Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Hate The War

Mia notes Donna Volatile's "Be Careful What You Vote for, You Just Might Get It" (CounterPunch) and read it. It's well worth reading. It was also the topic planned for tonight. But there's no shortage of embarrassments on the left so we'll just expand the topic.

In the lead up to Super Duper Tuesday (February 5th), Tom Hayden rushed in with "Endorsing Obama" the week before (no link to trash). He distorted Gloria Steinem. Only a surprise to those who think of his "old days" as Chicago, et al. Far more telling will always be Bateman Street where he was kicked out of the commune for "intellectual elitism" and "sexism." His endorsement of Obama read like he wanted so desperately to prove those charges true today (still true? -- though one doubts he'll next move to Venice and answer to Emmett Garity). Gloria's being 'divisive,' Hayden argues and goodness knows he can't stand divisions or taking a stand or anything that requires strength. In the endorsement, he writes of the "sufferings and betrayals my generation went through" -- he liked to climb on the cross in real time as well (and liked to bill himself first when -- briefly -- discussing Bateman Street). In a Freudian twist, he says of others Hillary might pick for her cabinet, "The people she would take into her administration may have been reformers and idealists in their youth, but they seem to seek now a return to their establishment positions of power." Seeking positions of power? Sometimes a person confesses by their own accusations.

Hayden concludes his endorsement with the following paragraphs:

We are in a precious moment where caution must yield to courage. It is better to fail at the quest for greatness than to accept our planet's future as only a reliving of the past.
So I endorse the movement that Barack Obama has inspired and will support his candidacy in the inevitable storms ahead.

That nonsense had an impact. Not in the way he might have liked (hence his hurry to airbrush it away shortly after Super Duper Tuesday), but it had an impact. Today, on a campus, it came up yet again and, as Ava and I noted, at least one day a week we're hitting the road with a real activist from the Vietnam era. He was shocked to hear a student ask why Hayden, "a leader of the peace movement," would be endorsing a candidate who wasn't calling for all troops to be withdrawn. After I admonished, "Be kind," the activist explained that Tom Hayden really wasn't an activist. He was on the sidelines and managed to get headlines. But Chicago was really it for him. He was on the sidelines egging others on (including in Chicago) but he had 'higher ambitions' and that's why he and the peace movement split. (At which point I picked up the story of the split and what happened after.) He's managed to convince a lot of people that what matters most to him is peace.

And to a degree it does really matter to him. But it also matters to him that he be seen as 'powerful.' And the two desires always compete -- have always competed -- and always destroy him because he can't stay away from the glory. And it's that need for glory that allows him to come out for a candidate who won't end the illegal war. Peace v. personal glory? The latter will always win.

"After Super Tuesday, Time for Peace Movement to Get Off the Sidelines" was the attempt at air brushing and it concluded:

The new reality is that the primaries will grind on, the percentages will remain extremely tight, and the Iraq War can be made into a tipping issue over which the candidates compete. It takes a peace movement now.

That was sincere as well. He means it and, most especially, he means to wipe out the fact that he endorsed Obama. If his desire to be seen as a 'powerful' weren't so great, he wouldn't have rushed out his endorsement. A lot of people were assuming it was going to be win-win-win for Obama. A number of them because of the laughable Zogby polls. The Zogby polls are repeatedly wrong and have been repeatedly wrong for repeated years. At some point, that should make people question the polling group. Equally true is that Zogby went into 'expand' mode with new techniques such as reaching people by e-mailing them surveys instead of just relying on phone calls. The audience for e-mail is a smaller audience -- even today -- than the number of people who have a phone.

The above can be seen as an expansion on the CounterPunch article (with a few bits of detail thrown in -- sprinkled). Fortunately, Laura Flanders never tires of disgracing herself these days so we can go a little further. (I don't know Laura Flanders. I do know Tom.) "Which Womanhood?" asked Laura Flanders in her endorsement of Obama on Super Duper Tuesday. No links to trash. Flanders was taking on -- or trying to -- Robin Morgan. Robin Morgan who made her life about something versus Flanders the lesbian who couldn't call out the Barack Obama campaign for using homophobia? Morgan was always going to win. Even if Flanders hadn't been bound and determined to embarrass herself -- which she did very successfully.

