Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --

It's nearly nine p.m. Monday and we're putting this under Sunday to keep it with the edition.

First up, those who need crediting for the writing on this edition:

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

We thank all above (other than the core six) and we thank Dallas for links and for sounding board and much more.

New content:

Highlights -- covers our picks of some of the best entries from the community last week. We can't e-mail still. (We usually post in full and do that via e-mails -- we can't repost and space and all that and put out a new edition.)

Where's the content! -- was a brief note done by the core six minus Dona just to say content is coming. We were late for a number of reasons including wanting to catch up with Kat (who is back from Ireland).

Playlist this edition -- short entry by the core six minus Dona.

Mommy's Pantyhose wants to be a tough boy -- thanks to Rebecca who photoshops all of our illustrations. The illustrations this edition were done by Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I. and by Rebecca who adds to them in photoshop. We like this entry and it's very popular in the e-mails as well. Connie e-mailed that the illustration perfectly matched the text. A rare event, if true!

Judith Regan: Trash merchant (still!) -- we weighed in. We went back and forth on whether too or not. (Hasn't enough been said? Obviously not, it's bigger news on Monday than when we posted our feature Sunday.) It was a possibility for online. We knew we'd do something for print. Then Dona loved the illustration we'd done for it and said we had to write it for online (all online features were in the print edition as well except a note -- our "A Note to the Readers" in the print edition was "UGGGHHHH!").

Happy Birthday -- C.I. and Dona were gone for most of the week (speaking with high school and college students about the war). C.I. had calls and visitors while gone. I (Jim) didn't pass on the messages. There was enough to focus on (for C.I. and Dona). C.I. heard about it Saturday when they (C.I. and Dona) returned. Moments after learning some of it, a friend was at the door. This is to someone C.I. knows. C.I. was asked to write it (and asked while gone but I didn't pass that on) as an open letter that would circulate among friends (and go to the intended). On Saturday, C.I. explained there was no time for something like that, we had an edition to turn out and there were other things as well. The friend who'd stopped over asked if it couldn't go into the edition?
C.I. asked us (Ty, Ava, Jess, Dona and me) what we thought and we were all for it. We assumed it would be for the print edition. Rebecca knew the woman it's to and Elaine as well (less so than Rebecca) so they were eager to participate as well. We all worked on it and decided what resulted needed to go online for several reasons. For C.I.'s friends, it made the "open letter" more open. (They've e-mailed it like crazy.) For us, we're trying to get C.I. to allow us to post something or work on a new version of it -- an open letter C.I. did in the 90s. It's a holiday greeting and quite humorous. The reaction to this has been positive enough that C.I.'s considering it (not as a repost, as something we'll all work on). If it's not clear, and C.I. was against this going up for that reason, the woman in question is not a "hippie." She voted for Bully Boy. She was never a "hippie." No one ever thought she was. But pleading "hippie" allowed her an excuse for all her other stunts before. (We also had an e-mail from her -- griping. We laughed when we read it today.)

Justice for Abeer and her family? -- one of the longest pieces in terms of writing time. Also in terms of the artwork. What we're going for is putting the rapists in the foreground to get across both how much smaller the 14-year-old Abeer was and also to get across who was the concern at the time (themselves). With the exception of brown and black for hair and green for one t-shirt, we're largely working with red, white and blue and, yes, that was intentional. We were disgusted with the actions Barker described. When we talked to other people, who'd heard it (some on Democracy Now! during Friday's headlines), it was obvious that, though they were offended, they didn't really picture it. We did three illustrations with the hope that it would get across how awful the crimes were. While we think it's sad that it hasn't gotten across, we're also aware that these crimes have not been covered seriously in the media.

Music retrospective: Stevie Nicks -- the never ending feature. Truly! We just added to it tonight. Dona didn't work on the short features. She was attempting to prune what we'd written down to a workable length. We ended it before it was over (while we were writing on it) when it was pointed out we'd been writing it for over three hours. (We were also out of chocolate.) Dona took it and did a great job editing it. As we were working on the short features, we realized we needed to add a bit more. We added that tonight.

TV: Day Break -- Ava and C.I.'s TV review. This has been the most instantly popular since Prison Break. A lot of people who watched wrote to share their agreement and we've also got e-mails saying, "I'm checking it out Wednesday." (Illustrations to all Ava and C.I. TV reviews are the work of Jess and Rebecca.)

Editorial: Signs of activism life on campuses -- we were done. Oh no, we weren't. We never wrote the editorial! (We did have a host of technical problems.) We did this as quickly as possible. The thing we didn't note, that C.I. would have asked for a "C.I. did not participate in this editorial," resulted from a "tension" in the writing that we hadn't noticed. We've re-read the thing we were going to include and there is a "tension" in it. If someone's writing for reasons that are less than on the surface, we say more power to you and are glad we didn't include it in the editorial.

Thanksgiving weekend? (This coming Sunday.) We're not sure who will be participating. Wally's a maybe. Kat's for sure (she's trying to get back into the normal routine now that she's back from Ireland). Rebecca's pretty sure she's she's out. If she is, we're thinking of asking Mike and Elaine to bow out (so that they can have a whole weekend). Betty says she's in and Cedric says he's in. But it's all still up in the air. (Anyone who needs the weekend off should take it.)

See you Sunday.

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

Editorial: Signs of activism life on campuses

If we read one more column slamming the peace movement from the supposed left or supposed semi-left, we'll scream. If we hear one more falsehood about how Iraq doesn't matter on campus but "a living wage" is the big ticket, we'll get downright ugly to those pushing that lie.

We're not joking.

If you're packing up your semi-merry pundsters off to a campus and you're not someone who addresses Iraq, don't be surprised that those concerned with the war choose to skip your gathering. Honestly, why would they show in the first place?

If coverage is activism and your coverage is "Vote!" . . . well, quit kidding yourselves that the ones who really care about the war are going to show up for your gathering.

Students aren't idiots. This is written by the core six and five of us are college students. We're not stupid. We see the covers on Hurricane Katrina, we see the coverage of "Eisenhower Democrats." We wouldn't go to one of your gatherings. In fact, we skipped one (featuring a speaker we do like -- one speaker) and went instead to the reading of Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's Voices of a People's History. We like Zinn, we like Arnove. We like Alice Walker and the others participating. (C.I. and Ava note Alice Walker was a guest on Friday's Democracy Now! interviewed by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez.) Many people we interviewed exploring the importance of people to the movements and progress of this country vs. a wonderful speaker and two others (one of whom is on staff at another magazine and pushed the war after the 2004 elections), so it was a sad choice (in terms of the one speaker) but it was a wise choice.

We'll go with Zinn. We'll go with Arnove. We'll go with the crowd that knows the war is illegal.

Others make similar statements. Other students. We've all heard it on campuses and not just in California or from our friends in NY. We tag along on C.I.'s trip (Dona tagged last week) (C.I. says "Not tagged, everyone who goes participates.") , we hear the comments. (Like, in Iowa, the "Eisenhower Democrats" tag for the students that do get coverage.)

So word to the desk jockeys who don't even go out to campuses, you have no idea what's going on. Word to the publication who does, your coverage has been so poor that you shouldn't be surprised that most who will criticize the war (and the Democratic Party) skip your events.

Did you catch this?

Police removed more than 20 protesters from a speech Maj. Gen. Michael J. Diamond gave Wednesday about the wars in the Middle East.Diamond, the deputy director of logistics from U.S. Central Command, focused on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in his presentation at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.
The speech began as planned, but the protesters entered the auditorium and began rapidly shooting questions at Diamond.
Edward Goetz, associate dean of academics at the Humphrey Institute, warned protesters they may be escorted out if they did not allow the speaker to proceed.He said there would be time for questions at the end of the presentation, but the protesters continued to interrupt Diamond.About five minutes into the discussion, Goetz directed University police to escort protesters out of the auditorium, an act that received applause from the 75-member audience.
The protesters chanted, "Out of Afghanistan, out of Iraq, out of the 'U' and don't come back," as they were ushered out.Before the speech, about 50 protesters from the student group Anti-War Organizing League and a community group called the Anti-War Committee gathered outside the building and called the war in Iraq "racist" and said it needed to end.Tracy Molm, women's studies senior and protest organizer, said AWOL was there to voice opposition to the war."We're here to stand up against the war in Iraq," she said.

That's from last week's Minnesota Daily, Charles Bruce's "Police remove protesters from speech on Iraq." Now it's not 'fantasy football,' or maybe we should call it "Trading Cabinets"?, but it's reality. How about, on a variety of age groups, Minneapolis' the Anti-War Committee? What are they doing?

Well, maybe you remember the GOP convention in 2004, the one in NYC? Maybe you remember how Bloomberg dicked everyone around on the whole permit issue and how the grass in Central Park (not a concern when Dave Matthews Band gave a free concert) couldn't take the people lawfully assembling?

Minneapolis' citizens working to end the war aren't going to play wait and see. They're applying for permits right now because the 2008 GOP convention will be held in their state.

Now again, it's not as fun as "Pelosi's a winner! Wait, no, she's not! Waxman! She should have gone with Waxman! Draft Waxman! Draft Waxman!"

