Sunday, July 15, 2007

Truest statement of the week

Ohio Congressmember Dennis Kucinich was the lone anti-war vote against the bill. The measure would remove most combat troops by April of next year but still leave tens of thousands soldiers behind.

--Amy Goodman on the Pelosi endorsed shell game in the House meant to convince voters that Democrats were fighting for Troops Out of Iraq!, "House Iraq Pullout Bill Leaves Thousands of Troops Behind" (Democrcy Now!, July 13, 2007).

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --
Sunday, Sunday, how we grow to hate that day. Computer security issues ate about two hours and ten minutes of our time last night.

Let's get credit out of the way:

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

Credit to Dallas for finding links, credit to Betty's kids for helping with the illustrations, credit to Rebecca for photo shopping them. Credit to Tracey for adding them to our edition last week (on Monday). In addition to Betty's kids, Tracey and Jayson along with all listed above worked on the illustrations. (Tracey and Jayson are Ruth's grandchildren.) We thank everyone.

Whatta' we got?

Truest statement of the week -- please let Goodman's lead be followed and a shift in the independent media coverage take place. (In March, most outlets repeated the Pelosi-Reid measure as "Troops Home Now!" which it wasn't.)

Editorial: They don't exist and no one's looking f... -- They don't exist and no one's looking for them. This wasn't actually our planned editorial. Then there was a phone call asking if C.I. was "ever" going to note the update to Lance Hering's story that was filed Friday. Huh? In the print edition (distributed at our old campus by Ty's boyfriend -- who will be out here the first week August so Ty will have at least that week off from e-mails, that's your heads up) we had another editorial. It was good. We think this is better. Even if we were all ready to fall over (or eat our own limbs if it meant we could crawl into bed).

TV: The Racial Bee -- Credit Ty for Ava and C.I.'s selection to comment on this week. They weren't planning to do this. They were going to work on a George Lopez commentary. Ty pushed and pushed all week. By Friday, they were making calls. Saturday they finally watched it. They warned us Saturday afternoon, "It's a half-hour show, it's a reality show, don't expect much in length or in terms of anything." While it's not 'epic,' it packs a punch. (All chart positions noted are Billboard. Unless noted as R&B, it is the top forty pop chart they're referring to.) I actually read a review in a paper (I won't say which one) this week on the show. (You never show those to Ava or C.I. or they won't take a look at the show in question.) The reviewer completely missed the point that's being made here. Though nothing may top last week's commentary (Ty says it now holds the all time record for number of e-mails on an Ava and C.I. TV commentary), no one's going to feel cheated by this one.

A do nothing week for Congress' do nothing Dems -- At one point as we were pulling this one together, Kat noted, "There are going to be a lot of links in this one." There were. Think of this as our "assessment" of last week in terms of Congress and Iraq. (All jokes in the piece come from Wally, Mike, Ava and C.I. The rest of us were tapped up from the security issues. Dona said, "We need some humor in here. Any one?" The four of them stepped up to the plate.)

The Other Censorship (done by The Nation) -- Once upon a time, I (Jim) used to really get on C.I. about the "talking entries" at The Common Ills. C.I. would rightly reply back, "It's a conversation. If I had wanted to be in journalism, I would have been." Not only did I come to grips with that, I actually embraced the talking entries and have done my own when guesting for others at their sites. This owes a great deal to a "talking entry" approach C.I. took on Thursday. From the e-mails to this site (asking it be noted in our highlights), that obviously worked. We're doing a bit of a different approach here but both are valid and both communicate. (I owned up to all of that when I filled in for Elaine or Mike. I'm not sure I've ever mentioned that here. Dona thinks it came up in a roundtable in 2005.)

Mailbag -- We dip into the mailbag. All mail selected by Ty. One thing was censored by C.I. Ty was quoting his boss, on something his boss wanted noted. C.I. said get him to write it down before it gets included. We'll include it in our next mailbag or roundtable. (It wasn't anything bad, C.I. just wants to be sure it's precise.)

Horse racing or Iraq? Which wins out at The Natio... -- So did The Nation really cover Iraq? Suggestions led us to explore the first six months of this year even more closely.

Story shared -- This was supposed to go in last week. We were going to write it for that edition. We thought it was a nice story about an apparently nice person (Ava and C.I. say, "No apparently needed") but we ended up doing a theme.

See, that's NBC -- Raven has never been quoted in the mailbags or had a question noted in the roundtable. She made a point to get that across in her e-mail. We've quoted her this time. Ty says she's been e-mailing since at least June 2005. If that's the case with any other regular readers, please note that in your e-mail.

Things to do, Things to follow closely -- "A clip job," Dona said excitedly. Turned into a little more at the end.

Highlights -- Mike, Elaine, Rebecca, Betty, Wally and Cedric wrote this and picked highlights unless otherwise noted. We thank them for that.

And that's it. Another long edition (due to security issues more than anything else). See you next week.

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

Editorial: They don't exist and no one's looking for them

They don't exist.

No one's looking for them.

That's the (false) line on war resisters.

Little Lynn Franey (Kansas City Star) got the ball rolling last week in the continued distortions of war resisters. Citing 'expert' (on the military payroll) Morten Ender (the man who utilized the web to find the father he never knew), Franey telegraphs that "courage" doesn't factor into resistance. "It isn’t so much a courage issue," she quotes the man raised by a US military non-biological father which brings in all sorts of issues.

Franey under-cites the figure for Army self-checkouts in 2006 (and naturally avoids telling you the number was slightly raised after NPR's reporting on the undercount this spring -- same way she avoids noting that military experts estimate the Army's self-checkout figures for 2006 should be at least 5,000). She quotes the Pentagon, she quotes their paid staff and that's really it. She offers a few bits (wrong) on Kyle Snyder that she got from the man who is NOT Snyder's attorney though Franey WRONGLY tells readers he is.

And she also includes this delicious (albeit wrong) tidbit:

The Army does not actively work to track down deserters. It enters their names in a national crime database, which tells law enforcement officers whether a warrant is out for someone's arrest.

Are your sides aching yet? Well hold on, we said Franey got the ball rolling; however, there was apparently an intramural competition for the Fool Squad last week. Michael Shepard, Sarah Jenkins and Bill Lee (Yakima Herald-Republic) offered up the fact-free (they're trying to cut down on facts at Yakima Herald-Republic apparently) "Military has more pressing business than tracing deserters" editorial which seemed to exist solely to flaunt their ignorance with tidbits such as these:

Noting the increasing number of desertions as the war in Iraq grinds on with no end in sight, it was mildly disturbing to learn that the military doesn't spend a whole of time and resources tracking down those who have cut and run.
[. . .]
Pentagon officials say that since today's deserters represent an extremely small percentage of the armed forces, it would be a poor use of time to go after them, particularly when there is a war on. As a result, the Pentagon does little more than enter deserters' names into an FBI national criminal database.

We're left yet again wondering, "Does it hurt to be that dumb?"

Kyle Snyder can tell you a different story. After he attempted to turn himself in only to have the US military back out of the agreement, he checked out again. He traveled around, did some Hurricane Katrina reconstruction work and embarked on a West Coast speaking tour. He had to begin phoning in his appearance after the US military began phoning police at his upcoming stops and insisting they arrest him. Snyder finished out his tour, went back to Canada and, on his wedding day, found himself hauled out of his home (in his boxers), handcuffed by Canadian police at the request of the US military. The police had to release him because it is not against the law to check out of the military and go to Canada. The US military was far from done. They crossed over the border themselves, in search of war resister Joshua Key. They showed up on Winnie Ng's doorstep, posing as Canadian police officers, demanding to know where Key was. They denied it. The Canadian police denied it. Some shamefully suggested Ng had her story wrong. Then came the admission that maybe it happened. Then came the confirmation that a Canadian police officer did take to two members of the US military to Ng's house. The cover story now is that, such strong lovers of books is the US military, they just wanted to meet the author of The Deserter's Tale and pick his brain.

The idiots from last week knew nothing of the above. Really, does it hurt to be that dumb?

Well, you may be thinking, that was a few months back and, outside of Salon, who covered it in the United States?

But last week was also the week when Lance Hering was in the news. He may or may not be a war resister. He disappeared last year while hiking. His friend states they staged the incident because Herring did not want to go back to Iraq. That may or may not be true. (We're not calling Steve Powers a liar, but on this issue, our position has been and remains that if the person is alive, they need to state their resistance themselves.) So what happened last week?

The parents of Lance Hering had their home searched by the police last Tuesday. Why? It was suspected Lance was there. Vanessa Miller (Boulder Daily Camera) reported that the police searched the home for over an hour why? They were "acting on a tip from the military". [Miller also notes that Powers has explained that Lance "Hering staged his disappearance because his life was in danger because of something he knew about his fellow Marines. Hering is a lance corporal in the Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment based in California -- the same unit that had eight soldiers charged with conspiracy, kidnapping and murder of an Iraqi civilian in Hamdania, Iraq."]

