Sunday, August 23, 2009

Truest statement of the week

"Enough already?" Hmmm…I don't know Charlie Gibson and I don't pay any attention to his career, but I seem to agree with him on this one: "Enough already."
Enough with the killing, torturing, wounding and profiting off of the backs of our troops and off of the lives of the people of Iraq-Af-Pak: as our brothers and sisters in Latin America say: "Basta!"
Somehow, I don't think that this is what Charlie Gibson meant, though. I am sure that he just wants me to go away like most of the rest of the anti-war movement has done under the Obama presidency.
One of the things I hear quite often from people from all over the political spectrum is: "Why don't you just go away, you've had your 15 minutes of fame."
Yes, that's exactly what I thought as soon as I heard that my son was killed in the US's illegal and immoral war in Iraq: "this is a perfect opportunity to get my 15 minutes of fame." Actually, after I slowly recovered from the shock and horror, the pain always remains, I thought that I had to do everything I can to end this nightmare so other mothers/families wouldn't have to go through what I was going through and what I am going through.

-- Cindy Sheehan, "Enough Already" (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox). Cindy Sheehan and other brave activists will be demonstrating on Martha's Vineyard starting Tuesday August 25th -- while War Hawk Barack Obama is on the island.

Truest statement of the week II

The report is painful to read. It begins with the words of an Iraqi man describing the abduction, murder, and mutiliation of his partner -- and it's not clear from the description if the three-events happened in that order. Like many HRW reports it appears to be based on the specific detailed accounts of survivors and eyewitnesses.

-- Steve Inskeep, of NPR's Morning Edition, "Recommended Reading: Human Rights Report On Murders Of Gays In Iraq" on Human Rights Watch's "'They Want Us Exterminated': Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq."

A note to our readers

Hey --
Another Sunday.
Except for Rebecca (and her husband and their child) all the wonderful guests have headed home this morning and we will miss them. It was a lot of fun having everyone face to face for the last two weeks.

The way we did this edition is we wrote until two in the morning, then all went to sleep. Then woke up in time for breakfast and to get everyone to the airport. After that, we started the editing and typing process.

Along with Dallas, the following helped write this edition:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

We thank them all. And here's what we came up with.

Truest statement of the week -- Cindy won hands down.

Truest statement of the week II -- We also were surprised (happily) to see Steve Inskeep weigh in on a very important news story and wanted to note him as well.

Editorial: The Non-Working Barack Obama -- First thing to note here is, we may have an illustration. We're tired. We're not in the mood for Flickr this morning. We plan to add illustrations either tonight or tomorrow but we may end up feeling, "Forget it." This editorial was built around Little Giant. That was Ann and Stan. Both were saying Barack reminded them of an Abbott & Costello movie and they couldn't remember the title. They knew he was a salesman and as they sketched out the farm life (at the beginning of the film), C.I. said, "Little Giant." Jess had seen the film as well so we ended up excited by the film (and the four of them telling the rest of us about it) which was good because prior we were dead tired and not sure we had the energy for an editorial. Yes, it was a shorter writing session but yesterday was also the last day with everyone and we really tried to pack a ton of activities into that and were exhausted by eight o'clock Saturday night.

TV: According to Ava and C.I. -- How exhausted. Ava and C.I. were falling asleep. They take the notes during roundtable pieces and they'd be taking the notes and you'd see one of their heads slump and then, a second later, their body would jerk back awake. So we didn't have high hopes for their TV commentary this week. When they said they just wanted to tackle an entertainment TV show, we said sure and figured regular readers would understand it was a busy, busy week. So imagine our surprise when they passed over the longhand version of this and it ended up being really something.

Roundtable -- This was longer and about a third was edited out. We cover current events in this. One of the topics edited out, for any who wonder, was about the Red Cross' access. If you're interested in the topic, you can see Karen DeYoung's Washington Post report. We did try to work in as many e-mails as possible. The e-mail address here is

Iraq -- Ava and C.I. really wrote this and that's another reason they weren't going to do public affairs in the TV commentary. They felt like they'd covered it in this. This was supposed to be a group piece but a number of us fell out during the writing of this. (I did not because I basically drank three pots of coffee while we were working on this edition.) (I'm Jim, if I didn't mention that already.) Those who remained awake would shout out topics or possible links and Ava and C.I. ended up writing it.

The music and book roundtable -- Dona moderated this roundtable. We hadn't all read the book. If you hadn't read the book we didn't feel you should be in the roundtable. Ava, Dona and C.I. are Thirders. We all know Rebecca does a great job moderating a roundtable but since this was at Third I wanted one of them and Rebecca pointed out that is should be Dona because Ava and C.I. were already taking notes. Dona did a great job moderating and I say that not just because we're engaged.

Shame on Dennis Loo -- Ava and C.I. did not write this. There was supposed to be a sentence noting that. Instead it just notes they hadn't participated in an earlier conversation about Dennis Loo. Ruth wrote about it at her site on Friday. Hours later an e-mail arrives from Dennis Loo. As Kat and Marcia told me the story, they were with C.I. when she opened the e-mail, the first thing that pissed C.I. off was Loo didn't address the e-mail. The public account of The Common Ills is used by C.I., Ruth, Kat and Isaiah. You need to address your e-mail. Second, he didn't reference the writing in terms of date or where it appeared or a title and, sorry Denny Loo, on Saturday morning, C.I. has not read every thing posted by the community's thirteen or fourteen daily sites so she has no idea what you're writing about. She reads it and flips through screens to read various posts and try to figure out who's got Denny Loo's drawers in a wad. C.I. wasted an hour attempting to reply and then said "Screw it." Ruth's not going to bother to reply. (Good for Ruth.) When Ruth wrote the post, she was trying to be nice and didn't raise the issue that had us saying "Enough!" to Denny Loo: His hompohobia. Using "tea baggers" as a term to demonize your opponent is homophobia.

Cindy Sheehan to protest War Mongering President -- We note Cindy Sheehan's protest in two other entries. This is just a repost of her press release.

Highlights -- Mike, Elaine, Kat, Betty, Ruth, Rebecca, Marcia, Stan, Cedric, Wally and Ann worked on this and selected highlights unless otherwise noted and we thank them for it.

And that's what we've got. Hopefully something you enjoyed reading. Again, we plan to put in illustrations either tonight or tomorrow but right now we're just ready to get offline.

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

Editorial: The Non-Working Barack Obama

The Iraq War, despite Barack's campaign promises, has not ended. (Remember, he promised in February 2008, while speaking in Texas, that if he was elected, US troops would be out of Iraq in ten months. To keep that promise, he'll have to pull 130,000 troops out in the next two months.) He's ramped up the Afghanistan War, as promised, and the people have decided they really don't want it to continue. The economy's in the tank and, Lori Montgomery (Washington Post) reported yesterday, his plans require the US to borrow $9 trillion -- that's $9,000,000,000,000.

He promised 'universal health care' -- or led voters to believe that he was promising that. Then he got into office. Two Saturdays ago, he made sure that the weak public option he was frequently speaking of wasn't even necessary to him when a plan finally got put together. The Health and Human Services Secretary began echoing him and when the outrage was immense, it got walked back and the press apparently all decided to rewrite history and just blame Kathleen Sebelius, to act as if only she had said the public option wasn't all that important and to erase Barack from the narrative.

Barry O's a celebrity and they can only live before the cameras so Barry O's vacationing at Martha's Vineyard.

The economy's in the tank and he's jetted off to the Vineyard?

Full On Federline

Bill and Hillary Clinton did vacation at Martha's Vineyard. In part, they vacationed there and elsewhere because they didn't have a home. They'd gone from the governor's mansion to the White House. Now George W. Bush had a home. His home was in Texas and that's where he vacationed. He also vacationed in Maine, as did his father, because the Bushes have property there as well.

Barack and Michelle Obama own a house (praise be, Tony Rezko). It's a mansion. It's a house that cost over a million dollars. So why aren't they vacationing in Chicago? Or why not vacation in that 'home' state of Hawaii?

And why is Barack taking a vacation when the US is involved in at least three wars (don't forget Pakistan), the economy is in the toilet and he can't push through his health care 'plan'?

Seems to us instead of attempting to hob knob and run around shirtless in front of the cameras, he needs to sit his ass down in the Oval Office and get to work.