She declares herself part of the "global women's movement" -- a movement that really hasn't seen her participation unless you define "global" as every where but the United States -- and writes of the "less attractive parts, of which Hillary Clinton, I'm sad to say, constantly reminds me." Considering that Laura Flanders has both a radio show and those postings at The Nation to lead from, the fact that she was as silent as everyone else at The Nation on the topic of the gang-rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer would suggest that she drops in and out of the "global women's movement" depending on her fancy.

Flanders rewrites history to make the Edelmans heroic in their fight against the so-called welfare reform. They weren't judged heroic in real time. Frances Fox Piven blamed not just the Clintons, but also the Edelmans and the left itself. There's a lot of blame to pass around for that including to the Congress. But it's been rewritten so that it's only the failure of the Clintons. That's not reality but a lesbian who can stay silent while her candidate of choice used homophobia isn't interested in reality.

As Flanders might word it, "And that's the saddening, shaming part of Flanders' record -- and the part that reminds me just how often elitists have advanced their own fortunes at the expense of others." Flanders, not done with her revisionary history, wants to blame Hillary Clinton for the failure of ERA (it was White male state legislators) and wants to blame her for the "war on drugs" because "most female lawyers (including Clinton) carried on rising up, even as thousands of disproportionately poor and drug-addicted women were set under." What Clinton's time as a lawyer in Arkansas has to do with the 'war on drugs' Flanders can't say.

But she's not interested in making an argument, she's interested in using slurs and innuendo to build a case against Hillary. She's also not very interested and/or knowledgeable about Iraq since she writes, "One million dead in Iraq alone." The study she's referring to had a stopping point and even then they'd already gone over one million. But those are the sort of details that require attention to the illegal war and, so desperate to save her bad radio show, Flanders hasn't been interested in Iraq since she lost her six hours of live radio each weekend. That is why she's writing about political races (and in an dishonest manner) instead of Iraq. Iraq's not of interest to her.

Flanders concludes, "And so me and my womanhood are rooting for a movement that might someday build for structural change -- and that kind of leadership. Today, with fingers crossed, I’m voting for Barack and Michelle Obama. At least we can call their community organizers’ bluff. Or we can go down -- or rise up -- trying." Apparently her 'womanhood' is disposable and not just because she refused to call out the homophobia but also because she shows up today at The Nation with "Raise the Bar" (never links to trash, never). The thrust is 'let me air brush out my endorsement!'

Humor's provided by lines such as these, "Fourteen months on, the Democratic majority (albeit slim in the Senate) has disappointed those voters, and Congressional approval ratings are down below Bush's." If Flanders really gave a damn about the illegal war, she'd either fight to have control of her radio program or walk away from it because what people are disappointed in is The Nation and the lack of focus on Iraq. It's not just Congress that's run from Iraq and anyone who's suffered through the one hour version of Flanders' program knows that. She's like Lori in the Cher infomercial from a decade ago as she sits down and speaks with Nation 'writers' about their latest political pieces or their latest this pieces or that pieces and Iraq rarely comes up.

She might try getting out in the world if she doesn't grasp how her "approval ratings are down" as well. That may not come about as a result of the small but loyal crowds that show up for book signings. But that is reality. She insists that "[n]o other issue comes close" to the illegal war which only begs the question of why it's so little of interest to her one hour radio program?

Arguing, like Hayden, that it's time to hold the candidates (by the candidates both mean Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- Big Media vanished Mike Gravel and Little Media can't think for themselves, Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney and all others are similarly ignored) feet to the fire, she writes:

The young voters, poor voters, secular, female, people of color, lesbian and gay, progressive and antiwar voters who have the candidates' attention at the moment belong to the part of the Democratic base whose interests are perennially sidelined by party higher-ups come the general election--and way before anyone gets down to the pay-to-play business of governing.
In contrast to the GOP--whose leaders bow and scrape before every religious extremist all election year--those at the top of the Democratic pyramid run away from their base as soon as the primaries end in order to pander to the so-called center and swing voters [see Flanders, "A New Moment?" at]. This extended primary season offers an unusual period in the sun for progressives, but it's not enough to bask. Activists must raise the bar on policy and barter their support for some solid commitments.