Friday, Christine Reid (Boulder Daily Camera via Rocky Mountain News) added some more deatails.

A Marine investigator said deserter Lance Hering posted on his MySpace page that he was staying at his parent's house in Boulder, sparking a search of the home earlier this week.
[. . .]
But according to a police report released Thursday, a Marine investigator called Boulder authorities Tuesday to say he had come across what he thought was Hering's MySpace page, in which Hering indicated he had been staying with his parents.
The investigator asked Boulder police to check out the Endicott Drive home after speaking with Elynne Hering and not being "satisfied by her responses to his questions," the report said.

The three idiots who wrote the editorial bemoanded that the military didn't do more than enter names in crime bases but ended up deciding it was all for the best because there were better ways to use the time.

But the reality they and Franey (intentionally?) missed is that the US military is actively seeking out war resisters, they do have an investigation division that attempts to hunt them down and, with the exception of Joshua Key, when they want to 'nab' them, they call in the police.

Here's another reality. When writing about war resisters, as an alleged journalist, it's probably a good idea to be at least familiar with their stories even if talking to one is somehow to personally distasteful for you. If it is and you're a woman who wants to do online writing, The Nation is looking to beef up their lousy record of publishing women . . . in print.

[For more on the above, you can refer to C.I.'s Tuesday "Iraq snapshot" and C.I.'s Wednesday "Iraq snapshot."]

TV: The Racial Bee

When a bee lies sleeping
In the palm of your hand
You're bewitched
And deep in love's long looked after land

That's one of the songs Barbra Streisand used to introduce herself to the country when appearing on The Jack Paar Show (known as The Tonight Show before that and after that) on April 5, 1961. Streisand writes in the liner notes for the boxed set Just for the record . . . of that appearance, "One of those pieces of sheet music was Harold Arlen's 'A Sleepin' Bee' from the Broadway show House of Flowers. I fell in love with his music the first time I heard the score and this became my favorite song" (p. 8). And America fell in love with Streisand. She's a belter with strong shading but she's also a very nuanced, soft singer when the song calls for it ("When the Sun Comes Out," which she also performed on that live appearance, is an example of Streisand as belter).

So that's "A Sleepin' Bee." What, pray tell, is a Singing Bee? It's NBC's latest cheap product they're tossing out at viewers on Tuesdays nights. (They're repeating it on Saturdays currently.) It's a variation of the old game show Name That Tune which aired on NBC's primetime lineup from 1953 until 1959. That game was won by the contestant able to recognize a song in the least amount of notes leading to boasts of "I can name it three," countered with, "I'd like to see you name it three."

The twist here is that contestants are not naming the song, they're singing a portion of it. The house band led by Ray Chew includes singers and they kick the song off. When the music stops, a la musical chairs, the contestant is required to sing. Singing ability determines nothing (other than audience applause), getting the lyric correct leaves you in or out.

The band's not bad (Chew's a session musician whose worked on everything, including Diana Ross' 1983 Ross album) and the vocals are fair enough but is anyone else noticing that the backup singers come forward only on those rare times when the song is one not made famous by a White artist?

Maybe not because in the first episode it only happened once, the song was The Contours' Motown classic "Do You Love Me?" which made it to number three on the pop charts in 1962 (number one on the R&B charts). Only once.

Strangely, the annoying ZZ Top's "Tush" was also in the mix. That 'hit' made it to number 20 in 1975. How did that song even get in the mix? Other rock songs, such as "Sweet Home Alabama," have been in saturation play for decades becoming radio staples. "Tush"? And wasn't it strange that the African-American contestant ended up with both songs?

We actually recommend this program. Not for the singing which is at times painfully bad (it's also entertaining when a contestant knows they are a bad singer and doesn't care or really goes out of the way to go beyond bad). There is suspense to the show. Such as when someone's expected to have been able at one time to decipher exactly what Michael Stipes was singing in an REM song.

What the show does, if you pay attention, is telegraph inclusion and exclusion. These are supposedly "our songs," popular songs from the past (the rock and roll era) up to today. The contestants have been chosen in an inclusive manner. The songs?

Let's just note that Denise Williams' "Silly" may be a soul classic but we don't expect to hear it as in one of the rounds. We, in fact, don't expect to hear any song by Williams with the exception of "Let's Hear It For The Boy." If they were sticking with top ten pop hits that might be one thing. You could argue, for instance, that "pop" stands for "popular" and, therefore, the songs have widespread appeal. But when they include a very minor hit, such as "Tush," in the mix, a message is sent. And when round after round offers mainstream pop, rock, dance and disco but the closest it gets to soul is a Motown hit, it becomes obvious rather quickly that this show which has wide demographics racially isn't really gearing itself for much more than an audience raised on White music.

What you got was "I'm Too Sexy For My Shirt," "Tush," "Bye-Bye-Bye," "Heart of Glass," "Venus," and more. In fact, it appears easier to have your hit included if you made a point to pass for White (we're thinking of one song specifically on the debut episode and noting that the parents were far more upfront than the child about the family's heritage).

So what's intended to be a (cheap) half-hour of game show fun is actually an entrance into the halls of inclusion. Now the top forty has never been as friendly to non-Whites as it has been to Whites. There's no denying that. But even so, it's interesting to see what's being selected for the program. Take "Heart of Glass." The Disco Song (in fact, billed by some as "aka The Disco Song"). It was the seventh number one single to top Billboards pop chart in 1979. 1979 saw 23 different number one hits in all. One is automatically eliminated from use on the program (Herb Albert's "Rise" is an instrumental). That leaves 22 songs. One duet featured two races [Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer's "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)"]. The remaining 21? 12 by White artists, 9 by African-Americans. Counting Summer's duet with Streisand, African-Americans spent 23 weeks topping the pop charts that year. [In order, Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" at 3 weeks, Amii Stewart's "Knock on Wood" for one week, Peaches and Herb's "Reunited" for 4 weeks, Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" for 3 weeks, Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell" for two weeks, Donna Summer's "Bad Girls" for 5 weeks, Chic's "Good Times" for one week, Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" for one week, the Commodores' "Still" for one week, and Summer's duet with Streisand for two weeks.] In fact, Donna Summer (solo or with a duet) was perched on top of the charts in 1979 for ten weeks. [Chart wise, that year is historic for the week of June 30th when all five top slots were held down by women: Ward's "Ring My Bell," Summer's "Hot Stuff," Summer's "Bad Girls," Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" and Rickie Lee Jones' "Chuck E's in Love" -- the first time all five top slots were ever held by women.]

So it is interesting to listen to this alleged program devoted to testing popular music knowledge and pick up on the fact that even when artists of color make tremendous strides and cross over, even when they in fact top the mainstream chart, the choice to go with was "Heart of Glass" (a number one for one week only). And we're not picking on Blondie (we wouldn't say anything unkind about Debbie Harry), we're just noting that this can be done with any year. In fact, if you want to focus on 1975, to go with the very minor hit of "Tush," they didn't just have to pass over the obvious (The Staple Singers' "Let's Do It Again," Earth Wind and Fire's "Shining Star," Minnie Riperton's "Lovin' You," Ohio Players' "Fire," Freddy Fender's "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" and Labelle's "Lady Marmalade") that hit number one, they had to ignore all the songs that also made it above number 20 [that includes Diana Ross' "Theme from 'Mahogany' (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" which would hit number one in 1976 but was already top five in 1975].

What gets selected (or included) and what doesn't is the most interesting part of the program. Closely followed may be noting who gets selected to try to sing what? For instance, when the African-American contestant is expected to sing along with a song which includes shout outs to segregationist George Wallace ("Where the skies are so blue and the governor is so true"), NBC is presenting, unintentionally, a study of race in America. (The contestant got that song wrong and was eliminated. We're also aware some bend over backwards to interpret "Sweet Home Alabama" in other ways. We've avoided the lyrics they bend over backwards for -- Watergate and Wallace being loved in the capital -- and stuck with the governor being called "so true.") We doubt many of the White contestants would be expected to sing Rick James' "Ebony Eyes" for example.

Unintentional probably best describes the White bread host, Joey Fatone, who coasted to fame as one of the other three in 'N Sync. Yes, the song he sang back up on, "Bye-Bye-Bye," was included in the debut show and, in fact, it was replayed as they went to commercial allowing him to 'bust' some moves and explain to America why he was always dancing in the background, not the foreground. As this century's John Davidson, he may or may not have a career in game shows lined up. He's certainly bland enough to take the journey; however, if the rules for the various rounds aren't explained, the blame goes to the host. Like the contestants, too often he looked lost.

