Sunday, January 16, 2005

Welcome to the Third Estate

The "Third Estate" refers to the French National Assembly and how members from the Third Estate were seated on the left with members of the First Estate sitting on the right. From this, we get our terms for "left wing" and "right wing." The Third Estate Sunday Review is left wing.

We are five college students in a journalism program. We will write collectively so if you find something humorous, it's all of us. If you find something that pisses you off, it's all of us.
Our e-mail address is posted (; however we will not be responding to e-mail. We may publish your e-mail if you note that you'd like to be published.
We are members of The Common Ills community and thank The Common Ills ( for all the help given in setting up this blog and in inspiring it. We gladly and proudly join members like Folding Star of A Winding Road ( and Rebecca Winters of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude ( in attempting to add to the dialogue.
The Common Ills is always stressing the need for more voices and we agree.
The left needs to be heard or our country will continue to tilt further rightward.
You may not like everything you read here but hopefully you'll find something to make you think.
And hopefully when you see some weak Democrat on TV trying to accommodate the American Taliban, you'll hesitate to say "they're leftists" because you'll realize that they are nothing of the sort.
Nor are we the defining point for the left. There are other left voices that are to the right of us and others that are to the left of us. We wish them all well and hope they are heard. Only by each of us engaging in a dialogue do we get a participatory democracy.
Posts will be written in long hand and ideally shuffled around between the five of us. We will alternate the typing of the posts so that it doesn't fall on one person. Whoever is typing from our edited copy should be cut some slack because they may have to decipher multiple notes, cross outs and comments.
We are not grammarians and decided against attempting to get a faculty advisor to work on our copy. Mistakes will happen. If you get your thrills from finding typos, we aim to please.
But mainly we aim to point out that the web was not created so that a few voices could dominate. As some voices on the left have attempted to shut down discussion (and only relented in the face of popular outrage), we've grown more and more distressed to see bloggers we once respected turn into the Cokie Roberts of our set.
CJR's Campaign Desk has turned their Blog Report into a gossip column for paid journalists and overexposed bloggers. That's another reason that we've made the decision to blog.
It amazes us that a person like Patricia J. Williams who writes for The Nation and teaches at Columbia can go on The Majority Report and admit to doubts or not knowing everything but certain bloggers feel the need to act as though they're instant experts on everything. (Recipe: Toss out issue and just add water -- or is that ego?)
When someone as highly educated and informed as Williams can remain "a voice," it is puzzling that certain bloggers want to present themselves as "the voice."
Success, such as it is, appears to have gone to a few people's heads.
We're assholes here, not experts. Feel free to disagree with anything you read.
But the web was not created so that two bloggers could dominate the discussion. While noting their past achievements, the new tone that's creeped in has also been noted. Anyone who calls themselves a blogger and states that Ohio doesn't matter should do so in a non "last word" kind of way. Instead, on that issue or many others, certain bloggers are attempting to shut down the debate and urge us to march along behind them. (Or maybe march along carrying them propped up on our shoulders?)
We're bothered by the "party line" on Simon Rosenberg that some in the blog world are attempting to enforce. Rosenberg's stance on the war, attitude towards Hugo Chavez, remarks about liberals in this country and social programs are distressing.
The need to astroturf the net with leaflets endorsing Rosenberg ("he's young!") is distressing.
The Third Estate Sunday Review accepts no advertising nor monies for endorsement. We do not track visitors and have no interest in spying on you.
Our interest is in adding to the discussion. That other voices seem now geared towards shutting down the debate is something we should all fight against.
We are also bothered by the fact that the few voices who dominate are male and white. Our five members include various races and ethnicities as well as both genders.
We agree with the stance of The Common Ills regarding self-promotion: we will not engage in it. We will not seek nominations for web awards or urge readers to go there and "Vote for us!"
We certainly would not allow anyone to post ways to rig the vote -- an undemocratic notion that should give everyone pause.
Nor will you find us popping up on TV or radio. Enough blowhards already exist in that format and far too many bloggers are turning into Cokie Roberts (as noted previously). We have no interest in responding to queries from the press. (Yes, that means you, CJR's Campaign Desk.)
You want to know where we stand? Read our Sunday Review. If we're unable to be clear here, we have little hope of clarity in another medium.
Regarding links, we have no interest in creating a huge sidebar of links that no one's ever going to be able to get through. We will link to any member of The Common Ills community that we are aware of and to The Common Ills itself.
One of us has a brother who had a brief blogging career. From him, we've learned that many times a "tit for tat" arrangement can arise: link to me and I'll link to you! We're not interested in that. Anyone who chooses to link to us is welcome to do so but you will not be linked to because you have linked to us.
We're currently debating whether or not to highlight organizations that we support.
We're not interested in being "polite." There's been quite enough self-censorship in a medium that was supposed to promote free speech.
If reading the above makes you uncomfortable, perhaps it's time you took a long look in the mirror and did a self-inventory. If you're excited by what we're saying, glad to have you on board.
The "trip" may be short lived. Ideally, we'd like to continue it while we finish our studies. After that, we'll either hand it off to the next class of students interested or else the Third Estate Sunday Review will retire. Should it continue, the next group would determine the interests and points of view and should not be held accountable for statements this group has made.
We do not support the buying and selling of human beings so we will not allow comments to this post. Anyone interested in finding hookers from the third world can do so elsewhere on the web.
Those who allow posting to their blogs should decide whether they feel penis enlargment, Asian hookers and other things that pop up repeatedly in comments are helpful or hurtful to their blog and to society.
Our language policy? We'll speak the way college students speak. We may remember to give a heads up, we may not. What certain people find objectionable may be second nature to us.
Besides The Common Ills, Kat of Kat's Korner has also been helpful and we thank her for her assistance.
If this excites you, we encourage you to get blogging and make your own voice heard. If this dismays you, that's all the more reason for you to start a blog. Our favorite college prof says blogging is for this decade what screenplays were for the nineties: everyone's doing it. So make your voice heard. It's your country, start participating in it.

