Sunday, September 12, 2010

Truest statement of the week

Well I think this is one of the reminders that we're going to get that just because we declared a moment in time to have occurred last week, of course, with the formal change of the mission in Iraq from a combat mission to something different doesn't mean that there isn't combat still occurring in Iraq and that there are 50,000 US troops still present there and, of course, they're going to come into hostile situations. And I think that's a good reminder that we're going to be seeing more stories like this at a moment of political instability and uncertainty in Iraq. After all there is still no new government that has been formed, and that's very much in the news right now as well.

-- Foreign Policy's Susan Glasser on the death of 2 US soldiers in Iraq last week while speaking on the second hour of the Friday, September 10th broadcast of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR).

Truest statement of the week II

US forces here still maintain the right to open fire under the onus of force protection. In fact, they actually still have the right to go out of their bases to carry out pre-emptive strikes against areas where they believe attacks against them are eminating from. So no change in the rules of engagement as far as that's concerned.

-- Rawya Rageh, Inside Iraq, Al Jazeera.

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday. We're actually pretty early for us.

Thank you to all who worked on this edition:

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

And what did we come up with?

There were a lot of nominees this week. We tried to go with some of the less obvious.
See above.

If people believe something, the question to ask, always, is what gave them that impression? Who led them to believe or misbelieve something?

Ava and C.I. tackle the just started RightNetwork.
This addresses the issues that got ignored while the fear card was repeatedly dealt. Thank you to those in the community who honored the embargo on this topic I requested as it quickly became evident that very few people were going to speak up. (C.I. and Ruth were speaking up before I called the embargo.)
Thanks to a Common Ills community member for raising this issue with C.I. who brought it to this edition. Thank you to Stan who tabled his suggestion so we could address this one. We'll do a movie article next week.

Sometimes you shake your head in disbelief and realize you just can't stop shaking it. That is what we feel when bad writing, when false writing, is ignored just because the writer trots out the tribal points you want to hear or read.
Politico makes a big announcement that they're going to bring . . . the exact same voices everyone else does.

A Socialist Worker reprint on Iraq.

A Workers World reprint on Iraq.

Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.

And that's what we ended up with. Hopefully you found something to make you think or make you laugh or make you angry. Our e-mail address is

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

Editorial: The Iraq War problem

As August came to a close, US President Barack Obama announced the end of 'combat operations' in Iraq. As the administration implied (LIED) the press spun (LIED) that the Iraq War was now over. Last week began with a Sunday attack on a military base in Baghdad -- an elaborate attack -- and, as the holiday weekend came to an end on Tuesday, 2 US soldiers were shot dead by a member of the Iraqi security force who also wounded nine other soldiers.

Now he's soaking in it

As Isaiah notes, Barack's soaking in it. He owns the Iraq War, it's his.

Last week, Scott Horton spoke with's Jeremy Sapienza on Horton's Antiwar Radio.

Scott Horton: So let's talk about Iraq, man. Obviously, I walk around with a chip on my shoulder all day and all night over this but just this week it's driven me to the edge of sanity. After all of this, the American people have deemed the Iraq War a success and they're proud of themselves for mongering it and it's great. Well tell us about the American involvement in this because it's very interesting to me in its own silly little small or -- context that they really seem to have said, across the propaganda, it was honest at the same time it was lying, all week, last week: We're leaving 50,000 troops, war's over. They didn't lie about the 50,000 troops at all.

Jeremy Sapienza: No.

Scott Horton: Even on TV, they're like, 'Yeah, 50,000 troops, but the war's over.'

Jeremy Sapienza: Well, yeah, you just call them 'advise-and-assist' and not 'combat troops.' The same troops are holding guns. They're still walking around, they're still -- As I recently said in a piece I wrote because Wikipedia declared the war over, that just because they're redefined doesn't mean that they're not -- They may nominally being backing up Iraqi troops but, come on, who are we kidding? Iraqi troops are going to take the lead in anything?

If there was an increase in the number of people calling the Iraq War a 'success,' why would we be surprised by that? Every time the previous administration publicly sold a false link between 9-11 and Iraq, the lie was accepted by a number of people.

The people weren't the problem then and they aren't now. The problem remains the news media which, with the exception of The Associated Press, has largely accepted the administration's spin as fact and refused to question it. And any hope that our 'independent' media would step forward? Well relinquish the fantasy.

The Nation worked overtime to ignore the speech (Laura Flanders and Robert Dreyfuss were the exceptions) or else get giddy over it (John Nichols raved it was "graceful"). At The Progressive, Matthew Rothschild semi-called it out. Semi? If you're going to counter Barack's false claim that US service members always conducted themselves in an exemplary fashion in Iraq, you probably need to mention what the US government has admitted was the worst crime by US soldiers was the gang-rape of Abeer, 14-year-old Abeer, the gang-rape that began while she heard her parents and five-year-old sister murdered in the other room. The gang rape which began as a criminal conspiracy and which ended with convictions or plea agreements. Matthew Rothchild semi called it out. Semi for that reason (Abeer remains the biggest Iraq story 'independent' media never told you about) and semi because a few days of bravery and then Matty was back on the Bambi train writing two pro-Bambi pieces -- as if a War Hawk that says a few pretty words suddenly wipes away his War Crimes.

So exactly how do we expect most people to know that these statements by Barack and by Joe and by others are false? How?

When Bush falsely linked 9-11 to Iraq, it took years of 'independent' media calling the lie out before the MSM began to show some bravery.