Activists must raise the bar? And how will they do that, Flanders, by endorsing candidates? By playing footsie with a candidate who traffics in homophobia?

More laughs come at the end when Flanders offers up, "When it comes to Iraq, it's not only morally correct but strategically smart for progressive groups and Democratic voters to play hardball with these candidates. " Like a great many, Flanders thought Super Duper Tuesday would decide it. And she played the hand she wanted then. Now that it didn't turn out the way she wanted, she wants to counsel those who still haven't voted and to try and erase her endorsement.

Today she wants to "play hardball with these candidates," last week she was concluding, "Today, with fingers crossed, I’m voting for Barack and Michelle Obama." Was that hardball?

No, it wasn't. It was pathetic. It was embarrassing. It was jump on the bandwagon. It was hideous.

Like Hayden, Flanders seems to think she can act as if she didn't offer an endorsement. She offered one. She's been offering it for months with her candy valentines to Obama's campaign. She's embarrassed herself repeatedly and shamed herself by pleading with Barack ("and Michelle Obama") to "break" with Richard Daily over torture -- Michelle Obama had a very close working relationship with Daily. She's not breaking with him. Flanders should have been calling Barack out for his use of homophobia (the South Carolina event had just taken place when she issued her 'plea' on torture). Instead she's pleading with him to "break" with someone his wife knows very well. I'm speaking of professionally and friendship. I am not trying to suggest an affair. There was no affair. But Michelle Obama and Richard Daily did work together, did enjoy working together and are close friends. A real journalist would have found out if there was any relationship between Daily and the Obamas before proposing a 'break.' A real journalist would have at least suspected there was one because of the Daily family's long hold on Chicago politics and the fact that Barack Obama was elected from there to the state legislature. But real journalists can't get all weak knee-ed at the sight of uninformed and disinformed crowds salivating as though Gary Cooper's playing John Doe.

That is what has happened. It didn't have to be that way. Bob Somerby will probably laugh his ass off at this, but I didn't think that's how it would go down. I (foolishly) bought the lie (I bought it back in the day as well) that 'independent' media would be independent. I wrongly thought they'd get on board with Dennis Kucincih (The Nation, for example, had no reason to cover anyone else favorably by their own editorial statements). I don't care for Kucinich. But while he was in the race, he was included here over and over. Not in a negative way, not making little jabs at him. We treated him as a serious candidate here and covered his statements on the illegal war and his actions. That wasn't the case for 'independent' media. The only cover The Nation gave Kucinich was one that featured every Democratic candidate.

Now maybe some shared my opinion of Kucinich and that's why so many in independent media refused to cover his campaign with the same detail that they covered others? Possibly. But my intent wasn't to tell anyone who to vote for. 'Independent' media enlisted in the Bambi campaign. I expected that I'd be able to hold Hillary accountable and Barack accountable (and others). I expected that they'd both be held accountable and one would eventually break with the illegal war. I assumed we'd just be highlighting things from 'independent' media. But that would require an adult independent media and we didn't get that.

We got Amy Goodman shutting all Hillary Clinton supporters out of her program. We got Goodman even refusing to note Juan Gonzalez' column about Obama. We got The Nation offering one piece after another on Hillary that could have been seen as doing their job if the same standard was applied to both candidates. It wasn't.

Bambi got personal stories from Professor Patti Williams (apparently tearing herself away from People magazine long enough to put her drools into word form). Bambi got non-stop covers of The Nation. Bambi got praised by all of independent media. In real time, no one called him out for his use of homophobia. All accepted it as 'necessary' or something to be silent on. When they next try to call out a Republican candidate, they will be seen as hypocrites (most already are seen that way).

