Sunday, June 04, 2006

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --

Another late Sunday session. As C.I. noted at The Common Ills (at my, Jim's, request), we spent a lot of wasted time this edition. Over ninety minutes attempting to force a a feature that never paid off.

It was a mistake and what finally made it obvious wasn't taking another pass at it but taking a break from it. We'll attempt to note something we were trying to work the feature for next week. We can't do a straight forward piece because this is our "It's summer! Here's our fiction edition" edition.

Before we get to that, we have the following highlights this edition and we thank everyone for allowing us to repost:

Music Spotlight: Kat on Janis Ian's Folk Is The New Black
Highlight: A conversation in three parts
Blog Spotlight: Mike interviews Kat
Humor Spotlight: Wally's Bully Boy Press
Neuvo video confirma acusaciones de masacre estadounidense en Ishaqi
Blog Spotlight: Elaine's mini-essay
Kitchen Spotlight: Potatoes Anna in the Kitchen

We thank Dallas for hunting down links. Except where otherwise noted, all new content was worked on by the following:

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.

It is the fiction edition. The print edition went out with this note but did have additional fiction that we're fine with being read/skimmed/ignored and then tossed but didn't think it was up to the standard of forever-on-the-net-haunting-and-mocking-us.

The 90 minutes we wasted working on a feature was a waste. Ava and C.I. were doing their TV review. We said, "While you're doing that, we'll turn this out, you can read over it and add your input but we're on track." We weren't. We couldn't force it and, as C.I. noted, trying to was also a waste because it meant that Ty's idea for a science fiction piece was put on hold. We should have worked on that instead.

But that's hindsight. When Ava and C.I. rejoined us and found out that we were stuck with three paragraphs and weren't pleased with that tiny amount in any way, they looked over it and noted that this was already covered in a short story we had completed.

It is, from a different angle. But we were all too proud to say, "You're right." Not after 90 minutes. So we tried for another half-hour with input from them as well and kept hearing from C.I. and Ava, "This isn't going to work."

Again, pride prevented dropping it and saying, "You're right." (Though this point, I -- Jim -- was the only hold out.)

C.I. went off and did The Common Ills entry. Came back and reminded us (me) that we had no editorial, only some general notes. Dallas had found a thing about some "lefties" trashing Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s examination of the 2004 vote, so we quickly worked on that and got back onto track as a result.

Here's what we have.

"Song of the War Hawks" -- where are the poems? Shirley and Liz both wondered that. So here's an attempt at one in our fiction edition.

"Super Laura?" Oh we had a lot of ideas for this. Until Dona pointed out, "You know what, I doubt Laura Flanders would want to be seen as a super hero who swoops in to save the world. Her whole point is that we've got to save ourselves." Dona, wet blanket or savior -- you decide. Seriously, her point was correct. So we redid this piece. But tried to do so with a more creative approach. Probably didn't succeed.

"Once upon a time there were plenty of Baby Dumbasses" -- "We've got to address this!" said Jess. "It's our fiction issue," reminded Dona. "Half-fairy-tale, half-commentary," suggested someone. So that's what it is. This is about the ones attacking RFK Jr.'s election piece with something other than analysis.

"Sherman's Story" -- what can we say about this one? Not a whole lot. Sherman's a fictional portrait with a basis. We'll leave it at that.

"From a diary found in the Mayflower Hotel" -- are Bully Boy and Laura Bush having problems? Marital problems? Over an affair he may be having with Condi Rice? (Wayne Madsen has reported this.) We don't know. But we thought Laura could provide the humor for this edition. How tired are we all? I typed and read aloud "Laura Flanders" instead of "Laura Bush" and everyone was fine with it. Seconds later, Ty pointed out, "You mean Laura Bush."

"The ones we never know" -- we never really know the victims, the ones killed in the chaos and violence that is the illegal occupation. We'd tossed around doing something like this for awhile and then a news item came up and it was, "We really need to do this." We agreed but decided to hold it for the fiction edition.

"TV: TESR Investigates" -- written solely by Ava and C.I. They created roles for the rest of us and we enjoyed that. But it's their writing. They're taking on CSI and actually wanted to do Pepper Dennis instead until we asked, pretty please, could they do a creative type critique? What's the take on it, they wondered? "Just be kids again," we offered. "Already done that," came the reply. So they spent 90 minutes on this one, largely going over the script for Thursday's episode, as they tried to figure out their angle. The angle they finally decided upon was "TESR Investigates." Third Estate Sunday Review Investigates. They're critiquing the show in a format similar to the shows. I missed it the first read until I got to Heart's "Barracuda." (C.I. notes that the song was written by Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson, Roger Fisher and Michael Derosier.) When I got to "Barracuda," I burst out laughing, realizing it was their take on alternate rock track to "Won't Get Fooled Again" (the song by the Who that CSI uses for its theme). At which point, I went back to the top to begin reading again. It's hilarious.

"Editorial: The Clearing" -- took longer than expected. I knew there was a quote in the Robert Redford movie. C.I. was sure there wasn't. I was remembering one. Ty found the script online and he and Dona read it aloud to us very quickly. The quote wasn't there. I must have confused it with another Redford movie. We did manage to tie the movie in.

That's what you've got this edition.

See you next week.

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

Editorial: The Clearing

Let's do set up via an entry at The Common Ills last week:

There are at least three alleged incidents in Iraq that are under some form of investigation. (Remember that The Christian Science Monitor asked mid-week whether or not the military could investigation itself.) For two who were confused by the new ones noted last night, there is Haditha. Haditha took place November 19, 2005 and resulted in the deaths of twenty-four civilians. This is the one Rep. John Murtha has spoken of and that has had the most attention and media focus. Next, there is Ishaqi which took place in March 15th of this year. For background refer to Democracy Now!'s March report as well as the BBC's report on a tape that has turned up which appears to refute the US military claims. In that incident, the official version is that "four people died during a military operation" when a building that was on fire collapsed on them while the version put foward by Iraqi police is that "US troops had deliberately shot the 11 people." The third incident under attention currently took place on April 26th of this year in Hamandiya this is where one man died and US troops are accused of planting a shovel and gun on him while insisting that he was attempting to plant a roadside bomb. This is the incident that David S. Cloud (NYT) reported "[m]ilitary prosecutors are preparing murder, kidnapping and conspiracy chargs against seven marines and a Navy corpsman" for. Kidnapping? When Jim Miklaszewski reported it for NBC Sunday, he noted that the allegations included taking the man from his home, murdering him and then attempting to hide their own actions by planting the shovel and gun on him.
Those are the three incidents currently under some form of investigation and media light.
On the middle item, Jonathan Karl of ABC News (ABC, United States) is reporting that with regards to the events in Ishaqi, "military officials have completed their investigation and have concluded U.S. forces followed the rules of engagement." Which one is that? This is the one that BBC only recently reported having a tape of. One might argue far too recently for "military officials" to have "completed" anything that could pass for a full investigation. Or, as Australia's ABC puts it, "But a video obtained by the BBC shows evidence that the people were shot." Among the dead so-called insurgents in this incident that alleged followed "the rules of engagement," Australia's ABC reports were "a 65 year old grandmother and a six-month old baby." The Independent of London summarizes thusly: "But the BBC said its tape, which comes in the wake of the alleged massacre in Haditha in November, showed a number of dead adults and children at the site with gunshot wounds."
Pressure on the Iraqi prime minister and puppet of the occupation, Nuri al-Maliki, has led to his announcing that Iraq will launch their own investigation. As Ferry Biedermann notes in the Financial Times of London, this investigation is supposed to "look into other allegations of misconduct by the US-led forces in Iraq and the way troops behave toward the civilian population after they have come under attack." The Guardian of London reports that al-Maliki informed US ambassador to Iraq (and puppet master) Zalmay Khalilzad of this decision "during a visit to a power station."

So are we all clear on the three incidents that are being examined? (We won't say investigation and will agree with The Christian Science Monitor that this self-examination leaves a lot to be desired.)

The examination you probably read of and heard of this weekend is Ishaqi, that's the one that's led to headlines (and hoseanas?) of "Military Cleared!" Depending upon how closely you've been following this, you may or may not have been aware of the video the BBC began airing sections of hours before the "clearing" was announced on Friday. But the US administration was aware of the video. They released the results of the examination anyway. They didn't say, "Wait, let's hold off on issuing the final judgement, there's new evidence here."

You may not be aware that questions regarding Ishaqi have been raised for some time now. From Friday's Democracy Now!:

New Video Backs Claims of US Massacre in Ishaqi
New evidence has emerged in the case of another alleged massacre of Iraqi civilians at the hands of US troops. The BBC has obtained video footage bolstering accusations first made by Iraqi police that US troops murdered eleven civilians in the town of Ishaqi in March. The dead included five children and four women and ranged in age from 6 months to 75 years old. The Pentagon has insisted only four civilians died in the incident and that they were killed when their home collapsed during a gun battle. But according to the BBC, the new video shows a number of dead adults and children with visible gunshot wounds. Democracy Now covered this story in March. We spoke with Knight Ridder reporter Matthew Schofield in Baghdad. He first obtained the Iraqi police report that accused US troops of the civilian killings.
Matthew Schofield: "We were talking with the police officer who was first on the scene earlier today. He explained the scene of arriving. He said they waited until U.S. troops had left the area and it was safe to go in. When they arrived at the house, it was in rubble. I don't know if you've seen the photos of the remains of the house, but there was very little standing. He said they expected to find bodies under the rubble. Instead, what they found was in one room of the house, in one corner of one room, there was a single man who had been shot in the head. Directly across the room from him against the other wall were ten people, ranging from his 75-year-old mother-in-law to a six-month-old child, also several three-year-olds -- a couple three-year-olds, a couple five-year-olds, and four other -- three other women. Lined up, they were covered, and they had all been shot. According to the doctor we talked to today, they had all been shot in the head, in the chest. A number of -- you know, generally, some of them were shot several times. The doctor said it's very difficult to determine exactly what kind of caliber gun they were shot with. He said the entry wounds were generally small and round, the exit wounds were generally very large. But they were lined up along one wall. There was a blanket over the top of them, and they were under the rubble, so when the police arrived, and residents came to help them start digging in, they came across the blankets. They came across the blankets. They picked the blankets up. They say, at that point, that the hands were handcuffed in front of the Iraqis. They had been handcuffed and shot."

How much weight did the clearing give those remarks?

In the 2004 film, The Clearing, Robert Redford has to confront the consequences of his actions. In the Bully Boy's 2006 version, we're not convinced that's occurred.

Others are questioning the clearing as well. Greg Mitchell (Editor & Publisher) notes:

The Iraqi police charge that American forces executed the civilians, including a 75-year-old woman and a 6-month-old baby. The BBC has been airing video of the dead civilians, mainly children, who appeared to be shot, possibly at close range. Photographs taken just after the raid for Agence France-Presse, and reports at the time by Reuters and Knight Ridder, also appear to largely back up the charge of an atrocity.

