Sunday, April 29, 2007

Truest statement of the week

In his column Friday, he then went on to include his 'favorite' Einstein's quote, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." He's certainly written his columns as if that were the case.

-- Betty's character Betinna commenting on her "husband" Thomas Friedman's latest column in "Tom-Tom goes to the public library."

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --

Another week. Here's who participated in the writing of this edition:

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

Thanks to all (other than the core six) and thanks to Dallas for locating links and sounding board duties. Thanks to Rebecca for photoshopping our illustrations.

New content:

Truest statement of the week -- this was a hard one because there were a lot of contenders, 10 possibilities in all. C.I.'s the one who brought Betty's statement to the table. Pulled from her chapter we did notice that it worked not only for Betinna (the lead character in Betty's online novel) but also for truest statement. The only one who objected? Betty. She and Wally wanted a statement by Jane Fonda. We'll try to work that into a feature next week. (Ava notes, "It went up Thursday at The Common Ills.")

Editorial: Terri Johnson steps up and stands up -- the list of war resisters grows and grows and so does the silence from small media. We're really impressed with Terri Johnson. For the gina & krista round-robin, there were seven roundtables. Ava and C.I. co-chaired one, Ty co-chaired one (with Kat and Mike). Terri Johnson came up in every one of them. Best question, from Ava and C.I.'s roundtable (asked by KeShawn, C.I. notes), "Do you think any of the 'token feminists' are going to note Terri? I don't. They couldn't note Suzanne Swift and she was White." (Noted with the permission of KeShawn and Gina and Kirsta.) ["Token feminist" refers to women who go to mainstream mags claiming to be feminists but then -- as if on a chat and chew -- want to giggle and talk pop cult and have so much fun being silly.] We don't think we can count on small media at all -- of the 'mainstream' kind. (Off Our Backs may note Johnson.) And if the 'tokens' couldn't say a word about Abeer or Suzanne Swift or Katharine Jashinski, you know they won't have a word for Johnson. But Terri Johnson matters.

TV: Dud -- There's a little note at the top of Ava and C.I.'s commentary that's really to me (Jim) and has to do with the fact that I begged and begged for them to review the Bill Moyers' special (which they both saw). They said no. They pointed out that my last minute suggestions meant they reviewed Andy Richter's show . . . days after the cancellation was announced. As regular readers know, Ava and C.I. do a TV commentary every week. They've yet to miss a week (one week they took on film) since they started doing the beat. (There's disagreement as to whether that was the last half of January or the start of February 2005.) They only review broadcast because our earliest readers were young people -- a lot of young families -- and they didn't have cable or satellite. So they've stuck with broadcast ("No great loss, spared us kissing the weak ass of Entourage, or rather, fighting off the Water Cooler Set to make room for our own lips," says Ava.) That's over 100 commentaries. Granted some didn't focus on one show, but a lot of them did. With UPN and WB becoming CW, they were nervous. When the big three decided Saturdays meant show repeats a show you already air during the week, they were really nervous. Between now and November 2008, they have to to a commentary each week. That's not easy when you're just dealing with broadcast. So in the fall, they started planning what they would review. They'd grab the shows that needed the highlighting -- because they'd quickly be cancelled or because they really needed someone steering you to them. About four episodes in, Dona and I started watching 30 Rock and started saying, "Review that. It's funny." They told us, 30 Rock is going to be renewed for fall 2007, we need to grab shows that won't be around to fill up a week. (They were right about 30 Rock. That's also why they postponed Brothers & Sisters. "One of the reasons," adds Ava.) They logged hours with Drive and I was saying, "Oh wait, do Bill Moyers." Drive was cancelled last week. They think they're pushing it as it is by reviewing it now. And next week, they're probably grabbing another bye-bye show. This summer, they're thinking 30 Rock, Brothers & Sisters and Medium. The last one was reviewed here. They're not sure whether they did it or we all did it together. They want to review it again (they still recommend the show) for that reason and because a "critic who should know better" is freaked out by the show and sees it (and a few others) as a sign of our recent decline.
(C.I., "Apparently, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, The Girl With Something Extra, Bewitched, et al. sailed right past her.) But they are concerned about what happens when they've reviewed all they can. Medium, they're fine with taking a second pass at. There's a show they panned it in its first season that they'd consider offering another review on. But they really don't want to re-review. So I'll try to stop insisting they drop what's planned to cover what I want them to cover. Ava's already told me I'm on her shit list along with their mutal friend who swore the network would stick by Kidnapped (one of the earliest shows to get the pink slip last fall). So that's how they did Drive this week. I should note that they said they had no comments on Bill Moyers' special. I should also note that, though not reviewed, the special pops up in several other features this edition -- those observations are Ava and C.I.'s. To put it in C.I.-speak, "Translation," they could have reviewed the Moyers' special. So that's the TV commentary and try to top that Mike! (And Mike's comments ended up resulting in 33 e-mails saying, "Yeah, Jim, why did you give Ava and C.I. the short shift in the note?") (Private message to Mike: ":D")

What's it all about, Bully? -- Jess says we should have written this first. This is actually part of a 'trilogy' this edition. We wrote it last and Ava and C.I. both had to be punched to wake back up. (I'm joking on the punched part.) This deals with what's not covered.

Sacrifice? -- this is another part of the trilogy. This deals with conventional falsehoods.

Iraq Quiz -- We thank those who came before. NOLA Express ran a great Vietnam quiz in the early 70s and this is us updating it. Since the press won't deal with reality (see 1st part of the trilogy), it's very likely we'll have another illegal war in a few years. Hopefully, someone will see our quiz and carry it forward as well. (NOLA Express' quiz is not available online. We're not even sure if they're archived -- in the older sense of the term -- anywhere.)

Radio Blab -- the rest of the trilogy. A really bad radio broadcast resulted in the trilogy. Kat heard it and thought, "Ugh." She was the only one who did. C.I. was dictating a snapshot last week when the friend being dictated to asked, "Are you going to tackle that shit that aired on ___?" What are you talking about? Kat had it recorded. She played it and we've all heard it now. Avoiding the issues, running from reality (and pissing on the peace movement), so glad to have that kind of listener supported programming.

This Wednesday, May 2nd, Cooper Union, Voices of a... -- Howard Zinn, Anthony Arnove and others, Wednesday, May 2nd, NYC, Cooper Union. Don't miss it. We got to see this (Voices of a People History of the United States) out here (West Coast) and we loved it. You will too. If you're in or near NYC, catch it.

Mailbag -- short feature! It was noted, after it posted, by Dona that C.I. didn't say a word. C.I. says we were trying to watch the time.

The Nation Stats -- 4 to 1. 4 to 1. We need Jim Morrison to write us a song about that and we need The Nation to explain why they think it's acceptable to print 4 men for every 1 woman?

10 CDs listened to while writing this edition -- quick feature and one that readers who think they can tell inspiration/motivation by what we listened to while writing enjoy.

Highlights Ava and C.I. did the TV commentary. All else above was written by everyone. This was written by Mike, Wally, Cedric, Betty, Elaine and Rebecca. We thank them for that.

That's it, see you next week.

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

Editorial: Terri Johnson steps up and stands up

In an editorial ("Editorial: The disgusting silence on war resisters") two Sundays ago, we noted of those silent on the topic of war resisters, those ruining independent media: " Crawling around on your knees must be very difficult, none of you are toddlers, and it's past time you learned how to stand."

At 18-years, Terri Johnson is much younger than many working in independent media, print division. (Much, much younger.) But she's not crawling.

She's standing and she's speaking.

A lot of people her age are, actually.

But this isn't an editorial about how wrong the press got it on students (though they did get it wrong). This is an editorial about someone who refuses to crawl. This is about a woman who stands.


