Sunday, February 27, 2011

And the war drags on . . . but you won't learn it from Pacifica

The main purpose of the demonstrations that took place in many Iraqi cities in Feb 25 was to give the Iraqi officials an idea about the bad reality that we live eight years after what was called liberation. After the collapse of the former regime in 2003, Iraqis were so optimistic about future. We thought that collapsing Saddam's regime was the end of suffering, deprivation but it looks that Iraq moved from the dictatorship of one party to the dictatorship of a group of parties. Both Baath Party and the current Iraqi parties care only about their interests neglecting Iraqis completely. During Saddam's regime, high positions were only for the regime's supporters and now the same thing happen. If you are not a member of the ruling parties or a friend of one of the officials, you can forget about having a decent job even if you have the highest level of education. Professionalism is not the basic criterion in Iraq. It had been ignored more than three decades ago. The basic criterion now days is (which party are you from? )or sometimes (how much money you can pay to get the position?)

That's from an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers writing "Do It Or Leave It" at Inside Iraq. Another Iraqi correspondent shares views in "Caught in the Heat of Baghdad's Protest." At the New York Times' At War blog, Duraid Adnan reports:

One of the first people I encountered after arriving at about 10 a.m. was Wesal Esmail, a 32-year-old woman who walked two hours to be there.
“I have never felt so free in my life,” she said. “Maliki cannot stop me. Maliki cannot take this away from me,” she said, referring to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
By noon, things became heated.
A group of protesters gathered at the nearby Jumhuriya Bridge, which runs over the Tigris to the Green Zone, and began trying to tear down concrete blast walls that had been set up shortly before the protest.
I followed them, and spoke to a 25-year-old named Ali, who helped to rip down the walls. “Maliki thinks that he can stop us with his walls,” he told me. “It’s all he has.”

Now we're going to audio. Friday on Free Speech Radio, they seemed unaware of the protests going on across the country but did note the protests in the KRG. George Lavender reported, "Protests gained momentum late last week when militia forces for the ruling Kurdish Democratic Party fired on demonstrators who were calling for increased freedom, jobs and an end to political corruption. Three people died. Protests have since spread across Kurdistan, and authorities have responded with increased military force and by arresting large numbers of people. [. . .] Today thousands gathered in Sulaymaniyah’s Freedom Square. Those present said demonstrations will continue until their demands are met. George Lavender, FSRN." The Pacifica Evening News did carry a report on the various protests Friday:

Mark Mericle: Thousands marched on government buildings and clashed with security forces in cities across Iraq in an outpouring of anger that left 11 people dead -- the largest and most violent anti-government protests in the country since political unrest began spreading in the Arab world weeks ago. The protests, billed as a Day of Rage were fueled over anger by corruption, chronic unemployment and shoddy public services from the Sh'ite dominated government. Shi'ite religious leaders discouraged people from taking part, greatly diminishing the Shi'ite participation. Tarek Bazley reports.

Tarek Bazley: The spirit of protest is very much alive in Iraq despite the capitol and virtual security lockdown, thousands took to the streets. Their day of rage inspired by recent events in North Africa.

Iraqi man: Our demands are to prevent corruption by making laws to prevent it and apply it correctly for the of the Iraqi people.

Tarek Bazley: Soldiers searched protesters trying to enter Liberation Square. They barricaded a bridge leading to the city's so-called Green Zone government area. At one point, protesters threw stones at riot police and forced them back against the wall. In the southern city Basra, around 3,000 also took to the streets to protest against corruption and a lack of basic services. Concrete slabs surrounding the Basra government building were knocked over. Clashes too with riot police in Mosul where provincial government offices were set on fire. Eight years after the US invasion and the fall of Saddam Hussein, there's clear anger on the streets. Development has been slow to come to the country and after recent events in the region there are fears that anger could drive a broader call for change. Tarek Bazley, Aljazeera.

On the Saturday Morning Talkies (KPFA), Kris Welch noted of Iraq, "And also in the neighborhood, thousands of people in the streets of Iraq in a Days of Rage yesterday to protest against shortages in food rations, water, power and jobs. At least 10 people died. Scores were hurt in clashes, demonstrators threw rocks tried to storm government buildings, security forces used sticks and fired shots to try to disperse them. Human Rights Watch has called on authorities to launch an independent inquiry into the deaths. Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, says he's not going to ignore the demands of the protests which have been rising in recent weeks although they've been scattered and they don't appear to be focused on getting rid of the government but just the usual food, water, etc. Meanwhile today the big news is that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on the government and Parliament to take serious steps and that he would speak up, his a big move. The most revered Shi'ite cleric. 'Heed reform demands,' he said."

