Sunday, September 23, 2007

Truest statement of the week

The real terrorism is the silence we allow ourselves to be forced into out of fear.

-- Elaine, "Isaiah, Free Sami Al-Haj and more" (September 18, 2007).

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --

Another Sunday and we actually got some stuff posted early (as early as 7:00 a.m. EST). Here's who worked on 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

As always, we thank Dallas for his help -- links, soundboard and he actually comments in the roundtable. We also thank Billie and Isaiah for participating in the roundtable. [Click here for Isaiah's latest.]

Here's what we've got:

Truest statement of the week -- Elaine. We were ready for two "truest" because Elaine generally avoids attention. She asks that no more than one post by her ever be highlighted and ideally she'd prefer none were. Due to the time factor, she agreed (to our surprise) without any arguing. (She was tired and stated, "I just want to go to bed.")

Editorial: Buying the illegal war -- The dying keeps on coming and the Democrats in Congress keep doing nothing.

TV: Satan tires a sitcom -- I (Jim) like this title. Of course, I'm the one who came up with the headline. Ava and C.I. had actually planned to comment on something else. We didn't ask them to grab this but Ty did tell them that over 60 e-mails came in this week from readers who 'just knew' this was what Ava and C.I. would be addressing. Figuring that this would continue until the show was reviewed, they decided to get it out of the way and be done with it. You will laugh.
They note that they are not calling for the cancellation of the show or the firing of Patti Heaton. "When you have the shot at a mortal enemy making a fool of herself on broadcast airwaves, week after week, showing the country just how bad she is, you want that sucker to last forever so you can continue laughing." No more guessing what they're going to focus on. They really wanted to write about Medium but realized that when your arch nemesis co-stars in a train wreck, everyone expects you to comment immediately. They grasp the expectation noting, "We hated Patti when she was a no talent and, fortunately for us, all these years later, she still is."
And yes, my title is "tires" not "tries." Satan already "tried" a sitcom -- Who The Hell Loves Raymond?

Roundtable -- Thank you to Isaiah, Billie and, yes, Dallas for speaking during this roundtable. We know it was late and we are very thankful to them. Billie especially made a point to sound out community members in the DFW area (and surrounding areas) because we'd asked her on Tuesday if she'd mind participating in a roundtable here.

Thank you Lizette Jenness Olmos and all the rest -- Somewhere along the way, Ty began referring to this as the F.U. edition. By the time we got to this feature, we were agreed. If Liz doesn't enjoy being named, oh well. Keep your promises. And no quote ever came in. There's actually a bit more to the story than what we shared. We're holding that in case Liz decides to play dumb like Charlie Jackson. And, FYI, we really did intend, the week before last, to praise Univision. Along with getting quotes, we poured over surveys and sampling data.

The peace movement has never been all White, all straight, all male or any other stereotype --
Now why in the world would you e-mail a site to get something highlighted if the blogger (Rebecca) knew you were involved (intentionally or not) with a forwarding of her e-mail? One of the many strange questions.

CounterSpin: radio comedy with plenty of laughs -- We think this will be a running feature for a couple of weeks. Why only a couple? Having refused to correct the record last Friday, we could see ourselves being stuck with this as a weekly feature until we shut down the site. But we will return it a few more times.

Why we'd give Congress' SCHIPs proposals a veto -- Do you support a flat tax? Do you support other people determining your choices? Do you support targeting the poor? No? Then think about what SCHIP's being pushed through Congress on the backs of.

Things to do, things to watch -- Your weekly schedule.

Dona's Thanks -- Dona did thank every longterm member (and/or community member) who wrote in to express concern over her health. She also wanted a short feature and Mike had been suggesting all last week that she should write something like this. She took him up on it.

Correction & Update -- We made an error. Our apologies. (We note the error in the roundtable as well). Thanks to ____ for e-mailing to correct us.

Highlights -- Mike, Kat, Betty, Wally, Cedric, Elaine and Rebecca wrote this and selected the highlights unless they note otherwise. We thank them for that.

Short note. Mike will cover it in full tomorrow. And do a great job. We'll see you next week.
We're getting some sleep. (Actually, we're going to get something to eat, watch a DVD and crash in the middle of it.) Woah! C.I. just pointed out that even though it's in the roundtable it would probably be a good idea to thank Trina (Trina's Kitchen) for help with the book discussion the week before, Vic for the scan of the book jacket the week before and Rebecca's mother-in-law for being among the people who suggested a KvH feature the week before.

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

Editorial: Buying the illegal war

The two most recent death announcements the US military (M-NF) made were "One Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed and another wounded when an explosive-formed penetrator detonated on their patrol during combat operations in an eastern section of the Iraqi capital Sept. 22." and "A Task Force Lightning Soldier died in a vehicle accident in Diyala province on Saturday."

The announcements brought to 3798 the number of US service members killed in the illegal war since it started in March 2003.

The 3800 mark looms.

For those attempting to keep track, we noted the 3000 mark loomed on December 31, 2006. Later that same day, we'd come back to note that the 3,000 mark had been reached.

In the November 2006 elections, Democrats were put back in charge of both houses of Congress with a mandate to end the illegal war. The session of the 110th Congress started on January 3rd. On January 4th, the first announced death to take place after Dems were sworn in was made ("A Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol was attacked by small arms fire, killing one Soldier in the western part of the Iraqi capital today.") and that took the number of US service members to die in the illegal war to 3006. His name was Charles D. Allen.

He is among the 793 US service members who have died since the Democrats took control of both houses of Congress. Over a fourth of the deaths have taken place after the Democrats were sworn in. This is no longer Bully Boy's illegal war.

The Democrats have bought into it.

The excuse that they are in the minority and don't have the power no longer cuts it. The campaign for 2008 ("Elect us to even greater majorities and then we'll do something!") rings false.

We can't, they insist, cut off funding the illegal war because we don't have the votes!

The reality is they have enough votes to filibuster and avoid sending anything to the Oval Office for Bully Boy's signature. But they refuse to use that power while insisting they have no power.

The 3800 mark will be reached shortly. The 3900 mark will follow and then the 4,000 mark. At what point will Democrats in Congress stop making excuses and use their power to end the illegal war?

A kid down the street shows up asking for a few bucks to mow your yard. You pay him/her and he/she cuts a few strips and then leaves. Are you going to give them money to mow your yard again?


And you are the one who pays Congress.

As Ruth notes, they are the people's employees although they don't appear to keen to admit that.

They have done a lousy job. Instead of doing what they were elected to do, they have attempted to make 2007 about why you shouldn't vote Republican in 2008. They see the continued illegal war as a "winner" for them in 2008. They've have intentionally waited on the SCHIPS program so that they can use it for the 2008 election as well.

The kid mowing your yard needs to be mowing your yard, not off somewhere else building a resume for the next job.

Three months shy of 12 in control and what is there to show for it?

Nothing to brag about.

They'll continue to do that as long as they think they can get away with it. They need to be called out loudly. At this point, even if you think or say you are against the illegal war, if you're providing cover for the Democrats' refusal to end the illegal war, you're buying the Iraq War as well. So ring up the White House and tell Bully Boy to leave you a little space because you're crawling into bed with him and the Democratic leadership in Congress.

TV: Satan tires a sitcom

Sitcoms shoot for laughs but Wednesday night we were gasping. Since the train wreck returns the Dark Angel's female approximate, Patti Heaton, to TV, you know we were loving it.

Was Kelsey Grammer being a pain in the ass? That's what friends wondered after we noted the show in May. We had wondered it too until we watched. Grammer's on set gripes needed to be said. Actually, they needed to be heeded. But no one involved appeared to be listening.

Grammer's returned to TV post-Fraiser and, were we him, we'd be freaking out too. He plays anchor Chuck Darling (yes, the name alone gives qualms) on Fox's Back To You. He's trying really hard to give audiences what they enjoyed in Cheers and Fraiser but it's as though he's playing Sideshow Bob and you're stuck with an episode of The Simpsons starring all the extras and none of the leads. Coming off those two shows, he knows what works for him and a bit about what works on TV sitcoms. His gripes were valid.

Chuck is, remember this is Fox, surrounded by a host of uglies. Christopher Lloyd, who is one of the executive producers, seems unaware that Taxi was dropped by not one, but two networks. That freakish cast never managed to meld and had it not been carried, episode by episode, by Danny DeVito it never would have interested even one network for long. Back To You has no Danny DeVitos but Fox says it's sticking with the show for at least 13 episodes.

The cast is over the top from the beginning save one (we'll get to him) and everyone is so keen to utter their big (non-funny) line that you feel as if the camera's hopping around from one comedy club to the next as opposed to being in an office with co-workers. To demonstrate how over the top the show would be, the powers that be decided it wasn't enough for Chuck Darling to have an on air meltdown where he said a curse word or two. Instead, he was bleeped repeatedly as he used the f-word and just about any other word you could imagine. Was the humor supposed to come from Grammer's rage? If so, you'd have to give that space to grow. They didn't. They thought just having bleep, bleep, bleep would be funny. It wasn't.

Chuck gets fired from the LA market and ends up back at his old job in Pittsburgh. If you're expecting to see friendly faces like Murray, Gordy, Lou or Rhoda, forget it. There are no friends, just freaks.

