Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --
Sunday, we're hitting sleep time. DC, hope you were there. Hope you were doing something if you weren't.

We have new content and the following participated:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim:
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty who was on the verge of starting Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz,
Ruth of Ruth's Report and her grandchildren Tracey and Jayson,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
and Trina of Trina's Kitchen

We thank all for their work. In addition Dallas helped as sounding board, link lacator and a lot more. And we thank Rebecca for photoshopping new illustrations.

New content?

Show Me What Democracy Looks Like (1-27-07) -- DC report -- not on what happened in Congress, on what happened among the people. This was done by all listed above. Everything else is your weekly gang except the TV review.

Run, Olson! Run! -- As Rebecca and Kat have both noted, "You make me sick. Always waiting for some Batman to rescue you."

Dear Darrell -- return to a topic from last week.

Now The Nation wants to reach the country? Now? -- Nation mag is putting out a new book at the end of the year. Who do they think will buy it.

"Occupation" or "war" -- noting a desire by some at the rally to drop "war" and start using "occupation."

A message from Sanford Levinson (humor) -- humor people, humor! It's funny. It's funny and it's true.

The Nation Stats -- How low can you go? Everybody, "How low can your go?" Women continue to be second-class citizens at The Nation.

Highlights -- credited in the feature and didn't they turn that into a mini-essay. Great job.

Editorial: Whose War Is It Anyway? -- if you do nothing, you're voting for the war. This was worked on by the usual plus Ruth and Trina.

TV: No Class in The Class -- Ava and C.I.'s TV review. We complimented them on it and they were both like, "Eh, leave me alone, I'm tired."

And we all are. But pretty good time and if it weren't for the new image program taking so much time (2 hours) we'd have been done much sooner.

See you next week.

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

Editorial: Whose War Is It Anyway?

In 2003, Bully Boy took the world, not just the US, into a war against Iraq under false premises, falsehoods and out and out lies. None of his 'truths' has lived up to the hype. It was his illegal, pre-emptive, war of choice.

In November 2006, Democrats were put in to power. They currently control the House and Senate.

Yesterday, in DC, at least a half million people gathered demanding Congress take action on Iraq.

Currently the Iraq war is Bully Boy's war. He started it, he lied, he refuses to face reality that US troops breed the resentment and fuel the resistance. He refuses to face the reality that, in polls, Iraqis say they want all foreign troops out. He refuses to notice that Iraqis not of the resistance but supporting it in polls state that they feel the US is attempting to plunder their natural resources.

He had his stunt landing, he had his stuffed crotch strut across a carrier. He had his photo op with a plastic turkey. He's had his "I don't belive you can win it" versus his "We will win the war on terror." He's had one laughable moment (often cheereded on -- led by the mainstream press -- in real time) after another.

The war in Iraq is no joke but it has been his war.

That all changed when the Democrats took control of both houses.

They now have the power to lead. They actually had that power before -- to lead as an opposition party. Now they have the power to lead as the party in control.

If they do nothing, the war becomes their illegal war as well. If they do not make an effort to end it, they are allowing it to continue, putting them in partnership with the Bully Boy.

Symbolic, toothless measures qualifies as doing nothing.

Tuesday, Russ Feingold will hold a hearing to determine does the Congress have the power to stop funding the illegal war? (They do.) Remembering how few Democrats would join his call for censure of Bully Boy over illegal, warrantless wire tapping of American citizens, we're not expecting a tidal wave of support in Congress for Feingold's actions.

But Congress better grasp quickly that the people are watching. The people, their bosses. The ones who hired them and the ones who can fire them. The Democratic Party, if it refuses to utilize the power the people granted them, may find that "symbolic" actions work both ways. For instance, a 2008 pollster may hear, "Well I'm voting for the Democratic ticket symoblically." Meaning? "I'm not going to the polls."

When you do nothing, you betray the public trust. When you take no action you demonstrate to voters that there's no point in voting for you.

The laughable Harry Reid is talking tough about a symbolic measure, promising that if Republicans aren't into symbolism, it will hurt them in the 2008 elections. Democrats might better worry about how disgusted Americans are becoming with this nonsense as they continue to discover that the referendum is nothing more than a lunch time poll, that it does not bind the Bully Boy to act on anything -- it merely says "We are opposed. Do what you want, but we're oppposed."

In DC yesterday and across the country, citizens stood up to repeat the message they sent in the November elections: Bring the troops home. If Democrats still can't hear that message in DC, they may quickly find themselves with plenty of time to listen to crickets chirping, to dogs howling at the moon, to anything that happens in their former home towns that they may end up being returned to for good as citizens say, "You can act the fool, but you won't play me for one."

It's Bully Boy's war . . . up until the Democrats demonstrate that they're not prepared to end it. At that point, it becomes their war.

TV: No Class in The Class

CBS's new Monday nights, Out of Practice was pulled and The Class was put on instead. What do the two shows have in common? Strong casts, lousy writing.

The sitcom is the co-brain child of David Crane and you knew the Friends gravy train had to end some time. Publicity material for the show before it aired couldn't stop citing Friends. Ourselves, we were remembering Veronica's Closet, Jesse and Joey. That's not why we waited to review it. A friend with the show begged us to give it time.

If you've got time to waste, The Class is the perfect show for you. If you're only to willing to allow for growing pains and not stink-o-rama, you'll probably take a pass on The Class.

What's right? A strong cast. Strong creative team on the set.

What's wrong? Writing, casting and just about every obstacle that a performer needs a miracle to overcome.

Lucy Punch is already out of the cast. She played Holly. Who was Holly? Don't ask the writers.
Punch struggled against huge odds (including the wrong type to play annoying -- everyone but Jason Ritter has been cast against type). She was supposed to be irritating. Not in a Louie (Taxi) kind of way. She was supposed to be irritating and endearing. Holly is/was married to a man with whom she had a daughter (named Oprah) and the 'gag' there was that he's probably gay. He certainly is mincing.

She was supposed to be enough of an idiot not to notice when everyone around her did. She was also supposed to be a TV journalist so maybe the not noticing what everyone else did wasn't so unbelievable? Her school boyfriend turned out to be gay, by the way (Kyle played by Sean Maguire). So what she wanted was for her daughter to get into a good school, to get her career going and that was pretty much it. The writers thought ha-ha was having her report on a hurricane and have a sign hit her in the face. In fact, they thought that was so ha-ha funny, not only did they show that once, they had Kyle and his boyfriend watch it repeatedly (while laughing) on Tivo. And, here's the thing, viewers are supposed to like Kyle.

Do the writers? Who knows?

One thing we do know is that it's always an all White world in The Land of David Crane. No leads are persons of color and Kyle's boyfriend Aaron is someone Holly (and her husband) repeatedly state they can't understand due to his Hispanic accent. Just one more trait that was supposed to irritate and endear Holly to viewers.

Punch wasn't the problem. Holly could have been fixed. The problem wasn't with the actress, it was with the writing. In another story involving suicidal Richie (played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson), Holly was actually funny in a scene in the car where she was supposed to be uncaring much to the amazement of Nicole (Andrea Anders) and Duncan (Jon Bernthal). Not only was that a strong scene for Punch, it was also one of the better scenes for Bernthal.

His character, Duncan (it's a big cast, we'll go slowly) lives at home with his mother and appears to have trouble with work (he's in construction). The show kicked off with Ethan (Jason Ritter) wanting to surprise the woman he was engaged to with a party featuring everyone they went to third grade with as well as some school employees. At the party, Duncan met Nicole (Andrea Anders) again. He always loved her. She was there with her husband Yonk (played by David Keith who's the only cast member that has managed to deliver consistently despite the writing). After the party. Yonk is asked what he values most as he and his wife drive home. He can mention his Superbowl moments and other things. He doesn't mention her. As a result, when he then leaves on a business trip, she calls Duncan. They end up sleeping together.

She stays with Yonk. Wait, we're not to the groaner yet. Duncan visits Nicole who passes himself off as a guy giving an estimate on house repairs when Yonk suddenly returns home. Yonk decides they need to fix the place up and that Duncan's the guy to do that. Duncan accepts. Now Duncan works on the house, makes goo-goo eyes at Nicole, buddies around with Yonk and the whole thing could hold your attention for about 90 minutes in a film but it just too hard to believe (especially when Duncan's giving Yonk's tips on how to please his wife) week after week.

It's that sort of overkill that destoys the show.

Need another example? Remember suicidal Richie (Jess Tyler Ferguson)? He falls for Lina (Heather Goldenhersh) and it's not enough that on their first date he has to run her over, helping her leave the hospital he also loses her at the entrance when a gust blows through. Now Richie loves Lina and Lina loves Richie. There's none of the dance Nicole and Duncan are doing. But the writers keep piling it on. They can't help it. They think if they keep throwing something on the screen, it's bound to land funny. (Keep hoping.)

