Thursday, June 28, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

Adrienne Kenney of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) described her work serving stateside with the NSA of listening in on foreigners. Prior to 9-11, she said, they never listened to Americans. Post 9-11 she says, they were given a waiver to listen to Americans, and not Americans with ties to terrorism, but American journalists. She said she listened to journalists whose locations then ended up on lists of targets and were attacked by the U.S. military. She now works for Veterans Administration hospitals. She has spoken with a man there who has seen the US military torture prisoners in Europe. At the VA Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, which is often the second stop after Walter Reed, workers are prioritizing veterans based on what war they have fought in, with priority going to Iraq and Afghanistan. So, other veterans go lower down the list. She said IVAW has a tour underway of 23 bases on the East Coast, and the bus will be here in Atlanta on Friday. She said that IVAW has opened a fast-growing chapter of active duty soldiers at Fort Drum in New York. The Appeal for Redress is gaining signatures, she said -- now at over 2,200 active-duty members. Fort Meade NSA also has an IVAW chapter of active-duty soldiers. And, of course, a soldier in Iraq recently refused to serve any longer. And because his story was spread across the internet so quickly he felt much less likely to be disappeared.

The above, noted by Melissa, is from David Swanson's "Peace Movement Comes to US Social Forum" (AfterDowningStreet). The US soldier in Iraq is 26-year-old Eli Israel and you can find out more about him at Iraq Veterans Against the War and Courage to Resist. And if you've been waiting for media to cover this, big or small, I sincerely hope you weren't holding your breath. What did they cover? We'll get to one example in a moment, but note that Eli Israel took a stand and it did (and does) matter.

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 3545. Tonight? 3571. 26 more lives lost. Car bombings are up in Iraq and, from that and other violence, there's been many deaths for Iraqis. Today, as Mike notes, "3 British soldiers dead in Iraq."

Now, the way this works is that photos never line up with captions. So note that the first photo is of 20-year-old James "Jamie" Kerr whose death was announced today by the UK Ministry of Defence.

The second photo is of 20-year-old Scott Kennedy who was also announced dead today. Paul Joszko, 28-years-old, also died but the Ministry of Defence has no photo posted of him. So look at the photos of Jamie and Scott. (Please note, no disrespect is intended to Scott Kennedy's memory. Both photos should have posted the same size. The fact that they didn't is either a Blogger/Blogspot issue or my own computer incompetence. Regardless, my apologies.)

Grasp that they could be young adults from the US, from Australia, from any of the so-called coalition, or young Iraqis who have died in the illegal war. 156 British soldiers have now died in the illegal war. Almost a million Iraqis. 3571 Americans. You can be sure some believed in the illegal war (even some Iraqis) -- either at some point or until the end -- but some didn't. And none of them started it. The ones who started it? Isn't it getting close to time for Bully Boy to take his fourth or fifth annual vacation? Didn't Tony Blair just step down? They go on and on and the ones who pay the cost rarely get mentioned and rarely get remembered outside of the people who know them. It's doubtful, for instance, that Scott Kennedy will end a chapter or two in some school text. You can be sure Tony Blair will be mentioned. The representative, but not the people, always gets covered. And the ones who die servicing the policies are usually the first forgotten or reduced to a number.

John Nichols is a thoughtful writer. But look at his "A Crisis Of Congressional Confidence" (The Nation -- it's okay to click, you'll go to CBS' reposting)and notice how he notes the people's dismay and disgust with the Congress. Notice how he grasps why that is. He explains why people might be upset with Congress (doing nothing on the war) and then goes right into this:

That's the bad news for Democrats.
The good news is that they still have time to change course.
Doing so is easier than political pundits and cautious politicians would have Americans believe.
If Congressional Democrats want to reconnect with the great mass of Americans who want this war to end, they need only turn to Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold for advice and counsel. Feingold, who voted against authorizing Bush to attack Iraq and has been the steadiest voice of Senate opposition to the war since then, has been calling for the better part of two years for Congress to establish a timeline for withdrawal.

