Sunday, February 04, 2007

Truest statement of the week

Lastly, on CounterSpin today, John Nichols discussed Molly Ivins passing and worried that Ivins, whose columns were the most heavily circulated progressive ones in newspapers around the world, death would mean the space would go blank (of course, it could also go to a right-winger or centrist) so he suggested that if your local paper carried Ivins' columns, you contact them and ask that they continue to carry a progressive column. To go one further, Molly Ivins was one of the few women to make the top twenty most widely circulated columnists. So if you want to continue to see columns that address reality and you'd like to see a woman continue to be represented on the op-ed pages, you can ask your local paper to carry Amy Goodman (of Democracy Now!). Goodman's doing a weekly column now. I personally doubt that top 10 lists make for worthy or even "good" reading. Molly Ivins stood for something in each column (and humor was a part of it though Nichols wanted to downgrade it -- don't stand by him at a party). It's not just that any progressive voice is needed (or liberal voice), it's one that will use the space well. Goodman's demonstrated that she intends to tackle real topics. Goodman's columns can be found many places and Common Dreams is one. That said, if you're recommending that it be picked up to a newspaper, you need to note a paper that provides the column. "Resistance to war cannot be jailed" is Goodman's most recent column and the link takes you to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. If you're pitching Goodman to your local paper, you should also note that she wrote (with her brother David) two bestselling hardcover books (Exception to the Rulers and Static) (say "New York Times bestsellers") and that she is an award winning journalist (George Polk Award, Aflred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, Robert F. Kennedy Prize for International Reporting and is the 2006 RECIPIENT OF THE PUFFIN/NATION PRIZE FOR CREATIVE CITIZENSHIP). You should also note that she hosts (with Juan Gonzalez) Democracy Now! which is broadcast on over 500 radio & TV stations around the world as well as online and as a podcast. Also stress that Ivins wrote a weekly column and Goodman does as well. (Important because, from time to time, a columnist may choose to do a series of columns -- think Bob Herbert -- and newspapers with a weekly slot now open aren't going to want to fill it with a twice weekly column when they only have one day open each week.)
Amy Goodman is my personal choice. Members may have their own choice. If your choice is someone else, e-mail and we'll figure out the best way to present to present your choice to your local paper. But it is not enough to say, as John Nichols did, demand a progressive voice. (He may have been trying to leave it up to listeners or may not have wanted to pick one person over another.) You need to provide a concrete example otherwise you may find that the same editorial boards that boast Thomas Friedman is a liberal (I'm referring to his column in syndication -- the Times is stuck with him) have a very different idea than you do of what "progressive" or "liberal" is. This isn't something you wait on. The op-eds are 'valuable real estate' and they have a fast turn over. Once a spot is occupied, it is very difficult to get a paper to drop a columnist. (Complaints are sometimes seen as 'proof' of how many people read the columnist.) (Sometimes it is proof -- sometimes it's just a sign of how bored and tired readers are with the same-old, same-old.)

The above is from C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" Friday. We got 35 e-mails Saturday saying this was the truest statement of the week. We're glad you're agreeing, but are you following up? Are you contacting the paper? If not, get on it.

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --
Another Sunday where we run late beyond belief. But we've got an edition. It's done. It's posted. We're finally about to be able to go to sleep (after 30 plus hours up in a row). The core six are used to this nonsense. We thank those who help out each week for their patience.

Who helped out? This edition is the work of:

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's also the work of Dallas who hunts down links for us and is a sounding board (and more when we're lucky). We thank him. We thank Rebecca for photo shopping our original artwork.

Did someone say "new content"? Better believe it.

Highlights -- Mike, Cedric, Elaine, Rebecca, Wally and Betty selected the highlights and wrote the feature.

Green Party contest ($100 prizes) -- could you use $100? The Green Party is having a contest. Are you artistic? You should enter the contest. You should also check out Kimberly Wilder's call for accountability at The New York Times.

The Nation Stats -- Who knew, other than Ava and C.I., that this would be such a popular feature? This may quickly surpass My Fascist House as the most popular new feature we've added in the last few months. (For those wondering, My Fascist House goes up next week. Look for it then.) (We don't know what we'll do, but we're feeling kind of Condi-ish.) The Nation hits a new low, even for The Nation. In fact, to do worse with gender representation than they did this issue, they would have to print an entire issue where all bylines belong to males. You read that right. The issue we're providing the stats for features one, and only one, female byline. Is that acceptable? We don't think so and, judging by the e-mails, neither do you.

About the DNC's "2007 New Directions Survey" -- Short feature hollered Dona when the time ran extremely long! Short feature! Did we have any ideas for short features? (We want to revist the topic of Baby Cheney Poe but that won't be short.) Jess grabbed the junk mail that C.I. hadn't opened yet and started digging through. He found it, we said, "Great." Then we read it and are glad we did before it hit the trash can unopened. Guess what slogan they're promoting (a Republican groups slogan)?

Molly Ivins (1944-2007) -- Molly is gone. We're tired so we'll leave it at that and note that we'll miss her. Whether we knew her or just her writing, we will miss her. It is a great loss.

Amnesty International statement on Ehren Watada -- While The Nation can't offer any editorial support to Ehren Watada, look who steps up! There's a reason people are saying that they need to give their monies to organizations fighting for change -- as opposed to 'independent' media that reads like a highly limited voters' guide.

Music: Diana Ross, what a long sad trip -- What threw us off? We don't blae the late start (we started two hours late). Jess, Ava and C.I. went right from DC to the south on a spur of the moment thing when a college professor called C.I. to say his students didn't understand the Watada case. "Fine, we'll be there Monday." From there it was one spur of the moment thing after another. I'm going long here (I am Jim) because this was our longest feature so it should have the longest explanation. So they end up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area (community members, don't panic, we'll still be doing the planned trip next month). They worked Texas like crazy. One day turned into five. On Friday, there was a huge mix up at the hotel and lost luggage resulting in all three having nothing but i.d. and needing to be on a campus right away. How do you take a cab with no money and not have the cab driver call the cops? Charm the cabbie. (Ava and Jess are writing this up for the gina & krista round-robin. It is a hilarious story.) At some point, they have luggage -- at the airport -- and are en route but someone at the airport, trying to be kind, has sent it to where they are speaking and it just one mix up after another. At one point, when they have their stuff, Jess has his wallet, for five minutes. Then it's gone. Seriously, this is like a really bad screwball comedy. I'm just giving you some highlights, you have to read Ava and Jess' story of it. When they finally thought they were done and needed to get to the airport, there was a professor who'd heard about the talks they'd been taking part in and was desperate for them to speak to her class. They rescheduled the flight and did one more. It was the craziest week, it was a sad week because of Molly, and did we mention that they were in Texas? Did we mention that Texas had an ice storm? Did we mention that Jess, Ava and C.I. saw not only ice but snow? In Texas! So Saturday, their first day back in two and a half weeks, they had a great deal to do, a great deal to catch up on. We ended up starting late. This was the first feature we worked on. What you have here is 1/4 of the total we wrote.
Dona and I edited like crazy. We worked 5 hours on the writing of this and no one even noticed. We were all so into this piece. When it was noted (by Elaine), Dona went into a panic on how we were going to have time to write anything else. We managed. We're tired. It's over. Note, if and when we do Dolly Parton, Dona says we're only covering singles, we are not doing albums. After Diana Ross, Dona says no more albums!

The Cowards Silence on Ehren Watada -- That should actually be The Cowards' Silence when it appears. But let that be the least of our problems. Who's stepping for Ehren? You know the sad answer there already, don't you? Nice photo of Ehren. All the other illustrations are our own. Sheila e-mailed that photo to us and noted it was public domain. She said she knows it's importance that we all grasp how serious this is but she didn't think she'd seen a photo of Ehren smiling before. Sheila: "To be able to smile with all he's facing really moved me." Us too, Sheila. Thank you for passing it on.

TV: The Nights of Bankruptcy -- Ava and C.I. And, you know this, they hate their review. They note it was not completed. They were working on other things trying to get the pieces ready while Dona and I (Jim) were editing the Diana Ross piece. They had just started on this when we were done and hollered, "Everybody, editorial!" They didn't even realize it wasn't finished. C.I. was doing the morning entry at The Common Ills and waiting for the pieces to go up here (so that they could be linked to) when Ava asks, "Did we finish that?" NO! They finished it in five minutes. They say it's crap, we say it's great.

Editorial: Tossing "BE HONEST" right back at ya -- the editorial. Maybe it's time for independent media to get honest. (Maybe it's time for us to finish, Dona says, noting that she just finished her fourth pack of cigarettes since we started this edition.) Okay, the editorial speaks for itself.

A Note to Our Readers -- "In progress" went up because C.I. needed the links to post the morning entry at The Common Ills. That's what you're reading right now, this feature. We don't usually link to it but we swiped the links from The Common Ills.

