Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Note to Our Readers

Sunday, Sunday.

Oh we're tired. We're waiting on Flickr. We'll come back in the note and provide details on what's here. Flicker's now taken 94 minutes to upload photos. We've posted what we can but are holding the other pieces due to the art work.

We're all tired.

Here's who did writing on this edition:

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

We thank Dallas for all his help and we thank Rebecca for photo shopping, We thank Flickr for making us want to slit our wrists.

Monday. We're noting the edition finally.

We ended up having a theme and it was a comic book universe.

Arch nemises Teen Dumb Ass, junior division -- a real dumb ass. Makes us fear for English majors across the country.

Big Daddy Dumb Ass -- Tony Blankly, mother of all dumb asses.

The enemy within -- What's a secret? What isn't? The administration seems to think anything they can't prove must be cloaked in secrecy.

25 comic book super heroes -- a list that came about to note some of the female super heroes we've enjoyed over the years and also because we wanted to paint Storm, et al. Kayla has identified four people in the drawing, by the way. There are five. The fifth is a trick. Think on it.

Origins -- This wasn't planned as a roundtable. It became one after we sent those helping out to bed. This ran in the print edition and online, by changing the title to "Origins" we thought we could force it to fit the theme.

Highlights -- done quickly.

What's going on? -- our note that we were trashing all we'd done and starting from scratch.

Editorial: Ehren Watada's heroic stand -- if we're noting heroes, how could we note Ehren? By the way, we didn't realize our drawing had made him so "endowed." But what the hell, right?

TV: Boys' WB! -- Ava and C.I.'s piece that led to us scrapping everything. We smelled a theme.

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

Editorial: Ehren Watada's heroic stand

Heroes aren't born, they are made.

They are made by the situations around them and the times they live in.

There is a history of civil disobedience in this country. You can go back to the movement against slavery, to Thoreau's protest against the Mexican war, to the abolitionists, white and black, who violated the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and rescued slaves from the police and from their 'masters.' A long tradition in American history of people being willing to violate the law, commit civil disobedience in order to make a declaration of what is right and what is just.
[. . .]
That's what civil disobedience does: It makes a point more powerfully than a petition or statement or letter to your congressman. It's a way of dramatizing a principle that you want to uphold, dramatizing a grievance that you want to point to. So it has always been an important and necessary tactic in any social movement, and one that has at certain times in history been effective in arousing other people to a cause.
-- Howard Zinn, speaking to David Barsamian in Original Zinn: Conversations On History and Politics, pp. 63-64.

In that historical tradition comes Ehren Watada. He didn't set out to do anything heroic (and would no doubt reject the label of hero). He didn't even set out to oppose to Iraq war. He signed up with the military. He wanted to serve and felt that was the way to do so.

He served in Korea. By the military's standards, he served quite well. He didn't go and brag about that. As his mother, Carolyn Ho, has noted, she wasn't even aware of the praise he'd received until after he took his stand.

When he was informed he would be deployed to Iraq in June of 2006, he was also advised that, as an officer, it was his duty to study up on the country. He would be responsible for answering questions from those serving under him and for explaining the purpose of the mission. (Something the Bully Boy still can't do.) So Ehren Watada studied and researched and learned what the domestic media oh-so-slowly began to admit, that the war was based on lies. No WMDs. No link to 9-11. No immediate threat. No impending mushroom cloud.

It is an illegal war. It is an illegal war that has continued to be executed in an illegal manner with the US administration refusing to honor the legal obligations they hold as an occupying power. Abu Ghraib was a war crime. One of many.

With his realization of the realities of the illegal war, Watada had two choices, ignore the realization or act upon it. He decided to act upon it. He told his mother on January 1, 2006 that he had decided not to deploy. As she has admitted, she was against the decision. She was against it because she knew the abuse, scorn and much more that would be heaped upon her son.

But he stuck with his decision and informed the military of his decision. He attempted to work out an arrangment privately for months -- serving in another theater, resigning his commission, etc. The military was giving mixed signals, indicating that they might be receptive to some agreement. As revealed in his court-martial (which began Feb. 5th at Fort Lewis), one of the military's big problems with him was that he went public. He only went public after months of attempting a private resolution. He only went public the month he was to be deployed.

Now Teen Dumb Ass calls Ehren Watada a "liar," a "coward," "pansy," and much more. Indicating that her level of education is as sorely lacking as her level of comprehension. Watada did not refuse to go to Iraq out of a fear of being injured or dead. One of the 'solutions' the military offered him early on was a safe desk job. If fear was the thing motivating him, he would have grabbed that offer in a second.

If he was a coward, he wouldn't have been able to publicly speak out as some people who do know the facts at play publicly disagreed with him (some with very strong language) and as a lot of dumb asses (we're sure they aren't all English majors, most of the English majors we know are very smart) decided that their version of events was more important than the actual facts. Though 'freeing,' that approach doesn't meet any journalistic standards.

But there are a lot of Dumb Asses, junior division and adult, who want to lie and spin. Which is why the mistrial's implications have barely been covered by most of the media. The court-martial of Ehren Watada was important going in. It became even more so, and historic, as a result of Lt. Col. John Head's decision to call a mistrial over the objections of the defense. Judge Toilet may very well have set Watada free.

Now if you hide behing Eugene Fidell, who was clearly an advocate for the court-martial of and imprisonment of Watada, you can obscure the issue. If you ignore legal experts like Michael Ratner and Marjorie Cohn while presenting Fidell as "objective" and "disinterested," you can certainly obscure reality.

Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian attorney, stated that Ehren Watada could not be court-martialed again, that by declaring a mistrial, Judge Toilet laid the groundwork for double-jeopardy should the military attempt to court-martial Watada again.

Somehow he was considered non-objective or not qualified to speak by the same press that avoided consulting the expertise of the likes of Cohn and Ratner. Seitz was Watada's civilian attorney. The military also appointed one of their own to be part of Watada's defense team.
That would be Captain Mark Kim. John Catalinotto (Workers' World) noted (and few others have) that Kim "agreed with Seitz's interpretation of military law." Now imagine if the media wanted to explore that?

Captain Mark Kim is in the military, has a career in the military, and even he agrees that double-jeopardy will now be at play. It's probably easier to obscure the issue by going to an advocate for court-martial and imprisonment like Fidell than in seeking out Kim who is sharing an opinion that won't win him popularity points with the top brass of the military.

Regardless of what the outcome had been (and many expected the outcome of the court-martial to be a conviction), Watada's stand was heroic. That was obscured with Dumb Asses like Tom Zeller Junior (New York Times) who offered that Watada was a "deserter" which only proved that Zeller can't follow basic facts and has trouble with terms and meanings. (Watada did not desert. He refused deployment and continued to serve on the base -- as he continues to do now after the court-martial.)

At any time, Watada's stand deserved note. Someone speaking out and taking a stand despite the fallout that might result is a very brave, very heroic act. Coming, as it did, when the Democratic Party, as a whole, can only find their spines if the action to be taken is "symbolic" and "non-binding," someone taking a real stand matters even more.

TV: Boys' WB!

Only boys watch cartoons and boys are stupid.

We decided that was the message Kids WB! was attempting to convey.

It's still called that, Kids WB!, even though it no longer airs on the WB because the WB is no more. Even though it's not "Kids" WB!, it's Boys' WB! Most of all it's dumb, really, really dumb.

He's a super dog.
He's a super hero.
He came to Earth from outer space and his name is Krypto.
He's super strong.
He's super brave.
He's Krypto, Krypto the Superdog.
Krypto, ruff, ruff, and away.
Krypto, Krypto the Superdog.
Krypto, ruff, ruff, and away.

That's from the annoying (and belabored) theme song of the series that kicks of Kids WB! each Saturday. (Note: Some areas air Kids WB! on Sundays and some monkey with the schedule -- we don't blame them -- but we're addressing the official Kids WB! shows.) It's a sing-song theme that you won't want to sing -- or to chant in the cheering sections -- and though not catching, it is annoying as hell. Ruff, ruff, get away.

This dog of a show, about a dog, is apparently cat nip to someone which is why it airs twice each Saturday on the official schedule. Or maybe the second airing is supposed to be reminiscent of a burp? Kicking off the morning it sets out the guidelines quite clear (a) bad drawings, (b) moralistic and (c) women are basically invisible.

On the latter, we don't mean that the female characters, like Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four, have a super power that allows them to turn invisible or that they fly around in Wonder Woman's invisible jet, we mean they usually aren't seen (or heard). On the moralistic nature of the shows, "pompous" might be the better word because, while morality plays have long been a part of animated cartoons, this is less concerned with instructing children in any core values and more concerned with superficial nobility that many of the characters possess. On badly drawn, Krypto the Superdog establishes quickly that the 70s cartoon series Super Friends is apparently still a template -- why, we don't know.

Kryptpo is supposed to have power pecs for some reason -- we don't know why, this is, after all, a dog -- but the best word for him may be "stacked." He has a dog house that outdoes Snoopy's, it has a rocket ship underneath its normal shell which may strike many as strange but not the creators of this show. Kevin is his young owner who says a lot of stupid things but you can't be too bright when you have a superdog. Kevin's cousin Bailey is out to expose Krypto (he would be the nemesis of the show -- but not the arch villain, it's too mild for arch villians). Streaky the Supercat is someone's idea of outrageous which, on this mild show, means it sounds like he's voiced by the ghost of Paul Lynde (it's really Brian Drummond) and he lives next door to Kevin and Krypto with his owner Andrea who, possibly picking up on the vocal similarities between her cat and Uncle Arthur on Bewitched, spends a lot of time finding outfits for Streaky to wear.
Andrea's theme song should be borrowed from Mad TV because she honestly could sing of being "on the outside looking in" for all the nothing she does from the sidelines.

In one recently aired episode, mini-aliens (the show's really ugly despite thinking itself too-cute-for-words) have decided to be super heroes (they're both male off course) and capture a bad alien (ditto) which they then rush to show off to Krypto and Kevin. He's escaped (without their knowledge) and he goes on to cause havoc that largely means Andrea's dream of having Streaky get some glamour shots taken by a world famous cat photographer (if the talking dog didn't indicate this show was all make believe, the notion of a world famous cat photographer sets you wise quickly). If you're thinking the show addressed vanity (either in the photography or the bragging that really is, temporarily, the mini-aliens undoing) forget that thought. There's no time for a message, there's barely time for a plot. It all plays out dully and soon enough you're on to the second story of the half-hour where Krypto and Kevin spot an ice cream truck. This story serves largely to illustrate how stupid the writers are and how stupid they think the audience is. How so? If you've ever purchased ice cream from a vendor in one of those trucks, you know it's prepackaged. Not in the land of Krypto where the vendor leaves the front seat of his car to go into the trailer and begin putting together ice cream sundaes (with a cherry on top).

That pointless bit leads to another, driving off, he ends up with a blow out. Only Krypto can save him! From a flat tire? No, the ice cream truck travels down street after street careening. You sort of picture the young viewers freaking out if their parents ever have a flat tire. Krypto tries to stop it by biting the bumper and dragging himself behind it -- sort of the way a dog drags its ass on the carpet -- but that doesn't work out. Instead he sits himself in front of the ice cream truck and finally manages to stop it. During all of this, Bailey is determined to get a photograph of Krypto using super powers to demonstrate/prove, there's nothing natural about the dog. When Krypto finally stops the truck, it's doors swing open sending ice cream flying through the air which then lands on Bailey.

