitting on that topic repeatedly and not Water Cooler topics. Leadership is supposed to come at the top. If you're facing a half-million dollar increase, you either have no time to dither about American Idol or you better be working the rate increase into that post with the hope that someone coming by for American Idol will also learn about the rate increase.

We were given just eight working days to prepare a response to the 758-page rate plan before it was declared a fait accompli. The result: an 18% increase in postal costs for The Nation. Please help now. For the media mastodons that increasingly control the information that gets out to you and their Washington flacks, it's just business as usual. For The Nation it's a potential disaster -- but not exactly a surprise.

A disaster? Repeating, the editor and publisher should not have wasted time on Joe-mentum and on American Idol.

We have two choices: start cutting back on our investigative reporting and coverage of what’s missing in the mainstream/corporate media, and on our efforts to expand our outreach programs to students and decision-makers.

Brad asked, "What investigative reporting?" Well there was an article on DiFi that was funded by The Nation even if nothing on it ever appeared in The Nation.

Or hope that friends and supporters like you will help us fill the shortfall. Click here to help. Given the state of things in this country at this time, and a historically decisive election on the horizon, the timing couldn't be more critical. We need your help, if you can possibly give it, and we need it now. In advance, accept our very real gratitude.
Teresa Stack, President

At another time, the magazine could count on checks flooding in. Right now, it may be very hard to get that cash together. (I'm not saying anyone shouldn't contribute. The magazine's in a very hideous phase but, and this is true even with KvH at the helm, it could pull itself out.)

P.S. We will shortly be inviting you to a very special phone conference to discuss the postal rate increase issue in more depth. Join your fellow Nation readers, Nation editors and writers, as well as special guest experts and learn more about this serious issue. Stay tuned!

So, you'll learn about it on a phone call -- a conference call -- as opposed to at the magazine. If they want to raise funds, they need to prove they deserve them to their readers and the only way they can do that is by getting serious. That's not hop around the world from topic to topic. That's not by ignoring the arts (Richard Goldstein last appeared in what issue?). And it's certainly not going to happen by treating War As An After Thought (Mike's phrase).

I am offended by what passes for coverage in most of the magazine and offended that I've had to address it repeatedly because it's that bad. Iraq was the deciding factor in the 2006 election. That a political weekly thinks they can reduce Iraq to a minor topic goes a long way towards explaining my frustrations with the magazine.

If Katrina vanden Heuvel is not up to the job, she needs to step down. If she can handle it, she needs to demonstrate it real quick. You can't beg for money and expect people to pay it when the magazine refuses to regularly address the illegal war. If she wants to turn it around and pull it off, I will be the first to applaud her publicly. But since the 2004 elections, Iraq has hardly registered in the magazine. It's a topic than can be brought up when nothing else is going on. It has not been made the leading topic by the magazine. Freelancers have learned to shop Iraq stories elsewhere. Friends say that topics other than Iraq are encouraged for the staff. The message (intended or not) comes from the top. (See Cedric's "They drank the kool-aid" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! JONESTOWN II ENDS IN BOREDOM!" for a humorous take.)

I was honestly thrilled for KvH when the news came down. But there is no leadership going on at a magazine that can't address the issue that resonated with the voters, the issue that especially needs addressing because the illegal war drags on, people die daily and the right and the centrists aren't being silent. While The Nation plays mute, plans are put foward (splitting Iraq up, for one) and the 'leading magazine' is not in there fighting. That's disappointing and it's disgusting. And it's one more reason the illegal war drags on.

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