Wednesday, August 01, 2007

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No need to wait until September.  It's already obvious how George W. Bush and his still-influential supporters in Washington will sell an open-ended U.S. military occupation of Iraq -- just the way they always have: the war finally has turned the corner and withdrawal now would betray the troops by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  At one time, the Iraq story line was how many schoolrooms had been painted or how well the government security forces were doing.  Now there are new silver linings being detected that will justify a positive progress report in September -- and the U.S. news media is again ready to play its credulous part.

The above is from Robert Parry's "The NYT's New Pro-War Propaganda" (Consortium News) detailing the many waves of Operation Happy Talk.  Operation Happy Talk has never gone away though some have been stupid enough to participate it.  For instance, no independent writer should ever pen an article about how a soccer match had "united" Iraq.  Let's be really clear on that.  When religious minorities are persecuted, when femicide is taking place in Iraq (all women and girls are victims), when gays and lesbians are the objects of witch hunts, let me state clearly: Lose your macho high.  (I'm not referring to Parry, by the way.)  It's nonsense in the MSM and it's even worse when the independent media wants to push "Iraq is united! Soccer!"  But think about how many front page stories the cup got male writers (they love their cups) at the New York Times.  And the paper used "Iraqis" but -- repeatedly -- ran photos (on the front page) of men, quoted men, noted only men.  But somehow the fact that a bunch of crazed men were whipping off the shirts and shooting guns in the sky meant all of Iraq had united.

Could you spare a dime
Well I'm sick of it, it's a load of s**t
We could stop the world and let off all the fools
And let them go live with their guns in the sky
-- "Guns In the Sky," INXS, Kick

The White House should be very proud of themselves.  Not only did the MSM fall for a meaningless sports competition, so did a lot in the small press.  The Times did several front page stories on that (and when the stories weren't front page, the photos for it still were).  By contrasts, Oxfam's report -- "Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq" -- on the devastating conditions for Iraqis not only ran inside the paper (A8, yesterday), not only had no photo (front page or otherwise) to 'catch the eye,' it also didn't rate a full story.  It's the opening to Cave's "Report Finds Dire Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq" story.  Tick it off, move along.  A huge contrast to the way the soccer match ups repeatedly played out in the Times.

From Thursday morning's "Oh look, it's universal . . . for some men:"

We'll stay on the above violence by noting the New York Times' coverage of it and we'll pick up mid-stream because apparently when two men cover the topic they think it's important to make like they're doing the sports minute on the nightly news before getting to the violence. If we all agree to assume Richard A. Oppel Jr and Qais Mizher are such big jock 'studs' that they have to wear athletic cups at all times when reporting, will they agree not to start out a story on bombs that left at least 50 dead by talking "errant kick"s, goalposts and "4-2 shootout victory"s? Will they agree that when they're allegedly reporting on at least 50 dead, they devote more than a single paragraph to that and avoid 'reporting' on a game they watched on television?

If not, could the paper please transfer them over to the sports section and assign these type of stories to reporters who grasp that 50 dead is more important than a sporting event which, for the record, did not take place in Iraq?

It's been one of bit of nonsense after another.  The Oxfam report was a major issue.  But let's all pretend the fact that some Iraqi men enjoyed the soccer results that a 'corner' has been turned or that the title somehow means anything.  Oxfam noted approximately "half the population are now without work," child malnutrition is now at 28%, 70% lack access to water fit for consumption, 80% lack sanitation . . .  As we noted Monday, "43% of Iraqis in 'absolute poverty' but let's focus on a soccer match."  And strangely in all the 'kick butt' coverage of the soccer match, no one ever wondered what it said that Iraq beat Vietnam?  No one wanted to run with that foreshadowing.   Today, we saw that planting your talking point last week paid off very well for the administration today.

And of course, two weeks ago the push-back began to lower the public expectation on the reports Congress will get next month on the 'progress' in Iraq from Patreaus and Ryan Crocker.  Odierno didn't think up the push-back, he was just the go-to-guy.  Ned Parker and Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) report the latest on Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno in "General Sees a Few More Years in Iraq:"

The day-to day commander of the U.S. military in Iraq said Tuesday that American forces would be needed in the country for a few more years in order to stave off chaos. 
"We think that based on the campaign plan that we need forces here for a few more years," Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told The Times during a tour of a U.S. Army base in Babil province south of the capital.

This follows Bully Boy's pick for Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Michael Mullen telling the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that the US military would stay in Iraq "years, not months."  These 'bulletins' don't just happen, they are part of a coordinated message meant to resell the illegal war, meant to buy more time.  That the administration would try these cheap tactics isn't surprising, they've shown no more respect for Americans than they have for Iraqis and they lied to get the country into a war so it's no surprise they'd lie to keep it in the war.  What is surprising is how so many in All Things Media Big and Small rush to enlist.

In fairness, daily reporters are bombarded with a ton of information.  All administration will always benefit from that and most modern day ones have.  But when, for instance, you're writing about the "Anbar model" being taken to the Diyala Province this week and you're still unaware of anything but talking points from the military, even I'm not tempted to do "in fairness" because this has been called out loudly by the press (granted, more often in press conferences than in their reports for their outlets).  Point, some of it will understandably surface in first day reports but other things there really are no excuses for.  Trumpeting "July 2007 US Deaths Lower!"?  No excuse for it.  July 2007 saw the most US service members killed in Iraq of any July since the illegal war started.  There's no excuse for falling the spin planted last week.