Grammer has to pitch over the top (one of his complaints -- and it is valid) because the writing and the other performances are all over the top. Nothing ever builds, everything is hurled at you as though your TV set has morphed into a paint ball gun. Mary had Lou (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Murphy had Miles (Murphy Brown). In fact, the big flip there was that Mary was Miles and Lou was Murphy. The big flip here, for the producer of the news show, is that he's obese and 25. He's obese and he has huge sweat stains and he's played by a Broadway actor who has yet to learn how to act for the camera so every time he comes on camera you're either thinking Julia Sweeny is back in her It's Pat outfit or you're just ducking for cover. The producer's name is Ryan Church and the actor over performing the part is Josh Gad or, as we like to think of him, Josh Gad-Zooks!

Ayda Field was brought in at the last minute to play the sketch that is Montana Diaz Herra. It's an offensive little stereotype (she's the token person of color on the newscast and inflates her Latina flavor). Like all the other characters on the show, she's obsessed with sex. Or is it the writers that are obsessed? It's so important that she gets in her multiple allotment of sex jokes each scene the camera finds her in that no one stopped to think that Montana explaining reporter Gary has a small penis makes no sense since the affair implied violates what little is known about Gary.

There may be a backstory at some point but a pilot shouldn't violate basic understandings. So concerned about making Montana the smuttiest of all, the writers forgot that point.

Gary is played by Ty Burrell. Gary is a nebbish. Burrell's trying really hard with a role that is out of his depths. In Out of Practice, he was amazing playing someone in the know and always in on the next con. Here he's supposed to a be stupid sadsack. We think those behind the camera are far more stupid than Gary. If there's a show to be saved in this unholy mess, it will revolve around Gary and Chuck.

We don't dislike Fred Willard but we don't know anyone who would question the use of "over the top" to describe his performances. So the question becomes why you cast him as sports commentator Marsh when you already have Gad-Zooks! and Field eating up every piece of scenery and spitting it out as confetti?

On the set, Grammer attempted to make many valid points. Watching the show, the most valid one was that he cannot build a performance if the supporting cast has already pitched the scene so high that he has to yell every line just to fit in. That's what he basically does and he's gifted enough to provide some shading even at such a high pitch.

Patti Heaton has no gifts -- only the ability to suck the life out of the room. She plays Chuck's co-anchor (and one-time bed partner) Kelly Carr. When you can't shade, you're not a lead performer in comedy. If you're only ability to shade is to increase the volume, you're a character actor (if you're lucky). Patti yells loudly and frequently. She does the non-stop nag that she perfected offscreen but used repeatedly in Someone Must Love Raymond.

A Lisa Kudrow or Megan Mullally can do miracles in a scene merely with an inflection. They can tease a line, they can let it float. They are comic gems. Heaton is the cubic zirconia of comedy. Her lines are always read in the same monotone whose only variation comes via volume. We'd say she's lucky that she didn't try to act during the hey days of radio but, with that face, TV's really not any kinder to her.

Just as her voice lacks music, her body lacks grace. The part of Kelly is apparently supposed to be a dizzy whirlwind of motion as evidenced by the fact that the writers always have her entering a scene or exiting one. Since the actress lumbers (or is it waddles?) at the same rate regardless of what the character would or should do, that brief bit of writing inspiration/
character detail is wasted.

Before the show made it to air, two roles were recast and a reoccurring character became a one-shot. Why? They knew they had a dog. The answer wasn't in recasting token roles, the answer was in rethinking the show. Kelsey Grammer did not come to fame on the likes of King of Queens. He is an actual actor and one who's grown quite sure in his movements. He's fine tuned and evolved. What a nightmare it must be for him to show up on the set of Fox's latest attempt at a sitcom each day knowing that no line will ever be delivered in a mere shout when it can be screeched.

Heaton's convinced that she's funny loud. She isn't. (She isn't funny quiet or in what she would consider a normal range.) When Grammer politely (we're told politely) hinted that a scene could be taken down a notch, the point flew over her head. The scene that people involved with the show swear was the beginning of the end aired in the pilot. In it, Heaton is stomping her feet around in her character's home and Grammer's Chuck is supposed to be annoying and oblivious. The final portion will be his meeting the daughter that he didn't know he had. Grammer pulls off the last bit largely because Heaton has no lines (or screen time) during that exchange. That worked as did one other scene in full.

In it, Chuck speaks to Kelly about their daughter. He hits all the right notes of concern, ego and nerves. He nails it. It needs to be noted that he succeeds in that scene because Heaton is not heard or seen. Chuck's called Kelly on the phone. When the only scene to work in a thirty minute episode depends upon hiding the co-star a message should have been received.

It wasn't. Peri Gilpin could take everything on the page currently and make it come alive while also adding further dimensions to the character of Kelly. But Gilpin is an actual actress. Megan Mullally could spin the character in a completely different direction. Heaton doesn't know the first thing about inflections or about inhabiting a space. She thinks she's acting just because she's standing in front of the camera and people are calling her "Kelly" and not "Patti."

If the show last more than a season without ditching Heaton (we doubt it, but could be wrong), the Grammer and Heaton conflict will most likely provide great tabloid fodder. As other sitcoms have found out in the past, tabloid fodder tends to drive audiences away. Wednesday night's overnights looked impressive. That was partly due to no competition from any other new offerings and also to the fact that Grammer is well liked by the public. And Heaton brought her fans along for the first outing as well, all three of them. But that was the public's free sample. Up against real programming, having tasted Back To You, viewers will start going elsewhere.

A friend with the show asked what one thing they needed to do? (They know it's a mess.) We don't think one thing would fix it but the biggest problem is Heaton. They can create an actual character for Montana, they can move Gary to the foreground, they can work on getting the actors to grasp that louder does not mean funnier. But they'll still have Heaton and the show will always be off balance. Rose Marie showed everything she had as Sally Rogers and Heaton's shown everything she has as Deborah Barone.

"We're talking about," we explained, "a woman whom Pantene dropped. Whom even Albertson's finally dropped. The only spokesperson duty she pulls now is for Heifer International. That alone should have told you something."


Jim: We knew we'd have to do a mailbag or a roundtable. There were too many issues for a mailbag so we're doing a roundtable. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and me, 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. We also have two guests for the first part. We're going to start out by responding to an e-mail. September 2nd, two pieces were published, "How Not To Stage A Rally" and " A Day in Dallas and time wasted at Parkland." Tuesday, September 18th Charlie Jackson of Texans for Peace e-mailed the following: " Can't really tell who to address this to, Thank you (I think) for attending the rally in Fort Worth on September 1. Too bad you didn't think to contact me about any of your issues or complaints. I'm not a journalist, but I usually try to go directly to organizers or other sources for verification...particularly if I don't get a response from a media contact." He did not get an e-mail reply. We're replying here. I read the e-mail and laughed my ass off. I was dialing C.I. and working on my reply when I was told by C.I., "There is no way in hell he gets an e-mail reply. (A) He doesn't deserve one and (B) community members in Texas and Oklahoma would be rightly outraged if he got a reply." I'm going to toss to Billie and Isaiah because they are our guests. They're welcome to stay on the line for the entire roundtable or to hang up after this section. If they stay on, they're welcome to chime in on any other topic if they want to. This is a rush transcript.

Dona: It should also be noted that Dallas is on the line as well. He doesn't usually want to participate, in fact, C.I.'s the only one who has ever been able to get Dallas to participate in roundtables or "news reviews". But Dallas is on the line and can jump in at any point. So let's go to Billie first.

Billie: What a load of crap Charlie Jackson managed to fit into one e-mail. I spoke with DFW members specifically and read the e-mail to them. The response was laughter. Community members repeatedly attempted to contact that organization in the week leading up to the rally via the contact person listed at their site with the e-mail address they provided. As she refused to reply with permission to take photographs repeatedly, they soured their own event and made it clear it was another DFW event staged for a select few while posing as welcoming to the public. I may chime in on this again but this is really where Isaiah comes in.

Isaiah: Members in the area -- immediate and far away -- were outraged. The enthusiasm for the event was falling apart. I e-mailed C.I. and asked permission to represent myself on behalf of The Common Ills. I was told I could do that and represent myself on behalf of The Third Estate Sunday Review. C.I. wrote, "I don't believe anyone" meaning anyone with a community site "would have a problem with you representing yourself on their behalf; however, I can only give complete permission on The Common Ills and I'll take any flack -- I don't expect any -- for giving permission for Third." I then used the information to contact the event's media person. I explained I did the comic at The Common Ills. I explained that I would like permission to take photos. I said I would be using a traditional camera, a digital camera and a disposable camera. I explained that the photos would run at The Common Ills, The Third Estate Sunday Review, at other sites -- which I did not name since I did not have permission to represent myself on their behalf -- and in community newsletters. I gave my full name. I gave my home address. I gave my work number and the place where I work. I e-mailed that information three times. It stated if I had not provided enough information -- and as everyone joked, I provided everything but my Social Security number -- please contact me via e-mail or phone. There was no attempt made to contact me. I specifically gave my work phone because if I'm not there, a message can be taken by person or voice mail and I have a record of all incoming calls, missed or taken, so I would know if I was contacted. I honestly believed I'd get some sort of reply. By 5:00 pm, I had received nothing. Like everyone else, we were blown off.

