Sunday, May 31, 2009
-- Drew Barrymore at a West Hollywood protest Tuesday, speaking on Free Speech Radio News.
[Note: Tag closed and link fixed.]
Another Sunday. Along with Dallas, the following worked on this edition:
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,
Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ
and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends.
We thank them all. And we thank Betty's kids and Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts for illustrations. Let's turn to what we got.
Truest statement of the week -- Drew had truest and the illustration is by Betty's daughter and Kat.
Editorial: In essence, we are terrorists -- Thursday's court room events should have been huge news.
TV: The Goode Family's Bad Misfortune -- Somewhere along the way this edition, things started coming together for a "worst this" and "worst that" type theme. We actually have three we're either holding or ditching. They may pop up next week. But Ava and C.I. really captured it in this amazing piece. I (Jim) did the title and they say that's when I started saying it was a theme of noting the worst things. (They like The Goode Family. The worst here is that it's on ABC which will most likely not stand by the show.)
Worst Dolls -- Ty and Betty's kids saw this at a store (they disagree which one) and Jess had a camera and took the photo right there on the aisle. (Jess says the store was Target.)
Reaction to the denial of marriage equality -- This is a transcript and again we're noting Drew and FSRN.
Roundtable -- This is Ann, Betty, Elaine, C.I. and myself. Thanks to Ava for taking the notes. Thanks to Betty's kids for the new roundtable illustration. The first man on the left is not Betty's oldest son and looks nothing like him. But Betty's daughter was convinced he'd put himself into the drawing. To appease her, her brothers put her in (she's the little girl). We love the illustration.
Winter Soldier Southwest -- We thank three on this. We thank C.I. for the transcripts. We thank Kat and Isaiah for the illustrations.
Worst Web Site ABC.go.com (Ava and C.I.) -- When I had the worst theme, I immediately asked what we could do and Ty said, "Well let's talk about the e-mails to Ava and C.I." He then dumped three subjects on them and they chose this one: Our readers complaining about ABC online.
Worst scene stealer of the 20th century -- Dona thinks it's tacky for Ann Sheridan to be wearing that hat and that outfit without a bra when her nipples are clearly visible and Ann's there right before a party starts and that's also her party outfit. Maybe without the hat, Dona says, and scarf it wouldn't be so bad. But when we were thinking of worst, Dona said, "Ann Sheridan" and all of us knew what she meant because the first time we watched The Man Who Came To Dinner there was an uncomfortable silence during this scene until someone asked, "Is anybody else noticing the woman's nipples?"
The digital switch -- We are reading the e-mails and we did test out converters as a result. Our e-mail address is email@example.com.
Adam Kokesh -- Kokesh may run for Congress, he's exploring it right now. That's a video he's uring people to circulate. We did. You should too.
Racist in the White House -- Robert Gibbs. There, we said it.
Flipper commits suicide -- Looking for a book to read this summer? We have a suggestion.
Highlights -- Mike, Elaine, Kat, Rebecca, Betty, Stan, Cedric, Wally and Marcia wrote this. We thank them. They also list Ruth so we'll assume Ruth helped in spirit. (Ruth's in Japan for the next few weeks, on vacation.)
And that's what we've got, we'll see you next week. The July 4th weekend? Ava and C.I. have already started mapping that out and they'll steer that edition. June? We'll do our annual summer read edition. There's a lot coming up.
-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.
On May 7th, former US soldier Steven D. Green was found guilty on all counts for his role in the Iraq War Crimes of March 12, 2006, when Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi was gang-raped and murdered, her five-year-old sister was murdered and both of her parents were murdered.
On May 21st, the federal jury deadlocked on the death penalty and instead kicking in sentence to life in prison. September 4th, Green is scheduled to stand before US District Judge Thomas B. Russell for sentencing.
Yeah, yeah -- you say -- we heard that here last week.
But did you hear about Abeer's family? Did you hear about the court house last week?
Thursday, Green appeared in court so that the family of Abeer could give their statements before they had to return to Iraq (they are not planning on returing in September).
Among the very few reporting on what happened in court Thursday was Renee Murphy (WHAS11, link has text and video):
I mean, they came face to face with the killer. Once again, the only thing different about this time was that they were able to speak with him and they had an exchange of dialogue and the family is here from Iraq and they got to ask Steven Green all the questions they wanted answered. They looked each other in the eye. Green appeared calm and casual in court. The victims' family, though, outraged, emotional and distraught.
[. . .]
Today the victim's family was able to give an impact statement at the federal court house the young sons of the victims asked Green why he killed their father. an aunt told the court that "wounds are still eating at our heart" and probably the most compelling statements were from the girls' grandmother who sobbed from the stand and demanded an explanation from Green.
[. . .]
The answers that Green gave were not good enough for some of the family members. at one point today, the grandmother of the young girls who were killed left the podium and started walking towards Green as he sat at the defendant's table shouting "Why!" She was forcibly then escorted to the back of the court room by US Marshalls. She then fell to the ground and buried her face in her hands and began to cry again.
Hailee Lampert (WKLY, text and video) also reported on the events:
Ann, this was the most emotional, intense court hearing I have ever been to. At one point, the victim's grandmother got so upset she had to be restrained by multiple law enforcement agents who actually began escorting her out of the court room until she literally collapsed on the floor beside the bench where I was sitting. She was literally within arm's reach of me. And she was beside herself. She was that striken with grief.
[. . .]
Then the 14-year-old's grandmother took the stand echoing similar sentiments. Remember for her it was the first time being in the same room as the man convicted of killing her son and his family. Again the prosecutor pointed out Steven Green in the court room and after giving her testimony the elderly woman got up and began approching Green saying she just wanted to get a look at her. But as she began moving closer, law enforcement stepped in and physically held her back until she fell down crying on the ground beside the bench where I was sitting. Now at that point, the judge did allow her to stay in the court once she had calmed down a little but the uncle took the stand as well.
The most emotional? And yet the press largely ignored Thursday's events.
These are the crimes of war, these are the things done in Iraq. There's no looking away from them if you have any sense of self-respect. There's no denying what happened. People -- US soldiers have been convicted now.
These were War Crimes and the refusal on the part of the press to cover this story was outrageous.
The American people cannot turn away from these War Crimes anymore than they can hope the torture photos are just forgotten tomorrow. These realities must be faced and addressed.
In terms of Abeer, Iraqis have expressed their outrage over the verdict, their feelings that Green got off because he was an American and that he should have faced trial in Iraq.
On Thursday, the family had a chance to tell the court about their loss and they had a chance to see the man who killed four members of their family, the man who led the gang-rape of Abeer.
The family didn't turn away.
It's doubtful the American people would have . . . if they'd known about it.
The ones who turned away were the press.
The domestic press in the US.
Tony Frates of Salt Lake City didn't turn away. He weighed in at the Salt Lake Tribune noting,
"In essence, we are terrorists. These military members should never have been in Iraq in the first place. I am embarrassed to be a U.S. citizen. I feel anguish for a family that was assaulted, raped and systematically assassinated by U.S. servicemen who scarcely deserve to be called human."
"In essence, we are terrorists."
It's something to think about, especially on a matter that regularly appeared to never trouble the media.
You're in the mind of Mike Judge as he offers up his latest animated program, The Goode Family, kicking off the second hour of prime time each Wednesday night on ABC.
The worst decision Fox made for its schedule this spring was cancelling Judge's King of the Hill. The Hill family weren't running out of juice and each season brought new developments. This fall, Fox Sunday nights will be Seth MacFarlane plus The Simpsons. American Dad, Family Guy and his new Family Guy spin-off revolving around Cleveland. Cleveland is an African-American character . . . voiced by a White man. Created by a White man. Fox and MacFarlane may find themselves facing some stinging critiques even if the tone doesn't go wrong, even if they maintain what Cleveland's done (what little he's done) on Family Guy. When he gets his show, a lot of people will be judging Cleveland, and what the character's pop cultural meaning is, differently than when he was just one of many second bananas. If that happens and Fox has to yank the show immediately, they really have nothing to fill the half-hour.
That's only one problem. Another problem, a likely one, is burnout. Either on the part of MacFarlane or the audience. MacFarlane's shows can be very ugly. ("You've got AIDs, oh, yes, you've got AIDs, Not HIV but full blown AIDS . . ." sung by a barbershop quartet to a man in a hospital.) They also struggle with telling a story or, rather, with concluding one. In one episode of Family Guy, they spoof NBC's PSAs and while it's a little funny, it's actually more obvious that having had Lois turn into a gambling addict, Peter and Chris go on a Vision Quest, Stewie doing stand up, etc., they had no where left to go but several minutes of time still to kill.