The only ones who seemed sure of foot were those responsible for selecting the songs. They seemed to know just what constituted "popular music." Listening along, like us, you may disagree loudly.

A do nothing week for Congress' do nothing Dems

Racist John McCain*

Went down in flames

Cheering the illegal war.

"VOTE INSANE! VOTE JOHN MCCAIN!" went over about as well as declaring, "Well again, I disagree with what the majority of the American people want." What a way to campaign to be the voice of the people, the president of the United States: "Well again, I disagree with what the majority of the American people want." Imagine it on a bumper sticker!

But if things were bad for the wanna be, they were worse for the Bully Boy. He went into song and dance mode before, during and after the Thursday release of the [PDF format warning] "Initial Benchmark Assessment Report" which would tell how well (or, in this case, not well) the puppet government in Iraq had met the US administration's set benchmarks. Apparently, refusing to release information on the spinning of Pat Tillman's death while serving in Afghanistan and the continuous circus/cesspool that is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales took up a great deal of time because Howard La Franchi (Christian Science Monitor) reported that the White House was "caught off guard" and "scrambling" to get control on the issue of Iraq.

So Bully Boy headed to Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday to sell the continuation of his illegal war and declare, as Carolyn Lochhead (San Francisco Chronicle) reported that the escalation "is only beginning" (which led Lochhead to remind readers that in December of 2006, Bully Boy had stood beside Tony Blair and bragged that withdrawal is "not going to face this government. . . . We've made that part clear. It'll face future governments."). Michael Abramowitz (Washington Post) noted the "friendly audience" Bully Boy elected to speak to (business 'leaders') as he attempted to stall for time by begging Americans to wait until September. Apparently, in two months time, Bully Boy expects either a miracle or that everyone will have forgotten?

That would be the same Tuesday that Tony Snow invaded CBS' The Early Show to declare that Americans needed to be patient ("patience" was the talking point of the day, Bully Boy used it in Cleveland). Wednesday, the report/assessment was leaked to the press allowing Thursday morning papers to tell you what was in the report scheduled to be released that day. David S. Cloud and John F. Burns (New York Times) explained this morning that the report would "qualify some verdicts by saying that even when the political performance of the Iraqi government has been unsatisfactory, it is too early to make final judgements" and that this qualification "will enable it [the White House] to present a more optimistic assessment than if it had provided the pass-fail judgement sought by Congress." Even with the fudging, as William Douglas (McClatchy Newspapers) noted, the assessment revealed that "only eight of 18 benchmarks" had been slightly addressed. Not met, mind you. Which meant that not only was a pass/fail judgement not being utilized, no known grading system was being used. Standard letter grading would result in the puppet government FLUNKING the test even if you gave them full credit meeting eight benchmarks (which they did not do). Well, possibly a lifetime of coasting led Bully Boy to expect his usual grade of F to be upgraded to a "gentleman's C"?

Good question is how do you fail a test when you write up the answer key? That's what happened. Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) rightly noted who came up with benchmarks: "The Bush administration's decision to set benchmarks . . . When they began publicizing the benchmarks a year ago, administration officials . . . President Bush turned to benchmarks amid intensifying criticism from Congress and plummeting public support. Benchmarks offered a way to counter congressional demands for timetables and to dampen the midterm election rage that ultimately cost his party control of Congress." So these were not outside goals the US administration had to admit failing, these were the own goals.

Stephen Hadley and Condi Rice were sent to Congress to strong arm wayward Republicans. (And probably, for fun, a few DC tourists.) On CNN, Ed Henry could point out that the talking point for Tuesday was the talking point for the week: "The president is pleading for more patience. He's not really offering a new prescription to deal with the violence on the ground in Iraq. Instead he's urging lawmakers to give him until September to see if the current troop increase will work -- but a growing number of his fellow Republicans are telling him time is running out and they want a course change sooner than September."

It could have been the perfect time for the Democrats in Congress to make the big move and end the illegal war (as approximately 70% of Americans want them to do). CBS and AP were reporting that the cost of the illegal war had risen to "an estimated $10 billion a month."

Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) was reporting the deaths of 429 Iraqis "killed or wounded . . . at checkpoints or near patrols and convoys during the past year" and that warning shots account for "more than" one death per day. Youssef and Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers) were noting the conclusions "of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies" in a new report (Global Security Assessment, delivered by the National Intelligence Council to Congress) which found, among other things, that "Even if the bloodletting can be contained, Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders will be 'hard pressed' to reach lasting political reconciliation". Reuters reported the deaths of their own Namir Noor-Eldeen (22-year-old photographer) and Saeed Chmagh (40-year-old driver and camera assistant) "in what police said was American military action and witnesses described as a helicopter attack" -- the victims of what is euphemistically dubbed "random American bombardment" in Baghdad.

In what was a non-stop stream of reality coming out in reports, Friday saw many revelations.

Joshua Partlow and Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) reported that Iraqi leaders were saying, "the deadlock between warring Sunni and Shiite factions makes major political progress unlikely in coming months." On the subject of the alleged readiness of Iraqi troops, Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) observed, "Despite stepped-up training, the readiness of the Iraqi military to operate independently of U.S. forces has decreased since President Bush's new strategy was launched in January, according to the White House progress report released yesterday." If that wasn't an indictment of the 'security' in Iraq, Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) revealed the findings of an internal army investigation into the January 20th Karbala attack that left 5 US soldiers dead (1 immediately, 4 were kidnapped and later found dead, in addition 3 more soldiers were wounded):

*Iraqi police suddenly vanished from the government compound before the shooting started.

*Attackers, evidently briefed on how U.S. forces would defend themselves, bottled up more than three dozen soldiers in a barracks and headquarters complex using a combination of smoke and fragment grenades and satchel charges to blow up Humvees.

*Gunmen knew exactly where to find and abduct U.S. officers.

*Iraqi vendors operating a PX and barbershop went home early.

*A back gate was left unlocked and unguarded.

While Condi Rice was insisting war takes time, all of the above and more was coming out. Mike Drummond and Hussein Khalifa (McClatchy Newspapers) were telling the story of Nawal Na'eem Karin's child, eighteen-months-old, who'd already began talking and had a phrase to shout: "Talaq inana! Talaq inana!" ("Bullets here! Bullets here!") -- just one of the benefits of the year-plus 'crackdown' in Baghdad that's produced no peace and had Nawal Na'eem Karin expressing her desire that US troops leave Iraq. Meanwhile, Robert Burns (AP) was addressing a little noted aspect of the "assessment" put out on Thursday by the White House, it "strongly implies that the administration believes its military strategy will take many more months to meet its goals."

Instead of building upon all the above and more to meet the withdrawal that American people want, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was back to pushing the shell game she trotted out last March. "Troops home" -- in the measure -- just meant those classified as "combat troops." Those classified as "military police" or "terrorist hunters" could continue to stay and, of course, Bully Boy could toss all troops (all 160,000 currently in Iraq) into either or both two categories which would allow no reduction in the number of troops brought home. As Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted on Friday, "The measure would remove most combat troops by April of next year but still leave tens of thousands soldiers behind." (Goodman also noted Dennis Kucinich stood alone in calling the nonsense out.)

Once again, Democrats in Congress blew it. Why they blew it may be worth considering. Two Thursdays ago, on KPFT's Progressive Forum, the host Wally James asked Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) about the Democrats desire to run in 2008 not only on a platform against Bully Boy but on one that claims Democrats will end the war leading to no action being taken to seriously address the illegal war in the current Congress.

Rothschild: Well this is kind of pragmatic politics at its worst, it seems to me. Because I think the same thing happened with the Iraq war vote. They want the Iraq war to go on so they can go against Bush and the Iraq war in 2008. But look at how callous that is. They want a hundred more US soldiers to die every month and 500, 600 to be wounded and what, you know, a couple of thousand Iraqis to die every month just because it's politically expedient and it might help them win the White House? I mean, come on, talk about immorality if that's what they're doing that's disgraceful on the war issue.

And that says it all. (Just don't expect to read about it in The Nation.)

[*See Wally's "THIS JUST IN! RACISTS MOURN SENATOR CRAZY'S IMPLOSION" and Cedric's "Racists loved Senator Crazy McCain" for more on this topic.]

The Other Censorship (done by The Nation)

War resisters stand up and The Nation's sits down. On the job.


Though The Nation appears unaware, a list of war resisters includes, but is not limited to, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Jared Hood and James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Augstin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Care, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Of that long (and incomplete) list, only Camilo Mejia and Aidan Delgado are quoted in The Nation's overly praised "The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness" by Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian (July 30, 2007 issue). Neither are identified as "war resisters" -- though Mejia's "desertion" is noted if not the fact that the military had exceeded the legal limits of his contract (Mejia was not a US citizen) and could not have his service extended (for that reason). That decision actually involved a US Senator (Ben Nelson) so it's surprising that the Congress worshipping magazine elected not to note that fact.