WTF is that but the gas baggery that Tim Russert's been allowed to get away with for far too long? He has no plans, Waxman, to run for House Majority Leader, but we're told, we can dream.

Yes, we can dream. We can dream up ways for a better world. We can dream the dreams that will lead us to that. We can create the world we want (the way Alice Walker does in her novels). Or we can jaw bone and gas bag about how a post would be perfect for someone who doesn't want it.

Which really seems more productive?

Why don't students against the war flock to those gatherings? Because of jerk off crap like that. (It's only one example. There's another one we want to note but C.I. says if we do, we have to note "C.I. is not participating in this editorial." If it weren't so late and we weren't so tired, we're pretty sure we could make a convincing argument to include it, even persuade C.I. But, oh well.)

Hey, did anyone at the publication, in fact at any left publication, notice the news re: Abeer this week?

Guess not. Guess she'll continue to go unnoted. (Robin Morgan covered her in an essay in August, the magazine Off Our Backs devoted consideral coverage to the topic in the last issue.)

You don't see the anti-war activists? You don't see the peace activists? At your gatherings, they're not there. So you assume they don't exist? The reality is they do. The reality is they, unlike you apparently, are quite aware that "alleged" can now be removed from the statement that US troops raped and murdered 14-year-old Abeer and murdered her parents and her five-year-old sister. [Note: Barker only pleaded guilty for himself. Though his testimony does state that the others were involved, they haven't been tried yet. See "Justice for Abeer and her family?"]

Maybe sometime, if you can pull yourself away from 'fantasy football,' you can't cover something that actually matters. Until you do, don't be surprised that you get the middle-of-the-road Eisenhower Democrats and you continue to be further and further disconnected from students really working to end the war.

[Note: Dallas insists we add this. Last Sunday, we did an editorial. The publication in question posted something with the same two word title and question mark on the 16th. We're not talking about that. We weren't even aware of it until Dallas told us. We like the columnist and certainly don't hold a patent on those two words plus question mark.]

TV: Day Break

Day Break debuted Thursday on ABC and the overnights weren't good. A friend with the show blames it on the reviews. Were they negative, we (Ava and C.I.) wondered? No, they just didn't get the show, we were told.

Groundhog Day, he explained, was the constant comparison.

Oh yes, those Water Cooler Critics. Groundhog Day, a funny movie, follows one man's nightmare of reliving the same day over and over in a town he initially loathes.

That's about as far removed from Day Break as you can get. The hour long show (two hours in its debut) traces a day in the life of police detective Brett Hopper. Basically, he's wrongly accused of a crime, he's thrown in jail, he's kidnapped by some mobster types, his girlfriend is killed, his sister is threatened unless he will take the fall for a murder. At that point, he's injected with a light sedative and falls asleep.

When he awakes the next day, it's not the next day. It's the same day. This will happen over and over. Each 'new' day, he has some recall of what happened the day prior (sometimes he remembers immediately, sometimes it comes slowly). He will also have the wounds from the day prior. So when one day ends with him being shot, the 'next' morning (when the same day restarts) he will be found, in bed, bathed in blood.

Can he change events? Can he do that in such a way that he protects the people he loves and clears his own name? Can he manage to stay awake to the next Day Break and, if so, would that break the same day repeating over and over?

Someone saw this as Groundhog Day?

Actually, we're told, they pretty much all did, the Water Cooler Set -- a motley group of gas bags whose lack of insight is matched only by the dearth of their knowledge. Apparently unfamiliar with the work of either Oswald Spengler or Greek mythology (Sisyphus) they go with what they've been weened on ("TV babies," as Matt Dillon sneers in Drugstore Cowboy). Sad, but not shocking, they can't even get that right.

The show is not Groundhog Day played straight. This isn't about someone overcoming boredom or learning to appreciate the joys of normalcy. Leave it to the nonthinking Water Cooler Set to screw up the show's theme so badly.

But does that explain the audience's reaction? While it's true that the false advertising of the comparison may turn viewers off when they watch, we were surprised to find that a number of people just weren't interested in the show, in the very concept. Just the idea of a program doing the "same thing" (as a college student in Minnesota put it last week) "over and over" was enough to turn some people off.

That's really not what the show is.

We've watched four episodes and read several scripts. (We're not doing spoilers.) This is a fast paced show. It's a very violent show. (Those worried about the deaths of TV characters can take comfort in the fact that, as long as each day repeats, each person killed 'comes back to life' the 'next' day.) If the show was set in England and airing on PBS, we think there would be a mini-cult springing up around it.

Taye Diggs, of How Stella Got Her Groove Back Before She Discovered Her Man Was Gay fame, plays Brett Hopper. While it's good that he's lost the laughable Jamacian accent he used in that film, it's a shame he didn't create a British one for this role -- doing so would probably make him a shoe-in for an Emmy nomination. He's giving a very strong performance. In fact, there's not a bad actor in the cast. Everyone is worthy of note which includes Moon Bloodgood as Brett's girlfriend Rita who proves that, despite the film work of Ali MacGraw and Cindy Crawford, some former models can act. Bloodgood, Victoria Pratt and Meta Golding play characters (quite well) who actually do. In a TV land filled with women who pose and women who nudge, that's something worth noting.

It's a tight show -- in every sense of the term. We'd been hyped up on it by two friends with the show and we weren't expecting much. It's only scheduled as a fill in for Lost (which returns in February) and we honestly thought we'd take a pass on it -- not just reviewing it, but watching it. It took tremendous coaxing to get us to watch.

We thought it would be a snooze-fest or, worse, 24 where nothing happens . . . slowly. We were impressed with some of the performances and the writing in the 'first' day. But it wasn't until the other 'days' followed that we really found it compelling. We want to emphasize that -- in case you are among the many who didn't watch. Yes, this is a mini-series but, no, you won't be confused if you attempt to catch it this Wednesday. You'll have missed some good 'days,' but you'll also have missed the 'first' day which struck us as way too much setup and way too much ordinary.

There's nothing ordinary about the show once it gets moving. There may, however, be a familiar feeling to it.

We ran our theory past our friends with the show and were surprised to learn that some in the Water Cooler Set are seeing it as some sort of commentary on the Young African-American Male Today.

If you ignore the fact that Diggs will turn 35 before the mini-series ends, there's nothing wrong with noting that theme except for the fact that it's not a theme of the program. Apparently the shock of seeing an African-American as the lead in a one hour drama broadcast on the big three left some feeling they'd just sat through Eye On the Prize or at least Training Day.

What we picked up on was something we think our readers will as well. Brett's realizing, after the fact, that something illegal has happened. Lives are lost. He's been given an opportunity to undue it via a trick of time.

Apparently the Water Cooler Set was pointing fingers at the entertainment industry and had ha-has about networks and studios in their reviews. Something you should never forget: the Water Cooler Set is part of the mainstream press.

So maybe it's not all that surprising to discover they played dumb again?

We see Day Break as a mini-series of its time. The 'first' day, Brett's surrounded by hype and lies. As the day goes by, he begins to see beneath them. He awakes the 'next' day (and every day) with the hope that he can change things, he can undo them.

Leave it to the same mainstream press that sold the illegal war to turn it around on the entertainment industry when a more apt comparison is the waking up that's gone in the country (which includes some in the press). 2865 is the count for American soldiers who've died since the illegal war began as we write this. 125 British soldiers have died and 121 "other" soldiers. The Lancet study pegged the number of Iraqi fatalities at 655,000.

For anyone who's forgotten, Bully Boy and the press (which includes more than Judith Miller) sold the war via a false link between Iraq and 9-11 and the hyped threat of what turned out to be non-existant WMDs while tying the pretty bow of "cakewalk" around the lies.

No link, no WMDs, and certainly no cakewalk.

On Thursday, the latest Gallup poll found that only 31% of Americans responding are pleased with the way things are going, 36% identified Iraq as the nation's most pressing issue. You think some people wouldn't want to go back to a day before the illegal invasion if they could? Try to do things differently?

Don't count on the Water Cooler Set. We're told they ha-ha-ed about the entertainment industry. Apparently, still nursing their brusies for predicting Studio 60 Blah Blah Blah as the ratings hit of the fall season (didn't quite turn out that way, did it?), they want to focus on the entertainment industry which, for the record, is far healthier on Wall St. these days than are the daily papers. But heaven forbid, even all this time later, that the Water Cooler Set attempt to shed any light on how the bum rush to an illegal war turned out.

Art and "art" can comment. Sometimes because they choose to, sometimes because they're forced to. On the latter, a friend at CBS called begging us to watch Navy NCIS last week. We'd already reviewed it and weren't interested. He told us that we really shouldn't miss the opening. So we watched the first minutes to see what was going on?

Reality intruded. They had to redo a voice over. It was a gathering of some sort to honor Donald the Rumsfled. When the scene had been taped (by the gung-ho-sters), it had a different voice over making the announcement. When it was broadcast Tuesday night, the announcement went: "Ladies and gentlemen, the retiring Secretary of Defense of the United States." The money required to redo that line wasn't enough to put the spangles on even one stage outfit in Cher's wardrobe. But they did change it.

