Sunday, November 30, 2008

Truest statement of the week

I don't buy Barack Obama as the Messiah. I didn't vote for him (I voted for another Afro-American) and I haven't filed an application to join his regime. He ran a duplicitous, multi-million dollar campaign that masqueraded as a social movement and because it was a gimmick and a shuck, will thwart and demoralize the re-creation of real social movement for years to come.The suckers packed shoulder to shoulder in Grant Park on Election Night were not a movement. 40 years ago, the Left stood in that park and were burning American flags, not waving them -- although the reasons were equally specious. Back then, it was the denial of another false Messiah's rightful place on the Democratic Party ticket. We ran a pig for president to underscore our disdain for the electoral process and when Mayor Dailey's cops kidnapped and barbecued our candidate, we turned to yet another Afro-American who was also not the Messiah. In August 1968, the Mayor of Chicago, whose son is now Barack Obama's most trusted political advisor, sent in the real pigs to beat us into the Grant Park grass like so many baby harp seals.

Now that was a social movement…

-- John Ross, "Obama in Bedlam" (CounterPunch).

Editorial: The Treaty

Thursday, the treaty masquerading as the Status Of Forces Agreement passed the Iraqi Parliament and some form of the treaty was also finally released to the American people. The next step in Iraq for the treaty is to go before the presidency council which will approve it or nix it.

While that awaits, the press continues their lying on the treaty and, as Ruth noted, the press is deliberately lying by going out of their way to ignore the same people they wouldn't have been jotting down stenography from mere months ago. They reveal themselves in their own reporting at times.

For example, how do you lie that the treaty means US troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011 and include that: ". . . the pact also allows the Iraqi government to negotiate with the United States to extend the presence of U.S. troops if conditions on the ground are not stable" or: "The pact allows for amendments if both sides agree to them. U.S. officials have indicated that they interpret that as permitting an extension, if security conditions in Iraq are deemed too shaky to leave Iraqi forces in charge. 'There is a provision for extension, by agreement of both sides,' one U.S. official said."

No, that is not TROOPS HOME BY THE END OF 2011!

As has been repeatedly explained at The Common Ills, the treaty is a one-year treaty with options to extend. As with the UN mandate that has been utilized so far to legalize the occupation of Iraq, the treaty only focuses on one year. 2009 is binding. Everything after that can be changed so there's no reason in the world for the press to reporting hypotheticals as if they were concrete, locked-in details.

From the version the White House released on Thursday, Article 30:

1) This Agreement shall be effective for a period of three years, unless terminated sooner by either Party pursuant to paragraph 3 of this Article.

What does paragraph three state? "This Agreement shall terminate one year after a Party provides written notification to the other Party to that effect." It is not a binding three-year contract. A binding three-year contract runs three years with no exceptions or modifcations. This is a one-year contract that may or may not be renewed for 2010 and, if renewed, may or may not be renewed for 2011.

Clause two of Article 30 explains how optional the 'three year' treaty is: "This Agreement shall be amended only with the official agrement of the Parties in writing and in accordance with the constitutional proceudures in effect in both countries."

The only year that is binding is 2009. After 2009, details can be changed or the entire treaty can be scrapped. That is reality. Reporting that the treaty guarantees all US troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011 is not reality. It does make for lying, however.

Barack Obama was the choice of Corporate America. Liars like Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn worked overtime to obscure and excuse that. Barack exists to put a big smile on imperialism and garbage like a one-year treaty passed off as "Troops Home!" exists to lull the American people into complacency the same way Tricky Dick Nixon's promise of a 'secret plan' to end the war always attempted to defuse objection to the earlier illegal war. Back then, people were either smarter or had a real independent media -- or possibly both: They didn't fall for the garbage.

Doubt how pathetic our 'independent' media today is?

The treaty got passed by al-Maliki's cabinet, then by the Parliament and now requires the approval of the presidency council. Despite the fact that the US Constitution demands treaties get Senate approval, the White House has no intention of sending it to Congress. American Freedom Campaign calls this the abuse of the week:

Iraq Parliament to vote on U.S.-Iraq agreement, while Congress has no input

During the Bush administration, the power of the executive branch has been greatly expanded. At times, President Bush has treated Congress like an inferior branch of government – and, to be honest, Congress has done very little to demonstrate it minds being treated that way.

Case in point: On November 17, the New York Times reported that the U.S. and Iraq had reached an agreement setting the terms of the U.S.'s presence in Iraq after the expiration of the UN mandate on December 31. Although the Bush administration is calling this agreement a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), a category of international agreement that does not require congressional approval, it is clear that the agreement goes well beyond a traditional SOFA. Not surprisingly, the Bush administration has no plans to seek congressional approval. What makes this even worse is that under the Iraqi constitution, this kind of agreement must be approved by the Iraqi Parliament. So we are left with a situation in which the Iraqi Parliament is voting on an agreement that will affect the lives of U.S. soldiers, but Congress has no voice at all in the process. And what is Congress doing about this? Very, very little so far…

A note to our readers

Hey --
Sunday evening, finally done.

Holiday exists and entrances meant the smartest thing to do this morning was to put up the note saying we'd post this evening.

We thank everyone who helped. That includes Dallas and:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, and Ava,
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,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends.

And what did we come up with?

Truest statement of the week -- John Ross, the clear winner for the week.

Editorial: The Treaty -- The treaty passed off as a SOFA and passed off by the press as ending the illegal war. They keep saying irony died with Barack's election but we think it 'twas honest that died.

TV: Rosie and Other Bombs -- This is great. This was not what they had written. They were half-way done this morning -- Ava and C.I. -- when Dona and I (Jim) made the call that we'd put the edition on pause. I looked at what they'd written when I woke up and it was okay (same topic, by the way, they didn't change that) but it didn't really grab me. I wrote it off as everyone can have a bad week. When they woke up, they tore into this and completely rewrote it. This is incredible.

The E-Z Bake critics of Panhandle Media -- How to be an insta-critic? Trot out the same old CDS aimed at Hillary, get further and further from the truth and act like you're really doing something, like you're offering something new or brave.

Video On Demand? -- Technology article. We have several of these planned for the immediate future. We may do one on music next time or may stay with films.

Book discussion roundtable -- I love this. I'm not sure how everyone else will feel. If it weren't for C.I. it wouldn't be up. There's an entire paragraph that was left out of the transcript and C.I. said, "Hey, Jim, where is it?" It was C.I.'s statements. I went back to the notes and saw I had left it out, typed it in, hit publish and got an error message. I was going to retype it but C.I. said, "Screw it, if someone complains, they complain." It's a rush transcript. Book lovers have what they've been waiting for. That's why we hate doing book discussions. They take forever.

Simon Assaf's "Iraq deal does not end the war" -- Reprint from Great Britain's Socialist Worker. Why not "UK"? Community member Pru prefers "Great Britain." (Seriously.)

Then and Now -- Short feature! Dona was thrilled.

Greens and Marcelo -- January event.

Highlights -- Stan, Rebecca, Kat, Betty, Cedric, Ruth, Marcia, Wally, Elaine and Mike wrote this and selected all the highlights unless otherwise noted.

Note -- Heads up that we would be posting late.

And that's it. That's the edition. See you next week.

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

TV: Rosie and Other Bombs

It's become something of a pattern that each year at this time we review the music specials. We marvel "What were they thinking?" (here, here and here) and note the few that actually worked (Faith Hill). Not this year and we had to wonder, "Did we kill off the musical special?"

If so, allow us to kill off another genre: The variety special.


Although, NBC appears to have already done that with Rosie O'Donnell as the assassin.

Wednesday night, the network offered Rosie Live, a 'variety' 'special' hosted by Rosie, the lone gun woman. We wanted to enjoy the special but were already having doubts two or three weeks ago when the promotional spots started airing.

You may have seen those. Rosie's standing before 'reporters' holding a press conference. They ask her about Tom Arnold and she explains Roseanne was married to him, not her. They go on to confuse her with both Oprah and Ellen. The promo wasn't funny. It needed to build and it never did. Ro went in with one energy level (lukewarm) and maintained it throughout.

The commercial needed zany not Rosie acting bewildered and sedated. Bewildered and sedated described the special. If anyone knows variety shows, it should have been Rosie so we have a hard time believing she didn't see the problems long before the live broadcast.

Problems? We expected some sort of set. Maybe a state of the art set or, more likely, a throw-back to the groovy sets of the sixties. We could see Rosie wanting some sort of plexi-glass set with multi-levels or maybe some homage to the set Dean Martin used on his old show. But, we knew, whatever the set was, it would scream Rosie!