So Richie isn't just in love with Lina, he also has a wife. Not an ex-wife, a wife. As Lina manuevers around in her wheelchair (due to her casts, she'll be out of it when the casts come off), you start wondering when the writers will feel that they've done more than enough plot-wise and start providing scenes that pay off.

Jason Ritter's easy going in the role and it works. Ethan was dumped at the party in the first episode. He's dumped at another party. The bad-things-happen-at-parties was funny . . . on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Yes, we have another series that has little to do with the real world and a lot to do with every other sitcom you've ever seen. But Jason Ritter makes it work. He's very natural on camera (even more so than his father John Ritter).

The most effective scenes on the show have been between Ritter and and Lizzy Caplan (Kat). Not the 'big plot' scenes that advance about four different story strands at once. The effective scenes have involved self-contained moments -- such as when Ethan and Kat pretend to be other people's blind dates.

Caplan? She's trying very hard. She's undermined by things that would never had happened ten years ago on an NBC sitcom. What's the deal with the hair? What's the deal with the clothes? None of which suit her character. (Duncan, by contrast, in t-shirts or dressed up, comes off like a little boy -- very in character.) They've worked some with the hair but when we were asked to wait on reviewing this show, we did ask if hair and wardrobe would be addressed in the 'changes' that were coming? Apparently not really.

Those aren't superficial issues especially when you're talking about the character (Kat) who is supposed to be the bad ass of the show. With a hairstyle like Leather Tuscadero, maybe someone weaned on Happy Days has never met a real bad ass?

While Duncan has his own visual scheme, the rest of the characters are lost. There's nothing they wear that says a thing about the characters. When you've got actors working their asses off to bring weakly written characters to life, they need some assistance.

Off screen, Caplan (Kat) has been given some and it's paid off. The character was one (sour) note in the first episode. The director (James Burrows) has worked hard to assist Caplan. Not because she's not a fine actress (she's a fine actress) but because there's so damn little on the page. It's the same sort of work that Megan Mullally had to do with Karen Walker on Will & Grace. If the show lasts, expect the viewers tuning into later seasons to experience shock when the first episodes go into syndication -- to be as shocked as the ones asking "What's happened to Karen's voice?" when Will & Grace first started airing in syndication.

The actors (and the director) are pulling it together in rehearsals, reinventing the script as much as they can.

Don't expect much help from David Crane. The co-creator of Friends found another partner for this show and what's on screen demonstrates that CBS got Crane post-Joey not after Friends first reached their giddy highs. He's on fumes which is why it's only near the mid-season that characters (and actors) are starting to connect with each other -- characters who aren't lovers or would be lovers. Duncan and Richie have a nice chemistry. Kyle and Ethan have a nice character. Kyle and Kat have a nice chemistry.

The only chemistry that's worked from the start is Kat and Lina who are supposed to be two sisters who are complete opposites ("as different as night and day" as The Patty Duke Show once said of the identical cousins). That's the one area where Caplan's full on force has always worked. Lina's too trusting (not just in Kat's eyes, too trusting period). When Kat lets loose on Richie, you buy her as a bad ass (regardless of hair and wardrobe) because you've seen Kat and Lina together.

That's probably one of the biggest problems. Kat and Lina? That could be the basis for the a sitcom. Any combination could. But everything is like a force feeding of sitcom cliches. If the show lasts a few seasons, expect Caplan to get attention outside of it. She's really good and she's working hard to get a handle on a character the writer's really don't know. Heather Goldenhersh (Lina)? You are seeing a Dianne Wiest on your TV screens. An actress who is making her own rules as she goes along and making it work. So it's really sad that such a powerhouse talent is (a) stuck with bad writing and (b) sidelined on the show.

Though even a "Hello" from Lina's lips comes off zany, the writers are too busy making her the "love interest" (for Richie) and saddling her with bad drama when her humor is the one thing that should be writer-proof. But as good as Goldenhersh is, she can't overcome writers who want to pile on the drama and turn each episode into: "Ooooh. Lina." Heavy sigh.

It's as though someone had Lucille Ball and decided to cast her in a sitcom as the straight man. It makes no sense and, in the end, that's largely true of the show. We've mainly stayed with the lead characters. We didn't bore you with details about Richie's wife (Sarah Gilbert of Roseanne and Twins) or tell you about Yonk's daughters (including a grossly obese one) or Duncan's mother (who he lives with) or Holly's parents or . . . You get the idea?

The show's only been on since September and it already seems bound and determined to beat The Simpsons for most recurring characters. It's too much.

Anyone paying attention could see that everything is piled on too much, that about four sitcoms are going on at once, and that Ritter and Caplan's scenes that really don't add to long running storyline are the only ones where the laughs are unforced and the viewers can actually sit back and enjoy. Someone needs to explain to David Crane that Ross and Rachel's break ups and get back togethers were good for season cliffhangers but viewers of a sitcom do not need multiple cliffhangers each episode. Especially with a new show, they need to get to know the characters -- something the writers really need to do as well. Stop forcing the actors and the director (James Burrows, very gifted) to fix things in rehearsals and start working on writing useable scripts.

And has anyone noticed the obvious and wondered if that's why the women are especially badly written? Where are the women writers? Marta Kauffman, co-creator of Friends, wrote more episodes of that show than did David Crane. Is he now afraid to work women? He needs to get over it and quick because in his mind that may be how women play out (yo-yos back and forth like Nicole, "I want Yonk! I want Duncan!"; pathetically limp the way Lina is written; and a female bad ass with buns of steel if not strongly written characterization). If CBS wants to know why Holly couldn't be redeamed, it goes straight to the fact that the writers telling the story appear to know nothing about women. (Who make up approximately 1/2 the leads in the cast.)
CBS should explain to Crane and his new (male) partner, that it's time to cut the dead weight on writer department.

CBS needs to tell Crane? Well they wouldn't have to if the show had a real producer/show runner (it doesn't, that role is filled by Burrows as well) -- someone who could throw some weight around with bad writers. But that doesn't happen when you hand out co-producer credits to writers like Halloween candy. Everyone thinks they're an expert. Watching any one episode of The Class will prove how false that belief is.

Show Me What Democracy Looks Like (1-27-07)

Saturday, January 27th, at least a half-million people gathered in DC at the National Mall for the rally to end the war that preceeded the march.

Kim Gandy: "Show me what democracy looks like!"
Crowd: "This is what democracy looks like!"
Kim Gandy: "Show me what democracy looks like!"
Crowd: "This is what democracy looks like!"

And with no elbow room, a half-million people packed in tight, demonstrated a living democracy
with a diverse crowd including people who'd been to events to end the war before and new comers.

Ricky, 29, Virginia: "I came thinking a lot of people might not. I can't believe the crowd. I can't believe the turnout."

Ricky was speaking with Bob from New York (age not given). Did they plan to meet up here? "No," Bob laughed, "we just met each other. I'm going to be meeting a lot of people with this crowd."

And what did they hope for?

"I hope Congress is watching. This is a big, loud NO to the Iraq war, No to spreading it over to Iran, NO to sending more troops to Iraq," Bob declared.

Ricky counted, "Forget watching, I want them to hear! We just got Jim Webb [as our senator] and I think he gets it but [John] Warner? Forget it. He's going to be looking at the paper tomorrow morning, seeing all the faces and asking, 'What's got them so upset? I just don't understand. Maybe [John] McCain can explain it to me?' I want them to hear. I want them to hear what we're saying."

Bob pointed to two signs "OUT OF IRAQ!" and "Bring The Troops Home Now" being held behind them as he noted the signs would come across in pictures but Ricky wasn't so sure Warner "knows how to read. His office replies to my letter with the same form letter for the last seven months. And I'm not even writing about taxes!"

"We are the peacemakers"
-- Dennis Kucinich

"It's not about winning or losing -- it's about doing the right thing. . . . When they ask you, 'What's your plan?' -- tell them pass HR 508!"
-- Lynn Woolsey

"I'm not real pleased that Russ Feingold sent a message," said 34 year-old Nancy of Maryland. "I guess it's something but is any from the Senate even here? I saw [U.S. House Reps.] Dennis Kucinich, Maxine Waters, John Conyers, and Lynn [Woolsey]. I didn't see any senators. Maybe Robert Byrd's too old for this sort of thing but where are the rest of them? Where's my senator? [Barbara] Mikulski? She talks a real good game but she keeps voting to fund the war. She's got some guts until it's time for a vote then she's basically doing whatever Bush wants. Where are the senators? I think that should be the big question today, just where are our senators? Why aren't they here?"

Zach, community member from California, "Kucinich is here and he's heading to the [San Francisco] Bay area later to speak with Barbara Lee and Carolyn Ho [mother of Ehren Watada] at the rally back home. That's committment. I was for [Howard] Dean last time, but, the way Kucinich is working, he's got my vote sewn up."

