Sunday, July 19, 2009
-- Debra Sweet, "The Urgent Need for Decisive and Principled Leadership in the Anti-War Movement" (World Can't Wait). on the March 19th, 2010 action.
Where are the mobilizations, actions, civil disobedience? Antiwar coalitions like United for Peace and Justice and Win Without War (with MoveOn also belatedly adopting this craven posture) don't say clearly "US troops out now!" They whine about the “absence of a clear mission” (Win Without War), plead futilely for "an exit strategy" (UFPJ). One letter from the UFPJ coalition (which includes Code Pink) to the Congressional Progressive Caucus in May laconically began a sentence with the astounding words, "To defeat the Taliban and stabilize the country, the U.S. must enable the Afghan people…" These pathetic attempts not to lose "credibility" and thus attain political purchase have met with utter failure, as the recent vote on a supplemental appropriation proved. A realistic estimate is that among the Democrats in Congress there are fewer than forty solid antiwar votes.
-- Alexander Cockburn, "'Watch What We Do Not What We Say'" (CounterPunch).
Along with Dallas, here's who helped with the writing:
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,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.
We thank them all. What do we have? Before we get to what we have, let me (Jim) note what we don't have. Ann just started her own site. For the month of June she filled in for Ruth (and helped here) and she filled in for Mike last week. Normally when someone starts their own site, we do an interview with them. Ann is really shy about herself, believe it or not. We asked, she said not to consider this "no" but not now. Meaning we might have an interview with her next week. She pointed out that she's only done one post at her own site. She said give her a week and maybe she'd have something to talk about. So we'll check next weekend and hopefully have an interview with her.
Now for what we've got.
Truest statement of the week -- Debra Sweet won hands down.
Truest statement of the week II -- The other serious contender here was Ron Jacobs. The first round of voting tied and the second rond saw Cockburn pull ahead by one vote.
Editorial: The lost land of Iraq -- Iraq, the lost land. We may need a Christopher Columbus to "discover" it because most outlets seem completely unaware it's still on the map. On the above and everything else all but Trina worked. Trina helped us out on two pieces and I'll note that when we get to them. This is a US State Dept map for the illustration, by the way.
TV: Meet The Fockers -- Ava and C.I. planned to review a weekly drama. And then in the roundtable a question came up, right? Wrong. What happened was we had to wait forever for Flickr uploading photos. As a result, Ava and C.I. said they'd grab Meet The Press. They weren't aware who the guests were scheduled or what the topic was. It ended up going with a question in the roundtable. Ava and C.I. did a really strong job here.
Issues effecting women veterans -- The photos in this piece are M-NF photos and click on them to get the photo credits. They're women serving in Iraq (alongside Iraqi women). The article covers the two hearings on women veterans in Congress last week. Ava, C.I., Kat and Wally attended the hearings and we're glad to grab this topic and cover it.
Roundtable -- This is our news roundtable, illustration by Betty's kids. (Why no new ones? For the last two weeks now? Her kids have been visiting their grandparents. They're back now and Betty's grandparents are here for two weeks as well. So we expect more illustrations.) We're covering a variety of topics including some raised in e-mails.
Music roundtable -- This is our music roundtable. Trina came into work on this and we thank her for it. Marcia would have done this if we'd picked another Mamas and Papas album. She loves the group but has never heard this album. If Dona and I had thought ahead of time, we would have realized that might be a problem. But we're always getting e-mails (email@example.com) requesting more music pieces so there you have it, an entire roundtable on music. And e-mails are also saying, "Provide the address more." The address is on our profile but we do try to provide it in pieces where appropriate.
Meet the new Ramen -- This is the other piece Trina worked on. This came up due to the music roundtable. Stan mentions Ramen. After we were done, Trina asked in passing if he still ate Ramen. He said no but, due to the economy, he's really started hitting the Patio dinners. Which led to Trina and us asking a few questions and then to a store run to get some for illustrations.
Theme of last week -- This is a short piece and we had three ways to go with this but we went with this one because it was the shortest. Dona wants to institute a real short feature so we'll be more likely to do short features.
Highlights -- Mike, Elaine, Rebecca, Betty, Kat, Ruth, Marcia, Stan, Cedric and Wally worked on this and we thank them for it.
So that's what we have and hopefully it includes something you enjoy. We'll see you next week.
-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.
What does it take to get Iraq in the news?
Last week, you really had to wonder.
You had an attack on a US military base. A successful attack. There have been plenty of mortar attacks on US bases in Iraq. There have been mortar attacks on the Green Zone as well. But usually the most that happens is someone's wounded.
The US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- Three Multi-National Division-South Soldiers were killed when Contingency Operating Base Basra was attacked by indirect fire at approximately 9:15 p.m. on July 16. The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brought the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4326.
It also brought very little press attention.
Okay, well helicopter crashes, those are news, right?
Friday a Blackwater (now "Xe") helicopter crashed in Iraq killing two contractors and injuring two more.
Not really news apparently.
Saturday the KRG holds provincial elections (and elects a president). Despite the weeks and weeks of coverage of the January 31st provincial elections (which covered only 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces), there really hasn't been coverage of the KRG elections. Nada Bakri (Washington Post) is covering it today and McClatchy plans to have Adam Ashton (just returning to Iraq) cover it. By this time in January, there was little else you could find coverage on from Iraq. Today? Not a story apparently.
What's really distressing about the increasing silences and grasping how 'go to where the silences are' Panhandle Media isn't filling the silences, isn't combating the silence. Democracy Now! rarely gives a segment to Iraq and that's true of all Pacifica radio programs. If you want Iraq coverage, your best bet is the second hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show on Fridays. Most Fridays, it's included in that international hour. And that's usually it in terms of any exploration on the radio. You might get 'headlines' from other programs, an Iraq item mixed in with other headlines, but you won't get an exploration. There's a lot to explore. Here's the discussion proper from Friday's broadcast ("proper" meaning we're not including when callers brought up Iraq):
Diane Rehm: Alright and let's turn now to Iraq and the latest on violence there, David? You had three American soldiers killed Thursday after insurgents fired mortar rounds into a US base in southern Iraq. You've also got problems with the Kurds. You've got lots of issues still going on even as the US is planning its pull-out.
David Ignatius: This was a week, Diane, that reminded us of the underlying fragility of Iraq. We've gotten in the habit of not paying much attention to it. Our troops are pulling back from the cities under the timetable we agreed to with the Iraqis. And-and, these last weeks we saw in these-these bombings and the political conflicts just how easily Iraq could spin back into a very chaotic situation. Take the bombings that happened on Wednesday. By my count, there were about eleven people killed, something like fifty or sixty wounded. But what was striking was that one of the bombs was in Ramadi -- in the Sunni heartland, the area we thought had been stabilized by our counter-insurgency work. Another bomb was in Sadr City. Another was right in the heart of Baghdad, in Sadhun Street. Those latter two were really going after Shi'ites, the first, in Ramadi, was going after Sunnis. More of these bombings are going to again make Iraqis frightened that they can't be secure without militias and then you're back in the sectarian killing game and you're going to start finding fifty bodies -- dead bodies -- every morning in the morgue.
Diane Rehm: At twenty-seven [after] the hour you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. And what's going on with the Kurds, Youchi?
Youchi Dreazen: In many ways, this is the most dangerous aspect of Iraq right now. You've had recently [June 28th] a standoff between Kurdish fighters and Iraqi national army fighters. Last year there was an incident that did not get much attention here in which US drones that were monitoring a similar standoff saw columns of armed Iraqi army soldiers and columns of Kurdish peshmerga racing towards each other. By the account of everyone who was watching it, bruising for a fight, and they stood down only amidst much mediation by US embassy and military -- as was the case here where there was US mediation. And what you have is this very thorny issue about what will be the boundaries between Kurdistan, what will be the boundaries between Arab-Iraq? How will they divide oil? How will they divide Kirkuk? These issues have been kicked down the road again and again and again. And now they're at the end of the road. They have to at some point be resolved. I think what you've seen is, when the US invaded, there was a status quo that existed under Saddam that was toppled, there was a Sunni-led status quo. Then there was a new status quo that was not sustainable where you had fighting between Sunni and Shia Arabs and the Kurds were kind of left off to their own devices in the north. Now you have a new status quo where the Shia-Sunni tensions are much reduced -- the Arab tensions -- and now their focusing much more again on the Arab-Kurdish tensions that were there under Saddam decades ago.
Moises Naim: And the Kurdish prime minister yesterday said that the Kurdish autonomous region was closer to going to war with the central government than ever before, since 2003, since the US invasion. And that points, as Youchi said, to the tensions about the divisions -- federalism, they're trying to find out what is the divisions of authority, power between a centralized government and a regional government. And this is a region that is quite different in its governance, in its function, in its economy, in its politics, than the rest of the country.
Diane Rehm: And the United States population is certainly concerned as is the Iraqi that what if the violence continues to uptick, gets worse? Do troops reinvigorate, US troops? What do you do?
David Ignatius: Well for the administration, I think there's a recognition that, as we reduce our military presence there, it is inevitable that violence will increase. That's accepted. And it's just a price of our getting out. The Iraqis want us out, we want to get out. So some increase in violence, it's understood, will happen. And the question is: Will the Iraqi forces be strong enough to contain it within acceptable levels? And what's-what's-what's your choke point? If you're President Obama and you're seeing ten people die a day, well, what do you say? Suppose it gets up to fifty, what do you - what do you do then? And that's -- it's-it's grisly. But that's the kind of decision I fear that the-the Obama administration going to have to make about Iraq over the coming year.
Moises Naim: It's very hard to imagine that there's a political environment in the United States that will support a massive increase of troops -- of US troops -- in Iraq. The-the line their will be crossed if Iran becomes very influential country in Iraq. If Iranian influence there which it hasn't seemed to be the case but that will be then the-the political base for it.
You might agree with all the above, you might agree with some of it. If you agree with none of it, we ask you to grasp that when no alternatives are offered, the above coverage is all the American people are getting on radio.
Last week saw Jay Garner call out The New York Times. Last week saw two hearings on veterans' care. There wasn't time for that to be covered. It's past time you started looking at what is being covered and asking yourself how that coverage benefits or informs you.
We're not referring to the if . . . then statements put forward in the ad, we're referring to the assertion that "the president and Congress have a plan." No, they don't. But why expect honesty from an organization that can't even list their members, their board or anything of value in a laughable webpage they title "ABOUT US"?