It didn't. In fact, it didn't appear NBC even created a set for the special. It looked like they just threw her on a stage. On a stage that looked like your basic gymnasium. Hint to NBC, a 'special' needs to look like a special.

Somewhere around the time she and Alec Baldwin were all excited about the mystery guest that turned out to be Conan O'Brien -- who came out with about half the sparkle Joey Bishop might have offered -- if you studied Rosie's eyes, you could tell she was done with the special (which still had about 15 minutes of live TV to go).

Who could blame her? But the shapeless mess continued broadcasting (live in the Eastern and Central time zones).

A lot of the blame goes to NBC which insanely thought you dressed up a special by allowing it to open a night of normal programming. You build to a special, you don't burn it off. A lot of the blame goes to Rosie who was executive producer.

At some point, as one guest star after another walked across the stage, you may have grasped that she had populated her special with enough people to qualify as a small village -- a small village suffering from a humor shortage. The jokes (not funny to begin with) had to be 'rationed' apparently and the bulk went to Rosie which just struck us as rude manners and far from 'hostly.' Around the time, Rosie went into a Sarah Palin joke, we were reminded of Rosie's stand up in 2001, when she was calling Hillary the c-word and screaming (yes, screaming) on stage that she (Rosie) thought Hillary would have left Bill and the fact that Hillary didn't leave him after getting into the Senate meant Rosie had no use for Hillary.

It was an ugly bit, an infamous bit and, really, the end of Rosie's stand up. It was completely inappropriate and self-defeating. When you're the woman who lied to daytime viewers for a decade, pretending to have a crush daily on Tom Cruise, maybe after you finally come out of your big, old closet, you don't try to build an act around, "How dare she love that person!"

No one ever wanted political comedy from Rosie and, until this decade, she never tried to offer it. She can't do it, she doesn't have the flair but that she would even attempt it on a holiday special goes a long way towards explaining why no one wants to watch her on TV anymore. Did she think she was sitting in for the boys of Comedy Central? NBC isn't niche programming and the network was hoping for the largest audience possible. Rosie just wanted to rant and didn't give a damn which viewers she ran off.

Judging by the ratings, she ran off pretty much all of them.

And she can blame herself for that. The special offered Liza Minnelli early on in the only moment that worked. Liza, being Liza, came off like a full bodied person and an hour of the two of them singing and dancing, offering holiday memories, could have added up to something worth watching. That was not to be.

Instead, it was Rosie and her cast of thousands. Many of whom you didn't know, many of whom you forgot years ago, and many of whom you wouldn't open your door for today. While Liza is an actual living legend, Alanis Morissette is nothing but a failed performer. There are no tricks left in her Felix the Cat bag. She's already taken her one claim to fame -- the mid-90s Jagged Little Edge -- and redone all the songs acoustically for a CD sold at Starbucks. The only thing in her immediate future is the announcement that Warners is dropping her from the label. There was Alanis singing another one of the banal, twelve-step diary entries passed off as lyrics and bumming out the entire nation. In that regard, she actually fit on the special.

What it really reminded us of was those embarrassing webcasts Rosie does from time to time. She likes to think she's keeping it real as she rants and raves while looking like an institutionalized patient refusing their meds. And that takes us back to the promo as well as the special. Ro can't put on a little make up? The promo was her looking tired and that 'look' was captured in the special as well. But on her webcasts, she doesn't worry about hair and make up and apparently she believed that, with her TV special, she's pioneering a new wave, one that will have the average viewers saying, "Oh, look, it's Schleppy The Tired Clown! Quick, let's sit down and watch the performer who couldn't even bother to dress for the evening!"

At least the webcam offers a close up. Which brings us to the third problem, Alan Carter, alleged director. In May of 2005, we offered a warning:

The "creative geniuses" behind the camera included Alan Carter (director), Paul Flattery and Stephen Pouliot. Though some of you may not know the names, you need to learn them so that in the future when they flash on screen you'll know to either flip the channel or get the hell out of the living room. This trinity last teamed up for Nick & Jessica's Family Christmas. When you see those names, run, run for shelter and don't look back.

Our mistake was advising you to run when you saw those "names." You need not wait for all three to evacuate the premises, just one name is more than enough to have you sounding the disaster sirens. Alan Carter offered 'direction' in his usual manner: none at all. The huge stage NBC plopped Rosie on was apparently too much for Carter to navigate which was why the cameras were never where they needed to be and always arrived where they should have been about ten seconds late. If Rosie had some funny lines and some actual charm, Carter was no help in allowing viewers to find them.

While Rosie was was laying her nuclear egg, Brendan Blethyn and Jane Curtain stopped over at CBS for The New Adventures of Old Christine and Gary Unmarried. Blethyn, in this year's best episode, played Old Christine and Matthew's mother in an episode that was an instant classic and should be repeated each Thanksgiving while the show airs. The New Adventures of Old Christine has been on a winning streak for some time now and this episode took it even further.

Gary Unmarried was less successful and it may have been suffering from Rosie-itis -- attempting to pack too many guest stars into one broadcast. We're waiting to review Gary Unmarried but do recommend it. We do not, however, recommend Martin Mull coming back on the show ever.

One of the shows we always planned to review (but always had Jim asking us to grab something else) was Still Standing. Still Standing was actually a funny show and it got better each season. Early on, the biggest problem was Judy's parents which were nothing but the dorks from Yes Dear!'s parents with different names and faces. Oh, your stinky feet! Oh, your griping! It wasn't funny when Tim Conway and Vicki Lawrence were doing it and it wasn't funny when it migrated over to Still Standing. It was tired, it was boring. Still Standing wisely ditched the characters, Judy's father just vanished and her mother was now played by Swoosie Kurtz and written as something other than a 60s sitcom staple.

Jane Curtain was her usual amazing self Wednesday night on Gary Unmarried. Her lines were sub-standard fare but she made them seem so much more than they were, she zoomed in on co-stars, immediately establishing relationships not in the script. She's one of TV's best and most underrated actresses. Martin Mull is the parody actor who never has a character but always manages to be corny. As sad as it was to see the two of them paired, it was worse to grasp that we were back to Helen and Gene on Still Standing or Yes, Dear's Tom and Natalie with all the tired carping of don't eat/drink that and your feet don't go there and blah, blah, blah. That's not sparkling, that's not new, and it's not funny.

It's the kind of cheap guffaws UPN was built on and we all know the pot of non-gold at the end of that rainbow. Gary Unmaried is having a real problem with casting. Two weeks ago it also brought on a nemesis for Allison, someone allegedly pretty, exciting and a real threat. The character was played by Jean Louisa Kelly -- forever the piss-pantied fish-wife Kim from Yes, Dear. She was no threat from the beginning and it was the worst casting of fall 2008 until Martin Mull showed up Wednesday. If it's not clear to CBS, they need another Yes, Dear about as much as NBC needs another Rosie Live. Translation, the turkey belongs on the table, not on the TV screen.

The E-Z Bake critics of Panhandle Media

If you were a supposed media critic or an alleged independent 'voice,' you might want to critique incoming president Barack Obama's cabinet. And if you were a useless gas bag who lacked both a spine and the ability to come up with an original thought, you'd naturally make it all about Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton is mentioned as a nominee for Secretary of State and the toxic Panhandle Media has nothing to offer but the same crap the MSM does.

Why is that?

Because they allowed their inner psychos to be unleashed in the Democratic Party primaries when they attacked Hillary with smears, lies and trash. Yes, there is no difference between Rush Limbaugh and Barbara Ehrenreich (except Rush may be more photogenic). The pathetics on the left real problem with the pathetics on the right has apparently been about the fact that the bums on the right got funding. Unable to get work on their own or to actually work in real media, the losers have had many, many years of funding envy aimed at their equivalent on the right-wing spectrum.

So now the trash from the left has their Christ-child installed but are seen as the butt boys and girls they are, as the sycophants and liars, and they need to offer some lukewarm criticism of Barack in order to trick people into thinking they are 'independent.' So what to do?

Attack Hillary!

Yeah! She may be Secretary of State and we'll attack her! We'll make it all about her! We'll invent lies of how she's rolling all over Our Sweet Lord. We'll spread rumors and make it about how Barack's is still your basic loveable TV Dad but all these harpies out there will trick him! (No, a hapless TV Dad is not a good thing, but the left 'voices' are idiots.)

We're sick of your crap. We're tired of your 'just add water to an old piece on Hillary and insta-critique!'

Try doing something useful, you damn fools.

Try looking into the real war criminals.


As Betty noted last week, Dumb Ass Easy Bake Critic Carlos Fierro was lying that Hillary was "as hawkish a hawk there has ever been." Carlos needs to start licking while he's got his head stuck up his ass, it may prevent him from dying of starvation.

