Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sir Talks A Lot

state of the union

In the news around the world and even in the United States on Tuesday was the anger among Iraqis at the failure of the United States to hold anyone seriously accountable for the 2005 massacre in Haditha. The story was a useful reminder of how the operations of the U.S. military over the past decade have fueled hostility toward our nation.
President Obama began his State of the Union speech Tuesday night by absurdly claiming the exact opposite, asserting that the war on Iraq has made us safer and -- I kid you not -- "more respected around the world." He later equated the war on Iraq to World War II, a surefire way to put anything beyond criticism in the United States, provided you can get people to fall for it.
Remember, this is the guy who won the Democratic Primary in 2008 by the simple fact of having not yet been in the Senate in 2003 and thus having avoided voting for the war that he funded to the hilt as a senator beginning in 2005. He had called it a dumb war. Now he says it made us safer. If it was dumb, was he dumber? What is he trying to say?
In the next breath, Obama says "some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home." Never mind that there are three times as many U.S. troops in Afghanistan now as when Obama moved into the White House. The myth is that he's ending wars. Never mind that he was compelled to end the Iraq War, in so far as it has ended, by the treaty that Bush and Maliki created, and which Obama sought every possible way to violate. Never mind that Iraqi hostility toward U.S. criminals being granted immunity from prosecution was the primary reason that the Iraqi government insisted on the Bush-Maliki withdrawal date. A myth is a myth, and who will question it and still keep their job on U.S. television?

The above is from David Swanson's "Killing Iraqis Makes Us Safer -- And Other SOTU Lies" (War Is A Crime) and Sir Talks A Lot gave his State of the Union last night. Ava and I watched with a group of students -- largely left students -- who booed Barack frequently. What stood out the most was just how inauthentic Barack Obama is. He's a bad actress floundering, fumbling through the lines, trying to find the character.

In February 2009, Ava and I observed:

We watched Monday in full as Barack uh-uh-uhed and spoke in that robotic manner that allows him to find more unnatural pauses than Estelle Parsons and Kim Stanley combined. "He's our Method president!" we quickly gasped while wishing we could have one president this decade capable of normal speech. If he gets any worse, he'll be Sandy Dennis.

That's not gotten any better -- and he's been using teleprompters the entire time -- but I'm talking about someone giving their fourth State of the Union speech and how inauthentic he is. Barack worships at the feet of Ronald Reagan. Not being an idiot, I don't. But Reagan did know how to come off authentic (as he lied) and come off like a consistent person publicly. You can argue it's from the many years of (bad) film acting. But George H.W. Bush -- even in the most outlandish p.r. situations -- always came off like the George H.W. Bush America knew -- whether they loved or hated him (I'm the latter group). Barack flounders all this time later. It's partly because there's no speech writer in charge able to say, "Nice phrase, but it doesn't fit with the rest of the speech. It's clunky in its 'beauty' and causes people to notice it as opposed to noticing the point being made." So you get a variety of 'voices' in one speech. And Barack's not able to maintain consistency for more than seven minutes tops so that hour-plus performance last night was brutal, like watching Elizabeth Berkley struggle to breathe life into Nomi in Showgirls.

Four years later and the 'brand' still can't be authentic. He's like one of the boy toys of a certain director. Every time they'd end up on the cover of Vanity Fair, careful observers would know that was the boy toy's hey day, that all that the future held was obscurity broken only by being the punch line to the occasional Family Guy joke. They can, and the media has, marketed him very well. But unless they intend to hold off on the marketing of all the other War Hawks to come and just focus on marketing Barack for the next 40 years, history's verdict is going to be brutal.

As for his claims regarding Iraq, not only do US troops remain in Iraq, they remain around Iraq. Just yesterday, Rowan Scarborough (Washington Times) was reporting on all the troops being kept in the Gulf region:

About 50,000 U.S. military personnel are serving in and around the Gulf. Most are aboard ship or in Kuwait. News reports from the region say 15,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Kuwait as a check against a destabilizing situation in Iraq and the threat of aggression by Iran.
The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln strike group sailed into the Gulf on Monday. Carrier contingents typically include a guided missile cruiser, two destroyers and an attack submarine.
In all, more than 30 U.S. ships and about 22,000 sailors are in the Gulf area.