For those who've forgotten, Barack promised to have health care addressed before Congress went on its August recess. Congress is now on its August recess. There is no plan. There is still no plan. He's got Democrats in Congress trying to sell people on a plan that doesn't exist. The Democrats in the House and the Senate cannot reach consensus on what should be in the plan and yet they're supposed to sell it, this non-existent plan.

How the hell did this happen?

We think the answer can be found in Little Giant. In that film, Lou Costello plays a moron who is a weak and inexperienced salesman with a really thin resume but ends up, through various misunderstandings, being promoted up the chain. Remind you of anyone?

We also believe the answer lies in confusion deriving from the Bush administration. As someone so historically ignorant that he believes he's visited "the other 57 states" in the United States, Barack obviously has no real knowledge of this country. So seeing Bush vacationing and Dick Cheney running things, he must have thought the presidency was the ceremonial post and the vice presidency the back breaking one. Silly Barry.

Now all he wants to do is smile for the cameras and wave. But people expect him to work. No doubt, he'll need a vacation to recover from his vacation.


Illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Full On Federline."

TV: According to Ava and C.I.

We were once thrilled to learn of a cancellation. In 2007, ABC finally cancelled According to Jim; however, we turned our back on the corpse too quickly because a month later ABC reversed the decision and the Jason of TV shows came back to life. This time, the sitcom is supposed to be dead.

For real.

It's not coming back.

Just to be sure, we've refused to run past the corpse. We've seen the horror movies and know that's generally when the hand darts out and grabs you by the ankle.


In its eight years, the Jim Belushi program killed off audiences. This is a show whose highest rank, whose "hit" status rests on it being number 46 out of all TV shows broadcast in its fourth season. When ABC cancelled it the first time, it was the 121st most watched show on commercial, broadcast TV during prime time. Audiences 'thanked' ABC for the renewal by dropping it to 171 the following year. This year, it moved up to 149. What a proud moment for Jim Belushi and ABC.

How the hell did that hideous show stay on the air so long?

Season seven's finale found Satan showing up to claim one of Jim's newborn sons and we think a deal with the devil is the most plausible explanation for how the show remained on the air.

According to Jim was not a believable show. You never bought that Jim Belushi was playing a character, you never bought that Cheryl (Courtney Thorne-Smith) would fall in love with someone so repellent and repugnant, you never bought that a one-paycheck family could live in that house and afford to have five children. About the only thing you bought was Cheryl's increased weight loss every season. If you lived with Jim, we bet there wouldn't be much in the house for you to eat either.

Season seven was the last to feature Kimberly Williams-Paisley as Cheryl's sister Dana (she made one brief appearance in season eight) and, if someone thought what the show needed was less female characters, they thought wrong.

Kyle, the oldest son of Jim and Cheryl, had been speed-aged. He was born in season one but in season four his age was pushed up so that Jim Belushi could offer no shading to such unfunny episodes as "Dress to Kill Me," when Kyle wants to dress as Cinderella for Halloween. In season eight, daughter Grace is treated by Jim (her father) as if she's Dana (his nemesis) and we're all supposed to laugh. He's attacking her for this or that, shouting at her, ordering her around. It wasn't that funny even with the talents of Kimberly Williams-Paisley, but when he's doing it to his own daughter, to his own non-adult daughter, it's disgusting.

And "disgusting" really sums up what the show always was but season eight found a lower level and who would have thought that was possible?

Not only did the show become more disgusting, it became like the sitcom parodied in Annie Hall, where the producers can't keep their hands off the dials and keep adding canned laughter and fake applause.

Unlike According to Jim, we'll do set up.

A new character appeared. For five episodes, Jackie Debatin played Grace's piano teacher. Grace's piano teacher and Andy's girlfriend.

Now let's put you wise to Jackie Debatin. She's a very skilled actress and can do comedy or drama. Due to her looks, she's usually cast in 'hot' roles. For example, in 2001, on Friends, Monica thought she was hiring a stripper for Chandler but it ended up being a hooker. Debatin played the role. In 2005, Still Standing needed a 'hot woman' for an episode where Bill and Judy attempted to cheer up a depressed friend (Fitz) and that role went to Debatin. In 2006, when Charlie Harper, on Two And A Half Men, realizes too late that he loves Mia and arrives after she's gone, her roommate, who offers him wings and a lapdance during half-time, immediately makes him forget Mia. Debatin was also cast in that role. She's played a stripper on That 70s Show. We could go over more of her credits but we believe we established the fact that, when producers have gone looking for an actress to play a 'hot' role, they've repeatedly gone with Jackie Debatin.

Larry Joe Campbell is not hot. On the very first episode of the series, as Cheryl's brother Andy, Larry Joe Campbell was already seriously overweight. He is now grossly overweight. Only on a Jim Belushi program are the words "mismatch" never uttered.

Or maybe they were but got lost in the 'sweetening'? We were talking about adding laughter and applause. In season eight, they even added "ahs."

The worst example of this was "Kyle's Crush." On this episode, no one knows that Andy and Mandy are dating. While she's giving Grace a piano lesson, Kyle (with Jim's help) asks her out. The actual date (they watch a cartoon film on TV) almost makes the episode worth watching because the actress sketches out her underwritten lines with a great deal of awkwardness and pauses.

But failing to realize that they had the makings of comedy gold, the date is cut short so Kyle can run and get advice from Jim because the producers want to play with the dials and add applause and aaahhhs and laughs.

Kyle: I don't want to hurt her feelings.


Jim: Of course not.

Kyle: But I will if I have to.

Huge 'laughter' (unearned).

Jim: That's my boy.

"Audience" goes wild with applause.

And the audience goes crazy with aaaahhhs and applause at the end of the episode when Kyle declares, "There's only one girl for me . . . Mom."

You watch this garbage and your first thought is, "Cheap ass producers sure are happy to use Cheryl's character to advance the plot even if they don't want to pay Courtney Thorne-Smith to act in this episode." (No, Cheryl was never seen. Her son's first date. Taking place at her own home. And she's AWOL.) Your second thought is how hokey and cheesy and embarrassing this crappy show has been.

Family Guy's Stewie has pronounced According to Jim an "abomination." That may be letting it off easy.

If the finally and thankfully cancelled show holds any interest to future generations, it should be only for what appears to have been some of the worst plastic surgery ever. Or are none of us supposed to notice that Jim Belushi's eyes now resemble those of a Pyrenees dog? That his face looks as though the rubber bands holding it back are about to snap at any minute? According to Jim was supposed to be a sitcom about an average family. Belushi ensured that they couldn't even get that right.


Jim: This is a current events and e-mail roundtable. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; 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. Ty's got an e-mail that we'll open with and we will try to work in as many as we can.


Ty: Last week started with C.I. calling out Crapapedia again. Roma e-mailed to note a Crapapedia entry and wanted to know if C.I. could identify the problem in the following, "In the 1990s, facing competition from men's magazines such as FHM, Rolling Stone reinvented itself, hiring former FHM editor Ed Needham. The magazine started targeting younger readers and offering more sex-oriented content, which often focused on sexy young television or film actors as well as pop music. At the time, some long-time readers denounced the publication, claiming it had declined from astute musical and countercultural observer to a sleek, superficial tabloid, emphasizing style over substance."

C.I.: Well the most obvious mistake involves the Anne Robinson lookalike freak Ed Needham. He was not hired in the 1990s. He wasn't even in American until 1999 when he came over from England to start the American version of FHM. So to say that the 1990s were a crisis and that was when Ed Needham joined is to just flat out lie. Crapapedia is so full of garbage. Robert Love leaves as managain editor in April 2002. In June of that year, it's announced that Ed Needham is joining the magazine and will be taking over Love's old position. And the 90s, the bulk of them? Not that awful compared to the Ed Needham period which is where you get the teeny bop and all the other crap including the unscientific 'trend' story of bug chasers which remains the all time worst piece of garbage Rolling Stone has ever published.

Jim: Our e-mail address is And as Ava and C.I. like to say, remember kids, it's not Encyclopedia, it's Crap, Crapapedia. Reuters notes that Hamad Karzai's main challenger in the election for president of Aghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah, is saying that the vote was rigged. Any thoughts?

Wally: We must do something! Pronto! I've set up my own Twitter account, Twittering Fools, and we all need to switch our location to Kabul in order to show solidarity and we need to talk about nothing else because what will a country do without us sticking our big noses into everything!!!! What will they do!!!!