There is no basis for calling Hillary "as hawkish a hawk there has ever been." That's not just propaganda, it's dumb ass. It's beyond hyperbole. That CounterPunch elected to publish that crap just goes to how sick Alex Cockburn was and is.

Hillary Clinton didn't blow the military for her entire career. That would be Sarah Sewall aka Sarah Sewer who wouldn't have had a roof over her head if she hadn't been selling it for the hawks. Sarah Sewer is the one over the US military's 'counter-insurgency' (war on the native people) manual. Sarah Sewer declared less than 12 months ago on PBS that the Iraq War could not be declared a failure because, if that happened, it would prevent future 'interventions.'

While you bore us over and over with your lies about Hillary, don't think we're not noticing that you don't have the guts to call out Sewer or her gal-pal Sammy Power who, for the record, blurbbed that manual with praise.

Our Modern Day Carrie Nations wants troops on the ground in the Sudan. She wants more war. She lusts for war. (If you were married to Cass, you'd need to find something to turn you on as well.) She's a Bloody War Hawk and an embarrassment to her adopted country. But calling her out takes guts and it's so much easier to lie about Hillary.

No research required.

It is, after all, the Amy Goodman way.

Just don't mistake it for independent. Or an actual critique.

Video On Demand?

In the download age, films can be streamed online. Netflix is among the companies promoting the option of online streaming -- you won't even have to wait for it to arrive in the mail! also offers you video rentals in their downloads. And they offer the option of purchasing. We decided to check out their "Video On Demand" feature.

The first thing to note is that forget about browsing. If you use their links, such as "classics," you'll get many films listed (over 700 in the case of "classics"); however, you will not get a full listing. As we browsed the classics, we kept wondering where ___ was or why they didn't include in ___? In some case, they did have a film for rental and/or purchase but you couldn't find it under categories, you had to search.

For example, Jane Fonda's Any Wednesday. Rarely on video (compared to other Fonda films -- and it was for that reason that Ava and C.I. didn't include it when they reviewed Fonda's comedies back in 2006) is available from Amazon. This 1966 sex comedy directed by Robert Ellis Miller (from the play by Muriel Resnick -- Sandy Dennis played Fonda's part on Broadway), stars Fonda, Jason Robards, Dean Jones (of Disney fame) and Rosemary Murphy. To find it, you have to search the movie downloads (we searched "Jane Fonda"). That's also how you will discover that Natalie Wood has films available and, curiously, you will find more Natalie Wood films by searching "Robert Redford" since This Property Condemned (which starred Wood and Redford in that billing order) does not turn out when searching "Natalie Wood."

You will largely find, in terms of older films, the ones rarely on video or the ones that didn't perform so well. So you will find Inside Daisy Clover, for example, but no Bob, Carol, Ted & Alice for Natalie Wood. Judy Garland's only real film available is For Me and My Gal (with Gene Kelly). Paul Newman's Hud may rank a keeper but the bulk of his offerings Amazon serves up are ones you wouldn't want to watch a two-minute clip. Time and again, you'll find more choices by searching a performer. (Steve McQueen has a number of films available though his biggest ones -- Bullet, The Getaway, The Great Escape -- are not among them.), if you use the search function, actually offers many more choices than does iTunes. In addition, they often have better prices.

For our exercise, we selected a film that iTunes offers for $9.99 but Amazon offered for $7.99, Alfred Hitchock's To Catch A Thief, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Payment was no problem and took place quickly on both computers. We used two Dell laptops. One, we used wireless on and, the other, we used dialup in parts. In parts?

To Catch A Thief

You can't stream on dialup. Or we couldn't. So we switched over to DSL. On wireless and DSL, when you purchase a video -- as opposed to renting it -- it immediately begins playing. When that happens, don't panic and wonder if you hit the wrong key, that's just how it works.

To download it, you'll need to click the button on left hand of the movie screen while the film plays. WHILE THE FILM PLAYS.

Please pay attention to that. The instructions tell you can wait until after. If you wait until the film goes off, you will have problems finding what to click on. Also true is you need to first download Amazon Unbox Video. This took seven minutes on DSL and four and a half on wireless.

On wireless, letting the film play through resulted in two times where the stream needed to buffer. That did not happen with DSL.

Here is the most important point for those purchasing who plan to download, start downloading immediately. You will not believe how long it takes. On DSL or wireless. On wireless, it took two hours to download the 107 minutes film. On DSL? We figured it would be a little shorter or a little quicker than on wireless. So, since it was already purchased, we decided to see if it would download on dial-up.

To readers with dial-up, forget it. 18 hours later, it is still downloading and currently says: "Ready to watch in 4 d[ays] 20 hr 23 min 28 sec." Now on wireless, our eyes bulged when it originally told us five days but the five days moved quickly on the ticker. (Again, two hours total to download it on wireless.)

Dial up readers should probably forget about Amazon. First, you will not be able to stream the video to begin with. Second, if you somehow manage to, it will take days to download.

Wireless and DSL users should keep in mind the download time. It is smart to start the download as soon as the video starts.

To Catch A Thief is in VistaVision and the stream is in widescreen so you get the entire effect (no pan and scan). The colors are rich. There were no special or bonus features with the purchase. You are supposedly allowed two downloads of the film. (We've downloaded once on each purchase.) In addition, you can watch the film at anytime on your computer. It goes into your Amazon video library. (No, we weren't aware we had one of those either.) Anytime you'd like to watch it streaming -- as long as Amazon's around -- you simply need to pull up the net and go to Amazon.

Most rentals were $9.99. Some were $14.99. A TV series -- such as I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, etc. -- was generally $1.99 an episode. Though not available for purchase, Howard Zinn's favorite Marlon Brando film (Burn) was available for rental. We easily spent two hours doing searches -- after being extremely disappointed with the results when we just checked by genre -- and movie buffs should probably allow for double that amount of time.

By starting the download as soon as you purchase the film (which is when it starts streaming), you can watch it and have it completely downloaded or nearly downloaded by the end of the film.

[Note: For this feature, we purchased To Catch a Thief twice. We did not get a free movie from Amazon, we did not have a coupon. Amazon did not ask us to use them nor did we speak to anyone at Amazon. Unlike at The New York Times, no freebies or perks were exchanged for this article.]

Book discussion roundtable

Jim: Roundtable time and this is a book discussion of sort. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, 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; Ruth of Ruth's Report; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends. Illustration was done by Betty's oldest son. We're going to start with Betty who agreed to tackle Claud Cockburn's The Devil's Decade. Our choices do add up and, hopefully, as we work to a conclusion, Elaine and C.I. will be able to explain how that is. I assigned books to all but Ty and Kat. Ty's home for the holidays and didn't have time, Kat said last Sunday, "I'm going on the road to speak and also trying to do CD reviews, don't push me Jim." [Rush transcript.] Betty?


Betty: I grabbed this from the list. I enjoyed the illustrations more than the actual book. For example, page 98 featured Jean Harlow in a movie still, a film poster of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' Top Hat and Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in a movie still. Cockburn was a journalist, English, and The Devil's Decade is him writing about the thirties, the book was published in 1973. I started it with great interest. The first section is called "After the Crash" and I hoped it would have something to say about the current crisis, one of those 'we can learn from the past' moments; however, that was not the case. A photo of a soup line on pages seven and eight says more than any of Cockburn's writing in the section. He writes very well in terms of style and can hold your attention but for someone writing, in that section, about the depression, he has so very little to say and I felt he was striving for a sort of Noel Coward piss-elegant. There was no passion, just a love for word choice and formation. Again, the pictures make the book for me. There's a photograph on page 77 of men protesting in Trafalgar Square that captures the time so much better than Cockburn's oh-so-precious writing. The only moment anything stood out was this from page 165:

The Communists, tiny in numbers, had possessed the energy and organizational know-how to bring about the creation of the Popular Front. The policy of seeking to establish Popular Fronts, to include working class and middle class elements in a broad, united opposition to Fascism, had been adopted at the 7th Congress of the Comintern in 1935. By some, it was seen as a purely defensive policy. To view it thus was mistaken, since in the Marxist dialectic there could be no, so to say, static separation of the defensive and the offensive. Still, it did recognize that the meance of Fascism to the whole working class and to broad other sectors of the population was not only real and immediate but was the most important factor in the entire situation. The strategy of the Popular Front was defensive in the sense that it demanded the subordination of the ultimate and necessarily divisive aims to the necessitites of the defence against Fascism.

Betty (Con't): I found that especially interesting in light of the actions by American Communists and Socialists this election cycle as they made a point to regularly hurl insults at the working class. The book, honestly, left me bored. He was a wonderful stylist but apparently polished the life out of pretty much every sentence.