"Help," Sally, 41, asked. "What's the number of that House Resolution? I was repeating it with her, yelling at the top of my lungs, but I've already forgotten. If I don't know the number, I can tell you [Shelley Moore] Capito's staff's just going to trash my letter. She's already come out against cutting funding for the war. . . 508? What's the title of it? . . . . Bring Our Troops Home and Sovereignty of Iraq Restoration Act? Why couldn't it be something easy like 409? Got a pen? If I don't write it down, 409, like Formula 409, the cleaner, that's what I'm going to remember. I don't think my calling or writing Capito is going to make a difference, not by itself. But I'll do it and just be praying others are too. If a lot of us are demanding it, maybe she'll listen? I don't know. I think Congress is pretty . . . depraved. That's the word I'd used. I'm not a party person. I'm an independent who makes up her mind at the last minute. I try to get an understanding of what's going on and sometimes I do and sometimes . . . I'm beating my head the day after the election. . . . No, this is my first rally. I'm here with three friends. I don't know where they are. I stepped to the back to get some air and I have no idea where I was before. Maybe I'll spot 'em in a bit or maybe in the march, but I do know the meet up place."

Sally fished in her pocket and pulled out a piece of paper, "See, I wrote it down." She also wrote down HR 508. She said 2 of the 3 women were in her district and she was sure they'd write or phone Capito's office, "so I won't be the only one but we really need a lot of people doing it. I mean like hundreds. She is for this war. If we don't flood her with letters and calls, she's going to stick with Bush."

"Not only is it in our power to stop Bush, it's our duty to stop Bush."
-- John Conyers

US Rep John Conyers spoke of the need to keep applying the pressure "until our government gets the message out of Iraq immediately, bring the troops home!" In his speech, he referenced Maureen Dowd's "Daffy Does Doom" column (The New York Times, January 27, 2007, A31): "Has anyone in the history of the United States ever been so singularly wrong and misguided about such phenomenally important events and continued to insist he's right in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?" Conyers was a crowd favorite and when he spoke of how Bully Boy couldn't fire the people, couldn't fire the Congress, "but we can fire him" a chant of "IMPEACH" started up.

"You have come here today to save your country. . . . I stand firmly with you. My name is Maxine Waters and I'm not afraid of George Bush."
-- Maxine Waters

Tasha, 21, New Jersey, stated, "I'm here for the first time, first time doing anything like this. Can't believe how many members of Congress are here. Maxine [Waters] called Condi [Rice] out but good. On campus, the day after Condi does another stupid thing, I always have to tell my White friends, 'You can call her out. She's not my mother. She's not my friend.' Maxine called her 'a neocon' and that's what she is. Color doesn't even factor into it. She's a neocon. We drove in, actually. I almost didn't come because I didn't hear about it until the last minute. I was like: 'Hello, I care about stopping the war.' I really do think Condi provides cover for W. but I also think he provides cover for her. She's got her high position because she kisses his ass and, for a lot of people I know, non Blacks, it always seems like there's this, this hestiancy to call her out. Like, 'Is she a first? Is she a symbol? Is she a leader?' She's a neocon, just like Maxine said. Somebody start trotting out the n-word, then I'll get upset. But stupid knows no racial boundary and Condi is stupid."

Leland, 45, Washington (state) picked US Rep Waters as his favorite because "It really is important to say you're not afraid. That's how they work, they scared people into supporting their war or they scared people into not speaking out. They go after people like that CIA woman [Valerie Plame, the CIA agent that was outed by the White House] and it's not just because they want to get back at her husband [Joseph Wilson], it's because they want to scare you. They'd come up and hit somebody with a 2x4 in broad daylight if they thought they could get away with it and if they thought it would scare enough people. So saying 'I'm not afraid of George Bush,' that's really important. After Congress woman Waters, my favorite were the Hurricane Katrina speakers . . . but. I think the issue belongs here but I think, this is me, maybe just me, I think you have to tie to Iraq. You really have to do that and you have to do that in your first sentence, if nowhere else. I think Susan Sarandon did that, but I don't think others did."

Leland's last comment was echoed by four others including Gary, 30-ish, from Georgia who said, "The first sentence should have been X dollars have been spent on the illegal war, how much has been spent on repairing the areas destroyed by Hurricane Katrina? You have to make that point. You have to make it because it drives home how much money is being wasted on this war and how we are suffering at home because of it. You have to make it, also, because otherwise it's like . . . Like open mike. Okay, here's an issue, okay, there's an issue, okay . . . And after awhile, everyone's wondering, 'Why are we here again?' These things are connected, look at who's doing security in Iraq and who got hired for the same thing in New Orleans, the mercenaries of BlackWater, but you have to provide the connection. It's like with Iran, okay? You make the point that this scare stuff is what George was doing before Iraq. You bring up how he's asking us to take him at his word after he lied about WMD, after he lied about a 9-11 link, after he lied about, what's the uraniumn thing? Yeah, yellowcake. Just lie, lie, lie. You don't just get up there and say, 'I'm against war with Iran.' You have to connect it."

Entertaining the huge crowd in song form were The Raging Grannies who explained Bully Boy attacked Iraq because "They tried to hit my daddy so I had to hit back."

He's got an urge to surge
He's got an urge to surge, oh yeah.
It's just some more of the same manure.
He's got an urge to surge
-- The Raging Grannies

"Those Raging Grannies make me laugh," explained Marlene (mother of community member Goldie and a community member herself, 34). "They've got a point to make and they make it but they get you laughing while they do. The line about how when his plan doesn't work 'just do it more and more,' I was laughing and nodding. That really captured him."

[Goldie's thoughts on the rally and the march will be published this morning in her column in Polly's Brew.]

Randi, 63, New York warned us, "You're not going to like my comment. I'm Jewish, okay? That rabbi, Michael [Lerner], he got on my nerves from the start. His talk about how we're going to meditate and that's never been done at a peace rally. I hope you'll include this because that is just not true. I was at rallies at the tail end of the sixities. Was he? That whole sitar period, Donovan, the Beatles, there were rallies in New York City that included meditations. Where's he from any way? The other thing. When we did them, the person leading it wasn't screaming in a mike. It was calm, it was soothing. You probably won't include this, but you should, but that's not a meditation. That's a cheer."

Lerner also received low marks from Ted, 21, who "scraped together all the money I could to get here from Tennesee and I really didn't need to hear that b.s. about 'red states.' That was b.s. If I'd heard that from another speaker, I probably wouldn't be thinking about trying to come back up here in March for the thing at the Pentagon. There he was, supposedly Mister Peace, going to bring us all together, and he tosses out 'red states.' It was just an insult. That really rubbed me the wrong way. He needs to deal with his own issues, Mister 'Unifying Message'. Mister 'Thank you, universe, thank you.' What was that? Was he trying to be Alanis [Morissette, "Thank You"]?"

"I haven't spoken at an anti-war rally in 34 years because of lies about me that were used to hurt the anti-war movement. But silence is no longer an option. . . .
Thank you so much for the courage to stand up to this mean-spirited and vengeful administration.''
-- Jane Fonda

Could she do it? Could she move a crowd again? Yes, and Fonda's speech was the most cited favorite speech after Bob Watada's. It was popular with first-time attendees who noted it as reflecting why they were here. It was popular with women of all ages and with men 24 and under and men over 40.

R.C., 59, who said "say Hurricane Katrina survivor because I stand with my brothers and sisters who are still suffering even though I've had to give up on returning for now" cited that speech "because it gave me hope. Fonda stood up for people. She stood up for the Panthers, she stood up for the troops. And that all got rewritten and changed and, really, erased. So that had to take gumption, to get up there knowing 'I'm about to become a target all over again.' She's been through it, she knows what it is. But when even she's saying, 'Forget it, it's more important that we end this war,' that just gives me hope that this war isn't going to go on for ten years. I think we can end it. I don't know about that happening this year, hope, hope it does, but it's not going to last a whole lot longer. It's going to be over before Bush leaves the White House. Less we do the right thing and impeach him. If we do that, he may be out of the White House first."

Sue, Alabama, "52 and thank the Jane Fonda Workout for that. I don't look it. I never broke a sweat in my life until the Workout. That really changed me. I started doing simple things like carrying my own groceries out to the car, no more tipping the young man pushing my cart to the car, I started doing all these steps and actions I would never have done. I was against the Vietnam war but I never did much about it. I never went to a rally. So to have Jane Fonda here speaking just made my day. That Workout showed me my power, it showed me, it taught me, it taught me how to own my experiences. I was shy and I had this really high voice until like 1984. This little, tinkley voice. Like a little girl. Listen to me now, I sound like Bea Arthur. But that's what the Workout did for me, it taught me to accept myself. And once I did that, the bird was out of the cage and not going back in. This is the sixth or seventh thing I've done. I was here last year, but this is only my second time coming to DC to protest this war. After the war, my biggest issue is corporations and I think the two are connected, obviously, who's getting rich off this war? So yeah, that was my favorite moment. I applauded like crazy. I hooted and hollered. And let me tell you, 1982, I wouldn't have done that. I wouldn't be here but even in my home, even alone in my home, I probably would have just smiled in response to a speech like that. I was living in a shell."