"Bring the Troops Home" argues The Progressive, "Nah Let 'Em Stay" says the New York Times

"Bring the Troops Home" argues The Progressive magazine ( the same week the New York Times editorializes that we might want to consider postponing the elections.

"Facing Facts About Iraq's Election" ran January 12, 2005. No link provided because they only make articles free for seven days. If you're interested in it, visit your library. (We are opposed to the idea being floated of the New York Times becoming a for-pay site.)

In a very long editorial, the editorial board of the paper weighs in on elections. The five of us are pulling a blank on when they last ran so long of an editorial. Certainly, nothing on Iraq during the lead up to the occupation.

And occupation is what it is. While not doubting that the New York Times means every word and means well, the fact remains that the insurgency wouldn't exist if we weren't there. We only inflame the situation by remaining.

George W. Bush, the Bully Boy, engaged in this act of Bully Without Borders claiming he would bring freedom to the people of Iraq. When?

This is not a backward culture. This is an educated people. And at what point do they get to weigh in and determine their own path?

Many people are worried that elections will result in an anti-woman government. As Naomi Klein so aptly put it: "All this manly defense of women's rights is certainly enough to make a girl swoon" (

It's an interesting worry considering that despite the media portrayals, Iraq was not Afghanistan. Women were allowed to pursue education and careers. There was no law enforcing that women wear burkas. To hear the Bully Boy tell it, freedom is on the march.
Well who's stamping it out?

This is their country and they'll have to make whatever decisions they choose to as a people. It's a basic principle of democracy. The notion that we should postpone elections is made by some on the left out of genuine concern. We realize that. We also realize that unless we're prepared to leash a nation the way did prisoners in Abu Ghraib, we must allow a free people to make their own way.

The handover has been repeatedly delayed and in the process, corporations have swooped in to bid on various assets. That was permitted by our rule, not by the people of Iraq. And guess what? They can't cancel those contracts without facing legal damages. We wrote that rule too.
How much more damage are we going to do? When have enough Iraqis and Americans died on Iraq's soil that we say, "Enough?"

Mission Accomplished read the banner in the spring of 2003. So why are we still over there?
Concern for the rights of women is something we support. But having signed on to this misguided war, it's a little late for the New York Times to start worrying about the damage we might cause.

The New York Times writes:

To understand what's happening in Iraq, imagine the mind-set of the Sunnis -- not the loathesome terrorists who shoot election workers and kill civilians with car bombs and mines, but the average people, including middle-class men and women whose lives have been ruined since the invasion.

Okay, we'll take you up on that creative exercise. We'll dismiss as "terrorists" people opposed to the occupation and we'll worry about the "average people" -- or at least the "middle-class."
Their lives have been ruined since the invasion. "Since the invasion?" That would be during the occupation while they have been ruled by others. Prolonging the occupation will help how?

The New York Times also notes that "in retrospect" the elections should have been set up along different lines. The paper has editorial space each and every day. It's nice that they're suddenly concerned with how the elections were set up, however, with elections due to take place this month, it's a little late in the day to weigh in on how they should be set up.

The New York Times offers:

Many Americans -- and many Iraqis -- worry that if the elections are postponed, the terrorists will feel empowered by having won. That might indeed be the case for the next few months. But that outcome would be far outweighed by the danger that would come from a civil war, with the Sunni territory becoming a no man's land where terrorists could operate at will. Others argue that civil war is probably inevitable one way or another, and that we may as well get the voting over with. That kind of pessimism may be warrented.

Might it be warrented? "Others" don't make it into the paper very often. What we get are the various "people" occupying Thomas Friedman's mind and those who say "We need to stay the course." Perhaps had "pessimisim" been given a voice in the lead up, we wouldn't be where we are now? We are there now. "Many Americans" may indeed worry that postponing the elections will empower the terrorists. "Others" might feel that a civil war will happen regardless. But guess what, there aren't just two groups of people in America.

The paper limits the discussion to their position and the straw men.

How it expects to soothe feelings by postponing elections is never addressed. There concern for the "middle-class" may be touching (and non-surprising) but it's really not about what the New York Times wants. It's about an occupation that has continued month after month. It's about our presence that inflames tensions. The paper doesn't want to acknowledge how bad the situation is. Or the fact that the occupation results in animosity not just from Iraq but from many neighboring countries.

Postponing the elections and prolonging the occupation continues to paint a target on the back of everyone over there (Iraqi or American). Enough lives have been lost. Prolonging the occupation only inflames tensions further.

Here's something the paper might want to "imagine." Picture that we're occupied as a colony. Picture that we want to determine our own way. Picture that we fight back.

It's a basic history lesson, it shouldn't be too hard for the New York Times. Today it's "terrorists" but who is it tomorrow if the occupation continues?

Such an exercise requires that we not reduce the issues to the simplest terms: good and bad. And that we not reduce the people in the same manner: terrorist and middle-class. It requires that we see them not as our ward or children but as the independent people that they are and allow them to make their own way. Things might turn worse (that's realism, not pessimism). If so, we can address that should it happen. The New York Times is more than free at that point to once again sign on to push a war. No doubt the notion would excite Judith Miller who appears to have little to do these days except alternate court and TV appearences with bashing the UN.

Those who pushed the unjust war have hardly inspired the trust necessary to result in an outcry in this country that we postpone elections. Those who have refused to cover the conflict of interest regarding James Baker are the last ones to inspire trust. (See because you didn't hear about it in the New York Times.)