Bambi got stories about his 'inspiration' and the 'inspiration' he 'inspired.' Of course if Bambi had been scrutinized the way Hillary was, that might not have happened. And Bob Somerby can focus on MSM (or whatever he wants) but the reality is that the attacks on Hillary were not fueled by the MSM, they bubbled up to it from 'independent' media. Ari Berman pens an attack and it's echoed throughout Little Media as he's booked on this show and that to 'present' his 'findings' and he's allowed to do that without any Clinton supporter being present or without any attempts to contact the Clinton campaign. And they want to criticize Big Media for bias?

Barack Obama can't even be questioned on Democracy Now! by one solo guest. To have Glen Ford (who, with Bruce Dixon, has covered Obama for years) on the program, it was necessary to set him up against Michael Eric Dyson. When Dyson was on earlier singing Bambi's praises, there was no need to pair him up with a Hillary supporter. There never is.

And of course Amy Goodman trashed her own reputation when she trashed journlism ethics by bringing Melissa Harris-Lacewell onto her program when she knew Harris-Lacewell was part of the Obama campaign -- not just a supporter, part of the campaign -- and didn't inform her audience of that. She allowed -- huge breach of journalistic ethics -- Harris-Lacewell to rave about a speech Obama gave while neither woman bothered to tell the audience that this woman raving over Bambi's speech happens to be with the Obama campaign. Less than a week later, when it was time to trash Gloria Steinem, Goodman invites Steinem (a Hillary supporter) on for a 'discussion.' It wasn't a discussion. It was Harris-Lacewell out for blood in the sort of thing that Gloria has spent her lifetime avoiding because she knows how those moments play out. On that broadcast, suddenly Amy Goodman and Melissa Harris-Lacewell could both tell the audiences what was always true: Melissa Harris-Lacewell was part of the Obama campaign.

All of this 'work' on the part of 'independent' media to create a difference between Hillary and Barack over the illegal war when there really is none. But today Jess was telling me on the phone to check out my folder in the public account for an e-mail he moved to it. A blogger wanted to trade links. Jess explained why it wasn't happening. The blogger had blogged on Hillary's vote for the Iran resolution and said that her vote was what convinced him she was the same person who voted for the Iraq resolution. (The resolution did not give Bully Boy permission to go to war. The war is illegal.) Jess wrote back to ask how Obama 'voted'. Obama didn't vote. But all the loonys repeat that nonsense of how Bambi was against it. Unlike 2002, he was a member of the Senate last summer. If he really opposed it, he could have voted against it. (He was in DC at the time.)

Now if his supporters grasped that would they be so 'enthusiastic'? If they grasped how little he'd done as a chair of committees, would they be so 'enthusiastic'? If The Nation had long ago explored who was backing him and done so in a cover story, would they be so 'enthusiastic'?

Obama gave over $150,000 contributions away due to Tony Rezko's upcoming case. He didn't do that all at once. He did it bit by bit. Now it wasn't really giving the money back because the money had long ago been used to run for public office. His televised statement on Rezko is that he did five hours of work for a charity connected with Rezko. Rezko was one of his biggest supporters. When Obama wanted a mansion, he couldn't afford it. He went to Rezko for advice (he's admitted that to the print press, he hasn't addressed it in any debate). The house and a small strip of land were one sale. To turn them into two pieces of property required the approval of the Chicago Landmark Committee. Michelle Obama sat on that committee. The property was split in two pieces. The Rezkos bought the now-split land and the Obamas bought the mansion. For some weird reason, Rezko (a contractor) paid full asking price but the Obamas paid less than asking price. Both the Rezkos and the Obamas made their purchases on the same day. We could continue to go through this (including where the Obamas parked their car -- basically the Rezkos provided them with parking). But the point is that there is a long-standing relationship. It may not have been one that engaged in anything illegal but it was worse than "boneheaded" (the term Obama used when describing it to the print press)and if he gets the nomination, the GOP won't play silent the way Little Media did.

Little Media has acted as though Obama was born at the 2004 DNC convention. They'll toss out the 2002 speech (a speech where he was wrong, Saddam Hussein did not have WMDs) and they'll toss out personal stories Obama likes to tell. They won't explore the other areas. But Flanders wants to blame Clinton for the 'war on drugs' when Clinton was a corporate lawyer? That's insane.