In the article's listing of what organizations they contacted to find people to speak with, you will find Iraq Veterans Against the War, as well a centrist and a pro-war group. You will not, however, find War Resisters Support Campaign. A decision was made early on to exclude that organization and to exclude and misrepresent war resisters.

C.I. outlined many of the problems with the article last week in "And the war drags on . . ." One of the most obvious problems to those knowing nothing but what's on the page should be this: "We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photographs, that some soldiers had so lost their moral compass that they'd mocked or desecrated Iraqi corpses. One photo, among dozens turned over to The Nation during the investigation, shows an American soldier acting as if he is about to eat the spilled brains of a dead Iraqi man with his brown plastic Army-issue spoon." So where are the pictures?

We aren't doubting their existence. We know they exist. But why isn't The Nation running them? They are news and The Nation is supposedly in the business of journalism. Not all that long ago, the magazine was (yet again) patting themselves on the back for their reporting on the planned invasion of Cuba back in the '60s. They're brave, they are independent -- that's the way the line coming out of the magazine runs. So where are the pictures?

Taste isn't an issue for the ads. They were happy to run an ad that offended many and refused to apologize for it. So, since they are journalists, why didn't they run the pictures. There's a lot of complaining (rightly) about how the Pentagon has limited the coverage of the illegal war -- from the entire embedding process, to banning photographs of coffins arriving at Dover, to vetting copy prior to publication (Judith Miller wasn't the only one who agreed to that process), and much more. So how does a supposed independent, supposed journalistic organization get away with censoring reality?

That's what they do when they refuse to provide the pictures. Do they think America's sensibilities can't handle the photographs? If so, how does that make them a damn bit different than the Pentagon?

It doesn't.

And they can no longer demand free and full coverage of Iraq in one of their high minded editorials because they have documentary proof which they refused to run. News outlets are not supposed to be in the business of sheltering the public. These activities took place (we don't question them because we're already aware of them). That they took place makes them news. The magazine was happy to include that one paragraph but they're not willing to print the photos?

Do they feel Nation readers are too sensitive for this world?

The article's a joke (for what's not included and for who got excluded) but the reality is the minute they acknowledged that they had photos of abuses and elected not to run them, they left the world of journalism. They became Aaron Brown, Dan Rather and the countless others who justified limiting America's view of the illegal war, sheltering them for their own good.

Who needs a Net Nanny when you've got The Nation?

Hell, who needs Fox "News" when you've got The Nation playing censor?

The most censored topic of 2006 remains the most censored of 2007: war resisters. The Nation repeatedly refuses to their stories. In the case of Iraq war resister Ehren Watada (a sidebar to a January 8/15 article which we've just read), they reduce it to "resister" and we'll assume The Nation is so f**king stupid on the topic that's how this made it into print. We'd heard how bad it was. We'd heard sections of it. Reading it now, we grasp that they screwed up Watada's story in a sidebar. When did Watada start researching the illegal war (and why)? If you've paid attention to other outlets, you know the order of events. The Nation screws up the order, restructures it to fit their own narrative?, and that makes their sidebar even more pathetic and shameful. Of course, no one can fact check at the magazine when they don't even know the basics about the growing movement of resistance within the military.

Those standing up deserve coverage. It's becoming obvious they'll never get it from The Nation. They will, however, be rendered invisible (as Abeer is in the overly praised article) or have their story be screwed up if they're lucky enough to get a sidebar after they are called a "coward" in the main article.

For those who missed it, right before our announced July 4th feature was to run, The Nation decided to contact this site via The Common Ills and this almighty, amazing article was stressed in the e-mail as the end-all-be-all. They've apparently fooled a great many people -- most of whom, we're guessing, never read the full article. If The New York Times had run this article, they would have been called out. The Nation gets a pass.

That the pass includes censoring images of the illegal war may be the second saddest thing (we rank the continued ignoring of war resisters as the worst). It is supposed to be, in some way, a part of the journalistic community. If The New York Times had announced in an article that they had photos of abuses, all the media critics would have pounced on the paper's refusal to run them. The Nation? It gets yet another pass.



Dipping into the mailbag and noting some of the e-mails. Participating are: 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

"Please, please quote me," requested Lucia who figured (rightly) that we'd have a ton of e-mail after last week's edition. She wanted it noted that "You guys haven't taken time off from Iraq and you haven't run from the hard topics. I thank everyone involved because I know what I read results from the varied mix but especially a GLOBAL shout out to Betty who has consistently led on issues of race and avoided the tidy categories that The Nation uses."

Betty: Thank you and let me do a shout out. First of all, Ty and Cedric lead on that as well and often curb their own remarks in transcript pieces in order to give me the space to cut loose. So give them credit. And I'm always on the phone to C.I., Kat and Rebecca. Everything I bring up has already been brought up with them and they do a really great job of listening and encouraging. I think race is something that we haven't shied from here. And I think Lucia is 100% correct that it's due to the mix. And it's also due to, shout outs again, to Dona and C.I. who will realize if someone's been cut off or if something gets pulled. If we pull something, they will always check with us and they are both very adamant that we pull because we don't like the way we worded something. I once told Dona I pulled a point because I thought it was really minor and her reply, I remember it and follow it, was, "Betty, let's say it was minor for the sake of argument, okay? But if you aren't making it, who is going to make it? It meant something to you so you said it and it would have meant something to people reading." And so I do act on that advice. And, of course, everyone's supportive to each other throughout these editions. Even if we disagree. And we have. We all have at one point or another.

Cedric: I'll agree and just add that I agree with Lucia that Betty has been a leader on this issue. She said that Ty and I curb our remarks and give her space. When we do that, it's because we know she made a strong point with us earlier. I'd also argue that she may not get the credit she deserves -- hopefully, she does get that credit -- because she's got these constraints at her site where she's doing a fictional character who's married to Thomas Friedman. I think she covers the issue of race there as well. But if you read her stuff here, or when she's guest blogging for Rebecca or someone else, or any of the joint posts she's done with Ty and myself, you'll quickly realize what a very real leader she has been.

Ty: I'd agree with that and just add quickly that I think it's due to the fact that when she's speaking she's not just speaking for herself and other adults. She's got three small children and I'm not saying children make one person better than someone who doesn't have children but I am saying that her being the sole caregiver for her three kids makes her not just really aware of what she witnessed growing up but of what it is like for the little ones today. And that's where she's coming from when she's speaking.

Bernadette writes that she loved "TV: Global Boring" but felt she was missing something with the weak politics of the closeted lesbian set. "There just seemed to be more," she writes.

Ava: There actually was. I'll do the background and then toss to C.I. But we stripped a portion, probably three paragraphs, out of it right before it posted. In that we were addressing the issue of "out." Most, but not all, who are famous are "out" in some form. It may be a "common knowledge in the industry" thing, it may be out to people in the industry with the understanding that no one must ever speak of it. But we were tackling several things in that section. One aside noted the attacks Ann Heche got for stating that Ellen DeGeneres was her first female partner. We noted that Heche has been very upfront and had no reason to lie about it. We noted that the attacks against her and the fear that it would lead to feeding the belief that people could be "turned gay" were awfully strange when you consider those same issues hadn't been raised earlier for Melissa Ehteridge's first wife, whom you may remember, was married before. We talked about the issue of courage in relation to what might be lost and noted that for many riding the easy circuit, nothing would be lost. They could, in fact, add some heat to their careers and they would surely add some hope to the lives of many young gays and lesbians. C.I.?

C.I.: There are several riding the easy activism train but the one we were specifically thinking of made it a point to state she was about to come out during the end of the 90s and is now doing so again. Strangely, whenever she's photographed with her current partner, they always have a man between them. Apparently the perfect accessory for the closeted set. At this point, her coming out is not going to hurt her career -- some would argue, "What career?" -- but her little irritating dance has already hurt many. In the 90s, a major artist wanted to take part in a tour that Closet X was also a part of. Closet X was repeating, for the second or third year, that she would be coming out. Major is straight, publicly straight. She ended up doing her own tour and that was because she wanted to avoid the question of, "Are you gay too?" She has a sizable gay following and could see how this could be turned into a joke by radio dee jays and just the fact that they'd repeatedly ask would mean she'd have to have some form of response. She didn't want to be one of the ones repeating over "I'm not gay." She didn't want her reply to what would be an expected question to become a sore spot among her fans because that can happen. By merely answering the question, if it's asked repeatedly, some could have interpreted it as though she were saying there was something distasteful about being gay. She went back and forth on this and even tried to come up with funny lines -- such as "Are you trying to fix me up with your sister?" -- but in the end decided the smarter thing to do was to do her own show where her fans know, gay or straight, they are welcome. That tour could have used Major. Currently Closet X has a new partner and is again stating she's coming out. She's not coming out. She'll have to be forced out with a George Michael like incident, and I'm not slamming him with that, I'm just noting that it would take something like that for her to come out. Closet X's sexuality would be her own business if she didn't (a) repeatedly tell everyone that she's about to come out and (b) work hard to get coverage on her male-female match ups.

