Sunday, January 23, 2005

A note from Third Estate Sunday Review

After all the frustration and last minute work last weekend putting together our stories, we thought for sure, this week would go more smoothly. After all, our template couldn't crash again as it did last weekend, right?

Following up on Karla's story about her abortion, we heard that a classmate had once been in rehab and wondered if a) he would share and b) if there was anything of use in the story. Ava spent ten minutes with him and after we read the results, we asked him for an hour. We think his is an important story. We hope to continue to report on college students because the mainstream press tends to ignore us as a group and as individuals.

Feeling a little cocky that we'd nailed down our news story, we went to work on other features.
The Common Ills and Shirley helped us without our samples of the poetry of Anne Sexton and the week seemed to be falling into place. We'd all agreed that our editorial would be the last thing we'd work on so it wouldn't be old by the time it went up Sunday.

The TV beat fell in place when a reader in Texas forwarded us an e-mail from his Congress person (it's not a private e-mail) and asked us to weigh in on the networks' morning "news" shows.

But then, like a lot of people, we needed to make our voices heard on Thursday and we fell behind in working on this issue. As we scrambled to meet deadlines and pass each story among the five of us so that everyone could add their input, we quickly realized that we wouldn't be able to guarantee a non-typo edition. (That was really important to Ty.) We also realized that we were going to have to beg and plead from Kat and The Common Ills again to see if we could run another of Kat's Korner. (They kindly agreed.)

Next week, we'll also begin running letters. We'd hoped to do that this week but as Saturday faded into Sunday, it's one of the features we'd wanted that had to get tossed aside for this week.

We're a little more organized for next week's Sunday Review (or we think we are right now) and hope to have a feature dealing with technology and one with the visual arts. (Both are pieces that will be coming from outside the five of us.) We'll also be doing an interview with Rebecca Winters of the web site Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude. So barring the need for participating in any demonstrations, we're crossing our fingers that next week will go more smoothly.

But this week was a mad scramble and we want to think CI of The Common Ills for once again acting as a sounding board in the early morning hours of Sunday.

Where is the news that's fit to print? Forget all, any would do after this week's New York Times

We don't know how The Common Ills does it -- manage to work their way through the increasingly useless New York Times day after day. Caught in the trappings of what passes for high society in this administration, NYT reads more and more like a house organ for the White House and less and less like a newspaper.

Thursday, across the nation, people protested and registered their opposition to the administration. But that's not a story. Instead some looney spends Saturday trying to convince us that Laura Bush is suddenly "classy." The term "classy" doesn't mix with the name "Bush" and probably never will. But we're sure the White House was overjoyed that NYT was ready to kowtow so diligently over the last few days.

Pomp and nonsense were covered as though they were a moon landing. NYT courted the powerful that they're supposed to be watch-dogging. The watch dog was neutered and happily lapped up any morsels that were tossed its way: Colin Powell bought a Vette!; Laura's dress was designed by Oscar de la Renta! (Didn't he matter about three decades ago?)

A week of coverage devoted to what's basically a prom and NYT wanted to be the first to crown the Prom King and Queen.

There's no excuse for that. You can't call yourself a daily newspaper and churn out this type of shit on a daily basis. Every now and then, NYT took the time to inform us of other "important" events -- like skiing in Utah!

At a time when newspapers continue to face decreasing readerships, it might be time for them to do a little self-examiniation. Here's a question NYT can start with? Do we want to be People Magazine or a newspaper?

After answering that question they can either decide to implement a glossy cover or get back to real news. You know, the sort of thing that actually effects our lives.

That might mean missing out on the snarky attacks on Barbara Boxer (see Friday's paper) or telling Sheryl Gay Stolberg that her little "reporting for duty" jab at John Kerry belongs in an op-ed piece and not in a news article. It might require asking Elisbeth Bumiller to write as though she actually has a brain or even half of one.

And, novel idea, stop the incessant hand wringing over the fate of Judith Miller (no one really cares) and use the paper's resources to actually investigate who outed CIA agent Valerie Plame!
Can you dig it, you feel me?

All the poor Judy coverage (including the op-ed from the publisher) are pretty much worthless. Miller's sympathy-proof due to her own actions. But if you spent even half the time you're spending trying to turn this into an "Oh! The humanity!" story instead on something worthwhile like assigning a team of reporters to find out who outed Plame, Miller can be spared a jail sentence, no reporter will be forced to testify, and you'd have an honest to God scoop.

We're sorry. We just realized that it's been so long since NYT had a scoop that they may not know what that term means anymore. A "scoop" is the sort of thing Sy Hersh gets at The New Yorker. It means he breaks a story. He's not just playing stenographer to whatever administration official has decided to speak. A sccop is when you break a story that no one else is covering or you come up with an angle on it that no one else has noticed.

We realize you're used to reporting on stories that have made the Washington Post already or write ups on what got said on Meet the Press. We realize that you probably think a "scoop" is noticing something that's gone up on a governmental website.

But those aren't scoops. Breaking the news on who leaked Valerie Plame's name to Robert Novak would be a scoop.

Realizing that you have little interest in actual news these days, we'll pitch it to you this way: Picture it, Judy Miller's about to be carted off to jail while people cheer but just when it looks darkest, a little boy charges onto the screen screaming, "Extra! Extra! Read all about it! ___
outed Plame to Novak! New York Times exclusive!" We intercut with shots of the official being led away in hand cuffs while Judy attempts to look uplifted. [Hint, wipe the scowl off her face and bring in some soft lighting.] Then just before the credits roll, we see Arthur and Keller popping open a bottle of bubbly with a cheery Judy who says, "Okay guys, now we hit Iran!"
Scroll credits.

It's a blockbuster in the making!

For those who, like us, have abandoned all hope of NYT ever printing a story that actually matters, we'd recommend you read "Amy Goodman Warned Us About 'The Lies of the Times'" and, heck, we'd recommend it even to those still holding out hope that at some point NYT might actually get back in the news business.

I think that center was a racket: Mike on his stay at an adolescent treatment center

Mike (not his real name) was a self-identified "weed smoker" at 15. When his mother was busted for heroin possession, he was sent to his grandparents who quickly sent him to an adolescent treatment center.