They kill a lot of time. Largely with fantasy scenes and cut-aways. Story telling is not MacFarlane's strong suit. When it works -- and often his shows do, it's a pop culture sponge that's soaked up everything and, as its being squeezed dry, several funny moments fall out. It's absurdist and some can never get past the talking baby. So much so that you honestly don't get why they're shocked that a baby (Stewie) can talk but never that the American baby speaks with a British accent. Yeah, that's the normal part, the accent.
American Dad started off as a weak copy of Family Guy (which is largely a rip-off of The Simpsons -- though the idiots who do SouthPark keep insisting they're the ones being ripped off) and it wasn't worth watching. Then, in the first season, the alien Roger did a favor for Steve and played his sister. That required dress up. Roger's dress up added a fantasy element that has taken the show to heights it never dreamed of (such as when Roger goes to work for the CIA or when Roger and Hayley compete to see who guys find cuter). Roger and Hayley share a fondness for dress up and a bantering and antagonistic relationship that's similar to Brian and Stewie. (By contrast, Steve seems even weaker when he's paired with Roger.)
A lot of the greatest bits of inspiration come out of no where and it's to Seth MacFarlane's credit that he's always open to those bits. If the spin-off gets off to a shaky start, he can probably fix it by the end of the first season. But will audiences wait that long and do they really want three shows from him in one night? Three shows with the exact same view points? Three shows with the exact same comedic references?
ABC though they had gold in the seventies. Monday, Tuesday, Happy Days . . . went the theme song to their highly popular sitcom. And those two dates for Fonzie and Richie, Laverne and Shirley, they might make a good spinoff. Laverne & Shirley made a great spin off. And in it's weird way, so did Mork & Mindy even if it was set two decades after Mork's face off with Fonzie. But there were other shows. Blansky's Beauties, anyone? Nancy Walker as Mr. C's cousin Nancy Blanksy. What's not to love? Actually, a lot. Even with Roz Kelly playing Pinky Tuscadero. Joanie Loves Chachi couldn't even make it to twenty episodes.
And that was with different actors to flesh out the roles. The animation of MacFarlane's shows all look the same. Will people sit through three shows by the same person on one night?
But what was known was that the Hill family could be placed anywhere. With promotion, they could be hits. Without it, even just dropped blindly into the Fox schedule, they could still pull in an audience. While MacFarlane's show focuses on the absurd and doesn't fret over story logic, Judge attempts to tell a compelling story each episode. The characters are also more recognizably human.
That's true of The Goode Family as well. But before we get to that, we heard from ABC about the show Wednesday morning. We weren't, they wondered, going to say that the family didn't use recycled bags were we?
Why in the world would we say that?
We watched the episode. Helen Goode takes her daughter, Bliss, to One Foods in an attempt to impress her and bond with her only to spend everything in her wallet on the overpriced food. She forgot her canvas bag and sees the store sells them for $10, then she looks in her empty wallet. The checker asks her -- to the horror of everyone watching -- whether she wants paper or plastic? Seeing the judgemental stares, Helen asks for neither and lies, "I know a lot of people are comfortable shopping with reusable bags but I'm not -- they're made in sweat shops."
It was a funny moment.
Provided you had a sense of humor.
And a brain.
Guess who didn't?
The Idiot Bellafante. Yeah, we've warned you about Gina -- or "Ginia" to be both accurate and pretentious -- before. She truly is an idiot and this is what she offered last week:
[. . .] the Goodes, a family of zealot, vegan, recycling nut cases who don't fight over paper versus plastic because they believe in neither.
"I know a lot of people are comfortable shopping with reusable bags," Helen Goode (the voice of Nancy Carell) explains as she piles her groceries into her arms in the checkout line of a pseudo Whole Foods. "But I'm not. They're made in sweatshops." The Goodes have a dog named Che [. . .]
You did read that correctly. The Idiot Bellafante was apparently speed watching or out of the room when the lengthy set up for the joke took place. She indicates something took place which did not, in fact, take place. Helen uses reusable bags. She forgot her own. Her sweat shop line was a face saving lie.
As if to prove what a moron she is, The New York Times features that exact clip as a 'bonus' to her article online. We'd call it a 'corrective' if there had been a correction.
Of course the only real corrective would be firing The Idiot Bellfante. What does it say about our society that the careless Idiot Bellafante keeps her job while so many hard workers are fired from their own?
The woman's so stupid she mistakes a joke, a character bluffing, for reality. The paper's so stupid they let her get away so much garbage.
Second example, " . . . King of the Hill forged a brilliant neutrality, affectionately portraying the common-sense, ranch-house life of a Christian family in Texas while mocking provincial mediocrity enough to appease the yen for regional condescension on the coasts. You could love it in Cambridge; you could love it in Little Rock." We're not sure they loved it in Cambridge or Little Rock but we'd be willing to bet that anyone who ever saw the show is scratching their heads right now.
The Hill's lived in a suburb. It's thought to be loosely based on Garland, a suburb of Dallas (where Mike Judge grew up). Garland is a suburb. The Hills live in the suburbs, in a tract house, and The Idiot Bellafante has them living in a "ranch-house." In her opening paragraph. Yes, she's that stupid. Yes, she's that uninformed. Yes, The New York Times cares so damn little about accuracy they let her get away with her crap -- over and over.
"My dad is insane and ignorant," exclaims Helen at the start of the show of the Brian Doyle Murray voiced character. Helen's mother's not seen but if she is also "insane and ignorant," we'd suggest The Idiot Bellafante set up an audition pronto.
The current line up of characters is Helen, her husband Gerald (voiced by Mike Judge), their adopted son Ubuntu (David Herman) and Bliss (Linda Cardellini). Julia Sweeney provides the voice for one of Helen's rivals and more characters will be introduced in additional episodes. But the focus, as the title indicates, is the Goode Family.
Visually, it's already got a strong look. Whether it's the backgrounds or the characters and their movements, this isn't a cheaply drawn show. Project Love Adoption Agency is on and off the screen in a quick flashback but, if you paid attention to the visuals, you were provided with several laughs in those thirty or so seconds. Ubuntu, you should quickly notice, is drawn like Richard Nixon. The first episode revolves around Helen feeling Bliss is not close to her. Gerald counsels, "Don't worry, if you weren't close, she wouldn't feel comfortable ignoring you like that." Bliss, rebellling against her parents, joins a chastity group and gets her father to escort her to a "purity ball."
There are non-stop jokes and threads and about the time a Seth MacFarlane show would have Peter turn to the camera and say, "That's all we got this week, folks," everything comes together for a satisfying and, yes, funny conclusion as Che, starving for meat, goes after a neighborhood cat continuing the running joke that all the missing animals on the block have actually been eaten by Che.
Will ABC eat The Goode Family? ABC's not known for doing a great job with primetime animation. In the early nineties, Jane Wagner and Lily Tomlin poured their hearts into some amazing Edith Ann specials (A Few Pieces of the Puzzle, Homeless Go Home and Just Say Noel) which they hoped would result in ABC green lighting an animated series. Despite critical praise, ABC passed. More craziness ensued four years after the last Edith Ann special when ABC then gave Kevin Smith a green light to make an animated program out of his first film. That would be the funny and raunchy Clerks. To no one's surprise, ABC was unhappy and burned the episodes off (two of them, four they never aired) after the spring finales of all their regular shows. Which, yes, is what they're now doing with The Goode Family.
ABC's not floating in the tank the way NBC is. But it's not CBS either. If it could go back in time, it would probably love to steal The Simpsons from Fox, probably love to have a cheaply made program that's been a hit for twenty years this December. They'll never get that by starting and stopping with animated programs. At some point, ABC's going to have to wipe the sweat off its palms and go all the way. Until that happens, the animated corpses will pile up. Translation, catch The Goode Family while you still can.
Is that Mother Mary because she sure doesn't look older than him.
What do you do with Jesus and Mary?
Do you have them set up house together?
And, as Still Standing so wisely once noted, it looks like Kenny Loggins.
(So where's Messina?)
Crowd chanting: What do we want! Equal rights! When do we want it! Now!
Aura Bogado: Thousands of people also demonstrated in West Hollywood last night against the California supreme court's ruling. A crowd gathered at a stage to hear speakers rally same-sex marriage supporters as an enormous mass of people assembled at the corner of Santa Monica and San Vicente -- among them was actor and producer Drew Barrymore who told FSRN she would do whatever it takes. to make sure same-sex marriage is finally honored in the state of California.
Drew Barrymore: My name is Drew Barrymore. I'm here to protest prop 8. families deserve to be loved people deserve civil rights we cannot take a step backwards now in this moment. please do whatever you can to reverse this.