Who is she? jarnocan (North Carolina World Can't Wait) reports, "Terri Johnson of Greensboro was like a lot of other young people with limited options after high school who are set upon by US Army recruiters. She believed the promises of the recruiters who told her that the Army was nothing more than a good shot at a college education and a prosperous future. She discovered, as do many others who sign up, that not only wa she signing her life away, but the lives of people targeted by the illegal and immoral war on Iraq as well. So she did the right thing. She refused to fight."

She refused to fight and she refused to be silent. How impressive is that?

Pretty damn impressive. As Kat noted, not only does Johnson have the usual strike against her when it comes to being covered by independent media (she's a war resister), she's also African-American and a woman and 'leading' independent media is all about the Whitness of it all. In fact, it's so White that, to cover Don Imus, they didn't even think to offer up a person of color -- which, when you think about it, isn't all that different than how The New York Times handled it.

That says a lot. And nothing to be proud of. But, whether independent media likes it or not, a movement is going on and their silence may slow it down but it will not stop it.

Terri Johnson, part of a movement and not afraid to stand up and speak out. We'll close with her words:

I'm not anti-war one hundred percent because some wars are worth fighting for. But this war is not worth fighting for. I really don't look at myself as a hero. I was just doing it for me because [the war] wasn't for me. There were a lot of my buddies who didn't want to drop out like me, but they didn't have have the courage to make the decision I did.

TV: Dud

These days, blink and you can miss a (bad) TV series. That's why we (Ava and C.I.) tend to get ticked off when Jim (it's usually Jim) jumps into our planned time saying, "You have to review ___." By the time we do, another eye sore has been quickly cancelled. Fox aired a two hour pilot (on a Sunday) and then four episodes of Drive (on Mondays) only to turn around and cancel it last week. "FINAL 2 EPISODES TO AIR THIS SUMMER STAY TUNED." That's what Fox says but we won't hold our collective breath.

We're not upset that the show's cancelled for artistic reasons -- there was nothing to see if you missed it. But we did log hours watching the bore-fest and taking notes.

What was Drive? Six hours of our life we'll never get back (that felt more like 48). The show was a mistake from the get-go and it only got worse the minute Fox decided it was a 2007 mid-season entry. The show should have never aired but blame you Water Cooler Set for creating a climate where it could. Industry bible Variety noted, "Despite decent reviews, 'Drive' quickly stalled, averaging just a 2.3 rating and 6 share among adults 18-49, and 5.6 million viewers overall." Decent reviews?

Like any industry bible, Variety's both co-dependent and an enabler. But read the nonsense from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer if you doubt Variety. The review notes that no one can act, that it's "TV sugar" and a host of other things but can't stop praising the snooze-fest. (The reviewer also wastes a great deal of time with her 'insight' that the cars reflect the characters -- the truck she can't shut up about appears in the pilot and then is dropped in the first episode.)
Time magazine found it "witty, absorbing" and cites this exchange which apparently has all that and more: "'How do you cheat at a game that has no rules?' she asks. Alex: 'I don't know! [beat] I missed the orientation'." Forget Noel Coward, that doesn't even rise to the level of Noel Gallagher.

Time did note that some characters were flat. Hmm. Entertainment Weekly also took to pimping. We'll spare you their nonsense and just note reader Tony in the comment section who sums up the crap-fest in his opening sentence: "Unbelievable and bad dialog and scene situations."

No, Variety didn't exaggerate, Drive actually got strong word from the Water Cooler Set (we could cite 15 other examples). The viewers delivered the verdict -- which is why the show was pulling in dead last Monday night.

We think the reviews go to why the show aired in the first place. The show was crap and if you examine the Water Cooler Set closely enough, you'll find caveats in their reviews (such as noting the bad acting) but they still gave it an overwhelming thumbs up. They also attempted to work in mash notes for Firefly (a really bad show) and its former leading man (who ended up starring in this). Which had us wondering, how much are the geeks influencing the Water Cooler Set?

Like the bloggers who couldn't make a radio program a hit (despite all the plugs of "I'm on it tonight!"), the geeks really can't make a show a hit. But they take to their message boards and their e-mails and create the impression that a show has 'heat.' The Water Cooler Set has no taste of their own, they're running as scared as the execs, and that probably best explains how this homage to bad Fred Silverman ever aired in the first place.

The show runner made a point to name drop Cannonball Run (which he wrongly assumes was huge box office), The Game, North by Northwest and (we kid you not) "Magnolia-on-wheels."
Actually Drive was a really bad TV movie, one that first aired in 1979, and was called Death Car on the Freeway. Like Cannonball Run, that was directed by Hal Needham. Drive took Death Car on the Freeway and cloned it several times over -- allowing multiple stock types and stereotypes to 'race for their lives' while viewers fled for their own. Mixing in another bomb (Super Train), each car had it's own personal dramas. One car was driven by a man whose teenage daughter was along for the ride but not in the know that Daddy's dying. Another car teamed up two half-brothers -- one Anglo, the other a Latino. One was on parole. Want to guess which one? There was a soldier and his girlfriend and if you heard him whine one more time about his "boys" in Iraq, you might have wondered if he was breast feeding them?

From car to car, they all shared bad melodrama and lousy acting. Chief among them, the actor that geeks and the Water Cooler Set can't shut up about: Nathan Fillion. He was like Harrison Ford, one Water Cooler Set gushed. No, he's like a lousy actor -- because he is one. He has no talent and the looks are such that he should never be cast in any role that isn't NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR or MAN IN CAFE. When the Family Ties Reunion rolls around, he could take over the role of Skippy -- and that's about as much as his talent or looks can handle.

But they raved over him and that goes to the fact that the geeks love him because he starred in Firefly (among other bombs). The same small slice of America that couldn't make Firefly a hit have tongue bathed Fillion in praise and that's probably why your dopey Water Cooler Set couldn't call out the bad acting. (Those that saw only the preview are excused because, in that, the twist hadn't taken place and some may have believed the dull, landscape artist was who Fillion's character Alex Tully was -- it's only in the first episode that viewers learned of his criminal background.) So the geeks create chatter, the Water Cooler Set doesn't want to look foolish (though they should be used to it by now) and the networks?

With no one calling crap "crap," is it any surprise Drive airs or that Fillion is made the star of another show? At this point, he may exceed Jerry Van Dyke for starring in the most failed shows. Fox should have known better. Another network, you'd just shrug. But Fox had already gone through the useless motions of attempting to build Fillion into a star. They damn well should have remembered that the process didn't take.

Originally, that role was cast with Ivan Sergei. While we doubt he could have fleshed out a non-character, he would have held viewers' attention. That's why it was all the more amazing that Fox went along with dropping Sergei to replace him with an actor who'd already crashed and burned several times over.

Drive's show runner couldn't shut up about the special effects. They were laughable. And they were few and far between. The show was liking flipping channel to channel during a week day afternoon and watching a few seconds of the CBS soap opera, a few seconds of the NBC soap opera and a few seconds of the ABC soap opera before starting back over all again. "Don't you ever move my baby's car seat!" Click. "I miss my boys in Iraq! They need me!" Click. "You knew about me? I never knew about you!" Click. "Daddy, I don't want to spend the weekend with Mommy!" Click. Over and over again, from car to car, like flipping through case studies of Freud. "Character driven!" was the cry that sold the bad melodrama to the network.

That false claim was needed not only because the special effects were so bad (and because the cars rarely raced) but also because who watches racing? Check out the box office, neither Paul Newman in his prime or Tom Cruise at the height of his popularity could turn car racing into a hit film. More recently, CBS' 'reality' show The Amazing Race has had to face the reality that some are finding it less and less amazing. And of course, there was the news from USA Today Friday (front page! so you know it's earth shattering!) that NASCAR's having it's own problems. Seth Livingstone informed scanners (the paper doesn't really have readers) that NASCAR's "TV ratings are down for the second consecutive season".