Did you catch it? "The good news is that they still have time to change course." Right before the Democratically controlled Congress was sworn in, the 3000 mark for US troops who had died in the illegal war had passed. Approximately 500 have died since they took office. And he thinks "The good news is that they still have time to change course." They, obviously, is Congressional Dems because the 500 US service members who have died while the Democratically controlled Congress has done nothing, obviously, do not "still have time to change course."

"The good news is that they still have time to change course."

Stop the squad, I want to get off.

I'm sure someone else will gladly grab my pom-poms.

Now that someone, who frequently demonstrates that he cares about the war, cares about ending it, can reduce the illegal war to "Here's How Dems Can Still Come Out On Top in 2008!" is really sad.

A lot is made of The New Republic(an)'s slow demise. And you hear about how it was because this writer joined or that writer joined. You'll hear lies about how there were moments of brilliance even in the bad years. (With some suckers sucking up to MK.) But what really destroyed the magazine was thinking they could serve readers (across the nation) by being a tip sheet for the Beltway. John Nichols (a writer whose work I enjoy more often than not) is supposedly writing about the people's dismay with the new Democratically controlled Congress and he can mention Iraq (which is the huge issue) and note that Cindy Sheehan has publicly rebuked the party. But from there, it's time to offer tips for Congressional Dems.

That's really how you run off a readership and that's really how you ruin a magazine. If he truly feels his audience is Congress, then upfront it and don't trick readers into paying for this nonsense. Nonsense is what it is when you offer that there's still time while reality is that approximately 300 Americans no longer have 'time.' And when you're too focused on advising Congress, you're not interesting readers (other than the same few watching the Sunday chat & chews and attempting to memorize points they can pass off as their own later in the week). Long before The New Republic(an) was the punchline it became this century, it had lost relevance to many due to the fact that it no longer cared about a conversation with readers, it was too busy playing doctor to Congress, full of excercise tips and prescriptions.

John Nichols became tonight's whipping boy because I was on the phone with a friend who steered me to that column when I explained something I was going to note tonight and how I feared it would be seen as approval for The Nation's current state. This was e-mailed to the public account:

Dear Member of the Nation Community,
I’ve never written a fundraising letter--not counting the few notes I sent my parents when I was in college. I’m a journalist. I write articles and books--about politics, national security, and the world around us. And I’m damn lucky; I get paid to do so by The Nation. But the magazine has been hit by a fiscal crisis--one caused by the sort of institutional Washington corruption I often cover--and I’ve been asked by our publishing team to ask you for help. Please click here to pitch in.
Last week, Teresa Stack, The Nation’s president, sent you a letter explaining this crisis. To recap:
Postal regulators have accepted a scheme designed in part by lobbyists for the Time Warner media conglomerate. In short, mailing costs for mega-magazines like Time Warner's own Time, People and Sports Illustrated will go up only slightly or decrease. But smaller publications like The Nation will be hit by an enormous rate increase of half a million dollars a year.
For The Nation, $500,000 a year is a lot of money. Believe me, I know. I’ve been working at the magazine for over 20 years. The pay ain’t great. But there are few media outlets that allow their writers and reporters the freedom to go beyond the headlines and take on the powers that be--to ask inconvenient questions and pursue uncomfortable truths.
But starting July 15, 2007, The Nation will face this whopping postal rate hike. Not to be melodramatic, but this rate increase is a threat to democratic discourse. Why should magazines that can afford high-powered lobbyists receive preferential treatment? This rise in mailing costs will make it harder for the magazine to deliver the investigative reporting and independent-minded journalism upon which you depend. (Take my word; I see the editors and publishing people in our New York office freaking out about this postal rate hike and discussing possible cutbacks.)
The magazine is fighting this corporate-driven, unfair and anti-democratic increase as best it can. It has joined forces with conservative publications in an attempt to beat back the rigged rate structure. (Imagine Katrina vanden Heuvel and Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, working together!) But even if we "win" -- which, I’m told, is a long shot--The Nation will still face hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional postage.
So I'm turning to you. I've never asked our readers for anything--except the time it takes to read what I write for the magazine and its website. But The Nation needs you to help us cover this shortfall, and it needs that help now. Simply put, I’m asking you to send us money: whatever contribution you can, as soon as you can.
Click here.
I’m not entirely comfortable writing to you as a fundraiser. Because people like you have supported the magazine, I’ve been able to do the work I enjoy for years. I appreciate that. Now I’m hoping you’ll come through in this time of need. Certainly, I’d rather be chasing kick-ass stories than worrying about magazine budget cuts and writing pleading letters.
So please help us deal with this unfair rate hike, and I’ll go back to my day job.
David Corn,