Now a college junior, Mike agreed to talk to us about his experiences in rehab.

So did they tell you where they were taking you or was it "let's go for a drive?"

Mike: They told me after we were on the plane. They chose a program out of state and far from their home. It wasn't presented as an option but it also wasn't presented to them or me in the admissions process as a ten month stay. They kept saying that I'd spend a week, maybe two, on the orientation team and then, depending on my issues, transfer to another team which would probably last four more weeks. They implied it was a five to six weeks stay.

How long were you on the orientation team?

Three weeks. I threw a chair my first week in and that resulted in a longer stay. Then they tell me that they're putting me on this team where I'll be able to deal with my issues. As soon as I transfer to that team at dinner, everyone on the team fills me in that I've been placed on the "long term team." There was a 14 year old on the team who'd been there for over a year.

How many teams were there?

Four. There was the team everyone entered, the orientation one, when they came in. Then you were transferred to what was the short term team and that basically meant you had one drug of choice and no other issues. Or that's what it was supposed to mean. If that team's counselors liked you, they pulled you onto their team even if you were supposed to go another one. The third team was for people who were bipolar or on medication. Then there was the long term team and you were supposed to go there if you had a lot of issues. If you were bulimic or if you were raped or if you were abused by your family or any other complex issue that tied in with your drug use -- or they thought tied in -- would land you on the long term team.

Did you have other issues?

My mother was a heroin user and possibly they thought that made me a long termer but I'd never used heroin or any other drug except pot. I'd never been raped, I didn't have an eating disorder, no family member had ever beaten me. I wasn't court ordered the way a lot of the kids on the long term team were. I had no idea why I was on the team. The worse that can be said about my childhood before I went to live with my grandparents was that I was ignored.

Was it part of the treatment to identify why you were assigned to a team?

I got no treatment. I was basically kept for ten months with no real treatment. There were some assistant counselors that ran an evening group session that were helpful. Every now and then a group from outside would come in to run the evening AA or NA meeting and they were usually helpful but if they were too honest, they were gone and not invited back.

Too honest?

A Christian psycho ran this treatment center. If an adult came in they were gay or lesbian or if a client spoke at a meeting about an abortion she had and the adults running the meeting didn't rush in to scream "sinner!" the group wasn't invited back. It didn't even take something like that though. All it took sometimes was an adult asking why we weren't allowed to speak freely and you knew right then that this was the last you were seeing of that group.

Speak freely?

AA and NA are twelve step groups and they're based on "rigorous honesty." The treatment center I went to supposedly worked the twelve step program. But with exceptions. Rigorous honesty had a stopping point. If a client expressed a fear that he or she might have AIDS, the meeting was stopped right there. If a male client spoke of being raped by a male or having consentual sex with a male, the meeting was stopped right there. Anything to do with our sexual histories was off limits. And if anyone attempted to share their frustrations over their treatment, they were taken out of the meeting immediately with the excuse that "he needs to focus on his recovery."

Now sometimes somebody might say something that was bullshit. But in AA and NA when you do that, you're called on it in the meeting. Your held accountable. That's how it works. But we never got to take part in that because the staff at the treatment center would always pull you out of the meeting. And if you swore while you were speaking, even "damn," you were pulled out.

They wanted you to be rigorously honest in a G-rated manner with all these topics that were off limits. That's not what AA or NA is about. My grandparents would fly down on family weekends and if I got a pass, part of my pass would be attending an AA or NA meeting while I was away. I'd go to those meetings and realize how much we were being short changed back at the treatment center.

What was the worst part of your treatment stay?

You got an hour?

On a personal note, I was put into L.T.U. That's locked treatment unit. They had this little building where they locked you up and they slid your meals in through this slot in the wall. You were only supposed to go in, according to them, if you were a threat to yourself or others in the community. Want to know what I got sent in for?


Telling this woman I didn't trust her. This little pig faced woman shows up on a Saturday, she's some sort of big wig who hid out in her office most of the week because she didn't have any real training of any sort and didn't deal with clients. She shows up on a Saturday when we're supposed to be having our family day later that afternoon and says that if whoever busted the basketball doesn't confess, we're not going to have family day. Now my grandparents have flown in for this monthly thing. And she's up there acting high and mighty and this one girl, Erica, says, "Why should anyone tell you anything?" And the snout nosed woman goes crazy. She starts saying that she is someone everyone trusts and ask anyone in the room. No one in the room, no client anyway, even knows her.

So she turns to the boy sitting next to me and asks, "You trust me, right?" and he says, "Yes" real nervous like. Then she moves to me and asks me. I say, "Lady, I don't even know you."

"Take him to L.T.U.!" she screams. And they open the locked treatment unit just for me. I'm kept in all weekend because I said, "Lady, I don't even know you." I don't get to see my grandparents and, get this, snout nose tells them I got into a fight with another kid and that's why they had to put me into L.T.U.

Which ties into my big issue which is I didn't have a counselor to defend me at this point because I didn't have any counselor. I was there ten months and after I left the orientation team, I was put on the long term team. I had a counselor for two weeks. Then she quit or got fired. This happened over and over. I had four different counselors while I was on the long term team and there were weeks when my team had no counselor at all.

No one was overseeing our treatment. Sometimes the clinical director would step in with the assistant counselors who were just basic workers with no training. I'm not trying to insult them. Some of them were working their own recoveries and knew what was going on. Some of them were nice people. But some of them had no clue about anything. And the clinical director would pop in once a week on our two hour sessions that were supposed to be with our counselors. Monday through Friday, your group was supposed to have a two hour a day session with your counselor. You were also supposed to meet individually with your counselor once a week. But we had no counselor most of the time, so that never happened. But the clinical director would dash in once a week and hand out some packets for the next week to whichever assistant counselor was trying to run our group and then the clinical director would split.

You were supposed to have a licensed counselor overseeing your treatment. I went weeks with no one at all. How they got away with that, I don't know.

And then we'd get our new counselor and it would be like starting from scratch all over again as he or she tried to learn our issues and tailor a treatment program for us.