Second consecutive season. Still Fox wanted to air this laughable, bad, show. Like the Water Cooler Set, they placed too much faith in Fillion. Like the Water Cooler Set, they believed geek-hype. Fox should have known better. They should have already known that Fillion wasn't a star. They should have already known that the show runner's track record means anything he runs will most likely end in a pile up. And they should have known (before green lighting this project last fall) that ratings were down for racing, even for the most chattered race of all: NASCAR.

We don't think this is the worst thing Fox will do entertainment wise (we are so loving the gossip from the intended Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton match up). But we think this was a car crash that could have and should have been avoided. It's what you get when the Water Cooler Set, in mid-life crisis, abdicates their responsibilities and wants to be liked.

What's it all about, Bully?


If nothing else, Bill Moyers demonstrated to America, last week on PBS, that "we" weren't "all wrong." In fact, he proved that two weren't wrong. (We should probably clarify that, he proved two men weren't wrong.) Such are the Days of Lowered Expectations we live in that some drop to the ground and utter, "Praise be."

So if you caught the Wednesday special, what did you learn? That gas bags come with only two settings: self-stroke and silence. Those who were wrong largely ignored the special and those who weren't wrong (largely because they said nothing -- except to brag, in October 2002, about a $355.5 billion defense bill) rushed in to offer laughable lessons in journalism. (Remember, good journalism starts with you!) If you think about it, the self-strokers were publicly wrong and the silent now get to pretend like they were right so any 'transformation' is actually just a coin toss.

In the Moyers special, though some missed it judging by their gas baggery, the big lesson wasn't "no one wants to be wrong," it was, forget wrong, no one wants to be ahead of pack. No one wants to stick their necks out. If that lesson is familiar, it's because you've heard it many times before. (Seymour Hersh -- who wasn't wrong -- has often spoken of this fear among many journalists.) So two hours of television told you that the press got it wrong . . . four years after.

The press helped sell the illegal war. When do we get to explore why the illegal war was sold in the first place?

There are a number of hypothesis: oil, drive up the approval numbers leading into the 2002 election, etc.

The White House elected to break international law by declaring pre-emptive war on another country. Iraq happened to be the target but, at another time, it could have been someone else.
As with Vietnam and many others, these "grave threats" really aren't, are they?

Before Bill Clinton pulled the inspectors out of Iraq in 1998, there wasn't any evidence of WMDs in Iraq. In Egypt, February 2001, then US Secretary of State Colin Powell stated:

We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions -- the fact that the sanctions exist -- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq...

What really changed?

Nothing. Nothing obviously by the fact that no WMDs were ever found in Iraq. Nothing obviously by the revelations in the Downing Street Memos that intelligence was being fixed. So, really, what was the illegal war about?

For years, the right-wing has worked themselves into a tizzy over the so-called "Vietnam syndrome." The term more accurately would read "America wakes up to reality." Following the debacle of Vietnam, Americans weren't as quick to trust the US government's reasons for war or that it would tell the truth. The Pentagon Papers was only one thing that exposed the lies of about Vietnam. Along with the various lies exposed was the reality of Vietnam which Americans witnessed after US forces left. Did it flip an entire region? Did that then flip all the surrounding regions? Was the US the last non-communist country standing?

No. And, twenty to thirty years on down the line, people will realize how desperate John McCain's lies were that it's fight them (terrorists) there or fight them here.

Senator Crazy preaches his own version of the domino theory.

But Vietnam drove home the message governments lie. And, as Howard Zinn has often noted, people don't want war, rulers want war. So the people have to be mobilized and tricked into war. That's what the right-wing (and some supposedly on the left -- lump 'em all together as War Hawks) have been fighting since the writing on the wall became visible about Vietnam. They've practiced revisionism like it was a religion, spending decades lying that Vietnam was "winnable," lies that only the ones wanting war (and more deaths) cared about the people dying, lies that the military was forced to fight with "one hand tied behind their backs" . . . All these silly, little lies in an attempt to alter history.

When you get caught up in those silly little lies, in correcting them, it's really easy to miss the bigger point: the United States never have had any business being in Vietnam.

If that seems familiar it's because the United States does not have any business being in Iraq.
But the US military is in Iraq and why?

Cindy Sheehan asked for a second meeting with the Bully Boy in 2005 but apparently napping left him little time for anything else. The question she wanted to ask was what "noble cause" did her son Casey die for?

Bully Boy had called the illegal war "a noble cause." The press didn't leap to question that, it took a grieving mother to challenge the lie.

Now maybe Bill Moyers can do a special looking into that?

The lessons of Vietnam for the American people were (a) that it wasn't worth it, (b) that governments lie and (c) the United States is not, to steal from Phil Ochs, the "Cops of the World."

The years following the withdrawal from Vietnam have been about gearing the public up for more war. The US publicly engaged in mini-wars such as Grenada (a press concoction if ever there was one) leading up to the "big one," the first Gulf War where Poppy Bush was smart enough to get in and get out quickly before the fatalities mounted and the public turned on that war. The Clinton administration was also eager to prove something.

That was helped by the fact that Bill Clinton did not serve in Vietnam and wanted to act as if that was something to be ashamed of. Bill Clinton actively worked to avoid serving in an illegal war and he wanted to shy from that. Doing so put him off kilter for both terms whenever the issue of sending US troops into combat arose. For those who've forgotten, Colin Powell (who helped sell the current illegal war) had to explain to then US Secretary of State Mad Maddie Albright that the US military was not a set of toys for her to play with. Mad Maddie was eager to prove her bonafides . . . with the blood of others.

The Iraq war didn't just happen. Plans for war with Iraq existed in the Clinton administration. It was about gearing the public up for war and that's why, immediately after 9-11, as Richard Clarke pointed out in Against All Enemies, the call came from the White House to tie it all into Iraq.

And why not? James Mann's Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet demonstrates how the so-called syndrome effected those serving in Bully Boy's cabinet. As Norman Solomon observed:

Often discussed by news media, the "Vietnam syndrome" usually has a negative connotation, implying knee-jerk opposition to military involvement. Yet public backing for a war has much to do with duration and justification. A year after the invasion of Iraq began, Noam Chomsky observed: "Polls have demonstrated time and time again that Americans are willing to accept a high death toll -- although they don't like it, they're willing to accept it -- if they think it's a just cause. There's never been anything like the so-called Vietnam syndrome: it's mostly a fabrication. And in this case too if they thought it was a just cause, the 500 or so [American] deaths would be mourned, but not considered a dominant reason for not continuing. No, the problem is the justice of the cause."

Now it was Cokie Roberts, and not anyone in the administration, who uttered the now infamous "None that matter." Roberts isn't just a gas bag with ever increasing jowls, she's also the daughter of two members of Congress. Though she likes to pretend to be speaking "as a mother," the reality is she sees herself as laying down the Beltway line. (In her dreams.)

From Amy Goodman and David Goodman's Exception to the Rulers, page 207:

So the mainstream media dutifully reported that there was no objection to war. And we`re not just talking Fox News. On April 8, 2001, on NPR's Morning Edition, Cokie Roberts was asked if there were any dissenters in Congress. Quote, "None that matter," unquote, she replied.

Off with their heads, cried Evil Queen Cokie. And in that attitude, you can see the attitude at play in those bemoaning the so-called syndrome: "They don't really matter." ("They" being the people, the citizens.)

It's why the non-reporter Michael Gordon (New York Times) can say, smirk-faced, that he doesn't have a "dog in this fight" regarding the illegal war. Now, at an earlier time in the illegal war, when it was time to applaud the bombing of a TV station and flags were all the TV screens,
he had a dog in the fight. But that changed. How come?

The charitable ones might offer that Gordo grasped that he himself was, in fact, a dog and that a dog can't own another dog. But Gordo had a dog in the fight early on and he's still got one in it today. What does Gordo obsess over, this man whose 'reporting' lied to a nation?