For the Scotsman, Brian Brady writes:

Iraqi leaders vowed to press on with their own probe into one of the most notorious American raids against extremist fighters, in the town of Ishaqi, rejecting the US military's exoneration of its forces.
Adnan al-Kazimi, an aide to prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, said the government would also demand an apology from the United States and compensation for the victims in several cases, including the alleged massacre in the town of Haditha last year.
The escalation in tensions comes as sources at the Foreign Office confirmed that the British Government is also urging the Americans to co-operate fully with comprehensive investigations into the deaths at both Ishaqi and Haditha.
A report filed by Iraqi police accused US troops of rounding up and deliberately shooting 11 people - including five children and four women - in a house in Ishaqi, before blowing up the building. Video footage revealed by the BBC appeared to show the aftermath of US action in Ishaqi, including a number of dead adults and children with what experts claimed were clearly gunshot wounds.
But following its own inquiries into the Ishaqi operation, the Pentagon enraged Iraqi officials by issuing a statement declaring that allegations that US troops "executed a family ... and then hid the alleged crimes by directing an air strike, are absolutely false".

Donald Rumsfeld makes another of his ludicrous "stuff happens" statements and we're supposed to believe that a) the behavior and the illegal occupation are unrelated and b) it's all in the past. As C.I. noted Wednesday:

Interviewed today by C.S. Soong on KPFA's Against The Grain, author Anthony Arnove (IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal) stated of the allegations of the November slaughter in Haditha, "In fact they just underscore the fact that the longer the United States stays, the more harm it causes to the people of Iraq. The situation in Haditha is a symptom of an occupation. Just as the torture we saw exposed in the Abu Ghraib detention facilities is a sympton of a much deeper problem."
This as the Associated Press reports that American forces shot and killed two women, one of them pregnant, at a checkpoint today in Baghdad. Nabiha Nisaif Jassim, thirty-five-years-old, was being rushed to the hospital by her brother, Khalid Nisaif Jassim, with her cousin, Saliha Mohammed Hassan, also in the car. Both women were killed. The brother, who was driving, denies the US accounts that the area was a clearly marked check point. A US spokesperson e-mailed a weasel word statement to the Associated Press where they note that the woman "may have been pregnant." Naibha Nisaif Jassim was rushed to the maternity hospital (her intended destination) but both she and the child she was carrying died. A US spokesperson, emailing Reuters, called the deaths "a mistake."

While the mainstream media seems unsure of exactly what to report and how (awaiting the next cue from Rummy), in England, women are saying "enough."

Severin Carrell writes (Independent of London):

Tony Blair faces an unprecedented revolt from the wives and mothers of serving soldiers, who want British troops to be withdrawn from Iraq, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.
Dozens of women whose sons, husbands and daughters are now in the Gulf or have served there, have joined a national campaign to be launched this week calling for Britain to pull out of Iraq. In a strongly worded statement passed to the IoS, they claim the war in Iraq "was based on lies", and call for British withdrawal "as a matter of urgency".
The organisers of Military Families Against the War, set up by the parents of dead armed forces personnel last year, say their movement is supported by hundreds of service families and that more than 100 families and veterans are actively involved.

What's it going to take to end the illegal occupation? Despite lunching with Tony Blair Friday, Italy's new prime minister is standing by his decision to withdraw Italian troops from the so-called coalition of the willing? Does the news of the three incidents register on any level in most of our lives? Or are we too busy trying to figure out what words are "appropriate" to express outrage in?

For The Boston Globe, Derrick Z. Jackson notes:

All this forced a third straight day of Bush saying he was troubled by the reports, this time through spokesman Tony Snow. It is stunningly clear that without the news reports, neither he nor the military would be troubled by the cases.
This comes on top of other news reports of individuals killed here and there by US soldiers, and on top of long-forgotten wipeouts of weddings and families in vans. No one incident adds up to the single atrocity of My Lai, where US soldiers killed up to 500 Vietnamese civilians. But the mentality appears identical. American soldiers are again in an aimless war, aiming in the end at innocent targets.
A huge part of the problem is that America never did learn its lessons from My Lai. Even though the mere utterance of My Lai stiffens the back of anyone who remembers it, there was, in the end, virtually no punishment for the killings. The only soldier convicted, Lieutenant William Calley, had his sentence reduced to relative insignificance by President Nixon, and was released after three years of house arrest. He went on to sell jewelry in Georgia.

Will we learn the lesson this time?

TV: TESR Investigates

We were in the midst of a margarita lunch when both cell phones rang. It was Jim.

"Ava! C.I.!" he barked. "We need it."

"Oh, come on," one of us complained.

"Be a good pimp," the other suggested, "don't put us on the street in the rain tonight."

Jim gave a brief chuckle. His way of saying "anyway." Then he gave us the assignment.

"Review CSI. . . . The original."

One of us did a quick head turn towards the camera, the other looked off to the side. Dramatic pause. Freeze frame.

Cue soundtrack.

Guitar squeals.

So this ain't the end -- I saw you again -- Today
I had to turn my heart away
Smiles like the sun -- kisses for everyone
And tales -- it never fails!

You're lying so low in the weeds
I bet you're gonna ambush me
You'd have me down, down, down, down on my knees
Now wouldn't you, Barracuda?

"So what have we got here?" one of us asked, as Heart's "Barracuda" faded.

We were standing in a room with the TV turned on.

"Looks like your generic crime non-drama," the other said tilting the head back so as not to stare directly at the screen.

A grunt was the only reply.

We headed back to the office where we were confronted by Jim.

"It's crap," one of us explained.

"But it's a hit!" argued Jim.

"Well we know what we saw," countered Ava.

Jim declared, "You've got to find some explanation."

"We're on it," said C.I.

We slow walked down the hall, slinging and swinging our rears like Marg Helgenberger does, wearing the tight blue jeans she favors.

Returning to the scene of the crime, we cued up Thursday's episode one more time.

"You noticing William Petersen dresses just like Steven Seagal if Seagal's wardrobe had a splash more color?"

"But what's with the belly bulge. Is he prepping for a CBS sitcom? Another Fat Man Loves His Skinny Wife?"

"Does he wash that hair? Between that and what he thinks passes for stubble, this is really hard to watch? He does know he's middle-aged, right?"

We laughed at that while Ty walked through, wearing his black jacket with TESR Investigates stamped on the back, for no real reason other than to ask us if we'd seen the overnights?

We had. Someone's got to put a stop this. Ty walked out.

"Woah!" one of us hollered. "Go back!"

There it was.

"What is that?"

"Papa bear and baby bear? Young scruffy talking to Grizzly Petersen?"

"We're going to need to run a check on this Eric Szmanda."

"Age? He's thirty next month."

"So why would he quote . . . Go back again."

Szmanda onscreen telling Petersen, "This clinic is like 'Hotel California.' You can check in anytime you want but you might never leave."

"He mangles the lyric," noted one of us.

"Yeah," agreed the other. "But what's a twenty-nine-year-old doing quoting, misquoting, the Eagles?"

We exchanged a look. Our eyebrows shot up as the commercial break started.

Next thing we knew, Robert David Hall was either showing a corpse or someone was sawing into one.

"I knew a guy, in high school, who was really hot," one of us said -- for no real reason other than to provide a non-on-the-nose moment that would hopefully make people think they were getting a real inner glimpse. "His last name was Hanson."

"Like the teeny-bopper group?" asked the other while fixing a cup of coffee so that the scene played "real."

"Exactly," the first said while hopping onto a counter to provide movement in this otherwise static scene. "So all he ever wore was jeans and a white t-shirt, day after day. But he had the body for it. Thing is, he never went out with a girl."


"No, he was interested, he just couldn't get a date."

"And he was hot?"

"Yeah. But . . . his father was a mortician."


"Yeah. Creeped everybody out. Everybody."

"Well, I mean, you know this, it's only in Jerry Bruckheimer's mind that sex and death compliment one another. For him, the ultimate piece of film would be catching someone asphyxiating during an orgasm."

We were back at our desks.

Dona came through. Noting we were up against a deadline.

"Everybody's Code 6," she said walking past us.

We had no idea what she meant. No one did. But it sounded official and gave the impression to anyone reading that somebody knew something.

"So what have you got?" Jim asked sitting down between our desk.

"Alleged crime show," offered Ava. "The kink twist comes in via a character named Lady Heather. A dominatrix. She and Petersen's Grissom apparently had something going on."

"And now?" Jim asked.

"Over. Guess she grew out of her chubby-chaser phase," offered C.I. with a shrug.

"But why is it a hit?" Jim had to know.

"Push/pull dynamics?" Ava asked for no real reason other than, judging by CSI, an investigation depends upon throwing out a lot of questions, only some of which you provide answers to.

"Nature versus nurture?" C.I. asked, for the same reason that Ava had asked her question.

Having tossed around questions only to each other, we'd done as the show does for about two-thirds of each episode. Now we needed a witness.

We cornered Jess.

"Age yourself, just a bit. Pretend you're twenty-nine," Ava instructed.

"Okay," Jess replied forgetting to shift uncomfortably and dart the eyes the way all the witnesses do on CSI.

"That would put you graduating high school in 1993," C.I. said slowly -- partly because the characters tend to draw the set up out very slowly but also because math was involved. "Think what you were listening to then. Now, fast foward to the present. You've just come across a sleep experiment at a clinic."

"Where the patients can leave anytime they want -- there's no 'might never leave!'" Ava snapped because the scene needed a little tension. "What song do you use to describe that?"

"The clinic is like 'Come As You Are,'" Jess began referencing a Nirvina hit from the early nineties. "But the question is do those coming into work come 'as a friend, as a friend' or do they come 'as an old enemy'?"

"Perfect!" we cried in unison as we rushed out of our makeshift interrogation room leaving behind a confused Jess.

Striding into Jim's office slowly, again for the Helgenberger effect (we were still wearing the tight blue jeans), we waited for him to look at us questioningly.

Then we leaned in at odd angles since that's a key to CSI's visual "style."

"It's Occam's Razor," Ava explained.

"Reductionist philosophy," she added for those who hadn't majored in the liberal arts.

"Give the aging set what they want," C.I. continued. "Stocky men as sex objects so none of the stocky husbands watching with their wives feel threatened."

"Throw in an older woman in tight clothes, with a gorgeous body," Ava explained. "That way the women watching can feel 'At least she's not twenty' and the men can still drool."

"Shape the show, the entire episode to what they knew forty years ago," C.I. said choosing another odd angle to stand in. "Add in a Who song on the soundtrack to make them feel that they're not that old in a 'Hey, I know that theme song!' kind of way. Give 'em a kid who quotes an Eagles' song everyone their age knew but no kid today would be caught dead quoting as a first choice."

Ava nodded and followed with, "Toss in a Nazi-inspired criminal because Nazis were the 'big bad' when they were kids. So the Depends-set will find comfort in that in a sort of 'the more things change, the more they stay the same' sort of way."

"Show a young woman naked, but it's 'okay' because she's a discovered corpse," C.I. chimed in. "Show her, alive, in flashback, just wearing a bra repeatedly, and it's still 'okay' because this isn't 'titillation,' it's 'reenacting a crime'. Get's the blood pumping a little. Let's the middle-aged men leave the Lazy Boys with a bit of a spring in their step."

