Sunday, January 08, 2006

A note to our readers

First off, let's welcome Trina and her site Trina's Kitchen into the community.

Second, remember this:

Mon., Jan. 9 through Fri., Jan. 13
The Pacifica Radio Network is bringing you the Samuel Alito Senate Hearing for nomination to the United States Supreme Court live!
Verna Avery Brown teams with Mitch Jeserich from Free Speech Radio News and Pacifica National Affairs correspondent, Larry Bensky, to bring you the controversial nomination hearing of Samuel Alito for United States Supreme Court, live.
Anchors: Larry Bensky, KPFA; Verna Avery Brown, WPFW; Mitch Jesserich, FSRN.
The schedule of hearings includes a one hour pre-show on the opening day, and an half-hour wrap-up show each evening. Live analysts will join us in the booth and via telephone throughout the hearings.

That's being brought to you not by NPR but by Pacifica.

Interesting edition. We had to regroup for the editorial this evening. We knew going in that C.I. was on a very set schedule this weekend. So we addressed the focus of the edition early on, planned out every moment. Then, in the midst of working on the new edition, C.I. announces a lengthy break. To help a member set up a site.

We didn't know the member was Trina. That did change the opinion of some who turned into BMWs and whined that the plans were going out the window and "our time" was being robbed.
C.I. noted that the edition could continue, that everyone didn't have to go on the break but that this was something that needed doing.

After the fact, that was obvious. Hopefully, those who were opposed to the break (Jim and Rebecca) would feel the same way regardless of whether the member was Trina or someone else. (Trina is Mike's mother and someone we all know.) Is our new policy (shutting down the addition of other voices to working on the editions) overly restrictive? We'd wondered that ahead of time and hoped that wasn't the case; however, the reaction of some to a break (to help out a member) may raise questions.

A question that C.I. asked and that Jim found in the e-mails that have already come in is why is
Ty's feature not higher up in the rotation? C.I. had to bail when the spotlights were decided upon and being posted (to read The New York Times, members e-mails, write this morning's entry and take Ruth's entry over the phone). So readers who wondered shouldn't feel alone. Ava and C.I.'s TV review was done but if we put that any further down in the rotation than we did, readers would have complained. (Trust us.) There were points that were made but not added in some of the other features. We also wanted Trina to be fairly high in the rotation and C.I. had passed on notes for the book discussion and the roundtable to Jess to be transcribed.
(C.I. and Ava usually take down the discussions. C.I.'s short-hand is "specialized." Full words aren't used. There were some deciphering errors and this evening, C.I. and Jess fixed them.)
Ty's feature is a strong one. Readers who've e-mailed have praised it. We praise it too. Since it was written solely by Ty, and written ahead of time, it was the one feature ready to go. C.I.'s already said we should make it a highlight next week to make sure that it has two chances of being noted by casual visitors. (Which we will be doing.)

We got back together to do the editorial late this evening. If you're a reader who checks early, hopefully, the fact that "A note to our readers" wasn't up tipped you off that we were coming back. We wanted to be sure that everyone knew of Pacifica's live coverage so those remaining pulled together that PSA.

Ty did his feature by himself. Ava and C.I. did their review of The Book of Daniel by themselves.

All other features were composed by:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim;
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review;
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills);
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz;
and Wally of The Daily Jot.

In addition Trina participated in the book discussion.

So you've got Ty's feature, Ava & C.I.'s TV review, a PSA, a reply to some readers, a book discussion, an interview with Trina, an announcement roundtable, a commentary and an editorial.

Hopefully, you'll find something to make you laugh, make you think or get you motiviated.

-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial:Who broke the law?

AMY GOODMAN: In these last few minutes, Juan, I wanted to talk with you about the results of the New York City transit strike and the significance of the issue of pension that goes well beyond New York City in this largest transit system in the country and the workers in it.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah, for a lot of workers now around the country, this is becoming a major issue. Just reported in The New York Times today on the front page that I.B.M., which runs one of the largest private pension systems in the country, it will stop participation by its employees or will not continue to contribute into its pension fund. It won't eliminate the pension fund, but it's basically phasing its pension fund out in favor of a defined contribution or a 401(k) plan for its employees. And across the country, we're seeing local governments, as well as private companies, saying, 'We cannot deal with the escalating costs of these pension funds.' I've been doing a little bit of investigation over the past few weeks as a result of the transit strike and, by the way, the transit workers were able to stem the attempts to erode their pension system.

Investigative reporting? Can't Juan Gonzalez 'get with the program' and just fluff like everyone else? Doesn't he grasp that no one's interested in labor?

Well, the mainstream media isn't. You saw that in the constant attacks on the strikers. You saw that in the repeated cries of 'They are breaking the law!' Outside of your independent media, did you hear anyone point out that the MTA broke the law?

They did. During the strike, if you watched Democracy Now!, Juan Gonzalez explained it in "NYC Transit Strike Enters Third Day: Negotiations Resume, Threats to Workers Heat Up, Public Support Remains High"

Yes, the Taylor Law does forbid public employees from striking, but it also forbids an employer, any government agency, from attempting to force pension changes onto a union contract. Pension changes are made by the state legislature only, not through the collective bargaining process. Although unions often do agree to go with an employer to petition for pension changes, they are not legally part of any collective bargaining process. And that's what Toussaint kept saying when he said that the proposed -- the demands of the MTA were illegal demands.

So it's surprising that the strikers were portrayed as law breakers during the strike while the mainstream media took a pass on exploring the law breaking of the MTA. What's especially pathetic is that last week, with the strike over, The New York Times still can't raise that issue( "Pension Demand Was an Error, Chairman of M.T.A. Concedes" by Sewell Chan and Steve Greenhouse). They can report that Peter Kalikow calls the pension demand "an error," they just don't have the stomach to call it what it was: breaking the law.

Throughout the strike, the reporting in the paper of record was slightly better than the heated editorials bashing the workers. This wasn't "even handed." Even leaving out the fact that a law broken on both sides (and broken first by the MTA) was reduced to "STRIKERS BREAK LAW!"
type nonsense, there was no attempt at balance.

This was yellow journalism. In another time, William Randolph Hearst might have practiced it in blunter terms, but that that's what we saw. Even after the strike, the paper of record reduced the breaking of the law to "an error." During the strike, the editorials attempted to shame the strikers while never noting the paper's own recent pension problems.

Juan Gonzalez, also a columnist for The New York Daily News, is one of the few journalists at a paper who will cover the labor movement. Let's hope he never "gets with the program." (And we can't imagine that he ever would.) But, in noting the way that the mainstream media covered this issue, let's note an issue we've touched on in roundtables but never editorialized on: the lack of a labor beat at your print institutions.

Flip to a paper and you'll find the news (or "news") section, the sports section, the arts section and the business section, day after day. The business section focuses on the stock market, trophy wives who've made the decision to stop working (which is promoted as a trend and possibly is . . . for those couples raking in the millions) and gentle slaps on the wrists of various greedy CEOs. To focus on The New York Times, they're happy to provide other sections once a week, such as their Science section. They just don't seem to think that labor merits even once a week coverage.

In terms of television, Danny Schechter, among others, has long pointed out that PBS features various shows that track investments and address the stock market, they just never feel the need to provide a Worker's Report. When so-called public television can't be bothered with the labor beat, it's really not surprising that the wanna be tastemakers at The New York Times can't be bothered.

But it's still sad. It's also bad journalism because when someone reads a paper or watches a news program, they may be under the mistaken impression that they are being informed. How can you be informed when the mainstream media fails to cover something?

The attacks on pensions and unions have been ongoing for years. News consumers dependent upon the mainstream media may be in the dark in that. If they are, it's because their outlets of choice aren't covering it.

PBS (and NPR) regularly brag of their "upscale" market. Possibly the sweat and struggle of so many millions of Americans might mar the illusion being built? The pension issue didn't result from workers, it resulted from employers who didn't want to contribute their share. The business model is seriously flawed and, by not confronting that, it's only become more flawed. The Bully Boy "base" seems determined to destroy everything the labor movement won over years and years of struggle. But the Bully Boy just got installed at the right moment.