They do tell you that, "Our organization supports making health care better and the economy stronger." Wow. Way to go out on a limb there. We're honestly surprised they didn't toss in "world peace" to go along with their bland, Miss America contestant statements. They continue, "We are urging Washington to stop talking and to start working on reforming our health care system by making sure every American has the ability to get quality, affordable care." But how do politicians work together, how do two houses of Congress work together, without talking? Why does Healthy Economy Now believe it's either talk or action? Maybe because they believe it's either thinking or acting? Their organization certainly appears to exist on as little thought as possible.
Which would usually make ad time during Meet The Press a perfect marriage. NBC's aged show is about as fresh as fish left out on the counter top for three days. David Gregory is the current host and he's been in the position long enough that 'growing pains' should no longer exist. Gregory was known for the bulk of this decade, among his peers in the press corps, as "Bush's Butt Boy." That's because if you wanted a story spun your way and you were the White House you ran to the alleged journalist Gregory. Ron Suskind's book The Price Of Loyalty making the White House nervous? Run to "Bush's Butt Boy" and say, "Paul O'Neill's under investigation. How did he get those discs with records?" Sure enough, David pops up less than 15 hours later on NBC's Today parroting those same remarks. And waiving around Suskind's book. A book he obviously hadn't opened. But journalists read, David searches for props. (Reading the very brief introduction would have answered for Gregory how O'Neill got the discs with the data.)
Reading the health care debate going on in this country (largely a debate among the pundit class), the chat & chews toss out various conflicting data and factoids. Meet The Press didn't break from the pack to offer anything illuminating; however, that's not just Gregory's fault.
Let's start with the basics. The basics on Barack's health care reform can be boiled down to he's promised it will be passed by Congress before the August recess. That's really it. People think other things have been promised. Oh, look, there's Barack in Denver, accepting the nomination and he tosses out "universal health care." Sorry, he never promised that.
What did he promise? Determining that is like trying to capture a floating bubble with your hands, even if you catch it, it's so quickly gone. The ephemeral candidate quickly became the ephemeral president.
And, as such, he appointed Kansas Governor Kathleen Selibus the Secretary of Health and Human Services. She should be a leading voice in the health care discussions due to the office she holds; however, as she proved on Meet The Press this morning, she's just not up to it.
On the health care reform (singular) she insisted was coming, David Gregory stopped her to ask, "So this isn't ready?" "No," was a portion of her response. The only portion that mattered. She'd yammer on and on prior to that insisting it was and then, pinned by Gregory, admitted that it wasn't. And she's supposed to be someone the public trusts?
She seemed determined to present the worst face of the administration possible and did so when David Gregory noted that an estimated 47 million Americans have no form of health insurance. What about those people, Gregory briefly wanted to know? Selibus admitted, "It isn't the priority." Then, calm smile, "It's one of the priorities."
We honestly think that if people are paying attention, Selibus just had her Madeleine Albright moment. [Asked by CBS News' Lesley Stahl in 1996 about the half a million Iraqi children estimated to have died due to Clinton era sanctions on Iraq, Albright responded, "We think the price is worth it."] "It isn't the priority."
Gregory heard it and bore down on it asking, "So if there are millions of Americans who are left uninsured it would not stop the president from signing this bill?" Selibus tried to back peddle with, "It's not one or the other." It only made her, and the president, look weaker.
Some plans might include a public option. Some plans? Yes. Despite Healthy Economy Now's claims that Congress and the White House have "a plan," they don't. There are several plans being tossed around. Of the possibility of a public option, Selibus insisted that "competition will lower costs." Her logic is that if the public option is allowed, that version will force private insurers to lower their own costs in order to compete.
That really never made sense. They're going to lower their own costs to compete? Now we support, single-payer, universal health care and maybe, as a result, we're missing something. But Selibus' argument was that a public option would force private insurers to lower their costs. The only reason why she ever supplied was: competition.
Presumably, she's stating that the public option, run by the government, will be run at lower costs. Presumably. She never made that clear. She never made anything clear really, except for her "It isn't the priority" comment.
She did insist that it would lower costs, "I think it will, I think it will." Her repeating that didn't back up her statements. And, as David Gregory asked, if the public plan was cheaper, "Why wouldn't everyone go to a public plan?"
Now we're having to mind read here. Gregory wasn't clear in his question. We believe he felt that the public plan was cheaper for the consumer and that's why it should prove to be tempting for the citizens. But Selibus was referring to the market place and how the public option would keep costs down. Which is why she insisted that the public option would force private insurers to be competitive.
David then played Barack's latest weekly address which he billed as his weekly "radio address." But we saw Barack looming over a webcam and delivering his speech. These statements by Barack were featured, "Under our proposals, if you like your doctor, you keep your doctor. If you like your current insurance, you keep that insurance. Period, end of story."
Gregory then quoted AP stating that "That's a pledge, however, that's beyond Obama's control. His plan leaves companies free to change their health plans in ways that workers may not like or to drop insurance altogether." In which case, Gregory insisted, that wasn't "period, end of story," that "they can change, whether the employee wants it or not."
Selilbus just isn't able to make a case. She continued barely moving her mouth while she spoke and speaking in the same tone that probably passes for "musical" somewhere but really comes off like a drone.
She offered a meek, "Well, David, that's exactly what's happening." She then wanted to insist that Barack Obama's plan would stop that, that is would lead to "stabilizing employer coverage." Selibus really is a putz.
The response to that is, "David, unless we're changing the system to all private or changing the way employers can conduct business, that will be the case because that has always been the case for employer supplied insurance." And that should be stated strongly and probably include an eye roll after. A geez-can-you-believe-this-guy indication.
She couldn't give that and instead started offering promises she couldn't keep, such as the assertion that it would 'stabilize' "employer coverage." There's no guarantee that it will do that. Barack made a promise that wouldn't work under any of his plans and it's one that doesn't work today without his plans. He was an idiot to make the promise and, as general rule, never trust a politician when they're promising "end of story."
David wanted to know about the sacrifice that Barack keeps saying Americans will have to make. Selibus insisted that "House and Senate bills are contemplating some responsibilities" and right away you're probably wondering about that. Selibus didn't go into those. She noted "liability" as an aside and then insisted, "We're hoping that personal responsibility extends to lifestyle" as she began ticking off "what we eat, how much we exercise" and more, so much more.
The government can't legislate lifestyle. That's why Prohibition didn't work. That's why pot remains popular with citizens if not (publicly) with politicians. The fact that Kathleen Selibus or any government official thinks they should be able to legislate lifestyle is frightening enough but you really need to put it with the fact that she mentions "liability" as an aside and then launches into "personal responsibility." Correctly or not, she appears to indicate that the White House is hoping that lifestyle will be legislated and, those who do not meet the guidelines, will be found legally liable.
It's really not our fault that Kathleen Selibus is a stupid idiot who can't speak effectively. We've never liked her and we were calling her nonsense out long ago.
In her defense, we will note that David Gregory cut her off repeatedly. We don't think that's a crime or even "bad." Politicians and officials pontificate non-stop and we love a moderator who cuts them off and redirects them to the question actually asked. However, we only admire that if it's done fairly. Mitch McConnell, US Senator from Kentucky and the Republican Party, was the other guest and David didn't repeatedly cut him off, didn't repeatedly stop him. He would go as far afar in his answers as Selibus did but he didn't get the cut off, the break in in the midst of a reply, that she did.
Now we talked about the 'sacrifices' that Selibus was prepared to mention. That wasn't good enough for David Gregory and you might be thinking, "Good for him."
Stop that before we slap you.
David's concerns were made very clear as he immediately (and repeatedly) wanted to know to know about the increase in taxes for wealthy Americans that some versions of a plan might include. He was outright whining, a little kid's whine, when he asked, "Does the president support a surtax on the richest Americans?" And as if that moment wasn't bad enough, he added a whining, "Why can't the American people know what he supports?"
It was curious because to get to that line of questioning, he had to explain that "The New York Times" reported Saturday that, "To finance coverage of the uninsured, the House bill would impose a surtax on high-income people and a payroll tax -- as much as 8 percent of wages -- on employers who do not provide health insurance to workers."
For the record, "The New York Times" did not write or report that, Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn did for The New York Times and it is curious that a program called "Meet The Press" doesn't note bylines.
Now, disclosure, a surtax on high-income people would include an increase on both of us. We're aware of that and not really bothered by it. Were we David Gregory reading that statement on TV, our questions would have been about this payroll tax. But Gregory's not interested in that, he's just concerned that he might get taxed more and, poor Greggy, he's already crossed gel and mousse off his shopping list to economize (hence the George Jetson In A Humid Climate look).
If the administration wants to go on the offensive, the thing for Kathleen Selibus to have done, something we could easily picture Rahm Emanuel doing, is for her to have pointed out, "David, that tax would effect you and me. It wouldn't effect most Americans so let's talk about a topic that would and use the airwaves for the public good."
Would Gregory have cut to commercial?
Probably so and that moment would have been on the page of every newspaper tomorrow. It would have been a gutsy move.
There were no gutsy moves from Selibus who even attempted to sell health care reform as a cure-all for the economy ("It may be the single most important issue to get our economy back on track").
McConnell was on next and, like Selibus, he proved Health Action Now was a liar in his segment as he noted that, "I don't think he [Barack] ought to get the particular bills that we've seen." Bills. Plural.
McConnell argued that the process was being rushed ("the same sort of rush and spin we saw on the stimulus bill"). Of course, he also insisted that all Americans already have health care. He insisted that with a straight face.
That took place when David Gregory pointed out, "You say we have the best health care system in the world, but it seems to be a matter of debate." He quoted from Shannon Brownlee and Ezekiel Emanuel's "5 Myths About Our Ailing Health-Care System" (Washington Post), " The United States is No. 1 in only one sense: the amount we shell out for health care. We have the most expensive system in the world per capita, but we lag behind many developed countries on virtually every health statistic you can name."
McConnell wasn't buying it. Mitch insisted, "You look at surveys and you ask the American people what they think" and the results are different.
But people only know what's covered and passed on. And we thought about Bob Somerby's point about how most US outlets don't note that all advanced countries except the US have universal health care and that the US spends double per person on what those countries -- those countries offering universal health care -- spend per person (he touches on this theme often at The Daily Howler, click here for July 9, 2009).
So Mitch can play My-faith-is-in-the-people but how much do the average news consumers in this country know when the media refuses to cover certain aspects of the debate?
We didn't have much time to explore that because we were quickly laughing so hard our sides were aching. Mitch was claiming that the 47 million Americans without health care do have health care. Everyone does in the US, he insisted.
When we stopped laughing, we realized he'd attacked Canada's health care twice with anecdotal stories. We'd grasp that we could never be told that all other advanced countries had universal health care -- not by the administration official Selibus, not by the US Senator McConnell -- but we could hear repeated attacks on the Canadian system.