He obsesses over strategy. Now you might think a reporter who got it so wrong would be unable to sleep until he got it right, until he figured out how he'd been duped, how many had been duped. But Gordo's not a real reporter. He's someone whose career has been built upon the non-Careless Whisper, someone who's very eagerly jotted down what he was told and never strayed from the official line. (Which is why he was used to beat the war drums on Iran.) Gordo, like many others, wants to talk strategies.

He can go on and on about where he thinks the administration screwed up. Funny though, his starting point is always well after the illegal war began. He's not alone in that.

The War Pornographers focus on the strategy because it distracts from the whys of war. It accepts the premise that the illegal war is valid and merely wants to debate how it should have been fought -- never if it should have been fought.

As it became obvious that the US was losing (there's no "win" there), strategy talks started popping up all over, in print, over the airwaves and the real reason for that is because, with the war not turning out to be a cakewalk, someone has to reassure the American people that the problem with the illegal war wasn't the war itself but how it was fought.

It's a distraction and an avoidance. And we're reminded of really bad radio, a public radio program, where a host let a guest state that the US needed to be in Iraq for two years before withdrawing because it would take that long. What would take that long?

The host didn't ask. Maybe he thought he was broadcasting (even more) archived tapes and was snoozing?

Just as we're not supposed to be the discuss the reasons for the war itself, we're not supposed to discuss the what the administration is doing in Iraq.

The host should have asked the guest, "What needs to be accomplished before the US can pull out in your two-year schedule?"

The guest, hopefully, would have had a real answer to that question. But we're having a hard time thinking what it could be?

The reality is that two more years means two more years of killing. The reality is that Iraqis want the US out. Reality is that US forces breed tensions. Reality is that the puppet government has targeted Iraqis. From Tom Hayden:

The time has come to understand the new de facto US policy in Iraq: to support, fund, arm and train a sectarian Shi'a-Kurdish state, one engaged in ethnic cleansing, mass detention and murder of Sunni Arabs.
If this description seems harsh, it is only because our minds are crowded with false or outdated paradigms. First was the dream of Baghdad as an exemplary democratic domino. Then the idea of a unitary neo-liberal state with proportional representation and revenue-sharing among Shi'a, Kurds and Sunnis. All along, the US has described itself as a neutral arbiter among warring factions, a promoter of the rule of law and human rights in the Iraqi jungle.
Even as former US ambassador Khalilzad left Baghdad, he was struggling to clinch deals over oil revenue-sharing, reversal of de-Baathification laws, and inclusion of Sunni interests in constitutional reform and local governance. The Shi'a, muttering that Khalilzad was a Sunni apologist, seemed uninterested in anything but window-dressing reforms.
Whether by accident or design, the reality since 2006 is that the Shi'a, with Kurdish approval, are carrying out a sectarian war against the Sunni population with American dollars and trainers.

Support, fund, train. Get it? We'd add that the US also looks the other way while the killings go on. Two more years of that accomplishes exactly what? Killing off the last Sunnis who don't flee?

Poppy Bush's Gulf War was supposed to send the message that war was good and lift it up high on the list of options. Bully Boy's 'cakewalk' was supposed to continue the (perceived by some) success of Afghanistan. Now people rush in to talk strategies and insist that the US remain in Iraq and it usually has little to do with much more than a fear, on the part of War Hawks, of, "How will we ever overcome this?!?!?"

Phyllis Bennis and Robert Jensen (CounterPunch) address this issue that so many others want to ignore:

That first step is, of course, crucial. When 78 percent of the Iraqi people oppose the presence of U.S. troops and 61 percent support attacks on those troops, it's clear that our presence in the country is causing -- not preventing -- much of the violence. Pulling out U.S. troops (including the 100,000-plus mercenaries who back the U.S. military) won't eliminate all Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence, but it will remove the reason many Iraqis are fighting. That would take away the protective umbrella that the widely supported anti-occupation violence currently gives the real terrorists -- those engaged in killing civilians for political or sectarian reasons. Once U.S. forces are gone and the reason for the legitimate resistance to foreign occupation is eliminated, the ugly terrorist violence will be exposed for what it is and it will be possible for Iraqis themselves to isolate the terrorists and eliminate them as a fighting force.

As they also note:

But what comes after a U.S. withdrawal? We clearly owe the Iraqi people massive reparations for the devastation our illegal invasion has brought. Only in the United States is that illegality questioned; in the rest of the world it's understood. Equally obvious around the world is that the decision to launch an aggressive war was rooted in the desire to expand U.S. military power in the strategically crucial oil-rich region, and that as a result the war fails every test of moral legitimacy.

But we're apparently not going to be able to have that discussion. BE HONEST*, why is that?

"BE HONEST," for two readers who have wondered, is a quote from a silly who couldn't talk Iraq all through 2006 but, in 2007, wanted to give it a single paragraph and suggest that the peace movement was being dishonest about what things would be like when the US military pulled out of Iraq.


"The problem with this war," one says in a know it all voice, "is no one's being asked to sacrifice."

Who among us can forget the victory gardens of the "sixties," when we all planted grapes and boycotted bananas and Star Fruit? Who among us can forget the women going without nylons to help the war effort? The gas rations? Oh, yes, those were the days . . . if you're still smoking whatever you were smoking back then.

But, if you live on terra firma, you may hear that sop and and rightly snort in derision. The "sixties" were a go-go era economically, real wages were higher, the Red Scare was still being pushed so it was one's patriotic duty to buy-buy, consume-consume. There was no economic sacrifice asked of Americans during Vietnam. Equally true, no one was asked by the government, in the United States, to do without. There was no gas rationing, no food rationing, go down the list.

Maybe some are suffering Private Ryan damage, but they're remembering a time that just didn't happen.

What were the sacrifices? Plenty of lives.

Plenty of lives were sacrificed.

Take a moment to visualize that.

You done?

Good. What did you visualize?

Chances are, for some, you visualized US soldiers. If it was a row of White, we'll assume you've majored (declared or not) in pop culture. Don't be too embarrassed, some of your elders are pushing the myth of sacrifice. But the reality is that it wasn't an all White force.

The National Archives places the US troop death toll during Vietnam at 58,193 (8 of those were women; by race it breaks down to "American Indian 226 [,] Caucasian 50,120 [,] Malayan: 252 [,] Mongolian [,] 116 [,] Negro [,] 7,264 [and] Unknown, Not Reported 215").


As we write this, 3346 is the current number of US service members who have died in Iraq. And apparently, for some, that's not "sacrifice" enough. Of course, with Vietnam, the death toll starts in 1956. Saigon falls in 1975 so it may come as a surprise to some that, for instance, 447 were declared dead in 1978. 11 from 1991 to 1998. (Declared dead means someone from the MIA list was confirmed dead. During the current illegal war, two are declared missing:
Staff Sergeant Keith M. Maupin and Ahmed Qusai al-Taei: Status - missing-captured.) Studying the death toll year by year, you can see them climb to a high of 1968 and then taper off (as the US moved more and more towards the air war -- something Norman Solomon continues to point out regarding the current war but it often seems no one's listening -- we are).

So it's interesting that, as the number moves towards the 3,400 mark, a lot of gas bags want to talk about "sacrifice" and say it's just not enough. It's also interesting that only some lives count.
One to two million is the number usually bandied about when discussing how many Vietnemese died in that illegal war, six million is the more realistic number. The Lancet study estimated that over 655,000 Iraqis have died thus far. Those deaths don't seem to matter much today and, if the current attitude towards the number of Vietnamese killed during that war is any indication, Iraqi deaths probably won't matter to some thirty years from now.

"Sacrifice"? Apparently we only count one group and, even there, we look at a blood bath and say, "Eh, fill the tub a little higher."