I personally, my own opinion, do not believe you use your personal life, talk about it to the press, to build a career. That's straight or gay. The problem so many have with Closet X is that she's out in the industry, wants credit for that, repeatedly announces she's coming out -- in fact Liz Smith may have ran an item on that in the 90s -- and yet not only makes a show of being photographed with supposed men in her life, she also yammers on about the supposed romantic affairs to the press. Every one, straight and gay, has lost patience with her and when her newest love interest grasps that there is no going public, she'll leave Closet X as well.

On the same commentary, Lou wanted to know what "your problem is with Melissa Etheridge?"

Ava: Well, if it's about our commentary, that's obviously directed to C.I. and I. I would say our problem is pretty clear: she'll do the easy activism and ride that 'brave' image while doing nothing to end the illegal war. She won't touch that topic. That's not bravery. And the point we were making in the commentary is that she was out to the industry long before she was a name to the public. She never hid that. She didn't try to play like she was all hot for some guy. In the early 90s she finally confirmed what wasn't really a secret to the public to begin with. You can judge for yourself how much bravery was or wasn't involved in that. You can also note that she had her biggest success when she was perceived, rightly or wrongly, as brave. Speaking for me, C.I.'s more kind to her than I am, her work since has been cowardly. She's put out one weak album after another and always with an excuse. Take the promotion for 2001's Skin where she's going on about how her album right before, Breakdown, wasn't really accurate because she couldn't write about the estrangement that was leading up to the break up with her first wife. To me, she grabs the easiest things in the world including musically. If I wanted to hear a Springsteen knock-off, I'd listen to Bob Seger.

C.I.: In the thing Lou's supposedly read, Ava and I note that we objected to Rebecca's joke in a previous feature. We then go on to note that NBC obviously agreed with Rebecca's interpretation. If she would speak out against the illegal war, I wouldn't have any need to criticize her. But she won't and that puts her on the list with the others who get criticized who do. I don't know how old Lou is but it's also true that there was a generational split here sometime ago. Long ago, we included her book in a book discussion. I ended up defending her and was initially surprised by that, that she'd need to be defended. But time has moved on and what passed for bravery at the start of the 90s is more common place today. But I'm going to toss to Ty for that.

Ty: And I'll gladly grab it because I am gay. I don't see any bravery. Yes I Am, I can listen to that. I can enjoy it as a rock CD. There are like three songs on the follow up that would qualify as rock. She's so watered down musically at this rate, I'm talking instrumentation, that you're really stretching the word to call her "rock." It's also true that outside of the song for Matthew Sheppard, which I didn't think cut it lyrically, there's really nothing here that a Bob Seger or any generic artist couldn't be singing. If she wants credit for being brave, write something brave. Yeah, you came out. Woopie! And it was a generational split. I'm the only one participating who's gay. So the generational split really isn't about gay or straight. There are a number of reasons that she wrote a bad book. C.I. explained that in our book discussion, only C.I. doesn't think it's a bad book. I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth. But what was a big deal in 1991 or 1992, to the rest of the core five, we're like, "Eh." The core five weren't even teenagers then. So we've come of age after that. And as to the historical aspect of it, I could appreciate that if there was anything else on show. I really haven't seen it. And talk about trading on your personal life to advance your career, she releases Breakdown at the end of 1999 and it's selling so-so she shows up on the January 10th, 2000 cover of Rolling Stone with her wife, her kids and David Crosby to announce he's the sperm donor. And it's all smiles and we're so happy and it's forever and eight months later she and her wife are announcing that they're through? Does the world really need to know who your sperm donor was to begin with? I mean, maybe they do. But, again, a so-so album with so-so sales and suddenly it's time to trot out David Crosby and talk about how wonderful your marriage and family are. Did you not see it coming?

C.I.: Well, I mean, obviously she did. As Ava pointed out, when promoting Skin in 2001, she would repeatedly state that Breakdown was her biting her tongue on those songs because things weren't going well. That album came out before the Rolling Stone cover and was written and recorded long before the cover.

Ty: Good point. So there you have it, the perfect example of trading on your personal life to advance your career. No one needed to know who your sperm donor was. It landed a cover and helped with sales of the so-so album. I don't hate Melissa Etheridge, but she really doesn't speak to me. Her lyrics are weak and the music is too muzacky. In terms of specifics, she really hasn't come out lyrically in my opinion. There are many artists, gay and straight, whose lyrics offer something I can identify with. Her lyrics? I'm gay and I'm African-American. I didn't grow up wanting to be Bruce Springsteen. And that's the real struggle she fights on every album, how to be like Springsteen. She doesn't win and I've gone from my high school days of getting her CDs, and I did and solely because she is gay, thinking that it would have something I would relate with to just not caring if she ever puts out another CD. Kat's got a great review of Mavis Staples new CD that will be up either when you're reading this or shortly after. But I can identify with that CD.

Kat: We'll Never Turn Back.

Ty: Right. I love that CD and I can connect with the songs on so many different levels. Mavis never forgets she's an African-American or tries to be someone else. She's singing of specific things and I think they are relatable to all races. Etheridge, to me, is still hiding her sexuality on CD and still trying to play the pronoun game. It doesn't interest me and Bob Seger's at least offered "Night Moves." She's offered nothing on that level to this day. So if I want to hear a Springsteen-like artist, I'll listen to Seeger and skip Etheridge.

Same commentary, Jill wanted to be sure Rebecca was okay with being named in that for coming up with the Etheridge lines the week prior?

Rebecca: Yes, I Was! Really, I wasn't named in the original version. When Jim was reading it out loud to the rest of us. That part read a little differently. After he was done, I asked about that and Ava and C.I. said they didn't want to put anyone on the spot. You know I don't care. If someone doesn't think my joke is funny, I don't care. So I told them, "Use my name." I think it came off stronger in their commentary as a result. Before it was kind of going around the point and once they could say "Rebecca" it worked much better.

Lynda writes, "I just want you to know I think it's cowardly that you don't offer comments or an e-mail address for me to share what I think and . . . Oh, you do. Did The Nation apologize for the use of 'cowardly'?"

Jim: No, they didn't. Jess?

Jess: No. After the 60-plus K e-mail, there was an "Oops" e-mail, that was it's title. It did not apologize for calling us cowards. It was "Oops, they do have an e-mail address posted." They have never apologized for the "cowardly" remark. I doubt they would.

Jim: I tossed to Jess because he's the one who came across the e-mails. He and Ava help out with the e-mails to The Common Ills. The big one, the 60-plus one, was supposed to be shared. I didn't even see the "Oops" e-mail. It's the weekend and that means no one's really working the accounts at The Common Ills. So it's possible that an apology came in for calling us "cowardly." But as of what?

C.I.: Saturday morning was the last time I checked.

Jim: Saturday morning, as of Saturday morning, there was no apology for calling us "cowardly" for not allowing any way for people to respond when we, in fact, do allow it. Lynda's a community member, by the way. In case anyone's wondering, "Is that our Lynda?" -- it is. But they can call us whatever they want. It's really no skin off my ass. But they were so obviously wrong on that issue of e-mail address and, Lynda's right, they did base their charge of cowardice on that, that you might expect them to at least apologize. I'll toss to Elaine.

Elaine: I only have one friend at The Nation. But I got a call Tuesday night and the response was less than positive to last week's edition. We were laughing, my friend and I, over the phone about the response. And I should probably clarify that with a small segment was outraged. Some others pretended to be. As, I believe it was Jim, noted last week, our distaste with the magazine's current edition is shared by many including students and including people with the magazine. I could go further but I'll leave it at that.

Julie writes that she loved the use of the Mamas and the Papas' songs last week. She wonders what the response was overall?

Dona: Ty's nodding to me. We worked the e-mail account primarily and C.I. and Elaine ended up helping us out Thursday and Friday. And I think we've all hit it at some point during the writing of this edition. There was one person who chided us for "picking on The Nation" and that was it. The other responses were all supportive with many echoing the points already made such as zero coverage of war resisters, little to no concern with the Iraq war, a dismal publishing rate for women, etc. I'll toss to Ty.

