Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Starting with the press.  As Kat noted last night, incoming and outgoing White House occupants love their fake news.  For some strange reason, people are looking the other way.  Carol Marin (Chicago Sun-Times) explained Sunday that she and her colleagues in the press have been "[d]eferential, eager to please, prepared to keep a careful distance" and that at Barack's 'news' conferences, "The press corps, most of us, don't even bother raising our hands any more to ask questions because Obama always has before him a list of correspondents who've been advised they will be called upon that day."  For those who've forgotten, the staged, fake 'news' conference has a direct relationship to the Iraq War.
"This is scripted," joked Bully Boy in the Mrach 6, 2003 press conference (link has text, audio and video) and it was one of the most pathetic performances by the press ever. It was so bad Saturday Night Live parodied it having Rachel Dratch play the dean of White House correspondents Helen Thomas trying to ask real questions and being prevented.  "How can you justify bombing innocent Iraqis for oil" led to Helen being chlorformed and she gets hit with a poisoned dart when she points out, "Mr. President, you have not dealt with the main issue!  You have yet to speak on the fact that half the people in this country do not want this war!"  You can see the dart at NOW on PBS when that bit of the skit was played during David Brancaccio's profile January 16, 2004 of Helen Thomas.  The New York Press offered, "After watching George W. Bush's press conference last Thursday night, I'm more convinced than ever: The entire White House press corps should be herded into a cargo plane, flown to an altitude of 30,000 feet, and pushed out, kicking and screaming, over the North Atlantic. . . . Abandoning the time-honored pretense of spontaneity, Bush chose the order of questioners not by scanning the room and picking out raised hands, but by looking down and reading from a predetermined list.  Reporters, nonetheless, raised their hands in between questions -- as though hoping to suddenly catch the president's attention.  In other words, not only were reporters going out of their way to make sure their softballs were pre-apporved, but they even went so far as to act on Bush's behalf, raising their hands and jockeying in their seats in order to better give the appearance of a spontaneous news conference."
That was an important moment and the PRESS FAILED.  They failed in their jobs, they failed journalism, they failed the country and they failed democracy.  Was it just too difficult of a moment for them?
The press that caves today and play-acts a 'news' conference for Barack before he's even sworn in is telegraphing that they will not stand up for a free press any more than they did during the last eight years.  It is disgusting and it needs to be called.  Barack also needs to be called out for his fraudulent practices.  That is deceitful.  And he's demonstrating that he is just as craven as his predecessor.  The press wants to tie a bow around the Iraq War or -- more likely -- shove it in a Hefty trash bag and leave it out on the street, they want to insist they're done and the war is over.  That is not reality but it will benefit a president who never technically promised to withdraw all US troops (expect Barack to get a lot of "It depends what your definition of 'is' is" jokes in two years) and has no plans to end the illegal war. 
Staying with the responsibilities of the press, the US broadcast networks want to end their coverage from IraqPaul J. Gough (Hollywood Reporter) reports that ABC will hand-off day-to-day coverage for the American Broadcasting Company to the BBC, increasing the ties between the two in sharing coverage that began in 1994: "ABC News president David Westin announced the change Wednesday morning in Baghdad in an email to employees obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.  He wrote in the email that Iraq would continue to be an important story for ABC News and 'we will devote all the resources necessary to do the story justice.'  ABC hopes that the expanded partnership will free ABC News' resources from daily stories."  When Brian Stelter (New York Times) reported on the move by ABC, CBS and NBC to pick up shop in Iraq and move their on-air correspondents to Afghanistan and Pakistan, he noted that a deal for BBC to pick up the slack for ABC might be in the offing but that no one was talking about that at the time.  And we'll note this from article: "Joseph Angotti, a former vice president of NBC News, said he could not recall any other time when all three major broadcast networks lacked correspondents in an active war zone that involved United States forces."
From the December 18th snapshot: "The Committee to Protect Journalists released their end-of-year analysis today and 'the deadliest country in the world for the press' is . . .  For the sixth year in a row, the 'honor' goes to Iraq".  Yesterday the International News Safety Institute (INSI) released their numbers and they "counted 109 casualties in 36 countries" -- guess who came in first?  Iraq with 16 deaths counted by INSI and they note, "A total of 252 news personnel, most of them Iraqi, have now died covering that conflict since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003."
Still on the issue of the press, but turning to Iraq's press.  Alive in Baghdad wonders, "Iraq's Free Press?" in this week's report. Nabeel Kamal and Huda Muhammad explain at the start of the report, "Since Baghdad fell in April 2003, all manner of newspapers have become commonplace.  Every opinion or issue has its own newspaper, and many Iraqis are wondering, is this what a free press looks like?"  They then ask Iraqis, "What is the impact of these newspapers since 2003?"
Male Iraqi newspaper vendor on the street: There are good and bad, some were good for people, although most of their topics are taken from the internet or satellite TV, and most of the news is fake, most of the time their talk is irrational.  It's hard to find in any of the daily newspapers something to educate people about elections, or cholera, or anything that helps people. 
Iraqi Male #2: There were still four newspapers before the regime's fall, then there were more coming.  I can say the number increased in a terrible way.  It's "chaos."  Chaos with unlimted freedom, and the difference was clear, due to the shortage of media.
One of the most specific critiques
Iraqi Male #3: We need opposition journalism, journalism that shows the truth.  We need journalism to show the suffering of this population.  I don't mean to keep talking about the bad things during the ex-regime, but also now there are many bad things, with any government's fall there are plenty of bad things that come to the surface or facilities that break down, so we need true journalism that can clarify the facts and show the destruction, the corruption that is happening, now we need this journalism to educate a new culture.