Ty: And I need to point out that "everyone else" is not just community members. The traditional press was blown off and, after our articles ran here, we heard from others who were blown off also. I think Billie should talk about the mood up to Isaiah's e-mail.

Billie: People were saying, "Forget this." They were saying worse than that, but I'll keep it clean. It was the typical DFW nonsense. Howard Dean came to Dallas and spoke during his 2004 campaign. He spoke in front of City Hall. I had no idea how many community members had attended that. This was before The Common Ills started but that was an example that people were citing in e-mails and phone calls.

Jim: Citing in what way?

Billie: The t-shirt crowd. The ones wearing their messages of 'peace' or plugging a website. The attitude of that event was "Come out, hear Howard and go away." If you attempted to approach someone wearing a t-shirt with a message you agreed with, you were brushed off. In one case, and I won't mention the website, very rudely and that was five different people that were given a "Go to hell" look as the jerk walked away from them. But as these stories were being shared -- while we were being blown off regarding the September 1st non-rally -- the attitude was, "Typical DFW 'peace' event." It's a tight little clique that wants crowds to turn out but doesn't want to mix. You had, prior to the blow offs, real excitement. We had members coming in from Oklahoma and were all figuring out the logistics of that in terms of who could house who. And it is amazing how quickly the enthusiasm cratered as a contact person -- and you were told you needed to contact if you planned to take photos for traditional press outlets or blogs -- day after day refused to answer. I was talking to C.I. about it -- C.I. was attempting to get the enthusiasm back up -- and I said nothing would work. Then I had an e-mail from C.I. and one from Isaiah. People were still leery of the event but had Isaiah gotten a reply, the enthusiasm would have shot up. At least somewhat. I know I was watching the clock at work the last hour, before 5:00 p.m., because Isaiah was going to call me. Which he did a few minutes after five to say that there had been no reply to any of the three e-mails. The fact that Isaiah was representing on behalf of the community and Third Estate and received no reply really destroyed the enthusiasm. That's when C.I. called me and said, "I'll come to Dallas tomorrow." But I'm probably jumping ahead.

Jim: Isaiah, anything to add to that?

Isaiah: Billie summarizes the feeling perfectly. I had to call her and 15 other people who were going to get the word out. I had hoped I would be saying, "We got a reply." That wasn't the call I made because that wasn't what happened. I called Billie first because I knew she had to pick up her kids from day care and didn't want to delay that. Then I called C.I. who was at Mike's and C.I. asked if I thought anyone would attend the rally? I said I doubted it. The mood was iffy by now and as the news spread, it was only going to get worse. I said something about it would take a real gesture to draw any interest and I meant from the organizers. C.I. sighed and said, "I'll fly out tomorrow morning. Will that make any difference?" And yeah, it would. Yeah, it did. I said I'd spoken to Billie already but would pass on to the other people I had to call that C.I. would be there and I heard Wally in the background tell C.I., "I'll go too." So I think when I got off the phone with C.I., I had Wally, C.I., Ava, Jess, Mike and Elaine confirmed as coming to town for the rally.

Billie: And this was late. I mean this is after 5:00 p.m. on Friday when people had pretty much written the event off. This was a holiday weekend and people had already made other plans. But those who could still make it, the reaction was, "If they're flying in, then I'll try to be there."

C.I.: I don't want to cut anyone off so if there's something to add, please do, and Dallas, you're welcome to speak as well; however, I do want to address that ____ false claim of Charlie whatever his name is "Too bad you didn't think to contact me about any of your issues or complaints. I'm not a journalist, but I usually try to go directly to organizers or other sources for verification...particularly if I don't get a response from a media contact."

Dona: That's what had Jim roaring with laughter, that b.s. The organizations had declared one media contact. They had supplied her name and her e-mail address. Forget for a moment that they had blown off multiple members, Isaiah contacted her on behalf of this site and The Common Ills and that was made perfectly clear. She was the designated media contact. The organizations picked her, we didn't. Isaiah had three attempts to contact her and she didn't reply. Three attempts on our behalf. She was quoted in the Dallas Morning News so we know she wasn't dead. Instead of whining to us, Charlie needs to figure out why their media contact person blew off everyone but especially why she refused to respond to Isaiah. If Isaiah didn't provide enough information -- possibly the woman needed to know his blood type as well -- his phone number was provided. The fact that your media contact failed at her job is not our problem.

Billie: I dropped my kids off at Sunday school, told my mom to take them to her house after church, and drove straight to the hotel you were all staying at. I was reading the almost final draft of both pieces. During this time, Isaiah was on a laptop checking his AOL account repeatedly. Before the articles posted, Isaiah had checked his account, Ty loaned me his laptop and I checked my e-mail account and Dallas was using his laptop to check his account. The media contact did not respond to any of us. Obviously Isaiah was the one to respond to since he wrote multiple times and was designated to represent Third Estate and The Common Ills. Dona was saying, "If there's any kind of an e-mail, we will work it into the articles." It was very clear to us, and to other members present who groaned every time Dona said that, that if the designated press contact responded before the article was published, the response would be included. If it was, as Jim put it, "My aunt was sick or my house was sprayed for bugs so I was busy last week and I apologize . . ." it would have been included. On Tuesday, C.I. called me and asked me to check with members as to whether or not they ever, after the event, heard a word from the contact person? I checked, no one did.

Jim: So Charlie, next time you write one of your e-mails about how someone should have checked with the organization, you might instead want to not waste our time and check to find out why your press contact refused to respond to her e-mails. That's your breakdown. Defocus all you want, but that's your breakdown.

Jess: There was no reason to check with Charlie or anyone. Yes, we had three outstanding e-mails that received no reply, via Isaiah. But we don't need to check with an organization -- a half-assed, b.s. organization that can't even stage a rally correctly -- to write about their disaster. We flew from Boston to Dallas. Betty flew from Georgia. Cedric had a wedding so he wasn't able to go. But Rebecca, Elaine, Mike, Jim, Wally, Ty, Dona, Kat, C.I., Ava and myself
flew from Boston to Dallas on a day we had better things to do. But we flew out and we reported two first hand accounts. Charlie, your event was a failure. Accept the blame you and others have earned. We didn't need to speak to you or to anyone organizing the event to know it was a failure. I've visited the DFW area with Ava and C.I. about five times now. When I saw Fort Worth was the location, right away I knew there would be a problem. That you and others didn't indicates how out of touch you are.

Billie: And I live in Fort Worth. This isn't Fort Worth bashing. But we are and forever will be "Cowtown." We've got the cattle auction and not a lot more. Even community members in Dallas were calling me to ask exactly where, this is with the street address, the event was being held? As one article points out, people have driven into Dallas for years. The State Fair, the Dallas Cowboys -- when they were in Dallas proper, concerts, events, to party, to do business, to attend conventions. I love Fort Worth and I love it because the pace is a little slower than in Dallas. But you don't stage a DFW event in Fort Worth.

Jim: Let's talk about the temperature because it was hot. Wally, who lives in Florida, got a sunburn that Saturday.

Wally: I should note C.I. and Ava were insisting everyone put on sunscreen and my attitude was, "Sunscreen? I'm from the Sunshine State!"

Billie: Well it was hot. And this "You can walk to the event from the train station" was nonsense. Or "at 12:30 we will have vehicles available to take you there." Well if vehicles are available, and this was why everyone was calling me asking exactly where the event was, how far is the event from the train station?

Isaiah: And this is the Trinity Express which connects the DFW area. It is not a Fort Worth train. Fort Worth does not yet have a train. To stress, as the group did, that you should take public transportation requires that they hold an event where public transportation is readily available.

Ava: And every 45 minutes or hour and five minutes or whatever the wait on the Trinity Express was is not public transportation. Public transportation is buses and trains, like that light rail --

Billie: DART express.

Ava: DART, thank you, that runs regularly throughout Dallas.

Billie: It needs to be noted that the party that night had over 1500 people there. I saw Dona, Jim and Ava taking notes repeatedly. C.I. was signing for at least two members who are deaf or I know C.I. would have been taking notes. I'm sure C.I. was registering the input without taking notes. I'm sure others of you were taking notes as well.

Isaiah: Exactly, all of those people weighing in and how many complaints came in on that article from community members?

Ty: None.

Isaiah: Exactly. I don't know what that guy thinks he is entitled to.

Jim: What he's entitled to is to speak with his media contact person and ask her why she didn't do her job.

Dona: Okay, then I think we're done.

