Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: Ty just phoned to say that if I was having trouble addressing an issue this week, not to worry about. I told him thank you for that but thank you even more for waking me up. I meant to start writing the report two hours ago. I was organizing my thoughts while I was listening to some of my late husband's vinyl record collection and ended up falling asleep on the couch, carried off to dreamland on wonderful memories.

So time to get started. Last time, I discussed Steve Rendall's discussion with Peter Hart on CounterSpin about Air America Radio. He mentioned, in the discussion, that he had an article on this topic in the new issue of FAIR's Extra! and I had noted that it was not available online. As of yesterday, it still was not available. But I have the new issue and the discussion was actually based on two articles by Mr. Rendall. The first is "Rough Road to Liberal Talk Success" which runs on pages eleven and twelve. This is about the historical roots of talk radio and I would suggest you read it because he is going into greater depth about how the Fairness Doctrine had little to do with talk radio and "not one Fairness Doctrine decision issued by the FCC ever concerned itself with talkshows." Mr. Rendall points out how the Fairness Doctrine's demise is repeatedly and wrongly cited by some as the cause for right-wing talk radio taking off and that is just not reality.

"The Trials of Air America" is what I am really going to focus on and I am using it to address a number of things. I need to note, right off the bat, that Mr. Rendall credits Randi Rhodes as one of the "liberals and progressives" on Air America Radio. On air with Peter Hart, he did not. I will assume that was due to the fact that a large topic was reduced to one segment. But I did question his failure to cite her so I want to be clear that in his article he does.

The article is not long enough. Like the discussion, it is just not long enough. In two pages, you cannot address issues of advertising, business models, hosts and content. But it is hard to address it seriously and honestly so maybe two pages was all Extra! was up to?

I will note that he speaks of their business model in one section and it is very disappointing. C.I.'s noted that there were actually three business models possible. Mr. Rendall covers the for profit, corporate model and the listener-sponsored model which both air over the broadcast airwaves. Mr. Rendall misses the model that Air America Radio found success with early on, the model that got them media attention. As C.I. has noted, that was their success online where they broke records for online listenership. Considering that CounterSpin can be podcast now and that the year is 2007, it is disappointing that there is no discussion, or even a nod to, what could have happened if it had used its web-based success to continue to build word of mouth and to attract interest from radio stations as opposed to spending so much money to get airtime on traditional airwaves.

That model is actually the one of interest today with all the changes, all that talk of podcasts and downloads and, by refusing to note it, Mr. Rendall comes off more out of it than this old grandmother.

Four paragraphs is really all that is given to Iraq and that is really disappointing because Iraq is a large part of the story of Air America. I took offense to this passage "besides a few of the network's lower-profile shows (such as Flanders' Radio Nation), it hasn't been a reliable place to turn for anti-war experts or views." I am really getting tired of hearing these explanations that, while I can understand where the speaker or writer is coming from, are insulting to Laura Flanders' program. I am assuming Mr. Rendall is referring to the lack of promotion Ms. Flanders receives compared to, for instance, Sam Seder. But "lower-profile" and similar terms seem to me to resign Ms. Flanders to some ghetto. She is the most high profile host at Air America Radio at this site. That did not start last year or the year before. Go to the very start of this site and you will find members and C.I. mentioning Ms. Flanders. In my Friday discussion group on Iraq, her show is the one that comes up the most. I think Mr. Rendall means that she has not gotten the promotion she deserves, which I agree with, but I do feel that, despite promotion, she has taken off and continues to do so. So when I read "lower-profile," at this point, it bothers me. Mr. Seder has a higher profile, for instance, and he is the butt of many jokes in my Friday discussion group.

I should also note that Ms. Flanders' show is not "Radio Nation." It is RadioNation with Laura Flanders with "RadioNation" being one word. Earlier, it was The Laura Flanders Show and aired in the same time slot it currently does, seven p.m. to ten p.m. EST each Saturday and Sunday. Ms. Flanders worked on CounterSpin and with FAIR earlier in her career and I do not think Mr. Rendall has any thoughts about her other than kind ones. But I think the use of "lower-profile" at this point is mistaken and sends a message, an unfair one, that the show has a smaller audience or a less devoted one. I also think when you write about shows, you do need to get their titles correct. "The Rachel Maddow Show" is Ms. Maddow's latest shot at airtime, not "the Rachel Maddow Show."

I am going to stay on Ms. Maddow for a few paragraphs. She is not progressive. She is not liberal. Mr. Rendall either does not know enough to write about that or he has taken a pass on it. He notes Air America Radio hosts, in general, relying on the "Democratic Party line" and that activists have been absent on most programs. He is correct. Ms. Maddow is now helming her fourth show on the network. I think she deserves quite a bit of criticism, criticism she has more than earned.

Mr. Rendall bemoans the fact that activists are not on Air America more? Mr. Rendall, may I introduce you to our own Elaine? Your point comes long after Elaine made it and made it on Ms. Maddow's Unfiltered's blog. In fact, when Elaine made that point, Lizz Winstead and Ms. Maddow went into a meltdown mode with Ms. Winstead screaming at a man on air because she was not able to read the show's own blog correctly. She thought a man had made the point Elaine had. Elaine notes that Ms. Winstead did eventually apologize on air to the man for wrongly assuming he had made the point.

What was the point Elaine made that had Ms. Maddow and Ms. Winstead in meltdown mode?
She asked, as they got ready for yet another "Ask A Vet" weekly segment, why the show could not provide any anti-war vets or an "Ask An Activist" weekly segment?

Mr. Rendall's point in 2007 was made by our own Elaine repeatedly on the Unfiltered blog. What probably bothered Ms. Maddow and Ms. Winstead the last time was that Elaine was known on the show's blog and that she got tremendous support when she raised that issue. She got even more support when Ms. Winstead and Ms. Maddow attempted to play dumb and act like they had no idea why anyone would ask such a question.

Elaine laughed it off in real time, feeling that screaming, on air, reaction to her question on the blog demonstrated how serious the problem was. Rebecca was less high minded and began her site, Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, on that day, January 11, 2005. Welcome to the party, Mr. Rendall, and what did you bring?

From Rebecca's first post:

i finally had it with lizz today when she apparently attempted to attack my best friend elaine. elaine is one of the nicest people in the world. and she schedules her patients around unfiltered so that she can hear some of the show each day. elaine does great work and the majority of it she doesn't charge for because she's committed to helping everyone. she's also dedicated herself to peace.
for some time now, every tuesday elaine's asked why the show doesn't offer a weekly segment called 'ask the peace advocate.' see every tuesday we get 'ask a vet.' if you've read amy goodman's excellent book exception to the rulers you realize the mainstream media relies on the military as well (current members and those who have left the service) and shuts out the voices of advocates for peace. so you might be shocked to know that on the liberal air america network we get 'ask a vet' every tuesday with rachel screeching 'support the troops' repeatedly and lizz spellbound by whomever is speaking.
this is a liberal radio station. so you'd think they be interested in peace. whiney & mellow would probably screech, "we have had medea benjamin on!" and they have. she was on during the democratic convention. maybe during the republican one and right after.
yeah, they've tossed out medea. but do they know about code pink? is it too much expect that with all the peace organizations and peace activists they might be able to build a weekly segment around having one on?
that's been elaine's issue. and she's brought that up repeatedly each tuesday.

Mr. Rendall, as usual, women had the made point better before a man got around to it. Ms. Maddow used, and repeated, the false Pottery Barn analogy to justify U.S. troops staying in Iraq and she did so repeatedly.

Right now, I am listening to Ms. Flanders' program as I usually do on the weekends, there is a commercial for Ms. Maddow's latest failed attempt at a radio program where Ms. Maddow is saying, "the whole country has come around to where liberals have been all along on George Bush and the war." By her statement in the commercial, she is not a liberal because she is one of the silent ones who needed the American people to shift against the war and for the shift to stay before she could stop condeming those calling for the withdrawal of US troops. She was not there "all along."

If Ms. Maddow now calls for a withdrawal, good for her. But rewriting history to present her as a progressive voice when she attempted to play that the only "grown up" option was to continue the war is not reality.