Truest statement of the week -- 35 e-mails came in on Saturday saying that something that went up Friday evening (or night) contained the truest statement of the week. We agree. But don't just agree, do something about it.

That's it, we're off to bed. Again, thank you to everyone who helped. It was a very long, very rough edition. But the good news is, it's over. The bad news is that it starts back up next Saturday night. See you next week.

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

Editorial: Tossing "BE HONEST" right back at ya


Cursed are the peace resisters, for they shall destroy the earth.

A lot of hot air flies around. For instance, do the pundits who ignore Iraq but do shout out to the environment every fourth or fifth column think what goes in Iraq doesn't effect the environment? Do they think using depleted uranium is almost as good as planting a tree? Do they think the explosions don't impact global warming?

Or how about the much dismissed concern over Iraq's oil industry? The jaw boners want to tell you that it can be fixed, somewhere down the line, if the industry is privatized. Hmm. Foreign corporations stand to make as much 70% profit if privatization goes through. Foreign companies who are basically ready to steal the money from the Iraqi people are supposed to be trusted with the environment? Did Exxon ever pay up for the Exxon-Valdez oil spill? (No.)

What happens in Iraq does effect the environment directly. And we toss that out there because our Chatty Cathys and Charlies of the left have so damn little to say about Iraq.

Exactly when they do they get serious. Excuse us, let us rephrase that -- BE HONEST: When do you get serious?

Ehren Watada faces a court-martial tomorrow. Now, it's not, for instance, Egyptian bloggers, and it might not lend itself well to yet another artistic rendering of stereotyping the south; however, it is pretty damn important. BE HONEST: Do you give a damn?

Abeer Qasim Hamza was gang-raped and murdered by US soldiers in her home. BE HONEST: Do you give a damn about Abeer?

When the helicopter crashes started piling up (before the 12 dead in the one crash), did you call out the nonsense excuses and demand some honesty about the fact that helicopters were being shot down? BE HONEST: You didn't write one damn word. A crash here, a crash there, here a crash, there a crash, and you didn't have one damn word to say about it.

December 31st, the number of US troops who have died in the illegal war reached 3,000. You don't have to answer whether or not you noted it -- we know you didn't. A few days after the fact, The Nation did online, in a single sentence that they spun into gays and military. (Apparently the author of that piece hadn't found anything to attack in the latest issue of Harper's magazine.) But are you aware that the AFP count for the month of January was 90 US troops killed? BE HONEST.

When you ignore war resisters, when you refuse to cover them, do you have any idea how that hurts your colleagues who work with you? Do you know their histories? BE HONEST.

If you did, you'd hang your head in shame. In fact, BE HONEST, at this late date, with so little you've done to cover Iraq, how do you live with yourself? BE HONEST.

Cursed are the peace resisters, for they shall destroy the earth.

[Illustration is "Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts 'Peace Resister'."]

TV: The Nights of Bankruptcy

ABC, Wednesday nights, catch it while you can, if you enjoy suffering. Tag on the toe reads "The Knights of Prosperity" and possibly it's trying to make a political statement in some sort of Carter Country way (although that lame sitcom at least offered a catch phrase)?

Whatever it's trying to do, The Knights of Prosperity is bad, really bad, TV. It's one of the two worst sitcoms the big three has shoved off on audiences. Your TV Guide will tell you it's a comedy and, while we don't endorse that publication, we think viewers may need to refer to it in order to grasp what genre the thing's supposed to be?

We don't do spoilers but the set up is the entire plot, so consider yourselves warned. A bunch of losers plot to rob Mick Jagger. Hilarity is supposed to ensue as they put their plan into motion. The most interesting thing about the program is that it airs on the same network that had screaming fits, in 1994, over Adam (played by Arye Gross) faking a neck injury to get some insurance money. Screaming fits. It didn't end after the episode of These Friends of Mine was filmed. It didn't even die down after it aired. In fact, when Gross would finally leave the show (by then known as Ellen), ABC would still be harping on the plot for that one episode.

Now they're gladly airing a show (well, less gladly since the ratings came in) whose entire premise is that Mick Jagger will be robbed. What's going on there?

The assumption now is that ABC wasn't keen to feature a likeable character ripping off big business (insurance) but robbing a celebrity is "cute" and "funny." Well, as Lily Tomlin pointed out years ago, big business protects its own.

But who protects the viewers?

This show is the ugly cousin you can't fix up even when you offer to pay a prom date. So exactly how did it end up on air? The creators also made Ed -- aka the show that spent a season vying with Titans for the 'honor' of lowest rated NBC program. Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman's Ed was one of those shows that NBC was convinced you'd like (despite the ratings), so they gave it a roll out, season after season, the way they do when they mistake milquetoast for quality. Having spent four seasons serving bland sunny side up, the creators might have wanted to stroke their inner nasty? Self-pleasure never played so boring.

The cast? Eugene's the main character, the Dadio of this nit-yawn, and he's played by Donal Logue who will hopefully win some raves for Ghost Rider. He's a little too dramatic for the show. Which is partly the writers' fault but he also carries some of the blame. Eugene's hot for/in lust over Esperanza (Sofia Vergara) who's also part of the gang. Characters frequently ask why and you will too. (Vergara's already set up future employment elsewhere, something others working on the show would be smart to do.)

Do we really need to go through this? There is the token "Black guy." He's there mainly so racist comments can be made, followed by the I'm-not-racist-I-got-a-Black-on-my-crew bit. More recently, Eugene had to confront the issue that there are gay people in the world. Something Archie Bunker and Phyllis Lindstrum were addressing in early 70s TV. It's all so badly written, it's all so boring. And that's before Dustin Diamond shows up playing himself.

If you're asking who, you are forgiven. In plot and "special guest stars," the whole thing plays like the intentionally dopey sitcom Michael thought up years ago on Newhart -- with wacky next door neighbors (Don Knotts) and "zingers" like, said to the Grim Reaper, "Why so glum, Grim?"

As a telling spoof of how bad TV could be, the sitcom within a sitcom episode of Newhart had you howling. The problem with The Knights of Prosperity is that this isn't a send up -- this is actually supposed to be funny.

The characters stumble around and any time forward moment is needed the writers seize upon "luck" to explain plot developments. Over and over. They can't explain the characters moving forward through talent or drive, it's always just luck. It must be bad luck since it continues to air (for now), but it's luck none the less.

The Water Cooler Set has wet their pants over this show (well, we hope it's urine) and reading their praises is actually funnier than anything that made it onscreen. We'll note that the woman hater (dating back to Charlie's Angels and running through this year anytime a woman is a co-lead or, heaven forbid, a lead) weighed in with his usual nonsense and praised the show for adding a token woman to the cast. Does he think she's any good? Other than her looks, do you think he even addresses that? We'll ask again, how do you file over four decades worth of misogynist reviews and never get called out on it?

The Set will never notice because they're too busy telling you that this is real . . . man. You almost picture the males stroking their long since clipped ponytails. It's real, man, because this is reality, man, the economy's in the toilet, man, and this is the only way these 'guys' can get ahead, man.

We're all supposed to repeatedly bob/nod our heads and say, "It's copasetic." But it's not and it goes to what we were addressing at the top: ABC gets offended when big business is ripped off for one episode. ABC is not offended when a person is ripped off for an entire season. (Or, for that matter, the audience.) So The Water Cooler Set might want to put down their rolling papers long enough to ponder that.

If they do, they might be able to see that the message is not Robin Hood. Mick Jagger is not an evil king. He has done the gang no wrong (unless they spent money to purchase his solo CDs). They don't even know him. A tour of his residence airs on TV and that's how he ends up being the target of their scheme. He is not Enron, he has not ripped off or destroyed a pension fund.
Considering Jagger's real life roots, he's someone that's not all that different than the characters plotting to rip him off.

Jagger was a late choice in the proceedings. Originally, the gang was supposed to rip off Jeff Goldblum. When Goldblum left the project, Jagger became the target celeb. Right away that demonstrates that this is not Robin Hood. Yes, we all know the "rob from the rich to give to the poor" theme. But does The Water Cooler Set read? If so, do they retain?

The actual story deals with Robin Hood addressing injustice and tyranny (as bad as She's The Boss was, we don't think it qualified as tyranny, just bad music). His enemies were the Sherriff and Prince John. They were formidable foes, corrupt evil doers who got off on screwing over people. That is not at all what The Knights of Prosperity is about.

If the show's merry band were targeting a Dennis Kozlowski, we doubt very seriously that it would have ever aired. The viewers get cheated by wasting time on this sick mess. Readers of The Water Cooler Set get misinformed because that set either can't read anything heavier than In Style or they can't retain it. The network and The Water Color Set are in collusion to convince you this is brave TV -- brave TV would be if either set was targeted. Chances are, it still wouldn't play funny.

