Sunday, April 22, 2007

Truest Statement

So after special registration which only actually registered all the Muslims and didn't register anybody else, people were frightened, incredibly frightened in the communities saying, "You know, they are going to round us up. This is it. They're going to round us up and put us into detention. They're going to figure out a way. They're figuring out a way just to single out the Muslims." And you saw people stop, you know people Muslims stopped participating in a lot of civic activities. Even, I mean I remember after 9-11, some majority Muslim neighborhoods like in Brooklyn and Queens, some of the south Pakistani neighborhoods, you couldn't find people in the stores. People just stayed inside. They were scared. Let alone, mustering up the courage to go to a protest or to go out and join with a political group that was to counter what the administration was doing. So the fear was huge.

And one of the many rumors that came out was, "Hey, somewhere in the middle of the country, they're building a facility just for Muslims and it's just for us. Get your bags ready, either go to Canada or be prepared to let, you know, put an emergency phone call and let somebody know where you are because we're all going and we're going somewhere. It was with a little bit of panic that people greeted the news in April of this past year that the Federal Bureau of Prisons said they were going to have a brand new prison system, a brand new unit. Let me tell you what it is first because it actually exists. It opened up, it's operational as of December 11, 2006. This is called the Communications Management Unit it's out of Federal Penitentiary and it houses almost exclusively Muslims. It's meant to house, right now, about 80 people but I think there's far less, probably a little bit under 20 at this point, it's so new, only a couple of months. Now the Communications Management Unit as you might guess from its name is very restrictive in a way that most prisons are not. It's probably, it's not quite up to a super max facility, but it's a little below that. You have extreme restrictions on prisoners' contact with the outside world.

Dalia Hashad, co-host of Law and Disorder and speaking only for herself and not the organizations she belongs to (such as Amnesty International where she's USA Program Director). Our pick for truest statement at any time but especially after last week's nonsense that we need to return to the glory days right after 9-11 when "we" were all one. Not everyone got included in "we." Mike (who noted the broadcast here) and C.I. came into this edition ready to fight hard that Hashad gave the truest statement of the week; however, they didn't have to argue -- we all immediately agreed. Law and Disorder can be heard at their web site and over the airwaves on:

WBAI - New York City - 99.5 FM - Mondays 10AM
WHYS - Eau Claire Community Radio - 96.3 FM - Eau Claire, Wisconsin - Mondays 1pm
KRFP - Radio Free Moscow - 92.5 FM - Moscow, Idaho - Mondays 11AM
WRFN - Nashville, Tennesee - Radio Free Nashville 98.9 FM - Thursday Afternoons
KSOW - Cottage Grove, Oregon - 106.7 FM
WYAP - Clay, West Virginia - 101.7 FM - Thursdays - 5:30 - 7pm
KRFC - Ft. Collins, Colorado
WRCT - 88.3 FM - Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Mondays 9AM
KWMD - 90.7 Kasilof, 104.5 FM Radio Anchorage, Alaska - Mondays 9AM
WXOJ-LP 103.3 FM Northampton, Massachusetts - Wednesdays 1PM
KEIF-FM 104.7 FM - Enid, Oklahoma - Sundays 7AM
1640 AM -
Front Royal, Virginia

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --

We're early for us! Let's note who worked 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

And of course Dallas. Rebecca also photoshopped illustrations -- we thank everyone.

New content:

Truest Statement -- we don't usually run a photo but Monday, Law and Disorder didn't air in its usual time slot on WBAI. We thought a picture might give the strong words a face and maybe add to some curiousity as a result. C.I. has a friend who burns the show (which is how we hear it and how Mike hears it). Ruth swears by it and has Rebecca addicted to it. Cedric hears it on a pirate station and, we should note, Law and Disorder makes the program available free of charge. If you have a community radio station in your area or a public radio station (or a really cool commercial station), you can ask them to broadcast it and the station can't use the excuse, "Oh, we'd love to but we don't have it in the budget." Daliah Hashad is one of the four hosts -- Michael Ratner, Heidi Boghosian and Michael Smith are the three others. All our practicing attorneys and, for one hour each week, they examine current events and issues from the legal standpoint. We think everyone will enjoy the show but if you're pre-law or someone thinking about becoming an attorney, this could be your study session as well. (It's not dry broadcasting. The hosts can be and are humorous when the situation calls for it. They are also deadly serious and calling things out when the need arises. (This is Hashad's second time to be featured for offering the truest statement of a week.)