That's because reality is intruding and has intruded on the press hype that created the war. Some in the mainstream have woken up. Hearing of the Day Break reviews, it's becoming sadly apparent that the Water Cooler Set is still in deep sleep. As most of the country has awakened, they're still hitting the snooze button. For the record, Day Break? Nothing like Groundhog Day.

Justice for Abeer and her family?

On March 12, 2006, in their family home,

Qassim Hamza Raheem and Fakhriya Taha Muhasen and their five-year old daughter Hadeel Qassim Hamza were murdered. Their fourteen-year-old daughter Abeer was raped and murdered and there was an attempt to burn her body to hide what had happened.

The original story was that it was the work of 'insurgents.' In May, when US troops were kidnapped and killed, there was talk that it was an attempt at retaliation for what was done to Abeer and her family.

Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reported that it was during this time that Justin Watt heard rumors and direct statements from some, that US troops were the ones who raped and murdered, not 'insurgents.' In one of the worst cases of Giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone, the US military attempted to play damage control and repeatedly put out the falsehood that Abeer was in her twenties. (26 was the initial claim. For more on Abeer, you can read Ellen Knickmeyer's "Details Emerge in Alleged Army Rape, Killings.") They downgraded it a bit under pressure but only when an old passport was found revealing her age to be 14 (she would have turned 15 last fall) did they finally give up the spin.

For various reasons, Watt didn't trust the usual channels and instead shared what he had heard with a military counselor. An investigation was begun.

One recently discharged US soldier would be charged and four serving would be as well. The reaction from the press was underwhelming. (The reaction from the blogs? "Don't you dare call any US soldier a baby killer!"). Friday, June 30th, Steven D. Green was arrested in Asheville, North Carolina and charged with murder (the government press release noted the maximum penalty was death) and with rape ("the maximum statutory penalty for the rape is life in prison"). Green had been discharged in May of this year. Green dropped out of high school in the tenth grade and was arrested for possesion of alcohol (he was underage) right before he signed up -- the kind army recruiter arranged a moral character waiver that allowed him to enlist. (Remember, we're not supposed to talk about lowered standards so recruiters can meet their quotas!) November 8th, in a federal court in Kentucky, Green entered a not guilty plea. Due to being discharged before the revalations came out, Green will be tried in a civilian court.

Some press accounts paint Green (discharged for 'anti-social behavior') as the ring leader.

The other four charged were still serving so they faced military justice. They are Paul Cortez, Jesse Spielman, Bryan Howard and James P. Barker. Howard was allegedly the lookout and not in the house when the crimes took place, he was allegedly involved in the planning stages. A fifth soldier, Anthony W. Yribe, was charged with derelection of duty for failure to report the incident.

In August, an Article 32 hearing was held for Cortez, Barker, Spielman and Howard in order to determine whether or not there was sufficient evidence to move forward with the charges. Strangely enough, (see "The New York Times rendered Abeer invisible yet again"), The New York Times, in a supposed article, made a case for the accused that was the same one the defense would used (The Times article is "G.I. Crime Photos May Be Evidence"). The stress, fatigue, blah blah blah defense wasn't a natural or a given. In fact, Andy Mosher ("At Rape Hearing, U.S. Soldiers Describe Stress of War") noted military law expert Eugene Fidell who "said Tuesday that the defense attorneys were most likely emphasizing combat stress to argue that their clients not face a possible death penalty in the event of a court-martial. 'This is not a defense known to the law,' Fidell said. 'But this kind of evidence could come in during the court-martial, and it might be pertinent to the sentence. They could be setting the stage to avoid a death penalty'."

Somehow, psychic ability, the paper of record argued a defense in print, before the trial began, that was "not a defense known to law," according to a military law expert.

The Times also couldn't name the victims. Abeer was "a fourteen-year-old girl" over and over. She was, to judge by that paper, "a fourteen-year-old girl without a name."

But Abeer was the forgotten and the invisible. (Indymedia didn't do a better job than The New York Times. In fact, they did a worse job. They were all over the Israel-Palestine-Lebanon conflict, wall-to-wall, while the Article 32 hearing was going on and couldn't spare even a moment to note Abeer.)

Last week, James P. Barker pleaded guilty to his involvement in the deaths of the family and the death and rape of Abeer.

At least with regards to Barker, we can now drop the preface "alleged."

Spielman will enter some plea (guilty or innocent) next month. Cortez is playing mum.

On Barker's statement last week admitting guilt, The Guardian of London noted he declared (in writing) that: ". . . Green dragged the father, mother and younger sister into a bedroom, while Abeer was left in the living room. . . . Barker said Cortez appeared to rape the girl [Abeer], and he followed. He said he heard gunshots and Mr. Green came out of the bedroom, saying he had killed the family, before raping the girl and shooting her with an AK-47."

Ryan Lenz (AP) reported that Barker testified to Lt. Col. Richard Anderson that Steven D. Green came up with the plan and, of the rape of Abeer, that "[Paul] Cortez pushed her to the ground. I went towards the top of her and kind of held her hands down while Cortez proceeded to lift her dress up." Kind of held her hands down?

Kind of?

Two men, according to Barker, gang rape a fourteen-year-old girl (Green, according to Barker, has his 'turn' after they've finished -- he's in another room, according to Barker, killing Abeer's parents and sister) and Barker says he "kind of held her hands down"?

Kind of. Barker's a twenty-three-year-old male. Engaged in the gang rape of a child and he "kind of held her hands down." No doubt when the US soldiers entered the home, when they separated Abeer's family from her, when Cortez lifted the young girl's dress, Abeer more than "kind of" struggled. If she hadn't, he wouldn't have needed to "kind of" hold her hands down.

Nine years older than the child, a full grown male, Barker can only admit to "kind of."

Let's drop back a bit and note that Barker talked before. At the August Article 32 hearing, US military investigator Benjamin Bierce testified to what Barker had confessed to him, that he'd held Abeer's hands down while Cortez was having his 'go' and then he took his turn.

The same paper of record that runs with every official statement played dumb to Bierce's testimony. In August, Reuters would note: "A U.S. military court heard graphic testimony on Monday on how U.S. soldiers took turns holding down and raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl before murdering her and her family."

Let's go a bit further back. As C.I. noted: "The 14-year-old had noticed and been made nervous by the way those alleged to have raped her (it seems crazy to say "alleged" to have killed -- she's dead, she was a fourteen-year-old girl, she was killed, no alleged). Her family was about to send her to another home for her own safety."

They'd watched her. A point the military prosecutor made clear in the Article 32 hearing and a point that gained additional confirmation in last week's reporting which noted that they entered the yard of the house through a hole they'd previously cut into the fence.

In August, Elaine noted:

People are acting, including Scotland's Sunday Herald, as though the US troops just snapped. That's now what's been reported. They were "eyeing" Abeer. Fourteen-years-old and she's got to deal with the disgusting ogling of adult males, adult males with guns, adult males who are part of the foreign forces occupying her country. Do you think the press has given much thought to what that must have been like for Abeer?

To be so nervous, so bothered by the unwanted attention that she complained to her parents who quickly decided that, for her own protection, they needed to have her go live with neighbors.Abeer never got to do that. She was murdered. She was allegedly raped. Fourteen-years-old.

I don't think the press gets how disgusting this is.

We still don't believe the press gets how disgusting this was.

They were on duty, the soldiers. They were on duty and they decided to drink a little (a violation), then they got the idea (supposedly Green got the idea) that the thing to do that day was to go rape her and kill her and her family. It was such the thing to do that they could leave their traffic check point, the area they were supposed to be guarding. The area they were assigned to be in. (The area they'd observed and leered at Abeer from.)

So, according to Barker, they stop their card game and presumably their drinking, leave their assigned post, change into civilian clothes, head over to Abeer's, through the hole one of them (or more) cut into the fence, Green rounds up the parents and the five-year-old sister and hustles them off to the bedroom where he will shoot all three dead, Cortez and Barker take turns holding Abeer down and raping her (or trying to), then Green comes back in the room, rapes Abeer, kills her by shooting her repeatedly (including once under the left eye) and they think, "Hmm. Evidence. We should burn the body." That didn't quite work out, but they tried.

There is no longer any "alleged." Barker has confessed. Barker pleaded guilty. People can toss "alleged" in front of Green, Cortez, Spielman and Baker's name -- for legal reasons or because they've yet to be tried or admit guilt, but there's no "alleged" any more that Abeer was raped and murdered, that three members of her family were murdered.

That's what a guilty plea and a confession do, they wipe away the "alleged."

So where's the outrage?

Hell, where's the coverage.

Where's the oversight?

Barker's lawyer, to the press, tried to play the whole thing off as a staffing issue -- they were understaffed. Would additional staff have acted as baby sitters for grown men who damn well knew that murder and rape was wrong?

"These things happen in war." We hear that b.s. all the time when the military's 'smart' technology, 'precision' weapons kill an innocent civilian. It's b.s. It's especially b.s. when we're dealing with the case of Abeer and her family.