The paper's offered two views since the occupation: the administration's and the reporting by people on the ground telling of battles, explosions, etc. The paper has yet to address anything larger than daily events. The paper has yet to allow dissenting voices to appear. Just because it has clamped down on the flow of information doesn't mean that the people don't get other information. It doesn't mean that we are saying, "Sure stay in ten more years! As long as it takes! We're behind that!"

Quite the contrary, polls show the people of this country have grown weary with the daily death counts. (Imagine how much more outraged we'd be if we bothered to track the number of Iraqi casualities.)

TV offers headlines and a simple image or two. A daily paper is supposed to provide some context, some perspective. The New York Times has yet to do that in any way regarding Iraq.
For all the pats on the back they get for noting some development, they've yet to string the developments together. They've yet to provide perspective on what is going on.

Now they want to weigh in with an editorial telling us, in their "we know best" voice, that the elections must be postponed? They can't even address the culture we've created (and one some soldiers are bringing back with them) or the damage this was has inflicted (on Iraqis and Americans). Instead the paper appears to suffer from Alzheimer Disease. One day, readers are exposed to an unearthed report, the next they're back to reporting administration spin as if the previous story never ran.

When the New York Times demonstrates that it can get its own house in order, we might be willing to consider their arguments. Until then, we're left with the fact that they've done a poor job of examining what's gone on over there and the domestic policies that have allowed things to be done in our name without our knowledge.

We won't question the editorial board's sincerity or that they mean well. But it's past time for them to cover what's going on in a constructive manner that pieces together past revelations and events. Their early coverage of the tsunami demonstrated what the paper can still do if it chooses to. But with Iraq, each story is a corner of a quilt which they report on as pieces without ever noting the bigger project.

Posted on below "Bring the Troops Home" on the web page of The Progressive ( is an editorial by the Madison Observer.
The first paragraph sums up reality in a way that the 15 paragraph New York Times editorial never bothers with:

The United States is an occupying power, and no population likes to be occupied, as even Bush himself has acknowledged. What's more, the Bush Administration has bungled the occupation from the start. It did not prevent the wholesale looting of Baghdad ("Stuff happens," said Rumsfeld). It did not provide electricity and clean water in a timely fashion. It laid off hundreds of thousands of people in the army and other areas of the public sector. Under the direction of Paul Bremer, it privatized the economy to serve U.S. corporations. And U.S. soldiers have leveled thousands of homes and detained more than 10,000 Iraqi men without charges.

When the New York Times wants to address that in an editorial proposal on the state of Iraq, we'll be happy to listen. Until then, thanks for the good intentions but where is the information your supposed to be providing: "all the news that's fit to print?"

Prince Brat vs. Sir Crook

Could you turn on the radio or TV without hearing that Prince Harry of England (that would be the son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana) wore a costume to a party that included a Nazi arm band?

It had all the enthusiastic following of the latest Scott Peterson development and was about as useful. We are shocked. We are just shocked. Prince Brat demonstrates that he might have a poor sense of humor, might lack knowledge, might have been attempting to make a statement (on what, who knows). Most of all he demonstrates that he leads a life with no expectation of ever being questioned regarding his actions.

And the media's not questioning it. They're just noting it. Repeatedly. Over and over. Prince Brat wore what! We've got photos!

A Winding Road ( provided more perspective on the issue than the mounds of ink and the incessant chatter of talking heads.

That Prince Brat, a 20 year-old, has done something juvenile and that it may or may not reflect on the environment he's raised in isn't a point anyone wants to take up. Instead, the issue is treated with all the depth of Janet Jackson's exposed breast -- which is to say, we see the same photo over and over and chatting heads compete in the campaign for who can act more indignant.

Want to be indignant? The son of England's former prime minister attempted to aid a coup attempt against Equatorial Guinea. The New York Times reported that. On the same page that they ran the story on Prince Harry. "A Prince Who Forgot History Angers Many" (by Alan Cowell) gets eighteen paragraphs, a photo and top billing. "Thatcher's Son Pleads Guilty in Coup Plot, Avoiding Prison" gets twelve paragraphs, no photo and second billing.

What's the bigger story? Prince Brat or Middle Aged Crook?

Mark Thatcher, son of Margret, is fifty-one years old. Excuse us, "Sir Mark." Sir Mark claims he didn't realize what he was doing -- "unwitting." That's a good adjective for any child of Maggie's but it doesn't mitigate the reality of what he's pleaded guilty to.

One's offensive, Prince Brat, and one's a crime, Sir Crook.

One's covered with all the open mouthed panting usually reserved for the latest Paris Hilton tape, the other's relegated to a conversational aside.

Sir Crook pleaded guilty. Got it? He admitted guilt. Even the title of the article in the New York Times informs a reader of that.

Now granted, Sir Crook looks like he's either had eye work done or else is wearing concealer in most photos (we're split on this issue: two for cosmetic surgery, two for make up and one abstaining) but photos do exist. And when the son of a former prime minister pleads guilty in a criminal case, one would think it would be big news.

That it's not news, that it's drowned out by the coverage of Prince Brat, suggests many things. Friends in high places pay off? Sir Crook, being old and bizarre looking, isn't "hot" enough to interest our media? We're more obsessed with indicated actions than actual criminal

Sir Crook admits to participating in an attempted coup and he's on his way back to the United States? Didn't we refuse to let Cat Stevens' feet touch American soil? Exactly what is a terrorist? We think it would be an independent agent attempting to overthrow a government.
We think this is the sort of behavior that perfectly fits into the Bully Boy's term of "enemy combatant." But Sir Crook's on his way back to the United States with little discussion of his actions and apparently no penalties.

Were he to convert and become a Muslim would we be concerned? Is that the only group we target?