"It fills an hour with nothing but questions, pulls some answers from offscreen, sets up things so they're all relatable to those about to kiss goodbye middle-age, while giving them one last false hope that they're still 'with it'," we concluded. "That's why it's a hit. It's a pacifier. That tells them the crime gets solved, the guilty are punished, the world is black and white."

Jim nodded and was about to say something but we stopped him. These shows always end in silence.

The ones we never know


I've been playing in my yard. Giggling and laughing. Running around.

My parents had been uneasy yesterday. My mother was gruff, my father just silent. Sometimes, when he looks like that and I look in his eyes, it just makes me nervous.

Seeing him so sad makes me nervous.

So I started singing a song.

I was just trying to cheer him up, to make him smile.

Mother told me I was being silly -- I was being silly! That was the whole point. Right before she told me to be quiet, I saw Father kind of smile.

I told myself, "I will work harder at dinner. I will make him smile. And I will make him laugh."

I think he is so sad all the time because there is no work. There is no work for anyone. It has been that way for a long time, so long, I don't remember it being any other way.

I thought about that some and decided that when I grew bigger, I would make money. I would make lots and lots of money and I would give it to Father and he would be so happy. He would smile like he does in the old pictures.

Mother says he used to smile all the time. She says I should remember that because, "you are not that young."

When mother talks about it, I feel like I can almost remember better days. Like there was a time when we were walking through town and I remember her laughing. But what I really remember was Mother making me laugh and making others laugh too. Grown ups.

I remember that and remember being so happy. Proud too because I had a smart and funny mother.

People do not laugh too much these days. People do not laugh much at all.

I think I forget the old days because they are not coming back. I said that to my father and he said that was nonsense.

He said some day things would be good again. He really wanted me to believe that. You know that look parents get when they are trying real hard to convince you of something? He had that look.

To make him feel better, I nodded and pretended like I could see a "better." But I really couldn't.

I don't think about it much now, the "better." I just know that no matter how sad it gets, I have the yard.

My yard. I am the boss there. Me and me alone. I play what I want and as I want. I pretned lots of fun stuff.

"What would it be like if my pretend was real?" I asked my mother the other day.

"You'd probably be a princess and I'd be stuck being the only queen who had to clean her own palace," my mother joked.

That is not true. I would dream people to help her.

I started wondering, "Why can't my pretend be real?"

If things are so bad, why not just pretend?

I was very serious. Why do I have to stop pretending when I leave the yard and come in for dinner?

I asked that.

Mother said, "Because you cannot pretend your life away."

Father smiled me and winked. Then he said, "She can pretend forever if she wants. George W. Bush does."

We all laughed.

George W. Bush is always good for a laugh. I do not know who he is but I know he causes laughter. I know he causes more than laughter when I am supposed to be asleep or supposed to be out of hearing range. Sometimes I think he must be a real person and sometimes I think he must be a demon created to scare little kids.

I am not so little as I was. I am growing. I am big. Everyone says that, they say, "You are growing." I am too.

When you are bigger things get less scary. Like ants. When you are as big as me, you look down from so high that they are so small that even though they sting you with their bites, you are not scared of them anymore than you are scared of a fly.

I am not scared of strangers no more. I used to be. I used to rush to hide behind Mother anytime I saw a stranger. Now I just wave. Sometimes they say something and I say something back. That's how it goes when you get bigger.

I see a stranger who has come by twice now. I think I will go talk now.

MONDAY, MAY 15, 2006
In Wajihiya, Reuters notes the death of a seven-year-old girl and well as the wounding of at least "seven members of her family" after their home was hit with by "a mortar round."

Once upon a time there were plenty of Baby Dumbasses

Rain drops fell on the village and while everyone else went indoors, Baby Dumbasses stayed outside.

"Where are you going?" they asked. "Don't you know this is liquid sunshine."

Then a mighty wind came through. Baby Dumbasses jumped up and down with joy.

"Feel this?" they asked. "It is the dreams you dream trying to find you."

Then lightning struck a Baby Dumbass on the head.

As he burned to a crisp, the other Baby Dumbasses giggled and laughed.

"Oh, he is taking a nap!" they insisted.

The next day the dead Baby Dumbass was carried to a grave and buried.

"Why are you burying him!" hollered Baby Dumbasses. "He is not dead!"

"He is dead," they were told.

"No, he is not!" they insisted.

The doctor who pronounced him dead stepped over and she explained slowly and carefully that Baby Dumbass was dead and how he died.

"You are wrong!" they insisted. "We know more than you! We know more than everybody!"

So Baby Dumbasses waited for the dead Dumb Ass to dig himself out.

They waited for days. They waited for nights.

They would not budge.

Finally (and thankfully because Dumb Ass is not a pretty sight), they died.

The end?

We wish it were so.

Thursday, Rolling Stone published Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s " Was the 2004 Election Stolen?Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House" online.

You might think this would be a time where those who had sought 'respectability' from the mainstream to re-evaluate. You would be wrong.

A cry from some of the so-called left is "Exit polling can't be trusted!"

As though the whole point of the article is the exit polling.

But can exit polling be trusted?

It's one basis for the science in poli sci. Up until 2000, it wasn't considered 'iffy' and had done quite well in the post-WWII era. The press pooled together on the issue because they believed in it. It only came into question with the emergence of the Bully Boy.

So we're a little puzzled that some want to say "Pooh on exit polling!" We're wondering what their experience with it is. (For the record, one person working on this feature has crunched exit polls for poli sci graduate courses as well as helped with it for the press, one of the top papers.) We note that the poohers don't have much to say other than that it's unreliable.

We'll assume there was a handout with the talking point EXIT POLLING IS UNRELIABLE at the top since it seems to be the starting and ending point.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has stepped into this conversation and did so knowing that there would be attacks. We wonder if he knew that some of the attacking would come from presumed "friends"?

Baby Dumbasses die and fade away in the tale above. An alternative ending, a happily ever after, would be they wise up. Sadly, we don't see either ending becoming reality anytime soon.

Sherman's Story

Sherman Meshenberg, a very political man, was both Jewish and gay -- or, as he preferred, "Jewish and a homophile." To the surprise of the few who he trusted, he was also Republican. He was quite pleased with his fame, such as it was, as a behind the man kind of guy -- someone who blended and never drew attention to himself but still managed to earn many a quiet plaudit.

He stood out on the backporch of his Georgetown home, not far from where Dean Acheson once lived, lit his cigarette and had a nice smoke while reviewing some of his greatest hits.

It had been Sherman, for instance, who'd thought to dub Barbra Streisand's visit to the capital, "Miss Marmelstein Goes to Washington." Who but Sherman would have been able to conjure up an obscure character from a sixties musical that could make the very mainstreamed Streisand suddenly appear so foreign, so alien?

Had he betrayed his Jewish roots? He'd wondered that briefly. You didn't have to be Abe Foxman to know that Jew bashing still went on. He was encouraging it but, in the end, he decided that the cause, in this case ridiculing Streisand or any other Democrat, far outweighed any betrayal to his own people. It still struck him as hilarious to hear the supposedly straight Fox boys using the smear with musical history roots.

That's what sometimes worried him, that his smears would lead back to him. He didn't want that. He preferred to avoid the limelight. But there was always that risk because, as he well knew, he was just to clever for his own good.

Some of the smears were just so obvious that it surprised him they'd yet to find their way back or raise an eyebrow. He wasn't complaining. He liked his lower profile. He had just enough attention, thank you very much. Plenty of back slaps and glad handing at the more fashionable parties he attended stag. People, the ones who mattered, always recognized him, always greeted him. Columnists begged him for a bon mott they could run with in print -- and pass off as their own. He never minded. It was who he was.

He liked who he was. The under the radar, go to guy.

He tossed aside the cigarette, into the rose bushes, and lit another.

Smirking, he thought about how Al Gore was attempting a comeback.

Al Gore. Smart. Thinking on his feet. Able to address any situation.

Who but Sherman could have thought of the perfect smear?

Zelig. After the lead character from the film of the same name. The little nothing who became his surroundings.

In the midst of a long drag, Sherman coughed and chuckled.

That one really took off. Al Gore as a laughing stock. Conjured up the image of him as a small, weak man. A silly little . . .

Had he Jew baited again?

Nonsense, he wasn't a self-loather. It was just a gut punch. He was proud of it.

He was proud of how it had been picked up even more. There was something so hilarious about seeing all those Irish-Catholics on TV talking about "Zelig." Or writing their columns and working in "Zelig." The film that took in eleven million at the box office, not even twice what Gigli took in, but there they all were in print and on television, acting as though they'd seen the film. Even now it made him laugh.

And filled him with a sense of power. If it weren't for him, Peggy Noonan would have kept pimping the Rhett Butler comparison. Clark Gable wasn't an insult. No damage done with that. Noonan, and others like her, would be off in space, yammering on about a thousand points of light and unable to deliver the goods if it weren't for him.

Life was good. Real damn good. He was happy with . . . No proud of. Proud of what he'd done. Proud of who he had become.

One more puff and he'd back inside spending the rest of the night with Sebastian. Uppity little hustler, insisting Sherman couldn't smoke in his own home. But Sebastian had a face like an angel and a mouth like a sewage pump. Besides, it beat trolling the Georgetown Inn. Much more . . . under the radar.

From a diary found in the Mayflower Hotel

The following is from a diary found in the Mayflower Hotel.

May 31st, 2006

Well call me Thelma and call me Lousie, I lept off the cliff. I sure done it. "Lump in the bed," my ass. Where does Shorty get off insulting me? I wasn't the one avoiding the cameras for days during the Florida non-recounts because I had a boil on my face.
"Mark of the Beast," Mama joked.
Then when Jimmy Baker told him he had to go out before the camera, he wore that dopey bandaid that made him look like a four-year-old who fell off his tricycle.
Like Jenna said, "I've been covering hickeys wince I was 12, all he had to do was ask for my help." Never occured to him. Thinks he can do it all. Mr. Go It Alone. Well let's see how he fares going it alone night after night in our bed.

June 1st, 2006
Still banked out here. It's so much better than "Casa de Blanca." For instance, I can smoke my Pall Malls without someone's pretend "coughs."
" Laura, you know smoke irritates my throat."
Must have been why he brought a bong along on our honeymoon.
If I ever remember who it was that told me I had connections, I swear I'll phone in an anonymous tip to Alberto that they're hiding Osama. Or, better yet, tell Karl Rove that they're hiding taped conversations between him and Matt Cooper. That'll get a nice little SWAT team breaking down the front door.
Sally Quinn dropped by a visit and a hoped for heart-to-heart.
She was there as a "friend." As if.
Everyone knows the only one who can keep a secret at that paper is Woody.
She wanted to know if my "stand" had anything to do with Shorty's affair with Condi.
What the hell was she smoking?
Shorty with Condi?
It would be a blessing.
Get him out of the house.
I swear since Dick made it clear in 2001 that he was running things, Shorty's never far from my side. There is such a thing as too much togetherness.
I tried to interest him in reading. That didn't take.
He whined, "Laura, the people talk too fast in these books."
I must have stared at him for three minutes before I realized he wasn't joking.
We have nothing in common.