When I was put in L.T.U., I didn't have a counselor. There was an assistant counselor who was pretty fair but remember these guys weren't trained, they weren't licensed. They were hired off the street with no training. But this guy was pretty cool. He didn't baby anyone, but he was someone who called it like it was. And my grandparents trusted him so they stopped to ask him about me on Sunday because they stayed the weekend doing family therapy with my team -- without me. So they asked him if I was hurt or if I'd hurt the kid I was in a fight with. And he asks them when did I get into a fight? He says he knows nothing about this.

Then he comes over to the L.T.U. and tells me my grandparents brought me some stuff like shirts and some books and all. And he's asking me why I'm in L.T.U. I tell him because I told snout nose that I didn't know her. He's looking at me like, "Yeah, sure." And I'm looking through the glass as he pulls my chart out and opens it and starts reading.

He's closed the slot they slide your meals through so I'm not supposed to be able to hear what's going on. But I see him pick up the phone and I press my ear against that metal slot. He is ticked off and saying that there's no reason at all for me to be in the L.T.U. and asking the person on the other end to let me out.

When he gets off the phone, he slides the metal slot open and tells me that he just called and that no one's going to come out to do an assessment tonight but that if I will make sure I have my teeth brushed, I've taken my shower, I've eaten my breakfast, and done the basic requirements on Monday morning, I'll be out by eight a.m.

He turns on the radio and leaves the slot open which was nice of him because this is an isolation ward and you're not supposed to hear music or anything. I do what I'm supposed to and on Monday the clinical director comes in and speaks to me for about two minutes before he says I can have my clothes back and be discharged from L.T.U. I change from my scrubs and he's walking me back to my team when snout nose comes charging up and starts screaming that she hasn't given permission for me to be released.

I wanted to say, "Bitch, you locked me away for a whole weekend and made me miss visiting with my grandparents just because I said I didn't trust you!" But I know now that whoever she is, she's vindictive, so I just keep my mouth shut and listen as the clinical director tries to get her to calm down. She huffs off after cussing him out and then he takes me back to my team.

Everything there was based on your level. And if you went to L.T.U. you automatically dropped to 1.0 and had to work your way back up. You had to be at 3-point-something to make a phone call. So it took about two weeks before I could get back up to the level to make a phone call. Then I call my grandparents and try to explain to them what happened. But it took weeks to straighten it out. And they were really upset because they really thought that I got into a fight the morning they had flown all this way to see me. Snout nosed had told them I was irresponsible and that they needed to set some boundaries and suggested that they skip the next family day.

The whole thing was so petty and that's what I think the most damaging thing about it was. After I was finally discharged, I went back to the first Alumni Day because my grandparents really wanted them to know I'd stayed clean and sober. And I'm there and not a client so the staff feels like they can be more open with me now. And I'm asking about snout nose and trying to figure out what her qualifications are. She has none. She graduated high school. She married a friend of the family that owned the treatment center. She almost got fired at one point for cheating on her husband with a counselor at the treatment center, her husband and the counselor started exchanging blows right in front of clients. But she pleaded "sex addiction" and checked herself into a clinic for a four week stay and came out "cured." That's all she knew about addiction. But they gave that woman the power to say who went into L.T.U. and who didn't. I heard she got jumped by clients and beat up a few months after I left. That doesn't surprise me at all. She didn't follow any rules and probably pissed off the wrong person finally.

She sounds like a nightmare.

She was. And she's just the worst example. I mean, you had the nurses who were always acting like they were concerned when people's family was around. But the second family day was over, it was "don't bother me" over the radio. Like if you had a cut and needed a band aid, your a.c. [assistant counselor] would radio the nurses' station and say, "Hey, he needs a band aid." And you'd hear the nurse radio back, "Don't bother me." A girl could be having cramps from her period and want some Midol and they'd radio back, "Oh, she pulls that every month." Well, duh, she gets her period every month.

But when your parents or your guardians were around, they'd come up all smiles and maybe ruffle your hair and act like they were seeing you all the time and just so close to you. They were so phoney.

And cheap too. When you came back from a pass, you had to go the nurses station and you'd have to strip and then fill a cup with urine. Then a few days later, they'd call you in and say, "We got the test back. Why did you use?" The first time they did that on me, I was about to laugh out loud. I'd been with my grandparents the whole time except for an AA meeting that they dropped me off at and picked me up from. I didn't have any money on me and I didn't know anyone in this state. If I'd wanted to score, I couldn't have.

So we go back and forth for about ten minutes before the nurse says, "Oh, well, it must have been a mistake at the lab. Don't discuss this with anyone." After it happened the third time, I did discuss it with two guys on my team and they were being put through the same nonsense. We figured out real quick that they weren't sending the urine off to be tested or not all of it.
They were too cheap. And when word got out that I'd discussed this, I was busted down from 4.0 which was the highest level down to 1.0 and lost my phone calls and my outside trips and everything. They were just so full of shit.

So how did you demonstrate that you were ready to be released?

I didn't. I had my fourth counselor and he was talking to my grandparents about how it was time for me to go home. Then he quit or got fired. And no one brought it up again. I was there two more months. The insurance finally had run out and they wanted my grandparents to pay out of their pocket. They said they didn't think they could afford it but would see what they could do. Two days after that conversation, I'm told that I've successfully completed my treatment and am going to be discharged.

I think that center was a racket. They weren't treating anyone. Not even for cramps. They just took your guardian's money and when the money stopped coming in, they discharged you.

Are you "clean and sober" today?

I'm 21 and I'll drink every now and then. But I went in for pot and if you're asking if I've done pot since, no. But not because of the treatment center. I did pot because I was bored, I was always by myself at home and the only kids I knew were smoking it. It was something to do to pass the afternoon and evening instead of going home and wondering if this was a night my mother would come home or not.

There were people with serious addictions to things like cocaine and heroin and alcohol or meth or whatever. And I don't think any of those kids learned anything in treatment. This one guy who was on my team, I've stayed in contact with him through e-mail. He went right back into treatment a month after he got discharged but this time he went to a real treatment center and learned some things. He's still off and on with his recovery but he learned the tools to work his recovery if he wants to do that.