If you're looking for a moral don't bother. And if you're looking for Andrea to do anything in this story, don't bother either. She's a lot like June Lockhart in a Lassie episode as she hollers to Kevin to watch out because his cousin's trying to get Krypto's picture. At one point, Bailey stumbles upon the rocket underneath Krypto's dog house and, though he's been screaming about exposing Krypto to everyone, he rushes off to get Kevin's mother and show her. Kevin's ahead of her and the dog house moved while a blanket's tossed over the hole leading to the rocket. No one notices but the characters are awfully slow. Kevin's mother yells at Bailey (while Kevin smiles/smirks) and then storms off back into the house (the kitchen?) which makes her come off as a real shrew. Possibly that's the point?

Then it's time to giggle some more as Andrea grabs Streaky to take him back to her house to try on more outfits.

If you're bored reading all the above, just be glad you didn't have to watch it. This was followed by another episode of Krypto the Superdog which seemed to exist largely to nail the the hideous theme song permanently into your memory.

Next up was Loonatics Unleashed and the best way to describe that show is to ask a question? Did you see the episode of The Simpsons where Poochie is added to The Itchy & Scratchy Show in an attempt to be happening and "now"? That's what Loonatics Unleashed plays like and you can almost hear audiences hissing everywhere as the familiar templates of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Taz and others get updates.

Though Bugs may have provided you with hours of laughter, funny is really an after thought to this show that wants to be an adventure and involves super powers. Characterization is also an after thought which is how, on this version, Wyle E. Coyote and Road Runner are not only friends but downright boring. On the missions, they're usually sent to their rooms (something we'd strongly recommend for the creative 'geniuses' behind the show) while Ace Bunny, Danger Duck, Slam Tasmanian and Lexi Bunny to go off on adventures. The storyline played out like a nightmare of Katrina vanden Heuvel's (editor & publisher of The Nation). Lexi, the girl surrounded by boys, accompanies the gang to a planet where women control all and finds that extremely frightening long before she discovers that the males of the planet have been entrapped in plants. While Lexi's part of the 'gang,' she really doesn't do much except offer a lot of psuedo deep talk. Laughs are supposed to ensue when Ace and Danger (Christopher Hayes and Eric Alterman?) dress up as women. They don't.

Bugs Bunny often cross dressed to comic effect (and, of course, Garth of Wayne & Garth found Bugs in drag sexy). Here, Ace and Danger prance around a bit with none of the charm of Uncle Miltie. The drag scenes ends (thankfully and quickly) and, soon enough, all is right in the world as Lexi returns to being the token female in this comic universe. We think the drawing style plays out like someone's photoshopped every cell with the "pinch" feature and see that as appropriate since many viewers will probably have to "pinch" themselves to stay awake through the cartoon.

Apparently in a panic that Lexi Bunny tagged along on the mission (and talked a lot), Kids WB! immediately launches into Tom and Jerry Tales which takes the old characters of Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse and surrounds them with minor characters, all male. In the ignoble tradition of Josie & the Pussycats in Outer Space and Partridge Family 2200 A.D., both storylines for the most recent episode found Tom and Jerry in outerspace with Tom (the cat) being Tom the cat/octopuss in the first story. With the exception of Jerry shooting a gun repeatedly at Tom, which seemed more obviously violent (and tired) than we remember the original being, this played out basically the same as the original series (and didn't age well).

The male bonding only increases as Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue! follows and revolves around Shaggy and Scooby Doo with Velma and Daphne (as well as Fred) no where to be seen.
Shaggy and Scooby do have a (male) robot along for the hijinks and the Mystery Machine has been retooled so that it looks a lot like the son of Rosie the Robot from The Jetson's fame. But if you've been pining for the day when Shaggy was a millionaire, we don't think you were watching the same Scooby Doo we were. What stands out the most about the way the series is drawn is that Scooby Doo now has serious bags under his eyes and someone's apparently decided to give him Don Johnson's Miami Vice stubble. Whether that was an effort to butch up the character or not, we don't know. We do know that Grendal's "ex nihilo nihil fit" came to our minds while watching and we didn't see that as a good thing.

Having suffered through two shows without even a token female lead in the lineup of characters, viewers now get Johnny Test which is actually funny and also offers three female characters in the mix (Test's mother and his two sisters). Though Johnny Test fights all the battles, sisters Susan and Mary Test are scientists whose experiments result in super powers for their younger brother. The half-hour show goes by so quickly partly because it's only the cartoon WB Kids! has that actually seems like a fully thought out one as opposed to a pitch session gone bad -- "We'll take Bugs Bunny, make him a super hero, but in outer space and younger and we'll change his name to Ace! Ace is happening! Ace is now! Ace is Extreme!"

Next up is The Legion of Super Heroes. If you've ever seen the oversize, special edition, seventies issue of the DC comic where Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad finally marry, you're well aware that there's an entire universe of characters in the Legion's universe. The series, however, is sparesly populated and, although Phantom Girl pops up on some episodes, Saturn Girl is usually the only female on most episodes. She shares time, usually with four males. (Again, it's like a cartoon version of The Nation!) On the most recently aired episode, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Bouncing Boy, Timber Wolf, Superboy, and Braniac 5 played like Randy, Simon and Paula as they auditioned Legionairre wanna bes. Five didn't make the cut. Like the five judges, the five contained four males and one female. The five rejects decided to prove that they were worthy. A storyline that played out about as interesting as a Super Friends subplot involving the Wonder Twins finally merged in the last minutes with the main battle going on in outer space where the characters floated around and Lightning Lad shot bolts of lightening while Clark Kent's character punched a lot. Humor was supposed to be in abundance but we'd argue when you're relying on the very tired line "Tastes like chicken," you're neither as funny nor as original as you think you are.

In the film Batman Returns, Michelle Pfeiffer's character, upon being saved by the Caped Crusader, wonders if it's "The Batman" or "just Batman"? The animated series tells you that it's The Batman. Dick Grayson is back as Robin and he's in school. The credits show Batgirl but she didn't appear in the most recent episode. The Riddler did appear -- with an updated look. This was both a repeat and an origin story (telling you how the Riddler came into being). This go round, the abusive father wasn't the big bad responsible for Edward Nigman becoming the Riddler, it was a woman he loved named Julie, a fellow scientist, who betrayed him out of greed. When an entire episode plays out for a half hour and there's only one woman on screen, we're not really sure that the way to go is to make her evil incarnate. But the Kids' WB! must know what they're doing, right? The WB is still around, after all. Or, at least, CW.

As The Batman fades, you're left with Spider-Riders which plays out like a mixture of Tremors and Lord of the Rings. Though striving for an epic storyline puts it far ahead of the ambitions of Kids' WB! staples, the show's real mood is creepy which keeps getting watered down. Older kids will be frustrated. Inhabited by a large universe of characters translates as the typical token female on one of this network's cartoons actually becomes two super heroines. This is apparently supposed to be seen as progress.

Completing the Saturday run is Monster Allergy. If the fact that there are basically eleven regular characters and that four of them are female strikes you as unusal, you've obviously logged a lot of TV hours where women remain in the minority of portrayals despite being the majority of the population in the United States. If the fact that the cells exhibit actual artistic talent surprises you, note that this hails from Italy. It's a pleasant show, not ground breaking, not earth shattering. It's pulls off what Krypto the Superdog was probably supposed to and could actually air much earlier in the schedule.

Wading through Kids' WB!'s schedule, messages are sent home repeatedly. The first one is that the programming is actually Boys' WB! The second one is that it's all White. In a book discussion exactly a year ago, Betty noted this:

And, let me add, that Sesame Street doesn't cut it. That's one show. When I grew up, we had shows, not one, with a variety of races. PBS seems so scared these days that if the characters aren't White, they're animals. The issue of representation was one of the reasons PBS excited me as a child. There was no Black person in the Scooby gang, no Black Superfriend, go down the list. But on PBS, I could see all races. Not these days. PBS: making the world safe for animated bears and bunnies.

Boys' WB! fails the gender test and also exists in a lily, White world -- which is non-reflective of the world around it and indicates that the same 'real life' experiences, that translates into all the girls going to school on The Simpsons wearing dresses. are at play here. (For the record, overgrown boys pay attention, girls haven't worn dresses to school every day in years and very few girls, especially with loose skirts, take part in jump rope while wearing them.) (We would add, "for obvious reasons," but we just grasped that we were dealing with overgrown boys. Girls rarely play jump rope at school in dresses due to the fact that jumping up and down will make loose skirts fly up. What Marilyn Monroe went for in The Seven Year Itch isn't really something young girls are dying to recreate in grade school.)

Earlier we mentioned Josie & the Pussycats -- that early 70s cartoon featured one of the first female leads of color. If a cartoon special wanted to feature Valerie chairing a panel discussion on race in the cartoon universe, it would still be a very small panel. Over thirty-years later that is especially disappointing. Any hopes that such charactes would be integrated into diverse shows appears to have not only vanished but been forgotten.

There's nothing wrong necessarily with a show revoling around one race and gender but there's something very wrong with a schedule that relies on White male leads (and don't kid that the animals aren't all voiced White) and reduces all others to tokens or renders them invisible. There's also something really sad about how tired the majority of the shows on Boys' WB! are. Krypto the Superdog? Shaggy Wants to Be a Billionaire? The Legion of Super Heroes Idol? The last cartoon that we found interesting and enjoyable was the Ripping Friends (a very funny show). It revolved around four male super heroes, one of which (Slab) was African-American. It lasted one season on network TV (Fox Kids). The Power Puff Girls, which was often funny, predates Ripping Friends. It also had the Cartoon Network as its original home -- not broadcast TV.

Gender, race and ethnicity are not side issues. They are very much at the forefront. In addition to them, there are a number of issues that have led to a preponderance of crap on Saturday mornings. We're apparently going to pay forever because Mighty Mouse might have gotten high and because Paul Reubens (not dressed as Pee Wee Herman) whacked off in an adult theatre. The fall out has been bland shows for decades now. In addition, the networks are under some idiotic notion that the public clamors for a Saturday version of their infotainment shows. And there was a move to the same cheaply made reality shows, but centered around children, that attempted to pass for 'educational.'

We're not really fond of 'educational' for 'educational' purposes TV. We think ABC's School House Rock provided more than enough education during its hey day. When networks are forced to go educational, they end up filling their required three hours of children's programming with dopey shit like Veggie Tales. In fact, NBC is the worst offender when it comes to children's programming, offering the type of moralizing that would leave Davey & Goliath sheepish and mixing in 'classic' lit as a cover (Babar). It's why Cake airs on CBS -- a show that plays worse than the most hideous PBS attempt at arts and crafts.

By contrast, ABC is having a golden age by attempting to actually entertain.

We don't generally note cartoons here. When this site first started up, and these reviews were a group project, we'd considered reviewing the X-Men cartoon. For whatever reasons, that ended up getting bumped for a primetime show. But we (Ava and C.I.) are aware that young families make up a significant portion of the readership. We're also aware that they struggle and cable or satellite isn't an option for many.