With the issue of minimum wage being a non-issue on the national level, it's been left for states and municipalities to address it. With the issue of the labor beat, it's been left to the independent media to cover it. Pay attention to both developments, even if you think it doesn't impact your life, because it is news -- despite major media's indifference to addressing the issue of labor.

[This editorial was written by The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz; and Wally of The Daily Jot.]

Pacifica Radio Networks will broadcast the Samuel Alito Senate Hearings LIVE!

Mon., Jan. 9 through Fri., Jan. 13
The Pacifica Radio Network is bringing you the Samuel Alito Senate Hearing for nomination to the United States Supreme Court live!
Verna Avery Brown teams with Mitch Jeserich from Free Speech Radio News and Pacifica National Affairs correspondent, Larry Bensky, to bring you the controversial nomination hearing of Samuel Alito for United States Supreme Court, live.
Anchors: Larry Bensky, KPFA; Verna Avery Brown, WPFW; Mitch Jesserich, FSRN.The schedule of hearings includes a one hour pre-show on the opening day, and an half-hour wrap-up show each evening. Live analysts will join us in the booth and via telephone throughout the hearings.

C.I.'s comments: Pacifica will be bringing you live coverage (as they did during the Roberts' confirmation hearings). That's great if you live in an area Pacifica broadcasts in, right? Well, online access permitting, many people live in areas where Pacifica broadcasts because they provide live webcasts (as well as archived ones). This isn't Renee and Steve yucking it up with Cokie on NPR Monday where maybe you'll get a (canned) story about the hearings that day. This is live coverage. No cutting to "cute" stories about a fisherman who . . . (fill in the anecdote, NPR loves their "cute" fisherman stories). So this starts Monday (unless the hearings are postponed for some reason). You can listen via webcast, live streaming (which you can use any day of the week, at any hour, to listen to Pacifica programming, live or archived programming).

That means that Law & Disorder will not broadcast on WBAI this Monday. SEE CORRECTION BELOW. However, (swiping again from C.I.):

Ty passed on that Law & Disorder is now a weekly program (as Ruth wondered recently). On Pacifica's WBAI it airs every Monday. It also airs in additional markets and those can be found by visiting the Law & Disorder home page.

Law & Disorder did broadcast Monday, January 9th. From The Common Ills:

Ruth noted in a phone call that Law & Disorder did air today, directly before Pacifica began their live coverage of the Alito hearings. If you missed it on WBAI today, you can hear the program online at Law & Disorder and the show also broadcasts at other times on other radio stations (you can find that information at their website).
Ruth passed on that Session II of the International Commission of Inquiry On Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration will take place next week.Friday and Saturday, events will take place at The Riverside Church (NYC on all events, sorry). Friday, at NYC's Riverside Church, events will begin at 5:00 pm; Saturday, also at Riverside Church, events will begin at 10:00 am. On Sunday, the location changes to the law school at Columbia University and begins at 1:00 pm. Information on these events as well text, audio and video highlights from the first session (held last October) can be found online at Bush Commission.
Those interested in the McCain amendment and the Graham amendment should make a point to listen to this week's broadcast of Law & Disorder.

Commentary: Gatekeepers come crawling when the left gets motivated

As we listened to RadioNation with Laura Flanders Saturday, we heard one caller speak of how hard it was for anything to gain traction. He noted the Downing Street Memos but was also referring to a large number of scandals afflicting the Bully Boy and the current administration. He was depressed by the events.

We've all been there. Sometimes, you're just in need of someone pointing out some positives. Sometimes, you just need to get it out and just want to know that you were heard -- you're not looking for reassurances. Again, we've all been there.

The fact that no one's yellow taped off the current crime scene that is the White House can be surprising. In the 90s, Bill Clinton belched and Republicans were screaming for (and getting) an independent investigation. Bully Boy 'fixes' intel; misleads in the State of the Union address (2003); heads an administration that outed a CIA agent; announces that he can pick and choose which Congressional legislation to follow; and he circumvents the FISA courts, the law and the Constitution by spying on American citizens without warrants. That the response to all or any of that isn't Congress immediately bringing charges of impeachment is rather sad.

So if you're someone that feels like the caller and just needed to get it off your chest, stop reading here and know that we do understand where you're coming from.

But if you're someone needing some reassurance, keep reading.

In the Age of Bill Clinton, everything was a scandal. That's because the media system was rigged to lean right-ward. That rigging didn't come overnight. Nixon laid strong groundwork (and there were others before Nixon). If you want to talk about lack of traction, look at the Iran-Contra scandal which found Poppy pardoning people in his final moments in office, people who, if they testified under oath, might implicate him. Or think about how Ollie North, who circumvented the Constitution, has been propped up by many a lazy mainstream media as a "hero."

Reagan walked away from the White House without charges. And in 2004, you saw the mainstream media still unwilling to explore the darker days of Smells-a-lot. Latin America? Not going to touch it. Iran-Contra? "He's dead! Leave him be!" the coverage seemed to say.
The coverage was so idolatrous and so incessant, that we honestly wondered if they were expecting Reagan to rise on the seventh day?

Everyone gets dumbed down by the process. Take Baby Cries A Lot who had a snit fit when Greg Palast attempted to raise serious issues about the Reagan presidency. Maybe he was worried about "tone"?

The Baby Cries A Lot crowd spent most of the nineties playing patty cakes with the right (and tearing up a lot or pretending to cry). They just didn't fight back. That's why the media is slanted rightward. If a Democrat had done what Bully Boy has, Time and/or Newsweek would have already featured him on the cover, with prison bars superimposed, and a fiery headline.

But if you pick any topic, you'll see that there is cause for hope. No, not just Tom DeLay's spate of "problems." Downing Street Memos, "yellowcake," outing Valerie Plame . . . none of that's gone away. The public's aware of it. We talk about it.

That's hopeful. The mainstream media ignored DSM and then attempted to mock it. If we were where we were ten years ago, they would have gotten away with being the gatekeepers/taste makers they're so used to being.

Instead you've got websites. You've got Laura Flanders. You've got Democracy Now! and had it ten years ago but a lot less people knew of it. The Nation and The Progressive were around then as well but didn't have the reach they do now. These resources get the word out. They're very important and you should try to get the word out on them and Consortium News and all the other resources and voices that speak to you. You can look into Danny Schechter and's Tell The Truth Movement and find a way to make a difference.

Change is coming, but you may not notice it. We participate in protests in rallies. We know that they're part of raising awareness. We think they've done that.

But maybe we could start working on raising awareness about the things that hurt the left's messages?

Like, in the 80s, the gasbags from The New Republican (some had moved on to the right-wing Weekly Standard, some were soon to move on) presenting themselves as left and taking up the slots that, as Kat noted, should have gone to people on the left, not people pretending to be.
(Hello, Fred Barnes!) Is New Rag Petey really concerned about labor from the labor perspective? No. Katrina vanden Heuvel should be given the seat for the left on any chat show over Petey.

Do we need to raise awareness? We think so.

Take the abortion issue. The mainstream media tries to play it as a left v. right issue. If you're left, you support abortion, if you're right, you don't. Well, if that's the case, the country is left. The country supports abortion rights. But when the system tilts rightward, left isn't measured by a left position, but by whether it's to the left of the right. The right becomes the anchor and everything else just floats around it. Which is how right-leaners and centrists end up on TV and radio posing as left and taking up the seats that belong to Matthew Rothschilds and Naomi Klein's.

We're seeing the growing awareness that's making people, who stopped speaking out, start back up again and people, who would never take part in a protest, feel compelled by events to do so.

Part of this growing awareness is noting how the right wing echo chamber and their tyranny of the few dominate the information flow. We've seen a lazy (and worse) mainstream media adopt the terms handed down by the right and the right-leaning. The fact that Dave Zirin and others stood up to The New Rag and their attacks on Arundhati Roy is impressive. Many people never did. Quite a few still don't. Go around the net to various left sites (genuninely left) and you'll see links to The New Rag.

We assume that's due to a lack of awareness about the rag. Although it might also be done out of hope of mutual link-off, we don't know. We do know it's disgusting and one of the things that the left should be thinking through in 2006.