Iraq is very much a part of the story of Air America because the hosts largely did not call for withdrawal. Another praised voice by Mr. Rendall, Mike Papantonio, or "The Pap Smear" as Ms. Winsted once called him on air, was also loudly against withdrawal and made a real point to put down the peace movement every chance he had. That does not surprise me considering that he is Joe Scarborgough's law partner which, for the record, I learned of via FAIR when they were still comfortable with calling Mr. Papantonio out.

Who loudly and clearly supported withdrawal from the start at Air America? Laura Flanders and Janaene Garofalo. Mike Malloy, when he joined the network in the summer of 2004, would become another strong voice. Ms. Rhodes would begin advocating that strongly long before the first Camp Casey.

But hosts after host, not just Al Franken, would tell listeners who called in that withdrawal was not reasonable and cite the false analogy of "You break it, you bought it." That was a huge clampdown on the peace movement and, coming from the supposed left radio network, that was very damaging. Mr. Rendall, intentionally or not, providing cover for some of the pro-war voices does not enlighten readers of Extra!

Ms. Garofalo not only does not receive her proper credit, she is taken to task for something that I really do not see as her fault. Before this community, the show I knew was The Majority Report because it was my granddaughter Tracey's favorite show. We would listen together and I would also listen on my own to discuss it with her. Mr. Rendall tells you that the show "featured Janeane Garafalo and Sam Seder, both staunch liberals who opposed the Iraq war." First off, Ms. Garofalo's last name is "Garofalo." Second of all, Mr. Seder probably did oppose the Iraq war before it began. On air, he was sometimes for withdrawal but, more often, not. When Ms. Garofalo was at her most vocal on the show, he would generally pipe down but he also advocated the continuation of the illegal war.

Mr. Rendall takes both to task for using bloggers as guests. He is referring to three men, not named. One man, I cannot stand. The other two were not people I would say, as Rendall does, "were often newcomers to politics". Since Mr. Seder is the one who had a relationship with the bloggers and since one blog helped fuel attacks on Ms. Garofalo when Mr. Seder wanted the entire show to himself, including misrepresenting Mr. Seder's on air walk-out that came right before Ms. Garofalo left the program, I do not support taking Ms. Garofalo to task for Mr. Seder's "buddies." When Ms. Garofalo was soloing, the mix was an interesting blend. When Mr. Seder soloed, it was White male. You could listen for an entire week and count yourself lucky to have heard even one female guest in fifteen hours of The Majority Report. Mr. Rendall mentions the push for Paul Hackett and how that came from "liberal bloggers." I will assume he means the three Mr. Seder had on each week as guests because no blogger in this community supported Mr. Hackett. (The Common Ills is not a "blog." Other community sites are.) As I remember it, Ms. Garofalo was off the show, filming The West Wing, so perhaps Mr. Rendall should focus on Mr. Seder and not attempt to redistribute the blame?

I could go further into The Majority Report but I honestly hope C.I. will address that at some point in the future. (C.I. has addressed it very strongly in the gina & krista round-robin.) I will note that Mr. Rendall writes: "Seder's and Majority Report's preference for bloggers, who were often newcomers to politics, over experienced progressive experts and activists detracted from the show's seriousnees and impact."

I believe it was in the first months of this site that C.I. made the comment that the head of Cokie Roberts had been cut off and a whole host of new (male) Cokies had sprung up. That does include bloggers. That also includes "experts and activists." Some bloggers make very strong guests. Some do not.

Some "experts" are a waste of time. Which brings us to an issue that Ty, Betty, and Cedric asked me to address. It fits perfectly with this discussion. Each weekday at Rebecca's, she, her husband, my grandson and I listen to the radio and to music. On Fridays, we generally listen to CounterSpin on WBAI. But we were in the mood for Andrea Lewis, co-host of KPFA's The Morning Show, Friday and listened to that instead. One guest was an "expert" and as soon as Rebecca and I heard her name, we started laughing because we both remember her belabored appearance on The Majority Report. Mr. Rendall apparently missed that. If he had heard it, he would know that some "experts" should never go on radio.

The woman in question is Columbia law professor Patricia J. Williams who writes wonderful essays for The Nation but mistakes radio appearances for symposiums. Her comments were offensive but, to be honest, Rebecca and I were too busy laughing at her stumbling answers as we waited and waited for her to answer the most simple question. With thirty seconds to go before the segment was over and the news break about to begin, Ms. Lewis made the mistake of asking a very simple question that could have and should have been answered quicky. We timed it at two minutes and thirty seconds for Ms. Williams wandering answer. At one point, Ms. Lewis attempted to jump in and wrap up the segment that had already gone late but Ms. Williams was clueless and continued to drone on. She put the entire show off and those who were disappointed at the ending of the last interview, with a Black Panther, which was cut off because they were out of time, can blame Ms. Williams who felt that she was in her classroom and could continue talking even though the bell had rung and the listeners, not students, were more than ready to move on.

Ms. Williams writes beautiful essays, she is a lousy radio guest. I am sure she spends many hours on those essays. Radio segments do not provide the time for the same hesistation and searching.

Ms. Williams had hopped on board the Obama train and was bound and determined to ride it all the way home. The ride meant that she cut off a caller with a "correction" that was not a correction. The caller felt that Senator Barack Obama had not taken a strong enough stand against the current war with Iraq or the propsective war with Iran. As the caller spoke, very emotionally, Professor Williams thought she was in her classrom and in control, so she snapped, "He did not vote for the war!" Well, no, he did not vote for the authorization because he was not in Congress in 2002. He has yet to complete his first term in Congress. But he has voted for the continued funding of it. The woman, the caller, was making some very important points and, whether it was because she could be heard as "foreigner" or because she was not a professor, Professor Williams had no problem stepping all over her. Something, by the way, that I strongly encourage Ms. Lewis to do the next time, in a single answer, Ms. Williams hits her third long pause and twelth "uh" in a row.

What was most offensive to Betty, Cedric and Ty was that Ms. Williams was either sorely uninformed or an outright liar. When Ms. Lewis attempted to address the fact that Senator Obama was biracial, Ms. Williams had a snit fit and stated that the issue of his 'Blackness' was only something Fox 'News' and their ilk brought up. It was a point she repeated later on.

Apparently, Ms. Williams does not feel being informed is a requirement for weighing in. Black Agenda Report, to name but one, is not Fox "News." They have addressed the issue of the Black community and what can be seen as Senator Obama standing apart from it intentionally.
Now in the classroom, a professor may be able to browbeat students into believing lies, but radio is not a classroom and, I would argue, most listeners lost interest in Ms. Williams before the half-way mark of the overly long segment. So before she takes to the airwaves again, she would do well to know that Black Agenda Report and, for the matter, The Progressive are not Fox "News" and her insisting a falsehood is true does not make it so. Glen Ford recently wrote a piece that was posted online Wednesday but he could have written it as a reply to Ms. Williams:

In other words, Black people's "debt" to the Clintons - as if such ever existed - has been paid, and now it's time to herd Black voters behind Obama, like so many cattle. Jones' brand of politics holds that Black people don't have interests or political ideals, only obligations to one politician or the other. In Jones' world, African Americans are constantly indebted, but nobody owes them anything - certainly not Obama, "our son."

Substitute "Williams" for "Jones" and you have the rebuttal to the professor. Ty and Cedric both called me on Friday about the interview and expressed their concerns regarding Ms. Williams' statements. They also passed on Betty's. I wanted to touch base with her, however, to be sure I covered what needed to be said. Let me echo Kat, I have never heard Betty so upset. I thank her for sharing it with me because I know it was not easy for her. The three asked me to address it in the first place because they are so offended that they do not believe it would be "pretty" if they handled it. Ty did want it noted that Ms. Williams, who writes so little about the Black community in her columns where she muses about England and America and what Bully Boy has done the legal system, etc., was "suddenly" determined to present herself as "the" authentic voice of the Black community and "I found that hilarious that only when it was time to play rally around Obama does she bother to present herself that way."

Betty and I actually saw something in addition to that. We heard Ms. Williams demonstrate, repeatedly, the same elitism that Ralph Nader called out in the magazine only the week prior on Kris Welch's Living Room. I did not doubt Mr. Nader's call in the least but, for any who did, you need only listen to Ms. Williams.