So, in closing, what we'd like to do is ask those readers to think about their own days in front of the TV on Saturdays. Were they watching lame gimmicks (Captain Cave Man & the Teen Angels, for instance)? Do they remember that around the age of seven, Babar-type shows would have been seen as for little babies? Do they remember the shows they liked?

You're going to have to be the voices for your children. When we mentioned we were tackling cartoons, Ty said there have probably been fifty e-mails complaining about Veggie Tales (we share your dismay). Would you have watched that nonsense? No. Should your children have to? That's up to you. Not just in whether the TV turns to that channel but also in terms of whether or not the network starts getting some real pressure.

They get psuedo pressure all the time from scolds complaining that this is too violent or that is too scary or that might give ideas (ideas are very dangerous in today's climate -- second only to thinking). If you remember the days when you could be entertained, maybe learn a little along the way, but be entertained in front of the TV and you want your own children to have that opportunity, you're either going to have to get vocal or figure out how to swing cable or satellite. That is the reality.

If you do decide to get vocal, do everyone a favor and use your voice to also call for better representation on TV. It's very scary that children today are growing up with the notion that all leaders, all active participants, are White males. That's not reflective of society. It robs all children, even White boys who, if they buy into this nonsense, are still going to have to bump into reality at some point. Due to the silence, Boys' WB! can pass for Kids' WB! That's only the tip of the iceberg.

Arch nemises Teen Dumb Ass, junior division


Teen Dumb Ass

Secret identity: Rachel Jones

Super powers: able to issue homophobic comments on top of her usual Dumb Ass remarks. Able to clear a room or a floor with one of her lethal stink bombs.

Costume: Blue body suit with the insignia of a toilet paper roll on the chest. Sometimes uses a toilet seat cover as a cape.

Weaknesses: Anything that requires actual thought. Has a tendency to use "moreover" repeatedly due to a Dumb Blonde complex.

Origin of Dumb Ass Powers: During a PBS fund drive, Jones made the winning bid for an evening of suckling at the teet of Tony Blankly. (She was the only bidder.) She emerged from the experience with a dazed look in her eyes and a cracked view of the world. Since that day, she's decided to destroy the left "from within!"

Dumb Ass was already on our radar before she launched her "Abandoning a promise" campaign last week.

Exhibiting the type of homophobia rarely seen in print since the Rudolph Valentino "pansy scare" of the twenties, Dumb Ass trots out "pansy" and applies it Ehren Watada. It's like watching Michelle Malkin emerge from the womb.

Hurling homophobia isn't quite enough for Dumb Ass, she also feels the need to show her gretaest strength: offering opinions on things she knows nothing about.

She writes of the "commitment" "this punk" Watada signed to the Army in 2003. (At one point, she writes, "I don't mean this in a negative way," demonstrating that she thinks she has a sense of humore -- as noted, actual thought it one of her weaknesses.) She then (wrongly) explains the history. "I doubt he saw the war as 'illegal' then," she offers of his March 2003 sign up.

No, he didn't. And he's long been on record stating that he thought the war was legal. What Dumb Ass refuses to grasp is that Watada was an officer so he may have received a bit more training then her friend from high school or her brother (or maybe he just paid attention). But he was taught the UCMJ -- something that Dumb Ass is unaware of. In that, the military teaches you that it is your duty to refuse all unlawful orders.

Dumb Ass tries to wipe herself up against the military's ass and hide behind that.

But nothing hides the fact that Dumb ass is either an idiot or, in her words, "probably a liar."

Reading her dopey column we had to wonder if English majors were required to research these days because there's nothing in her Dumb Ass smear that indicates she even followed the case, let alone researched it.

After serving in Korea, Watada was told that he would be going to Iraq. He was told that it was his responsibility to learn about Iraq for himself and for the soldiers serving under him. He proceeded to do exactly that.

Only while he was researching did he come across the lies of war. (Dumb Ass earlier shared that the illegal war was based on a lie in "The times, they have a-changed: Life after 9/11.") He wasn't in the United States watching the lies be (slowly) debunked. He only discovered them as he was doing his job as an officer and researching ("researching," try it Dumb Ass) Iraq.

The war is illegal for a number of reasons, Watada has stated them clearly. Dumb Ass either doesn't know that or wants to pretend otherwise and offer that he "is just scared." (Dumb Ass apparently believes an English major allows her to double as a psych major.)

Dumb Ass tells the world that Watada "wants media attention" and that this is all a PR stunt which further reveals how little research is required to write for the Los Angeles Loyolan and how sorely editorial skills need to be taught at that university. (Dumb Ass is aided and abetted by a crew of idiots who never understood that the excuse of "It's an opinion" doesn't allow for made up 'facts.')

For the record, Watada shared his decision with the military and repeatedly attempted to work with them in private. He offered to resign. He offered to take another assignment. He goes public in June, months after attempting to work this out privately and the same month that the military's foot dragging means he will be deploying.

Dumb Ass either knows nothing or isn't telling.

Dumb Ass tells you that "the primary mission of the military" is "putting your country before yourself." We'll assume she'd have made a very good Nazi.

Dumb Ass goes on to toss around terms like "man up" proving that she can be both homophobic and sexist. Or maybe she thinks the same military she attempts to hide behind is exclusively male? What a way to honor the 71 US service members who gave their lives in Iraq -- the 71 US women.

She concludes her dippy nonsense ("Moreover, she concludes . . ."?) by stating "he shouldn't have enlisted in the first place. I hope he gets what he deserves." To which we reply: Not having grapsed the basic facts, the basic timeline or the issues at stake before pontificating, you shouldn't have shared your Dumb Ass opinion in the first place. We hope you get what you deserve which, as an English major, will no doubt mean not finding a job in your own field.

When last seen, Dumb Ass was rifling through Cliff's Notes while ranting about how "hard" reading is.

Big Daddy Dumb Ass


Big Daddy Dumb Ass

not-so-secret identity: Tony Blankly

Super Powers: Can defy the bounds of gravity and logic. Able to "reproduce" through a freakish childhood accident.

Hatched in 1948, little Anthony Blankly showed every indication of living up to his name and leaving no mark on society. His bland demeanour allowed him a very brief run as a child actor.
In 1956, his career came to an end as a result of a freakish accident.

While flipping through the pages of Atlas Comics' Millie The Model, Blankly came across an ad for sea horses. Though his parents said "no," in a rare show of spunk and a seldom seen again ability to stand against authoritarianism, little Anthony pointed out that he'd brought home the bacon, most recently with The Harder They Fall, and that he darn well intended to spend some it.

To their eternal regret, his parents relented and Blankly was soon sending a money order in. Tragedy strikes the day after the parcel arrives as Tony Blankly opens it in front of the TV (that he was repeatedly told not to sit so close to). That dark Tuesday, while holding the sea horses up for a better look, the TV screen caught his eye as Andy Pandy was performing his closing song. Rushing to wave goodbye to Andy Pandy, Blankly inadvertantly tossed 20 to 30 seahorses down his gullet.

Gulping and bathed by the TV rays his father had repeatedly warned him against, Blankly felt something going on inside him: the seahorses were dissolving into minute DNA which was attaching itself to his own genetic code.

The transformtation allowed Blanky the power to defy gravity and logic by taking his voice to volumes never before heard. In addition, they allowed him to both breast feed and reproduce.
Blankly prefers breast feeding because it is less taxing on his system; however, he has twice birthed offsprings (as all male seahorses can): Tucker Carlson and Fred Barnes.

More often, he likes to return to his old stomping ground of Loyola where he offers his teets to unsuspecting students who, once they have suckled, are eternally bound to the Dark Prince of Dumb Asses, more commonly known as Big Daddy Dumb Ass.

That monicker has resulted in at least one battle surpreme, on Mount Punditry, when he was challenged for the title by the Fox "News" crew (Bill O'Reilly taunted, "Daddy? You gave birth, you friggin' sea horse! Shut up! Shut up!") and the CNN right wing and centrist squad (basically, their entire punditry squad). (MSNBC sat out the battle thinking that by hanging back, they could ape whomever emerged victorious and finally find a direction for the cable channel.)

Blankly's fist-a-cuffs quickly disposed of Bill O'Reilly but Nancy Grace proved to be a formidable challenge until he resorted to his loud vocal volume and sent her fleeing in tears. At that point, Chris Wallace unleashed the device his tinkering mad scientist father had created for him and nearly won the battle. Pulling the lever off a square box, Wallace stood back as an annoying high pitched whine began: "Did you ever wonder?"

Yes, Wallace's father had managed to capture the sound of Andy Rooney's voice in digital form and increase it ten fold. Realizing he was close to losing and seeing Jeffrey Goldberg and Brit Hume advancing, Blankly opened the compartments on his NursingMamas blouse and unleashed the lactation which not only stopped everyone in their tracks, it also caused the box emitting Andy Rooney's voice to short circuit.

"Run!" Tony Blankly roared as he manipulated his nipples. "Run like cowards! I am Big Daddy Dumb Ass!"

Most recently, on the latest edition of PBS' McLaughlin Group, Blankly demonstrated that he can still defy gravity and logic as he insisted that the Dixie Chicks' Grammy wins resulted from nonpolitical music. (As anyone who's listened to Taking The Long Way can attest, it's a strong mixture and mingling of the personal and the political. Possibly Blankly, haven't birthed by Carlson and Barnes, only focused on the songs about motherhood.)

Most recently, in attempt to cater to the kiddies, Blankly has been attempting to recruit a junior division of Dumb Asses to carry on the tradition. He has been most successful with regards to Teen Dumb Ass.

The enemy within

Someone get Nick Fury on the phone! The Enemy Within has struck again!

Marine Scott Allen has just provided the enemy with valuable information!

New scopes allow Marines to kill enemies from further away and in less light than before, says Scott Allen, a Marine Corps acquistion official in Quantico. "Insurgents think we've got a whole lot of snipers out there," Allen said. "Marines can see much better, hit them from a great distance.
-- "Pentagon seeks $100M to speed equipment and arms to troops," Tom Vanden Brook, USA Today, February 16, 2007, 10A


Scott Allen has just told the 'terrorists' that marines that there aren't "a whole lot of snipers out there," just better armed ones! He's tipped the hand, tipped the hat, tipped everyone but the wait staff!

Do we really think Scott Allen is an "enemy" in any form? No, we don't. He is someone who answered a question.

But flashback to last week's big story at the start of the week. Do you remember it? On Monday, unnamed government employees met in Baghdad with hand picked reporters, stripped of their cells! (they might take photos!), who couldn't reveal whom they were meeting with. If you're lost, see Joshua Partlow's "Military Ties Iran To Arms In Iraq" (Washington Post), Tina Susman and Borzou Daragahi's "U.S. makes case that Iran arms flow into Iraq" (Los Angeles Times) and James Glanz' "U.S. Says Arms Link Iranians To Iraqi Shi'ites" (New York Times).

There was so much that couldn't be revealed! Even information about the alleged IEDs because, if it was revealed, 'insurgents' would know what to go shopping for. ("Honey, did you put it down on the list? I am not making two trips!") It was all hush-hush and, you know this is coming, for everyone's own good.