So in 2006, one thing we can focus on is getting real. That means realizing that there's nothing to be gained from promoting The New Rag. That means realizing that though CJR Daily (now The Audit!) loves Uncle Marty, the reality is that Uncle Marty was active in promoting the current invasion. As the rag continues to struggle for readers, there's really no point in propping it up. Murray Waas and others witnessed the decay of that magazine.

Playing nice with The New Rag is akin to inviting someone to mug you. That's what they do. They clobber you over the head and stab you in the back before running off with your purse or wallet. Take the DLC, who could be dubbed Dean Haters after their treatment of Howard Dean, but who would dub them Bush Haters? They reserved their hatred and their clucking for Dean. Just as The New Rag wouldn't have dared suggested the violence they recommended for Arundhati Roy be done to the Bully Boy.

As "friends," they're the first to tell you that you've gained weight and then stiff you with the tab for lunch. That's not friendship. And when the anti-Arab, pro-war, pro-Bully Boy (Marty endorsed Bully Boy in 2004) New Rag is struggling, you don't invite them out to lunch. You avert your eyes and walk on by.

Here's something else you don't do. You don't spend countless time pointing out the problems of The New Rag and how they enabled Bully Boy in 2000 only to turn around and prop them up. But you saw Bob Somerby do that last week. And to endorse the "tone" talk The New Rag always pushes. It's the same "tone" talk, if Somerby's forgotten, that led to people shying away from calling Bully Boy (or the press) onto the carpet in 2000. It's the same "tone" talk that people once used against Bob Somerby -- they just didn't like his tone. As a once powerful writer enters his The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone period, he repeatedly embarrasses himself. By taking on the "tone" argument, he appears determined to bury his own past work.

Somerby may have been feeling a little long in the tooth or maybe it's the not uncommon tendency on the part of some males to become more conservative as middle age is receeding faster than their hairlines. (Rebecca and C.I. claim credit for that line.) As C.I. noted in a still unposted entry at The Common Ills, Somerby can claim some credit in birthing a movement. Now he wants to kill the offspring?

We don't take Somerby's writing seriously anymore. For reasons that are well known. But it's still shocking that he, of all people, would get behind a "tone" argument having been clobbered over the head with the "tone" argument in his glory days.

Hopefully, Somerby's so ripped apart his own writing (and glory) that no one will take his endorsement of "tone" anymore seriously than they would another attack by him on Joseph Wilson.

But the "tone" argument is a problem. People don't like what you said or the way you said it. It's called gatekeeping. The New Rag and George Packer have been full of insults about The Nation's "tone." They've derided the magazine for being opposed to the war. "That's not the right 'tone.'" It's not tone, it's gatekeeping.

They want to shush the voices that kept the stories alive, the ones the mainstream media didn't want to cover. It's an elitist way of thinking that there's one way to speak and only one way; that there's one way to reach people and only one way; that everyone responds to the same message, worded the same way, in the same manner. It's nothing but gatekeeping. They can call it "tone" but it's an attempt to silence people who've grown weary of press like The New York Timid which could tar Al Gore as a liar but not use the term towards the Bully Boy.

So here's where we are. The country is awake. There are so many possibilities springing up. There are people reconnecting to their own lives and wanting to have their say. Along come the gatekeepers to say, "We will only speak in this manner." It's a fear based approach because the rigged system could be effected. We're not naive enough to believe it could come tumbling down.

We do know that gatekeepers in the past have allowed reality to be muddied. You can see it with the factual interpretation of the Civil War. It's nothing new. You can see it with the way a struggling paper became the nation's paper with a little fine tuning and funding from Wall Street.
2006 is a moment.

Once in awhile
In a big blue moon
There comes a night like
Like some surrealist
Invented this
4th of July
Night ride home
-- "Night Ride Home" words & music Joni Mitchell

We can take the wheel in 2006 or we can listen to the clucking from the clutch-the-pearls set and once again abdicate our power. We hope the left wants to steer. If we give it up to the "tone" argument, we're betraying all the work that's been done.

When things get really hot, the gatekeepers like to trot out "for the good of the nation." For the good of the nation, Reagan shouldn't be impeached. For the good of the nation, we should say Gerald Ford exhibited statesmanship by pardoning Nixon. For the good of the nation, we shouldn't discuss Vietnam.

Too often, the left has fallen for that trap. That's why you've got generations since Vietnam who've grown up believing right-wing fantasies about that war. (Including, but not limited to, that the press did the war in, that we could have "won" . . .) The right doesn't worry about tone. They go on churning out their Clinton Chronicles and other nonsense that far exceeds anything the left could get behind if they wanted to. People like Bob Somerby once rightly raged against the various kooks and freaks claiming the Clintons were murderers (and worse) on national TV. Now they want to worry about Atrios' "tone"?

There's work to be done and fretting over "tone" should be left to the DLC and others not of the left. A movement's being created and a bad author with weak sales working for The New Rag (and frequently freelancing for The New York Times, as C.I.'s pointed out before) wants to push a "tone" argument. That's nothing more than an attempt to silence voices. He'll probably be well rewarded for that nonsense by the mainstream media. But the left shouldn't fall into that. With all that's going on in this country and the world, this isn't a time to be genteel or stop discussing the issues, in your own voices, that matter.

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
-- MLK, Riverside Church in NYC on April 4, 1967

Dear Third Estate Sunday Review

Ty spent a lot of time in the e-mails this week for which we thank him. He ran across a number of e-mails that needed a reply. We'll provide that in this feature.

Brainhell (her/his parents must have hated her/him!) felt the need to write not once, but twice both on the same day (the 18th of December).

First, Brainhell wrote to inform us of something:

Journalism is sometimes referred to as the FourthEstate, the first three being Congress, theexecuctive, and the courts. Not sure why you namedyour blog "Third Estate..." Maybe I am missing thepoint or the joke.

While that was an "interesting" e-mail (Brainhell is short on facts), s/he then received the automated reply that goes out to everyone that e-mails and it was apparently too much for the poor soul:

I thinkit's really funny that you're self-importantenough to have an auto-reply email to comments on ablog whose title broadcasts your ignorance! Hoo!

Brainhell, now should those that have so much difficulty finding their space bar on the keyboard really toss stones? No. No.

As for ignorance, cut yourself off a slice because you've earned it. As with most of the big whineys, the world is the world immediately around them. That may mean, for instance, that if they're White, everyone else must be White as well. In Brainhell's case, that must mean that if there are "estates" in the United States, that must be why we picked our name and, according to Brainhell, picked it wrong.

Silly, provincial Brainhell, not everything revolves around the US. Had you gone to the entry from our first edition (use the archives), you would have found "Welcome to the Third Estate."
Let's note the opening paragraph of that article:

The "Third Estate" refers to the French National Assembly and how members from the Third Estate were seated on the left with members of the First Estate sitting on the right. From this, we get our terms for "left wing" and "right wing." The Third Estate Sunday Review is left wing.

Is that clear enough for you? We could ask Isaiah to draw you a picture if it isn't. But we really don't have time for additional tutoring. We understand that many libraries offer literacy programs. Oh, wait. Libraries. Okay, it's the building where they house books, documents, periodicals . . . Periodicals. Okay, they are magazines and journals. No, not diaries. Brainhell, we really can't help you. You need someone who can provide the remedial skills that you are sorely lacking in. We wish you all the best though we fear you'll have trouble grasping that as well. Hoo! back at you.

A writes about several things but it reads like "blah blah blah" until the P.S. which we'll note here:

P.S. A beta reader would not be a bad idea in your line of business.

A, what line of business would that be? We're not in any online business. We don't accept ads. We don't whore ourselves out to the chat shows. We're failing to see what line of business you think we're in. But before suggesting products (perhaps you sell beta readers?) you might want to study your e-mail and notice your own usage. Probably not a good idea to lecture someone in a p.s. when you've struggled with the use of the article "an" throughout your e-mail. (And lost.) If we're ever in the market for a beta reader, we'll look you up.

We wonder if A also e-mailed The New York Times which had three printing errors this week on the front page? Obsessive A apparently isn't happy selling her wares and wishes to branch out from beta reader to spell checker. There's no position open here, A. Should you find one, you might want to grasp that some words, such as "colour," are neither typos nor mistakes but alternate spellings used for flavor. ("Colour," for instance, is the British spelling for what you know as "color.") You might also grasp that when you're disputing a word's usage, probably a good idea to check the context of the sentence. Elaine, for instance, using a psych term isn't necessarily going to be the same as a definition in whatever general use book you're pulling down from your own shelves.

