Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Note to Our Readers

Good evening. Unlike the rest of the edition, the note's being written late. A large number of us were in DC for Saturday's World Can't Wait Rally (Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, C.I., Wally and Kat) and we had to start leaving at a set time. When we got the last thing completed, we had time to start on the note or time to grab breakfast. This was Wally's first visit to DC and we wanted to show him around some more plus Ava has family in the area so we all had to make a stop-off visit there.

Despite problems with Blogger, we did turn out an edition.

Our biggest concern was what would our readers think of Ava and C.I.'s latest "Ava and C.I. dip into the mailbag to respond to 'Cowpoke' Rob"? They were going to review The Office. They told us they needed a half hour for that at a minimum because they usually have time to compare notes on the show but that didn't happen this week. That time is where they exchange ideas. It's their prep work. We'll respect the process. But we lost a lenghty feature due to Blogger problems. We'd worked a long time on that entry. Spirits plummeted. At which point, Ava and C.I. volunteered to do an entry (with the hope that once something was up, we'd all focus on what needed to be done and not what was lost). They weren't going to do The Office without discussing the show. But Jim had mentioned an e-mail repeatedly to them this week. They said they could read that and respond to it. (And did in ten minutes.) Once that was done and posted, we were all ready to work.

If you visit the community sites (and we hope you do) you know that there has been nothing but problems with Blogger beginning on Thursday. People couldn't log in, people lost posts. Betty had a post that wouldn't publish because she kept being told to try publishing again in ten minutes.

With that history, when the first piece we wrote was lost, the frustration level was high. So thanks to Ava and C.I. for stepping up to the plate and taking one for the team.

That's how we looked at it. "Ava and C.I. dip into the mailbag to respond to 'Cowpoke' Rob" is funny but would readers enjoy it or complain that there wasn't a new review? Much to our surprise, readers have enjoyed it with many weighing in that they wish Ava and C.I. would do this at least once a month. Rob's e-mail, for those wondering, is word for word with the only thing being censored being the city he listed. (Which we indicate with "___.")

What else you got? What else you want?

As post went up as completed, there was some confusion from early readers. Why did posts go up as written and not saved to draft? At The Common Ills, Ruth's latest report disappeared when it was saved it to draft. For a minute it was listed, then it was gone. We didn't want to risk that. We figured it would be a treat for early readers. But with the e-mails coming in, Dona felt we needed to make some sort of a note. It became more than that and Dona went into interview mode which allowed it to become considerably more than that.

The lost entry was on the Bush Commission. Though we rallied, we weren't ready to tackle it again. Hopefully, next week we will be. C.I. was kind enough to toss a topic that was intended for The Common Ills which is how we ended up writing "How to get coverage in the New York Times if you're a (living) woman." Since our editorial was going to be about The New York Times' lack of coverage (on the op-ed pages) of Coretta Scott King, this provided a nice compliment. Which reader TC has already praised us for as being a well thought out plan. The reality is, we didn't plan it.

Did you hear that NARAL is the reason Alito was confirmed to the Court? Lot of people seem to be pushing NARAL as the scapegoat. Which is why we wrote "State of the web: NARAL as the new Ralph Nader." None of us support NARAL (The Common Ills community came out against the organization in January -- of 2005. ) We think they're an ineffective organization at present (and have been for the last few years). But we're aware that they have no vote in the Senate and we're aware that if the Democrats had stuck together, they could have filibustered.

NARAL's an organization that can do whatever it wants. We don't applaud their actions, we dont' endorse them. But we also don't scapegoat them for the vote. Seems like everytime the Dems screw up, someone starts pushing a boagy man and this time it's apparently NARAL. We don't buy it. We especially don't buy it when it comes from the mouths of people who've trashed abortion rights and appear to be less than honest about why they are now scapegoating NARAL.

Our editorial? On the paper of record's refusal to print an editorial or column about the passing of Coretta Scott King. The paper doesn't think it's important. (C.I. thinks that may change now that Bully Boy's announced he will be attending the funeral.) "Editorial: Does The New York Times editorial board not know that Coretta Scott King died or do they just not care?" addresses the paper's ignoring of the passing. It's interesting that their ignoring her hasn't prompted more coverage. Maybe "race" is another example of "identity politics" that so many want the left to move away from?

What's not here. No entry from Maria. (Or Francisco or Miguel.) Why? When problems with posting prevented a Friday night entry at The Common Ills, C.I. e-mailed Maria and said if she hadn't started working on it, take the weekend off due to the problems with Blogger. For the same reason, C.I. told Isaiah to take the weekend off if he hadn't already completed his latest The World Today Just Nuts. Here's another thing missing: a post by Mike that we wanted to highlight. When Blogger finally began kind of sort of working, Mikey Likes It! wasn't viewable. It remained that way until Sunday afternoon. Our apologies to Mike (who knew of the problem and said it was no big deal but we did want to spotlight him). We had another spotlight from
Cedric's Big Mix. We e-mailed it to the site. It still hasn't shown up.

Thanks to C.I. for that tip. Our spotlights can be a pain in the butt when it comes to posting. They should be easy entries because they're already written. But when we copy and paste, they all run together. We spend forever spacing them. By e-mailing them, we'll be able to do them more quickly in the future. (And if, like Cedric's post that still hasn't hit the site, that doesn't work, we have another backup plan that C.I.'s thought of.)

So we managed a new edition and we couldn't have done it without the help of the following who worked on all articles (except Ava and C.I.'s piece -- which they wrote):

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim;
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review;
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills);
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz;
and Wally of The Daily Jot.

We also thank Dallas who hunted down links. And we thank Ty's significant other who took over the duties of the print version for us.

See you next week.

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

Remember Pacifica Radio will broadcast the NSA Surveillance Hearings Monday, Feb. 6th from 9:00 am to 6:00 PM EST.

Editorial: Does The New York Times editorial board not know that Coretta Scott King died or do they just not care?

Coretta Scott King died last week. We think most of you heard of her passing. We sure many of you noted it and mourned the loss. But are you aware that The New York Times, the paper of record, hasn't seen fit to write an editorial or op-ed on King's passing? Or that they haven't run one by someone outside that the paper that they commissioned to write on the topic?

Are you aware that in the same week that section of the paper ignored Coretta Scott King as a topic, Gail Collins penned a ten paragraph editorial to a friend of her's who died? It happened.
The friend was a playwright. It's a tragedy she passed away. But it's editorial news how? Because the woman was White or because she was Collins' friend or some comibination of the two?

Sunday's paper contains no editorial or op-ed on Coretta Scott King. This was the fifth day they passed on the chance to salute her.

Now King never wrote a Broadway play but she accomplished plenty. Let's start with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That's where most people start. She was committed to the struggle for civil rights before she met him and he credited her with inspiring him.

As one of the widows of the sixties (MLK was assassinated), one would think she would receive at least an editorial. Jackie O received much more. Possibly because she was also a First Lady or possibly because she was White. But she got coverage.

Coretta Scott King conducted herself in the wake of her loss with dignity and grace as well. That doesn't rate a mention in The New York Times.

In addition to being there to inspire the dream, she was active in the civil rights struggle while Dr. King was alive and she kept his legacy alive after he was murdered. She also took leadership in the fight against poverty and in opposition to the war in Vietnam. She raised four children and inspired many more, of many, many generations.

In her later years, she could have rested. She could have taken easy positions. But she didn't. She refused to complacent in a world where so much still needed doing. She spoke out against the war in Iraq. She spoke out in favor of gay rights. She wasn't playing it safe.

This legendary woman played many roles in our national history. You'd think that would result in an editorial or op-ed addressing her life and accomplishments.

For all their attempts to pass themselves off as an enlightened paper, the truth is that The New York Times wasn't too crazy about MLK. Near the end, especially, they were pretty dismissive.
As he spoke about against the war, against racism in the north and against poverty, he seemed to make the paper of record (also known as the paper of the elites) uncomfortable. Given the chance, they'd kill him in print -- frequently.

So maybe this is some grudge they have against her late husband? Or maybe it's the fact that they still can't relate to anyone who's not white? Or maybe it's that their ideal woman is either a sex obsessed career woman (who either gets it a lot or whines constantly about not getting it) or she's the stay at home wife waiting by the door for when hubby comes home?

Coretta Scott King was a wife. She was a mother. She was an activist. She was a power house. And she was and is an American legend.

The paper reports her death on Wednesday. It is now Sunday and they've yet to write an editorial on her or run an op-ed column on her. (While decrying violence, Bob Herbert did mention her passing this week. He did not, however, write a column about her. That's been the only notice on the op-ed pages that Coretta Scott King died.)

We'll call it what we know it is: shameful. It's embarrassing that the paper of record, the paper that wants to be the nation's paper, can't write about Coretta Scott King. And as they continue to avoid the subject, the issue of racism also pops up.

Wendy Wasserstein was the playwright who died. Her death was noted on the front page. Her death was noted with an online slide show. Her death was noted in the daily e-mail The New York Times sends out. Her work was discussed in an article in the arts section. She was the topic of an editorial Gail Collins wrote.

No offense to Wasserstein but if Coretta Scott King is only worthy of reporting (front page) that she died and then reporting (and you know the Times loved this!) that there might be a 'squabble' over which church gets the funeral service, we really don't think a playwright deserves all that coverage. Not when King gets so little.

But possibly when you're friends with Gail Collins, you get more coverage? When your friends with Gail Collins, you're covered as though you were Ibsen or Shakespeare?

Wasserstein wrote amusing comedies. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing too historical about that either. Other playwrights have passed, some more noted than Wasserstein, and they've had to make do with an obit on the obit page.

There should be no reason to play compare and contrast with Wasserstein and King but the paper's invited every reader to do just that by ignoring the fact that Coretta Scott King passed.
It's disgraceful. Made all the more disgraceful when The New York Times can manage to find time to editorialize on the Oscar nominations. That's right, while silent on King, they editorialize on nominations. Not awards, mind you, nominations.

Their priorities are screwed up. The editorial board needs to take a hard look at themselves and ask themselves, "Just how White are we? Just how unaware are we?" Outside the offices of The New York Times and off their op-ed pages, Coretta Scott King's death is a tragedy that has touched people the same way that her work did. The New York Times needs to get off its White ass and pay tribute to an American legend.

Ava and C.I. dip into the mailbag to respond to "Cowpoke" Rob

We get all sorts of responses to our reviews. None of which we read. (Who has the time?) We're in DC, came in for The World Can't Wait rally. Those of us who went to DC, then went on to party. So in the spirit of of the country classic "Sunday Morning Coming Down" we decided to read and respond to what Jim has dubbed "the most ill informed e-mail of the week."

Here it is in full:

Hi, my name is Rob. I live in Connecticut, and I am writing in regards to your Kenny Chesney and Faith Hill article that was published on Nov. 27, 2005. I just had to say how wrong this article was. Kenny Chesney and Faith are icons in the country music industry. You made reference to the fact that Kenny is nothing like Johnny Cash, or Willie. Well, who in Country really is? Country has changed a bit, but you are wrong...
Kenny has held down the roots to an extent. If you knew anything about Kenny or country, you'd know songs like She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy, or The Good Stuff just to name a couple. I don't believe people as ignorant as these should even be allowed to address a topic they know nothing about. Music evolves over time, hell, EVERYTHING evolves over time. Haven't you ever heard that people and things change?
When Johnny Cash began, and others of the sort, he was a pioneer of his time. His music wasn't the same as country before him. But he was still country... no? Now Kenny, Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks, Faith, are just a few to name that have been pioneers more recently. Things will always change, but just because you don't even have an interest in Country music, don't cut down on it if you have no clue what you are talking about.
I just find it rather sad that such imbeciles go to a college where their majors are journalism. I feel sorry for whoever they write for in the future when they get out of school.
Sincerely Annoyed,
Rob from _____, CT

Hi Rob, our names are Ava and C.I. We're the ones who wrote the review you're so annoyed over. We're glad you're annoyed. We had to watch the Chesney with a Z! special and it annoyed us. You write "everything evolves over time" which we'll take to mean everything but comprehension.

Kenny Chesney is a "pioneer" in the same way that Kenny Rogers was a few decades before when he was doing his Vegas goes country routine. You say we know nothing about country music but you've not pointed out any errors. Possibly that's because there were none.

It's nice to know that the urban country fad crossed over to Connecticut. We're sure you look very cute in your starched, ironed & pressed blue jeans. "Kenny Chesney and Faith are icons in the country music industry," you say, proving that you've never stepped into a honky tonk in your life because the use of the term "icon" would have led to such a severe ass kicking you'd be unable to write to this day. But apparently, things are a little different "down home" in the "wilderness" of Connecticut.

Allowing that they are both important in the sales of current country music, we'll note first off that we praised Faith Hill's special. We noted that her crossover hits were overproduced and that's hardly a shocking judgement call (in the entertainment industry, that call is the norm). On the special, which we did and do recommend, Hill's voice and the music was a wonderful blend. She can sing and we didn't dispute that. We felt her musical special was the best musical special to air in 2005.

Now maybe on some (unexpressed level) you sensed that and that's why you make Chezney with a Z the thrust of your e-mail? Or maybe you just lose interest in women quickly? (You heartbreaker, you.) Or maybe you have a secret crush on "Kenny" -- as you call him? Or a not so secret crush? Or maybe you've been told you can pass for the Connecticut version of Kenny Chesney and that makes it personal for you?

The last option wouldn't be hard to pull off, passing as Connecticut's answer to Chesney. Us, we're still waiting for the Nashville version of a Kenny Chesney. Instead we're stuck with a light weight, not-so-pretty boy (they really airbrush those photos, don't they) ripping off riffs from what's not considered to be an acclaimed pop-rock band (Sugar Ray) -- while prancing around the stage, waving his arms, pointing his arms, throwing his arms up in the air. And of course, don't forget the island footage:

Intercut with his non-country songs (here's another hint for those who can't grasp it -- electric guitar solos by someone in the band usually mean you're at a rock concert), we got to see how the "good old boy" lives.
On his "boat" in the tropics. Look out Nashville! St. John is breathing down your red-neck!

That was in the special. We're assuming you missed it or else, even a devoted Kenny-ster like yourself, couldn't muster the strength to defend the not-so-special special? Regardless, you have nothing to say about either special. Are you the "imbecile"? (Rob, if you ever make it to a genuine honky tonk -- which would require leaving Connecticut -- use the word "dumb ass" so you don't come off like the uptight, urban dweller you do in your e-mail.)

The article isn't "wrong." There are no facts that are "wrong." There are opinions that you disagree with and that's more than fine with us. These commentaries are our own opinions. But until you find a factual error, you'd do well not bandy the term "wrong" about.

Obviously your tender-foot feelings were hurt that Kenny was held to artistic standards. He's certainly not held to that in his music (which would have been dubbed Muzak years ago). Yes, he did record a song about a tractor. He's really good about product placement, he's just unable to write a country song.

Who is "like Johnny Cash"? Well Johnny Cash was. In terms of carrying on the path blazed by Patsy, Johnny, Loretta and assorted others, you could look to Steve Earle or Nanci Griffith or any number of people. One of us has seen Loretta, Johnny, Dolly and quite a few others in concert. Your assumption that we know nothing about country music is incorrect unless you mean we lack the ability to appreciate watered-down, imitation country -- in which case you are correct.

For our tastes, one of the finest country songs of the last three decades is Nanci Griffith performing "Once In A Very Blue Moon." You should look that song up if you're interested in country music. As country music moved to win acceptance in "the north" from people who didn't like country music, it had to be watered down. That led to a lot of "Vegas country." "Crossover" songs that had nothing to do with country music but everything to do with sales. Alt-country came along to reclaim the traditions of country music and one of the pioneers in that field remains Rosanne Cash. We both have her latest CD (Black Cadillac) though we're doubting you do. (We could be wrong.)

Over two decades later, you show up with no apparent knowledge of this? We think your "knowledge base" (such as it is) is the sort that leads you to slap your forehead while exclaiming "Man, that's so true!" as you skim your Entertainment Weekly. But don't mistake yourself for knowledgable on country music if you've paraded your knowledge (such as it is) in your e-mail.

What you have demonstrated is that the selling out of country music's roots to appeal to the inner-city cowpokes has damaged the perception (if not the legacy) of a true art form. On Home, which was not a failure, the Dixie Chicks sold less copies than their previous album (which sold less than the album before it -- a fact that escapes Entertainment Weekly writers because they're not too good with facts but they damn sure love their narratives). Part of the reason for that decline in sales was the fact that the Chicks wanted to get back to the roots. It's a strong album and better than anything Chesney can muster, so you might want to try listening to that.

Apparently, the roots aren't real popular in your neck of Connecticut judging by your tossing around Garth Brooks as a wonderful example of country music. Singing with a twang doesn't make it "country music." Nor do huge sales figures. We're guessing that if our review had appeared ten years ago, you'd be citing Billy Ray Cyrus and telling us all about how "country legend" Cyrus helped you discover the aches in your own breaky heart.

You're obsession with "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" is the perfect example of your lack of knowledge. Trust us on this, very few women in the south (non-urban areas) would say, "Mmm, that's man's got a sexy tractor!" That's because a tractor's not a "product." It's equipment used. Anyone owning and using a tractor is quite aware of that even if you and Kenny aren't.

One of us has actually tilled a field with a tractor which we're guessing also puts us one up on you. What's next for Kenny? "She Thinks My Hoe is Sexy"? Rob, that's "hoe," not "ho."

Product placement, name checking a list of "country" topics, can't hide the fact that, although Chesney can play dress up as well as any of the Village People, he can't make country music.

City slicker Rob comes along to give us a lecture about country music? We honestly find that hilarious. Kenny Chesney is a "pioneer" in the same sense that Garth Brooks is -- a marketing pioneer. And just as some mistake sales for talent, some mistake sales for reality.

Genuine country music isn't about product placement or ripping off Sugar Ray. It's about feelings that go beyond a greeting card. It's about fear, it's about loss, it's about hope, it's about resignation, about dreams that come true and dreams that crash and burn. Light weights like Kenny Chesney may get rich off their country-lite imitations but they aren't pioneers.

Rob, are you aware that you name-checked five men in your e-mail but only one woman? You are aware that Faith Hill is not the first or only woman to perform country music, right? In the pop world, there's this notion that women listen to women and men listen to men. That's a false notion but it's even more false in country music where any trip to a honky tonk we'll find you encountering men noting Faith, Trisha, Patti, Roseanne, and many more. (Women tend to cite George Straight year in and year out.) Even the "toughest" cowboy offering to buy "the little lady" a drink, isn't afraid to cite a female singer. They don't think it puts their masculinity into question. However, applauding Kenny Chesney's Barry Manilow-like lyrics might.

Last tip for you Rob, if you ever visit a large honky tonk in the south, a real kickers' club, and you find yourself in the men's rooms wondering where the row of urinals are because you're not seeing them, use the trough, Rob, that's what it's there for. It's not a large, unused planter, it's a trough.

State of the web: NARAL as the new Ralph Nader

NARAL is the new Ralph Nader. Or that's the myth working its way around the net. What NARAL actually is the new scapegoat (something many would argue Nader was as well).

Sammy Alito got confirmed to the Supreme Court (a nightmare) and as some look around, they point not to anything that could have made a difference, but to NARAL.

No one involved in writing this feature is a fan or supporter of NARAL. We think they've become a very weak organization in the last few years. What they are is a single-issue group and there's nothing wrong with that.

But we're not sure that most of the people following the trashing of NARAL going on online get that this is about abortion and other single-issues. There is a place for single-issues. NARAL has a place. It still has a place even after the Alito disaster. They don't have to stop supporting Republicans if they don't want to. That's their business. Their support for Republicans and their refusal to challenge any politicians (Democrats or Republicans) is the reason we don't give to that organization or make it a permalink at any site.

To say that they've made them useless is not to say anything controversial. To suggest that, if they want to have influence, they seriously rethink their leadership and goals is not to say anything controversial. To make the obvious comment that their efforts failed is not controversial.

But something more is involved for some of the people. Let's be clear, this isn't a "tone" argument. Trash NARAL if you want, in any way that you want.

But don't pretend like your abortion rights advocates if you're not. And don't pretend that NARAL is the issue if the real issue is your war on single-issues. This is a war fought mainly by white males and largely in the nineties (or that's when it really took root for the left) before the net was flourshing the way it does today. Which is why we think what's going on needs to be noted. Many readers being whipped into a frenzy have no idea of the subtext involved.

So let's be clear here, NARAL did a lousy job of attempting to achieve their goals. No question at all. NARAL is not the reason Alito was confirmed.

It's a nice little spin, the scapegoating, that lets the Democratic Party off the hook. Instead of directing justified rage at Party leaders who refused to filibuster, suddenly NARAL, with no voting rights in the Senate, is responsible.

If the Democrats had stuck together, they could have had a filibuster. They didn't stick together. That has nothing to do with NARAL. It does have to do with ineffective leadership in the Senate, it does have to do with a lot of Dem-lites holding seats in the Senate.

But let's drop back to the hearings. Joe Biden's been rightly called on his pontificating. But at least he was fighting. Dianne Feinstein was an embarrassment. She needs to step off the Judiciary Committee immediately. With her late appearances (and the 'cute' commentary by Specter on that), her silly questions, her lack of directness, her inability to step up, we'd argue she was far worse than Joe Biden. And we'd argue that her repeated statements, ahead of the Alito and Roberts' hearings, about how she understood her importance on the committee were nothing but empty words.

Despite the now much noted summit, the Dems utilized no strategy for the hearings. They were all over the place and making nice. After the hearings, they were throwing in the towel collectively. John Kerry and Ted Kennedy called for a filibuster. The fact that there wasn't one has nothing to do with NARAL. If the Democrats could have kept their party in line, the nomination would have been filibustered. That's a failure on the part of the Party.

But now the spawn of Joe Lieberman and Henry Hyde appear all over the net, claiming to be lefty supportes of abortion, while trashing NARAL for a vote in which they cast no vote -- they have no voting rights. The attacks by the spawn have nothing to do with Alito being confirmed.
They do have to do with a desire on the part of some to strip abortion rights from the party.

"B-b-but, the party supports abortion!"

Whether it's abortion, gay rights, the environment or any other issue that doesn't play well to the white male subgroup, it's on the chopping block. It's been that way for some time. Martin Duberman pointed out what was going on in 1996 (in The Nation) when he took on one of the leading proponents of the "drop the issues!" crowd. You may know his name even if you're not aware that he's connected with that movement: Michael Tomasky.

The American Prospect? We don't link to it. Never have, never will. Because we realize the United States is a multi-cultural society and we have more serious concerns than pushing a myth that affirmative action created an "unfair" balance. Now Tomasky and his crowd have learned not to be as vocal these days as they were in the past, but make no mistake, this is what the issue is.

"How do we win elections?" We do that by fighting. But some people aren't fighters. Some people always want to cut corners and cheat. That's why the Party's turned its back on unions, that's why the Party supported NAFTA. That's why, to hear the Party leaders speak, all African-Americans care about is church. (Or gay marriage.)

What's "identity politics"? Today, it's abortion, gay rights, go down the list. A few centuries ago, it could have been the abolition of slavery. And that's what the easy wins crowd overlooks. We've only made strides because we've fought these battles.

On the right, they've pretended "big tent" and made Federalists, the NRA, the 'vangical voters and others feel welcome. The easy win crowd thinks they can peel off the Democratic Party -- getting rid of those pesky issues -- and somehow win elections. Elections wins, in and of themselves, are meaningless. What the easy wins crowd fears (especially Todd Gitlin) is that we might return to a dialogue begun in the sixties. As if that were a bad thing.

If you look at the accepted norms and mores of 1960 and compare the wins since then, real wins not election wins, you'll see the country is better off because of it. Women have rights, real rights. They're not the property of their husbands or fathers. Domestic abuse is not a "personal problem." Our society is more integrated racially. Gays and lesbians don't have to hide in the closet. None of those battles are complete but they have had a lot of success compared to the way things were when the sixties began.

Criticism of NARAL is expected from the left. But hiding behind attacks on NARAL to push your own hidden agenda isn't. Some of the "brave" voices should get honest about what's going on. Their following might take a hit because we're sure that some of their audience includes people who would be offended at the prospect of dropping "single-issues."

The thing is, gay rights isn't a "single-issue" if you're gay. If you're straight, it may be. It may not effect you in the least. What this crowd is about is turning their back on the long fight because they don't think it's winnable or worth it. If they got honest with their following, it might get a little uncomfortable for them.

Why is this worth noting? Let's go to Ron (Why Are We Back In Iraq) for this:

Here's AlterNet reviewer Jules Siegel responding to a critic of his critique:

I personally believe that NOW-style feminists and the radical feminists are just as much an American Taliban as the religious right. Some of these people are utter assholes.

If you go to Ron's post, you can find the link for Siegel but we don't link to AlterNet.

So 'women's right advocate' Jules thinks that NOW is "just as much an American Taliban"? That's right up there with other "insights" from Jules. Take this bit of crap on women's numbers in the workforce and why it's a problem:

The atomization of the family reduces the strength of the individual worker by depriving him or her of a base independent of the company.

It's cute that Jules uses "him or her" in his attack on women in "WHY REPUBLICANS SHOULD LOVE FEMINISTS (They Have So Much in Common, They Should be Dating Seriously)." He works himself into a tizzy (doesn't take much apparently) over wives making more than husbands -- a trend only he sees because the facts of women's rate of pay doesn't. See, Jules is another one of the people decrying progress. He cloaks it in false "facts" that are nothing more than conventional "wisdom." (It's made him quite popular at Playboy? Should we expect centerfold spreads from AlterNet next?) Jules muses that "women are less likely to join labor unions" while not noting any facts to back that up. Such as the fact that membership in unions has been down for some time and the fact that for many years the big unions weren't interested in the service sector which is where many women are employed. The division between manufacturing and service sector has been noted in most union commentary but somehow Jules missed it. Just happened to miss the facts that undermine his conventional wisdom commentary.

Among feminists' many crimes, according to Jules, is their advocacy for day care. Apparently that's why Republicans should love them? Two words for Jules: Eleanor Roosevelt.

AlterNet has yet to distance themselves from the attack on NOW. There's been no, "These are the statements of Jules Stein and not a reflection of the views of AlterNet." Until there is, feminists should be wary of AlterNet. NOW's been very clear on where they stand on the war, against it. They didn't see the 2004 election myths as cause to go silent on the war. NOW fights, it doesn't buckle. But you'll see a lot of Jules Stein type remarks as certain people who learned in the nineties that their crap wouldn't play attempt to grab an opening. Think of NARAL as the gateway drug that will lead to attacks on NOW and CODEPINK and a host of other organizations.

The DLC didn't die, it just went underground. The same people who told you in the nineties to basically accept corporations influence (corruption) of politics are ready to present themselves now as the "manly" saviors of the left.

Those who dream of and fight for a better world shouldn't get taken in by this nonsense. It's gatekeeping pure and simple. "Your issues don't matter" is "You don't matter." The argument will be for the "greater good." But a support of lobbysits and corporations hardly strikes any of us as the "greater good." One of us remembers a magazine publisher* who rallied behind that strategy in the Carter campaign of 1976. He fancied himself a "player" (a mistake many make -- and that some are making today). Though the Carter campaign was happy to use the magazine for its own ends, there was no real relationship there. Following the election, the publisher found himself out in the cold. The 2008 election (we're hoping it will lead to a Democrat in the White House -- barring the emergence of a strong third party), will find quite a few "players" finding out that they were played. The publisher in question helped deliver the vote, helped fundraise, inspired his readers to get out and vote, hooked the campaign up with all sorts of promotion.

It didn't mean anything after the election. People attempting to become insiders (or the "establishment") might want to think about.

Some feel that was NARAL's mistake. That it got too close to politicans to hold them accountable or too comfortable with the access to hold them accountable. Did that happen? That's something for the organization to decide.

There's no question that they botched their own goals throughout 2005. When certain individuals (such as Hillary Clinton) began backing off from abortion, they should have made the organization's voice heard then, not wasted time propping up Hillary. They confused their own goals with those of Hillary Clinton's. Our judgement, right or wrong.

But we've not blamed them for the confirmation of Alito. There's no point in it. Abortion wasn't the only issue that should have troubled people about Alito (disability rights, civil rights, corporate ties . . .). Even had abortion been the only issue, whether Alito was confirmed or not didn't rest with NARAL. It rested with the senators who voted.

To say Lincoln Chafee stabbed NARAL in the back is to state the obvious. To act as though some Democrats didn't stab the Party in the back is to ignore the obvious.

What is "identity politics"? It's anything outside of the issues concerning the people in control. (Or those who want to be in control.) It's limiting the focus and rendering some groups invisible. There are those on the "left" who are okay with that. They were also okay with triangulating. We're not. We're not okay with turning on the base or betraying it. We're not okay with telling people who've been there for the party that they or their issues don't matter.

We're not okay with a "reinvention" of the Party that gets us even closer to corporate America and futher from Americans. Did Nader spoil the 2000 election?

Yes, if you, like Tim Russert, want to repeat "Florida, Florida, Florida" without noting the disenfranchisement that went on there. But a stronger campaign (and a better vice presidential nominee) would have countered Nader. (As would have simply counting the votes.) There's also the issue of the press in 2000.

But blaming Nader in 2000 or pushing the myth of "values voters" in 2004 doesn't address the roots of the problem. The Democratic Party needs to declare loudly and strongly what they stand for and they need to have programs proposed long before the 2008 election rolls around. The 1992 campaign promises by Bill Clinton went beyond the bumper sticker of "It's the economy, stupid." That slogan didn't pull in everyone. No single slogan will. The universal health care proposal did inspire many, the signals of equality did inspire many (which did include lifting the bans on gays in the military). The "strategy" in 2004 was: "Say as little possible so the opposition can't attack." They still attacked. They still invented lies.

Instead of being on the defensive in every campaign, the Democratic Party would benefit by getting out a strong message and getting it out early. In fact, get out many strong messages so that the spinners have to really work overtime to attempt to lie about them.

Blaming NARAL for Alito's confirmation doesn't address the fact that the Democratic Party didn't have a strong message for the hearings and they didn't have one when they took the Sunday chat & chews immediately after. Need it reduced to a simple bumper sticker? "It's the vision, stupid."

NARAL failed NARAL. It didn't fail the Democratic Party. The Dems need to take the lumps they've earned. A "no" vote without supporting a filibuster was worthless but some Democrats chose that route. Those looking to figure out how Alito got confirmed need look no further than that.

As it becomes more and more fashionable to blame NARAL for Alito, some will join in just because it's a "hot" topic. But some are doing it for other reasons. If NARAL's presented as a feminist failure, you'd do well to ask yourself, "Is this person someone who's ever offered any support to feminist causes?" If not, you're probably reading something by someone with issues that go a bit deeper than the Alito vote.

[*Note: This doesn't refer to the magazine noted in this entry.]

How to get coverage in the New York Times if you're a (living) woman

Let's say you're a woman and you want coverage in The New York Times. (You're alive for the sake of this piece. Not deceased. That's the subject of our editorial.) How do you get it?

It helps if you play off the end of your blogging career as your decision and not something that the people employing you were discussing over ten months ago. Success always plays well to the paper. What helps even better is if you're someone willing to tear down women because The New York Times loves tearing down women, especially feminists. (Which accounts for the non-trend "trend" stories of women leaving the workforce in droves.)

Now if you've refashioned yourself, that's even better. Say you were a semi-serious reporter who suddenly became a woman who supposedly dished. They love that. "Girls Who Gossip!" is the sort of "dusty" stereotype the paper can always get into. But even better if you can fashion yourself as the Anka (Radakovich) of this decade (while avoiding addressing any of the topics that Anka actually addressed -- but, hey, hype trumps substance). It's a long way from Round Rock, Texas but if you've fooled people into thinking you're the Britney Spears of the net, they'll probably buy that as well.

So the former Wonkette releases a book and she's all over The New York Times. Janet Maslin reviews Dog Days (the non-reading reviewer reviews for the non-reading public), former Wonks get a profile piece, she writes an op-ed and she pens a book review. You may think that's all in a year's time but you'd be wrong. In basically fourteen days or less, Wonks get saturation coverage.

How do you do that when your roman a clef depends upon the activities of the others? Dog Days gives new meaning to the phrase Wallflower At The Orgy. In fact, had Nora Ephron not used that for the first collection of her writings, Wonks could have. When it's so badly written, try as you may to paint yourself as the Barbara Hower, it's not happening. (It helps that Hower had something in her own life to write about.)

So what's a Wonks to do to get the publicity needed to make her failed attempt at writing a novel break even? (The contracts still wet for the second novel!) Trash feminists. Which Wonks did.
While supposedly reviewing a book, she took jabs at Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda. "Dusty relics" was the term, right?

Gloria Steinem's a pioneer, an inspiration and someone that's lived on the public stage for four decades now. We don't think heroes become relics, dusty or otherwise. Jane Fonda? Well, we could note that her return to film in May of 2005 found her back at number one on the box office charts. But let's cut a little closer to Wonks. 2005 was also the year that My Life So Far topped the nonfiction book charts. All the way to number one. We're not seeing Dog Days make that leap. (We're not even seeing it chart significantly.) So the "dusty relic" achieved what Wonks can't.

Somewhere in Wonks is a real person. But when your paid a buck for every site-visit you attract, you can lose sight of reality and resort to flashy charges in an attempt to get recognition from the mainstream media. And it must be difficult for her to see how easily she was replaced. (The Common Ills warned her repeatedly of that prospect for almost a year.) So now she's the former Wonks and crossing over into fiction (or psuedo fiction) because her cartoonish version of Britney Does Politics pretty much killed what should have been a promising career as a journalist.

It's hard to be "saucy" in public and the meet & greets haven't been going all that well. It doesn't help when you look very little like the illustration that accompanied your, oops, their website. On the other hand, appearing on The Times' Sunday Magazine cover seated between two old men, while dressed as though you just shot the video for ". . . Baby One More Time," does wonders for your sex appeal . . . by comparison. Possibly, you could bring them on the road to stand next to you?

The simple truth is that for all the "naughty," Wonks was rather dull in real life. That's why she couldn't write about her own life in the uncelebrated first novel. It's not a crime to be a dull person. No one's ever prosecuted for it. And we're neither prosecuting or perscuting here. But we are calling Wonks out. By trashing feminists, she had a lengthy run in the paper of record. But she's not serious enough to be one of the middle-aged women they prefer to feature and, Wonks, you are middle-aged no matter how hard you strive to come off like Britney. (If it's any comfort, Liz Phair's attempts to be Avril are pretty pathetic as well.)

Wonks played the card she had to for coverage in the paper of record. It doesn't appear to have helped sales of the book (but then, what would, short of rewriting?).

We have no idea what the future holds for Wonks. We are aware that when self-promoters can't
make it in the mainstream, they tend to go rightwing. After the jabs at feminists, that really wouldn't surprise us. But Wonks, you're not only a long, long way from Round Rock, you're also a long, long way from Ann Marie Cox. She was going to make a difference. Today, you're just one more schill cracking unfunny jokes.

About those posts . . . plus why you should avoid the media

We're having luck with getting somethings up and we're not having luck with others. We lost an entry which led to Ava and C.I. stepping up to the plate (and then some) and delving into the mail bag.

Currently, we're going round and round in discussion time as we attempt to write a post. We have an e-mail on something and C.I. got an e-mail as well. We'd like to address it. However, the magazine in question asked C.I. to help promote them back in October. C.I. wasn't aware of that until Jess mentioned it. Now the issue we're debating is whether that needs to be disclosed or not?

Jess replied to the e-mail (which requested personal information on C.I.) with a "we already note two columnists regularly and C.I. doesn't give out personal information" and a thanks but not thanks.

Had Jess not opened his mouth, we wouldn't have a problem. However, he mentioned the e-mail and now C.I.'s thinking that if it's not noted that a request for some sort of partnering was turned down (by Jess on C.I.'s behalf), that we can't criticize the magazine.

C.I.'s point is the issue of e-mails at The Common Ills which are held to a different standard than at the other sites in the community. Was this a private e-mail? If so, it can't be mentioned. If not, it can be.

Later today, C.I. will put up something at the site that any press contact that goes on which does not result in an agreement will not be considered to be an issue. All requests for personal information and all requests for interviews or quotes (Jess says quotes were big last month, press contacts for quotes) are turned down. C.I.'s happy to note anything from (and has disclosed knowing Danny Schechter -- "and has respect and love for Danny and the work he does," C.I. states) or BuzzFlash ("which does amazing work and should be noted more") but that's not a partnership of any kind. This was a proposal of a partnership as a result of the fact that The Common Ills had linked to many articles from the magazine. ("If it helps, it's not The Nation, Ms. or The Progressive," C.I. notes.) So we're stuck while Ty's significant other attempts to find it in Ty, Jess and Jim's apartment. (Ava notes "Jim may be on the lease but he's always at our apartment." "Our" being Ava and Dona's apartment.) Jess made a print out of it because it struck him as strange. After the print out is found and read to us, we'll make the call on private or not (giving C.I. the last word). But this is an important issue and if we're not able to note the magazine, it's not because we're ignoring a reader of this site that presented a serious issue.

You'll also note that we're posting as we can. That's because it's still hit or miss with Blogger. We'll put it all into an order of some form when we complete this edition.

And we've just been read the e-mail. It was sent on October 17, 2005. We're going to have to debate this some more.

But to have an entry, Dona says we need to add to this.

C.I.'s policy has been "no interviews." That's been the policy since The Common Ills started and that's meant turning down every offer that comes in. C.I.'s happy to suggest people for interviews (and has suggested Delilah Boyd, Danny Schechter, Mark Karlin, Ron Brynaert, Anne Zook and others) . But there's no interest in becoming one more gasbag in a nation full of them already. Sometimes, Ava or Jess has mentioned a turn downed request and the rest of us have been, "Are you crazy!"

We think that less now as we've seen a friend get some local press and noticed what's happened since. (Not pretty.) Our attitude now is that we have our forums and that there is a seductive nature to the access. Would we have pulled punches if access was a concern? We'd like to think we wouldn't but the fact of the matter is that since our friend who blogs got local attention, he's gone much softer on the outlet he used to critique.

Another concern C.I. had, based on non-online experiences, is how easily the media can distort through selective quotes.

"You can spend twenty minutes offering details about how nice an experience was," C.I. notes, "and then be asked to talk about something unpleasant. You give one sentence on that, and that's what the leg goes with. Did you say it? Yes. But you said it in relation to a host of other comments that are left out. A leg's trying to be sure that his or her story is noticed and it's honestly not worth it in most cases to grant an interview. The first time I was distorted, it bothered me. Now I know it's just part of the game and have no interest in doing more than I have to, bare minimum. Having grown up around journalists, I'm smart enough to know how to make demands, but corrections are half-assed and you should always beware of any offer to 'end the dispute' by presenting your side. That's really just another excuse for the outlet to trash you again because as soon as they note your side, they immediately prepare their rebuttal. I have no interest in playing the press game anymore than I have to. As C.I. there's no need to play it at all and I don't. Seriously, be very wary of any 'We want to bury the hatchet so how about we interview you or you write something up and we'll just let it go.' Usually that desire is based not on wanting to bury the hatchet but on wanting to avoid running any of the large number of letters protesting the slam job they did on you. Never, ever accept that kind of offer. I'm deadly serious. If you take nothing else away from this piece, remember that."

A year ago, Jess, Ava, Jim, Dona and Ty wouldn't have agreed with that. As we've learned more about journalism in courses (and heard many wonderful speakers share their experiences), we have to say that's pretty much true. We'll note the journalist's desire is to get a story and it's not to make the subject come off like the embodiment of perfection. The "one minute" C.I.'s speaking of may strike a journalist as much more important than the twenty minutes of praise that preceeded it. That does not excuse offering that one soundbyte as a reflection on the interviewee's views and not noting that it was a minor point of a larger discussion.

A concern C.I.'s had for others (since C.I. doesn't do interviews) is that people aren't prepared for the body slam coming bloggers way. Some hungry journalist will come along and get a number of bloggers to speak on the record. He or she will befriend them, hang out with them ("like that ridiculous profile on the 'brat pack' that nearly destroyed several careers," C.I. notes) and then turn them into cartoons in the printed article.

"Someone's going to come along and do that -- and there's already talk of it in press circles," C.I. notes. "It's the 'lonely, unable to connect outside the computer and with the real world' blogger' narrative as it's being tossed around now. That's how it works, first the narrative, then the 'research' to fit the narrative. Unless you know a journalist's work and respect it, do not invite anyone to observe your life. You're asking for trouble. Whomever does a take down piece on a blogger or a group of bloggers that portrays them in a silly manner will win hosannas and back slaps from many in the media. Whomever writes the piece will be able to grab a year or two of immoratility as 'the journalist who put the bloggers in their place.' Outside of certain magazines, be very wary of newspapers. People need to do what they want, and feel free to blow off my suggestion, but it's out there, and everyone's responsible for themselves."

History Spotlight: On the Dangers of an Unchecked Bully Boy

C.I. wrote this due to the fact that so many people are unaware of the illegal actions of our government in the past. Before writing it, long before, C.I. noted that magazines with websites would do the country a favor by digging into their archives and making their real time reporting and commentary available. That hasn't happened. We'll note that the original version of this entry was read by five people and while dubbed "historical" it was also seen as too "cut and dry" and containing far too many historical examples. That's great if you're aware of the Church Committee. If you're not, you need something a little less thesis-like. We think C.I.'s focus will keep everyone reading through what Mike has dubbed "the mother of all entries." If you haven't read it and you're thinking, "Blah, blah, blah, history" note that you'll find Joan Baez within the post. You'll find many things you may not expect. Throughout it all, you'll find passion and a call to arms. We think it's one of C.I.'s finest.

On the Dangers of an Unchecked Bully Boy

What begins as surveillance moves to wiretapping, then COINTELPRO tricks, and finally to murder -- a diagram of what happened to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and why the illegal NSA surveillance is so alarming.

The above is from Joan Mellen's "HOW THE FAILURE TO IDENTIFY, PROSECUTE AND CONVICT PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S ASSASSINS HAS LED TO TODAY'S CRISIS OF DEMOCRACY" and Eddie had asked that we note it when we do the entry on the Church Committee.

So what was the Chuch Committee? Background. Watergate. Nixon steps down to avoid being impeached. The Watergate break-in is only the tip of the icebergs. There were enemies list (the recently deceased Jack Anderson was one of the reporters who broke the story on the enemies list). Are we moving too fast?

Richard Nixon's administration went after Daniel Ellsberg who passed the Pentagon Papers onto the press (the papers revealed that there was no "win" in Vietnam and that the government, despite constant happy talk, had known that for many, many years). But you didn't have to be Ellsberg. You could be anyone opposed to the Nixon administration, speaking out against it. Ask Donald Sutherland, ask Jane Fonda, ask Jean Seberg. Oh, wait, we can't ask Seberg.

If you were a Quaker opposed to the illegal war in Vietnam, speaking out, that's all it took to be on the enemies' list. Once you made the list, the administration encouraged all government agencies to monitor you: customs (if you crossed the border), the IRS (with regards to your tax returns) and, of course, the FBI, the CIA and military intelligence (when it came to spying on you). Illegal wiretaps, surveillance, warrantless searches, intercepting your mail . . . Go down the list, there's very little that wasn't done. Including attempts to stop the peaceful Ring Around Congress (Jun 21, 1972). As information bubbled out during the Watergate hearings, outrage demanded action.

As Joan Mellen points out, it starts with shirking the law, it starts with thinking you are above it and that rules don't apply. Presumably, the committment to an earlier Bully Boy (Nixon) was more important than the rules of law (or the foundations of a democracy) and the people 'following orders' felt that their duty was to protect the president and not the Constitution or the country. We're back in those days now. We have been for sometime.

Diane Sawyer making an ass out of herself attempting to publicly shame the Dixie Chicks by repeating the nonsense of "the commander-in-chief" should have been a tip off. A journalist repeating a lie (over and over) should have warned us that democracy was once again in troubled waters. (Bully Boy is the commander-in-chief of the military and the military only. No president is commander-in-chief of the nation. We don't live under military rule.) There were other signals as well. There was Colin Powell, supposedly the one with "integrity" in the administration, and his constant talk of 'service' that just flew over the heads of the mainstream press. This wasn't service to the nation, this wasn't living up to the highest calling. He was speaking of putting his loyalities to Bully Boy ahead of everything else. That's not democracy.
The oath that is taken is to the Constitution, not to any president.

Presidents come and go. What the founders of the country were attempting to create was a democracy. The republic has had to adapt over the years because original notions of citizenship were very limited and because democracy is a living thing. Give a Bully Boy a "Pearl Harbor" like event and suddenly he can get away with anything. The recounts are buried, Dan Rather goes on the BBC and speaks of how you only report so much for fear of reprisals, idiots like Diane Sawyer jump on the flag waving bandwagon. The flag is a symbol. The Constitution is what we're supposed to live under. But Sawyers and her kind didn't wave the Constitution.

Quickly a chill sets upon the nation (as Tim Robbins rightly pointed out) and you've got the supposed free press rushing in to shame anyone who speaks out against the administration. Regardless of who occupies the oval office when that behavior surfaces, it should alarm everyone. But it was left to the alternative press to call this toady-ism out. It was left to brave voices (Sibel Edmunds, for example) to speak out with little support from the supposed free press.

Congress? They were scared of their own shadows with very few exceptions. (They're still scared.) "Strategy" (bad strategy as we saw in the 2002 election) trumped their oath of office.
The mainstream press likes to pin the blame for any issue they don't cover in recent times on the fact that the Democrats in office didn't challenge the official spin. Toady-ism saw the New York Times, NPR, many Democrats in office (as well as bean counters passing as journalists on CNN) and countless others smear Cynthia McKinney for something she never said. You saw people stand in line to savage Susan Sontag for asking that we not be foolish. It has been one witchunt after another. Some were done openly in public, some were a little more clever (such as the planting of false rumors in the foreign press that were then trumpeted by the Murdoch house organs -- the New York Post and Fox "News").

All of that should have been alarming as well as how quickly it took place as everyone rushed to prove their "patriotism" which they read as little-to-no serious crititicsm of the Bully Boy. As many have pointed out, "terrorism" is the new "communism" menace and those who can't be dubbed "terrorists" must be "terrorist supporters" is what passes for "logic."

We have seen massive roundups and deportations of people guilty only of being Muslim. Congress and the press can claim they went along just to give Bully Boy the benefit of the doubt but they were being cowardly and refusing to stand up for their country. Rounds ups? After the national shame of our interment of Japanese-Americans, suddenly roundups were back in style. Criminal defense attorney Lynne Stewart is tarred and feathered as a "terrorist" and your brave mainstream press either remains silent or goes along with that nonsense. Jose Padilla is locked away (still) year after year without ever having a day in court and your mainstream press won't speak out.

For all the talk of "national security," these and other actions aren't done in secret. But out of fear and lack of a spine, we look the other way and act like none of it is happening. We spy on the UN and what little coverage the spying gets in this country from the mainstream press (I'm not remembering anyone in Congress objecting -- but, if they had, it's unlikely the press would have covered it anyway). Abuses go unchecked and the Bully Boy grows more and more bold.

As Tim Robbins noted:

Any acquiescence or intimidation at this point will only lead to more intimidation. You have, whether you like it or not, an awesome responsibility and an awesome power: the fate of discourse, the health of this republic is in your hands, whether you write on the left or the right. This is your time, and the destiny you have chosen.

That was in 2003, you'd think we'd be further along now then we are but we aren't. The mainstream press, with few exceptions, doesn't cover the Downing Street Minutes, doesn't cover anything that points to the serious abuses of this administration.

Now comes the revelations that the Bully Boy's ordered warrentless spying on Americans, by the NSA, and we're still seeing spin promoted as "legal strategy." That's where we are today and we need to think about that before we look back.

Following Nixon's exit from the national stage in disgrace, and the revelations of his misdeeds, Congress began to look into the activities of our government. The Church Committee began its task in 1975 and was chaired by Frank Church, a Democratic senator from Idaho. From 1975 to 1976, the committee published reports, fourteen in all, but some of the committee's work is still classified to this day.

What did America learn from the Church Committee? At the time, a great deal, but surprisingly (or not), this episode of our history doesn't appear to have made it into our national curriculum. Most of the mainstream press, when noting the Church Committee (or the Pike Committee) due to the recent revelations of the Bully Boy's spying, toss it out as an aside, a shout out. A sentence or two passes for summarizing the work of the Church Committee.

What the Church Committee discovered went beyond spying but let's start with some of that. The FBI spied on Americans, targeted them. Spying on the Communist Party included spying on the National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee as well as on civil rights leaders. Footnote fourteen to the Church Committee's Book II: Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans reads:

For example, the entire Unitarian Society of Cleveland was targeted because the minister and some members circulated a petition calling for the aboliton of the HUAC, and because the Church gave office space to the "Citizens for Constitutional Rights". (Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Cleveland Field Office, 11/ 6/64.)

Spying on them, on the Black Nationalists (defined in the report as the Black Panthers, the SNCC, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference "and included every Black Student Union and many other black student groups"), the New Left and assorted other groups and organizations, was illegal. The report found that:

The acts taken interfered with the First Amendment rights of citizens. They were explicity intended to deter citizens from joining groups, "neutralize" those who were already members, and prevent or inhibit the expression of ideas.
In achieving its purported goals of protecting the national security and preventing violence, the Bureau attempted to deter membership in the target groups.

From Book II:

Instructions to "preclude" free speech were not limited to "black nationlists;" they occurred in every pgoram. In the New Left program, for instance, approximately thirty-nine percent of all actions attempted to keep targets from speaking, teaching, writing, or publishing.
The cases included attempts (sometimes successful) to prompt the firing of university and high school teachers; to prevent targets from speaking on campus; to stop chapters of target groups from being formed; to prevent the distribution of books, newpapers, or periodicals; to disrupt or cancel news conferences; to interfere with peaceful demonstrations, including the SCLC's Poor People's Campaign and Washington Spring Project and most of the large anti-war marches; and to deny fcilities for meetings or conferences.
As the above cases demonstrate, the FBI was not just "chilling" free speech, but squarely attacking it.
The tactics used against Americans often risked and sometimes caused serious emotional, economic, or physical damage. Actions were taken which were designed to break up marriages, terminate funding or employment, and encourage gang warfare between violent rival groups. Due process of law forbids the use of such covert tactics whether the victims are innocent, law-abiding citizens or members of groups suspected of involvement in violence.

The Church Committe found out a great deal more (probably a great deal more than we know, hence the continued classification of some details) but let's focus on the people.

In the hazy tributes over Mark Felt last summer (which we didn't engage in), reality often left the room. Mark Felt wasn't a "hero" or a "good guy." His being Deep Throat didn't change who he was. (And, as Daniel Schorr pointed out on NPR, it's very likely his motives for whistle blowing had to do with his being passed over for a promotion. I don't think you can examine the record of Felt and find any strong support for notions of democracy.)

But apparently are amenesia regarding recent history was great enough to allow some to hail Felt as a "hero." When you want reality, skip the mainstream press and head over to Democracy Now! Specifically, "EXCLUSIVE... Jennifer Dohrn: I Was The Target Of Illegal FBI Break-Ins Ordered by Mark Felt aka 'Deep Throat:'"

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about what happened to you. Where did you live?
JENNIFER DOHRN: I lived in New York primarily. I was based in New York. I was very, very active in the anti-war movement and in support of the Black Freedom Movement and the Puerto Rican liberation struggle, and I was followed night and day by the F.B.I. I had my apartments, several apartments, wiretapped. Apartments next to me were rented by F.B.I. agents who kept continuous 24-hour surveillance of every sound made in my apartment. I was followed up and down the streets. I would get a job, the F.B.I. would go in after me, and I would then be fired from the job. It was around-the-clock harassment.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you aware of it at the time?
JENNIFER DOHRN: I was aware of a lot of it. I was certainly aware of being followed a lot. I was -- assumed that perhaps my phones were tapped, and I had no idea of the level of extent under which I was being surveilled. I had no idea that break-ins were repeatedly happening into my apartments. I remember when I was pregnant with my first born feeling extremely vulnerable because I was being followed a great deal of the time, and then it was revealed when I received my Freedom of Information Act papers, over 200,000 documents, that there actually had been developed by Felt a plan to kidnap my son after I birthed in hopes of getting my sister to surrender.

When you are already breaking the laws, subverting the Constitution, kidnapping is just another step along the way. The rules of law matter but the Bully Boy has attempted one power grab after another. He wants to be unchecked by the two other branches. This isn't a new development. Just as the administration refused to release items on Dick Cheney's energy commission, they refuse to release the 'legal opinions' that okayed their NSA spying.

Instead of serious and hard questions, many in the mainstream press have returned to their apparently dreamed of careers as sports commentators -- which must be why reality leaves the reporting and instead the "success" or "failure" of the spin campaign (what Amy Goodman's dubbed "Why We Spy") is their focus. The press is failing at it's job (the mainstream press). The same press that bent over backwards to run to Vicky Toejam and others for the talking points on why no crime was committed by outing Valerie Plame, now bend over backward to avoid addressing the obvious (in reporting, the New York Times would point to their editorials, they can't point to their reporting).

The Church Committee not only discovered spying and efforts to disrupt movements (as well as destroy lives). From Book II of the Church Committee:

The Bureau also contacted employers and funding organizations in order to cause the firing of the targets or the termination of their support. For example, priests who allowed their churches to be used for the Black Panther breakfast programs were targeted, and anonymous letters were sent to their bishops, a television commentator who expressed admiration for a Black Nationalist leader and critized heavy defense spending was transferred after the Bureau contacted his employer, and an employee of the Urban League was fired after the FBI approached a "confidential source" in a foundation which funded the League.

When not doing that, like Gladys Kravitz on Bewitched, the intelligence community (including military intelligence) was fond of spreading rumors to spouses of infidelity -- the sort of actions that Americans would feel the KGB would do but never our own agencies were done and then some.

Coretta Scott King just passed and there's been reluctance on the part of the New York Times to note that on their editorial or op-ed pages. Possibly they don't want to delve too deeply into the Church Committee findings? The committee found gross violations of "the law and fundamental human decency" with regards to the FBI's actions against Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Strong language and the FBI more than earned it:

The Committee devoted substantial attention to the FBI's covert action campaign against Dr. Martin Luther King because it demonstrates just how far the Government could go in a secret war against one citizen. In focusing upon Dr. King, however, it should not be forgotten that the Bureau carried out disruptive activies against hundreds of lesser-known American citizens. It should also be borne in mind that postive action on the part of high Government officials outside the FBI might have prevented what occurred in this case.
[. . .]
The FBI's campaign against Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began in December 1963, four months after the famous civil rights March on Washington, when a nine-hour meeting was convened at FBI Headquarters to discuss various "avenues of approach aimed at neutralizing King as an effective Negro leader." Following the meeting, agents in the field were instructed to "continue to gather information concerning King's personal activites . . . in order that we may consider using this information at an opportune time in a counterintelligence move to discredit him."
About two weeks after that conference, FBI agents planted a microphone in Dr. King's bedroom at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. During the next two years, the FBI installed at least fourteen more "bugs" in Dr. King's hotel rooms across the country. Physical and photographic surveillances accompanied some of the microphone coverage.
The FBI also scrutinized Dr. King's tax-returns, monitored his financial affairs, and even tried to determine whether he had a secret foreign bank account.
In late 1964, a "sterilized" tape was prepared in a manner that would prevent attribution ot the FBI and was "anonymously" mailed to Dr. King just before he received the Nobel Peace Prize. Enclosed in the package with the tape was an unsigned letter which warned Dr. King, "your end is approaching . . . you are finished." The letter intimated that the tape might be publicly released, and closed with the following message:

King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significance). You are done. There is but one way out for you . . .

Dr. King's associates have said he interpreted the message as an effort to induce him to commit suicide.
At about the same time that it mailed the "santized" tape, the FBI was also apparently offering tapes and transcripts to newsmen. Later when civil rights leaders Roy Wilkins and James Farmer went to Washington to persuade Beureau officials to halt the FBI's discrediting efforts, they were told "if King want[s] war we [are] prepared to give it to him."
Shortly thereafter, Dr. King went to Europe to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The Bureau tried to undermine ambassadorial receptions in several of the countries he visited, and when he returned to the United States, took steps to diminish support for a banquet and a special "day" being planned in his honor.
The Bureau's actions against Dr. King included attempts to prevent him from meeting with world leaders, receiving honors or favorable publicity, and gaining financial support. When the Bureau learned of a possible meeting between Dr. King and the Pope in August 1964, the FBI asked Cardinal Spellman to try to arrange a cancellation of the audience. Discovering that two schools (Springfield College and Marquette University) were going to honor Dr. King with special degress in the spring of 1964, Bureau agents tried to convince officials at the scools to rescind their plans. And when the Bureau learned in October 1966 that the Ford Foundation might grants three million dollars to Dr. King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference, they asked a former FBI agent who was a high official at the Ford Motor Company to try to block the award.
A magazine was asked not to publish favorable articles about him. Religious leaders and institutions were contacted to undermine their support of him. Press conference questions were prepared and distributed to "friendly" journalists. And plans were even discussed for sabotaging his political campaign in the event he decided to run for national office.
[. . .]
The "neutralization" program continued until Dr. King's death. As late as March 1968, FBI agents were being instructed to neutralize Dr. King because he might become a "messiah" who could "unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement" if he were to "abandon his supposed 'obedience' to 'white liberal doctrines' 9non-violence) and embrace black nationalism. Steps were taken to subvert the Poor People's Campaign which Dr. King was planning to lead in the spring of 1968. Even after Dr. King's death, agents in the field were proposing methods for harrassing his widow, and Buereau officials were trying to prevent his birthday from becoming a national holiday.

As the committee noted, these activites happened to many less well known people as well. It was open season on anyone who thought free speech and democracy meant that you might actually be able to publicly criticize your government. And agencies had nothing better to do then plot against Americans and sneak around. Take Joan Baez's 1967 concert tour of England where the CIA . . . Wait, let's go the New York Times, February 21, 1967, via Baez's And A Voice to Sing With:

. . . Press reports allege that an American, indentifying himslef as Harold Cooper, a CIA man, had ordered the Japanese interpreter, Ichiro Takasaki to substitute an innocuous tranlation in Japanese for Miss Baez's remarks in English on Vietnam and Nagasaki's atom bomb survivors. Mr. Takasaki was cited as the source for these allegations . . . This morning, Asahi Shimbun, a leading Tokyo daily, printed a long account of the affair. The newspaper quoted Mr. Takasaki as saying, "It is a fact that pressure was applied on me by a man who said he was from the CIA." Mr. Takasaki's interpretation surprised bilingual Japanese listeners when the national Japanese television network carried a tape recorded replay of Miss Baez's concert on January 27th.
[. . .]
When Miss Baez had referred to Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Mr. Takasaki said simply that "the show would be televised." And when she said that she had refused to pay taxes because she did not want her money to be used to finance the Vietnam war, Mr. Takasaki gave this translation: "Taxes are high in the United States . . ." Mr. Takasaki explained that before the concerts began, a telephone call came to him on January 12th, apparently from the American Embassy. The caller said he was an interpreter for someone named Harold Cooper, of the American Embassy, and reportedly said, "You are free to act as master of ceremonies, but Mr. Cooper hopes that you will not make any political statements." . . . Next day, a man who called himself Harold Cooper, telphoned him directly . . . After saying that he was a United States intelligence agent, he asked that Mr. Takasaki change the meanings when Miss Baez made political statements . . . "If you don't cooperate, you will have trouble in your work in the future." Each year Mr. Takasaki works in the United States about two months . . .
Mr. Takasaki decided to cooperate, since he felt if he refused he might not be able to obtain visas for the United States in the future. Mr. Takasaki told the Asahi Shimbun that he had actually met Mr. Cooper four times, and that each time Mr. Cooper made strict demands concerning Miss Baez's concerts. He said that at one time Mr. Cooper said, "Japan is in the midst of general elections, so be especially careful about Miss Baez' statements. Since many of her fans have a right to vote, political statements made during concerts have a major influence. . ." On February 3rd, Mr. Cooper called Mr. Takasaki at his home and reportedly said, "Thank you for your cooperation. I am now leaving for Hawaii . . ."
"It was a most strange case," said Takasaki. "I knew that Miss Baez was a marked person who was opposed to the Vietnam War and who had been tacitly boycotted by the broadcasting companies in the United States. American friends also repeatedly advised me not to take on the job. But I took it on as a business proposition, since the Japanese fans were coming not to hear her political statements, but her music. I met Mr. Cooper once in the presence of a Japanese Times reporter, but even in that meeting he openly demanded that I mistranslate.

Joan Baez concerts as a threat to national security? Sounds like something only the Bully Boy could dream up but it happened. (Pages 144 - 145 of And A Voice to Sing With, by the way.)

As abuses abuses came to light via the Church Committee and other Congressional committees, the FISA court was created in 1978 to prevent abuses of the Constitutional rights of American citizens. When the New York Times first broke the story of Bully Boy and NSA spying on American citizens without warrants, the spin was that it had to be kept quiet. Part one of the Why We Spy spin was that to go to FISA might have alerted the "terrorists." That went over about as well as his attempts to fine tune the economy, which is why Bully Boy's latest Why We Spy spin is that he has the authority to order spying without a FISA warrant.

JAMES BAMFORD: Well, before I get into that, just one other comment on what we just have been talking about. When the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was created in 1978, one of the things that the Attorney General at the time, Griffin Bell, said -- he testified before the intelligence committee, and he said that the current bill recognizes no inherent power of the President to conduct electronic surveillance. He said, 'This bill specifically states that the procedures in the bill are the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance may be conducted.' In other words, what the President is saying is that he has these inherent powers to conduct electronic surveillance, but the whole reason for creating this act, according to the Attorney General at the time, was to prevent the President from using any inherent powers and to use exclusively this act.

Bully Boy is again trying to render the other two branches of the government useless. He's saying that he has the power as commander-in-chief. But he's not commander-in-chief of the country. (Someone grab Diane Sawyer, she just fainted.) He's commander-in-chief of the military. The Geena Davis show doesn't seem to grasp the difference either. The country doesn't have a commander-in-chief over it because we're not a military junta, we're a democracy (or we're supposed to be).

While this goes on, as Patricia J. Williamson notes in "Foggy Bottom" (February 6, 2005 issue of The Nation, not available to nonsubscribers of the magazine):

The debate is playing out in the media fuzzily, haltingly, perhaps because of the conflation of two questions. One is whether the executive can eavesdrop on citizens at all. It can. The other is whether exercise of that power rests entirely upon the say-so of the President or his agents. It does not. Yet breathless radio and TV debates pit those two issues against each other. "He has the power to protect us by listening in!" versus "He has no power to invade our privacy!" The issue is better stated by interconnecting the two premises: He has the power to listen in when he has gotten permission by presenting reasons to do so that are within a warrantable range of relevance to law-enforcement goals.
The law is hardly burdensome, as should be well understood by now. The President must go to a special court set up for the purpose of vetting the underlying reasons or suspicions necessitating such intrusion. That court is secret, in deference to matters of national security. If time is of the essence, a warrant may be obtained from the court after the fact. The President may also seek the approval or waiver of members of Congress. These requirements are simple but not at all equivocal: The President must get permission to wiretap, period. It is not a deep or mysterious point of law. If there is law, then this is it. If there is due process, then this is the procedure that is due.

Another talking point of Why We Spy is that a fully staffed Alberto Gonzales can't prepare the necessary paperwork for a FISA brief withinin three days after the fact. Apparently Gonzales and all those under him are on vacation? If it's worth spying on an American citizen, shouldn't the Justice Dept. be in the loop immediately? And shouldn't Gonzales and his staff be able to do the job that they are paid to do? It's more spin that gets passed off in the press as 'legal strategy' as though all of this has about as much impact on our nation and who we are and who we become as a tennis match does.

After Bully Boy blusters that he doesn't need to go to the FISA court, Gonzales comes along and says "It's too burdesome and I'm not able to do it in the time frame." And this is 'strategy' to be cheered on by a lazy press? As each talking point goes against the previous one, instead of being called on it, the press rushes to play it as though this is up in the air and just a jolly match to sit back and enjoy. This isn't up in the air.

And when one spin point doesn't work, they offer another and the press runs with it. Did anyone in the mainstream press, reporting on Gonzales' talking point, note that his explanation was contradictory to Bully Boy's claim that he didn't need permission? If they're going to argue that he doesn't need permission, what does it matter whether or not Gonzales can process the paperwork required for FISA?

It doesn't matter. But the press is to busy providing color commentary on "plays" to do the basic job of informing the public. Mia wanted Michael Ratner's "Tomorrow is Today: the Time for Resistance is Now" (CounterPunch) noted and this is probably the best place for it because it speaks to what is at stake:

In other words, the republic and democracy is over. In Germany what did they call that? They called that the fuhrer's law. Why? Because the fuhrer was the law. That's what George Bush is saying here. George Bush is the law.This assertion of power is so blatant so open, and so notorious, that it is finally shocking some people like former Vice President Gore to speak up. I'm sure many of you are familiar with what he said in his recent speech on Martin Luther King's birthday. "The President of the United State has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently." He was referring to the NSA spying scandal. And then he went on to say, "A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government." And then he said what that means to a Republic: "An executive who acts free of the will of Congress as this president says he can, or the check of the judiciary, as this president says he can, becomes the central threat that the founders sought to nullify in the Constitution." And then Gore quotes James Madison to the effect that what President Bush has done is the very definition of "tyranny." So there you have it. It's not just us, its not just progressives, but even someone like former Vice President Gore is saying this government is the very definition of tyranny.

Next week the Senate holds a hearing on the issue of NSA spying. It may be the only hearing we get. It may be a whitewash. It may not be. But regardless of what happens in the official chambers in DC, we need to be watchful and we need to be vocal. In a previous time, the citizens of this country were able to stand up to these sorts of abuses. Granted, we had something resembling a working press (in the mainstream) then. We have to call this abuse out and we have to do it loudly. There's too much at stake. The point in noting the recent past (always referred to as an aside when noted in the mainstream) is to point out that we've been down this road before. We stopped it before. We can stop it again. But that won't come by waiting for the New York Times to decide to actually report. It won't come from hoping our senators do their job. We need to be active and we need to be vocal.

This is our country, this is our democracy. In the 2000 recounts (that weren't a full recount), one of the talking points was that the military ballots had to be counted because they protect this country and preserve our liberties. No offense intended to the military, but our liberties at home have always been preserved and protected by the citizens. Whether it was MLK, Cesar Chavez, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the Congressional staffers working on the impeachment indictment of Nixon, movements that forced the nation to address an issue or face reality, the person who wouldn't shut up even though everyone told her/him too . . . We're the ones who can ensure that this country remains a democracy. We can also look the other way and allow it to slide into something that the framers warned us against. We have that power and it can't be taken away, not even by the New York Times or the Bully Boy. But it can be given away if we choose not to use it.

As Norman Solomon points out in War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death (page 236), "fear is not a viable long-term foundation for building democratic structures or finding alternatives to future wars." Fear and apathy, the national crisis -- though it can't push obesity off the cover of the news weeklies. It's time to understand that we've been through this before (and will probably go through it again). The only thing that stopped the abuse before was engaged and outraged citizens. That is the "special interest group" that's feared the most. Obviously, or the government wouldn't abuse the law so often to spy. We've stopped it before and we can do it again. Make yourself heard and follow the hearings next week.

Note of thanks to everyone who provided input. That includes Mia and Eddie who noted quotes that they wanted include. It also includes five friends who read over what I thought was the completed/nearly completed draft of this and were honest enough to say, "It's too factual, too little passion." The result was a radical reworking of this entry that threw out pretty much everything (though not my typos, I'm sure). Thanks to multiple friends who phoned during the five hours that have been spent on this version of this entry -- thanks for listening and offering suggestions (including, "delete that whole section"). (Those include, but are not limited to, Cedric, Betty, Rebecca, Ava, Jess and Kat.) (Special thanks to ___.)

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