Saturday, July 28, 2012

I Hate The War

Thursday's "The threat against the US and the failure of 'trusted voices'" resulted in questions and comments from visitors (as noted in the entry, the topic was nothing new for community members). Some visitors agreed, some disagreed, with the opinions I expressed.  That's fine and if something doesn't seem to have meaning to you, let it go.

But a few had questions and comments that I thought were worth explaining.  To refresh, there was a Wendesday hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee.   Brian Bennett (Los Angeles Times) reported on it and was one of the few.

 48 e-mails felt there were no significant threats to the US and that there was no need for press coverage of any.  [All e-mail numbers supplied by Martha and Shirley who are two who work the public e-mail account and do a great job of it.]  To that I would reply, (a) "significance" can change after the fact and (b) that's your opinion.  With (a), a successful terrorist attack could mean a motley band of loons could suddenly become significant despite not being considered that before.  As with all things in life, it's not just about skill or resources, it's also got a lot to do with luck.  As for (b), you were apparently given enough information for you to come to your conclusion, why do you feel others shouldn't be supplied with enough information to come to their own opinion?

If a threat is publicly made against the United States, a threat of violence on domestic shores, that's something basic that Americans need to know about.  That's something the media needs to cover.  Not some elements of the media, all elements of the media.  It can't be left to the New York Times alone to cover because they have a desk in Iraq at a time when few else do.

It qualifies as information the American public needs to be aware of.  They can form their own opinions, they can tell their members of Congress to ignore it or to follow it or whatever.  But they need to have that information to make their own evaluation.  (Sunday, the Islamic State of Iraq released a recording in which attacks within the US were promised.)

The 48 on that were surpassed by the 113 who objected to this:

 The Islamic State of Iraq has issued a threat against the United States -- not a veiled one, a direct threat.  Americans have a right to know that.  Look at your paper, look at your TV screen, turn on your radio and see who bothered to inform you of that.  Again, the choices are not live in fear or bury your head in the sand.

The 113 objections were diverse. 

Some (12) felt that I had a lot of nerve (I'm sure I do) to talk about the TV, the radio and the papers when I wasn't covering it.  I'm not the radio, I'm not the TV, I'm not the newspapers.  This is a free site, it's a private conversation in a public sphere.  If you're not a community member, you're eavesdropping the same way you would if you were seated at a nearby table.

Some (35) felt I was setting myself up to the be pundit on terrorism.  No.  I have no interest in that.  I'm sure I have no aptitude for that.  In addition, I do interviews in my offline life about my offline work.  I do not do interviews as C.I.  From the beginning, all requests have been turned down.  That also includes joint-requests for Ava and myself -- we turn those down.  The world of television and radio has enough talking heads, it doesn't need me.

Some (48) argued I had a lot of never (again, I'm sure I do) calling out newspapers, radio and the papers for not covering a hearing that I didn't cover.

I'm one woman.  I fail to see how, at ten in the morning on Wednesday, I could be at the House Homeland Security Committee hearing and also be at the joint-hearing of the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees which also kicked off at ten o'clock.  In Wednesday and Thursday snapshot we're covering the joint-hearings.

Check the archives, the Veterans Committee and the Armed Services Committee (as related to Iraq) are the 'beat' of this site.  We've long covered those hearings.   I performed what was expected of me by covering the joint-hearing.

The idea that the press did their job is laughable.  People may wrongly think that happened because Bennett's article was syndicated and many people saw it and might wrongly believe that their own paper was covering it.  (Even Stars and Stripes ended up carrying Bennett's article.)

For those late to the party, we covered confirmation hearings here -- Supreme Court -- during the Bush years.  That led to complaints from friends -- including staffers from Congressional members -- that the press wasn't covering Congressional hearings the way they had even as late as the 90s.

The economy and other things had led to huge press cuts -- I remember being shocked when the Los Angeles Times got rid of the UN as a beat they had a reporter assigned to, they could no longer even have one reporter with the sole job of covering that beat.  We started including coverage as a result, coverage of Congress.  If it's just opening statements or one brief statement from a member of Congress, it came from a Congressional staffer.  And this was discussed in real time.  But if it's me offering commentary or comparisons or analysis or transcript (or just transcript of an exchange), that's a hearing I attended and reported on.

And, check the archives, this site, which asks for no money, covers these hearings and does so better than the mainstream press.

Because I'm so wonderful, right?


I'm merely adequate at best.  But, with the exception of AP, few outlets bother to sit through the entire hearing.  [Sidebar: There are some hearings where, read the coverage I did, I will note that I left after the first or second panel to grab another hearing.  I've never cared about that with regards to missing out on government witnesses.  There's only one official who's not a Cabinet head that offers real testimony.  Everyone else is giving talking points.  I've sat through it, I know the sock replies.  (The IGs are excluded from that call.  I'm speaking of officials for the VA, DoD, etc.)  I could offer some wonderful and allegedly ethical reason for why I don't leave in the middle of hearings to go to another but the reality is I am sick and tired of running from one Congressional venue to another in heels.  Maybe if there were a ton of Iraq hearings on the same day, I'd slip and slide across one building to another's floors.  But I'm just not in the mood to run in heels through the halls of Congress.]

AP sits through them.  Not only is AP the only one that I regularly see at hearings and that sits through them all, I read a lot of newspaper accounts, 'reports' on hearings, by reporters that I know weren't present and by reporters that I know left before the first question was asked.