Ironically enough, we make frequent typos. A wasn't able to stumble upon any of those which is actually more frightening than the fact that she thought she had. These are all night sessions. This isn't a "business." We adopt the Mamas and the Papas attitude of being professional when possible but never being a "professional." (A's thumbing through her Webster's in a panic on that one.) Whomever is doing the last draft may alter part of a sentence in a hurry and not realize that more should have changed. Or after we pass the twelve hour mark of staring at copy, we may miss a typo that stands out to others. Guess what? We don't give a damn. We pour everything we have into making this the best it can be and then we move onto next week.

Something that the Moronic Mars racists are unable to do.

Tammi claims that she is a feminist and a fan of the website that suffers from "War Got Your Tongue?" which may explain why she's confused about the term "feminism." Let us help you out, Tammi, we know of no feminist who would slam African-Americans with the n-word. You, however, do so frequently. Maybe your preferred website failed you? Someone did because racism isn't a part of feminism.

Maybe we could introduce you to Katey who wondered, "What's wrong with a girl being a girl? Girls don't like to hang around other girls. When I was in high school, I didn't. Veronica Mars reflects life."

Katey, it certainly reflects something. As you Queen Bee it and find comfort in Veronica Mars, we're wondering if you don't think there's something a bit sad about a self-described "33 year-old" "devoted" to a TV show about teenagers? We kind of do. Your 52K e-mail on the glories of Veronica Mars strikes us as excessive. Point 43 stood out:

43) Lots of girls lie about rape. I'd bet that 98% of all the rapes weren't even rapes. They were just girls who couldn't deal with sex.

Possibly this 'enlightened' attitude explains why a thirty-three year-old woman is obsessed with a TV show about teenagers?

Apologies to our regular readers, some of whom have worked out some excellent gag e-mails from Bully Boy and Condi. We'll try to note those before the end of the month; however, Ty had to wait through this and other nonsense all week. Whose worse, Republican lobbyists (who still haven't forgiven us over an editorial on John Roberts -- people, he got confirmed, you can stop being so upset about our editorial) or Moronic Mars fans? Moronic Mars fans. None of the Roberts' supporters use the n-word in their e-mails.

TV Review: Look over The Book of Daniel

NBC, Friday nights, for how ever long the show lasts, The Book of Daniel is must-see-TV.

We hadn't intended to review the show based upon the first airing. However, despite huge praise from people involved with the show (self-praise?), we were still impressed with what we saw on TV. For those who feel that we never like anything (which is incorrect, we've had praise for Medium, Everybody Loves Chris and Living With Fran), stick this into your once-in-a-blue-moon files.

What's to like about the show? Let's start with the look. There's actual thought going into framing the shots. That's very rare in TV. (The fast pace doesn't allow for a great deal of thinking, generally speaking.)

The 'talks with Jesus' (Daniel sees and speaks with Jesus throughout) may get old after a few episodes (the way voice overs tend to) but, should that happen, there's enough going on that you can overlook those moments. We were told that Aiden Quinn, Ellen Burstyn and Christian Campbell were delivering amazing performances . . . and they are. (Admit it, you thought we were going to say ". . . and then we watched.") Although they are clearly the standouts, strong work was done by all.

Let's deal with what's put the 'vangical voters's panties in a wad upfront. Daniel's daughter is doing community service for selling drugs, his oldest son (Campbell) is gay, Daniel's popping pills . . . Go down the list. We're at a disadvantage because we know people who are Jewish, Catholic, Baptist (even Southern Baptist), Methodist, Lutheran, Church of Christ . . . but we couldn't think of any close friends who were Episcopalian. And since, like the main section of
The New York Times, we confine our "research" (for these reviews) to phone calls, we were at a loss. So we can't claim to evaluate how that religion is reflected onscreen.

We're not sure that the 'vangicals can either. A number of the heated e-mails being generated by them note things that aren't happening on the show. (Not tonight, not ever.) Which reminds one of us of the leaflets circulated in the seventies about Soap right before ABC started airing it.

Could it offend? We're sure it will. We're sure that has little to do with religion.

If you prefer that your hour shows present you with "life lessons," you won't like this show. Park your butts in front of the TV on Monday nights and enjoy that last season of Seventh Heaven because The Book of Daniel is not for you. But if you expect, as most people do, conflict in your dramas, you've got it in this show.

A lot of the e-mails generated by the 'vangicals are bothered that the characters aren't "nice." The characters are complex and that must scare the 'vangicals who've had four years of the Bully Boy telling them the most simple of lies. "They hate us for our freedoms." "You're either with us or against us." "I will continue to protect the American people."

For those who found easy comfort in those easy slogans, The Book of Daniel must be scary as hell -- literally. The devil doesn't have horns, he has a brain! (Which some believe is backed up in the narrative of Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge.) If you're one of those types, this isn't the show for you. These are complex characters and complex storylines. The simple minded will probably be out of their depth trying to keep up.

They're the types that think Oedipus Rex is smut and that someone should put a pair of pants on The David. They're threatened by complexities and bask in their ignorance about the basics with regards to drama. ("They" include some in the entertainment industry who are hoping to score a little right-wing cred by attacking the show and lifting their careers out of the toilet. That truly would be a miracle.)

Or if they don't think that way, they work real hard to make others think they do before getting busted for allegedly propositioning a police officer who is of their same gender.

But if you're not trembling in the closet over some deep dark secret (or if you are but can draw the distinction between TV and reality), this is a show you should check out. The cast already clicks onscreen (and it's a very large cast). There's an energy coming off the screen that NBC hasn't had in a drama since ER first debuted. Aidan Quinn has never been better and, those familiar with Quinn's work know, that's high praise. Ellen Burstyn's never embarrassed herself on the small screen but she's never really found the role in a TV show that allowed her to demonstrate the kind of range that The Book of Daniel already is providing her with. If the show's given a fair shot, get used to yearly acceptance speeches from Burstyn at the various awards shows.

Are there problems? Yes. Christian Campbell's hair needs to grow out considerably or he needs to get it cut. Hopefully, that will be taken care of soon. We're dealing with a predominately White cast. It would be nice to see that addressed. Anything else?

Not really at present. This is a show that's could be the "water cooler" show of the year. If that happens, it will be deserving of the attention the way The Sopranos was in its first years. This really is quality television and for our readers who are home on Friday nights, get the kids to bed and enjoy this show. We haven't even seen anything that would bother children. (There was a kissing scene with a shirtless Ivan Shaw and the word "bitch" was used at a funeral by a widow.) But you really want this hour to yourself. If you're on the couch with someone, tell them to hold whatever it is until the commercial because the show's involving.

The level of acting on this show is higher than many viewers may be used to have been weaned on the non-stop questioning of too many bad TV crime shows. Ted Tally stumbled upon a wonderful device -- using the question as the transition -- with The Silence of the Lambs. He didn't copyright that device but a number of really bad writers continue to copy it (and use it to poor effect). But the acting, the writing, everything making it to the screen with this show is working.

Hopefully NBC won't go running from it due to pressure from the 'vangicals. NBC has already attempted to woo them (with Three Wishes) and that didn't work out. They shouldn't make burying The Book of Daniel another effort at courtship.

3 Books, 5 Minutes

Jim: Book discussion time. And participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and me; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz; and Wally of The Daily Jot. Plus, joining us to discuss the first book is Trina. Trina's Mike's mother and she's also just started the newest site in the community, Trina's Kitchen. Last week, we had hoped to have a book discussion but time ran out. One of the books we'd wanted to discuss was a book by Francis Moore Lappe but with C.I. operating from out of town this weekend and the rest of us utilizing the library we wouldn't be able to provide an excerpt. Hopefully, we'll pick that book up at a later date but what we can do is discuss Frances Moore Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet. Trina, why don't you provide some information on the book?

Trina: This is landmark book that stays in print and that's a goal most authors of cook books probably have but few achieve. The recipes in the book are strong enough to keep it in print; however, there's also what I consider a reporting section where Frances Moore Lappe addresses issues that are now more accepted but were shocking to some at the time. The combination makes the book a very important one.