C.I.: No, we aren't. Members expect me to speak up for them and there are issues we didn't cover here but we covered in the roundtable. I'll do this as quickly as possible. As Diana's oldest son, who goes to El Centro, noticed first, the organizations made no attempt to reach out to college students. Let's be really clear, community members in Texas care about ending the illegal war. They are not apathetic. They are not Bully Boy or War cheerleaders. They crave an event where they can register their opposition to the illegal war. Not one member knew about that event until the Tuesday before it when it was included in that day's "Iraq snapshot."
Charlie needs to take a look at how that happened. College students were shut out. Speakers did not go to local colleges to promote the event, they did not post information. We spoke on Saturday to a member who works at one of Dallas' public libraries. No information was posted at any of the Dallas branches and, had they been given information, it would have been posted on their bulletin boards. No postings at bus stations or train stations. No effort to get word out on the event. I believe a press release was sent out on Wednesday. Whatever day we quoted the press release in the snapshot, it was after Tuesday, was when the organization finally released -- online -- a press release. On a hot day, on a holiday weekend, they planned a nine to five event. Do they really think anyone wants to put in eight hours on their day off? Or, for that matter, to put in eight hours standing outside in the hot sun? In terms of East Texas members, again, no efforts made to reach out. How do you plan an event, line up name speakers, and expect people to come when you're not actively working to get the word out on it? That only underscored the impression that the event was a private party. This Charlie can kiss my ass because the number one complaint I heard was, "Everyone in the country is going to think, 'Bully Boy is from Texas and they support him' as a result of this sorry event." My concern isn't some stupid little whiner, my concern is being sure that Texas isn't again misrepresented. Texas has always been an active region for this community. And there was no way in hell that the organizations' failures were going to be pushed off on Texas. Charlie needs to stop whining and figure out exactly what his intention is because if he wants to do anything other than throw sparsely attended parties, he's got a lot of work to do. The DFW's local NBC channel does a report on how police are short on bullets due to the illegal war and I've got over 60 e-mails on that, Billie was the first to note it. There's a rally staged and no member knows about it? You damn well better believe the problem is with the organizers. Now when we got to . . . Help me out, I'm blanking. Where we got off the Trinity Express.

Billie: Union Station, in downtown Dallas.

C.I.: Thank you. When we got to Union Station, there were over sixty people there. Angry that the wrong time was posted -- at the event's website -- for how often the Trinity Express runs to Dallas. A number of people were, rightly, complaining that they should have just driven to Fort Worth. When you can't even get the basics down, when you create mass confusion, you have serious problems and they don't go to, "Oh, you didn't tell me you would write about us in a negative manner." They go to your failures. I'm probably forgetting something and my apologies to members in that area. I'm trying to rush through this but tick off the important points that members still complain about. And it is "still." For people outside the area, the event is over. For members in that area and in surrounding areas, it is not over.

Billie: The eight hours, just to pick up on that, the eight hours of the event was a big mistake. The whole timing was a huge mistake. Older members especially were not looking forward to eight hours in the Texas summer heat. A point you made, I don't think it was in the articles but C.I. wrote about this at The Common Ills, was that members were complaining about the timing and that is a good point. The event started at nine in the morning. If you're going to start that early, stage your rally at that time. Not mid-day to be followed by a march. The rally should have been before noon, the march should have been before noon. Texas is too hot to ever schedule a mid-day rally followed by a march in the summer. Older members, I'm speaking sixty-years-of-age and up, were especially dismayed by that. And let's point out that, yes, C.I. did note the event before the press release. None of us in Texas knew anything about it. I live in Fort Worth. A rally's taking place on Saturday and I haven't heard about it? I'm reading it about it the Tuesday before in C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot"? When I saw that in the snapshot, I used the link because I really couldn't believe it and the reason was because, we're talking my home town, we're talking where I have chosen to raise my family. I grew up in Dallas but chose to move to Fort Worth. My parents, my brother and my sisters all live in Dallas. My home is Fort Worth, Texas. How the hell do they plan an event in my hometown and I don't know about it and no one on my block knows about it and no one at my work knows about it and I'm learning about it from The Common Ills? I get home that evening and my answering machine is full of calls from members all over Texas that have my phone number. They're under the impression that this event is well known. ___ in Big Sandy, for instance, says, "I wish you'd told me but we're going to try to be there." I'm calling back as many as I can and explaining, "I didn't tell you because I didn't know about until I read C.I. today." I was far from the only one saying, at the party, that this is the typical area b.s. where people hold private parties and call them public but that is the pattern. And, yes, we do expect C.I. to speak up for us. I think Dallas made that point very clear at the party.

Dallas: Okay, I'll speak. Brief. Yeah, that was the fear of everyone at the party from Texas. Under 300 people show up for an event that's got Ann Wright, Adam Kokesh, Cindy Sheehan and countless others? A Saturday event? I mean, after 2004, we had to put up with that F--k The South nonsense online. We were all fully aware that what was probably going to happen was that the people of Texas would be blamed for the low attendance and not the people who planned it and planned it poorly.

Elaine: And that was a perfectly understandable fear. These were big name speakers. This was an event on a Saturday. To people outside the area, the easiest conclusion would have been, "Texans don't care about ending the illegal war." On September 1st, it was Texas. But it could be any place. September was supposed to be the month of protests. This was supposed to be the kick-off. I felt it was really important that both articles be written -- I prefer the second one because it makes me laugh -- because this is a story that needs to be told. Don't look at the numbers and say, "Well people don't care." You need to be aware that some people staging events are just inept.

Billie: I think "inept" is being kind but the mood was, "We're going to take the hit on this." We being people from Texas.

Jim: Does anyone have anything further to say?

C.I.: I wish I did. I'm sure I'll remember several other points members have raised in e-mails after we're done.

Jim: Okay, well, Isaiah, for the record, could you check your e-mail account right now and see if by some miracle, you suddenly have a reply from the press contact for the event?

Isaiah: Checking. Hold on. No. No, there's nothing.

Jim: We did not pick the event's press contact. Charlie Jackson can attempt to defocus from his organization's own failures all he wants, but they picked a press contact and she apparently had better things to do than the job she was picked for. As Billie pointed out, we did interview at the party. We're not required to seek out a comment from an organization to begin with but when Isaiah, representing us, has repeatedly attempted to contact the press contact and been repeatedly ignored, Charlie Jackson shouldn't get his panties, BVDs or whatever he wears or doesn't wear in a wad. We have repeatedly covered protests and rallies here and have never before had anyone from an organization come whining in an e-mail. When we cover protests, we're interested in the people participating. We are interested in their voices. We did "'Why Are You Here' and 'What's Changed'" -- to name but one -- and none of the 100 voices was from an organization sponsoring the event. The fact that you're interested in having the last word instead of addressing why your event failed demonstrates to us not only why your event was a failure but why you still have problems. Whining in an e-mail won't change that. Billie and Isaiah, you're welcome to stay on the line and continue listening -- and welcome to chime in if you stay on the line -- but we're going to move on to another topic.

Billie: If I can add one last thing, C.I. is right. If you had e-mailed a reply to Charlie Jackson, the community would have been outraged. Maybe not the entire community, but members from my area -- ones who were ignored or ones who heard about the ignoring -- would have been outraged.

Jim: That's a good point and thank you for bringing it up. To be clear, if you blow off community members, you better not expect a personal reply from this site. I should have grasped that without C.I. pointing it out. One of the funniest things to happen, on a related note, since we started this site was to read an e-mail from someone at a daily paper who refused to respond to the e-mails from Dona, me and other students at our old campus in New York. Suddenly, we were on a 'different' level because of this site? I don't think so. Dona?


Dona: Last week an e-mail also came in regarding "United for Peace and Some Justice?" and about the Just Foreign Policy counter. From the e-mail: "You wrote that the counter 'adds reported deaths to it (reported since the study).' That's not quite true." Summarizing the rest of the e-mail. Just Foreign Policy uses estimates but they use them for an estimate instead of just adding them to the total. That's due to the under-reporting of Iraqi deaths. They are tracking trends. If I didn't explain that correctly, please let me know. I should point out that, as noted in the article, Ava and C.I. didn't work on that. They had a number of things to do and a number of reasons for making the decision not to work on it. In addition, they didn't read over it because they had to catch a plane back to California for that night's Emmys. Jess and Ty went with them. Had we all been at full force, I would hope the mistake wouldn't have been made. But it was made and my apologies for the mistake. If I've summarized it incorrectly, please let me know. We'll be noting that in another feature as well as providing a link in the older article.

Jim: Dona was also sick last week --

Rebecca: I say from the spraying of the crowd in DC.

Jim: Rebecca says from the spraying of the crowd of in DC. We posted very late and put up "Note" so that everyone would know that. Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I. helped out as much as they could with typing and editing and Dona summoned strength that even surprised me -- I know how strong she is -- but with losing Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I. due to their needing to catch a plane, we were all tired and frazzled. As soon as they landed, they called to work on the note to the readers and were surprised that things were still being posted. It was that kind of a session.
"A Note to Our Readers" is really my thing with others shouting out stuff while I'm typing so I'm responsible for typos or errors in that. Trina of Trina's Kitchen did not get a mention or a thank you in the note for her participation in "Book: Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine." That was a huge oversight on my part and I apologize to her. On Mondays, Mike does his version of the note. His "Marjorie Cohn, Third" covers this and many other things. I'll add that when Mike informed I forgot his mother, I immediately went to Trina to apologize and she said "nothing to get worked up over." Maybe not for her, but we did appreciate her contribution and she needs to be noted. Mike also points out that "The Peace Resister pretends to be about peace" was recommended as a topic not only from people at The Nation but also from Rebecca's mother-in-law. I left out credit for Rebecca's mother-in-law in the note. My apologies to her. Tossing to Ty.

Ty: 32 complaints came in Sunday and Monday on "United for Peace and Some Justice?" with all maintaining that Phyllis Bennis and Eric Leaver should be taken to task for undercounting the Iraqi dead and not United for Peace & Justice. The 32 offered statements such as, this is Tammi, "They didn't write the report. Bennis and Leaver are supposed to be experts. They trusted them to conduct themselves like expert." Last Wednesday, C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" noted that United for Peace & Justice had raised the figure to over one million -- from "over 600,000 plus." 17 of the 32 complaining e-mailed to withdraw their complaint. I'm going to toss to Elaine.