Jim: What did you learn about hidden truths?

Betty: Not a damn thing. It was a real waste of time.

Ava: C.I. and I also didn't read a book for this -- though we'd already read most if not all books that are discussed in this. Jim assigned us the role of rounding out with factoids from time to time so I'll jump in here to explain that Claud Cockburn is of interest to people today as the father of CounterPunch's Alexander Cockburn as well as Patrick and Andrew Cockburn. His grandchildren include the semi-sane Stephanie Flanders, the nutty-as-a-fruitcake Laura Flanders and Shannon-Elizabeth-with-an-accent Olivia Wilde from House -- possibly that's Shannon-Tweed-with-an-accent.

Betty: I would argue Shannon Tweed.

Jim: Thank you, Ava and Betty. Dona will explain the point of this roundtable.

Donna: As we enter what we're considering our final stage online, we really want to do something more than what's offered elsewhere. For example, I.F. Stone. You hear his name on CounterSpin or read it in FAIR's Extra! or The Nation or some column and you think he was a muckraker or an independent journalist. And you're led to believe that, for his day, he did something amazing. What you don't grasp is that he was addressing the issues that are still in need of addressing today. A huge number of the 'new problems' of today are not new and I can't figure out whether there's a desire to rush over that fact because there's so little time or because it hurts someone to admit how long so many problems have lasted. Rebecca, Wally and Cedric teamed up for a book by George Seldes.

Wally: I'm jumping in to hit on "hidden truths." It's supposedly something our brave 'new' left has done 'recently': Revealing who funds right-wing media. No offense to David Brock, but that's really not 'new'. Chapter 24 of Never Tire of Protesting, finds Seldes documenting "The New McCarthyism" and revealing that the right-wing is funding the attack media. He refers to a New York Times article published June 28, 1965 which was written by Donald Janson and opens: "Financial support of the nation's rightwing continues to grow, with a healthy portion of the dollars coming from big business." Examples include Schick Safety Razor Co which "sent [John F.] Fergus hundreds of thousands of dollars to sponsor right-wing radio and television programs and to advertise in reactionary magazines." That's just a few of the highlights and it's a fascinating chapter -- from a book published in 1968. Cedric?

Cedric: The funding also deals with more than media but I found chapter nine most interesting. There was an article somewhere last week on Readers' Digest --

C.I.: New York Times, Richard Perez-Pena's "Reader's Digest Pushes on in Weak Climate."

Cedric: That was it, thank you. It was talking about how Reader's Digest thinks it is sitting pretty at a time when so many other magazines and publishing houses are in crisis. And Reader's Digest is something everyone knows of. Myself, I don't know anyone who reads it, but everyone knows of it. So he's outlining how, in 1942, the publication's then owner DeWitt Wallace wanted Hitler to remain in power. He didn't want him "smashed" because someone needed to "police the continent" -- Europe -- "and maintain order." That's a frightening revelation. It explored how the Digest attempted to plant articles in other publications so they could 'digest' it and one 'digest' ran on an article that a magazine refused to run because it was so inaccurate. The chapter notes that after many years, the US Justice Department decided, quoting Gazette & Daily (York, Penn), "not to prosecute associate editor [Eggleston] on charge of having received $15,000 from Nazis to publish Hitler propaganda, as stated in report of former assitant to Attorney General, O. John Rogge."

Rebecca: Again, the book came out in 1968 and I think you can take the current illegal war into account when I read this from page 250: "If anyone today believes that things have changed, and for the better, and that the press no longer fools most of the people most of the time, I would suggest that he read the report on Vietnam published for the Ford Foundation by the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in 1965. Only one conclusion can be drawn from it: The American government and the American press completely deceived the American public on the tragic and bloody war in Vietnam."

Jim: Which, you are correct, does apply to today. Kat doesn't have a book assignment so she may want to weigh in on this topic. Ty didn't have one either and he'll jump in as he sees fit. Anyone else can as well.

Kat: Think back to when this illegal war started and remember the question of didn't we learn anything from Vietnam? No. What happened is those wanting war knew they had to wait for Vietnam to become more of a memory and then they could force through the illegal war. I mean Norm Coleman voted to authorize the current illegal war. Norm was a CO during Vietnam.

Wally: Elsewhere, Stone's writing about the Bay of Pigs and how JFK's trying to cover over it -- that may be something Jess plans to discuss -- but he's talking about, Stone, how it doesn't need to be swept aside and the lesson needs to be learned. History in the US is the history of very few lessons ever being learned, my opinion.

Betty: Agreed and think about how little we know. On that point, that's not me saying, "Americans are so stupid! What dumb lazy people!" I'm talking about our education system and I'm talking about our media outlets. And as Dona pointed out, the reason for doing this is to discuss a number of topics that do not get discussed -- and we're talking in so-called 'independent' media -- so I'm talking about -- I'm slamming -- both the education system and our media.

Stan: Big and Small.

Betty: Yes, as C.I. would say: All Things Media Big and Small.

Jim: As Wally pointed out, Jess read I.F Stone as well. Jess' book was In a Time of Torment.

Jess: This is a collection of Stone's later writings -- largely from the sixties -- and was published in 1967. He's writing about Republicans in the section I'm going to highlight and the Republican convention pops up in places in this August 20, 1964 piece entitled "An Unsocial Scientist:"

Their objection to the Welfare State is that it takes from them and gives to the poor. Liberalism advocates Welfarism as the only effective way to combat Communism. But the Goldwaterites object to Liberalism as being liberal with their money. The idelogical barricade thrown up by The Conscience of a Conservative is to deny "that a man's politics are determined by the amount of food in his belly." For them man is a spiritual being and therefore, presumably, can live on wind.

Jess (Con't): That's page 40, by the way. In terms of "hidden truths," not many. He goes soft on JFK after his assassination, or does in the selections he offers in this book. Betty was speaking earlier of how devoid of passion Claud Cockburn's writing was -- strange when you consider his son Alex -- and I would argue I.F. Stone's writing throughout this collection is passionate. The reason I picked that passage is because I believe (a) it's still applicable and (b) one of the great failures of 'independent' media has been in defining.

Ty: I'll jump in there. How many times do we have to read Katrina vanden Heuvel yammering on about how the left needs to define what it stands for? But she never does because she can't. She erects monuments on quick sand.

Betty: Mildred Pierce! Sorry.

Ty: I'm laughing. Yeah, Mildred's big mansion is sinking in that film. But she's like someone running to the phone every five minutes asking, "What's our position on this!" She has no idea. She has no grounding and she stands for nothing. And something as simple as what Stone's written, the part Jess read, is so far beyond her yet she repeatedly bores the country with her writing and her talking about this topic.

Marcia: She's unable to think, for one thing. And she has no core beliefs. That's why the supposed Russian expert is always waiting until a crisis has peaked in that region to weigh in. She can't be wrong! She must not be wrong! So she just shuts up when everyone's trying to make sense of whatever has flared up. She's completely useless and that's because she has no core beliefs. I think Jess chose a great section to emphasize because we hear about this issue or that issue and dingbats like Katty-van-van think you can string together positions on issues and end up with a charm braclet and an ideology, but you can't. You need to have a working belief system.

Mike: And she is an idiot but this is something Stanley Aronowitz talks and writes about, the need for something more than just a position on a single issue, the need for a framework. And the first time I came across that was when he was a guest on a radio show and I thought what he was saying was interesting. Then I started reading his books and hearing more from him and I really think he's correct. I agree Jess chose the perfect excerpt.

Ava: Well do we want to talk about why Stanley's not being heeded? It's perfectly obvious why vanden Heuvel's not going to follow that and why others aren't as well. He's talking about a left and an ideology. She's trying to win elections. He's talking about the hard work of serious movement building and she's looking for short cuts and quick fixes.

Kat: She's a farmer planting crops on the same patch of land over and over.

Cedric: Right. Leeching the soil so that, at some point, you can't grow anything there anymore.

Ava: And until the hard work is done, we're not going to see any real changes. Now a perfect example here is Ellen Willis' critique of Thomas Frank's bad book What's The Matter You? I know that's not the title but I think it should be. Katty van-van, the princess of the purile, can never stop praising that idiotic, ahistorical book that offers nothing but quack cures and quick fixes. Ellen Willis, in her critique, was noting how Frank's approach was throwing in the towel and destructive. It's really a battle between standing for something or caving to win elections and the likes of Katty-van-van will always cave and they destroy the left in the process. She is not a thinker and she's not even an editor. If the woman had not bought her seat at the table, she'd probably be raving on some street corner.