Editorial: The shallow looking pond of the media -- Who's not getting Iraq? We'd argue the media still. Aguayo is out of the brig and that is better news, if not good. (He's not yet home.)

TV: Pigs and Prigs on PBS' NOW -- In the print edition there's a very funny addendum to this. We were offered it for this site as well and Ava and C.I. both said they'd type it up (they do the reviews in longhand on legal pads). We were trying to finish before the sun came up. (Flickr delayed us but we were so far ahead that, except for the Christmas 2006 edition that Ava and C.I. steered, this may be the earliest we've ever had things up at the site.) We read the first paragraph and, honestly, didn't get it. As we were waiting on C.I. to finish posting at The Common Ills, a friend at our old school in NY who gets the print edition phoned me (Jim) to say, "This is too funny!" We read over it in full. It was a funny addendum. It'll run in the gina & krista round-robin and should run here but no one wants to type it (Ava: "You had your shot at it.") We didn't get it. It started off serious and we thought, "Yeah, it's been covered." We didn't read on. As many readers who have been lucky enough to get an e-mail from Ava and C.I. (a joint e-mail) can tell you, they do one paragraph straight and then hit the comedy. But what you have is a hard hitting (with some humor) look at a show that the left and pseudo-left refuses to call out. Ava and C.I. wrote this by themselves, everything else had multiple writers and, except for the highlights, all listed above worked on every other feature.

Precedent and privacy go out the window -- We probably worked harder on this than anything else. And longer. We ended up editing for space. During the edit we lost the aspect of abortion not being readily available everywhere and not being readily available to all. We're going to assume our readers know that. We've addressed it here before and, in our very first edition, we interviewed a woman about her abortion (see "Abortion: Why it matters still.") It's been touched on many times (here) and it was the most obvious thing to pull.

About those links (and other stuff) -- This was either the first thing we wrote or the second (it's all a blur). To be clear, we're not bothered by readers assuming we hate some organization or outlet they love. We read the passion as a good sign. But we're clarifying what was intentionally dropped and what we just haven't had time to get around to.

Accountablity for Media Big and Small -- Damn that CounterSpin! (I'm joking -- now, I'm joking.) Wednesday evening, C.I. heard The KPFA Evening News offer up the factoid that was wrong and ended up spending hours researching something, planning to post it that night at The Common Ills. (The focus is Iraq and the way that works is C.I. does three entries on Iraq each day, Monday through Friday, and anything else C.I. does at the site is bonus and can be on any topic.) We kept walking over to see how it was coming and started adding things and then we picked up the phone and started telling Rebecca and Mike about it. They had somethings to add. At that point, C.I. said, "Let's make it a feature for The Third Estate Sunday Review." Due to so much interest and everyone being ready to pitch in. I usually scream "no" on that. I'm always telling C.I. not to save stuff for this site, to use it at The Common Ills. I went along on this readily and when CounterSpin aired Friday, that's probably why I was so mad. But, as C.I. pointed out before hearing CounterSpin, "I'm finding it really hard to believe the piece is dead because I'm finding it really hard to believe that CounterSpin addressed media big and small. I'm sure they focused on CBS but who else?" In the words of Betty, true that.

Pee & B.S. -- PBS? No, Pee & B.S. Read it and grasp why.

The Nation Stats -- 4 men for every woman. True when we started this regular feature, still true today.

The summer reads -- A nightmare. Jess offered this last week. Readers e-mailed saying it would be useful. Some e-mailed complaining about our archives. We had no idea what they were talking about. The template switch has pretty much destroyed the archives. (2006 and 2005 are a joke to hunt for stuff -- you need to Google.) Dallas cried, "Help!" (Never happened before.) We tried to. We couldn't. The archives are a mess (repeating). C.I. finally remembered two titels of the 2006 edition and we were able to locate that via Google. We've also taken away Jess' ability to make promises here anymore! (Joking.)