Friday's snapshot noted Kelly McEvers report for All Things Considered which meant that I had non-stop whines from Pacifica Friends waiting when I arrived home. How come I didn't note Pacifica's coverage?

What coverage?

Pacifica Friends, I'm saying this as nicely as I can, do not call me, do not leave a message, unless you've listened. There was no reporting done by Pacifica on Iraq Friday. I listened to all of KPFA's output from Friday to today (listened at high speed) and that's really it. Flashpoints had an hour on Friday and had no time for Iraq -- big surprise. Sunday Salon or whatever that bad show's now being called had the idiot Philly Malderi pimping a documentary you can be 'gifted' with if you throw down some bucks. The Saturday and Sunday KPFA Evening News did not mention Iraq. Kris Welch read from the wire services on the Saturday Morning Talkies (and I included her comments in full). Please, tell me, where did Pacifica do a damn thing? On KPFA, they aired a brief Aljazeera report. (Aileen Alfandary offered one short sentence during Living Room's Friday news break: "In Iraq, thousands marched on government buldings and clashed with security forces.")

As bad as KPFA was, there's always WBAI. How anyone associated with that out-of-date and embarrassing radio station holds their head high, I just don't know. They've got Law & Disorder and Joy of Resistance and that's really all they can point to with pride that originates from them.

A tip, when you're in pledge mode? Stop yelling "YES!" into microphones and when your voice is distorted because you don't know how to use the microphone, shut your mouth. Radio is about audio. You are in people's ears. If you can't handle that, stop it. And they can't handle Iraq.

They couldn't handle it Friday. Caldwell was begging as usual and couldn't give a word to a damn thing that had to do with today. The so-called 'evening news' remains a joke -- no Iraq but dolphins!!! A Pacifica Board Member jokes that if the event takes place "more than 5 miles from the People's Republic of Brooklyn, WBAI isn't interested." I would add to that, if a nuclear weapon goes off Friday afternoon -- goes off somewhere outside of the five boroughs, WBAI listeners will have to wait until Monday to learn of it.

The Jordan Journal could beg for money Friday telling you what Marcus Garvey (who died in 1940) said but not what happened that day in Iraq. Rise Up Radio -- alleged public affairs wanted to talk about addiction to heroin and cigarettes and a "religious root" you could take to cure yourself. It was suppressed by the US government! And by the CIA! Yeah, that crap, WBAI served it up -- for the hour! That damn useless s**t, WBAI served up on Friday. Where was Iraq?

If you thought "Current Affairs" -- airing at four in the morning -- was worth listening to, you were wrong because "public affairs" for "Current Affairs" translated as, let's play "The Caldwell Chronicles" begging one more damn time. At five a.m., they continued that nonsense. If you don't know what's happening today, children, it really doesn't matter what happened forty or so years ago. All it will make you is a trivia buff, not anyone able to integrate historical fact with current events. And speaking of current? Playing -- replaying -- a two-hour beg-a-thon is insane. "There's another call, we need 13 more . . ." Uh, yeah, you might have Friday afternoon when it was live but not Saturday morning when it's canned. That was a waste of space, a waste of airtime and incredibly stupid to begin with. Why were the hosts -- on Friday afternoon -- telling you that Democracy Now! would be on "tomorrow"? Or was the Friday beg-a-thon canned as well.

New definition for lazy: A radio beggar who's so work-shy that they can't even beg live so they re-air a beg-a-thon.

"On The Count"? Here's a tip, if you air ten minutes of music before you get around to introducing your 'public affairs' program (and that music is not from any of your guests), you really don't need a full hour of time (or, for Saturday, two hours). That's exactly why so many songwriters have no sympathy for Pacifica with its whining that it can't afford mechanical royalties. You're doing non-stop music to pad out your weak programs -- your supposed public affairs programs -- and you think you're so special you don't have to pay royalties? Two hours of that crap.

So, for example, playing two straight minutes of Dionne Warwick's "Anyone Who Had a Heart" at the top of "public affairs" program "Explorations"? You damn well better be prepared to pay Hal David and Burt Bacharach their mechanical royalty. Please note, that was the opening of the show. Someone flipping the dial could think, "Oh, golden oldies." Or possibly that it was a program saluting Dionne or Burt & Hal or both. What the hell is that? If I'd known it was Gary Null, I wouldn't have listened. No offense to him, but I'd put him in new age health and not "public affairs." (Gary Null's very popular and should be on WBAI. My quarrel is billing the show as "public affairs.") I didn't know Gary Null was on Saturdays. This may have been another re-airing of a canned beg-a-thon. They continued Null for the next hour as well.