Though they would blame it on 'insurgents' initially, there's no 'insurgent' issue here. There's no, "He went after one of my men and we were so angry and we couldn't think straight, and we started hitting him, and hitting him, and then, next thing we knew, he was dead."

Abeer's 'crime' was to be attractive to apparent bullies with pedophile inclinations. Not only was she not an 'insurgent,' she wasn't even thought to be. She was a way to get off.

Her five-year-old sister couldn't be mistaken for a 'sucide bomber.' Her parents were minding their own business in their own home.

Picture yourself as a fourteen-year-old girl. Men come into your home with guns, military, you know them, you've seen them ogle you. They kill your parents and your little sister. They gang rape you. How would that make you feel?

We can guess how it made Abeer feel but we can't know because they killed her.

Three grown men, according to Barker, wanted a gang rape. Another loved the idea so much he was willing to stand lookout in an Iraqi city. In civilian clothes. Just stand around and wait, while the country is consumed in violence and chaos. He wasn't worrying that 'insurgents' might rush through the unmanned check point. He wasn't worrying that his fellow soldiers who didn't know what was up might end up attacked because his group decided screw-the-checkpoint-we-want-some-fun! He wasn't worried about himself or anyone else. That also includes not worried about a family being murdered, a fourteen-year-old being raped and murdered.

As Rebecca noted:"i don't know an american adult male who doesn't know the concept of the age of consent and grasp that they'll go to jail for sex with a minor that's consensual. add in that we're talking about rape." She's right. The men, the Americans, participating in those crimes knew better. They knew it was wrong, they knew it was illegal, they knew it was inhumane. They should have grasped it was a war crime, but who knows whether that was stressed in training or not? If it wasn't, that might have been because their trainer assumed that since murder and rape are illegal in the United States, any half-wit would know they were illegal in another country.

But, according to Barker, legality and humanity wasn't on their minds. What was? Barker declared in his confession, "I hated Iraqis, your honor. They can smile at you, then shoot you in your face without even thinking about it."

Yeah, a five-year-old girl is a pistol packing mama, right?

They wanted this, they committed the crimes. They wanted violence for kicks.

Barker's expressed sentiments aren't out of the norm for troops serving in Iraq. Fortunately, most are smart enough and moral enough to grasp that violence for kicks, that rape and murder to ease the boredom, is unacceptable.

According to Barker, that wasn't an issue for them. Where's the outrage?

They left the house, took care of the bloody clothes, drank some more and grilled some chicken wings. Raked with guilt? No.

Barker's got a sentence that's being pimped by many in the press as a "life sentence." Ninety years. But, as Amy Goodman noted, "Barker will be eligible for parole after twenty years." He'll be forty-three-years-old then. Maybe he'll have learned something? Maybe he'll be rehabilitated? Abeer and her family? They'll still be dead.

Music retrospective: Stevie Nicks

Stephanie Lynn Nicks is better known to the world as Stevie Nicks. The Gemini child (birthdate: May 26th) had an early musical influence growing up, her grandfather Aaron Jess Nicks (they were singing duets before Stevie was four-years-old). High school took her to San Francisco where, on a Wednesday night, a man walked into a meeting, sat down at the piano and began playing the Mamas and the Papas "California Dreamin'." Stevie went over and joined him in singing the song. His name was Lindsey Buckingham.

In 1973, they'd release an album, Buckingham Nicks. They'd been living in the Miracle Mile section of Los Angeles, recording demos on a four-track Ampex at Buckingham's father's coffee plant from the evening until the morning (7:30 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.) until they had seven songs with which to shop their act around. Everyone turned them down except Polydor who offered a one-album deal with Keith Olsen engineering. A tour found the duo well received in some places (Atlanta and Birmingham, among other stops) but Polydor wasn't interested in a second album.

It could have been the end (bills needed paying and job-jobs that would pay those bills seemed to fall solely on Stevie's shoulders) but they ended up joining another group. As the years go by, the stories get murkier but Keith Olson wanted to work with Fleetwood Mac and that's still agreed on. Whatever took place between Olson and Mick Fleetwood (bandleader of and drummer in Fleetwood Mac) took place at Sound City (recording studio in Van Nuys). Bob Welch was leaving the Mac. That would leave Mick, Christine McVie (singer, pianist and songwriter) and John McVie (bassist) in the group. They needed a guitarist with Welch out.

Nicks and Buckingham were brought in to rehearse with the Mac (payment for which was $300 a piece). Maybe it was a try out, maybe it was to keep the Mac focused while Mick looked for a guitarist, maybe Nicks and Buckingham were already in the group. (As we noted earlier, it all gets murky with the passage of time and everyone behind the scenes, including Joe Gottfired, trying to carve out credit.) December 31, 1974, they were in the band.

This isn't the story of an English-American rock band.

So to move things along, the first album went gold (sometimes called "the white album" -- Fleetwood Mac's Fleetwood Mac). Rolling Stone crucified Stevie Nicks (as they would steadily for over fifteen years). But the band was a success and she and Christine McVie wrote the bulk of the hits. In 1978, she did a duet with Kenny Loggins on "Whenever I Call You Friend" which would hit number five of the charts, a feat that would matched the following year when she did "backing vocals" on John Stewart's "Gold." ("Backing vocals" because we'd argue "accompanying.")

She was ready to try recording solo. [In 1978, Nicks, Paul Fishkin and Danny Goldberg formed Modern Records as a boutique label for Stevie to do her solo work on.] She wasn't leaving the Mac, she just had a lot of songs waiting . . . and waiting and waiting -- a pattern throughout the life of Fleetwood Mac which is why the nineties live recording of "Silver Springs" was a hit but the studio recording was relegated to a B-side and didn't even make it onto Rumors. Rumors? The mega-selling 1977 album that got Warner Bros. really interested in the group. She'd composed (and sang lead on) the number one hit from the album "Dreams." Between that, the work with Loggins and Stewart and the fact that she was easily the most popular member of the band a solo career didn't seem that far out of the norm even though few were doing solo recordings and staying with their groups.

Following a party for the solo album on the Free Spirit in Marina Del Ray, Bella Donna was released. The multi-platinum album would win many accolades . . . from listeners. Some critics (especially Rolling Stone) were less kind. (Absent from the critcs' picks for the annual RS awards, Nicks was named in the reader's section.) The album, whose back cover beckoned "Come in -- out of the darkness" would spawn many hits -- among them the duet with Tommy Petty & the Heartbreakers ("Stop Dragging My Heart Around") and the song Destiny's Child sampled and nearly wrecked ("Edge of Seventeen.") Between the two of them, there seemed to be some idea that Stevie was hard rocking on the album. She wasn't. "Edge of Seventeen" was an instant rock classic for good reason (and for years, an AOR staple). But the rest of the album was more like the other two hits -- "Leather and Lace" with Don Henley and "After The Glitter Fades" -- a little bit softer. Jimmy Iovine produced the album. A host of LA session musicians played on it (the Heartbreakers played on "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around"). One thing that would stand out here and on the album to follows was Nicks' love of vocal interplay. That wouldn't lead her to multi-track her own vocals -- providing lead and backing -- the way Diana Ross or Lindsey Buckingham would.

It would mean bringing in Sharon Celani and Lori Perry who would often provide backup vocals throughout the years. Harmonizing (with others) would be one of the biggest differences between Nicks' solo work and her work with the Mac. (Anyone who wants to argue there was harmonizing in the Mac during the eighties should listen really closely to "Little Lies" backing vocals.) Bella Donna featured many mid-tempo songs and many ballads. One mid-tempo, "Outside the Rain" is seen as the second part of the story began in "Dreams." A ballad, with a country twinge, "After The Glitter Fades," dated back to 1972 when Stevie was working multiple jobs to pay the bills. It was a relaxed album. Some fans calls it "the acoustic album" due to the setting (but it's not acoustic -- among other instruments, the title track that opens the album features a synthesizer). This remains Nicks' best selling solo album. It's a quieter album.

Triva, David Letterman, a self-professed Stevie Nicks fan, frequently refers to the song "White Winged Dove." He means "Edge of Seventeen."

After reteaming and recording Mirage with the Mac (and touring with them), Nicks would release her second solo album, Wild Heart. This is album, music wise, that people associate with her solo career. Sharon Celani and Lori Perry are back for background vocals and Sandy Stewart (who would co-write several songs with Nicks including, on this album, "If Anyone Falls In Love," "Nightbird," and "Nothing Ever Changes") would do the call that Stevie would provide the response to on the chorus of "Nightbird."

Lyrically, this is the stronger of the first two albums and, as with music, the sort that fans associate with Stevie. On Bella Donna she was combining songs she'd written long ago and ones written more recently. ("Leather and Lace" had been written six years prior to the release of Bella Donna, intended as a duet for Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter.) The biggest hit from the album was "Stand Back" which featured an unidentified Prince on keyboards. Rolling Stone headed their two-star review of the album "Stevie Nixed." But Nicks' career was immunized to their carping by this point. The manner of dress had long been copied, but Nicks made "air waves" (a perm) popular in this period. (Whether people truly remember the Pat Benatar clones or just remember the scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, both Benatar and Nicks were emulated at this time.)