Elaine: I didn't have time for my e-mails until Friday. Jim, Dona, Mike, Rebecca, Trina and others stayed in DC through at least Wednesday. Sunny, who runs my office, was on vacation. I came back for sessions on Thursday and didn't have time to go through all the e-mails that had piled up, e-mails to my site, until Friday. United for Peace & Justice e-mailed C.I., Rebecca and myself Tuesday. On Friday, I noted the change in "Kevin & Monica Benderma, United for Peace & Justice." C.I. saw the e-mail on Tuesday and first noted the change on Tuesday in "Addendum" and called all of us to inform us of the change. Those posting on Wednesday included reposted the "Iraq snapshot" which covered the chance United for Peace & Justice made.

Cedric: In our joint-posts, Wally and I don't post the snapshot in full. We grab a section of it. In our excerpt, we included "In other peace news, United for Peace & Justice states they are using the Just Foreign Policy count for Iraqis who have died in the illegal war. The report on the state of Iraq has been updated to note the Iraqi dead during the illegal war is over a million." At Cedric's Big Mix (backup site), I repost Wally and my joint-post and then I repost the snapshot in full.

Betty: Trina and I both only post one day a week. Trina noted the change in "Kugel in the Kitchen." My site is fiction and I'm working from an outline. Trying to find a way to work in the update was a pain in the butt. Kat and C.I. spent an hour on the phone with me Saturday morning while we brainstormed ways to work it into the chapter whose big point is that Thomas Friedman did not kidnap Betinna because he was attracted to her or loved her. That's "A little bit of reality from Nicky K" and it includes: "Last week, I was shocked that United for Peace & Justice would post a report undercounting the Iraqi dead. They've since corrected their report. But that was shocked." I know this isn't a correction, it's an update. But for the record, I will never again waste my time trying to work in an update. I feel like I failed Betinna -- and she's very real to me -- wasting so much time working on United for Peace & Justice's update to something that they never should have taken place in to begin with. The point of this was to flip the storyline and lay the groundwork for some dark times coming Betinna's way. Instead, I'm obsessing on how to include the fact that United for Peace & Justice finally did the right thing. So to be clear, I will never again waste my time on an update. It completely threw off the chapter. It wasn't a correction so it wasn't needed. A point both C.I. and Kat made repeatedly as we were brainstorming for some way that I include it. I had to trash my first six paragraphs to alter the tone, which was much darker, to make Betinna's observation work. Repeating, I will not ever do that again. Ever. My first duty is to Betinna. The way the chapter originally read, Nicky K's confession was prompted by the fact that he saw Betinna's copy of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism. I had to lose that and many other details. Never again. On a good day, my sister's watching my kids, I sit down at the computer and let Betinna speak to me. Instead, I was forcing it and I hate that chapter. Never again.

Kat: Betty doesn't type up something and say, "Done!" When you read something at her site, she's gone through a minimum of five drafts. And by "drafts," I don't mean she changed a sentence or two. She may have trashed everything. She may have kept only one sentence. After she finishes each draft, she calls C.I. and I and reads it to both of us. I will hear, if I'm not at C.I.'s when she calls, "Do you really think that makes sense because I got the feeling from C.I. that it didn't?" And I'm sure C.I. hears the same thing about me from Betty. We both told her not to worry about including United for Peace & Justice. I love what went up but what she had in the first drafts was so beautifully dark -- and laying the groundwork for what's to come in future chapters -- that I insisted she forget about including United for Peace & Justice. She included the update and it took her forever to find a way. In order to do so, she had to change the tone of the chapter. If you think about it, grasp that Betinna's just had a blow to the gut, and is writing about it after, you realize how much was sacrificed to include that update. I'll back Betty up by saying there was no need for an update and United for Peace & Justice should have had their act together from the start. No offense, Elaine.

Elaine: None taken. You're entitled your opinion and I don't disagree with it. If I did, you'd still be entitled to your opinion. While I'm glad they made the change the reality is that it never should have happened. I'm sorry Betty had to go through all of that and wish she'd called Rebecca because Rebecca hasn't written about it for the reasons you're outlining.

Rebecca: I included the snapshot. It covered it. It covered the update. United for Peace & Justice does not want me to share my thoughts on it, trust me. That's the group Elaine supports, she knows my feelings and she doesn't have a problem with them. So she's got no problem with what Kat's shared.

Jim: Okay, tossing to Ty with a complaint specific to this site but true of all sites. Ty?

Ty: Actually, that's to Jess.

Jim: Sorry. Jess.

Jess: Yeah, Dona asked me to check e-mails to this site. Normally, I don't anymore unless Ty's on vacation because Ava and I, and now Dona, are among the ones helping out with the members accounts and the public account at The Common Ills. But Dona pulled Jim off the e-mail account of this site after Charlie Jackson e-mailed because she was afraid if he wrote again, Jim would respond via e-mail. So I saw an e-mail from James that is one that comes in from time to time. He'd received a reply from Dona and he was confused because she mentioned something in it that indicated it had been written late at night and it hadn't arrived until that morning. No one hear sends out e-mails. We respond, save it to the draft folder and then one of four people send them out. Ron of Why Are We Back In Iraq and Raw Story early on explained problems with us sending them out. Even Sunny, if she's replying for Elaine, saves to draft and one of the four designated senders sends out the e-mail. When we respond, we don't usually mention time to avoid confusion. Sometimes we do. And less and less people will get responses as a result of an e-mail I wrote being passed on. We'll include comments, questions and criticisms in e-mails but after I got burned, no one's going to go out of their way to reply to strangers. If I could add something not related to this topic, I also support United for Peace & Justice. It's not just Elaine. She's been a vocal champion of the organization and that really is the primary organization she supports. That's true of me as well. I understand Kat and Betty's point -- and Rebecca's -- and am not offended but I do credit them for changing the count. I do think it was a mistake to include the undercount to begin with -- and that's putting it mildly -- but it took character to update it.

Jim: Tonya e-mailed about "Book: Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine" which she bought on Tuesday and says the discussion really peaked her interest; however, she thinks it was a "huge mistake" not to go into the human abuse "more because everyone's talking about that in all the reviews." Dona's handed me a note and says Mike, Wally and Cedric especially need to talk on this because they've had the least participation.

Wally: If you see a dog laying on the side of the road, it may grab you. And you may just focus on that. You may not wonder about the conditions that allowed for it to be hit. It would be very easy to talk about just the human rights abuses. That is Klein's starting point in her book. And I've read some of those reviews that focus on that. I honestly think, since they don't build from that, they've just read the opening which is very powerful but just lays the first step. Before the discussion, we outlined several things that needed to be hit upon. We all knew the human rights abuses -- which are touched on collectively and Jim notes an individual case at the end -- would be covered in all the reviews but other things might not be. So we elected not to make that our foucs and we think that was in keeping with the book itself.

Cedric: Exactly. Because what is one of the biggest problems Naomi Klein identifies: that human rights abuses do not happen in a vacuum and yet they are treated by many human rights organizations as if they do. C.I. and Ava led the pre-discussion discussion on the book and raised this issue. I believe Ava worded it along the lines of, "Are we going to be Nicholas Kristof and work up outrage over individuals while missing the larger picture that allows all of these abuses to take place or are we going to be serious?" I had honestly marked a passage on abuse because those things grab you. I was planning to discuss that. But the point was clearly made by Ava and C.I. to all of us: If you read the book, you will be grabbed. But are you going to grasp the underlying causes or just play "Oh, that poor man. Oh, that poor woman."?

Mike: Right. Elaine came in to the pre-discussion having done a lot of work compiling notes on the Asian Tigers and she ditched that, all of her work, because Ava and C.I. were correct. It's really easy to go, "Oh, the tragedy!" And to focus on one or two examples. The reality is that many examples aren't in the book. It would take a multi-volume series to cover all the individual abuses. And it's easy to run with that and to sensationalize the book, in my opinion, and avoid addressing the issues that promote the abuses and allow them to continue. We're also not doing a book report. This isn't, "Hey, read our discussion and skip the book!" We're not spoonfeeding. But at the same time, we are thinking about what really needs to be noted and about what won't get noted. Ava and C.I. ended up grabbing the topics they did because no one else wanted them. I'm not even sure if they suggested the topics. But they were on the list that we agreed to in the pre-discussion and they grabbed them because no one else did. Jim also made it clear to them, and to the rest of us, that they needed to speak because in an earlier roundtable, they hadn't.

Jim: That was actually the "Mailbag" from the week prior and complaints did come in asking why Ava and C.I. didn't speak more. I'll toss to Ava.