It hasn't been equal. It hasn't been fair. And when someone speaks of Obama's supporters and how passionate they are, well who wouldn't be when reality never gets stressed?

The reality is that Obama and Clinton have no huge difference on the illegal war. They have no huge difference on what they'd do about it if elected president. (And both refused to pledge that they'd have all troops out by 2013.) But that gets lost as well, doesn't it?

Independent media has fueled the double-standard. Common Dreams last week ran 13 or so pieces praising Bambi and not one that praised Hillary. (There were four even-handed pieces on all the candidates.) [Added 2-15-08, it was 13, click here.] The ridiculous BuzzFlash, which offered up pro-Clinton premiums for years and years (The Hunting of The President, et al), trashes Hillary ever day. Beyond the audiences for these programs, magazines and websites the talking points circulate by the audiences that gather their information from them. Because they trust them. Who would have thought the day would come when Laura Flanders couldn't play it fair? Who would have thought 'independent' media 'rockstar' Amy Goodman would trash her own reputation (and it's trashed in Big Media now)?

They talked a good talk but in the end they didn't want to be 'media,' they wanted to be a campaign. And notice that if you're Mike Gravel, Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney or (when he was in the race) Kucinich, 'independent' media isn't advancing you. They're advancing a candidate who voted for war spending over and over, one who does not have a plan to remove all troops by any set date (certainly not by the end of his first term), one who uses homophobia and so much more. Real candidates against the illegal war get sop and a war hawk gets non-stop coverage.

And along come Flanders and Hayden, having already endorsed Bambi right before their states voted, wanting to now preach that people should hold candidates' feet to the fire? They didn't. Nor did 'independent' media as a whole.

There are two stand out moments from Flanders' show when it was live, two moments with Hayden. After the 2004 elections, Hayden was a Sunday guest and was on (he thought) to talk about Iraq. Flanders wanted none of it. She wanted to talk about the stolen election. Their irritation with one another was obvious on air. They made nice in another appearance. At least while on air. In that one, Hayden was talking about the need to know the resistance in Iraq. It was a proposal that, when Alexander Cockburn made it, would drive some 'leaders' nuts. It didn't drive Flanders (Cockburn's niece) nuts. She just played dumb. Until Hayden was off the line. At which point, she ridiculed him by 'reading' from the blog and making ha-has about Hayden wanted Americans to be pen-pals with the Iraqi resistance (she didn't term it the "resistance"). Considering the conflict between the two then, it's amazing that they've both followed the same path this election.

They've both enlisted in the Bambi campaign. Flanders disgraced herself because she's a lesbian who refused to call out homophobia. Tom disgraced himself because Bambi trashed everything Tom's seen to be a part of. Bambi even coined the phrase "Tom Hayden Democrats" as an insult. Both Flanders and Hayden put self-respect and the illegal war on hold to hop on board the Bambi campaign. They've disgraced themselves. And there's really no reason anyone should listen to them today. If pattern holds for Tom, he'll have something worth listening to shortly. When his lesser goals win out, he usually would grasp that and come back with something harder, something worth listening to. Flanders I don't know. But they've both made themselves useless.

Awhile back, Black Agenda Report explained why they were holding Barack Obama's feet to the fire and explained how they were not pro-Hillary. In a functioning media, they wouldn't have had to explain that. In a functioning media, the fact that they called both out would have made that clear. But Little Media is dysfunctional. And after reading all the praise be Bambi pieces and hearing those stories on broadcasts, it does seem to some like Black Agenda Report is 'going after' Obama. They're not.

They've attempted to have a standard that they applied to both and they've also had to spend more time on Obama (and even then, they have noted he and Hillary are twins) because if it weren't for them, who in Little Media (defined as broadcast and print here) would?