Will Victoria Clark leave CNN and get to work on new advertising? "Come to America, we welcome all. Even those who plot to overthrow governments as long as you aren't dark skinned, Arab or Muslim. If you're any of those three, however, even if you haven't attempted to overthrow a government, we suggest you sample Canada instead."

Will any issues be explored at all? Will we debate this or even talk about it? Oh, hold on, word's coming in that Prince Felipe of Spain went to a toga party last night and the toga slipped! Exposing his pene masivo! Do we have pictures! Can we get pictures!

Abortion: Why it matters still

Karla (not her real name) speaks softly as she explains the abortion she had two years ago, when she was 17.

"I couldn't not have one," she says slowly. "Adoption wasn't even a possibility. And, I mean, at some point, they can look you up and ask you to explain why."

What Karla would have had to explain was that she and the grown child had a lot in common, namely a father. Karla was sexually abused from the ages of 14 to 16 by her biological father.
Her mother knew. But for the "good of the family," she wasn't any help to Karla.

"The good of the family seemed to just mean so that no one knew what he was doing to me. My mother was supporting it, she was looking the other way."

Karla's father/abuser had been in sales and often traveled as part of his job. In 1999, he lost his job due to alcoholism.

"Suddenly, he was around all the time. And maybe he was drunk the first time he forced himself on me, I don't really remember because I try not to. He'd been drinking, because I do remember his breath. But if he was drunk or not, I can't really say. I try not to dwell on it unless I'm with my therapist because otherwise it just destroys me and I'm left in this state where I just want to curl up in a ball or I'll go in the closet and shut the door and spend the rest of the day in there."

After the first rape, Karla's father/attacker apologized and begged her not to tell anyone. He said he was depressed over losing his job and angry at the world. He'd had to sell their nice house and move to a suburb where things were cheaper while he 'looked for work." ("He was drunk by ten most mornings, he wasn't out looking for a job," Karla says.) In his mind that excused what had happened.

"It was probably a month to six weeks later, my mother had gone out of town with her church group. I don't know, they were speaking about the importance of family in some way. After it had happened, I made a point not to say anything. I felt sorry for him, probably. But I also felt like maybe it was my fault which I've learned is a fairly common reaction. I don't remember being worried that she was going to be gone that weekend. I may have believed him when he promised it would never happen again."

But it did. And the same apologies/justifications flowed from his mouth. And the third time was three weeks later.

"At some point, early on, I told her. And she called me a liar. I was crying and I said, 'I'm not lying. I need your help. Why won't you believe me?' She ran and got him. Drug him into the room. There's no way she couldn't see the guilty look on his face. He wouldn't even look at me or at her. But she said, 'Your daughter is lying about you. You two need to straighten this out.'
She grabbed her keys and left. Left me with the guy I had just told her was raping me. As soon as she was gone . . . He . . . he lost the guilty look. He just snapped and started screaming at me and slapping me and telling me I was ruining his life. My lip was bleeding and one of my eyes was swollen. I fell to the floor and he started kicking me and saying things like 'a prick tease like you had this coming!' While I was lying on the floor . . ."

For almost two years this went on. After a few months, her mother walked in on it.

"She screamed and yelled but mainly at me. The next day she said, 'I don't want to talk about it.' Instead, she'd greet me with things like 'You look trampy today' or 'You're not wearing any make up, don't you want to look pretty?' After a few months of that, she seemed to feel we now had some shared bond and started confessing that he'd cheated for years but at least now she knew where he was. All this time, I'd hoped that she would find out and put a stop to it. But when she found out, after she got done blaming me, she just decided it was no big deal."

In a new area, with no family other than her parents, Karla didn't feel she had any options. She also kept hoping her mother would start defending her. But that never happened.

"I think maybe it was losing the house and feeling that in moving, she was at risk of losing her friends. She always brought that up when I'd say, 'I can't go on like this.' 'Joanne will never understand!' she'd scream at me. That was a woman who was really big at her church."

Realizing her own mother had no intention of ever stopping the repeated rapes, Karla found herself trapped in the situation and the silence.

"You want to tell someone. But when your own mother first calls you a liar and then acts like it's no big deal but warns you'll bring shame to everyone including yourself, I don't know. I just . . .
I don't know."

Eight months after the rapes began, her father/attacker finally got a job.

"It was a big come down for him. He'd been one of the big shots in sales and now he was a night watchman. Things were actually a little better for me because, planning my day just right, I could leave for school before he got home and then, if I was really lucky, he'd sleep until thirty minutes before he had to leave for work. I think it was the adjustment to working nights but for three months I was able to avoid him except on Sundays when my mother was gone to the church. I remember begging to go with her a few times but she'd just say it would embarrass her."

A month away from turning 17, Karla discovered she was pregnant.

"I didn't know how, but I knew I was having an abortion. I knew I wasn't going to have his child. I was in the bathroom, looking at the test stick, and I knew I wasn't going to have his baby. I waited until my mother got home and got her out into the backyard and told her. All she could say was 'I never knew my parents!' because she was raised in orphanage. I said, 'No, you don't get it, I'm not having this baby. And you're crazy if you think I'd ever want this baby to know its father!' Then she started screaming this religious crap at me and I was thinking, 'Oh now, you want to get religion?'"

Karla thought about turning to a classmate she'd become friends with "but ____ isn't a suburb, no matter what they call it. It's a run down, depressed town. My friend might have offered emotional support but she and her parents wouldn't have had the money to help."

When she was 8, her father and his only sibling, a sister, had gotten into a huge fight.

"I remember we were going to go to an Easter egg hunt and I was wearing this white dress and white shoes and had a white ribbon in my hair and my aunt was taking pictures one moment and then in some screaming match with him."

That was the last time she saw her aunt.