The problem's not the people, the problem's a pathetic, 'independent' media which wants to pay lip service to Izzy Stone but doesn't have the spine to stand up to Democratic Party propaganda. That's the problem.

TV; When Right Does Wrong

Watching Running, we realized the victor was John Dennis and the loser Ari David. We weren't sure what impact that would have on our own lives. We live and vote in the 8th District of California. John Dennis is running in that district for the US House against incumbent Nancy Pelosi and, as is so often the case in California, the state's Green Party refuses to even put up a candidate. We will not be voting for Nancy Pelosi. We can't vote Green. We're up-for-grab voters.


Presumably Running -- and the network it airs on -- is attempting to reach us. The hour long show follows two candidates running against incumbents, Dennis against Pelosi and David against US House Rep. Henry Waxman. Both Pelosi and Waxman are Democrats. Both Dennis and David are Republicans. But just as Pelosi and Waxman differ, so do Dennis and David.

With a loaded gun to our heads, you could not make us ever even consider voting for Ari David. His opinions and beliefs are different than ours, true. Dennis' are as well. But John Dennis isn't a walking, breathing frightmare. Ari David is. We were appalled, for example, to see him at home 'caring' for his crying baby and more interested in whether or not he was facing the webcam than in looking at his infant daughter before him or, later on, crying in his arms. That says a great deal about a person.

David can't stop preening. And he's -- at least thus far -- proof that effeminate in males does not have to mean gay. If Will & Grace were still on the air and you were casting Jack's fat, gay friend, Ari David is who you would immediately go with. (David is a failed actor. A fact not covered thus far on Running though much has been made of his 'stand up' 'career.') But the entertainment industry sold a stereotype that's just never been true (though it did allow many gay men in the industry to hide in the closet and it did create problems for straight effeminate men). So if Ari David wants to squeeze into a pink sweat suit, he has every right to -- no matter how bad he looks in it.

What does matter is the T-shirt he wears with the sweat suit which apparently includes cursing or depicts something vulgar. RightNetwork chose to repeatedly fog whatever was on David's t-shirt. RightNetwork is a cable network and we'll go more into it in a bit, but grasp that cable is so concerned by the candidate's shirt that they're fogging it. In another show, they'll allow an actor to say "g*ddamn" without bleeping but whatever Ari David has on his t-shirt is so objectionable that they have to fog it?

Everything about Ari David is objectionable. As a general rule, in casual conversation, when the term "liquidation" pops up and you're using it in the sense of the Nazis attempted to "liquidate" the Jewish population and you're referring to Democratic voters, you're really not fit to run for office. And cracks about Helen Thomas' looks? Maybe those in glass girdles shouldn't hurl stones as others?

Nearly everything that comes out of Ari David's mouth is hateful, vile and mean. And bitchy. Don't forget bitchy. Of a Republican opponent (David Benning) in the primary, the massively overweight Ari David snaps, "The guy, he needs to get his teeth fixed and he's kind of pasty and politician-like." Of Henry Waxman? ". . . phenomenally unattractive man . . ." It's almost as if Ari David thinks that, instead of running for Congress, he's actually in a beauty contest -- though we can't imagine why he'd think he could win that.

At one point, his wife is asked a question about whether or not she has advice for families of candidates. She's about to respond when Ari David breezes through like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float and snaps, "Gin and valium." As he hurries off, his wife smiles weakly and unconvincingly repeats the line David just 'wrote' for her.

He's a nightmare. What about RightNetwork? It started last week. FiOS is the largest carrier of the cable network so far. It is also online and you can stream programs there. At the website, they explain their mission as: "We're creating a platform where people can join the national conversation. A place where they can be inspired, entertained, laugh together, or just sit back and enjoy being part of a vibrant community with a similar perspective - a right-minded perspective that includes an entire spectrum of opinion from thoughtful and reserved to bold and brash." And their addition to the national conversation? Right wing points of view. Plural, that's apparently confusing to some. For example, Kelsey Grammer is a backer of RightNetwork (as disclosed before, we know Kelsey and find him to be a likeable person even while disagreeing with him politically) and this led 'humorist' Matthew Fleischer (Media Bistrow's Fishbowl LA) to 'crack,' "We here at FBLA would like to take the opportunity to formally pitch our idea for 'Conservative Cheers': "Where everybody knows your name, unless you're gay, Mexican or believe in global warming." Considering the large number of gay people who worked on Kelsey's long-running sitcom Fraiser, why is there a perception that the network is going to gay bash? And the Republican Party has many Latino supporters so what's with the "Mexican" crack?

The thing about humor is that it either makes you laugh or it doesn't. If you're trying to make sense of a joke then, at least for you, the joke failed. We were reminded of that when watching another RightNetwork original production, Evan Sayet's Right2Laugh. Specifically, we were reminded of that when Evan Sayet wanted to do an Iraq War joke: "We went into Iraq to steal their oil. I love that. We went into Iraq to steal their oil. And not only that, we're paying way too much for it."

That doesn't work on any level. On the show, it's especially embarrassing because Evan on stage telling the joke is broken up with Evan backstage pontificating about how "satire has a purpose which is to expose the hypocrisy of the powers-that-be." The powers-that-be? If you believe the Iraq War is a resource war then you most likely know that, historically, empires have fought resource wars and that although the resource in question may be secured that never meant that the empire distributed it freely to the citizens. That's just A. Another point, and we'll stop with B, is that the program exists to call out how the Democrats are allegedly failing at everything. Well if the US went into Iraq to steal the oil and the gas prices are now too high and the Democrats are in charge . . . Doesn't another joke seem obvious? One about government incompetence?