McConell whined that "we're spending a hundred million a day on the stimulus." We're not sure where he's getting his figures but we'll allow them long enough to note that whining was the 'in thing' today on Meet The Press males and that he's not at all troubled by the amount of money spent on the illegal war.
Iraq came up. Credit to Mitch for mentioning it. David Gregory never did. David asked about Afghanistan. Specifically, he asked about Bowe R. Bergdahl. If you're asking "Who?" you may have watched the show because David Gregory was really not interested in it.
He tossed out that a US soldier was being held in Afghanistan and that video had been released. That was it, less than thirty seconds. It even surprised McConnell causing David to ask him again what he thought. McConnell explained, "I'm sorry, I thought you were going to show it," referring to the video. Show it? No, that's what a real journalist would have done. [Click here for BBC coverage.] David's not a real journalist.
Maybe he was afraid of airing Bergdahl declaring:
To my fellow Americans who have loved ones over here, who know what it's like to miss them, you have the power to make our government bring them home. Please, please bring us home so that we can be back where we belong and not over here, wasting our time and our lives and our precious life that we could be using back in our own country. Please bring us home. It is America and American people who have that power.
Does Berdahl mean that? Probably not. He was most likely instructed to say that. Jill Carroll, the reporter for The Christian Science Monitor and other outlets, who was kidnapped in Iraq, was forced to make similar statements on tape and she rebuked and withdrew those statements after her release. There's no reason that David Gregory couldn't have shown the tape and then noted what we just did.
There was time for McConnell to share that he agrees with Barack on Afghanistan -- to share that twice. The second time adding, "I think he's done the right thing in both Iraq and Afghanistan." If you ever doubted that the US needs to be in the streets protesting, that moment should have convinced you.
Then it was time for the panel: Wall St. Journal's Paul Gigot, NPR's Michele Norris, New York Times' John Harwood and Another Universe's Richard Wolffe.
It was so much garbage that the worst moment was difficult to pin down but we're going to go with the final minutes which David wasted on baseball and his son and how they attended an All Star Game and role models and blah, blah, blah. Are you even trying to pretend you're a journalist, David Gregory?
We've got an economy tanking, two declared wars, a third that's undeclared with Pakistan and a host of other issues and you're acting like the lost sibling from The Waltons?
At other points, David noted Barack hits the six month in office date this week and then played a clip of Barack yelling that "we have talked and talked and talked" -- Barack screaming and screaming and screaming. David thought, and the panel agreed, that Barack was "in campaign mode." Michele thought Barack was "all over the place right now" and that his message was getting lost. Paul pointed to polls that find his popularity falling and his agenda even more than his personal popularity. What really stood out was that while reporters attempted to analyze what was going on, alien Richard Wolffe thought his journalistic role was to prescribe and that's what he did, listing what the White House must do, how it must sell the bill, how to persuade the American people . . . On and on it went as though Wolffie mistook himself for James Carville or anyone else with experiencing selling policies.
Oh, but wait, Dicky Wolffe was instrumental in selling Barack. Maybe he thinks it's just as easy to sell policies?
As Dickie repeatedly pronounced "pocket book" as if it were some other, foreign word, Michelle finally interjected to stay that polls show (we're not aware of these polls but we know her and we've never known her to cite a poll that doesn't actually exist) 90% of the people who voted for Barack (we're not in that group) "actually have health care and three-quarters are happy" with the coverage they have. She thinks health care might not be the issue to emphasize. We disagree with that but she supported her argument. And? The topic immediately changed because, as Joni Mitchell once sang, "Nothing is savored long enough to really understand" ("Dog Eat Dog").
There was time for David to get snide about Hillary. Smirking as he cited Crazy Like A Serial Killer Peggy Noonan's latest in her decades war on Hillary. Michele shot down the nonsense declaring, "I think too much is made perhaps of this Obama versus Clinton narrative." David look dejected. Fortunately Dick Wolffe wanted to weigh in.
Gregory wrapped up with what he billed as "our Meet the Press Minute." We haven't sat through the show in full since Tim Russert passed away. Today's minute was dedicated to CBS News' Walter Cronkite who passed away at the age of 92. We found it insulting that you'd try to 'honor' Cronkite in a single minute. We kind of doubt that the network that went into non-stop specials on the deaths of celebrities last month is planning a special on the man known as "Uncle Walter."
But we'll take comfort in the fact that when David Gregory goes, he'll get even less attention.
These shows are a song and dance. People pretend to care, pretend to be concerned but the only time they're ever really concerned is when it's their own pocket book. David Gregory was never more honest before the camera than when repeatedly whining over the prospect that his own taxes might increase. The show ended with him declaring, "We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday . . . it's Meet The Press." That might be the saddest thing about the entire hour.
"Right now, I can tell you anecdotally, we're working on a case in the marine corps with a -- an NCO who's going through through a commissioning program whose partner spent five days in jail for attempting to kill her and that partner who spent five days in jail is now at Officer Candidate School. So that shock factor -- it's almost unbelievable that that can happen but there are ways around the system. And DoD needs to explore that," declared Service Women's Action Network's Anuradha Bhagwati Thursday in a joint-hearing held by the US House Veterans Affairs Disability and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee and the Subcommittee on Health.
They were exploring the issues effecting women veterans. It was the second hearing on that topic last week. The first was Tuesday when Senator Daniel Akaka chaired the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.
In that hearing, Grace After Fire's Kayla Williams explained, "Other barriers may disproportionately affect women. For example, since women are more likely to be the primary caregivers of small children, they may require help getting childcare in order to attend appointments at the VA. Currently many VA facilities are not prepared to accommodate the presence of children; several friends have described having to change babies' diapers on the floors of VA hospitals because the restroom lacked changing facilities. Another friend, whose babysitter cancelled at the last minute, brought her infant and toddler to a VA appointment -- the provider told her that was 'not appropriate' and that she should not come in if she could not find childcare. Facilities in which to nurse and change babies -- as well as childcare assistance or at least patience with the presence of small children -- would ease burdens on all veterans with small children."
It would be noted in Thursday's hearing by Williams (she and Disabled American Veterans' Joy J. Ilem testified at both hearings) and by National Association of State Women Veterans Coordinators, Inc and the Texas Veterans Commission's Delilah Washburn that women were not just discouraged verbally from bringing their children along, there weren't basic things available. Bathrooms, for example, did not have changing tables so if you had an appointment to keep and you brought your infant or toddler with you and needed to change his or her diaper, you had to put your child on the floor to do so.
Airport bathrooms offer more accessibility than does the VA.
Tuesday hearing featured Randall Williamson, of the US Government Accountability Office stating, "But simple things -- as we visited the facility -- simple things that are easy to do like placing exam tables so the foot is away from the door, putting sanitary products in bathrooms for women, those things are easy and if they're not being done, part of that reason may come back to is there a commitment at the - at the local level to ensure these policies are done?"
Placing exam tables so the foot is away from the door? He's talking about gynecological visits. The GAO's investigation found that the women were forced to get on a table where their feet (there fore the lower half of their exposed bodies) faced the door. In at least one instance, he explained, that door didn't go to a hall way for other examination rooms which would have been bad enough, that door opened out onto the waiting room. Was this supposed to supply medical care or provide a peep show?
Wounded Warrior Project's Dawn Halfaker spoke Thursday about her experience at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Attempting to access health care, she first had to endure cat calls from men as she walked through the facility. Not only did it not convey a safe environment, but Halfaker pointed out that it caused "a true culture shock going from the military where that would never be tolerated to a VA facility where you're trying to get care and, you know, you're uncomfortable."
US House Rep Corrine Brown started bringing up "work crews" as if this was just something women had to endure. No, it's not something women have to endure. If Dawn Halfaker were African-American and the same men were screaming racial remarks at her, does Brown really think the Walter Reed staff wouldn't be required to address that? Why the hell does she think that it's not Walter Reed's responsibility to address this?
She declared that the men were civilians. So what? It doesn't matter. There is behavior that's acceptable in public and behavior that's harassment and unacceptable. And as Halfaker pointed out, "it's a leadership issue and, you know, if I was the director of that hospital, I would do whatever I had to do to ensure that the environment couldn't happen."
But the environment can happen when a member of Congress, especially a female one, wants to excuse away the behavior and bring up what work crews might do. Let's share a little reality with Corinne Brown. If a work crew comes into your neighborhood and does cat calls -- at women, making homophobic remarks at men or women -- you call that company and you complain and those remarks stop right away because that company doesn't want the bad reputation. The workers' opinions don't change, but they learn real damn quick that certain things will not be tolerated.
Reality is not these-things-happen-what-are-you-going-to-do?
And such an attitude doesn't just stop progress, it encourages harassment.
Does Corinne Brown not grasp the sexual assault rate in the military? Does she not wonder what these cat calls, what effect they might have on victims of sexual assault? How the hell is a veteran whose been sexually assaulted (male or female) supposed to feel safe in a supposed health care environment when you've got sexually disgusting remarks being yelled at women walking through the facility?
That's just disgusting.
From a fact sheet on MST (Military Sexual Trauma) from NOW on PBS:
27% of men have experienced military sexual trauma
60% of women have experienced military sexual trauma
3.5% of men have experienced military sexual assault
23% of women have experienced military sexual assault
11% of women have experienced rape
1.2% of men have experienced rape
Service branch with the highest percentage of women reporting sexual trauma: Marine Corps
20% of women seeking care at VA facilities have experienced sexual trauma
1% of men seeking care at VA facilities have experienced sexual trauma
8.3 percentage of women report lifetime PTSD related to MST
More than half of the incidents took place at a military work site and during duty hours
The majority of the offenders in these cases were military personnel
Factors that increase risk of sexual assault for active duty females include presence of officers who condone or allow sexual harassment and unwanted sexual attention
This isn't a minor issue by the issue or by the numbers and the VA better damn well get a policy together on how to address sexual harassment of veterans attempting to receive health care.
We'll note two exchanges from the hearing. First, this is Senator Patty Murray questioning the second panel of Tuesday's hearing.
Senator Patty Murray: Ms. Williams, you mentioned that you were both a care giver and a care seeker. You're husband was in the military. I assume that that is fairly common for a woman to be married to a fellow military officer and be in the same position. What can be done to help us care for women veterans who are not only dealing with their own readjustment issues but our dealing with spouse or children as well?