"I started searching on the net at school trying to find her and for two weeks I was e-mailing anyone with her name and praying that she hadn't gotten married because if she had . . . Her name is a common name so I probably e-mailed close to fifty women. Finally I get an e-mail back from one woman saying that yes, she's my aunt. I just typed back, 'I have to talk to you.' I knew I couldn't talk to her at home and I knew I'd be blubbering and crying when I did talk to her. But the only thing I could think of was that there was a pay phone at the Subway. People were walking in and out the entire time I was on the phone and I'm sure that they either thought someone had died or I was some sort of nutcase."

Her aunt wasn't surprised. Karla's father/rapist had also raped his younger sister years before.

"She flew out the next day, pulled me out of school and took care of everything. Then she took me back with her and we didn't even speak to them until after. He made this big stink about how he was going to charge her with kidnapping and she told him to go to hell. Which is what my mother told me in the letter she wrote me shortly after. That I was going to hell for having an abortion. Apparently she'll be walking through the gates of heaven alongside him, but I'll be in hell. Yeah. I heard from a few classmates that I was a drug addict who was sent to live with my aunt because they couldn't continue living with my drug use. I was disruptive to their happy home. It wasn't enough that he raped me over and over and she allowed it to happen, they had to spread lies about me as well?"

In college, she's been able to open to a few friends ("but I don't say, the rapist was my father").
Some of them ask her if she ever regrets her decision.

"I don't regret it. I don't regret it. I don't regret it at all. I don't understand people who think they can't take away anyone's option. I lived in a state with a parental notification law. I don't believe in those. My rapist was my father. My mother allowed it to happen. I'm supposed to go before a judge and plead my case? My aunt never married, she has the same last name as me. For the abortion, she was my mother as far as anyone knew. I don't, I don't, I don't think any woman needs to have to plead her case in a situation like mine or in any case where she feels she needs to have an abortion. It's not anyone else's damn business. It's only in the last year that I can even use the word 'incest' with my therapist. For the longest time it was too much to even say 'I was raped by my father.' No woman should have to explain. Whether they were raped or not. But to think that a kid's going to be able to set up an appointment with a judge and go in and dredge up all of this crap, it's just, I don't know, it's just so unreal to me. I question the morality of people who pass these kind of laws."

Karla has a story, every woman that chooses to have an abortion does. As "moderates" in the Democratic Party launch yet another attack on women's rights, people need to remember that reproductive rights are a battle we already fought and won. These men (and it's usually men) in the Democratic Party who want to "back off" from this issue have never faced a decision like Karla or any woman had to make. It's a privacy issue and whether a woman has been raped or not, she doesn't owe it to anyone to explain her decision to a judge, a Congressman or anyone.
It's her body, it's her choice and she should be allow to make it.

Instead of caving yet again, "moderates" should try to find enough of a spine to endorse a position that more than half of America supports. We're not sure whether they find it personally distasteful or if it's just another case of some poll showed them they might be able to persuade a few religious freaks to vote for them. It doesn't matter. The battle for reproductive rights was a long one and we won. And if moderates think they're going to take that right away or move away from supporting it, we can draw the battle lines all over again.

Reproductive rights are not "on the table." The party needs to realize that and find it's spine.

Kat's Korner Green Day v. the Disney Kids

Music matters. And what your dollars support matters as well. The Common Ills and Kat of Kat's Korner have kindly given us permission to reproduce Kat's initial Kat's Korner in full.
"Kat's Korner Green Day v. the Disney Kids" has been much passed around on the net and on our campus.

Kat's Korner Green Day v. the Disney Kids

Just lit the Tulasi Sandal Wood incense stick. The stereo's cranked up high and I'm settled in. Good evening.

I'm Kat and here at Kat's Korner we'll be going into music. There's a need for those of us on the left to reclaim our cultural roots. I've been e-mailing the site about that and there's agreement but with a focus on The New York Times front page and other issues there isn't always time to devote attention to music.

If you feel this is fluff then you're welcome to skip it. If you'd like to drop a line you can write the site and it will be forwarded to me ( or you can write me at

In Kat's Korner, we're going to focus on music. As a post awhile back noted, our music has gotten very plastic. Don't count on Clear Channel to fix that for you, folks! They're happy to spin the naughty Disney Kids play acting at sex, but you won't hear any music raising issues or inspiring. They've said it, "We're in the business to sell ad time."

Heretic talk to me.

Music inspires, soothes, motivates.

Are we we are, are we we are
The waiting unknown.

That's track five off off Green Day's rock opera American Idiot. Rock opera. Sometimes you have to pull that thing that's been hidden in the back of the closet out to realize what a prize it is. Using the rock opera form, Green Day takes on the ultimate American Idiot: George W. Bush. There was enough gas in the tank to drive this one to number one on the charts. But you didn't hear it much on your "pap" radio, did you?

It's not the language. As anyone who's suffered through a radio station playing the macho posturing of thug rap knows: radio stations are happy to bleep out the occassional word and still keep a song in rotation. What's so threatening to Clear Channel and the rest about this album?

Must be the ideas behind it. "Pap" radio is more than happy to serve up Kelly Clarkson (today's Petulia Clark?) and assorted other high school talent show rejects singing songs that mean nothing but get an idea behind a song and corporate radio trembles.

As Dylan Thomas once wrote: "Whatever is hidden should be made naked. To be stripped of the darkness is to be clean."Unless it's a conservative idea. The subversion that is Destiny's Child's "Solider" gets played like crazy. Not Crazy Sexy Cool because these three gals are no TLC. TLC lived it and walked the talk. The children of Destiny seem to spend more time with their brokers than with their band. "Solider" is proof of how too much thought about marketing destroys the music muse.