Not to Evan who, on the debut episode, just wasn't that funny. (He also looked awkwardly dressed. The suits need to be better tailored -- especially at those costs.) Evan makes a few remarks but the bulk of the half-hour show is the comedians who are guests and, on the debut episode, that was Kivi Rogers and Adam Yenser.

Within the context of what you would hear in a comedy club (the show is taped at Evan's Right2Laugh club), the comedians weren't offensive. But in terms of the TV show, that's a different story. And it's the story that may be the thing that sends RightNetwork packing quickly. It's not 1952. Or even Robert Parry's idea of today. Robert Parry and others want to hear a variety of voices -- male voices only -- as they demonstrated both in the 2008 campaign (when they repeatedly attacked Hillary) and as they prove at their own Men Only websites (with a token female brought in for guest spots). Robert Parry's a 'leftie.' And we bring him up (a) because he's disgusting and (b) because the problem RightNetwork currently has is not limited to just the right-wing.

Kivi Rogers and Adam Yenser provided two perspectives from the stage. Both male perspectives. (Kivi self-identifies Black. Yenser is Anglo White.) And to some that might just be the entire spectrum of opinion. But where are the women?

Where the show worked best was in its animated section. They bill it onscreen as Politizoid but call it Barack-feld and it should be spun off into its own show. In that section, animated versions of various politicians (plus Robert Gibbs who looks nothing like the real Robert Gibbs) move their mouths while actual things they have said are played. It's sometimes funny but it's always worth hearing, worth remembering. For example, in the health care negotiations skit, they show (animated) Barack on the campaign trail in 2008 insisting, "Here's the thing though, this will all be televised on CSPAN." Cut to the open door of a conference room that US House Speaker Pelosi stands in blocking a CSPAN camera operator from coming in as the camera operator reminds, 'The president swore he wanted us here." Closing the door on CSPAN, Nancy Pelosi replies, "Really? Well -- uh-uh -- ha-ha. Well there are a number of things that you throw on the campaign trail. Ha-ha."

Moving Numbers is a wash at this point. In this ten minutes-plus-each-episode original sitcom, Peter McCain stars as Jason Mahoney who is working on a political campaign. The two biggest problems thus far are with that character. A smug male with an enlarged ego and a sense of entitlement can be comic gold (see Archer or Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show). But you need to surround such a character with others whose actions demonstrate that this character is the exception and not the norm. Without that, for example, Jason doesn't just look like a sexist pig sexually harassing co-workers, the show (and, yes, the network) comes off as if it's treating sexual harassment as a joke. The other problem with the show is the dialogue. Jason tells viewers, in a voice over, that his job is to move numbers. So why, in the tease for the second episode, is he telling Alicia (Jennifer Field) that his job is to move numbers? Is this the network's attempt at a comedy or did someone sneak in a Saturday Night Live spoof of RightNetwork?

Continuing the We-Hate-Women theme is Adam Yensor's The Leftovers, a less than five minute program that attempts to tackle the 'news.' Yensor didn't 'forget the ladies,' he attacked actress Kirstie Alley for her weight. (Alley is not a politician, wasn't in the hard news last week and her weight is not a new development.) And he attacked Paris Hilton for, apparently, enjoying sex. He said that authorities would have performed "a full cavity search but the Las Vegas police force just wasnt big enough." It was smarmy and it was more anti-women trash. Did no one notice? Did no one care?

Last week, in phone conversations with friends, we'd mention we were thinking of tackling RightNetwork and they opinions varied. Some were of the opinion that it wasn't worth attention at all. Others were hoping we'd trash it with the sort of comments that wouldn't require we'd even watch it. One friend, a graphic arts artist, advised us to be fair (we hope we have been) and asked us if we'd ever looked at The People's Cube because she just can't figure it out. Is this, she wondered, supposed to be for real?

Looking over the site we guessed it was the right's attempt at their own version of The Onion. And maybe people find it funny and maybe they don't, like Right Network. Most likely some find it funny and some don't. And right now the RightNetwork isn't a tasty treat. It wants to reach TV viewers and TV has more women watching than men but RightNetwork offers programs that ridicule and shame women. That this would happen in 2010, as some elements of the Republican Party are attempting a make over, is a bit surprising to us.

Long before Sarah Palin put her Mama Grizzly speech online, we thought Palin was having an impact. For just one example, see "The Vagina Strikes Backl! (Ava and C.I.)" from October 2008. And, as women, we were happy about that. It didn't matter that we don't and won't agree with Palin politically. We were aware of the power she was having and would have. We never bought the moaning and fretting of "But she's a conservative!" because we knew (a) little girls watching TV and seeing her on the TV in 2008 most likely wouldn't know what that meant but they would know a woman was running for office which would expand their ideas of the possible and (b) conservative women need women to cheer as much as us liberal women do. We also believe (maybe mistakenly) that a conservative woman or man who ends up rooting for Sarah Palin is someone who thinks a little further beyond the traditional conservative comfort zone. Maybe that means, for example, such a woman or man becomes a feminist in their journey or at least pro-woman. Maybe it just means that hearing sexist attacks on Palin awakens them to the sexist attacks -- not 'jokes' -- aimed at other women in the news.