Cedric: Exactly! We must write about it non-stop because other country's elections must be, MUST BE, decided by citizens of the United States! If we don't like the results of another country's elections, we must protest!!!

Kat: We're all laughing but we should probably explain that Wally and Cedric are joking and parodying the idiots wetting themselves over Iran's elections.

Marcia: And did anyone really expect that Afghanistan would have free and fair elections? While occupied by the US? What's next, expecting the same for Iraq?

Jess: The surprise isn't that Afghanistan would have crooked elections, the shocker is the US remains in Afhganistan despite eight years of accomplishing nothing but non-stop killings.

Jim: Last week an ABC News - Washington Post poll found support erording further for Barack and that most Americans are opposed to continuing the Afghanistan War. And that was before the questionable elections.

Ruth: And, just for the record, Japan has elections at the end of the month. In case anyone really enjoys following elections.

Jim: You were in Japan for the month of June, Ruth. Any predicitions?

Ruth: None at all. But I highly recommend Japan as a vacation spot for anyone who can go. It was really the most magical vacation and the country is just so beautiful.

Jim: Okay. Ty has another e-mail.

Ty: Atlhan e-mails to complain that we have not written a word about Israel allegedly harvesting organs. That e-mail came out on Thursday and I farmed the topic out to Stan. Stan?

Stan: This is based on one article, "Our Sons Are Being Stripped Of Their Organs," which ran in Aftonbladet, a newspaper in Sweden. The article has resulted in a huge flare up between Israel and Sweden. Israel maintains the article is false. Aftonbladet has so far stood by its report which has soldiers in the Israeli army grabbing Palestinians and harvesting -- removing -- their organs to sell on the black market. Israel's demanding an apology. Despite the fact that some American bloggers claim to have read the article, in their retelling Donald Bostrom reports these organ harvesting charges as fact but he doesn't have any facts. He has a belief that when Israeli soldirs shot a young Palestinian, the autopsy performed resulted in organs being harvested. But his article does not establish that as fact. He notes his questions about one Israeli he saw shot and he notes Palestinian families who feel that happened to their children who were killed. It may have happened and it may not have but, despite the usual I-Hate-Israel crowd online claiming otherwise, there has been no proof only an allegation made based upon suspicions. And that doesn't mean it won't be true but it does mean that a number of liars in the US need to stop saying the report said it was happening or that it proved it was happening.

Ty: Thank you, Stan. And I will just add that we publish once a week, on Sundays, and there are many topics we do not cover -- either due to lack of time or interest -- but stories that break between our last edition and our next one aren't ones that can have already mentioned.

Jim: True. And, back to elections, conservative Jeff Jacoby has a column in today's Boston Globe calling on Ted Kennedy to resign his Senate seat. Trina, Mike and Rebecca are registered voters in Massachusetts. Your thoughts?

Rebecca: Well it's not a surprise that Ted Kennedy's in awful health. Here, C.I.'s been noting that Ted's health was worse than was being let on since 2008. In terms of Jeff Jacoby, I glanced at the column because you handed it out before the roundtable. Jacoby's correct that Ted championed the process being changed for filling a vacancy if a Senator resigns or dies in office. Our state changed it. Now Ted wants to change it back. And Jacoby's correct, the only thing that's changed is Massachusetts' governor went from Republican to Democrat.

Mike: And my mother and I have been very vocal that Ted needs to step down. We've been saying that at our sites since December of last year at least. In fact, I'll toss to my mother.

Trina: Right. I even offered that Caroline, who was attempting to snag the Senate seat out of New York, could go for Ted's seat and that people might be more willing to give her that due to her being a Kennedy and Ted having owned that seat for most of our lives. I can't remember when Ted wasn't one of our senators. In terms of Jacoby's column, like Rebecca outlined, he's right. And, no, we don't need to change our process again. That's ridiculous and that we would even listen to someone who is terminally ill and has a vested interest? No way.

Mike: Jacoby says that Big Mass doesn't have two senators and he's correct on that. We haven't had it and don't give me that Kennedy's office can run fine without him. We need a functioning senator and Ted Kennedy needs to step down. It's really disgusting. Does he plan to die in office? Is his vanity so great that he's going to deny us our second senator and continue to hang on even though he can't appear in public and misses most of the sessions and votes. His ass needs to be out of the Senate seat and if our idiot governor, Governor Who, wants to earn some brownie points with voters, he could propose that Ted be removed from office.

Jim: You would support him being removed from office?

Mike: 100%. He needs to go. He's sick, he's not fit for his job, he needs to go. He is the best argument for creating a mandatory retirement age for Congress, idiots like Ted Kennedy who do not have the common sense to step down when they are no longer able to report for work. If you or I missed as much work as Ted has this year alone, we'd be fired. He's not compentent, he's not fit. He needs to retire or he needs to be forced out of office. Not in a few months, right now.

Ty: Ted's health brings up an important point. One C.I.'s raised. Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Supposedly, Congress is going to lead on it. You have Patrick Murphy providing 'leadership' in the House -- when not running off to Iraq or elsewhere. And Ted Kennedy was supposed to provide leadership in the Senate. Ted who's done nothing, including his failure to show up for work. I think we need to get honest that Voices of Honor may have some well intentioned people in it, but Congress doesn't want move on this issue. They don't want to repeal it. If they did, they would have addressed it. If they did, they wouldn't have hid behind Ted's sick bed.

Marcia: Absolutely. It's really disgusting how they will lie to us. I see Voices Of Honor as nothing but an effort to white wash and take attention off the issue, to make us think there's movement on it when there's no movement. And the reality is that if Congress won't act on it this year, they damn sure won't next year which is a re-election year.

Betty: Which is all part of Barack's non-stop caving. Dan Savage has an article in The Advocate I'm going to quote from:

Never mind that gay people are being turned away from their partners' bedsides during medical emergencies now. Never mind that people are being kicked out of the military now. Never mind that Arkansas banned adoptions by same-sex couples on the very same day that Obama was elected. (Gosh, where's that bully pulpit when you need it?) The man who wasn't afraid to appeal directly to us for our votes as a candidate -- and certainly wasn't shy about asking us for our dollars -- couldn't be bothered to acknowledge the promises he had made to us and seemed to greatly resent being asked to actually honor them.
The difference between candidate Obama and President Obama crystallized for me when NBC's Brian Williams asked the president if "gay and lesbian couples who wish to marry ... have a friend in the White House?" The comfort candidate Obama demonstrated with gay people and issues was gone. I don’t remember exactly what the president said, but I will never forget the look on his face. Judging from his pained and slightly annoyed expression, you would have thought that Williams put the question to him in a suppository form.
Have you ever been introduced to someone with whom you'd had a torrid one-night stand and he acted like he didn’t know you? "Don't know me?" you're tempted to say in a loud voice. "Honey, you ate my ass."

Betty (Con't): And I would just ask, "What the hell was Dan Savage smoking?" When the hell was Barack comfortable with gay people? Have we all forgotten the Democratic Party debate where someone brought up AIDS test and Barack had to rush in with nervous 'jokes' about how he was straight?

Dona: I was just going to raise that issue. We've covered it here many times and I think the most recent was in November, "The Homophobia of Barack Obama." In that, we note how he was telling the press in August 2006, "One of the things, when I go to Kenya, that I'll be doing is probably getting an AIDS test myself; in front of the cameras just to encourage, so that people can see you know there's nothing stigmatizing about getting an AIDS test. So you know a lot of times I think leading by example can be very helpful and that’s something I'd like to do." He was grand standing to get some press in August 2006. But at the debate in July 2007, he was suddenly not concerned about removing any stigma. He was more concerned with enforcing them. This is Keith Boykin's "Is Barack a Homophobe?," where he addresses the July debate:

At the debate last Thursday, when a question was asked about HIV/AIDS among black teenagers, Senator Clinton made a good point. "If HIV/AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country," she said. And of course she's right.

But when Senator Joe Biden answered the question, he mentioned that he had been tested for HIV/AIDS and then mentioned that Senator Obama had also been tested for AIDS. The camera then panned briefly to Obama, who by one account, looked "vaguely stunned" by the remark.

"Tavis, Tavis, Tavis," Obama interjected to laughter. "I just got to make clear -- I got tested with Michelle when we were in Kenya in Africa. So I don't want any confusion here about what's going on." The conversation continued:

Joe Biden: Well, I got tested to save my life because I had a blood transfusion.

Barack Obama: I was tested with my wife.

