Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: I read a few e-mails on the way back from Texas. As I read them, I thought, "Well it's a good thing C.I. said take the weekend off." I hoped, like many, that what the e-mails were complaining about, would quickly be corrected.

As my granddaughter Tracey would shout, "Wrong!"

Let me emphasize the positive. For a real discussion you could have caught Flashpoints all week long, WBAI's Law and Disorder addressed the topic with on Monday, CounterSpin this weekend, WBAI's Wake Up Call Radio on Wednesday, Monday on KPFK's Connect The Dots with Lila Garrett and RadioNation with Laura Flanders right now as I type. Robert Knight delivers "The Knight Report," Monday through Thursday, on Flashpoints. If you're unable to listen to archived broadcasts, C.I.'s typed up Monday's report in "Other Items (Robert Knight's commentary)", Tuesday's report in "Other Items (Robert Knight's commentary)" and Wednesday's report in "Other Items (Robert Knight's commentary)."


Mia wrote, of KPFA, "I have no idea what I'm listening to but it really doesn't strike me as news." She wrote that this week. I have no idea what it was either. Or, sadly, frequently Democracy Now! this past week.

Now if you have ever heard a Judith Miller or Michael Gordon defend their 'reporting,' you're familiar with the excuse. It goes like this, "Well I did cover it!" Often, if you check the article, they, in fact, did. At the bottom of an article where most readers never saw it. They led with the spin and possibly offered an alternative view after they had already created an impression.

So, for review, neither the Senate nor the House passed bills that will "Bring the troops home."
They both passed legislation that, provided the Bully Boy agrees to play fair and respect the will of the people, might ideally allow for half to come home. His escalation means the number of US troops stationed in Iraq will have reached 180,000. The ones the bills urge Bully Boy to bring home are "combat troops." Troops can be reclassified, they can be said to be fighting al Qaeda, there are any number of loopholes in the overly lauded bills.

There is no teeth in either bill. In fact, I think they should be called the "Gums Bills." Lot of gums flapping over nothing.

What the bills do, which really is not open to debate, is continue to fund the illegal war.

But it was very hard to hear that by listening to the radio. How many times did we hear, and I am talking about Pacifica Radio, did we hear that the Senate bill or the House bill would bring the troops home? It seemed that the outcry finally prompted the use of the term "nonbinding."
Why an outcry was needed to prompt that is beyond me.

When Judith Miller and Michael Gordon brought you spin, it really did not matter that at the bottom of their articles they might have presented a qualifier. By the same token, "non-binding" does not really begin to cover the bills which have been treated as though they were passed by the peace movement on far too much Pacifica Radio coverage.

Another obvious point was how many programs took a pass on addressing the criticism of the bills. You might hear the words "some critics" in a news bulletin, but there was not time to explore the realities of the bill. As Zach wrote, "I like Rebecca Walker, I enjoy her mother's writing even more, but I really did not need a lengthy interview exploring her pregnancy at a time when KPFA was refusing to address the realities of what Congress was doing. I'm sure Walker's book is interesting and glad she wrote it but I really don't think it was the main topic that needed discussing this week nor do I think that, when so many women in Iraq are under attack, it was appropriate since that topic continues to be largely avoided by KPFA." Megan wrote noting a supposed Iraq segment, promoted as such, that had nothing to do with Iraq when it aired live. It had to do with Iran, an important topic, but it had nothing to do with Iraq. Megan wrote, "Let me echo C.I. on this: Where are the regular guests: Antonia Juhasz, Medea Benjamin, John Stauber, Phyllis Bennis, Howard Zinn, Anthony Arnove, Norman Solomon, etc.? Seems to me that everyone who has used their voice to speak the truth about the bill have been strangely absent from KPFA for the last two weeks." I can speak of last week because I did listen but the week prior I was on the road. I asked Kat and C.I. and was told Antonia Juhasz could be heard two Mondays ago so obviously she was reachable then. She was protesting on the anniversary of the start of the illegal war but suddenly she vanished from KPRA airwaves just as the first weak bill passed the House of Representatives. Somehow, KPFA appears to have lost her number.