June 2nd, 2006
All of Shorty's talk about his "legacy" has been making me think. Not like him.
He says "legacy" but means polls. He seems to think history is some sort of a congeniality contest.
I told him, "Well do something. Do something to make your mark in history."
He said he'd have to check with Dick first.
He tried to call him but Dick was in his undisclosed location.
I wish I had an undisclosed location.
I'd avoid Shorty too.
Barbara came by last night. Not the pretty one, my daughter. The ugly one, my mother-in-law.
I had a good buzz on, after a few shots of vodka and a beer chaser. Then I opened the door and saw her face.
Sobered me up right away.
I bet when snakes get drunk, they see her face.
She couldn't shut up about Shorty. How lost he was without me there to remind him it was Thursday so he needed to change his underwear. How he choked twice because no one remembered to tell him to swallow his food. How he spent the time after Blue's Clues walking around Casa de Blanca trying to find me.
"Where's Laura?" he'd ask outside a closed door with a goofy grin.
Then he'd open the door and look inside. He'd be crestfallen, she said, not to find me.
"Well Big Babs," I said stubbing out my cigarette on a saucer, "he never found the much promised WMDs either and he lived."
That was her cue to leave but she can be as dense as he is.
Plus, she said she needed to go to bathroom.
Needed to swipe the towels, that cheap ass cow.
I'll never forget her screaming at Jenna a few years back.
"You left two sips of cola in this can!" she screamed while little Jenna cowered.
I threw thirty-five cents at her and told her to knock it off.
You'd think she'd be embarrassed but instead she just dived to the carpet to scoop up the coins.
Cheap ass cow.
"I was a First Lady too," she told me trying to create some bond.
Yeah, but people don't mistake me for my husband's mother.
Screw her. I got big plans today.
Like I said, I'm wondering about my own legacy. I'm afraid I'll be seen as some sort of madwoman, like that character Bertha in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.
Hell, even Osama releases videos. Me, I just hang out in the First Bedroom all day, reading trashy paperbacks and smoking my cigs. If you had my marriage, you would too.
But I've decided to "Hillary up."
Female version of the "cowboy up" Dick and Shorty are always high fiving over.
You read that right, "high fiving."
Is there a more ridiculous sight than Dick trying to act "hip" by asking Shorty to "give me five, slap me some skin"? I'm surrounded by social losers.
Which is good because it should allow me to stand out.
Gotta' run, first phase of Hillary up starts now.

June 3rd, 2006
Yesterday went pretty good. I gave a little speech at the United Nations. You read that right. And unlike Shorty, no one booed me. I twisted the knife a little by reminding everyone of Shorty's AIDS promise, the one he still hasn't fulfilled. I didn't point that out. I left it unsaid. But I know everyone was thinking about it.
The only distrubing thing was that I was seated next to Janet Reno and I swear she kept hitting on me.
Finally, I said, "Janet, I'm really not interested. Thank you all the same."
That's when I realized I'd been sitting next to John Bolton.
He looked hurt.
He probably gets the Janet Reno comparison a lot.
I felt bad because suddenly the clubs he'd been pushing didn't seem so bad but he was pissed and acting like I'd just farted.
Oh well, I looked good. Unlike Shorty, my clothes actually fit me. For a guy who can't take the cowboy boots off, even in bed, he sure has a Peter Pan complex.

Song of the War Hawks

We're geared to see the worst
Let the bombs burst!

This demands retaliation
We can't wait for a first strike.
Action without thought
Is the solution!
We can't wait for a first strike.

We have no sense of history
We lack perspective!
Our view of the world
Is quite subjective.

We'll put you or your child
First on the battleline.
But never us, never our's
On that we decline.

When the blood starts pumping
We want vengeance.
When the markets ain't jumping
We base war on contingence.

We are the war hawks
We are proud and loud.
We are the war hawks
We are men and women.
We are the war hawks
Give us your children.

We defy logic
We got the blood lust
We refute blame
We got the blood lust
We're demagogic
We got the blood lust
We have no shame
We got the blood lust.

We are the war hawks
We are proud and loud.
We are the war hawks
We are men and women.
We are the war hawks
Give us your children.

We are never wrong
Unless everyone is wrong.
Safety in the throng
Hear us sing along
"We were all wrong"
"We were all wrong."

We take no responsibility
We have no accountability
Just the suggestion
Lacks civility.
We take no responsibility
We have no accountability
In the populace
We expect docility.

Who will live and who will die
Is at our discretion.
Our facts come via
A long bull session.
If you dare to question
We will rule it agression.

We are the war hawks
We are proud and loud.
We are the war hawks
We are men and women.
We are the war hawks
Give us your children.

Super Laura?

On Saturday nights, when most have already packed it in, one woman's still fighting. Should we call her Super Laura? Rallying the RadioNation each Saturday and Sunday.

Taking on 2004's stolen election, or reminding you of 2000's questionable selection, she is there, on the air. Addressing the issue of what does voting mean, "If our votes don't count, aren't counted, or are counted for the other guy?"

Puncturing a hole in the gas bags (example: Lou Dobbs), armed with reality, or charting the course of the exotic but lethal species known as Pacifica and FAIR, she brings to the mike experience. Now she's teamed up with The Nation and is in the midst of a national tour to prove the country not a simplistic "blue" or "red" but differing shades of purple. (Next week, Seattle.)

On air, she asks the questions you wished would be asked. Such as Saturday, when Republican Bruce Fein, a former Bully Boy booster, was on to discuss the damage fearful leader had done. Noting an e-mail that had been sent to her during the program, she gave voice to the woman's concern: why did the woman, a self-identified "housewife," know the Bully Boy would lead us down a perilous path when the presumed expert only came to that conclusion much later?

Fein joked that the woman should think of becoming a punidt, then he attempted to explain that he'd never feel guilty for having faith or hope or whatever it was he felt from or saw in the Bully Boy. The question, from an average listener, seemed to leave him flustered. Flanders wasn't rude to her guest but she also didn't attempt to rescue him so he could avoid answering the question. (We can picture Cokie Roberts chorteling at the pundit joke and saying, "Let's move on.")

Saturday, she addressed Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" with Ann Waldman, Eliott Katz and Greg Palast -- as well as the the role of the arts in politics.

That's the show, wide ranging, reflecting her own diverse interests (and many a listener's as well). Never afraid to address the big issues or to zone in clearly on individual responsibility, she just may be hosting the best commercial radio program there is -- aided by the strong contributions of Steven Rosenfeld and Christabel Nsiah-Buadi.

Super Laura? She'd probably reject the idea. Her slogan is "Don't leave politics to the politicians." To "Super Laura," she'd probably reply, "Don't give me your power, own it and use it yourself."

RadioNation with Laura Flanders (seven to ten p.m. Saturdays and Sunday on Air America Radio) today features:

Progressive Democrat MARCY WINOGRAD will be our guest, She's waging an upstart primary campaign against California Congresswoman Jane Harmon.

Sunday Radio Highlights

It's Sunday and you're thinking, "Repeats on TV, what am I going to do!" Turn on the radio (or computer, all shows featured can be heard online). What might you hear? Music fan? There's plenty being offered from Chico Alvarez to Nancy LaMott. Looking for theater? There's a play set in the civil rights era. Want politics? How about a challenger trying to win a primary against an incumbent Congressional war hawk? Or the issues of poverty or air quality? There's all that and a lot more. So here are some radio highlights for Sunday. Please note that Radio Chronicles and Act One Radio Drama are only available for seven days. If you're reading this on Monday or Tuesday, you can listen via the archives. If you're reading this on June 12th or later, you've missed it.

On New York City's WBAI:

11:00-noon: The Next Hour
Actor/writer/raconteur Malachy McCourt holds forth.

1:00-2:00 pm: The Musicians Of WBAI
Spotlighting Chico Alvarez and Arnell Dowret. Shawn Rhodes hosts this second installment which features the music of each artist along with interviews conducted by WBAI Sunday News co-anchor, Barbara Day.

6:30-7:00 pm: Equal Time for Freethought
The Church of the SubGenius (and its retractors)! The Church of the SubGenius is a satirical postmodern parody religion, originally based in Dallas, Texas, which gained popularity in the 1980s and 1990s subculture, with a large presence on the Internet.

9:00-11:00 pm: Everything Old is New Again
This Sunday we feature the music of Barry Manilow, playing hits like New York City Rhythm, Marry Me A Little, and of course, Copacabana (At the Copa), from his new CD, The Greatest Songs of the 50s. Also, some James Taylor, Nancy LaMott and many more.

On Berkeley's KPFA:

Sunday Salon
Sunday, June 4th,
Broadcasting from Fresno, about Fresno...
Hour 1: Urban Poverty;
Hour 2: Air Quality

Radio Chronicles
Sunday, June 4th, 6:30p.m.
Unnatural events: A town in Australia caught up in a series of earthquake tremors, being struck by lightning, and much more...

Act One Radio Drama
Sunday, June 4th, 7:30p.m.
L.A. Theatreworks presents "Of One Blood," a poignant and disturbing play about the infamous murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964

Finally, on RadioNation with Laura Flanders (Air America Radio, seven to ten p.m.):

On Sunday, Progressive Democrat MARCY WINOGRAD will be our guest,
She's waging an upstart primary campaign against California Congresswoman Jane Harmon.
And next weekend we broadcast live from our Seattle affiliate: Progressive Talk KPTK 1090AM.

Music Spotlight: Kat on Janis Ian's Folk Is The New Black

Kat did seven reviews in May. In June? She'd planned on two. But Saturday, she got a CD and she's thinking it may have to jump to three. Here's here latest.

Kat's Korner: Janis Ian blows in on a gentle breeze

Kat: What was that song?

That's what e-mails Ruth and I both received last week asked.

This song?

Come good people and gather 'round
Step out of the water before your drown
Tide is coming swift and deep
Gonna knock you off your feet
There's a tide of greed that knows no shame
and a tide of money that holds no stain
A tide of men who worship pride
and will not be denied

While politicians lie and cheat
to get to higher ground
we follow them like sheep
and salute them as we drown
but no man will be king
when all men wear the crown
and there will be a reckoning
from deep inside the rising tide
as we tear down the web
of the Great Divide

That's Janis Ian's "The Great Divide." And if you were listening to the music special on KPFA Friday, May 26th, you actually heard it on the radio. Bonnie Simmons, Jim Bennett and Luis Medina gave you a wonderful selection of some of the recent protest music. That included Josh Ritter's "Girl in the War," two selections from Neil Young's Living With War, some Bruce Springsteen (from We Shall Overcome -- The Seeger Sessions), an instrumental, jazz reworking of David Bowie's "This Is Not America" . . .

And Janis Ian.

While some were hearing Janis Ian for the first time, some of the e-mailers already knew her. Her song "At Seventeen" was a staple of seventies radio, her "Jesse" was much covered (Roberta Flack did a wonderful version on Killing Me Softly and Joan Baez on the third disc of Rare, Live & Classic; and no, this isn't the same song as Carly Simon's equally wonderful song by the same name). Some who knew of Ian may go back even further.