Aura Bogado: Why'd you decide to come out here today?
Drew Barrymore: Because I was raised by gay men and women and I am who I am because of them. And I cannot live in a world where they don't have the rights and the liberties that they deserve and there are children out there who need loving homes. This is a cause that is dearer to my heart than anything I could ever imagine so i will go and i will fight and i will rally and I will do whatever it takes.
Aura Bogado: How did you find out about today's decision?
Drew Barrymore: I found out by my friend in a meeting at nine o'clock this morning and I knew what I was going to do tonight.
Aura Bogado: How did it make you feel when you heard about it?
Drew Barrymore: Angry. It makes no sense. It literally is illogical and cruel and absolutely unnecessary. This is crazy. We've taken giant steps forward, why do we want to take a step backwards.
Aura Bogado: And that again was Drew Barrymore I caught up with her at the demonstration against the California Supreme Court's ruling against same sex marriage. You're listening to FSRN. You can follow us at twitter.com/fsrn.
Betty: As Jim noted, Ruth's on vacation, she's in Japan. Ann filled in for her all last week. In reverse order, she wrote "Closing thoughts," "The lynching," "Barack may be post-racial; however, our society is not" and "Ruth's off in Japan." Ann, I want to toss some of your words back at you because they'll take us into so-called 'independent' media. This is you from "The lynching" about the attacks on Senator Roland Burris, the only Black senator in the US Senate:
And take a moment to notice how the White woman who always wants to act like she's down with the Black community, Amy Goodman, has repeatedly joined in on the attacks against Senator Burris. She's no friend to the Black community. She's another toy radical who will never give up her own seat at the front of the bus for anyone of color.
My first post this week led to some comments at work about how "sweet" it was. My post last night? I couldn't get to my desk forever this morning.
The Black community? We're with Senator Burris. We know a lynching when we see one.
Betty (Con't): I've checked with my family in Georgia and that captures the mood there. I see it here, in California to a lesser degree, but it exists. My question is how can 'independent' media be so out of it?
Ann: Well, and I think you know the answer, who controls it? The White woman I'm talking about, for example, is Amy Goodman. The toy radical. Happy to join in on the attacks on Senator Burris.
Elaine: I'm going to jump in just to back this up for a second. Barack Obama became president. He was elected to the US Senate in November of 2004. His move to the White House opened up his senate seat. The then-governor, Rod Blagojevich, had to appoint someone. Questions swirled around like they did Barack's personal banker Tony Rezko. Blagojevich would be impeached at the end of January. But in November and December, he was screening for Barack's replacement. The state legislature was making noise about removing him but did nothing during that time. He was accused in the press, via the prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, of attempting to award the US Senate seat to the highest bidder. Tapes of US House Rep Jesse Jackson Jr. are allegedly incriminating. After all of this was out in the press, the legislature still wouldn't impeach him. Blagojevich continued looking for the person to appoint to the Senate and eventually named Roland Burris, who was an attorney and had a long resume of public service -- both in office and out. I didn't mean to go on so long but if I can continue just a few seconds more.
Jim: No, go ahead. There will be people who don't know this story. Burris was named and Barack immediately insulted him publicly -- Barack was in Hawaii at the time. It did not play well with the African-American community which forced Barack to publicly back down. Dick Durbin, the other US Sentator from Illinois, and Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, began making noises that Senator Burris would not be seated due to the Blagojevich scandal. Blagojevich has not been found guilty of anything at this point, by the way. Elaine?
Elaine: And Roland Burris has never been charged with anything. Disclosure, after Burris was named and after the threats not to seat him came along, C.I. and I were asked by friends to advocate for the seating of Burris which we did. Ava joined us in that effort. That was an online effort using our own personal contacts in Congress. The three of us? None of us have ever met Roland Burris. Ava and C.I. have nodded to him but didn't even pause for an introduction following a hearing of committee he sits on. They have nothing against Senator Burris but they wanted to continue to be able to say, "We don't know him. We've never spoken to him." The efforts to seat him were not efforts Burris was a part of. Let me toss that to Betty because she's spoken eloquently on this topic.
Betty: Well they made him jump through hoops. It was humilating. He was named to the senate, he was not charged with any crimes and they were saying they weren't going to seat him. He had to meet with Dick Durbin and Harry Reid to prove he was fit. This was ridiculous and it looked so awful on the news because it just reminded us, Black people, of all the times we've been barred, of all the places we couldn't sit. And here was a many charged with nothing and the Senate was refusing to seat him. He's an older man, he's seventy something --
C.I.: He'll be seventy-two in August.
Betty: Thank you. And it was just so sad. He maintained so much dignity as they made him jump through hoops that none of us can ever recall a White appointee to the Senate having to jump through. It was very sad and, as always in moments like this, we could look to leadership from US House Rep Maxine Waters who never backs down and never lets them silence her. She spoke up for him and, thankfully, she wasn't alone. My biggest surprise was Senator Dianne Feinstein and I will always give her a benefit of the doubt in the future because of her speaking out and saying Senator Burris had to be seated. But it was so horrible to see this older man put through all these humiliations. He didn't crumble and that's because his generation had to go through all that and a lot more. And my grandparents thought those days were over. They thought they'd seen those days die off. Not racism, mind you, but this public spectacle where you could make a Black person jump through hoops, where you could basically say, "Sing 'Mammy' for me, boy,' in public, and get away with it.
Elaine: And Betty's speaks very well on this topic every time. She always finds a way to get just to the heart of it.
Jim: She does and Elaine's voice was quivering. I'm going to take a second here to let everyone take a deep breath. I don't know how the words will read but the audio version that we'll be our contribution to Hilda's Audio Mix will really bowl you over. Betty spoke very movingly. Okay, Elaine?
Elaine: Thank you, I needed that moment. Okay, so as Betty says, he has to jump through hoops and he does and he finally gets seated. And that should have been the end of it but it's never been the end of it. Last week was another of the: "He's guilty!" Of what? As Steve Chapman, no fan of Burris, explains in "Listening to Burris," Chicago Tribune, the wiretap shows Burris didn't purchase the seat. His business was going under. He's telling that to the governor's brother. Now the charge was that Burris may have bought the seat. That was the charge. And people, like Amy Goodman, lied when the wiretap surfaced and stated it proved it. It proved no such thing. To the contrary, it proves that Burris not only couldn't afford to buy the seat -- something he'd stated publicly months ago -- but that he had explained that to the governor's brother. Here's the thing, and then I'll let Betty get back to Ann, this whole things reminding me of the witch hunt on Bill Clinton. Whitewater's a crime! A crime! We need to investigate! Well they get to do that. They find nothing, no crime. So they go after Bill Clinton on sex. We need to all remember that the accusation thrown around in the press was that Burris must have bought the seat. That's the accusation. If they can prove that, they have a proof of a crime. Anything else they want to go for? Too damn bad. He's stated they should have asked better questions, his inquistors, and he's right. He answered the questions put before him. The crime would be buying the seat. Prove that or leave him alone.
Ann: Which is exactly right. And I just want to ask a question that I and a few other members have. This is for C.I. Here and at The Common Ills, you've always worded it very carefully that you were helping to have Senator Burris seated and that you didn't know him and didn't advocate for him to be appointed. A few of us are also thinking you wouldn't have advocated for him to be appointed and that it's due to the age.
C.I.: That is correct. I would never have advocated for anyone his age to be appointed. Here, at Third, we've already come out about how some people, some senators, are too old. Now if they had fair fights, real electoral challenges, that would be one thing. But they don't and they get in for life and stay there for life. Because of that position, already expressed here months ago and before Burris became appointed, I would never have supported him being appointed. For the age issue alone. And by "supported," I mean, if I'd been asked -- which I wasn't -- I would have said someone else. I honestly would have said Bobby Rush, who I know and who is in the US House. Who is not a lot younger but is under 65 currently. And if it had been an open seat that had been to the public to vote and they'd voted Burris senator, that's great. The people had the choice and they made it, end of story. But with an appointment and with the Senate already having too many over 70 members, I wouldn't have said, "Hey, Roland Burris, appoint Roland Burris."
Ann: But you supported him being seated because he was appointed.
C.I.: Right. I had no problem helping on that. He was named, he was appointed. As Elaine's pointed out, the state legislature could have removed Blagojevich in December before the appointment. They chose not to. The governor wasn't laying low. He was very clear that he was appointing someone. Once he appointed Roland Burris, Burris was the senator. It was a legal appointment and that's what the state court's found. And there was no reason for Reid and Durbin to try to deny to seat him.
Ann: That's what a number of us thought by reading the way you worded that, especially back in January.