So if you're a conservative woman or a young girl or woman in a conservative family and you turn on RightNetwork, what are you going to be thinking? When you see the male lead in the only original scripted show (Moving Numbers) sexually harass women working on a political campaign and see it treated (even the women's objections treated) as no big deal, when you hear attacks on Kirstie Alley's weight or Paris Hilton's body, when you hear a man manage to slam both ex-wives -- especially going to town on wife number two whom he identified as "a career woman," what are you supposed to think? Are you supposed to feel this network is representing you or speaking to you?

Maybe RightNetwork can fix its problems, maybe it can't. Air America Radio frequently came off anti-women in its earliest days, especially via Al Franken's show. That anti-woman thread only got worse as the network moved along. AAR failed as a business model and as a broadcasting outlet. It was a sink hole for one group of investors after another. Some point to Franken making it into the US Senate as a 'success' for Air America Radio.

If RightNetwork is measuring success in the same way, maybe they can take comfort in this: If you put a gun to our head, we could probably vote for John Dennis.

We won't be voting for him. But we won't be voting for Nancy either. And. if it's any comfort to RightNetwork, with Running, they managed to let Dennis come across like a real person (something the local press hasn't allowed) and someone we could like and even enjoy as a neighbor. And, staying on Dennis' success, we'll note that he made that impression by coming off as genuine, not by being heavy-handed. Meaning that Running could qualify as interesting 'reality' TV programming if the producers didn't feel the need to be so heavy handed about 'the message' (such as ending an episode of Running with a quote from Ronald Reagan).

No Koran Was Harmed In The Writing Of This Piece


Last week a number of revealing incidents took place as a small Florida church flirted with burning copies of the Koran.

First, we learned that a large number of the left and 'left' are actually stereotyping Muslims and seeing them as terrorists. Were that not the case, why would they repeatedly play the fear card? They all went around like Annette Bening's character in the first half of Mars Attacks and it was truly something to marvel over. If the Koran were burned, they insisted, Muslims would attack! It was like a goofy Tim Burton film where they never grasped how their remarks actually fed into false stereotypes of Muslims as a whole.

Second, we discovered few people actually know the Constitution and even fewer -- including those swearing oaths to uphold it -- actually care what it says.

Political speech is Constitutionally protected speech.

It doesn't have to be popular speech, it doesn't have to be pretty speech. It's political speech -- and, in a democracy, protecting the right of political speech is one of the most important goals of the government. When we lose the right to political speech, we lose democracy. One can not exist with the other.

Flag burning is a form of political speech. In the US, many people oppose the burning of the United States flag but the act of burning the flag -- political speech -- is protected by the First Amendment. In an attempt to get around the Constitution, from time to time, Congress proposes ramming through an amendment banning flag burning. Not that long ago, in 2006, the editorial board of The Nation informed the country:

The most decorated war veteran in the Senate, Hawaii Democrat Dan Inouye opposed the amendment. "This objectionable expression is obscene, it is painful, it is unpatriotic," Inouye said of flag burning. "But, the winner of the Medal of Honor for his service in World War II, told the Senate, "I believe Americans gave their lives in many wars to make certain all Americans have a right to express themselves, even those who harbor hateful thoughts."
Inouye was hardly alone in that sentiment.
"The First Amendment exists to insure that freedom of speech and expression applies not just to that with which we agree or disagree, but also that which we find outrageous," explained former Secretary of State and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, in his classic statement of opposition to attempts to craft a "flag-burning" amendment. "I would not amend that great shield of democracy to hammer a few miscreants. The flag will be flying proudly long after they have slunk away."

Americans have a right to express themselves, even those who harbor hateful thoughts? The First Amendment applies to speech we find outrageous?

Then where the hell were defenders of the First Amendment last week?

They weren't at The Nation which refused to come out in favor of the First Amendment. They were more than happy to allow the increasingly prissy and fussy Greg Mitchell to offer an echo chamber disguised as a parade of voices. Aimee Allison, representing KPFA, as usual disgraced the station but that's been true since she advocated for burning The New Yorker in the summer of 2008 (she was offended by the cover illustration). The Progressive?

They may have been the most cowardly of all. This is the magazine where Matthew Rothschild, mere weeks ago, opined (rightly) that people have the right to do protests at funerals even if the protests are (and the ones in question were) offensive. But on this issue, where's Rothschild? Head lowered, pretending to stare at the text book, sucking his thumb and hoping the teacher doesn't call on him.

In their silence, our left 'leaders' missed all the issues that matter including that military members should not be attempting to order civilians around. What General David Petraeus thinks Americans should or should not do is news worthy only in that his efforts to attack the Constitution showed a complete and total disregard for the oath he took to protect and defend it.

The person to call out was not some small-time pastor or preacher. The person to call out was Petraeus who is not the commander of American civilians nor does he outrank the Constitution. It's very telling that Stanely McChrystal makes some rude remarks about Joe Biden and Barack Obama and immediately loses his job while Petraeus pisses on the Constitution and no one wants to call him out.

As if ignoring that, in a democracy, civilians control the military and not the other way around wasn't bad enough, Petraeus also wanted to play the fear card.

If the Koran were burned, he insisted, dangerous things would be a-happening. Ooooh. It was a line that many others would echo including Barack Obama on Good Morning America and in his Friday press conference.