Tavis Smiley: And I'm sure Michelle appreciates you clarifying that.

Barack Obama: In public.

It was described as a light moment in the press, but it left a bitter taste in the mouths of some observers. "So while he's all for combating homophobia within the African American community, it seems he also doesn't want anyone to get the impression that he's on the down-low," wrote The New Republic's Alexander M. Belenky. "This seems to reveal not only some level of homophobia, but also a level of immaturity which causes me to question Obama's ability to go all the way in this campaign," wrote Lane Hudson in the Huffington Post.

Dona (Con't): So I'm with Betty, when was he comfortable with gays during the campaign?

Ava: When he put homophobes on stage in South Carolina, maybe? It's stupid to claim that he ever was comfortable. And what's this nonsense Dan Savage is spreading around that Barack marched with gays? WTF? That never happened. Never.

Elaine: It really is a rewriting of history, Ava's correct. Thing is though, Dan Savage should know that because he was covering it in real time. We have all gotten a lot of flack for failing to link to that "truth telling" article. It's not truth telling.

Ava: Exactly, it's rewriting history to forgive the gay leaders who refused to call out Barack in real time. It puts forwards the lies and the myths that he ever offered more than words, empty words, to the LGBT community. As the gay community sees what a load of bulls**t Barack is, they start wondering how this happened and along comes Dan Savage with the big mop to try to muddy up history.

Elaine: Exactly. And that's why we've ignored it. Betty said she'd try to work it in here and she found a way too, by going for his humor line but his logic is faulty and we're not in the mood to play stupid just because Dan Savage wants to make it easy for all the big time liars who covered for Barry O.

Ty: Okay, Jim's pointing to me so another e-mail. Liz e-mails to ask if we will all take the pledge to join others in boycotting Whole Foods?

Jim: Sorry, Liz, we won't. None of us shop at Whole Foods so we can't boycott it.

Ann: And I'll add that the boycott is over a column against ObamaInsuranceCare that the owner of Whole Foods wrote. I'm not getting what that has to do with food or with Whole Foods' practices? I don't shop there, it doesn't matter to me. But I didn't realize we were now organizing formal boycotts against people we disagreed with.

Jim: And we need to wind down. This is a rush transcript, Betty's kids did the illustration. We didn't have time to get to Lori Mongtgomery's piece in Saturday's Washington Post so we'll close with her opening, "The nation would be forced to borrow more than $9 trillion over the next decade under President Obama's policies, the White House acknowledged late Friday, bringing their long-term budget forecast in line with independent estimates. "


We saw an elderly woman shopkeeper sorting out debris in her street-level store. The bomb knocked her to the ground and buried her underneath her shelves and goods. A taxi driver helped her out. His car was smashed and totaled by the bomb. We ask her a couple questions and she rails on the government that she says let this happen.
"Our house is destroyed. Where are we going to sleep tonight? It would be better if I had died," she says.

Adam Ashton (Modesto Bee) reported the above in the aftermath of the Baghdad bombings. that rocked Baghdad on Wednesday -- but that was just one of the violent

days. Last Sunday saw 13 reported dead and 41 reported injured. Monday saw 24 dead 59 wounded. Tuesday the reported death toll was 5 and 24 were reported injured. Wednesday 102 were reported dead and 572 wounded. By Thursday evening, 22 were reported dead with 67 injured. Thursday night 33 more deaths were reported and 145 wounded. Friday saw 8 deaths reported and 31 people wounded. Saturday saw 4 dead 11. That's a total of 211 reported dead and 950 injured.

PBS' NewsHour explored the violence (link has text and audio and video options) but among the commercial broadcast networks, only NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, had anything to point to with pride, offering the most in depth network report on the bombings.

Lester Holt: This is one of the bloodiest days in a long time in Iraq. It's certainly the most violent since US forces withdrew from Iraqi cities in June. Multiple bombings killed at least 95 people in Baghdad and wounded more than 500. A major test for Iraq's security forces and for US policy. We get more now from our Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski. Mick, good evening.

Jim Miklaszewski: Good evening, Lester. US officials are already blaming al Qaeda for today's bombings in an effort to stir up sectarian violence but whos ever responsible, today's bloody and blatant bombings raise serious questions about Iraq's ability to take over its own defense. Six powerful bombs rocked Baghdad within minutes in one of the deadliest days of the entire Iraq War. One blast shook up a meeting of tribal leaders. As smoke filled the room, the speaker called it terrorism. The carnage began with a suicide car bombing at Iraq's Finance Ministry at about eleven this morning. Only three minutes later, a massive truck bomb exploded outside the Foreign Ministry. Then over the next ten minutes four separate bombs tore through Baghdad in a highly coordinated attack. The Foreign Ministry took the most devastating hit -- two tons of explosives shredded the front of the building, killing at least 59 Iraqis. The wounded flocked to Baghdad hospitals. This man said one explosion threw his car into the air. The attacks come less than two months after American combat forces withdrew from Baghdad in an agreement with Iraq's government. Iraqi forces were supposed to take over security operations, but after today's bombings, NBC News producer Ghazi Balkiz says the Iraqis admit they failed in their mission.

Ghazi Balkiz: In a surprising statement tonight, the Iraqi Defense Ministry admitted that the attacks were the result of Iraqi forces negligence and said that they should take most of the blame for the security breach.

Jim Miklaszewski: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki could ask the US forces to return to the cities but that would be political suicide and it's unlikely American combat forces would step back into the middle of an Iraqi sectarian war.

Ret General Barry McCaffrey: The last time we went in to take Baghdad, we had several thousand killed and wounded. We won't do it again. We shouldn't do it again.

Jim Miklaszewski: And despite today's attacks and a recent spike in overall violence, US military and Pentagon officials say they still intend to withdraw all US combat forces on schedule. According to one senior official, it's time for the Iraqis to step up and take over ready or not. Lester.

Lester Holt: Jim Miklaszewski, tonight at the Pentagon, thank you.

The targets of the Baghdad bombings on Wednesday were primarily the Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry. Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspaper) quoted Um Khatab asking, "Where are the police? I lost a brother, and they are sitting in their cars with air conditioning?" Ashton reports, "Her cries of mourning reverberated in the street while teams of police officers sifted through the site, making their way past burnt-out cars and scorched pavement." Jane Arraf (Global Post) added, "An anguished mother stumbling over her shoes asked everyone if they'd seen her missing daughter." Liz Sly and Usama Redha (Los Angeles Times) quote Gaith Abdulla stating, "I saw people killed and wounded on the ground and many cars were ablaze. The security forces started shooting and were firing randomly. Then another massive explosion shook the whole place."


Last week the US military announced the deaths of Private 1st Class William Z. Vanosdol (August 19th, Qadisiyah) and Specialist Matthew D. Hastings (Baghdad, August 17th).

Also last week, "'They Want Us Exterminated': Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq," a 67-page report [PDF format warning, click here] by Human Rights Watch was released. The report covered the targeting of Iraq's LGBT population and utilizes personal testimony, such as the testimony of Hamid:

It was late one night in early April, and they came to take my partner at his parents' home. Four armed men barged into the house, masked and wearing black. They asked for him by name; they insulted him and took him in front of his parents. All that, I heard about later from his family.

He was found in the neighborhood the day after. They had thrown his corpse in the garbage. His genitals were cut off and a piece of his throat was ripped out.Since then, I've been unable to speak properly. I feel as if my life is pointless now. I don't have friends other than those you see; for years it has just been my boyfriend and myself in that little bubble, by ourselves. I have no family now -- I cannot go back to them. I have a death warrant on me. I feel the best thing to do is just to kill myself. In Iraq, murderers and thieves are respected more than gay people.

Their measuring rod to judge people is who they have sex with. It is not by their conscience, it is not by their conduct or their values, it is who they have sex with. The cheapest thing in Iraq is a human being, a human life. It is cheaper than an animal, than a pair of used-up batteries you buy on the street. Especially people like us.

Though many have been silent, as Marcia noted last night, US House Rep Alcee L. Hastings' office issued the following statement:

The US House has three openly gay members: Tammy Baldwin, Barney Frank and Jared Polis. Not one of them issued a statement last week on the report; however, US House Rep Alcee L. Hastings' office issued the following statement:

The report documents the extrajudicial persecution, torture, and execution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Iraqis. In recent months, hundreds of gay men have been tortured and murdered in Iraq in a systematic campaign of social cleansing by Shiite militiamen and extremists. Furthermore, victims and witnesses allege that Iraqi security forces have colluded and joined in the killing.