Jess: Well said. I'll note first off that for this book, you'll hear from a limited number of us because it wasn't on our reading lists this weekend. Besides Trina, Elaine, Rebecca, Kat, C.I. and I have read it. One thing that surprised me when Mike and I would talk was that, when food came up, we actually had a lot in common. I am a vegetarian. And we were raised that way in my family. Mike goes to bed dreaming about hamburgers.

Mike: True!

Jess: And yet we like a lot of the same food. That's because this book was used by both of our families. The recipes in this are ones for great food. It's not flavorless food.

Trina: That's correct. If I had said, even before Mike was born, "Gather round the table everyone for our vegetarian dinner," I think the table would have been empty. There's nothing wrong with steamed vegetables but this isn't a book about how to steam vegetables. These are recipes that produce very tasty dishes.

Jess: And there are some great recipes for breads.

Trina: There are. Those take a bit more work because you have to allow the yeast to rise but there are breads, there are soups, there are desserts.

Kat: And there's the reporting section you spoke of earlier. That was groundbreaking work. In many ways, it still is groundbreaking even if you're familiar with the topics.

Rebecca: Like the amount of things involved in producing beef, for instance.

C.I.: Disclosure, I know Frances Moore Lappe. So no one feels there's a conflict of interest, I'll just note that this book is regularly updated. So if you read an early version, it's always worth checking to determine whether or not there's been an updated edition. One point, regarding food, that she makes in later editions is that protein combining is much easier than originally thought. That has to do with the fact that there has been more research into the field and, I'd argue, that research came about from the work of Frances Moore Lappe and others.

Elaine: Right. It is possible to exist on a vegetarian diet and not suffer any nutritional problems or deficiencies. I didn't read the book for the recipes. I got it as a gift from C.I. one year and I read it for the section detailing the costs to the enivornment of our American diet.
She covers a number of issues like top soil and water and, while I'm sure this is a great cookbook, it's also quite a bit more.

Kat: Right. This is a cool book. I didn't grow up playing video games and that probably shows when I have company over. We'll have music on the stereo or the radio on and I have mags and books all over the long coffee table. People will pick those up and we'll have some amazing discussions. This is a book you can leave on your coffee table because it will provide some amazing discussions.

Rebecca: I've got the excerpt. This is from page 92 of the twentieth anniversary edition.

Most Americans assume that our farm exports go to feed the hungry world. Few appreciate that most of these exports go to other industrial countries, and overall, two-thirds of all of our agricultural exports go to feed livestock. As noted earlier, U.S. farm exports have doubled in just one decade. Much of that spectacular increase is due to feed grain exports, which have leaped fourfold.
The United States has done its part to create a world of hamburger and wheat bread lovers, even in cultures that have thrived for centuries on rice, soy, and fish. From its beginnings in the 1950s, U.S. food aid was officially viewed as a tool for developing commercial markets. American officials understood that food aid could be a foot in the door for converting a nation's taste and food system to dependence on the United States, first on "aid" food, then on commercial exports. The strategy has worked: among the largest importers of U.S. grain are countries, like South Korea and Taiwan, that not long ago were major recipients of food aid.

Trina: It really is more than what some people would think of when they think of a cookbook.

Jim: So highly recommended by those who have read it and for those who haven't, including me, reason enough to pick it up. Trina, you are welcome to stay with us for the rest of the discussion.

Trina: I appreciate the offer but I'm not the night owl that all of you are. Thank you for including me and I hope this edition comes off more smoothly than the work required for some.

Jim: Thank you for joining us. We have two other books to discuss. We were hoping to pick up the books from last time but hadn't counted on the fact that everyone was using their libraries. That's a great thing. We also tend to count on C.I. to be able to run to the bookshelves and pull down a copy and C.I.'s on the road this weekend. Trina's joining us gave us three books to discuss and also allowed us to discuss a book by Frances Moore Lappe which a number of e-mails came in on this week, expressing disappointment that we hadn't discussed the book. Ty, set up our next book.

Ty: The voices of history go far beyond what a president or fat cat said. One historian who's made it his life's work to put the people back into their own history is Howard Zinn. The People Speak came out to celebrate the fact that Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States had sold over a million copies. To celebrate this achievement, a reading was staged. This book contains the sections from the readings and is called The People Speak: American Voices, Some Famous, Some Little Known.

Mike: Some people aren't readers. Hopefully people coming here are. But if someone's reading this and thinking, "I'm not going to pick up a book," well, you don't have to. You can enjoy hearing or watching this by checking out Democracy Now!'s "Readings From Howard Zinn's 'Voices of a People's History of the United States'" and still be informed.

Cedric: I want to note something from pages 65 to 67, where Martin Luther King Jr. is addressing the topic of the war. Here is one section of that:

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefirelds physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with a wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death [sustained applause].
Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful struggle for a new world.

Dona: That's a powerful quote. And we've got about over five minutes to do two books so let's focus on comments from those who didn't pariticpate with discussing the first book. Cedric, you picked that excerpt because?

Cedric: It applies to where we are right now.

Betty: Which is the thing about Howard Zinn as a historian, the events he covers are done in a way that has meaning. You're not reading along and just thinking, "Oh, that's how it was in the old days." You're reading and identifying with the people, you're realizing that's the great thing about Zinn's work, you finish it realizing that you matter, that people have always mattered. They struggle and they strive and maybe their work achieves something in their immediate lives but it helps the next generation.

Ty: If they're aware of it.

Betty: I agree with you but that's why I used "the next generation" and not "future generations." The next generation would be more likely to be aware of the recent events, recent for them. They grew up during the period. It's the later generations that get robbed of the knowledge.

Ty: Okay, I see what you're saying and agree with you. Good point. And it goes to why historians like Howard Zinn are important, they give you the gift of your history.

Cedric: Absolutely. There's never been a Zinn book that I haven't finished and thought, "I never knew that." And then followed that with, "Why wasn't I ever taught that?"

Jim: And Dona's indicating we need to move on to the last book because we're running behind schedule. Wally set up the book for us.

Wally: The third and final book is Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler's War Is A Racket. This book came out during the Depression is about sixty-six pages of text. It's billed as anti-war classic.

Mike: This is really good read. It's an argument of who profits and who loses in war, who gets rich and who gets maimed. Like with Howard Zinn's book, reading it, you'll be making comparisons to today.

Wally: It's about the war machine that needs more money and more lives.

Betty: Like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors.

Wally: This is a really good book to read. It's a strong argument and it's brief so even the busiest person should be able to make time for it.

Jim: And that's going to be the last word on that book. Next week we'll be discussing a few other books including Robert Parry's Trick Or Treason which a large number of readers recommended in the last two weeks. Due to the fact that so many are recommending it for a book discussion, it's going to leap ahead on the list. Also, we'll attempt to clue you in on at least one book scheduled to be discussed for the following week at the request of reader Brandy.

Step into Trina's Kitchen (online)

Well we ragged on C.I. for calling a lengthy break when we thought we'd ironed out a schedule for writing this edition. We'll talk about that in our "A note to our readers" but for now we'll just admit that those who were bothered were wrong to be. As suspected, C.I. was helping a member of The Common Ills set up their own site. C.I. told Mike that the cell phone he was on was providing too much static and he'd have to switch to a landline. When we regrouped, some of us still grumbling, we were surprised when Mike mother Trina joined us during the hellos, happily surprised. We were floored when we learned that she was the member setting up her own site. Here's our interview with her and check out her site Trina's Kitchen. First question is Mike's.

Okay, so Wally starts his own site and I'm the dark there. Fine. But my own mother starts her site and I learn about it after the fact?

Trina: Well Mike, you know how you like everyone to come off the best they can. I didn't want to step into your time but I also was afraid you'd be prompting me to write and rewrite my first thing over and over.

So what's the site going to be like?

I think a lot of topics are already covered by various websites in the community. I'm going to cover cooking and hopefully a little bit on politics.

A dash of politics. Let's step back and ask the name of the site?

Trina's Kitchen.

Mike here again, just wondering who did know? Did Dad know? Cause if he did, he didn't say a word to me today and you know I was helping him with the car for hours this afternoon.