That line of attack has been used over and over. The Dixie Chicks, we were told in 2003, endangered the troops with their pre-war comment about Bush (Natalie Maines told a London concert audience that she was ashamed George W. Bush was from Texas). Have we already forgotten that? Are we unaware of the arguments put forward before and after Murray v. Curlett? We might want to familiarize ourselves with that (and with Abington School District v. Schempp -- the case Murray was consolidated with). For a number of reasons but primarily due to the fact that the wall between church and state is yet again vanishing.

It was humorous to hear some on the left toss around, "Burning the Koran is like yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater." Though people know the "fire in a crowded theater" reference, most have no idea what they're talking about. We started asking people to explain to us what that meant. Repeatedly, we were told that someone had yelled "fire" in a crowded theater and the case had gone before the US Supreme Court at which point someone (some knew it was Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.) wrote the opinion. (Holmes actually wrote "falsely shouting fire in a theatre".) The case had nothing to do with a theater. It had nothing to do with someone yelling fire. That case is actually an embarrassment for the left.

During World War I, did people have the right to speak out against the draft, to encourage people (men only back then) to refuse to serve even if drafted? Charles Schenk of the Socialist Party was among those who thought people had that right (Emma Goldman and Eugene V. Debs are among the many others who agreed -- for the record, all writing this piece agree that the right exists). But the Court decided otherwise. And instead of truly addressing the issues, Holmes attempted to confuse it with his ridiculous comparison of "fire in a crowded theater." When the brief's tangental argument is better known than the issues at stake, that's your first sign that the Court decided wrongly.

Last week, our 'leaders' could have educated about that but they were too scared. Scared little puppies, whimpering and licking their wounds.

And that's how we lose our rights by refusing to stand up for them.

Repeatedly, we let the most callow of public figures play the fear card. We refused to call it out. We refused to point out that Petraeus' whining about US soldiers being in danger in Afghanistan if the Korans were burned overlooked the fact that US soldiers wouldn't be in any danger in Afghanistan if they weren't, pay attention, in Afghanistan. We refused to insist that Petraeus apologize for the very public disregard he showed to the Constitution. We sat there and took it while Barack went on and on about how he had to come in and demand that the Koran not be burned because it was his role as commander-in-chief. Who was Barack speaking to? If it was to the preacher in Florida, he's not commander-in-chief. We had this problem with Bush as well. There seems to be some comprehension issue that plagues both men. A president is only commander-in-chief of the military. There is no commander-in-chief of the American people.

Last week was a non-stop nightmare and we saw all over again how fear was instilled post-9-11. You had lefties refusing to speak up about what was legal. No one had to like the proposed burning, but they did need to know it was legal, they did need to notice that people who have no rightful say in what civilians do were butting in and disregarding the Constitution.

Instead we got fear and more fear. When someone wants to silence your opinion, they will always resort to the fear card. It's easy to play that card because it's easy to lie.

Falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater? The idiots last week didn't get it. If you yell fire in a crowded theater, people run to exits and may get trampled on. That would be a result of your actions. You yelled it falsely and people were hurt.

Guess what, though? If we decide to burn all DVD copies of The Banana Splits tomorrow and someone over in Belgium is so angry she boards a plane to the US, comes over here and goes on a shooting spree, that's on her. There is such a thing as free will and there is such a thing as individual responsibility.

The preacher, had he burned the Koran, would have been responsible for burning the Koran only. Those who chose to respond in violence would have been responsible for their actions. That's how it works.

And in a democracy, how the destruction of that works is that, bit by bit, we allow our rights to be chipped away at and taken away and then, one day, we wake up and the democracy is gone and we now live in a totalitarian state -- but we better just think that, better not say it, because free speech is gone.


Jim's notes to this article: Not everyone was silent. In real time, C.I. tackled the issue in "Iraq snapshot" and "2 US soldiers killed yesterday in Iraq, a US patrol attacked" and Ruth in "We are not under David Petraeus' command" and "Day II." Others in the community who might have wanted to weigh in were under my request not to do so in order to have this as a fresh topic for Third. While the burning was still on, Isaac Chotiner offered "The Koran Burning is Very Wrong. The Koran Burning is not THE END OF CIVILIZATION." at The New Republic. Yesterday, Hillary Is 44 published "A Koran Bar-B-Que And A Mosque Of Doom In The Age Of Fake." Added: Reader Marcy e-mailed to note P.Z. Myer's "Setting the Koran on fire, vs. setting personal liberties on fire" and "That's not my nation, Mr President" (Science Blogs) both of which went up last week. If you know someone else who stood up for the First Amendment last week, e-mail us at and we'll include a link to their writing as well.

AOL, also spelled T-H-I-E-F

AOL was once a giant. In the pre-DSL world, America Online was a national dial-up internet service favored by many. It was marketed and sold not only via advertising but also via product placement in films such as in Nora Ephron's You've Got Mail. Those were heady days and they are long gone. AOL is now about as pertinent as Alta Vista or Lycos or other earlier internet giants. What does remain is the company's long history of ripping off customers. In fact, "You've Got Mail" appears to have been replaced with AOL's unwritten motto on customer service: "You can go to hell."


Yes, there are still people out there with dial-up. Some have no other choice due to where they live (that can mean rural and it can also mean 'historical district' for some city-dwellers). Some don't have the money required for the switch. Some believe/hope that they have greater protection of their internet activities via dial-up (due to existing telephone laws). Some just are comfortable with what they already have.

That latter group? Let's hope they stay comfortable.

Like an abusive spouse, AOL tends to get ugliest when someone tries to leave.