But what kind of world is it when the US government wants to build a case for war with Iran on a bunch of flimsy rumors and asides while hiding behind the premise that to give details would inform the 'insurgents' of what was going on? Didn't Scott Allen just reveal something?

Or does everyone just assume no one reads USA Today?

Scott Allen didn't do anything wrong. But his actions do demonstrate that the cloak of 'security' is often used by others to disguise false claims.

25 comic book super heroes


As Ava and C.I. point out in their TV commentary this edition, there is no Kids WB!, there is only Boys WB! Since a number of the programs airing feature super heroes, we thought we'd take the time to note a few who are female and have impressed over the years.

This is not a full list.

This is a list that we could all agree to and on.

What you will not find is any reference to some 'really neat' Archie comic where Veronica wore a costume and . . . You also won't find Lois Lane (not even when she was briefly bionic) on this list.

These are women who have appeared in comic books. Some may have had their own comic books, some may have had long runs, but they were all choices we could agree to. There are 25 on the list and you won't find popular TV characters that got a comic book only to have it and their character fold when the series ended. Our illustration, by the way features five females who are listed below.

1) Storm
2) Wonder Woman
3) Batgirl
4) Jean Grey (Marvel Girl, Phoenix, Dark Phoenix, et al)
5) Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers)
6) Scarlet Witch
7) Sue Storm (The Invisble Woman)
8) Hellcat
9) Power Girl
10) The Huntress
11) Black Canary
12) Wasp
13) Spider-Woman
14) Black Widow
15) Red Sonja
16) Black Cat
17) Saturn Girl
18) Wonder Girl
19) Black Orchid
20) Sheena
21) Cecilia Reyes
22) Domino
23) Phantom Girl
24) Firestar
25) Supergirl


We started up this site after The Common Ills, Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude and A Winding Road had begun. (Folding Star closed A Winding Road in the summer of 2005 and deleted the site. Some posts are still available through Google searches and we also have some posts highlighted here in the early days. In addition, C.I. interviewed Folding Star for this site, "Third Estate Sunday Review: Folding Star interviewed by C.I..") The community has since other sites spring up: Thomas Friedman Is A Great Man, Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Mikey Likes It!, Cedric's Big Mix, The Daily Jot, Seth in the City, and Trina's Kitchen. As a reader (SZ) pointed out, "That's a lot of sites." He's a newer reader and there are several who have discovered the site "because you aren't afraid to cover war resisters" (SZ) since last summer. So to help sort things out (and to have an easy feature), we're offering this overview.

Rebecca (Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude): I knew I wasn't going to do what C.I. does. For awhile, Wally was doing morning entries but most of us don't get up and feel like writing. So I knew I would do something different and that I'd do it in the evening. In the early days, people used to ask about the title and, yes, it is long, but I was trying to make clear that I have no off limits and am not trying to play Terry Gross. All of those topics and approaches can be at my site. Sex has fallen through the cracks lately and that's because I'm pregnant and carrying all the weight around doesn't make me feel sexy or interested in sex. I'll return to that topic after I give birth, if not before, and I will return to it because the whole point was to talk about what people didn't want to talk about because they were trying to be mainstream. Because sex is a topic, there are men who read it that might not otherwise. That wasn't the point of the topic but that's fine. I'm followed by centrists who always want to disagree and they aren't my intended readership. My readership is mainly high school and middle school students because I just say what's on mind and say it straight. My background is public relations and I'm often accused of writing something attention getting on another topic to draw attention to something else. Whether that's true or not, I'll never tell. I love my young readers and thank them for not being bored when I'm discussing my pregnancy. I hadn't planned to do that but when you're carrying around the weight all day and you're back is hurting . . .

Betty (Thomas Friedman is a Great Man): I wanted to do something and wasn't sure what. I'm a big fan of Alice Walker's work and I love to laugh so those were two of the things I focused on as I was trying to figure out what to do. I also helped out here for several weeks before I started my site because I wanted to see what was involved. Sometimes I was just listening but, like in the roundtables, that didn't happen often. I always have an opinion! That may be why I finally decided to go with Thomas Friedman, who is a columnist. Another reason was that The Common Ills really isn't interested in covering the columnists for The New York Times so what happened was a comic novel where Betinna is Thomas Friedman's wife, his drugged wife, and learns about herself and about him. I've got an outline that I work from but I do alter it from time to time. After Betinna learned that Thomas Friedman had kidnapped her and that she was from New Jersey and not a "backwater village," he was going to disappear for a bit, about five weeks. But that wasn't working and my father, among other people, was saying, "You gotta bring the idiot back." So that's an example of an alteration I've made, bringing him back in sooner. But in terms of the larger plot, I do stick with the outline. This was a twice a week site when I started and back then his columns appeared on Sunday and another day later in the week. Now he appears on Wednesdays, which is a church night for me, and Fridays and there's not enough time to absorb and cover two columns a week. I also got a promotion at work and am raising my three kids. So I've accepted that it's a once a week site. Oh, it's supposed to make you laugh. That's one of the main points, not a side point.

Kat (Kat's Korner): C.I. and I didn't know each other before The Common Ills started. We've become good friends since. When that site first started, I was one of the people who found it due to the music, entries used to quote music all the time. And I was one of the people who would e-mail about music and C.I. would always e-mail back. At some point, C.I. asked me to consider writing something on music. So I did that and started doing that. Enough members enjoyed it and I did as well that it became a regular feature. But there were community members asking me to do my own site. I finally agreed while noting I wasn't doing lengthy posts and never be surprised if I don't post every day and don't offer something impressive or even worth reading.
Ideally, it should be about music, the stuff I'm writing there, but a lot of times, I'll get two or three paragraphs typed up and say, "Oh, that's got to go in a review." At which point, I'll end up pulling those paragraphs and starting over. I don't have a specific topic and it's really whatever I'm thinking about at that moment. I do try to note KPFA's Guns and Butter because I support Bonnie Faulkner's work and her refusal to toe someone else's line. I also try to post five times a week now that we're all including the snapshot. Keesha made that point in a roundtable for the gina & krista round-robin, that C.I. was doing that at the request of the community and doing it to keep the focus on Iraq, so if we're posting and we include it, whatever else we write about, we've offered another opportunity for someone to think about Iraq just by including it. So there are days when I'm posting and probably have nothing to say but I want to be sure I've noted the snapshot. I'll also note that when anyone complains that a review hasn't gone up in X days, I will fall back on, "Hey, you wanted me to do my own site. I also have to put food on my table. There's only so much time!" Which is true but it's another excuse for me to be lazy and I will gladly grab it.

Mike (Mikey Likes It!): I started up because I was pissed off. I'm not sure if this was the West thing, where a website thought it was okay to bully a 14-year-old kid and to try to dig up dirt on him, but if it wasn't that, it was something else. I was pissed. I'd done some stuff for the gina & krista round-robin by that point. But I was furious about something and Wally and C.I. both talked me through it and Wally said, "You need to start your own site." Which is what I did. What do I cover? Hypocrisy. That's what my grandfather told me last week. I will talk about Iraq and impeachment and other stuff. A new topic that's started lately was Ralph Nader. I credit the community with demonstrating to me that Nader didn't cost Al Gore the 2000 election. I recently started noting that because there were some lefties or supposed lefties trotting that nonsense back out and I actually got hate mail on that. So I'll probably keep covering it. There are some topics I don't cover now due to the fact that I'm seeing someone and she's a bit more private than I am. And if I'm sick, I'll talk about whatever I can before I fall out. I like to laugh but I'm not a humor site. Betty, Wally and Cedric do that and do it great. I'm usually outraged when I'm blogging and desperately in need of a joke! I also try to cover WBAI's Law & Disorder each week but don't always get to it. That's the show I'd urge people to listen to. And I'll probably be highlighting socialists more because my grandfather is one and he's so happy that I added a link to International Socialist Review.

Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix): I started off at Blogdrive (old Cedric's Big Mix). I was a community member from way back, November 2004. There are a lot of sites online but the ones that aren't geared towards African-Americans specifically, like Black Agenda Report is, tend to ignore race or, if the Democratic Party is ignoring race or slamming African-Americans, bash us. Betty, Ty and I have discussed this and it's something that's always come up with my family and with my friends, how sites 'for everyone,' tend to operate as though they're only for Whites. So I really did enjoy The Common Ills and in a roundtable for the gina & krista round-robin, Keesha said I should start a site. Keesha really does have great ideas and is a leading member of the community so let me give her a deserved shout out. So with that on mind, when the UK Computer Gurus created the mirror site for The Common Ills (The Common Ills Mirror Site), I'd e-mailed C.I. to ask how hard Blogdrive was. It's actually very easy. So I started my site up there and the point was to be like a "mix tape." Here, we do the highlights each week and that's what I hoped to do at my site. I thought I'd be a Saturday only site and just be a text version of a mix tape. Then, because of my church, I started visiting some church members who were in a nursing home and then I really wanted to write about that so it changed a lot. I switched over to Blogger/Blogspot because I can't do a blogroll on Blogdrive. I was posting at least twice a week then, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Then, when the 2006 elections were coming up, I was doing a lot of get out the vote for my local Democratic Party and I was going to stop my site. I didn't want to, but there wasn't time. I mentioned it to Wally because he was doing the same thing in Florida and he said to me that we could do joint-posts. That was really nice of him and we still do that. In the early days, I felt like he was carrying me but I think, I hope, I'm offering something to those now too. It's fun to work together and we post five times a week. I also cross post it and the snapshot in full at my mirror post because I started getting e-mails asking why I didn't post there anymore from people who had been reading the Blogdrive site.

Elaine (Like Maria Said Paz): I was the worst community member at the start. I've known C.I. and Rebecca for years, we went to college together. I was one of the people telling C.I. to start a site all during 2003 and 2004. So I was an early community member. Before the gina & krista round-robins, I was a member who always promised but never delivered. I would want to blast someone for their attacks on the peace movment and then think, "C.I.'s going to be the one getting the e-mails griping about this." So, more often than not, I would decide not to share. When the gina & krista round-robin started, I was sharing there, probably weekly. People seemed to enjoy that and Rebecca was on me about starting my own site. In the summer of 2005, she went on a vacation, planned at the last minute, and either the night before or that morning, I learned I would be filling in for her at her site. When your friends who go way back, you can impose like that. I didn't know what I was doing. Rebecca had given me everyone's phone number and also encouraged them to call me and check in, which everyone did. Thank you, for that. The first few nights, I had C.I. on the phone the entire time. I might set the phone down and pick it up when I had a question, usually whistling into the phone to get C.I.'s attention, but I was sure I would scare off Rebecca's readers. They were very kind to me. This was thought to be three to four weeks, my filling in, but it ended up being over six weeks. I started helping out here during the weekends, which is a lot of fun, and I was honestly feeling relief that it would soon be over but also a little sad. Mike was pushing me to start my own site and started a lobbying campaign within the community. So I called C.I. and asked, "Talk me through setting my own site." My first post went up with no heads up, but that's why I was already linked at The Common Ills, with no explanation. I had promised Mike I would let him interview me after I finished filling in for Rebecca and I figured I'd announce the site in the interview, which is how it happened. I said then, and still do, I'm a blogger by demand. I'm surprised if anyone enjoys anything. But if nothing else, I did get a 'lovely' e-mail from the Cindy Brady of the faux left.