Kayla Williams: I think that it's important that care be more comprehensive. And you're right, the percentages are very high. Among active duty enlisted married female service members, over 50% are married to other service members -- compared to only 8% of their male peers. And my husband and I were both enlisted. I know that the VA is trying very hard to do outreach. I once got a call, for example, asking if I had sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury as part of their outreach efforts to make sure that they're catching everybody. And I said, "No, I didn't but I'm glad you called because my husband did and our family is in shambles right now I don't know how to hold myself together and my family together and keep my job and I'm struggling really hard here. And he said, "Well I can't really help you with that. I'm calling to ask if you've suffered a brain injury." And that's the way that I think that we can try to make sure that we're addressing entire families. If you have one -- if you have a service member who has sustained an injury -- both while they're in the DoD and once they've transitioned to VA care -- making sure that their family is being taken care of is an important step. I know The VA does not cover care for family members but if they learn that the spouse is also a veteran, it's important that they take the extra step and reach out and contact them proactively and ask if they need help as a caregiver. And, of course, this does apply to both male and female spouses, it's just the number of female spouses is much higher.
US Senator Patty Murray: I hear a lot from women about the access of child care being a barrier to the VA. You, several of you, mentioned this in your testimony and I don't think a lot of people realize that you tell a woman there's no child care, they just simply don't go, they don't get their health care. Do you for all the panelists, do you think that the VA providing child care would increase the number of women veterans who go to the VA and get the care that they need? Joy?
Joy Ilem: I would say definitely. I think researchers have repeatedly shown this as a barrier for women veterans and that's the frustration, you know? How many research surveys do you have to do when women keep saying this is a barrier to access for care? And I think it was Kayla who mentioned the experience of someone who was told it was inappropriate for them to bring their child with them and some of these very personalized for appointments for mental health or other things -- it may be very difficult but they have no other choice. I think it would definitely be a benefit and we would see an increase in the number of women veterans who would probably come to VA.
Senator Patty Murray: Ms. Williams?
Kayla Williams: I definitely think that usage rates of the VA would increase if women knew that they had child care available. There are a variety of innovative ways that we could try to address the problem of women having to balance their needs of child care with their needs to get services. Among them would be increasing the availability of tele-help and tele-medicine where women don't have to necessarily go all the way to a remote facility and spend four hours trying to get to and from and then be in-care. And there are also opportunities for innovative programs. For example, the VA has small business loans available if they could provide loans to women veterans who want to provide child care facilities near VA facilities, that would be a great way to try to marry these two needs. There are also a lot of community organizations that stand ready and waiting to help that would be happy just given a small office to staff it with volunteers and be able to provide that care for the time that a woman has to be in appointment. I think, as many others have said, the specific solutions may vary by location but there are a lot of innovative way that we could forge public-private partnerships to try to meet these needs.
And from Thursday's House hearing, we'll note this exchange.
Chair John Hall: Thank you. And Ms. Williams, I'm going to ask you this question and then ask each of the other panelists so quickly, because my time is long expired here, quickly give me an answer if VA and the DoD could do one thing to better assist women veterans what would that be?
Kayla Williams: I believe that electronic medical records are absolutely imperative to prevent problems with lost paperwork and missing files and missing records. And that that would really help smooth the transition from the DoD to the VA.
Chair John Hall: Ms. Washburn?
Delilah Washburn: Yes, sir.
Chair John Hall: Ms. Halfaker? I'm just asking for an answer to that same question, just quick if you could.
Delilah Washburn: The one thing that I think that they could do immediately that will make a difference, and not just for gender specific issues, we're talking about we no longer have to worry about providing the stressor for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you're in combat its conceded. And let's press on with getting a diagnosis and write those claims and get them off the table because the near million claims that are pending is just something that we cannot continue to live with. It's a barrier to veterans getting their benefits.
Chair John Hall: Thank you for the wonderful endorsement of my bill HR 952.
Dawn Halfaker: Outreach.Chair John Hall: Outreach. Ms. Bhagwati? Microphone please.
Anaradha Bhagwati: Sorry, sir. One thing on the DoD side would be enforcement of VO policy and sexual assault policy. On the VA side, it would be education and training of claims officers about what it's like to be a woman in uniform.
Joy Ilem: I think just true collaboration on all levels within VA, VHA and VVA would be really extremely important. There's just so many areas where they can benefit working together to really solve the problem. It just can't be done piece meal. It helps to work on the preventative side with DoD and during that transition period for women coming to VA.
There were a lot of important topics being touched on and in a working media environment, you would have had at least the same amount of time devoted to these hearings as to celebrity passings. But that didn't happen, now did it?
Ava, C.I., Kat and Wally attended the hearings. For more on the topic, you can see C.I. and Kat's
"Iraq snapshot," "Seante Veterans Affairs Committee," "Iraq snapshot," "Sexism leads to silence," "Iraq snapshot," and "US House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee" from last week.
Betty: Mine and this community's. Who is Sonia Sotomayor? She's a "first." So I guess we'll all learn that in school but for those of us who have already advanced from first grade, who is she? We don't know.
Ava: I want to jump in here. First, to point out that any illustration in this is by Betty's kids. Second, because I am a Latina. I agree with what Betty's saying here and loved what she wrote. Sotomayor's hearing, if it's any indication of how she's going to be on the bench -- overly cautious, courting and courtly to authority, tells us that's all she's going to offer "first." And I'm sorry but I expect a little more. Not only from "firsts" but from a Democratically controlled Senate. And certainly from a so-called Democratic White House. How sad, if she turns out to be exactly as she presented herself, that this is the first Latina we get on the bench.
Mike: I agree that Betty did some real work and I haven't caught up with all of it, I was on vacation last week, Elaine and I got back Saturday night. But one point she did make was that, if confirmed, Sotomayor is the sixth out of nine Justices who is Catholic. Betty made that point, why didn't anyone else? In Bush's time in office, I can remember alarm over Catholic Roberts, alarm from the left. I'm Catholic so maybe I'm just more likely to remember that. But there was a very strong thread of, "We've got too many Catholics on the Supreme Court bench!" And now the left is silent. Barack really can do whatever he wants apparently because the left circle-jerk pundits will not hold him accountable.
Jim: Well, as a Catholic, do you think that there are too many Catholics on the bench?
Mike: Absolutely. That's over half the bench, that's two-thirds of the bench if Sotomayor is confirmed and we do not make up two-thirds of the population.
Kat: Yeah, I'd agree with Mike. Like Mike, I'm Irish-Catholic. I would agree that we're over-represented on the Court already, before Sotomayor's confirmed. I would argue that our religion is more one that should be scrutanized than most practiced in the US just for the reason that the head of our Church is an international figure, the Pope. Now because the Pope's the head doesn't mean he controls the five members currently, six with Sotomayor. John Roberts being Catholic doesn't mean that he's going to rule according to the Pope's edicts on every matter. Does it mean he would on some? I don't know. That's why I say it needs to be scrutanized. If I were nominated for the bench, I never would be, but if I were, I wouldn't be a concern because I'm not following the Pope. I follow some Catholic teachings and don't others. I will go to confession. But there have been numerous Popes in my lifetime and I honestly haven't followed the current one or the previous one. I don't know what they're talking about unless it's covered in secular media. So someone like me, I'd be judging on other things. But I do think that's a question we need to ask. Sotomayor did not strike me as overly concerned about what was coming out of Vatican City; however, I won't say that of others and when you end up with six Justices who are members of the same religion, let's not pretend that's not going to have an impact.
Jim: In your analysis, Betty, you argue that you feel the GOP was setting up a new round for their argument against Affirmative Action. Did you want to talk some on that?
Betty: I just felt that a number of pundits kept insisting it was race, race, race at the hearings. As a Black woman, if it had been race, race, race, I wouldn't have been offended because I think we need to talk about race a lot more in our daily discourse. I didn't hear a racial conversation. I heard comments that, to my ears, set the stage for anyone disappointed with Sotomayor's future rulings -- and I think most people will be if her performance at the hearings is an indication -- would have in the back of their heads, "Affirmative Action hire." That's what I heard. I didn't hear the non-stop racism that other pundits did. I heard a few things that I was suspicious of and one thing that I thought was an attack on her heritage but I didn't hear what others were. I did hear White senators voicing concerns, from the GOP, that discrimination might effect their own race. I heard that fear. I would've loved for a real discussion of that fear because I think America needs that conversation. I think there's been enough right wing spin and enough attacks on Affirmative Action that, in a bad economy especially, we need a real discussion. Sotomayor wasn't the person who could offer a real discussion. The fact that she couldn't or wouldn't -- which is no one's fault but her own -- means that if she is seen as an "Affirmative Action hire" and if that's seen as a negative, it's her own fault.
Ava: I'm sorry to jump in again but I just so strongly agree with what Betty's saying. I think we all took a hit, we all suffered a set back, in order for one woman to move up and I don't think that was worth it.
Jim: Okay, that brings up another issue. Voices of Honor. Jess, sketch out who they are.
Jess: They're an organization that is attempting to overturn the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy which was intended to be a stop-gap measure under Bill Clinton to allow gays and lesbians to serve in the military. Clinton wanted them to serve openly and came into office with that plan. He was immediately savaged by the press, by Republicans and by many Democrats in Congress. As an alternative, Don't Ask, Don't Tell was proposed. Under this policy, the military was supposed to stop investigating service members to find out if they were gay or lesbian. You weren't allowed to "tell" and you weren't allowed to "ask." If that was followed, the plus was that gays and lesbians could serve in the military. The minus was that it forced them into a closet and into denial about their own lives. We covered this history and the organization's press conference in last week's "Voices of Honor."
Jim: Thank you. And the response to that in e-mails, address is firstname.lastname@example.org, was positive that the LGBT issues were being highlighted but very negative about what some of the organization's members were stating publicly. That was a topic tackled Wednesday in C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot," Marcia's "Voices of Honor needs to show some honor" and, at Elaine's site with C.I. filling in, "Gay Liberation Movement." And we got e-mails on those posts with requests for highlights and a repeated question. C.I., you mention the murder trial of Ramon Novarro, photo below, and note that the prosecutor went on to become a federal judge. "Who is he?" was the big question.
C.I. James M. Ideman. He went from the LA district attorney's office to serving on LA County's Superior Court to the US District Court for the Central District of California. He was appointed to the last court in 1984 and served until retirement in 1998.
Jim: Thanks for clearing that up. I'm going to toss to Ty.