Parry, Robert Parry, also addresses the latest episode of Mainstream Makeover wherein Michael O'Hanlon and little Kenny Pollack get to be billed by the Times (and other outlets) as "war critics" even though they were war cheerleaders.  Well, when the MSM won't give space to genuine war critics such as Parry, Howard Zinn, Norman Solomon, Phyllis Bennis, et al, they have to cast someone in those roles and O'Hanlon and Pollack failed as prophets so they'll grab any day work they can get these days.  Parry notes, and pay attention, this is key, that, "In other words, they have fit themselves in with many Washington insiders who still maintain that the invasion was a fine and noble idea; the only problem was the incompetent occupation." 

That's how the next illegal war gets sold.  "We weren't wrong to start an illegal war, we were wrong not to plan better for the illegal occupation."  And that's the theme of an overly praised 'documentary' by a 'director' with the Council for Foreign Relations.  He was interviewed yesterday on KPFK and I didn't hear it but I heard of it from friends who did.  (We've already noted here, weeks and maybe months ago, that film pushes the lie of 'good war, bad occupation' to prolong the illegal war.)  Make no mistake that the illegal war is being sold again. The fact that 70% of Americans want a timetable for withdrawal is one of those 'polls' that doesn't matter to Bully Boy or to centrist organizations for that matter.  (The right is called out but exactly why are the War Hawks in the center so often left out?  If they weren't given passes, Parry wouldn't have to point out the realities about O'Hanlon and Pollock.)

Turning to periodical news, the Summer 2007 edition of Ms. magazine is out.  The letters from readers are always worth reading and this issue includes a response to "What Are You Doing With Your Women's Studies Degree?" (replies include nonprofit work, working for the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and starting the Women's Business Initiative, law clerk for Judge Gregory Jackson in DC) (nice photo, in another letter section of Amy Schmeets and her daughter Sophia).  "Keeping Score" is notable quotes and, among them is this by Gloria Steinem: "Women's bodies are valued as ornaments.  Men's bodies are valued as instruments."  The quote went on a Starbucks cups last month.  "How We're Doing" looks at women and the media. One thing to add on the radio aspect (excellent pie charts, by the way) is that one outlet created to address the declining listenership of women to radio and the declining women on air is GreenStone Media.  Along with The Radio Ritas, Women Aloud, Rolonda and Lisa Birnbach, GreenStone Media is now producing The World According to Giles & Moriarty hosted by Nancy Giles and Erin Moriarty both of whom have much experience in broadcast (including CBS).  Their program airs on Saturday mornings and has been added since we last noted GreenStone Media.  All programs can be streamed online live or you can listen to archives of recent broadcasts (for free, no sign up, no premium fee).

Back to Ms., the cover theme is "1-2 Punch" and includes Allison Stevens' "A Major Blow to Roe" and Justine Andronici's "Court Gives OK to Unequal Pay" and you can also pair it with two other articles in the issue.  Allison Stevens' "Sticker Shock" addresses the issue of the huge increase in prices for birth control (which both increases the profit for Big Business and limits access for many women).  Stevens notes, "Millions of women who purchase contraceptives at student and community health clinics across the country have seen prices go from about $10 a month to anywhere between $30 and $50.  Such out-of-reach prices are putting intense financial stress on women who can't afford to pay retail for birth control.  And the pressure goes beyond the individual level: Some family planning clinics serving low-income women may be forced to shut down if prices aren't soon reduced, leaving poor women with even fewer resources to determine the number and spacing of their children."  That article runs on pages 12 and 13.  Jessica Sites' "Police Story" (page 15) addresses the overturning of a 2002 jury verdict agreeing that discrimination based on race was taking place in Los Angeles County's decision to pay county sherrif's deputies more than county police officers.  This was a breakthrough case and Sites reports, "Now a three-judge California appellate court has overturned the verdict.  . . . Because the appellate court relied on job descriptions to make its decision -- discounting interviews with personnel that showed substantial similarities in the two forces' duties -- there is concern that the ruling opens the door for employers to use different titles and descriptions to cloak discrimination." 

What happens when visibility increases in the media doesn't come with an increased awareness in the coverage?  Nikki Ayanna Stewart explores that in "Black Girls' Dreams" (pages 66 and 67).  The arts section includes playwright Susan Miller's essay "Conversations With My Son."  This is from Eve Ensler's A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer which features essays by Miller, Alice Walker,  Suheir Hammad, Howard Zinn, Jane Fonda, Tariq Ali, Edward Albee, Robin Morgan, Kathy Najimy, Kate Clinton, Patricia Bosworth and others (including Ensler herself).  Among the book reviews, Jennifer Pozner's look at Selling Anxiety: How the News Media Scare Women (author Caryl Rivers) is a must read -- one sentence from Pozner's review: "With wit, ire and in-depth social-science research, she exposes how corporate media conspire to convince us that despite -- or precisely because of -- women's professional, political, academic and cultural strides, most of us are thoroughly miserable, the cost of all that uppity ambition."  Helen Zia reviews Edwidge Danticat's Brother, I'm Dying, Julie Phillips reviews Doris Lessing's The Cleft, Nasrin Rahimieh reviews Gina B. Nahai's Caspian Rain, and Frances Winndance Twine reviews Susan K. Cahn's Sexual Reckonings: Southern Girls in a Troubling Age.

That's just a small sampling of the contents of the summer issue of MsDona says we can note Rebeca Clarren's "The Invisible Ones" (pages 40-45) at The Third Estate Sunday Review this weekend, Elaine will note Nadia Bernenstein's column tonight at her site Like Maria Said Paz . This was dictated in two parts.  Thanks to ___ for typing it up and for the patience.

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