In her need to build up Senator Obama, Ms. Williams felt it necessary to tear down the accomplishments of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. I found it interesting that she had nothing to say about Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun, or other Black women but maybe she has never heard of them?

Unlike Rev. Jackson, Ms. Williams informed us, Senator Obama appeals beyond Black voters. I am not a TV watcher and tend to get my news from the radio and newspapers. I was under the impression that the Rainbow Coalition was a diverse group but, as I listened to NPR at that time, maybe I was given the wrong information? Ms. Williams appears to think I was.

Ms. Williams also appears to think that the Senator 'beats' those who came before because he is just so diverse. Which, as Betty said on the phone, could easily be read as the point she has long made, the mainstream media loves their "Blacks" when they can be seen as "less than." To repeat, Senator Obama is biracial. Betty has already made that point at length but Ms. Williams seems averse to it or maybe it just was not in this week's talking point?

She did not mention Columbia but I would not be surprised to learn she is aware he attended the university she now teaches at. She was too busy going on endlessly about Harvard and could not stop repeating that he was the first Black president of the Harvard Law Review. She presented this as his accomplishment which apparently means that the work laid by others, including Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sharpton, meant nothing to her. It is a nice little myth of the hearty individual but it is shocking to hear a woman alternate between attempting to sell the Senator as a part of a community at one point and then really hard sell him as an exception at other points.

She could not let this point go and how important it was and how rare it was and how he is not just some Average Joe. Because, apparently, the last thing America needs is someone who is like the average voter. That is where the elitism came across the strongest. Ms. Williams felt that having held that position alone qualified one to be president which was especially hilarous after she had dismissed concerns about his weak stands on the illegal war by insisting she is not a single issue voter.

Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia was once the "Notes Editor" of the Harvard Law Review. Perhaps Ms. Williams could trumpet him as second on an Obama ticket?

Ms. Williams either has no clue about the real concerns of some in the Black community regarding Senator Obama's relationship to it or she chooses to ignore them. Considering how rudely she interrupted the caller who attempted to address the reality of the Senator's war like nature, I will assume she just does not care. Her real selling point is that Senator Barack Obama was once president of the Harvard Law Review and, for her, that is all that matters because it is the exceptions and the elites who should be ruling over all.

Some would consider Ms. Williams an "expert." I would argue that she more than disproved Mr. Rendall's point that "experts" and not "bloggers" make better guests. I would also echo the point that Margaret Kimberley and other voices who do not pick up Black issues only when they have a candidate to promote should be invited on KPFA's The Morning Show because there is reality and then there is what Ms. Williams stumbled around attempting to present.

Ms. Williams, curiously enough, was fine with dismissing the war by stating she was not a single issue voter but it was more than a bit sad to realize, after the segment was over, that she had nothing to offer about the illegal war. A law professor with no opinon to express on the war? Well, she does write for The Nation.

Kat's Korner: Air kisses from Diana Ross


Kat: Diana Ross proclaims I Love You on her latest CD but it's no passionate embrace, just an air kiss. By the fourth or fifth song ["I Love You (That's All That Really Matters)" and "What About Love"], you start realizing this is what The Fabulous Baker Boys sounded like before they teamed up with Michelle Pfeiffer's Susie Diamond.

There were two reasons to hope with this album. For one, Ross was doing all covers so you didn't have to fear she'd co-pen a nightmare like "Work That Body" or fall into the landmine of esoterica that was "Pieces of Ice." Covers should have provided her with some solid material.

The second reason to be hopeful was that there was one producer in charge. Ross' finest Motown work always resulted from one set of producers, such as Ashford & Simpson, devising an overall vision.

On producers, she struck out. Had I known Peter Asher was the producer, I never would have gotten excited in the first place. It's not just that his work with Bonnie Raitt produced the soggiest sound Raitt ever recorded. It's not just that his work with Wilson Phillips destroyed their promising comeback. It's mainly that Linda Ronstadt achieved in spite of him. Ronstadt can go all over (range wise) but her voice always has a heavy bottom to it that managed to compensate for Asher's E-Z Play, tinkly arrangements.

Outside of some yelps in "Love Hangover," the growl throughout "Fool For Your Love" and in parts of "Eaten Alive" and "Swept Away," Diana Ross' solo work has been all high-end, no bass.

Well chosen songs might have made I Love You listenable but it wouldn't have made it art. Sadly, listenable doesn't appear to have been a goal either.

One of her more appealing performances comes when she takes on Berlin's "Take My Breath Away." But she kills the flight of the chorus by apparently being less concerned with conveying the song and more interested in being a grammarian. If you've forgotten that song, the chorus basically goes: "Watching in slow motion, As you turn to me and say, Take my breath away, Take my breath away." Now for some inane reason, Diana Ross is singing "You" in front of "Take my breath away" over and over. Apparently someone didn't think we could grasp the "deep" meaning of the song without that repeated "you"? The result is some spun candy that gave one hit to a group most never heard of before or after is beyond Ross' reach and that's pretty sad. You also wonder if she's about to go makeover her own songs out of some school marm zeal and turn "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" into "There Isn't A Mountain High Enough"?

That Ross, who in the past covered Billie Holiday, Josephine Baker and Barbra Streisand without embarrassing herself, is left to trip up on a novelty hit is really shocking. But what's frightening is how one dreary song drifts into another. Half-way through the first listen, with Sumner, Dak Ho, Toni, Maggie and, via the phone, Betty, I started shifting uncomfortably and tugging at my collar.

This went on for about two songs before I realized I was having reception flashbacks.

I might as well have been wearing tafetta in some loud, unflattering color because the music pouring out of the speakers was like the band every bride leans in and whispers, "They were not our first choice."

Or even twentieth.

How the hell does an artist as talented as Diana Ross come off sounding so generic?

Choosing really bad, done to death songs doesn't help. When she's offering a tired version of the already tired "More Than Yesterday" or mangling Dusty Springfield's classic "Look of Love," you're left to wonder if she realizes what her power and place in music history ever was?

The Supremes, and later Diana Ross & the Supremes, held their own in the midst of the British invasion. In fact, the group she fronted scored more number one pop hits during the 60s than any group except for the Beatles. So when she's making like a Patti Page mouthing words she doesn't appear to comprehend, it's really troubling.

My own guess is that she wanted some of that easy Rod Stewart success: Do a half-assed job on some old (and moldy) songs and suddenly you're back on the charts! Myself, I had more respect for Rod when he was churning out crap like "Love Touch." But he and Diana Ross teamed up for a track on one of his three they-all-sound-alike albums and someone must have thought, "Diana can do this!" Yes, she can. But should she?

One listen to her umpah-umpah, Up With People take on "This Magic Moment" should have most people agreeing: No, she shouldn't.

One of the tracks available online (as a bonus) but not on the disc is Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." That was the way to go. That, Brian Setzer's "Bobby's Back," and other songs that gave a nod to the glorious 60s sound could have made for an amazing album. Instead, it's as though you're listening to a Vicki Carr tribute album. (If you said who, exactly.)

So she's released yet another CD that will be sought out by only the most devoted. The illustration is from a career retrospective that we did on Ross at The Third Estate Sunday Review. What a long, sad trip the musical career has been.

I Love You. She should. She should love each and every person who has stuck around this long. If she wants to do more than mouth empty words, she should head into the studio with Ashford & Simpson quickly or get used to mouthing those words to the "Mirror, Mirror on the wall."

Iraq quickly

American troops seized and then released the eldest son of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, perhaps the most powerful Shiite political leader in Iraq, after he crossed the border from Iran into Iraq on Friday morning.
The detention heightened tensions with one of Iraq's most formidable political movements just as the planned American troop buildup was beginning in Baghdad to try to rescue the capital from the grip of Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents.
Allies of the Hakim family denounced the detention as a serious insult, and a senior adviser to the family asserted that American forces also had assaulted several guards. The Hakims control the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the backbone of the Shiite political alliance that has dominated politics during the occupation.
State-run television said Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite who depends on Mr. Hakim's support, intervened to help release the son, Amar Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.
In an interview after he was released from an American military base in Kut, Amar al-Hakim said that American forces had treated him roughly and that their justification for seizing him -- that he crossed the border with an invalid passport -- was untrue.