Ty: The love for Ava and C.I. is legendary with our readers. There were hundreds of "How dare The Nation" e-mails with regards to the attempt to push their own problems at the magazine on off others. We're using something from one such e-mail for a stand alone feature. But there were hundreds and hundreds. Readers do not take kindly to Ava and C.I.'s feminist credentials being questioned period and they certainly do not take kindly to the very non-feminist, very anti-woman -- a popular phrase in the e-mails -- Nation magazine doing so. If I read you on that topic, I tried to type out at least one line of a reply if you were a regular reader. If you're a regular and you didn't get any form of a reply, I wasn't reading your e-mail.

Dona: That can be directed to me. I didn't take or make the time to reply. I believe Elaine and C.I. did.

Elaine: I did. I think I did about 100 replies. I mainly replied if I recognized the name as a community member of if they identified themselves in the e-mail as such. Beau, for instance, did identify himself in that manner. Other than the topics Dona and Ty have already addressed, I would say there was a lot of echoing of C.I.'s "It's nice to be read" statement as well as a lot of outrage that anyone would contact someone and charge a pattern of errors -- "glaring errors" -- without even bothering to note one. Community member Molly's e-mail sticks out in my mind on that. She compared it to the sort of thing Alan Dershowitz would do when attacking Norman Finkelstein. That made me laugh and it stands out.

C.I.: There were a lot of wonderful e-mails and I did make a point to reply to each one I read. The one that stood out most was on Friday and it was from a family member of a war resister. She recounted what that was like for her family and how it really hurt to realize that The Nation doesn't care -- "give a damn" was how she put it -- because people are "risking their entire futures and it's not even registering in the pages of the magazine." We've all received those e-mails, Trina got a wonderful one from the sister of a war resister, and they are always appreciated because we do know war resisters and we know the hardship they undertake to stand up but those sort of e-mails remind us that when the silence continues it doesn't just hurt the war resisters, it hurts their families and friends.

Mike: That's one of those e-mails that we all get. I mean, we've all heard at our own e-mails something like that. But when an e-mail comes in to this site on that, it's passed on to all of us and it does, like C.I. pointed out, remind us again how important it is that we do not drop this issue. Enough media has already failed on this topic. I'll also say, sorry, I didn't know anyone needed help.

Jim: Actually, Dona's remark was directed at me. I don't think she or Ty asked Elaine and C.I. to help. I think they offered.

Dona: Correct on both counts.

Soom223 e-mailed wondering if we'd ever considered doing a roundtable via I.M.? "You'd have your transcript all done at the end and just be able to copy and paste."

Wally: Yeah, we thought of that and we tried it once. What happened was that we talk faster than we type. This weekend we're all together. Usually, you've got the West Coast branch, the upper-East Coast branch, the lower East Coast branch -- that would be me -- Betty in Georgia and I don't think Cedric's publicly revealed his location. But we did try that once. That way everyone was responsible for their own typing. If there was a typo, you'd know who got it wrong, and Ava and C.I. didn't have to take notes the entire time. What happened is we type slower than we talk, as a group, we have different connection speeds, we weren't copying and pasting throughout and at one point or another we all lost our I.M. screens so it ended up being a wasted attempt. Mike was the most frustrated by that because he is the slowest typist.

Mike: A badge I wear proudly! Yeah, we thought of that and thought it was an answer but that didn't end up being the case. On typing speed, I'll jump in and add that from time to time Blogger/Blogspot has some glitch and I can't see what I'm typing for a paragraph or two. I always complain at my site when that happens. But I was studying C.I. this week, for a column in today's Polly's Brew about how those entries come together at The Common Ills, and most of the time, C.I.'s a fast typist, C.I. can't see what's being typed.

Louise has a 16 month old baby and was wondering if Rebecca felt accomidations were being made for her since she gave birth?

Rebecca: Yes. They are being made, they have been made. That actually started during the pregnancy. At one point, they were so accomodiating, they were telling me I couldn't help out!

Seriously, they were worried it would put a strain on the pregnancy. But, yes, there have been things done many times. And if my baby wakes up, I'm obviously nursing and attending there. That's not a problem. Usually, I'm over at Mike's and if Flyboy is asleep and the baby wakes up, Mike or Elaine will say, "Finish your point" or whatever and they'll end up doing the diaper changing and then I take over the feeding. When I was pregnant, everyone but the core six was put on a sleep schedule. We'd all be told, "Go to sleep. We'll work on stuff and bring you back in later." What else? Like I said, I'm generally at Mike's and Mike and Elaine are always more than happy to hit the rocker when the baby's restless. There's a general wake up time on Sunday mornings -- early mornings -- and when that time's approaching everyone will start making a point to let me go first if it's a roundtable or ask my thoughts or whatever because they know I will vanish for a brief time. In terms of my own site. There's not been a night that's gone by that Betty hasn't called and said, "If you need it, I can blog for you tonight." A schedule was set up for me -- I didn't take part in that, it was a gift -- of how to cover for my site if I'm unable to blog for some reason. Everyone's been very supportive.

Horse racing or Iraq? Which wins out at The Nation

"Ignore the columnists, ignore Calvin," e-mailed Rowdy, "what I want to know right now is the features. And have you considered tracking that with the magazine's desire to be The Elector? You all only thought that was written in humor."

The Elector was our parody of independent media print division. (Rowdy's correct, we were going for humor, who knew The Nation would attempt to turn it into reality?) Calvin is Calvin Trillin, the poet of the magazine. Rowdy further suggested, "Lose the magazine's meaningless editorials, too. They never stand by them and AlterPunky has declared war on the unsigned." Along with Rowdy, a Nation friend of C.I.'s had already suggested something similar and, on Monday, The New York Times ran "Voters Excited Over '08 Race; Tired of It, Too" -- front paging the issue of burnout.

Mike was thinking (Monday) of writing about it on Tuesday but then he saw Danny Schechter's
"Enough Already: With Heat of Summer, Time To Turn Down Political Temperature" from which we'll note:

Judging by the intensity of the coverage and the overheated debate in the blogs and among advocacy groups, you would think that we were going to the polls tomorrow. There's a presidential candidate spieling everywhere you turn. What's worst, there’s an endless telethon of pundit speculation on the basis of the thinnest polls and wonkiest projections.
Why is this happening? Is there really nothing else to report on? Has the glare of constant media attention become such an irresistible obsession for pols? Is the excitement of running for office so powerful in its gravitational pull on politicians that they have nothing better to do? Does our media have to manufacture excitement so much that it relies on constant coverage of what was once called the "permanent campaign" to lure audiences?
Has what TIME magazine once called "ELECTOTAINMENT" become a permanent feature of our TV diets only to be interrupted by even more empty-minded celebrity scandals?
Already, the public, outside of a primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire where candidate events are a stable of recreational interest, and free food, is getting weary of all the political noise all the time. It is as if real life is finally catching up with an imagined satirical poll that appeared in l998 in the ONION with the headline: "73 percent of Americans Unable To Believe This Sh*t."
Electoral overkill is producing a tune out among voters even as it seems to be exciting the "base" which seems to be on uppers while the rest of the country is clearly on downers.

With all that in mind, what did The Nation run in the first six months on Iraq or Iraq-related and what did they run on the horse races?

From our eyeballing


1) "About Face" (1-8-07)

2) "Surge for Peace" (2-19-07)

3) "Lincoln's Antiwar Revolt" (3-12-07)

4) "Iraq: Who Will Get the Oil" (3-19-07)

5) "Conscience and the War" (3-26-07)

6) "Bush's Shadow Army" (4-2-07)

7) "Antiwar Students Rising" (4-2-07)

8) "Looking Out For Veterans" (4-9-07)

9) "Thanks For Nothing" (4-9-07)

10) "How To Get Out Of Iraq" (4-25-07)

11) "Training Iraq's Death Squads" (6-4-07)

12) "Exodus" (6-11-07)

13) "The Secret Air War in Iraq" (6-11-07)

Thirteen pieces on Iraq in the magazine's first six months for 2007. Note, we're not commenting on the quality. There are some included that we all wouldn't agree on. (Ari Berman's 4-9-07 piece that runs on pages 4 and five uses "Iraq" 3 times, "Afghanistan" once, references past unnamed conflicts -- see Tim Walz -- and mentions Vietnam once. It is not an Iraq or Iraq related piece. It is a Congressional piece.)

So the horse races?

1) "Kucinich Tries Again" (1-01-07).

2) "Johnny Populist" (1-22-07, subject is John Edwards)

3) "Obama's Challenge" (2-5-07)

4) "Obama's Media Maven" (2-19-07)

5) "Rushed Primaries" (2-26-07)

6) "Where's the Idea Primary" (2-26-07)

7) "Obama and the American Dilemma" (3-05-07)

8) "McCain Mutiny" (3-05-07)

9) "Bloggers on the Trail" (3-12-07, Edwards campaign)

10) "Senator Inevitable" (3-26-07, subject is Hillary Clinton)

11) "The Coming Party Realignment" (4-30-07 -- voters are realigning!)