A huge number of 'reports' you get in the newspapers are written off nothing but the opening statements -- which are written ahead of time and submitted to Congress ahead of time and which the press can and does get before the hearing starts.  AP stays for the whole hearing.  Another wire service which I won't name, stays only for the written statements to be read aloud and for the Committee Chair and the Ranking Member to ask their questions of the first panel.  (In a round of questions, the Chair gets to go first, then the Ranking Member, then other members of the Committee get their chance.  A panel may have more than one round of questions.)  When you read, for example, that Senator John McCain was at Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's neck last fall, you were reading the reports of people who left before the first panel's round of questioning ended.  They stayed about 15 minutes after the opening statements were read and then rushed off to file their reports. Leon Panetta and John McCain get along very well.  There was no problem  There was one heated exchange which the press played as even more than it was -- thereby allowing them to miss all the basic information in that hearing -- but both men were laughing about the exchange in the second round.  The press couldn't tell you that because they had all elft.  Thrilled to be rushing off with what they just 'knew' was the story of the hearing: McCain goes after Panetta!

The real story was the repositioning of US forces.  And maybe had the press tayed the lies of ALL service members returning ot he US owuldn't have taken hold.  It was in that hearing, that we learned how many would be moved to this place, to that place, all surrounding Iraq.

In fairness to some of those types, their assingment that day is to cover this hearing, work on digging up a story about X and also go to Z and see if there's a story there.  In other words, reporters are doing their job and the job of at least -- at least -- two other reporters.  That's due to all the cutbacks that have taken place.

Congressional hearings are not being covered. 

Is it due to a lack of interest on the part of the public?

No.  There are die-hard conservatives, Barack loving lefites and people who don't want to ever hear about election politics who check this site only for the Veterans Affairs or Armed Service coverage.  It is not uncommon for an e-mail to come in saying "I disagree with everything you say about Barack" or "I am a conservative who will never agree with you about ___" but they make a point to check and see if there's coverage of a hearing.  And they're glad, regardless of what they think of my liberal politics, that there was coverage provided.

[There's also a huge interest in the political campaigns.  Martha and Shirley count 50 requests from political campaigns so far this year to the public e-mail account -- where some campaign reads a snapshot and they want to know if the statement attributed to so and so is accurate and where can they find it?  (Most hearings we cover are up a day or two after at that Committee's website.) That happens every two years.] 

 In covering the hearing, we try to pick up on more than one thread.  Above, I typed, "The real story was the repositioning of US forces."  Because of all that's happened since that November hearing and because of what the press has covered and hasn't covered -- that's clearly the main story, the one ignored.  But we spent three days here in coverage of that hearing.  Three snapshots.  And it was covered at three other community sites and we covered it at Third Estate Sunday Review.

There is not enough coverage of Congress, period.  The American people are in the dark.  That's bad because that's how we get extensions of the awful PATRIOT Act and other things.  It's also really bad because there has been so much great work that needs to be praised and so often people are unaware of it.  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  I can't believe the job she's done.

She stepped into that spot -- and it's one of the most difficult spot to hold in the Senate or the House because you're dealing with promises made that have not been delivered, no other government department has as big a backlog as the VA -- and she didn't stumble. I expected her to because most people would have stumbled.  I don't mean fall on her face, but I expected the normal growing pains to take place.

I know the nation's veterans couldn't afford those growing pains, but it was natural for them to happen.  But they didn't happen.  She hit the ground running and, if she's ever caught her breath, I'm surprised.  Every month there is some new emerging scandal or problem for the country's veterans, there's never a chance to get comfortable in the role of Chair.  But she's done a wonderful job from the start. 

She deserves applause for that but, unless you follow veterans issues, you probably don't even know of how successful she's been. 

That's just one example.  Or take what I still consider one of the most important exchanges in a hearing between two members of Congress last year.  That was when US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher demonstrated the class and character to tell US House Rep Gary Ackerman that he was right.  Rohrabacher was a Republican and Ackerman is a Democrat.  And this wasn't a case of, "As the Congressmember from New York just noted . . ."  Rohrabacher was dropping back to the Iraq War, to state he got it wrong and Gary Ackerman got it right.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher: Mr. Ackerman and I weren't always on good terms.  I argued the case for supporting President Bush with his efforts in Iraq with Mr. Ackerman numerous times and I was wrong.  Thank you, Mr. Ackerman.  This has been a waste of our lives and our money.

And later in the hearing, he would add,  "I hope that someone's listening because I wasn't listening years ago when I berated Mr. Ackerman."

And that moment is the sort that a Howard Zinn type would include 40 years from now in a history of the US but most Americans are unaware it even took place because it didn't get covered in the press. 

8 e-mails wanted to know what people are supposed to do?

Why don't you, here's a thought, take that energy you used for your e-mail and e-mail The Nation or The Progressive and ask them why they don't ask their writers to stop writing the useless pop-culture crap (that they're not qualified to write) and quit chasing the day's water cooler topic and actually originate something.  I understand CSPAN plays hearings live.  I know most Congressional Committees post their hearings to their websites.  So ask Katrina vanden Heuvel and Matthew Rothschild who's really being served by the snark with a side order of pop-cult that they serve up every day?  No one is.

I also don't understand why you'd want to be a follower.  We've stood out online because this is an original community with diverse interests.  On my end, because I listen to those interests and also because I don't want to be anyone else or be like anyone else.

It's very sad and very telling to grasp that so-called 'independent' media in this country (Pacifica Radio, The Nation, The Progressive, etc.) has the need to run with a pack and can't offer originality or anything of real value.  Another reason circulation has plummeted for The Nation and The Progressive is that there's not much difference between the two.  That's worst for The Progressive because it sits on a shelf all month waiting for someone to buy it, someone who probably's already read the same spin on the same topics in the weekly Nation.

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!)

The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4488.

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