Highlights -- none of us wrote this. Mike, Elaine, Betty, Rebecca, Cedric and Wally wrote this. They picked out most of the highlights as well unless they've noted otherwise. We thank them for that. They answered a few questions in this feature too, so if you've asked something and don't feel it was answered, check out this before e-mailing it again.

And that's it. Ava points out that I shouldn't be so thrilled with the early morning finish, "We" she and C.I. "finished at four hours earlier than this when we were in charge." (She's joking. But the time part is true, they did finish early. I wouldn't be surprised to learn it was four hours early.)

That's it. We're going to bed. See you next week.

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

Editorial: The shallow looking pond of the media

In the latest issue of The Nation to hit our mailboxes, there's not one piece on Iraq. Last week, when over 170 died in Baghdad alone on Wednesday, there wasn't much time to address that. That's at The Nation (which posted multiple pieces and posts on Monday's shootings -- throughout last week), that was at the sewer that is cable 'news' and that was in most daily papers.

The New York Times, so quick to flood it must wear high waters, couldn't let go of that one topic. Over and over, all last week (and it's on the front page again today), it kept teasing out gossip and whispers into full length articles. They rarely managed to rise to the level of the news but that's because what has largely followed the original reports on the Monday shootings (at Virginia Tech) wasn't news.

Recently a poll of Americans discovered most had no idea how many Iraqis had died in the illegal war. (The truth is only the US government knows and they won't release the figures.)
This prompted some finger pointing by commentators and lectures about how the public doesn't care enough. It's a variation on the lecture that "we" aren't being asked to sacrifice.

It was left to Peter Hart (CounterSpin) to point out the very obvious reality: if Americans can't guess an approximate, that's not really an indictment of them and goes to what media chooses to report. Now CounterSpin will call out big media by name and then resort to "media" which could include small media.

We'll call out small media. BE HONEST, do you really think you're covering Iraq in any manner or form? Do you really?

Because you're not. If Americans aren't asked to "sacrifice," we'd argue neither is independent media which has a long running, declared war and very little to show for it.

Last week, we noted that Amy Goodman and Aaron Glantz could take a breather if they wanted, they'd earned it. We should all be glad that Goodman didn't take a breather because US war resister Agustin Aguayo was released from the brig in Germany last week and what you had to show for that was an article by the Associated Press (The Jerusalem Post picked up hours and hours before any American outlet would touch it) and Stars and Stripes.

Friday, Goodman (Democracy Now!, as if you didn't know) interviewed Helga Aguayo, Agustin's wife. During the interview, Helga Aguayo noted:

And the other thing is that Agustin will not be discharged. I'm getting congratulations -- 'Oh, congratulations, he's coming home' -- we don't know when he's coming home, one. And, two, he actually will not be discharged from the military for twelve to twenty-four months from now, because he got a bad-conduct discharge and it's such a serious offense. He has two felonies. It goes onto an automatic appeal, and because of that, he will remain active-duty, which means he has to abide by the standards that is required of every soldier. He could potentially be charged with anything else during the time that he's on voluntary or involuntary leave or administrative leave. They'll give him of the three, if it's approved. And we won't know if it's approved.

Agustin Aguayo's story was a bit more complicated than some, due to his being denied CO status, due to his seeking relief from civilian courts and making it all the way up to the Court of Appeals, due to the fact that he was charged (and convicted of) desertion when the rule of thumb is that to be considered a deserter, you're gone over 30 days and Agustin was only gone from September 2nd through September 26th. There were other facets of his story to explore as well.

That really didn't happen -- then or now. So thanks to Goodman (who also interviewed Aguayo right before he turned himself in) but where the rest of them?

We'll join with Ruth in noting that Sarah Olson interviewed US war resister Ricky Clousing for
KPFA's Flashpoints (Wednesday's broadcast).

Independent media (especially print) has sent the message loud and clear that war resisters don't matter. They've sent the message that Iraq's only something to be covered in a really slow week. Last week, they sent another message, one that had been hinted at but became really clear: Iraqi deaths do not matter.