The harmonizing is stronger on this album and her lyrical metaphors are as well. "Beauty and the Best" (a staple in concerts and a fan favorite) would be the epic she composed for this album and the sound would be rounded out with a harp, violas, violins, cellos and E Street Bander Roy Bittan on piano. "My darling lives in a world that is not mine" Stevie sings and, on this song and others, you never doubt it. She never sounded so mystical before or after on any other album.
Which may have handed ammo to the critics who'd long dismissed her songwriting as something akin to fairy tales set to music, but she was also incredibly concrete.

"Something in my heart died last night, just one more chip off an already broken heart, I think my heart broke long, that's when I needed you, when I needed you most," those are the opening lines to the opening track ("Wild Heart") and in a bit of symetry, "Wild Heart" would be one of the first songs Chynna Phillips (daughter of Mama Michelle and Papa John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas) sang with Wendy and Carnie Wilson when they formed their group Wilson Phillips. [If you're lost, the Michelle and John Phillips penned "California Dreamin'" was the first song Stevie and Lindsey sang together, pay attention.] Demo-ed in Dallas, TX, Stevie immediately decided the song would go on the second album and it would be the title as well.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are back for "I Will Run To You" which received AOR play. The hits were "Stand Back," "If Anyone Falls" and "Nightbird." Making the TV rounds to promote the album, Nicks would surprise many by not lip synching on shows such as Solid Gold (and by vamping the lyrics as she had long done onstage). Though multi-platinum, the album was not as successful as Bella Donna. Fishkind felt it should have offered more potential hits.

A lot of people with a lot of ideas of what Stevie should sound like meant that the follow up, Rock A Little, would become her most announced and delayed album. It was supposed to come out in the fall of 1984, it was supposed to be produced by Jimmy Iovine (as the first two were), it was supposed to contain a reteaming of Nicks and Don Henley . . .

Well the fall became the winter.

Multiple recording sessions later, multiple changes later, multiple announcements later, Rock A Little finally was released in the fall of 1985. The lead single was "Talk To Me," a hit. It was also written by Chaz Sanford. A year prior, Madonna had a hit with the song "Crazy For You" which was intended for Nicks. When Stevie's third album came out, Heart was making a comeback . . . mainly with songs written by others. Why didn't Nicks record "Crazy For You" speculation had gone on for a year and now, with the first single, she was singing a song by an outside writer. A song that came out weeks before the album as the talk became that she was recording outside writers and co-writing a great deal for the album.

For those who've been weaned on Britty and the rest of the Disney kids, that might not be a big deal. For Stevie Nicks' core audience it was. When the album was released, the first concern of many was what did Stevie write? Nine songs -- three by herself. Rolling Stone noted the outside songs positively. In the midst of their war with Nicks that would last until the 90s, this can be taken as a sign that it's not Wild Heart. It's not a bad album and songs like "I Can't Wait," "Sister Honey" and "Imperial Hotel" are strong rock songs. "I Sing for the Things" is a very moving ballad (Nicks wrote this) and the title track is the sort of experimentation that fans live for.
Triva notes. 1) Contrary to convention wisdom, Les Dudek did not vanish after his group with Cher, Black Rose, disbanded. On Rock A Little, he co-wrote (with Nicks) "Sister Honey" (one of the stronger tracks) and played guitar on it. 2) When Marilyn Martin had hits with "Separate Lives" (duet with Phil Collins) and "Night Moves," it was often noted that she had sang backup for Stevie. This is the album she sings backup on. She is among the backup singers who join Lori Perry and Sharon Celani on several tracks. 3) Stevie has breasts. This is the album where one of the most cloaked sex symbols in rock starts sporting cleavage. (They were implants, Nicks has since had them removed.)

"Talk To Me," as "Stand Back" had before, became a club hit. The follow up single, also a hit on the rock and pop charts, would come with a dance mix 12 inch single. "I Can't Wait." While "Talk To Me" featured a choreographed dance that, though popular and imitated, was seen by some as a little too slick for Stevie, "I Can't Wait" featured mock stage performance and, to some, the video that her song recorded by the Mac ("Sisters of the Moon") might have had if videos had been the rage in 1979.

Trivia note four? You're getting ahead of yourself if you know what's coming. Yes, Stevie's weight increases. It's during the tour, not the album, not the recording of the videos. Though rock stations would largely not care (there concern was whether or not Stevie was rocking -- she's one of the few women to get airplay consistently during the AOR days), pop disc jockeys (male) loved the weight gain. One of the crueler remarks (repeated not for a laugh -- it's not funny -- but to demonstrate the hostitlity towards Nicks at this time) was, "She should move to India, they worship cows over there. Mooo!" While Glen Frye did pump up during this period as he got lost in recording beer commercials and Miami Vice type songs, Stevie was far from the only one in her peer group to gain weight. She would be the sole focus of nasty jokes (often on air whenever one of her hits was played) until another person, a woman naturally, also had a significant weight gain (Ann Wilson of Heart).

It says a great deal about that time period, Reagan days, that women were the targets and that it was considered acceptable for a dee jay spinning Nicks' latest hit to attack her on air. (The balding and frequently pudgy Phil Collins was not mocked.) All of that combined with the emergence of Whitney Houston factored into the sales of this album.

Whitney Houston? 1985 was a big year for her. And in those days, radio stations, as Clive Davis would note to Rolling Stone, were leery of playing women one after the other. They felt they'd lose the audience if they played two songs by women in a row. Many saw that as part of the reason why the third single, "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You," charted so low. Another reason is it's not her best performance. On the road, she would turn this into a tour de force. (And change the sound of it -- both in terms of the music and her voice.)

Fair or not, many took to saying the best song from this album was the one not on it, "One More Big Time Rock And Roll Star" (the flip-side to the single "Talk To Me"). It had everything Stevie Nicks fans wanted in a song by Stevie (Nicks wrote the song solo), lyrically and musically. Where was the epic to be found on the album in the tradition of "Beauty and the Best," "Wild Heart," "Edge of Seventeen" or "Bella Donna"? It was a time when Heart, Aerosmith, Def Leppard and others were working with outside song writers and that was heresy to many rock fans.

The epic was there, written with her brother Christopher, "Nightmare" but many people missed it. With the dance video and the pop success of "Talk To Me," and the dance mix of "I Can't Wait," and the sexism always a part of the music world, Nicks began disappearing from rotation on AOR. A point missed by some, as the next solo album would demonstrate.

Before that, she would reteam with the Mac for Tango in the Night and the tour to promote the album. The weight jokes would be in abundance. David Letterman would use footage of Stevie Nicks from the "Stand Back" video, walking, match it with the hideous Buckingham composition "Big Love" (which featured Lindsey doing the pants but he'd play coy at first to drive up interest in the non-song) for jokes about Stevie on a treadmill. [Due to that bit, Stevie would avoid going on Letterman's show for years.] It wasn't a good tour for Nicks, she got ill, she lost her voice. Dates had to be rescheduled. Austin radio attacked her when bronchitis was given as the reason for that cancellation. It was open season on Stevie and every dee jay who rightly felt there was little rock to Tango In The Night (Stevie's composition "Welcome to the Room, Sara" was the closest but not only was Lindsey obsessed with studio gadgets but Christine McVie seemed more interested in synths and keyboards than the piano) aimed their ire at her.

Along with jokes about her weight, jokes about drug use (cocaine) became staples on pop radio. Nicks had been open about going into rehab and the reward for that was every missed date, every pound gained, became reason to add the drug jokes to the weight ones.

This was the environment that her fourth album was released during, 1989's The Other Side of the Mirror. "Rooms on Fire" kicked the album off with a hit. It really wouldn't be repeated. "Two Kinds of Love" (a duet between her and Bruce Hornsby) would make the charts but few were interested. What had happened to Stevie Nicks?

To hear the on air radio talk, she'd teamed up with the guy who'd helped revive Tina Turner's career (Rupert Hine) and lost her way. It was a huge mistake to release the ballad "Two Kinds of Love" as the second single. Her rock bonafides had been questioned for some time now. Hornsbey was known as a songwriter and most assumed he wrote the song. (He didn't, Nicks wrote it with Hine and Rick Nowels.) She'd slimmed down, which only got slammed her for that. (Dee jays never could decide whether Nicks or Ann Wilson's biggest crime was gaining weight or losing it.) No one cared (outside her loyal audience which is sizeable).

A real shame because while Rock A Little had moments that lived up to the best of Nicks' catalogue ("Sister Honey" and "Imperial Hotel" among them), this was her strongest writing since Wild Heart. It also had the worst production in the world. [Hine appears to think "Doing the Best I can (Escape from Berlin)" is going on the next Fix album.] It's also the worst sequenced. Lyrics and/or music had provided a connecting thread on her three previous albums. Here, no one seemed to know what to do after "Rooms on Fire" (whose production sounds like nothing else on the album) started things off. The natural follow up, "Whole Lotta Trouble," was instead relegated to track six. The best songs (production and compostion) on the album ("Alice" and "Juliet") came along at tracks nine and ten.

It was her worst selling album up to that point. (It did go gold in initial cycle.)