The above is from Richard A. Oppel Jr.'s "U.S. Seizes Son of a Top Shiite, Stirring Uproar" in this morning's New York Times. We're moving really fast this morning. Martha notes
Rajiv Chandrasekaran's "Iraq Rebuilding Short on Qualified Civilians" (Washington Post):

In Diyala, the vast province northeast of Baghdad where Sunnis and Shiites are battling for primacy with mortars and nighttime abductions, the U.S. government has contracted the job of promoting democracy to a Pakistani citizen who has never lived or worked in a democracy.
The management of reconstruction projects in the province has been assigned to a Border Patrol commander with no reconstruction experience. The task of communicating with the embassy in Baghdad has been handed off to a man with no background in drafting diplomatic cables. The post of agriculture adviser has gone unfilled because the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided just one of the six farming experts the State Department asked for a year ago.

"The people our government has sent to Iraq are all dedicated, well-meaning people, but are they really the right people -- the best people -- for the job?" asked Kiki Skagen Munshi, a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer who, until last month, headed the team in Diyala that included the Pakistani democracy educator and the Border Patrol commander. "If you can't get experts, it's really hard to do an expert job."

Quickly, Reuters reports on reported violence today in Iraq: Baghdad - eight police officers are dead after an attack on a check point, three car bombs killed five and left fourteen wounded, a rocket killed two and left three wounded, and a mortar attack left 10 wounded; Kirkuk - "Samir Menshed Shaheen, the owner of weekly newspaper Al Aryaf in Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, was killed by gunmen, police said."

Remember that the military has charged Ehren Watada again and thinks that, double-jeopardy be damned, they can court-martial him again. This is covered in "The dirty joke that is military 'justice'."

This weekend on RadioNation with Laura Flanders (Saturdays and Sundays, 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm EST, Air America Radio, XM radio and online):

The leaders of Britain's Stop the War Coalition aren't satisfied with Tony Blair's promise to draw down troops in Iraq. But they do claim a victory for their movement. We'll check in with KATE HUDSON, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, after what they hope will be the biggest demonstration yet. • Then, Nation contributor MICHAEL T. KLARE on what we need to do to revive a global non proliferation regime. • And finally THE KLEZMATICS on their Grammy award-winning album, Wonder Wheel (Lyrics by Woody Guthrie).

Sunday's guests include Mark A. Phillips of Editor & Publisher and London's Daily Mirror as well as Allison H. Fine on "her new book Momentum on igniting change in a connected world." Note that Ruth intends to post her latest report before Flanders starts airing. She intends to note the show in that report. In the meantime, Kat will be posting her latest album review this morning.

Back to radio, Rachel notes these upcoming programs (Sunday and Monday) on WBAI -- over the airwaves in the NYC area (and beyond) and also available online (times given are EST):

Sunday, February 25, 11am-noon
A panel of Oscar-morning satirists discuss the lasting effects of Hollywood propaganda. With Paul Krassner, Michael Elias and David Dozer. Moderated by Janet Coleman.

Monday, February 26, 2-3pm
Author Marc Fisher talks about his book on radio, "Something in the Air"; songwriter John Meyer on his book "Heartbreaker: A Memoir of Judy Garland," and his personal rehearsal recordings of Garland. Hosted by Janet Coleman and David Dozer.


The following community sites have updated since yesterday morning:

Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Cedric's Cedric's Big Mix;
Kat's Kat's Korner;
Betty's Thomas Friedman is a Great Man;
Mike's Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine's Like Maria Said Paz;
Wally's The Daily Jot;
and Trina's Trina's Kitchen

Carl was the first to note Margaret Kimberly's "America the Stupid" (Freedom Rider, Black Agenda Report):

The United States government is still waging a war of aggression in Iraq because of willful American ignorance. Most Americans need little encouragement to occupy other nations, kill people and steal resources. They knew that Saddam Hussein had no connection to the terror attacks that took place on September 11, 2001. Yet they were quite pleased to be dumb and politicians heaved a collective sigh of relief when they got the go ahead from a happily clueless public.
American stupidity will be front and center on the world stage when the Bush administration attacks Iran. Few Congressional leaders have expressed complete and vocal opposition to these awful plans. They have only said that the president doesn't have the authority to wage war. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "The president does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking Congressional authorization - the current use of force resolution for Iraq does not give him such authorization."
Reid and his colleagues haven't said that they wouldn't give him authorization, only that he has to ask first. If Bush makes the case to a critical mass of the intellectually challenged public, or just starts bombing and dares Congress to stop him, he will have the war he has long sought.
It isn't very likely that Americans will get smarter anytime soon. Politicians know that appealing to their worst instincts is usually a winning formula. The corporate run media is not only unhelpful in enlightening the public but is in fact complicit in keeping them in the dark.

By the way, a link's been removed in the excerpt. That happens from time to time because there are things I will not link to and excerpts that link to them get the links edited out. In this case, "Harry Reid" was a link to the New York Times' blogs. Those aren't blogs and they lie, LIE, to readers by implying that they only edit posts for "abusive" language. Tom Zeller Jr. was flat out wrong when he called Ehren Watada a deserter. Members who pointed it out nicely or angrily all found that their comments never posted. Beth's count on this is 43 (visitors, Beth is this site's ombudsperson). That's the number of members who complained to her about that. I have no idea how many wrote this site about it or whether they wrote us both. But that's nonsense. Mike asked me a while back if I was going to link to that again and the answer then and now is "Never again." It's bad enough that Zeller got it wrong and the paper refused to change it but that they wouldn't even allow readers to note that he was wrong (in the mildest sentence in some cases). Editing for "abusive language" is one thing, editing to hide your writer's errors is another and that doesn't sail here. We will never again link to their blogs because it is LYING to tell readers that they can comment and share without any problem as long as they don't use "abusive language." Pointing out an error isn't "abusive language" but in the oh-so-sensitive-set, maybe it is?


Watch 60 Minutes: Military Members Speak out against the war.

On Sunday February 25th, 60 Minutes (on CBS at 7 p.m. ET/PT) will air a segment about the Appeal for Redress. The segment will feature a number of the service members who have signed the Appeal. The Appeal states; “As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq . Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.” Navy Petty Officer Johnathan Hutto, one of the Iraq war veterans who started the drive, along with others, spoke to 60 Minutes off duty, off base and out of uniform as a concerned citizen. Hutto says “But at the same time, as citizens, it's our obligation to have a questioning attitude … about policy.” A co-founder, Marine Sgt. Liam Madden states, “Just because we volunteered for the military doesn't mean we volunteered to put our lives in unnecessary harm and to carry out missions that are illogical and immoral.” Many of the signees have similar feelings and in addition want to protect their rights to voice their own opinions regarding the war.

On January 16th 2007, representatives of the Appeal for Redress publicly voiced their opposition to the war in Iraq by bringing the individual petitions of over 1,300 active-duty and reserve members of the military to the attention of Congress. The Appeal for Redress, was started by active duty service members. About 60% of signees have served at least one tour of duty in Iraq. The service members who started this ongoing appeal felt that it was important for them to take a clear stand on the issue.

The Center on Conscience & War was there to support the actions of these members of the military in their attempt to make it clear to Congress that they will no longer stand quietly and while fighting in an illegal war. Executive Director J. E. McNeil has been instrumental in providing legal advice to the group and individual signees. A 1995 law called the Military Whistleblower act enables military personnel to express their own opinions about Iraq in protected communication directly to Congress. The Appeal for Redress provides a way in which individual service members can appeal to their Congressional Representative and US Senators to urge an end to the U.S. military occupation.

Many of these service members are considered selective objectors. If enacted, the Military Conscientious Objector Act would provide protection for such service members.

We encourage all of you to pass on information regarding the Appeal for Redress to anyone you know who is a service member or to their family and/or friends.