The most Iraqi deaths in one day and the gas bags couldn't blog, post or even note it. They were all of Virginia Tech, to the point that you expected to hear, "Quit crowding me!"

At The Nation, as our stats feature has repeatedly demonstrated, women don't matter -- you don't run 1 woman for every four men if they do. But last week, we learned that 170 Iraqi deaths matter less than a little over 30 American deaths. It wasn't hard to find that message, day after day.

At some point, another poll will be released and Americans responding will probably know little more than they did in the last poll. That's really not a reflection on the American people, it's a sad commentary on the state of our media -- big and small.

TV: Pigs and Prigs on PBS' NOW

David Brancaccio strives to be irritating but not in a good way, such as by asking the hard questions and making people squirm. Brancaccio is more like the pushy little kid that kills the school production of The Nutcracker -- intent upon turning the "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" into a Bob Fosse modern dance number -- with gusto and flourish.

While Bill Moyers listened on the program NOW with Bill Moyers, Brancaccio sees the latest version of NOW as a screen test. That's really the only explanation for Brancaccio's determination to 'emote.' When asking questions, he's especially fond of this pose where he throws his head back and America gets to see inside his flaring nostrils. When 'listening' in reaction shots, he makes a point, mid-way, to resort to head tilts -- either to one side or slightly back. Sporting those nostrils is his version of the Sharon Stone leg cross in Basic Instinct.

Last week, Robert Parry's "Time for PBS to Go?" (Consortium News) created a bit of a stir with his strong (and right on) critiques and the suggestion that it might be time for people to consider no longer contributing PBS. Focusing on the latest crap offering by PBS (or, rather, by the CPB and shown on PBS stations) and writing of his own first-hand knowledge via Frontline, Parry made strong points -- ones we agree with. But we know the knee-jerk argument. We've heard it before. "What about NOW! What if we lose NOW!"

NOW is apparently mecca for some on the left. They must visit it each week, they must pay their homage and, most of all, they must lie to themselves that they're seeing something amazing.

A Friday phone call from Betty, on another topic, was interrupted when she exclaimed in shock at what was displayed on her TV. At her suggestion and the suggestions of others, we agreed to tackle the crap-fest that is NOW.

Bill Moyers left some time ago and Brancaccio became the solo host (near the end of Moyers' tenure, Brancaccio came on as a co-host) as the show dropped from a one hour, once a week broadcast to a half-hour, once a week broadcast. (This is PBS, air times and dates vary from station to station.) We need to comment on that before we go further. Bill Moyers, who has worked in television since somewhere around the time of the invention of the test pattern, stepped down. And who got groomed to replace him? Another White male. Apparently Gwen Ifell is much bigger and wider than we knew since she provides a lot of cover for PBS to hide behind in terms of both the issues of representation of women and people of color. Though PBS' mandate is one that calls for progress and advancement, it bears noting that it was CBS, not PBS, which finally made a woman the solo anchor of the evening news.

With NOW, Moyers out meant -- and remember PBS has a mandate for diversity -- that his replacement be different in that Brancaccio is . . . younger. It's that same sort of thinking that allows The New York Times to provide one token female (currently Maureen Dowd) and one person of color (currently Bob Herbert) on their op-ed pages. Apparently, the real quotas that we're not supposed to notice, let alone talk about, derive from the unwritten rule that a White male's departure means a White male's arrival.

So let's be really honest and upset a few pseudo-lefties, if NOW were a left show -- by and for the left -- we think you can be damn sure that a person of color would have been the replacement and not some little whiney punk from the business sector.

The pseudo-left does realize that, right? That the show's been taken over by a man who sharpened his eye teeth on one of PBS' multitude of shows that look at business -- from the top down and, let's face it, they never really get down below the executive suites. Possibly the elevator's broken?

Now Brancaccio shows up on NOW around the time the CPB pulls all funding for the program. You want to pretend the two weren't related?

When Moyers was with the show, NOW was MUST SEE TV. That was because it wasn't afraid to address issues (they were the only mainstream outlet to address the push for ever more media deregulation in ownership limitations). The guests were an interesting blend (though not as diverse as we would have liked) and it really was a bonus to appear on the show. Moyers gave a much linked to speech not that long ago where he noted a letter from a former conservative who thanked him for his fair treatment. The guest should. He went from crazy prude to someone worth listening to judging by the mail he admitted to receiving.