Wally (The Daily Jot): I'm one of the people Mike didn't have to hard sell on asking Elaine to keep blogging after Rebecca returned from her vacation. I'm also a community member who was in high school reading Rebecca's site first. I'm one of those "young readers." I loved and love what Rebecca does. My mother may have already known about The Common Ills but, at some point, I checked it out and I liked the community. Along with Keesha, I'll do shout outs to Liang, Eli and Carl. Well, to everyone. And to Gina and Krista specifically! C.I. addressed a sports article because of me. That's when I first became a community member. I wrote this long e-mail about a really bad sports article and I was just offended and wanted to get that off my chest. C.I. ended up addressing it at The Common Ills and I really appreciated that. I appreciate it now even more because I know C.I. doesn't follow sports. And for another reason that I can't go into due to a policy at The Common Ills but Jess told me about. I think that's obvious to community members. So I was helping out with the round-robin because Krista actually lives about 30 minutes from me which I didn't know until we were doing a roundtable for that. And Mike and I became e-mail buds as a result of participating in roundtables there. Mike was on my ass to do a blog and I was thinking I didn't have the time. When Cedric started up, I started thinking about it. Then there was a roundtable for the round-robin and Betty was participating and I asked her if I could call her about something and she said sure. So while we were on the phone later, I explained I was thinking about doing a site and she was really encouraging. Then I explained why I wanted to talk to her, it would be a humor site. I think everyone's funny in the community and there are funny things all over but humor really was Betty's "beat" and I didn't want to step on her toes. She didn't hestiate and was her warm and gracious self telling me to go for it. Is there anyone here that wasn't on the phone with C.I. when it was time to set up your site? Cedric wasn't for Blogdrive but I know he was when he was setting it up at Blogger/Blogspot. So I started my site and it was a "jot." I was being funny. Then a lot of things happened, including the hurricane that left a lot of us without power in Florida even if the national media didn't give a damn, my grandfather got pretty sick and then the Senate confirmed Alito and I just couldn't believe that the Democrats wouldn't even try to fight. So I was pretty disgusted and going to toss in the towel even though I didn't want to. I went to DC with Kat and C.I. and I was feeling bad because C.I. was telling everyone not to put any pressure on me and to lay off the "Why aren't you blogging?" question. But we really didn't talk about that, we just had some fun. Cedric was there too. Near the end, I mentioned that I really didn't want to quit my site but just didn't have it in me. I was really beyond disappointed with the Democratic Party. So we were all talking about that and C.I. gave me some DVDs of Laugh In which I'd never seen, that was a TV show in the 60s and 70s. And it zipped along quickly. And I was like, "I could do that." I'd gotten away from the 'jot' and had been doing long entries including really serious ones. So that gave me a new purpose. And it's worked out really well. Like Cedric said, he and I were both working on turn-out-the-vote campaigns in our cities and when he said he was going to have to pack the website in, I told him not to and that we could work on it together. It's more fun to write together and I was already using C.I. as an audience. I will not post anything until I've read it to C.I. over the phone. If I can get one laugh from C.I., I know it's worth posting. Otherwise, I'll keep working. So when Cedric and I started doing joint-posts, it was really a lot better because we were able to bounce jokes off each other. Sometimes we'll be serious, like when we did a thing on how Russ Feingold should run for president, we were serious about that. But mainly we're being funny and trying to take the most absurd thing in the news we can find and make it funnier. Fridays are tough because the news comes out slowly. And Friday night we didn't think we had a post. We wanted to do something on Kyle "Dusty" Foggo but couldn't think of anything we hadn't already said earlier in the week. I called C.I. and was talking about that and C.I. said, "What's that movie you used to love?" And I said, "Lord of the Rings?" I loved all three of the movies. But then I got it, "Foggo" and "Frodo." I called back Cedric and he'd actually read the books, I just saw the movies, and we ended up with a post. That's how it goes sometimes. Other times, Cedric and I will zero in on some news story and bounce stuff off one another until we get an idea we like. I was never doing Cedric a favor, he was pulling his own weight from the start. If he ever wants to stop doing joint-posts, I'll understand and enjoy his solo stuff, but as long as he's up to, I really enjoy us working together. We're doing quick jokes, they move past and maybe you laugh and maybe you don't. That's what was so great about watching the Laugh In DVDs. They were just tossing stuff out there and some of it worked and some of it didn't and there'd always be another one. So that's sort of my approach now and I also should note that in terms of inspiration from day one, Will Durst is one of the funniest writers I know of.

Trina (Trina's Kitchen): Like Cedric, I was aware that most community sites don't post on Saturday and with The Third Estate Sunday Review's all night sessions, C.I. wasn't able to do more than one entry on Saturdays. So I thought I could do something on Saturdays. It was thought of and considered by me but, when I finally did it, I just leaped right in and e-mailed C.I. about how I created a site because I didn't know anything about templates or links or anything. I knew how to e-mail and I could search on Yahoo. That's about it for my computer skills. I'm covering cooking at my site. I'm aware that the economy is in the toilet and has been there. Even with seeing me cook all their lives, when my kids move out, they frequently have emergency calls asking, "What do I do?" One of my sons has huge student loans and right before I started, he'd asked me to show him some basic recipes so he could save some money and I keep that in mind when I'm coming up with recipes. Is it easy to cook, will it taste good and can you make it without going broke? I usually add some commentary in there as well and I repost the snapshot as well. I'm surprised that anyone reads it but happy that they do. I am most pleased about an e-mail from a family member of a war resister. I think the print magazines, the high circulation ones, of the left have completely failed war resisters and I felt that way before I heard from the family member. I wrote her back and whenever I think, "Oh, I've got nothing to say," I do remember that e-mail and how it did mean a lot to her that war resisters weren't being ignored. And they aren't being ignored. When someone e-mails to share a recipe or to request one, they always mention war resisters. I think that's one of the issues that this community, as a whole, really stepped up to the plate on. I have community members who read the site and I also have readers who don't really surf. They look forward to the Saturday recipe and they usually note a thank you for the snapshot. Sometimes, they misunderstand and think I wrote it so I have to clear that up. But I do think that's Rebecca's right about how The Common Ills is the flag ship of the community but the rest of us, if we do our part, can bring the issues to others who may not be aware of them otherwise.

C.I.: I've been asked to address A Winding Road. Folding Star remains a community member. FS just got tired of the blogging scene and tired of some of the comments that were being made. A Winding Road took it's name from a Sheryl Crow song. It's focus was two-fold, the Senate and books. On the weekends, it offered a book discussion, usually on literature. FS is in college and it was difficult to do that and a site so the decision was made to shut it down and to delete it. We found out about that afterwards. There were a lot of questions about that and why we hadn't given warnings? We didn't know about it until afterwards. When it's time to end something, it can be really hard to do that. I support FS' decision to do end it. I know it wasn't an easy decision. The answer is always more voices, not less and I think FS had an impact. If you're someone who never read A Winding Road, you can read "Third Estate Sunday Review: Folding Star interviewed by C.I." to get a sense of what you missed. And that was a last minute interview. We were going to interview someone outside of the community and that fell through. 10 or so minutes after we learned that, and were left with a big hole in the planned edition, I contacted Folding Star and asked/begged for that interview which FS was kind enough to agree to. In that interview, one of the first statements Folding Star made was: "I really thought, when I first started, that I might end up deleting the whole blog after a week or so just out of a lack of interesting things to talk about." So, in a way, what happened had been foreshadowed. Along with highlights of posts as this site, Folding Star also participated in book discussions so you may come across that as well. To be clear, the mirror site at Blogdrive and the site at Blogger/Blogspot were taken over by someone else shortly after Folding Star deleted the site. Whoever that person is, they appeared to want people to think they were Folding Star. They aren't. Hopefully, "J" is someone who enjoyed FS' writing and just wanted to carry on the sites. But I did check with Folding Star when members started e-mailing that the site was back and it's not Folding Star. Folding Star does still share comments, as a community member, at The Common Ills and we're always happy to note that. Martha misses the book discussions Folding Star offered, misses them tremendously.

Jim (The Third Estate Sunday Review): Here's how this site started, and others may share as well. I was rooming with Jess and Ty. Dona was rooming with Ava. We were all in college in New York. We were all journalism majors. I was dating someone else but really interested in Dona, as Rebecca pointed out recently. Jess, Ty, Dona and I were big fans of The Common Ills. Dona and I actually were reading it on it's second day and that was one of the things we talked about in class the following Monday, how we'd both found this great site -- which Dona actually mentioned on a campus message board -- and we'd both written to C.I. that Saturday, when we found it, to say we liked it. I think we also left comments that first Saturday. The site had comments then. Keesha, the power behind the community!, is the one who led the drive to stop comments from being allowed because centrist were writing idiotic things in support of "Blue Dog Democrats." And some of them had also made racist remarks. When that happened, we knew, Dona and I, that the comments option was going to disappear. But the fact that we both found it at the same time really did make me think Dona and I were "meant to be." And we'd talked for some time about doing a site. But we wanted to do a site and we were talking about it. Ava was our Stevie Nicks! She always thinks she was asked just because she knew Dona. The rest of us didn't know her very well but when she would offer something in class, we all paid attention. She earned her way in. Just to be clear.

Dona (The Third Estate Sunday Review): I'll second that and note that I never once said, "Oh, can I invite Ava?" It was always assumed that Ava would be invited. We had been talking about it and that was mainly Jim, Ty and myself. Jess was all for it. But it was mainly Jim, Ty and myself that were always griping about what we were seeing, which included CJR Daily which was a huge joke. We'd shared our opinions on that and been ignored and we knew we weren't going to do that sort of crap here. There was a thing on Iraq, a discussion, that a campus group was having. Jim was in that group and he'd invited me to go with but I had already agreed to do something with Ava and her parents. I remembered wondering to Ava if it was just because it was about Iraq or if it was also a date thing?

Jim: It was also a date thing.

Dona: That's what Ava guessed. So I couldn't go and Jess' folks had come in for the day so he couldn't go. I don't remember why Ty didn't go?

Ty (The Third Estate Sunday Review): I didn't go because I had just gotten into the relationship that is now a long distance one but my boyfriend's planning on coming out this summer.

Jess (The Third Estate Sunday Review): And to jump in, we all knew Ty was gay. That was never a surprise. Ty never hid that with friends or with his family. Whether or not you want to put that up at website was a concernn. What we wanted up here about ourselves was a big concern because we weren't going to praise the mainstream media and, at that time, we were all planning to work in it. Ava was the smartest. "Ava" was her community name because there was already a member in the community with her first name. So she used "Ava." We all kicked ourselves when we started getting angry e-mails from the mainstream media for not using middle names or nicknames because that was where we were planning to work after college.

Dona: So Ava and I get back and Jim's on the phone telling me that we, both of us, had to get over to his place right away.

Jim: The speaker had been C.I. and afterwards, I was one of the people who were talking and I just flat out said, "You do The Common Ills, don't you?" It was just so obvious from what had been said. And C.I.'s face gave it away. So I was saying, "I'm Jim! I'm the one who wrote you about this and that!" And I think I'd mentioned that I wanted to start up a site in some of those e-mails. But we had C.I., who we were all reading, in the flesh and that just made it time to stop talking and do something. C.I. agreed to help us out.