C.I.: Right. We published, here, we published "A gold watch for Robert Byrd?" December 14th.
Jim: And our feeling, because we did discuss this when the Burris nomination was made, was, "Another over seventy?" But we didn't then say, "Oh, no, he's not going to be seated! We will stop this!" He'd been appointed, he was the legal senator. And it was dismaying to watch people trying to prevent him from being seated.
Ann: And it was dismaying. I was dabbing my eyes while Betty was speaking earlier because she really does capture and Betty's a young woman but she's such an old soul. What she said earlier, I heard that from the men and women in my office and in my building last week, the men and women who were in their sixties and older. It's not uncommon, the feeling, for any age group but the refusal to seat Senator Burris really did hurt Black men and women approaching retirement and beyond. They saw it as segregation and discrimination in public, supported publicly all over again.
Betty: And do you think if Juan Gonzalez, for example, was Leroy Taylor, a Black man from Harlem but Juan's age, that Democracy Now! would have pulled that crap last week?
Ann: Absolutely not. A black man or woman of that age being part of the program would have prevented that from happening. Amy took speculation and made it 'fact.' It was embarrassing. But so was the segment on the Latina nominee to the Supreme Court. They go to a break and they're playing Billie Holiday's "God Bless The Child." Billie was a black woman, it was a blues song, identified with Black people and it's a song that's part of our Black history. I'm failing to understand why Goodman's using it as a song to nominate a Latina to the Court. Unless it's that all of us people with colored skin look the same to Miss Amy.
Betty: Right on.
Jim: Ann, you're really disappointed in our so-called 'independent' media. Do you want to talk about that?
Ann: Well it goes beyond Senator Burris and the fact that they will not defend him from this lynching. It also includes the refusal to cover Iraq. It also includes the refusal to cover the War Crimes trial which took place in Kentucky. 'Oh, we can't afford to go to Iraq and it's not safe!' Your little White ass can't make it to Kentucky? It's all such propaganda. They're all in service of the White House at this point and I can't stand to listen to Pacifica or read those 'left' magazines or websites. I thought they spent the last eight years drilling I.F. Stone's 'governments lie' into our heads? I thought they told us that the press job was to challenge, question and hold the feet of the powerful to the fire? But that's all gone in case you missed it.
Jim: It is sorry and it's cheaply made, cheap product. It's disgusting. No bravery and no talent. We have a time limit on this and then we have to rejoin everyone else so I'm just going to take the issue of independent media and toss to C.I. and encourage Elaine to as well and encourage Betty and Ann to jump anytime they want. First up, Elaine told me about a conversation the two of you had last week where you were just completely fed up with independent media and how it wastes all of our time. Give me one example.
C.I.: One example? Okay. This is a faux 'left' argument that eats up way too much time and everyone's heard from one 'left' outlet or another in the last three years: 'The media isn't left! The media isn't left! You have a study saying journalists are? Well your study's wrong! The media isn't left!' And then after this goes back and forth for a whole week or more, suddenly the party line comes down of: 'Well the reporters may lean left but they don't control the presses. The publishers are conservative.'
Jim: Okay. I have heard that repeatedly in the last five years. And it does play out like that and it's usually CounterSpin, well after the topic's played out that briefly mentions that the publishers are conservative. Your point?
C.I.: They mention it. They move on. They don't back it up and they refuse to immediately go there. Ben Bagidkian is a media critic -- and a member of the MSM at one point -- that can get cited some every now and then in media discussions on CounterSpin or Democracy Now! or in The Nation. In 1972, his book The Effete Conspiracy And Other Crimes By The Press makes the point that the publishers are more conservative. And he doesn't just make the point, he backs it up with concrete examples. Such as the Du Pont chain of papers in Delaware, stating the papers were independent, but the Du Ponts would not allow any Democrat to be endorsed and would not allow anything less than flattering copy for all Republican nominees. He proves it by going to editorial decisions and by an editor quitting over this very issue. Why are we unaware of that? Why don't we know about it?
Elaine: That's a solid example, but the one Jim really wanted was the cursing.
C.I.: Oh, okay. Sorry. WBAI wastes our time over and over with "We put on George Carlin 7 words you can't say on the air." Who the hell cares? Truly. Who the hell cares? What the hell does that have to do with anything? That advances what? We're smarter now how? 'Well it was a Supreme Court case.' Who the hell cares? It's dirty words. In the early seventies, WBAI broadcast a prison riot live. That's the power of the press. The general manager at the time, 1972, was Edwin Goodman. And he was hauled before a court and told to produce the tapes. This was in the old days so there was no going to the website and streaming the episodes you missed. The government wanted the tapes. This was the Tombs prison. And Goodman refused to turn them over. He was sent to jail for standing for press freedom. He only was in jail for one night, the next day, a higher judge ordered him released. But this was a brave moment. This was one of those moments that WBAI can point to with pride and we don't hear about that. They can't shut up with their gossip about George Carlin and the f-word but something that actually matters, actual news, they don't bother to stress that or to make the case for WBAI being historically important. When they do stress historical importance -- usually in pledge drives -- it's 'Oh, we interviewed . . .' toss out some well known name. Who the hell cares? Everyone's interviewed today and their dog. Your claim to fame isn't that you interviewed some historical celebrity, your claim to fame is that you broadcast the uprising at Tombs prison. That's news.
Jim: It is news and I've never heard of it. Elaine had told me about you offering that as an example and, she's right, I did want you to bring it in here. But you say that's 1972 and I looked up Carlin's broadcast which is 1973. Before we moved out here, the Bay Area, I listened to WBAI all the time. When we were in New York, I listened to it constantly. And I heard about Carlin over and over and over and over. I never heard about the Tomb prison uprising. The prison is news, the dirty words are for an E! True Hollywood Story.
Ann: You said the Bay Area and I want to go on record stating Betty, here, got me interested in KPFA and, specifically, Andrea Lewis. I started listening online because of Betty's remarks here. And then she left and I tried to keep listening. She's back now but not at The Morning Show and I can't take that show. It's Good Morning America. [The Morning Show is "It's".] Who needs it?
C.I.: I agree with you completely. I think all the KPFA hosts should be forced to do shows on location, on the street, for a full week to get back in touch with the people. Now Bonnie Faulkner wouldn't have a problem with that because some of her shows are that. She records events and plays those later on the show. But these other people?
Jim: Don't stop, I'm sensing an explosion.
C.I.: I'm remembering a Morning Show guest who was a nutritionist and I'm remembering her making an idiot out of herself and the host not fixing the program. Well, the question asked by the host went, how about sneaking vegetables for kids into their diets via pizzas? 'There is nothing worse for kids than pizza,' declared the nutritionist. Really? Really? Cause I can think of a million things worse than pizza for children such as being molested, such as being abused. But if we want to stick to food issues, it is certainly worse for kids to starve. It is certainly worse for kids to get no vegetables at all. This little elitist attitude does not play well and when it pops up the host needs to hold it in check. There is this huge strand of "I'm so much better than everyone" running through KPFA today. Let's take public transportation. I'm thinking of another KPFA program, in the last three years, where the host stated they tried to take public transportation and the guest ripped that apart with "Do you know how much pollution that creates?" I, me, I know that it creates a lot less pollution than everyone being in their own car. I know that we'd all be better off if a lot more people used public transportation. But that's not good enough for little mister I-ride-my-bike everywhere. Well guess what you elitist snob, there are people who will not be able to ride bikes. For some it will be due to age, due to health conditions, due to physical conditions. And who the hell are you to make them feel bad not to mention anyone thinking of riding public transportation? I'm damn sick of this elitist attitude. I'm sick of these people, these people who have never dealt with a hungry child, these people who have never stopped to think what life might be like for someone without full mobility or missing a limb. I am sick of them. KPFA makes a big damn deal that their events are accessible to everyone. Is it too damn much to expect that their programming be accessible to everyone? These guests need to be challenged on air and the way they respond should determine whether they get asked back. If they immediately say, "You're right. If we're talking about a kid who refuses to eat vegetables and you can sneak in some in a pizza, go for it." If they do that, bring them back on. If they don't, they don't belong on the air. Elaine, take over because I'm going to start cursing if I continue.
Elaine: Well we discussed this on the phone and there are two main points here. 1) KPFA wants money from listeners. They don't deserve if they act like they think they're better than their listeners. That's just nonsense. You're supposed to be on air for them. You're not supposed to be on air to glorify yourself. 2) KPFA, like many on the left, think the answer is awakening the working class. So why do they work so hard to insult the working class. They're as bad as the US Socialist Worker which seems to think they will awaken the working class via publishing the equivalent of a slam book to the working class. There is no stereotype about the working class that you couldn't easily find presented as fact by the US Socialist Worker in the last nine months. If you want to reach out and expand your audience, you don't have to change your positions, but you do have to lose the I'm-so-much-better-and-smarter-than-you attitude.