Their press fails them and refuses to provide the information they need.  So democracy never took hold in Iraq but the US did manage to export its press system.  Timothy Williams and Suadad al-Salhy (New York Times) note the upcoming provincial elections scheduled for January 31st, "Provincial councils are roughtly the equivalent of state legislatures in the United States, and the balloting for them is expected to correct underrepresentation in local governments among Sunni Arabs, particularly in areas where there has been heavy insurgent and sectarian violence, including Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala and Nineveh Provinces.  Sunni Arabs largely boycotted the 2005 provincial elections."  Provincial elections were declared a benchmark by the White House.  As 2007 came and went without them, they began pretending otherwise.  In September of 2007, Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "Largely gone from the president's speech Thursday was his January insistence that the Iraqi government meet 18 benchmarks and sort out its differences on the most divisive issues in Iraq.  In January, the talk was tough: 'America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced,' Bush said then.  'I've made it clear to the prime minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended.  If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people -- and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people.  Now is the time to act'."  This was the so-called "New Way Forward" and it was quickly abandoned.  Bully Boy will leave the White House this month and will do so before the January 31st elections are held (if they're held -- this is a puppet government that most recently called of New Year's Eve at the last minute -- damaging a local hotel industry that can't afford to absorb any more losses).  The same month Bully Boy was suddenly ignoring the benchmarks (his 18 benchmarks), the US Government Accountability Office was reporting, "The government has not enacted legislation on de-Ba'athification, oil revenue sharing, provincial elections, amnesty, and militia disarmament."  That's September 2007.  Let's jump a year forward to the September 16, 2008 snapshot for that day's US House Committee on the Budget hearing on Iraq's Budget Surplus and this exchange is between US House Rep Lloyd Doggett and the GAO's Joseph A. Christoff:
Lloyd Dogget: All of us remember, except maybe President Bush, that in January of 2007, he selected the benchmarks, the guidelines by which to measure success, by which to measure victory in Iraq and when we sought an analysis so we would have an objective information instead of just the propaganda from the administration about whether those benchmarks had been met the Congress turned to the Government Accountability Office. And my recollection is that when you came out with your report on August the 30th of last year that you determined that . . . 11 of the 18 benchmarks that President Bush had set were not met. Is that correct?  
Joseph Christoff: Based on that prior report correct.  
Lloyd Doggett: Yes, sir.  And you found that of the 18 benchmarks the president set himself to measure success in Iraq that only three had been met as of August 30, 2007. Now this year, a year later, you did some evaluation again.  You did not evaluate every single benchmark but you really found that there had been very little progress in the year.  We know that fortunately fewer Americans are being killed there. But in terms of the objective of the Bush policy in Iraq, you had a grand amount of success in that they met one more benchmark than they had the year before, isn't that correct?      
Joseph Christoff: Well we didn't go through a benchmark by benchmark analysis but we did provide a report that talked about progess on the security front, the legislative front and the economic front in our June report.   
Lloyd Doggett: Right and I believe you found one more benchmark met than the year before.   
Joseph Christoff: Again we didn't do a benchmark by benchmark analysis, sir.  
Lloyd Doggett: Well if you look at the -- it may not have been called a benchmark analysis -- but you looked at some of the same factors you had the year before.  Just to begin to go through them, on the Constitutional Review Committee, you found that they'd formed the committee but the committee hadn't done anything.  Right?       
Joseph Christoff: And that's still true.         
Lloyd Doggett: Well they hadn't met that.  On enacting and implementing legislation on de-Baathification you found that they had enacted the legislation but they hadn't implemented and of it, right?         
Joseph Christoff: That's correct.     
Lloyd Doggett: Well they hadn't met the second benchmark.  On the question of enacting the hydrocarbon or oil legislation, you concluded that they had not met that again this year, did you not?          
Joseph Christoff: Correct, and no progess this year either.        
Lloyd Doggett: On enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions -- that was the fourth benchmark President Bush had -- you found that that was only partially met.  Again they passed a law to allow the provinces to act but it hadn't been implemented.             
Joseph Christoff: Well on that one it will be implemented when provinces come together to form regions so that's  an open --             
Lloyd Doggett: Right, but we're not there yet.    
Joseph Christoff: Well no provinces have voted to form regions other than the KRG originally.          
Lloyd Doggett: On enacting and implementing legislation for an Independent High Electoral Commission you found only partially meeting it.  Again, they passed a law but hadn't implemented it.   
Joseph Christoff: The commission was established.  The provincial election law -- the date was established for October 1 but the implementing laws have not been enacted.   
Lloyd Doggett: Right. And they won't have the elections they've been promising us they'd have for a year in October.   
Joseph Christoff: October 1, they will not meet that date.
And even if the provincial elections take place January 31st, they will not be in all the provinces.  Iraq has 18 provinces.   Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reported in October, "Iraq's presidency council passed a critical law Wednesday to organize provincial elections that were originally scheduled for Oct. 1 and now are likely to be held sometime early next year. . . . Despite the law's stated deadline of Jan. 31 for elections in 17 of Iraq's 18 provinces, there may be a further postponement, according to the Independent High Electoral Commission."  Not only will the January 31st elections not take place in Kirkuk, they also will not take place in Irbil, Dohuk or Suleimaniyya.  Only 14 of the 18 provinces will be holding elections and, no, that's not meeting the benchmark even after Bully Boy is out of the White House.  Andrea Stone (USA Today -- link has text by Stone and USA Today video by Stone adn Rene Alston) reminds, "And there is the threat of violence. Two candidates have been killed in the northern city of Mosul, including one who was gunned down in a cafe on New Year's Eve. Friday, a suicide bomber killed 23 people at a campaign event south of Baghdad."