Washington Editor
The Nation
P.S. The magazine will soon invite you to participate in a special phone conference to discuss this postal rate increase issue in more depth. Please take the time to join fellow Nation readers, Nation editors and writers, and special guest experts, and to learn more about the rate hike and its impact on The Nation.

We noted that last week and two did e-mail asking about a real address (they don't do online contributions). For any who might want to send in a physical donation: The Nation, 33 Irving Pl, New York, NY 10003. John Nichols has only been negatively critiqued by me here once (and he was unnamed then). But the point is, I'm not a Nation cheerleader. I don't toss out common sense and say, "Wasn't that article on the psuedo-pressing Water Cooler Topic of our day amazing!" I'm really tired of the magazine in its current form (Tip Sheet for the Democratic Party). I am appalled by the refusal to cover war resisters. I'm disgusted by the inability to cover the peace movement. The slow creep of centrists into the magazine is disgusting. And I'm getting mad just thinking of that.

But the thing is, we're looking at one period of the magazine. Hopefully, it will turn itself around. If not, may it die. If you have money to give and would like to, please do. If you don't, it's not the end of the world. (There are also many other far more worthy causes then saving a tired magazine.) One of the worst things about The New Republic(an)'s slow slide down the toilet is that, in this illegal war, the then-weekly could have been pushing The Nation to be better simply by doing the kind of work it did during Vietnam. The default weekly has shown cowardice repeatedly on the war. Cowardice. The same sort of word attached to Ehren Watada's name when they finally saw fit (in a 2007) issue to finally mention him.

So I'm not trying to guilt trip anyone. I'm not saying, "You really, really need to do this." Think about it and if it feels right (and you have the money to give -- if you don't, do not do without, it's not worth it), consider donating. It may not feel right and if it doesn't, you don't owe anyone an explanation -- I believe that explanation would need to come from The Nation. For starters, why the issue just published contains nothing on Iraq? No book review, no column, no editorial, no article. Of course, that's fairly standard these days and why the magazine's taken a hit in circulation.

Where's the magazine that will speak to the reader? When you've got your hands out, you damn sure should be speaking to readers. (Maybe someone should suggest that the DNC write a check to cover the rate hike since that is their intended audience these days.) Ruth will be noting the letter this weekend. Many of you will probably deduce that she's tying it into another issue. I know some have already given and given until they are tapped out and that's my concern here. I don't want to read any e-mail about how by denying yourself this basic necessity or that, you managed to get X out of your budget and manage to donate it. I don't want to embarrass anyone but we've got a member who for the month is doing their wash in the bathtub because skipping the washateria allowed the money to donate to an organization.

I don't want to read another e-mail like that. (I'm not slamming the member for doing that. It's wonderful. But the truth is, guess who I'm quoting, if something can't make it without you sacrificing on the basics, it doesn't need to make it.) If you can afford to give and would like to, please consider doing so.

Reasons for doing so:

The Nation is the oldest political weekly. There's a history there.
Some writers (including Nichols) do work that's worth reading.
The bi-weekly In These Times went tri-weekly and then monthly.
The New Republic has gone from weekly to bi-weekly.
As bad as the magazine is today, they'd have to work really, really hard to make it worse.
(That was not a challenge.)