Ann: I have to jump in on that. The attacks on Sarah Palin were and are -- because they continue -- disgusting. It was elitist and it was savage and you better grasp, White people who do that, it also has a racial component when it's read by someone who's Black.
Jim: Expand on that.
Ann: Okay, last week it was time to trash Sarah Palin again and you could find it on all the blogs because a Latina had been nominated for the Court and apparently her supporters on the left couldn't build a case around her so they resorted to insulting Sarah Palin. At one site, I read repeated comments about how Palin had to go to multiple colleges to get a degree where the Latina -- I don't know her name, sorry, I'm not following it -- had graduated from Ivy League colleges. Well what do you think, Silly White Elitists, a Black person thinks when they read that? I can tell you what this one thought, "Imagine what they'd say about me." I didn't vote for Sarah Palin and I would never vote for Sarah Palin. But when you tell me her college story, I don't hear reason to ridicule her. I hear a story about a woman who wanted a college degree and who kept at it until she got it. I hear, honestly, the story of my mother, the first person in our family who had a degree. I hear her story. She had to sacrifice including dropping out because she started a family. She returned to college as soon as she could, community college, yes, a source of great laughter for White Elitists. And she got her Associates and then she got her bachelors three years later. Not two because she had to work and she had kids. And it was a state school, not a private institution. I'm really proud of my mother and when these little White snobs rip apart Sarah Palin's college history, they better grasp that many Black families across the country have someone in their family, whom they love, who had to work hard like Sarah Palin did to get that degree. And we don't ridicule them. And when I read that kind of ridicule of Sarah Palin, I feel like, "Yeah, and they'd laugh at my mother too." Again, I didn't vote her, I wouldn't vote for her. But she showed real determination and getting a degree and I applaud her for it. I also applaud her for starting with humble beginnings -- something many Black people can relate to -- and going on to become a mayor and then a governor and, yes, the vice presidential nominee for a political party. What a wonderful story and I can be happy for her that she's gone so far without ever wanting to vote for her or without a need to hate her. And I want to add one more thing. I always love reading Third and think everyone does a great job but I want to single out Ava and C.I.'s coverage of the presidential race which did not resort to distortions or sexism or any of the things so prevalent everywhere else. Instead, we were encouraged by them to be thrilled that Hillary had gotten so many votes in the primary, that Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente were a ticket and that Sarah Palin was on the v.p. slot of the Republican ticket. While everywhere else online the goal seemed to be preaching fear, Ava and C.I. regularly took time to encourage us to celebrate what four strong women accomplished in one of the most sexist years in recent memory.
Jim: And Ann, if it helps, what you're saying is said repeatedly in e-mails to this site. And I agree with you 100%. Okay, "Vietnam and Iraq" went up Monday and "I Hate The War" went up Thursday and, C.I., in both you are talking about what we're talking about here, you are talking about the knowledge we should have but don't. And I'm sensing that was a pattern all week long. Correct?
C.I.: Correct. It is becoming very frustrating to hear and read garbage. And I'm really not in the mood. I'm thinking of people who want to whine that PBS, for example, actually the CPB, the board of PBS, used to fund their projects, their documentaries, and air them and now all the sudden, why, goodness, there's censorship! Some trace it to the 80s, I believe Danny Schechter traces it to the 80s. And I'm just sick, sick, sick of that s**t. I'm sick of people being lied to either because people speaking and writing don't know the history or don't care to impart it.
Jim: Okay. Impart. PBS and censorship.
C.I.: Okay, let's go with The Banks and the Poor, a documentary --
Jim: Stop. I recognize the title and am googling. Binging? Not yet. But I'm googling and I've got it. Bill Moyers spoke of it -- and I know he didn't say what needed to be said -- but here's him speaking on it and the Nixon White House as broadcast by Democracy Now! in 2005:
The White House had been so outraged over a documentary called "The Banks and the Poor" about discrimination, about rich financial institutions against the poor, that PBS was driven to adopt new guidelines. That didn’t satisfy Nixon, and when public television hired two NBC reporters, the radicals Robert McNeil and Sander Vanocur to co-anchor some new broadcast, it was, for Nixon, the last straw. According to White House memos at the time, he was determined, (quote), "to get the left wing commentators who are cutting us up off public television at once; indeed, yesterday, if possible." Sound familiar?
Jim (Con't): Not good enough?
C.I.: No, that's exactly the bulls**t that I'm talking about. The bulls**t I'm not in the mood for. Bill Moyers is falsifing through his false teeth. What a liar. The Banks and the Poor upset Nixon? Maybe so, but did it upset the banks? That's the story and that's what Bill Moyers didn't have the guts to tell people. 1970's The Banks and the Poor was raised in the House Banking and Currency Committee, called out by the chair -- give me a second while I try to remember names, Wright Patman. Wright Patman was the chair. And why did he call out that documentary? He called it out because PBS decided to 'preview' it. To whom? To the bankers. Before it ever aired, PBS went to the bankers and set up a special screening. Patman declared during a hearing that the title of the show "indicates that there were at least two sides presented in the film, and it is surprising that only one side -- the banks -- was invited to these special previews." Long before Nixon could be offended by the program, PBS had already sold out and that doesn't fit with the little lies Bill wants to tell, so he leaves that out. Truth be told, the White House wasn't that upset with the documentary. Why should they be? They were upset about Sander. Read Bill Moyers again but just on Sander.
Jim: "That didn’t satisfy Nixon, and when public television hired two NBC reporters, the radicals Robert McNeil and Sander Vanocur to co-anchor some new broadcast, it was, for Nixon, the last straw."
C.I.: What the hell was Bill smoking? Robert MacNeil was not an 'enemy' of the White House. There were many on Nixon's hit list, many reporters, MacNeil wasn't one of them which is why MacNeil was able to interview him. Sander and MacNeil didn't do a program together. Now the Nixon White House hit the roof on Sander being hired by PBS. That was public and it was ugly. But Robert MacNeil? No. And Robert didn't leave NBC to join PBS. He'd already left NBC -- and gone to the BBC. And co-anchoring a broadcast? What broadcast? Mac --
Jim: Is it "MacNeil" or "McNeil" because the Democracy Now! transcript says "McNeil" and you're clearly saying "Mac" and not "Mc"?
C.I.: It's Robert M-a-c-N-e-i-l. But Robert joined PBS and began hosting Washington Week in Review which is now Washington Week. That whole statement is just full of inaccuracies. And the story with The Banks and the Poor isn't some Nixon response, the story there is that PBS was already selling out, PBS was already taking documentaries and allowing powerful subjects to see them first and listening to their input and making changes and, if I could stay with this a moment more?
Jim: Go for it.
C.I.: PBS was a coward. And Bill Moyers wants to make Nixon the star of this story. The filmmakers thought they could win an Emmy for their documentary and they asked PBS to submit it for the nominating process. PBS said no. PBS said it was too controversial. And let's talk reality about PBS. It started in 1967 and it wasn't supposed to be a fourth network, it was supposed to be an alternative. By 1972, its problems -- the ones that persist today -- were already well known. Among others, James Aronson called PBS out in Deadline For The Media in 1972. He noted it it was controlled by the Ford Foundation and Mobil Oil because it took so much money from both and foundation money, not just corporate money, foundation money. He quotes Arthur L. Singer, who'd been part of the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television which basically drew up the blueprint for PBS, stating the Ford Foundation dominated PBS. And because we don't know our real history, we don't know that these problems that a bunch of distractors posing as 'radicals' and 'leaders' tell us we can fix and tell us are new problems but are in fact systematic problems that have long been called out. Within a year of broadcasting all of the problems of PBS today were already evident. And people need to know that not only because they have a right to know but also because they can't address a problem if they think it's only recently emerged. As for Nixon's responding to that 1970 documentary? Clay T. Whitehhead appears to be what Bill Moyers is responding too, an infamous speech where Whitehead argues that the broadcast networks already provide news and public affairs programming so PBS should do other things. Check the date on that speech and then explain to me how that's a 'rapid response' or even a response to the 1970 documentary. It's become PBS lore that Whitehead's speech was about that documentary but that's not real apparent by the date of the speech and that was one documentary out of many that the White House would have frowned upon -- to put it mildly. It's not history that Moyers is imparting, it's an oversimplification that lets all alleged independent actors off the hook in order to crucify Nixon. Now I hate Nixon and I doubt Bill Moyers would use "hate" to describe his feelings for Nixon. But as much as I hate Nixon, I'm fully aware that the cowardice on the part of PBS is a big part of the story and it's one that Bill Moyers repeatedly leaves out.