Ty: Marcia and C.I. did a great job of explaining the outrage that's growing with Voices of Honor. It should be noted that Human Rights Campaign is generally seen as the weakest gay rights organization and that's been its impression throughout this decade. It's one of the two groups coming together for this organization, Voices of Honor. But 'honor' doesn't include who we are. It's what we did. So if you were in the military, step up and take some honor for that. But you're gay or you're a lesbian? The organization is saying that doesn't matter. It is actively saying that doesn't matter and that shouldn't even be raised. We're taping this to include in Hilda's Mix, the audio version, and people will notice how tense my voice is. I really am about to start cursing if I continue. C.I., can I pass to you for a moment?
C.I.: Sure. Picking up at Ty's point. The press conference itself had strains of that attitude. And that wasn't surprising. But it also had, as Marcia noted, Joan Darrah, who was not trying to fit into anyone else's script but was just telling her story, about serving, about being at the Pentagon on 9-11 and how, if she'd been killed, her partner wouldn't have been recognized the way other partners would have been. Joan Darrah's very important testimony was clearly the highlight of the press conference. It was brave and it was real and people responded to it. But then came other things -- and I was hearing about those things from friends, many of whom are gay and lesbians -- and Patrick Murphy, US House Rep, goes on Diane Rehm's radio show last Monday and gives very bad remarks that were offensive to a lot of gays and lesbians. We ignored that on Monday but come Tuesday, the complaints were reaching me and by Wednesday we had to address it. People are getting very offended by this organization and Ty looks ready for me to hand back to him.
Ty: Yeah, thanks, I needed to calm down. Okay, look, I'm gay. I'll help anyone who's gay. Except those who won't help me. So if you're telling me you're issue is not about being gay, then why you are asking me to help you? Voices of Honor has far too many speakers saying that "it's not about being gay." Well then stick to rounding up military people to call Congress. Don't ask for my help. You're not doing a damn thing for me. What you are doing is implying that my life is so disgusting that you can't speak about it openly. That's not "honor." That's f**ked up and I call bulls**t on Voices Of Honor. They need to lose the gym bunny, who's their main problem with Congress and why many members won't have anything to do with them, they don't want help you when they know you're going to trash them, the way the gym bunny trashed Ellen Tauscher when she came to an event, spoke at it and supported it completely. What was Ellen's crime? Talking about the gay issue. Gym bunny doesn't think it's a gay issue. I don't need his closeted ass. And, let's be really clear for gym bunny, instead of dragging down the gay rights movement, get your ass back to the gym because you've neglected to work on that waist and you're kind of chunky.
Marcia: I love that. Okay, I have to stop laughing. Okay. What Ty said is exactly right. I'm so disgusted with that group and I was so pleased with it the week before. But you've got too many men playing too many macho head games and too scared of being gay. It is because you're gay. You're being targeted because you're gay. Quit saying it's not about being gay. That's so insulting and it really does harm the gay rights movement. I don't want to have anything to do with that group or organization if they can't find the dignity to include our dignity. Instead, who we are is constantly being hidden and for what? So gays and lesbians can serve openly. Does no one get the contradiction.
Elaine: I'm jumping in because everyone's laughing at Marcia's point. If you didn't get it, Voices of Honor is arguing that gays and lesbians shouldn't be forced to hide, that they should serve openly but the way they argue the case, they hide sexuality. I want to go back to Joan Darrah, to what C.I. was stating about her not fitting herself to some script. That's what would be most effective, others following her example, telling their stories. The move that's being pushed is that the stories don't matter, what matters is the money lost and national security. If you want to motivate people, if you want them to support you and lobby for you, they need to know your stories. They need to hear about Joan Darrah's partner. What the organization is doing, as Marcia underlined so well, is saying, "We're against Don't Ask, Don't Tell but notice that we're going to embrace it for our campaign." And I think Ty's exactly right that it strips the dignity away and that there is nothing in it for him. He's a gay man who has no desire to join the military. I'm a straight woman. If this isn't a gay issue, why should I support it? Right now, if a person says they're gay, they're supposed to be discharged from the military. I support war resisters. Why would I want to take away one path by which they could be discharged? I'd support taking it away if it meant that all could be equal. But Voices Of Honor isn't arguing for equality, it's whining about the tax dollars and trying to scare people over national security. If that's their method, why do we need to lose one of the few usually-sure ways of getting out of the military? Make your case on dignity and equality and you've got grounds to make it to a non-military audience. Which, by the way, is the bulk of the US population, especially the population under the age of fifty whose males never experienced the draft first hand.
Mike: With Patrick Murphy, he's straight and it is a big step for some straight people to talk about these issues. I'm not attacking him, yet, and I don't think any of us have. But he needs to be informed that if he's speaking, he needs to be speaking about equality and dignity or it's offensive. I'm straight but I caught the Diane Rehm thing late Saturday night and it was offensive.
Jim: Okay, what was offensive about it to you in particular?
Mike: If anyone doesn't know, they need to go to C.I.'s snapshot where they can see a transcript of the first section. First he starts saying it has to be repealed for: National security. Then it's that no one serving cares if you're gay. Never does he make the point that it's okay to be gay or that it's about equality or dignity. It's a money issue, it's a national security issue, it's not an issue about equality or rights or liberation or fairness.
Rebecca: And he was full of s**t when talking about, excuse me, when covering for Barack. Saying that if Barack stopped the discharges right now by issuing a stop-loss order that wouldn't show proper respect for co-equal branches of government. As if we don't all know about his signing statements? Patrick Murphy, we're not as stupid as you wish we were.
Jim: Rebecca, you sound almost as angry as Ty, maybe as angry.
Rebecca: Well I am angry. This bothers me a great deal. I loved what C.I. wrote in the snapshot and I hope we can include that in a feature here in some way. But, like C.I.'s saying, gays and lesbians aren't people I'm going to bump into every ten years at some reunion. They are a part of my life, they are a part of the fabric of human existence and to deny that, as this cowardly group is doing, is to deny reality and to be more insulting, in my opinion, than the policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is. And I'm no defender of that suck-ass policy. As anyone who's ever read my site knows.
Jim: Okay, question comes in from Major who says that's his first name, not a rank. He wants to know why the health care plan of Barack's isn't being covered here or at any community site?
Wally: What plan? There's no plan. A plan is something you present to the people, you say, "This is our plan. Do you support it?" There's no plan.
Cedric: And, let me drop back to Sotomayor. If Carter or Clinton had nominated her, I might have given her more of a benefit of a doubt. But she's a Barack nominee. Barack who nominated Larry Summers to his current post to 'fix' the economy. Barack who has Arne Duncan to 'fix' the school system. I mean the bulk of Barack's nominees scream, "Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!" So then you get to a health care plan from Barack and that's already going to raise my suspicion and then when, as Wally pointed out, you've got him rallying his online groupies to 'support' his 'plan' that doesn't exist? I'm not wasting my time.
Ann: I could have covered it. I filled in for Ruth and just finished filling in for Mike and the scope I was given was what ever you want to write about. So I could have grabbed the topic. I didnt' because there's nothing to advocate for or against. Cedric and Wally have really said it all. Barack can keep saying it's a "must" but he's yet to tell us what the reform is.
Wally: Why are we going to waste our time covering something that doesn't even exist, that's not even a concrete proposal? There's so much more out there.
Jim: Another e-mail, from Dorothy, notes that we haven't covered Honduras at all and she writes she finds that "shocking."
Dona: Well we wrote two pieces on it and neither was worthy of making it online. They were really bad. The problem there was that we should have all shut up, we should have said, "Ava, C.I., expalin it to us." Instead, we thought we had a grasp on the issue, we start writing and Ava and C.I. are offering all these points that go so far beyond what we knew.
Jess: Well we could have also said, "Ava and C.I., go write it."
Dona: You're right. But those were the two choices. Either ask them to write it themselves or ask them to do a presentation on it and then have everyone work on the article.
Jim: Ava and C.I., want to add anything?
Ava: I'll add that I've found Amy Goodman's coverage on Democracy Now! disgusting and completely lacking in anything other than good intentions. She needs to educate herself and that doesn't mean just sit next to Juan Gonzalez.
C.I.: Ava and I believe the issue is about economic policies.
Ava: And believe that because we know a great deal about the actual president and the one who's been installed.
C.I.: This all goes to CAFTA and so-called "free trade" and that's been a footnote in coverage we've seen if even that.
Ava: Maybe we missed some coverage noting it? I doubt it because when we'd raise points about this topic during the writing of the two attempted pieces, we'd have to backtrack because no one participating knew what we were talking about. Hondoruas is a poor country and considered one of the countries for which "banana republic" was first coined. As such, due to this colonial imperalism, their lands have suffered greatly over the years. And yet they're still a farm economy with sugar plantations, for example.
C.I.: And the land policies are frightening with US interests and their friends doing very well and the people of Honduras doing very poorly. CAFTA comes along and is ratified in 2005 and all the concerns and the warnings end up being true and the ones hurt are the poor farmers, not the plantation owners, of course. And this is the backdrop for what's going on right now, in our opinion. It's why, despite a few strongly worded statements, the US government has done very little. Big Business wanted the overthrow and got it and we'll get a few weak statements from the US government but nothing much more.
Ava: Right and there's little awareness, that I've seen, in US media, Big or Small, of the land evictions which were taking place before CAFTA went into effect but have continued and the poor have gotten so much poorer as a result of CAFTA. But CAFTA was a zero-sum game. It was never about lifting all boats, it was about how Big Business could reap huge profits and off whose backs.
Jim: And listening to Ava and C.I. right now, if Jess had proposed that they write it themselves when we were writing those articles, I would vote that they write it themselves. They place the coup squarely in the economic foundation.
Ava: And we also believe that the coup went forward with the approval of many elements of the US government.
Stan: On that topic, I'll add that when they'd raise these issues it was, Dona's point, while we were writing. And Ava's right, the coverage in this country is not addressing the economic issues. So we'd be like, "Huh?" or "What?" When they'd bring that up and then they'd try to walk us through it and what would happen is we'd try to graft on what they were saying to what we'd already written and it wasn't making sense.
Jim: Because those sections stuck out -- were the best things, actually -- and the rest of it was just crap. We probably could have also fixed it by editing, don't you think, Stan?
Stan: Yeah, just boil it down to a set of points that Ava and C.I. had made. Lose the paragraph we loved because we'd written it so well, for example. But we really got to the point where we had, honestly, too much pride in the piece to fix it. I include myself in that because there was a sentence that was a great sentence but it didn't belong in the article. That sentence was one of my contributions. It would have helped if I had said, "Lose my sentence there, it's not helping anything." But I didn't.
Jim: And none of us did.
Stan: So it was a learning experience, I think. And I'm sure we'll have to learn the lesson again at some point.