How did that happen? Well it happened with many guests (though it often felt as if conservatives were more likely to be booked than actual liberals). The reason was that Moyers did his work ahead of time. During the interview itself, he listened. A conversation took place because something like a passing aside by the guest might prompt Moyers to pursue that strand. It wasn't left TV (not even under Moyers) but it was intelligent TV.

Those days are gone. Brancaccio can't listen because he's so busy posing. When not posing, he's working his way through a list of questions prepared ahead of time. That was obvious on the broadcast that many saw this weekend (Friday was the earliest some PBS stations began broadcasting it). He interviewed two people and we really shouldn't say "people" because what he interviewed were two men.

His topic, like the laughable multi-part series PBS is airing, was the Iraq war. That series is rightly being slammed for its conservative tilt. We're willing to bet all the lefties and pseudo-lefties giving their 'props' to NOW won't bother to say a word about what Brancaccio did.

The first segment revolved around an interview with Paul Hughes who was part of Jay Ganer's transition team and, when Garner was fired, part of Paul Bremer's. The thrust of the segment was that the US screwed up.

Hold your hosannas. The thrust was that the if the reconstruction had taken place, all would be well and good in Iraq today. If the argument seems familiar, Allawi and Chalabi, along with several neocons, have advanced it. It's a lie, but it's a pleasing lie. In "Baghdad Year Zero" (Harpers, 2004), Naomi Klein brilliantly demonstrated how the 'reconstruction' was not about serving the people of Iraq, it was about taking the system down to year zero in economic terms so that a necon's wet dream of an economy could be created. Klein's piece remains one of the must-reads on Iraq -- one of the few since so little exploration of the war actually takes place despite all the pretense.

If Brancaccio is familiar with "Baghdad Year Zero," he demonstrated nothing to reveal that. Instead, he bought into the hoary platitude that the war would have been "won" if only the reconstruction had progressed more quickly. It's a lie and lies are all Brancaccio has to offer.

At one point, Hughes and Brancaccio touched on the fact that reconstruction is the State Department's terrain but it had been moved from State to the Department of Defense (with Donald the Rumsfled overseeing). A real journalist might have explored the whys of that but a real journalist is damn well required to note what the move reflected. Brancaccio, for all the posturing, isn't a real journalist.

This segment utilized footage as well, to show cheering Iraqis. Some did exist. Some didn't. You didn't see the footage of the ones who weren't cheering. Why is that? Because it doesn't fit into today's lie: The war was won! The occupation was lost!

Today's lie exists for a reason and a real journalist should be expected to explore that. The lie exists because War Hawks want to keep war front and center as an option of first choice. So they offer up platitudes about how Iraq would have been wonderful today were it not for the lack of planning. As if anything happening in Iraq today is (a) a surprise or (b) not planned. The planning goes far back (and it's one reason War Hawk Hillary Clinton still won't call out the illegal war). At one point, that could have emerged. Hughes mentions years-old (they predated the Bully Boy) plans for Iraq. Brancaccio seizes upon that but not to make the point that the illegal war was sought for years, just to note that there were other plans.

Yes, there were other plans. But we can't explore that on NOW. We can get Brancaccio repeating the lie (as fact) that roses were strewn in the paths of soldiers. If you're one of the people who identify left and applaud this crappy show, it may be time for you to confront reality.

If that doesn't do the trick for you, maybe you could take offense at Brancaccio embracing and repeating another (false) selling point for the war: Saddam Hussein was Hitler. He does that by, while discussing the Baath Party, noting that they had to be removed because the same thing was done with the Nazis. The Baath Party is now the Nazis?

Saddam Hussein was a petty tyrant put in place and supported by the US government for decades. When he became less pliable, it was time for him to go (in the eyes of the US government). It had nothing to do with human rights abuses or torture. Watching Brancaccio make the comparison of Baath Party members to Nazis, we were reminded that as much as we loathe the Bully Boy, we've yet to liken the GOP party faithful to Nazis. But if we're going to discuss torture, secret prisons, et al, Bully Boy and Saddam Hussein aren't all that different. Of course, Brancaccio didn't touch on that either. He shied away completely from the Abu Ghraib scandal because that really doesn't jibe with the myth that "if only the power had been turned on sooner, Iraqis would love them some America!"