See, on one level, it's a song that pretends to be about sex (it's about as sexy as listening to Dr. Ruth on the radio) and, on another level, it's supposed to have us all marching through the malls singing, "I need a soldier." Won't King George & Lady Laura be pleased! The Shirelles did this tired act so much better. But "Soldier" is playing, it's spinning. After stalling at number ten it leaps to number seven.

Three women famous (infamous) for their inability to get along? It's like Diana Ross & the Supremes without the talent. By the break, Lil Wayne drops in to compare himself to a vet (insulting awardees of the Purple Heart everywhere).

And what kind of a name is Lil Wayne? He's bragging about what he's got and it's ... money. And his name is "Lil" Wayne."

I want a soldier" the girls squeal (occasionally on key) as though they're at Toys R Us picking out dolls. The children of Destiny never seem more virginal than when they try to prove that they aren't.

Give me the rowdy boys of Green Day any day. Rude, angry, thrashing their three chords for all they're worth and in the process painting a sonic portrait of the world we live in. You won't catch Billie Joe, Tre & Mike at Bush's money busting inaug next month. But don't be surprised if the children of Destiny do a return shout out for their man Bully Boy Bush.

It's really important to fit in when you're plastic, to blend in. "Solider" tells us that they want a guy who's just like ... well goodness me, everyone else! Conformity. Rick James rolls over in his grave. But he's probably hep to the fact that these gals are so bland they're beyond vanilla, beyond white bread.

Meanwhile, Billie Joe's singing

I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don't know where it goes
But it's home to me and I walk alone
I walk this empty street
On the Blvd. of Broken Dreams

That song lept from 48 to 27 but somehow the child porn of Destiny gets "greatest gainer/airplay" from Billboard (moving from ten to seven). Folks, the man's coming knocking on your door and wants you to give up the beat of your own drum and march along to the beat of conformity. In a maritime march, natch.

Where's the outrage?

We've gotten so used to downloads and other excuses that we've allowed the kids we would have laughed at in school to drive us away from our own radio stations. I'm throwing out this battle cry: We need to reclaim our music.

Beyonce, you've got a cute butt. We've seen enough of it. Somewhere someone told you that all you had to offer up was kiddie porn and that you were really saying something. You're saying nothing. Back your way out of the room now because apparently no one wants to see you from the front. (Which is kind of insulting if you think about it.)

Beyonce's the type of kid who indignantly pouts in government class, "Well I think Clarence Thomas is a great man!"

She's got nothing to say even with other people writing the words. She's Suzie Sorority and she's done now.

There was a post about the power of "yes" and the power of "no." It's past time that we rise up and start saying "no" to these Nixon clones that have taken over popular music. Yes, that means you too, Britney Spears. And Justin Timberlake, the ultimate mama's boy. When he goes off on his blunts rap, I always wonder, "Oh how sweet, does Mommy roll them for you?"

Anyone ever notice that onstage while ripping off Janet Jackson's top or grabbing at Kylie Minogue's butt, he's always fully dressed? Get the idea he's the uptight kid who really doesn't know how to let go? No wonder he's so close to Mommy. Sex to him appears to be something used as a prop to sell records. Wonder if he's still a virgin? He sings like one.

The Disney Kids brought honor to all the losers who wouldn't give it up in high school. Timid virgins. Well head on back to the Magic Castle, kids, because we're a rowdy crew here. Yeah, we even go [gasp] all the way!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We don't just tease about sex, we actually do the deed. (Don't believe Mommy, Justin, it's wonderful!)

They're the kids taking the DARE pledges and promising to wait for marriage. And somehow they've been allowed to think they're cool.

I am a sexual animal. Maybe that's why the antiseptic antics of the Disney Kids leaves me so cold. I have desires and I act on them. To me, that's cool.

Wake up, America, they're nerds!!!!!!!!!

The world is spinning around and around
Out of control again
From the 7-11 to the fear of breaking down
So send my love a letterbomb
And visit me in hell
We're the ones going home
We're coming home again

Billie Joe, you and Tre & Mike ride the rapids while pop tarts are too busy making sure they're coloring safely within the lines.

The biggest snickers at Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 came when Britney weighed in that we should like trust our like president because like he's like the president. Those snickers should follow her everywhere. Sounding like the historically ignornant and unaware Disney Kid that she is, Britney deserves to be held up to ridicule.

The right wants a cultural war? In the words of the Bully Boy, Bring It On! In climatic times in our nation, the arts have spoken and having lost their heavy hitter The Gropinator, they're in no position to defend themselves. (Not that the stiff known best for portraying a cyborg was a lot of help to them.)

Kat's Korner exists on the far left side of the world and I'll be lobbing my spitballs from here at every prude who thinks their antiseptic, black/white, good/evil view of the world is somehow reality. The world's messy, life's messy. You can lock your bodies in a chastity belt (and your minds as well) but don't try to pass that off as cool.

For those worried that I'll only focus on new music here in the Korner, don't worry. Even if the current state of music wasn't so God awful, I'd still want to highlight some of the classics of the past.

Green Day is a rowdy, angry band that wasn't afraid to speak truth to the Bush lies so I started with them. If you're tired of living in a PG-13 world, I'd recommend you rush out and grab American Idiot. The CD, not the Bully Boy! You'll find fifty seven minutes of glorious messy (and gloriously messy) music by three guys who aren't trying to fit in. And just listening you know they've actually done the nasty!

King of the 40 thieves and I'm here to represent
The needle in the vein of the establishment
I'm the patron saint of the denial with an angel face
And a taste for sucidial cigarettes

Somewhere, the Disney Kids are running off to tattle to their mamas. Justin, be sure to tell Mommy that Green Day also says

Welcome to a new kind of tension
Where everything isn't meant to be o.k.

Our thanks again to Kat and The Common Ills for allowing us to reprint the above in full.