"Radio Free Eireann" -- alleged public affairs show -- wanted to address cataracts. You had Gary Byrd pitching premium gifts for two hours in an attempt to beg money "Program four . . . this series . . . . We'll give you a flavor of it. . . ."

Sunday "Beyond the Pale" ("Public Affairs") wanted to give you quack 'cures' for Alzheimer's. "Walden's Pond" ("Public Affairs") continued quack medicine "plant extract helps to relieve . . ."; "copper surpassed aspirin, it should be taken in small amounts . . ." And Sunday, when the WBAI Evening News should have aired, we had Earl Caldwell selling 'cures' for cancer. At some point, maybe quacks need to be taken off the air. I'm all for letting people decide what they want to do until it f**ks up reality.

When you can't offer news the entire weekend, you really need to have your license pulled. WBAI needs to weed out all the bad weekend programming. Their 'arts' programs are a joke -- "Let's spin a record and call it art!" If you're not doing something original -- the way Janet does on Cat Radio Cafe -- you're not doing anything. And there is no excuse for a NYC station not to offer news. Their refusal to do so alone should get the license yanked. They need one generic hour of news. Not niche news. Not "Methodist Lesbians Of Color Who Cross Dress And Are Against Abortions And Recovering From Tingling Leg Syndrome Via Holistic Medicine Show Off Their Crochet Stitch Work for the hour!" A generic hour of news. And they need to stop playing so many records. In fact, maybe I'll get a friend to keep track of every song WBAI's playing and then we'll check see if WBAI is paying the mechanical royalties because, knowing Pacifica as I do, my hunch is they aren't.

KPFK. They have a program called "Middle East In Focus." They spent the hour on Afghanistan. They did note Iraq . . . maybe. If they consider it one of the "other Arab countries." Because listeners were informed that protests were going on in other Arab countries. Wow. Way to inform, KPFK. Way to waste an hour.

"World Focus" airs Sunday mornings. This Sunday it was a one hour sermonette/monologue. Absolute power corrupts absolutely? Thank you!!!!! I have never heard that before. There was about a minute and half of news in that sermon -- more music is played than facts provided. World Focus? Seems like Focus On Your Own Voice.

And why does a radio station based in Los Angeles think they can get away with not doing a news report on Saturday or Sunday? They don't even do their own news. The Pacifica Evening News -- everyone knows -- is KPFA pulling all the weight with a few tiny contributions from KPFK. The whole point of the merger was to try to help KPFK step up their news. That's obviously not worked. But carrying what is the KPFA Evening News on Friday (calling it "The Pacifica Evening News") did at least allow listeners to know about the protests in Iraq. Unlike WBAI, KPFK listeners don't have to wait until Monday to learn about the Friday protests in Iraq.

In fairness to WBAI, it can boast that at least their on air staff knows how to pronounce. Why would I want to "hire" a program? "____ can be hired for the next 90 days at the arty-o archives." The arty-o? These were not people speaking with accents, this isn't let's play a round of pick on the foreign born. These are native born citizens put on the air by KPFK who can't speak and apparently no one cares enough to pull them aside and say, "Heard. H-e-a-r-d. Audio. A-u-d-i-o."

That's the crap you got from three Pacifica stations over the weekend. (I didn't have time to check out Houston's KPFT -- I did call a friend to make sure they aired nothing on *Iraq* Friday -- and everyone knows there's no point in listening to the DC station.) Why does the Iraq War continue? Because Pacifica's radio is more interested in providing quack cures than reality. And to think, Norman Solomon and others got on a high horse about the 9-11 Truth Movement? At least the Truth Movement is focused on big issues -- national and international. The self-help medical movement is, by its very definition, focused solely on self. I've noted before (I think it was 2006), that there's no reason some of these programs don't belong on Pacifica. Some. When your entire weekend output is quack medicine and 'arts' coverage, you are a part of the problem, don't kid yourself otherwise. Your as bad as any network outlet serving up junk news and you are the reason that the wars continue.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4440. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4442.

Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) has a strong article we'll note tomorrow. I'm doing this entry at an after-party and it's too loud to be attempting much more than the above. Protests continued today. Reuters notes security forces killed 5 suspects today in Sulaimaniya and that 1 coprse was discovered in Kirkuk last night.

New content at Third:

Pru notes that Great Britain's Socialist Worker has no story on the Iraqi protests. She provides some possible alternative highlights but is unethusiastic about them. I'm going side with her having just called out Pacifica above for their inability to provide coverage.

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