Stan, 17, high school student in the suburbs of DC judged the speech "totally cool. I like her and I like what she said. I think, if this is your first thing, I think something like that was like a welcome to all of us first timers. Totally cool."

And if anything was clear in the half-million people it was that, as we've long pointed out here, students are not apathetic. High schoolers, college students and even some middle school age children (like our own Goldie) were out in force. The newly thriving and emerging SDS of today was there. Not "Eisenhower Democrats" that some publications cover, but much more interested in social change and much more committed to more than being lackeys for candidate staffers. Young Democrats, young Communists, young Anarchists were there. It was a broad range of the student left and we didn't observe any yawns, we didn't hear any questions of, "When does this thing end?" We saw cheering, we saw activism and before the next desk jockey dusts off another "Kids today, Oy vey" column, they might try getting out in the real world.

Among the students showing up was a young Muslim woman who didn't want to give her name.
"I was just asked for a comment," she explained, "and I just smiled and walked on. I don't trust that something I say won't end up being turned into something different and one more reason to target Muslims. I'm 16. I'm first generation American. I live an hour drive away from here. I only talked to you because of his button. [She was referring to Wally's "NO BLOOD FOR OIL button.] I don't think you'll change my words up or make me sound angry or stupid. I feel like the only time a Muslim gets on TV now is if he's shouting. And we're the bad guys on every other episode of that show that ticks down the clock. [24.] Those things hurt. And it makes me think that another roundup, like after the Twin Towers were destroyed, could happen again real easy. I'm against the war. This is my first protest. My mother asked me not to go but I told her how much I wanted to be here, and what it means to me, so she finally said yes. She even said if she was 10 years younger, she probably would be here too. I'm against the war. I'm against all this blaming of Iraqis. People say things like they're dogs, just stupid dogs who were given some wonderful gift and smashed it. Invading Iraq was not a gift. War on the country was not a gift. And Muslims are not idiots. There wasn't this hate between Shia and Sunni before George Bush's war. He created it. I think if the soldiers came home that the people of Iraq would work out their differences. I don't think that would happen in a month or even two. But I do think that within a year, there would be peace. And I may be wrong, but that is what I believe. I'm here because I want the killings to stop. When I get home, I'm going to tell my mother that people in Congress were here and Jane Fonda and Sean [Penn]. And I think, next time, when I come, she's going to come with me. But, you have to understand, it can be really hard to be a Muslim in the United States today. People look at you funny. Before the Twin Towers, I was only 11, but before that, I did not feel scared here. I felt like I was any other American kid. Now I feel like people expect me to prove that I am American, to say, 'I love America.' And what they really seem to want is for me to say, 'I hate Muslims.' It feels like they want me to denounce my faith. And like the only way I can fit in is if I change my name to Jill and become a Christian and, since that won't happen, I'm always under suspicion. One of my best friends is Christian and we were at the mall Tuesday and she said, 'I see what you are talking about.' Because at every store, the women were smiling at her and asking her if they could help her and they just kind of stared at me. I don't think I should have to prove that I am a good American. I was born here, this is my country. But since 9-11, it seems like people look at Muslims and don't really think we belong here anymore. Thank you."

Did she feel welcome at the march? "Yes, people here were very nice. They smiled, they nodded. The press, I do not know. I feel like they see me and think, 'Muslim!' That's why I did not talk to that woman who asked me for a comment. But the people who are to here to protest the war, I felt very welcomed. There are a lot of different people here and it looks more like America than what you see on TV. It gives me hope that someday things will change. Not just that the war will end, but that all the hatreds and suspicions will stop."

"Today, we must challenge ourselves to take this nation back."
-- Bob Watada

And then there was Bob. Bob Watada, father of Iraq war resister Ehren Watada, the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy and facing a court-martial on February 5th in Fort Lewis, Washington. Clearly the most cited speaker by people we interviewed. To his declaration of, "We are a civilized nation, we need to bring an end to a war for blood oil" the crowd began chanting, "Say it! Say it!" He spoke of "enough is enough" and how that message needed to given to Congress. And, of course, he spoke of his son.

"The military commanders want to punish him -- and punish him for saying the emperor has no clothes . . . The truth is a danger to the Bush empire," he explained. He recounted the lies Bully Boy used to sell the war including WMDs, chemical weapons, al Qaeda training camps -- "All lies." He spoke of how Ehren Watada is standing up and trying "to give a voice" to the ones in the military "who no longer have a voice to the troops who can't speak out," to the Iraqis suffering under the illegal war. He quoted Abraham Lincoln, "To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men."

Of his son, he asked that we all, "Tell Congress to listen to that voice. Tell Congress that people, you and I, are more important than corporations."

Rosa Sakanishi, Ehren' step-mother, also spoke, noting, "And you know, you and I know, that we have to live for peace and justice and that is what Ehren's doing . . . Bring the troops back home now!"

Other speakers included Jesse Jackson (calling for "new priorities and directions"); Gold Star Families for Peace's Carlos Arredondo, who son Alex died in Iraq in 2004, and who asked that those who lost love ones stand and cried out, "This is the cost of war!"; Garrett Reppenhagen of Iraq Veterans Against the War who noted those who had served in Iraq and were present at the Saturday rally; Noura Erakat spoke of the need to end the war in Iraq and also to end the decades long occupation of Palestine; and many others.

We were going through the crowd, interviewing people. Reppehhagen spoke with another member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, but we didn't catch his name. We didn't catch Reppenhagen's name either, but C.I. recognized him. We missed Sean Penn and we're sure we missed Leslie Cagan of United for Peace and Justice (whom Elaine especially wanted to hear speak). We lost hearing when Tim Robbins was speaking as the crowd, in agreement, broke out into loud cries of "IMPEACH!" It was like, in the Jane Wagner play The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, when Trudy, the bag lady, tries to teach the aliens about art by showing them the Warhol screen of a Campbell's soup can and then showing them a Campbell's soup can, then mixes them up to see if the aliens can now determine what is art and what is soup. Later, at the end of the play, Trudy explains what happened when she took the aliens to a play:

We were at the back of the theater, standing there in the dark, all of a sudden I feel one of 'em tug my sleeve, whispers, "Trudy, look." I said, "Yeah, goose bumps. You definitely got goose bumps. You really liked the play that much?" They said it wasn't the play gave 'em goose bumps, it was the audience. I forgot to tell 'em to watch the play; they'd been watching the audience! Yeah, to see a group of strangers sitting together in the dark, laughing and crying about the same things . . . that just knokced 'em out. They said, "Trudy, the play was soup . . . the audience . . . art."

And that's really what it was. For all the talk of apathy (student apathy, American apathy), a half a million people turned out in DC (with other actions to end the war taking place all over the country as well). They listened, they participated, they shouted, they applauded, they were motivated, they were hopeful. And we think what happened in the crowd was as important as what happened on stage.

Someone (Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times?) can play it off as "Bush haters". But, the truth is, calls for Congress to be accountable to the people, to hear the message from the November elections, to do their job, got just as great a response. A few weeks back, Cindy Sheehan noted there were no free passes -- pleasing sound bytes from Democrats with no actions to back it up were not going to cut it. This wasn't a group of people who foolishly believed that electoral changes meant the war ended (though many tried to sell it to the people that way). This was a group who is owning their power and demanding change. Watching them was far more inspiring than the horse race handicapping so much of independent media seems to determined to do for the 2008 election. (And if you think it's gotten bad already -- it has -- just wait until 2008.)

They had courage and determination, whether it was their first event or they'd been at many before. They weren't going to go pleading, "Do you think, Congress member, that maybe, kind of, you could do a little something about Iraq?" They are going to demand that Congress do something. And if Congress refuses? That's not going to be end the end of it. Silence will not be the response.

"I will amp it up and amp up, I'm not going to say, 'Oh you just are comfortable with a symbolic action? Thank you for that at least'," declared DeShawn from Chicago. "It's time to take the country back, like Ehren's father said, and it's time to make sure Congress knows they work for us, not the other way around. If they think we can be patted on the head and sent skipping down some daisy trail, they don't understand that street protests are next. The war is going to end and we're not going to settle for anything else."

It was a marvelous cross-section of America proving how far the peace movement has gotten in this country. And it's done that due to the organizations like United for Peace for Justice, CODEPINK, A.N.S.W.E.R., Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, NOW (peace is a feminist issue and we didn't all hear them, but we all saw Kim Gandy and the Feminist Majority Foundation's Eleanor Smeal), Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace, war resisters saying "NO" to the war in Iraq, Courage to Resist, Not In Our Name, World Can't Wait, many more organizations but, most of all, because of the people who turned out. They didn't buy the line about "apathy." They didn't buy the line that vote-vote-vote was the "answer." They didn't buy anything of the lines or lies that media (big and small) spent most of 2006 selling them. They trusted what they saw with their own eyes. They have faith in their ability to make change happen. As the aliens tell Trudy, the people were the art.