For further information on the Appeal for Redress you can visit their website at
Center on Conscience & War
1830 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20009
Ph: 202-483-2220Fax: 202-483-1246

I won't be watching. As noted in Friday's column for the gina & krista round-robin, I'll be busy.
So, reminder, if "And the war drags on . . ." is not up very early, don't expect it to be done. We'll all be at a function and I'm not coming home late Sunday night/Monday morning and facing that. As I said Friday, I am going to try to have something pulled together early. That will be dependent upon how smoothly The Third Estate Sunday Review goes tonight/tomorrow morning. By the way, I planned to be home this morning but still am not. However, Dona was kind enough to pull two books off the shelves for me and she says the quotes are correct from Friday morning's "Other Items."

The e-mail address for this site is

The dirty joke that is military "justice"

Undaunted by an initial mistrial, the Army on Friday refiled charges against 1st. Lt. Ehren Watada, a Fort Lewis officer who faces up to six years in prison for failing to deploy to Iraq and alleged misconduct.
"These are serious charges, and the next step will be to set a trial date," said Joe Piek, a spokesman at Fort Lewis, where Watada continues to serve as an active-duty officer.
Watada is the first Army officer to face court-martial for refusing to serve in Iraq, and his case has drawn international attention as the Hawaiian-born officer has allied himself with peace groups and repeatedly attacked the Bush administration's conduct of the war.
Watada's defense counsels are hoping to derail or at least delay a new trial, which they claim constitutes double jeopardy that violates Watada's constitutional rights to only be tried once for a set of crimes.
The defense counsels appeared caught by surprise by Friday's re-filing of charges. "They appear anxious to get him into jail as soon as possible," said Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian defense counsel.

The above is from Hal Bernton's "Army refiles Watada charges" (Seattle Times) and that's all that's worth reading unless you want to laugh at how Bernton summarizes the day that led Judge Toilet to declare a mistrial. He floated the idea repeatedly, he began suggesting it. The prosecution refused. Only after they finally caught on how strongly they were being urged to move for a mistrial did they. Somehow Bernton can't include that. Or that the mistrial was declared over the defense's objections.

Ehren Watada's service contract is either up (December) or about to be. But this is what passes for military "justice." Double-jeopardy can be ignored by the military. They want Ehren Watada to serve hard time. Now it's too bad he chose to take a stand against the war because if he'd done something the military considers insignificant like attempted rape, he wouldn't be facing any jail time. From yesterday's snapshot:

Remember how Mark Wilkerson was sentenced to seven months in military prison? Let's turn to the reality of the joke that is military justice. Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Edwards Franklin is now a "private" and somehow that's "justice" in the snicker-snicker, dirty joke world of the US military. In a press release, the US military tells you he was busted down to private as punishment determined in his court-martial today. Punishment for? "[I]ndecent acts upon a female Private 2nd Class in the junior Soldier's room and then lying about his involvment to CID personnel. On 20 Ocotber 2006 Sgt. 1st Class Franklin followed a female Private 2nd Class into her room on LSA Anaconda. He attempted to force intimate contact upon the solider." Let's be clear because the US military tends to gloss over rape -- as does the press. What Franklin was trying to do, "force intimate contact," is what's known as attempted rape. Back to the press release: "During a CID interview and on the witness stand at trial" denied touching the woman or being in her room for more than five minutes.
And here's where the US military proves what a sad joke is: "A panel of officers and enlisted personnel, sentenced Sgt. 1st Class Franklin to reduction in grade to E-1." Wow. Aren't we all just blown away. Wilkerson's spending seven-months in a military prison and Franklin gets no jail time for attempted rape. As noted in The Third Estate Sunday Review's "
Women and the military" one in every seven US service members serving in Iraq is a woman but there's no real safety guarantees for women. Crimes aren't punished and for any who doubt it, a superior attempts to rape a woman and his "punishment" doesn't include jail time. It's all a joke or a game to the military but not even a game that includes the instruction "Go immediately to jail, do not collect 200 dollars."

Daniel Franklin attempted to rape a female serving under him and all that happened was reduction in rank. He's not doing any time. That's military "justice." In the real world, attempted rape would land his ass behind bars (where it belongs). In the military which continues to disrespect women, it's no big deal. Contrast that with the man sentenced to hard time a few weeks ago -- I believe two -- who went into the rooms of other males while they were sleeping and groped them. He got hard time. Groping a male results in hard time. Attempting to rape a woman, you don't even spend ten days in jail.

The "justice" is a dirty little joke and the laughs on the American people who repeatedly put up with this crap. There will be another huge scandal this year or next that will have us all shocked as a people. The reality is that these scandals go on every damn day.

It's why Suzanne Swift is still in the military instead of being honorably discharged which is the minimum the military owed her after refusing to address the sexual assaults she was experiencing while serving in Iraq.

What does that say about this country? That Suzanne Swift can be sent to jail when she was assaulted. That she can be forced to return to service after the military refused to protect her?
What does it say when Daniel Franklin can attempt to rape a woman serving under him and end up with no jail time?

Or that we're all supposed to be torn apart for by the "pressure" those who have confessed to gang rape and standing by while murders took place (knowing full well the 14-year-old girl they were raping would be next) were under. "Pressure" allows for shooting someone by mistake, you're under pressure, you make a bad call and only learn after the fact that the person wasn't a 'hostile.' It happens. Pressure is you crack up. Pressure isn't you get together to discuss how to rape a little girl you've watched (and lusted after). Pressure isn't you come up with a plan. Pressure isn't you implement the plan. That wouldn't pass in a civilian court as a defense. The very fact that you were plotting would demonstrate pre-meditation. But Abeer was raped while her five-year-old sister was shot dead, while her parents were shot dead. She heard that while she was being raped. And still she fought back -- with one adult male holding her down while another took his turn. She was gang raped. Then when three men had a turn raping her, it was time to kill her. Then they left the house, burned their clothes, grilled chicken and got drunk reliving the "high" of their war crimes. And they want sympathy?

How about some sympathy for Abeer and her family? Or for the American service members who were killed in retaliation for the war crimes?

Oh the weeping rapists, crying as they confess. Never expressing any real regret for their actions (Paul Cortez told the judge he couldn't say why it all happened). Never expressing remorse for anything other than letting their buddies down.

Let's drop back to Gregg Zoroya's "Soldier describes anguish in revealing murder allegations" (USA Today) from September:

Three months after the Iraqi family was found slaughtered, the 1st Platoon suffered a devastating attack. Insurgents overran a checkpoint in Youssifiyah on June 16, killing Spc. David Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass., and capturing Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston, and Pfc. Thomas Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore. Watt was close friends with Tucker and Menchaca, who were later found tortured and killed.

Can the weeping Cortez apoligize to the families of David Babineau, Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker? Their deaths were said to be retaliation for the rape and murder of Abeer and the murder of her parents and sister. For those who've forgotten, Justin Watt came forward. If it wasn't for him, the deaths of Abeer's family would still be penned (by the US military) on 'insurgents.' From the USA Today article:

Watt says he could barely sleep after the kidnappings. When he did, he had nightmares about dead Iraqi children or slain comrades, talking to or staring at him. The bodies of Tucker and Menchaca were discovered June 19.
Shortly after the kidnappings, Watt spoke with another Bravo Company friend, Sgt. Anthony Yribe, 22. According to testimony Watt later gave in court, reported by a small group of journalists allowed inside the hearing, Yribe disclosed a terrible secret: He suspected that 1st Platoon soldiers had attacked the Iraqi family March 12.
Shaken, Watt later approached another soldier in 1st Platoon, Pfc. Bryan Howard, 19. Howard, Watt testified, told him a gruesome story. The details emerged during a so-called Article 32 hearing held in Baghdad last month. In such hearings, an investigator listens to evidence and decides whether to recommend a court-martial.
The Article 32 hearing considered charges of rape and murder against the four soldiers: Howard, Spc. James Barker, 23, Sgt. Paul Cortez, 23, and Pfc. Jesse Spielman, 21. A fifth, Yribe, is not alleged to have taken part in the attack and is charged with dereliction of duty for failing to report the crimes.
The official transcript of the hearing has not been released. According to the testimony reported by a pool of journalists and made available to news outlets, the rape victim and her family lived about 220 yards from a traffic-control point in Mahmoudiya. For several days before the killings, Howard, Barker, Cortez, Spielman and then-Army Pvt. Steven Green staffed the checkpoint.