Bruce Dixon's "Holding Barack Obama Accountable" (Black Agenda Report) addresses the fact that Obama was (is?) DLC and notes how he and Glen Ford discovered that. From the article, we'll note this:

The 2008 Obama presidential run may be the most slickly orchestrated marketing machine in memory. That's not a good thing. Marketing is not even distantly related to democracy or civic empowerment. Marketing is about creating emotional, even irrational bonds between your product and your target audience. From its Bloody Sunday 2007 proclamation that Obama was the second coming of Joshua to its nationally televised kickoff at Abe Lincoln's tomb to the tens of millions of dollars in breathless free media coverage lavished on it by the establishment media, the campaign's deft manipulation of hopeful themes and emotionally potent symbols has led many to impute their own cherished views to Obama, whether he endorses them or not.
To cite the most obvious example, the Obama campaign cynically bills itself as "the movement", the continuation and fulfillment of Dr. King's legacy. But the
speeches of its candidate carefully limit the application of all his troop withdrawal statements to "combat troops" and "combat brigades", omitting the six figure number of armed mercenary contractors in Iraq, along with "training", "counterinsurgency" and other kinds of troops. Obama also presses for an expansion of the US Army and Marines by more than 100,000 troops and a larger military budget even than the Bush regime. The fact that both these stands fly in the face of the legacy of Martin Luther King, and flatly contradict the wishes of most Democratic voters is utterly invisible in the establishment media, and in the discourse of established Black leaders on the Obama campaign. The average voter is ill-equipped to read Obama's statements on these and other issues as closely as one might read a predatory loan application or a jacked up insurance policy, trying to determine exactly what is covered.
As we pointed out back in
The Obama campaign is heavy on symbolism, and long on vague catch phrases like "new leadership," "new ideas," "a politics of hope," and "let's dream America again" calculated to appeal to millions of disaffected Americans without actually meaning much of anything. Corporate media actively bill Obama as "the candidate of hope," and anointed representative of the "Joshua generation." There are good reasons campaign placards at Obama rallies say "change we can believe in" instead of "stop the war --- vote Obama" or "repeal NAFTA -- Barack in '08." The first set of messages are hopeful and vague. The second are popular demands among the voters Obama needs against which his past, present and future performance may be checked. When the comparison is made, the results are dismaying to many who want to support Barack Obama.

Black Agenda Report has not played favorites. Nor have they put journalism on hold for a campaign. They haven't lied to their audience with vague promises (I'm referring to Little Media's, not Obama's) that the illegal war would come to an end with a vote in November. What they've done all along is what Flanders and Hayden are trying to advise (post-endorsements) now. You need to realize who was there when it mattered. You need to grasp who respected you enough to let you pick your own vote. Margaret Kimberley, Glen Ford and Bruce Dixon saw their role as journalists and, as such, their duty to inform. They have done their job and they have not forgotten that an illegal war is going on. Week after week (except for when they're on hiatus), they've conducted themselves as real professionals and they've treated their audiences with respect -- assuming that they can provide information and their audiences will them make their own decisions. They haven't felt the need -- while others have -- to lecture anyone post-primary. While they are wonderful journalists and deserve high marks, the reality is that the approach they took is not novel or invented on the spot -- it goes to the heart of what journalism is and what Little Media is supposed to strive for.

The fact that others couldn't practice it -- refused to practice it -- is one of the many reasons we hit the five year mark on the illegal war next month. And what's happened is offensive especially if you drop back to 2004 and what happened then. The peace movement was put on hold for an election. You've seen the same thing happen again. Who in independent media is covering war resisters? Where do you hear or see the interviews? What articles do you see in your our Little Media magazines? None.

As long as the illegal war is reduced to a footnote in a campaign (and Flanders' crap about the 'people' is crap when she refuses to write about the illegal war or Tom's when he's off writing about superdelgates) don't expect it to end. As long as 'activism' is gas bagging over political candidates, don't expect the illegal war to end. As long as we're being lied to by Little Media that Obama's the one with a plan to end the illegal war, don't expect it to end.

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Last Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3952. Tonight? 3960. Forty away from the 4,000 mark. Not that anyone would know it from Little Media. And that's one reason why the illegal war continues to drag on.

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