I think places like the one I was at just take people's money. They do a nice con job on your parents or guardians and then you're basically in day care the whole time you're there. They aren't giving you any tools. Like, I was in there for new year's eve, okay? Now an addict on new year's eve trying to work their recovery must be a hard thing. But they didn't use that opportunity. I mean, they didn't stage a clean and sober new year's eve so you could experience at least one where you were interacting with your peers without the use of drugs. They just treated it like any other night that you had to be in bed by nine-thirty. But when it was Superbowl time, they wheeled in the TV and you were expected to stay in this room watching the Superbowl until it was over. Then you broke back up into teams and went back to your living areas.

Most of the kids were stoners who couldn't care less about sports. I doubt many of them have watched a Superbowl since. I don't think that had anything to do with treatment. It was just that the Bible thumper family running the camp, and I call it a camp and not a treatment center, were big into football. New Year's Eve effects everyone. Whether you're alone or at a party with friends, you know it's New Year's Eve. They blew a big opportunity to educate by ignoring it but I guess it wasn't as important to them as the Superbowl.

Are your grandparents more positive than you about that treatment center?

At first they were. They knew there were problems but they were just glad that when I got back, I wasn't using. They didn't care if that was because of the treatment center or not, they were just happy. But then a man who knows my grandad had a daughter who was hooked on meth and my grandfather suggested the place to him. If you think my story is bad, you should hear their's. And the man says the place is the biggest con job in the world. He pulled his daughter out after one month and got her into a real treatment center. But, you know, most parents are freaking out and they care about their kid so they just want to get them help and get it for them right now. So they're not looking into this as carefully as they should. It's like, "Oh God, he's cut and bleeding, stop the bleeding!" I understand that. But since you're going to putting your trust in these people who will provide the only supervision your child will get, I really think they need to do a little more research before choosing a treatment center. You shouldn't be making this decision on some pamphlet that you see.

If I had a child with an addicition, I'd go straight to the nearest AA or NA or a similar meeting and ask people there to recommend a treatment center. I don't do a twelve step program but I have a lot of respect for the work those two groups do. There was this one girl on my team, and remember it was a long term team, who was in because she smoked pot once. She went home and told her parents because she felt guilty. They freaked and put her into that treatment center. If she'd lie and say, "I have an addiction to pot" she probably would have gotten out after six weeks instead she was there for seven months because she refused to lie and say she'd smoked pot more than once. Now if her parents had gone to talk to someone in NA or AA, they would have told the parents, "Look, you need to watch and make sure this isn't ongoing. But right now, she did a dumb thing and that's part of growing up so she doesn't need to go to a treatment center." But the treatment center I went to didn't tell the parents that. They told them that she was probably lying about her drug use. They did an admission with just her and then came out and told the parents, "It's a lot worse than she's told you. She's used coke and she's getting stoned several times a week." That never happened and she never said it did. They just wanted the parents money (and probably wanted a non-court ordered client because the bulk of them were court ordered).

So if your parent out there with a teenager with a problem or one you think might have a problem, you need to look into these things before you admit your child to one.

Music: Kat's Korner 2004 Going Down, 2005 Coming Up: Maria McKee, Live in Hamburg

Once again, we thank Kat and The Common Ills for letting us raid their site to cover music.
This was posted at The Common Ills December 30, 2004.

Kat's Korner 2004 Going Down, 2005 Coming Up: Maria McKee, Live in Hamburg

We're on the west coast.

Lost as usual. Maggie's insisting she be called something but no one's sure what because that half bottle of tequila she polished off all by herself is causing her words to slur. Whatever it is, whatever name or anagram, it's 'to honor the native people.' Iwan is rolling his eyes and still looks ticked off that she polished off the tequila. Sumner's going crazy digging around the dash board trying to fish out his tinted glasses before the sun starts it's slow, lazy crawl. Dak-Ho's cursing me for getting us lost and Toni's hissing that if she doesn't get food soon she will go into cardiac arrest.

It's not a pretty moment despite the fact that we're cruising through some of the prettiest stretch of land you could imagine. And we've got it all to ourselves, there's not another car in sight. But we're also coming off an all night partying jag and that well lit gas station, the only one we've seen in an hour, was closed. Dak-Ho is watching the needle like crazy and saying we won't make it to a gas station, so I guess it's good that I'm the one behind the wheel since despite the last 12 months, I still got a little hope left.

"YES!" Sumner squeals having found his dark glasses in time to beat the rising sun and apparently he now has the time to come to the aid of the driver just as four passengers are plotting her - my! - demise. He pops a CD into the player and for the moment the mobile insurgency comes to a halt.

Applause kicks out of the speakers. We're all ticking off possibilities. The Boss? Tori Amos? Sade? Ani DiFranco? Dave Matthews Band? A Prince bootleg? Something vintage? All these guesses and more are bursting out in a matter of seconds - can't be too many more than fifteen. Seconds or guesses.

Then the music comes on and Iwan is saying 'California surf!' but the vocal starts and Maggie swears, cross her heart, it's Grace Slick. There's something so familiar about the dark rumble of a voice but there's no way it's the one and only Slick.

Toni's flicking her lighter trying to see if Sumner has the case and Dak-Ho's doing that fake cough he does whenever he's afraid Toni's about to inflict secondhand smoke. The guitar player is going crazy on the bridge and the guitar's going out of tune.

"Perfection" sighs Maggie and I'm so on that page. In a world of plastic where even real artists feel the need to cheat a little by re-recording moments on a so called live recording this is real, this is reality and I'm flashing back on about a hundred concerts I've gone to in the last two years.

I miss the spoken segment before the second song until the woman mentions they are in Hamburg. I'm trying to identify her by her speaking voice and not really catching what she's saying. Then the voice started singing and it's like molasses pouring slowly out of a jar.

Been over this a hundred times
We’ve talked it till its blackened
It begins again and again there’s nothing we can say
My brain has derailed
My hands been nailed
To fall across my body like a death shroud
Your wound was plain like mine
No ragged edges
Well defined
We grew to war like a bloom reaching toward the light
It felt so brutal so transdermal
So alive
Felt so alive
Felt so alive

She just nailed my last three relationships and the one I may or may not still be in. I'm looking around and everyone's nodding so on this we have at least reached agreement.