Lillian Roxon wrote the following in her landmark Rock Encyclopedia (1969):

This prodigious child was singing and writing songs at fifteen. By the time she was sixteen she had an album out. Her single, "Society's Child" (white-girl-meets-black-boy, girl-loses-boy, girl-blames-society) was not the sort of song the disc jockeys were accustomed to playing, and they obviously would never have done so but for the intervention of Leonard Bernstein, conductor of the New York Philharmonic, who in a TV special on rock music made a point of featuring the diminutive Miss Ian (four foot seven) and her ballad of miscegation. That was it. The record took off and so did Janis. Her songs are concerned with the hypocrisies of modern society. She has clearly been influenced by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Tim Buckley, but her style is her own and her following, especially among earnest middle-class sixteen-year-old girls who are also concerned with the hypocrisies of modern society, is enormous.

So if you heard Ian for the first time on KPFA, you might be wondering: What happened? Drugs? Meltdown? Nope, twas success that doomed the career.

Not "excess." Janis Ian, from all accounts, didn't go the Sly Stone path. She remained grounded. But "At Seventeen" was a monster hit, not just on the charts but through repeated spins on radio. It spoke to a lot of people.

Why is that a problem? The song was tuneful as hell, Ian nailed it in her vocal. The lyrics were the problem:

To those of us who knew the pain
of valentines that never came
and those whos names were never called
when choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
when dreams were all they gave for free
to ugly duckling girls like me

If you just said, "Kat, I don't have a problem with those lyrics," let me give you a hug and congratulate you. But this song, which won Ian a Grammy and helped the album go to number one on the charts, also launched a million jokes.

Twas the era of cock-rock*, even though the Stones did a disco song (as did Rod Stewart and a host of others). Jimmy Buffet and Elton John weren't exactly turning out "The Battle of Evermore" but, hey, they were men. And apparently that's what mattered most to some. By decade's end, even the former Ziggy Stardust would be trying to butch it up -- to the eye rolls of many.

Janis Ian? Just too much for those nervous about their masculinity. Now if she'd sang about boys whose names were never called, the same crowd slamming her would be sobbing in their beer and saying, "That's deep, man" the way they do whenever "Cat's in the Cradle" pipes out of a jukebox to this day. That's "universal." That's something "everyone" can relate to. Because, despite the fact that women are in the majority of the population, when a male sings about his own experience, it's heralded as the "norm." When a female sings about her own experience, it's for a "niche" audience, it has "specialized" appeal.

Ian's "crime" was writing and singing a moving song. And you better believe that some of the smart asses cracking wise could relate to it . . . in secret. But puff out the chests, put a little swagger in the walk, and sneer. That's the way it was handeled.

Not by all men. Straight, gay, or bi, some men weren't checking for their Johnsons in alarm over the fact that they could relate to the song. Some knew that relating wasn't confined to gender. But, and if you lived through it, this will be familiar, it was The Age of Sexual Panic. Walls had been torn down and now it was be who you are -- kind of too much for some. They needed those traditional, constricted roles and easiest way (then or now) to prove your "manhood" was to piss on a woman.

Janis Ian became a target for many. She'd been an admired singer, a gifted songwriter, one of those dubbed "one to watch" for many years, gathering a larger following with each release. Then came the song that nearly everyone sang along with in 1975 as it played on the radio but, by 1976, it was time to draw the line. (Ironically, the album the song hailed from was Between the Lines.) So to Christian, who wrote to ask, "Why haven't I heard this magical voice before?" -- that goes a long way to explaining why.

Fortunately, a number of you heard her on KPFA. Her latest album is Folk Is The New Black ("cheaper than crack, and you don't have to cook"). There are fifteen songs and, no surprise, Janis wrote every one of them. In the linear notes, she writes "All lead vocals recorded live Do not try this at home." It shows. Or it "hears."

Looking at photos of her today, you see that the curly hair still curls, now it's a silver halo and that's fitting for one of the most comfortable voices in music. Janis could always caress a lyric and the only thing that's changed is she does so with an even softer touch today. "All Those Promises" is the best example of that. "Every sweet caress was just your second best," she sings from a soft place that will break your heart. As you dig deeper into the album, you'll find musical moments, vocal shadings and lyrics that surprise you because you're listening to an artist as opposed to someone showing up to lay down a vocal on top of the latest series of crafted beats.

Which isn't to say the album won't have you moving. "Drowning Man" will probably find you nodding your head in time with the rhythm. But what you'll note mainly is the care that's been put into each track and the voice that always seemed to blow in on a gentle breeze.

Patricia Snyder has done some wonderful illustrations in the linear notes and, for "Jackie Skates," she's drawn a guitar that "charms black mambo." The music could probably charm snakes. It will surely charm anyone who listens. If you're wondering if this is the album for you, listen to "The Last Train" and that'll provide the answer. If your local music store doesn't provide you some means to listen, you can hear samples of all the tracks by clicking here. In addition, at her own website, Janis Ian has a page where she provides you with the opportunity to download three tracks from Folk Is The New Black ("Joy," "The Great Divide" and "Folk Is The New Black") for free. In the title track, she sings "Download it and see, The first time is free, then you'll be hooked." See if that's not the case. Ian rightly sings of "The Great Divide," but this new album (again) proves that there shouldn't be any divide between her and music lovers.

[*Note: Mike and I touch on this period with other examples in his "My interview with Kat." You can also check out "Crapapedia: Kids don't use it to research papers!"]

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Highlight: A conversation in three parts

Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and of The Third Estate Sunday Review, and Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix held a roundtable. (They were wrong, one more wouldn't have meant Jim would say, "This should be a Third Estate Sunday Review piece!" He said it with just the four participating.) It posted at all four sites. (Rebecca, Betty and Cedric added an outside highlight to the conversation when they posted it at their sites.) You can use any of the following links:

"roundtable with cedric, betty, c.i. and myself participating"
news via Democracy Now and a conversation in three parts"
A conversation in three parts"
Focusing on the paper to avoid my husband"

or you can just read it below:

A conversation in three parts

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, , , , , , ,


Rebecca: So this is a joint entry and it was planned to be C.I. and myself and then I started thinking, "Why don't we see if Cedric wants to take part?" C.I. was fine with that but said that Betty should be invited because she's "trapped under Thomas Friedman" at her sight which is very true. So we invited both and it's now a joint entry of four people. When it was just the two of us, I asked C.I., "Will this be in lower case?" That is how I do it at my site and C.I. responded, "Are you going to type it up?" So no lower case if you're reading this at my site.

Cedric: That's Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty's site is Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. does The Common Ills and is part of The Third Estate Sunday Review, and I'm Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix.

Betty: Cedric and I are helping with the note taking and typing so it's not all falling on C.I. I'm thrilled to be invited to participate and even more thrilled not to have to figure out what idiotic mess Thomas Friedman's made for Betinna to clean up.

C.I.: Betinna is the main character in Betty's online, comic novel. This weekend may, or may not be, the fiction edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review. Rebecca and I had discussed that and how a roundtable wouldn't be possible if it was the fiction edition, where short stories and other things are highlighted, and we wanted to address a few things. Cedric had noted something in an e-mail to me and in a phone call to Rebecca so we knew he was on the same page, to recap on why he was invited. Elaine and Mike weren't invited, nor was anyone else, but that was due to the fact that they have their own pattern for posting and also I'm not sure that they're posting this evening. If they do, it will be late because Elaine has plans. So they may be posting on Saturday instead.

Rebecca: Betty was our cut off. Four people we could handle. Besides the fact that she's always looking for a way to post an entry about anything other than Thomas Friedman, we were also curious about what she would think about the topics discussed. Add in that she got a promotion at her job and wasn't sure she'd be able to do a post this week as she got used to the new responsibilities and we really wanted to include her. But four is our cut-off for this. Anymore and Jim would be saying, "I think this should be a piece for The Third Estate Sunday Review."

Betty: I think the easiest way to start this off is to note Rebecca's grandmother's because she wrote about her last night in "more marine news and talking about my grandmother." As a result, I'm sure people are concerned. I read C.I.'s entry this morning and saw that everything was fine, then went to read Rebecca's entry and it still made me anxious, even knowing that her grandmother was fine.

Rebecca: She called me out of the blue and asked me to visit. We usually talk on the phone several times a week and see each other at least once a week. If she'd called Thursday about wanting to get together next week, it wouldn't have surprised me but when she called Thursday and asked me to come over that day, I was expecting either good news or bad news, and worried about it being bad. We had a nice visit and discussed a number of issues, personal ones, current events, etc. But near the end of the visit, I kept asking her if something was wrong because I was sure she had to have some bad news that she was waiting to break. When none was forthcoming, I worked myself up into a state of worry where I was convinced that she had some bad news about her health and this was one of those "Everything's fine" moments where, only after, you realize that the person was trying to say goodbye.

Cedric: But that wasn't it.

Rebecca: No. She phoned this morning and she was just very disturbed by the news of Haditha.

C.I.: Just to set the stage, November 19, 2005 something happened in the Iraqi town of Haditha. The military's official version, which the mainstream press was happy to parrot, was that 'insurgents' had attacked American troops, a roadside bomb had gone off, taking the lives of 15 Iraqis and a United States marine, following the explosion, 'insurgents' had began firing on American troops and, in responding with gunfire, eight insurgents were killed.

Cedric: Give an example of two who ran with the official version because you covered it this morning.

C.I.: Writing for the New York Times, Edward Wong and Hassan M. Fattah contributed "Road Bomb Aimed at Convoy Kills 15 Civilians and a Marine in Restive Iraqi Province" which offered nothing but 'officials say . . .' There is no correction to that item currently. If you access the article online, they've still not provided a correction.

Rebecca: And before we go any further, explain that paper's ads because I understood it in the second entry but you were on the phone with me for both entries and I don't think they were written the way they would have been if I hadn't been jawing your ear off. FYI, when I called C.I. I was blubbering and it took about ten minutes before I calmed down enough to explain that everything truly was fine, I was just filled with relief that my grandmother was okay.

C.I.: Hold on. Let me grab a paper so I can read it word for word. The ad runs all the time. It's an ad for the New York Times run in the pages of the New York Times. Okay, this is Tuesday's paper because I just looked at the backs of the sections to avoid flipping through them to find it. It's probably run since, more than once. They run it all the time. On Tuesday, the full page ad appeared on B8 which was the back page of "The Arts" section. It's a black and white ad, full page. You see the "T" and maybe the "i" of the "Times" in a square with an arrow, like the on you have with your computer mouse, resting on it. Big letters: "College students, meet your new research assistant." Smaller letters: "Looking for help with that research paper? Find it at TimesSelect, the premium service at With TimesSelect, you'll get access to 25 years of articles from The Times -- articles on politics, history, science, art, business, sports and just about any other subject you're assigned. And TimesSelect also offers e-mail alerts whenever a new article on your subject appears." Either in the same size or slightly bigger: "Find out about our special university discount for students and faculty." Then: "Visit" Then: "TimesSelect" with "" beneath it. This ad runs all the time.

Betty: So the point of the ad is that they're telling college students and, let's face it, high school and middle school students, that a subscription to the Times will provide you with accuracy but if you're trying to find out about Haditha and you search that looking for November, what you find is Wong and Fattah's article which still has no correction to it?

