Sunday, November 05, 2006

Breaking: News of US war resister Joshua Key

Joshua Key of Oklahoma has been denied war refugee status by the Canadidan government. Key checked out from the US military while on leave in December of 2003, initially moving to Philadelphia and then, in March 2005, moving to Canada (with his wife Brandi and four children). Key was a welder prior to signing up. While in Philadelphia he did welding jobs and worried that he would be tracked down via his Social Security number. Brandi Key waited tables while they lived in Philadelphia. Joshua Key is the author of the upcoming book The Deserter's Tale.

More can be found in C.I.'s "US war resister Joshua Key denied refugee status."

Editorial: The lack of passion in independent media (print division)

We can’t afford to be innocent
Stand up and face the enemy
It’s a do or die situation
We will be invincible
And with the power of conviction
There is no sacrifice
It’s a do or die situation
We will be invincible

The lyrics are from Simon Climie and Holly Knight's "Invincible" which was recorded by Pat Benatar originally for the film The Legend of Billie Jean.

If you're expecting your independent media to tell you The Legend of Kyle Snyder, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. There will be photos, no cover stories, of Kyle Snyder in your independent media because your independent media just doesn't give a damn.

They've demonstrated that they're the movement equivalent of the friend who says they'll help you move and then doesn't show up or answer their cell phone. You'll find more bravery in a Pat Benatar song than in your independent media on this issue.

Snyder's an interesting story. The ignoring of Ricky Clousing, Darrell Anderson and Mark Wilkerson might be explained away by some as, "Well maybe they just don't think it has any dynamics?" Synder self-checked out in April of 2005 and went to Canada. He returned two Saturdays ago to the United States. He turned himself in to Fort Knox on Tuesday where he learned that the arrangement his attorney (Jim Fenner) had worked out was not going to be honored so . . . he checked out again.

He checked out right under their noses. They gave him a bus pass, he took a pass. Where in the world is Kyle Snyder?

Print indymedia won't tell you, won't cover him. As the war resisters continue to be ignored, it's really time to start asking the question of why that is?

We hear the talk, largely in interviews on the radio, from them that they're against the war. They'll hide behind generals and recovering neocons who are upset about the 'strategy' of the illegal war. They won't cover the peace movment (though in FAIR's case, they will point out that no peace activist has been on The NewsHour while overlooking the fact that their own CounterSpin hasn't offered up a peace activist as a guest either). They won't cover war resistance. What do they cover? Put it to the tune of Adam Ants' "Goody Two Shoes." And while you do, wonder if the left print mags don't speak out because they can't?

Is there something distasteful about war resistance? Are they afraid they might be seen as 'radical' for covering the war resistance. Well, heaven forbid. Just keep churning out that same silly copy, over and over, that's had little to no impact and let everyone else do the heavy lifting.
They think, they say, that the war is illegal.

But people who work to end the war don't get covered. You have a better chance of reading about the dishy Richard Armitage in The Nation these days then you do of reading about Medea Benjamin, Jeff Paterson, Cindy Sheehan, Kyle Snyder . . .

It's a long list. Before The New Republic(an) committed their slow suicide (hastened by cheerleading an illegal war -- but then they cheerlead all wars), that was seen as the 'bible' of the beltway. (Some would say the 'left' 'bible' but some are idiots.) Are The Progressive and The Nation attempting to get carried onto Air Force One in 2009, provided it's a Democrat holding the office?

We don't know. But we spoke with a Nation cruiser to find out what the summer cruise was like? Did they appear to be recruiting for the DNC? No. Did they give speeches that stated or indicated that the magazine wanted to move to the middle? No. In fact, we were told, the cruise was so much livelier than the print version of the magazine.

Why can't that same life be in the magazine? Why can't war resistance within the military be covered?

Are we 'framing'? Is that it? If so, that's rather sad. We're all fully aware that The Nation has pushed that nonsense like no one else. We're also aware that there are people at the magazine more than old enough to know better than to fall for yet another deacde's hula-hoop. What's the point of all these "Democratic governor in a formerly Republican state!" pieces? What's the point of so much crap passing for political coverage that reads like someone's idea of holding a centrist accountable is to swat at them with a tissue?

We don't know. But we know that Kyle Snyder mattered last week and the week before and matter this week and the next. We know that war resister Carl Webb got mentioned in the magazine this year with nothing to identify him as a war resister. (The magazine did know that they were speaking to a war resister, didn't they? We're not trying to get anyone fired here.) We know that long after the ink's faded on the wide variety of puff pieces that we like to dub the "Learning To Live With The Centrists," the war will still be going on, the dying will not have stopped and the still not documented peace movement will have continued to grow.

Maybe the independent magazines will wave to us from the sidelines? If so, don't be surprised if your wave is ignored and you're snubbed because people are getting sick of it. That the independent media seems to think one print story (one each for The Progressive and The Nation in two years) on Cindy Sheehan somehow is covering the peace movement is ridiculous.
We're still scratching our heads over some of the choices to write about media revolution in a recent issue of The Nation. The former Wonkette? What? Did someone see the Sunday Magazine of The Times where she was a 'school girl' sandwiched between two oldies? She didn't appear to have gotten in based on her writing. Well, it was spring, and maybe AMC's hint of nipple was seen as the bikini issue?

But that's how bad it is currently. The former Wonkette can pen a 'thought piece' that runs in the print edition of The Nation but war reisters and the peace movement can't get coverage. It's past time that changed.

Michael Franti & Spearhead warn, "Revolution never comes with a warning." No, and it appears that when it does come, it will send our independent media (print division) scrambling to try to figure out what the hell just happened because while the movement's building, they're doing Google searches to see what the ten most searched subjects are so they'll have something to write about.

Kyle Snyder's story matters. Don't count on independent media, get his story out yourself. The way you've gotten word out by demonstrations and rallies.

[Gold star of the week to Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez and the staff of Democracy Now! for their interview Friday with Kyle Snyder. No, they aren't print media. We have no gold stars for print media.]

TV Review: Shadowing the Dick Wolf

We were on the trail, we were on the case. The orders came from Jim, "Tackle it." We weren't interested. We could think of anything, everything, we'd rather do than enter the mind of Dick Wolf. We even wasted about ten minutes pondering whether or not anyone had noted that "dick wolf" may not be the best name for a straight man? "Oh look, he's a dick wolf." But there we were, shadowing the perv, the longest running perv in television.

The show in question is Law & Order: SVU which we decided should be called Beast & Brutality: B.S. about ten seconds after we realized that the woman we thought was a very rough looking Nancy McKeon was actually Mariska Hargitay. Where there is beauty, there is Dick Wolf determined to stomp it out.

Beast & Brutality: BS also describes the case(s) Hargitay's Olivia Benson was supposedly working. She went undercover to get the goods on environmentalists. Dick Wolf was determined to spread the myth of eco-terrorism and quite proud that he opened the eighth season of the show echoing the FBI if not reality. In fact the whole thing plays out like the refuses-to-die "9-year-old Penny Brown is missing!" e-mail hoax. But watch as you will, you never get the update by the freak when they find out they've been tricked:


That's because, unlike the simpleton above ("a child was at the source" -- believe it or not, the e-mailer is a professional with a college education and degree -- in journalism, which may explain the stupidity), Dick Wolf and his shows work from the principle that you can never go too low and that shame is a coat you toss in the back of someone else's closet.

SVU is supposed to the be the character driven vehicle of the franchise -- news that someone forgot to pass onto both the writers and the cast. On the latter, Diane Neal appears determined to take matters into her owns hands and has turned her character Casey Novak into a DA with a nasty caffeine addiction. (Or maybe it's something stronger?). That's the only explanation for why she can't hold her head still in any shot. Sometimes she's nodding away (when her character may or may not be speaking words of agreement), sometimes she shaking her "no" (see previous parenthetical), sometimes she's doing these very subtle half-jerks. On those rare times when she does manage to gain motor control of her head, always note her first line which she seems to have trouble delivering without a deep inhale which causes a weird indention in her throat. But most of all, watch her cast mates and guest stars to see which ones decided to ignore it and which ones decide to mirror her head movements. On the latter, attempt to determine whether they're mocking her?

Just don't attempt to make sense of this show where Christopher Meloni is the supposed big cheese, the Chris North equivalent. He's so low key you grasp why he had to urinate, naked, on OZ to create a stir. You also remember how he was upstaged by just about everyone and everything in Runaway Bride. Press material is all over his 2006 Emmy nomination -- as though it's a sign of greatness when, in fact, it's just a sign of how awful TV's become.

How awful is Law & Order: SVU? In the episode that aired Saturday night, the one that had us agree to Jim's request and was a repeat of the season opener, Olivia went to Oregon. She was on the trail of eco-terrorists and undercover as a rape counselor, if we understood the plot. We didn't try to follow it too closely because it was obvious the writers hadn't.

But the gist of it was, she was wrong about the harmless nature of the environmentalists group she infiltrated. They weren't a benign group. (And they never would be on a Dick Wolf show). But the program wasn't interested in that plot and it was all asides and tales of what happened off screen. The plot they were interested in was a dead man and, for the record, the NYC Special Unit Squad that is the supposed basis for this crap doesn't investigate deaths or terrorism.

This is Dick Wolf and they needed some sex so the dead man quickly becomes a pedophile. You don't see it coming unless you note that Debra Jo Rupp is a guest star. Kitty Foreman (That 70s Show) isn't that long ago and the actress' tremulous energy meant she was cast for a reason -- to play I've-Got-A-Secret. Thinking that Olivia is a cop before finding out she isn't (she is, she's undercover, it's one of the worst written shows that you'll ever see), Rupp confesses that her dead ex-husband was a pedophile. Then she recoils in horror, after she learns Olivia isn't a cop (but remember she is), and Rupp's character denies everything she just said.