Triva 1, Sharon Celani and Lori Perry continue singing backup but Lori Perry is now Lori Perry-Nicks (she married Stevie's brother Christopher). Trivia 2, Kenny G plays sax on "Two Kinds Of Love" and "Alice." Trivia 3, Stevie performs Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone (Blue Eyes)" on this album. Trivia 4, "Juliet," written by Stevie Nicks, first appeared as an instrumental on the flip-side of the Mac's "Little Lies" singles where, due to studio gadgetry contributions, it was credited as a Nicks and Buckingham contribution.

In the eighties, Nicks had recorded two albums with the Mac, toured with them twice, recorded four albums solo and toured behind each, joined Bob Dylan and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in Australia (until the lack of a work permit led to authorities putting an end to that), contributed to recordings to soundtracks, had a live top forty hit with Petty and the Heartbreakers ("Needles and Pins").

The nineties wouldn't be a fresh start for Nicks who would release on only one album. First up, there was a greatest hits packaging in1991, Time Space: The Best of Stevie Nicks. Like most greatest hits, it sold and continues to be an evergreen in terms of sales. Fourteen songs, three recorded just for the collection. Of the eleven other songs, only two were from The Other Side of the Mirror (the chart hit "Rooms On Fire" and the club hit "Whole Lotta Trouble"). For the collection, Stevie Nicks wrote down some impressions and some history for each track. She could have skipped writing about the two news songs she didn't compose.

"Sometimes It's a Bitch" was actually a mini-hit and played without "bitch" being blipped out on many radio stations. It was never Stevie's song (despite an amazing vocal). Not because she didn't write it but because, despite Jon Bon Jovi and Billy Falcons' claims otherwise, despite Stevie writing that Jon Bon Jovi had captured her life, it didn't have a thing to do with Stevie. It's the best Cher song Cher never recorded, it's just not Stevie Nicks.

The second new composition came from the boys of Poison whose chart days were already over. It's a sweet song called "Love's A Hard Game To Play," but the general consensus was: "If Stevie Nicks is going to record songs by would be hit makers, why doesn't she record some songs that might actually be hits?"

The third new song (the b-side to "Sometimes It's a Bitch") was written by Stevie Nicks, "Desert Angel."

Trivia, Lori Perry-Nicks becomes Lori Perry Nicks.

Three years later, Stevie releases her only studio album of the nineties, Street Angel. "Blue Denim" was the lead track and seemed determined to straddle both pop and rock which didn't please the last of rock purists and pop radio wasn't interested. What troubled some devoted fans was the word that Stevie was finally doing what she'd long threatened, crossing over into country music. Song titles like "Rose Garden" didn't ease their worries. (This is actually a song Nicks wrote and not the "I Never Promised You . . ." infamous country corn.) As if to taunt those who feared she might someday do worse than Bon Jovi and the boys of Poison, she recorded "Docklands." Lines like "And all the people who roam the docklands" seemed to indicate that Trevor Horn and Betsy Cook thought they were on to some new fashion craze or area in crisis.

Trivia 1, Lori Perry Nicks becomes Lori Nicks. Trivia two, Bob Dylan plays guitar and harmonica on Stevie's recording of "Just Like A Woman." Trivia three, Sara Fleetwood sings backing vocals on this album. Sara Recor met Mick Fleetwood through her friend Stevie. She's the Sara that inspired "Sara." (Sara and Mick Fleetwood divorced.)

Though not very popular in the US, the album did well in Europe. There were too many spright and mid-tempo numbers. Too few rockers (only "Greta") and the concern that Stevie was going country (confirmed to some by both "Rose Garden" and "Destiny" -- the latter of which is an update to 1983's "Enchanted" which had a more of country sound than anything on this album).
And that was pretty much it. She did soundtracks. A moderate hit with "If You Ever Did Believe" (off the Pratical Magic soundtrack) would peak interest in 1998 and Enchanted, the three disc boxed set, would attempt to place her career in context.

Disc one would provide CD formats for the B-sides "Garbo" and "One More Big Time Rock And Roll Star." Disc two would make the mistake of including a live version of "Edge of Seventeen" and a studio version of "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You." (It should have been the other way around. "Edge of 17" is a strong live performance but "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You" is the song she brought to life on the road -- see the Red Rocks concert available on video cassette and DVD.) Disc three would collect various soundtrack cuts and three songs she'd done with others (the "Gold" single with Stewart, the "Whenever I Call You Friend" single with Loggins and the previously unreleased Don Henley duet "Reconsider Me" which was recorded for Rock A Little but not on that album). Along with many people discovering songs like "Sleeping Angel" (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and "Violet and Blue" (Against All Odds), she also closed the disc with a new recording, just her singing and playing the piano, of "Rhiannon" -- the hit that started it all for her when she joined the Mac. As the boxed set The Chain had done before for Fleetwood Mac, this collection both provided context and peaked interest in what more might be offered in the future.

The booklet provided essays (by Stevie and by Danny Goldberg), rare photos, and supposedly attempted to highlight the career. Supposedly? "Sometimes It's a Bitch" is absent form the page entitled "The Singles." (Not that we blame her.) Trivia, the listing for "Desert Angel," the b-side to "Sometimes It's a Bitch," also avoids noting that song in the booklet's track history.

In 2001, she released a new studio album. The best album she'd released in years, Trouble In Shangri-La, marred only by the sketch trying to pass for a song "It's Only Love." (Nicks didn't sketch the song, Sheryl Crow did.) Nicks was writing some strong songs again. Crow and others provided the production she hadn't had in some time. There was no attempt to 'pretty up' Stevie via synths and other gadgets. It was her stories in settings that enhanced them (as opposed attempting to make them sound like whatever was hot on the pop charts at that moment).
Hopes that this strong work would be followed quickly with another solo album were dashed when Nicks went into the studio with the Mac for 2003's Say You Will. With Christine McVie once again officially out of the group, Nicks ended up contributing nine songs she'd written or co-written to the eighteen track album.

Well you know me better than I know myself
Can you write this for me
He says no, you write your songs yourself
That made me stronger
That made me hold on to me.

Stevie wrote those words for the chorus of "That Made Me Stronger" and she sings them like she means them. All of her writing on this album sounds like they're from someone fully committed to exploring her experiences. In the process, she creates not just a 'comeback' but her second strongest album.

Trivia 1, for Trouble In Shangri-La, as always Sharon Celani and Lori Nicks contribute backing vocals. Trivia 2, Sheryl Crow produces some tracks, Natalie Maines duets with Stevie on "Too Far From Texas," Macy Gray, Crow and Sarah McLachlan contribute vocals on this album. (Crow also plays guitar and bass on some tracks.)

In the course of her career, Stevie Nicks' soprano vanished. An early casulity of the road during her first tour with Fleetwood Mac where she set fire to "Rhiannon" night after night.
Though some never stopped mourning that loss, what remains actually is rather amazing and Nicks is both a better singer now and a more distinctive voice.

For 1987's A Very Special Christmas, she contributed "Silent Night." Her original enchanting but slight soprano couldn't have left a mark on the much recorded song. The voice she earned on the road and in life (as well as the time she'd spent perfecting her breath control and singing on the breath) make her "Silent Night" (with Robbie Neville on backup vocals) haunting and truly unqiue.

Early on, Nicks frequently cited Joni Mitchell's Ladies of the Canyon as a songwriting influence. Groups like the Mamas and the Papas obviously influenced her love of harmonies. But throughout her career, especially early on, she's been less likely to cite vocal influences. Because she was a "she" and because she was in "rock" Janis Joplin was often tossed around by critics and Nicks herself has cited Joplin as well. She didn't start out sounding like Joplin and she hasn't ended up sounding like her.

From her earliest days, she was writing her own songs. She had a very pretty voice while she was attempting to make her mark and it was there for the first album with Fleetwood Mac. By the second album (Rumors), the voice was changing. The reason was her voice was coming from the throat, not being carried by the breath. She ended up with nodes on her vocal chords (from projecting from the larynx) and she also developed the bronchitis that would so frequenly plague her in later days. It was a scary and trying time made worse by the fact that whatever the voice was going to become wasn't going to be the voice that radio listeners had heard on "Rhiannon" and "Landslide."

That's not a common story. While many singers voices change from time and the road, Stevie Nicks had to deal with that in her initial burst of recognition and hit making. On the rare times it does happen, the singer usually retreats from the business the way an athelete ends a career after a bad sports injury.

Stevie Nicks didn't do that and some can argue that she enjoyed the career and what it produced too much to consider it. Even if you buy that theory, the fact is what came after wasn't easy and wasn't stress free. In the songs she's written, Nicks has always focused on what remains. ("Fireflies" for Mac is but one example.) Just as she's found beauty in those elements, her voice has found true beauty.

It's not "pretty." The soprano was "pretty." It was nice, it was lovely. What she has today is beauty due to the fact that the singing voice is so unique and so powerful. Through hard work and trial and error, she found a voice like no one else. It's a voice that matches her songwriting.