Betty: I want us to pull this into a WBAI or a KPFA. I mean in terms of what can be done. I liked the idea about remotes for KPFA. It would be good for them to be forced to encounter real people and not their insulated small circle. So what else?
C.I.: Well Elaine made a point on the phone that I'd forgotten about.
Elaine: For example, back in the 70s, WBAI was able to do a lot of things. They would do, for example, hilarious sketches. Now they still do some humor but the sketches I'm talking about would be humorous re-enactments of the Congressional record with the effect that we were able to laugh and we learned a little about what the Congress was up to. They don't offer that now. They don't offer a lot that they used to. Back then, though, they had a DC station that actually produced news content which was so strong the others would broadcast it. Those days are gone. I would like to see WBAI get out of the studios. I remember Janet Coleman co-hosting the WBAI coverage of the debate between Chris Hitchens and George Galloway over Iraq some time ago and there was an additional level of energy to the broadcast just because they were out of the studio. And of course, I think they can do a better job of imparting history.
C.I.: Yeah. KPFA? They do need to get out among the people. KPFA has gotten very bad about coming off elitist. Everyone on air is pretty much guilty of it. They need to get out among the people and they need to remember that people listen. They're not just yammering away with no one listening. They also need to remember that people listen from all over the country and all over the world as a result of streaming online. Every time they take a pot shot at a location, e-mails come in to The Common Ills complaining about it. Complaining that they just got insulted. I don't think KPFA grasps how many people they insult daily and they better grasp that they're listened to beyond the Bay Area. Betty, you know what I'm talking about because they're always trashing KPFA at your job.
Betty: Right. They think it is elitist. They think it's smug and looks down on them. And of course they would, for all the reasons noted. I think they're right and, for my job, the person most often pointed to is Aimee Allison who comes off not as the co-host of a program but as someone always determined that a guest know she's not like whomever the guest is criticizing. She is so insecure on air but so secure in her bigotry and it's the only word for it, "bigotry." I think the schedule needs to be revamped and, no, that doesn't mean air Democracy Now! twice, once in the evening, once at night. It should only be aired once. The way WBAI only airs it once a day.
C.I.: Well KPFK, LA station, has a better overnight lineup which is a variety of discussions, speeches, interviews, all cut up and edited together to create a strong mix of information. KPFA needs to lose their overnight music shows. No one's listening. If I am home when those are on, I don't listen. If I'm home and wanting to hear the radio, I'll boot up the computer and stream KPFK instead of just turning on the radio for KPFA. That's how bad the overnight schedule is. In terms of The Morning Show, I'd like a show where the hosts were serious. I'd like a show where it wasn't let's-be-silly. I'd like a little professionalism on air and I'm not hearing it. I'd like better choices for guests and topics. And I'd toss out the food and other soft issues because KPFA's problem has not been in recent years that's it's not soft enough, it's problem has been that's it is overly soft, too many features, too much gossip, not enough news, not enough reality.
Betty: I wanted to like Aimee Allison on air. I don't. I think she's a complete failure. Why do you think she's so bad on air?
C.I.: She'd improve tremendously if she'd stop treating guests like their holy seers and started acting like she belongs on the show and she's an equal. She needs to drop the wide-eyed stance. She also needs to learn to ask some hard questions of the guest. Andrea Lewis would laugh on air and she has a wonderful laugh. But Andrea wasn't afraid of the tough questions or afraid to get serious. And she acted like an adult woman -- she still does but I'm referring to when she was co-host of The Morning Show. Aimee Allison should have been the emerging KPFA star. She had it all on her bio but she has so far refused to pull it off. She's a Green who cheerleads Barack. Golly, I seem to recall the Green Party giving Barry O failing grades on his first 100 days. As a Green, she should be leading the criticism of Barack at KPFA. When she doesn't, it looks even worse than some of Kris Welch's embarrassing statements because Aimee is known as a Green, she ran as a Green. The bulk of the audience would not be shocked by Aimee leveling Green Party criticism at Barack. They might not all agree but they would appreciate another viewpoint which is what Pacifica was supposed to do, to present a variety of viewpoints. It gave that mission up long ago.
Ann: Jim, you haven't offered any thoughts on changing the line up or schedule?
Jim: Thanks for asking. I agree with C.I.'s points and Betty's. I find Elaine's comments about what WBAI used to do interesting. I think there's enough fluff and enough feature articles on KPFA. I don't think they need food segments on The Morning Show. I don't think they need Mitch's crap on The Morning Show. Instead of funding that Brother Mitch Falls To His Knee and Sucks Off Barack For A Half-Hour segment, they should have someone using that thirty minutes each day to report on Congress. That's much more important than Mitch's fawning over Barack. Mitch should pack it in at this point. I'd be embarrassed to be him. He's made himself a joke. And we'll wind down because the timer on my watch went off some time ago. This was a rush transcript. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is Winter Soldier?
We'll quote Matthis Chiroux from his June 15, 2008 speech:
Today I stand in resistance to the occupation of Iraq because I believe in our nation, its military and her people. I resist because I swore an oath to this nation that I would not allow it to fall into decay when I may be serving on the side of right. And my country is in decay and in these times of crisis Thomas Paine once said, "The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will flee from service to our country."
I stand here today as a Winter Soldier. To serve our nation, its military and its people in this dark time of confusion and corruption.
I stand here to make it known that my duty as a soldier is first to the higher ideals and guiding principles of this country which our leaders have failed to uphold.
The Winter Soldier Investigation was modeled after the 1971 WSI that the Vietnam Veterans Against the War staged.
For information on the Winter Soldier Investigations IVAW has held so far, you can visit this IVAW page which is a clearinghouse of Winter Soldier information and links. The March 2008 event was broadcast War Comes Home, at KPFK, at the Pacifica Radio homepage and at KPFA, here for Friday, here for Saturday, here for Sunday with Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz anchoring Pacifica's live coverage. (It was also broadcast at the IVAW site.)
Iraq Veterans Against the War announced recently:
Winter Soldier Southwest was a great success. There were more than half a dozen camera crews shooting it for purposes ranging from independent media to anti-war documentaries. The panelists were quite moving and the audience was extremely supportive and full of positive energy. We want to thank everyone that helped put the event together, including all the panelists from VVAW, VFP, MFSO and Gold Star Families. Most profoundly moving was the testimony of the Gold Star Families panel. Quite a number of panelists testimonies have found their way onto the internet already, below is a short list of a few links to what's out there.
We're going to pair some testimonies with some illustrations. The rush transcripts come from C.I.'s Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Iraq snapshots and the illustrations were done by Isaiah and Kat who got to work on them last week. Links of the speakers' names in the transcripts go to the YouTube videos for those who enjoy streaming.
Ryan Endicott: I knew my time had come as I laughed, I ran. This was everything I had hoped for, my chance to kill. I didn't care how or who but someone was going to die today. [. . .] From that moment forward, our efforts became much more intense. We began getting "intelligence" -- quote unquote -- of suspected terrorists safe houses, weapons caches. We would gear up, blare our death metal and pump each other up comparing body counts, telling each other, "It's only a matter of time before we get another." We knew every way to walk right around the line of engagement. The rules of engagement? What a joke. To us grunts, rules of engagement were not rules at all but merely words on a piece of paper, somewhere printed, for the sole purpose of protecting officers if we grunts actually got caught.
Try to imagine yourself tonight as you sleep warm in your bed with your wife, your children in the next room. Two a.m. and your door is kicked in and men are screaming. As they kick open your bedroom door, they're screaming a language you don't understand. They're pointing machine guns at your face as they drag you by your hair from your bed, slamming your face down to the ground, putting their boots on the back of your neck and smashing your face further into the concrete floor. Your struggle to protect your family and your home is futile as you are blindfolded and handcuffed so tight you lose feeling in your hands within minutes. All you know is you can hear your screaming wife and children crying for help and you are too useless to protect them. You were not on a list of suspected terrorists. You were not on a list of known terrorists. In fact, you completely supported the US coming into your country and promising freedom, prosperity. You were simply a man in a house on a street that my platoon decided to search. When your blindfold is finally released, the men left your home, it's destroyed. Your wife and children are huddled in a corner defenseless and crying. Every drawer in your home is thrown. The contents broken, soiled. Your bed has been urinated on. Your wife's panties are glued to the wall. Maybe a family heirloom is missing or other objects stolen. The floor is wet with fresh chewing tobacco spit. And you vainly try to tell your family it will be okay and never happen again but, in your heart you know all the while, your chances are it probably will.