"The alarming testimonies detailed in this report are undeniable evidence that the rights and safety of gay Iraqis are at risk," Hastings said.

"Gay Iraqis should not have to live in fear of being tortured, mutilated, or murdered by their countrymen. International human rights law explicitly condemns torture and guarantees the right to life and the right to effective state protection. These abuses fundamentally threaten the rights and safety of all Iraqis."I urge the Iraqi government to stem this tide of violence and hate and to protect its LGBT citizens," he said. "I also commend Human Rights Watch for raising awareness of this urgent matter and for its ongoing dedication to defending and protecting human rights around the world."

It is not just an issue for gays and lesbians in the US to raise and we congratulate and thank (straight) Rep Hastings for stepping up to the plate but it is a bit distressing that not one of the three gay members of the House offered anything on the report.

From Monday through Friday, C.I. included the report in every Iraq snapshot, including Wednesday's where the other community coverage of the report was noted:

Rebecca noted that last night and that "it's really shocking how little we seem to care about that in this country." "The supposedly liberated Iraq is encouraging the assaults on their own LGBT community," Trina wrote yesterday. Mike followed the same train of thought with, "It's not 'renegades' or a 'few bad apples,' it's the Interior Ministry, it's the security forces, it's anyone with a beef -- most likely imagined -- in Iraq. And they get away with it and they have gotten away with it. And no one says, 'Just one minute'." Marcia observed, ""I hope people in this country get that it could be them. It could be them because they're gay, because they're a person of color, because of their gender, because they have X kind of eye color. Bigotry isn't 'scientific'." Tying it into lynchings targeting African-Americans in the US during the last century, Ann explained, "So when I read the above and realize that Iraqi LGBTs are being targeted, I do identify. I do know what it's like to wonder, as I did when I first learned of lynchings, 'Why does someone hate me so much? What have I done to them?' Iraq's LGBT community hasn't done anything to anyone. They are being targeted because of bigotry and that's due to the fact that some people can't feel good about the day if they can't start it off hating someone else." Elaine weighed in with, "The bigotry is always about fear. Ramiz and others are being targeted not because they did anything to anyone else but because they are feared. Sometimes it's a fear that if others know about Ramiz, they might decide to live their own lives freely. Other times it's a fear that if you don't make an effort to beat up Ramiz, people may figure out that you are gay yourself." On the silence that has largely been the response to the report, Stan advised, "Picture yourself as gay and ask yourself what message you're then receiving as you go from left website to website and see nothing on the report or on the continued assault on Iraq's LGBT community." Ruth noted the silence and tied it into the lack of "people to speak out strongly on behalf of Iraq's LGBT community." As Betty pointed out, "We have nothing to lose in America by speaking out on this issue. We are protected and we are safe. And our speaking out could mean so much to a persecuted group of people. And I don't understand why we refuse to do that. If it were you being targeted, you'd want someone to speak out for you. If it were your child, you'd want someone standing up." Kat wondered, "What if that was your boyfriend? Or your girlfriend? And, on top of everything else, you couldn't publicly mourn?"

That should have been one of the biggest Iraq stories last week. It was not.

Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) filed a report as did Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times). And the other major daily newspapers?

Friday on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Susan Page (USA Today) filled in for Diane Rehm and Iraq was a topic the second hour with panelists Thom Shanker (New York Times), Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) and Brian Winter (USA Today). No one raised the issue of the Human Rights Watch report which was puzzling only if you didn't grasp that the three papers all ignored the report. (Online, USA Today did a brief blog post. )

NPR's Steve Inskeep and Mark Merrott both filed online reports. And as the week slowly passed away, it became obvious that it would be easier to list those who reported on it than all those who stayed silent.

NPR's Deborah Amos (All Things Considered -- link has text and audio) reported on the other big development, General Ray Odierno's proposal for US troops to go into northern Iraq in large numbers to assist Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish pesh merga in getting along with each other and in combating violence. The top US commander in Iraq told Amos, "Unfortunately, they are killing a lot of innocent civilians, and so that is not acceptable to the Iraqi government, and it's not acceptable to us. So we are trying to come up with solutions to solve this problem."

This week, Barack Obama will be vacationing on Martha's Vineyard and Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan will be there:

"There are several things that we wish to accomplish with this protest on Martha's Vineyard.

First of all, no good social or economic change will come about with the continuation or escalation of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We simply can't afford to continue this tragically expensive foreign policy.
Secondly, we as a movement need to continue calling for an immediate end to the occupations even when there is a Democrat in the Oval Office. There is still no Noble Cause no matter how we examine the policies.
Thirdly, the body bags aren't taking a vacation and as the US led violence surges in Afghanistan and Pakistan, so are the needless deaths on every side.
And, finally, if the right-wing can force the government to drop any kind of public option or government supported health care, then we need to exert the same kind of pressure to force a speedy end to the occupations."
Cindy Sheehan will arrive on the Vineyard on Tuesday, August 25th.

The music and book roundtable

Dona: Last week, we did "The Joni Roundtable," discussing favorite albums by Joni Mitchell. We'll nod to some of the e-mails on that and we'll also focus on Michelle Mercer's just released Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell's Blue Period in this roundtable. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ty, Ava, and me, Dona, moderating; 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); Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Because of the book, some are not participating. All participating have read the book. C.I. had noted the book last Sunday and it created a bit of a stir here and community wide. Rebecca, could you explain what happened at your site?

Rebecca: Sure. I started reading the book -- and I recommend it, we all do -- and wrote about it a bit in "joni mitchell book & music" at my site which led to an e-mail from a regular reader who was just stunned by something in the book, which I wrote about in "michelle mercer needs to do some growing up." For a little less than two pages, Michelle Mercer leaves her topic of Joni Mitchell to rip into Carly Simon. And it's just this vicious little attack.

Ann: I was shocked and I only picked up the book due to the controversy, I'd read Rebecca's post and knew something was coming, and I was still shocked. "Her bombshell sex appeal was her artistic banner." Me-ow, Mercer, me-ow. That Carly was a songwriter who only attracted interest because of her "high-profile affair with Warren Beatty and marriage to James Taylor." I can continue but people are already getting antsy to respond.

Dona: Ann's right, just looking around the circle, you can see that everyone's dying to respond. I'm going to go to Trina.

Trina: That's such garbage. Carly Simon is one of my favorite singer-songwriters, she's one of my favorites to listen to period. Her, quote, "bombshell sex appeal"? She's an attractive woman but her sex appeal has never had influence on me or on my evaluation of her. It's a little catty and bitchy to attack an artist, an accomplished artist, because you're apparently jealous of her looks. As for the fame and interest? In real time, when she had that brief fling with Warren Beatty? No one knew about it. There wasn't an Entertainment Tonight, there wasn't even People magazine back then. Following, excuse me, stalking, the love lives of the famous was seen as tabloid and childish. Hard to believe today when that crap passes for news. Carly was a Grammy winner and had hits and two albums under her belt before she ever slept with Warren Beatty and that was also before she married James Taylor. She's already written the evergreen "Anticipation."

Dona: Okay, well said, Trina. Everyone's nodding. I'm going to toss back to Ann because she's got the book open still.

Ann: Quoting from the book, this is page 152, "Like many of the female songwriters who followed" followed Joni, "Carly Simon was incredibly photogenic, but her melodies and lyrics were dim picture negatives of more artful songwriting."

Wally: I think Trina called it correctly, that's garbage. Before the roundtable started, C.I. and Ava stressed that we don't need to fall into Michelle Mercer's trap of tearing down one talented artist to build up another. So I won't play her game by implying that Joni Mitchell isn't tuneful. But I will note that her melodies were never major melodies, they were minor, built around minor notes and minor chords, for the bulk of her career. That's especially true when she loses her audience in the mid-seventies because they complain about her lack of melodies. Her early eighties album, Wild Things Run Fast, is promoted by the label as Joni's return to melodies. So Michelle Mercer is so desperate to destroy Carly in order to promote Joni, that she makes a fool out of herself. Carly's melodies are extremely strong. There's not anyone in this circle who can't sing "Anticipation" or hum "You're So Vain" or any of her other memorable melodies.