Jim: Absolutely. We never truly absorb it. Okay, working those e-mails, readers, don't say I don't try. Lavonne e-mailed to note that "Editorial: Taking sexism seriously " includes an added note of "Added July 7, 2009, Thank you to The New Agenda and Femisex.com for getting the word out on the imbalance with regards to bookings and bylines. Added July 9th and thank you to Hillary's Village and Spiral Gate and Donna Darko and for also getting the word out in their continued fight against sexism." Lavonne says she's seen it elsewhere and wonders "Why weren't other sites noted?"
Ava: C.I. and I did the update on that. We did it twice. And that was based on e-mails here informing us of it. If there were others who amplified it, Lavonne needs to e-mail and say what they were. I don't dispute her but we're not mind readers and we're not spending our lives online. If you pass it on, we'll gladly include it. I'm glad it got mentioned this week because C.I. and I were pushing last week for a short feature to note that. We added those sentences after the editorial was published and put them at the top to be sure they were seen; however, there were people who had already read it by then and I doubt they went back and read it again. Maybe they did? So I would guess we would have readers who aren't aware that the editorial opens with that.
Jim: Okay and this will be the last one, Dona's telling me we've got so much to do still. A Brad, not community member Brad, e-mails to state, "For three weeks now C.I. kept hitting on the issue of the KRG and the tensions between it and Nouri al-Maliki's elected government. By Friday, that finally became a press issue. I see that a lot and am just wondering why that is? Why does it surface first at The Common Ills?" C.I.?
C.I.: Well first off, I've never said "Nouri al-Maliki's elected government." I say "the central government out of Baghdad," instead, for example. In terms of why I'm noting something that the press really isn't? A lot of times it's because of the press. A lot of times it's because I know an outlet's working on a story. Sometimes it's because they worked on a story on the topic and it got killed. My including the topic means someone can try for that story again saying, "Hey, there's talk online about this issue." It's also true that I've got to cover Iraq several times a day during the week which is much more than any single outlet not broadcasting or printing for Iraqis does. I made a similar comment last time and an e-mail came in that Ty read saying, "What about Iraq Slogger?" What about it? It's a for-pay service that generates no original reporting. I also don't find it reliable because it's owner twice made statements that I personally stood by only to see him cave and act the coward. No offense, I know the man, but I'm not interested in anything he has to say. If Iraq Slogger actually broke news, we'd stay away from it because the man associated with it now has a very public history of making dramatic claims and then walking away from them. And I'm really not in the mood to stand up for him again only to have him cave. Sorry.
Elaine: If I can jump in, you've got to remember that C.I.'s on the road speaking about Iraq every day -- with Kat, Ava and Wally -- during the week so C.I. has access to a pool or polling group to find out what their interests are and what they're not hearing of. In addition, C.I.'s speaking to friends at relief organizations as well as to the press. And especially true, C.I.'s always been ahead of the curve. There's a line in a Maria McKee song that says, "And I feel the mountain movin' deep within" that I really think sums up C.I.'s ability to anticipate certain topics.
Jim: Okay and on that note we wind down. This is a rush transcript and this was our news roundtable. This edition will also feature a music roundtable. Our e-mail address is email@example.com.
Mike: The Mamas and the Papas is a hugely important vocal group of the rock era. The group is composed of, alphabetical order, Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot, John Phillips and Michelle Phillips. Of the four founding members, only Michelle Phillips is still alive. Starting in the eighties, John would trot around with a band with the same name giving concerts. The real group largely exists from 1965 to 1968. Their chart run includs "California Dreamin'" and "Creeque Alley" -- both written by Michelle Phillips and John Phillips -- and "I Saw Her Again Last Night," "Dedicated To The One I Love," "12:30 (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon)," "Words Of Love," "Dream A Little Dream Of Me," and the number one hit "Monday, Monday." John was married to Michelle and touring in an act with her but wanted to start a new act. He saw it as being him, Michelle and Denny. The three of them went off to the islands to get away and to work on the new group. Cass, who was a long time friend of Denny's and who had met the Phillips in New York, followed them out and wanted to join in but John didn't want her. While the three were on stage performing, Cass, waiting tables, would add her vocals to the mix and the claim is Cass' voice grew higher -- supposedly due to being hit on the head with a pipe -- and John wanted her in the group then. Much more likely, the response during the performances to Cass' vocals is what made him let her in.
Jim: You say that because?
Mike: He pushed to have Michelle fired. He briefly replaced her for a series of concerts. The audiences didn't support it. The audience reaction forced John to let Michelle back into the group so it makes sense that the audience reaction would force John to let Cass in the group in the first place.
Elaine: Jumping in to agree with that and note Cass knew how to work a room and you just have to picture Michelle, Denny and John singing onstage with Cass, going table to table with orders, adding that great voice of her own to the mix and the audience reaction each time that happened. John loathed Cass, he always did. Michelle and Denny were talented in their own ways but Cass was on the level John saw himself. John saw himself as this musical genius leading Michelle and Denny around but he couldn't lead Cass. Cass' talent and her personality were far too strong. John found that threatening and it was a source of conflict. He also made 'jokes' about Cass' weight and didn't think, until the group landed a contract and became a hit that Cass necessarily belonged with them and Cass was aware of his attitude.
Jim: Okay. By the way, Elaine and C.I. knew Cass. Okay, Kat, Mike's provided the basics of the group. Take us to this album.
Kat: The Mamas and the Papas released four studio albums during the period that Mike's speaking of and all sold very well. There were numerous collections, A Gathering of Flowers was one. I'm not aware of the critical reaction to the collections but the albums themselves were well received and the group is considered one of the first American supergroups.
C.I.: Jumping in to note that Farewell to the First Golden Era, which was the first collection, received a rave review from The New York Times in real time and most outlets followed that assessment. Rolling Stone would be the exception to positive reviews throughout the real time period due to the fact that Jann fancied himself the prince of the Bay Area and had a real chip on his shoulder that Monterey Pop took place and that he wasn't a mover and shaker of it and that "L.A. groups" -- which the Mamas and the Papas were considered to be -- were staging the concert so close to Bay Area stomping grounds. That's really the reason for the war, the very long war, that Rolling Stone staged with the group. It's also the reason the Mamas and the Papas were denied their entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for so many years.
Kat: The last album, 1968's The Papas and the Mamas, had a track on it entitled "Dream A Little Dream Of Me," this became a single released as a single by Mama Cass and the Mamas and the Papas. The band was over. Cass went on to her solo recording career. Michelle moved into films. John thought he was going to do a number of things including Broadway, etc.
Jim: So the band breaks up in 1968 and ends up recording in 1971. Not, as we'd expect today, due to a desire for the big reunion bucks.
Kat: No. Dunhill was their label and it was sold to ABC which threatened to sue the four for millions if they didn't get back together and record one more album. It was in their contracts that they would deliver five albums and had only done four. So they come back together to record what is People Like Us.
Jim: Dona's got an assessment of the album.
Dona: This is Sandy Granger who writes discography notes for the book Go Where You Wanna Go: The Oral History of the Mamas and the Papas by Matthew Greenwald. Granger writes, "The sounds have always made me sad because I know in my heart it isn't really a Mamas & Papas album. It is an after-thought that does no merit comparison to the real Mamas & Papas albums that start with 'Monday, Monday' and end with 'Midnight Voyage.' Cass's contributions on this album are minimal at best. It is almost a New Journeymen's album by default. It has some astounding moments of Mamas & Papas clarity and more than its share of originality, but it has no heart."
Cedric: I disagree with that assessment completely. My first media player, other than a radio itself, was a tape player and it was an 8-track one because nobody wanted it. I found it in the attic and it was assumed to have been my father's because everyone else had tossed their own stuff from that era out. My father's stuff had been put up in his parents' attic after he died. So the attic's right over the garage and when the ladder was down all of grandkids would go up there. It had a light and we were used to watching the Brady Bunch every afternoon and would think, "They should turn this into a room!" Like Greg Brady's attic bedroom. So I found this 8-track player in one area and plugged into the orange extension cord up there one day. There was a stash of 8-track tapes and I played the bulk of them. My grandparents sent me back up after I came down the ladder, telling me to go back up and get the stereo. So I did and we set it up in my room, my grandparents raised me, and I had all the 8-tracks which were probably about 40. And because I had an 8-track player, all my aunts and uncles made a point to slide over their 8-tracks that they were no longer listening to and didn't want around because 8-tracks weren't cool. In that stash was the Mamas and the Papas' People Like Us. I'd find some more of their stuff at a garage sale my grandfather and I went to about a year later, but for the longest time, this was the only thing I knew of about the Mamas and the Papas. And I disagree strongly with that assessment Dona was reading.
Jim: But is that the case because this was your introduction? Would you have felt differently if that's how you capped it off as opposed to where you came in?
Cedric: I don't think so. I think the point's being missed that this is a tight album vocally. They could probably have had a little more experimenting with the instrumental accompaniment. But this is a vocal group and none of the four is playing an instrument on the album so I'm judging them by the vocals and these are really tight.
Mike: I agree with Cedric. I don't know when I was introduced to this but my mother's participating and she can call me out if I'm wrong. I'm laughing. But my dad is a record nut. And his vinyl is preserved in plastic. And when he'd share stuff with me, when he'd say, "Mike, you gotta listen to this," he wasn't playing me something he hated. I knew enough of the Mamas and the Papas when I did hear it to listen for Cass and she's really not all that present on the album. But it's a really strong album. My favorite is the fourth album, The Papas and The Mamas. But People Like Us is among my favorites and I love it way more than the second album, The Mamas and The Papas.
Jim: Okay, well what's to like about it?
Wally: "Snowqueen of Texas." That's a John Phillips' song on the album that Michelle takes the lead on and we're always singing that. Kat, Ava, C.I. and I are on the road every week and we'll listen to music going from here to here and singing along and sometimes we'll turn off the car stereo and just sing --
Ava: Many times with Wally playing the guitar as we do.
Wally: Yes. But one song we always have fun singing is "Snowqueen of Texas."
Ava: "Left Paris in a cloud of smoke . . ."
Kat: "They say she may be beaten . . ."
Ava & Kat (together): "But I know that she's not broke."
Wally: "She's living a cool green farmhouse, if you go to Houston, be quiet as a mouse." That's one of those songs, like Michelle Shocked's "Anchorage," that if we get to singing all together, we really just have a blast. It's like, "Oh, no, we're here already. Time to stop singing." That's a great song, I'm talking the writing of it, and it's a very strong point not just of the People Like Us album but also of the Mamas and the Papas career. If you look at all the collections, including the ones that aren't just supposed to be assembling the singles, you'll notice this song never makes it onto the CDs. I think the critical reaction to an album that most have never bothered to listen to or listened to it long, long ago, and if "Snowqueen of Texas," among other tracks, was better known, the chilly reception given to People Like Us today wouldn't hold.