The only people who knew were C.I. and Ava.

[Mike]: None of my brothers or sisters?

No, Michael.

[Mike]: Okay, that's cool then.

So the next question . . . I'm sorry, Mike's not the only one surprised. We're all happy but we're kind of surprised.

I am too. But Mike enjoys doing his site and seeing that had me interested. I also thought that, with the economy, a lot of people probably are on budgets and I know about that so maybe I could share something that would help someone.

Okay, Ava here, and I'm obviously not one of those surprised. You'd talked about budgets to C.I. and myself and I was wondering if you'd like to say anything on that for this interview?

Well, we're a large family. Mike and his sister are the only kids living at home now. So now I cook for four people, them, my husband and myself. But for most of my marriage, I've cooked for a much larger number of people. So I'm very familiar with budgets and understand how difficult it can be to cook on a budget. With the Bully Boy economy and thinking about Kansas and how he'd discussed the high price of tomatoes, which is true in our area of the country as well, I thought that some people might find it interesting and maybe a few would actually be able to benefit from that.

What type of food will you be discussing?

Nothing complex. For the first six months of my marriage, I did attempt to do courses. Then I got pregnant and the idea of courses went out the window. This won't be a gourmet website but more about dishes you can cook easily and inexpensively.

[Mike]: Ma hates the word "cheap."

I don't know that I hate it, Mike, but the word does make a lot of people think poor quality and that's not always the case. Cheap to purchase ingredients will generally be part of the recipes but the food itself shouldn't be called cheap.

Will you focus on just main dishes or other things as well?

That was Dona, right?


In DC, Dona had a cold and there were two avocados and not much else soup wise. So I'll share the avocado soup recipe I used to make that soup.

Dona here and that was really good soup. My throat was killing me and my nose was running. That soup got me back on my feet so pay attention when Trina shares that recipe.

Betty here and I love that you're doing a site, any sort of site, but I'm very interested in your focus for obvious reasons.

You've got three children and you work. So you know about budgets and about limited time.

[Betty]: Too well. And I don't like to stand at a stove after working all day.

Which is something that a lot of people will relate to and I do. There will be a number of recipes for dishes you can cook in the oven. Betty's got small children and it really is difficult to be standing at the stove and taking care of small children. When Mike's youngest sister turned seven, I felt so much freedom that I hadn't experienced in years. That's not just an underfoot complaint but the fact that you do have to keep an eye on them and standing at an oven isn't always possible.

[Betty:] Unless you're prepared to live with a fifty-fifty rate of cooking success. Anytime I cook at the stove, I know there's a good chance that I'm going to be pulled away suddenly and something's going to burn. I really am glad you're doing a site period but I also am really excited about the focus.

Jess here. I know from your conversations with my parents that you cook a lot meals with vegetables. But it's not going to be a vegetarian site is it?

No. There will be some dishes that don't include meat and some that will. If you're on a strict budget, and I have been before, meat's not something you have every night.

Ty here and I've just rush read your first entry, Ava's already linked to it at our site. First of all, well done. Second of all, your template looks very familiar.

It's Mike's but with another color.

[Mike:] It is?

It was the first choice and also the first one with the profile on the left which I did want since I'm on the left. And Mike, I was rushing because I know you all work hard on these editions so I've used your e-mail which I hope is fine until I have time to create a different account.

[Mike:] Yeah, that's cool, Ma. Hey, it is like mine. I'm looking at Trina's Kitchen right now.

Elaine here and I think that was a smart move not to give out the e-mail account your friends write to you at. You'll find that some people want to spam you. Here's my situation, and we've talked about this before but I think some people will identify, I come home from work and I'm still rushing around. A few hours later, I'm realizing that I'm hungry. More often than not, I either end up ordering take out or fixing a peanut butter sandwich. The soup you fixed for Dona was a very quick thing to fix. There will be recipes like that, right?

Yes. You don't have to have children to be pressed for time. The recipe I posted tonight requires prepartion work but not all will. I picked the recipe tonight because it's from a book that's been a staple in my kitchen and the dish is a family favorite.

[Mike:] Enchiladas. We have that every Wednesday night and still want it more than that.

Jim here, and the recipe is from a book by Frances Moore Lappe who we were hoping to discuss last week but ran out of time.

Frances Moore Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet. A friend gave me that book as a gift and I've gone through several copies of it because I use it so much it not only gets food stains, it also tends to fall apart.

That's a book that some of us have read and I was wondering if you'd be willing to discuss in our book discussion.

Yes, I'd be happy to.

Cedric here and I want to say thank you to you for linking to both my old site and my current one. Especially knowing that you were hurrying. The second thing I want to note is that Jim was the first one to violate the new policy.

Is it going to be a problem? I saw that announcement this morning at The Common Ills.

[Cedric:] No problem at all but there was some discussion when C.I. called a break to help you set up your site and I just think it bears noting that Jim's the one who violated the policy.

Jim here. Cedric's razzing me because when C.I. announced a break, I had a few choice words about how we needed to stay focused.

Well staying focused is important. And Cedric, you have strong work up at the old site too so, even with hurrying, it was an honor to link to your old website.

Still Jim. I'm going to toss to Wally and Kat because they haven't spoken yet.

Wally: I'll just ask, "Good Lord woman, do you know what you've done?"

(Laughing) You're thinking of your own mother.

[Wally (laughing):] Right. There are days when she thinks about starting a website.

Well I survived the first post, I think. I'll let her know how it goes.

[Wally:] Glad to have your site in the community and, in a tag you're it kind of way, you're the newbie now not me since you're site is the newest.

Mike's talked about how pressure lifted for him when new websites came along. I'll be the newbie, that's fine.

Kat here and I'll make a deal with you. You wrote that you intend to blog no more than once a week and it might be less than that. If you promise to stick to that, I'll try cooking the vegetarian enchiladas.

Well I do plan to stick to it but I think you should throw in something additional like the name of the conditioner you use. Kat has incredible hair. But I know from Mike, Ava and C.I. this week and from the rest of you at various times that it can be hard to make time to put something up at your sites. Saturday's really the only good day for me. Unless something changes, more than once a week isn't even a possibility.

[Mike:] I'm grabbing the last word here. Ma is the coolest mother in the world. Be quite Ma, I'm talking. She really is the coolest and she is a great cook so check out her site because you can learn a lot from her. She doesn't like it when she gets compliments which is why she's twice tried to cut me off forgetting her "silver rule" about interrupting that was drilled into all of us kids growing up. But she's the best cook, she's really smart and she's the sweetest mother in the world so check out her site.

Announcement Roundtable

Jim: We're doing a roundtable to take care of few issues. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz; and Wally of The Daily Jot. Dona has an announcement she needs to make.

Dona: We are excited and pleased when any member of The Common Ills decides to start his or her own site. We would like to do a feature on you and highlight your work here; however, we can't add anymore people to the regular participants. Ava and C.I. do the TV reviews and commentary by themselves. We support collaborative work and prefer it. With the TV reviews, it was obvious that what readers were responding to in the initial ones were the points Ava and C.I. made. They look at TV from a left perspective, from a feminist perspective. Though there's probably a great deal more writing on TV than at other times, the fact remains that there are not a lot of feminist critiques. We're thrilled to have their work to spotlight. It remains our most popular feature. Week after week, the TV commentary gets the largest number of responses. On the other features, we work together and that may mean brainstorming, it may mean rewriting. Each feature goes through several drafts and several looks. Jim's preference is always for writing that could grab so if a draft adds more energy, that's what we go with. If this were a draft, someone might change that to "that's what we run with." All contributions are important to the produced work. But we need to put a cap in place because everyone's pushing against the wall to participate here. Last week's edition is something Elaine and I spoke of at length because it wiped everyone out. We attempted to provide a new edition, and did do that, while working on it before New Year's Eve partying and after. A good session is one that requires only twelve hours. Each and every voice that participates, and those that have participated in the past such as Dallas and Ruth, have something to add. We wouldn't be as pleased with the results as we are were it not for the input and participation. However, we have to put a cap on it now because any more added to the mix would only add to the time required to for each addition.