When the military gives an attempted rapist no jail time they send a message to everyone serving. When the military 'addresses' the concerns that female service members may be raped by males serving in the US military by saying "buddy up" at shower time, they demonstrate that they don't give a damn about what happens. It is not a woman serving in the military's job to find a buddy to go with her to the showers. But that's how the military "addresses" rape. They turn it into the responsibility of the victims because heaven forbid they get serious about a crime. They have shirked their responsibilities, not just with Swift, but with regards to every woman in uniform by refusing to address the issue and instead offering sop like "buddy up." They could have sent a message yesterday when they court-martialed the attempted rapist. They could have given him hard time. They didn't. They busted him down in rank to private. "So, hey fellows, want to rape? Well if you can risk being busted down in rank, go for it!" That's the message the US military sent. The same one they continue to send. But by all means, focus on Watada, obsess over him, while you let attempted rapists walk. That's supposed to pass for "justice."

On the topic of the new trial for Watada, Joan notes Peter Boylan's "It's 'back to square one' for Watada" (Honolulu Star-Bulletin):

Eric Seitz, Watada's attorney, said he was "surprised" the Army refiled the exact same charges and said he would try to have the charges thrown out as a violation of the Constitution's protection against double jeopardy.
Throughout the proceedings leading up to the mistrial, Army prosecutors made so many mistakes that "the military appellate courts would not let a conviction stand."
"I think the Army has made so many bad mistakes in this case that the chances of them having a successful outcome are very slim," said Seitz, speaking from his Honolulu office yesterday.

And note that, unlike Bernton, Boylan can recap:

Army prosecutors reluctantly requested the mistrial after Head threw out the basis for the Army's case.

Note, the same Congress that begs off their responsibilities regarding Watada hasn't done a damn thing to protect the women serving in the military.

There will be another entry by me this morning. In addition, Ruth's doing a report today and Kat has a review ready to go up.

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ehren watada

peter boylan
greg zoroya

Friday, February 23, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Friday, February 23, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the military demonstrates that "justice" is still a joke to them despite one sex scandal after another, the press is all over the crying rapist, Turkey voices its opposition to partitioning Iraq, and Antonia Juhasz and Kris Welch address the topic of the push to privatize Iraq's oil.
Starting with war resisters.  Yesterday, Mark Wilkerson was court-martialed at Fort Lewis in Texas and sentenced to seven months in a military prison and given a bad conduct discharge. Jim Bergamo (KVUE) reports that Wilkerson's mother, wife and brother were sitting behind him during the hearing and that "it was his good behavior in that first tour of duty and after he returned to his unit in August of last year that helped sway the judge to sentence him to only seven months in jail and give him a bad conduct discharge"  while his attorney Michael Duncan told Bergamo that "in a general court-martial, no confinement is very rare".  Angela K. Brown (AP) reports that Rebecca Barker, his mother, testified about the home life: "Barker said that in 1996 her estranged husband -- who had adopted Mark as a child -- broke into their house, fatally beat her friend with a baseball bat and then beat her before Mark, then 12, intervened and ran for help.  Her husband committed suicide before his murder trial."
In other war resister news, El Universal reports that Agustin Aguayo's mother, Susana Aguayo, appeal to the Mexican government has been heard -- "The Foreign Relations Secretariat said it would seek information on the health and legal situation of Agustin Aguayo, who faces charges of desertion and missing troop movement. . . .  given Aguayo's 'nationality of origin and the fact that his relatives are Mexican, the department has ordered the Mexican Embassy in Germany to offer consular assistance, which consists of using its good offices to gather information on the health and legal situation' of Aguayo."  Agustin Aguayo is scheduled to be court-martialed March 6th in Germany.
Regarding Ehren Watada, we're going to repeat two points because they are important ones.
Last Friday's snapshot, while noting Ehren Watada, the following appeared: "John Catalinotto (Socialist Worker) observes: 'Watada's military defense lawyer -- appointed by the Army -- Capt. Mark Kim, said that he agreed with Seitz's interpretation of military law'." That was incorrect. John Catalinotto's article appeared in Workers' World, not Socialist Worker, my apologies. This was noted Tuesday, but it is important to again stress that the military attorney, Mark Kim, is in agreement with Seitz re: double-jeopardy.  Let's also repeat from yesterday: " Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian attorney, doesn't expect a court-martial to even be possible before summer due to scheduling issues and that the military hasn't even refiled the charges for the March 19th date that Judge Toilet (John Head) was tossing around when he declared a mistrial."
Wilkerson, Aguayo and Watada are a part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as Kyle Snyder, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Joshua Key, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Corey Glass, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.
Remember how Mark Wilkerson was sentenced to seven months in military prison?  Let's turn to the reality of the joke that is military justice.  Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Edwards Franklin is now a "private" and somehow that's "justice" in the snicker-snicker, dirty joke world of the US military.  In a press release, the US military tells you he was busted down to private as punishment determined in his court-martial today.  Punishment for?  "[I]ndecent acts upon a female Private 2nd Class in the junior Soldier's room and then lying about his involvment to CID personnel.  On 20 Ocotber 2006 Sgt. 1st Class Franklin followed a female Private 2nd Class into her room on LSA Anaconda.  He attempted to force intimate contact upon the solider."  Let's be clear because the US military tends to gloss over rape -- as does the press.  What Franklin was trying to do, "force intimate contact," is what's known as attempted rape.  Back to the press release: "During a CID interview and on the witness stand at trial" denied touching the woman or being in her room for more than five minutes.
And here's where the US military proves what a sad joke is: "A panel of officers and enlisted personnel, sentenced Sgt. 1st Class Franklin to reduction in grade to E-1."  Wow.  Aren't we all just blown away.  Wilkerson's spending seven-months in a military prison and Franklin gets no jail time for attempted rape. As noted in The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Women and the military" one in every seven US service members serving in Iraq is a woman but there's no real safety guarantees for women.  Crimes aren't punished and for any who doubt it, a superior attempts to rape a woman and his "punishment" doesn't include jail time.  It's all a joke or a game to the military but not even a game that includes the instruction "Go immediately to jail, do not collect 200 dollars."  From The Third Estate Sunday Review feature:
Do you know the name Michael Sydney? As Cheryl Seelhoff reported in Off Our Backs (vol 35, no 2, p. 22), Sgt. Sydney was found guilty, July 2006, "of pandering, mistreating, subordinates, and obstruction of justice, smong other things, for what amounts to his having pimped women under his command. Sydney threatened to extend the tour of duty of female erservists called to active duty if they did not have sex with his superior officers." The brave US military 'justice' system did not court-martial him but they did give him a slap on the wrist: "sentence to six months in jail." Where does someone like Syndey get the idea that women in the military can be used as whores? The same attitude that Antonia expressed which renders service members as males (with wives to kiss) and women invisible.

In the same edition of Off Our Backs, Allison Tobey (p. 16) noted Col Janis Karpinski's testimony that General Ricardo Sanchez issued an order barring "dehydration" being noted as cause of death on the death certificates of female service members. Why? Because, according to Karpinski, women were dying from that "because they did not drink liquids in the afternoons in an effort to avoid going to the latrines at night, where they were afrid male soldiers would rape them." Sanchez' 'solution' didn't address the problem, it hid it -- as too many 'solutions' to the abuse and mistreatment of women in the military repeatedly does.