12) "Laboring for Edwards" (5-09-07)

13) "Dems Tangled In the Netroots" (5-21-07)

14) "Hillary Inc" (6-04-07)

So, in the first six months of the 'weekly' Nation magazine, 14 articles on or related to the horse races were run and 13 on or related to Iraq. To underscore, the 2008 election got 14 articles in 2007 while the ongoing illegal war got only 13. The 2008 elections will take place in November 2008, not this year. Not even 12 month from now. But already The Nation magazine has indicated that the 2008 elections are the most important thing of 2007. We're still attempting to track down the veracity that they intend to use 2008 to focus on George Lucas' Star Wars TV series (live action) intended to begin filming no earlier than 2009.

The most important issue to The Nation in 2007 is the 2008 elections. Hillary Clinton has been the subject of two negative articles and, curiously Lamshke, they were both written by men. Possibly, you can swipe that idea for your next story if you've got nothing to rip off from Susan J. Douglas in the near future. Kucinich, the anti-war candidate, got coverage in the first issue and no article since. (That's why the editorials strike so many as laughable. We saw the same thing play out in 2006 with the Congressional election coverage by The Nation.) John Edwards' campaign got play in three articles while cover boy Obama saw three valentines. The Nation's yet to seriously address the issue of his corporate donations, his ties to scandals (including the current one where he barely knew someone -- someone kind enough to buy up a lot of land for Obama and his wife and then sell it to them at bargain basement prices -- What a stranger!).

In The Elector, Ava came up with the idea for the tag by the illustration (and notes it was reworked by others "credit where it's due"), "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 elections." If you're missing the truth in that joke, you need only grab the November 20, 2006 issue of The Nation, flip to page five where "The 'Off-Year Primary'" begins (it ends on page six). If you're blanking, in 2006 the general election took place across the country on November 7th. And lest you think The Nation was sleeping on the horse race, the article was available online November 3rd. Yes, before the 2006 election had taken place it was already time to announce "If there's a winner in the 2006 version of that contest, it's Senator Barack Obama" (!), to offer up Hillary Clinton's negatives (Lakshme, take note, this piece was written by a male -- we look forward to your piece on why left and 'left' men, who may or may not have supported Hillary as First Lady, have trouble with her as a presidential candidate all this time later), tell you George Allen was out of the 2008 presidential race (when was he in?) and include some "good news for McCain". All before the 2006 election had taken place, this piece on the 2008 election was written and run online.

If voters are suffering burnout -- and they are -- independent media's hands are far from clean as they have offered up little more than horse racing for the first half of 2007.

Story shared

Two weeks ago, the latest issue of The Progressive arrived. Flipping through it, Dona saw "Prayer for the New Millennium" on page 41.

In the wake of politicos,
blessed be the relampagos,
the border-crossers,
the illegal citizens of American lit.
The syntax-leapers.
The language-benders.
The cross-pollinatinators.
The decimators of the sacrosanct
ivory tower.

That's an excerpt from the poem and what had Dona excited from the start was seeing the author's name: Sandra Cisneros.

"Who?" asked Jim (who notes he's more prone to read non-fiction than fiction).

Dona looked crestfallen. (She and Jim are a couple.)

Enter Ava and C.I. to explain who the poet, novelist and short story writer was. And to share a few non-public stories, one of which they agreed to share (in limited manner) here.

Among the books in Cisneros canon is Hairs/Pelitos. That is a children's book (though Dona, Ava and C.I. stress it's a book for the ages that everyone can enjoy). Not all that long ago (they're estimating three years), Cisneros was surprised to find a letter from a young girl in a small town (they believe the girl was ten-years-old) written as part of a school project to an author whose work you admired. That was step one in a class project that would have many steps. Cisneros not only wrote the girl back, she exchanged phone numbers, spoke with the girl by phone and the girl's mother and even met with her.

In the world we live in, Ava and C.I. note, a letter of reply is often seen as generous and should be. They think it's a story that captures the immense feeling and connectivity (they admit they probably made that word up -- but it fits) that is the hallmark of Sandra Cisneros' work. They also note, she doesn't tell that story publicly. So you're getting an exclusive. (Wally jokes we should pull a Wonketta and add "MUST CREDIT THE THIRD ESTATE SUNDAY REVIEW.)

They're willing to share that because, in addition to capturing the same caring spirit to be found in Cisneros writing, it also illustrates that sometimes there's little divergence between the artist and the work.

"She would be shortlisted," Ava and C.I. say, "on the roll of Most Genuinely Nice. A brief roll, granted, but one that she's more than earned a place on." (Quickly adding, "You'll never find our names on such a roll.")

If Sandra Cisneros is a new name to you, like Jim, you probably don't read a great deal ("of non non-fiction," Jim huffs). If that's the case, you can start with page 41 of the July 2007 issue of The Progressive and Dona begs you to immediately pick up Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories. Ava and C.I. add that Caramelo should have been optioned and turned into a film already. ("One that would decimate the prose but, hopefully, would provide a story that many could identify with.")

See, that's NBC

I'll take care of your bar tab, boys, I'm nailing my demo. And my demo is coming of age creatively. These are my friends. And I'm, like, pounding on them: Get yourself in the door here.

NBC's latest co-chair, Ben Silverman quoted by Bill Carter ("Trying to Put Feathers Back on the Peacock," New York Times, Business Day, C1, July 9, 2007). Raven e-mailed about the above, writing, "I love Ava and C.I.'s commentaries. Laugh along and generally agree. Since fall 2006, they have been hitting hard on the 'Boys Club' that NBC has become. Initially, I was skeptical and then 2006 turned to 2007 and I was a believer. I saw that in this morning's paper [Monday] and thought, 'Doesn't that just sum it all up?' 'I'll take care of your bar tabs, boys' explains what I see on my TV now and why this former Friends, Seinfeld, Will & Grace and ER freak now cares so little about NBC. It's becoming painfully clear that I am not NBC's 'demo' and the comments of Ben Silverman indicate I still won't be a part of it. I'm sure you're getting a lot of e-mails about the Nation articles and let me toss out two things. First, thank you. Second, while Katha Pollitt and others have twiddled their thumbs, Ava and C.I. have been strong feminist voices. If they need a week off, they've earned it, really earned it, but they make my Sundays."


Things to do, Things to follow closely

This was intended as a quick feature just noting one event and where you could go for coverage you most likely won't get elsewhere. It ended up with a bit more at the end so be sure to read all the way through.

First up, if you're in NYC Monday, RadioNation with Laura Flanders' Laura Flanders will be taking part in an important discussion exploring the themes of people power, reproductive rights and much more:

The Culture Project and Women Center Stage Present: People Power vs. the Right's Advance: The Case of South Dakota.
Monday, July 16th, 7pm at the Culture Project, 55 Mercer St. in downtown Manhattan.
Laura Flanders will lead a discussion of one of the most noteworthy victories of 2006.
Against overwhelming odds, South Dakotans reversed a no-exceptions abortion ban. How did they do it? How did regional and national allies help? With more threats to reproductive justice looming at the local and federal level, this is a unique opportunity to talk directly with women who were there:
* Charon Asetoyer, Founder and Executive Director of the Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center in South Dakota.
* Sondra Goldschein, State Strategies Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project.
* Nancy Goldstein, Director of Communications & Development for National Advocates for Pregnant Women.
* Laura Ross, founder of Women Run! South Dakota, a state-based PAC that helped 23 pro-choice Democratic women (including Asetoyer) run for office in '06.
* Cari Sietstra, founder and former executive director of Law Students for Choice.
Laura Flanders is the host of RadioNation on Air America Radio and the author of BLUE GRIT: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians. Books will be available for signing at the event.Panelists will take questions from the audience and the media. Please forward this message to your lists. And come early -- seating is limited.
For more information, or to buy tickets ($15) go to Tickets can also be obtained at the Culture Project Box Office at 55 Mercer Street (@Broome). Queries: please call 212 232 0255 or write to

Kimberly Wilder advises on several resources for news for the Green Party USA's annual meeting (and you know The Nation's not covering it):

Below are a few ways to get updated reports throughout the day on what is happening here at the meetings:

some blogging, and a few video snippets posted daily.

yesterday, they did live blogging of the plenary. regular updates on the action here

Babette Hogan is a producer/director who is doing a documentary related to the Green Party. She also said that she would put up some updates on the convention.

Today should be voting for 4 new Steering Committee members, and the GP-US Secretary. (My husband is running for Secretary. The election is sometime before 10am, I think!)