Later on Olivia, still posing as a rape counselor, visits a now adult victim of the pedophile and breaks every rule regarding rape counseling (including arguing with the victim about whether or not she was raped) but the audience is supposed to nod knowingly because Olivia is one tough cop.

One real asshole. That's all the characters on a Dick Wolf drama are. They skirt the law and never get called on it. They bully victims and the audience for this crap nods along and thinks, because the cases are usally bad rewrites of something in the headlines recently or years ago, that this is somehow a commentary or reality. It's neither.

It's a distorted world where the only time rules and law matter is with regard to the police as victims -- such as when Olivia's wrongly detained by the police and then has her cover blown by another police officer. Hargitay briefly snaps to life whining that she was outed. Outed to another cop and she's not investigating the police nor is Oregon the NYC cop's usual beat (don't even try to figure out what she's doing there). But it's a bit of life to the slow, dull show whose most laughable scene may have been the monotone Neil telling a guest star to calm down. If the guest stars ever did, the audience would probably fall asleep.

Olivia's inept beyond belief. Near the end they find a woman. She murdered the pedophile. She was his victim. Her story is she's been sexually assaulted for ten years (since the age of ten) and locked in a dungeon until she killed her rapist. The show's in its last ten minutes so you think it might pick up the pace, but it doesn't. You've got plenty of time to sit and wonder what the writers have strip-mined from the headlines to get this toxic plot. It takes you about two seconds to grasp that it's strip-mining the story of Natascha Kampusch -- which appears to be about one second longer than it took for the show's writers to churn out this script.

They've dubbed the character Britney and doing so appears to have taxed whatever creative energies they had. The shows on fumes and Olivia and a male police officer are in car driving around doing that banter that the really slow-witted will see as 'sexual tension.' Apparently grasping that the show needs to be coming to a conclusion, Olivia will suddenly pull out a file, that she's never held on camera before, and exclaim "Oh!"

All the time it takes her to ask about a fort (that's never been mentioned) a child described (whose never been seen) -- about ten seconds -- is about how long, after the title card describing time and location disolves, before they're seen trudging through the woods and discovering the fortress where they will find Britney.

What Saturday Night Live would call "dropping the cow," SVU calls "plot point."

After the first line is said to Britney, a number of things will happen. We'll focus first on the "art." 'Jump' cuts will come throughout the next five minutes (and the location of the questioning will change at least once) as we're hurtled through time and space because, by God, the writers are out to prove that Olivia knows how to help victims and they need a tidy little moral to go out on having wasted forty-plus minutes of air time. There will be insight, damn it! There will be healing, by God!

And only to the nutsos who inhabit World of Wolf could what passed in the never ending scenes (seemlessly edited together) be mistaken for for that. Since the age of ten, Britney has been raped, has been held (in a dungeon), lived with the threat of death hanging over every day. She has been held prisoner there and her only contact has been her adult male abuser. You need to get that because, despite the lip service by the writers and Olivia, there's no indication anyone involved ever did.

Britney is highly agitated from her first minute onscreen. When Olivia speaks to her, she leaps to her feet. When the male police officer speaks to her, and she notices him for the first time, she screams. Olivia, being the victims 'expert' supposedly, will suggest that he leave them alone, she will have to suggest this again, in an interrogation room we're suddenly in, when he again agitates her. Olivia, the victims 'expert,' does not immediately get the man away from the victim, the man whom the victim was obviously transferring her attacker's persona onto.

Some 'expert.' But it's a strange sort of 'therapy' Olivia practiced which seemed to consist mainly of physically approaching/crowding the victim. Then you'd get another 'jump' cut and the interrogation will continue in this snippet of a scene until Olivia once again approached/crowed the victim -- someone thought it translated as 'foward motion.'

Her 'skills' with victims were also called into question by the fact that she didn't practice listening to allow the victim to tell her story. The victim would share a concrete event and Olivia would then tell the victim what that event meant, what it really meant, what the victim couldn't grasp. There was no listening, there was only leading.

Olivia was telling the victim what had happened, robbing the victim of her own words and of her own control of the awful experience. No qualified counselor would ever allow such a thing to happen. We're quite aware of why it happened, the writers were in a rush, having dithered for the rest of the show, to pile on meaning ten inches thick before the audience could grasp how much time they'd wasted watching this piece of crap. But not only is Olivia not a victims 'expert,' she's not a very believeable cop.

The apparent hours and hours that passed (during the five minutes of 'jump' cuts -- which at one point did include Britney being allowed to eat during questioning) never included her seeing her family or having an attorney or advocate present. She's been missing for ten years. Though the character spoke with what was at least a freshman college student's vocabulary (possibly the dungeon was also an S.A.T. testing location or the writers are just that bad at their profession), the fact remained that at the age of ten she was taken from the world. Her maturity level is in question and Olivia's getting her to confess to killing her rapist. Badgering someone who should have the social skills of a ten-year-old, making her cry, telling her, "You killed him because . . ." probably plays big & tough in the World of Wolf but it borders on brutality when you consider the victim being questioned.

At the end of it (which includes a hug, and b.s. about 'empowerment'), Olivia's talking to the male cop and says that no jury will convict Britney. He responds by asking who said Britney was going to be charged? We're supposed to thank the gods and Dick Wolf that there is some humanity in the world -- in the form of two brutal cops who just spent how many hours brutalizing a victim?

It doesn't matter in World of Wolf. It never does. Rules, guidelines, they're all to be bent so his characters can f--k with the system designed to guarantee the rights of all. You no longer have the loose canon that was Dirty Harry, you've got a whole squad of them on each and every Dick Wolf show. They're a pack of wild vigilantes who have mistakenly have been handed badges. And with each broadcast of every show, they degrade the public's understanding of the legal system and the notion that rules apply for a reason.

In the episode we described, every interrogation rule and every counseling rule was broken, but the audience is supposed to ignore that and, in fact, see how wonderful the two cops who abused the system and the victim are just because Britney won't be charged for killing the man who imprisoned and raped her for ten years. We're supposed to forget how they battered her emotionally to get their information, this woman with the social skills of a ten-year-old. Each and every episode justifies the torture czar and the Bully Boy's actions and, in fact, makes audiences think maybe the White House should go a little further because look at what the police dicks on Law & Order accomplish.

John Mellencamp's "This Is Our Country" takes on a new tone when it's played during a Dick Wolf show. You can picture many in the audience hearing the song on the advertisement and thinking, "Hell yeah, this is our country. Get those nasty immigrants out of here." The whole thing plays out like it's from the mind of a little boy who pinned his hopes on the Confederate flag he pinned to the walls of his prep school dorm room.

The never ending book discussion

Jim: "We're going to have to wait until when for a book discussion!" That's how Ty says the e-mails went after "13 Things You Can't Tell By Looking at Them (Movies)" went up Sunday. Apparently the readers have been jonesing for a book discussion. As we noted in "A Note to Our Readers" we had a book we were going to discuss: Jean-Francois Bizot's Free Press: Underground & Alternative Publications 1965-1975. In addition, Mike ended up making time to read Cindy Sheehan's Peace Mom: A Mother's Journey Through Heartache to Activism, and on Thursday morning, C.I. surprised us by agreeing to comment on Amy Goodman and David Goodman's Static. Partipating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and, me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz; and Wally of The Daily Jot. Everyone's on their own in terms of making sure they speak. We're starting with Jean-Francois Bizot and Dona's setting the book up.

Dona: This is an oversize book, "1322 x 898 x113" are the dimensions according to Powell's. Online reviews I was able to find were all the same review which is just the publisher's description plus a man at Amazon who was very disappointed with the book, he gave it one star and opens his review with "What a disappointing book!" Last Sunday, we had numerous problems due to Blogger/Blogspot going out. So we went to sleep and got up in the late afternoon to post the pieces that weren't posting --

Ava: And write the editorial.

Dona: And write the editorial but we still had the same problems of things not posting so we went to a party, came back in better moods and Jim gathered up some of the boxes that had arrived for C.I. because those things pile up very quickly and because we were all sick to death of Blogger/Blogspot so C.I. had said, "Open them, grab anything you want."

Jim: It was Christmas, only you didn't have to buy a gift!

Dona: Which added to the experience and allowed us not to curse and snarl as Blogger/Blogpost refused to post this feature or that one. I say all that to set up the mood we were in because we loved this book. I read the customer review at Amazon and I do understand where the guy is coming from. If I'd spent $45.00 for this book, the list price, I might be really bothered as well.
It's a picture book. It's not a textual history.

Ty: I thought at first it was DVD-roms.

Dona: Right. Due to the size and the title, Ty thought it was like The New Yorker set, oh, thank you. C.I. just handed me that. The two are almost exactly the same size, The Complete New Yorker and Free Press. And Ty was looking in the box over Jess' shoulder and saying, "Hurry up."

Jess: There were some music CDs on top of this but the title was visible and I had this box and was describing what was in it.

Dona: Rebecca bought it at a book store [note: Rebecca bought a copy of it later at a bookstore] and says it came wrapped in plastic, so if someone bought this wrapped in plastic, for forty-five dollars, I could understand there being very disappointed with this book. Instead of telling you what's in the book, the back cover gives you pull quotes from Thurston Moore, Jay Babcock and Steven Brower as well as an illustration. You don't know what you're paying for an you may be very disappointed to find out, after purchase, that it's reproductions of illustrations. I say all of that because we are aware that many of our readers aren't able to blow $45 dollars on one book. The way book prices continue to rise, I'm sure in ten or twenty years, I'll spend that on the average bestseller but I know that today, I would be very unlikely to spend $45 dollars on a book. If you use your libraries, as we all suggest, we think most of our readers will enjoy this book. But we really did want to include this cautionary note.

Jess: Because we love this book. We were all looking at it and just blown away repeatedly. The only thing we couldn't all agree on was when to turn the page. The book really captures the life and enthusiasm and passion that was possible for the alternative press from 1965-1975. We started thinking about our own illustrations and talking about what we've done here and what we could try to do here.

Ty: And when Dona showed us that customer review at Amazon, we all thought, "Okay, we need a disclaimer up front." So we've given that. But this is an incredible book. I agree that the period needs something that has text as well as illustrations and I honestly did think we were dealing with a collection on CD-rom or DVD-rom. I got impatient with Jess who was listing off the music CD titles of the CDs on top of the book in the box, reached around and grabbed it. I was immediately disappointed that it had pages and not discs. But the illustrations really are important. And both illustrations for this feature are excerpts from the book.

Rebecca: If I can jump in a second, I know Ty's got a point he's about to make that's going to go away from the illustrations, and that's fine but just to note what's in there. You're dealing with mainly cover reproductions. There's Interview magazine which is still around and I would assume many know it. But the bulk of it is what we'd think of today as the free weeklies. Hence "Free Press."

Elaine: Right. And to stay on the illustrations offered for a moment, they're divided up into sections. Rebecca brought the book with her to Mike's this weekend, so Trina, Mike, Mike's father, Fly Boy and I were all looking at it. It groups the illustrations around sections like the emergence of the second wave of feminism, Black power, gay liberation, the anti-war movement, etc. One that stood out to me was a poster for International Women's Day in March of 1970.

Ava: The illustration of a little girl on the cover of Seed with the words "Little girl of all the daughters" and "you were born a woman not a slave" circling around her. Laura Nyro.

Elaine: Yeah. From Nyro's "Emmie" off Eli & the Thirteenth Confession. There were so many amazing reproductions that captured the period but that one stood out to me because of the marriage of that line and the image. Music really was a driving influence, a part of 'the scene,' and that's . . . I'm stopping here so Ty can pick back up on his point. I'm sure we're going to return to it.

Ty: Thank you. And I was going to rush through to get to something so let me pause a moment and note the art work. You'll find faces you know like Angela Y. Davis, Jane Fonda, John Lennon and others. You'll find humor of all kinds used freely, with no concerns, which we'll get back to. There are covers that are examples of what graphic arts could do at that time and more traditional examples of art work. There's a lot of life reproduced in this book and it doesn't fall flat today. You won't be unmoved by it. In terms of text, I was going to note that a Dick Gregory article was reproduced. That's not the only bit of text, one page, but it's the one that stood out to me. I really enjoyed it and I would have enjoyed more like that.

C.I.: I will jump in here to note that was in Other Scenes and included a photo of Gregory, traditional sense of photo, and him imposed on the one dollar bill, while the article was entitled "When I am elected president."

Ty: Right, and he's talking about the draft, about Vietnam, about race, about government assistance, and I wanted to share one section: "I am sick and tired of having to apologize for the acceptance of public aid by needy people. It is in the public interest, especially under the capitalist system to raise the living standard of the lowest to a position where it can afford to enter the marketplace. It was on this principal that the United States rebuilt Germany and Japan and established the Marshall Plan. Farmers regularly recieve subsistance. The airlines are financed by federal subsidy. The railroads continue exist because of federal grants. Great oil companies receive enormous tax allowances; and yet, somehow poor families without employment must apologize for receiving public aid." I'm forgetting when that was published.

C.I.: November 1968.

Ty: Thank you. Right when Nixon was first elected. And it made me think of the so-called 'welfare reform' which was Bill Clinton selling out the poor didn't make it through until the last decade. The programs were under attack for years and years, it wasn't just the so-called Gingrich revolution. But it took 'our friend of the left,' to destroy the program and I really do believe that. I don't despise Bill Clinton and, like most African-Americans participating in this discussion, I'm probably more likely to praise him for other issues but there is not and there was not any excuse for him to do the bidding of the right-wing other than to go-along-to-get-along.

Cedric: I'm not disagreeing with Ty, by the way. But just to jump in, since I haven't seen the book, and comment on that remark, Betty too if she wants, I do have a knee jerk reaction to Bill Clinton. He's called, by some, the first Black president. But, and the war on public assistance is only one example, there are a lot of his programs that really did hurt African-Americans. It's sad that is part of his legacy but it is reality and I don't need to hear that any Clintonistas e-mailed in to disagree with me.

Betty: I understand Ty's point and Cedric's expansion on it. I think, and I'm going by my families' reaction to Bill Clinton as well as my own, there was a sense with him that we, Black people, weren't going to have to come in the back door. There was a sense that he really loved everyone and wanted everyone to have a shot. His personality was seen as that. It's how I see him to this day. But it is very true that a lot of the damage that say the Bully Boy couldn't get away with, Bill Clinton was able to because he was seen as 'a friend of Black people.' I don't question his sincerity with regards to his seeing everyone as equally worthy but I also don't ignore the fact that his programs did not lift all boats or that women in poverty, of all races, tended to be the ones who were most harmed by his policies. I know what Cedric means about Clintonista e-mails because, and I'm sure many readers will think of at least one site immediately, if you post something like what I've just said at some of our so-called left sites, you'll be slapped down. Not by Black, or African-American, I self-identify Black, commentators but by White ones who will quickly turn it into a 'you people' like thing. It's happened too many times and it's nothing that any Black person I know is unaware of. My oldest niece goes to message boards, websites and chats and we were just talking about this last week. She's the one, by the way, who is kind enough to loan me her laptop if I need to watch or listen to something online because my computer is so out of date that a stream is nearly impossible or means I can't do anything but stream. But she was talking to me about what she'd talk about it and it was all entertainment. I know she goes to a number of political sites, she goes to the community sites, for instance, and she goes to BuzzFlash. She did go to other sites but she came up against that non-inclusive wall that a number of Black people have encountered at web logs.
She actually avoids the comment sections on BuzzFlash by the way. I asked her if I could write about this while filling in for Kat and she said sure but wanted that note. She feels it already has the mailbag and that the comments honestly keep her from going to it now somedays. So, my point, she's having these incredible discussions about books, movies and TV. But she does that at, largely, what are considered Black sites. Because if she shares her own criticism that maybe things are so wonderful for Black people, that maybe Bill Clinton wasn't the savior of our people, which he wasn't, then she gets slammed or 'troll rated' in one case. The 'accepted' dialogue is very narrow and I don't any Black person in my family, at my church or at work that would disagree with that.

Cedric: Agreed. The feeling is that you're always a guest and if forget your 'manners' by raising some uncomfortable reality and they do descend. There's lip service to civil rights, and this is true of reproductive rights I've noted as well like the infamous snit-fit at one site where the blogger was snarling about 'women studies majors' and that's exactly how that site works on issues involving women and issues involving race. We all know the site I'm speaking of. It's not about an exchange, a dialogue, sharing or learning, it's about promotion, self-promotion to be sure, but also "The Gods of the Democratic Party." And since an Amy Goodman book is going to be addressed in this discussion, I want to note that the promotion of that site in her programs e-mails this summer is not something's that's been forgotten. Friday night in my Iraq discussion group, and everyone is African-American in my group, we were addressing Kyle Snyder and I brought the interview that Goodman had done with him on Friday's Democracy Now! and I was surprised that people who'd never watched or listened to the show had knowledge of that site being promoted. It's not seen as friendly or a friend to the African-American community. Those e-mails are still noted and it's noted with the sort of scorn that I'm used to hearing when people repeat the story, real or not, that Tommy Hillfigger is racist. It's taken on a life of its own and I really had forgotten it. But I understand Betty's niece's point. I don't go to BuzzFlash now because of the comments. It was a place where I could find news and find opinions and, yeah, the mailbag. But I'm one of those who has been burned with 'flamers' and 'troll rating' and I've lost interest in going to that site now that there's the commenting option. If I could derail the book discussion for a moment, I did have a question to C.I. about this. I was wondering what the community's reaction to it was?

C.I.: Well let me start by my reaction. I heard about it and thought, "Where am I going to find time to link to that?" Because The Common Ills does link to BuzzFlash, it was among the first links we ever did. But I hate going into the template and I'm really busy so I wasn't able to. As I understand it, there's a page of the site you can go to which has just the for-comment pieces available. Linking to it went off my things to do list, linking to the commenting section, because of what's being discussed right now. And let me add that Asian-American members and Latino members share similar stories and feelings about not being welcomed in comments. I would hope that wasn't the case with BuzzFlash. No one's complained of it happening there and hopefully it never will. But the experiences that are being addressed by Ty, Cedric and Betty are not uncommon. It's why Keesha was among the most adament that I close off comments at The Common Ills. We initially had the comment option. And Keesha wasn't afraid to wade in there and tell the centrists off. She did that over and over. I don't know what I'm doing, now or then, and wasn't sure how to close off comments. So I was trying to find out how to do that. And then, uhm, something went up, I'm forgetting what but it wasn't even race related, something that I wrote, and I didn't understand it then, or now, but the centrists took it to and turned it into a rebuttal by them and there comments became a slam on race, specifically African-Americans. When that happened, it brought home some of the experiences I was hearing about in e-mails, not just from Keesha. I didn't visit blogs, I didn't know what they did and or didn't do. I honestly thought, at that time, that BuzzFlash and The Daily Howler and Bartcop were examples of 'blogs.' That's how out of it I was, or how stupid. I was hearing the experiences in the e-mails and attempting to educate myself on how to close off comments but it was one of those things I was reading up on a little bit at a time -- which mainly means, I searched and either didn't find anything or found something that only confused me more. When that happened, when the centrists were doing their slams on African-Americans, I did make a point to close off comments before I did another thing at the site. It is a very real issue. And every now and then, I'll be speaking with a friend in the mainstream media and they'll note that their paper or network allows comments and that everyone seems to be right leaning or right that comments and how that can skew one's understanding of the audience. But I think that's because a lot of people, a lot more than even I'm aware of, have experienced this 'burning' and honestly feel posting's not worth it. It's also true that if you like something, many people aren't likely to leave a lengthy response or any at all, they'll just circulate it among their friends. A member shared a story, and I'm sorry I can't remember who, it was a man. He'd read something at Danny Schechter's site and wanted to leave a comment but didn't know what to say so he spent forever in the comment section and finally typed something like "Well said." He wanted to do that because he really enjoyed the post, I believe it was the one Liang had highlighted, on Vietnam, and he did that and typed in the security code or authorization code, or whatever, and hit 'send.' After all of that, the comment didn't even show up. It wasn't 'censored,' the comment posting just wasn't working at that moment apparently. Sorry to go on so long, but there are a variety of reasons why people do not comment and, especially for women and people of race and ethnicities other than the dominant one in this country, there's also the abuse that tends to get heaped on them. Did that answer the question, Cedric?

Cedric: Yeah. Thank you. And just to add to that, Keesha remembers everyone of those annoying comments by centrists. She's shared, in the round-robin, that she wasn't about to let 'her site' be taken over.

C.I.: That's right. She was an early member, she goes way back, and she was very adament in her e-mails from the start that the comments needed to be closed off. We were discussing this in e-mails back and forth. And, I believe, when the centrists nonsense went up attacking African-Americans, that she titled that e-mail "HELP!" I'm sorry that I wasn't able to close it off sooner. And I'm very grateful to her and other members who shared their stories because if they hadn't, the community wouldn't be what it is and members would have felt unwelcome. She rightly saw, just to give her the credit she's earned and is due, what was happening, where it was headed, from the start. There were centrists echoing one another in the comments. They'd be a tag team. They just showed up, around the fifth day of the site's existance, and then they started bringing in "Yes men" who echoed them. That happened very quickly, I would guess within a five day period if not less, and they were minding their Ps&Qs until the day that went off African-Americans at which point there were something like ten of them commenting, repeatedly, in that post. They were their own echo chamber. She had seen it coming and she was right to warn me and she was right about how it was going to unfold. While I was trying to figure out how to close the comments, she was also in there, in the comments, letting the racists know what she thought of them. But, I know we are so far off topic and I'm sorry, but she saw the site as her site, as a lot of members do, and it's member site, it's not 'what I want to write about,' and it was going to become something else if the centrists had their way. If that had happened, members wouldn't have felt included because no matter what I wrote, these centrists would have continued to add to their echo chamber and make their non-inclusive comments and attacks. So members of the community owe Keesha a big thanks, as do I, for pointing out what was going to happen, for going into the comments and taking those assholes on, and for helping to shape the community.

Jim: I'm going to say, "Okay, back to the book," but let it be noted, I think the avenue we turned onto was an important one. This is the sort of thing that would come up in a roundtable and we haven't had one of those for some time. We can talk about that at the end. But back to the book, Free Press: Underground & Alternative Publications 1965-1975, does anyone else want to weigh in?

Jess: I will. They reproduce a single page. The Dick Gregory page Ty offered is a good example of how it works when they include text. But there's another page, I can't find it. C.I.?

C.I.: George Jackson or John and Yoko?

Jess: John and Yoko.

C.I.: Try page 93.

Jess: Okay. Yes, that's it. This is a reproduction of the cover of Rat, June 12-18, 1969. The cover is a large photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono during the bed-in for peace and the writers are Paul, Susan, Dick and Tamar of Liberation News Service. You get thirteen brief paragraphs that really raise your interest. And that's it. The story is continued on the inside of the weekly but that's not included in the picture book. When something grabs you like that article, "Pleasant dreams, John & Yoko," it's really easy to understand how someone could be disappointed with the book. I wanted to read that article, I still want to read that article. But this is an example of how something more than this book is needed, the comment of the reviewer at Amazon, because this is a look at the visual history of that period and we really need another book that takes a look at the text.

Elaine: In a way, the book divorces the two. Which, the integration, is what was in the cover I cited spoke to me. The integration of the music, politics and art.

Jim: And in the absence of text, there's an intro that really didn't work for me and a Q&A at the end that I did find helpful, the book still manages to tell a story. You're not able to read the articles the covers alert you too. That is a disservice. But you are able to see the disentigration of the underground press. You go from people exploring and doing whatever they want because there are no rules to a sort of response, in look, to the mainstream press, until finally, there's nothing there. The punk years, at the end are a wasteland. I'm not calling punk music a wasteland. But suddenly, there's nothing making it that different from Rolling Stone of the same period and I can say that because I've been reading Rolling Stone from that period recently. I think the magazine continues the death of the alternative press. To read it today, it's so far from its roots. It's a glossy publication with a glossy cover. Like these weeklies, it did once feature text on the cover, where the articles would start and you actually folded out the issue to get the current size. Rolling Stone has nothing to offer today but attitude, with few exceptions. And the attitude is supposed to make up for the fact that what's being covered is so unworthy of coverage. But 'standards' were imposed upon the alternative press and you see that going through the issues and going through C.I.'s collection of Rolling Stones, I just saw that go further and further. The smart ass attitude, which we endorse, is about all the connection Rolling Stone has to its past today. It's not interested in covering anything important and it's not really interested in people or movements. I bring that up because early on at this site, C.I. would pooh-pah the notions that websites could make lasting changes and note the attempts to 'professionalize.' I didn't get that then. But my dad read that when it went up and he got it and I got an earful on it from him. Seeing the death unfold page by page this week, in the book we're reviewing, Free Press, and in the copies of Rolling Stone, that really stood out. And it brought back the attempts, probably now forgotten, going on shortly after we started this site, of some bloggers to 'professionalize' and set up organizations so that their 'journalism' could be taken seriously only to drop that because that might mean they couldn't raise funds for candidates which appears to be how they now see their strength. My father is a journalist, of many years, and when he read C.I.'s comments here he called to say, "That's right. Nothing will kill the life and excitement quicker than professionalizing." And I make that point because it's been reflected this week and also because if you're out there doing something off beat or on the margins at your own site, take pride in that. The internet doesn't need to be professionalized and I find the thought of that as alarming as the efforts to turn it over to big media and do away with net neutrality. Preserving neutrality means nothing if there's not a wide range of voices doing their own thing. All it means is that Rolling Stone is available in every bookstore, supermarket, etc. and you can pick it up and realize that it has nothing to say. As important as access is, I'd like to see a little more concern over content being preserved as a free wheeling discussion as opposed to being co-opted into some sort of 'respectable' discourse.

Elaine: Go, Jim!

Jim: Well, I was trying to wrap that up and get us to the next book so I sort of rushed through all of that, apologies to Ava and C.I. who probably have cramped hands trying to get all that down. Our next book will be set up by Mike.

Mike: I'm having a really tough semester and way behind in reading anything that's not for classes. But when I heard about the book discussion coming up, I went to the stack of books C.I.'s sent and Cindy Sheehan's Peace Mom: A Mother's Journey Through Heartache To Activism. This really wasn't the book I thought I was going to grab and I actually was thinking about three other books and not really considering Sheehan. I think that's because I felt like "I know this story." And the truth there is, you do. If you've been paying attention, you do. You don't know all the details, but you know the basic story. Doesn't matter. The book still grabs you. I still can't figure out why I ended up pulling this one out of the stack but I'm glad I did. It's really a great book and she's writing like who she is, the straight talking, lay it out there Cindy Sheehan that we all know and love. It's a really powerful story. You won't be day dreaming during it, you won't be bored, or think, "I know that already!" It's a really straightforward, involving style and I can't say enough good stuff about this book. I know Martha and Shirley are already working on their list of books that spoke to the community and, as soon as I finished this Thursday night, I fired off an e-mail to them telling them this was my pick.

Wally: I loved it too. Cedric and I aren't able to read much either these days. In our cities, we're really focused on turning out the votes which is why we're doing the joint posts and we're considering doing that after the election because it's been so much fun. And I felt like I was breaking a pact with Cedric.

Cedric: He called me up and is all "Dude, I'm sorry." Because he was going to read a book to bring up in this discussion. He felt like he owed me an apology which he didn't. I haven't read anything. Oh well. I really am busy right now.

Jim: Three Cool Old Guys mentioned something in their column this week and, if we can go into an aside real quick, why don't you note that.

Cedric: Well they're in a nursing home. A lot of voters are. They're usually forgotten. So we've been working to get people there to debate, talk and answer questions. It's gone pretty well. But then they pointed out to me, I love those guys, that no one can speak better to the elderly than someone of their own age. So then, they started doing speaking things this week and it's gone really well. It's gone incredible. They're a hit and the questions and answers are more lively because it is someone of their own age speaking to them. I think that's the biggest success thing of the work we've all been doing and really proud of my three friends. Thanks for opening that up, Jim, because I was wanting to plug their hard work. So I'm busy and I'm not able to read any books right now. But Wally didn't owe any apology, it was nice of him to offer one.

Wally: I just felt like, we're on the phone writing together, we're on the phone sharing what we're doing in our areas, and that idea that Three Cool Old Guys had, we're doing that in my area on Monday, it's a great idea. But my grandfather was reading the last edition on Monday and he said he wanted to talk to me about it this week when I had time. On Wednesday, that's how busy I am right now, I had time. So we're talking and he mentions the book discussion and he hands me the Cindy Sheehan book and tells me I need to read it and that this book needs to be "talked about A.S.A.P." And it was even weirder when I found out Mike was reading it. I didn't have time to call him until Friday. And neither of us started the week thinking we'd read it.

Mike: But we both loved it.

Wally: Yeah. So I'll talk about the section where she meets the Bully Boy and how he didn't even know her name, her children who were with her, her husband, nobody. He didn't even know their last name. Cindy writes that they'd had to take off the name tags for photo ops and he just breezes into the room they're in and he keeps calling them like "the family of the fallen." He doesn't even know Casey Sheehan's name. That's Cindy's son who died in Iraq in April of 2004. Like Mike says, you're probably familiar with parts of the story, but you really need to read the book. I remember Cindy Sheehan talking about this on Democracy Now! but there's a whole other level in the book. And let me add one more thing, John McCain is a coward for not having the guts to go public with what he says in private. I don't care for McCain and would never vote for him but I think telling a family one thing in private and then refusing to own up to it is disgraceful, especially when you're talking to them about the loss of their son and brother.

Mike: Right. He'll compare Iraq to Vietnam, in private, back in 2004, but he won't get honest in public. I don't know if he meant it either time he spoke with the Sheehans, he might have just thought it was 'the thing to say.' But he's a coward for not having the guts to say it publicly. He's not the only coward in the book but to try to act sympathetic and consuling when people are grieving and act another way in public is just disgusting. If we can stay on this a second, Wally and I talked Friday, this period of the book. There's a 'mother' mentioned in that section, pro-Bully Boy, and she's not named.

Wally: Yeah, we know who that is, right? That was mentioned at The Common Ills a long, long time ago.

Jim: Yeah. When we were reading the book, that's the first thing we noticed. Yeah, the 'mother.' We're glad that section is in the book too. And we were talking about how that was one of those things we read about, at The Common Ills, that we wouldn't get elsewhere because everyone else would tip-toe around it. She's not the mother, she wasn't close to the guy, but she got a lot of mileage from the press presenting herself as such while the actual mother was usually ignored. And if anyone's wondering, we've all read the book except for Cedric, but since Mike and Wally read the book this week to bring something to the table, we were agreed this would be their section.

Dona: Actually, we thought it would be Mike's section until he called Friday and told us Wally had read the book this week too. So Wally, tell us the take away for you.

Wally: I guess it would be that we can lull ourselves into thinking everything's fine and dandy but it never is. And the longer we, as a people, fool ourselves, the more violent the shock, reality will be. That's a point I think Cindy makes in the book where she's talking about realizing how many years she was thinking everything was fine and I think she says not looking past her own nose. She talks about, in other parts, things like PNAC, and is really walking you through the awakening she had.

Dona: Mike, same question?

Mike: What Wally said. There's a section where she's talking about first realizing how awful things are and she's online and searching and reading and quickly that turns into some days where she's online as the sun is coming up and she's still online searching for answers as the sun goes down. I think most people can relate to that. I think the awakening is something that most Americans can relate to. It might have come sooner or later for them, but I think a lot of people will identify with that. She also talks about books, like Smedley Butler's.

C.I.: War Is a Racket.

Mike: Yeah. And I think she's like all of us. She wasn't in a coma. But we're not getting the information we need and when we realize that, we start seeking it out. The book will make you sad, make you laugh, and most of all, inspire you to keep fighting.

Jim: Okay. We'll go to the last book --

Dona: Actually, we won't. Not yet. Ava's not been able to say much and that's because she and C.I. are the note takers so let's open this to Ava for a second. Elaine didn't get much either and I'm not sure about Rebecca. If they want to grab something here, go ahead.

Ava: Okay, well, I'll talk about what stood out that hasn't been spoken of. The jealousies. Cindy Sheehan's taken a lot of crap from the right-wing, no question. But, and this wasn't a surprise to me but I was glad she wrote about it, she's also taken a lot of crap from the center, center-left and left. What she writes about is the ones who felt she was putting herself out there. Which is as insulting as those on the right who make their accusations of how she's speaking out for political gain. There's a lot of pettiness in people, that's a given. But I did want to note that I doubt very seriously that she would have gotten some of the attacks she did from 'friends' if she wasn't a woman. If Cindy Sheehan was Carl Sheehan and had done everything the same, there would have not been any of that, "Oh who does she think she is." It's that whole culture that seems okay with a woman rising to one level but not any higher. And when they do, an attitude of "You think your shit doesn't stink?" takes hold. I'm glad she wrote about the pain that was caused by the attacks from coming 'friends.' And she doesn't make the sexism point that I'm making, by the way. I think it's a valid point and one that needs to be noted.

Elaine: I was actually going to pass but Ava's so right so let me just add that not only would she not have been attacked verbally behind her back but I seriously doubt that if she was Carl Sheehan, a mother and son would show up at the first Camp Casey and start telling Sheehan how it was going to be. Men don't usually have to deal with that. Sometimes, but not usually. But when a woman's organizing something there's not just an attitude on her part to include everyone but there's an attitude on the part of some people that they can try to push her around to make what she's doing be about what they want. To focus on the mother and son, a man would've told them it is what it is and not given it another thought. As women, we're conditioned to think about everyone's feelings and when someone's hurt, socially conditioned this isn't biological, we're encouraged to take it on ourselves and figure out how to make them feel better. That shouldn't be the concern. Cindy Sheehan tries to include them and I'm not slamming her for that. I've made the same mistake in my life. Repeatedly. But when we see someone else mirroring it, we really get what a waste of time it was. Sheehan does as well. That point is in the book. But I really don't see many people storming up to a Carl Sheehan, who's just started Camp Casey and it's running smoothly, with a list of demands and getting any sort of polite response. Cindy Sheehan is very strong and she doesn't let them derail Camp Casey. I think that's a sign of how far women have come. I hope, in future generations, we'll be able to say, from the start, "This isn't working out for you so you need to find some other action."

Rebecca: I think we should just tell them to go screw themselves, but I get the point as well. When I read that section, and I'm so glad Ava brought it up, I felt like my skin was crawling. I think most women can identify with that moment. I don't care if it's an action or activism or a party you've planned, we can all identify with that moment when a 'friend' shows up, after it's going and going along fine, telling us how it will be. I'll wrap up by also noting that the "Sheehan" family -- grandparents, uncles and aunts named Sheehan -- were so destructive, my opinion, to both Cindy and Casey Sheehan by issuing 'their' statement on the sixth day of Camp Casey and I'm glad it was included in the book. I'm glad that she makes the point that they are not her family, they are her now ex-husband's family. I think we, as women, also suffer from an attempt to pretty up the narrative to avoid hurting feelings and I was so glad she included that episode because it was too important to leave out. Great book, read it.

Jim: Okay, now Dona's in charge for the last section.

Dona: I was pestering C.I. to write something about Amy and David Goodman's new book Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight Back at TCI. Earlier, in this discussion, Jim noted that roundtables have largely stopped here. That was largely when the community, which includes all of us, were outraged by the vacation from Iraq that Democracy Now! took this summer, by the daily shout-out to an anti-woman website in the program's daily digest, by the ignoring of the revelations about the bodycount kept on Iraqis this summer, by the ignoring of the trip to Jordan, and I think I've covered the highlights. Between not wanting to discuss all of that or, let me clarify, not wanting it to turn into a trash Amy Goodman-fest, as well as knowing that Mike and Elaine were a couple when all of us were in the dark except for Wally, C.I. has repeatedly killed every suggestion of a roundtable. Not this past week, but the week before that, there was an incident while I was on the road with C.I. talking about the war. And I brought up the idea that if it wasn't going to be written about at TCI, how about we do something on it here since we've done very little on books in weeks. It was an "I'll think about it" response and I learned that it was a go the same way everyone else did, when C.I. announced it Thursday morning at the website. There are ground rules and we, C.I. and I, had discussed them ahead of time. If you have a question, you ask it at the end when I ask if there are any questions. There was a section of Exception to the Rulers that C.I. had an alternate take on, the previous book by the Goodmans, and when we discussed it here, before it could even be vocalized, Mike was just appalled at the thought that there might be more than hearts and flowers given to the book. Mike's written about that at his site, I'm not telling tales outside the school yard. So if you have a question, we're limited on time as well, you'll hold it until the end. If something needs clarifying, I'll ask. C.I.'s the only one participating who bothered to read the book. And we're going to start with the negatives. C.I.?

C.I.: This is Amy Goodman and David Goodman's book Static. It's the sister and brother team's follow up their bestseller Exception to the Rulers with this book. Negatives. I'll cut slack on typos online, in a newspaper article and even in a magazine. But books have editors. I doubt seriously that either Amy or David Goodman don't know when the events at Drake University or the government's actions happened. It was in 2004, John Ashcroft was the Attorney General. I believe it's page 53 where it say February 2005. That's a typo and I don't believe it's the authors. It's a serious typo because it's a serious event and since it's dealt with quickly and not brought up again, someone attempting to find out more about it might learn of the actions in February 2004 and continue looking for 2005 as they wondered, "Okay, but what about the next year!" There are others and, due to time constraints, we're noting that and moving on. In, I believe, chapter fourteen. I'll explain why I'm saying "I believe" at the end. In chapter fourteen, "Anti-Warriors," there's the inclusion on page 224 of someone who doesn't belong in any chapter entitled anti-warriors. The man has a new group but there's not anyone who remembers 2004 and much of 2005 and doesn't remember the former "I know, I was there," who was all over the media landscape, when voices of real war resistance couldn't get the time of day, maintaining that the US needed to 'stay the course' and offering that inspid -- and false -- Pottery Barn comparison. He was not, is not, an anti-warrior and doesn't belong in any chapter with that heading. As Elaine's noted, he also needs to take Mommy's pantyhose off his head but, my opinion, he thinks it makes him look like Silas in Platoon. Anyone who was against the war in 2004 knows damn well he not only shouted others down, not only trashed CODEPINK, but he and his organization were given a non-stop platform by Air America Radio and allowed to speak 'the truth, we were there' at a time when others weren't allowed on. He and his group, just him until Unfiltered listeners really turned on him -- at which point, he began bringing in others to speak for his group, were given a weekly segment called "Ask a Vet." And they all said, "Continue to the war." Over and over, week after week. There was no weekly "Ask an Activist" segment nor was there any attempt to provide a space for vets who were against the war. He doesn't belong in the book's chapter. I think he's had more than enough of a platform to offer his crackpot ideas. He didn't have answers in 2004, he didn't have answers in 2005. Now that the American people have turned against the war he wants to restyle himself. He can't. Not with the people who had to listen to his garbage on a weekly basis and he doesn't belong in a chapter called "Anti-warriors." He was a warrior, a proud warrior, advocating for further war. When on air with Larry Benksy to promote his book that didn't sell, he repeatedly referred to another guest on the panel -- one who was a vet against the war -- as "Your caller." He's a snide, little, hateful man and, to repeat, he doesn't belong in any chapter entitled "Anti-warriors." The fact that he was included in it will leave a bad taste in every community members' mouth. It's not a minor point and it's not a minor point to the anti-war movement of which he is not a part and has never been one. He was there to slam CODEPINK, in all his outlets, he wasn't there to kick start the movement. He is one of the reasons that protests were clamped down upon because, with his status as 'a vet' and with the status that Air America Radio elevated him to, with that lousy nonstop commercial, the 'continue the war' voices were given a platform, a weekly one in the case of Unfiltered, while the voices saying "Stop the war" were not given such a platform and usually found themselves, I'm speaking of the morning shows, cut off mid-sentence or apologized for after they were off the line or out of the studio. Most famously and most stupidly when Lizz Winstead felt the need to apologize for Tariq Ali after he was no longer present when Ali had not said anything that was controversial or upsetting unless, of course, you were hoping to continue the war.

Elaine: Dona, no offense, but screw the rules. If we're dealing with Unfiltered, I want Rachel Maddow noted.

Dona: C.I.?

C.I.: There was no bigger cheerleader for this war than Rachel Maddow on Unfiltered. Lizz at least knew the war was wrong and would often indicate that in comments. Rachel Maddow disagreed with guests who brought up the notion of bringing troops home. In her own way she is as disgusting as Mr. We Know, We Were There. And her trumpeting of the Rainman was embarrasing and disgusting as well as offensive. A person with serious emotional issues and possibly mental ones is not to be brought on as an animal act but that's exactly what she did for their Friday 'funnin' session. She is a joke and she is a hypocrite. She is a hypocrite because when Time magazine ran their Ann Coulter cover story, she didn't want to discuss it on air and disagreed with someone who brought it up. She didn't inform readers that she was very good friends with the author of the piece which would explain her reluctance to discuss the article. She is, however, friends with him and it sure is 'liberating' to know that when Time prints a mash note to Ann Coulter big, brave Rachel Maddow is there to dive under the couch and hide because her friend wrote the article. If she didn't want to talk about it because it was her friend who wrote it, she should have informed her audience of that. Between her war cheerleading and her so-called high I.Q. she remains the most inept on air personality the network has which is saying a lot for the network that inflicted Baby Cries A Lot upon a nation.

Elaine: Thank you. I'll be quiet now.

C.I.: Okay, back to the Goodmans. In chapter three, "News Fakers," there is a discussion about a story in the New York Times. They're speaking of a number of fakers and they zoom in, on page 71, I believe, on the story Jack Fairweather wrote for Mother Jones outing a man who posed as, and was presented by the New York Times, as an Iraqi general. Even the name the man gave to the press, which ran with it and that includes PBS' Frontline which, for some reason, isn't noted, was false. This was all dealt with in Jack Fairweather's report. They reference the report and cite Fairweather. So why, at the top of this page is Judith Miller's name present. No other Times reporter is named on the page. Judith Miller did not write that story for the paper. Anyone who read Fairweather's report knows damn well Chris Hedges wrote that story. If they went back and read the actual Times' story they know that Chris Hedges only outed one of what was claimed, in the original article in 2001 -- which drew a false link between 9-11 and Iraq -- that Hedges refers to two sources throughout the article. The other source who lied has never been revealed and will never be revealed as long as people, and the Goodmans are the only the latest, continue to attempt to pin that story on Judith Miller who did not write it. Check the byline, check Fairweather's article, which Hedges cooperated with. It's Chris Hedges, it's not Judith Miller. That's not bravery, that's not honesty. It is lying. Now the Goodmans can claim, "We never said Judith Miller wrote it!" No, they didn't. They are discussing a Times article and the only author they mention on the page is Judith Miller. In the end notes, they do not reference the Times article, possibly because to do so would require that they name Chris Hedges as the author. Amy Goodman knows who the author is, she interviewed Fairweather on her program. Her brother should know the article, he often contributes to Mother Jones. Rewriting history isn't honesty.

Rebecca: I'm interrupting. Because Dallas is going crazy right now. He wants something read in because he's sure that some idiot will write in and say, "Oh, that's not true." The New York Times article by Chris Hedges is called "A Nation Challenged: The School; Defectors Cite Iraqis Training For Terrorism" and this is the opening paragraph "Two defectors from Iraqi intelligence said yesterday that they had worked for several years at a secret Iraqi government camp that had trained Islamic terrorists in rotations of five or six months since 1995." From the beginning he claims two sources and, again, it is written by Chris Hedges, not by Judith Miller. I will add, when Fairweather appeared on CounterWhen, they avoided addressing the issue of the second source for the story as well.

Dona: I know why you're saying "I believe" on page numbers, but can you paraphrase the sentence on Judith Miller?

C.I.: I believe it was, "It planted these stories through a network of credulous journalists, notably Judith Miller of the New York Times. And it's fakery went further . . ." which is where they go into the November story in The New York Times. Dallas, are you looking at the story right now?

Dallas: Yes.

C.I.: The phoney general was outed by Chris Hedges to Jack Fairweather. The other Iraqi is not. Could you quote the sentence where Hedges describes his position, the source we're all supposed to pretend never existed, in the military?

Dallas: It reads, this is the second source whom Hedges has never revealed, talking, "''We could see them train around the fuselage,' said one of the defectors, a former Iraqi sergeant in the intelligence service who spent nearly five years at the camp. 'We could see them practice taking over the plane.'''

C.I.: Thank you. Let's be clear, that entire story run by the paper was a lie. Dallas, did you want to add anything?

Dallas: I'll just add the only name on the byline is Chris Hedges.

C.I.: Okay, thank you very much. So Judith Miller did not write the story and to imply that she did, and that's what you're doing when you refuse to mention the author and the only reporter for the paper that you mention in the discussion is Judith Miller, is flat out wrong. Judith Miller has more than enough to be held accountable for, things don't need to be invented and cover doesn't need to be provided for others who got it wrong. Pushing a phoney link between 9-11 and Iraq was getting it wrong. Both Chris Hedges and Frontline got it wrong but readers of the Goodmans' book will not know that from the text. They will be of the belief that the all powerful Judith Miller pulled off another one. And, as Rebecca pointed out, CounterSpin, interviewing Fairweather, also failed to ask who the second source was. The story was phoney. It wasn't reality. That's why Hedges feels comfortable outing one source to Fairweather. It's past time that Hedges was asked to name the second source, the one that, as Dallas just noted, either was, or was posing as, an Iraqi sgt. When the left plays stupid, no one wins.

Dona: Now talk about what's missing from the book.

C.I.: We have only a little time, I know. Quickly, one example, Dahr Jamail, where is he? Does he exist? If you've go time to mention the little boy with Mommy's pantyhose on his head in a chapter he doesn't belong in, you've got time to mention one of the few unembedded reporters in Iraq. Dona and I were reading on the plane and she was reading a novel that's not out yet and I was reading the Goodmans. I got to the last page, closed the book and waited until she was done because I didn't want to interrupt.

Dona: And I was finishing a chapter when I realized you weren't reading so I closed my book and asked, "What?" You said, "They've written an entire book filled with various shout outs and critiques but they didn't mention Dahr Jamail once."

C.I.: That really did shock me. It still does. Many of the things in the book build upon interviews Amy Goodman has done on her show, which drives home the importance of the show, but Iraq's really not the book. They're fine and happy to discuss the liars that got us there, or at least Judith Miller, but there's no examination of the embed process. Coming all these years after the fact and considering that the white phosphorus story broke on Democracy Now!, that the program was slammed by The New York Times for doing so, without being named, and then when it turned out the program had it right and it wasn our little embeds in the form of Dexy Filkins that were wrong, the paper did note the program by name. Scott Shane wrote that article. That was a key moment for the program, they had someone from the Pentagon admitting that it was used while trying to downplay how it was used. This closely follwed a psuedo independent magazine turning on Dave Lindorff. And of course, Dahr Jamail had reported all along that it was used. But they don't want to examine the embeds and I have to wonder if that has to do with the verbal skirmish Amy Goodman and a 'reporter' for Newsweek got into in Qatar? Goodman's remarks were appropriate and correct. He was trying to appeal to knee-jerk emotionalism because he couldn't dispute the accuracy of her statements. But it's past time that the lies of the embeds be told. Dexy Filkins among them. None of his reporting stands up but, this was what I was told by a friend working at a paper, he's now behind the halls of academia and so people are backing off. That's insane. His reporting was a joke. If you can't mention him, you don't have the right, my opinion, at this late dat eto again bring up Judy Miller.

Dona: Because if the Judith Millers got us over there, the Dexy Filkins kept us there.

C.I.: Right, with their rah-rah reporting that was based on reality in the same way that The Simple Life was. Dexy was outed as the go-to-boy for the US military when they wanted to plant a story, outed by the mainstream media. None of his reporting holds up in terms of accuracy and most of his reporting is an embarrassment in terms of journalistic standards. The left needs to quit playing games and hiding behind Judith Miller. There's a book I've been avoiding that supposedly takes a look at the war. One of the authors, discussing it with Andrea Lewis on The Morning Show, noted Judith Miller, for the Chris Hedges' story we've just talked about. If that's in the book and we discuss it here, I am going to town. I am sick of this crap, I'm sick of the fact that history is being distorted. That's what's happening when you're pinning a Chris Hedges story off on Judith Miller. Miller is not guilt-free. Hold her accountable for what she did. There's plenty there, you don't have to invent things. Turth to power does not translate as "playing dumb." I like Hedges. I like his writing. I'm not at all surprised that he got burned by sources. It happens all the time. I give him credit for being open about the general but the issue of the sgt. needs to be addressed and people need to stop pinning the story on Judith Miller. She didn't write it. As it is, I have no interest in hearing from Chris Hedges. He was on with Laura Flanders last Sunday and Jim brought it up and suggested we listen. Then Ava pointed out that the issue of the second source wouldn't be brought up and we'd all be depressed with Flanders so better not to even listen. For all anyone knows, Hedges would gladly explain what he does know about the source, how the source presented himself. But no one's asking. Here's the real danger. The Goodmans allow readers to think it was Judith Miller, bad interview subjects proclaim it was Judith Miller, audiences start believing it, someone out there writes a book about ten or twenty years from now, references any of the number of books that pin it on Judith Miller, someone on the right does the actual research and it's "Ha-Ha-Ha! Stupid Left! You don't even know who wrote that story!" I don't hate, or even dislike, Chris Hedges. He's one of the few reasons to pick up Mother Jones. But the movement is more important to me than one person and I won't pretend that Judith Miller wrote a story she didn't just because she's a punching bag and Hedges is a favorite of the left. It's not reality and it's not fair.

Dona: Now, the surprise.

C.I.: I would recommend the book. We'd gotten off the airplane, Dona and I, and we were in the airport bar and Dona asked whether or not I would recommend it.

Dona: And you answered yes and gave, as an example, the chapters entitled "Watching You" and "The Mighty Wurlitzer." You noted that the Goodmans seem unaware of the spying on the feminist movement.

C.I.: Right. We're into the period of COINTEL-PRO. As Ruth Rosen accurately documents in The World Split Open, the FBI was obsessed with the feminist movement. That book's about to be reissued, by the way. So it was more than a little surprising that the spying on the feminist movement wasn't even mentioned in this progressive book. It did matter, it does matter. That said, no one's bothered to do what Amy Goodman has on Democracy Now! which is to explain to her audience how what is happening today, with the spying on American citizens, echoes the earlier period. There's been a lot of talk from the independent magazines about how they were going to write something or they were going to post things on their websites from their archives, but they never did. Amy Goodman's the only one, still, that's explored this period of time. She and her brother could have written a strong chapter on these topics without the interviews she did on her show as source material but they've written an excellent chapter as a result of utilizing the program's material and the history. I read a lengthy portion of it to Dona.

Dona: Because I was really unconvinced. We were at a table and waiting for our drinks. And I hate the hassle of flying these days and all of that so I was more than a little cranky. And C.I.'s reading this section out loud and it is a wonderful section. I said, "Okay, now you've convinced me, I'll read the book." But I can't and it's the same reason that C.I. says "I believe" throughout this.

C.I.: I finished reading that section and Dona said what she just recapped. And a woman at a table behind us, late 20s, walked over and apologized for interrupting, identified herself as "a reader," and asked if the book we were discussing was fiction or non-fiction.

Dona: And C.I. explains it's non-fiction and she wonders how "They're still alive after writing that?" She asks about the authors and C.I. explains it's a brother and sister and that Amy Goodman hosts the program Democracy Now! and the woman says, "Oh, I never watch TV."
She's just staring at the book and C.I. has to practically put it into her hands for her to look at it. She was very shy.

C.I.: She was very shy. She was interested in the topic enough to leave her comfort zone and approach. But she starts looking at the back cover, with all the endorsements, and she reads the flap, and she says, "Let me get a piece of paper and write down the title."

Dona: And C.I. tells her, "Keep the book." She starts saying she couldn't and C.I. convinces her and says, "Keep it, read it and pass it on to one more person." So she did and our drinks still hadn't arrived and we had to get to the college so we left. As we were leaving, I pointed out that she was intently reading the book. You can tell, at least with most people, when they're enjoying a book they're reading. They don't have a stone face. And C.I. says, "That's the power of Amy Goodman."

C.I.: Which it is. I have no problem pointing out the flaws of the book. And I'm not saying it doesn't have any. But the power of Amy Goodman, in book, audio, or video, is that she can reach people. They have to know she's out there. Credit to her brother David, I'm not attempting to take anything away from him. But that is the power of Amy Goodman. In countless interviews, she will stop the guest and say, "Back up, because I don't think everyone knows what you're talking about." She'll do that repeatedly, and she's right when she does it. She knows when it's going over the heads and she knows when it can be followed. She knows how an event needs to be told to both be understandable and to be of interest. The book can be criticized, I've certainly offered examples of it. I'm not someone in a Cult of Amy Goodman. I don't walk around saying, "Praise be to Amy, she's perfect." No one's perfect. I agree errors were made this summer, by all independent media, and I've respected the wishes of the community not to promote the show the way we once did. We linked to everything they did, Monday through Friday. We can't do that again. There's too much ill will that's been built up in the community. That's reality, I'm aware of it. I understand, for instance, Mike's very real pain over the way the summer played out. I'll even go so far as to say that the previous book and this book are responsible in some ways for that because there's a self-presentation that can't be carried off by anyone of this world. To focus on Mike, because he's been very public at his site about his feelings on this, I've never said, "Oh Mike, don't write about that." And I wouldn't. I think there's a shared feeling there for some and I think there are applications that go beyond this specific incident. I also think if you're writing what you feel, you're being honest. His disappointment continues to be very loud and clear. He needs to share that whenever he feels it. But the reality is that the program, Democracy Now, does more than any magazine. No one matches it, or her, bravery. She doesn't hide behind generals, she doesn't do "As a person who believes in God . . ." to make her statements likeable. Does she make mistakes, yes. And I've been much harder on the book than I would on the program because a book is much more permanent to me personally. But that is the power of Amy Goodman, what happened in the airport bar. Dona and I were discussing the book. That didn't make the woman approach us. I read a section of the book out loud and that was enough to make an obviously shy woman come over to our table. It was the fact that she was hearing, in Amy and David Goodman's words, about something she'd never heard about and she could follow the way they told it and it grabbed her. That's not a plea to the community to please allow us to go back to noting the program. I know full well the opinion of the program. The only thing I requested, which members agreed to, was that if it's Iraq related, could it please be noted. The show's not perfect and it never will be. You can't do a live show and expect perfection. But pretending it is that doesn't help anyone and, I think, my opinion, that a lot of members bought into the idea that it was without fault, which no show is, and certainly Mike's reaction in a past roundtable made it very clear that, at that time, there was to be no alterantive view about Goodman.

Jess: Is this the question period?

Dona: Sure, we need to wrap up.

Jess: We were talking about this Saturday morning, C.I. and me, and a topic I wanted to bring up. This week, C.I. wrote about a guest and how the guest was hideous. Which I agree with and grew up knowing from my mother, who is a left wing attorney, just how hideous that guest is. There was an e-mail, I won't say from whom, in the public account and it was among the thoughts addressed in Saturday's entry at The Common Ills, so I'd just like to have that addressed here.

C.I.: I can count on one hand the number of times I've ever turned off Democracy Now! was the statement I had made and I'd explained that I had no use for the guest. The e-mail Jess is referring to claimed that the guest did the exact thing I do. The point Jess wanted noted that wasn't in Saturday's entry, is that no, I don't do the exact same thing. I'm not dependent upon independent media for money or exposure. What I say, positive or negative, I say. I say it here and I say at The Common Ills, neither of which brings in any money. The hideous one penned an article for CJR and was paid for it. In that article he slammed Pacifica as crackpots. I think everyone listening to Democracy Now! on a Pacifica station should be informed of that if he's going to be a guest. He didn't just offer a critique, he slammed the entire network, did so for profit and did so in a forum that doesn't praise Pacifica or cover it. Translation, as when he turned on a group doing good work in the 80s, he was going to the mainstream media and profitting from his attacks on independent media. He was presenting himself as 'reasoned' and 'fair'. As though he were auditioning to be the new Michael Kinsley. What he did in CJR and what he did for the institute was disgusting and I don't know anyone involved in the benefits to raise money for that institute who will say a kind word about him, nor should they. "Creep" is about the nicest thing that anyone would say about him. In my mind, there is a world of difference between offering criticism, demanding that people live up to their stated goals, and profitting from presenting yourself as respectable and trashing an institute or Pacifica. It goes hand in hand and it is his pattern. He doesn't belong on any Pacifica show. The consensus among my friends is that he will turn on anyone to be loved by the mainstream -- which doesn't really care for him but will carry his slams.

Jim: I'll jump in and back that up. There were a lot of e-mails from press outlets and reporters when we offered the piece on CounterSpin. I was kind of jazzed by that. Excited. And I mentioned it to you, C.I., and you said, "My vote is we don't reply. If they want to write about it, they should be able to do so without our help and I'm not interested in helping the mainstream slam the show." And I mean, I was ready to call one of the people who'd left their number and they were wanting a quote and saying we'd get a mention, the site would get a mention, in the story. So we took a vote and, of course, Ava and C.I. were voting in unison. I knew that ahead of time. But everyone else voted in agreement. I was the only one wanting to talk to the press. And after I got over it --

Dona: After you left in a huff.

Jim: After I left in a huff, I was thinking about it and thinking about the power we have and the ways we use it. We've got these really great readers who've been with us when no one knew the site and we sure ddin't get much help from anyone. And I thought about how Ava and C.I. turn down every press request and are of the opinion that if they want to 'expand' on something, they'll do it here. And about all the little Cokie Roberts that are springing up. So I was glad about the decision for that reason. But another reason was that we don't owe anyone anything. And, in journalism, mainstream, it's all about the 'credit,' the byline. And I remember that first weekend when we started this site, C.I. and Dona were saying "Group entries." Talking about how individual bylines would lead to more problems than they were with. And, in fact, the TVG reviews did. Because we'd be stopped on campus or our families would say, "Hey that was a great TV review." We'd have to explain that Ava and C.I. were writing them. Or the e-mails would say, "You guys are the funniest! I loved what you wrote about __" and mention some TV show. So for that reason, we identify those reviews. But there's no "I wrote that line" about the other pieces.

Dona: You have a point you're stumbling to, correct?

Elaine: I'm actually enjoying what Jim's talking about.

Jim: Thank you. The point is that there's a lot that got built into this site by luck, by intent and by freakish accident. And it's all part of what it is but what it's not is a site that's waiting for the mainstream to give us a gold star. And you think you know that, or I did, but when those e-mails were coming in, I would be saying, "Hey, look who wrote!" Ava and C.I. don't even want to know who wrote in about their reviews unless it was a friend of their's. And, so point, there is a world of difference between offering criticism, right or wrong, within this forum and allowing it to be used by the mainstream by actively participating. My dad said it was the right decision because the site would have been used to slam FAIR. Which is the point C.I. was making about that guest. It's real easy to lose that. Or lose sight of that. The mainstream would have done their 'objective' report and hid behind our comments to slam the organization, because they never cover the program CounterSpin. It's seductive and it's flattering and if you're participating, you are being co-opted. Why would we need another outlet to discuss the article when we have this? And, Dona, to bring this back to an even bigger point, looking through Free Press and the issues of Rolling Stone, it was so easy to see how independence was tossed in the trash to go for respectability. Look at the slams, tying this into another book, against Cindy Sheehan that have at their heart, "Be like us and we won't beat you up." So I think it all flows together, actually.

Dona: So said my cosmic boyfriend.

Jess: I'm with Elaine I liked that and think it's a great way to end.

Dona: And end finally. This will be the longest piece we do for this edition if I have anything to say about it. We're behind schedule but we did do a book discussion. Hopefully, we'll do one again soon.

Death of the Press

It's the death of the press as we know it (and we feel fine). If you didn't get that word, you must have missed Michael Wolff's Vanity Fair article entitled "Panic on 43rd Street." It's a regular 10th Avenue Freeze Out, to read Wolff's article.

We're not disagreeing with it, but as obit after obit keeps coming in on the press (right now the obits are about the daily papers, not long ago they were about the evening news and, if Time-Warner makes the announcement some are anticipating, look for it to shortly be about the mainstream magazines).

But always the mainstream press. The ghost of Judith Miller seems to hang over the funeral procession. Oh, Judy, who knew you had so much power?

Independent media apparently. And it's surprising that there's no obit for them. Are they dying? Who knows, but it's as a good a gas bag topic as any other, right?

The ghost of Judith Miller lingers over independent media as well. It leaves a bad smell, in fact. Not because of anything she contributed to the format (she did, however, once write for The Progressive) but because of the fact that so many are so eager to water the dead fern one more time that they've taken to ascribing articles to Miller that she didn't, in fact, write.

Make no mistake, Miller's resume is dotted with spotty reporting. (Many of which bears co- bylines from fellow offenders such as Michael R. Gordon and Warren S. Hoge -- both of whom have been let off with very little criticism.) In fact, the resume is so crowded, we honestly don't grasp why so many in independent media feel the need to push the lie that she wrote a November 2001 piece for The New York Times linking Saddam Hussein and 9-11. (The piece was written by Chris Hedges.) Is it because she's a woman? Is it because she was once of their own?

The death of the independent media actually happened some time ago. It's actually why a Judith Miller could, eventually, land at The New York Times. All the life and spirit has been drained out of it with very few exceptions. There is no 'alternative' to independent media unless by 'alternative' you mean printing up the reverse image of the mainstream.

If the mainstream cried "Hillary Great!" the response from independent media would be "Hillary Bad!" and somehow, we would all be expected to be better off and feeling informed. If you have any doubts that the needle is on "E" for independent media, reading Katha Pollitt's latest column (and we like Pollitt) should help you put away your doubts. Writing of a person that far too much has been said already (Hillary Clinton, or as Pollitt calls her "HRC"), Pollitt wastes a column coming to Hillary's defense. We understand the column. We've had the knee jerk reactions ourselves over some of the sexism that's passed for 'critique.' We just didn't waste our time writing about what has to be the most written about woman after Princess Diana.

So Pollitt chases down the sexism or attempts to. She notes CODEPINK and quotes CODEPINK. They're harder on Hillary because she's a woman, we're told. Pollitt's had quite enough of that, thank you very much. And she goes to great lengths to explain why.

She just forgets one word -- a word the right never forgets. That word is "feminist." Hillary may not be our idea of the ideal feminist, but she's certainly promoted herself as one in the past and she's been tarred and feathered by Rush, et al for it.

The expectations on Hillary don't derive simply from her gender. There is the fact, which Pollitt leaves unspoken, that Hillary has identified and been identified as a feminist. Is it too much to expect a feminist not to water down reproductive rights? Is it too much to expect a feminist to oppose an illegal war?

We'll never know because even Pollitt (whom we do like) was caught in the knee-jerk.

In fact, the knee-jerk appears to be the dance independent media does (over and over) these days. We get silly little transcriptions of radio interviews (lengthy, wide-ranging radio interviews that are reduced, in print, to something that reads like a Q&A with Bobby Sherman from a vintage issue of Tiger Beat). What's the purpose of that? What's the purpose of, for instance, taking an interview with Gore Vidal and pruning it so that he comes off like the sound-byte king and unable to speak in anything other than short sentences?

If they'll render Vidal stupid, who won't they? If Vidal's comments are edited so that it sounds like he and the interviewer are going through a checklist in ten minutes, what's the value in printing the interview? What has independent media to show for it other than that "OH, WE GOT GORE!" moment?

Every now and then, The Progressive (and yes, we were referring to their "interviews") feels the need to run a pro-war piece and will usually note that they're for freedom of speech or dress it up in some other 'high minded' drag. But the same freedom of speech clause isn't used to offer anything free wheeling. The more radical the person is, the more reduced his or her statements to. (Cindy Sheehan's interview in that magazine is another good example of that.) The interview and the subject get watered down. (And we've heard from at least one subject of an 'interview' in the last year who told us that they felt they came off sounding like an idiot as their replies were reduced to simple, single sentences. Is it sour grapes or wishful thinking on the part of the the one interviewed? Possibly, but we believe it. It didn't read like them when we saw it in print. It didn't read like any coverage they'd ever had before in a lengthy history of coverage.)

Independent media has largely lost the ability to be 'free wheeling.' We're thinking of three well known print magazines: The Nation, The Progressive and the rag we'll mention again just as soon as the one at it who ripped off Mike makes at the very least a private apology. (No, we're not letting that die and Mike's noted that he may very well go out at his site by reproducing his post that was ripped off as well as the 'writing' that ripped him off. Shame apparently is non-existant in indymedia. Which, while we're on the subject, must explain why one of the short stories in our fiction edition this summer appeared three weeks later at a website with slight modifications and comments of praise to the blogger whose fans didn't grasp what a rip-off artist they were reading. When they do that in film, they at least bill it as a 'homage.') They seem to be in some sort of 'respectable' trap these days, looking to the mainstream to figure out the 'big topic' and then printing up a negative mirror image.

There are so much useless pages in print. Take Eric Alterman. (Insert Henny Youngman punchline here.) Does the nation really need The Nation to offer up, in print, his comments on some cable chat fest or story that is three to four weeks old when the issue hits the stands? We don't think so. You can get real time criticism online at any number of sites and Alterman's columns show up dead-on-arrival (and, as Rebecca pointed out, he's so busy humping some man crush's leg, that he usually misses out on the larger story). Offering his no-they-didn't coverage in print is cheating readers who probably have already read such things online.

After all, that's the thinking behind making pieces on Iraq 'web only exclusives' right?

Where is the bravery in independent media (print)? Why does it always read like a staid issue produced in one sitting? Where is the life left in the medium?

As tiring as the Judith Miller tirades are at this late (bravery would be taking on Dexter Filkins), at least those little attempts at drive-bys tend to zing with life. Otherwise, we're luckly to feel like we're reading Time on a good day, and, on a bad day, feel like we're flipping through the 'tasteful' style of Ladies' Home Journal.

A Hunter S. Thompson couldn't be published today in our independent media. A Pauline Kael couldn't be. They'd have to go through the generic processor that robs all the life and spirit out of most writers as they tackled the same issues that the mainstream does. At its best, the commentary reads like good Paul Krugman. That some might take that as a compliment drives home the problem since Krugman writes for The New York Times which is not ground breaking in terms of approach or style.

Why does it matter? If the daily paper is the obit this month, what does that say about independent media which these days reads more and more like an extended section of the op-ed section of The Times?

One of the books we discuss this edition is Free Press: Underground & Altnerative Publications: 1965-1975. While neither The Nation nor The Progressive was ever the underground press, looking through older issues of the magazines, we do so more spirit and more life. (In terms of interviews for The Progressive, we were shocked to read a not-all-that-old Susan Faludi interview where she was allowed to speak in paragraphs and not soundbytes.) We're also thinking of Betty's right-on critique about the recent column by Thomas Friedman: "Then, as that relization sunk in, it struck me that Thomas Friedman was even more useless than I knew. Here he was, with a column on Friday, weighing in about what had been said on Monday. All week long, everyone and their clone had been offering up endless takes on what John Kerry meant, what the attacks from Bully Boy meant, blah blah blah. On Friday, Thomas Friedman shows up with the idea that anyone gives a damn about the tired topic, that all week long, they'd been thinking, 'I can't wait until Friday when Friedman weighs in so I'll know what I really think!' It drove home the limitations of the daily paper and of columnists who sleep walk across the computer keyboard as they attempt to churn out a few superficial paragraphs. Not timely, not insightful, not passionate, his column just sort of lay there lifeless -- as though it was need of viagra."

Independent media should take note (Eric Alterman should take notes). When it's coming down to Katha Pollitt (a great writer) tackling the tired subject of Hillary and failing to note that she's not just "a woman," she's also a feminist, then independent media needs to refuel the tank quick. If the daily paper is dying, if, these opinion journals may not be far behind. They should make an effort to avoid digging their own graves.
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