TV Guidance: What Can You Do With Joey?

NBC's Joey, People's Choice Winner, is the worst show of the year: What can you do with Joey?

Desperate to keep the Thursday audience that they've owned for years, NBC was drooling over the prospect of a Friends' spin-off. Apparently the fact that that the "friend" in question was the least interesting and least popular didn't matter much.

Ross could have found David Schwimmer back at the college or returning to the museum. Either way it would have given Schwimmer and odd ball cast to simmer opposite. The slow burn is Schwimmer's speciality. Rachel could be off in Paris working in the fashion industry.

Even NBC had to know there was no way Jennifer Aniston was going to do a spin-off.

Monica & Chandler wouldn't have been a bad idea. We're no fans of the notion of escaping to the suburbs but imagine the laughs when the escapees who moved out of the cities to find tranquility greet the new neighbors: yelling Monica and whiney Chandler. It could work, a saucy domestic comedy with an edge. Monica attempting to compete with every neighbor, Chandler kissing their ass -- it could be funny. Especially when Courtney Cox taps into Monica's angst. It could be all the things that the tired Everybody Loves Raymond never was.

Phoebe was a spin-off the network should have moved heaven and earth to get. Easily the most talented of all the actors on Friends, Lisa Kudrow never seemed one dimensional and always pulled laughs out of thin air. It would be hard to picture her in a non-funny spin-off. Phoebe at the UN. Phoebe at a law firm. Phoebe at a hospital. Phoebe in a diner. You really can't go wrong with Phoebe and even medicore writing.

But what can you do with Joey?

The last two years of Friends were about turning him from the sex obsessed bafoon into the dope with the soft center. (Matt LeBlanc's weight gain might have been the reason for backing off the sex obsession. Or as Jess's grandma says: "He looks like a young Raymond Burr.")
He no longer has the edge of Kudrow to play off of or Aniston's facial reactions. There's no Matthew Perry around to take this out of Saturday morning cartoon territory. Cox and Schwimmer (who truly did begin to seem similar enough to be siblings as the years wore on) aren't around to inject any energy. It's just . . . Joey.

What can you do with Joey?

Matt LeBlanc doing the same nonsense he did on Friends but he no longer has real actors to bounce off of. The few times a Friends' story revolved solely around Joey, we always took it as a sign to go to the kitchen and grab something to eat. Those episodes don't play well in syndication. Does anyone care when the actress in the play leaves him? Isn't everyone, watching that episode, just waiting for Ross to explode at Rachel's new boyfriend?

All Joey did was mark time. Big laugh, big laugh, insight . . . oh there's Joey. He was dead weight from day one. The only time he mattered at all was when he knew Monica & Chandler were sleeping together. Even that subplot of a subplot couldn't hold our interest long so Rachel and then Phoebe had to be let in on the secret.

Watching the spin-off and seeing Joey date guest star Kelly Preston or think about funding a hair salon or try to come on to the husband of a friend (his vanity, not his sexuality, motivates the last), you start to wonder if maybe Gunther and Central Perk would have been a better spin-off?

What can you do with Joey?

LeBlanc's a funny kind of male "star." Each episode, we keep hearing how sexy is. Even the husband (who's not interested) has to compliment Joey on his legs (specifically, his calves). This is the sort of thing you usually run across in movies starring Joan Crawford in her later years. Possibly because everyone's working so hard talking up the tubby actor, there's no time for humor?

Even if there were time, Joey can't carry a show. Marlo Thomas is one of the few who ever managed the struggling actor bit (That Girl). (Cybill was as much about Cybill Sheridan's career as it was about her friendship and her daughters.) Did no one notice in all the years of Friends that Joey opposite Rachel, Ross, Phoebe, Monica or Chandler was interesting but Joey on his own (with his "twin" trying to scam research centers, with his father and his father's mistress, with his girlfriend the actress, with his model roommate) was boring?

He really was. It's like they decided to build a post-M*A*S*H show around Radar. Not even the disaster that was After M*A*S*H demonstrated that kind of contempt for the viewers.

What can you do with Joey?

NBC's stuck with the show. If they continue to air it, expect it to pull a Jessie in it's second year. Remember that? How bar waitress Christina Applegate turned into a nursing student in the second season opener (and lost her dreary family)? Joey might emerge next year with an entirely different cast and Joey working a new job.

But why even bother to fix it? It's so bad now that it shouldn't even be on the air. When the former "must see TV" night starts off with an episode of Joey that revolves around guest spots by "stars" like Bob Saget, it's really time to the pull the plug.

Instead, NBC seems determined to turn all of us into CSI watchers by inflicting both Joey and The Apprentice upon us. They really are bookends, the two shows. Both revolve around dull men who each managed TV fame off one catch phrase -- Joey: "How you doing?"; Donald: "You're fired." That's all they've got. That's all they've ever had.

NBC Thursday nights, for all the laughs, also gave us groaners like The Single Guy, Union Square, and Cursed. Joey beats them all in the category "most wasted half hour."

After the years of being the butt of so many jokes (Rachel: "You're so pretty."), Joey's now the center of attention only, no surprise, no one wants to watch. And with each passing episode, Matt LeBlanc, looking like a fat Tony Danza, appears more and more nervous. He should be nervous, he's scaring the small number that continues to try to watch his show.

What can you do with Joey?

Pull the plug. Pull the damn plug.

Books: Jean Rhys and the human condition

Jean Rhys, in five novels, delved deep into one subject: alienation. People might want to pay attention.

Born in the West Indies (1890), Jean Rhys dreamed of England. Like many of her dreams, the reality would falter and fail to meet the expectations. This moment after expectations fail and hope fades was often the starting point in her writing.