In the last six weeks, Common Ills community member tried to leave. He called AOL and cancelled his services. End of story. Then Saturday he got a letter from AOL entitled: "NOTICE: Continuation of Paid AOL Member Account." The opening sentence? "On behalf of AOL, Inc., thank you for agreeing to continue your AOL service." What?

Exactly. Stan recently switched to DSL and has written about canceling his AOL 'membership.' Did Stan, the community member e-mailing about the problem wondered, receive a letter like that?

After checking his mail, Stan saw that he did receive one. He too canceled but his letter also thanks him for "agreeing to continue your AOL service."

It's a nice little scam AOL has going. One that's led to 1164 complaints about billing to the DC Better Business Bureau in just the last three years. That's just DC. As observes, "Nothing is easier than signing up for AOL. Conversely, nothing is more difficult than getting rid of AOL once you have it, as the complainants in this section will tell you."

AOL's short history includes an accounting scandal that Enron and others managed to overshadow but still resulted in class-action suits. AOL currently has a little over 4 million subscribers and that number has rapidly fallen from the over thirty million they had at the height of their success. In other words, if you have stock in AOL, it's really time to sell the dingo dog with fleas. And if you're a subscriber, you should probably get out now. For how to do so, refer to this post at Anti-AOL-An InTooLate Production.

Our Hypocrisies Ourselves

In the dark days of the Bush occupation, Maureen Dowd was hailed by many on the left. The New York Times columnist, a Pulitzer winner, was opposed to the Iraq War, had been opposed to it before it began, had earned a nickname from the Bully Boy Bush ("Cobra") who saw her as persona non grata. Dowd, who had largely taken herself off the chat & chew circuit, began returning to it and, often, via Air America Radio as she promoted Bush World.


In those dark days when a Republican occupied the White House, professional contrarian Maureen Dowd was warmly embraced by the left. Now Barack Obama occupies the White House and Maureen's writing the same type of columns she's always written but there sure are a lot of hisses.

The Daily Howler's Bob Somerby has always been consistent in his hatred for Dowd. Somerby seizes on Dowd with the ferocity of a chew toy and there is often something almost pathological about the way he critiques her. All these years, nearly fourteen, of Howlers and he has never, ever found a man he can call out with the special brand of hatred he reserves for Dowd. And the relish with which he attacks her as an "old maid" and "unmarried" may indicate that his biggest problem with Dowd is that she is a she. But he has been consistent.

Not everyone on the left can say that.

And a number of people seem to make their entire days about attacking Maureen Dowd. Often, in order to do so, they not only have to engage in sexism, they also have to flaunt their own ignorance. They are furious that Dowd won't write about the topics the way they want and write it in the way they want it written. Do they mistake themselves for her editor?

Dowd has pioneered a form of lively, breezy, chatty writing that basically acts as a political primer. It's for the uninitiated. It's the gateway drug of newspaper columns which can lead her readers to read other columns. Dowd was a political reporter in her earlier days. It was her ability to dramatize a story, to find a narrative, and her keen observational skills (she loves the telling detail) that led to her rise and led to other outlets being seriously interested in her even after she was established at The New York Times.

She's far from perfect and we've criticized her before and will again. But criticizing Dowd for being Dowd? Did she just start writing columns yesterday? Was someone unaware of her style or scope until yesterday?

It's amazing how she's slammed by the same people who never raise a peep when Paul Krugman feels the need to weigh in on how Democracts can win elections, for example. Krugman's a trained economist. He is not James Carville. And when he starts offering campaign guidance, not only is he out of his depths, he's also not in the role the paper hired him to fill. But that's not an issue and, think about, it's never an issue with a man.

Maureen Dowd is far from perfect. We don't believe she's ever asserted that she was perfect. She should be held to the same standards as any other columnist is. But that's not what happens, is it? What happens is other columnists get by with anything but, Bash The Bitch still being the national pastime, Maureen Dowd's attacked not only for what she wrote but she's attacked with lies about what she didn't write.

If Dowd gets facts wrong, by all means call her out for that. And do so however you want, in whatever 'tone' you desire. But if you're having to lie to call her out, there's a problem.

Last week, we saw just how many would lie to attack Dowd.

Alex Pareene has made a name -- such as it is -- for repeatedly attacking women online for over four years now. It can be anyone. He -- yes, he is a he though most photos indicate otherwise -- lives to attack and his targets have included Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan. Last week, apparently still suffering from his severe case of vagina envy, he went after Dowd at his new home (Salon).
It was there that he opened his slam on Dowd with the following:

Award-winning New York Times Op-Ed columnist Maureen Dowd wrote a political column about Barack Obama's speech last night! Of course the column had to be finished in time for this morning's paper, so it was obviously written in 10 minutes or so yesterday afternoon, before the speech was actually delivered. There is a joke about Al Gore and "earth tones" in the very first sentence of this column on Barack Obama's speech about the Iraq war.

There are so many problems in just that opening that the column never should have made it online. Dowd did not write a column about Barack's speech, she wrote a column about the redecoration of the Oval Office. First tip should have been the title "Not-So-Magic Carpet Ride." Second tip? Opening sentence of Dowd's column, "If we had wanted earth tones in the Oval Office, we would have elected Al Gore."

When he can't even accurately convey what her column was about, he's blown it as a critic. But possibly due to their own hatred of Dowd, several media watchdogs chose to act as if Pareene hadn't just made a fool of himself and instead applaud his bad writing. At Columbia Journalism Review, Liz Cox Barrett recommended "Alex Pareene's solid critique of Dowd's column" and in what world is a "solid critique" one in which you don't even grasp what the columnist is writing about?