That's what Congressional Democrats have said as they push a non-binding, toothless proposal (which Bully Boy may or may not veto -- he'd be smart to sign it). The proposed legislation doesn't "bring the troops home." If Bully Boy signs it (or if he doesn't and, by some miracle, 2/3s of each house votes in favor of it), he still doesn't have to do anything. The dates for "withdrawal" are not mandatory, are not enforceable. If Bully Boy wants to be really clever, he can stick to the dates but keep all troops there by declaring this phase of the illegal war (the illegal occupation) a police action and designate all troops "military police."

The death toll is going to continue to climb. That's reality.

We've avoided including the wounded for two reasons. First, there's no estimate we're aware of on Iraqi wounded. Second, when injured troops are being sent back into battle, we don't trust the US military's classification of "wounded." But those numbers will continue to climb as well.

At some point, the illegal war will be over and people may read about it in books (we doubt it will be taught in the public school system -- anymore than Vietnam was or is) and wonder why the fatality number got so large before the war ended? Didn't anyone speak out? Didn't anyone care?

A lot of people did. A lot of people and organizations objected to the bill awaiting Bully Boy's decision currently. They were shouted down by Party Hacks and liars. In fact, let the record show, things were so bad that independent media largely played dumb and either avoided the issue or presented the measure (and some still are) as something that will bring all the US troops home. Let the record show that the mainstream media was far less guilty of that. The wires, the dailies, they noted that it wasn't "troops out of Iraq" but the possibility of "some troops." Pretty much all media ignored the 'redeployment' issue (whereby troops pulled out of Iraq might be sent elsewhere).

So the thing to remember here, because there will be more illegal wars, is that Party Hacks are liars. They didn't give a damn about the number of people killed in Iraq. All they wanted to do was try to improve the chances for Democrats to score a win in 2008 -- including the big prize of the White House. They were willing to risk human lives for that.

Secondary lesson here is that independent media? Not so independent. A toothless, non-binding measure should have been called out for what it was but that largely didn't happen. There were a few brave voices. This isn't a complete list but certainly Robert Knight, Dennis Bernstein, Norman Solomon, Howard Zinn, John Stauber, Sheldon Rampton, Glen Ford, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace, VeteranIntelligence Professionals for Sanity, Matthew Rothschild, Alexander Cockburn, Kevin Zeese and a few others did call out the nonsense. They were lonely voices. They also tended to disappear from the airwaves as the measures came to a vote in each house and then during the weeks it took for the House and Senate to come to a joint version of the weak measure.

Let it not be forgotten that The Nation spent the Iraq war MIA. They changed their spirit, if not their title, to Campaign Politics. In November, we offered "Magazine Parody: The Elector" (a blend of three independent media print outlets that included The Nation) and started that parody off with this:

Our special issue that continues our non-stop 2006 election coverage that we'll only drop in a few weeks when we gear up for the 2008 election. No one owns The Elector!

That was intended as a joke. Who knew The Nation would prove us right? There's a great deal of talk about how "early" the 2008 election coverage started. Never let The Nation get away with bemoaning that because they were out front leading the pack. And what's really sad is that we're not even half-way through 2007 yet. You're already seeing what the non-stop election coverage does to all media. You're seeing the many stories that fall off the map as Marshmallow Candidate Fluff (which has a much longer shelf life than any of us would have guessed) oozes non-stop.

So, years from now, when people wonder how the illegal war managed to drag on for so long, don't just point to the White House. Congress was willing to enable to it. And so was big media and so was small media.

Iraq Quiz

1) The Geneva Conventions and international law hold that pre-emptive war

is . . .
a) peachy keen when the United States wants to launch it.
b) a last resort.
c) something to do when your poll numbers are dropping.
d) the sort of war crime that leads to Nuremberg.

2) The United States prevented direct elections in Iraq for over a year . . .
a) to preserve democracy there.
b) because people of Iraq were not ready to have elections.
c) because a CIA report to the White House indicated that it would be a Shi'ite sweep.
d) to see how mad the people would get.

3) The best statement of the "We will fight them there" theory is . . .
a) We have to invade Iraq to protect Israel.
b) We have to invade Iraq to protect the United States.
c) We have to invade Iraq to protect Afghanistan.
d) We have to invade Iraq to protect Big Oil.
e) All of the above.

4) The opposing sides in Iraq are . . .
a) the forces of good and the forces of evil.
b) Dick Cheney and Janeane Garofalo.
c) the military industrial complex and the people of Iraq.
d) American Idol and apple pie versus crazed terrorists.


5) Saddam Hussein let UN inspectors into Iraq before the illegal war began because . . .
a) he thought it would demonstrate that Iraq had no WMDs.
b) he thought it would boost the tourism economy.
c) he wanted to mislead Iraqis into thinking he was pro-UN.
d) he was lonely.

6) White phosphorus is used in Iraq for . . .
a) the fun of it!
b) burning people and houses.
c) as a flashlight substitute.
d) for the cool fireworks!

7) Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, said that one of his favorite authors
was . . .
a) Millie, the former White House pooch.
b) Lynn Cheney for her lesbian bodice ripper Sisters.
c) Ann Coulter for her comic zingers.
d) Noam Chomsky.

8) The 'insurgents' are . . .
a) Iranians who fight against the US.
b) Syrians who fight against the US.
c) al Qaeda who fight against the US.
d) Iraqis who are sick of foreign military occupying their country.


9) The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq have called for . . .
a) Jack Bauer pillow cases.
b) a kegger at the White House.
c) bikini shots of Barbara Bush the elder.
d) US forces to leave Iraq.


10) The Iraq war . . .
a) is helping the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
b) is good for big business.
c) is an expensive project.
d) still sounds like a good idea!

11) The Iraq war has lasted longer than . . .
a) The first Gulf War.
b) US involvement in WWII.
c) a Grey's Anatomy marathon.
d) expected but, hold on to your seats, it's really just beginning!

12) The Iraq war was declared by Congress . . .
a) in March of 2003.
b) in March of 2004.
c) in March of 2005.
d) never!

Bully Boy

13) Bully Boy announced his planned escalation after the November 2006 elections because:
a) He wanted to protect the American people from premature protest.
b) He wanted to surprise the American people.
c) He forgot until the last minute.
d) Dick Cheney hadn't told him about it yet.

14) Three US soldiers viewed a 14-year-old Iraqi girl as . . .
a) a hot piece.
b) someone to be tortured.
c) a girl wanting to go wild.
d) non-human.

15) The United States is . . .
a) winning quickly in Iraq.
b) winning slowly but surely in Iraq.
c) not trying in Iraq.
d) learning again the cost of an illegal war of choice.

16) Operation Iraq Liberation, the original title for the Iraq war, by the merest coincidence, happened to spell out OIL.

17) Many major oil companies from the US helped Dick Cheney plan the division of Iraq oil before the illegal war began.

18) Laura Bush stated on the Today Show that she and her husband, Bully Boy, suffer for the Iraq war because . . .
a) no one in polite society likes a war criminal.
b) extradition treaties mean that their future travel will be severely limited.
c) the various chemical weapons being used in Iraq were first tested on the First Family.
d) she thought it would make them appear concerned.

19) Brave voices from the "sixties" who remain silent on the current illegal war know that their silence kills. Argue the pros or cons of their disgusting position.

20) In the briefest possible essay, compare and contrast the US invasion of Iraq with the following:

a) The US invasion of Vietnam (1956 or 1961).
b) The US invasion of Cambodia (1970).
c) The US invasion of Cuba (1961).
d) The US invasion of the Dominican Republic (1965).
e) The US invasion of Afghanistan (2001).
f) The US invasion of Nicaragua (1927).
g) The US invasion of Guatemala (1954).
h) The US invasion of the US (2001).