Ty: To state a connection that we all made but didn't verbalize, until her death, Ellen Willis was married to Stanley Aronowitz. Ava and C.I. quote from her critique of Frank in "TV: The stench of 'public affairs' programming."

Jim: Alright. Ruth, you also had I.F. Stone.

Ruth: Correct, I had The I.F. Stone Weekly Reader which was edited by Neil Middleton and published in 1973. This is a collection of his pieces for his Weekly Reader. And I wanted to emphasize this from his September 9, 1968 "When a Two-Party System Becomes a One-Party Rubber Stamp," which appears in the book on page 152:

When a country is denied a choice on the most burning issue of the time, the war in Vietnam, then the two-party system has become a one-party rubber stamp. This is the first and essential point to be made in the wake of the Democratic and Republican conventions. The Establishment and the military have locked the ballot boxes. If the results are an intensified alienation among the youth who must fight this war, an increase in resistance to the draft, a rise in street demonstrations and violence, this is the cause and not some occult conspiracy. The real conspiracy was the one which wove together Eisenhower's last inflammatory message to the Republican convention with the iron control Johnson and Daley exercised over the Democrats.
Both parties, both candidates, have been drafted. The Pentagon has won the election even before the votes are cast.

Ruth (Con't): And I chose that because it describes the 2008 election. We,if we stuck to the Democrats and the Republicans, were denied a vote on the Iraq War. Neither candidate of the two major parties supported withdrawal. Barack offered the nonsense of combat troops out in 16 months which would not remove even half the US troops stationed in Iraq currently. John McCain offered nothing. Barack refused to promise that, if elected, all troops would be out of Iraq by the end of his first term, 2012. That told us all we needed to know. As it was then, it is now.

Stan: And don't forget, Barack's supposedly keeping Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense.

Rebecca: Change? Ruth's excerpt gets to the heart of it, it is one party. That's the only explanation for a supposed 'anti-war' 'Democrat' keeping the appointee of a Republican War Hawk over the Defense Dept. And Dems will roll over and take it. Can you imagine in the outrage in 2001 on the part of Republicans if the Bully Boy had said, "I think I'll keep Janet Reno on as Attorney General."

Marcia: He's spineless. Barack is completely spineless and stands for nothing. The changeling, trying desperately to fit into all worlds and fitting into none.

Ruth: I also thought of Steve Clemons report from last week about how Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain met secretly back in July "to assemble large rosters of potential personnel for the administration that only one of the candidates would lead." Who ever heard of such a thing? I have very little respect for George McGovern but could you imagine the outcry -- even today -- if we discovered McGovern had met with Tricky Dick in the summer of 1972 to outline a roster? But, as usual, no one's supposed to object to the Christ-child.

Kat: Well it stinks. I agree with Ruth, it stinks. And it demonstrates two things, 1) How to the right Barack is or how to the right he will bend and 2) All those screaming about John McCain and condemning him better grasp he and Barack had very few real differences. And after four years of Barack tilting right and courting Republicans, the left may feel even more stupid than they think they do having supported the War Hawk Barack.

Marcia: Let me jump in. I'll start with an excerpt and then identify:

The President's illness is a world calamity. Dwight Eisenhower has occupied a most peculiar role in American politics. Through him, exploiting his fame as a soldier and his personal charm, the Eastern seaboard moneyed interests who direct the Repbulican party achieved a number of purposes They attracted enough of the independent vote to win the 1952 elections from the Democrats, who have since 1932 been the majority party. They put into effect a program which accepted the main accomplishments of New Deal and Fair Deal but sought to establish a climate favorable to big business, notably in the control of basic resources and of fiscal policy. Above all, in the search for a sound dollar, a balanced budget and tax reduction, they moved to end the Korean conflict, to liquidate the cold war, to recognize the world atomoic stalemate, and to cut down swollen military expenditures. Only through the foremost American General of our generation could they put some curb on the Pentagon, and only through a General speaking for a conservative party could they begin to negotiate with Moscow and Peking without being accused -- in the overheated atmosphere of an America driven slightly wack since 1947 -- of "appeasement," or treachery.

Marcia (Con't): He goes on to note the Weekly Reader's "Challenging the Left: 'Back Ike for Peace'" editorial from June 13, 1953. And to note: At this juncture, the Democratic party, and particularly its liberals and labroites, cannot be relied upon." It's I. F. Stone, again, and this is from the collection of his writings entitled The Haunted Fifties: 1953 - 1963, pp 105-106. And as we see non-stop justifications and excuses offered for Barack's ever rightward drift, it's worth noting that if John McCain had been elected, the left wouldn't be holding their tongues. They wouldn't be waiting for the 'right time' to critique. They'd be on the ground and you'd see action, real action. I want to be honest here, I am now officially done with the Democratic Party. I have no use for them. Consider me an independent -- on the left. I did vote for Nader and I am proud of that vote. But as the Democrats avoid pressuring Barack STILL! I just want to go on record stating I am no longer a Democrat.

Stan: And Marcia also made that announcement to our family at Thanksgiving.

Marcia: And got applause.

Stan: And got huge applause. I'm going to take it somewhere else for a minute and I hope that's okay. Marcia and I had the same book. And a lot of us read additional books for this discussion, by the way. We were assigned particular ones by Jim. But, for example, Mike and I both read The World of Lincoln Steffens which was edited by Ella Winter and Herbert Shapiro from 1963 in addition to the book we were assigned. And I've got a complaint true of Stone and true of Steffans. Stone writes of Emett Till's murder and Steffens writes of the Scottsboro case. Those are both important stories. The writing does not reflect that. I was impressed with neither and Steffens especially seemed to have the attitude of "I spoke to White sources, I did my job." Now sympathetic White sources, to be sure, but it's not really their story to tell, now is it? In the intro to Steffens piece, the editors argue that he was catering his argument to the South to attempt to get them to take action. I want to be clear that I had no problem with that. Nor am I griping about that. I think that was a very smart tactic and I'm certainly well aware that -- despite the lies of Amy Goodamn -- racism existed and exists in the north as certainly as it did and does in the south. But I did want to raise that point. With regards to Stone, who was he writing for? Why write of the case and refuse to identify anyone? We're told "Mrs." so and so this and Mrs. so and so that did this or that in the trial or weren't allowed to but we not only do not get a first name -- not even the first name of their husbands -- we don't get any information on who they are. It's worthless. It's not reporting. I can't imagine his work on the Till case was much more than the equivalent of a headline scrawl across the screen on CNN today. It has no value at all and it's his own fault for refusing to be specific. That may not be true of all his writing. It is true of the writing selected for that collection by him.

Jim: I think those are both good points. I'm wondering where Ava is on any of this?

Ava: On commenting? Well a number of names have been mentioned. Some were blacklisted. Claud Cockburn is considered a Communist by many. His family would publicly disagree. Muckrakers were radicals and could upset the status quo. Not all who were muckrakers were Communist or Socialist but a number were. It's amazing how that is ignored. The blacklist is gone, the people are dead. At what point does history set the record straight and at what point does everyone stop acting like having been a Communist was something to be ashamed of? I've been silent on that in part because I know Elaine and C.I. are going to go into it.

Jim: Okay. Which leaves Mike and Elaine. They grabbed a book that is actually one in a series of books Mike's been reading in recent weeks for another theme he's been making mention of at his site and that we hope to do something on there. I'm sure that theme will come up here.

Elaine: Our book is I'd Hate Myself In The Morning by the creative Ring Lardner Jr. with an introduction -- a bad introduction -- by Money Begger Victor Navasky. If Navasky was to appear in a James Bond film, he would be Money Penny's cousin, Money Begger. For 198 pages, Lardner appears to see how far truth can be stretched before breaking. Jim, you complained about C.I. not having said much in the roles you designated for Ava and C.I., rest assured a great deal will be said during this. Ring's a -- was, he's dead now -- a screenwriter. Not a great screenwriter, not even a good one. Certainly capable of nothing of merit on his own. He won two Oscars. In the first case, he co-wrote a bad script. In the second case, the merits didn't matter. Ring was a Communist and you can surf all over the net and find him noted for his "leftwing politics" but never find the term "Communist." That's Crapapedia and elsewhere. Ring was a member of the Communist Party and makes that clear in his own book if anyone doubted it. I'm going to toss to Mike for his observation.