The Cowards Silence on Ehren Watada

Ehren Watada right-wing at your door
wonder how you manage to stand once more.
Who finds the time for coverage?
Did you know so many would run?
Thursday sneaks in without a word
Friday morn arrives with little news
Hacks stand beneath their street lights
For many your bravery is unheard.
See how they'll run.
Ehren Watada standing up strong
wonder if the silent ever feel wrong?
See how they'll run.
Ehren Watada staking your ground
even when no one is around.
Will you become the future Woodstock,
Milli'ns claiming they were there?
What's it take to wake the nation?
See how they'll run.
Ehren Watada right-wing at your door
Wonder how you manage to stand once more

From our prophets Jess and C.I. Along with Kat, they're fond of creating new lyrics to already existing songs. We first shared the above lyrics (reworking of the Beatles "Lady Madonna") on
July 9, 2006. They're only more appropriate today, one day before Ehren Watada's court-martial begins.
On June 5th, Ehren Watada made public his refusal to deploy to Iraq because it's an illegal and immoral war. Prior to that, he had attempted to handle the manner privately. For months and months. (January 1st was when he told his mother Carolyn Ho of his decision.) The military didn't want to address the issue.
Now he faces a court-martial tomorrow. In August, he had an Article 32 hearing at which Ann Wright, Denis Halliday and Frances Boyle were witnesses for the defense. Tomorrow?

The "judge" has refused to allow Ehren Watada to argue his defense. The "judge" by the way is John Head. We think it's fitting that his first and last name are both slang for toilets. We think the "judge" has taken justice into the crapper and flushed it down.
Courage to Resist has a list of demonstrations that will be taking place around the country.

Where's the list of publications that have covered Watada?
Years from now, when the period is examined, some lefties will be saying, for instance, "Well The Nation was all over that story." It's reasonable for them to conclude that, based upon what the magazine is supposed to represent.
But the reality is that Watada wasn't good enough for their print magazine. Three online exclusives mentioned him (two were about him) in 2006. It wasn't until January 2007, six months after he went public, that they finally got around to mentioning him in print. The first mention he gets in the print magazine is when he's called a coward. Turn the page and you come across a sidebar on him.

Ehren Watada: My Life As A Sidebar. He could call his autobiography that and no one could dispute that a sidebar is exactly how he was treated by much of independent media. Where was established independent media in all of this? Where were the editorials in support of him, where were the calls that he be allowed to present a defense? Now that is a free speech issue, whether or not you're gagged in a court (military or civilian).
But there weren't many who were even interested in that. Not last week, but the week prior, The Nation offered two more "online exclusives" that mentioned Watada. They weren't about him. They were about "free speech." Supposedly.
John Nichols and The Pooper rushed to defend a 'journalist' who was being asked to affirm in court that her reporting was accurate. She wasn't being asked to reveal anything not in her reports. Just: "Is your report an accurate account?"
Well the heavens spoke and called a name: "Sarah Olson." Suddenly it was the cause celebre. We know The Pooper weighed in, we know John Nichols weighed in, we know Phil Donahue weighed in, it was a 'creative trust' all coming to aid one of their own.

It was also incredibly laughable. As community member Keesha pointed out, John Stauber weighed in with: "The court martial of Ehren Watada begins near Tacoma, Washington on February 5, and we have just days to use our power of persuasion to back the military court away from its dangerous imposition of subpoenas to journalists, trying to make them part of the prosecution." Only days until Watada's court martial and "we have just days to use our power" to . . . stop the persecution of . . . Sarah Olson.

Matthew Rothschild, who has not written of Watada, quoted the laughable John Stauber (he really should pursue stand up): "Olson's victory is 'a testament to what one determined and courageous reporter can accomplish in the face of government intimidation,' said John Stauber, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy."

That John Stauber, funny guy. "What one determined and courageous reporter can accomplish" with Norman Solomon calling in favors would still be untrue but it would be closer to the truth.
Sarah Olson was pathetic. From the start of being asked to testify, she was flat out pathetic.

She couldn't talk about what she planned to do (except in some cases where maybe she was) and fell back on "legal strategy." "I can't discuss my legal strategy" are words that should never be spoken by anyone claiming to be a journalist on whether or not they will testify.

Sarah Olson, and her Dream Team of Lefty Pundits, wanted attention and got it. It's branded her as "junk news" and one of the many missing blondes Matt Lauer might cover. It hasn't made her a journalistic name. There's a reason for that.

If a journalist feels that testifying is breaking some journalistic code, they don't testify. If they want support for their position, they state their position. Sarah Olson didn't want to discuss what she would do (her "legal strategy") -- except when she did want to -- but she wanted the whole world to come to the defense of her hypothetical.

It was not the court-martial of Sarah Olson. It was and is the court-martial of Ehren Watada. Had Olson not testified, she would have faced the maximum sentence of six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. We're sure that if her dream team had tossed around money the way they did words, they could have paid the fine several times over.

But if you want people to come to your defense for a stand you've taken, you have to take a stand. That would require stating, "I will not testify." Instead of being plain spoken, Olson wanted to offer that she was being placed in a terrible position and please defend her for the position she's being placed in even though she's not going to tell you what she will do.
Now let's say you're The San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board. Let's say you've been lobbied to "defend" Sarah Olson. Might your first question be: "Is she going to refuse to testify?" And, if you were told that the answer to that was "legal strategy," might you consider taking a pass on the whole thing?

At least four papers did for just that reason. Would you want to write a fiery defense of how wrong this was, of how no journalist should be asked to do this, if there was a good chance that when asked, Olson would testify?

"They're insane," laughed one who was lobbied hard and repeatedly.

To many in the mainstream, the whole thing was a joke: Olson's refusal to say what she would do and this idea that saying, "Yes, my reporting is accurate" under oath was something a journalist would never do.

The jokes just continued to pile on after last Monday. Olson doesn't have to testify, no journalist has to. Funny man John Stauber can rewrite history however he wants (though he may be concerned about future book buyers judgement of his critical abilities as a result of the revisionist tactics) but the reality was the laughable petition didn't intimidate the military. Phil Donahue rushing out a piece (where he seemed to confuse Watada with other war resisters who had self-checked out) didn't provide anything but chuckles.

What stopped the reporters from having to testify was Watada. It was not a testament to what "one" journalist could do or to what one "journalist" backed by just about everyone in independent media could do. It was Watada, having to put aside what he was facing, roll up his sleeves and come to aid of journalists.

John Stauber hasn't seen fit to write about Watada. John Nichols hasn't seen fit. (In fact, in a recent "online exclusive" at The Nation, Nichols went out of his way to avoid mentioning Bob Watada's speech in DC.) Storming Norman Solomon hasn't covered Watada. The Pooper wrote the sidebar as well as the article which was about a petition but The Pooper felt a quote calling Watada a coward was a must-include detail.

Sarah Olson was never the main story. Or, as she might say, "I was never the, you know, main story, like, me, I wasn't." The main story was and remains that Watada refused to deploy to Iraq. The main story was his reasons for that.

While it's shocking that "Judge" Toilet won't allow Watada to present his defense, many in independent media have also done the same. Which is rather amazing when you grasp what led Watada to his decision.
He was told he would be going to Iraq. He was told that it was his duty to study up on the war so he would know what was in store and so he would able to answer the questions of those serving under him. So he rolled up his sleeves and went to work.

He found out that the war was built on lies. He found out that the intelligence wasn't "wrong," it was fixed. Now who provided that, who created the space for those truths? Independent media. Independent media created it.

Independent media helped birth Watada's stand. But like a nation of dead-beat dads, they refused to take responsibility for it. They went out of their way to avoid paying child support, they went out of their way to avoid weekend visitation. He is the child they disowned.

What does that tell you about independent media because the message we're reading isn't a pretty one. What it tells us is that you can jaw bone about war in the abstract but when it comes to the people putting your jaw boning into action, you play dumb.

In his brilliant War Made Easy (that's not sarcasm, we praised the book in real time and we still praise it today), Norman Solomon traced how big media sold war to the people. If he's interested in a sequel, we'd suggest he title it Resistance Made Hard and examine how much of independent media refused to cover Ehren Watada.

Last week, Ava exploded in an e-mail reply to an asshole in independent media who patronizingly offered a pat on the head for our efforts at while condescendingly listing the areas that concerned him. It bears noting that he doesn't write about the things on his long laundry lists of concerns. It bears noting that he has no interest in the war, let alone war resisters. It bears noting that he thinks people are powerless and that only elected officials can bring about change. It bears noting that he was, of course, a "he."

He's not interested in Ehren Watada and he's hardly the only one to share that opinion in an e-mail. C.I.'s policy applies to The Common Ills. And that applies to e-mails to C.I. about C.I.'s writing. It sure would be interesting if we were to gather all those e-mails together (people whining to C.I. about what was said about them at another community website) and publish them in a small book. Maybe we could call it Who Will Tell The People? (That wasn't a clue, William Greider wasn't one of the ones e-mailing.) Maybe reading e-mail after e-mail from indy voices about how Ehren Watada doesn't matter would wake up a lot of people to the sorry state of independent media today?