Ava: As Dona always points out, C.I. and I are the ones taking notes. I'm speaking so now it's just C.I. We do our own version of short-hand. So any feature that's a roundtable or a mailbag or a book discussion, we're busy taking notes. Kat and Jim will also take notes on other features. If they're not written in transcript form, Kat and Jim will take notes. So you have that for starters. It's equally true that each week C.I. and I have the TV pieces where we can weigh in. Last week there was a question of do we want to weigh in on the issue? The feeling was, "We take the time to write that and sure enough will apologize for it." Our time was very limited. But C.I. and I did carry that concern over the issue over to our TV commentary ["TV: What does it take to cancel this show?"]. To use Betty as an example, her site really doesn't provide her with an opportunity to sound off. That is Betinna's story, not Betty's. So she is someone who needs to be heard in this format at this site. Similarly, Cedric and Wally are doing joint-posts that are usually humorous -- sometimes they're so disgusted with something that they don't go with humor -- and that's also confining. Here they can speak out and just share. So that's going to cut down on some of the issue of C.I. and I contributing to these things.

Dona: And that's not the full story. It's equally true that Ava and C.I.'s TV commentaries are, week in and week out, the thing the bulk of the e-mails are about. Ava and C.I. work very hard not to hog the glory or overshadow the rest of us. They wouldn't say that -- in any terms -- but it is true. That is, always has been, this site's calling card. Were that not true, I know for a fact they'd contribute at length during transcript pieces. Rebecca and I discussed this back in July, when we were all together out in California.

Rebecca: And I hadn't noticed it until Dona pointed it out. I now make it a point to keep my remarks brief because I do sound off at my site. Betty, Wally and Cedric really should be given the opportunity to speak more in these things. I spoke to Kat about it and her attitude is, "I try to contribute one thing."

Kat: Which is what I do but, if you'll notice, Dona had to pass a note to Jim pointing out that Wally and Cedric -- and Mike -- needed to respond to the question. Which raises the issue of what good does it do for any of us to hold back? I'm not slamming anyone -- not Wally or Cedric or Ava and C.I. -- but I'm noting that what we've attempted to create, this space, really hasn't been grabbed and Dona's offered the opinion that what Ava and C.I. did last week before we got ready for the discussion of Naomi Klein's book needs to happen each week. I see her point. Divy up topics and see if that results in what we're trying to do.

Wally: Or how about telling me? I'm laughing, by the way. I didn't realize that was being done. here's what's been done, and we haven't said a word, on our end -- the guys participating by phone. Cedric's pointed out that in many exchanges, it's very easy for men to hog all the time. So Cedric, Mike and I have tried to make sure we're not hogging the time.

Kat: Or how about telling each other? That's a good point. I had no idea that was going on. But Dona, Rebecca and I have been talking since July about how little the participation from you three has been and how we can increase it.

Betty: Meanwhile I just pipe off about anything.

Ty: And, from the e-mails, your approach results in you being one of the biggest stars of this format. So we should probably all try to follow Betty's lead.

Jim: And Dona's freaking out over the time of this feature so other topics will become individual features or we'll try to make them that.

Mike: One more thing before we wind down. Vic.

Jim: That's right. One more ommission from my note last week. Elaine did the best job explaining that last week in "Isaiah, Free Sami Al-Haj and more." Before I got to DC, I was supposed to have scanned Naomi Klein's book jacket. That was because some dufus was e-mailing Elaine disputing that she was reading the book. [See Elaine's " Cindy Sheehan, Patrick Cockburn, Naomi Klein."] So I was supposed to grab a vinyl cover of a Mamas and Papas album and put that behind the jacket on the scanner and scan it. I never did. I ran out of time. I forgot about it and when it was time to think about the illustration, C.I. had to send out a call to various community members to see if they had the book and could scan it? Vic in Canada had a copy of the book and scanned the cover for us. He should have been thanked for that last week. I rushed through the note and my apologies to Vic.

Thank you Lizette Jenness Olmos and all the rest

Our apologies to the mainstream media.

You won't read that here very often.

Why now?

Univision hosted a Democratic presidential candidate forum Sunday, September 9th. Though the highest rated of any of the forums, that didn't translate into a higher level of mainstream press -- or little press -- attention. In fact, it appeared to get more attention from the ratings than from the actual forum.

Little media -- we'll be kind and won't name names -- showed more interest in pre-coverage for an upcoming forum hosted by Slate, Arianna Huffington and others than in any kind of coverage of the debate that Univision televised.

Not this past Friday, but the week before, a professor on a campus we were speaking at, who is Latino, listened to us talk about our planned feature and said what we really needed to do was to provide a forum for Latino voices to weigh in. Great idea.

He came up with a list. It included organizations and individuals. He noted some academics that were always dying to weigh in and complaining to him that they never got asked for quotes.

C.I. and Ava were against it. They pointed out we were trying to raise awareness about the big DC event the following day and about the illegal war so we didn't have time to waste on e-mails.

We ignored their reservations.

We wrote 52 e-mails and they went out later that morning.

This was going to be great.

The Univision debate was historic and we'd be writing a piece on it and doing what the mainstream media didn't (with few exceptions) -- providing Latino voices.

That feature didn't run last week.

Our apologies to the mainstream media because we have assumed that they naturally choose to shut out Latino voices. That may not be the case. Latino voices may choose not to respond.

That's what happened here.

Background on the e-mail. We were brief (and the professor helped with the basic e-mail) and noted we were looking for a quote for a feature we would be doing about the Univision broadcast, how it reached a larger TV audience (that's not counting the radio broadcast or the webstreaming) than any other forum. It was basic, it was to the point. (With one academic, we went beyond that because the professor said the way to hook her was to mention another topic, which we did.)

And the replies? 31 academics didn't reply. 7 did promising quotes by the end of the work day that Friday. Those promised quotes never emerged.

Well, maybe they prefer to complain that no one ever asks their opinion and responding might have prevented them from whining in the future?

Univision didn't bother to respond. We wrote in English and in Spanish (twisting Ava's arm to get an e-mail in Spanish). Maybe there's a third language we should have tried?

We wrote organizations. And we'll name one person in particular. Not just because Ava thought she was a "huckster" (that's putting it nicely) but because we think she's a lousy spokesperson.

Lizette Jenness Olmos. She is the Communications Director for LULAC. While others responded begging off (including one organization that made it clear they don't get along with Univision), she wrote back, "Yes we can provide that. What is your deadline?" She wrote that Friday September 14th.

We were on another campus and C.I. was giving Jim a dirty look because Jim was hunched over the laptop while he should have been listening to students speaking about the illegal war. But Jim knew a batch of e-mails would go out in about 15 minutes and had wanted to check to see if anyone had responded and had a question?

He replied that the deadline was Sunday morning. He also noted that if that wasn't enough time for LULAC, they could send a comment next week and we'd make a point to note it then.

Apparently Lizette Jenness Olmos is in the business of making promises she doesn't keep which means she really shouldn't be in the position of "Communications Director." Not only did we not have a quote by last Sunday morning, she never bothered to send anything last week.

On behalf of LULAC, she apparently feels that the Univision forum wasn't anything worth commenting about.

We could note the nun (that Ava said, "Oh please, that woman's a witch") that blew us off as well. She promised a quote and never delivered.

Does this happen all the time?

Maybe it does. If that's the case, the reason Latinos weren't asked to weigh in on the forum by the mainstream press -- while White, Jewish men could be found in piratically every article -- may have to do with the fact that people don't waste their time attempting to get a quote from those who blow them off.

If that was the case, our apologies to the mainstream media.

We thought the forum was worth noting. Worth celebrating. But instead, last week, we offered

"On Univision Dodd & Edwards play War Hawks." That's because those promising quotes never delivered. If that's how they respond to the mainstream media as well, expect to read a lot more White, Jewish males explaining how Latinos think. And don't, as we did, blame the mainstream media for that.

The peace movement has never been all White, all straight, all male or any other stereotype

Yearwood notes that people are angry. He then wrongly claims, "And you’re seeing a peace movement now that hasn’t been seen. You’re seeing black and white and brown and yellow, male and female, straight and gay, coming together, because we understand that this is one of the most important -- this is our lunch counter moment for the twenty-first century." Ava: "Get your facts right. Latinos and Latinas have been involved all along -- Aidan Delgado, Camilo Mejia, Fernando Suarez del Solar, Pablo Paredes -- all who didn't just take part in the March for Peace in 2006, they led it, they organized it -- as well as many others. Gays and lesbians have done their part, as have people of all races. This Latina is getting damn sick of someone suffering intense media damage repeatedly distorting the face of the peace movement. Stop the spin, it's insulting." Ava is 100% correct and we do not and will not ever push the lie that the peace movement is or has been universally white, Anglo and straight. We didn't push the lie that students were "apathetic" either. There are enough lies out there without more being added. This community found the lie of student 'apathy' offensive and it's made it very clear that it finds the lie that simplifies a highly diverse peace movement offensive. If you're looking at the peace movement and only seeing White, Anglo and straight, the problem is with you, your media or actions you are electing to take part in.

The above was supposed to run in the September 13th "Iraq snapshot." There is a K limit on how long e-mailed entries can be and to address other things (in this instance the undercount of Iraqis who had died during the illegal war done by Phyllis Bennis and Eric Leaver), C.I. had to pull it. It was noted at The Common Ills that we would address it here. There wasn't time last week.

That was a Thursday and by the time they were speaking in the afternoon (Ava, C.I., Rebecca, Ty, Jess, Jim, Dona and Kat), students were already raising that issue. (One of whom e-mailed us to make sure we didn't forget to cover it this week.)