[We are firm believers in letting people speak for themselves. In September of 2005, we offered, "'Why Are You Here' and 'What's Changed'" and in March of 2005, we offered "At the rallies, we ask, 'Why Are You Here?'" Community members interested that style of a feature should check out the special edition of today's gina & krista round-robin and Monday's special edition which is a two-parter we did for them in that style. We're not doing it here. We're concerned about how the DC action will be covered by the media -- and we're talking small -- so we went with this approach. Doing interviews and helping edit this piece down, discussing it, included many people. The credit goes to: The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man (Rebecca couldn't come to DC due to her pregnancy and Betty decided to participate in a house party Rebecca threw which involved screening and discussing The Ground Truth and handing out information on HR 508), C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report and her grandchildren Tracey and Jayson, Wally of The Daily Jot, Trina of Trina's Kitchen (also Mike's mother, or Mike is the son of Trina), Gina and Krista of the gina & krista round-robin, and Francisco, Miguel and Maria of El Espiritu. And Dallas, we always forget to include Dallas! He was a sounding board and much more.]

Run, Olson! Run!



Stock set up. Ominous chords are heard.


Every eye in the store is on . . .

SARAH OLSON, young, blonde, journalist.

She fidgets uncomfortably with her long hair as the ominous music continues to play in the background.

She shifts from foot to foot.

She sighs.

She rolls her eyes.

She stands at the counter with a LONG LINE OF PEOPLE waiting behind her.

We see a puzzled CLERK behind the counter. Clerk clears throat.

CLERK: Ma'am, I need an answer.

Sarah Olson shakes her head and narrows her eye.

SARAH: You cannot make me answer.

Sarah Olson turns around to face the Long Line Of People.

SARAH: This is not free speech! People, this is Starbucks trying to force me to answer their questions. They are asking me to answer their question and essentially, uh, verify my order. They want to have me answer their question. That is, you know, not the way things are done. A reporter asks questions. A reporter doesn't, like, answer questions.

CLERK: Ma'am, what are you ordering?

SARAH: See! Do you see what he is doing? He is attempting to force me to answer! Against, you know, my will! This is about free speech, this is about a free press, this is, you know --

VOICE 1: (Interrupting) About my getting to work on time, hurry up!

SARAH: Mm-hmm. That's right. Free speech. Thank you for that. It is free speech.

CLERK: Are you planning to order?

Sarah Olson spins around gasping and stares at Clerk.

SARAH: Are you asking me about my legal strategy? I can't really talk too much, you know, about, like, my legal strategy right now. But what I think is very important is that there are a couple of different, a couple of different issue. We come in here for coffeee. You can't grill us just for that reason. You can't force us, or, you know, at least reporters, you can't force reporters to answer your questions.

CLERK: I just want to know what you're ordering.

SARAH: My legal strategy, what I will or will not do, is my business.

Sarah Olson turns back to the Long Line of People.

SARAH: If I answer his questions, no one will ever trust me again. If I can't be a trusted reporter, no one will ever talk to me again.

VOICE 2: I find it hard to believe anyone talks to you now! Order!

The crowd begins chanting "Order! Order! Order!" repeatedly.

Grinning, Sarah Olson turns to Clerk.

SARAH: You see what's happening? The people, you know, are coming to my defense. They're on my side. They know that it is, you know, my job to report the news not to answer what Starbucks is, again, asking me, a journalist, to build some sort of defense for them. And I think, you know, kind of the final thing, is that voices like your voice are alarming and really do threaten the, you know, the informed citizenry which is, like, kind of the lifeblood of democracy, and without --

CLERK: Next in line.

WOMAN steps in front of a shocked Sarah Olson.

WOMAN: Espresso Macchiato, dry, with room, in a Grande please.

CLERK: Coming right up.

Sarah Olson's watches with mouth wide open as Clerk begins making the drink.

Shaking her head, she heads for the exit.

Stopping at the door, she turns around to face everyone.

SARAH: Thank you. Thank you all. Your support is making a difference. Again, I can't quite talk about kind of, like, the legal strategy I'm going to employ. But with your support Starbucks will be convinced -- for example -- that questioning journalists is -- It's kind of the -- the very idea of being asked to cooperate is what I find so offensive. I haven't gotten a significant amount of media coverage yet but I hope people will continue to cover me, will continue to look at, you know, why I am important. I think I'm a very interesting case because this is not something where I'm being asked to reveal a confidential source or, you know, talk about unpublished material. But it is a question they want answered, it is a form of oppression to free speech.
And so, I think people are a little slow to understand that I am really something new and really alarming. But people are certianly -- have been very supportive, and I think, you know, with, uh, any luck, they'll continue to be so. Free free speech! Free the free press!

Sarah Olson bows, opens the door and strides out.

Next week, Sarah Olson takes the battle for free speech and a free press to the Gap when a pushy clerk has the audacity to inquire: "May I help you?"

Dear Darrell

Dear Darrell,

Our point that no one's getting much attention from the media? We'd urge you to check small media over the next few days. We're sure that if Amy Goodman broadcasts footage of the DC rally on Democracy Now!, Bob Watada (father of Ehren Watada) will be included. But we're not talking about Goodman. We're talking about, specifically, the left media in print, specifically The Nation and The Progressive.

You know the importance press attention makes and you know Ehren Watada is facing a February 5th court-martial. You may not know that neither magazine mentioned him in print in 2006. (Ricky Clousing was covered in The Progressive's photo section spread. Putting The Progressive one up on The Nation.) In 2007, The Nation would finally mention Watada in print. He wasn't worthy of an article to those deciding, just a sidebar, a sidebar that appeared a page after he was called a coward in the main article. Now last week, the magazine did two of their 'online exclusives' that didn't focus on Ehren Watada but did focus on Save-Sarah-Olson!

A journalist facing a maximum of six months of jail, an Iraq war resister facing a maximum of six years in jail -- they elected to emphasize Sarah Olson.

We were at the DC rally. We were interviewing people. The most popular speech was Bob Watada's.

So watch The Nation and The Progressive over the next few days and see if the protests get covered. Then look at how they are covered. Is Bob Watada mentioned? (Matthew Rothschild has not covered Ehren Watada, he did cover Sarah Olson earlier this month, online, for The Progressive. John Nichols and Marc Cooper covered Sarah Olson last week, online, for The Nation.) Now you were still in Canada when Watada went public. At the Veterans for Peace conference, some participants met with you and other war resisters in Canada on the border between the two countries. You know Watada was news so you may be surprised to learn that he wasn't news to The Progressive or The Nation's print magazines. That is, however, the reality. Having offered two 'online exclusives' on Sarah Olson last week, will The Nation mention Bob Watada's speech? Will they use that to finally cover Ehren Watada as something more than an after thought? We doubt it. We're sure will get goo-ga-ga press on what the politicians said. The Nation can't tear itself from the crotch of Congress these days.

But Watada matters. You know he does. You support him. You went to Fort Lewis to show your support. You're also well aware that although Amy Goodman interviewed you (and others), the left mags didn't. You may not be aware of it but Ivan Brobeck didn't get interviewed or covered by the magazines. (Print or even online, for that matter.) Kyle Snyder is a name they can't bring themselves to type. Mark Wilkerson? Their response would be Mark who? Ditto Ricky Clousing, ditto, you know the drill.

But let's note Agustin Aguayo because his court-martial has been set for March 6th and not many even bothered to note that last week, did they?

But they've had time to jaw bone as though Sarah Olson was the most pressing issue in a February 5th court-martial. Watch and see who notes Bob Watada and who hides behind Congress. (Or at least kneels with their lips sealed to Congress' crotch.)

Now parents who lost children were at the DC rally (and at others around the country). Watch and see if they're taking up the coverage that could go to war resisters. They won't. They won't get covered. Congress members, that we're willing to bet gets covered.

The at least half a million attending won't matter either because they don't sit in Congress. They won't be covered.

If you're wondering about turn out and where is the word of the mouth, look to our not-so-brave independent media.

We believe you probably won't remember the daytime talk show Donahue. Those participating in the writing of this who are just a bit younger than you don't remember the program. Oprah had become the success story by the time you would have been a small child. But Phil Donahue decided to write about the February 5th court-martial . . . in terms of Sarah Olson.

We're not sure whether you know of the media critic Norman Solomon or not? His most recent book (which we praised) is War Made Easy. Last week he weighed in on the February 5th court-martial . . . in terms of what a tragedy it is for Sarah Olson.

Darrell, our readers don't give a damn about Sarah Olson. In fact, they use stronger words than "damn" in the e-mails they sent in this week.

Who's getting the coverage that should go to war resisters? Sarah Olson.

She's getting big and small media. Ehren Watada gets an editorial this month from The Seattle Times saying that he should be convicted. Sarah Olson gets a "Poor Sarah!" editorial from The Los Angeles Times. Readers are comparing Sarah Olson to the "missing blonde" that big media junks up the airwaves with while avoiding the real news. We see the comparison.