But the thing is, people are waking up. Subscriptions are in decline, donations aren't what they used to be. The reason for that is you can only take so much bullshit before the odor overwhelmes. The stink rising off the refusal to cover Ehren Watada could choke a small country.

You know the ones who've stood and you know the ones who've been silent. Unlike a number of people in independent media, we don't think you're stupid. We don't think we can subvert or twist reality to motivate you to VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! We don't think we can take a peace rally and turn it into a tale of the powers of Congress.

But that's apparently the only card some in independent media have to play. [Note: The print version of this article contained a lengthy portion that we'll be sharing in the gina & krista round-robin this Friday. Community members will understand why. We're building on the points Pru made in her column about the juvenile nature of the media in this country.]

For four years they've railed against the illegal war -- sometimes in a toothless manner, sometimes in a hard hitting manner -- but they refuse to support Ehren Watada. The Nation offered no editorial or column in support of him. Ditto The Progressive. Independent media has failed him and they've failed the peace movement. There are exceptions and we've noted them before. But when you grasp how the 'biggies' have avoided giving any support to Watada (contrast what little has been done for him with all that was done for Olson), you start to get how lonely his stand really is.

He's standing up. He's still standing up. He has the support of a lot of people, he has the support of his family. Mainstream media has shown more interest in his case than the "biggies" of independent media.

Sarah Olson was never the A-story. She refused to take a public stand (except when she did -- she was a John Kerry howler come to life). But note all the jaw boning that took place over her and look in vain for similar commentaries coming to Watada's defense. You won't find it. The B-story overtook the A-story. Though Project Censored may refrain from including the Olson angle in their "junk news" section of the next edition, that's all it was: Blonde in distress, somebody's put on the flashers.

Watada's stand matters and the fact that he didn't get support was noted. It was very noted in Canada by two war resisters. It has an impact, it has a long term impact.

Showing your support for Ehren Watada Monday has an impact as well. The same way that your support has mattered all along, whether it was noticed by independent media 'biggies' or not. Don't make yourself useless and don't allow yourself to be made useless.

Music: Diana Ross, what a long sad trip


For this feature, we began listening to Diana Ross albums on CD two weeks ago. Seven of us listened to 49 Diana Ross albums (Kat, Betty, Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.). Others listened to half that amount. (Kat, Betty and C.I. have every Diana Ross CD -- including out of prints ones.) That's a lot of music. That's a lot of hours.

That included Christmas CDs, compilations (multi-disc albums are counted as one album). There's an obvious reason for that, Diana Ross first hit the charts in 1964 as the lead singer of the Supremes. With them and on her own, Ross has sung on nineteen number one pop hits (we're including "We Are the World"). That's just the pop number ones and just Billboard. A casual eye balling of Cashbox charts or Billboard's top 100 over the decades would make a strong case for Diana Ross to be the female with the most charting singles of all time. It's been a long, long career. It's been a long sad trip.

Ross recently released the worst album of her career (I Love You) and long term fans or those who sit down, as many of us did, and listen to her work in full for the first time will realize that's no easy feat.

Were she not a superstar and one of Motown's biggest names, we doubt so much product (and filler) would have been released during her first run with Motown (for albums, that's 1964 to 1980, for singles tack on 1981's "Endless Love" with Lionel Ritchie).

The RCA years are generally considered her worst by critics who weigh in. That spans 1981's Why Do Fools Fall In Love through 1987's Red Hot Rhythm And Blues (there are also at least two compilations of the RCA years and we listened to those as well). We think the RCA years deserve a second look. Those years produce some of her strongest work. Why Do Falls In Love is clearly the worst of her albums with the label. That's not just due to the fact that it includes an ear achingly bad cover of "Endless Love" (sans Richie), it's also due to the fact that "Work That Body" is a really bad chant/song. (Sample lyric/chant: "Every morning, when we wake/ To make up for that piece of cake we ate last night/ That's right . . .") The cover photo is so air brushed, you may end up rubbing your eyes (or wiping your glasses) thinking the problem is you. Like the cover, the music is distant and far away. Exceptions are the title track and "Mirror, Mirror." With the exception of "Work That Body," none of the songs are awful, they're just badly produced and badly recorded.

Silk Electric is 1982's follow up. One of us wondered where that title came from while another hissed, "Sh! At least she's not naming it after herself." ("Diana," "Ross," and "Diana Ross" are very popular album titles in her discography.) The Michael Jackson penned ode to the male anatomy ("Muscles") was the big hit. It's full of whispery vocals, sound effects, and is the perfect pop record (as far as pop goes). The rest of the CD? We actually give her credit for "Fool For Your Love" which finds Ross attempting hard rock. It's different, it doesn't fit with the album, but considering how safe the vocals are on so many albums, we give her credit for trying. The useless track is track five, "Turn Me Over" -- it may have made sense (we doubt it) in a read along story book way ("Ding! Turn the page!") in the age of cassettes and lps. It closes side one in those formats (cassettes and lps) and seems to exist just so someone can get grab some easy publishing money. "So Close" (which was an AC hit) is a gem worth including on future compilations (thus far, both RCA compilations have avoided doing so). "In Your Arms" she sings like she means it (and, you're probably familiar with the version that Whitney Houston and Jermaine Jackson later did). "Still In Love" and "Love Lies" allow you to hear Ross' voice (she's fond, when producing herself, of muting her own voice -- smoothing it over). Listening to those vocals, it is easy to grasp how she became a name in the first place. (We're not speaking of the range here, just the recording of her voice.) The cover is an Andy Warhol silk screen.

Next up comes 1983's Ross whose chart life included Ross' free concert in Central Park (staged twice -- once cut short due to the rain, once done in full the next day). Critics at the time wondered what was the point of this cover photo? Diana, wearing some red thing that looks like a curtain panel, stares at the camera with heavily hooded eyes as though she were strung out.
You wonder if she was on something (she wasn't) when you hear the album's highest charter (pop charts) "Pieces of Ice." "In the darkness you're Tunisia . . ." What the hell?

It's passport stamps turned to music with Ross complaining, on the chorus, that she sees "Pieces of Ice" when she looks into her lover's eyes. (Wags dubbed it, "Pieces of Ass.") With eight tracks, it's less ambitious than the two previous RCA albums. The only true groaner is "Girls" ("You are fashion" thump thump "With your every move, you set the fashion" thump thump). "Love Will Make It Right" can annoy on repeat listens (it's like someone opening a squeaky door over and over) but on "Love Or Loneliness," "Let's Go Up" and the opener ("That's How You Start Over"), Ross appears to be heading for something.

With 1984's Swept Away, she arrives. The cover photo is Ross in some sort of attempted hair do copy of Tina Turner. (Note that both this cover and the cover to Why Do Fools Fall In Love are shorter on the CDs. On the lps, these were fold out covers.) She's looking at the camera without hooded eyes, at least. (She's not smiling. Ross doesn't enjoy photos of herself smiling.) With ten tracks, she demonstrates that she could control her own music (one of the reasons she left Motown in the first place was that she wasn't allowed to do so). The big hits were the title track and "Missing You" (penned by Lionel Richie). "Telphone" also charted on the soul charts. Diana Ross was what was once called a "crossover artist" which meant she could rack up soul hits and "crossover" to the pop charts (or that an African-American artist could make the pop charts to begin with).

Her RCA years are different from her first run at Motown in that Ross often charted better on the soul charts than she did on the pop charts. That was due in part to the fact that RCA had no interest in servicing her singles to pop radio and some urban dee jays (Tom Joyner among them) made a point to feature Ross whether or not there was a push behind the latest 45. The album also contains the hit "All of You" (duet with Julio Iglesias) which was already on the charts before the album was released. This is her strongest RCA album and comes from her strongest period in the studio. ("Fight For It" would be the B-side of "Swept Away." The song's stronger than many songs that ever appear on her albums.) She does a wonderful cover of Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" and of Fontella Bass' 60s hit "Rescue Me." There really isn't a bad recording on the album. (Though those who've heard the single version of "Swept Away" may wish it appeared instead of the extended version featuring seemingly never ending howls from Darryl Hall.)

The singles and the album carried Diana Ross from 1985 through 1986, A busy period for her publicly. She would remarry. She would suffer the Mary Wilson (and company -- reportedly eight ghost writers -- Wilson's memory was spotty) book but, worse, she would suffer Mary Wilson's interviews. Most people didn't read Mary Wilson's crappy book (badly written and spotty). If they had, they'd be fully aware that when Florence Ballard is fired (for weight gain -- which she exposed at an important club date -- and showing up drunk at performances), her mother immediately says that Wilson wants Ballard in her the group still. Now remember, this is the account that has Wilson's name to it, and Mary Wilson, who in interviews presents herself as the big defender of Flo, says, according to the book, that Flo doesn't want to be in the group anymore. If Wilson wanted Ballard to stay in the Supremes, she would have. All Wilson would have had to do was to agree with Ballard's mother. She didn't.