If you doubt the improvement, listen to the original recording of "Landslide," check out the live version on Fleetwood Mac Live (released in 1980) and then check out the live version on Fleetwood Mac's The Dance (released in 1997). It's a wonderful song (one that's stood the test of time and one that she wrote -- the Dixie Chicks, Smashing Pumpkins, Tori Amos and others have covered it). Her original performance of it on disc is nice. With each new recording, her vocal demonstrates the growing power of her singing.

The unique voice that was always there in her songwriting is now matched by her singing. She's become the voice she's always written about. An amazing feat in an industry where many have their best years early on and spend the rest of their career offering pale imitations of those days.

Stevie's studio albums ranked by committee (with the note that we listen to all of them underscored):

1) Wild Heart
2) Trouble In Shangri-La
3) Bella Donna
4) Rock A Little
5) The Other Side of the Mirror
6) Street Angel

Top ten favorite tracks (ranked by committee) from Stevie's solo work:

1) "Stand Back"
2) "Edge of Seventeen"
3) "Beauty and the Beast"
4) "Sister Honey"
5) "Greta"
6) "Fall From Grace"
7) "Juliet"
8) "Nightbird"
9) "Candle Bright"
10) "Jane"

Mommy's Pantyhose wants to be a tough boy

Mommy's Pantyhose was back in the news last week.

The 'tough boy' had about as much to offer of use as usual.

Which means zip. Zilch. Zero.

He participated in a panel discussion. (We're being kind.)

The topic was US war resister Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to the illegal war.

There were two other people on the panel besides Mommy's Pantyhose.

There was a c.o., Joshua Casteel , who spoke about the bravery required to take a stand. There was Amy Goodman who made some half-points. No, we're not slamming as her being half-informed. We're just noting that she didn't get to finish her points because Mommy's Pantyhose kept cutting her off. We won't say the obvious, we'll just say this shouldn't be surprising to anyone who paid attention to the final section of our last book review.

Goodman tried. She just couldn't get a word in.

Mommy's Pantyhose was show boating, the way he did when he was at J.P. Morgan. Oh wait. Yeah, that's where he comes from. Not the 'streets.' No, he's the Vanilla Ice of the War Hawks. Possibly he took to wearing Mommy's Pantyhose on his head to counteract that privaleged background?

Keeping it real, hommies! Keeping it real.

He knows, he was there . . .

Yeah, he used that b.s. to sell the continuation of the illegal war in 2004 and in 2005. Is it any surprise he's still selling it in 2006?

To some, maybe. He's not an "anti-warrior." Again, see the book discussion.

But what he is, besides a poser, is the Vietnam revisionary for this war. He didn't wait a decade after the war ended to start whining Rambo-esque b.s. about 'hands tied' and the 'plan' not being thought out. He cashed in on that while the war was going on. Or tried to. No one really bought his book.

But hey, he's Rachel Maddow's buddy. That should count for . . . nothing.

When he talks Iraq, he talks 'strategy,' he talks about his 'men,' he's got so much crap spilling out of his mouth, we honestly wish, instead of attempting to make a point, Amy Goodman had just handed him a roll of toilet paper, on air, and said, "Wipe."

A lot of people propped us this soft boy who seems to think he found his masculinity in Iraq. If so, would he really wear Mommy's Pantyhose on top of his head? We think not. And we don't think it's 'street' because the only 'street' he knows is Wall St. It's as laughable as another 'tough boy' who also befriended him. While 'radio tough boy' couldn't stop sniffing around his crotch, his former radio co-host (actually the host) didn't put up with Mommy's Pantyhose's crap. She called him out on air.

Mommy's Pantyhose thinks he's look 'street' when he slaps that ridiculous thing on his hand. Radio 'tough boy' is attempting to steal from African-American culture as well. He's taken to billing himself as "Unbought and Unbossed." Shirley Chisholm rolls over in her grave. What is it about this soft, little, White boys that makes them think they can raid Black culture and get away with it?

It's a soft wipes life for them . . .

Late in 2005, Rolling Stone gave Mommy's Pantyhose a platform to go after the anti-war movement and, oh, did he. Rolling Stone did manage to note that the group Mommy's Pantyhose leads wasn't participating in the September rally. They failed to note that Mommy's Pantyhose isn't about ending the war. Not a surprise when you consider the fact that the former cultural bible is so lost (and so 'centered') it's bleeding longterm subscribers like never before. Rolling Stone once made contributions, now it only issues condemnations to those who do. Jann, quit dabbling and return the magazine's soul before it's too late.

It's really past time that they all find their souls. Everyone claiming they want to end the war needs to show some committment to that and a start is by not propping up voices who advocate the continuation of the illegal war as 'anti-war,' 'peace' or 'anti-warrior.'

Mommy's Pantyhose isn't a very 'democratic' type. His argument, in the panel, was that it's up to a court to decide whether the war is illegal, that Ehren Watada should just blindly follow orders. He didn't want to hear anything from Goodman, he didn't want to hear her remarks about the impact Watada's stand (and others) is making. He just knew that a 'promise' had been made and it must be kept.

Free will does not exist in Mommy's Pantyhose's world. Personal responsibility does not exist in Mommy's Pantyhose's world.

Hot air was all he provided on the panel. The panel taking place on mainstream media, no real surprise. But independent media should think twice before they put him on as an 'anti-war' type. They should also contemplate whether someone who appears to know so little should have been given a platform in the first place. His 'argument' sounded as though it was made by someone completely unaware of the Nuremberg Trials. That should frighten everyone.

Judith Regan: Trash merchant (still!)

Judith Regan, happy at last?

Not very likely.

The smooth veneer she's attempted to cultivate for years has always been done in (and will always be done in) by her foul language -- not sprinkled in, used as a crutch.

Now the National Enquirer's only success story is returning to the roots she's never really left too far behind: Judith wants to serve you some O.J.

For those who missed it, Regan's now tormenting the West coast. She's left New York far, far behind. Possibly the Ground Zero love nest with Bernie Kerik couldn't be topped?

Or maybe she's finally burned everyone in the Big Apple?

Regardless, she's California's burden now.

And she's pimping her imprint's latest book, by O.J. Simpson, and her TV specials with him (two next week) like crazy. She takes offense to the suggestion that the whole thing might be unseemly. Edward Wyatt wrote about that in "O.J. Simpson Confesses in Book, Publisher Says" (C1, front page of The New York Times' Business Day section, Friday, November 17, 2006). She doesn't understand (does she ever understand?) why she's getting negative publicity, after all, she points out Katie Couric interviewed Simpson in 2004, and "Barbara Walters interviews murders, dictators and criminals."

She doesn't really think she's on that level, does she? The failed host of the flop show Judith Regan Tonight? That she's "Judy" to America the way Couric is "Katie"? That the mention of her name conjures up an instant visual the same way the mention of Walters' name does?
Apparently she does. She also fails to grasp that when Couric or Walters interviews anyone, they're not profitting from their guest. Regan isn't just interviewing him, she's publishing his new book If I Did.

Regan probably passed for 'striking' (to some) in NYC. Out on the West coast? Couldn't pass for plain. Having one eyebrow higher than the other doesn't make for immediate liability -- it can, after all, be a quirk. However, plain (let alone beauty) is rarely built on a composite of quirks, and Regan's nothing but quirks. From the T-zone area of her face that always suggests she has a nasal infection, to the puffs under her eyes, from her apparent belief that Chin Is a Many Splendored Thing to her nose that droops on one side. From the bad highlights to near non-existant upper lip. Judith Regan is a mess to look at. (Did NYC deport her as some sort of city beautification program?)

She's also a mess on the inside. The talk is these two interviews are her Al Capone's Vault, that like Geraldo, this will sky rocket her as a TV presence. What she's forgetting is that Rivera didn't start out at The National Enquirer (ending up at Fox "News" may be just as bad). She's also forgetting that Rivera had a TV journalism track record prior to that special. She's also forgetting (easy to now) that Rivera was once considered dashing and good looking. Most of all, she's forgetting that Rivera became a national joke after Capone's vault was opened and revealed nothing.

To kick start the career again, chair throwing was required. We don't think Regan's face can stomach that blow.

Lots of luck peddling the trash, Judith, but don't be surprised if the whole thing doesn't take your 'little joke' status and inflate it into 'big joke' status.

Happy Birthday

Well the year has passed quickly and already it's time for another birthday greeting. This year's comes with two gifts: reality and anger. The first will be provided here. You'll supply the second.


It doesn't get much more basic than this: a writer writes. Somewhere along the way, you seem to have forgotten that.

Since, what, 1995?, you've rewritten the same piece of crap year after year. The diminishing returns should have tipped you off to reality but somehow, as usual, it was everyone's fault but your own. Then you got the notion that you could slide over to cable TV. Why?

Because you met two 'geniuses' at a party who'd 'crossed over' to broadcast TV. Everyone warned you how that would go down. Everyone pointed to examples of their portrayals of women. But you knew best, right?

They appreciated you, you swore, they got you, really got you. No, dear, they had you. They both had you.

Then when they were both through with you -- and the fact that they were both doing you at the same time should have been a warning sign -- you went off into 'religion.'