[Note: A strong nod to Nola Express. This is based on their "Vietnam Quiz" -- and then some.]

Radio Blab

This month, a radio program decided to do it's yearly check-in on Iraq. It airs multiple times a week, this hour long program, but it's not really interested in Iraq.

During the check-in, two guests were provided on this presumably live broadcast. (The fact that a guest was asked to hold on the line and continue talking because they couldn't reach the second guest would indicate the broadcast was, indeed, live.)

So a full hour of Iraq. That must have been something, right?

No, not really.

Guest 1 offered a series of statements that were as far removed from reality as a burn-out can get. Citing a recent poll that demonstrated most Americans have no idea how many Iraqis have died in the illegal war, Guest 1 wanted to play Pin the Blame on the Peace Movement.

See, he explained, the peace movement had failed and this was the perfect example -- in his mind. Weeks prior, Peter Hart (CounterSpin) had addressed the same poll. Now Hart's a media critic and not a mathematician. That might be why Hart could wisely point out what the poll demonstrated: the failure of the media.

From the start, this administration has made sure that deaths weren't noted -- US deaths or Iraqis. They announced they wouldn't keep track of Iraqi deaths. (Of course they did. What has been admitted to is that, since the summer of 2005, they've kept a count. It's a private count. One certain officers will hold before them while speaking to reporters but they won't allow reporters to see it let alone report the numbers.) When The Lancet published the study that found over 655,000 Iraqis had died in the illegal war this was reported as "The Lancet estimates that over 655,000 Iraqis have died; however, some question that number. For a discussion on this we now interview a War Hawk who says the study is wrong, wrong, wrong!"

Of course, Guest Number 1 might want to look to himself because, with a field in math, we do wonder why he chopped off 5,000 estimated deaths by stating the study found that "over 650,00" Iraqis had died?

Guest Number 1 used this as a platform to attack the fact that US citizens knew the number of US deaths 'within ten to twenty'. Interestingly, he didn't. He went with 3280 when the previous day US military fatalities had reached the number of 3301.

Guest Number 1 was a font of something but we wouldn't call it wisdom and seriously object to the notion he advanced that US deaths didn't need to be noted since, 'within ten to twenty,' most Americans could estimate the toll.

Why might Americans have better knowledge of the number of US service members killed? One reason is that the public that looked the other way when it was announced that the US wouldn't keep track of Iraqi deaths wouldn't have stood for a similar announcement about US deaths. That really has nothing to do with the peace movement, despite Guest Number 1's claim.

Guest Number 1 repeated every cringe worthy statement you could imagine -- including apathetic youth (we're quite sure most 'youths' -- unlike the radio program -- discuss Iraq more than once a year) and his insistence that that Nouri al-Maliki was nobody's puppet. Maybe Guest Number 1 should stick to math?

Guest Number 2 finally was reached and we got to bid adieu to our mathematician (thankfully). Was the show going to improve in the remaining time left?

No. And we're still trying to figure out whether that was due to Guest Number 2 or due to the host. Guest Number 2 usually makes observations worth hearing, so maybe it was the fault of the host?

At one point, early on, Guest Number 2 declared that a realistic timetable for withdrawal would be 2 years because it would take that long to do what needed to be done. That figure we question right away but what we question even more is this concept of 'what needed to be done'? A host who wasn't asleep at the wheel might have as well.

Pray tell, what exactly needs to be done?

It's a question that goes unasked. Another is why the illegal war to being with?

Last week, Bill Moyers returned to PBS with a new program. The most laughable response may have been a Party Hack who wanted to decry the state of journalism and offer his own journalistic bonifides. Of course, Party Hack was sending memos to the House advocating the support of the Pelosi measure and then screaming "conspiracy" (and worse) at those who dared to point out that the Pelosi measure was non-binding and toothless. Add in that Party Hack offered as a "realistic" example a campaign where independent and conservative voters were tricked into believing (and presumably voting for) a candidate who wasn't as conservative as he pretended -- left out of the column was the fact that Party Hack helped steer that campaign (with pay). So that was probably the funniest response to Moyers' special.

The saddest? At one point, Moyers notes PNAC. But he never really got into the whys of the illegal war. Now, it can be rightly argued that Moyers was focused on the press and we wouldn't suggest that was naval gazing.

But the why of the war and "What can US forces accomplish?" are questions that go unasked. They get beyond the hows and the talk of strategies and marketing, so the continued silence on that, after all this time, is rather appalling.

This Wednesday, May 2nd, Cooper Union, Voices of a People's History

For awhile in talks before the invasion, I've been saying as we see the full-page pictures of the target on Saddam Hussein's forehead that it would be more accurate to show the target on the forehead of a little Iraqi girl, because that's who dies in war. The overwhelming majority of the people who die are innocent civilians. And then what happens on the first night of the invasion? Missile strikes a residential area in Baghdad. They say they think they've taken out Saddam Hussein. Independent reporter May Ying Welsh, who stayed there as the bombs fell, who you heard on Democracy Now! on a regular basis, went to the hospital right after that first attack, and there was a four-year-old girl critically injured from that missile attack and her mother critically injured and her mother's sisters. That's who dies, that's who gets injured in war . . .
-- Amy Goodman "Independent Media in a Time of War" (pp. 612 - 614)

The above is one of the voices collected in a book that features voices you know, voices you may not, and voices whose names were lost history and are only known today as "anonymous." What's the book?


What's happening Wednesday, May 2nd in NYC? At 6:30 pm, at Cooper Union Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove will present readings from their book Voices of a People's History of the United States -- the book referred to above which builds on Zinn's best seller (million-plus seller) A People's History of the United State. In Arnove and Zinn's book, they let the voices tell the story. The reading will feature live music from Allison Moorer and Steve Earle as well as readings by Ally Sheedy, Brian Jones, Danny Glover, Deepa Fernandes, Erin Cherry, Harris Yulin, Kathleen Chalfant, Kerry Washington, Opal Alladin, Staceyann Chin and Stanley Tucci.
You may hear them reading the words of Mother Jones, Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcom X among others.

Zinn and Arnove have taken the readings around the country and into workshop productions. Six of us were lucky enough to hear a reading featuring Alice Walker among others. It's an evening that will reach you and lift you. If you're in the NYC area, it's this Wednesday, May 2nd.

Again, from the book, this is a section of Larry Colburn's "They Were Butchering People," remembering time he served in Vietnam (pp. 437 - 439):

Around ten a.m. [Hugh] Thompson spotted a group of women and children running toward a bunker northeast of My Lai -- 4 followed by a group of U.S. soldiers. When we got overhead, [Glenn] Andreotta spotted some faces peeking out of an earthen bunker. Thompson knew that in a matter of seconds, they were going to die so he landed the aircraft in between the advancing American troops and the bunker. He went over and talked to a Lieutenant [Stephen] Brooks. Thompson said, "These are civilians. How do we get them out of the bunker?" Brooks said, "I'll get them out with hand grenades." The veins were sticking out on Thompson's neck and I thought they were actually going to fight. Thompson came back and said to Andreotta and me, "If they open up on these people when I'm getting them out of the bunker, shoot 'em." Then he walked away leaving us standing there looking at each other. Thompson went over to the bunker and motioned for the people to come out. There were nine or ten of them.
We had a staredown going with the American soldiers.



Dona said short pieces as the hour grew late! She told Ty, pick ten e-mails but we may only do five.

Ty: Cal-State wants to know why "none of you" covered the "explosive revelation" regarding George Tenet, former head of the CIA, last week and his oft attributed "slam dunk" quote which "merits a correction from everyone!"?

Jim: I can speak for this site -- which won't cover it, we couldn't have covered it before today and we're not covering it -- and for C.I. on this. We're not covering it because we didn't jump on the bandwagon in real time. Search this site and somewhere you'll find C.I. stating that Bob Woodward was fed that story by someone who wanted to come off good in one of Woody's books. You'll also find that addressed in a feature here. If the record needs to be corrected, it's not from The Common Ills or The Third Estate Sunday Review. Anyone else?