Now Wilson didn't write that account by herself and possibly she's never read the completed book, but what's in the book with her name on it is very different from the "Diane kicked her out of the group!" soundbyte she regularly pushed in interview after interview. More than anything else, Wilson's book destroyed Ross' chances for chart success. (And Wilson failed to note the many times that Diana Ross had loaned her money over the years.)

The damage done would be obvious with the reception of her 1986 album, Eaten Alive. The title track's a disaster. It's listenable, but it's a disaster. It should have been a hit and RCA was smart to try. Co-written by Michael Jackson (still a name to be reckoned with at that time) and featuring Jackson on backup vocals, the song should have gotten some attention. It didn't. Some complained it was too suggestive. Barry Gibb was one of the producers and he and the other Bee Gees lined up to contribute as songwriters. This was supposed to be the album that did for Ross what Gibbs' work did for Streisand (Guilty -- blockbuster with massive hits).

That didn't happen. Not in America. The other nine tracks are some of the strongest work Ross has done, some of the most enjoyable work she's done. "Chain Reaction" would top the charts in England but even two attempts to service radio stations in this country with the song failed to turn it into a hit. Outside the US, Ross would be sharing chart space with the likes of the newcomer Whitney Houston. In the US, she couldn't catch a break. That goes to the bad word of mouth that Mary Wilson dined on.

In 1987, Ross releases Red Hot Rhythm And Blues and most people at that time may have seen the album only in the video for Stevie Wonder's "Skeletons." She offers nine tracks and this is the album the RCA compilations usually lean on strongly. There's a reason for that, strong production. The weakest song is "Shockwaves" which should snap and crackle with Motown's 60s sound but instead of just sort of hums. "Shine" is the strongest of the fast songs and the slow songs include a beautiful cover of Leonard Cohen's "Summertime" and "It's Hard For Me To Say" (featuring backing vocals by Luther Vandross).

That's it for new recordings at RCA. Two years later, she'll end up back at Motown. Six albums, three that can qualify on a A scale (Swept Away, Eaten Alive and Red Hot Rhythm And Blues) as well as three that you can live without but not among the worst she's ever recorded.

The best she's ever recorded was during her original run at Motown where she'd rack up 12 number one pop hits with Supremes and six as a solo artist. The group albums?

If you want to do yourself a favor, demand that Motown release Diana Ross & the Supremes Sing Funny Girl. This 1968 recording (which we listened to on vinyl) is a sure seller due to the Broadway play and due to the fact that it is listenable as an entire album. At RCA, she achieved that feat only three times (half her RCA output). The figure is much worse for the original Motown run.

If you're someone who's had a CD set (collection) of the Supremes, consider yourself very lucky. When Motown has bothered to release original albums (in the 1980s primarily), they were mastered very poorly and lacked the snap of the singles (even when you were listening to a hit single on one of the albums proper).

If you feel the need to go beyond a collection, we'd suggest you go with a double disc and not a single disc. We'd also suggest you avoid the multi-disc boxed set which is pretty much useless.
If you can find that set, The Supremes, with five discs and not four, snap it up. The fifth disc is a keeper. But anyone who thinks the post-Diana Ross Surpemes are worthy of of a 20 song set disc probably needs to consider rehab or personal therapy. That's based on the opinions of Kat, Betty and C.I. How bad is this boxed set? Everyone forgot about it. Betty happened to mention it as we were writing and C.I. remembered it and put on the discs so we could get a quick sampling. It's bad, it's really, really bad. (Alternative takes, demo versions, etc.) A single disc collection leaves out too many strong songs, so we recommend a double disc collection (ideally the pink covered Antholgy from 1986 or the double disc 25th Anniversary from the same year).

If you are bound and determined to collect some Supremes albums proper, remember that the sound quality is poor, we judge Reflections, Let The Sunshine In and Cream Of The Crop to be the best. All are Diana Ross & the Supremes albums which means (a) Flo has left the group (she does sing backup on some tracks due to the fact that songs were kept in the vaults and then released years later) and (b) that Diana is often the only Supreme singing (anonymous backup vocalists were used repeatedly).

1968's Reflections contains some strong songs. The hits include the title track, "Forever Came Today" and "In and Out of Love." Diana Ross also offers up strong cover versions of "What The World Needs Now Is Love" ("sweet love . . .") and "Ode to Billie Joe" (the song that held onto the number one spot for weeks while "Reflections stalled at number two). "Up, Up And Away" is useless and will remind people not to buy Diana Ross' latest version of cover songs.

1969s Let The Love Shine In and Cream Of The Crop close out the Supremes studio recordings. On the first one, the minor hit "The Composer" has the warm vocal style Ross shouldn't try to muffle but should keep up front, the hit "I'm Livin' In Shame" and the hit "No Matter What Sign You Are." Other standouts of the twelve tracks include covers of "Everyday People" and, the medley from Hair, "Aquarius/ Let The Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)." Skip "With A Child's Heart" and "Hey Western Union Man." Cream Of The Crop offers ten tracks. The hit "Someday We'll Be Together" (the 'group''s last number one -- 'group' -- neither Wilson nor Cindy Birdsong -- who replaced Ballard -- sing on the track). Also offered are fine versions of "Hey Jude" and "Blowin' In The Wind." "The Young Folks" was a B-side hit that got some airplay and is worth checking out while "Till Johnny Comes" is a must listen.

What to avoid? Any live CD that hasn't been remastered. Diana's vocals come off too nasal and too metallic. Since it hasn't been remastered, the music is buried low and the voice is out front. It's not pretty. (That isn't to suggest Ross isn't a wonderful live performer -- she is -- but that's noting the sound quality was very poor. And the musicians, besides being mixed low, are frequently out of tune, while the arrangements are done to sell the rock group to a cabaret audience.) What else?

If you love The Temptations and you love Diana Ross & the Supremes, you might assume you would love them together.

You would be wrong. The chemisty is almost strong enough for the two hit singles -- almost -- ("I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" and "I'll Try Something New"). It is not strong enough for an album. Despite this, the two groups did four albums together. TCB is surely the worst but none are worth owning.

What about the Holland-Dozier-Holland era? [H-D-H took the group that couldn't score hits, year after year, and turned them into hitmakers by providing them with solid songs, written by H-D-H, going with Berry Gordy's decision to make Diana Ross the lead vocalist and upping the key she was singing in to give her voice a sexier quality as she reached for notes.] It concludes with Reflections. If you're snapping up vinyl, by all means grab Superemes A Go Go but in two different CD versions the sound is buried and it's not worth having. In fact, if you are buying any Supremes CDs released on or around 1986, you need to know that you have not gone deaf -- you will have to pump up the volume and, once your player moves on to the next CD, be prepared to immediately put the volume back down before the neighbors complain.

Which brings us to the start of the solo career. Everything Is Everything should be called Nothing Sounds Like Nothing. When we noted that we hoped to do a Diana Ross retrospective, DaLisa e-mailed us and stated she'd paid $100 dollars for a used CD of this in an online auction and that "after listening, I felt like Diana Ross owed me $500 bucks." We agree with DaLisa. Also skip Ross (from 1978). Especially skip Diana! which will make even those who miss the regular variety specials glad that so few air them today. [This is the soundtrack to her 1970 TV special.] On the medleys with the Jackson 5, Ross sounds out of breath. (There are two medleys.) When she does begin to cook on a song, such as "I Love You Call (Call Me)" it's over far too quick and the instrumentation and arrangements are schlock throughout.

And the rest?

Baby It's Me is listenable. It's so laid back, it may put you to sleep, but it won't irritate you. "Getting Ready For Love" is a a fast paced performance by Diana Ross that demonstrates to those who doubt her talent that she does have the vocal chops. "Come In From The Rain" is one of her better ballad performances that many people do not know.

Diana & Marvin features fourteen tracks (2001 version with bonus tracks) and you can live without most but "Just Say," "You Are Everything" and "My Mistake (Was To Love You)" are standouts. (By contrast "Include Me In Your Life" sounds like they're doing vocal runs while warming up.) (The chemistry wasn't right in the studio and Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye didn't record the duets together.)

The live albums from this period? Both Live At Ceaser's Palace and An Evening With Diana Ross document her popularity as a live artist. Neither works as an album you would want to listen to unless you live and breathe Diana Ross. The Ceaser's Palace album features the sort of arrangements you'd expect and rush to avoid, while An Evening features snippets of songs (on the latter, you get a whopping 58 seconds of "Stop! In The Name Of Love").

So what do we strongly recommend?

The Lady Sings The Blues soundtrack mixes performances for the film with dialogue. If the mix doesn't turn you off (or make you think, "Maybe I should've just watched the film?") this is a strong album. After that we'd suggest Ain't No Mountain High Enough (her solo debut) which provides nine tracks of the strongest singing she'd do for the bulk of her original Motown run. (Especially listen to her "I Wouldn't Change The Man He Is.") Next in line would be 1976's Diana Ross which contains the number one hits "Do You Know Where You're Going To" and "Love Hangover" as well as strong performances on "Ain't Nothing But A Maybe," "I Thought It Took A Little Time (But Today I Fell In Love)," and "One Love In My Lifetime." There's also Touch Me In The Morning (containing the number one title track) which stands out mainly for the music and vocal on "Leave A Little Room." Finally, 'Surrender which goes down easy and contains tracks that seem to fit together.

