Wednesday, July 27, 2005

National Guard, What's My Name Fool?, male nipples and Rendon Group

Good evening. We'll kick things off with Democracy Now!

National Guard Company Face Abuse & Extortion Allegations
In other news from Iraq, a company of the California Army National Guard has been put on restricted duty following allegations that battalion members mistreated detainees in Iraq and extorted shopkeepers. This according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Among the allegations is that at least six soldiers from the battalion took part in a scheme to extort over $30,000 from Iraqi shopkeepers, apparently in exchange for protection. Up to 17 soldiers are also under investigation for mistreating Iraqi detainees. A videotape reportedly exists that shows soldiers abusing a handcuffed and blindfolded detainee with a stun gun. In addition, a first sergeant has been relieved of duty after being accused of shooting a water heater during an interrogation, then turning to an Iraqi detainee and saying: "You're next." The sergeant then reportedly held his pistol to the man's head, moved it a few inches to the side and fired.

Now let's go to what C.I. wrote last night:

On the subject of books, let me note that whatever else happens in this Sunday's The Third Estate Sunday Review, there will not be a book discussion about What's My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States. The book, by Dave Zirin, will be noted at some point (hopefully two Sundays from now); however, when Betty called this morning, she mentioned she was having to utilize interlibrary loan for the book and wasn't sure how long it would take. Similarly, Kat's not finding it in her library. (I didn't try, honestly. I called my local independent book store and asked them to hold a copy that I'll pick up as soon as I get a chance -- and had expected to pick it up already.) The book sounds very interesting and is something we're all interested in reading and discussing but I spoke to Jess and Ava tonight and they said they'd rather wait so that Kat and Betty could participate in the discussion.
For those who have no idea what the book is about, here's a report
Democracy Now! did on it last week entitled "What's My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States."

I've already started reading the book and I bring that up because Dave Zirin has a story at CounterPunch that C.I. sent me. It's called "Why Lance Armstrong Must Break with Bush."
Here's a part of it.

Armstrong has devoted countless hours to the fight against cancer. There is not more money for cancer research because of the war. It's that simple. It's also not just cancer. In my hometown of Washington, DC, this $800 billion price tag means high rates of infant mortality, shuttered public hospitals, and schools in a constant and eternal state of crisis. This is a battle for priorities. If Lance wants to see victory, chuckling it up with his "fellow Texan is no way to lead this movement forward. Instead Armstrong should ride among the critical mass bikers and anti-war couriers at the national anti-war protests on September 24th in Washington, DC. Consider this an invite, Lance. Consider this a way to continue to "live strong.

I really like Zirin's writing.

Now let's hop into some of the e-mails. The topic tossed out yesterday by Belinda was about the male nipples. My buddy Tony actually e-mailed in on this. He said his are sensitive but he doesn't like to act like he likes them played with because it doesn't seem manly.

Tony, nobody thinks you're manly anyway!

Just joking. A lot of guys wrote in saying stuff like that so we'll go with Tony since if you can't embarass your friends, who can you embarrass?

Gary and Lane wrote in both saying that they like it when their's are touched but like it more when they are licked or sucked. Gary makes a point to note he's straight and Lane makes a point to note he's gay.

Common Ills community member Rachel e-mailed to say that guys are hung up about it because they think it makes them look "girly" but she's never been with a guy that didn't like it. (See Tony, nothing to worry about.) Felecia says she doesn't care if a guy likes it or not, she's not doing it because every guy she's been with always "expects me to do something." She says she never knew guys could be so lazy and that includes her being on top doing all the work.

Laveda e-mailed to say that she's never been with a guy who's liked having his nipples played with and wonders if that's because she hasn't really tried much because she doesn't like it when her's are played with and hates "guys who think grab my tits and I'm ready to go."

Beau e-mails saying this is a "wack" topic and I better watch my back because "you know who" will probably "rip you off again."

Thom says that he hates it when his nipples are touched. He says some shirts are too rough and he wears a t-shirt underneath nearly everything because of the pain.

So hopefully that gives you a cross-section of views Belinda.

Now I want to note something from Democracy Now! one more time.

Navy Hired Rendon Group Ahead of Vieques Vote
This news from Puerto Rico... Evidence has emerged that in 2001 the U.S. Navy paid one point seven million dollars to a public relations firm to increase support for a public referendum over the Navy's use of Vieques. In November 6, 2001 voters in Puerto Rico went to the polls to decide whether the Navy should be allowed to keep use Vieques for live-fire training. Voters overwhelming called on the Navy to stop using the site even though the Navy spent approximately $358 per referendum voter in their PR effort. According to documents obtained by Judicial Watch, the Navy hired the Rendon Group to ". . . organize local leaders to build grassroots communications support . . . ensure the integrity of the voting process . . . develop methods and tracking procedures to increase support among citizens." The Rendon Group is the same PR firm that was used to help form the Iraqi National Congress - the Iraqi exile group that pushed for the U.S. invasion. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, "I think most Americans would be shocked to learn that the military had a program to 'ensure the integrity' of our voting process."