In the January 2007 edition of The Progressive,
Traci Hukill examined sexual harassment and sexual assualt in the military and cited a VA report from 2003 (lead to Congress in 2005) which found "60 percent of women and 27 percent of men had experience Military Sexual Trauma" and that it "found the prevalence of actual sexual assualt -- 'unwanted sexual conduct of a physical nature' -- to be 23 percent among female reservists."
Much is being made about Paul Cortez crying at his hearing yesterday and being sentenced to 100 years of prison time for his part in the gang rape and murder of
Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi as well as the murder of her parents and her five-year-old sister.  Reality check -- BBC points out he "will be eligible to seek parole in 10 years."  AFP has Cortez as his most tearful when he says: "I'm sorry I let you guys down; you guys treat me better than this."  How about a few tears for the 14-year-old girl who was gang raped and murdered?  The one Cortez tesified "kept screaming and tried to keep her legs closed.  At no point did I think that I had consent to have sex with Abeer."  CBS News notes that Cortez couldn't explain to the court "why he did it" -- well, how about he repeat the jokes and ha-has he and the others shared over beer and grilled chicken after the gang rapes and murders? 
Rose French (AP) reports that Jesse Speilman's attorneys are saying that he didn't take part in the planning of the rapes and murders.  They're also saying that he was under stress.  More laughs should ensue April 2nd when his court-martial begins.  Steven D. Green is the only one who will be tried in a civilian court.  (Green has maintained his innocence.  James Barker and Cortez both confessed to their own actions and named Green as the ringleader who planned it all and the one who shot all four family members dead.) 
Turning to news of Bully Boy's eye on the prize, Antonia Juhasz spoke with Kris Welch on KPFA's Living Room today about the oil law that would privatize Iraq's oil and that had Condi storming through Baghdad last weekend to apply pressure.
Welch started the discussion by citing Juan Gonzalez (New York Daily News) article on the oil law: "Under the proposed law, Iraq's immense oil reserves would not simply be opened to foreign oil exploration, as many had expected. Amazingly, executives from those companies would actually be given seats on a new Federal Oil and Gas Council that would control all of Iraq's reserves. In other words, Chevron, ExxonMobil, British Petroleum and the other Western oil giants could end up on the board of directors of the Iraqi Federal Oil and Gas Council, while Iraq's own national oil company would become just another competitor."
"Basically it says that executives of oil companies can be on the council and it doesn't say whether or not that is foreign and/or domestic.  What I find most depressing about this law is frankly the speed with which it is moving now through the Iraqi government.  We, those of us who have been working globally against this push  for this essentially privatization of Iraq's oil  thought that we had more time and it's really been fast-tracked in Iraq and what is so depressing is that the way this law is written in my mind if it is completed and if it implemented, which we can talk about more later, US oil companies will have at least on paper won the war in Iraq
Kris Welch pointed out that the Iraq oil law is sold as being "very key to settling the increasing violence and chaos in Iraq, that who is in control of the oil is vital and it's in everyone's interest".
Juhasz: It's really American, and let me clarify that as Bush administration, propaganda that this law is the path towards stability in Iraq.  It is absolutely propaganda.  This law is being sold as the mechanism for helping the Iraqis determine how they will distribute their oil revenue.  That is not what this law is about.  That is the bottom end of an enormous hammer that is this oil law.  This oil law is about foreign access to Iraq's oil and the terms by which that access will be determined.  It is also about the  distribution of decision making power between the central government and the region as to who has ultimate decision making power and the types of contracts that will be signed.  There are powers that be within Iraq that would very much like to see that power divvied up into the regions, between the Kurds and the Shia in particular, and then there are powers that would like to see Iraq retained as a central authority.  The Bush administration would like the central government of Iraq to have ultimate control over contracting decisions because it believes it has more allies in the central government than it would if it was split up into regions.  The Bush administration is most concerned with getting an oil law passed now and passed quickly to take advantage of the weakness of the Iraqi government.  The Iraqi government couldn't be in a weaker negotiating position and the law locks the government in to twenty to thirty-five year committments to granting the most extreme versions of exploration and production contracts to US companies or foreign companies.  Meaning that foreign companies would have access to the vast majorities of Iraq's oil fields and they would own the oil under the ground --
they would control the production and they would in contracts yet to be determined get a percentage of that profit but they'd be negotiating essentially when Iraq is at its weakest when Iraq is hardly a country.  And that's what this oil law is all about.  What Iraqis are saying very clearly and have said to Raed [Jarrar] and, in particular, to the loudest voices being the Iraqi oil unions is that the only people who want to see this law passed now are the Americans.  There's no other reason to push that law through."
Welch and Juhasz then discussed how the government's creation (and election) influences the chances that the law could be passed which put the US administration in the position to call shots.  Juhasz: "Now that influence isn't complete and that's why the law hasn't passed yet but it's been slowly and progressively making it's way through and now as you said it's passed through the cabinet or is on  the verge of passing in the cabinet it would then go to the parliatment and there's great concern . . .  Raed [Jarrar] has done a monumental job of trying to inform the Iraqi parliamentarians just about the law.  Until he had helped unearth the draft and help retreive it from the internet that most parliamentarians, or almost all Iraq parliamentarians haven't even seen the law."
Juhasz cited Hands off Iraqi Oil and Oil Change International as resources for activism geared for the fourth anniversary of the start of the illegal war next month.  [Thank you to Megan, Zach and Ty for noting & transcribing the above.]
Picking up on the issue of Iraq being split into regions, KUNA reports that Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, declared yesterday that splitting Iraq into regions or partitions would lead "bloody wars":  "Why we refuse the establishment of a Kurdish state in the North of Iraq, the reason is clear, we are against the partition of Iraq because this will trigger engless wars in the region."
Meanwhile Tony Blair's claims of 'success' in Iraq are about as 'truthful' as his claims of a pullout.  Stephen Farrell, Ned Parker and Richard Beeston (Times of London) report: "Tony Blair says Iraq has made 'remarkable' progress.  Clusters of red on the British Army's own maps of Basra suggest otherwise. . . .  Although the initial perception of British forces in Basra was of experienced troops putting the population at ease by patrolling in berets, instead of the more aggressive posture adopted by US forces further north, the reality has varied widely from town to town."
In WOOPSIE! news, Kim Gamel (AP) reported the US military arrested "Amar al-Hakim, son of political leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim" -- who had face time with Bully Boy in DC last December.  CNN reports that the Zalmay Khalilzad (still US ambassador to Iraq for now) "issued an apology" for the arrest and the son has been released.
In other political news, BBC reports that "Democrats in the US are planning a challenge to President George W Bush's handling of the war in Iraq" with the premise that the authority granted by the resolution was for set things and new things need to be set.  CBS and AP report that the new resolution is still unclear but would "leave U.S. troops with a limited mission as they prepare to withdraw."
In Iraq?  It's Friday.  Did anyone work besides McClatchy Newspapers?
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a child was killed in a mortar attack in the Amil neighborhood of Baghdad and five other people were injured in the attack while, in the Abu Disheer neighborhood of Baghdad, a mortar attack injured three people.
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "a U.S. military convoy killed one civilian and injured other two in Zafaraniya, Iraqi police said.  The source said the patrol didn't stop after the shooting and the man who was killed was walking on the side road."
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports five corpses were discovered in Baghdad.
Today, the US military announced: "Three Soldiers assigned to Multi-National Force-West were killed Feb. 22 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province."

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U.S. soldiers raided and ransacked the offices of the Iraq Syndicate of Journalists (ISJ) in central Baghdad Tuesday this week. Ten armed guards were arrested, and 10 computers and 15 small electricity generators kept for donation to families of killed journalists were seized.
This is not the first time U.S. troops have attacked the media in Iraq, but this time the raid was against the very symbol of it. Many Iraqis believe the U.S. soldiers did all they could to deliver the message of their leadership to Iraqi journalists to keep their mouth shut about anything going wrong with the U.S.-led occupation.
"The Americans have delivered so many messages to us, but we simply refused all of them," Youssif al-Tamimi of the ISJ in Baghdad told IPS. "They killed our colleagues, closed so many newspapers, arrested hundreds of us and now they are shooting at our hearts by raiding our headquarters. This is the freedom of speech we received."
Some Iraqi journalists blame the Iraqi government.
"Four years of occupation, and those Americans still commit such foolish mistakes by following the advice of their Iraqi collaborators," Ahmad Hassan, a freelance journalist from Basra visiting Baghdad told IPS. "They (the U.S. military) have not learned yet that Iraqi journalists will raise their voice against such acts and will keep their promise to their people to search for the truth and deliver it to them at any cost."
There is a growing belief in Iraq that U.S. allies in the current Iraqi government are leading the U.S. military to raid places and people who do not follow Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's directions.
"It is our Iraqi colleagues who pushed the Americans to that hole," Fadhil Abbas, an Iraqi television producer told IPS. "Some journalists who failed to fake the truth here are trying hard to silence truth seekers by providing false information to the U.S. military in order to take advantage of their stupidity in handling the whole Iraqi issue."
The incident occurred just two days after the Iraqi Union covering journalists received formal recognition from the government. The new status allowed the Syndicate access to its previously blocked bank account, and it had just purchased new computers and satellite equipment.
"Just at the point when the Syndicate achieves formal recognition for its work as an independent body of professionals, the American military carries out a brutal and unprovoked assault," International Federation of Journalists General Secretary Aidan White said in a statement. "Anyone working for media that does not endorse U.S. policy and actions could now be at risk."