Yearwood has continued to repeat this false talking point. We've addressed it here before. In fact, we've addressed that nonsense long before Yearwood started repeating it. After he did, we addressed it in "Roundtable" and "2 Books, 20 minutes" and apparently we'll need to keep addressing it since the lie keeps getting repeated. From "Roundtable:"

Ava: I have not only never missed a peace action in my own area, I have regularly traveled to DC and NYC for national actions. Since Pinkney wanted to be a defender of "Brown" people as well as African-Americans, let me put this real simple: Shut the hell up. I'm far from the only Latin face in the peace movement. I don't need his or Yearwood's stereotyping of the movement as a "White" movement. Cedric made the point that minorities in the general public will usually be minorities in movements representing a broad section. That's basic. I've already had to live through the "Students Are Apathetic!" myth that the alternative press and the mainstream media was happy to run with, I'll be damned if I'm going to be robbed and see others robbed of the very real contributions because Yearwood and Pinkney want to lie and claim the peace movement is all White. Maxine Hong-Kingston, Alice Walker, whom Betty was just mentioning, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Camilo Mejia, Aidan Delgado, Ehren Watada, are famous people of color in the peace movement, but they are far from the only people of color in the peace movement. That the mainstream press has marginalized people of color -- in every way, in every movement -- is not surprising, that alleged defenders want to do the same is disgusting. It needs to be called out. Ty's the only one of us, the core six responsible for this site, who has never said, "Let's drop ___ from the links" before. We were on the road speaking at campuses -- where we saw many of color who are part of the peace movement -- and Ty came over to C.I. and I on Thursday, after one African-American woman spoke loudly against Pinkey's nonsense and said, "I really want to delink from The Black Commentator." He had our full and immediate support. He had that with everyone responsible for this site as they learned about it. Certainly the community was pushing for that as well. It was insulting and it goes against everything we are working for and believe in. Let me add Bob Watada to the list of famous because he's an amazingly strong voice for peace. There are many others but they all get robbed, as do the non-famous, of their earned credit when someone has an axe to grind and wants to repeat lies that the peace movement is universally "White."

From "2 Books, 20 minutes:"

Ava: And if I can grab a moment here to make a point that should be obvious but apparently isn't obvious to all. Aidan Delgado is Latino. He is very much a part of the peace movement and he is very much a visible part of the peace movement. In light of lies that the peace movement is all "White," I think we need to note that.

We're not interested in covering Yearwood. If that wasn't clear before "John Conyers Is No MLK (Betty, Cedric & Ty)" went up, let's make it clear now. C.I. noted Yearwood in the snapshot on the 13th of this month and had to argue with everyone that it was news (Yearwood being assaulted). Betty and Cedric were the last hold outs. C.I. said, "If anyone says 'no,' I won't even mention it. But I do think it's news and I do think it needs to go in." Betty and Cedric agreed and it went in.

That's really it as far as we're concerned. We're sick of the false stereotyping that Yearwood continues to repeat. Whether it's Ava, Cedric, Betty or Ty, or a reader or community member, we're all aware that people of color are damn sick of it. We're also aware, though we're apparently not supposed to talk about it, that a blogger wrote Rebecca with a question and she answered it only to find out that he forwarded her e-mail to Yearwood. No one had Rebecca's permission to forward her e-mail. When Rebecca confronted the blogger with the fact that he had forwarded her e-mail, he denied it. Then he attempted to act as though Rebecca was emotional and crazy. Let's be clear, the e-mail was forwarded and we'll be damn happy to scan a print out of the forward if anyone wants to play dumb.

We mention that because suddenly Rebecca, and other sites in the community, are getting e-mails from Yearwood. Save your time. We don't even open them. We are not interested in highlighting any event you're doing because we are grossly offended that you think you can write to Rebecca and never say, "Hey, about that e-mail of yours I was forwarded, I had nothing to do with that . . ." or anything else. [The nicest explanation is that Yearwood had no involvement in the forwarding.]

It happened.

We have all read the entire exchange between Rebecca and the blogger over this. He refused to answer why he forwarded the e-mail. He responded that Rebecca was attacking him by accusing him of fowarding her. This isn't a baseless accusation. Her e-mail was forwarded.

We have no idea why. How could we when the blogger refused to answer Rebecca's question? When he denied fowarding her e-mail?

But the worst case scenario is that someone wanted to have a few 'chuckles' at Rebecca's expense. A blogger shows up all "Hey, cool site blah blah blah, got a question blah blah blah" and Rebecca replied briefly only to learn her reply was being circulated online.

Trust us, Rebecca didn't attack him. Reading her e-mails to the blogger after she learned she was forwarded, we're shocked she held her tongue. She stayed on the issue even when the blogger tried to defocus and deny. She never took it to a personal level but kept repeating why did you forward the e-mail and why are you lying to me?

He never answered her.

[Rebecca's written about this and included excerpts in her August 14th post "a big name blogger writes me."]

Going out on a sidebar, that's at least the second cozy up and pretend you're a friend person who's come along and forwarded an e-mail. Jess' e-mail responding to a pathetic explanation/apology from someone ended up being sport for some at The Nation -- strange since it wasn't sent to The Nation or anyone officially working (even as a freelancer) for The Nation. (As C.I. notes, "The fact that the man contacting The Common Ills sent an e-mail with the private correspondence of a journalist should have been the tip off that scruples were in short supply. Had I known that the e-mail contained private correspondence posted into it, I would have told Jess not to even bother replying.") And, as we've stated, Jess didn't say anything embarrassing. C.I. heard the e-mail, from friends at The Nation. But if the person who thought it was okay to stab Jess in the back wants to be embarrassed we can post his e-mail in full with all the private e-mails he included in it. We doubt that will go over very well with journalists who write him -- they will be apt to wonder, "If he would copy and paste _____'s private e-mails to him and sent them to someone else, what's he doing with our e-mails?" Good question.

So when people don't understand -- people who show up at this late date -- why they don't get a personal reply, that's why. At this site, longterm readers and community members (there is overlap) get personal replies. Everyone else is on a case by case basis. And for over a year now, one person or persons has repeatedly attempted to pass themselves off as community member Liang. We have Liang's phone number (she lives in the Bay Area) and when those come in, we pick up the phone and ask, "Did you write this?" It's always a mistake to pass yourself off as Liang because those of us in California see her several times a week so right away we think, "How strange that Liang would write us at the site and not at our personal accounts? How strange that she would ask ___ in an e-mail instead of over the phone, in text or in person? Liang knows what campus we attended. Did she hit her head and lose her memory?"

CounterSpin: radio comedy with plenty of laughs

Last week in "United for Peace and Some Justice?" we noted that Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting allowed Phyllis Bennis to state the following on CounterSpin (CounterWhen?) unchecked:

Now apparently they're making body counts. So nobody has asked them, "Excuse me, general, when did you start doing body counts?" From the beginning you told us 'We don't do bodycounts.' When did that [tracking the number of Iraqis killed] begin? When do these figures start from?

As we noted, we were howling with laughter as Bennis claimed that the count had suddenly appeared with no questions being asked -- no one ever asking when the count started.

Janine Jackson and Steve Rendall co-hosted that broadcast and they remained mute -- either because they were as uninformed as Bennis or because they didn't want to correct her.

It needed correcting. Bennis was completely wrong.

Bennis questions asked the week before last were answered in June 2006. In fact, on June 26, 2006 which is the first time Nancy A. Youssef's report made the papers. It was noted in the June 26th "Iraq snapshot" that day. It was noted repeatedly afterwards.

It was repeatedly noted at The Common Ills and other community sites (including this one) because, pay attention Bennis, Rendall and Jackson, it was NEWS. In fact, reviewing the lows and really lows of 2006, C.I. again mentioned Youssef's report in "2006: The Year of Living Dumbly" in a long list of Iraq related news that independent media couldn't be counted on to report in the summer of 2006:

Or how about the fact that the US military was keeping a body count on Iraqi deaths? Nancy A. Youssef broke that story, that the US military had been doing that for almost a year, in June. That news lost out to elections . . . in Mexico -- what independent media was all geared up to make the summer story until they dropped everything to head off to the Middle East.

Over a year after Youssef reported it, three months short of a year since C.I. included it as one of the most under reported stories in 2006, along comes Bennis to, with assist from Jackson and Rendall, demonstrate just how hopelessly out of touch little media remains as though they're still recovering from their vacations during the summer of 2006.

As noted in last Monday's snapshot, Bennis, Jackson and Rendall had "ass on their face." In the same snapshot, someone at ABC News pointed out that CounterSpin would issue no correction, "They never do. It's always do as I say not as I do with them." Call us crazy, but if you're a media critic claiming "FAIR"ness, we're not really sure that's the rep you should be going for.

But it's the rep they earned with the latest installment of CounterSpin (hosted by Janine Jackson and Peter Hart) where they avoided issuing any correction although maybe that wouldn't have left time for the brava performance of a chat show host during "this week's headlines"? (A performance that the network in question says was far more dramatic in CounterSpin's Cops' like reenactment than when the original was broadcast -- again, there's that issue of "FAIR." The network pinned it off on the frustrated acting ambitions of FAIR.)