Sweetie, it's not 'religion.' Not even an agent expects 45% of your income. It's not the Lord, it's the Leach.

That should have been your first clue. The worship required of a living person should have been your second.

As you dash from meeting to meeting tossing off terms like 'self-empowerment,' does it ever strike you that true self-empowerment would mean providing you with the tools to make your own decisions?

Now they've tapped you out and they're done with you. Yet you still swear it's a 'religion.'

And you search your circles for another brainwash victim because they'll bring you back into 'the flock' if you can provide them with someone else to drain.

It's been three months since then and you're kind of angry with a lot of people who won't return your calls. You've taken to making statements which, when they find their way back -- and they always find their way back, portray all your friends as avoiding you because of what you term your 'creative dry spell.'

Reality, after a decade or more, it's not a dry spell. In fact, this period has lasted longer than your 'creative period.'

Here's some more reality: you still have your health and your home.

Now you've taken in yet another loser who can't hold a job. You get upset when anyone points out that he's a loser but the truth is in the details.

In the last seven years, he's worked six months. That's if we're generous. And that's not six consecutive months.

You've taken to saying that all your friends are hung up on money. If 'hung up on money' means not turning over nearly half their monies to a cult, then, yes, everyone is hung up on money. If opposition to worshipping the Leach and lodging the Mooch equals 'hung up on money,' then, yes, everyone is hung up on money.

You're all about 'peace' these days, you say.

And, you whisper, everyone else is just 'caught in the currency.'

Your little sermonette on Wilcox Ave. might have carried more weight if you'd dressed your beau before the two of you went out. Now that doesn't mean well dressed. That doesn't mean stylish. It does mean clean. It does mean the stain, wine or grape juice?, taking up two-thirds of the front of his shirt didn't translate as 'night on the town.'

The Mooch isn't about peace. Like yourself, he voted for the Bully Boy in 2004. So maybe you thought it was kismit?

Last month, when you crashed a party, the host didn't ask you to leave because he was 'caught up in the currency.' When he referred to your new beau as "trailer trash," he wasn't even talking about the dirty clothes. You were both asked to leave because your Prince Charming apparently can't string more than two sentences in a row without tossing out the n-word.

The friend you called mid-week to whine too? She didn't care. She lost all interest and all respect for you when you explained that you woke her a little after three in the morning because Prince Charming's 13-year-old daughter called you a bitch. In your own kitchen. After you dared to suggest that (a) she was too young to be 'dating' a man who was 27-years-old and (b) three in the morning was really too late to be coming home at her age, especially smelling of booze.

As that friend explained, listening to you whine about how you must be a bitch because this out-of-control, barely teen screamed it at you was the last straw.

"Why is she letting him and his brood live with her?" was the question on everyone's minds.


Six children. By six different women.

None of whom he ever paid child support for.

(You can't pay when you have no money.)

So it's not surprising that when the mothers learned he landed a meal ticket they packed off the kids to live with you.

It is shocking that you've taken them in.

The eleven-year-old's a pot head who cuts school and zonks out in front of the TV all day. Maybe you see his father in him?

You, who once made friends remove their shoes for a six month period after you installed new carpet, now have six 'in door' dogs. Not a lot of people consider German sheppards in door dogs.
Word is the dogs eat a lot. That's known not just from your bragging about the food bill but also due to the fact that one person actually attempted to visit the first week of November to do an intervention. Somewhere after stepping into the third dog dropping, he lost any and all interest in an intervention. Despite your explanation of how you'd learned to let them dry because it made them easier to pick up. As kindly as possible, and he's known for his kindess, he made a hasty exit.

And you trashed him on Wilson. You explained, apparently rather loudly, that he and everyone else had 'sold out, man.'

"Whatever happened," you were heard to wonder, "about peace, love and understanding?"

While it's good to know you can still recall the lyrics of Elvis Costello, no one's forgotten that you cheerleaded this war. No one's forgotten that and no one will.

Your attempts to pass yourself off as the modern embodiment of all things hippie was laughable during times of peace. "John Lennon, man," you'd say, "that's where it's at."

Which might have carried some weight if anyone ever heard you listening to him. With Dylan, at least, you were sort of listening when you sang along with the Counting Crows' "Mr. Jones."

But with the nation at war -- and you're excusing of that and the Bully Boy -- don't kid yourself that you're the last modern day hippie. Don't kid yourself that you've found Prince Charming either.

While you have a variety of excuses for the fact that you caught him in the hall of a seedy bar making out with some woman, the fact remains he can't get it up with you. Everyone's tired of hearing about it. Everyone's tired of hearing how he's 'stressed' and so 'concerned' about the world that Fox "News" plays nonstop on your bedroom TV. We think the heroin habit he's dabbling in explains the 'dry spell' (your words) that now passes for your love life.

You're about to be another year older. The best gift anyone can give you at this point is the truth.

Everyone has doubts that you can admit to it. But until you do, no one's interested. Yes, the "last real friend" you had blocked you after the early morning call/whinefest.

You can contine to point the finger at everyone else but you've given yourself the bird. That's the reality of your life currently. Happy Birthday.

[All quotes and stories retold with permission.]

Playlist this edition

What we listened to while doing this edition?

Well, we caught some of Laura Flanders' program. We listened to Kat answer our questions about how the non-pleasure trip to Ireland went. We listened to Mike who can't shut up about Casino Royale. (Mike says, "You must see it!") We listened to Dona scream, "The time! The time!" No, she didn't mean Morris Day was in the house. She meant, "Is anyone watching the time!"

Apologies to Cedric and Betty who both ended up skipping church this morning. That's not normal for them. Cedric stayed with us until seven a.m. his time. Betty is on a Whopper high (the candy Whoppers) and only got off the phone about an hour ago. (She and Kat were with us for all the edition.)

We listened to lots of stuff.


Afraid to admit it but a friend of C.I.'s dropped off Fall Out Boy's From Under The Cork Tree. Is it good, is it bad? We honestly don't know. We finally listened to that near the last few hours and we were too busy writing to notice it until it was off.

What else? Carly Simon's Anticipation. Michael Franti's Songs From The Front Porch. And? Barenaked Ladies' Are Me. (Which we just got the pun title, Jess picked it up actually.)


We think every thing Stevie Nicks ever released.

Seriously. The boxed set, the studio albums.

Stevie Nicks is our musical feature this week. The Tina Turner retrospective continues to pull in e-mail. We had Kat back with us and we wanted to tackle another artist.

A number of e-mails this week on the Turner piece noted they wished it had included "trivia." We think it did. We offer trivia in this one -- some clearly marked.

It was a mammoth entry and Dona's editing it down right now. We're big fans of Stevie and that may not come out in the feature. We think Troubles in Shangra-La was a return to form and Ty's telling Dona to add that but she's saying, "Add, I'm trying to get it down to a semi-readable length!"

If it doesn't make it in, "It is what it is." (To quote Kat.)


These are picks for the posts and entries from last week that you shouldn't miss.

"The Girth of the Tabby" -- Betty's latest. Miss it and you will be lost when the next chapter goes up.

"Judith Miller, Law and Disorder" -- Mike responds to Miller's "welcome" with 'what the hell does she have to welcome anyone to?'

"Grab bag (Betty)" -- Betty fills in for Kat with an epic. Kat is back in the United States and is at Betty's until Monday when she catches a flight home.

"THIS JUST IN! MARTINEZ IS IN!" and "Melquiades" -- Wally and Cedric take a look at the new G.O.P. head.

"Ellen Willis" -- that's actually from two Saturdays ago but Marcia wrote us a very strongly worded e-mail objecting to the fact that it wasn't selected as a highlight last weekend. Marcia, blame C.I. who argues against more than one highlight from The Common Ills (done by C.I.) despite the fact that C.I. posts more entries than any other site in the community. We loved this entry as much as you did, Marcia.

"gyllenhaal, nora barrows friedman, mike lerner, team mobile guy" -- Rebecca doing what she does best, weaving a mixture of elements that seem to have little connection into a cohesive post. Jake Gyllenhaal's butt? War resisters? The Team Mobile guy? While we agreed with her on the guy's teeth, the other area she points out, has us all turning our heads when the commercial airs now.

"Curiosity (Ruth)" -- Ruth fills in for Kat and gets to the heart of the matter.

"Iraq, the Who" -- Elaine talks music? You better, you better, you bet.

"Ehren Watada on CNN last night" -- Marcia, if you have a problem with this selection by C.I., take it up with Francisco who e-mailed asking that we note it as the entry at the site last week.

"THIS JUST IN! BULLY BOY -- AN IDIOT IN ANY CULTURE OR CLIMATE!" and "Bully Boy -- the portable idiot (humor)" -- Wally and Cedric picked this one they did. We had two ahead of this but they wanted a thank you noted to C.I. for doing a "word picture" of Vietnam that they could build on when they wrote this. Their only regret is that they couldn't figure out how to fit in C.I.'s description of the greens in the grass and leaves.

"Panic in the Kitchen?" -- Dona's mother called Saturday afternoon to make sure she got back her okay. While on the phone, she said this was a must read and confessed she had taken green bean casserole to gatherings before. "Never again," she swore.
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