Elaine: I'll jump in to back Wally up. As noted earlier, Carly was once married to James Taylor. He doesn't mention her today. He's publicly refused to mention her since their divorce. He can't shut up about Joni, whom he was involved with before he married Carly, but he can't even acknowledge Carly's existence. I remember calling C.I. when he was promoting that bad, bad album, what was it?

C.I.: Never Die Young?

Elaine: Yes. And he was in Musician magazine and I'm reading through the entire damn interview, fully aware that Carly's just had a tremendous comeback with multiple singles receiving huge radio play and charting on adult contemporary's top ten like "The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of," "All I Want Is You" and "Give Me All Night" while "Coming Around Again" has also done that and gone top twenty on the pop charts while her album of the same name is going platinum. And here's an interview with her ex-husband whose bad album before the awful Never Die Young didn't sell so well and they're talking about everything under the sun but Carly never comes up. And I called C.I. asking, "What's the deal?" Why didn't the reporter ever even ask about Carly? And C.I. says the reporter probably did but asshole James Taylor won't deign to speak of Carly. I say all of that to note that in the last Rolling Stone Interview James ever spoke of Carly, this was a few years before their divorce, even he had to note that no one had stronger melodies than Carly. Even James The Cold Freeze Shut Out had to praise Carly's melodies. And the reason for that is that Carly's got the strongest melodies. Stronger than Joni's, stronger than James', stronger than any of her peers.

Ava: I'll hop in on this point. Trina noted that Carly had already won a Grammy before being married to James Taylor or sleeping with Warren Beatty. It's also worth noting that this artist that Michelle Mercer is ripping apart and calling untalented is the only singer-songwriter in her peer group to write a song, one song, which won the Academy Award, the Grammy and the Golden Globe, "Let The River Run." That was Carly. Not Joni, not James Taylor, not Jackson Browne, not anyone in her peer group. Only Carly.

Dona: I can hear in Ava's voice that she's ticked off. I was as well. When I read it, I was pretty pissed and I was really shocked. It was so bitter and mean and evil. I just couldn't believe the hatred Michelle Mercer was putting on the page. And I was kind of shocked because C.I. recommended the book. And I didn't realize that it was something C.I. and Elaine and Rebecca and Trina and Ruth and women their age and older would just roll their eyes over because they were so used to it. I want to start with Ruth.

Joni Mitchell

Ruth: Well, like you said, we are used to it. There was the Joni camp, I'm going back to the late sixties, and there was the Laura Nyro camp. The Janis and Grace fans didn't really figure into this. And they also didn't have a bitch-fest in an attacking one or the other. If you were a Janis Joplin or a Grace Slick fan or both, you just saw them as complimentary, as fire and ice, as most reporters dubbed them. But with Joni and Laura, it was as though to admit one was talented was the worst thing you could say about the other. Their fans were just brutal to each other. Laura ended up leaving the music business and never really coming back until the mid-eighties -- I don't consider her brief, 'here's an album and a mini-tour' moments in the seventies and early eighties to be returns. When Laura left, Joni fans -- her extreme fans -- weren't happy. They'd already seen Carole King as a threat and Carly as an emerging one. Carole was the bigger target for their rage because Tapestry was so huge. But they quickly moved on to Carly. Now I'm a fan of Carly, Carole, Laura and Joni. Just to be clear. And as I remember it, Carole fans, extreme fans, didn't fight back, they just found the Joni groupies ridiculous. Carole was never into a star trip and didn't want to be known for anything but her songs. So Carole fans didn't engage. Carly fans were puzzled and then pretty much hurt. That reaction, my guess based on what I observed, came from the fact that Carly represented sisterhood and feminism and it was puzzling to see other women attack Carly if you were a Carly fan. You were wondering where the hatred was coming from? But Joni's extreme groupies -- women like Michelle Mercer -- weren't about sisterhood. They were generally isolated people who didn't relate well to others. But it was vicious, the attacks on Carly. And it really made me wonder at the time, "Did Laura drop out of the music scene because of these attacks?" They were getting vicious against Laura and I do wonder what kind of a toll they took on her.

Elaine: And just to back up Ruth, the attacks were vicious. I'm referring to the ones on Carly. I don't really remember the attacks on Laura. I've heard of them and read some of them since Laura took her semi-retirement. But at the time, it didn't register with me.

Ruth: You were too young.

Elaine: You're too kind. But like Ruth's saying, it was vicious. And there was a cooling off from about 1975 to 1982 when, as Wally noted, Joni released her album billed as "Joni rediscovers melody." And during that time period, if you spoke to someone about how negative the attacks on Carly had been, they'd agree with you and think it was a testament to understanding and the feminist movement that it had stopped. But it didn't stop, it just went into hiding when Joni entered the period of recording that found a number of her most devoted fans angry with her and running off.

Dona: C.I.'s pointing to Ty. I asked for help remembering to include everyone since I'm moderating. Ty?

Ty: Well we ended up with six e-mails about the Mercer book. Our e-mail address is Two of them announced they read on and could enjoy the rest of the book but four said they stopped on page 152 when the attacks on Carly started. And I want to point out that these are attacks. This isn't criticism. Throughout the book she brings up this or that artist to compare and contrast Joni with. But Michelle Mercer is never as dismissive and as bitchy as she is with the others which include Leonard Cohen among others. And, sorry, maybe it's a White thing but Lenny Cohen is full of s**t and this African-American male wouldn't be caught dead listening to his tuneless and non-melodic meanderings laced with judgmental Old Testament imagery.

Ann: I didn't even know who Leonard Cohen was. Sorry. I asked Betty, "Who is this Leonard Cohen?" She explained it for me.

Betty: And that's the other thing, about this attack, that's the other thing. It's so stupid because you ask the average person to sing a song by Carly, Joni or Leonard Cohen and the bulk of them will sing you a Carly Simon song. Both because she's got that strong sense of melody and also because her songs are well known. Joni would probably get the second most and then Leonard Cohen. Carly, Joni, Leonard and all the rest had the same shot at airplay in the seventies. Why is that Carly's songs were the ones America embraced? Don't say, "They were pablum and like Britney Spears! Not indicative of taste!" Sorry, that would be Olivia Newton-John and others who really stormed the charts. Carly charted and pretty much charted on the singles chart with every release -- that's correct right?

C.I.: Carly had a top 100 charting single for every studio album in the seventies.

Betty: Thank you. Carly's music spoke to people. That's why "Anticipation" remains so well known, why "You're So Vain" is a rock classic, why the opening notes of "The Right Thing To Do" are so identifiable to so many of us, why "Haven't Got Time For The Pain" is so recognizable. I love Joni's music and I love Carly's music. I don't see them as the same artist or even similar. I don't set out to rank either against the other but if you force me into a corner, Carly will come out ahead every time.

Dona: Because?

Betty: She's got melody and she's got plenty of soul. Between the front cover of the album of Spoiled Girl and the way she sang, I thought the first time I heard her, my brother had that album, that she was Black. The lips and the voice. But Carly's got soul and few White singer-songwriters of that era can claim that. Carole King probably comes closest and none of the men, especially the ones who think they are soulful, ever makes it. But Carly's got a voice that's just so flexible and strong. She can do call and response with herself. She's just got a full bodied voice and you really don't come across that on a lot of White women. Celine Dion, for example, has more notes than probably anyone but she has no soul. She can be expressive but she has no soul. It's a weight, it's a feeling, you either have it or you don't. And Carly's got it and it's among the reasons that she's been so successful.

Kat: In Rebecca's "michelle mercer needs to do some growing up," Rebecca points out that Joni's fade as she went into jazz was helped by the attacks on Carly. I really believe that. I'm a huge Joni fan, but Court & Spark was not an album I could listen to in real time. I wanted to but if I had someone over, I was at risk of hearing, "That's the real thing, not Carly . . ." and this long rip into Carly Simon. Court & Spark is art, no question. But, also no question, Carly's produced her own art. And it really was something to see, you just recoiled as Joni's extreme fans went around attacking Carly. They attacked every woman who wasn't Joni. I can remember a harangue against Melissa Manchester around the time of "Midnight Blue," but their big target was Carly and it was because Carly was successful and talented.