We attended a press conference today about ballot access with Ralph Nader and PA candidate Carl Romanelli.

The video is at:

On the topic of Ralph Nader, John V. Walsh (CounterPunch) has issued a call for him to enter the fray and launch his 2008 presidential campaign. Walsh writes, "In 2000 when Nader's influence was felt, Gore clearly won the popular vote, both nationwide and in Florida. Unfortunately Gore's lack of backbone and the Dems' failure to use a filibuster to prevent the packing of the Supreme Court with right wing theocrats resulted in the theft of Gore's victory. Then in 2004, when the Democrats and their lapdogs like Katrina Vanden Heuvel at The Nation managed to marginalize the antiwar Nader while endorsing the prowar Kerry, Bush actually won the popular vote!" (We would have linked to Walsh even without the humorous evaluation of Katrina vanden Heuvel -- we're surprised that C.I. quoted it at The Common Ills -- but, face it, it was worth including.)

A potential 2008 run can't be noted without noting the problems in 2004 for the Nader campaign. Last Monday, Democracy Now! broadcast an interview Amy Goodman did with Ralph Nader and that was one of the topics addressed (the interview was for the full hour and, whether you have an opinion on Nader or not, you really should check it out if you missed it):

AMY GOODMAN: The Independent unannounced: Ralph Nader.
RALPH NADER: Too early to say. It's too early to say. If I was going to run -- and I have not decided at all -- the biggest problem is getting on the ballot. The Democrats filed twenty-one phony suits against us. We won most of them, but it was very draining. In Pennsylvania, they got a Democratic judge, using a Republican law firm, Reed Smith, to assess me and Peter Camejo $81,000 in transcription costs and handwriting expert fees for defending our right to be on the ballot, which they got us off through all kinds of shenanigans. First people in American legal history who had to pay court costs for defending their right to be on the ballot. So ballot access obstructions is the political bigotry of American politics. It's very hard to get liberals who love civil rights and civil liberties and who are Democrats to be at all excited about the systemic obstruction of fifty state laws at one level or another that can be used by either Democrat or Republicans against third-party candidates.
And historically, Amy, that's where all the great ideas came from. In the nineteenth century it was the anti-slavery party, the women's suffrage party, the farmer party, all the things we read about briefly in our history books that pushed these social justice movements before one or both of the two parties picked up on them. So they're -- you know what I like to say? What would happen to nature if it prohibited seeds from sprouting? What would happen if big business could totally extinguish small business? That's what the big two-party elected dictatorship is doing to a whole array of local, state and national candidates who would like to give the American people more voices and choices.

On Ralph Nader, we should note before the e-mails come in, we're not endorsing him, we're not not endorsing him. He is a serious politician and if he enters the race, we will do our best to note him as much as we do any other candidate. Three e-mails last week asked who we would be endorsing? An endorsement is unlikely in any race (Cindy Sheehan, if she runs against Nancy Pelosi for the House seat, would probably be the easiest candidate in 2008 for us to endorse -- in fact, we are all on board with that endorsement should she run -- we just found that out ourselves). C.I. doesn't do endorsements. (That was our surprise while writing this. C.I. would endorse Cindy Sheehan in 2008 for any race she ran in. "She's more than earned it. And she'll get enough flack that to stay silent would be a grave injustice.") You also have Jess who is a Green. You have almost all the women participating having endorsed Dennis Kucinich in the primary already (Kat, Betty, Rebecca, Dona and Elaine). You have factions leaning towards Edwards and at least one leaning towards Gravel. So to make an endorsement would probably require a lengthy debate (and for the presidential race, it might require some taking their names off the piece).

But Nader is a serious candidate if he decides to run and we will not take part in a "Ralph Don't Run" campaign. Nor will we take part in an "____ Don't Run" on any candidate. (If Russ Feingold got into the 2008 campaign it appears we'd most likely be able to do an endorsement.)

If you're a regular reader and you're candidate is not being mentioned (presidential) when others are, you need to let us know. You also need to let us know if one of us types "Bill Richards" and not "Bill Richardson" -- that happens when we're tired.

One non-regular reader just came across our piece on where the candidates in the Democratic Party stand on Iraq, is furious and writes that "C.I. shouldn't be allowed to weigh in on Obama after having slammed him." C.I. says that's most likely in reference to a shared opinion of Barack Obama in 2006. At that time, it seemed unlikely Obama would run. (C.I., "I was wrong, I often am." But we were all wrong there thinking someone might want to at least get the experience of a full Senate term before attempting to run for president in order to prove he could accomplish something. Those running for president aren't leading in Congress currently nor could they since running for president requires a lot of time.) To be clear, no one hear likes Obama and Betty's the most vocal on that. C.I. generally doesn't contribute to those parts of the pieces. Elaine notes if C.I. should be disqualified then she should as well because they both met in 2004 (when he still had a real Republican opponent) and were underwhelmed ("to put it mildly"). As for Obama's dirty campaigning, C.I.'s actually the one who, though highly offended, prefers that doesn't get noted (due to the fact that one person has already been publicly humiliated as a result of his dirty tricks and she didn't deserve it since she wasn't even married to his opponent at the time, they had already divorced).

The same e-mail notes that the only one C.I. "attacks more than Barack is Joseph Biden." Which just goes to show you how little knowledge is necessary to compose an e-mail. C.I. knows Biden and likes him as a person but disagrees with him on Iraq and most other issues. When possible (such as noting Biden had the best one liner last week: "This progress report is like the guy's who's falling from a 100-story building and says halfway down that everything's fine."), C.I. does try to include a kind word about Biden while at the same time holding him accountable on the issue of Iraq. That's actually true of all the candidates except Obama (that meeting really disappointed Elaine and C.I. and their disappointment had to do with Iraq which Obama's much lauded position on had already begun weakening) and we could finish features a lot quicker if C.I. would stop adding "in fairness, it needs to be noted . . ." But if you want your heavy panting on Obama, check out The Nation's coverage (and not just Patricia Williams, but all of the coverage). If you want some reality, check out CounterPunch. And that tip actually applies to all the candidates. CounterPunch is interested in informing. And Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair would probably be the first to refuse pom-poms for any side.


This feature is written by Elaine, Rebecca, Betty, Wally, Cedric and Mike and all selections are ours unless otherwise noted.

"Thomas Friedman, still in" -- Betty's latest chapter addresses Thomas Friedman's call for the end of the illegal war . . . with his usual cowardly exception.

"Broiled Zucchini in the Kitchen" -- Trina's addressing Dennis Kucinich, Hillary Clinton & John Edwards' talk to shut out the 'non-serious candidates' and more.

"Cindy Sheehan" -- Kat explains who has her vote in a Cindy Sheehan and Nancy Pelosi match up.

"THIS JUST IN! RACISTS MOURN SENATOR CRAZY'S IMPLOS..." & "Racists loved Senator Crazy McCain" -- Wally and Cedric note the press created John McCain's public and racist record.

"John McCain explains why he's unfit to hold office..." -- Elaine's post explaining why McCain should not only not run for Congress but also step down from the Senate. He supports the invasion of Cambodia to this day.

"The Certifiable Senator Crazy" & "THIS JUST IN! IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE SENATE?" -- there was a goldmine in Senator Crazy last week. Here Cedric and Wally tackle his Senate cloakroom explosion.

"Senator Crazy presses on" & "THIS JUST IN! STILL CRAZY!" -- and more McCrazy! His campaign in shambles, McCain continues to press on . . . in support of the illegal war.

"White House Scandals" -- Kat takes a look at two of the many White House scandals swirling around these days.

"alberto's alberot," "alberot & more," "calls for a special prosecutor into gonzales," "a little gonzales" and "alberto, alberto" -- Ty passed on that Jenny e-mailed wondering whether it was hard for Rebecca to follow the Alberto Follies each day? Rebecca's reply is it's only difficult when it's a slow news day for Alberto and that's why Friday's post (first listed) is a recap of the week.

"Iraq, Third" - Jim asked that this one be noted because "Mike beat me again."

"And this is what happens when people refuse to lead" -- Marcia e-mailed requesting this "needed to be said one be noted." C.I. on what the failure of indymedia leadership has resulted in.

"And the war drags on . . ." -- Mike's dad and 17 others wanted this pick included. C.I.'s addressing the nonsense of an overly praised article in The Nation.

"War resisters and the bad press coverage" -- our pick for the best of C.I.'s entries last week.

"Hillary and John try to fix the debates" & "Hillary Clinton and John Edwards plot" -- Betty, Cedric and Rebecca's pick of Mike and Elaine's take on the news that Hillary Clinton and John Edwards don't enjoy competition or a free exchange of ideas.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }