Sunday, May 15, 2005

A note to our readers

Thank you for reading. Hopefully, we've managed to offer something this edition that makes you think or makes you laugh or makes you angry.

We're sure e-mails will come in asking where is Ava and C.I.'s TV review. There's no TV review this edition. We address Monster-In-Law in our roundtable. Rebecca had requested that and we were happy to do so. We hadn't figured it would become such a big topic but everyone had a reason to weigh in. Before the roundtable, we'd asked C.I. and Ava to write a rebuttal to two reviews of the film that went beyond far beyond wrong.

Both were against it as a topic because they didn't think they could be funny with this topic. But due to our begging and their own feelings about the topic, they agreed to. It is an angry editorial. We almost made it the editorial for this edition in fact. But we'd all argue it was called for and we're glad to print it.

The roundtable dealt with a number of issues. At one point Jess notes that some people reading it might dismiss the roundtable for addressing the way a film was covered. We're glad he brought that up because Ty's response to that type of dismissal is very strong and it's the most passionate we've seen Ty (who's no wallflower to begin with).

We've geared our readers to the release of Monster-In-Law for some time now. We've been reviewing Jane Fonda's comedic films. We think you'll have a great time if you see it. And while we were still attempting to persuade Ava and C.I. to write on this topic we went ahead and decided to highlight Betty, Rebecca and Folding Star's reviews of the film. We think you'll enjoy them.

Ava wants it added that the objections from her and C.I. were over the two of them writing it themselves. They were angry and wanting the voices of others with the hopes that the piece would have a calmer tone. Consider it noted, Ava. But, as we wrote before, we stand by and applaud that rebuttal.

We also bring you the interview with Common Ills community member Isaiah as well as two of his comics. He may disown and down play his talent, but we think he's quite talented and a great person on top of it. Read the article on him and we think you'll understand why we feel that way.

We thank our readers, always. We thank Chuck of Dayton for coming up with a question for our roundtable. We thank Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude for being there every step of the way on every article with advise and input. We also thank her for allowing us to reprint her Monster-In-Law commentary as well as her entry on polio and Matthew Miller.
We thank Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man for being there for every article as well, with input and advise and for allowing us to reprint her commentary on Monster-In-Law. We thank Folding Star of A Winding Road for allowing both the commentary of Monster-In-Law as well as allowing us to raid the book chats. We thank Isaiah for granting us an interview and for giving his permission to reprinting two of his illustrations.

We thank C.I. of The Common Ills (and, in our opinion, The Third Estate Sunday Review) for, as always, being there with ideas, suggestions and just about everything.

We thank C.I. and Ava for taking on an assignment that they didn't want. We thank they executed it beautifully. (Ava just said "execute" is the key word.)

-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava

Editorial: Deport Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela

Luis Posada Carriles wants to be in the United States. He wants it really bad. Bully Boy is desperate not to anger a faction of some Cuban voters in Florida.

Democracy Now! has covered this issue at length.

From "Terrorist Cuban Exile Luis Posada Carriles Seeking Political Asylum in U.S.:"

A chief terrorist with long ties to US intelligence agencies is seeking asylum in the United States. The FBI has evidence linking him to an airline bombing that killed 73 (seventy three people). We're talking about the notorious militant Cuban exile: Luis Posada Carriles. Today we speak with one of the few reporters who has interviewed him and the president of the national assembly of Cuba.
Luis Posada Carriles is a 77-year-old former CIA operative who was trained by the U.S. Army at Fort Benning in Georgia. He has been trying to violently overthrow Fidel Castro's government for four decades. Three weeks ago he entered the United States after years of hiding in Central America and the Caribbean.
Posada has been connected to the 1976 downing of a civilian airliner that killed 73 passengers - the first act of airline terrorism in the Western hemisphere. He has also been linked to a series of 1997 bombings of hotels, restaurants, and discotheques in Havana that killed an Italian tourist; as well as a plot to assassinate Castro five years ago. He has been jailed in Venezuela and Panama. He was last seen in Honduras. Earlier this month he was said to have slipped into Miami. His newly-retained attorney has now requested asylum for him. In response, Venezuela's Supreme Court ruled that the government should seek his extradition from the United States to face terrorism charges.
If Posada is still in the United States, the Bush administration has three choices: granting him asylum; jailing him for illegal entry; or granting Venezuela's extradition request.
State Department official Roger Noriega claimed the Bush administration didn't know for sure if Posada was in the United States. He said Cuban claims about Posada "may be a completely manufactured issue." At the same time Noriega said the U.S. is "not interested in granting him asylum."

From "EXCLUSIVE: Top Cuban Official Ricardo Alarcon Demands U.S. Hand Over Terrorist Posada:"

In an exclusive interview, the president of the Cuban National Assembly Ricardo Alarcon gives his most extended remarks to date on the case of the notorious Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles. Alarcon says, "Now the Bush doctrine - those who harbor a terrorist are as guilty as the terrorist himself - should be proven. The proof is in the pudding."

The BBC reports: "The US Department of Homeland Security revealed this week that Mr Posada Carriles had applied for political asylum in the US."

Though like many Americans, we long ago realized that Bully Boy says one thing and does another, the issues at stake here are too great to ignore. That should be obvious to even Bully Boy.

Luis Posada Carriles has engaged repeatedly in activities that should bar him from receiving political asylum. The U.S. should move quickly to hand him over to Venezuela where "[h]e
escaped from a Venezuelan jail in 1985 while awaiting the result of an appeal against a conviction for the bombing. "

As the international community awaits to see if the "proof is pudding," the United States should not postpone acting on this issue.

Anything else would appear to condoing the actions Carriles has been convicted of.
Like many, we applauded the refusal of Margaret Thatcher's son into this country after his involvement with an attempted coup. That Bully Boy could stand up to Thatcher but waffles on Carriles reveals how the adminstration will determine any action based on how they think it will affect elections.

Roundtable III

Ava: This is roundtable three for those keeping track. And as Jess wanted it noted, if you're not watching Meet the Press, you're actually learning something. The first issue on the table is John Bolton and the allegations against him made by Larry Flynt.

Jim: It's tawdry and the press wants to take a pass. The same press that gleefully reported, in great detail, on the stained dress last decade. It makes no sense.

Jess: Like a lot of people, I heard about it on The Majority Report and then rushed over to Raw Story to find out what was going on. Shocking.

Ty: But it's Larry Flynt. That seems to be the attitude. It's Larry Flynt so we won't cover it. Like when he stated on CNN that Bully Boy had paid for a girlfriend to have an abortion decades ago.

Betty: Flynt's sleazy, sorry, but he is. But I'm failing to see what that has to do with the charges or why the media is suddenly so all the sudden prim. I remember the press running with every item around during Clinton's tenure. Who's the chubby woman? Myers on NBC. Freepers were bragging that she was one of them and if pressure was put on NBC, the interview Myers did with the woman who sometimes claims she was raped by Bill Clinton and sometimes claims she wasn't would be aired. They had one person's word and they aired it. One person who had changed her story repeatedly over the years. Flynt's supposedly got evidence. You'd think the press would want to look into the charges. Especially after they beat the drums for that prissy one. What was her name?

Dona: Kathleen Wiley? The one that even Starr's people found wasn't trustworthy?

Betty: Yeah, that's her. Even as her story was falling apart, the press still put her on TV. They championed her. They used her to smear Bill Clinton. They ran with anyone they could no matter how questionable. So I'm not seeing how Flynt's charges are unreportable. Is he known to be a liar?

Jess: On The Majority Report, it was stated that he'd never been proven wrong for his claims.

C.I.: I'm not a champion of Flynt. I personally don't care for him. But we did mention it in the first morning's entry after I heard it on The Majority Report. It was an allegation, we presented it as such.

Ava: And Isaiah did his cartoon.

C.I.: Right. An editorial cartoon commenting on what was being discussed. Instead of addressing that allegation, Chris Matthews and Margaret Carlson were bashing Hillary Clinton yet again as noted in detail in today's Daily Howler.

Jim: On the one hand, I can see the press act gingerly considering the issue. But I can't see them ignoring it. And that's what they did.

Ty: Playing gatekeepers.

Betty: But why is it that the gate swings open if it's a Democrat but is firmly locked on any Republican?

Rebecca: Rheotrical?

Betty: Yes.

Rebecca: I agree with Jim's point about them addressing it in a cautious manner, and I do support the reporting of it as "allegations." But I don't support it being ignored.

Ava: Jane Fonda's Monster-In-Law opened Friday. We've all seen the movie. What do you make of the printed reactions to the film and the film you saw?

Rebecca: What a load of crap. When C.I. e-mailed the reviews Folding Star sent, I just got so angry. And then I saw the film and got really angry. It was just a load of crap.

Ty: How stupid are some reviewers? There were people saying it was Sunset Blvd. If you're going to make a comparison like that, the film is All About Eve. Did no one else take film history?

Ava: A point C.I. and I make in our reply to "Davey" and "Lisel."

Jim: I was thinking, "What the hell is this shit?" That's not the movie I saw.

Betty: The New Yorker guy was so offended on behalf of black people. I saw it and thought Wanda [Sykes] played an incredibly together woman who looked stylish and didn't kowtow.
Would he have been happy if Brenda Vaccaro played the role?

Ava: I don't think anything would have made him happy. Since we're discussing issues of race, I'll address ethnicty. As a Hispanic woman, I read his review and wondered exactly what he was on when he wrote that thing about the film makers not having the guts to make Fonda hate Lopez due to her ethnicity. I felt like saying, "Davey, don't take up a cause on my account especially when you're seeing something I don't."

Betty: Exactly. I've seen Bernie Mac and that's about it. Film after film comes out with these all white casts and Davey's got his boxers in a wad because Wanda's playing an assistant. She's not cleaning toilets. It's a solid job. Glamorous even. I have friends who would kill for that job. By Davey's standards, Wanda doesn't belong in the film unless she was playing the woman who had the hots for Michael [Vartan]. I can't think of any other role that had much to it. And Ruby had a lot to offer. Wanda and Jane worked great together. I'd love to see them do another film.

Jim: Wanda and Fonda.

Ty: (laughing) Fonda Wanda. I'm fond of Wanda. But I agree with what's Betty's saying. I know Betty has kids and if she's going to the movies, they're going, right?

Betty: You got that right. A child's ticket is cheaper than a babysitter.

Ty: So Betty took her kids to the movie with her and I doubt that they were looking at the screen thinking, "That woman is setting us back!" I'm sure they were thinking, she's funny, she's gusty, she dresses nice. Davey thinks Skyes played a bad "role model." Is that it? It's role models or no models? Because that seems to be what Davey's thinking. I remember seeing Scream 2 and being excited that Jada Pinkett and Omar Epps were in it. That was a big thing to me. I'm older now, but I saw the film and didn't feel like my race was betrayed or insulted. Like Betty said, Sykes has a job a lot of people would kill for. He's acting like Sykes is walking around in a maid's uniform and saying, "Yes, Miss Charlie, yes, Miss Viola, yes, Mr. Kevin." Or is that supposed to be, "Yes, Master Kevin?" I don't know what he was thinking but I'm with Betty, I liked Sykes in the film, thought she was hilarious. I'm not so sure what he saw or why he feels the need to speak for me, but I wouldn't have laughed as hard if Sykes hadn't been in the film.

Dona: I felt there was also a lack of understanding regarding Lopez in the reviews. The character is too dreamy, at times. But when she gets what's what with Fonda, during their first lunch together, she starts showing some spine. From that moment on, Lopez is coming on strong and I didn't think that either got that.

Jim: Right. And wasn't that part of the character. She's just kind of going through life. In a way it's a control issue of her own, trying to keep things so smooth. And when she can't do that, she's ready to fight. Then at the end, she's ready to cede control. I thought she did a great job and preferred it to everything she's done except for Selena and Out of Sight.

Dona: And she had flaws. And I liked that they weren't fixed. She is timid, the character. That's why she won't speak to Kevin forever. That's why she's doing all those temp jobs. And I liked that the ending wasn't "And now Charlie has achieved success with her art."

Jess: For a send up, which was what it was, of conflict in families, it had some surprising real moments. I'd agree with Dona. And this carping about the conflict between Fonda and Lopez, did people have a fit about Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles? Or any of the Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau films? Lisel was saying it set feminism back.

C.I.: I think that's what irritated me most of all about Lisel's review. I was bothered by her loose grasp of the facts. But I was really angry that someone who's not critiqued from a feminist persective now wants to act as though she's spent years at Entertainment Weekly as the resident feminist critic. It was so much posing and it really disgusted me. And it's the sort of damning charge that, if left unanswered, could hurt the film.

Ava: We poured over her reviews, C.I. and I, doing research and we're confused as to who is setting back feminism? The film or Lisel.

C.I.: And with Davey and Lisel, it wasn't that they disliked the movie. We point out that Stephen Holden didn't like it. But he got the basics right. They could hate the movie, and they obviously did, but that didn't excuse getting the facts wrong. We were more angry that Lisel wanted to use her own gender to suddenly play like she'd been the voice of feminism all the years.

Rebecca: But, and I wrote this at my site, both reviews fit into what you two reported in your reviews. With Davey he wanted Fonda in a drama, like the ones who dismissed Nine to Five. With Lisa, I'll call her Lisa, she was the flip side of the critics who were whining that Redford and Fonda were too perfect in The Electric Horseman. Lisa was offended that Fonda wasn't Ms. Nobility. If Lisa wants to provide a feminist critique, she probably could and since she hates the film she could trash it. But she didn't provide a feminist critique. She tosses out her feminist line, about setting it back, and then goes on to write one of the most sexist reviews. Fonda shouldn't do physical comedy. Why? Apparently because she's a woman. Fonda shouldn't play a character who's in conflict with another woman. Why? Apparently we all have to get along. Fonda shouldn't play a bitch. Why? Because Fonda should play upstanding roles. Is Lisa trying to be a film reviewer or Fonda's manager?

Jim: C.I.'s exact words when we spoke on the phone Saturday morning was "Who the hell is ____ to question Fonda's feminism?" Which was an echo of what Ava was saying. That's why we turned you two loose on Davey and Lisel.

Ava: Our "rebuttal" is angry. We acknowledge that. But we responded on their playing field.

C.I.: Which Kat would advise us against.

Jess: I want to interject here because I'm sure someone reading this is going to think, "Good Lord, it's a movie! You're talking about this more than anything else!" But what they don't realize is that we're Fonda Fonda. And we're sick of the attacks. People want to use her to work through their own issues but act like they have no issues. Obviously, we like Fonda here. We did the whole series reviewing her comedies. But this isn't just about we like Fonda and we thought the film was funny.

Ty: There's an issue here along with a lot of us want her to return to film full time and it has to do with us not being thrilled to see people making up stuff. But beyond that, this is larger, two reviewers decide to take on Monster-In-Law for what they perceive to be sexism and ethnicism. And we're responding to that. I don't like the idea that because someone is African-American they can only play a role that might have been played by Sidney Poiter. There are reasons to object to certain roles if it's an African-American performer. But when you're playing a character like Ruby, there's not a problem. Davey's a classist who thinks African-Americans can just play lawyers or something. There are a lot of us doing menial labor and we need to be represented on film as much as the lawyers, doctors, etc. Those "high class" positions can act as inspiration. But lower positions, which reflect a great many of us, can acknowledge reality and say that there's nothing wrong with working a job. Davey's over the top reaction, it's as though Ruby was some stereotype of a "welfare queen." And like Betty pointed out, there are many people who would kill for that kind of job, of any race. Right now if you asked someone if they wanted to be Hillary Duff's assistant or 50 Cent's assistant, a lot of kids would jump at the chance. Ruby's been working with Viola for many years. Viola needs an assistant, the film needs the character to have one, so who's going to play the role? Davey's creating a straw man where it doesn't exist. And I was offended by that and his attempting to destroy what Sykes achieved, which even he has to begrudgingly acknowledge, by calling it a retro stereotype. My feelings were, "How dare he look down on some character's job like that?" She wasn't playing the dumb maid or the wide eyed butler. She's not defined by her job and her job does have a certain glamor. Just Lisel attempted to couch her argument on non-existant feminist grounds, Davey did the same with race. I find that offensive, which is why I'm still talking about it, and I think it's a valid topic for the roundtable.

Ava: Agreed. Anyone else? Okay, let's move to Bolton. We've discussed the sexual allegations, what about his nomination being sent out of committee?

Jim: I'm really disgusted with the way the case has been argued to the media.

Ty: Right. The Republicans get to spin it as he's "authoritarian." Or "commanding."

Dona: Naomi Klein's written about how, by not addressing torture in the presidential campaign, John Kerry made it hard for Democrats to suddenly bring up the issue with the nomination of Alberto Gonzales. I think that's true. And I think something similar applies here.

Betty: That's the piece where she talks about the refusal to respond strongly to the "global test" nonsense, right?

Dona: Yeah.

Betty: And that's so much a part of this. Are we going to work with others or just be a bully. And the adminstration wants us to be a bully. I don't think we're in any position to be a bully.
I don't think even my "husband" Thomas Friedman would argue we're in that position. Not with our economy, our trade record and our job losses.

C.I.: The issue of diplomacy isn't being addressed loudly. I want to note that with the mainstream media, if it's being brought up, it's probably going to be ignored. But in terms of the Sunday Chat & Chews, that's a live mike. Democrats could be making points there, strong points. And this does go to who we are and what we stand for. Do we live up to our self-concepts or toss them out? I don't think an overwhelming majority would say "Trash our beliefs!" But the issue hasn't been presented on those terms to most Americans.

Rebecca: Because God forbid the Democrats look weak! I think that's there worry.

C.I.: I agree with you. And anyone jump in at any time because I can off on this topic forever.
But this fear of "weakness" led to support in Congress for the occupation/invasion. It prevents Congress from reflecting the mood of the people which thinks the occupation is a mistake. At some point, the decision was made to give some Republicans and the administration enough rope to hand themselves, my opinion. So instead of coming out strongly against certain issues, then and now, Democrats have basically, as a whole, shrugged their shoulders. What's going on is too important for them to continue shrugging their shoulders. When Condi Rice speaks of a fondness for the cold war, I'd argue it's because even she realizes the stability a bipolar system brought. Not a great system, mind you. If you weren't the United States or the Soviet Union, you were caught in the middle. But we're operating now as though we're in a unipolar system that will never end despite what history demonstrates. Despite the fact that, as Betty has pointed out, we don't hold all the cards. So, out of concern over future shifts, if nothing else, you'd think Democrats could speak out. While they remain silent, and I'm exempting the Barbara Lees and Ted Kennedys, I'm speaking of the party as a whole, who and what we are is changing. If we're going to change, we need an honest and open debate among the people and we're not getting that because the Democrats are running scared from the issues that go to the heart of our country.

Jim: Which is why I'm really enjoying Stop The Next War Now. And, I mean, thank goodness we've got CodePink but is that all we've got? They have to battle the FCC, the conventions of both major parties, the occupation and everything else? Where are our elected officials in all of this? And I do agree that they thought they'd hand the Republican Party enough rope to hang themselves. But for that to happen, the Democrats need to be addressing why you don't always resort to the stick, why you use the carrot, why your belief system goes beyond what happens today and is not something you toss aside one minute and think you can pick up later.

Dona: Because we are judged by our actions. And when our actions go, as they do now, in such an opposite direction of our beliefs, our beliefs are dismissed by others as merely words. I didn't vote for the Bully Boy, I know no one's shocked by that. But I think we can survive four more years --

Ty: Impeach!

Dona: I'm with you there. But I think we can survive four more years provided the Democratic Party doesn't just roll over but provides clear reasoning. I am not saying, "Where is your proposal!" That's such nonsense. The Republicans and the press are starting that shit, "Where's your Social Security proposal?" Well if Bully Boy comes up and says, "I think you'd be happier if we cut off your leg" and I say, "No, I want to keep this leg," I don't need to propose an alternative. I don't need to be forced into accomodation. I can simply say, "No, you're crazy, we're leaving it alone."

Betty: Amen to that. Cokie Roberts and her ilk want the Democrats to propose an alternative plan. It's like Bully announces he's dropping a bomb on your house and you say, "I don't want a bomb dropped on my house" and Cokie's on NPR screaming, "Where is the alternative plan!"
It makes no sense. And the Democrats have got to get it together on the war. They need to stop trying to rush to a mike when things look better for a day or a two and copy Bully Boy's Operation Happy Talk. Besides ending up looking stupid when the truth comes out, they give the Republicans the ability to say, "Okay, people died and Bully Boy was wrong, but hey, Hillary Clinton was saying last February that we'd turned a corner so you're no better!"

Jess: Exactly. The Democratic Party needs to be "better." They need to explain in clear terms why things are wrong. They don't have to come up with a plan. Somethings just need a no. And with regard to the occupation, if they started saying what so many feel, that the occupation is wrong, you'd see the country insisting that the troops come home in such large numbers that even some Republicans in Congress would agree.

Ty: Good point. I went home over spring break and there wasn't one person in my family who didn't think the troops need to come home now. But like my uncle said, "So what, who's going to listen?" And a lot of the reaction, or lack of reaction, is the result of Democrats not even trying to fight in Congress on some issues during the last four years.

Rebecca: Jane Fonda went on David Letterman and said the war was wrong. It's shocking that the Democratic leadership in Congress can't do the same. And that they will ignore a Ted Kennedy when he says it's wrong. It's wrong and the longer we stay, the worse it will get.

Dona: Because we are part of the problem. We're there when we shouldn't be but I'll table that and just focus on today. We have not demonstrated good faith. Instead, we've made a lot of promises that never came to pass while we've made back alley deals and the Iraqis are quite aware of that, even if many in America aren't.

Betty: And where are the insurgents or the resistance in the press coverage? I'm so damn sick of hearing whispers about them.

C.I.: Christian Parenti writes about them in his book The Freedom. But to cover them in any form, not even to endorse them, just to cover them, you'd have to leave the safety of the Green Zone.

Rebecca: I wanted to ask C.I. about the Dexter Filkins comments. I agree with what you said, he turned a slaughter into a rah-rah video game. But I'm wondering if there was any fall out or regrets?

C.I.: About thirty people e-mailed to complain, thirty people claiming to be long term members of the community, they always claim that and seem to think I'll have no idea that they're not long term members. With long term members especially, I know who is and who isn't, wrote in to say that was wrong of me to write. It was my opinion, and I could be wrong, but I stand by it and I think history will find that Filkins' reporting was, at best, embarrassing. It was something like six days old by the time his awarding winning "reporting" made it into the paper. I have no idea whether it was heavily edited or what, but I do know that Filkins wasn't an objective reporter in his coverage and that his accounts do not match the accounts of non-embeds in Iraq. When he was being interviewed by Terry Gross he came off like a hack embed, not like a reporter interested in observing and reporting what was going on. There's another issue that I intend to write about, but you know how that goes, which is he denies an allegation that he killed plans to cover the resistance. Those allegations are out there and everyone will have to make up their own mind as to whom is telling the truth. But Filkins' credibility is zero with me.

Jim: Which goes back to the legacy. And it's unbelievable how many people are willing to live for today and ignore the impact of their actions. And you can take that beyond reporters to the administration. What we'll be dealing with for years to come, as a result of the invasion, the torture, you name it, is fairly obvious. But it's live for today. Maybe it's because some of them seem to think the second coming is upon us. If that's the case, they better be prepared for harsh judgements because there's nothing godly in their actions.

Ava: One of the e-mails we had this week was from Chuck in Dayton. He wondered if we could all name one issue other than the occupation that think bears focusing on?

Ty: The prison systems in this country. The corruption in them, the lack of accountability. The public's ability to turn their back on the issue.

Rebecca: Good one. Is this supposed to be something we haven't blogged on?

Ava: Yes.

Rebecca: Well then I won't say polio. I think the war on truth, in all it's various battles, is pretty frightening. I've touched on this with regards to the media, but I'm thinking in terms of the people you'd meet just going out to buy a carton of milk or to see a movie. I don't know what to call it . . .

C.I.: Suspension of disbelief.

Rebecca: Okay, that's a good term. But I would wonder where it's coming from? Gore Vidal talks about our decaying educational system and has for years. So is that the reason for the attitude? Does the attitude lead to the decay of the education system? Is it circular? I don't have the answers but I think it goes beyond the idea that we can bring the truth to others and everyone will open their eyes. I think we can do that with a great many people and that we're seeing the nation wake up, but I'm fascinated, in a bad way, by the desire of so many to suspend disbelief and ignore reality.

Jim: Alternative ways of addressing problems. I'd be hitting on CodePink's book every day if I had the time. Writing things here, maybe passing on posts for C.I. to put up at The Common Ills. It's as though we've lost our sense and memory of history and we now believe that any problem has only the one solution of war, war, war. It goes to reclaiming human decency. I'm really concerned about that.

Dona: I think I'd do something similar. But about the way we treat others in this country. From the handicapped to the immigrants to the ones we define as "the other" for skin tone, religion or nonreligion, sexuality and all the rest. We've been on a blood lust for four years, if you ask me, and we can't even reach out to a neighbor. Which is why I fear the faith based charity crap. We don't want to deal with our neighbors and I think a lot of people would be happy to pass it on to churches just to be done with the discussion.

Jess: We're each supposed to have a different answer, right?

Ava: Right. You can take someone's comments and apply it to another area the way Dona just did. But Chuck was wanting more than, "I agree with that" or "Put me down for that too."

Jess: Then put me down for a living wage. I'd focus on how most jobs are not paying people enough to live. I know people who've graduated and between normal bills and student loans, they speak of marriage and children as something they have to put off for ten or so years because no one's getting ahead in this economy under these working conditions. I'd want to focus on the good of collective bargaining and unions and address the demonization of both and even carry it over to the war on class action suits which are, at their most basic, people banding together. This administration enjoys keeping us removed from one another as much as they enjoy keeping us removed from reality.

Betty: Well there are so many things. Probably because I do a parody, I feel like I'm not dealing with much when I do write. But besides what's been mentioned, I'd probably focus on the desire to split the black community, to splinter it off. Whether its gay rights or another issue, there are people who are looking to a party that doesn't give a damn about you because you think they are moral. In fact, I'd probably focus on AIDS. Not in the, "Is Terrance 'down-low'?" kind of way. But in terms of, community, these are our sons, brothers and fathers. There's still this attitude that AIDS is a white thing. And I blame the silence on the issue by a lot of our preachers. The continued silence. If we'd been saying "Brother Tom died of AIDS" instead of acting like the choir director or who ever just passed away for no reason, we would have been addressing this issue for years. Instead, we continue in many of our churches to act as though it doesn't exist and that it's not happening in our families. It is hitting home, and in larger numbers than ever before, so since the church is supposed to be a place for healing, we should be addressing it and not acting as though it's not happening.

C.I.: Everyone's got a strong topic and I guess for me, it would have to do with things like water. I feel like we're so unaware of the issues facing water, in terms of attempted ownership and distribution, and that what we've seen play out in Bolivia on the water issue or the natural gas issue are things that aren't going to go away. And they will effect us here. Most people have no idea, in this country, who's providing their water. It may be the city, it may still be a public good in their area, but the reality is a lot of cities don't have the water rights anymore. They've sold them to corporations. Water is a common, a public good. And I guess I'd be addressing the public commons and resources. Or the enivronment which truly does concern me but I always feel like everyone else, anyone else, can speak to that better than I could. So I'd focus on water and the need for us to be aware of what's going on there. I'd push the documentary the water wars and how that is effecting people and will continue to effect them. There's a great documentary about this topic entitled Water and I'd discuss it. And doing so would mean discussing topics like rainfall, forests and clean, potable water.

Ava: I thought about going with water as well when I read Chuck's e-mail but figured you'd choose that so I'll go with open democracy with accountability in elections. We need to be able to trust the results and for the second presidential election in a row, we can't. I'd hit on registration, requirements, machines and how they were distributed in the areas, the need for free TV time for candidates and the need for local media to cover local candidates. And my fear that as we move to away from broadcast and those airwaves are sold off, we'll have even less local coverage in the news as we instead all watch WGN or some other super station originating from far beyond our own communities.

Common Ills community member Isaiah drew this editorial cartoon of John Bolton. It originally appeared at The Common Ills: Posted by Hello

Talking With Isaiah, The Common Ills cartoonist

"There's no policy I'm aware of," Common Ills community member Isaiah explains. "I don't have any desire to do a violent comic so that didn't come up. But there really wasn't any guidelines put on me. I did wonder if it was okay to spoof John Bolton's alleged swinging ways but C.I. said go for it."

For those readers who may have missed it (stranger things have happened), Isaiah is now the illustrator for The Common Ills. With his first comic, he addressed how Condi Rice gets a pass as the media focuses on what she's wearing. (In that comic, she was grinning for the camera as she held the torn remains of Latin America.) In the two weeks since he began contributing, he's done an illustration of Jane Fonda as well as more in his series The World Today Just Nuts.
Besides the Bolton comic, there's also been a Love Is . . . spoof: Bully Is . . . plotting destruction together.

"The Common Ills is just such a great site and I'm always visiting it and noticing what C.I. are some member has contributed," Isaiah explains. "Then, like Ruth, I started thinking about it and wondering what I could contribute. For about a couple of weeks before the first thing went up, I was sketching things and thinking about what sort of thing I wanted to do. I hadn't drawn or doodled, depending on your view, in years. But I felt like I could add a visual element for the community that wasn't there."

How far are they planned ahead?

"If I have an idea during the week, as soon as I can grab time, I'll sketch it and try to get it to C.I. ahead of Sunday now. With John Bolton, I was listening to The Majority Report that night and thinking, 'This is a cartoon.' I e-mailed C.I. and asked if it was okay because at the time only Larry Flynt was making the charges that Bolton's sexual background including some 'swinging times.' I wanted to be sure there wasn't a problem with the topic or with the charges coming from Flynt. C.I. noted that Flynt was on Democracy Now! and that my spot is editorial because that's what the comics are so do whatever I want. After I read that, I thought, 'The vote's going down tomorrow from the panel, I don't want to wait until Sunday to weigh in on this.' So I sketched it out quickly and sent it to C.I. asking if it was okay. The response I got back was that every line was visible so it would go up tomorrow morning. Which was pretty cool because I meant is the cartoon itself okay? I had Bolton with one arm wrapped around the United Nations building and with the other hand, he's got a finger playing with the building while he's talking about a three way with the European Union and stuff."

One thing that's changed is that Isaiah submits them in jpeg now.

"I didn't even think about that. I use my scanner for photos and things like that to send to friends and just use the automatic setting. One reason the first comic was so much work to go up was that it wasn't in JPEG format. So C.I. had to convert it and enhance it to make the first one work."

The plan is for each Sunday to feature an illustration, "like how you have the Sunday comics in your newspapers." Other than that there will be an illustration when something pops up.

"But that doesn't mean suggest something," Isaiah clarifies. "I was really glad C.I. noted this was my space and that I'd think up what to do because I'm not talented enough to do something on demand. I'd almost said that to C.I., that I didn't want any of that kind of suggestion feedback but then thought that might come off rude since it's a community based site. Then I read what C.I. posted and was glad that went up. If someone has a great idea, they should sketch it out and get it posted on their own. I'm not someone who can draw something, even as badly as I draw, under request. It has to strike me as strange or weird that something's happening and then from there I toss it around to see if it's a comic."

A number of rejected illustrations have made it into the gina & krista round-robin. Why were those rejected?

"I didn't want them posted. I was tossing those out to C.I. to show what I had in mind. The first thing I sent it was the pencil drawing of Laura Bush making those comments about Desperate Housewives. C.I. was willing to post that and the next few but I kept saying no because I didn't think I'd really accomplished what I wanted to. I was happy to share them in the private newsletter but I wasn't wanting them up at a site."

Besides being interviewed by Gina and Krista for their round-robin, Isaiah also spoke with Rebecca for a post at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude.

"That was a lot of fun and Rebecca and Gina & Krista were trying to give heads up to what was coming. C.I. doesn't do heads up unless you ask for them because a lot of members will change their mind or try to do something and it won't turn out. I know I wad up more than makes it to the site. So I understood that but I was serious about doing this and I'd gone out and looked at what art supplies I wanted to do it with. Had to turn around and leave to think about it some more. I knew I wanted colors because the whole point of being visual is to take it beyond black type on a white background. At first I thought about markers but didn't have the control with them that I wanted. I wasn't going to attempt to do paintings. So I thought about map colors and the like before finding a set of pencils that I really liked. I don't think the Bolton comic would have come off as well as it did without some color."

As he told Rebecca:

so isaiah told me that first off, he's working in ergo soft staedtler water color pencils for his editorial cartoon. it will be called 'the world today: just nuts.'

He also spoke of influences.

"I did take a few art classes but you're not going to notice that because that's not really what I was interested in. I can remember that, growing up, there were these things called ColorForms or something. They were like magnets and you'd put them on this board. There was this really cool one that a neighbor had of a haunted house with Scooby Doo and my sister had some Raggedy Ann thing which wasn't so cool. I really wanted this Batman & Robin one. But for whatever reason, probably money, it was always 'next time.' One day, my great grandfather was over at my grandparents and he had a nurse because he was in a wheel chair. He wasn't feeling well and we were supposed to be very quiet. So I was sitting at the kitchen table waiting my turn for one of the coloring books and getting tired of waiting. His nurse took pity on me and gave me some blank paper. I just started drawing my own coloring book pages to color in. I had Batman, Robin, Batgirl and things like that. I was about to turn four. And for three, they were pretty good. Sadly, they're about the same level now. So pretend they were drawn by a three year old and you'll be really impressed. In art classes, I always enjoyed doing etchings best. I did one of my dog Brandy that impresses me to this day. It's too good for what I should be capable of. But I'm limited and I know that. Anyone looking at something I did at The Common Ills should know I suffer no delusions of artistry."

Isaiah told Rebecca that comic books and Mad Magazine were big influences.

"Right. I liked Mad a lot. They were black and white drawings. I really liked it when they'd spoof a movie or TV show because I could look at the drawings and know what the people really looked like. So I was able to learn a lot from Mad after I started drawing, I mean right after. I had an uncle who looked at those first coloring book drawings and went out and bought me a Mad Magazine and a Mad Magazine book. He always wanted me to draw him a Spy vs. Spy thing. I finally did a drawing of it, and he put it up on his wall even though it wasn't that good, but I really don't like requests. The other thing, and this might be interesting, is that by the time I got to first grade, most of the my 'style' was set and I got in trouble for always drawing women with big breasts. One day we had to draw our family and my mother did have big breasts but I'd also drawn Wonder Woman on another piece of paper and the combination led to my teacher having a talk with my mother when she picked me up. That may be from Mad or from comic books. Or it may be something Freudian. But the teacher felt the drawings were 'indecent.'"

What happened?

"With the teacher? My mother didn't care. She told the teacher to look at how everyone was drawing these circles for faces and doing two dots for eyes and then to look at mine. She would say for years after that she wasn't sure who was focused on breasts, me or the teacher, because there was so much else in each drawing to notice."

So what does Isaiah think of the illustrations?

"I think they're half-assed on my part and just there to contribute to the community. I don't mistake them for art or think they're on the level of some cartoonist."

They are what they are?

"Kat's motto!" Isaiah laughs. "Yep, that pretty much sums it up. They are what they are. Take from them what you can. I don't mistake myself for an artist or an illustrator. I don't have this compulsion to draw. Before starting this up, the only time I'd draw was for my nephews when they'd ask for a Bart Simpson or something. Kids like my drawings, that's about the level I'm on."

When we ran the drawing of Jane Fonda last week, we got a great deal of positive response.

"That's nice, but it's probably got more to do with the subject than with my limited abilities. But it's just there to give something back to the community. I've got no desire to write up an essay or a few paragraphs. But, given the time, I can do a doodle or two a week. Ruth's doing these examinations of NPR's Morning Edition and Kat does those incredible reviews where she just captures the mood of a CD. I'm not someone who's going to read an article in a paper or online and e-mail The Common Ills to highlight it. I'm either too lazy or assuming that if I've seen it, everyone's seen it. So this is my way of tossing in a contribution. If people like it, that's cool but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it if they don't. I'm not pouring my heart and soul into this."

Speaking of Ruth, we were supposed to interview Isaiah last week but he begged off asking us to focus instead on Ruth.

"I just felt it was her moment and she should get the spotlight. BuzzFlash linked to her and from what she'd written in her posted e-mail as well as in her entries, I knew that would be really important to her, as it should be, so I didn't see the point in you guys doing something on me. It was her moment and she should have the attention. It wasn't some big gesture on my part. It was nice of you guys to think that it was, but, to me, it was just common sense and common decency to say, 'I think you should focus on Ruth.'"

We think Isaiah's too modest. About everything. About how nice it was for him to direct us over to Ruth last week. About his contributions to The Common Ills community. Check out his illustrations and we think you'll be impressed too.

Common Ills community member Isaiah drew this "Bully is . . . plotting destruction together" illustration. It originally appeared at: Check out our interview with Isaiah Posted by Hello

Film: Rebuttal to Davey and Lisel half-baked Monster-In-Law reviews

Let's be clear, people can loathe Monster-In-Law if they want. Stephen Holden wasn't crazy about it in The Times. But he didn't posture and he got the facts of the film correct. He's entitled to his opinion.

But when "Lisel" (she's such a climb every mountain thing) felt the need to weigh in, your intrepid TV critics decided it was past time to address the writings of Lisel.

We're not sure what bothered us more, her failure to grasp basic events in the film or her sudden interest in passing herself off as someone who cares about feminism?

Regardless, she's an inglorious mess.

Lisel feels she's being helpful urging Fonda to get her ass over to a TV drama. Always thinking "inside the box," eh, Lisel?

Having waded through over forty reviews of The Electric Horseman and fifty of Nine to Five, we were surprised by two things -- mainly the how-dare-Fonda do comedy attitudes and the why-do-she-have-to-play-a-paragon-of-virtue. Coming many years after film criticism needs a strong blood transfusion, little Lisel has little to offer but gripe that Fonda's not playing a noble character.

She's offended, for herself and all women apparently, that Fonda's playing the character Viola, a character Lisel can't grasp the basic facts of. (For instance, Viola doesn't emerge from treatment "drink-prone," it was there prior -- guess Lisel was snoozing during the early part of the film?)
Lisel tries to place Fonda's role as some sort of feminist backlash. Ironically enough, while listing women, she fails to list the woman who springs to most people's minds, someone who's made a career of groteque caricatures of women of a certain age. But Lisel's never up to speed so why are we surprised?

She gets in a slam against Barbra Streisand for Meet the Fockers which wasn't a degrading role but actually an uplifting one. Note Streisand's playing a woman who's still sexual. Maybe Lisel's offended by that? Or maybe she's offended that Meet the Fockers has a message that peace and hope aren't to be dismissed and derided? Who knows what sent the bea up Lisel's bonnet? Lisel's idea of womanhood, when it strikes her which isn't that often, is very limited.

"Feminist" Lisel dubs Fonda's character "a narcissistic bitch." Take back the night, Lisel, with your abundance of sisterhood!

(Lisel also uses the "feminist" term "old cow" in her review. Someone send her a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. Or Women Coming of Age.)

Lisel's offended that the film's not a drama and that Fonda's not playing one of the First Lady of the Screen roles. Those First Lady of the Screen roles always delight middle-brow critics and almost always kill off the career faster than you can say Greer Garson.

But Lisel, who writes about film, is offended that Fonda's playing "a narcissistic bitch." More than that:

a narcissistic bitch who wages war on a younger woman before undergoing tit-for-tat humiliation in a punitive comedy that tramples on decades of feminist progress with a blithering giggle.

Help us out Lisel, we're not remembering you from any of the marches. Are you current with you NOW membership dues?

Regardless, your concern for feminism comes way too late in your career to strike either of us as sincere. We also question your ability to understand the dramatic concept of conflict. People have to be at odds, Lisel, or we're watching one of those dreary, pointless, talking head films that you so love to praise.

Let's give you the rundown on Viola and we'll try not to fuck it up the way Lisel did. Viola is the anchor/host of her own popular TV show. It's a Barbara Walters role (without the annoying "ladies of The View"). A high powered news personality who's worked her way up over the years. The hard way. (One wonders if Lisel's ever watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show and knows of Mary's Aunt Flo?) She's hit with the news that she's being replaced by someone younger because the network wants to lure a more youthful demographic.

Viola's humiliated and enraged. (And was prone to rage and control issues prior to the news in her opening scene but Lisel was apparently dozing.) Stuck afterwards interviewing one of the many pop tarts who are noted for their body (and youth), Viola is appalled that the sixteen-year-old woman has no clue of anything (doesn't read a paper, thinks Roe v. Wade is a boxing match, etc.) and all of her rage erupts.

Viola goes into treatment (partly, if you think about it, to avoid a lawsuit). She's attempting to put a happy face on the whole thing. Finally, she's going to do something with her son, other than bother him several times a day with phone calls. (Which aren't an example of smothering, but the check-off-the-to-do-list items.) She's going to take him to Africa. And apparently his new girlfriend once Ruby (Wanda Sykes) informs her of that development.

She's not thrilled with the idea of Charlie (Jennifer Lopez) but it becomes a huge sore spot when her son (Michael Vartan) proposes to Charlie in front of her.

Let's break it down for Lisel because she's apparently never suffered a loss (or lacks the awareness to know that she has). Viola's lost everything but her son. To make the best of everything, she's doing what so many women are encouraged to do, focus on your family. And the control issues are still present. So when she feels her son is rushing into marriage (and that her plans to make up for the past will be shelved), her normal rage kicks in. (Normal for the character of Viola. See Lisel, paragrons of virtue don't play well in terms of conflict.)

Lisel's too busy passing herself off as the last defender of feminism to grasp the movie (or even enjoy it but she only laughs at independent films and then, judging by the pedistrian review of Flirting With Disaster, not too loudly or often.).

So help us out Lisel, where's the feminist critique in your work? We see the trashing of Julia Roberts for I Love Trouble (the mocking of her and letting Notle off with a pass comparatively).
We see you shine it on for Chris O'Donnel. (Tell us Lisel, do you still feel he's that talented.) We've seen you focus on Michelle Pfieffer's looks excessively (is that it, you need beauty from women to appreciate them?). Or maybe it's that "arouseability" factor you refer to on Dangerous Liasons? Did Lopez not do enough for you? Did Monster-In-Law not meet your "ha-ha funniest" meter? (That's your term, Lisel.) You seem keen on "normal size" (we won't touch that except to note that you think Jeff Bridges achieves it), was Monster-In-Law not "normal size" enough for you?

Do you still hold so much of that "deep affection for Chris O'Donnell's adorableness" that you "hope to heck Hollywood doesn't get to him . . ."? Are "normal size" and "adorableness" the way you evaluate a film? While praising his filmography, did you, feminist that you suddenly are, ever wonder if maybe the women in School Ties could have been more than objects and if maybe the story wasn't so universal?

Like it or not, Lisel, a lot of mother-in-law & daughter-in-law combos don't get along. Some do, but many do not. Monster-In-Law is a comedy about that conflict. It's also a female driven comedy. And apparently you missed that and the fact that Charlie has more friends than what you see as the token gay guy. We look forward to the day you decide to announce that a film has set back the cause of gay rights since, outside of raving over Go Fish, we haven't noticed you saying a great deal about that issue.

You see the film as woman against woman. You fail to grasp that you're speaking of the two leads. Maybe it's been too long since you've seen two women in a film that didn't involve them sharing a love scene, but conflict is a natural concept of drama. Maybe you have to leave the sunny films of Chris O'Donnell to grasp that? We don't know. We don't give a fuck.

We just don't the see the need to hold our tongues while you pretend as though you've been offering a feminist critique over the years when what you've done is focus on women's looks when you've bothered to focus on them at all.

Was the supporting cast not pretty enough for you? Is that why you ignore the fact that there is "sisterhood" between Fonda and Sykes, between Lopez and her two female friends? (We found the cast pleasing to the eye. That didn't increase our enjoyment, however.)

You're just so offended that Fonda goes "facedown into a plate of tripe." We found the scene hilarious and, we'd add, Fonda got paid for it. We went facedown in the plate of tripe that are your reviews and we did it for free. Pay up, Lisel, pay up.

Now we'll move on to the other one who went gunning for the film, David. (Rebecca's dubbed them David & Lisa.) David's convinced himself that Viola is an ethnicist, she's against Charlie due to her Hispanic bloodlines. We wondered (we includes Hispanic Ava) how the hell David pulled that one out of his ass? And if he could shove it back up there? If he can't, will he allow us to?

If David had bothered to check, he'd find out that the issue he and he alone sees isn't "played up" because the script wasn't written for Lopez. It was adapted to her once she was interested. That meant adding touches here and there. David doesn't grasp a great deal. He also complains that Wanda Sykes is African-American. Or rather that Sykes was cast in the role of Viola's assistant and he has a problem with Sykes being cast in the part and being African-American. We're not sure what Davey's suggesting here? That Skyes shouldn't have turned down the role or that she should have bleached her skin?

While Lisel's concerned that audiences might see a character with edges (see our review of The Electric Horseman to realize how badly Lisel represents all that is wrong in film these days), Davey's upset that Fonda's apparently blowing her wad by not doing drama (see our review of Nine to Five). Why oh why won't Fonda make small independent films? That's what Davey wants to know. While Lisel fumes that Fonda should get herself over to a TV drama pronto (we're sure there's bound to be some new Law & Order or CSI version casting shortly).

What neither grasp, because they don't know enough to do their jobs, is that Susan Sarandon didn't just come along. In the late nineties, Sarandon received a great deal of praise for her lead performances as a woman over forty. We don't begrudge Sarandon for her lead performances (many of which are truly amazing). But we're not stupid enough to believe Sarandon changed Hollywood. The cut off age by the seventies was mid-thirties. (Goldie Hawn addresses this in her book, written with Wendy Holden, A Lotus Grows in the Mud.) Fonda was among the actresses challenging that notion. Fonda and Streisand were the ones regularly proving it wrong. Before there was Sarandon proving that a woman could still be box office in a lead over forty, there was Fonda and there was Streisand. Not with one role, but with many.

Fonda's now proving that a woman of 65 can be a lead in a movie. We imagine that Lisel and Davey will be praising Sarandon for this in a few years. (That's not a slight at Sarandon's age. We're not aware of her exact age, hence the use of a "few years.")

We're not going to suggest that the films Monster-In-Law or Meet-the Fockers are great art. We are going to say that they're funny and, possibly due to the cast, they're funnier than what usually gets churned out by Hollywood (Raising Helen, anyone?). Davey wants Fonda to create her own in-house independent studio and play the drama roles that will satisfy his heart. Lisel can't get past the fact that Viola's not Mother Teresa brought to screen. Neither of them can review what's up on the screen because they're too busy focusing on what's not up on the screen.

Which strikes us as strange. We don't see Wanda Syke's hilarious performance (which does touch on the issue of Lopez's ethnicity as well as on race in one scene, guess Davey was off getting Junior Mints during that) as some sort of insult to African-Americans. We see it as hilarious and applaud Sykes. We're far more concerned that at this late date, Hollywood continues to churn out so many other films with all white casts. Maybe we're missing the racism? Or maybe we just realize that Wanda is playing the Eve Adren/Thelma Ritter role in this film -- and doing it funnier than it's been done before.

Davey and Lisel have platforms and it's really sad that they can't move beyond the capsule reviews that are so common these days. Davey works for The New Yorker and rarely fails to disappoint. He's not as bad as his partner-in-crime, Tony, who sees himself as "Libby Gelman Waxner." But where "Waxner" makes social commentary that goes to the film, Tony just wants to crack wise. (Reading Tony's collected writings, you quickly grasp how empty his reviews are.)
That the magazine which gave Pauline Kael her berth and platform and helped influence film bothers to print Davey's half-baked concepts and Tony's spitballs lobbed from the back row of the classroom is truly disappointing. Lisel, at least, has a found an outlet for her writing that she deserves. As the years have passed, Entertainment Weekly has apparently decided more and more to leave "in depth" writing to In Style Magazine. Which accounts for the larger photos and smaller space for actual text. As a "writer" at a magazine that doesn't prize writing, we'd say Lisel has found the perfect platform.

But it's too bad they're willing to wallow in their uselessness. And as subscribers to The New Yorker, we're especially offended that the magazine still hasn't found a worthy replacement for Kael. The New Yorker is supposed to offer the best and the brightest writers. Instead, it offers film reviewers who are only slighty better than Lisel and her Entertainment Weekly colleagues.
Get thee to a film history class quickly or get out of the business.

It's not that you want to critique the film based on what you'd wished had happened. Again, Stephen Holden wasn't raving over it in The Times. It's that you fail to grasp what's up on the screen. We're not talking themes here, we're talking basic facts. Again, you could dislike Monster-in-Law. You could slaughter it for what it is. Or even for what you wished it had been but it wasn't. But when you refuse to acknowledge what actually happens in the film, we feel you're practicing misinformed criticism and we have a low tolerance for distorters (or liars).

Angry and "bitchy?" We're sure this article is. But when reviewers want to distort a film (or pose, as Lisel did, as someone strongly concerned with the cause of feminism) we feel we've responded in kind. Lisel, Davey, consider yourselves served.

Blog Spotlight: Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude

It's always hard to pick one blog entry from the community to spotlight. This entry from Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude was decided on because Rebecca's addressing polio and Matthew Miller who's a guest op-ed writer at The Times for three more weeks.

Rebecca: I can't believe how outside of The Times, the media doesn't seem too concerned about the polio outbreaks. In this day and age it just shocks me that something we can treat isn't something we're all that bothered by. I noted in my first thing on polio that we spend less than twenty million a year on this, our country. It's hard to believe we couldn't be doing more.

polio and matthew miller both appear here to stay and we are the worse for it

online the new york times delivers this headline "Polio Outbreak Grows in Yemen, Indonesia."

Six million doses of vaccine are on their way to Yemen for a second round of immunizations and a vaccination campaign is under way in Indonesia, but experts expect several more polio cases to emerge before the outbreaks are contained.
''The more countries that are free of the disease, the greater the risk is that we will have sporadic outbreaks,'' said Oliver Rosenbauer, spokesman for the WHO's polio eradication program.
This happens because polio immunization campaigns often stop once the disease has been beaten. That leaves babies vulnerable to infections brought into the country.

i blogged about polio on monday and hadn't thought i'd have to address the topic again this week. but the outbreak grows.

i wonder at what point we see it, as a nation, as something that happens to 'them' but something that is happening to us. 'they' are us. but maybe we won't care unless or until it crosses our borders?

until then we, as a nation, can just cluck and put it off as something that happens over 'there.'

maybe so because talking about it might cause 'unrealistic' views of what is happening. some sort of bullshit is john tierney's justification for asking the media to not report on violence in iraq.

can some 1 just tell him to pack it in? has any journalist ever so publicly acted the fool?

there is abdicating your profession and then there is pleading others to do the same. c.i. has some comments about matthew miller at the common ills via an excerpt from bob somerby's the daily howler. as he so often is, somerby is on the money. but c.i. raises another issue and it's worth raising. matthew miller (a neo-liberal) is a temp columnist for the new york times for 4 weeks. whose shoes is miller filling? if i asked 'whose pumps?' would it be more obvious?

no, not thomas friedman! leave betty's 'husband' alone for now. matthew miller is filling in for maureen dowd.

mo do is the only woman of the columnists. bob herbert's the only person of color. when 1 of them takes a vacation, the times should make a point to be representative and not bring on another white man. and does the op-ed pages really need another neoliberal? aren't thommy friedman and kicky nicky k more than enough?

for 4 weeks, the new york times will provide 2 daily op-eds from 'columnists.' regular 1s which includes office temp matty miller. and for 4 weeks, not 1 woman will be allowed to make a continuous argument. a woman may pop up as a guest. as a 1 day thing. but there will be no larger view because the times seems to think that it's more important to have more of the same.that's really sad.

and matty miller is a 'triangulator.' he's also a hawk for war. since dowd was skeptical of the war you can note that as well. he's not a woman, he's not some 1 who was opposed to the invasion of iraq. what he is is more of the same crap this country, and the democratic party, have suffered under for more than long enough.

today matty miller attempted to provide cover for dems who want to sell our social security system down the river. who knows what other damage he'll do in the coming weeks?

Film: Folding Star on Monster-in-Law

From A Winding Road, here's Folding Star's review of Monster-In-Law:


Yesterday afternoon a friend and I went and saw the new Jane Fonda/Jennifer Lopez movie, Monster-In-Law. Now, I'm someone who used to be at the movie theatre two or three times a month. I love the entire movie going experience. The anticipation, the previews (though those commercials they show now suck!), and finally, the moment when the film starts and you settle in, comfortable in the dark, losing yourself in what's on the screen for a few hours.

It's great. Well, maybe the ENTIRE experience isn't great. I mean, sometimes you get talkers behind you who feel the need to express their opinions on every single plot point. That's not so great. And can we talk about cost? I never feel so ancient as when I go to the movies these days and can say "Why, I remember when movies only cost $3.25 for a matinee!"

And let's not even talk about the snack bar! Back in the day, I never saw a movie without a coke and a box of Hot Tamales. I never ate those damn candies anywhere else. They were reserved for the movies.

Now, of course, you just have to avert you gaze as you hustle past the snack bar as fast as you can, usually trying not to look too conspicuous about the stash of outside food and drink that you're smuggling in.

These days, I typically only seem to go to the movie theater three or four times a year, if that. But it's not the rising costs that have driven me away. Quite frankly, there aren't that many films in the past few years that I've felt were worth seeing in the theatre. We seem to be in a dry period for films, at lest as far as I'm concerned. There's just not much to get excited about.

Needless to say, I have been looking forward to Monster-In-Law for months, if not years. Jane Fonda, returning to the big screen after a 15 year absence! And in a film that shows off her comedic talents, no less! The woman is amazing in dramas, don't get me wrong. If you doubt that at all, just take a few hours to watch Klute or They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, or Coming Home.

But as we all saw in 9 to 5, she's also got the talent to pull off comedy and do it very well. Not everyone can do both, and comedy is often said to be much harder than drama, since it's all about timing.

At any rate, I was excited as soon as I heard about this film and it's been a long, slow build up of anticipation ever since, especially as the previews began airing on TV and it looked hilarious.

At long last, there my friend and I were. Opening day, the first showing in fact! That's how excited I was. And as I noted, that's become a rarity lately with films.

I was also nervous. With that much anticipation built up, there was the worry of it being a let down. Not to mention the fact that I'd read surprisingly negative reviews in Entertainment Weekly and the New Yorker, though Rolling Stone loved the movie.

As it turned out, there was no reason to worry. The lights went down, the film began, and before too long I was laughing out loud, along with everyone else in the theatre.

This movie should top your must see list if you have the money to take in a movie any time soon. Jane Fonda is back and she's hysterically funny. In a role that some would have turned into a completely over the top performance, Fonda seems to know just the perfect pitch. She's over the top just enough to make the character work without becoming a total cartoon. In fact, with the shedding of a single tear early in the film, Fonda grounds the character in a very human way before the antics truly start up.

There is a scene early in the film where Fonda's character, a Barbara Walters-esque TV journalist, is interviewing a Britney Spears-esque pop star. For all of us who cringe at the state of music today and saw Ms. Spears' vapid performance in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9-11, the scene will be a delight.

But nearly every scene is. Jane Fonda and Wanda Sykes work together as if they'd been a comedic team for years. The best scenes in the movie belong to the two of them. Jennifer Lopez holds her own quite well in her head to head scenes with Fonda, giving the best performance I've seen from her in a long time.

As great as the rest of the cast is (and there really isn't a bad performance) the movie belongs to Fonda. She's still more than capable of creating magic on the screen.

One of the critics, I believe Lisa Schwarzbaum from Entertainment Weekly, panned the movie for setting back feminism. Huh?! I have to wonder what movie that reviewer was watching. This is a movie that belongs to the strong female leads and the amazing supporting performance by Wanda Sykes. Neither of the main characters are anywhere near being anti-feminist. Fonda's Viola Fields is a career woman who has held her own with world leaders, and Lopez's Charlie is a woman who is competent and confident in a number of different jobs and though she finds the man of her dreams, she isn't portrayed in any way as a woman who is lost without a man in her life.

The jibe seems to be directed at the fact that Fonda and Lopez's characters fight a comedic battle of wits and will against each other from the get go. So, what are we supposed to take from the criticism? That two women fighting on the screen sets back feminism? Perhaps if they were mud wrestling in bikinis, I might see a point to that hollow point of view. What men can be praised for doing in movies like Meet the Parents, women get booed for doing even better? Please.

The fact is, we've been given a gem of a movie, a fun and funny comedy which stars strong women playing strong female characters.

Monster-In-Law is fantastic. See it soon if you can, you won't regret it.

I myself walked out of the theatre with only one small regret. Now that I've seen Monster-In-Law, who knows who long it will be before something else as good comes along to get excited about seeing?

Film: Betty's thoughts on Monster-In-Law

Betty saw Monster-In-Law with her sister and their kids Friday evening and she "loved it. We couldn't stop laughing. Everyone was great but I'm hoping Jane [Fonda] and Wanda [Sykes] reteam. I wanted to write something about it so I worked in where Thomas Friedman and Betinna go to the movies. I got my first nasty e-mail over that. A Friedman freak wanted me to know that in it's fourth week, Flat Lands, or whatever he's called his book, is number one and Jane's My Life So Far is number four. After three weeks at number one, Jane's at number four. I doubt Thomas Friedman's cribbed from the columns musings we'll hang on for three weeks."

From Betty's blog Thomas Friedman is a Great Man (a parody site):

8 Days on the road to hell and heartland

I've been "a nasty little insurgent" during this time period according to Thomas Friedman. For instance, at a book signing at one store, I was flipping through this amazing book entitled
Stop The Next War Now and that alone ticked off Thomas Friedman because I was seated right next to him at the table. Probably also ticked him off because when he was inscribing one book, the woman who was purchasing it told him he was the finest author and that his books were the best. I asked her, "Have you read this book by CodePink?"

Oh, did that make him mad.Then Sunday he said to me, "Betinna, how about we do like the locals in this backwater town and go to the movies." I think we were in San Francisco and I believe it's a coastal city but whatever. Thomas Friedman was ranting and raving as he looked at the movie posters about how the quality films were no more and how he'd give anything for "one more good Steven Segal flick" when I saw there was a movie having a sneak preview. I went to buy the tickets to it because Thomas Friedman is convinced that he'd be recognized and mobbed if was in line for tickets. He may have been right because there was this one guy in the parking lot who kept pestering him with, "Aren't you?" but unless he's changed his name to John Bolton, I don't believe my husband Thomas Friedman was recognized.

So we go into the theater and Thomas Friedman says he's sure whatever we'll see will be mildly amusing in a sophomoric manner and offering his opinion of low brow comedies when the man from the parking lot yells out, "Hey, John Bolton! Pipe down! I'm trying to watch the trailers!"

Thomas Friedman's face went bright red and he assured me how lucky for that man it was that I was present because otherwise it would be "fist 'a cuffs."

"John Bolton, I ain't kidding! I'll kick your loud ass if you don't shut it!" yelled out the man as Thomas Friedman relaxed, to the point of shrinking, in his chair.The credits came up and I don't think Thomas Friedman was paying attention to
the movie until Jane Fonda, I'm sorry, "the actress." Thomas Friedman has forbidden me from ever mentioning her name. The actress walks on to the screen. Thomas Friedman starts hissing and booing and whispering things like, "Go write another workout book!" I'm missing most of the dialogue and trying to figure out what was said because everyone in the theater is laughing like crazy.

I look over to Thomas Friedman and see that the man from the parking lot has him dangling in the air, holding him by the back of his shirt collar and advising him, "I've had enough of your crap, John Bolton! Either you shut it or we take it outside!"

The rest of the movie, Thomas Friedman didn't say another word. And
Monster-in-Law was so funny that I laughed along with everyone else and didn't even really mind the smell of pee emenating from my husband Thomas Friedman. Maybe I've grown accustomed to it from the times when I have to wear the Peggy Noonan mask and he plays William Safire as I diaper him?I am not sure. But it was a great movie. And I kept pointing that out as we left the theater.

Thomas Friedman pouted all night. Even when I offered to play Bill Keller and kiss his ass, he didn't really get into it.

Books: Folding Star on The Times bestseller list

Over at A Winding Road, Folding Star has moved to the book chats to Sundays. We're going to highlight Folding Star's comments on books regularly because a number of readers have asked for more book talk.

Sunny in New Hampshire, for instance, noted, "I swear I love The Third Estate Sunday Review but a Sunday review should have more book commentary. I loved it when you reviewed Jane Fonda's My Life So Far. And though I've never read comic books, I even enjoyed the discussion of the book on the early history of comic books. Maybe I've been conditioned by newspapers to expect that Sundays are the day of the week when books can finally get a little attention or maybe I'm just remembering the early focus on the arts, but I'd really like it if there could be more discussion of books. I hope I haven't offended any of you."

Well Ty's talking about kicking your ass and Dona . . . No, you didn't offend any of us. We'd decided last week to begin highlighting and excerpting Folding Star's book chats for the precise reason you give. In addition to that, some weeks we'll offer something more. We haven't turned our backs on poetry or lyrics for anyone wondering. We'll be working on a new cutting shortly.

For now we'll highlight Folding Star's thoughts on focus and The Times bestseller list.

From "Lost Within the Pages: Sunday Book Chat:"

Gore Vidal famously wrote an essay for the New York Times in 1973 in which he read and reflected on the top ten books on the New York Times Best seller list. The essay, which is truly a must read and is collected in his United States: Essays 1952-1992, gave me the inspiration for a future series of Book Chats. Though Vidal focused on the top ten fiction books in January of 1973, I've been toying with the idea of doing the top ten non-fiction books.

Of course, I'd probably have to do one a week, rather than all ten at once. Read whatever is number 10 the first week, whatever is at number 9 the second week, etc.

It's a scary prospect, I have to admit. Just looking at the current list at the NY Times Website scares me. And I should warn you, the list on the website isn't published in the paper until May 15th, so if you don't want to know what number 10 will be, close your eyes! I won't reveal any specific numbers for any other books, in case you like to be surprised.

Number 10 is a little number called Liberalism is a Mental Disorder, by the odious Michael Savage. I cannot imagine reading that. I cannot imagine checking it out at the library, and I certainly wouldn't buy it and help his sales!

Still, a former co-worker of mine who was a dedicated progressive and a member of the Green Party read all those sort of right wing books, simply to know his enemy, as he put it.

Luckily, I won't be starting this project immediately. Right now, looking at the top ten list, I've already read one of the books, the amazing My Life So Far by Jane Fonda. But if I used this week's list as my template, I'd also have to read books by Bob Dole and Zell Miller!I suddenly know the horror that Vidal, who is what used to be called a man of letters, felt when he had to read through the sort of popular fiction that was what America was feeding its reading habits with.

Given that most of these conservative titles only make the list because of bulk orders, it doesn't seem fair to have to read them in such a project!

Should I go out on a limb and say that I will read the top 10 non-fiction hardcover best sellers published on a certain week in the future? Not knowing what it is exactly that I'll have to subject myself to?

Sounds like a summer project to me!

In the meantime, Fences and Windows is up next week.

We'll note that Fences and Windows is a collection of Naomi Klein's writings and you can check A Winding Road to see what Folding Star thought of it.
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