We still may run out of gas, Toni's still hungry, Maggie's still drunk, Dak-Ho's still fearful someone will light up and Iwan could probably use a drink. Note for future road trips, don't put Maggie in charge of the booze. But Sumner's got that self-admiring smirk like he's just gotten China and Taiwan to agree to something. Considering the drama and tensions that have now vanished as we roll down the road, maybe Sumner should be proud?

We've got feedback streaming out of the speakers - this is a real concert. 'Holy merde!' Iwan yells out only in English - watching the language guidlines here, you understand - 'It's Maria McKee!' just as McKee's saying something about High Dive.

Soon we're all "Baaaa-ba-ba-ba-baaa"ing along with her on 'High Dive' and all lost in our own reflections of McKee.

Maria McKee. You couldn't grow up on the west coast without hearing that name. She never really crossed over to the rest of the country the way she did there. We grew up hearing about her before we were old enough to see her. She was Janis. She was Dolly. She was Aretha. She could tear your heart apart and put it back together in a single song.

The real deal. She fronted the last great California band for years - Lone Justice. They grabbed an opening slot on a U2 tour and came close to hit-land with their song 'Shelter.'

I am full of grand ideas
I've been perfected now for years
Large is life
With a purpose
Are we finally going to play again
Is it time
Been rehearsing five years
Still a way to go
We better cancel it
We planned waiting for a break
One can't rush into these things
And we believed our mothers hung the moon
We stayed asleep forgetting what we knew

She's singing every word with such meaning that even
before Sumner allows us to look at the CD case, we just know she's written every word. To sing it that way, you pretty much had to live it. Maybe that was her problem? She really lived it.

In the time when she was always supposed to be the next big thing, numerous product came along. For instance, we got the greeting card 'wisdoms' of Mariah who sang every song like it was the hit before. Mariah and the other gals, couldn't we just give them gold already for vocal gymnastics so that we could hear someone who knew singing was about conveying something? Slap their faces on a box of cereal, maybe give them a tampon or shampoo commercial and move them on out of the way so that we could enjoy the real deal?

Feed me, feed me baby.
Need you, need you, need you baby
Only you can make me human
Only you make me a woman
I know why you come baby
I know why you stay baby
I've got something you want baby
Tell me it's okay

The vocal's coming out slurred with desperation clinging to the words. "Have I told you that?" she practically pleads at one point before screaming it.

In 1995, Alanis Morissette burst onto the scene. Though her voice lacked the dark tones and the upper register McKee navigates, it was the closest the top forty ever came to recognizing the sort of work McKee had been doing for years. Flattening out a vocal line for effect & feeling before letting the passion pour out all over again.

Alanis was glorified and quickly crucified because, in this country, we apparently like our women docile and unquestioning. Certainly we recoil from a woman with passion, one who might actually shake things up in the bed and not just lie there waiting to be worshipped. What is it that so threatens us? You'd hope women would embrace this sort of power coming from one of their own. You'd think straight males would especially be thrilled by such a woman who knew what she was doing - but maybe that's the source of their darkest fears 'If she knows about passion maybe she'll guess I'm sub-standard?' Trust me, fellows, after the first time, everyone's comparing. Straight, gay, bi. Male, female.

McKee's blending her voice into some sort of hushed, hoarse whisper that's floating past our ears:

I'm barely touching my lips
The full weight of you on top of me sleeping
And when you wake
I'm awake

"Breathe" comes on and we're one loud, joyous scream as we rush to sing along.

I was scared when you came into my room
The walls became the sea, your voice was the moon
Oh when you rocked me in your arms
Like a song, a wave on the tide of you and
I will let you breathe through me
I will let you be with me

The best song on her first solo album. After Lone Justice kept chasing down the break that never came, McKee went solo. Some of the finest albums, some of the finest singing. But America's reaction was a collective yawn-shrug combo.

You've really got to hear this woman's voice to know how much you're missing. And she's going to the upper register now. She's graced us during the album with those notes that seem to soar to the heavens. But now she's working them. She's made us wait for them to be spotlighted in one song because they didn't fit the mood earlier. It can be maddening but it's an artist at work. Serving the song even if it means someone's saying, 'Hey where are those pretty notes she's famous for?' You've got to earn the right to hear them.

And when she holds out the 'I' in 'I will lay with you' you've been blessed. By the time 'Something Similar' comes on, we're all relaxed and grooving. She's fed us the high notes that are her trademark. Her range is still intact. She's worked us and made us pay attention to earn that glorious moment and we're all grinning. Dak-Ho doesn't even look irritated when Toni lights up.

We're collecting dust
Wearing out our socks
With our heads down the toilet
Stations of the cross
It's a simple thing
Nothing you'd remember
At this very minute
Someone, somewhere
Does something similar

And just when she goes into her fade of "We all are collecting dust,' the song kicks back in and we're all chair dancing again. By the time she comes back for the encore, we're all feeling like we were there at Kampnagel in Hamburg, Germany.

I like live CDs but it's rare that I feel like I've been at the show just by listening. Most of the time, there's this wall between you and the performance and you're just waiting for the songs you know. McKee puts you into that club. She doesn't trot out the hits to satisfy you ('Shelter,' 'Ways to BeWicked,' 'Show Me Heaven,' and assorted others are nowhere to be found). She gives you ten songs that she committs herself to. She's performing them, living them. And if that's good enough for you, if a little reality can float across the artificial sea that passes for music made by humans, then she wants you on this trip with her.

Just as she's singing

Life is sweet life is sweet life is sweet
And the days keep rollin’ along

I'm pulling into a gas station. We pump the gas, hit the vending machines and the restrooms. All in silence. We're blown away by McKee. That's what real music can do - its power, its beauty. There aren't many artists around who still believe in art, might interfere with the movie debut or their product tie in if they committed themselves to a recording so better to just dabble at recording. But when you stumble across a true one, it takes your breath away. In a year of disappointments, McKee comes along to give us all hope for 2005.

TV: Those Infotainment Shows of the Morning

A reader forwarded us this e-mail from Pete Sessions (it's not a private e-mail, he sent it out to all of his constituents who signed up apparently):

This week in Washington, George W. Bush was sworn in for his second term as President of the United States. This occasion, like each presidential inaugural, is an opportunity to celebrate our democracy and the principles of the Constitution. The tradition is over two hundred years old, but its magnitude and message are ageless. In this country, we elect our leaders and the transfer or continuation of power is peaceful. Even after a hard fought election like the last, on January 20 our nation unites behind its commander in chief.

Petey, read your Constitution, Bush is commander-in-chief of the military, not the nation.
That's basic government 101. Maybe all those breathless pants of "commander in chief" from Diane Sawyer confused you on this, but, as a member of the U.S. Congress, we know you have to know better. The same reader wondered if we could weigh in on Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Matt Lauer and the "hideous Early Show." Glad to.

Let's start with Diane Sawyer. The glossy blond, who looks mysteriously less wrinkled with each passing day (we won't say she looks younger, just ironed out), has rode her moment at 60 Minutes about as far as it will ever take her.

That "serious news" credit has long faded in the face of "gutsy" interviews like the infamous one with Whitney "Crack is Wack!" Houston. Did Diane sniffle back a tear or two this week as the industry was a titter that Katie Couric might be moving to the anchor chair at CBS Evening News? Did Diane realize that she herself would never reach that lofty perch?

In 1999, she agreed to fill in on Good Morning America and she's been trapped in infotainment hell ever since. She's adapted quite well to such non-news events as brow beating those uppity Dixie Chicks who actually thought that in a free country you could speak your mind! Those ingrates. With her whispered queries of "but our commander in chief" and "but our president" and the soft lighting and camera diffusing, viewers had to wonder who was this strange creature and where had Diane gone?

Poor Jessica Savitch, she broke down the wall for all the (now aging) golden gals of TV today. She may not have mastered the news (some think she didn't even understand most of what she reported), but she was smart enough to surround herself with people who had. The women of Golden Gals 101 have gone on to longer careers. Maybe Lesley Stahl's actually earned her perch. She certainly didn't marry into the D.C. beat like Andrea Mitchell (those blond highlights don't make you look younger, Andrea). And she hasn't gone off on the fluff circus the way Diane has.

But if Savitch hadn't imploded her own career, how much further would women be? Would she, and not the creepy and pompous Brian Williams, have been tapped to replace Tom Brokaw? Surrounded by a team of professionals, would she have continued to focus on news or gone the soft route of Diane?

Some are aghast at the thought of the eternally chipper Katie Couric getting an evening news slot but it's been a long dumbing down that's brought us to this point. And let's face it, of the morning anchors on the infotainment shows, none appears to work harder at being informed than Katie. With her clippings and glasses, she appears to have actually done work while her faded pretty boy co-host is consistent to play the blowhard.

If Jessica Savitch was the puppet that so many whisper she was, at least the people controlling her knew about news. Matt Lauer's people seem determined to turn him into our Rona Barrett of Latter Day Saints. Nothing matters to Matt as much booby -- that was the lesson we learned during last year's Superbowl flare up. Other than that Matty's hallmarks appear to be tracking the love life of Jennifer Lopez -- think of him as the Dian Fossey of the glam set -- and finding the time (repeatedly) to tell us how happy he is that he had some good news to report. When Lauer puffs out his chest and self-importantly intones, "It's not often that we get to you bring you good news" pay attention because the laughs are about to start a' coming!

Lauer's personal "good news" high in 2004 was when he got himself all worked up over the kidnapped co-ed. Interviewing her friends, Matt tried to pump them up into levels of excitement. Interviewing a police officer, he tried even more so. Damn it, there was good news to be had here and Matty was just the boy to bring it to you.

A reporter (which Lauer isn't) would probably have sensed right away that something was amiss by the reactions (low key at best) of the people he was interviewing. Not our Matty who kept pimping this good news story for all it was worth. But fate, like a "fact" in a Judith Miller story, can be quite slippery and by the next day we were all learning of the kidnapped co-ed that wasn't -- wasn't kidnapped.

Was Matty taken in? Was he the victim or just guilty of shoddy reporting? Where's the NBC investigative panel on that? Where's the outrage? We demand a head on a platter, preferably a bald head.

Over at The Early Show, they try to push their own version of Babe Watch, er Bay Watch. Actually, it's more like a plain (but culturally diverse) version of Charlie's Angels with Harry Smith playing the loveable, but dimwitted, Bosley.

Hannah Storm, having honed her craft in sports, may picture herself as the Farrah Fawcett of the bunch -- the active angel. She does everything but scratch her groin as she attempts to alternate solemn face with jocular. Rene Syler passes for the pretty angel (look at who she's up against) and is of interest only because each morning you wake up hoping this might be the day that someone manages to fix her hair. It never happens but there she is pretty face, bad hair. Which leaves Julie Chen to play the smart angel or at least the brainy one. She's not up to either task but a romance with the boss (and now marriage) certainly hasn't hurt Mrs. Leslie Moonves chances at airtime.

Speaking of conflicts of interest, aren't those officious news readers who give us two minutes of headlines at the top of each hour in conflict with whatever network tie-in that's being promoted?
Don't they distract us from the really important segments like learning how Freddie Prinze Jr. manages to maintain a career as well as a marriage to Sarah Michelle Geller? That's an amazing feat for the Prinze considering that he's yet to master acting. And can we really spare two minutes out of each hour at a time when each network has their own reality based series to promote? Isn't a reality based show in conflict with these non-reality based morning "news" programs?

We're longing for the day when one network exec channel flips on a lazy Saturday afternoon and discovers paid programming on over half the channels. "Paid programming! Hmmm."

No longer will Good Morning America, Today and The Early Show feel the need to even pretend to be about anything objective, let alone news. They'll just trumpet at the start that "the follow hour has been paid for by . . ." and off we'll go into the land of delights such as what does Jennifer Garner really think about Ben Affleck in that Daredevil costume? And is she just a major horn dog in real life or overcompensating for something she doesn't want people to know about? Alias is in season four, but her love life's quickly becoming the longest running soap opera around. (At least until J-Lo chooses to switch partners again.)