Mike: I really had no idea about this term "progressive" and where it came from. It seems to have just arrived one day in this century. But it has a long history and Ring's aware of it which is why he says early on that there were the groups of Communists and liberals and then, without even seeming to realize it, he switches over to progressives and liberals. There is one sentence, for careful readers, where the three categories appear. Only one. The switch occurs as the Communists go underground. And that is how "progressive" has most often been used -- that's the theme I've been writing about and researching -- "progressive" has historically in this country been a screen for Socialists and Communists to hide behind. "Hey, I'm a Democrat, what are you?" "Uh, I'm uh . . . a progressive! Yeah, that's it! A progressive!" So it's hilarious when, in the book, Ring sets up the dichotmy between Communists and liberals -- Communists being the passionate, the noble, etc. in Ring's mind -- and then, right as the backlash begins, he switches over to writing about progressives and liberals. That's after Teddy Roosevelt and, no surprise, when Henry Wallace is running for president on the Progressive Party ticket. Drummed out as FDR's vice president, kept around in the cabinet until then-president Harry Truman ran him off, Wallace takes up with the Progressive Party. Who is the Progressive Party? Most liberal critics thought it was largely the Communist Party and certainly Wallace's later avowal of all things Communits would appear to back that up. Who did the Communist Party USA endorse in the 1948 election? Henry Wallace. During the 40s, "progressive" became code for Communist or Socialist and it was not rooted in the early Progressive movement. It's a screen today, I'd argue, allowing cradle Republicans and others to attempt blending in with the left.

Kat: I didn't read a book, I was too busy for Jim's reading list. But let me explain the term Mike just used. Mike and I are Catholic. A cradle Catholic is a Catholic born into the faith as opposed to someone who converts to it. A cradle Catholic is always a Catholic. Mike's using the term deliberately with regards to Republicans and I would argue you could include the likes of Arianna Huffington and other allged 'progressives' in the groupings "cradle Republicans."

Elaine: As Mike points out -- and this is surprising since Money Beggar did the intro and presumably read over the transcript of this garbage published by Nation Books -- Ring is apparently not even aware that, having created and utilized the classifications for the left of Communist or liberal, he then -- as the backlash gets under way -- suddenly drops that to use progressive or liberal as the classification. Money Begger must have been real tired when he read the transcript. It's a fanciful book, filled with half-truths and evasions. That's only all the more laughable when he wants to take Lillian Hellman into account for the difference between her public testimony and her letter to the HUAC. And wants to pretend she hasn't explained that in her own book Soundrel Time -- when, in fact, she has. And disclosure, I knew Lillian and had great respect for her. Ring didn't have any respect for her or any woman. It's hilarious to watch him lie about how Woman of the Year was trashed by another screenwriter! It wasn't sexist until then! It was sexist through and through, long before the ending. What a liar. And it was sexist for its time. I'm tossing to C.I.

C.I.: Before you point out that Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn weren't the great love affair and everyone, including Lillian, knew all about how both had many, many sex-same affairs? I'll go there. Elaine and I both knew Lillian and had tremendous respect for her. There's no respect for Ring, writing a book in 2000, a whine -- I'll come back to that -- who wants to tell the world about the great love affair of Kate and Spence. Grow the hell up. They're both dead. Spencer used every party boy he could get from George Cukor and the whole town knew it then and knows it now. Outside of bragging that she'd turned down then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, does anyone know of a woman Hepburn ever turned down? He was an overweight drunk who had trouble getting it up by the time she met him. He preferred oral sex, young rent boys going down on him. At best, they had a six month relationship that was rarely sexual. Then it was to both of their interests to play into the myth of the great love affair of the day. It allowed him to live apart from his wife -- on George Cukor's property! -- with few raising the issue of gay and it finally silenced the lesbian talk that had dogged her since she first started making films. Someone needs to tell Ring that when you're writing a book that's supposedly setting the story straight, you don't take a lavender couple -- with both members dead -- and shore up their cover story. That when you lie like that -- and it is a lie and Ring knew it was -- you call into question everything else you write. Hepburn's dead, Tracy's dead. There's no reason to lie. By lying, it just makes the reader all the more suspicious of his other statements. In chapter three, he's writing romantically of the Soviet Union including of its political structure. This is also the chapter that details his visit there. Then in chapter five, he's writing, "As for the Soviet Union, while we viewed it sympathetically as an experiment, no one I knew wanted to see the same formula applied in our own country -- not the dicatorship, or the repression of dissidents, or the phony elections, or the subordination of the arts to propagnada. America, we were convinced, would become socialist with all its freedoms intact, which Russia never had." What a liar. First off, the things he's listing? Those are your late sixties, early seventies remarks. They are not remarks anyone made in the forties. In fact, I can provide names of people publicly making those statements in the late sixties and seventies including a woman who stated people would drop to their knees and pray for socialism if they knew what it was. He is writing of being physically in the forties and is imposing decades later opinions on them -- as he damn well knew. It needs to be noted that Marx' belief was that Socialism would be the transition phase between capitalism and Communism. Something party member Ring damn well knew. He had no such reservations in the forties that he's expressing on, I believe, page 99. If he had, prior to the US involvement in WWII, all of his talk about how now it was so wonderful that Communist and liberals could again be on the same page talk wouldn't be in there. The Communist Party USA took its marching orders from the Soviet Union. That's reality. The party line came out of Moscow and you followed it or you were kicked out of the Party. That was especially true in the entertainment industry and Ring's not only aware of it, he alludes to it in terms of What Makes Sammy Run? This is revisionary history at its worst and goes far beyond his need to make a joke -- which distorts some truths after the blacklist -- and his tendency to play glory hog.

Elaine: Jumping in to back up a moment. The Communist Party USA did take its marching orders from the Soviet Union in the lead up to the blacklist. That is why its followers in the US were twisting in knots over this decision or that pact. It's referred to in The Way We Were when Katie's confronted with her twisting positions. Her positions twisted and turned because the calls were coming out of the Soviet Union. As C.I. points out, in discussing reviews of What Makes Sammy Run?, Ring alludes to that but he does not come out and explain it and, elsewhere, he goes to great lengths to ignore that fact. That is the reality. When he circumvents the truth, he makes everything he writes questionable.

C.I.: And let's get back to HUAC, or go there, I don't think we have. This isn't a justification of it, but let's remember that the Communist Party loved, loved HUAC. They thought it was the bee's knees. That's because it was originally investigating Americans for links to fascism. Many people know the name Smedly Butler and we've discussed his book here before. But that testimony was to the HUAC. In its earliest days, it explored fascism. And the New Masses -- a USA Communist periodical -- couldn't say enough kind things about the committee. Now this was before the US was in WWII. So maybe if people hadn't applauded the committee then, it wouldn't have taken off later? We like committees that probe into private citizens' lives if the citizens are our enemies? Is that how it works? Let's remember this at the heart of the New Deal, this is 1934, when the committee begins and it's original name doesn't cause alarm? "Special Committee on Un-American Activities." For its first years, it's not the least bit concerned with Communism or Socialism. And it did get applauded by many on the left. The pendulum swings both ways, a phrase drilled into people Elaine and my head back in the day. And what was a left-wing investigation of American citizens became a right-wing one later on. Again, that's not a justification, it is stating, don't act like the HUAC came out of nowhere. How ironic that New Masses would applaud the work of the committee and call out the major publications of the day -- including The New York Times -- for ignoring the work of the committee in the thirties only to be the target of the investigations in the forties and beyond.

Elaine: The ahistorical approach -- encouraged by the likes of Money Beggar -- are not allowing for a full understanding of what the time was like, what led up to it, or how it came to be.

Mike: I want to point out something. Ring admits he was a member of the Communist Party. And he's offended that he was asked if he was. And to some degree you can understand that; however, he's talking about how Dorothy Parker, for example, was a member and how she and other names were not 'mixing' in the general meetings because there had to be secrecy. Okay, when there has to be secrecy about whether or not you're a member of a political party, right away, an alarm should go off. I'm not saying, "Illegal!" I'm saying when you have to do something in secret, and he writes at length about the secrecy, you might want to ask why it can't be exposed to the sunlight which is supposed to be the cure-all in a democracy? When your entire life is hidden behind a screen, maybe you should ask yourself why that is?

Elaine: I want C.I. to tackle the excuse aspect of it.