So that's five albums, released from 1970 to 1978 that we can recommend without feeling guilty. If that seems like a good run, please note that Diana Ross released 13 albums during that period. (We don't count the soundtracks to Mahogany or The Wiz as Diana Ross albums due to the fact that so many of the songs on them do not feature Ross.)

As an album artist, Ross got stronger as a solo artist. It wasn't a steady progression and there were huge misteps. But she finished her original Motown run with two albums that are MUST HAVEs.

1980's diana found her ruling the charts. "Upside Down" was a monster, number one hit and "I'm Coming Out" was a hit that remains popular today. Offering six other tracks ["Have Fun (Again)" and ""Now That You're Gone" are our favorites) you might wonder why Ross would leave Motown? It doesn't help when the producers Bernard Edwards and Nile Rogers demand that their names be removed from the trade ads. Ross remixed the album. Rogers and Edwards didn't like it. They also predicted the remixes would turn the album into a massive failure. That wasn't how things turned out.

For years, Berry Gordy (founder and head of Motown) picked out what was sung or designated someone else to pick it out. The failure of the company to allow that maybe, after two decades in the business, Ross might know a little something goes a long way towards explaining why she left. (She also left due to monies which is a whole other story. Short version: Like many of her peers who were underpaid, Ross believed the press Gordy put out on the album sales and was unhappy with the lack of royalties. It needs to be noted that during the 60s, "gold" albums at Motown were not certified "gold" by Billboard. Gordy would paint a record "gold" and call it one while inflating the sales to make the artists appear more successful. The bite-back was that the artists did believe the hype and wondered where the money was? It should also be noted that even with that 'creative' accounting, Ross -- and other artists -- were grossly underpaid at Motown.)

diana emerges a classic. One of the best albums she ever recorded. But . . . not the best.

1979's The Boss holds that honor. This is where Diana Ross takes control of her own career. Recorded on the East coast to avoid Motown interference, Ross reteamed with two people who understood her magic better than anyone: Nicholas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. From "No One Gets The Prize" to "I'm In The World," there's not a clinker on the album. (1999's reissue contains bonus remixes of "The Boss" and "It's My House.") "Once In The Morning" sounds fresher than most of the tracks you'll hear in a club today. Ashford and Simpson produced, wrote and arranged the songs. Simpson provides amazing piano work throughout the album. This is the finest album Ross has ever recorded and, possibly, that's why the album cover features her almost smiling.

In 1989, news came that Diana Ross was returning to Motown. It was news, so much so that Vanity Fair put her on the cover. In the interview, Ross spoke of wanting to record some songs with meaning (and cited Tracey Chapman as an example). The first single (and video) showed off a new Diana Ross, Jack City Ross, part of the New Jack sound. "Workin' Overtime" is often derided today (and the torn jeans she wore in the video) but it created more interest in the upcoming album than anything she'd done in four years. (It was also a hit single on the urban charts.) The song's about a woman who is workin' overtime at the job and in the love life. There was a lot of hope for what the album might sound like.

And then Workin' Overtime was released. Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards had produced diana. Edwards produced "Telephone" off the Swept Away album. But by this point, Rogers was supposed to be a god -- having steered hits for David Bowie and Madonna during the time since. So with him in charge, people were expecting something amazing. Instead they got "songs" made up of repeated song titles ("Say We Can," "Paradise," "Bottom Line," "What Can One Person Do," etc.), repeated over and over, on top of a clumsy beat. It was unlistenable with the exception of "This House" which is more of a sketch than an actual song but allows for some fine moments vocally from Ross. (Such as when she seems to breathe "Thi-i-i-s hou-u-u-se".)

There would never again be that kind of interest in Ross. This album nailed the coffin on any hopes that a return to Motown would reignite the career and take it to new heights.

Two albums that are recommended: The Force Behind The Power and The Lady Sings . . . Jazz and Blues, Stolen Moments. On the latter, it's one of her best recorded live albums and she's in fine form. The musicians aren't miked so that they appear to be playing somewhere far down the hall. The Force Behind The Power could have taken Ross back to the charts if it had been her return to Motown album. It contains one of her last hits ("If We Hold On Together") as well as some amazing work -- including covering Stevie Wonder's "Blame It On The Sun." The Motown years would see countless compilations, a remix album (Diana Extended) and four boxed set entitled Forever.

Skip the boxed set. No one should waste their money on it. It's not that, by 1993, Ross didn't have enough material for a boxed set. It is that, as late as 1993, Motown still didn't understand the need to remaster analog when putting it out in digital format. The sound quality is horrible, the hisses will jar you as you listen. The way the set is laid out, the first disc is the Supremes (25 songs), the second charts her solo career up to The Wiz, the third disc covers 1979 through 1986 (end of Motown and the RCA years) and the fourth disc is more recent odds and ends. This includes "Family" performed live and a song from the musical Dreamgirls (now playing on big screens everywhere).

Diana Ross is a singles artist (and often an amazing one). By this point, only at RCA and with The Boss and diana has she ever truly amazed as an album artist. But she's got enough material over the years that can be compiled into a solid boxed set. That doesn't happen, however, when the sound quality is poor.

Strangely, while she floundered at Motown, she put out three Christmas albums that are worth hearing. 1993's Christmas in Vienna (Sony) teams her with Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras. All have solo turns on the live recording but Ross teams up with one or both for three songs and one medley and holds her own. Hallmark put out 1994's Making Spirits Bright and Diana Ross teams up with the London Symphony Orchestra (the King's Singers and the Modern Jazz Quartet do songs on the album without Ross). "Go, Tell It To The Mountain" and "The First Noel" are Ross' standouts on this album. Also in 1994, EMI released Diana Ross' A Very Special Christmas. Ross records with an orchestra and this may be the finest album she did in the 90s. Fourteen songs, fourteen amazing performances. Stand outs include "What The World Needs Now," "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)," "His Eye Is On The Sparrow," Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed," and "Ave Maria." But there's not a groaner on the album and if you were looking for one CD to purchase from the last 20 years that would explain why Diana Ross became an international superstar, this album does just that.

Sadly, her work for Motown didn't. In 1995, she released Take Me Higher which played like punishment for fans. Her cover of "I Will Survive" would give her a dance hit but there's not much to be impressed with here. "Let Somebody Know" is the strongest track (song, production and arrangement) while "I Thought That We Were Still In Love" is Ross' strongest performance. But it all adds up to nothing as the album veers here and there and too much of it sounds like people were providing Ross with Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey's cast offs.

1999 saw the release of Every Day Is A New Day. The title track is strong. In fact, in the thirteen tracks (including a remix of a song already on the album), there are probably three that are worth putting on disc. There's just not an album here. "Love Is All That Matters" was performed in Double Platinum with Brandy. On the album, it's a Ross solo and it's a snooze-fest. Ditto the song from The Lion King ("He Lives In You") which fits with nothing else on the album. "Until We Meet Again" wasn't interesting enough to appear on the album once, let alone twice (it's the song that gets an extended remix as a bonus track). "Carry On" is Ross' attempt to hop on Cher's "Believe" wagon and Ross never sounds good when she's aping someone else. The three songs that work are the title track which has Diana Ross in strong form and proceeds like a sun rise, "Not Over You Yet" (the only song with a groove worthy of being called a "groove") and "Hope Is An Open Window" which teams Ross with real backup singers (and a choir) as opposed to her own multi-tracked vocals she too often favors. Hearing Diana Ross get out in front of all that will give you chills.

That's the Diana Ross canon/discography. A wonderful range of singles, some buried gems on albums, but only six albums (out of over fifty) that we would recommend you purchase: The Boss, diana, Swept Away, Eaten Alive, Red Hot Rhythm And Blues and A Very Special Christmas. Those are the cream of the crop and the rest is mainly just a very long, sad trip. If you're wanting to move beyond the anthologies, greatest hits and best ofs (as well as "the singles!" and "the number ones!"), the six are where to go. If you're looking for Supremes albums, we suggest Reflections, Cream Of The Crop and Let The Sunshine In. We haven't touched on her new album. We'll note it is the hugest disappointment and that Kat intends to review it shortly.

Amnesty International statement on Ehren Watada

Amnesty International's statement on Ehren Watada. Consider it the editorial our independent media print division could have run but elected to go with the Cowards' Silence instead.

USA: War objector's freedom of conscience must be respected
Pending the trial on Monday 5 February of Ehren Watada over his refusal to participate in the Iraq war, Amnesty International stated that a guilty verdict would be a violation of internationally recognized rights to conscientious objection.

"If found guilty, Amnesty International would consider Ehren Watada to be a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release", said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s Americas Programme Director.