C.I.: Correct. And in case anyone's been asleep for the last few weeks, the official version has come undone. Civilians were killed. For more on that, you can listen, watch or read the transcript of "Haditha Massacre: Was it an Isolated Event and Did the Military Try to Cover it Up?" from Tuesday's Democracy Now!

Cedric: Before we go any further, can I ask what the service, the paper's, provides?

C.I.: I can't tell you the full service because I rarely go to the website. Links to articles we discuss each morning are usually coming from members' e-mails. There are tiers. For instance, the op-ed columns are now "behind the wall." You can't access them without paying for them. The opposite of the Wall St. Journal which makes those available to everyone at their website but makes people pay for news content. The first tier, as I understand it, is somewhere around fifty-five dollars for a year. That allows you to read the content online, new content, and allows you to search a certain number of articles, I believe. I subscribe to the print edition and the way it works for me is, if I log in, I can see anything in that day's paper with no charge, I can also see anything in the last seven days for free. After that, for anything older, I'm able to see 100 articles a month for free -- articles in the archive that I would be charged for otherwise.

Cedric: Okay. Sorry to go off topic.

C.I.: No, it's a question that pops up in the e-mails and now I can pull that post it off the computer. That's what I know of it, what little I know. I'm sure, and I'll even give the phone number out, that anyone at 1-800-698-4637 can answer any questions on it and, if I got a number wrong on that, it's 1-800-NYTIMES.

Cedric: Thanks. If anyone's wondering, my nephew's doing a college course, this summer, he's still in high school, and he's nervous about the research paper that will be a part of the class.

C.I.: Well, instead of signing up for something, just call me and I'll e-mail whatever he needs. I really do not go online that often and have never had more than ten of my hundred alloted articles for the month. So let me know, he can then look at what it has to offer, and if he likes it, you can go on from there.

Cedric: I will gladly take you up on that kind offer to test drive the Times. And I will get us back on topic by noting something, on Haditha, from the Iraq snapshot on Thursday. This was what a young girl, one of the survivors of what looks like a slaughter of Iraqis by US marines in November 2005 had to say: "They killed my father in the kitchen. They killed my mother, and my sister Noor. They killed her when they shot her in the head. She was only 15 years old. My other sister was shot with seven bullets in the head. She was only 10 years old."

Betty: That stuck in my head. More than any back and forth or "investigation is ongoing" or anything else, that stuck in my head. That little girl that Cedric quoted is only twelve-years-old. I forget her name.

C.I.: Safa Younis.

Betty: In front of her, she saw her father die, she saw her mother die, she saw two sisters die. Safa is just twelve-years-old. And that's what she saw. And if you spoke to other Iraqis, you'd probably hear some with similar stories.

Rebecca: Because this is the occupation.

Cedric: The illegal occupation. Dahr Jamail made a point on Tuesday's Democracy Now! about how this, Haditha, is getting attention but most of the other incidents haven't and, at this rate, won't. He specifically tossed ou Falluja and I want to note that. For a few reasons. First off, Jim, Dona, Ava, Ty and Jess always point to the Iraq coverage at The Common Ills as why they were reading from the first day.

C.I.: To cut you off for a second, it was the second day. There was a tiny post on a Friday, outlining the intent, as I saw it, and noting it would probably all be tossed aside quickly. Which it was. But when they say the first day, they mean the first day of real posts. But what happens is, I end up with e-mails saying things like, "It's so great that from your very first post, you were addressing Iraq." That's not true and if I come across those e-mails, I reply to correct that. So let me correct it here. It's the sort of thing that with a larger group, I'm biting my tongue on because there are more important things to discuss and everyone has a point to make. But this will go up at The Common Ills and I want it to be clear there.

Cedric: Okay, second day. What grabbed me was music. First thing I ever contributed for the site, December of 2004, was noting a song that I felt we should all take a moment to appreciate. On Falluja, all I had was what the mainstream provided. That's an issue I've learned about since. That is a huge issue to Dahr Jamail and to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! as well. They always note it. But the reason I'm noting it is because most people don't. That's really true. They ignore it. Or they tossed it out at the end of 2004 and 'moved on.' There are over, I googled, 200 entries at The Common Ills on Falluja. That's how you spell it, "Falluja." If you're highlighting and they spell it "Fallujah," that's how they spell it, so I also searched that. And I realize from trying to find stuff via google on my own site that google doesn't catch everything. But that's what it takes, it takes more than that probably, to get people to pay attention. You can't talk Iraq and not mention what happened in April of 2004 and in November of 2004.

Betty: I would agree with that. Rebecca called me when WBAI, during pledge week, had Robert Fisk's speech on the history of Iraq. That was a powerful speech and I was listening at work. The woman who had the desk next to me was listening and, after the speech, which may have been forty minutes long, she was asking me about Falluja. She knew the mainstream, rah-rah coverage and that's all she knew. She was under the impression that people had been allowed to leave in November, she didn't know about the April events, and that it was just Saddam Hussein's "gang" left inside. She didn't understand why "the British guy," that's what she called him, would go on about Falluja because wasn't that a "good moment" for the country?

Rebecca: So what did you tell her?

Betty: I told her about the fact that it wasn't just men. It was young boys and that many had tried to leave but were turned back. I talked to her about the use of white phosphorus, I talked about how the hospitals were under seige and not allowed to come to the aid of people. And -- are they talking about Mexico?

Rebecca: I'm listening to Flashpoints, sorry. Yes, Dennis Bernstein's speaking to a man named John about of the elections in Mexico. The election is July 2nd, by the way. Marcos and the Zapatistas.

C.I.: I'm not listening because I'm taking notes but I would guess it was John Gibler, independent journalist.

Rebecca: That sounds like the name.

Betty: Sorry to lose focus. But, just to tie what we heard in, that's on a Pacifica station. On a Pacifica station, you can hear that. You can't hear that on a lot of other stations.

C.I.: And we'll come back to that in the second half. There are three breaks planned if they're needed. This first one is the long one -- where, for Betty, she'll be sitting down with her kids for dinner.


Cedric: When we left off Betty was making a point about Pacifica Radio.

Betty: Rebecca had Flashpoints on and they were discussing the upcoming elections in Mexico in a way that was quite a bit more than the soundbyte manner of NPR. Cedric had brought up Falluja and some people have no idea of what happened in that city in April of 2004 and November of 2004 which led me to explain how I had listened at work to WBAI to hear Robert Fisk's speech on the history of invasions in and war on Iraq. A woman whose desk was next to mine before I got a promotion at work had been listening as well and what she heard was, really, a revelation to her. She does follow the news on cable, reads the Atlanta Journal-Constitution each day, tries to keep up and she was finding out that there was a great deal she hadn't been informed of.

Rebecca: Did she become a Pacifica listener?

Betty: Not yet. She has kids like I do and that's probably the biggest problem with listening online. If you're at the computer, and you only have the one computer, you've got a kid wanting to put in their Barbie game or whatever. Or else, you're all over the house running after them, in which case, there's little or no listening. But what did change was that she listens WRFG. At five o'clock, you can grab headlines, I do, from Democracy Now! as you're entering traffic after work and headed to daycare to pick up the kids.

Cedric: Could you give the information on where it is on the dial?

Betty: Sure. It's 89.3 FM, WRFG. So five to six, you've got it right there, on the airwaves and it works well there because in the morning, you're dropping the kids off and forget about paying attention to anything other than what's going on in the backseat. For me, the way it works out is that I'm alone in the car for the headlines and the first ten to fifteen minutes after depending on traffic. Then it's grab a parking spot, go inside and get the kids, come back and grab the last twenty-five minutes which, when it's hot like it is now, the kids are usually just listening along. They're tired and it's hot, in fact, today it was so hot there wasn't even any griping among them. So that's usually the whole make it home trip, that hour.

Rebecca: And your co-worker is listening to Democracy Now! through that station?

Betty: Yes. She's someone who tries really hard to keep up and we can grab that hour except on Friday when Democracy Now! starts a half-hour earlier but, to be honest, if it was on at the same time on Friday, the second hour would be lost on me in the car because there is no too tired on Friday, on Friday, the kids are always too alert, too active and too vocal to follow anything on the radio after they're in the car. Just a little over on the dial, and I'm not giving it's position, is WABE and I have no use for it. It's NPR. Drive time is the second of two hours of All Things Considered which, strange considering the title, really offers very little to consider.

C.I.: I think that works just reading, but what anyone reading will miss is that on "strange, considering the title, really offers very little to consider" was delivered in Betty's parody of NPR.

Betty: My "White voice." Everyone on NPR sounds exactly the same. And they also have this way of speaking at the end of the piece that seems to be an attempt to make you go, "Hmmm."

Cedric: No matter what the stories is, they always think they're "Things That Make You Go Hmmm."

Betty: If I can stay on that for just one more second, in Atlanta, the PBS problem, the Whiteness of it all, is brought home even more because all the programming seems geared to White people and about White people. To give an example that people brought up today at work, tomorrow there will be a special on skincare --

Rebecca: What?

Betty: I'm not making that up. The woman's name is Adrienne Denese and everyone's making fun of her at work. It's going to teach us how to avoid aging -- public monies for Mary Kay basically. But who is that audience? There's a saying, I bet Cedric knows it --

Cedric: "Black don't crack."

Betty: Right. I mean, African-Americans do get wrinkles. But it's just one more example of WPBA causes the very large African-American community in Atlanta to scratch their heads and wonder who they think watches?

Cedric: Do you watch a lot of public television?

Betty: I don't have cable. Or "satellite" since that's now the big thing. Don't have it, won't have it. If broadcast TV ends, the kids can watch their DVDs. TV's never going to be something I'm going to waste money on. Not with three kids. So when we get home in the evening, they'll watch Arthur and I'll work on dinner. In the morning, they're watching Maya and Miguel. Teletubbies is really too young for them. And I really think they should move Sesame Street much earlier. It broadcasts at ten a.m. I don't think most kids catch it.

Cedric: And it's probably the only show for kids where there's actually different races.

Betty: Right. And you get asked that by your kids. I used to lie and say Francine, on Arthur, was "mixed." But my oldest got too smart for that. With the hair on the characters on Arthur, when kids get to a certain age, they know it's drawn White. I've really gone off topic, sorry.

C.I.: Don't apologize. These are points worth making. Someone needs to be saying it and good for you for doing so.

Cedric: Because there is no "public" in public television. It's White with a few guests brought on. That's all they are, guests. And that's not how it was when I was a kid but these days you're more likely to see a Big Red Dog, Clifford, than you are to see an African-American character. And, as Ava's pointed out, Maya and Miguel is a fifties show airing today. Maya's not really that active. Miguel's the adventurous one and Maya's basically saying, "Oh you boys, be careful." There's a lot of social conditioning going on with that show. The muppet characters on Sesame Street really were a breakthrough and that's obviously one person's idea and never what PBS wanted to reflect. On their own, they go for White characters in gender roles. Even when the characters are animals, they have characteristics that clue you in that they're White, either the bits of hair that are drawn on their heads or the person hired to voice the character. But let's get back to the war.

C.I.: Wait, no. For this section, let's focus on race. At The Third Estate Sunday Review each week we've tried to fit time in to address the topic but it hasn't been possible and if it is a fiction edition, there won't be a roundtable or an easy way to address it outside of fiction, so since that's a topic that's come up, let's stay on it.