The Rendon Group is something Amy Goodman talks about in her book The Exception to the Rulers and we were just discussing that book Sunday at The Third Estate Sunday Review. And that's what I want to close with. I have a blast with The Third Estate Sunday Review and the discussions are probably my favorite part.

"1 Book, 10 Minutes"
We thought we were done. We had a paragraph to go on the editorial and then it was off to bed for all of us. (We hoped.) (C.I. posted an item on our last break at The Common Ills and we were hoping that would mean even C.I. could hit the sack.) But as we finished the editorial and got focused on posting the things already written, Mike asked if we were really not going to do the "Five Books, Five Minutes." Yes, we really weren't going to do that.
We'd slacked off on that during the week.

Mike was disappointed because for two weeks he'd wanted to discuss Amy & David Goodman's The Exception to The Rulers. "Great, write a review and we'll post it!" we cried (lazy, smart asses that we are.) But what Mike wanted was the give and take of a discussion. We all love Mike and he helps out here so the least we can do is help him out. With a ten minute discussion limit, we all agreed to discuss The Exception to the Rulers.

Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ty, Jess, Dona, Jim and Ava, C.I. of The Common Ills, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Kat of Kat's Korner and Mike of Mikey Likes It!

Here's an excerpt from
the book, pages 254 - 255:

The Bush administration recruited some time-tested help for this effort. It retained John Rendon, head of the PR firm The Rendon Group. Rendon is a self-described "information warrior," who has worked on Iraq-related issues for clients including the Pentagon and CIA. Rendon was instrumental in setting up the Iraqi National Congress in 1992, securing the channeling of $12 million from the CIA to the group between 1992 and 1996. The Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence retained Rendon for the invasion of Iraq.
Rendon spoke at a July 2003 conference in London about the propaganda effort around the invasion. Colonel [Sam] Gardiner attended the talk and recounts that Rendon "said the embedded idea was great. It worked as they had found in the test. It was the war version of reality television, and for the most part, they did not lose control of the story."
Rendon did note one problem: "He said one of the mistakes they made was that they lost control of the context. The retired people in the networks had too much control of the context. That has to be fixed for the next war."
The themes of the invasion propaganda effort were twofold. The war on terror is a fight between good and evil (and it didn't hurt to invoke images of a Christian crusade against Islam). And Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attacks -- "what propaganda theorists would call the 'big lie,'" said Gardiner.
With these two concepts underlying all messages, Gardiner states that the strategic influence campaign around Iraq "distorted perceptions of the situation both before and during the conflict; caused misdirection of portions of the military operation; was irresponsible in parts; might have been illegal in some ways; cost big bucks; will be even more serious in the future."
The media had a starring role in this effort. Propaganda requires a gullible and complacent media in order to thrive. The U.S. corporate media played its part to the hilt."

Jim: Okay, Mike, get us started.

Mike: Well the book's written by two journalists, Amy Goodman and her brother David Goodman. I don't know much about David Goodman but Amy Goodman's the host of
Democracy Now! which airs on TV, radio and the internet. It's a one hour news show that airs Monday through Fridays. It's something that we all count on, all of us here, to provide us with real news as opposed to stories about the latest missing blonde or the latest celebrity scandal.

Kat: News you can use. News that informs.

Mike: Exactly.

Dona: What stands out to me, and this is something C.I. and I have spoken about a lot probably starting in January or February, is the critique of The New York Times.

Jess: Which is really strong in terms of what the mea culpa covered and what it didn't and what stories still require corrections but have never gotten them. And we've addressed that at length in roundtables.

Dona: And just as important as that critique is to the present day, to citizens, I'd argue that the critique of the reporting on the atomic bom is just as important. The New York Times likes to cloak themselves in the "We are The New York Times." Yes, they are. And Jayson Blair didn't spring out of thin air. The paper has a history of pushing stories that the parties involved, reporters and editors, should have known better than to push. I'd argue it was a decision that they made to push them. It wasn't ignorance, it wasn't a mistake, it was a deliberate decision.

Betty: Which goes to the points that I felt they were raising in the book, Amy and her brother, about access and how you can trade independence for access and so many do.

Ty: It's not really important to any of us to know what joke some blowhard told at a dinner party in D.C. but to make sure they're at those dinner parties, they cozy up and do the fluff treatment and all the while act like they're in the business of reporting when in fact they are more often than not concealing. That's their business.

Betty: I'm so glad you said that! I was reading the stuff on "
It's Only a Summer Scandal" at The Common Ills this past week and I love the song but what stood out to me was I don't believe that Gwen Ifill ever told viewers, before her "Condi gets accountable" NewsHour interview with Rice, that she and Rice often dine together and that Condi's bragged publicly about what a great cook Rice is. I'm not a huge fan of Diane Sawyer and haven't watched her in years but when she was co-hosting Prime Time Live, if someone came on from ABC or any of it's divisions, she'd note that. If she was interviewing Carly Simon or someone else that she knew outside of work, she'd note that. Public television needs accountability and at the very least, viewers of the NewsHour, and I'm remembering this as Condi's damage control for the news of the PDB finally coming out, should have been told at the start of the interview that Condi and Ifill were close friends. The public was owed that.