The speech was as much of a joke as Barack himself. And consider the critique to be Ava and mine. We talked about it last night and agreed that if this went up here, we wouldn't have to deal with Jim insisting Sunday that we write about the damn speech. Last week, we did a rough outline for Revenge. (Revenge airs tonight, last hour of ABC prime time, a great show, the best hour long drama introduced in fall 2011 and the only real rival for the title of best new drama debuts February 6th on NBC.) We had a rough outline because it was going to be one of our creative pieces -- fiction -- like the one on Seventh Heaven or Law & Order: Trial By Jury or Hidden Palms. And, as best we could remember, we haven't done one of those since Persons Unknown in the summer of 2010. So we did our little outline of how we'd inject ourselves into the proceedings and Jim suddenly needed us to cover the NPR South Caroline primary coverage instead.

He argued that we'd covered the live Iowa caucus coverage and the live New Hampshire primary coverage so we "had" to cover the live South Carolina coverage. It was a different crew (due to being on Saturday) and we really hadn't planned to cover it (we'd listened to it but we hadn't taken notes). So Ava wants to avoid us getting stuck on Sunday dealing with Barack's State of the Union.

And the other reason I'm going into all of this is because of NPR. Friends with NPR are complaining repeatedly to us about the South Carolina piece.

What's wrong with us? Where's the error? Tell us and we'll correct it.

Well, there's not an error. But we didn't mention All Things Considered (Monday through Friday last week) or Morning Edition (ibid). Why would we? In the three pieces, we're addressing the live coverage. But, they insisted, we referred to Steve Inskeep. (A) We were talking about the issue of sexism and (B) Morning Edition is not supposed to be Good Morning America (nor is Steve supposed to be David Hartman). This was a passing paragraph, not the heart of the critique:

For example, we weren't at all surprised that with Renee Montagne on leave (her father passed away at the end of last year, our condolences and sympathies), NPR has decided to team Steve Inskeep up with David Greene. The last thing NPR needs is two male hosts in the morning and the last thing the increasingly 'jovial' Inskeep needs is an on air roll dog.

I'll also add that two days after we noted the obvious, Steve Inskeep laughed so loud on air (this segment -- it's during the "nerd" exchange) that the issue was addressed with him. It should have been addressed long before that.

Had we been covering regular coverage, we would have noted what happened last week on both Morning Edition and All Things Considered. In fact, had we thought we'd be covering NPR as we listened last week, we probably would have made a point to include observations. But it was 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning (PST) when we were asked to cover the live coverage and we threw together what we could.

Last week, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, in their South Carolina reporting, made a point to include women voters. We didn't take notes, I don't have statistics, but, yes, as NPR friends are pointing out, both shows did find the women and feature them prominently. (In live coverage of the results of the primaries and caucus, NPR's been very bad about featuring women.) They do deserve credit for that when contrasted with the live coveage. I have heard (on NPR) that women were the key to Newt Gingrich's win in South Carolina (I have no idea if that's true on not, that's what NPR stated on the air). If so, it's good that NPR managed to find the women last week. And while that's good for the shows and while I will applaud it and Ava will as well (and hopefully most NPR listeners), it still doesn't address the problems with the live coverage. Florida's primary (which we plan to note at Third) will let us see if NPR's going to do a better job or not. It comes during the week, they will have the regular crew for the live coverage and we'll be listening to see whether or not women are going to take part in the coverage or not. And whether it's even in remotely equal numbers. (Iowa featured only 3 female voices; New Hampshire bumped that up to 6 -- New Hampshire featured 21 voices in all -- plus candidates.) But, yes, last week, Morning Edition and All Things Considered did a solid job last week and we'll try to include some note of that Sunday at Third.

Illustration at the top is Isaiah's "State of the Union" from Sunday.

The following community sites -- plus and Guardian -- updated last night and this morning:

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