That's embarrassing for Liz Cox Barrett, that's embarrassing for Columbia Journalism Review. What's even more embarrassing are all the complaints to this site that CJR is refusing to allow comments to go up pointing out that Pareene completely distorted Dowd's column on redecorating by insisting it was about Barack's speech on the Iraq War. When we went through the e-mails Saturday morning and found one e-mail after another complaining that comments left at Liz Cox Barrett's post were not being posted, we knew we'd have to write about it. (If Liz Cox Barrett wants to respond, she can. We invited her to do so.)

We'd love to know if it's the hatred of Dowd that allows a media critic to overlook the fact that Pareene doesn't even know what Dowd's topic was or if it's just part of the usual CJR circle-jerk? (For newer readers, we took on CJR repeatedly when this site started.) As dismaying as that was, it was sadder to see Bob Somerby follow suit on Friday.

As noted already, he's been consistent in his hatred of Dowd. But are we really supposed to allow ourselves to be blinded with hatred?

Does Bob want to be known as the idiot who fudges his facts in order to do a takedown? Funny, we thought that was how he characterized Keith Olbermann. So, in other words, you don't applaud a media 'critique' when the critic can't even grasp the topic Dowd's writing about. And, in addition, you don't applaud someone out of Dowd hatred when his own claims rebuke your work.

Yes, Bob Somerby, your bias was again showing. "MoDo led the charge" the media critique Bob Somerby applauded announced further in. Really? Cause The Daily Howler tells readers -- check your archives, Somerby -- that CiCi Connolly started that narrative in the press. So which is it?

And do we really want to go there? Do we really want to unravel the whole Naomi Wolf "earth tones" issue? If we do, we'll probably have to be honest -- or Somerby will have to scrub his archives -- because the reality is that the smearing of Naomi Wolf did not come from the press. They repeated it. They ran with it. They added to it. But the original smear of her came from the Gore campaign. Somerby, March 7, 2003: "According to Duffy, one unnamed Gore adviser had “downplayed” Wolf as a 'wardrobe consultant'."

Having spent forever and a day castigating the press for 'starting' the rumor about Wolf's role in the Gore campaign, do we really want to open that can of worms? Do we need to point out that the one adviser probably talked to many other reporters (not just Duffy) and that others may have repeated that claim to the press as well? Doing so won't allow us to make a lot of sweeping claims against the press and how election 2000 played out and was influenced by them.

Maybe the smarter thing for Somerby and CJR to do is to stop praising ill-thought out 'critiques' and recommended readings?

More of the same

Last week Politico amazed many by announcing "POLITICO hires first opinion writers." As Elaine wondered, what were all the writers Politico already employed doing if not writing opinions? They certainly weren't reporting. And what has Allison Silver been doing all this time because her title is "Opinion Editor"?


After the shock wore off, we were left with the choices themselves. The outlet that sees itself as to-the-minute (to the point of gushing) and a new model hired two people to be columnists and, did you notice, they're both men. They're both Anglo White males.

So Politico, the new and adventurous Politico, decides to hire two columnists and, in a country awash with Anglo White Male columnists, Politico decided to serve up exactly the same. In other words, Politico's turned out to be as much a "maverick" as John McCain. (Ben Smith can explain that's no compliment.)

Put Tony Blair in jail (UK Socialist Worker)


From Great Britian's Socialist Worker, this is Charlie Kimber's "Tony Blair: the real criminal who should be jailed:"

“You’ve got to put in prison those who deserve to be there,” said Tony Blair this week—criticising the Tories. Of course he doesn’t believe that those who ram through cuts and attack workers should be locked up.

His fury was reserved for justice secretary Kenneth Clarke’s timid proposals to reduce the prison population.

It takes a particularly warped mind to demand jail for others when you are personally involved in some of the greatest crimes of this century—the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fresh from presiding over the deaths of more than a million people in concert with George Bush, Blair dared to call for the full force of the law against people involved in a Saturday night brawl.

It was therefore a delight that Blair had to cancel a signing of his new book A Journey in London this week for fear of anti-war protests.

The Stop the War Coalition was right to say this was “a big victory” and a sign that Blair cannot go anywhere in public without being confronted with protests about war crimes.

Blair himself tried to brazen it out. “I have decided not to go ahead with the signing as I don’t want the public to be inconvenienced by the inevitable hassle caused by protesters,” he said.

“I know the Metropolitan Police would, as ever, have done a superb job in managing any disruption but I do not wish to impose an extra strain on police resources, simply for a book signing.”

Displaying his unabashed arrogance, Blair added in a statement, “I’m really sorry for those—as ever the majority—who would have come to have their books signed by me in person. I hope they understand.”

A few days earlier in Dublin Blair got a taste of what he would have got in London. Around 500 protesters met him when he arrived at Easons bookshop on O’Connell Street to sign copies of his memoirs.


Protesters screamed “war criminal” and “arrest the butcher Blair” while throwing shoes, eggs, bottles and placards in the direction of Blair as he made a quick dash into the shop.

Demonstrators scuffled with gardai (police) manning the barriers around the shop. Large sections of the city centre had to be closed down as the authorities struggled to contain the protest. In the scuffles a couple of protesters were arrested for getting past the first line of barriers.