As time continued to pass, my ego grew stronger and my hate boiled within my veins. A scene like this was nothing more than a Tuesday to me. I laughed as I heard a story. One of the platoons had strapped dead bodies to the hoods of their Humvees and drove around the city for hours blasting death metal music as they terrorized the population. Just another Tuesday to me.
Back on post, there was a time when somehow, some way, an Iraqi had managed to get himself lost and ended up knocking on the door to my post which happened to be next to our sleeping area. As I answered the door and I saw the Iraqi standing there, I accepted my fate and I jumped on top of him. I accepted he was a suicide bomber and I had seen my last day as I began to punch him. Brutally I sat on top of him punching him as hard as I could. After a moment I got him under control and handcuffed him. He was simply a man who had just gotten lost. I was punished harshly not for my actions, not for harming an unarmed civilian, but for not killing him. I was told he should have been killed for being there and I would have been protected. I was forced to burn feces, stand hours at an additional post and physically punished. I was ostracized and called a "wuss" and a "girl" for not killing him. I had lost all the respect that I had gained and that I had killed for to earn. I was forced to stand six hours at post at a time directly behind an air conditioning unit with all the heat blasting out of the back side onto my face in the middle of the summer in one of the hottest places on the earth. I stood that post 12 hours a day, four days a week for over a month.
The man that arose from that month was someone I hoped to never meet again. The last bit of humanity and morality I had left was gone. I laughed as marines told me they'd just shot this guy in the head and saw his head explode. Just another Tuesday to me.
One Tuesday they brought a car that had just been shot up. The driver's fully intact brain was sitting in the back seat. And, to the looks of it, the passenger's brains were all over the car. I walked over to the body bag with the passenger in it -- the bag was still twitching. And we could hear his body still attempting to breathe. Even though his brains were clearly all over the car. We laughed as we stomped him. Just another Tuesday to me.
These are just some of the Tuesdays that fill a seven day calendar.
I was given a medium machine gun and unlimited ammo and told to spend a couple of hours per post down at a post that was usually unmanned. It had extended view and less observers that could see what I was doing while I was down there. It was expressed to me that I was now a shooter and was being placed down there to shoot. "Don't worry. We have your back. Make sure your combat reports are rock solid and we'll take care of you. You saw two guys with weapons and one ran off." Rules of engagement may change like the tides of the ocean or the winds of a hurricane but people don't come back from the dead. Sometimes, from one hour to the next, the rules of engagement would change. At ten a.m. someone with a shovel on a certain street would be killed and at ten-thirty he shouldn't be killed. You can change the rule but you can't bring that person back to life. And when you can't bring him back to life, you tell me that I just murdered him.
After returning from the war, I began drinking, not caring. I had an attitude that ruled my life where I didn't care if I lived, if I died, where I went or what I did. As the mental brainwashing and numbing that the Marine Corps had given me dissipated, the only way to substitute that numbing was through alcohol. I started to think back to the people I shot and the lives that I ruined through my hatred and violence and sometimes it was just too much for me to handle. This war has not only taken the lives of countless Iraqis -- men, women and children, but it has destroyed how many? Who knows? Countless American lives have been destroyed. American veterans. People who joined to serve their country and be American heroes. Many vets feel there's just no one out there who can help them and end up on the street homeless with nothing or sometimes worse. Veterans are attempting and committing suicide at an unprecedented rate. That's for a reason. What's worse? To die for no reason or to live a life of violence and destruction, internal structure and hatred every single day for no reason? To live every day knowing that everything that was instilled in me from the moment I was born as a free American boy, all the morals and everything that was taught to me, I gave away -- at the moment I pulled the trigger for acceptance, the moment that I beat another human being half to death simply to feel like the heroes that I held with such regard.
I know today that I cannot mend the things that I have broken. Or fix the lives that I have destroyed. But maybe with my testimony today, I can help one person, they might help two people who can eventually help four. And they'd be all of us together, standing united in preventing these atrocities from ever happening again.
Christopher Gallagher: My unit was 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. I joined the Marine Corps right at 9-11out of patriotism and love for my country. I was part of the invasion force and two tours following that. While sitting around in Kuwait in early 2003, we were told to write a final letter to our families and put it on [. . .] sea bags that were to be left behind and then sent to your family if you died in Iraq. This is a picture of the letter I wrote. Many of the troops, including myself, were sent to Iraq with inadequate armor. I drove a Hummer into Iraq. It had only a plastic canvas for protection while I was driving directly behind armored troop carriers. I was not issued ballistic plates for my flak jacket. Whole battalions of officers were issued ballistic plates along with the line companies. But to the government, I was expendable and did not rate to have such life-saving, personal protection. I vividly remember one night after being up for nearly five days straight I was on a closed parameter roving post outside the commanding operation center when artillery rounds started landing. The next day I found out it was friendly fire. And these rounds were landing only a few hundred yards away -- which if you've ever been around 120 millimeter round, land near you, it's pretty insane. It made me realize how close I had come to death and it made me angry that I didn't have ballistic plates.
After my unit had taken Baghdad and helped pull the statue of Saddam Hussein down, there was a short-lived celebration. This brings me to my next issue -- of where an official Defense Department story meets with true reality on the ground. On April 14, 2003, Cpl Jason Mileo of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines was murdered by a Force Recon Sniper. Cpl Mileo had apparently taken off his helmet and was smoking a cigarette at night with his rifle next to him and was mistaken for an insurgent. I had been providing security at night along with several others of my platoon on that roof. For several nights prior to Force Recon relieving us and I had not noticed anything significant to report in that time. There was nothing out there. I hadn't seen anything. And as soon as Force Recon had taken over, I was hearing shots coming from the roof constantly and it made me wonder what the hell were they shooting at? Then the night of April 14, 2003, my company gunnery sergeant had called from the roof and was raising hell. That's when I found out one of the marines from India Company had been shot by one of the cowboys from Force Recon. On my third tour, I had been on the government issued computer and found the investigation case file for the incident on a military web server. The report went on to say that the platoon commander and the sergeant had been derelict in their duty. They failed to do proper, routine patrol overlay and negated to send in a position report to let the battalion know where they were at. To my knowledge, no one was reprimanded and some were later promoted. The Defense Department stated that he died from hostile friendly fire and that the incident was under investigation. It was a shocking reminder to everybody about the truth and what really goes on down there compared to what the government is telling you at home.
Forced Recon and their tabloid ways proved deadly for my unit once again. April 7, 2005, Lance Cpl Juan Venegas, who was one of the snipers in my unit, was on a mission in Falluja. He was in a hide when a patrol of Force Recon Marines drove up in their Hummers and then, mistaking him for an insurgent, running him over with their vehicles. The official story released by the Defense Department stated that he was involved in a hostile vehicle accident that was under investigation. I don't know about you, but I've never heard of a hostile vehicle accident before. It's a shame that a young man -- through my research -- he wanted to become a boxer and too many lives have been lost that -- you can't take it away from these guys -- they're young men that want to serve their country and this story is just -- it got to me.
And I'm going to go back to my second tour in Iraq. I was stationed at a dam in Haditha. Things were completely different from my first tour. I had seen the presence of contractors doing military jobs such as cooks, truck drivers and security mercenaries like Blackwater. They were doing these jobs and getting paid five times more than I was. At the dam, marines were providing security for the dam below it as were Azerbaijani soldiers who were poorly trained and equipped. They were very trigger happy and shot at and sometimes killed fisherman who got to close to the damn. During that tour it was the first time I noticed the change in the demeanor that the Iraqis had towards us. During the invasion, the streets of Baghdad were filled with people cheering "Bush good, Saddam bad!" In 2004, the Iraqis called protests in the town of Haditha against the occupation. Typical response for this was to have fighter jets fly over the crowd and scare them away. So much for winning the hearts and the minds of the Iraqi people we were supposed to be doing. In January 2005, I was stationed in Falluja about three hundred yards from the bridge where the Blackwater contractors bodies were hung in April 2004. We were relieving a marine infantry unit that had fought during the heavy fighting in the city carrying out Operation Phantom Fury. I was the radio operator for an 81 millimeter mortar platoon and our task was to run a checkpoint outside Falluja making sure that no insurgents return to Falluja. During the transition, I met a few young marines who were reservists from an artillery unit. It was there job to clean up all the dead bodies of the insurgents and the foreign fighters after the operation was finished. They had taken all the enemy to a place we called The Potato Factory where the bodies were stripped and checked for identification by CIA agents.