Jess: Which is why C.I.'s not just someone helping out but part of the group doing this site. My folks had left about an hour ago, I'm watching TV in my boxers and Jim comes bursting in with C.I. in tow. That's how we met and Ty had either just gotten home or was just about to.

Ty: I walked in as Jim was introducing you. As soon as I was talking, you ran off to put on some pants.

Dona: So Ava and I get over there and we spent forever discussing the site in terms of what we wanted to do. A friend of ours tagged along and he designed a wonderful template for us during that. So we were all excited and ready to go. And we lined up an interview, I believe, with someone Ava knew.

Ava: Karla -- not her real name. We had originally intended to cover the campus scene and do stories like that all the time. How are these issues being covered superficically in the mainstream impacting college students. Karla was sexually assaulted, repeatedly, by her father and was impregnated by him. It was her aunt who helped her out and this nonsense about parental consent wouldn't have helped her one damn bit. She had been at the Iraq thing Jim had gone to so she had a level of trust with C.I. and she is a friend of mine. Even so, she was very concerned during the interview.

Jim: And it's one of the early things I think we should all be proud of because her story does go to the real issues.

Ava: Jim can joke around a lot and she knew that side of Jim. We were on the phone last month and she stressed again how she appreciated Jim being serious and compassionate during that interview. Even so, she was still nervous and we need to note what happened, no one gave a damn. I don't mean they thought, "Good for Karla." I mean they ignored it completely. Months later, C.I. made a point to highlight that at The Common Ills and then it did get attention and popped up on a few discussion boards about rape and about abortion. She appreciated that and she appreciated what Jim wrote about it immediately after it got attention because that was very hard for her to share and she did it hoping it would help others in the same situation. I'm making a point to emphasize this because it should have been noted and it wasn't. Fuck us, hate us, I don't give a damn. But Karla's story mattered and all the little bloggers e-mailing us about how that was an important story and then not even highlighting it was disgraceful and a real sign of what we were in store for.

Jess: I think that's a solid point and I'm sorry to turn this into a roundtable but we're talking about history and this is a part of a history but what I want to jump to is what did take off and then get back to what Ava's talking about. Jim was the one who said, "We need something on entertainment!" He then insisted upon TV because we knew a lot of students who watched TV but didn't go to the movies every week. The two most opposed to that idea were Ava and C.I. They went along but not until they objected to it.

Jim: Right. They were so against that. And neither had watched the first show we reviewed, Joey. The rest of us had, we were big fans of Friends. But they were contributing and C.I. noted that a friend was working on the show and Ava was sharing things that, in retrospect, should have tipped us off. Ava is very private. Dona had only recently met her parents. The rest of us had no idea and had no idea she wasn't just another student struggling with bills and all. On that review, we gave credit early on for C.I. assembling our various scraps of thoughts. But looking back, it's obvious that the strongest points were coming from Ava and C.I. By the second weekend, that would be even more obvious.

Ava: This is now a roundtable and my apologies to everyone. But I did think I was an after thought. Dona and I were good friends and roommates but I really didn't know the others that well. Then the edition starts up and I didn't give a damn about what the site looked like which seemed to be the biggest focus. After we interviewed Karla, that was the first or second thing we did, I made a point to tell Jim he'd twice stepped over me when I was asking a question. I felt like Dona was interested in him, which she was, and focused on that and also used to the elbowing and jockeying that goes on. C.I. is friends with my aunt and also knows my parents but I didn't know that and C.I. didn't know that. We found out about a month after this site started. But I remember feelling, "Why is Jess staring at me?" Because he was. And it was making me uncomfortable. I didn't realize he was interested in me and I was already feeling excluded. At one point, Jim had some idea where I'd translate something from Spanish to English and I remember thinking, "Oh, am I the token? Am I the one who's going to do that?" And I said no, loudly, to that notion. Ty was very focused on the look of the site, even after the template was resolved.

Ty: Right. I was the one who wanted our features to just display the opening paragraphs and then you clicked "read more" for the rest. That was something I was obsessed with figuring out and that was my main focus. We did do that, by the way, at the start. We dropped it a long time ago because we had so many other computer problems each edition and the programming code was a pain in the butt. But that's why you still see the "read more" option even though we don't use it. I'd have to study up to figure out how to remove it and who has the time? It's a nostalgia thing for long term readers, that's what I tell myself.

Ava: So Ty, who I probably knew the best other than Dona because Ty and I had a class the semester before where we'd worked on a project together, was off in his own world. Jim was getting on my nerves. Dona was mixing up and Jess wouldn't stop staring at me. The only friend in the room was C.I. We bonded immediately. From the start, when I was getting cut off, usually by Jim, C.I. was the one who would speak up and say, "Ava was making a point and I'm really curious about what she had to say." I appreciated that then.

Dona: We all should have been doing that but, as someone late to feminism, let me note that I should have done more, we all should have, but I do regret that I was so focused on the mix up, and enjoying it, I was the only girl in my high school on the newspaper staff who would mix it up, that I didn't step in there.

Ava: No problem. You and Jim, from the start, got off on your disagreements and I knew that was playing into it. But I did spend the first few weeks feeling like, "Why am I here?"

Jim: And of course, Ava now co-writes, with C.I., the feature that, each week, gets more e-mail than any other. The TV commentaries were something I insisted on because I did know how obsessed some people on campus were with their TV shows. I also felt it was a throw together feature and never gave it much thought. That's even when we were writing them as a group. The second week, people were writing in and singling out things, or doing so on campus, and I would have to say, "Oh, Ava came up with that" or "C.I. came up with that" or "That's Ava and C.I." That's why we turned it over to them. What people were responding to was their commentary and their points. We had to beg them to let us note that it was them writing it after they'd taken it over and the reason they agreed to that was because we explained while we were proud of it and proud of the attention it was getting, it was embarrassing to be praised for that and have to explain that we weren't writing it. I mean, my own dad called me one Monday to say, "Great job." And I had to say, "Yes, it was, but I didn't write anything in that."

Dona: Unlike Alterpunk, we enjoy group writing and wanted to support collective writing. So originally, that's what we offered. Ava and C.I. brought a feminist look to TV and readers appreciated that. But in terms of us, it also forced us to examine issues. I was one of the women who would have never self-identified as a feminist. I honestly thought that was something that people had to worry about years ago and got solved in the seventies. Their writing made me think and it's why I'm a feminist now and why we all use the term today. Readers share the most wonderful stories when they write in about the TV reviews, Ty could address this better because he reads the bulk of the e-mails, but the same thing that happened to readers happened to us. We stopped seeing it as a blow off topic, TV, and we also started considering some very real issues that we had ignored. That's a part of the site's history as well.

Ty: And, as has been pointed out, that's the most popular feature. Week after week. And along with our regular readers and readers who become regular ones because of those, there are also a lot of 'names' writing in. And I don't just mean Ava and C.I.'s friends. Although that happens as well. One friend wrote "I'm lodging a formal complaint."

Ava: Over a review of a bad show that was cancelled shortly after our review, which didn't result in its cancellation. When we reviewed it, it was low rated and probably going to be cancelled. When friends are offended by our reviews, we tell them to let it rip. And we do listen to it all. But we don't pull punches in those. It's now referred to as "the treatment" -- as in, "Yeah, I got the treatment." And a source of pride for some friends. Early on, and this is why I stopped reading the e-mails to this site, there were a lot of threatening e-mails, specifics of what they were going to do to us, how they were going to hurt or kill us. That did freak me out, we've noted that, and that's why I stopped reading the e-mails to this site.

Ty: And it's worth pointing out that those only came about after it was announced it was Ava and C.I. writing them. They'd already been writing them on their own before we announced that but the minute we did, these really violent, really sexist e-mails started coming in. When there were male names that might have been involved in the writing, that didn't happen and I think that's worth noting.

Jim: I agree with that and I want to share a story. We did a theme edition where it was "the tripping point" and we were supposed to be going for a 60s feel. We were all pleased with our features and some of that stuff was strong. Then we read Ava and C.I.'s contribution, "TV review: Law & Order: Trial by Jury." That blew our minds. They wrote to the theme and did it better than anything else that week. It made us realize we'd pulled some punches. Example, there'd been a discussion about a drug ref and we pulled that. For an edition where we were supposed to trip back to the 60s. Ava and C.I. open with pot. That was what we should have done. And it's that sort of thing that does push us to try more. So that's a part of the history.

Ava: And, before any e-mails are written, Jim and I get along. We laugh all the time. There are times when we disagree loudly and strongly during these editions and, if it's really bad, Jim knows not to talk to me about it after until mid-week. But, as I've said before, part of the blame for what I was feeling originally is mine. I should have stepped up more. Jim doesn't mind disagreements, he may live for them. But we are good friends.

Jess: And that's another thing. Jim's very let it all hang out. And that's how the issues between him and Ava became known. I actually think that's good. I think it's great that people reading know that we don't always agree with each other. And, for the record, at least once that first night, I caught Ava staring at me too.

Ava: (Laughing) I'm sure I was just trying to figure out whether or not you were a psycho.

Jess: I'm sure that was it. Okay, so the silence. That's very a much a part of what this site is. Karla wasn't the only thing we attempted in terms of campus reporting, we did a number of other stories, including a guy who'd been sent to rehab and discovered it was a racket. We did those and we'd get e-mails from bloggers or from people doing blog reports praising them and we'd look in vain for those e-mailers to link to it. They never did.

Jim: That was really disappointing and my brother helped some explaining what the world was like online. But even so, if the TV things hadn't taken off, I probably would have said, after four months, let's pack it in. I was really discouraged. Each week, we had an interesting mix, including original reporting and we'd be going through the e-mails and seeing compliments and these people weren't noting us.

Dona: The shittiest moment of that may have been when CJR Daily elected to note us but not link to us or credit us. I yelled for thirty minutes at a friend at CJR Daily over that. That was bullshit. And it was bullshit, I'll say this, for them to write us, and I'm not talking about Candy Perfume Boy, I know Ava and C.I. don't want anything negative said about him, I'm talking about others, to waste our time with their e-mails, their constant e-mails, and never even give a shout out. That was bullshit and, I'll out the friend, "We can't do that because we have to cover ___ and ___ because we need traffic." Which is how that damn circle jerk happened to begin with. That the supposed website representing Columbia Journalism Review, which is supposed to stand for something and, at that time, we believed it did, we've all since woken up, was not interested in highlighting the things that they really thought were important but instead tossing out links to try to get traffic is an embarrassment to journalism. And it wasn't just us. The idiot I yelled out was always forwarding me Shakespeare's Sister and I never once saw that linked to at that time either. Why are you wasting my time on something you don't think is link worthy? I know that was pissing off Jim as well.

Jim: Yeah. I don't know what else to add on that. Mike mentioned West, and we should note that during this roundtable that this entry's become, everyone's been sent off to nap, this is just the core six of us which is why it's turned into a roundtable, and that might have been shocking, what happened to him, if the story wasn't a familiar one. C.I. could you talk about that?

C.I.: Briefly, West went to work with his father, this was during a summer, he didn't have the net at home then. He was bored and his father put him on the computer. So he's surfing and discovering things. He found four sites he loved. A site, not CJR Daily, did a blog report and he was reading it and enjoying it. He really was enjoying it at that point. He started making some comments attempting to highlight four sites he enjoyed, one of which was The Common Ills, the other was Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude. He was being silly. At one point, and the site he was commenting at wasn't a blog but it was a left site, the writer of the blog report ignored everything going on in the world to do a shout out to Michelle Malkin. At a left site. Praising her, and that's what it was, praise. He wrote, among other things in his comments, "Step out of the G.O.P. closet." That's a funny line. The implication being that the man doing the blog report was showing a fondness, while at a left site, for the Republican Party. Not only was the comment pulled, he was told that it was abusive and so abusive that if he didn't apologize for it, the four sites he'd been praising would suffer. I'm going to now go by how it happened on my end. I'd gotten home and Rebecca had called to tell me what was going on. West had apologized, after being threatened and bullied, and he'd also e-mailed all the four sites to apologize and explain that he hadn't meant to hurt any of them, just get them attention. The e-mail, by the way, included what the adult male had said about the four sites suffering. West hadn't meant to include that, but it freaked out the adult male -- as it should have. Little bullies get scared when they're exposed. Rebecca's explaining it to me on the phone, I'm tired. I do a post and note that I haven't read the e-mail yet but I will and I will write back. I said there was no apology needed to me and I didn't think anything bad had been said by West. I welcomed him into our community if he wanted to be a member. He wasn't at that point. He'd just discovered our site. The next day, I was able to write him and I heard from him, I asked for his phone number, I spoke with both of his parents about this, they are members now and they are still mad about it. He shared all the e-mails in the gina & krista round-robin and there's a lot more abuse than we've addressed publicly. When he did that, Eddie was reading it and the next week, the next edition of the gina & krista round-robin, he shared an e-mail from the adult male bully where he'd written Eddie to see if Eddie knew the guy and he was trying to get dirt on the guy, on this fourteen-year-old kid. This man is a grown up and he's going around trying to get dirt on a kid. That's just disgusting. I'm not responsible for the round-robin, I do a column and I always participate in roundtables and anything else Gina or Krista want from me. So I'm reading Eddie's e-mail in shock and then reading the others because other people who were going to that site and commenting, other members, have had similar e-mails from the adult male bully seeking dirt on West. No one knew West, there wasn't any dirt they could give. But Eddie also had a lengthy statement in that where he talks about how he wrote the adult male bully back, they'd exchanged e-mails previously, and explained he didn't know who the guy was and something like "Sorry." Eddie wrote about how he didn't know that the guy, West, was a kid and he felt really bad that he'd even replied to that e-mail because he was offended when he got it, that this professional writer would be e-mailing him trying to dig up dirt on someone, on anyone, regardless of who they are. When West's parents found about that, about those e-mails, they were really angry. They still are. Though threats could come into West's e-mail account, the adult male bully and his male co-hort, there were two of them involved, never apologized for it and it's that, to this day, that still offends them. The two adult male bullies are fully aware that West was fourteen-years-old. I went on too long.

Jess: No, but you left out a few points. I'll cover them. When you posted the message to West, to the community really, you noted that there was no reason for anyone at a left site to bully anyone. You noted that no one should ever apologize out of fear that you'd lose a link. And you delinked from the site, which you never named but it was obvious to members what you were talking about.

Ty: And the next morning, the site delinked from you. You were on their 'blog roll.' You were immediately off. I will note that West wrote one e-mail, to all four sites. Only you and Rebecca commented publicly. The other two didn't. The other two are still linked. It's a nice little racket and it must be great to be a coward because you can shut up and get links, you can shut up while some kid is beat up on emotionally, some kid that really loves your writing and is being beat up because he loves your writing. He's being forced to apologize and grovel, and let's note, West apologized in an early e-mail when the threat was first floated, an apology wasn't enough from the adult male bully, he wanted the kid to grovel and beg -- which West did. But what about the other two bloggers who know about this and have never said a word?

Jim: It's bullshit. They're cowards. They're cowards and they make no difference in the world because if they can't defend one of their readers who is being bullied, they can't defend anyone. They'll play the game. There's nothing independent about them.

C.I.: Just to note something, when I was being attacked during the cancer thing, one of the two was privately supportive. I know that's on a different issue but I do want to note that because that was a really rough time for me and it was appreciated.

Jim: Okay, so that's noted. But it does demonstrate, the cowardly silence, that there is no bravery online. People talk a good talk but for the most part, there's no bravery. It's why what Cedric was talking about earlier happens. You can say flat out, "Racism isn't supported here and it isn't accepted." But to do that might drive away some readers and you're all about your 'hits' and your 'traffic.' Or you're all about your links so avoid calling someone out when they need to be called out. But one thing I'm really proud of at this site is that we are independent. The nonsense we had to put up with, which goes beyond what we've been discussing but we're trying to wrap up, was actually a gift because it allowed us to speak freely. We haven't had to sign up to get behind a candidate or to write, "___ makes a good point" when ___ is saying nothing worth reading, nothing worth typing, let alone reading. I think how craven the online world is came across strongly before we started this site, when a telecommunications lobbyist from the DLC and their splinter group, was being pushed as the chair for the DNC. If anyone has any doubts about how non-independent so many are, do a search and find out how many jumped on board that little effort that was never about helping grass roots but was about builidng the blogs. Simon Rosenberg was nothing but their chance to move from mini-Cokie Roberts to the big time and they were perfectly happy to sell out any supposed belief and hop on board for that.

Dona: And that's among the many things revealing how little power they really have. They didn't get Rosenberg. I'll credit The Huffington Post with some fine work on Slimey after that. They weren't around at the time. But in real time, the strongest voice opposed to Slimey was C.I. And that's probably when we went from readers to members, the five of us, Ava, Jess, Ty, Jim and me. Jim's brother had told him how that was going to play out and it did, just like he said. That wasn't about independence, that was a backroom deal that was cut in private and that readers never knew about. Fortunately, those 'biggies' aren't as powerful as they think. I want to touch on this in another manner, in another feature we're doing, but there are too many cheerleaders and not enough independence online. One of the Slimey set insulted a friend of C.I.'s and I heard about that only through her. But she appreciated that C.I. defended her. It was open season on women, on abortion and much more as they tried to push Slimey and people should not forget that. You will be sold out, gladly, by many if it means that they can make a little money and, as C.I. put it, enter the back door to scrub the toilets. I think Jim was the one most shocked, repeatedly, by the e-mails that would come in here praising stuff, usually they knew Jim's brother and were giving support for that reason, but that they wouldn't touch this site for anything, they wouldn't mention it, they wouldn't link to it. But as his brother's pointed out, we've demonstrated that we can't be bought and that we don't play the readers. There are people who frequently disagree with us but they know we mean what we say so they stick around. And we've earned our independence. We're not ever going to toss that away. That's very much who we are.

Ty: And the fact that the core, and the people who help out, are a diverse group means something as well. We wouldn't be quiet about race because we're a diverse group. We do parodies from time to time and those are also very popular and that comes from the independence. If we disagree, we'll call it out and it doesn't matter if it's a Democrat or if it's someone from the left. We don't buy into that Ronald Reagan nonsense of not talking about your own in a negative manner. What's the name of the Congress member who pisses off Texas members?

C.I.: Ralph Hall.

Ty: So he didn't get called out and it was for the 'good' of the party. He jumped ship, he's a Republican in a safe seat that he earned by being a Democrat in name only. Who was helped by that nonsense of silence? Who's helped when the Democratic Party wants to move away from abortion? Our committment is to what the left's supposed to stand for. It's not to a person.

Ava: Along with learning to address my issues with Jim, I've learned to call it the way I see it. I'll let it out and I really don't carry it around after. After we were in DC, when we were in Texas, there was a ---- storm of e-mails from people in independent media. One morning, I think I was reading twelve. And I just started letting it rip in my replies. I didn't care. I still don't. I'm not carrying a grudge. Anyone of them who wants to cover the war seriously, I'd read it. But I'm not here to stroke egos. I'm not here to encourage you in your baby steps.

Jim: And that probably sums up this site better than anything. Now for The Common Ills. We saved that for last because that was the first site and the only reason that other community sites came to be.

C.I. (The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review): In February 2003, I started traveling and speaking out against the war. That was pretty much a weekly thing. I was tired and told myself that I'd continue it up to the election. During that time, Elaine and others were saying, "Do a blog." I honestly didn't know what one was when that first came up. I was a John Kerry supporter and I was also addressing the need to get Bully Boy out of office. After the election, a group of friends got together and we were attempting to figure out what worked. I've gone over this at The Common Ills. But we were discussing a number of things. One thing, and it's been noted, was that Molly Ivins reached more people than Maureen Dowd. That was my online activity, e-mailing columns. A lot of us were doing that. I'm not insulting Dowd but the reality was that we had all heard from people we sent things to, and I also sent out clippings in snail mail, that the voices who spoke to them weren't the columnists at The New York Times, sorry to burst anyone's bubble that hasn't heard this before. That's partly due to the paper's image and also to the writing itself. I think Dowd is very funny, just for the record. But Ivins was someone who was funny and reached people. So we were discussing things like that and also trying to figure out what we could do with four more years of Bully Boy. A number of people were saying that the speeches I was giving would reach more people if they were online and the idea of a website was floated again. I disagreed, for a number of reasons, but I do listen and I do consider and I know I can be wrong and often am. So after that, I thought about it and all the reasons not to. And then ended up starting a site. That night. I knew nothing about it and I was searching around. I saw Blogger/Blogspot and I had read about them, I believe in Clamor, so I went with that. I was shaking on the first post, which is a nothing post, but anyway. I didn't tell anyone. It was probably just a paragraph and I hated what I wrote but thought, "Well, you hate some of your speeches, but they get better." I figured I'd do better the next day, Saturday. I was reading The New York Times, one of the papers I subscribe to, and I ended up noting some stuff from that which is how we ended up focusing on The New York Times. I had no idea what I was doing. I still don't. Iraq was falling off the radar. This while the slaughter of Falluja was beginning. There was a tendancy to rewrite, all ready, the actual results of 2004's election and that happens every election cycle. The 'moderates' were trying to rewrite the election to shift the Democratic Party further right. At some point, Jim and Dona and others had written that Saturday and I wrote an embarrassing post about that. I don't go back and re-read the stuff I've written. But between that and the comments, including from a young woman, under eighteen, who'd written a really nice comment and had her own site, really did mean something and that's why the site probably continued. Keesha, as has been noted, was offended by the subtle racism that was becoming overt in the comments and I told her we'd stop the comments. I didn't know how. I was trying to figure it out and then an overtly racist remark went up from one of the Blue Dogs so the comments got closed right then. Around that time it stopped being a blog, which was good because I wouldn't know the first thing about blogging. A community was something I was more comfortable with and that's what we have now. Or, as Gina pointed out, a private conversation in a public sphere. We are a feminist site and I'm really happy about that. I don't just mean that I'm a feminist but that our community is are they are pro-feminist. There's a lot of junk online that's not. If nothing else, we did that and we proved that feminism doesn't have to be a niche or something covering only one topic. Feminism is very expansive and I do worry about the way it is constrained by some who seem to think that it doesn't include issues such as peace. Anything the site gets right is due to members. They determine the content, they determine the issues. E-mails frequently start with, "Please talk about this because . . ." and go on to list the reasons an issue is very personal to them. NPR's been cited, the ombudsman entry, and that came about because of an e-mail from someone who was very offended that a war hawk had been brought on NPR during the election to comment on John Kerry. I was asked to tackle that. So give credit to someone else for that.