As well as gardai, members of the British secret service MI5 and snipers were on site to protect Blair.

“All this to protect a war criminal from anti-war demonstrators,” writes the SWP in Ireland.

Kate O’Sullivan, a Palestine solidarity activist from Cork, got to Blair and attempted to perform a citizen’s arrest. She was tackled by five security guards and ejected from the store.

As Socialist Worker went to press, protesters were preparing to disrupt a party at the Tate Modern to “celebrate” Blair’s book.

The emptiness of US claims that it had ended its war in Iraq were shown on Sunday when US troops helped repel an attack on a military headquarters in Baghdad. This was just five days after the US formally “ended combat operations in Iraq”. A US military spokesperson also said the Iraqi military asked for support from helicopters, drones and explosives experts.

The Stop the War Coalition planned a protest outside the House of Commons on Wednesday this week as parliament prepared to debate Afghanistan.

The latest poll shows that only 7 percent in Britain think the Taliban can be defeated and 72 percent believe the troops should come home. Paul Flynn MP said, “At the moment parliament is not doing its job. The majority of the public would like to see the troops home before Christmas, and Parliament is not reflecting that. The government and all the main politicians are in denial on this. They are divorced from reality.”

© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.

Iraq's resistance stands up (Workers World)

From Workers World, this is Iraq commentary with a left perspective.

"Iraq's resistance stands up"

From the point of view of the U.S. government and the Pentagon, the U.S. has begun to wind down its military occupation of Iraq, now in the middle of its eighth year. But Washington intends to keep control of Iraq’s oil and foreign policy with a string of military bases, a supersized embassy complete with its own mercenary army, and a puppet government dependent on U.S. military, economic and diplomatic backing.

In the meantime these seven-plus years of occupation have destroyed much of Iraq, slaughtering its people and devastating its culture and its scientific and technical leadership. The occupation has divided Iraq along ethnic and sectarian fault lines as never before, and it left the city of Falluja poisoned with cancer-producing substances.

That the U.S. invasion has brought much pain and suffering to Iraq is indisputable. What is missing from the above picture, however, is one essential thing: the indomitable determination of the Iraqi people and nation to regain their sovereignty.

With U.S. troops leaving the country or staying safely within their well-protected bases, elements apparently from the Iraqi resistance launched 34 attacks in 16 cities on Aug. 25. Some 31 of the 55 people killed were members of the puppet police and security forces. It was clear that the Iraqi resistance that had prevented the U.S. from a clean takeover of Iraq is still around, still a force on the ground. More cities were hit at the same time than had ever been hit before, with police headquarters, checkpoints and government offices being the main targets.

Soon after the initial U.S.-British occupation in April 2003, George Bush claimed “mission accomplished.” The fighting seemed over, but soon this illusion became a nightmare. Former army officers and many others grouped fighters around themselves who began to make life hell for the occupation army. The vast majority of Iraqis would simply not submit to imperialist rule.

President Barack Obama, who was elected partly based on his promise to leave Iraq, is on the verge of making a speech on Aug. 31 to the county explaining the withdrawal. The early word on Obama’s speech is that the president will avoid the triumphant tone that got Bush into trouble. But no amount of intelligent words can cover up a policy of military aggression that has left the U.S. with only enemies and ineffective puppets in Iraq.

Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Ann of Ann's Mega Dub and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

"US undermines 'democracy' in Iraq (despite lip service)" and "I Hate The War" -- the two most requested highlights of the week.

"Kat's Korner: The exclusion of Cher" & "Kat's Korner: Last Decade's Buried Treasure" -- Kat penned two music reviews over Labor Day weekend.

"Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Now He's Soaking In It" -- Isaiah's pointed and true cartoon.

"Rachel Ambramowitz bad and sexist book" & "Labor Day" -- Marcia and Mike's Labor Day blogs.

"Black Eyed Peas and Spinach in the Kitchen" -- Trina serves up a vegan recipe.

"Jonathan Tasini doesn't belong in Congress" & "Women like Edwidge Danticat piss me off" -- Betty takes on two jerks.

"what did they find on the sea floor?" & "patti davis on the gulf disaster" -- Rebecca's continued Gulf Disaster coverage.

"Shame on Danny Schechter and his sexism" -- Elaine calls out the sexism.

"Political speech" and "NPR's sewer mouth" -- Ruth's related posts. NPR trashed political speech last week but if you were to ask them why Morning Edition listeners were treated to "slutty" and "bitch" in a so-called news segment, NPR would, no doubt, insist "free speech!"

"Cher, Jackie DeShannon, Peggy Lipton" & "Cher, Jody, Sarah" -- Kat stuck to music posts last week and be sure and check out some of the videos she linked to.

"How angry?" -- Marcia answers an e-mail.

"Another media blitz" & "THIS JUST IN! LET ME SATURATE YOU!" -- Cedric and Wally on Barack's media blitz last week.

"Bush's Baby Steps" -- Isaiah dips into the archives for this one.

"Unfaithfully Yours" -- Stan goes to the movies.

"Netflix" -- and Stan talks Netflix and Ann talks radio:

"Cry baby Barack" -- Marcia voices the frustration and irriation.

"The blood doesn't wash away" & "The War Hawks" -- Elaine and Mike explain some basics.

"Why don't they love him! Why!!! Why!!!!" & "THIS JUST IN! WHERE IS THE LOVE?" -- to him, it's always about him.

"A victory and Barack's empty economic team,"
"That problem with the focus thing"
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