So after we got the checkpoint up and running, smoothly, the marines from my platoon were given jobs such as issuing identification to everyone re-entering the city by retinal scanning them and giving them a badge they had to show to get back into the city they were forced from. After they were retinal scanned with the biometric system known as BATS [Biometrics Automated Toolset System], they had to pass in front of a BATS scanner scan that was supposed to scan for heat variation to see if someone was carrying a weapon. This piece of equipment that probably cost more than most Americans homes, didn't work too well in the heat. If the government hasn't noticed, Iraq is in a desert and it's hot most of the year. Now if you look at this picture behind me, you can see it's winter time and there are no leaves on the tree of course it's going to work when it's cold out. The Iraqis were herded like cattle through the checkpoint as if they were animals. If any Iraqis voiced their opinion for the way they were being treated, the Iraqi police we had at our checkpoint would handle the situation by harassing and assaulting them.
Looking back on my third tour, it seems Orwellian to me with the CIA involvement and all that Big Brother-esque type of equipment and technology being used to enslave the Iraqis in their own country.
I still love my country and I feel that the most patriotic thing we can do is to let the world know that US imperialism is wrong. And I finish today by saying something that I've heard a million times and I've said myself: You can't bring democracy through the barrel of a gun.
Devon Read: We're going to start off with something written by Maj Gen Smedly Butler, a US marine. He was one of the only a handful of marines awarded the Medal of Honor twice for separate acts of heroism. Most marines learn about his war record during boot camp. One thing we don't learn about is the book he wrote about war [War Is A Racket]. In this book, he wrote, "War is a racket. It always has been. It is probably the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. It is conducted at the expense of the very few for the benefit of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes. How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat infested dug out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle? Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few -- the self-same few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill. And what is this bill? This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations."
9-11 was four weeks after I graduated from the School of Infantry. We were quickly called up to be an anti-terrorism quick reaction force in southern California -- basically perform civilian crowd control in the case of another attack. We also did a lot of ground infantry training. At the end of our one-year activation, we started hearing about a war with Iraq in the news and couldn't believe it. We were completely in denial right up until the day we got extended and deployed for the invasion. We were in denial because we all knew Iraq had no connection to 9-11. But it was 30 years after Vietnam. There were no combat vets left in the military to tell us how horrific war really was. All we had were the glorified version of war in movies. [. . .]
My unit's first contact was as we were providing security as the rest of our regiment was moving northward through a very small town. I was in a mortar platoon and we were getting ready to fire on a building that was firing on our combo. [. . .] mortars fire almost three miles, so most of our targets are called in by others and we never see them. So when we started hearing small arms fire very close by it surprised us. I thought it was one of our own guys firing. And then I heard a ricochet in the vehicle I was standing in. Turned out I was being shot at because I was wearing a radio, like an idiot, standing in the bed of a Humvee, a good five feet higher than anyone else. So we all scrambled [. . . -- possibly 'to a burn'] to identify where we were pretty sure the fire was coming from. And tasked a machine gun with taking out a shooter. The machine gun is a thirty pound beast that no one ever wants to carry so of course it gets assigned to the youngest, newest marine in the platoon. So now this 18-year-old kid is told to fire an M "240 Golf" machine gun at a rate of 650 rounds per minute into the window of an adobe building that we're pretty sure is firing at us. No one ever went to check if we were right. Congratulations and machismo abound of course because he "got some."
We're traveling down a stretch of road dubbed "The Highway of Death." We'd gotten the word that there would be absolutely no civilians in the area. They'd been evacuated or told to stay [. . inside]. And we believed them. Our convoy would rotate battalions on point so some days we'd be out in front, some days we'd be buried in the middle, and this was one of those days we were in the middle. So someone else was up front seeing targets as they were identified. As the very front was a group of Humvees with Tow Missile on the roof -- a very powerful weapon.
We're cruising along when we see a white bus, blown up, smoking on the side of the road. We all assumed it must have been jihadists or something until we pass it and see it's full of families who are trying to escape the town. There's a little girl and her father and she's dragging a suitcase that's blown apart and the clothes are scattered all about. And she's smoldering with her father dead.
I'm sure it was a very simple mistake someone made along the way. But the end result was a bus of civilians was blown up.
The first day we got into Baghdad, April 8th [jump cut in video] over the course of several hours we blanketed a city block, a few apartment buildings, with our mortar shells. Each with blast radius of thirty meters. We heard later there were dozens of Iraqi casualties. We all knew the civilian body count was high but couldn't spend any time thinking about it. [Jump cut in video.]
The point of these three stories is this: War hurts everyone involved. Some people die, some are changed forever. There's really no such thing as a "clean war." Our weapons are designed to kill as many people as possible in as efficient manner as possible [someone whispering over speaker Devon Read "Would you like . . ."] unless they aren't in which case they're designed to maim them so that it will slow down his comrades and his country will be burdened with healing. The disgusting nature of war is very much by design. 18-year-olds run off to some distant land, excited to do their part, excited because of all the heroic stories they've been told, because their leaders told them that a good war story would woo the girls back home.
They weren't told about PSTD or IEDs or what it would be like to lose an arm or a leg or both. Since these things are all inherent in war, war is bad, right? I'm still to believe that sometimes it may be necessary. Essentially, it's a collective action problem.
If we all collectively agree that war is not necessary and that nations should resolve their problems like adults instead of kindergartners then war wouldn't be necessary but it's like John Lennon [C.I. note: and Yoko Ono] said, "War is over if you want it." But of course we can't all collectively agree on anything right now. It's still collectively kindergartners. And unfortunately, very often, the type of personality it takes to get into a position to rule one nation is the same type of personality that makes one want war and sometimes that leads to dictators invading other nations.
This of course is true for Saddam Hussein, a vicious dictator that gassed his own people and invaded sovereign neighbors. And it used to be how I defended the war. I justified the invasion by saying we deposed an evil man. All my friends are very liberal. But they knew not to challenge me about the invasion because I could always win that argument. This happened to me when I finally got out of my unit. I stopped drilling with them every month. Until that point it was necessary for my own well being to be able to believe at least somewhat in the mission because if I got deployed again, what was I going to do? If I was going to have to deploy again and didn't believe in what we were doing, I could get one of my fellow marines killed because I wasn't focused. But once I was out, I was able to re-evaluate the same stories and facts I'd heard a dozen times before, the same memories I had, my own experiences and come to a very different conclusion.
For me the jury is still out on whether there is such a thing as just war -- I still don't know. I still believe that doing service for your country is an honorable thing to do. The problem I have now is that I feel our service has been misused for the last 8 years. On average, two percent of the population has the warrior mentality. The kind of individual willing to place his body between his family and war's desolation. Those few are trained to do their duty and what's necessary to protect their loved ones. These are dedicated individuals who can accomplish a great deal, who have a great deal of influence in the world. So wielding them is an important responsibility. And for the system to work properly, one has to assume that those who have the ability to wield that power will do so responsibly. In the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, I do not believe that they did so.
In every war there will be civilian casualties. In every war, 18-year-olds will have to shoot blindly to protect his brothers. But when all of the reasons we were given for invading have turned out to either be mistakes or some case flat out lies, it's just wrong. We were told to expect gas attacks at each major city. [. . .] Heavy resistance from the Republican Guard but none of that ever happened. Once foreign passports started to be found, we were told that Syrians and Iranians were training and fighting with Saddam's Ba'athists and it was further evidence they were obviously fostering terrorism that was responsible for 9-11. But we know that's not the case. The truth is that al Qaeda didn't go to Iraq until we started a war there.
I used to justify the continuing occupation by claiming that leaving now would only destabilize Iraq further and that it would collapse into civil war. The problem is, as I said earlier, war hurts everyone involved. It decimates infrastructure, shatters families, steals the future of each person that is killed and forever damages the participants and witnesses alike. War should be truly the last resort. We began this war because of misinformation and false pretenses. There are no reasons the war should continue when the reasons given pale in comparison to the wave of causalities that are inherent in war. Knowing what we know now, the only responsible course of action is to withdraw from Iraq.
I have candidate Obama's Iraq platform here, from 2008. I'd like to read two things. I'd like to read two things. One is a quote from 2002, "What I am opposed to is a dumb war. A war based not on reason but on passion. Not on principle but on politics." He even provided some of his plans to end the war. The first step was, "Immediately begin to pull out troops engaged in combat operations at a pace of one to two brigades every month to be completed by the end of next year." Referring to this year of course. We know immediate withdrawal is the answer. What happened to him?
We elected candidate Obama because of his plan to end the war. President Obama, however, seems to have other plans. We collectively need to stop justifying the continuing occupations. Excuses and catch phrases like "It's better to fight them over there than to fight them over here" are ridiculous and inflammatory. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died. As of today, 4285 Americans and over 100,000 Americans are estimated to have been injured. We know that these wars are unjust, that they must be stopped. And the time is now.