28-year-old Army Lieutenant Ehren Watada faces a possible four year prison sentence on charges of "missing movement" -- due to his refusal to deploy to Iraq in June 2006 -- and of "conduct unbecoming an officer" -- because of his public comments regarding his objections to the war in Iraq.

Ehren Watada has stated that his refusal is based on his belief that the Iraq war is illegal and immoral. In a pre-court martial hearing held on 16 January, a military judge ruled that he could not base his defence on the legality of the war in Iraq.

However, the right to refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience, thought or religion is protected under international human rights standards, including Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the US has ratified.

Ehren Watada joined the army in 2003 for a three year term, which was due to end in December 2006. In January 2006, he submitted a letter to his army command outlining his reasons for refusing to participate in the Iraq war and asking to resign from the army. He did not formally apply for conscientious objector status because US army regulations stipulate that applicants for this status must be opposed to war in any form; they do not provide for conscientious objector status on the basis of an objection to a specific war.

In his letter, Ehren Watada said: "I believe so strongly in this cause that I would sit in prison or die for that belief. I would accept any punishment and take solace in a clean and clear conscience when the easier path, the safer path would have been to serve my year in Iraq" He received a reply in May 2006 stating that his request had been denied. He was ordered to deploy to Iraq with his unit in June 2006, an order he refused.

Amnesty International has declared a number of imprisoned conscientious objectors in the US to be prisoners of conscience. They included Camilo Mejia who was sentenced to one year's imprisonment for his objections to the war in Iraq and Abdullah Webster who refused to participate in the same war due to his religious beliefs. Another, Kevin Benderman was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment after he refused to re-deploy to Iraq because of the scenes of devastation he witnessed there. All three have since been released.

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For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW.
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Molly Ivins (1944-2007)


Last Wednesday, journalist, author, columnist, humorist and feminist Molly Ivins died (1944-2007). The Feminist Wire Daily noted:

As a journalist, Ivins worked for the Texas Observer, where she served as co-editor from 1970 to 1976, the New York Times, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In addition to her newspaper work, Ivins also wrote several books critical of George W. Bush's presidency, including "Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush" and "Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America." She was always an advocate for women and frequently pointed out the hypocrisy of the US that works against women.

That's far from a complete listing but a complete listing would be very lengthy. Ivins wrote for many publications included, at the tail end of the 80s, Ms. magazine. That was little noted in the coverage. Another national publication also got overlooked: The Progressive. Matthew Rothschild noted her passing and her twenty-plus years of contributing to that monthly magazine, "She was the favorite not only because of her humor and her style. She was the favorite because she never lost hope in the promise of America."

From The Progressive, here are a few samples of her writing. The first one was used by Rothschild who provides a wide range of excerpts from 1995 to the present. We don't believe the others are included.

January 2007, "Populists Have More Fun" (page 46):

Listen, a populist is someone who is for the people and against the powerful, so a populist is generally the same as liberal -- except we tend to have more fun.

July 2004, "It All Stinks" (page 50):

As a matter of actual fact, it's quite difficult to covince people you are killing them for their own good. A hard sell. That's where we are in Iraq.

June 2004, "Imperialists' Ball" (page 50):

Apparently, the reasons why we went to war in Iraq will never ceast to morph: If one turns out to be inconveniently untrue, we just invent another.

September 2005, "Rove 101" (page 50):

But we're missing something here. Of course, Rove outed Plame; the most important question is why. Why would he go so far out of his way to undermine the report about a claim so weak that no one who saw it took it seriously? Because Joe Wilson stood up in front of God and everybody and said they didn't just hype the intelligence, they lied. And that was too much for Karl Rove.

September 2004, "The News Hens Get Teresa" (page 50):

Hate to be the skunk at the garden party, but one topic the D's -- in their determined-not-to-be-negative mode -- are avoiding like said skunk is Iraq. Since their candidate was in favor of going in, he's stuck with that position. The more or less official Democratic line is: "Whether you were for the war or against, the Adminstration has screwed up the implementation beyond recall," which I suppose works politically and has the added virtue of being true. Nonetheless, I don't think it gets us far enough. We spent at least twenty years after Vietnam arguing about what we needed to learn from that experience, and I don't want to see the lessons of Iraq confused.

In addition to the monthly column in The Progressive, Ivins wrote a newspaper column (bi-weekly and then weekly as she began battling her third bout with breast cancer) that was the largest syndicated column by a woman. Even when making you laugh, she took her platform seriously. In early January, she raised it up another notch. From "Iraq Exit is Up to Us:"

This will be a regular feature of mine, like an old-fashioned newspaper campaign. Every column, I'll write about this war until we find some way to end it. STOP IT NOW. BAM! Every day, we will review some factor we should have gotten right.

A lot of people have been offering memories of Ivins, some have shared very touching stories. But have you noticed anyone who, while praising Molly, says, "I'm going to honor her by carrying out her final campaign"? If you have, please let us know because we must have missed it.

We've heard her humor being minimized. We've heard her be used to argue against media consolidation. We've noticed that her feminism is little touched on.

Rebecca's shared some personal memories at her site. Dona spoke with her near the end of 2005 in what she hoped would be a few minutes of seeking advice but ended up being nearly an hour of Ivins sharing experiences. Wally spoke with her in 2006 right after a depressing period (the confirmation of Alito with no Democratic efforts to stop it and his grandfather's serious illness) and remembers her advice being, "Get 'em to laugh and they'll listen."

In the gina & krista round-robin Friday, C.I. and a friend shared (in the roundtable) memories of a party in the 90s (they dispute the year) that was a multi-birthday party for three women. (One of which was the friend sharing so C.I. notes, "I could be wrong, I often am" on the year, but our monies on C.I.) It had been an all day affair, beginning around noon (on that C.I. and the friend agree). Sometime after one in the morning, they, Molly and two other friends ended up in the backyard, sitting on lawn chairs ("sprawled," says C.I.), staring up into the night sky and laughing about everything. It was then that Molly explained that it wasn't talking bad about someone, in Texas, if you added, "Bless his heart" or "Bless her heart" to the end of it. She then proceeded to give in depth examples that had everyone laughing. C.I. and the friend both agreed that while everyone was else was ready to crawl off to bed, Molly was glowing and that as much as she loved earning a well deserved laugh, she loved providing the laughter as well.

About the DNC's "2007 New Directions Survey"

Possibly you received the latest mailing from Democratic National Headquaters? It's entitled the "2007 New Directions Survey" and, goodness knows, many elected Dems could use some "new direction."

So you may have opened the cover of the booklet with great excitement, "The Democrats really do care what the party faithful think! Here's my chance to weigh in!"

You might have been a little disappointed when the first page of the "survey" got straight to the point:

YES! I want to help Democrats move our nation in a positive new direction and strengthen our majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. To help Democrats in Congress deliver on our committment to move America forward, I am taking the following actions:

At which point you're offered the treat of contributing and they, helpful little buggers, offer you various dollar amounts you can select from. ($35 has a star next to it because, as the note explains, "Gifts at this level are urgently needed!" And if you doubted the urgent need, they assisted you by providing and exclamation point.)

Now there are probably twenty things (at least) wrong with the first page of the money plea, er, survey. But maybe, like us, you zoomed in on three words "move America forward." It's the same kind of shock we'd have experienced if, in January 2005, they had said, "To help Democrats in Congress deliver on our committment to Swift Boat John Kerry."

Move America Forward is an organization. It is right-wing, Republican wind machine. They have a number of campaigns going on at any give time but they're most famous for their efforts to "Move America Forward" on Iraq. That campaign included, "YOU DON'T SPEAK FOR ME, CINDY" -- an attack campaign on Cindy Sheehan (who never claimed to speak for anyone but herself). At the heart of its Iraq work is the belief that the country needs to "move forward" and stop asking questions about the illegal war.

So was it a slip of tongue or a Freudian slip on the part of the DNC to use the phrase "Move America Forward" while they waste everyone's time with symoblic measures in the Senate?

After you've donated money (or not, we recommend you return the survey with no check, ignore all the questions asked and scrawl "BRING THE TROOPS HOME" across it), you have three more pages of "survey." Maybe the Democratic Party really does want your opinion?

Well Iraq was the most cited reason by voters for how they voted. Iraq is the big issue. So how does the survey address that?

The first question asks you to "Please rank the following Democratic priorites in order of importance" and of the twelve items, they do include Iraq: "Setting a new course in Iraq." That's vague enough that respondents can rank that highest meaning "Bring the troops home" and the party can kid that it just means tinkering around with existing policies.

The third section addresses "Iraq, Other Foreign Policy and Terrorism." Five questions. The first asks you to rank Bully Boy's performance indicating that at the stalls, whomever put this survey together is checking out the equipment on the guy next to him over size concerns. The second question asks: "Should Democrats in Congress press for a set time frame for bringing our troops home from Iraq?"