C.I.: Gladly. There are people whose careers were truly damaged by the blacklist. Lee Grant is a good example there. It's hilarious to read Ring's book and read of all the ones damanged. It's as though everyone wants to recite Brando's I-could've-been-a-contender speech. Here's some reality. An actress who was 48 years old when she was 'blacklisted'? Her career was already over. She was a queer sort -- I don't mean gay -- onscreen. A White Anglo who most infamously played an Asian woman in Bette Davis' The Letter. That was her biggest film, her only A-lister to be sure. And yet, two years later, she's at Paramount doing a Bob Hope caper? I happen to enjoy My Favorite Blonde but let's not pretend it wasn't intended as and seen as a B-movie. From the height of William Wyler to Bob Hope in two years? Her career had other problems. In 1946, she's doing a bit part, playing another Asian and she is Anglo. It's insulting. And those things do matter, yes, they do. Those things do build up ill will as did her on the set issues. Not everyone enjoyed working with her, Hope did, but not everyone else did. And along comes the excuse everyone's been waiting for and they can say, "She's married to a Communist!" and stop hiring her. But her career was already over in films and TV didn't exist then as an industry. I think too often people whine, "The blacklist killed my career!" when, reality check, there really wasn't a career. Lee Grant? Absolutely. She had a career in store. It harmed her. Gale Sondergaard was about to hit 50, was never a star, had a million enemies and no screen presence for the entire 1940s unless you count Anglo passes for "Sinister Asisan." Now this decade, a movie was made full of lies and one of them is that poor Gale couldn't be hired again until her husband died. He died in 1971. She's doing Get Smart and It Takes A Thief in 1969. It's a cute little rewriting of history and for a lot of losers it's all they have to shore up their claim to fame. "I didn't make it, but I would have!" Some use the blacklist, some say they refused to 'sleep their way to the top,' or whatever else. Ring writes of his 150 page scripts and how wonderful they were and blah, blah, blah. One page equals one minute. He was hopelessy out of date if he thought the studios were looking for movies that ran for two hours and thirty minutes. He might argue, were he still alive, "They could cut thirty minutes!" They'd want to cut more than that. But it's really his job, as the writer, to cut out all the padding and provide only the necessary. He whines about a Ray Stark offer in 1980 and that's when Ray Stark's career is over as Stark will soon find out but somehow, in 2000, that escapes Ring's attention. Remember talking about how Gale made enemies? So did Ring. The stunt Katharine Hepburn pulled, taking a script by two non-names, making Louis Mayer think it was written by two names and charging a huge, outlandish fee for it? That bites you in the butt at some point. You think you put one over on someone but in reality, everyone's waiting for your first trip, your first stumble and, at that point, the knives will come out. Ring's not that talented as a writer. He whines repeatedly about the cult of the director but his bad writing is one of the reasons that directors had to step foward -- and I am huge, huge defender of screenwriters, to be clear, just not of bad ones. He was never that talented. He has two films that are known and neither are known for the script. M*A*S*H is known for Robert Altman, rightly. And Woman of the Year is known for being the first pairing of Hepburn and Tracy. Take Desk Set, which is usually considered an inferior film pairing of the two. That is a much stronger script -- script by Phoebe and Henry Ephron. Ring's damn lucky he had a career ever. He is someone the blacklist hurt but he wasn't going to be writing smash films one after the other -- or producing them as he blathers at one point. He was a bad writer. He has no appreciation for dialogue and he didn't know how to shape a film. Even M*A*S*H -- which is nothing but a series of episodes and not a true narrative -- had to be reshuffled by Altman just to make sense and hold the audience's interest. This was not a Joe Mankiewicz or Billy Wilder. He was a sub-standard talent. And for someone who supposedly doesn't want to take credit from others -- there's a fairy tale of how he wrote a script during the blacklist that won an Oscar but he didn't want to embarrass the writer who acted as his front so he wouldn't name the script -- he sure is eager to steal credit for the script of Laura, a credit he doesn't deserve. Not surprisingly, he specifically has to steal from a gay man, Clifton Webb, and claim he made the part Clifton plays. He's a second-rate, sub-standard talent. He wants his success in TV noted. Done. No problem. TV and film are not and were not the same thing. His hackery was well suited to churning out scripts about Robin Hood's weekly adventures. He just wasn't able to come up with a big story people would pay to see.

Jim: To jump in here, I can see the e-mails, "C.I. is denying the blacklist! And saying it didn't hurt anyone!"

C.I.: That's not what I said.

Jim: I know that. But to save Ty time reading them, I thought I'd toss that out.

C.I.: Gale was not an attractive woman and by 1946 when she played yet another Asian, the backlash against Anglo performers playing Asians was well established. That would have harmed her had the blacklist not. She was not a well endowed woman and I fail to see how the fifties -- and their breast obsessions -- could have found time for a strange looking, flat chested, fifty plus year old woman? Whose mother can she play? Let's be clear, they weren't writing lead parts for women that age as Myrna Loy and countless other female stars could and did point out. So what exactly was Gale going to play? Keep in mind Bette Davis does All About Eve, a box office hit, shortly after Gale's no longer working. A box office hit that lands her another Oscar nomination. And? She never gets another great picture. And she's Bette Davis. A two-time Oscar winning star. She's got to grab the dregs, she's got to grab offers from Europe. Or look at Joan Crawford's 50s output. This idea that Gale, a non-entity, a strange screen persona who was never a star and much older than Bette Davis, was denied stardom? If stardom was going to come to her it would have done so long before 1948. She'd been working for how many decades in films? On the other hand, Lee Grant was an attractive woman -- that does matter in film -- as well as talented and young. Her career was stopped dead in the tracks because of her marriage. Lee actually suffered. She had a career. A writer like Dalton Trumbo, Waldo Salt? Their careers were seriously harmed and destroyed. Both managed to come back and Trumbo fought the blacklist while it existed. They were immense talents. But there are a number of people who have used the blacklist to excuse their dying careers when that wasn't the reason or, if part of the reason, not even the main reason.

Elaine: And we're not in the mood for his whining when he lies in the book and tries to settle old scores, including one with a sixties actress whom he slimes and pushes the slime off on someone else. Reality: He was a member of the Communist Party. Reality he was a writer. Reality, he managed to work at a time when studios put writers under contract. His bad writing would have meant that, as soon as the studios were forced to start selling off their theater chains and as soon as other economic forces hit, someone like him would have been shown the door. He had nothing to offer. And his book was an embarrassment to read.

Mike: And I want to come back to one point. He feels wronged. I agree he was wronged by the government doing a witchhunt. And let me add Elaine told off a bitch-boy -- yeah, I said it -- of a supposed 'man,' the brother of a well known jerk, right before we came out to California last week when he was whining that his brother was the victim of a witchhunt. You break the law and you 'fess up to it, you're not the victim of a witchhunt. Anyway, back to the book, you're meeting in secret, you're plotting in secret. Page 101, he's outline what thoughts/positions were required to be a member of the Communist Party. Where did those guidelines come from? They're requirements. Who is enforcing them? Gee, Ring Jr., you leave a whole hell of a lot out of your book. But when you're meeting in secret and you're taking orders from someone -- someone that in 2000 you still can't specify -- maybe you're begging for trouble? You didn't break the law but you didn't do the smartest things, now did you? And there are so many lies in that book that I have no use for it or for him. I'm not denying there were real victims. I am saying that, dropping back to C.I.'s point, maybe the Communist Party shouldn't have been so thrilled when the UnAmerican Committee first got established? Maybe people should have called it out back then?

Jim: And on that note, we'll end.

C.I.: No, we won't. I want to build on a point Mike was making. And I also want to clarify what Elaine and I are criticizing. Ring Jr. suffered in terms of prison. Others suffered in terms of prison. Some suffered careers nipped in the bud. Some did not but claim they did. Some claim their families suffered. Building on Mike's point re: sunshine and how Ring Jr. writes of the secret meetings and the efforts to keep various cells from mingling -- and that is what he's describing. When your political work has to be done in secret, you're opening yourself and your family up to problems. Socialist Barbara E made a fool of herself this year with her lunatic article about Hillary's 'secret' religious ties. The same ties Barack has but Babsie couldn't point that out. It was a bad article, it was a hideous article. But if you said, "Hey, Red Babsie, how do you justify writing that attack piece?", she'd respond that things need to be out int he open. Muckraking, by its very nature, is about getting things out in the open. If Babsie can go off on a 'witchhunt' regarding some religious group, then anyone else can do so over political groups. Elaine's point regarding witchhunt, yes, it [the term] is used way too often. McCarthyism was governmental. It's insulting to those who actually suffered and insulting to history to offer something as lunatic as listing Bill Ayers' activities is "McCarthyism!" But it does demonstrate, when idiots push that lie, that they do think the Communists during the 40s and 50s were doing something illegal since Ayers was clearing breaking the law in the seventies. I don't believe that Communists were breaking the law back then. I do believe they were acting in secret and when you do that a muckraker comes along -- and the right has had their own muckrakers, Jack Anderson for example -- and exposes you. In the case of Communists of that period, they wrongly applauded the UnAmerican Committee and they had increasingly angered Democrats in Congress. They faced a backlash and it was a governmental one that turned into a witchhunt and destroyed many lives including the lives of people who were never members of the Communist Party. But, as Mike pointed out, sunshine is what democracy is about.