Ty: And if it had been disclosed, as it should have been, the question on most people's minds would have been why is Gwen Ifill doing this interview? This wasn't "Getting to Know Condi!"This was about the public needing serious answers about a PDB prior to 9/11 that warned of coming attacks. There is no reason in the world that she should have been interviewed by a friend when the public needed and deserved answers. It's shameful that anyone would be allowed to do what she and Condi Rice did.

Kat: Agreed.

Mike: I was also amazed by the pack mentality and, for instance, Charlie Rose having his hissy fit because Amy Goodman quotes Dan Rather and Charlie's sweating about "I can't imagine Dan saying that, I'm not doubting you that he said it . . ." And then minutes later he is doing just that and Amy has to remind him, "I was just quoting Dan Rather." Or Lesley Stahl rescuing the guy --

C.I.: Richard Holbrooke.

Mike: Right so he doesn't have to answer questions from the press. Or Tom Brokaw omitting part of the title of the documentary film because it might offend the corporate sponsors.

C.I.: In fairness, it might have been a flub. He's made his share of his flubs such as his infamous comment when filling in on The Today Show about how coming to work so early that morning he was envisious or jealous, this is a paraphrase -- look it up if you care about it, of the homeless asleep on the street. Far more damning to me was his refusal to allow questions to be asked or to be concerned that a journalist was being roughed up at an awards banquet for journalists. At an awards banquet for journalists where the one being roughed up is winning an award! Or his pandering remarks to flatter Holbrooke during the ceremonies. He comes off like a first class kiss ass. And this is when Brokaw had some actual power so to see him kissing ass like that is embarrassing. And don't forget Holbrooke's own jokes.

Ava: Laughing, with the journalists in the room laughing along, that a Serb TV station had been bombed. I want to quote the Goodmans on that:

Laughter broke out in the room.
"It is an enormously important and I think positive development," Holbrooke added.
Here were hundreds of reporters supposedly upholding the highest principles of journalism, and they chuckled on cue -- at a war crime committed against journalists.Now, what would have been different if Milosevic had stood up to announce, "We just bombed CBS!" and a bunch of Serb journalists had laughed? Radio Television Serbia, whatever its faluts as a mouthpiece for Milosevic, is not a military target. We went back to our office later that night to see the pictures of body parts being pulled out of the wrecked TV studios in Belgrade. It wasn't soldiers blown to pieces in the rubble. It was the people who apply makeup, the cameramen, and the journalists who were inside. People like 27-year-old technician Ksenija Bankovic, whose mother Borka we interviewed on Democracy Now! Borka asked how journalists could laugh at the killing of her daughter, whose only crime was going to work that night. In all, sixteen media workers were killed in the bombing.

Can we get a
link for that Democracy Now! report?

C.I.: Dallas is already searching. You hear those stories and it's hard to say, "Well it's the jaded press corp." It's quite frankly disgusting. The pages are 286-287 that's Ava's referring to.

Jess: Which brings up the section I was wanting to quote and I'm not sure if we have enough time but it's page 152:

The media has the responsiblity to show the true face of war. It is bloody. It is brutal. Real people die. Women and children are killed. Families are wiped out; villages are razed.

Jim: Which is Falluja, let's be honest. Dexter Filkins turned it into a rah-rah video game. You never got the sense of the fact that a city was being destroyed, that people, males, were prevented from leaving the city. It was a turkey shoot and it was disgusting. But Filkins comes in with his rah-rah reporting and it's put it in the X-box and let's all play! Is it gallows humor? I don't know but it's not reporting.

C.I.: And Dona's indicating time's up but before that happens, let's let Mike talk about what stood out to him the most since he's the one who wanted this feature. Mike?

Mike: Well the parts everyone named are great and they're informative and anyone wanting to read a book that's going to tell it like it is needs to grab this book. I'm sure East Timor stood out for everybody. And that section was probably the one that spoke to me. Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn stayed on that story even when the media didn't care and didn't want to know and they pushed that story into the news, into the mainstream news, with their actions. It's the kind of thing that causes my mother to say Amy Goodman's a candle in darkness. And to me, that's what's so great about the book and so great about
Democracy Now! because it's not "here's what everyone is talking about so we better get on message." It's about telling the story that might not get told. Or showing you the part of the story that you might not see. That's what this whole books about --

Dona: I'll play Amy Goodman, ten seconds.

Mike: and that's why people should be reading it. Make sure you look this book up. Look it up at a bookstore or a library --

Jim: Or the
link which takes you to a Democracy Now! web page where you can order it directly, it's now out in paperback.

Mike: But like if you can physically hold it in your hands and just read two pages, I think you'll realize how important this story is.

C.I.: And the
link Jim's talking about does provide an excerpt to the book. So you can follow Mike's advice and read a bit of it even if you're ordering it online.

Dona: (laughing) And that was not one book in ten minutes, more like twenty. Amy Goodman and David Goodman's
Exception to The Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicans, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them.