Reasons not to:

The refusal to cover Iraq as an ongoing illegal war.
The silence on war resisters.
The refusal to lead but offer instead counter-point-of-view articles.
The herd of centrists parading through each issue.
The appalling lack of women published.
You subscribe to or believe in another periodical. (The Progressive, Ms. magazine, Off Our Backs, LeftTurn, CounterPunch, Extra, etc.)

A few members think someone's getting a pass at The Nation currently. That is not happening. That will be addressed, at every site, on Labor Day. Only one thing would kill that planned feature and I don't see it happening (change on someone else's end.) But I am not a Nation cheerleader. But if you have it to give and, after thinking about it, the history of the magazine is enough to make you consider giving despite the fallow time it's experiencing currently, please do. (And if you want to but can't, don't guilt over it. It's not the end of the world.)

If I'm repeating myself on that point, it's because I don't want an e-mail from a member saying, "Well, by just eating one meal a day for this month, I figured I would have enough to give so I did."

The other issue that comes up from time to time is something will be noted here and a member will e-mail that they only have ten dollars (or another amount) and feel like someone might see that as insulting. If you have it to spare and want to give it, do so. No one with their hand out should feel insulted.

When another letter on the topic went up last week, Brenda e-mailed a question regarding the money versus the awareness issue. Her point was that if the magazine hadn't wasted everyone's time with Water Cooler Topics and globe trotting, they could have gotten the word out on this and built up a real resistance to the rate hike, forcing Congress to undue it. That's a good point.

Erika just e-mailed. We'll note this nonsense: "And the new Democratic-controlled Congress--working with razor-thin majorities--couldn't stop a supplemental that gave Bush 100 billion dollars more for the war. " That's from Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Acting Locally" (no link, you know the drill). That goes a long way towards explaining why the magazine is in its worst period in my memory. The Dems "couldn't stop a supplemental"? The Democrats wouldn't stop it. Nancy Pelosi decided to look at life from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow allow that to come to a vote. She wanted credit for publicly stating that she was against the supplemental. No credit for that crap. She's the Speaker of the House. She could have killed it. She could have prevented it from coming to the floor. She could have taken John Edwards suggestion and just sent the earlier (weaker) measure back to the floor, over and over. It's not, as KvH laughably asserts, an issue that they "couldn't stop" it, it's that they wouldn't stop it, it's that they proposed it.

When you obscure the truth (I'm putting it mildly) to the readers, you really have a lot of nerve then sticking your hand out and asking for money. Victor knows how to raise funds and he knows that includes delivering something that readers would feel invested in. Under KvH, there's little reason to give a damn as one centrist after another comes skipping through the pages. The magazine's traded independence for coziness. (Coziness within the Beltway.)

Again, this is the lowest of lows. It's had low points before. It's pulled out of them. If you believe that's possible (I do) and you'd like to contribute something that you can contribute without denying yourself needed basics, please consider doing so. If you consider doing so and decide not to, that's not a problem for the community.

We've had the food issue, we've had the health issue, the green issue, the Cuba issue, go down the list. Despite the illegal war now having passed the four year mark, they refuse to give readers the Iraq issue. Probably not a smart idea to repeatedly ignore the issue that every voting group ranks highest. But again, Victor knew how to raise funds.

There are many worthy causes today. Only you can decide if The Nation is worthy to you (and for this community, that will probably require a historical reflection). If it is and you can spare it, great. If not, no sweat. (No sweat, as well, if you consider giving and then decide the magazine's done nothing on Iraq to warrant your parting with your money.) Again, Ruth will be noting this letter this weekend. She'll be doing so to contrast. She said she'd link to this entry and avoid the discussion of The Nation. Also, a long with the feature on Labor Day, remember that all community sites will have a July 4th feature as well.

Morning entries will probably post irregularly, but two will go up. The snapshot will as well and will either be shorter (to post at regular time) or be later (to post use size). That's due to the speaking schedule we're on tomorrow. The e-mail address for this site is

[C.I. note: Thank you to Molly for catching my mistake. 3,000 was passed on December 31st, not 3,200.]