Rebecca: I'm not really sure who had sites up then and who didn't -- when this started as a wall-to-wall. I'll answer for me and if someone wants to disagree, feel free. I didn't run with it because of the reasons Jim's just listed. I belive the feature and the other thing that C.I. spoke about this in ran after the nonsense was really non-stop. I knew C.I.'s take on it and avoided it for that reason -- C.I.'s judgement call.

Ty: Juanita wonders when print independent media will cover war resisters?

Mike: I'll grab. Last summer, my guess was that they'd play catch up real quick. I thought that, no later than September, they'd be covering it and giving it the attention the subject deserves. But in September, October and November, you got more war resisters --

Betty: Mark Wilkerson, Kyle Snyder and Ivan Brobeck.

Mike: Thank you. And even though you got more of them willing to speak in public in this country, there was no interest. Now we're in April when even The New York Times has had to write something about it, about the large numbers of people self-checking out, and my guess is we still won't see a damn thing on it. I think, especially The Nation, it's been made clear that they just don't give a damn.

Betty: Dona told us all to move quickly but I want to say thank you to Kat for noting that Terri Johnson would get even less attention than the small amount other war resisters have received because she was a woman and because she was Black. That's exactly right and it needed to be said. We've got a feature planned where we're mentioning Johnson so I'll leave it at that except to note, she's a very brave woman.

Ty: And I'll note that we're in April, Mike, by one day and one day only. May's tomorrow. [Added: I was wrong. May 1st is Tuesday.] ZEeBO wonders why we don't spotlight more independent music?

Jess: We actually intended to this go round. A friend of C.I.'s was raising that issue Saturday and he offered five artists he felt we should note. They have downloads, some free, some at a cost, at their websites. We wasted a lot of time attempting to download. We may explore it in the future but I'll note right now, if you want people to hear your music, you need to make sure your links work. We were all excited about that. And at first we thought, "Oh, it's this computer." So we'd switch and switch. But it didn't matter if we were on a laptop or a CPU, an IBM or a Mac. It never worked. If ZEeBO knows someone whose site does work -- a non-MySpace page -- e-mail the suggestion.

Ava: And let's note that Kat covers a wide range of music in her reviews at The Common Ills. She just reviewed Bright Eyes who is a name but is independent. She's reviewed Josh Ritter, Lizzie West, and many others. You'd probably need to define "independent" and state whether you mean a name on an independent label or what. At this site, we've covered Anais Mitchell and plan to do something on her new album but it doesn't fit with what we're going for this weekend. Also, as Jess pointed out, after the issue was raised Saturday, we did think we'd have a piece on that and that fell through due to the fact that links did not work.

Ty: I think this question will put into more perspective the response ZEeBO's getting. Marilyn wondered if anyone here downloads? She noted that Mike and Kat have both written about getting a drive they could burn with recently and she wanted to know if anyone downloads?

Dona: Speaking for myself, Jim, Jess, Ava and Ty, no comment. The RIAA has cracked down on students, continues to do so, we don't support that. So we're not saying yes and we're not saying no.

Kat: I haven't yet. I've been playing around and checking out pay sites. I mention Real Player, which is actually Real Music, in my Bright Eyes review that went up Saturday. There's another one I've been looking at . . . Rhapsody. I've yet to download because I'm still trying to figure out which has the best collection, what the terms are -- Real Music wants "members" not "customers" -- etc.

Elaine: I buy my music at stores. I've never downloaded anything but reports in PDF form. I'll use Amazon in a pinch, to purchase a pre-recorded CD, but I don't download music.

Cedric: "Mix tapes" are mix CDs. I get those from my cousin, I've bought one at a flea market, but I don't download.

Betty: Along with the time issue, I only recently -- thank you everyone for that Christmas gift -- got a computer that would allow for it.

Mike: I downloaded some stuff and it just ended up slowing down the computer. There was a period where if Rolling Stone or somebody was offering a free download, I was putting it on my computer. Now that I have a burner, I could do it and not use up all my memory but I really haven't had the time. I'll probably end up downloading an album in the next few months and probably from Real Music because Kat and I were talking about that.

Kat: I have to add something, Dona, I know you want us to rush. But I was looking at Real Music and what gives? They charge 99 cents a track. Now if you agree on the price, it still doesn't make sense. One example, because I'm rushing, Joan Baez' Baptism. I have that CD, I recommend it. But, if you downloaded all the tracks, you're paying the same price for it as you would at the store. Do not download that. Buy it and you'll get a booklet. Most importantly,
some of those tracks are very brief. They're calling interludes songs. It's not worth it. If you're going to pay $16,99, buy the packaged CD, get the booklet.

Ty: "What do you see as the story being missed right now?" That's Aaron's question.

Wally: There are a ton. I think the fact that we still don't know about the recent helicopter crashes is a story. Last week, it was finally revealed that a British helicopter that crashed in Iraq in 2006 was shot down. We still know nothing about the recent US helicopter crashes. I think there was silence on the "wait until September" thing until C.I. pointed out -- the whole "we'll give the update to our plan that started in February next September." That's ridiculous. I think the recent reports from various organizations have been ignored. I could go on and on with stuff just related to Iraq. And, of course, chief among the ignored is the story of war resisters.

Dona: Is that five questions?

Ty: It is.

Dona: One more and that's it.

Ty: Okay, Gerry wrote to ask if the illegal war wasn't going on, what do we imagine we'd be writing about?

Jim: He means online, right?

Ty: Right. He wondered what the community sites would focus on.

Ava: I'll grab this because Dona's got that wild look in her eyes, "We're never going to finish!" We probably wouldn't write anything. If anyone disagrees with that, chime in after I'm done, but the reality is that all of us started up because of The Common Ills and C.I. only started that after the 2004 election as "What didn't I do that I should have or could have?" We do, all of us, care about and work on other issues but there's no question in my mind that things would have been different. Let's say C.I. started up The Common Ills and it had ignored the war, alright? Had that been the case, we -- Jess, Dona, Jim, Ty and me -- wouldn't have noticed it. We were very bothered by the silence on Iraq, the turning away from that topic, and if it had started at the same time, The Common Ills, but covered another topic, we would have blown it off. I know Elaine hates blogging and only blogs because she doesn't want to regret not doing it -- after the illegal war ends thinking, "Maybe if I'd blogged . . ." Elaine and Rebecca knew C.I. offline, for many, many years, so it might have been different for them but I don't think anyone here will tell you that Iraq wasn't the thing that first found them reading The Common Ills.

Cedric: Yeah, I agree with that. That's how I found the site, that's why I started mine.

So that was six from the mailbag and if you have a question for any of us -- 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 -- you probably have the best chance of getting it answered here. Elaine's assistant Sunny does work her e-mail account and C.I. replies when possible but this is probably your best bet.

The Nation Stats


A photo of a Belle of the Ball surrounded by gentlemen callers? Yes, it's that time again, time to check out on our 'leading' 'independent' magazine of the left, The Nation. This feature focuses on the May 7, 2007 issue. It's the "green issue" -- no, not the Green party. Please. Van Fair has their green issue and if The Nation couldn't trail behind Van Fair, they might have to do some actual thinking.

On these theme issues. They do them because it's easier to sell them. But, strangely, four years and counting and the rag's never done a theme issue on Iraq. In case anyone forgot, the stats last time remained 4 men published for every 1 woman.

Editorials & Comments
"Going Green" -- unsigned
Teresa Stack's "Disseminate Information, Protect Democracy" -- they want you to stop the raise in postal rates to save "independent media" and they name drop The American Spectator and National Review because, surely, to subscribers of the magazine, those are the two best examples of "independent" media.
Depak Bhargava & Angelica Salas' "The Fight of Our Lives"
John Nichols' "Impeachment Fever Rises"
"Kurt Vonnegut" -- unsigned

5 pieces.
Score: 2 women, 2 men.