Ty: C.I., Ava and I participated in the roundtable for Polly's Brew Friday night and -- check your inboxes, if you haven't already -- and when Gareth asked what we had planned for this edition, I mentioned a music roundtable on this album. Immediately, it was like, "Shooting Star!" That's very big in England still among music lovers. Still. That's not the right word. "Shooting Star" was included on some free CD in one of the British music magazines, a compilation CD with a bunch of acts, about a year ago and that's just really considered one of the hidden treasures of the Mamas and the Papas, not just of this album, but of their careers. It was really something.
Ava: They were singing "Shooting Star," they knew it. Gareth, Pru, James, Polly and Lionel especially. "Across the milky way, baby . . ." They really love that song.
Ty: So I think what Wally's saying is valid. I think Cedric and Mike are right that if you listen to the album, it's not about where you come in on the group, you can be blown away by so much on this album. The di-di-di-di-di on "Shooting Star," for example, is vintage Mamas and Papas. The layers of vocals on that thing is amazing. And when people want to claim that the group just blew off the recording, those people haven't listened to the album.
Jim: Ruth, you were an original Mamas and Papas fan, I mean in real time. What about this album?
Ruth: I think part of the problem with the reception of the album is that it came out in 1971. By then, If You Can Belive Your Eyes and Ears, the group's first album, wouldn't have been well received. They were too tied to the sixties at that point, in people's minds, and the singer-songwriter was actually getting its big start. 1971 is when Carly Simon's hitting with "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be," for example, James Taylor singing about "Fire and Rain," Carole King's becoming the mega star, Joni Mitchell's releasing Blue -- I mean, it's a different environment completely. It's the age of the confessional singer-songwriter and the confessional is singular. Mike, Kat or Trina, am I wrong on that?
Mike: No, you step into the confessional by yourself.
Ruth: I'm Jewish, wanted to check with the Catholics present on that. The singer-songwriter phase begins after the Mamas and Papas emerge, by many years, and 1971 is the year they really stand out.
Trina: Right. Just to go historical, Carole King and Gerry Goffin or any of the Brill Building writers are responsible for hits like "There Goes My Baby," "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," "On Broadway," "The Locomotion," etc. Those songs are recorded by people like the Drifters and the Shirelles and part of the early wave of rock. The Beatles follow and they record songs by writers like that and they also, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, take it another step by writing their own songs which are recorded. Lennon and McCartney will bit-by-bit set the rock standard. And long before Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, their efforts will have taken rock to another level. The Mamas and the Papas are the first American group to pick up the baton and run with it. And there were confessional elements in the Lennon & McCartney songs or the Mamas and the Papa songs written by John and Michelle, John and Denny or John by himself, but they weren't the confessional singer-songwriter genre. Like Ruth's saying, 1971 was a huge shift. And Carole King's popularity with Tapestry would be much emulated for sales, so much so that her own artistic talents on that album are often overlooked, and Joni's Blue would lead everyone -- male and female -- in the singer-songwriter genre to try to match her. No one ever matched Carole's sales or Joni's art. And Carole had art and Joni had sales but the two albums are known for sales, Tapestry, and art, Blue. So three years after the group's disbanded, they're trying to get noticed in the singer-songwriter era. Add in that they were hit makers and not a lot in the last three years justifies that claim. By 1971, John's got no hits, Denny's got no hits. Michelle's never recorded. That leaves Cass who has had some hits and some flops. So you've got a young audience to whom the group seems a relic of the past and one that doesn't sale anymore. I'm not agreeing with that assessment, I'm just trying to capture the mood as it was then, and I remember it very well. If I could go further?
Jim: Yeah, go ahead.
Trina: I think I'm in ninth grade when that comes out but don't make me do the math now, it's too late. But what I remember is that Cass was coming off Pufnstuf, where she was Witchy Poo's sister or something, that's 1970. And, sorry, we're trying to assert ourselves as young adults. And I'm, at that time, one of the prime markets rock is aiming at. So I'm going to be buying music by the woman in a kid's movie?
Jim: Did you buy it in real time?
Trina: I did. I actually loved the group. And that's one of the things I'd bond with, later in high school, with my future husband. But at that time, no one I knew was listening to it except me and when my friends would come over after school, I couldn't twist their arms to get them to listen. You have to understand that the sixties were "over." For my age group, they were "over." It was a new decade and it was going to be all about us. That's the feeling of every generation, at that age. So it would have been difficult for any group getting back together except maybe the Beatles. Although I think it would have been hard for them too. Today, people wouldn't think that but in the early seventies, there was some serious hatred at the Beatles. There was a theme of the Rolling Stones were the real group and they'd proved it by staying together and there was a theme of the Beatles weren't really rock. It may seem ridiculous right now, but it was part of that generational attempt to bury the sixties and turn the focus to today. And part of the problem for the group, Ruth should disagree with me that this was a problem because of our generational difference at the time, was that Cass wasn't just doing a kid's movie, little kids, she was every where. You couldn't turn on TV without seeing her on it and your parents loved her. Cass was very talented as a singer, which I think most people recognize today, but she was also very funny on TV and just had a really warm personality that played very well to the camera. And I don't think that part's remembered today. But Cass was everywhere and your parents loved her and they thought it made them look cool to you when they'd say, "Come on in here and watch TV with us, Cass is on." And, in 1971, as a teenager, your attitude more likely was, "She's so old, she's history." Again, Ruth should disagree with that.
Ruth: No, I agree with you. For my husband and me, it was great. We point her out on TV, a music special with Lulu or Tom Jones or whomever or a talk show or Match Game or whatever, and we'd point her out and say, "That's Mama Cass." And our kids were used to hearing those records so they knew who we were talking about and they knew her from Scooby Doo so they were excited too. But they were young children. Now when my boys hit their teenage years, I'd find, with other peformers I'd think we could share excitement over that, no, we couldn't. So I think Trina's point is really solid. For the young record buyers, for the teenagers in 1971, the Mamas and the Papas weren't anything they'd rush for and that would be true if it had been their first album coming out. Their sound was seen as dated, as happens with music and fashions when a decade ends, then, after a few years, they enter a different phase. But I agree totally with Trina's assessment.
Jim: Okay. Stan? Dona just slid over a note pointing out that we need to hear from you, Betty and Rebecca.
Stan: I don't know when I listened to it the first time. It was in one of my first two college years, so it was this decade. I had my own apartment. It was my first. I was working on campus and doing pell grant and student loans. I fixed up the place as best I could and it was strictly Salvation Army. That's the couch and everything. But my walls were bare and I got the idea to put up vinyl album covers. It seemed like a unique way to go. There were posters on campus, at the bookstore of Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix and one of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick that you could buy but that was over ten dollars a piece. Meanwhile there was a head shop posing as a used vinyl store just off campus that you could pick up a ton of vinyl in and it was like three dollars a pop. I grabbed People Like Us solely because it was the Mamas and the Papas. I knew their songs, their hits, and I liked those songs. This was the only vinyl they had of the group and I grabbed it along with other groups I knew, Diana Ross & the Supremes, the Temptations, the Doors and a few more. And I put them on my wall and a little later ended up getting a stereo system at a garage sale that had a turntable. At which point I finally listen to a number of vinyl I bought and -- let's say it was good I bought those albums for the cover, to put the covers up on my walls. A lot of the music either wasn't worth hearing or the vinyl was so badly damaged that it was all crackle and hiss. But the Mamas and the Papas played fine and I really grew to love that album. I remember one summer, August, when I was waiting for the pell grant and loan checks and just nearly broke. I had bread and dried beans and Ramen noodles in the apartment and that was it food wise. And it was blazing hot and I got a glass of ice water, put on that album and just really got into it like I never had before. "No dough, no place to go," that song, "No Dough," especially registered but they all did. I'd listened before while I'd be getting ready for a date or while I was studying or cleaning up. But this time I was just listening. Just laying on the floor in front of the speakers, listening. I really love this album.
Jim: Is "No Dough" your favorite track?
Stan: To this day, it's one of them. There are twelve tracks and I'd argue that six could stand on any Mamas and Papas collection, could hold their own with the better known tracks. I really love this album.
Rebecca: This can be deleted if it's embarrassing to anyone, but I'm wondering if Stan was intaking at the time, to put it delicately.
Stan: No need to delete it. Yeah, I already said I got the vinyl at a head shop. My first two years of college, I was a big pot head. Then someone got fired on campus after a drug test and I was shocked: "They can make you do a drug test?" After that, I stuck to beer. But, yeah, I had a joint while I was laying on the carpet listening.
Rebecca: I ask because C.I. can explain that this is a minor drug album. The group's big drug album is The Papas and The Mamas.
Jim: This is a drug album because, I'm reading the credit from C.I.'s vinyl copy, "Medical Aid: Nurse Regina"? That's why it's a drug album?
Rebecca: No, not because of that credit. Because of the sounds and the way they're assembled and because the one doing the bulk of the assembly, John Phillips, is lost in drugs at this point. There are twelve tracks and John Phillips wrote eleven of them. He's not written that many on any album by the group. This is very much a John Phillips' production. The only song not written by John is "I Wanna Be A Star" written by Michelle Phillips. I think the album has many riches and this song is one of them. At my site, I've written of Michelle's solo album, Victim of Romance. "I Wanna Be A Star" really sets the stage for her later songs like "There She Goes" and "Lady Of Fantasy" -- both of which she wrote by herself. The Hip-O re-issue of the album includes ten bonus tracks and there are more wonderful Michelle compositions like "You Give Good Phone" and "Guerita" and one song she co-wrote with John Phillips, "Aloha Louie" that's so wonderful as it is it should be on every Mamas and Papas compilation. Michelle co-wrote many tracks the group recorded, though John tried to strip her of credit and his little cult followed suit, but those songs she co-wrote were "California Dreamin'," "Got a Feelin'," "Hey Girl," "Trip, Stumble & Fall," "Creeque Alley," "String Man" and "Free Advice" -- those are songs that any fan of the group knows very well. People Like Us sees her emerge with a song she didn't co-write, one she wrote all by herself. And it's one of the best songs on the album.