Ava: And I need to make a point here. The National Guardian, a weekly newspaper, is mentioned by many authors discussed in this roundtable. It was a US weekly and it was a Communist Party publication in the same way that The Nation is a Democratic Party organ. Authors like I.F. Stone go out of their way to insist that it was not a Communist paper. It was. I mention that because the revisionary history is "No one was a Communist." As Elaine pointed out, go to any mainstream site, and you won't find an entry on Ring Jr. stating he was a Communist. You'll find that he was into 'left-wing politics.' He was a member of the Communist Party. He admits that in his own book. Why are people so afraid of saying that truth today? We link, community wide, to Socialist and Communist publications. We have no problem with anyone not in the political closet. We do have specific problems with Communists of that era due to their refusal to address the issues of equality. To them, equality was nothing other than 'the Black man.' Forget women. They were openly homophobic and hostile to gays and lesbians. Those are our problem with the hardliners from that era still alive today.

Mike: And hold on, Jim. Let me add those are our problems and my grandfather's problem. My grandfather is a Socialist and has always been a Socialist. He never hid in any political closet. And he doesn't have any respect for any of the ones who have. I don't like posers who pretend they're Democrats when they're something else. No political closets.

Jim: Okay and I think on that note we're going to end.

Simon Assaf's "Iraq deal does not end the war"

"Iraq deal does not end the war" by Simon Assaf (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

It is being hailed as an honourable end to a disreputable war, the Status of Forces Agreement signed by the Iraqi cabinet last weekend sets out a timetable for the withdrawal of US combat troops from cities by June 2009, and the whole country by December 2011.

But the deal, the full text of which is yet to be published, will not end the occupation.By signing the accord the Iraqi government is agreeing to a ten-year mandate for US troops to "guarantee the security of Iraq" against war, coup, rebellion or revolution.

The US will have the right to maintain 50 military bases, store military equipment, control Iraqi airspace, sail warships in its waters and continue its "supervision" of the interior and defence ministries. The military will also have the right to seize any Iraqi "working against US interests". The US has made small concessions over the prosecution of US soliders or citizens who break Iraqi law while not on operation duty -- but this can only be done in agreement with a US military panel.

The deadline for the withdrawal of troops can also be changed if the US or Iraqi government feels that the "situation on the ground" has changed.

Opposition to the agreement threatened to sink the deal. But after threats against the country, which included withdrawal of $50 billion in aid and the sequestration of its assets held in US banks, the Iraqi government caved in.

The powerful Shia religious establishment, headed by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, withdrew its opposition to the pact. All Iraqi parties that are allied to the occupation have also dropped their objections.

Britain hopes for a similar agreement guaranteeing its role in the south of the country.

The only voices of dissent to the accords are those of rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his supporters. Sadr has denounced the accords and called a protest on Friday of this week.

Far from ending the occupation, the Status of Forces Agreement would leave the US in almost total control of the country, and guarantee the future of the occupation.

The following should be read alongside this article:

» Obama's new strategy as the US faces defeat in Afghanistan

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Then and Now

Now it seems that no truly patriotic American, especially if a newspaperman, is supposed to tell the truth once our government has decided that it is more advantageous to tell a lie. This is the real meaning of President Kennedy's appeal to the American Newspaper Publishers Association for self-censorship in the handling of the news. Mr. Kennedy put it more tactfully. He asked editors to ask themselves not only "Is it news?' but "Is it in the national interest?" But the national interest in a free society is supposed to lie in the fullest dissemination of the facts so that popular judgment may be truly informed. It is the mark of a closed or closing society to assume that the rulers decide how much the vulgar herd shall be told.

The President's real meaning was clearer to those who attended the two-day secret mass briefing, or official brainwashing, for the press at the State Department earlier in the week. There Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Roger Tubby seemed to be implying that the Cuban invasion might have worked if the press had not printed so much about it in advance. He wanted newspapers editors to ask themselves whether a particular bit of news might help the enemy and to call the State Department and ask if they were in doubt. One newspaperman present who had the spirit to challenge this was Richard Dudman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who objected that Tubby assumed the only thing wrong with the Cuban invasion was that it didn't work. Assuming, Dudman asked, that it was poorly conceived whether it worked or not, wouldn't it have been better to have had more information and more public discussion? This elicited only a polite mumble from Tubby, an old State Department hand now back in service who shares its ineradicable view that Papa Knows Best. This was not just post mortem since Mr. Kennedy himself told the briefing that there would be other situations, not similar he hoped, when our preparations would have to be made in secret. (I see no reason why American readers should not be allowed to know this since Soviet bloc reporters present were allowed to hear it and since I was not invited I am not bound to secrecy.) This opens the wider prospect of more adventures in which we make war without declaring it and brings us to the incident over which officials at the briefing expressed the greatest irritation.

I.F. Stone In a Time of Torment, "When The Government Lies, Must The Press Fib?" pp 388 - 390.

Joe Biden as reported by ABC News October 20th:

Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.

I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate. And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you -- not financially to help him -- we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right.

[. . .]

Because I promise you, you all are gonna be sitting here a year from now going, "Oh my God, why are they there in the polls? Why is the polling so down? Why is this thing so tough?" We're gonna have to make some incredibly tough decisions in the first two years. So I'm asking you now, I'm asking you now, be prepared to stick with us. Remember the faith you had at this point because you're going to have to reinforce us. There are gonna be a lot of you who want to go, "Whoa, wait a minute, yo, whoa, whoa, I don't know about that decision." Because if you think the decision is sound when they're made, which I believe you will when they're made, they're not likely to be as popular as they are sound. Because if they're popular, they're probably not sound.

Greens and Marcelo

This month we offered "Marcelo murdered by thugs, ignored by 'leaders'". Marcelo Lucero is the focus of an upcoming event. Kimberly Wilder (On The Wilder Side) notes this event:

Greens in Suffolk work to stop the hate and to honor the life of Marcelo Lucero

The Green Party of Suffolk offers its condolences to the family of Marcelo Lucero, and hopes for an awakening and healing on Long Island after the hate crime that led to his death.

The Green Party is a different kind of political party. The Green Party was created from, and works together with, larger movements for social justice, such as the environmental movement and the civil rights movement. In Suffolk County, members of the Green Party have struggled with ways to address the murder of Marcelo Lucero through their personal efforts, movement efforts, and electoral efforts.

The Green Party sees the election process as a powerful way to address grievances with our government and to force change. Because of this, when local Greens were concerned with the direction of the County Executive during his last campaign, and concerned that he was cross-endorsed by both major parties, the Green Party set out to offer an alternative on the ballot. The Green Party campaign for County Executive in 2007 focused on tolerance and respect for immigrants.

Unfortunately, due to the collaboration between the major parties, the fact that the major parties in Albany write the ballot laws, and the fact that the major parties control the Board of Elections, our candidate was not allowed on the ballot. Still, the Green Party continued with a write-in campaign. The Green Party candidate for County Executive was able to speak to local groups about the need to create fair immigration policies, and the need to stop discriminatory laws being proposed in the Suffolk County Legislature. We were able to hold meetings and create press releases suggesting more positive directions for government action in regards to the treatment of immigrants. And, voters had the option to protest government actions by writing in a worthy candidate who expressed their views.

As a movement, the Green Party is part of an international movement focused on its four pillars: Social and economic justice; Grassroots Democracy; Ecological Wisdom; and Non-violence. There are partisan and non-partisan networks, list-serves and clubs where Green Party members share action alerts, information, and proposals for public policy.

Personally, many local greens have addressed the issue of racism in the community and in their own lives. Green Party members have attended community meetings, vigils, and rallies to speak out against racism and against the murder of Marcelo Lucero based on discrimination against Hispanic people. The Green Party has offered people of all races workshops in dismantling racism and in understanding how white privilege affects all of us. The Babylon Green Party will host a presentation on "The Necessity of Immigrants to the LI Economy" with speaker Kirby Einhorn of LI Wins, on January 7, 2009 at 7pm at the Pisces Café in Babylon.

The Green Party of Suffolk is interested in gathering together people interested in working on issues of social justice through a personal, movement, and/or electoral strategy. And, we are especially interested in people who may want to be candidates or campaign staff for upcoming races against politicians who are not making fair and equal public policy.

The local Green Party can be contacted at (631) 351-5763 or go to:

Background: Green Party of Suffolk:

More information on the Babylon Green Party Gathering:

The January 7, 2009 Babylon Green Party Gathering will feature Kirby Einhorn of LI Wins on the necessity of immigrants to the LI economy.

The event will be held at Pisces Café, 14A Railroad Avenue, Babylon, NY (631-321-1231)

Come hungry! For directions to the Babylon Green Gathering, call 631-422-4702 or email Children are welcome. All gatherings are free of charge, and open to the public.
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