Calvin Trillin's "The Sage of Paul Wolfowitz"
AlterPunk's "The Real 'Fake' News" -- from the boy who knows . . . about fake news.
Gary Younge's "The Good Victim"

3 pieces
Score: 0 women, 3 men

James Hansen's "Why We Can't Wait" -- because, it turns out, we're all Stevie Nicks!
Christian Parenti's "Big Is Beautiful" -- as lame as the title.
Doug Henwood's "Cooler Elites"
Mark Hertsgaard's "Adapt or Die"
Matthew Gilbert's "Farewell, Sweet Ice"
Elizabeth Economy's "China vs. Earth"
Jeff Goodell's "The Dirty Rock"
George Monbiot's "Flying Into Trouble" -- no, it's not From The Diaries of . . .
A.C Thompson & Duane Moles' "Don't Bet On Offsets"
Lawrence Weschler's "Fevered Imagination"

10 pieces.
Score: 1 women, 10 men.

Marco Roth's "Eight Books by Georges Simenon"
Charles Taylor's "Ill Will"
Coral Bracho's "Your Voice (poem)"
Stuart Klawans on film

Score: 1 women, 3 men.

Total score: 4 women, 18 men.

Year to date score: 42 women, 174 men.

That's 4.17 men for every woman.

And you wonder why, in an appeal to stop the postal rate increase, the magazine is more comfortable citing The American Spectator and National Review than it is Ms. magazine?
Wonder no more, the truth is right in front of you. When it's time to hear voices, the rag carves out a space for one woman to speak, after four men have already gone.

Let's be really clear that, in 2007, 2 men for every woman wouldn't cut it. Let's be equally clear that there are more women in the US than there are men. But there's apparently a tokenism at play at The Nation which is why they have, thus far this year, printed pieces written or co-written by 42 women while publishing 174 pieces written or co-written by men. To give an equal number of bylines to women at this point, they would have to run 132.

The Nation is supposed to be the leading magazine of the left. Of course, it's easier to spout that belief if you don't read it. But how do they kid themselves that they are in any way reflective when the proportion of males receiving bylines is that much greater than women?

It's still breaks down to one woman gets a byline for every four men. We think that's not only non-reflective of the society we live in, we think that's disgusting.

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." January 28th, "The Nation Stats" covered two issues since two arrived the same day for three of us participating in this feature. February 4th, we covered the Feb 12th issue in "The Nation Stats." February 11th we covered the February 19th issue in "The Nation Stats." February 25th, we coved the February 26th issue in "The Nation Stats." March 4th we covered the March 5th and March 12th issues of the magainze in "The Nation Stats." March 11th, we covered the March 19th issue in "The Nation Stats." April 1st, we covered the March 26th and April 2nd issues in "The Nation Stats." April 8th, we covered the April 9th and April 6th issues in "The Nation Stats." April 22nd, we covered the April 32rd and April 30 issues in
"The Nation Stats."

10 CDs listened to while writing this edition


As usual, if Kat's reviewed the CD, we'll just include a link to her review.

1) Bright Eyes' Cassadaga.

2) Holly Near's Show Up.

3) Michael Franti & Spearhead's Yell Fire.

4) Graham Nash's Songs for Beginners. Must listen's "Military Madness" and "Wounded Bird."

5) Tracy Chapman's Tracy Chapman. "Don't you know . . . talking 'bout a revolution sounds like a whisper . . ." and that's just the opening track on Chapman's self-titled debut.

6) Carly Simon's Hotcakes. This is Dona's favorite album by Carly Simon (and one of her top twenty favorites of all time). "Forever My Love" wasn't included on the boxed set Clouds In My Coffee, but should have been. "Safe and Sound," "Think I'm Gonna Have A Baby," "Grown Up" and, of course, "Haven't Got Time for the Pain" are among the favorite tracks of this CD.

7) David Rovics' Halliburton Boardroom Massacre.

8) Ben Harper's Both Sides of the Gun.

9) Neil Young's Living With War.

10) Etta James' All the Way.


This feature was written by Wally, Cedric, Betty, Rebecca, Elaine and Mike and we picked the highlights unless otherwise noted.

"Kat's Korner: Bright Eyes releases the studio album you've waited for" -- Kat's latest review, Bright Eyes' Cassadaga. Great CD, check it out if you haven't already.

"Tom-Tom Goes to the Public Library" -- Betty's latest chapter includes the pick for truest statement of the week. It includes a lot more as well. From the comic, online novel, Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man.

"Walnuts and Cranberry Rice in the Kitchen" -- Trina's addressing ways to add life to rice as well as what good it does when you're on TV and your piece is linked but your website is down.

"THIS JUST IN! BEAUTY CONTESTS GET SLEAZIER!" & "There she is, Miss America" -- Wally and Cedric's joint-post on the 'cherished' Miss America (the title, not the person) going online (with police) posing as an underage teenager to meet up with pervs. Doesn't it add a whole 'nother leve of respect to the cattle show that is the beauty contest? The print edition will contain a take on this topic. We don't think it's making the online version because there's been too many complaints about how it's not "sharp" enough and "meanders." We disagree.

"sad, sad sirota" -- A Party Hack decides it's time to play journalist and Rebecca's not buying (nor were we).

"And the war drags on . . ." -- this pick by Mike's dad. In this entry, C.I.'s using the latest issue of Rolling Stone (40th anniversary) to illustrate how independent media could be taking part in the dialogue on Iraq but instead chooses to sit this one out.

"Law and Disorder" -- Mike offers an overview of Law and Disorder.

"Katrina vanden Heuvel did not win an award from Planned Parenthood" -- we are shocked! Shocked! Shocked! And more shocked by the news contained in Kat's post. We haven't been so shocked since we found out Bill O'Lielly didn't win a Peabody!

"dear katrina" -- her ears must have been burning because Rebecca penned another open letter, this time wondering how it's okay for a woman to be in charge, to call all the shots, and think running one woman for every four male is acceptable?

"On the exclusion of women" -- Elaine also addresses the issue of women being sidelined -- including when they're sidelined by women ("Queen Bees").

"Jake Kovco" -- a community favorite and requested by 14 people who e-mailed this site, according to Ty. Mike goes over recent news about Kovco's death and notes the community's stand.

"In the Land of Rubin" -- Jess gave us the backstory here. Last week, as the edition seemed to never end (writing of it), Dona, Jess, Ty and C.I. made an ice cream run. A woman was buying a New York Times. Or pretending like she wanted to buy it. She kept insisting that the price (printed on the front page and the same price it is across the US) wasn't correct. They had grabbed their ice cream and were waiting patiently (well, for them) for their turn but the woman wanted to gripe and complain and started saying she knew the price was wrong and it was only two dollars at Starbucks, she knew, she just knew. Dona finally tapped the woman on the shoulder (the woman had held up the line -- which was just her and the gang -- for nearly 10 minutes as she haggled over the price of a newspaper) and told her, "You're done. Step aside." The woman then made some comment about how "some people like to be informed" and C.I. stepping around her, declared that she wouldn't get information from that paper and proceeded to give pretty much the critique you see in this entry. (Jess says it also included a dopey sentence by Rubin that declares evidence but then, at the very end, admits it may not be evidence.) We thought the entry was funny (and analytical) on its own but knowing it was ticked off to the woman holding up the line (we imagine C.I. doing in a non-stop flow) made us enjoy it even more.

"Iraq snapshot" -- this is the snapshot that notes Terri Johnson and, readers of the gina & krista round-robin know, her story is one of great interest to this community. We won't hold our breaths waiting for independent media to cover her.
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