KPFA's purpose is not to cheer the Democratic Party or to be disingenuous with the listeners when covering the Democratic Party. I have no idea why the news staff offered one embarrassment after another. I do think it comes back to the point that Kat and C.I. have been making for years now: All this time later KPFA still offers no program that is devoted to Iraq.

If they did, they would have some in house experts to utilize. That does not that mean they would use them, last week did not provide us with any discussions about the Iraq bills from voices who can usually get air time. But if, for instance, Sandra Lupien's slot at KPFA was Iraq, if she hosted a program on the topic, even only a weekly show, she would be listening to the coverage that we heard and thinking, "I need to call the station because that's not really what the bills do."

I enjoy listening to KPFA, usually, and the other Pacifica Radio stations; however, I have no problems calling something out if I think it needs to be. Like most members, I am fully aware that if C.I. is calling something out, it means it is something members are bringing up repeatedly. So, knowing how C.I. loves KPFA, when I started seeing the criticism appearing here while we were on the road coming back from Texas, I knew before I read a single e-mail that there was a problem brewing that the community felt needed attention.

Has it been any better this week? I stop listening each day after Flashpoints went off. That happened mid-week as I heard the evening news offer too often the "Troops come home" nonsense. Each morning, I would check out The Morning Show with high hopes and, after the first news break dashed those hopes, find something else to listen to.

Neither bill brings all US troops home. Neither bill is binding. Neither bill defunds the war. Neither bill calls on the Bully Boy to get Congressional approval before declaring war on Iran. We can argue that Bully Boy cannot declare war on Iran because only Congress has the power to declare war but the way he has used the War Powers Act of 2001 makes such an argument a waste of time. Neither bill says "No permanent basis in Iraq." Neither bill opposes the privatization of Iraq.

Those things really are not in dispute. It is not surprising to hear Democratic Party Hacks spin the bill. It is not even surprising, at this late date, to see The Nation write an embarrassing editorial. That editorial, posted online late Thursday, was pointed out to me by my grandson Jayson who printed it up to carry it to school so he and his friends could laugh at The Nation which is apparently one of the more popular crazes on campuses across the country among politically minded students. Independence rarely is found in the pages of The Nation these days. The snap-thoughts journal now exists mainly to promote the Democratic Party.

It is like expecting the news breaks on Air America Radio to provide you with reality which is why I just rolled my eyes at the start of the second hour of Ms. Flanders' show when Frank Sullivan promoted both a "timeline for troop withdrawal" and that Iran had "kidnapped" British soldiers. Soldiers are not "kidnapped," they are "captured."

But KPFA and Pacifica do have actual news staff. Leigh Ann Caldwell, who covers DC for Free Speech Radio News and the Pacifica network, seemed to have little grasp of the news when it came to the bills in question. Appearing as a guest Wednesday on WBAI's Wake Up Call Radio, Ms. Caldwell stated, "I know it doesn't go as far as many Democrats would like in cutting the funding."

Does not go as far in cutting the funding? It does not cut any of the funding. How does a news correspondent fail to grasp that? Bully Boy's request for the latest stage of funding the illegal war was met by both houses of Congress. To suggest otherwise is to be, as my granddaughter Tracey would put it, "WRONG!" I was also confused as to which Democrats she was referring to and whether she was reducing the populace to one of the two major party groups?

But it was a confusing week. There are points of debate about either bill. There are also basic facts. I expect the news team to get the facts correct. When they do not, it troubles me, and I have no problem taking anyone to the woodshed. Ms. Caldwell and others have done strong work elsewhere but they have failed repeatedly in covering the bills in either house. To spread the blame around, except for the show mentioned at the top, the programs have failed to offer any conversation on the bills.

Ms. Flanders, tonight as I listen, has repeatedly made the point that this is a time for more action and more voices. She is correct. She is also correct that nothing would have happened without the pressure coming to bear. Congress did feel it.

The frustration and the rage that many listeners feel goes to the fact that the "news" did not qualify for news on the coverage of the bills. But there is also the very real concern that Democratic Party Hacks who rush to say "Be happy!" are, intentionally or not, attempting to lull people into thinking, "The Iraq war is now taken care of. Go home. Stop calling. Stop taking to the streets. The Democrats are on it."

That is not reality. But when spin by Party Hacks is not countered with reality by the news, that myth can take hold.

antonia juhasz