Jim: We do a lot of b.s. sessions where we shoot the breeze and there are times when Jess, for instance, will point out that we've explored a topic to death and need to write. The exchange allows us all to have a stronger idea of what we're going for. After a feature's completed, it's never completed until it posts. We will come back to it with "one more thing" and the pressure can be intense at points and we've all certainly disagreed on points before. If it's a break it point, C.I. or Elaine especially will say, "Okay but don't put my name on that piece." That's fine. And we've run pieces noting that, for instance, C.I. didn't participate. More often than not, such as on standardized testing, we'll stop and explore a point and understand that we are, as a group, missing something. So the process works and we support it. We just can't add anymore voices and still do the edition in a reasonable amount of time.

Dona: If a member of the community wants to contribute something they've worked on by themselves or with other members, we'll be happy to post it. But the current amount is all that we can handle. If we're on skeleton crew one week, meaning if a significant number of people aren't able to participate, we might be able to pull in additional people. Otherwise, this is going to have to be the cut off.

Jim: And that's not it with announcements. C.I. had a post but ended up holding it because, despite everyone giving permission, C.I. didn't think it needed to go up at The Common Ills since it effects all the sites. Mike, bring everyone up to speed.

Mike: This summer, we did a roundtable and lost it in posting. In that roundtable we'd addressed the issue of the time and timing. This week, my opinion, someone embarrassed himself and did further damage to his reputation. He should have packed it in a long time ago.
Which was an issue that came up in the lost roundtable. I've hinted about it [at] my site and asked that we do another roundtable to address this issue. Here's what it is, in four years, the community sites, current ones, will probably go dark. We're working at a target date of a week or two after the November 2008 election.

Ty: I've read C.I.'s entry that hasn't been posted yet and may not end up being posted. But the point's made about the time that goes into this community and how it's important and worthwhile but so is having your own life.

C.I.: Personally, I need a cut-off date. I need something to work towards. Early in 2003, before the invasion, I began speaking to various groups about the war. This also ended up becoming about the election. It was supposed to be just filling in for a friend a few times but became a weekly thing where every weekend I'd be doing this. When I was exhausted, I'd tell myself, I could continue to do it because after the 2004 election, things would calm down. That didn't happen. And by calm down, I don't mean become "perfect." I supported John Kerry, but I didn't believe that he was going to fix anything without all of us prodding. Immediately after the election, as everyone was depressed, I ended up giving a speech --

Rebecca: Giving a great speech.

C.I.: A speech. And then followed the period of self-examination among friends where we asked what didn't we do in 2004 that we could have? How could more people have been reached? "Do a blog" was a suggestion in 2003 but not having time to pull out off my ass, it wasn't a possibility. After a long discussion on the topic of what didn't we do, I finally decided to start a blog which quickly stopped being a blog. It's a resource/review and members impact anything that makes it up there in a number of ways. But I thought that would be an entry a day. As the community grew and more issues came up it became several entries a day. Seven days a week. And thanks to Ava, Jess, Shirley and Martha who regularly hit the e-mail accounts, when the accounts are working, but it's still more work than I would have guessed. So this summer, I said I needed a cut-off date and felt that since the 2008 elections weren't that far off, I'd try to make it until then.

Mike: Which worked out kind of cool as Jess and me pointed out because if you count the time that the Mamas and the Papas got together until they broke up, it's around four years. That's a group that we love and that the community does. So that seemed like a good mark to work towards.

Rebecca: I expressed then that I might continue on past that point and I might. Others may as well. And C.I. may very well feel that it's not time to stop. C.I.'s always been able to pull out that extra bit of energy when it looked like nothing was left. But there are members who will spend more time than they have on their sites. I can ignore my e-mails with no guilt and frequently do. If I'm in the account, I'll read e-mails from my regulars and if someone has an interesting title, I'll grab that as well. However, I'm not fretting that every e-mail is not answered in some form, let alone read. And I pretty much write about what I want to write about "in a very Daniel Okrent way" she said laughing.

Betty: But, for instance, you have seven college students just participating in this roundtable and many of them have school and work so they're giving a great deal of their time. When college ends, the core of this site, Ty, Jess, Jim, Dona and Ava, will likely be scattered in different physical directions. Who knows how long anyone will be interested or able to continue this site as they begin entering their professional lives? So the four years concept was something that did surprise a few people when C.I. mentioned it in the lost roundtable, but a wave of relief immediately followed. I believe Wally and Elaine weren't present for that, though they were informed of it some time ago, so I should probably stop here and let one of them speak.

Wally: There's fun in doing your own site but there's also times when it's not really pratical. This week, a friend came in at the tail end. We went to school together but he got a scholarship to a Michigan university and we spent time hanging [out] and I didn't post one day and Friday I just provided some of Isaiah's comics. I felt a little guilty when I skipped a day for about ten seconds and then remembered that Mike and I did a joint entry on Saturday so I gave an extra day last week. I also remembered Kat's "It is what it is" and Elaine's talk about the importance of taking time for yourself.

Elaine: Right, because people haven't been taking time for themselves. Even second, third and fourth wind C.I. can't run a marathon forever so a goal is needed. In terms of other sites, various things have been proposed to allow for people to grab the time they need.

Cedric: For example, I cannot post on a Wednesday night. There's no way with work and church. And Elaine was nice enough to say she'd cover that day and I grabbed Thursdays since she did therapy that night. She's going to have another group coming up and will be dropping back to four days and I'll grab the night she needs off but none of those things really addresses C.I.'s situation.

C.I.: Well, Kat's did an entry to cover for me Saturday and she's done that before.

Kat: And happy to do do that but that doesn't really address the issue of a day off. That's one post off not a day. The community wants "new content" as often as they can have it. That's great but people need to realize that everyone's not going to be pleased no matter what you do.

Ty: And as C.I. wrote in the thing that's not been posted thus far, Gina and Krista will continue to do their round-robin after the 2008 election and C.I. will participate there. The community won't come to a screeching halt. But hopefully, during the time that it exists via various sites, enough issues will have been raised and enough out of the box thinking that the community will really be something within [and] members, including us, and not something you need to go to a site for.

Ava: That's three years notice. We'd prefer to go out, unlike someone else who embarrassed themselves this week, while we've still got something to say. We may pass this site on to other J-school students or we may not. And, as Rebecca pointed out, when time rolls around, we might all feel like we should keep on or some might. But having a date to work towards makes it a little more workable and less stressful.

Rebecca: Announcement. Friday night at my site, I repeated Ruth's heads up to Pacifica's live coverage of the hearings on Alito this week. That's all this week and if you're interested in following it live, that's the place to be and may be the only place to be radio wise because once again NPR feels their cloying programs are more important than serving the public.

Mike: I'll back that up with "Listen to Pacifica!" Other than that? Hmm. I'll probably take some evenings either off or post late. I had to pick up a gift for my kid sister for two weeks before Christmas and I kept putting it off because I work in the morning, then go to campus for my classes and then head on home to eat and blog. I didn't want to let anybody down. And if you read the e-mails written to you, you do develop a bond with some of your regulars.

Ty: Right. Because Jim will visit the e-mails if he wants. If he doesn't, he won't. And that's more or less Rebecca's attitude. But as someone who still tries to reply when possible to people who write in to The Third Estate Sunday Review, I know that you do get to know the people.
I'd also add that when Jim does visit the e-mails he's dealing with angry e-mails mainly because that's what he enjoys. Those are always written to "you." You's divided, not by the e-mailer, by thirteen people, so it's easy not to see it as a personal e-mail, even if it's one that's not a rant. Now maybe someone misses the note to the readers each week which notes who contributed to what, but right there on our profile and visible without clicking on it, you see six names. Somehow that's confusing to some readers.

Cedric: My announcement would be that as soon as Elaine knows what night her group's on, I'll pick two scheduled nights a week for blogging and stick to that schedule. I took the week off. I was exhausted from last week's edition and Kat was saying, "Take the time you need." I listened.

Kat: Well, it wasn't just the edition. It was New Year's Eve. It was the time you put into your church and singing with the choir and you had worked very hard on the Christmas program. It was you obligations outside of online duties. And this was a time for you to reconnect to that. Sometimes, when I read e-mails asking for "new content," while flattered that anyone's interested in what I think, I also think about how I do have a busy life. I have no announcement, by the way, I just wanted to say that and point out that Cedric's got a really busy schedule. He's dating a new woman this week that he'd put on hold because he just didn't have time to go out in December. I mean, when someone's interested in someone else, when they're both interested in each other, and you have to postpone the first date for around a month, you're life is very busy. Cedric's life is very busy and I wanted to make that point.