Picture it, you've got your morning coffee. You're sitting down on the couch in front of the tube and there you see Diane (with Charlie Gibson nodding off yet again in the background) exploring the post-Everybody Loves Raymond period with hacktress Patricia Heaton. Heaton will be assuring us that she's no Patricia Richardson (which would be correct, she lacks likeability) and that America's going to hear from her. Diane's eyes will mist over and not a doubt will be raised nor a commercial break taken. It's the perfect format switch for the morning "news" and we're honestly suprised that the networks haven't thought of it since they're already using each hour to hawk their own products and those of their subsidaries.

Synergy, schmnery! Infotainment has trumped news already, it's time for them to stamp out the last bits of reality from these programs.

Jury Duty Again! Well maybe not . . .

There's a certain grad student on campus who's referred to by most as a "professional student."
He's been in college for about a decade now. Time and again, when any sort of question arises, someone in a group will suggest, "Go ask, PS! He'll know! He knows all the loopholes."

When one of us got a summons the word got out that jury duty would soon be upon us. As the word wafted back to PS, he felt the need to impart some wisdom upon us.

"If they give you a questionaire to fill out, you need to write two words," he informed us as we all leaned forward on the edge of our seats. "Jury nullification."

It appears to work. We're not passing this on to suggest that you use it to avoid jury duty (do with it what you will), but we do think people need to know about a legal term (one whose reference frightens prosecutors so) that is very much a part of our past and present.

Readers of Howard Zinn will no doubt be familiar with the term. In Passionate Declarations, Zinn addresses the concept:

The Camden jury had exercised a right that judges never tell juries about: the right to come to a verdict following their conscience rather than the strict requirements of the law -- to choose justice over law.
That right of "jury nullification" goes back to the eighteenth-century Britain, when jurors, despite being fined and jailed, refused to convict two Englishmen for speaking to a street crowd
. . .
In America, the principle of jury nullification was affirmed in 1735 when John Peter Zenger, a New York printer who was charged with seditious libel for printing material not authorized by the British mayor, was acquitted by a jury that ignored the instructions of the judge. The jury followed the advice of the defense attorney to "see with their own eyes, to hear with their own ears and to make use of their consciences."
[from pages 137 to 138]

Doug Linder, professor of law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School, has written on the issue of jury nullification. He explains the concept as occuring:

when a jury returns a verdict of "Not Guilty" despite its belief that the defendant is guilty of the violation charged. The jury in effect nullifies a law that it believes is either immoral or wrongly applied to the defendant whose fate that are charged with deciding.

Linder also notes:

Juries clearly have the power to nullify; whether they also have the right to nullify is another question. Once a jury returns a verdict of "Not Guilty," that verdict cannot be questioned by any court and the "double jeopardy" clause of the Constitution prohibits a retrial on the same charge.
Early in our history, judges often informed jurors of their nullification right. For example, our first Chief Justice, John Jay, told jurors: "You have a right to take upon yourselves to judge [both the facts and law]." In 1805, one of the charges against Justice Samuel Chase in his impeachment trial was that he wrongly prevented an attorney from arguing to a jury that the law should not be followed.
Judicial acceptance of nullification began to wane, however, in the late 1800s. In 1895, in United States v Sparf, the U. S. Supreme Court voted 7 to 2 to uphold the conviction in a case in which the trial judge refused the defense attorney's request to let the jury know of their nullification power.
Courts recently have been reluctant to encourage jury nullification, and in fact have taken several steps to prevent it. In most jurisdictions, judges instruct jurors that it is their duty to apply the law as it is given to them, whether they agree with the law or not. Only in a handful of states are jurors told that they have the power to judge both the facts and the law of the case. Most judges also will prohibit attorneys from using their closing arguments to directly appeal to jurors to nullify the law.

Online searches of the term turned up many entries. Here's Sam Smith (no, we don't know who he is either) discussing the topic:

Merely raising the issue of nullification can make prosecutors nervous, for it takes only one person aware of the right in order to hang a jury. In Washington, DC, where the concept was discussed in connection with the Marion Barry trial, a local television station reported that the US Attorney was worried that a jury might nullify the law in that case. The joke in DC was that Barry was campaigning, but only for one vote, that of a single juror. The specific charges against Barry revolved around his use of drugs and a growing number of people are coming to accept the argument that drug use or addiction should not be a criminal offense. Further many DC residents were concerned about the prosecution's heavy-handed pursuit of the mayor. Despite the refusal of courts to inform juries of their right to nullify, American juries have periodically exercised it anyway. In recent years, some peace protesters have been acquitted despite strong evidence that they violated the law. In the 19th century northern juries would refuse to convict under the fugitive slave laws. And in 1735 journalist Peter Zenger, accused of seditious libel, was acquitted by a jury that ignored the court's instructions on the law.
Those who have endorsed the right of a jury to judge both the law and the facts include Chief Justice John Jay, Samuel Chase, Dean Roscoe Pound, Learned Hand and Oliver Wendell Holmes. According to the Yale Law Journal in 1964, during the first third of the 19th century judges did inform juries of the right, forcing lawyers to argue "the law -- its interpretation and validity -- to the jury." By the latter part of the century, however, judges and state law were increasingly moving against nullification. In 1895 the US Supreme Court upheld the principle but ruled that juries were not to be informed of it by defense attorneys, nor were judges required to tell them about it. Stephen Barkan, writing in Social Problems (October 1983), noted that the attacks on nullification stemmed in part from juries acquitting strike organizers and other labor activists. And in 1892 the American Bar Review warned that jurors had "developed agrarian tendencies of an alarming character."
Today, the constitutions of only two states -- Maryland and Indiana -- clearly declare the nullification right, although two others -- Georgia and Oregon -- refer to it obliquely. The informed jury movement would like all states to require that judges instruct juries on their power to serve, in effect, as the final legislature of the land concerning the law in a particular case.

To read up on the Camden case that Zinn mentions in the section we excerted at the start of this piece, Camden28 offers a good resource of articles (jury nullification is addressed in the article by Renee Winkler of the Courier-Post) .