Cedric: Well, we're always wanting to discuss KPFA's The Morning Show, there are many shows but that's the program most of us have started noticing really will address race.

Rebecca: The hosts are Andrea Lewis and Philip Maldari. It's a two hour broadcast, Monday through Friday.

Cedric: I really like Andrea Lewis. Betty had a good phrase for her.

Betty: "Down home." She's just really comfortable on air. She can do the serious interview or she can be funny. She's just really down home on air and I have to say thank you to Kat here because my chances of hearing online are limited, Kat knows that and makes a point to put in a cassette most mornings and I get a weekly shipment. Kat always apologizes that she doesn't have time to turn the tapes into a weekly best of but she'll note which things she thinks I'll really enjoy. When I'm cleaning the house on the weekends, I'm listening to The Morning Show. And not to take anything away from Philip Malderi who does a fine job himself but, as a Black woman, I listen and wonder why we don't have a thousand Andrea Lewises all over the airwaves. What we get instead is a lot of women with an attitude on air that translates as, "Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to prove to you that Black women can speak and think." Andrea Lewis is just down home. Like most non-Whites, it's never occurred to her, nor should it, that we can't have an opinion and express it.

C.I.: That's a point that Ty really wanted made, when we've talked about this for The Third Estate Sunday Review. That the relationship on air between Andrea Lewis and Philip Malderi is very much an equal one, Malderi is White, and that there's a balance there that you don't get very often. For those who've never heard the show, it's two hours, like Rebecca pointed out, and it's a morning show that has news breaks, anchored by Sandra Lupien, and they have guests on who discuss issues of the day and the arts. And among the many issues they are comfortable addressing is race.

Cedric: And I agree with that summary you just gave but I want to add to it because you listen to Pacifica and when you say that, it's going to make sense to people who listen to Pacifica. They're going to understand even if they don't listen to KPFA. But if they're listening to commercial radio, they're going to be nodding, if they think they get it, and thinking, "Soul Food on the radio!" They're going to be thinking it's Tom Joyner or something where there's this one big guy, and it's always a guy, surrounded by a lot of people on air who basically say, "You are so smart, tell us more."

Rebecca: Or they're going to be thinking, it's a bunch of ha-ha, "And then I went to the beauty parlor and, girl, let me tell you."

Betty: I was just thinking that. I'd call it the shuck-and-jive hour, shows like that. And in terms of radio, that's really often all you get. The thing Ty's pointed out where the Black staff member or co-anchor is basically there to say, "You White Guy are so smart and I am so lucky to be at this mircophone with you." Where they're scraping and bowing the whole time. They may do it for jokes or, if it's a more serious program, they may do it from a kind of eternal wonder position. But that's your one model and then you have the loud laughter, "So she comes up to me in front of all the ladies at the beauty parlor saying, 'It's not a weave. I have my hair processed.' And I said process! Girl, looks like your hair done been served! Ah-huh. Ah-huh. Ah-huh." On Fraiser, they had a character called Dr. Wendy and she was that type. Look, I'm from the south. There are women like that, I know them and some of them are wonderful friends, but that's one of two types we get and there are so many other types. You just don't hear them.

Cedric: And to fall back to Tom Joyner, he does the male of that character over and over and then his voice will get a little higher and it will be the and-now-we-get-serious moment. When we were all in California, Ty would be asking, "Who is that woman?" about Andrea Lewis. Over and over. And his point was, because by the first day, he knew who she was. We'd all be listening as we went here and there and all over, but his point was, this is an African-American woman that is like many women we know, she's smart, she's funny, she's obviously educated, and where is she on the radio? She's on KPFA and good for that. But where are women like her otherwise? I'm sure there are other women like that because she's not some creature that just landed on the planet. But I mean, what we get instead is "Gossip to Go with Flo."

C.I.: Florence Anthony.

Cedric: C.I. told me last week, when I brought this up, that Flo had gone to Howard University and graduated from there and I was shocked because --

Betty: Wait! Flo, went to Howard University?

Cedric: Yeah.

Betty: What a waste. There are some people at work that listen to her "Gossip to Go" thing. She also does that magazine . . .

C.I.: Black Elegance Magazine.

Betty: That's it, thank you. But I mean, for an educated woman to be doing that? God, I'll shut up before I start sounding like Bill Cosby.

Cedric: (Laughing) I know exactly what you mean. When C.I. told me that, I was just floored, Flo at Howard University? So why does she want to come off like the loud woman screaming into her cell phone on the bus?

Rebecca: I'm sorry, I don't know her. Fill me in.

Cedric: It's just a waste of a few minutes each day as she summarizes whatever made the gossip page in the New York Post --

C.I.: Where she used to work.

Cedric: That would explain why she plugs it. It's just trash. And Betty's "Ah-huh, ah-huh, ah-huh" really applies to her. If she were in Vegas, she'd be screaming, "Drum roll!" after every sentence but she's not funny. There are women like her and they can be very nice women. I'm not picking on that so much as I'm pointing out that that's what we get instead. We get a million Flos and if there are Andreas, we have to search high and low, long and hard just to find them.

Betty: Because, and I'll wrap up on this, when that's one of two types presented and only two types are presented, Flo doesn't come off as Flo but as one more touring in a never ending minstrel show.

Rebecca: I know we want to get back to the war, but we've just talked about portrayls or, maybe, access is the better word. Do we want to talk about anything else since Betty just pulled a Dona and said "wrap up"?

Cedric: Yeah, but that would probably be better to hold on. In terms of topics. I mean, you know what we're talking about, Rebecca, but there are a lot of people who will be scratching their heads over this and thinking, "Wait? They don't all go around grinning and laughing every minute of the day?" Probably not in this community, but there are people who have really strong stereotypes. And I don't just mean racists. There are people who -- I don't know how to word it.

C.I.: How about this. Colin Powell is seen as a living miracle because he can speak and think. And it's a bit late in the game that that should come off as somehow an exception to a race. But in terms of who is given access in the mainstream media and who is denied, Colin Powell stands like a giant just for how he carries himself because, despite reality, strides made still aren't reflected in the media?

Cedric: Yes. Yes, I'd agree with that.

Betty: I would too. I'm not a fan of Powell's and I know no one here is. But he comes off as an exception only because White America isn't presented with more reality.

Rebecca: Well, if I can add on a few more seconds here, can we talk Powell without talking Harry Belafonte since, if the mainstream media created Powell as the "good one," they spent a lot of time demonizing Belafonte recently?

Betty: I'm glad you brought that up because I read C.I.'s thing responding to someone's impression that this community had a war with The Nation. I don't think there's any more ridiculous claim. But if someone wants to toss that out, I'll toss back, "Is there a war with Black people?" There's Patricia J. Williamson and then whom? And I'll be honest, that thing of Katrina vanden Heuvel's pissed me off.

C.I.: She wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post and an expanded version was at her blog, Editor's Cut. She's the editor and publisher of The Nation. Cedric wrote about it, so he should probably do the set up.

Cedric: Well, she wrote a piece about the way people are talking, the political discourse. And to prove that it was on all sides, she included many examples, one of which was Harry Belafonte.
You didn't agree with the column?

C.I.: Me? No. I noted that here. I don't buy into the tone arguments. People should speak in their won voices. That includes Flo. The problem is when the range of voices is so narrow that a wide variety isn't presented. But people should speak in their own voices. She was, KvH, calling out to our better natures, that was the theme of the column. More power to her but I think we need a lot more voices and they need to speak in the way that suits them. I wrote about it because she got trashed online, basically called a hypocrite, and I didn't see it, the column, as being hypocritical when contrasted with a TV appearance either the same day or the next day.
You were offended by the inclusion of Belafonte in the examples and I honestly hadn't read the examples.

Cedric: I had a real problem with that, more so than the tone argument. I didn't think it read "reasonable." I thought she'd entered into, unwittingly, racially charged territory and that it was a mistake on many levels to have included him in her call outs.

C.I.: Because he was already under attack and had been for a lengthy period. He'd even been disinvited to the Coretta Scott King funeral. So for the publisher of The Nation to join in the chorus of tsk-tsk Belafonte was upsetting.

Cedric: Right. And that sets it up. Harry Belafonte was trashed and there was no reason for someone on th eleft, considering all that he'd gone through, to engage in, "He shouldn't have."

Betty: And it's not that he's above criticism. It's that there was a reaction, which she probably wasn't aware of, in the African-American community of "back off." We were tired of it. We were tired of the nonsense. I didn't speak to anyone who wasn't tired of it and sick of it. Whether they had grown up admiring him, as I did, he's an important person in my family, or whether they didn't care for him, they were sick of seeing him trashed. To her credit, she was comfortable with him in terms of being able to discuss him as she would anyone else. You could argue, and I hate this term, that she was "color blind." I hate the term because I don't think we can afford to be because we don't have racial parity in this country. But I think she was comfortable enough with him, in terms of her thoughts of him, I didn't think she hated him, to treat him as she would anyone esle. But where she came into the dialogue, because possibly she wasn't aware of what was going in, the reaction to the trashing of him, it was, my attitude, "Back off."

Cedric: The comfort factor was something I hadn't given her credit for and hadn't thought of it so I'm glad you brought that up. That's probably true. To her, it was probably one more example of how a statement or statements, and I agree with his statements, but there's a reaction, like Betty said, that she was completely unaware of. And my attitude was, and still is, I don't need you to tell me your non-endorsing opinion of this African-American who is under attack. This wasn't Michael Jackson where someone was accused of a crime --

Betty: Again!

Cedric: (Laughing) Again. This is someone who has lived his entire life in a way that uplifts so many of us and encourages so many of us. At a time when he was under attack, I didn't think her including him was helpful, needed or wanted.

Rebecca: It was personal, the attacks on Harry Belafonte and the reaction. And it's easy to say, "Well, that's how I would treat anyone." But I don't think that allows for the reality of the attacks or the reality of the times or, for that matter, the mood of the country. I disagreed with the entire column. For me, "I'm not ready to make nice," like the Dixie Chicks sing. I have no interest in being seen as "reasonable." We don't live in "reasonable" times. My reaction was, "Why is she including him?" I didn't see his statements as equivalent to others included. And maybe I'm remembering this wrong but it seems like only days after Amy Goodman was interviewing him on Democracy Now! and he was talking about the reactions to his comments and then I got even madder that he was included in the column.

Betty: I loved that interview Amy did. But back to Katrina vanden Heuvel, I think she is trying to rally and to inspire and that is needed in these times. I don't fault her for that. I don't even think it occurred to her that including Belafonte would be hurtful, nor do I think it was intended as such. But I do think it struck many as hurtful and it's something that bothers me even now.

Cedric: Just to repeat, and then we can close, one more time, I want to thank C.I. because I was really bothered by it and thought, "Well I can't write about this. The community, and that includes me, likes Katrina vanden Heuvel. " And that only made me more upset. So I called C.I. for input and was told, "Write it. I'll link to it. Just write what you feel and speak in your own voice and it's not a problem." I appreciated the support.

C.I.: Don't be silly. We all support one another in the community. We're going to take the second break and then return to the issue of the war.