Cedric: Thank you for that. Seriously.

Betty: Well my announcement is I'm stuck trying to figure out why Thomas Friedman was again on vacation. He took one in the summer, I thought. Then he returns in December from another vacation. Then after he returns, I get one entry done and he's back on vacation for a week. Is the man ill? Is he being forced on vacation? I have no idea. It's stumped me. And C.I.'s made an offer of listening which is so sweet but I know that C.I.'s busy and I really don't want to add to that. So that's the plot point I'm stuck on. Hopefully, something will come to me.

Jess: Betty, let's pick a time and you can bounce some ideas off me.

Betty: Thank you. Kat's offered that as well but you're the only one besides C.I. that I know of who can actually get through Thomas Friedman's columns. And I figure there has to be something in the columns that I can use to explain why he's been on so many vacations and just returned from yet another.

Jess: Announcement. I'm not a fan of Thomas Friedman's writings. I only read him to anticipate Betty's response at her site.

Jim: And on that note of clarity, we'll go ahead and wrap up.

Ty's Point of View

With Ava and Jess helping C.I. with e-mails coming into The Common Ills site, it's largely left to Dona and myself to read the e-mails at this site. Jim's always "just about" to do it. So I feel like I've got a pretty strong grasp on the interests of our intended audience. Some of you are new and we're glad to have you as readers. Some of you have been with us from the early days and we're glad you've stayed.

But some of you are either just "funning" or in the wrong place. I'm not referring to the self-admitted Republicans who have yet to meet a Third Estate Sunday Review editorial they couldn't disagree with. Those people are supposed to be disagree. We're a site for the left.

No, I'm talking about the kiddies, some of whom sound much older than children, who want to go racist. Are you a fan of Moronic Mars? Good for you. Are you one of the thirty-plus who think you advance the cause of your show by using the n-word? One of the ones writing in asking, "What does it matter if the ___s don't get air time?"

Or maybe you're one of the Whites who doesn't use the n-word but takes the time to explain "advancement"? As an African-American, I don't need you to explain advancement to me. However, many of you appear to require that someone explain it to you.

A token character brought on every now and then isn't an advancement. Justifications as to why the show focuses on the White characters doesn't change the fact that you can count on people of color to appear in the show's credits if not in the actual scenes.

You don't like that sort of comment. It's obvious from your e-mails. So let me explain what I don't like. I don't like a lot of snotty little White kids writing in to explain "advancement" to me.
I'm sorry that C.I. and Ava raised an issue that was new to you. It's a real tragedy that they were the first to raise it to you. But that's what is so great about what they do, they raise the issues that apparently your TV Guide writers and others have failed to address.

Now I could walk you through TV history and note Julia and I Spy. But we don't have to that far back. I'll bet that a lot of you can remember when Cosby was airing new episodes. I watched. Cliff Huxtable got on my nerves, but I liked the kids. Now let me point out something, that show aired on NBC. Do you see any shows with a cast that's primarily African-African on NBC today?

Now maybe you think "those people" (Tina's term of choice) love being on UPN. Tina writes "those people have an entire network and if Veronica Mars wasn't on UPN, they wouldn't even have to include any of them."

UPN does have some shows with a healthy number of African-Americans in the cast. Fox used to as well. So did the WB. Why? Because they start out broadcasting in large cities. They're trying to get the people in those areas to watch and some of the people in those areas include persons of color. When Fox went on its station buying spree, African-Americans became seen less on the shows.

Picking up on Tina's thread, Steve wrote, "Black people already have BET, what more do they want?"

Steve, if African-Americans have BET, who has NBC? Who has ABC? Who has CBS? Want to keep going down the list?

Tina felt the need to write a 30 K e-mail about "those people" and how if "you" (Ava and C.I.) "weren't so stupid, you'd realize that there [sic] being on Veronica for a few minutes each week is an advancement!" Thanks Tina. I'm guessing you also feel we're real lucky to be able to sit wherever we want on the bus now and should just pipe down already?

Hunt felt the need to explain that "No one wants to see blacks on TV anyway. They've had The Jeffersons, Give [sic] Me a Break, Different Strokes and Benson. What more do they want?"

Hunt, you are aware that Gimme a Break started out with one African-American woman (Nell Carter) surrounded by Whites, right? And you are aware that Benson was another White cast plus the lead actor? And that Different Strokes was about two African-Americans raised by a White father in an otherwise all White cast? The Jeffersons might be the strongest case for your argument because it did give more time to African-Americans but it also featured White regulars.

So considering that the all White casts didn't end in the days of The Dick Van Dyke Show and that recently all white casts have included such shows as Cheers, Reba, Everyone Must Love Raymond, Two and A Half Men, Fraiser, Friends, Yes, Dear . . . Get the point? What more do you want, Hunt?

Dona and I have tracked the Moronic Mars e-mails. Here's the tally:

36 racists defending Moronic Mars
3 assholes
11 fans of the show weighing in with their opinions
1011 readers praising Ava and C.I.'s review

If being called racists bothers the 36, they might want to write e-mails in the future that don't flaunt their racism.

If you're one of the eleven, I attempted to reply to you. You're obviously very devoted to
your show. If I told you to consider starting your own site, that was a serious suggestion. Some of the eleven are very gifted writers that have obviously thought a great deal about the show they enjoy. They should attempt to do something to share their passion. If I encouraged you to start your own site and added that, if you do, you should let us know, I meant that. We'll write something up giving you a shout out and a link in a feature.

If you're one of the 39 (assholes plus racists), I think you might want to seek some help. Hopefully, you only spew your hatred (towards women and African-Americans) when you're alone at your keyboard but your comments indicate you have serious issues. Unless you're planning to pack up and move to some other country (bad news for you apartheid no longer exists in South Africa so pick another destination), I think you're going to have some serious problems in the days ahead.

Hunt wrote of taking back "my country from the" n-word. Hunt, unless you're planning to hunt me down and every other African-American, to kill us off, you're going to have a problem because this is our country as well. And we do have a right to be represented onscreen as something more than the criminal of the week on one of the Law & Orders. In fact, Hunt, there are a lot of people color and different ethnicities in this country that aren't represented on television as anything other than guest star.

Hunt feels that "the Barones were the best family on TV because the wives didn't work and the only black wasn't on more than a handful of episodes and knew to only come around when invited." I never watched Raymond, so I'll take your word on how the show portrayed a person of color (occasional guest star) and women, Hunt.

But Tina, and others like her, might want to think about Hunt, who shares their racism, before composing a lecture about the progress "those people" have made. They might also want to realize that everyone in the world who can read isn't White. I'm guessing that Hunt and Tina might have been less vocal about "those people" if they'd realized that their e-mails would be read by one of "those people."

It's a sign of ignorance to assume that everyone is like you are. Possibly that's why Tina and Hunt and the rest are so bothered by the suggestion that TV could provide more African-Americans as regular cast members? They look around and see the people like them (who they like) and then they see "the other" who is different and not fully human?

But Hunt and Tina, wes people been reading da e-mails for some time and wes a had dat internet too. That's probably especially shocking to Tina who explained that when you show "those people there's always someone complaining about a scene of them eating watermelons." Tina and Hunt both wrote well grammatically speaking. They've obviously had some level of education which makes their racism all the more sad.

I'm assuming that some of those who wrote in, if they read this, might feel inclined to write a "I'm sorry, I didn't realize that you were black" e-mail. Don't bother. When you thought it was just Whites in the room, you were comfortable speaking off the cuff. It was revealing. You might be embarrassed about that. (Maybe Hunt wouldn't be?)

Regardless of whether you are or are not embarrassed, you've done your part to demonstrate that Ava and C.I. are on the right track with their reviews. That any racist thought they could send an e-mail to someone they don't know and talk "White to White" indicates that the token representation on TV has allowed a number of Moronic Mars fans to think that we're not usually in the room when the action takes place. TV's helped you form that misconception. Which only proves the point that Ava and C.I. were making.
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