While not endorsing the avoidance of serving on a jury, we'll use any hook to get you interested in history that might matter to you. (And, as a journalistic experiment, writing down an explanation of jury nullification to a question asking if "you believe in the rule of law" appears to be the thing that got one of us kicked off jury duty.)

Books: The poetry of Anne Sexton

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

That's Anne Sexton, from the first verse of the poem "Her Kind." (From the collection To Bedlman and Part Way Back, 1960.) Reading over The Common Ills entry "Books That Spoke to You" we enjoyed getting a look at the choices of other community members. And we realized that we hadn't even thought to note poetry in our arts section.

We got some positive feedback on the Jean Rhys' cutting we did last week. Confession time: we had about two paragraphs of text and were freaking out as Sunday morning was rolling around.
We i.m.ed CI for assistance and were asked why we didn't round it out with quotes. One for instance, followed by another quickly ended up resulting in a piece that many of you enjoyed.

The thought of writing an interpretation of poetry left us cold and, we feared, would leave you cold as well. Noting that Anne Sexton was mentioned many times in The Common Ills entry, and since one of us was familiar with her work due to a poetry survey class, we decided to make her the focus of this entry. We checked out various volumes and also asked CI to assist by submitting any favorite passages and would possibly Shirley be interested in noting a favorite passage since her list of six books contained four volumens of poetry (two of which were by Anne Sexton)?

With Shirley and CI's assistance, we were seven selectors on this entry. Hopefully, you'll find a passage that speaks to you, one that prompts you to look into the poetry of Anne Sexton. Or maybe you'll just read through this piece with the aim of becoming a little more "well rounded?"
With so little attention given to poetry (we're as guilty as most in this country) maybe the result will be that you'll be provided with a new way of looking at the world around you? Take from it what you can.

We are America.
We are the coffin fillers.
We are the grocers of death.
We pack them in crates like cauliflowers.
("The Firebombers," The Book of Folly, 1972.)

It was only important
to smile and hold still
to lie down beside him
and to rest awhile,
to be folded up together
as if we were silk,
to sink from the eyes of mother
and not to talk.
("The Moss of His Skin," To Bedlam and Part Way Back, 1960.)

Then all this became history.
Your hand found mine.
Life rushed to my fingers like a blood clot.
Oh, my carpenter,
the fingers are rebuilt.
They dance with yours.
They dance in the attic and in Vienna.
My hand is alive all over America.
Not even death will stop it,
death shedding her blood.
Nothing will stop it, for this is the kingdom
and the kingdom comes.
("The Touch," Love Poems, 1969.)

Let's face it, I have been momentary.
A luxury. A bright red sloop in the harbor.
My hair rising like smoke from the car window.
Littleneck clams out of season.

She is more than that. She is your have to have,
has grown you your practical your tropical growth.
This is not an experiment. She is all harmony.
She sees to oars and oarlocks for the dinghy,
("For My Lover, Returning To His Wife," Love Poems, 1969.)

Two years ago, Reservist,
you would have burned
your draft card or
else have gone A.W.O.L
But you stayed to serve
the Air Force. Your head churned
with bad solutions, carrying
your heart like a football
to the goal, your good heart
that never quite ceases
to know its wrong. From
Frisco you mae a phone call.
Next they manufactured you
into an Aero-medic
who plced together
shot off pieces
of men. Some were sent off
too dead to be sick.

But I wrote no diary
for that time then
and you say what you
do today is worse.
Today you unload the bodies of men
out at Travis Air Force
Base -- that curse --
no trees, a crater
surrounded by hills.
The Starlifter from
Vietnam, the multi-hearse
jets in. One hundred
come day by day
just forty-eight hours
after death, filled
sometimes with as
many as sixty coffins in array.
[. . .]

This is the stand
that the world took
with the enemy's children
and the enemy's gains.
You unload them slipping
in their rubber sacks
within an aluminum coffin --
those human remains,
always the head higher
than the ten little toes.
They are priority when
they are shipped back
with four months pay
and a burial allotment
that they enclose.

All considerations
for these human remains!
They must have an escort!
They are classified!
Never jettisoned in
emergencies from any planes.
Stay aboard! More important
now that they've died.
You say, "You're treated like
shit until you're killed."
("Eighteen Days Without You," Love Poems, 1969.)

This is madness
but a kind of hunger.
What are good are my questions
in this hierarchy of death
where the earth and the stones go
Dinn! Dinn! Dinn!
It is hardly a feast.
It is my stomach that makes me suffer.

Turn, my hungers!
For once make a deliberate decision.
There are brains that rot here
like black bananas.
Hearts have grown as flat as dinner plates.
Anne, Anne,
flee on your donkey,
flee this sad hotel,
ride out on some hairy beast,
gallop backward pressing
your buttocks to his withers,
sit to his clumsy gait somehow.
Ride out
any old way you please!
In this place everyone talks to his own mouth.
That's what it means to be crazy.
Those I loved best died of it --
the fool's disease.
("Flee On Your Donkey," Live or Die, 1966.)

I tapped my own head;
it was glass, an inverted bowl.
At first it was private.
Then it was more than myself;
it was you, or your house
or your kitchen.
And if you turn away
because there is no lesson here
I will hold my awkward bowl,
with all its cracked stars shining
like a complicated lie,
and fasten a new skin around it
as if I were dressing an orange
or a strange sun.
Not that it was beautiful,
but that I found some order there.
("For John, Who Begs Me Not To Enquire Further," To Bedlam and Part Way Back, 1960.)

The woman is bathing her heart.
It has been torn out of her
and because it is burnt
and as a last act
she is rinsing it off in the river
This is the death market.

where are your credentials?
("The Firebombers" -- again -- The Book of Folly, 1972.)

What I want to say, Linda,
is that there is nothing in your body that lies.
All that is new is telling the truth.
I'm here, that somebody else,
an old tree in the background.

stand still at your door,
sure of yourself, a white stone, a good stone --
as exceptional as laughter
you will strike fire,
that new thing!
("Little Girl, My String Bean, My Lovely Woman," Live or Die, 1966.)

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