The above, noted by Marcia, is from Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily's "Another U.S. Military Assault on Media" (IPS). Bremer was the first to be most public that his war on the Iraqi press was all about his own pettiness but al-Maliki has more than carried the ball since being installed to front the illegal occupation. Worth noting from the New York Times this morning, Richard A. Oppel Jr.'s "Old Problems Undermine New Security Plan for Baghdad:"

It looked like a scene out of a counterinsurgency training video. Dressed in crisp uniforms with a computer-generated camouflage of blue, gray and brown, Iraqi national police officers joined United States troops on searches late last week through relatively calm districts of Shaab and Ur in northeast Baghdad in the first large operation of the Baghdad security plan.
But appearances in Iraq can often be deceiving. At least two of the national police officers who turned out for the operation were moving ahead of the American troops not to lead the security drive but to warn the residents to hide their weapons and other incriminating evidence.
Some policemen on the sweep advertised their Shiite sympathies. Infiltration by militias has always been a major problem for the Iraqi security forces, and particularly the police, viewed by many Sunnis in the capital as de facto Shiite militia fighters.
The much anticipated effort to wrest Baghdad streets from the control of militias and insurgents has been presented in news conferences and public statements as an Iraqi-led operation. Iraqi officials have been out front, announcing arrests, weapons finds and other details, as well as new decrees intended to halt two years of so-called sectarian cleansing. But on the streets, the joint patrols seemed little different from those of the past few years: A handful of Iraqis, acting at the direction of a larger group of Americans, opening drawers and closets and looking behind furniture as they searched for banned weapons or other contraband.

Now we're going to return to the topic we were on in "MSM cover rape? Against their will!"
From Marilyn French's The War Against Women, pp. 193-194*:

Scully concludes: "No fundamental change will occur until men are forced to admit that sexual violence is their problem." Yet while everyone knows that it is men who rape, few see it as men's problem. All too many women, and men who do not rape, blame women for rape, claiming that they deserve it for putting themselves at risk. We will put aside the many cases that make a mockery of suck statements (like ninenty-year-old women raped and killed in their own houses) to examine such a position. What are these people saying? They are assuming that men are women's natural enemies (much as one animal is another's), that all men are potential predators upon women, and that women know this and must protect themselves. If they do not, they are asking for what they get. Men's behavior is taken for granted, not judged. Only women are judged. And what is taken for granted is that men are engaged in perpetual war against women.
So automatic is society's acceptance of male rapists as a fact of fact of life that journalists often conceal this form of male predation. Peace activist Betty Reardon points out that male-dominated media often censor the fact that murdered women were also raped. For example, the men who murdered the four American religieuses in El Salvador in 1980 raped them first -- but most media did not mention this fact. One person who did, Reardon writes, was Mary Bader Papa in the National Catholic Report, who wrote: "A special message was sent us by the rapists and murderers of the four American women. They wanted to make it clear that women who step out of their place will find no special prosecution behind the labels of 'nun or churchworker.'"

[* That's from memory. If you're planning to use it for a paper, get a hard copy. I will try to check it when I get home tomorrow morning. If I do, I'll note that it's correct or needed a word change (or more than one) in Saturday's morning's entry. If you don't see a note tomorrow, please remind me because I may forget.] [2-24-07, haven't made it home yet; however, Dona was kind enough to check both excerpts and says they are correct. Thank you, Dona.]

So what a week it's been, what a telling week. Two women come forward in Iraq to say that they're raped and those reporters who play no-one-can-figure-anything-out with the first, ignore the second or just ignore the fact that three of her rapists confessed. With the first woman, only Richard Mauer and McClatchy Newspapers bother to run by experts a released page (page two and only page two) of a medical report allegedly on the first woman to find out what it means. (The released page backs up the rape claim unless, like many pigs, there's a belief that only a virgin can be raped.)

And as always, there was Abeer. Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi ignored in real time by pretty much everyone, big media and small. Ignored after a minor flurry in June. Never followed up on by most. The New York Times found her so repulsive they could never print her name. Don't think they found her rapists repulsive because Robert F. Worth and Carolyn Marshall wrote a very sympathetic defense argument for the rapists, a novel one, one that, it turns out, the defense would use as well. The oft cited military expert Eugene Fidell would note that this defense was one unknown legally. So it was just pure luck that Worth and Marshall would present it in the paper before the defense could.

At the height of this, some on the left or 'left' side of the net fired off nasty little bulletins, trying to shut down any discussion on what might have happened. There's no might now. Two of the rapists have confessed. But see how much attention it gets because Abeer's not warranted much attention from the media (big or small) from day one.

The new 'fad' these days is to continue to call the war crimes 'rape and murder' when in fact they are gang rape and murder. Two of three men accused have now confessed in a court of law. Both tell of of 'taking turns' holding her down and raping her and both say a third did as well. That isn't just a rape, that is a gang rape.

But note how few will use the proper term. (The Associated Press deserves credit for doing so -- Kristen M. Hall and Rose French to cite two reporters.)

Maybe it's time to start noting that the Go-Go Boys Gone Wild in the Green Zone rumors included brothel visits? What we can note is that it's nothing new.

In the towns brotherls sprang up. A double standard of sexual morality pervaded. There was no mercy for 'fallen' women but the colonialists expected to make any woman they wanted whore for them. The upper-class Vietnamese colluded in this, ready to offer their wives to the French for the chance of promotion. Rape was barely an offence if the victim was Vietnamese. The sexual violation of a woman seemed nothing amidst the violation of a whole people
-- Sheila Rowbotham's A History of Women and Revolution In the Modern World, p. 209*

[*See earlier note. ] [2-24-07, Dona says this is correct.]

We'll close with another highlight from Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily, "Fallujans Defiant Amidst Chaos" (IPS):

Resistance attacks against U.S. forces have been continuing in Fallujah despite military onslaughts and strong security measures.
Two U.S. military onslaughts in 2004 left the city in a shambles and displaced an estimated 250,000 of the 350,000 residents of the city.
The military operations, and more that followed have done nothing to reduce resistance in and around Fallujah city in the al-Anbar province to the west of Baghdad.
Last month U.S. forces introduced a new phase of 'security' along with local Iraqi police, and supported by some local Sunni militias.
Resistance groups have taken the fight to the security forces. In one instance resistance fighters in four cars attacked one of the biggest police stations in the city with rocket propelled grenades and machine guns.
Chief of the city council Abbas Ali Hussein was killed by unknown assassins. He was the fourth chief of council killed in the city within 12 months.
"The big failure of the U.S. troops in Fallujah came when they began bringing Sunni secret police into the city," a member of the city council told IPS. "The situation in Ramadi, Hit, Haditha and all over al-Anbar province is now catastrophic."
IPS has reported earlier that the U.S.-led coalition had backed local militias near Fallujah in an effort to combat growing resistance in the area. Many residents in Fallujah believe the U.S. military also continues to support Shia militias.
Amidst the chaos and violence, residents blame occupation forces for their problems.
"Americans are paying our own people to kill each other," a local tribal chief told IPS. "This is very nasty revenge."
The tribal chief said U.S. forces provoked armed resistance in Fallujah early in the occupation when they killed 17 unarmed demonstrators on Apr. 28 and 30.

Brad noted the above.

The e-mail address for this site is And, noted last night, the snapshot may be very late today. I've got three different campuses of students to speak with and I'm not sure the distance/travel time required on the last two. So it may go up late, but the snapshot will go up today.