I often wished I was like Estelle, this French girl who lived in the big room on the ground floor. She had everything so cut-and-dried, she walked the tightrope so beautifully, not even knowing she was walking it. I'd think about the talks we had, and her clothes and her scent and the way she did her hair, and that when I wnet into her room it didn't seem like a Bloomsbury bed-sitting room -- and when it comes to Bloomsbury bed-sitting rooms I know what I'm talking about. No, it was like a room out of one of those long, romantic novels, six hundred and fifty pages of small print, translate from French or German or Hungarian or something -- because few of the English ones have the exact feeling I mean. And you read on epage of it or even one phrase of it, and then you gobble up all the rest and go about in a dream for weeks afterwards, for months afterwards -- perhaps all your life, who knows? -- surrounded by those six hundred and fifty pages, the houses, the streets, the snow, the river, the roses, the girls, the sun, the ladies' dresses and the gentlemen's voices, the old , wicked, hard-hearted women and the old, sad women, the waltz music, everything. What is not there you put in afterwards, for it is alive, this book, and it grows in your head. 'The house I was living in when I read that book,' you think, or 'This colour reminds of that book.'
It was after Estelle left, telling me she was going to Pairs and wasn't sure whether she was coming back, that I struck a bad patch.
(from the short story "Till September Petronella")

Rhys' characters seem to be forever striking a bad patch. Pushed to the side and alone, they exist or mark time. They withdraw. And in their imposed seclusion and chosen seclusion, they discover new realities.

And the sympathy which would have maddened her from the happy, the fortunate or the respectable, she strangely and silently accepted coming from someone more degraded than she was, more ignorant, more despised. . . .
She climbed the stairs of the hotel holding tightly to the banisters, and undressed weeping gently but not unhappily.
Her intense desire for revenge on all humanity had given place to an extraordinary clear-sightedness.
For the first time she had dimly realized that only the hopeless are starkly sincere and that only the unhappy can either give or take sympathy -- even some of the bitter and dangerous voluptiousness of misery.
That night Dorothy Dufreyne dreamt that she was dead and that a tall, bright angel dressed in a shabby suit and crimsom scarf was bearing her to hell.
But what if it were heaven when she got there?

So ends her short story "In the Rue de l'Arrivee."

Some find Rhys depressing. We find her writing not just precise and techically brilliant, but moving. In a world that grows ever more alienating, so few writers today bother to comment on that reality. What our fences no longer keep out, the increased volume of our TV silences.

"I'd never let myself be that alone," snapped one classmate to the professor as she sailed down the aisle, quickly speaking into her cell phone. But the loneliness Rhys writes of is a detachment, one that all the cell phone calls, text messages and computer log ins won't save you from.

If there's a lesson to be found in Rhys' novels Voyage in the Dark, Quartet, After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie, Good Morning, Midnight or Wide Sargasso Sea, it's that life can push anyone to
the side, to the fringes.

And as we flip through The Nanny Diaries or the latest John Grisham, we have to wonder what world they're writing of? Is not this increased alienation one of the most telling characteristics of our times? Are we not all being encouraged to stock up on enough X-Boxes, Play Stations and Gameboys so that we never need leave home?

There is a hunger in our increasingly "privatized" nation for community. A longing to be interconnected. Or, to put it in the jargon of today, a need to interface with one another. Instead of addressing this very real human condition, too many writers today are ignoring it.
At what cost? Novels, dying art form or not, traditionally charted the human condition.

When the nominees were announced for the fiction category of this year's National Book Awards, much carping was made over the fact that all five nominees were women, that they were all from the same area and that, gasp, none of the books had yet to become a popular best seller.

A point missed, an important one, was that all five authors (Kate Walbert, Joan Silber, Christine Schutt, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and Lily Tuck) were in some form or another addressing the need for community and communication. Maybe to note that would require that the carpers actually pick up the books and read them. Perhaps that was asking too much?

Or maybe, just maybe, the classmate dismissing Rhys while immediately attempting to reach out (via her cell phone) is representative of a type of carper who doesn't want to admit to a problem that is very real?

It's much easier to attach that cell phone to your ear than it is to address the very real issue that on a campus surrounded by so many people, your first instinct is to make contact not with the people around you, but over the phone. Cell phones have quickly become the same safety blanket that Walkmans were in the 80s -- a way to shut out the immediate world around you.
The brave, fuck-you face you put on that says, "See, I am important, I matter or I wouldn't be speaking into this cell phone."

When a young adult escapes via a cell phone, it may not be a big deal. When carpers/commentators refuse to address the books written that merited nominations for the National Book Award, you have to wonder what's is going on?

And when the New York Times Book Review seems to exist largely to allow one side to review a nonfiction book written by someone on the other side (politics, scientific theory, etc.) and to promote the snide, superficial writings of the likes of Joe Queenan, you have to wonder what's going on?

Literature, good literature, can illuminate a moment, a situation, a mood, a condition. Maybe that's why it's being avoided like the plague in these "faith based" times? And should the editorial pages of the New York Times be lamenting the lack of literature currently being read when their own book review has largely abandoned covering it?

The editorial board needs to stop moaning and start insisting the paper's own book review section each Sunday start highlighting literature. Currently, if literature appears at all, it tends to be as a list of titles that the subject of a biography wrote. Start highlighting fiction or stop your carping because you can't have it both ways. Maybe the New York Times is prepared to live in a world literature no longer illuminates, but we're not so sure everyone is. Nor are we sure we could survive without the illuminations literature provides.

This was the affair which had ended quietly and decently, without fuss or scenes or hysteria. When you were nineteen, and it was the first time you had been let down, you did not make scenes. You felt as if your back was broken, as if you would never move again. But you did not make a scene. That started later on, when the same thing had happened five or six times over, and you were supposed to be getting used to it.
(chapter six of After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie)

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