Then they're off on foreign policy. (Iran, Somolia, Afghanistan, et al, don't show up.) Then it's off to Social Security, Education, Energy and the Environment and Health Care.

Should Congress cut off funding for the illegal war? US Reps Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsy say yes. Senator Russ Feingold held a hearing on whether Congress had the power to do so and what other war powers Congress had.

As Feingold noted, "In the United Sates of America, the people are sovereign, not the Presidents. It is Congress' responsibility to challenge an administration that persists in a war that is misquided and that the country opposes. We cannot simply wring our hands and complain about the Administration's policy. We cannot just pass resolutions saying 'your policy is mistaken.' And we can't stand idly by and tell ourselves that it's the President's job to fix the mess he made. It's our job to fix the mess, and if we don't do so we are abdicating our responsibilities."

(Feingold's opening statement is available online in text and audio form.)

So if the Democratic Party really is interested in what the party faithful think, shouldn't that be a question on the survey? Or are they afraid of the question?

Maybe Feingold or Waters to prepare the next DNC "survey" (money grab)?

Both refuse to resort to double speak.


Rep. Maxine Waters [D-CA]: Mr. Speaker, this past Saturday I participated in a rally and march here in Washington, DC, on the Mall, organized by United for Peace and Justice. United for Peace and Justice is a coalition of over 1,300 groups from all over this country.
Citizens came from near and far. They came by car and bus and train and plane to urge this President and this Congress to end the war in Iraq. They were young. They were old. They were rich. They were poor. They were every age, every ethnic group, all religions, all with one message: Bring our troops home now.
There were six Members of Congress who were present there, and we thanked all of the people who attended for caring enough to come to Washington, DC, to spend their money to urge their government to end this war.
Mr. Speaker and Members, this was democracy at work. It was a beautiful day. People were in high spirits. We walked. We sang. We chanted. And we literally said we love this country, we love our soldiers, and we want the best for our people.
We were joined by many veterans. There were several veterans groups there. But the most moving and touching part of this march was the mothers who marched with us, and they had signs. Some of them had signs of their sons who had been killed in Iraq. Some of them brought the message that they had paid a huge sacrifice and they did not wish Americans to continue paying this high price for a war that we should not be in.
This is a war that it is easy to be against, because we were led into this war under false pretenses. There are no weapons of mass destruction. We have been told that we would be greeted with open arms. We were told that we would be seen as the liberators. None of that was true. We are occupiers, and they want us out of Iraq. It is not simply that the Sunnis want us out of Iraq. It is not simply that the Shiites want us out or the Kurds want us out. They all want us out of Iraq.
This was a wonderful weekend because not only did we march and we rallied, but the marchers came to Capitol Hill and they lobbied their legislators. They knocked on their doors. They came from all these towns and hamlets and cities all over America to talk with their legislators. This truly was democracy at work.
And today we filled 1100 Longworth, the Ways and Means room, where we had a forum with 11 book authors who have written about the war in Iraq, what is wrong with it and why we should get out, and did we have a discussion. It was one of the most beautiful discussions with highly intelligent authors who have done research, who have put a lot of work into producing these books. And they shared with us in a very profound way what they knew and why they had decided to take a part of their lives to stop and write about what is wrong with our being in Iraq. So this was a wonderful weekend. This has been a wonderful time. I keep saying this is democracy at work because this is what the Constitution is all about. It is about participation of the citizens.
The citizens of this country are sick and tired of this war. I don't know why the Members of Congress are allowing the citizens to get way ahead of them. They elect us to come and represent them. They think that we have the resources to know what is going on. We give a lot of money to our intelligence agencies. We should be able to tell the people what is wrong and what is going on in Iraq. But, instead, they are ahead of us; and they are urging us to stop this war.
But, in the final analysis, they know everything about what we are doing. It is not enough to talk the talk. You have got to walk the walk. They know the difference between nuancing and posturing, and they want action.
And they know that we are about to have a resolution over in this House that will disagree with the surge, the escalation that is being advocated by this President. But they also understand that we can't stop that, that the President has already started to resend soldiers. These are not new boots on the ground. These are soldiers that have done their tours, that have been sent back a second and third time, and they say that is not enough.
They will know whether or not we mean business if we are prepared to stop funding this war.


Washington D.C. - U.S. Senator Russ Feingold made the following statement today reacting to the Warner-Levin compromise resolution regarding Iraq.
I oppose the weak Warner-Levin resolution as currently written because it misunderstands the situation in Iraq and shortchanges our national security interests. The resolution rejects redeploying U.S. troops and supports moving a misguided military strategy from one part of Iraq to another. The American people have rejected the President's Iraq strategy and it's time for Congress to end our military involvement in this war. We must redeploy our troops from Iraq so that we can focus on the global threats that face us.
Yesterday, Feingold introduced the Iraq Redeployment Act of 2007. Feingold's bill would force the President to safely redeploy U.S. troops out of Iraq by prohibiting further funding of military operations in Iraq six months after enactment. Information regarding Senator Feingold's legislation can be found here:

Did you notice how easy it was to follow what both were saying?

Did you wonder where the "new directions" were in the DNC's "2007 New Directions Survey"?

The Nation Stats

We're currently up to the February 12, 2007 issue as we track the gender representation in the leading political weekly and, as happens week after week, it's not pretty.

Editorials & Comment
"Showing Bush The Way"
John Nichols' "Pushing The Iraq Debate"
David Cole's "Hiding the Ball"
Christopher Hayes' "Only Words"
Walter Mosely's "The Sounds of Silence"
Robert Grossman's "Isolated.

Five pieces created to writers and all five are males.
5 males, 0 women

Calvin Trillin's "After Tuning In to the Sunday Talk Shows . . ."
AlterPunk's "Kristolizing the (Neconservative) Moment"

Two columns, both by males. (Trillin's is poetry which we are counting at the request of our readers.)
2 males, 0 women

Bob Moser's "The Way Down South"
Elizabeth Holtzman's "Impeachment: The Case In Favor"
Dumb Ass' "Impeachment: The Case Against"
2 males, 1 woman

As noted, Dumb Ass is all knowing. Dumb Ass is also male. Three article. Two males, one female. On page 20 of the magazine, Elizabeth Holtzman becomes the first writer to grab a credit in this issue. Not only does she become the first on page 20, she also becomes the last.

Carl Bromley's "Sacred Garden"
Duncan Swift's "House of Meetings"
Terry Eagleton's "Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy"
Stuart Klawans' "China Blue"
4 males, 0 women

Four critiques offered. Four critical voices. How many females do you see? Zero. Four males.
In fact, this may be a low point for the magazine that rarely leaves the gender ghetto with only one female getting a byline for the entire edition. How is that possible? The year is still 2007, right?

Total score: 15 men, 1 woman

Year to Date Stats: 68 males; 15 females.

We're still left with 4 males for every woman. (4.53 males for every 1 female, for those who would prefer more precise figures.)

Is that acceptable to you? Obviously, it's not judging by the e-mails. C.I. pitched this two ways: (a) an easy, short feature -- the type Dona's always asking for; and (b) something that needed to be tracked. We were all on board with "easy, short feature." We appreciated the second aspect. We're aware that the second aspect is outraging many who can't believe that a left magazine would have such a poor track record of providing female writers. (Even more so when you realize that one woman is the editor and publisher of the magazine.)

As we continue this popular feature, the e-mails pour in. It's been noted that in the critics section, the subjects are predominately male. If we'd been tracking that all along, we'd keep a count. We've tracked bylines by gender. We'll continue to do that. There are a number of readers who wish we'd also track Iraq coverage. We may do that. We think if we could find the time, we'd be able to go back and do that. If we're able to do so, look for it in the next "The Nation Stats" feature.

Another request suggests that each time we do this feature, we provide links to all past features. The Nation is a "weekly" (double issues -- or "double issues" -- call that into question) and while it would be easy to do that now, it would take up a lot of space to do that each time a new issue comes out.

What we will do is provide a link to the previous stats (starting with this feature). And this time, we will also provide links to all previous stats.

The lack of women being featured in the magazine was brought to C.I.'s attention by a group of women late in 2006. For a column at Polly's Brew, C.I. went back and compiled the stats for that year. What we had discussed was following 2007's issues each time they arrived in the mailbox. Ava and C.I. were in charge of the December 24, 2006 edition and that was the first week that a 2007 issue had arrived (January 1, 2007 issue). They immediately started up "The Nation Stats." "The Nation Stats" ran again in our December 31st edition (covering the magazine's January 8, 2007 issue -- a "double issue"). January 21st, we covered the January 22nd issue in "The Nation Stats." Last week, "The Nation Stats" covered two issues since two arrived the same day for three of us participating in this feature. To date, there were four prior features covering five issues (one of which was a "double issue").

Switching to Beta on Blogger/Blogspot screwed up our archives (as many e-mails have pointed out). So the above is provided this feature. We don't intend to list it each time so note it now. (C.I. adds, check the math and e-mail if you find a mistake.)
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