Jess: I'm going to interrupt because, as I pointed out repeatedly a few weeks back when I was responding to e-mails from reporters, you tackled that. You brought in the fact that, forget he's a war hawk, the man is married to a woman who works for Dick Cheney so why, with his wife working under Cheney, is NPR presenting the man as an objective person who can evaluate John Kerry? NPR didn't inform their listeners about that conflict of interest. When the NPR ombudsman responded to complaints about a war hawk, he didn't offer, "Oh and you know what, his wife works for Dick Cheney." Whether his wife has a job in the administration after the 2004 election can be seen as a conflict of interest and listeners should have been told about that. You were the first to point that out. You may be the only one, but you were the first and that didn't come from an e-mail.

C.I.: Jess feels he has to defend me because, as he pointed out, when we met, he was in his boxers. I'm joking. But yeah, I wasn't interested in tackling the opinion expressed. That opinion wasn't surprising. What was surprising was that no one was talking about the conflict of interest. But that, or the mythical "Red" state series, or anything comes from members. It's their issues, their concerns. They wanted Iraq to be the emphasis so that's why it is now. By the way, Beth's column runs in the gina & krista round-robin, she's the site's ombudsperson and she does a wonderful job of that. Even when we're in disagreement, and she's often right and I'm often wrong, she does a wonderful job of that and takes it very seriously. But if someone sees something worth praising, credit the members, not me. I do consider things visitors bring up and, if possible, include those but members are the ones steering the site.

Ty: I'm going to cut you off long enough to ask is the site really ending after the 2008 election because there's not a week where someone doesn't write in to this site asking that?

C.I.: I'm really tired. We all have lives. In the last four weeks, I've spent something like three days at home due to speaking about Iraq. There are mornings where I don't even want to read the papers because I know I'll have to be online after. Selfishly, I want my own life back. That's not just the site but all these years of traveling here, there and everywhere. And I would love to be able to sleep in. The Saturday entries go up later due to the fact that I try to be sure everyone's posted so I can include that in it. The Sunday entry goes up dependent upon when we finish one of these editions. I'm tired of the road, I'm tired of staring at a computer screen.
I picked, for me, November 2008 as the end date to have a target date so that when I was really tired, I could tell myself, "It's not forever, you just have to make it to the election." So, yes, I'm very serious about that. Rebecca doesn't think I'll stop and she may be right. But if I didn't have that target date, I'd be pulling my hair out right now.

Ava: And when we sent everyone off to sleep, C.I. mentioned the TV review and asked if I had any ideas of what we were going to write about and I didn't. We're both stumped but that's going to have to be done and that's pressure. And there are a lot of e-mails coming in to The Common Ills that Jess and I think should be deleted but C.I. insists upon reading those. A lot of whiners. Saturday morning, I didn't think there was going to be a post. We were in C.I.'s room, Jess and I, with our laptops and going through the e-mails because we were trying to help out and we thought, "This will take thirty minutes." Instead, that entry took something like three hours. And the plans for the morning, which is why Jess and I were helping, were shot to hell. At one point, Kat had arrived during this, C.I. was going to trash the entire entry and start over because Liang had found a wonderful highlight and there was no way to open with it so Kat said, "Fit it where you can, I'll open with it on my site." But there is a lot of work that goes into the site and, as Jess pointed out, the community would understand if C.I. decided to take a day off.

Jim: I agree with that and I've said that before. C.I.'s put up new content every day since November of 2004. There's been no 'vacation.' When you look at how much makes it up there and realize how there's been no day off, let alone a week off, it's really amazing.

C.I.: I'm cutting Jim off. Eli wasn't the one who e-mailed the first Thanksgiving. Or the first Christmas. Krista's shared publicly that she had e-mailed about Christmas so I'll use her as an example. She didn't have the money to go home. It was her first Christmas since she graduated, from college, and there she was, far from home, looking at a Christmas alone. She wasn't the only one who wrote about that. But she was going to be alone and, in most places on that day, everything's closed. She told her family she had to work, again this has already been publicly shared, because they really couldn't afford to get her a plane ticket. She didn't want them to sacrifice to try to. So she shared that it would be Christmas for her if there was something online she could read. She had a TV dinner she was going to eat and she was planning to sleep in. She said she'd be happy if she could get online and read something, and back then a lot of sites did not post during the holidays, everyone went on vacation, no guest bloggers, no nothing. That was what she was going to look forward for that day. Then, later on, she'd call her family, after she supposedly got off work, but that would be at night. Now she wasn't the only one writing e-mails like that. So there's no way I was taking a holiday off. In terms of other days, I always think of Eli. Now his granddaughter lives with him. But before that, his wife had died. All the neighbors he'd known had moved on or passed away. He was in his house and maybe one of his kids called and maybe they didn't. I'm not slamming his children. I really love Eli and he's one of the reasons I need an end date because, and I've told him this, I do not want the site to be up someday and have to go in and write an entry about how he's passed. I'm crying just thinking about that. Anyway, a lot of people, for many different reasons, do count on it. While some members, and maybe the bulk, would understand and support a day off, others . . . I won't say wouldn't. The community is very supportive of everyone. But I think that it might mean more to them than I might know. Now Eli has his granddaughter living with him and that makes me really happy but there are other members who may need it, may need something to fuel their day for whatever reasons. So a day off is out of the question. I have tested the idea of no snapshots on holidays and everyone's okay with that. So unless something big happens regarding Iraq on Monday, I won't be doing the snapshot at least. But I am really tired and a week on the road didn't help that.

Dona: It's also true that, for this site, the five of us, Ava, Jess, Ty, Jim and myself, started as college students. This was never going to be a forever site. I'll go ahead and announce that Jim and I are officially engaged. But the point is, nothing lasts forever and, if Mike were here, he'd point out that he doesn't want anyone to stop but that if it happens it will be roughly the equivalent of the Mamas and the Papas life cycle as a group.

Jim: Yeah, Mike always says we're the online Mamas and the Papas. And, like Dona pointed out, we just got officially engaged, Ava and Jess are now a couple, Ty's trying to get his boyfriend to move out here, to move out to California, we'll be done with college. Jess is going to go to law school, he's given up on journalism. Ava's doing the executive route. Ty's going the entertainment route. So there have been a lot of changes. And one of the best things about moving to California is that the six of us are all together and Kat's usually over so we do get to spend a lot of time together as this winds down. Jess and I are trying to figure out a date for a baseball game because we always told Mike we'd all go to a game and we never did before we left the East coast. But the fact that we're both trying to pick a date for that is part of the whole wind down thing. Not that we'll then ignore Mike, he's a friend for life, but just to make sure we've wrapped up loose ends and kept promises.

Dona: This is February 2007 and it's really weird because this site started in January 2005 but it really doesn't seem that long ago. We've had a lot of fun and, honestly, I will miss it when we shut it down, but I can't see putting this same amount of time into it in three or four years. Everything does have a natural ending and that's just how it is. That said, if anyone else says, "Let's keep going," I would be the first to say, "Count me in!"

Ava: Before the roundtable that wasn't planned ends, we need to address the template because that was brought up.

Ty: Right. Our first all night session told us how each week was going to be, the only exception was when most of us were off and Ava and C.I. steered the edition and finished it at a reasonable time. But we had a friend create a template for us. We'd done all our writing. We were ready to post and the whole thing crashed. We had to go with a generic template provided by Blogger/Blogspot. It put us hours behind. And I don't know that we've had a smooth week the entire run. I could be forgetting something. The other thing I want to point out is that my boyfriend is the one who delivers our print edition on our old campus. We thank him for that. He sometimes jokes that I'd have broken up with him by now if he wasn't the one putting out the print edition. And I think the move that we all ended up making was another natural transition. I moved because C.I. set up an internship for me last summer. By my second week, I knew it was what I wanted to do and C.I. kindly said, "Ty, you can stay here if you stay in California." Jess and Ava were out here for the summer so, for a change, it was Jim and Dona's voice we were hearing over the telephone. But I was really glad when they decided to move out here too. I really love it out here and don't miss New York at all.

Ava: Which I will gladly second, with apologies to my friends still back there. The biggest surprise to me about New York was how White it was. It was like there were tokens in various groups but, as Ty pointed out yesterday, the bulk of the people who were over were all non White, non Anglo. That's not intended as an insult but it is to note that in New York I felt like color and most ethnicities were sprinkled on top and the core was White, Anglo.

Ty: And when that happens, you get a lot of, "As a person of color, let me get your opinion . . ." type statments from people. If someone asks you that in a mixed crowd, it's one thing. If you're one of the few non Whites, it honestly feels like it's one more sign of exclusion even when it's not intended as such. One more reminder that there is the bulk and then there is you. On campus out here, I see more mixing. I also hear less talk of 'saving' 'them' whomever 'they' is supposed to be because, generally speaking, there are 'they's that are present. It's meant well and I'm not accusing anyone of being a closet racist. But it did seem like, especially the journalism program, that it was White, White, White, person of color, White, White, White. There's also a lot more to do. In New York, it seemed like everyone talked about doing something, going to an exhibit or whatever, but out here they talk and actually do it. If anyone's offended by that, yes, I am trying to sell my boyfriend on the move out here.

Ava: And it's so nice not to freeze. I came back out on Christmas and my parents understood. I was supposed to stay there for Christmas but I couldn't take the cold. I have family out here as well and, of course, they love C.I., but I didn't just come back because of the fact that we all split leaving C.I. to steer the entire edition of a site that C.I. would say, for the longest, "I'm just helping out. I'm not a part of this."

Dona: That was screwed up. Ty had announced it and the rest of us just weren't paying attention. I think we all wanted time off.

Ava: So thank you to Mike, because he's the one who called me. I'd already left and planned to get on the phone with C.I. for our TV thing. Then Mike calls me and says, "Do you realize that everyone is taking the week off?" At that point, I wasn't. I was going to be a part of the entire edition but over the phone. Then I had one cold moment too many and told my parents, I'm going home. I consider California my home. They've settled in New York for my father's job but I know my father still considers this home as well. So they were completely understanding. And probably tired of my whining about the cold.

Jess: And they thought you were actually coming to stay with me.

Ava: They did?

Jess: Yeah, your father laughed about that with me right before New Year's Eve. They figured you were actually going to my folks to spend Christmas.

Ava: No, your family went up into the mountains. I certainly wasn't going up in the mountains when I was already sick of the cold. Jess has a wonderful family, by the way, I love his mother, his father and his sister. But I wouldn't have gone anywhere cold, no matter how much I loved them. Or you!

Jim: And having noted the true depths of Ava's love, we'll conclude on that note.
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