Back to Iraq

Betty: We looked over the other two sections and the first one was our intro and the second was about race. In this section, we're going back to the war. And we're going to start off with Rebecca talking about her grandmother.

Rebecca: The news of Haditha, and this was before othe incidents began breaking in the news, just really upset her. The alleged crimes upset her, but what upset her even more was the reaction. Which is "oh, that bad Bully Boy!" She wondered if this was how our own "descent into hell" as a nation really began. And she is under no illusions that the last six years have been beneficial to Americans or the Constitution or the world. There's an effort to heap all the blame on the Bully Boy. He is to blame for setting the tone and creating the conditions under which the alleged abuse would have taken place. But she's bothered that those who are alleged to have participated in crimes are not responsible for their own actions.

Cedric: Which is how it's playing out in the discussions. Not with Michelle Malkin who's on a tear that the media's just going after the military. They're not. They're not even going after the accused. We're running behind --

Betty: My fault. It was supposed to be a short break, but one of my kids had an upset stomach.

C.I.: Not a problem. I used the time to run to the store.

Cedric: Yeah, no one was just sitting there thinking, "When is Betty getting back?" Rebecca and I ended up deciding that we'd do Mike a solid and open with a Democracy Now! news item when we posted this at our sites and Rebecca also noted that if this is tagged, we should do it at the top like Betty's been pointing out for some time because long entries don't get read, although mine never get read.

Rebecca: Hold on one minute. Sorry, I wanted to check something. C.I. published and republished Friday morning while we were on the phone together and the tags were never read in terms of showing up.

C.I.: Tags, quickly. I don't mind spending time exploring the real topic but I don't want to waste it on tags. There are people who never get read and they contact Technorati and get no reply nor is anything done so that they are read. I don't like tagging, it takes up too much time and Rebecca's the one who discovered it and thought it was a way to get the word out on the community. If it's not showing up anywhere and that continues, I'll stop tagging gladly. It's been a hassle from day one. The time it takes could be spent cross-posting at the mirror site or on any other number of things.

Rebecca: Okay, so Cedric got cut off, sorry.

Cedric: No problem. I was going to note the Hannah Arendt quote that went up at The Common Ills Friday: "Where all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing." Who is guilty? If the Haditha reports are true, who is guilty?

Betty: Because in the coverage, it's Bully Boy alone. I have no problem with directing his share of the blame to him, and it's big, his share, but at what point are we going to stop saying, "Oh, well these things happen." That's what bothered your grandmother, right?

Rebecca: Yeah. She was very bothered by that. In Abu Ghraib, it became a lot of "Oh, but we can't punish these poor soldiers because they're not responsible and they're getting all the blame."

Cedric: If I hire the assasin, I'm just as guilty as the person who did the killing. So it's perfectly well and good to portion out to Bully Boy but the idea that we're going to look the other way on the individuals who may have actually killed someone is really sad.

Betty: I think there's responsbility at both ends and on up the chain of command between. And instead, I feel like, and I'm more disappointed in the left here, there's this attitude of, "We must not criticize the soldiers involved."

C.I.: That attitude . . . One of the things that's often asked is, "Where is the outrage over this war?" A lot of people are outraged. But it's equally true that there's a lot of attempts to divert that outrage and to tap it down. Abu Ghraib was a scandal on many levels but what happened to it? It became this elephant in the room that we can only talk about in the most general terms.

Cedric: I wrote this down from something you put up on Friday: "Pay attention to what Sandra Lupien noted on KPFA's The Morning Show this morning, Donald Rumsfeld said 'Things that shouldn't happen, do happen in combat.'" I think I got the implication but I was hoping you'd talk about that.

C.I.: What that reminded me of first of all was Rumsfeld's idiotic comment about the looting, how it was just one vase. And we know that it was easily over 14,000 pieces that were stolen. People should have been outraged about the looting but instead it became, "Oh well, these things happen in a war." These things happened because the concern was with protecting other things, such as the oil fields. By the same token, Abu Ghraib became a "these things happen." And here comes Rumsfeld to talk about an alleged massacre and to say, "These things happen." And the fear is, he'll be successful at it because no one wants to call out the individuals who allegedly did the killing. That's sad and it's honestly sick.

Rebecca: Which was my grandmother's feeling, that's what had bothered her so much and why she called and asked me to visit that day. If it's not called out, it creates another lowered expectation, another pass. We're no longer appalled by Abu Ghraib and the next massacre will be a yawn. A shrug. It's like Betty said, it's the left here that's refusing to confront the reality. They're too busy directing all the blame to Bully Boy and letting off the accused perpetrators of the act.

C.I.: And if, in the face of these allegations, can't express disgust and can't draw a clear line that says the behavior is not acceptable, for any reason, under any reason, then what are we saying about ourselves and about our country?

Betty: Well you saw, and Elaine covered this, you saw the usual bullies, and the left has bullies, come along and say, "Oh don't you dare call those men 'baby killers!' I will come after you if you do!" Well what did they do? Are we going to invent new terms to avoid calling killing "killing"? Is that where we are now? Have we all left the reality based world?

Cedric: And this on the day that someone got sentenced for Abu Ghraib.

C.I.: He didn't really. I almost included in that in the snapshot but I assumed everyone knew it. Santos Cardona was sentenced to X number of days of hard labor. I think it was something like seventy days. He'll lose about $600 dollars a month for twelve months. His lawyer is calling it a win for Cardona. And it is. It's very much a win for him. He's found guilty of a multitude of crimes and he's basically walking. I believe his lawyer pointed out that the hard labor doesn't include any prison time. While it's one thing for your heart to go out to the people put in that situation and to say that people being punished shouldn't be just the low-level ones, it's another to say, "Go torture Iraqis and don't worry because there's no real consequences." But that's the message. By the same token, this effort to point only to the top sends a message.

Rebecca: What does everyone think about the investigation into Ishaqi?

Betty: That's where the BBC just got a hold of the tape and, from the tape, it appears that a slaughter went on but that, Friday, the military finished their investigation into the events and cleared everyone, right?

Cedric: I don't know what to think about that.

C.I.: I think we were played. I think the administration knew they had a scandal with Haditha. At which point they floated to the press that there was another scandal being investigated.

Cedric: Why do you say that?

C.I.: The story for the weekend is "Military cleared!" That's the headline. Look at tomorrow's papers and see how many run with that, I bet many will. There are three scandals right now and most people are having trouble, if they're not following it closely, keeping up. They'll see "cleared" and they'll think it's Haditha or they'll think, "Oh, that's that scandal." They probably won't know Haditha by name.

Cedric: So you think it was leaked on purpose?

C.I.: I think that's very likely. You've got a scandal breaking. Suddenly you want to leak about a supposed ongoing investigation into another? No. If you wanted to leak, you would have leaked while it was ongoing. It's only after Haditha captures attention and it's known that a finding, and they knew what the finding would be, that Ishaqi is leaked. It was damage control, plain and simple. What do you think, Rebecca, you're the one with the p.r. experience?

Rebecca: I agree with that. Look at Haditha where the leaks revolve around charges. It's not completed yet but they have a sense of where it's headed. The Ishaqi one, they knew where it was headed, it was, as you point out, winding down when it was leaked. This was damage control and it's a laughable investigation and one that should have been prevented from releasing a conclusion since the conclusion was written prior to the BBC's announcing that they had just gotten a hold of a tape. That's a bit like a jury coming back in with a decision while someone who's been watching the trial stands up in the court room and screams, "It wasn't him! I killed her and here's how!" I can't imagine a judge would say, "Shut up and sit down. Jury deliver your verdict." They would investigate the person's claims. The fact that the BBC broke the news of the tape, I believe Thursday evening our time, and Friday morning the conclusions of the investigation are released indicate that it was damage control because a real investigation would say, "Let's look at that tape." But it was judged important to do damage control and the results had to come out on Friday so that all weekend people could say, "Oh, they were cleared." Confusing Ishaqui with the other two investigations.

Betty: I didn't know that the man sentenced on Friday wasn't going to be serving time. For Abu Ghraib. That's really sad. And it does send a message which says there are no serious consquences. If you're serving and you say, "I'm not going to do that because it's wrong and I don't want to go to prison," the logical reply, now, is, "Oh, but you won't go to prison." And I think that gets at the problem. When all we're doing is saying, "Oh, it's all the Bully Boy's fault!" and when we're refusing to say, "These actions are horrible, they're criminal, and they must be punished," we're saying that we'll tolerate anything and look the other way because, darn it, nobody better use a word like "baby killer."

Rebecca: I think you're exactly right and to get back to the "Where is the outrage?" -- when even the left won't express their disgust and their outrage over torture and killing, then go ahead and pack it in. Don't expect the cheerleaders for the Bully Boy to express outrage. We've gone from the nonsense of everyone is guilty, Hannah Arendt's point, to one where "Only the Bully Boy is guilty." And that's only by the left. Others don't even offer that much. So another massacre happens and people are a little less shocked, a little less appalled. The war's never going to end if we're all going to supress our outrage over crimes and make a point to say, "Oh well, the Bully Boy put them there! It's his fault!" He started the illegal war, he trashed our understanding of warfare from just and unjust wars on down the line, he set the tone. But the people participating in war crimes need to be held responsible. Whether it's someone who commits one in Iraq or Bob Kerry with his war crimes in Vietnam which we're also supposed to just forget because he gave a p.r. conference where he owned up to being "troubled." Too bad other war criminals, at other times, didn't realize all they had to do was say, "I'm troubled by my actions" and they'd get off scott free as well. There's no sense of scope or magnitude, just a lot of idiots weighing in with, "Look what the Bully Boy has caused!" Well what has he caused? Can we talk about that? Can we talk about the actual events and expect to be allowed to hear that war criminals must be held accountable at every level? I don't think so. My grandmother who can see hope in any situation doesn't either. That's why she really feels that our reaction to Haditha, as a nation, may be the real beginning of a "descent into hell." Bully Boy's done awful things but the difference here is that we're confronted with murder and our attitude is, "We can't and mustn't talk about the actions of the ones who allegedly killed. We must only talk about the Bully Boy." If that's where we are, then forget about right and wrong. People can do whatever they want in Iraq and they should know now that the right will look the other way and the left will play Pin-the-blame-on-the-Bully-Boy. It's very sad. And he may have pushed the nation into lowered expectations on accountability, but the nation's responsible for embracing it.

C.I.: Unless anyone else has a closing thought, I think Rebecca just covered it all in her summary?

Betty: Nothing to add. Thanks for inviting me.

Cedric: Just to back up Rebecca, if you're okay with this, get used to more because there was a huge failure to discuss it, just a rush to blame Bully Boy. A rejection of consequences and an ignoring of the fact that Iraqis died. Or maybe it doesn't matter when it's Iraqis? The message that was sent out was very disturbing. Can I use the slogan?

C.I.: Cedric's referring to a slogan that we avoid at The Common Ills because it's a p.r. created slogan created in order to avoid discussion and debate. Go ahead.

Cedric: "Support the troops." In what? And which troops? The left proved that they could do so blindly as they bent over bakwards to avoid discussing what happened on the ground as they rushed to carry every bit of the blame to D.C. Not a proud moment.

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