C.I.: Well, it was because Carly was successful and talented in a society that still pushed the belief that there was only room for one woman. A token. And if Carly rose, that meant Joni had to fall. That concern never existed for the men. In seventies rock, there was plenty of room to rank James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Don Henley and assorted others as musical geniuses. For the record, I'd only give that title to Don. The other two are minor artists at best. And that's based on the fact that James and Jackson 'play' in their songs too much, trying to be 'regular people' instead of being honest. Don's got an honesty that goes to art. And so do Carly and Joni. The major artists have it. That doesn't mean that the song you hear is a page from a diary. It may be. But art does allow you to change up details. But what it does mean is that they are brutally emotionally honest. But you could pretend that Lowell George and Randy Newman were great geniuses and you could scrape the barrel and hail the songwriting of Lou Reed as well. And it never meant that the overrated James Taylor was ever in any jeopardy of being downgraded. But there was only room for one female token. And that's at the root of it as well as the fact that a lot of women had to learn on their own that society pitting us against each other does us no good.

Kat: In Rebecca's post, she quoted you saying something like, "No, Michelle Mercer, just because Cecile is pretty doesn't mean you aren't pretty too."

C.I.: Right because that was the mentality society tried to push off on women. If she is pretty than I can't be. You were supposed to be forever in competition with other women.

Elaine: Or you rejected it outright. I mean, C.I. looks great and people are always thinking, "Oh, she's so modest" or "Oh, she must have low self-esteem." The reality is C.I. made a decision to drop out of that competition back in college. C.I. completely rejected a focus on the looks. I don't mean, she stopped wearing make up or went around trying to look poorly. I just mean she would not let you discuss a woman's looks. If you started that conversation around her, she'd stop you and you certainly didn't focus on her looks in your comments to her.

C.I.: Wow, that's really. I think you actually nailed it and I hadn't thought of it that way. But yeah, the beauty wars, I wasn't going to be a part of that. I didn't enjoy the emphasis on it or the knowledge that immediately beyond the you-are-so-beautiful was the next stage of you're-more-or-less-beautiful-than . . . Rebecca, Elaine and I went to college together and, for the record, they are both stunning women and were then as well. And, if any of us think about it, we can usually come up with several women -- I'm thinking of one in particular who cried for hours at one party -- who would be devastated because their boyfriend had left them and spend for ever with what was the normal -- as society dictated it -- reaction: Is she prettier than me? I mean who the hell cares? She's got your boyfriend now, does it really matter if she's prettier too?

Rebecca: I'm laughing that was funny. But, yeah, just to echo Elaine, I mean guys would rave over C.I. and she would just reject it, she would not allow it. If she'd known Betty then -- Betty wasn't born -- she would have taken Betty's line of "I do not receive that." And between that and the refusal to be the errand girl, the Girl Friday of every political group, C.I. really did blaze a trail for the rest of us on campus, the rest of us women. And I can see the difference in me in high school and in college as huge. I really was, in high school, in competition with every other girl to be considered the prettiest.

C.I.: Just to stay with this because it is part of the mentality that existed then and which is hopefully fading, but, Rebecca, build on that because I don't think most people know your story or will get it.

Rebecca: You mean Doogie? I was Doogie Howser. C.I.'s nodding. I got advanced in school and I was in a college at sixteen. I got advanced and made the grades because presumably I was smart. But it never entered my mind to feel competative on that level. In fact, I frequently felt embarrassed for standing out like that, for my grades. But in terms of looks, I was in competition with every girl in high school and it really was like, to use C.I.'s example, if someone said Cecile was pretty, then I was crushed for the day because if Cecile's pretty than am I really pretty? I mean that was the way we were encouraged to think. And I agree with C.I. that this mentality played out in the Joni and Laura wars -- among their devoted fans -- and the same with the Joni and Carly wars.

Dona: That's so interesting. I can really relate to that because even though I only graduated high school this decade, there are similarities and maybe that's why something like Michelle Mercer's nonsense flares up again. And for any who don't know, in high school, my identity was the "token." That's who I was. I was the token member of the boys club. And it wasn't until I roomed with Ava in college that I woke up to reality. And I'll add an Ava and C.I. comparison. The two of them, when putting on make up, look at sections of their face, they never look at their entire face. They never dwell on their beauty. I thought that was so weird watching Ava put on make up back in college, weird and unique and then along comes C.I. who is the exact same way. Ann, you want to toss out something else from the book?

Ann: She says that "You're So Vain" is Carly Simon writing herself into "the position of romantic victim" again.

C.I.: That is so ignorant. The rest of the stuff she says, I can disagree with and say, "Well that's Michelle Mercer's opinion." But here's she's just being ignorant. It's still opinion but it's grossly uninformed. That's not a victim song and it's a writer using the power that writers have always had, the ability to shine the light and illuminate that which is hidden, to expose. And Carly exposes a type of man in that song and does so via mockery and other devices. "You're So Vain" is a woman empowering herself. There is also the context in which the song comes -- an area where Michelle Mercer shows even greater ignorance. Today, some women would not see Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walking" as an advancement. But it was one. And women had to take those steps with those songs. "You're So Vain" was a huge step and as important to women as Alanis' "You Ought To Know" would be in the mid-nineties.

Kat: Again, I lived through the attacks on Carly from Joni disciples so the venom from Mercer didn't really surprise me but when she started rewriting "You're So Vain" to paint Carly as weak and as a victim player, well, honey, then every one of Joni's songs from that period finds her playing a victim. Joni's writing about romances that didn't turn out to be long lasting as well. And to accuse Carly of only being famous for being married to James and for sleeping with Warren Beatty? I mean, we've covered this but I will add the footnote no one wants to. Rolling Stone did that diagram. They did of Joni, not of Carly. The diagram of all the famous men she'd been with from David Crosby all the way through. Jackson Browne. Graham Nash. James Taylor. And to me, when Michelle Mercer lies about Carly only being famous for two men -- when she famous before either man was a part of her life -- she's really exposing herself. Her fear is that Joni is only famous because of the men in her life. Joni didn't win a recording contract on her own. She couldn't get one. They weren't interested in her. Then David Crosby, her lover, stepped in. Now that's not Carly's story. No lover stepped in for her to get a recording contract. And we could go through this bit by bit. But my point here is Michelle Mercer has to destroy Carly because she fears that Joni, her hero, is guilty of the crimes she projects onto Carly.

Ty: That's really an interesting way of looking at it. Hmm. I wanted to note your "Kat's Korner: John Fogerty rushes to country-lite" which went up this morning. I love that review, by the way. You point out another peer is yet again recording an album of other songwriters and, as usual, women are no where to be found.

Wally: Except the brawling drunk who co-wrote a song.

Ty: Yes, except for her. The White Ikette, as I remember.

Kat: Well, Judy Collins is my baseline there. She's supposedly a feminist. She finally made the singles chart via Joni Michell's "Both Sides Now." And yet in the last twenty years, she's dedicate three albums to highlighting songwriters and they were all men. In the 90s, she did her album of Bob Dylan songs. This decade she's done an album of Leonard Cohen songs and an album of John Lennon and Paul McCartney songs. But Judy's never done an album of Carly songs or Joni songs or any woman. She's never even done an album of various songs by various women. Robert Flack, for example, is a talented writer. She doesn't have enough songs possibly to do a tribute album because she hasn't released enough of her own songs. But what she has released is very talented. And there's Janis Ian who certainly has enough songs. There are so many women songwriters who do. And here's our 'feminist' Judy Collins releasing her third album to highlight male songwriters. When our 'feminist' artists won't even honor the work of women, what hope do we have?

Wally: And grasp for a second that Judy is known for Joni songs, "Michael from Mountains," "Chelsea Morning" as well as "Both Side Now." So if you're talking about her big audience from long ago, if Judy's attempt is to get them back on board so that she could actually sell some albums, what the hell is she doing recording Leonard Cohen? "Suzanne" is not a big hit for Judy. Whereas an album of Joni songs would result in some attention from the press along the lines of, "It was Joni Mitchell's songwriting which first brought Judy to national fame . . . Now she offers a whole album rich with Joni songs." And to be clear, that's no excuse for the men and their refusal to acknowledge the work of women.

Dona: Betty wants to speak on this and I'm going to ask her to hold off for just a minute or two. I think Betty's remarks are really going to set the stage for the final portion of the roundtable and before we get to that, I want to turn to Ty with some comments about last week's "The Joni Roundtable" from the e-mails.