Betty: My brother, as I've noted many times, is my entry into music. He loves music. He also loves hitting the road. And whenever he would, he would make me the keeper of his music. That included, first, his cassette collection. He hit the road first right after high school graduation. I think he actually gave me the cassettes because we were so close and he didn't want me to miss him. I say that because when he returned a few years later, he was surprised I still had them. And then when he hit the road later, he made me the keeper of his CDs. In the cassette collection was a Mamas and the Papas best of. And I'm trying like crazy to think of the title or even what the cover looked like. I'm failing. But it had sixteen tracks. None of them from People Like Us. I heard People Like Us for the first time after PBS did their Mamas and Papas special a few years ago, two?, and they had Michelle on during the pledge breaks and one of the premiums, the highest one, was the boxed set. It was a British import and I wanted it so badly and I was about to call in and pledge money I really didn't have, we're talking a pledge of over two hundred, I think, when Kat happened to call and I told her about it and she said, "We can get it for you at Tower." So that's what happened. But, anyway, the collection is called Complete Anthology and it's every known recording of the group plus a little solo stuff, like "Aloha Louie," and that collection is really my introduction to People Like Us. Now Jim had asked earlier, of Cedric, if hearing it at the start of your Mamas and Papas discovery might make you like it better, indicating that you didn't know the group, had no expectations, so you were easy to please? I reject that because, at that point, I had my brothers CDs of the group, and I'd lived on the cassette with their greatest hits even before that. I knew their work. I loved their work. And I really love this album. It's a quieter one but, Ruth, Trina, anyone, wasn't that time?
Jim: Let Elaine grab that so she can get into the mix.
Elaine: Okay. Well, yeah, I'd say it was a quieter time compared to their previous 'last' album, 1968's The Papas and The Mamas. "Safe In My Garden," an amazing song and recording, sings of "cops out with their megaphones, telling people stay inside your homes." And that really is that period where you have MLK and RFK assassinated, where you have uprisings around the world and more. 1971 was the singer-songwriter year as Trina and Ruth have noted so well. But the confessional genre was able to succeed because of events in the country and due to the nature of the rock audience. You had Tricky Dick in the White House lying like crazy. We wanted truth and singer-songwriters appeared to represent that. So, yeah, I'd agree that it was a quieter time, 1971, than 1968. I think the album reflects that and reflects drugs: Mellow drugs mainly. I don't believe every song John has on this album was written for it, in fact, most weren't.
Jim: Okay. I'm going to toss to C.I. in a second so let me bring back in Mike who I saddled with the overview and see if he wants to add anything to the conversation before we wind down. Mike?
Mike: Well, we're all big Mamas and Papas fans here and, as early as 2005, when a reader, I don't remember who, was writing in that we were the Mamas and Papas online --
Kat: We've now morphed into Sly and the Family Stone due to our tremendous population growth.
Mike: Probably so, probably so. Let me note Cedric's wife Ann just started her own site and she filled in for me while I was in Hawaii and for Ruth when she was in Japan. But back in 2005, that was the surpeme compliment to me and it's still my favorite one and it is how I see us. I think the Mamas and the Papas are one of the most magical groups in history. And "Snowqueen of Texas" is probably the song on People Like Us that best captures that magic but it's not the only one. When the Mamas and the Papas are at their best, listening to them, focusing on their song, not just having it in the background, sends a chill up your spine. People Like Us passes that test for me. I think it's a hidden gem of its era.
Trina: I want to jump in to congratualte Ann for starting her site, the 15th site in this community, and to thank Rebecca who watched my granddaughter while I was in Hawaii the week before Mike and Elaine went. Thank you, Rebecca. And of course, Jess filled in for me while I was gone and I thanked him at my site but, Jess, thank you, again.
Jess: Your welcome and I'll use that kind attention to jump in since Jim hasn't included me in this roundtable.
Jim: Blame Dona, she didn't notice you hadn't spoken. I got no note from Dona. Jess, please, speak.
Jess: Like Mike said, they're a vocal group and when they're on, they do give you a chill, a rush of excitement, a sense of just how amazing moments in life can be. And I agree with him that this is a wonderful album. This was one of our "downtime" albums growing up. When my father, for example, felt my sister and I were just a little too hyper, this is one of the albums he would put on. So I absolutely agree it's a drug album and the mood is mellow. But I grew up hearing this and, since it was a "downtime" album, probably heard it more than any other Mamas and Papas album. It's not my favorite, Deliver is my favorite, but it's one of my favorite albums of any group. And Denny's lead vocal on "Step Out" really needs headphones to be appreciated. My sister and I used to grab a speaker each and we'd lay down in front of it. "Downtime" meant we'd usually broken a lamp or something, or come close to it, and our parents would call "downtime" to get us to calm down. So we'd each have an ear pressed up close to a speaker and there is some amazing singing going on. Denny's best moment is the lead on "Step Out." But there are so many great moments. There's Cass' laughter on a track, I'll let you discover that yourself. There's the blend on "People Like Us," there's the blend on "Snowqueen Of Texas." There's so much to love and I'm glad Rebecca noted Michelle Phillips' "I Wanna Be A Star." I can remember when I was old enough to understand songwriting credits and grabbing albums, including this one, to find out who wrote what songs. And I remember being ticked off by the way it was listed. It was a bit like Michelle's talent was being hidden to make this "A John Phillips Production." And "Pearl," another strong track, is an ode to Janis Joplin who had died the year before and, of course, first shot to fame at the Mamas and the Papas Monterey Pop festival which John and Michelle Phillips really staged with Lou Adler.
Jim: Okay, I'm going to go to C.I. now. C.I.?
C.I.: Well this is a drug album as Rebecca, Stan and Jess have noted. I'm not of the Cult of John Phillips. I think he was talented and I don't deny his talent -- or his madness. However, there is a cult around him that could potentially rival the one existing around Brian Wilson. So I always find it strange that there's not been an effort to re-evaluate this album. This is John Phillips. This is his vision. Yes, there's the wonderful "I Wanna Be A Star" but even that's produced and arranged to his tastes. I didn't want to do this roundtable and still argue we should have done a roundtable on the album before, The Papas and The Mamas, because that's many things and to talk about John Phillips' vision, you really need the background of that album explored first. Lou Adler could be considered the fifth member of the group and he was very instrumental in the way the group sounded, especially the musical accompaniment, on those first albums. John may have admired Lou's taste and talent, but John also wanted control and a large part of building a recording studio was in taking more control of the group and taking it away from Lou. As Elaine rightly noted, Cass and John didn't mix. Cass left the group after The Papas and The Mamas hating the group and glad to be out. Later, with time, she'd remember the good experiences and there are collections where she's quoted saying good things. But in real time, when she left the group she was ticked off and that wasn't because of anyone except for John. They fought constantly. He wanted her to do things his way and while if it was Lou wanting something she'd listen and explore, John didn't approach like Lou, he ordered, didn't ask, and John also didn't respect her. That's why Cass couldn't get into John. She never could. And when she grasped that he didn't respect her, she was done with him. She was still a part of the group and close to everyone except John, but she was done with him. If you didn't like her, Cass assumed you didn't know her and she'd make a real effort. But once she'd made that effort, once she'd given you the benefit of the doubt, if you were still distant to her, she had other things to do, many other things to do. She and John did not socialize after the brief period where the group lived together at the start. She was not close to him, she did not like him. Do I have more time?
Jim: Yeah, go fot it.
C.I.: Again, if we'd started with the 1968 album, we'd have a better foundation to do this discussion. People Like Us is attacked because Cass isn't front and center. And it's assumed that's because she's sick, hence the nurse credit. That's really not what's going on. Cass isn't in the mood for John. And John's not in the mood for Cass. And Cass actually takes what people are calling a "backseat" on the 1968 album. She's got "Dream A Little Dream" and "Midnight Voyage" on that which gives a different impression. But Cass is no longer fueling the songs and that's because (a) she's sick of John and (b) John's sick of her and wanting to prove that the group is not Mama Cass' band. John was majorly pissed when Dunhill released "Dream A Little Dream" with the credit they did. And the fact that Cass was having hits -- she was having misses, but she was also having hits -- after the group was a sore spot with John who couldn't get it together. His 1970 album had flopped. That's all he had to point to besides the group -- and a lot of 'plans' that never came true. There was real competition between John and Cass. She preferred a live environment because she'd always win in that, the fans loved her. They didn't feel that way about John. In the studio, he could be a tyrant. Lou Alder tempered that but Lou was gone by People Like Us and Cass wasn't going to be his foot soldier on an album no one wanted to record except John. The idea that John didn't want to record it is laughable. John thought it was going to be a hit and a needed success for him after his 1970 solo flop. I'm not speaking of it artistically, by the way, that's a whole other conversation. But it was a commercial flop and John was very aware of that and, no, he wasn't blowing off People Like Us. Nor did he claim he was while recording it or right after. What you have with People Like Us is the Mamas and the Papas as John Phillips wanted them to sound. So it's amazing that his cult, which continues to grow, has not offered a reconsideration of this album. This is John Phillip's vision for the group and, in his vision, Cass is a bit player. He thought she'd grab a lead on one song but she wasn't in the mood for him and he wasn't for her so that ended before they hit the studio. You have to realize that these wonderful songs that we know didn't come about by laughing and grinning and hugging. They sing their asses off on these songs. It's very hard work and, during it, they are discussing phrasing and enuciation and whether the tempo needs to be slower or faster and maybe someone needs to come in sooner than the arrangement calls for, and many other things and trying all those things. With the first album, they'd rehearsed all the songs long before getting a contract. And that's generally assumed to be the reason the album was recorded so quickly. That's only part of the reason. The other was because John deferred to Lou who was the producer of the album. John increasingly takes on that role as the group continues recording. Even when Cass was still angry about the last recording experience, she could find great things to say about that first album and that first album was a pleasure for her because Lou was in charge. She could work with Lou and have a blast. He respected her, he loved her talent and he realized how incredible it was. With John, it always came back to he never saw her as part of the group. As Elaine rightly points out, audience reaction forced her on him and People Like Us is his vision of the group and, in his vision, Cass is just one singer, just one element. Now she could have had a lead on one song if she was willing to put up with Tyrant John. She wasn't. She wasn't willing to put herself through singing the part John planned for her the way John wanted with all the negative feedback for anything she brought to it of her own. Cass was an artist and wasn't going to be ordered around by anyone disrespecting her and John disrespected her. You have some wonderful vocals on the album and Cass did a wonderful job as an "element" -- and didn't want to be anything more than that because she didn't want John to have an excuse to start something with her. Is it a great Mamas and Papas album? I'll leave that to others to decide but it is John Phillips' vision of the group.
Jim: And on that note we'll wrap up this roundtable. We're asked all the time to talk about music and decided we'd grab the topic this week. Dona and I picked the album on Thursday and didn't realize all that usually participate weren't familiar with it. Thank you to Trina for joining us and the e-mail address for this site is firstname.lastname@example.org.