Now if the CounterSpin players and Bennis can pay attention for a moment, we'll flashback to inform of them of what they either do not know or wish to pretend they don't know. From Youssef's June 21, 2006 article:

U.S. officials previously have said they don't keep track of civilian causalities, and Iraqi officials stopped releasing numbers of U.S.-caused casualties after Knight Ridder reported in September 2004 that the Iraqi Ministry of Health had attributed more than twice as many civilian deaths to the actions of U.S. forces than to "terrorist" attacks during the period from June 2004 to September 2004.
Chiarelli declined to release the numbers, but he said that U.S. soldiers are killing and injuring fewer Iraqi civilians this year in so-called "escalation of force" incidents at checkpoints and near convoys than they did in July of last year, when officials first started tracking the statistic.

Bennis maintained that the body count just suddenly appeared and no one had asked about that and no one had ever asked when the count started being kept. Obviously, Bennis was wrong. By their continued refusal to correct the record, they continue to have "ass on their face."

But don't worry CounterSpin Players, your theater troupe is providing many laughs for big media and isn't that the point? It's not. Oh well.

As one news producer laughed of Bennis remark's, "She made a big deal over the US military's statement that they don't keep bodycounts. What she demonstrated was FAIR doesn't do research." Harsh? You have only yourselves to blame. On the up, you had a lot of big media listening in on Friday to hear whether or not you'd issue a correction. When you didn't, the laughter was so loud that we'd suggest you hone your comedy chops.

How does that line in Rogers & Hart's "Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered" go? Because the laugh's on who? Sing it, FAIR, sing it.

Why we'd give Congress' SCHIPs proposals a veto

In his radio address on Saturday, the Bully Boy made clear his intent to veto Congress' planned SCHIP bill by declaring, "Instead of working with my Administration to enact this funding increase for children's health, Democrats in Congress have decided to pass a bill they know will be vetoed." What's SCHIP?

It's the State Children's Health Insurance Program: "This is Title XXI of the Social Security Act and is jointly financed by the Federal and State governments and administered by the States. Within broad Federal guidelines, each State determines the design of its program, eligibility groups, benefit packages, payment levels for coverage, and administrative and operating procedures. SCHIP provides a capped amount of funds to States on a matching basis for Federal fiscal years (FY) 1998 through 2007. Federal payments under title XXI to States are based on State expenditures under approved plans effective on or after October 1, 1997."

Bully Boy's against it, it's children's health, we must be for it!

Well make up your own mind, but we actually support the veto based on the Senate plan.

Delaware's The News Journal editorializes today: "The Senate version will pay for this expansion with an increase in the federal cigarette tax of 61 cents a pack. That added tax had the political benefit of drawing the endorsement of the American Cancer Society and imposing on a powerless group, smokers. It sounds dandy, but it's an increasingly unreliable revenue source."

Our opposition zooms in on the same thing but for different reasons.

We were against it in July when Marianne Wright Edleman spoke with Amy Goodman about it.

AMY GOODMAN: Where do cigarettes come into this?
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Well, cigarettes come into that because cigarettes kill and cigarettes provoke lung cancer, and every child and every human being we can, by increasing the cigarette tax, stop from smoking or slow down from smoking is going to have a public health benefit, save taxpayers money from the cost of the effects of smoking and tobacco. And so, the Senate has said that this is going to be a six -- they are going to impose a sixty-one-cent increase on the tobacco tax, that would yield about $35 billion, far short of the $50 billion that they promised in their budget regulation resolution. But this is the first step, and it's a good thing to have a cigarette tax. The more people we can stop smoking, the more lives we’ll save and the more taxpayer money we will save in hospital and other cost.

We like Marian Wright Edelman, we think she does outstanding work at the Children's Defense Fund where she is president and which she founded.

When the interview aired we were against it and said, "As soon as it's vetoed, we're writing about it." With Bully Boy declaring he will veto it, we'll jump the date.

There are a number of troubling things to us about the statements made on Democracy Now!

Cigarettes are legal. Until they are illegal, it's really no one's business if someone smokes. "Public health" is the sort of cry that leads the left to look like they're attempting to turn the United States into The Nanny Nation. Adults can make their own decisions of whether to smoke or not. (Disclosure: Dona smokes. Rebecca states she intends to as soon as she finishes nursing.) The idea that you can curtail perfectly legal behavior by raising taxes isn't something we support. We find it very offensive.

If the Children's Defense Fund wants to focus on children, we'd suggest they do just that and stay out of the business of adults' personal habits.

But, believe it or not, that's not even our biggest concern.

What's our biggest concern?

Does the left (including Democrats or at least some) support a flat tax?

A flat tax is where every American, regardless of whether they earn a few thousands a year or millions, would be taxed at the same rate. Some on the right push this as "fair." They want you to believe that a family of three living on $18,000 a year can be taxed at, say, 10% and so can someone pulling in $5 million.

We don't believe that's fair. We believe taxes should be progressive and the more you make, the more of a percentage you should pay.

That didn't used to be a controversial position in this country. If you made a great deal more, you paid a greater percentage. But the right has pushed that 'equality' is everyone paying the same rate as if it's equal for a single-working mother to pay 10% on $18,000 and a someone making $5 million to pay 10% on the income. The mother pays $1,800 and while that is small fries to someone pulling in millions, it's a very significant amount that's not going to feed her family.

As opponents of the flat tax, we don't see why anyone on the left would attempt to ease it into existence but we feel the Senate SCHIP proposal does just that. Every time a national 'sin' tax goes into effect, it argues that a percentage is fair.

A millionaire smoking cigarettes can well afford sixty-one cents for every pack of cigarettes. What about the lower income person?

Marian Wright Edelman wants to stomp out cigarette smoking. We don't feel that's the goal of the Children's Defense Fund and are unaware of any huge increase in juvenile smoking, but have at it.

Even so, last time we checked, the United States was still supposed to be a free country and smoking was still legal. If Marian Wright Edelman doesn't want to smoke, that's her right. And she can certainly propose taxing smoking out of the reach of others.

The attacks on reproductive right did not result in overnight banning. Instead, what they have done is chip away bit by bit at existing rights. Similarly, a push for a national flat tax will not come in a sweeping, single bit of legislation. It will inside slide in slowly, bit by bit.

When it does, advocates will point to things such as the national cigarette tax and argue (rightly if the Senate bill passes and becomes law) that we already have it in many ways.

It should also be noted (Dona wants this in and C.I. says, "I'll live with it") that Marian Wright Edelman can afford to lose a few pounds. If we're going to tax cigarettes what's next because Dona thinks possibly food should be taxed especially on those who create a danger to public health by being above whatever insurance companies currently state is the normal weight.

"You're taxing the health care system, you're hurting yourself and those around you," says Dona. "Of course you should have to pay a tax and, no complaints, because looking at you reveals that you refuse to eat normal portions on your own so obviously you need someone to impose limits on you."

Don't agree? Neither do we (including Dona) but that's the assumption that the proposal makes. You're too stupid to do the right thing -- the right thing as we see it -- so we will impose our beliefs on you.

The Delaware editorial raises the issue of the unreliable nature of such a tax and that's a strong point as well. Though some may or may not be aware of it, almost every state has already imposed their own state tax on cigarettes. Allegedly to curtail smoking but, let's face it, were that really the case then the taxes wouldn't make up so much of their yearly budget.

If you want to smoke, that's your decision. Smoking is still legal.

In a review of Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale, a reviewer felt the need to take Key to task for smoking. He had multiple children, was struggling to make ends meet, would, in fact, enlist just to provide for his family and the issue was his personal choice to smoke?

Get a grip little Nebbishes of the Left. People are going to smoke and they are going to drink. Both are legal. (People will do many things that are illegal as well.) And when they haven't broken the law, guess what, it's really not your damn business. You aren't the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.

When you set yourself up as such, you make the left look like a bunch of busybodies who have nothing better to do than stick their noses into other people's personal business. Way to live up to the right-wing stereotype.

We oppose a flat tax, we oppose busybodies who think they can legislate personal choices.

You think smoking is a nasty, disgusting habit? Then don't smoke.

But whether anyone else does really isn't your business.

The self-righteous attitude is disgusting and doesn't fit well on the left.

In Michigan, Dona was having a cigarette in a designated smoking spot. A woman walking by, five feet from Dona, felt the need to shout out, "You shouldn't smoke!" C.I. responded, "You should mind your own g**damn business!" A sentiment we all share. We wouldn't pass Marian Wright Edelman on the street and yell out, "You should drop some pounds!" We hope she wouldn't yell out to Dona, "You shouldn't smoke!" But we're not sure that she wouldn't.

It's really easy to grab a demonized section of the public and tax them. It's really easy to scapegoat them and tell others, "This is just them, this isn't you." But the reality is that what starts with the scapegoated usually transfers out to the rest of the nation. It's equally true that doing the 'easy' thing to get what you want is self-defeating when it reinforces beliefs in flat taxes. But the 'easy' way appears to be the order of the day when an organization that doesn't present itself as religious wants to couch their arguments on "God." And, for the record Cedric notes, Jesus, not God, spoke of the children so possibly you might want to get your 'easy' talking points correct before utilizing them? (Cedric: "That is not a small point. It's actually a very big point. And people citing scripture should cite it correctly.")

So we're glad Bully Boy's announced that he'll veto it. We think it's wrong for reasons that differ from his. But we do agree that yet again expecting smokers to carry the debts of the nation is not unfair, it's unrealistic. We also think the left flirts with stupidity when it advocates a flat tax.
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