Ty: There was huge outrage that Joni Mitchell's self-titled debut also known as Song To A Seagull wasn't selected. That was the most noted complaint. Eunice wrote a blistering e-mail about Ruth calling David Crosby the producer of the album. And the thing was, C.I. told me, Ruth didn't do that. I read over it and Ruth doesn't say that. Joni steered her own albums, regardless of who got the credit, from the start. If Ruth had said it, she'd be correct according to album credits but she didn't say it. Read over it again, Eunice. A lot of people were surprised that more of us didn't pick Blue or Court & Spark. Doug was upset that only Mike selected Turbulent Indigo and wanted it noted that he considers that "Joni's true masterpiece." Will felt Don Juan's Reckless Daughter should have been included. Gillian wrote that she loved it and hopes we do one soon on Carly or another singer-songwriter.

Dona: Thank you, Ty. Okay, we were discussing how men and women are rushing to record songs written by men while ignoring the many songs written by women. Betty?

Betty: I would, if I ruled the world, put a ban on women performing Bob Dylan songs. I'd say, "Stop. Tell me what songs by women you've recorded and you can't count yourself." If they had none, I'd say, "I think you need to go explore the works of Carly Simon, Tracy Chapman, Joni Mitchell and a few others before you became the 12th million person to perform 'Blowing In The Wind'."

Dona: Absolutely. And one of the reasons I'm so excited about Barbra Streisand's upcoming album, Love Is The Answer, is because she's working with Diana Krall on it. And not in a, "Here's two women singing a let's-compete-for-one-man song." And among the reasons why I count Stoney End and Barbara Joan Streisand among my favorites albums by her, she's singing songs by writers like Laura Nyro, Carole King and Joni Mitchell.

Trina: That's really true. I wrote about Stoney End at my site and how it was a huge shakeup for Barbra Streisand who, up to that point, had really been someone my parents listened to but not someone I did. She had a nice voice and all but the music wasn't my type. Then came Stoney End. And you're right, she is doing what we're complaining about others refusing to do. She's celebrating female and male songwriters. If Barbra can do it and can do it to fantastic sales, what's the excuse for everyone else? She's already proven that it's possible. And, to Betty's point, I think there should just be a ban period. Really, take two years off from recording Bob Dylan, everyone. It's been done. It's been done to death.

Ava: Would anyone ever go for that?

C.I.: Actually, yes. In Kat's review, she mentions that the male baby boom critics rarely turn on their own. I have a feeling she would have noted Rod Stewart if she'd had more time. Am I right?

Kat: Yes, you are. Rod Stewart's released Every Beat Of My Heart in 1986 and the critics were out for blood, possibly due to his big hit "Love Touch." They loved it when he teamed up with Jeff Beck for "People Get Ready" the year before and they appear to have assumed they'd get that early seventies Rod back. So when Every Beat Of My Heart was released, they carved him up and, pay attention to this, the most attacked track on the album in the reviews was, drum roll please, "In My Life." Rolling Stone, for example, insisted there had to be something "fresher" for him to record. I mean they ripped him apart and this followed ripping Aretha apart for recording "Jumping Jack Flash" by the Rolling Stones so, to be clear, the Baby Boom Males have stood up before and said "enough" on covering some people. It's past time they did it with Bob Dylan because we could all use a long break.

Ava: I was not aware of that, thank you. If Rolling Stone can encourage people to stop recording the Beatles, they can certainly encourage people to stop covering Bob Dylan. We've focused on the book's attack on Carly because it was so surprising. Dona and I, for example, never knew of this intense need to build up Joni by tearing Carly down. Both women are immensely talented singer-songwriter and they really have nothing in common other than their gender. The world can praise Van Morrison and Paul Simon, they can praise Bob Dylan and the hideous James Taylor, they can praise David Crosby and the forever flat-noted singing Jackson Browne, they can praise Neil Young and -- the list is just endless. And there is no damn reason for women today to put forward the notion that only one woman can climb Mt. Great. Please. Carly's earned her spot there and so has Joni. And so have a lot of other women. We've done -- Dona's pointing to me and giving me the wrap up sign so I'm doing concluding thoughts here -- we've done features on how the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame has so very damn few women in it. We've noted that the Bee Gees, the f**king Bee Gees, are in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame but not Cher, not Tina Turner as a solo artist, not Carly Simon, it's just a very, very long list. And women tend to get one spot each year in the long list of inducitons. It's ridiculous. And that's what we need to be fighting. Michelle Mercer harms her otherwise wonderful book by refusing to fight the real enemies and instead going off on a tear and attacking Carly.

Dona: And with that we'll wind up the roundtable. This is a rush transcript. The e-mail address for this site is

9-24-09, Ty note: Opening fixed, thanks to reader Lou Ann for e-mailing to point it out.

Shame on Dennis Loo

At the end of 2003's The In-Laws, the only gay character in the film, a villain (big surprise), is hauled off by the police. Albert Brooks' character watches and declares, "You know something, he might actually like prison." To which Michael Douglas' character replies, "Like it? He's going to love it." Because, apparently, for a gay man, what's not to love about prison?

It was offensive and homophobic in a film that already had enough homophobic problems despite or maybe because it was directed by one of the few openly gay directors working on studio films today, Andrew Fleming. He should have known better. He damn well should have known better but too often he spends all his time rubbing elbows with the straight community and assuring them that it's a-okay to laugh at gay people because, just the fact that they're gay, is so damn funny. Yeah, it's very Uncle Tom-ish of Andrew Fleming.

And we bring it up because of Ruth's "Elizabeth Esser-Stuart" Friday night. It was barely up before Dennis Loo felt the need to 'correct' Ruth in an e-mail.

Ruth was actually being nice in her post when she wrote the following:

A number of e-mails are coming in asking about World Can't Wait?

Mike usually highlights it several times a week and the rest of us highlight it as well but not like Mike who may do it five times a week. Now? Nothing.

Dennis Loo went off on a tear last week and has continued it twice this week.

We are not interested.

We are not interested in attacking people we disagree with who are fellow citizens. We are not interested in all the insults for American citizens that Dennis Loo can dream up.

We are just not interested.

We like the work World Can't Wait does. But we were all together last week as well as this week so when the issue was raised we could debate it. The consensus was that while Mr. Loo is screaming and attacking American citizens, we are not interested.

He can go after politicians or the media.

But, after awhile, the person repeatedly screaming "STUPID!" at everyone is generally the one whom most people think is stupid.

I don't dislike Mr. Loo but I am not interested in his non-stop attacks.

Ruth was being nice. When we all discussed this (Ava and C.I. weren't present they were speaking about Iraq), that was only one of the issues why we were all DAMN SICK of Dennis Loo.

It's real cute to watch Dennis Loo call everyone "racist" if they oppose Barack's big money give-away to Big Pharma and the Insurance Corporations (Crooks), it's real cute to watch because when he does that and he's fond of trotting out homophobia.


If Dennis Loo bothered to read Bob Somerby in the last six weeks, he would come off a lot smarter. At The Daily Howler, Somerby has repeatedly explained that when you insult people, they're not going to (big surprise) listen to you. When you insult them, you drive them away. So if you're trying to persuade someone, the first thing you need to do is stop the insults unless your whole purpose is just to continue preaching to the same tiny choir.

But there's Loo screaming racist at anyone who disagrees with him, calling everyone opposed to ObamaInsuranceCare stupid, just insulting left and right. Even more so in his e-mail where he uses the word "reactionary" to describe his political opponents but never grasps what a reactionary he himself is.

Most of all, he doesn't grasp how offensive he's become.

Like many a knee-jerk reactionary, he gets his marching orders from TV. Being on the left, he goes to his own version of Fox "News," MSNBC "News." And it was there that he fell under the spell of self-loathing lesbian Rachel Maddow. Rachel Maddow uses the term "tea baggers." It's an insulting term and it's a homophobic one.

The little exchange between the characters played by Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks in The In-Laws is no less homophobic because openly gay Andrew Fleming directed the film.

Using a gay sexual practice (tea bagging) as a term to vilify your opponents is no less homophobic because Rachel Maddow used the term. In fact, it's actually more homophobic because Maddow used it. You're calling your enemies either gay or saying they resort to gay male sex practicies.

See Rachel Maddow will never tea bag, Rachel Maddow will never be near cock and balls. So your hopes that the little self-loathing lesbian is your out on homophobia?

Not going to play.

Not going to play one damn bit.

We're not highlighting anyone else who uses "tea bagger." At any community site. We're sick of it. It's homophobia. And shame on Dennis Loo for encouraging people to laugh at gay men -- from the left, of course. Shame on him.
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