Not only is Watada's maximum sentence twelve times as long as Olson's, he is the story. He is at the center of the story. But independent media prefers to cover their own. (Much as big media preferred to cover Judith Miller, Matt Cooper and others while ignoring the crime that was the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.)

As you know, Bob Watada, his wife Rosa Sakanishi (Ehren's step-mother) and Carolyn Ho (Ehren's mother) are speaking out non-stop. All spoke out on Saturday. Carolyn Ho's about to begin another tour to try to raise awareness before the court-martial. You know how important that is and how much your mother, Anita Anderson, did to speak out for you. All three will reach people but see if they reach the two independent magazines with the largest circulation. See if, finally, they are moved to cover Watada.

The way the print schedule works for The Nation is that a new issue will come out at the end of this week. It won't make it into subscribers mail boxes for days nor will hit most magazine racks before Tuesday of next week at the earliest. Point?

Next Monday is February 5th. Even if The Nation finally found the guts to do a cover story or an editorial on Ehren Watada, it would come too late. Too damn late.

Who's hurting the movement, who's preventing war resisters from garnering the support and attention they deserve? We think we've offered quite a few names in this feature.

Best & peace,

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and, me, Jim;
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills);
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.

P.S. Darrell, features like this are really starting to piss off independent media. They don't bother to write this site. They write The Common Ills because C.I.'s policy is that your e-mail isn't quoted from unless you give permission. So they whine and gripe to C.I. Now Jess is working on a reply to one of the whiners. (Jess, Ava, Martha, Shirley and Eli help C.I. with the e-mails.) So the point is, independent media doesn't like these type of features. (They won't like Isaiah's comic when it goes up at The Common Ills today either.) Our attitude? Too damn bad. You want it to stop, start covering war resisters. Don't whine to us, don't gripe at us. That's our attitude. Want these type of features to stop? It's pretty damn easy, start covering war resisters. Until you do, expect a lot more of these features.
Darrell, as we understand, correct us if we're wrong, you are available for interviews. And you can also hook them up with other war resisters. Until the day comes when independent media stops play Democratic Party cheerleader, stops licking the crotches of Congress, and actually starts covering the war the way they should, these features will continue. That's the luxury of not having 'traded links' or being in debt to anyone -- we can speak our mind. We intend to continue doing that and calling people on their shit that prolongs the illegal war.

Now The Nation wants to reach the country? Now?


In the tradition of The Encyclopedia of Cheap Travel; The Penny Pincher's Passport to Luxury Travel: The Art of Cultivating Preferred Customer Status (Travelers' Tales); Been There-Comped That: Free Travel, Dining and Entertainment, All for the Cost of Some Ink and, possibly, Fifty Layovers: Fifty Lays in Fifty Days, The Nation is preparing to bring you The Nation Guide published by Vintage Books (and not their own imprint) in an easy to read soft cover oversize.

What the volume (we wouldn't call it a "book") hopes to do is to provide readers with a city by city (small towns may be ignored) guide to various businesses, retailers and organizations in each city that can be seen as "progressive." (They probably would've called it The Nation's Progressive Guide To America, but there's already a magazine entitled The Progressive.)

We think it will probably, in the long run, cause more trouble than the project is worth. (The first case of an employer not paying overtime could lead Fox "News" to say, "And it's 'progressive'! It's judged as such by the left mag The Nation.") We'll note that the editor is Richard Lingeman and we're not fond of these type of books to begin with. For instance, we enjoy reading Pauline Kael's books of collected reviews, we loathe For Keeps which is a cutting/sample of reviews and about as useful to film lovers as Blockbuster's ("Collector's Edition") The Greatest Movies Of All Time. We think it's of little use to readers since reviews are repeatedly reduced and Kael's fiery writing is reduced to snippets.

(For those wondering, if and when we can convince Ava and C.I. to take a weekend off, we'll do a cutting of their various reviews. They are both opposed to the idea which is why they have provided you a commentary, week after week, for 2 years now with no week off. That feature, if it ever is used, isn't a 'prize' we'll be proud of. It is merely something on the backburner should they really need a break. In the early days, we all wrote the TV reviews -- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I. together -- around the third or fourth review it became exclusively Ava and C.I.'s terrain because what readers were responding to was their contributions to the group reviews.)

Besides being little use to readers, we have to wonder who their target audience is?

Since they intend to cover the entire United States (or include it, actual nominations -- research -- will be done by magazine readers who submit their choices and Lingeman will act as a combo team of Simon, Paula and Randy for this American Progressive Idols), it seems fair to guess that they intend to sell it everywhere. We're sure it will do better on both coasts, possibly in the north, we're wondering what reaction they are expecting from the south?

When you can't leave the false stereotype of "red" and "blue" states out of your magazine [see , most recently, Sasha Abramsky's "Blue-ing The West" -- we noted this in our "Nation Stats" tally here, you can also drop back to selections from Christopher Hayes -- in many outlets including The New Republic(an) -- infamous for the 'groundbreaking' work "How To Turn Your Red State Blue"], do you really think you have a right to expect liberals, Democrats, lefties in the south to use their money to support your project?

Do they really need Abramsky to weigh in on their state? Does he really see himself as a latter day of Alex de Tocqueville? (If so, he is in the minority.) It's interesting because The Nation ran an editorial ("Stand Up and Fight") right after the election (November 22, 2004 issue) where they (unsigned! Sick 'em, Alterpunk!) declared, "It would be a mistake to adopt the television stereotype of red states and blue states." Did anyone at the magazine read that? Did it register? Did they miss Laura Flanders' The Country Is Purple tour last year?

Offering more than a single sentence, and getting to the heart of the matter after the 2004 election, was C.I.'s "'Red' States" series. (Part one, part two, part three, part four through November 26-27, 2004.) A lot of us working on this edition read it at the time and enjoyed it. We didn't think too much of it. Wally and Betty did, living in southern states (Florida and Georgia). C.I. had mentioned that nonsense in passing in previous entries because it was being tossed around by light weight pundits and offending southern readers. (They were readers then, about to become members.) They dictated the content (read the series), they wanted it addressed and it was. When this site first started, C.I. was there with the 'gang' (Ty, Dona, Jim, Jess and Ava). In the early days, that was it. And while C.I. would say "Take my name off it" on some pieces, there was no problem with them going up. The exception was when any of us attempted to use the mythical "red" state v. "blue" state frame. It's an easy shortcut and it was conventional wisdom. On that, C.I. would get as loud as needed that, if something like that went up, it was walking time. Members of The Common Ills community responded to that series, they appreciated that someone got the reality of what they were dealing with and that someone would defend them. That was a trust and it couldn't be broken.

For those who haven't read the series, the problem couldn't be reduced to an electoral college map (though the map did indicate Bully Boy had a heady win -- he didn't -- and that's why it was so popular with many). The series highlights what people were seeing in their own areas, the Democratic Party (in a presidential race) not opening a headquarters in their county or parrish. The Democratic Party not funding races. Democratic presidential candidates not even visiting their areas.

Texas members maintain that Teresa Heinz Kerry visited more areas than John Kerry did. And members in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, a huge area, note that she visited and he never did. She was also highly effective in rural areas of the state including one member who thought Democrats were "the devil." She went to see Heinz Kerry to "meet the enemy" and ended up seeing a living, breathy person who spoke with compassion and sincerity and, as a result, the woman voted Democratic for the first time in her life and is now a declared member of the Democratic Party. Where did she get the idea that Heinz Kerry had (spiritual if not physical) horns? From talk radio.

The south is not big on mass transit. People are in the cars. Rural individuals usually have long commutes. After you pass the age of bubble gum pop and are burned out on rap or classic rock, there aren't a lot of choices. (File it under "Media Consolidation" -- not some crayola stereotype.) NPR doesn't reach all areas. (We're not praising NPR.) For many adults who want to be informed that leaves talk radio. Or 'sports' talk radio which trumpeted Bully Boy's war like no one else, featuring non-sports guest such as a History Channel hack who called for the murder of Susan Sarandon -- but you didn't know about that because it required work and not just falling back on easy stereotypes. When Barbara Ehrenreich joins The Idiot Bellafonte in (wrongly) slamming GreenStone Media, she's not just coming off like a fool who will buy any lie The New York Times judges fit to print, she's misunderstanding the importance of media like GreenStone Media. In the south, people complained about bosses that blared Dr. Laura and Rush nonstop at work. Especially offensive when you're one of the groups they're pouring hatred on (African-Americans, gays and lesbians, etc). Complaints to higher ups rarely result in changes (though it does trigger retaliation assignments from the boss you complained on).

That is the reality they live in. It's not just a case of listen to something else (if the boss is playing it in the work space, you have no choice), it's not just a case of listen to a CD (some only have radios in their cars -- the tape player or the CD player may be busted and when you're spending X number on gas for your commute and you've got bills to take care of, luxuries aren't top of your list).

Here's another reality they live under: backstabbers. That can be a Ralph Hall (who finally declared what he always was -- "Republican" -- but spent years wasting monies that could have gone to true Democratic candidates and spent years slamming the Democrats while taking the party's money). That can be a Martin Frost.

Let's stay with Martin Frost for a minute. Is "Democrat" a dirty word? What impression do you send, if you're a Democrat, and you treat it as such? In his losing race in 2004, he wouldn't even include the word "Democrat" on his yard signs. As community member Billie explained to us tonight (she's in DC for the rally as well), that's flat out stupid. In Texas, the ballot lists candidates by party. If someone liked him but assumed he was a Republican (and his 'debate' with Pete Sessions called that into question for many in that area), they might vote straight ticket for the Republican Party and assume they were voting for him. As Billie also pointed out, what do you think if he's managed to fool or trick you during the campaign and you find out in the booth, "He's a Democrat!" You might be offended that he's not a Republican. But more than likely, you were a Democrat who knew that was the party he was with and you were left to wonder why you should vote for someone who can't even declare himself a Democrat in his campaign?

What message does that send to the undecided, to the middle, to Republicans fed up? It says that the Democratic Party is such a waste of time that there's no point in running as a Democrat. What message does that send to young people who haven't even begun to vote? Frost was far from the only Democrat in the south to do that. Nor was he the only one to attack other Democrats. (He's infamous for an attack on Nancy Pelosi that aired on the local NBC station.) It's a funny sort of set of beliefs.

A set similar to what The Nation must have held when they selected the cover of their soon to be on the racks and in the mailboxes latest issues which features a blue pick up truck with the word "DIXIE" scrawled across the back.

That sort of bigotry doesn't endear you to your desired audiences in the south.

The bigotry is rooted in a "F*ck The South" 'humor' post that was promoted by many websites who supposedly are attempting to appeal to all Democrats (we wouldn't say they were trying to appel to the left) and are quite willing to ask for and take your money. It was quite popular in the weeks after the election and appeared all over the place. It wasn't as popular if you lived in the south. If you lived in the south, you were more likely to wonder why the Democratic Party's failures were being blamed on you. Like Dallas, you might note that your county elected an openly gay woman in the 2004 election. (Dallas is from Dallas, Texas.) If you're Betty, you might remember the shock you had when you visited a northern state that didn't just look rural but apparently had never seen a person of color, that must have been why Betty was followed through a grocery store by two of the store's employees. That doesn't happen to her in her home state of Georgia. But there she was, in a so-called progressive, so-called "Blue" state, being eyed like a criminal as she pushed her buggy through the store and being asked for identification when she paid (on a machine) with her ATM card. Her ATM card that required a code and didn't require her handing it to the checker. Betty wonders if The Nation intends to think of a pithy slogan to put on the back of a Honda when they profile the north?

We doubt it because, despite the "Stand Up and Fight" editorial, despite Laura Flanders own tour, the magazine seems unconcerned about the way they regularly scapegoat the south (don't even get us started on redistricting). People are people. They aren't their governments. If that were true, everyone in the US would have to be thrilled that the Bully Boy represents this country. But it's easy to scapegoat.

In the 2005 DNC chair race, a lot of websites were pushing Slimey (and his touched up netroots). The Common Ills didn't. The community endorsed Howard Dean. The reasons for that went to the "'Red' State" series. (C.I. wants it noted that the community made that endorsement.) Howard Dean realized that taking back control meant making every race competative. That didn't slip the attention of the community that had just read the "'Red' State" series. Regardless of where they were from, the series demonstrated that the problems weren't an issue that could be explained with crayolas or markers (though many pundits and 'reporters' tried to act as though they could be).

Money had not been poured into the south in decades. That's the bean counter approach to politics. What's the easiest race to win? Okay, we'll pour money there! And as you do that, year after year, you let the structure die. Joan is fond of pointing out that if John Kerry wanted to windsurf (we're not slamming windsurfing), instead of taking a vacation from the campaign trail, he could have visited her state (Hawaii) which rarely sees a presidential candidate. They did get Al Gore in 2004. Of course Bully Boy also visited. The Republicans are playing long term. They knew there wasn't much chance of a win in Hawaii but Bully Boy was there during the presidential campaign.

The bean counters (the Jimmy Carvilles) want the easiest race possible. They don't want to do the work. They don't want to inspire the grassroots, they don't want to recruit long term voters. They're focused only on one election and swinging the swing voters over. In swing states!

That's strip mining the structure of the party and harming it election cycle after election cycle.
Howard Dean rolled up his sleeves and went to work. He got slammed by some (who are used to having vast sums of monies) for that. But thus far, he's stayed true the belief that a national party must be willing to compete in every state. Billie, Dallas and Diana all note that they didn't vote for Dean in the primary (they were for John Kerry) but Dean actually showed up in Dallas.
Dean came in on a Sunday and spoke outside their City Hall. Went from low on their list of favorites up to second place and someone they wanted to learn more about. Why did they go see Howard Dean? Because not many other candidates managed to show up.

They take the lying stereotype very seriously. Not that long ago, Kat included the summary for Flanders' show in an entry she did at The Common Ills. She didn't think (she says it right now, "I wasn't thinking. I didn't even read it, I just grabbed it with copy and pasted it in there to get the day's guests up at The Common Ills). Kat apologized for that. That was in February and for some, it's only recently stopped being a sore spot. (Kat notes that if you're a member who is offended still, "I am sorry. I didn't read it before I grabbed it and posted it.") Now if Kat, who is beloved by the community, can get in hot water for posting an e-mail highlight of Flanders' show that includes 'Red' state, 'Blue' state, you can imagine the reaction to The Nation.

Southern community members express that they no longer read The Nation because of the repeated insulting stereotypes. We hear that when we visit campuses in the south and some student brings up The Nation. Someone will usually follow the lack of coverage of war resisters and other topics with, "Well, I had to stop reading" -- citing the repeated use of the false 'Red' state stereotype.

So now, now, The Nation wants to reach the country? Now? Will their guide divide the book into 'Blue' and 'Red' states?

It may not matter at this point. They've done enough damage to themselves in the south. Considering that following the election, they knew enough to know it was a false stereotype, it's amazing that they have continued to allow articles to repeat it in issue after issue. Maybe they think readers in the south are masochists who enjoy being pissed on?

There are real liberals out in the south. Not just in isolated pockets. And they work their butts off combatting stereotypes about candidates, about legislation, about rumors . . . Bill Clinton will never die as a source of false rumors repeated as fact on many "sports" radio stations in the south. For those who have never sampled "sports" radio in the south, it's usually a group of men -- the whiney one gets to be the token non-full-on-right winger -- he's for the war, of course -- he'll never say he's voting for a Democrat, but the other males will all put in their plugs for Republican candidates. When not doing that, they're fond of discussing Angie Harmon's vagina -- they use the term "cooter." Issuing death threats to celebrities. Talking up The Shield -- and other Fox shows. They continue to insist that WMDs were found in Iraq. They continue to repeat all the disproven lies.

It's bad enough that many in the south have to suffer that sort of crap from 'local' media, to get insulted and stereotyped by The Nation (whose editiorial board as least once knew better) may qualify as the last straw. If the book proves to be a 'regional book' and do poorly in the south, that's the reason.

"Occupation" or "war"

A debate over terms came up when we spoke with several participants at the DC rally and march. Forty-five people voiced their belief that the term to describe what is going on in Iraq as "occupation" not "war."

You can all it whatever you want. That's free speech. Ourselves, we'll call Iraq "war."

There are a number of reasons for that including the fact that "war" is the popular usage. If others want to fight the battle of transforming the venacular, more power to you. We're not going to. What it reminded us of was when C.I. noted (as The Common Ills) the push to begin calling former CIA agent Valerie Plame "Valerie Plame Wilson" or "Valerie Wilson." Valerie Plame was the name the public accepted. It was the name being used. "Plamegate" had become the popular term for the outing of Valerie Plame.

"War" is the popular usage.

"Occupation" may help draw comparisons to what is happening to the Palestinian people. But just for those already aware. Last Monday, on KPFA's The Morning Show, Philip Maldari spoke with Flashpoints' Nora Barrows-Friedman. A male caller (Mike? Michael?) phoned in to denounce her, to denounce KPFA for airing her 'lies.' He couldn't name one, even when asked, but he was outraged. This wasn't NPR, this was KPFA. Barrows-Friedman explained that she was offering another perspective. That is the reason that KPFA came into existance. But when Nora Barrows-Friedman has to explain herself, you better believe that even the KPFA listening area (and all over the world online), not everyone grasps the abuses suffered by the Palestinians.

"Occupation" also has another popular meaning -- your job. "Occupation" is not in strong enough usage for us to join the rally cry insisting that "war" be replaced with "occupation." For those who feel strongly about the term, we encourage to use it, to fight for its use. Ourselves, we refuse to call those held at Guantanamo "detainees." As C.I. noted, it makes it sound like they've been stopped briefly at customs while re-entering the country. They are "prisoners." We use "prisoners." They haven't had a trial, they haven't been convicted but we feel that five years and counting isn't a "detention," it is "imprisonment." We think "detainees" is a sugar coated word that is used to lull the American public and mitigate outrage over the imprisonment. We feel very strongly about that and we use "prisoners" at all the community websites.

We don't believe that's going to result in a massive outcry of "Change the term to 'prisoners'!" But we can't call the prisoners "detainees" and live with ourselves. If you're someone who feels that way about the term "occupation" replacing "war," we encourage you strongly to use it and advocate that others use it.

"Occupation"? "Colonization" is also valid. "Imperialsim" is also valid. We use those terms and "occupation" (prefaced with "illegal") when we discuss Iraq. But we call, and we will continue to call, what's going on in Iraq a "war."

In this country, "war" conjures an immediate image. "Occupation" less so for too many. We think an argument can be made that "occupation" would help end the war. For instance, one could argue that using "occupation" would allow for the next question to be, "Why are US troops in Iraq for an occupation?"

But that's not our battle. If it's your battle, we wish you luck, we respect your bravery, your passion and your committment. We're not going to slam you for using it.

But we discussed and debated it and, for us, that's a battle that we're not interested in. We're trying to end the war and we're not going to get caught up in a battle over the two terms. We think Bully Boy would love to sell the American people on that term -- it would provide him cover. "I declared war and we were successful," he might say. "Where we had problems was in the occupation following the war."

We do not believe the war ended with a battle in May of 2003. We think a war is going on against the Iraqi people and their system of life (as evidenced by privatization, among other things). We believe the war continues.

We use the term "Ms." when prefacing a female name (if we use a title, most just use a last name or a first name when repeating someone's name after the first time). We know a battle was fought for that term to be used. We know, for instance, The New York Times had to be dragged (kicking and screaming) into finally using that term. (And we know that they continue to call Laura Bush "Mrs. Bush" and that they do so with trophy wives and other women.) There were people who thought that day would never be reached but it was.

A speaker at the DC rally (Carlos Arredondo, Gold Star Families for Peace) gave a poweful speech in DC which utilized the phrase "Gringos out of Iraq!" repeatedly. We enjoyed the speech, we enjoyed his passion. We won't be using that phrase. As Arredondo knows (his son Alex died in Iraq on August 25, 2004 at the age of twenty), the US troops aren't all "gringos." Latinos and Latinas, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and many other races are serving. We loved the speech, we appreciated the passion, we'd applaud it again and consider it a pleasure to hear it again. But, ourselves, we wouldn't use the term/phrase.

Our decision on "occupation" used instead of "war" is not meant to discourage anyone who cares passionately about that battle to give up. There certainly may come a time when "occupation" is the popular term to describe Iraq and no one uses the term "war" (or the majority don't use it). If it matters to you, by all means, use it, fight for it to be used, work to popularize it. We're not saying "unworthy battle," we're saying that it's not one we're going to engage in because we firmly believe "war" is the term.

Should "occupation" become the venacular, would Bully Boy need an authorization act? We're not sure. But that is another concern. Most of all, we're not interested in attempting to educate the public on the term when we're fine with "war." If it's your battle, more power to you and good luck. People need to speak out, with a variety of voices, from a variety of points of view. Democracy demands more voices.

A message from Sanford Levinson (humor)

Hello, I'm Sanford Levinson. I just wrote a dumb ass article on impeachment for The Nation magazine. Elizabeth Holtzman took the discussion up a notch in January 2006. Others, including Lewis Lapham, Dave Lindorff, John Nichols, Barbara Olshansky, Michael Ratner, have presented cases for it as well.

I'm not interested in cases. And not just because I teach law at UT and do visiting professorships. I'm not interested in the examples they cite. I'm certainly not interested about what John Conyers might begin exploring this week. There might have been a time when I was interested.

However, I just returned from Madame Cleo's House of Instant Psychics. With the money fellow faculty members had saved up to send me to a fat farm, I instead learned valuable lessons in tea left reading and for four monthly installments of just $79.99, you can learn the same lessons on hope with the new 8-track boxed set Madame Cleo's House of Instant Psychics Knows You Want These Tapes.

As I did, you will learn many techniques that will end up adding to your pleasure and leisure time. Myself, applying the same technique I used in writing The Nation article, I no longer need waste time grading papers. I now pick up a student's paper, I weigh it in my head, I gaze into the distance, and, without reading a single word, I assign a grade.

You'll learn all about that in Tape 3, "Shortcuts to Happiness and Make My Order Fact Free."

Before Madame Cleo's House of Instant Psychics, I would've had a time writing my article. I would've had to look at the evidence thus far, say about the illegal wire tapping on American citizens, the circumventing of the FISA court, consider what possibilities that judge who resigned from the FISA court could have had for doing so?

I might have had to struggle with treaties and their implications when it comes to illegal wars of choice. I might have been forced to consider how far up the outing of the CIA agent Valerie Plame went.

Instead, I just gazed off into space and used a wonderful tool I will tell you about in a moment to reach my answer: Impeachment is not possible.

The tool? Magic 8 Ball. When you make your final fourth payment of $79.99, Madame Cleo will rush you a Magic 8 Ball via third class mail and it is a valuable tool. With my column, I thought I would have to spend hours thinking, exploring. Instead, I merely shook my Magic 8 Ball, turned it over and there was the answer: "Not at this time."

I probably saved at least 17 hours.

Think of all the time you too can save.

Remember for just four easy payments of $79.99 the 8-track boxed set of Madame Cleo's House of Instant Psychics Knows You Want These Tapes can be yours. You'll also receive, free, at no charge, a Magic 8 Ball. If you are one of the first ten callers, Madame Cleo will throw in a four leaf clover. It's really just a sprig of parsley but pretend it's a four leaf clover. The world is what you make it. Join me and other busy, on the go professionals and order your tapes now.

The Nation Stats

Picking up where we were last edition, we have two issues of The Nation to note this edition.

January 29, 2007 issue

Editorial & Comment
"No To Esclation" (unsigned)
"Media Reform's Movement" (ibid)
William Grider's "A Globalization Offensive"
Mark Hertsgaard's "Green Times"

2 pieces credited to writers -- both pieces by males.

Calvin Trillin's "Bush Explains His Signing Statements . . ."
Patricia J. Williams' "Zero and Infinity"
AlterPunk's "Iraq and the Sin of Good Judgment"
3 pieces -- 2 males, 1 woman.

John Nichols' "Newspapers . . . And After?"
Lakshmi Chaudhry's "Mirror, Mirror On The Web"

On the latter, no it's not about people copying other people's pieces. That happens to us, we get mirrored at other sites. They always credit. It would be wrong not to credit, wouldn't it?
2 pieces -- 1 by a male, 1 by a female a.f.a.w.k.

George Scialabba's "Eight Books on American Democracy After The 2006 Midterms"
Marin Duberman's "Herewitz: Bohemian Los Angeles and the Making of Modern Politics"
Aruther C. Danto's "Brice Marden and Edouard Manet."

3 critiques and, yet again, women aren't even qualified to critique the arts. Take that, memory of Pauline Kael!

Total Score for Issue -- Male: 8 credits; Female: 2 females.

Year to date stats: 43 men have authored (or co-authered) pieces since the first 2007 issue. How many women? 11 women. We're still seeing that nearly four men for every woman figure.

But wait, we have two issues this edition. (Thank the mail delivery for that.)

February 5, 2007 issue

Editorials & Comment
John Nichols' "Obama's Challenge"
David Corn's "Scootergate: The Trial"
William Greider's "EPI's Agenda For Change"

3 pieces, all credited to males

Calvin Trillin's "A Question and a Follow-up for George W. Bush's Next Press Conference"
Alexander Cockburn's "Get Carter! Iran, Too!"
Katha Pollitt's "Ayatollah D'Souza"
Gary Younge's "The Illogic of Empire."

4 pieces -- 3 males, 1 female

Scott Sherman's "ACLU v. ACLU"
Jeff Madrick's "Goodbye, Horatio Alger"

2 pieces -- both by males

Daniel Lazare's "Stuart: The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism From 1600 to Modern Times"
Eric Foner's "Oakes: The Radical and the Republicans [. . .]"
Ruth Scurr's "Bell: The First Total War [. . .]"
Rae Armantrout's "Framing (poem)"

What do you know, the magazine finally decided to let a woman have a go at a critique (a very rare thing these days) and they even found a poet who is female.

4 pieces -- 2 males, 2 females

Total Score for Issue: 10 males; 3 females.

Year to Date Stats: 53 males; 14 females. We're still left with nearly 4 males for every woman.

It passes for equality to some . . . we guess. If, as of the February 5, 2007 issue, they wanted to play catch up, they'd have to print 39 pieces, all by women, just to do that. (They don't do that, but we'll wait to note the next issue until it arrives in the mail.)
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