The second guest was Omar Fekeiki who worked for The Washington Post (translation, one of our hands is severely bound in discussing this segment). We can and will note that it was nonsense from both the host and the guest. What we can note is that Fekeiki wanted to comment on the changes in Iraq that had taken place (for the worse, as Fekeiki noted) but somehow neither he nor the host thought the issue of women was important. (He did discuss how it effected his family -- or at least the male members of his family.) At one point, an early photo was shown that included women in normal street clothes (they weren't the focal point), then a photo was shown of the more recent period and damned if all the women weren't cloaked in black from head to toe. But we won't talk about that, apparently. There's all the time in the world to blather on about every other subject in the world but not the very real femicide going on against Iraqi women. Again, one of hands are bound behind the back, but we can note that the sounds you heard were "OINK! OINK!" -- two pigs entertaining themselves in the mud.

Throughout the half-hour, shout outs were given to the crap-fest that is No End In Sight. Why plug a documentary? If you think Sir! No Sir! or The Ground Truth got plugged on NOW think again. But No End In Sight's not really a documentary and the director, Charles Ferguson, isn't really a director. (The hint may be the lack of film credits.) What is he? Council on Foreign Relations and Brookings Institute. The Council, for those who missed its most laughable mistake made while promoting war, recently hailed a decline in the number of deaths in Iraq. What they're smoking in the halls of CoF, we don't know, but we doubt it's legal.

Now Sir! No Sir! and The Ground Truth will get no program devoted to them. In fact, while CNN can interview war resisters and cover the topic (both Paula Zahn and Anderson Cooper have), while CBS can continue to do so (Dan Rather interviewed Camilo Mejia early on and, most recently, the Sunday morning show offered a look at those who had gone to Canada), the program NOW, which some lefties and pseudo-lefties want to work themselves into a lather over, can't and won't.

There's a reason for that. It's not against the war. It's against the strategies used. That's why it works in a (really bad) advertising blitz for the piece of crap that is No End In Sight.
The half-hour broadcast accepts the premise that war was the answer. That needs to be pointed out and pointed out loudly. Brancaccio and company are only interested in dickering over strategies.

How is that different from the right wing? (Brancaccio is a centrist.) It's not. Four years and counting, the 3400 mark of US military fatalities around the corner, the 1 million mark of Iraqi fatalities around the corner, and 'brave' is supposed to be offering the same crap that you can find in a column by David Brooks?

The left needs to grow the hell up. That means cutting out some of their trusted voices who push this crap. An illegal war was launched not in response to an attack but because Iraq might someday (this was the lie) attack the US. A pre-emptive war of choice was engaged by the US government and sold on lies and along comes Brancaccio gladly sidestepping those realities, making comparisons of the Baath Party to Nazis, lying about roses being strewn in the paths of US soldiers and wanting to dicker about the strategies utilized -- while never noting the reality that Iraq today did not result from a lack of planning -- everything was planned.

Those who were bothered by Parry's suggestion that people stop donating during pledge drives can hide behind Big Bird or the characters of Sesame Street but that's really about it. Only that one program continues to reflect the PBS mandate. If that's not clear to you, a supposed examination of the illegal war never addressed any of the realities of the war -- just strategies.
It's easy, it's self-stroking and it promotes the idea that "We can get it right next time!" It's just not reality. And the claim that NOW is either worth watching or good for the country isn't reality either.

Precedent and privacy go out the window

Well, damn it, I've no faith in the unity that's sought through yielding; and I'm not going to walk away, because I'm as much a part of this revolution as you are, and maybe at this moment in history, more. Here I stand. You're going to have to cope with me, brother. Now.
-- Lilith's Manifesto (1969)

We could certainly use that voice today. We could certainly use the daughters of Tana and so much more. As many have sported their brightest smiles in the years since Roe v. Wade and looked for the "sunny side" of each betrayal and setback, we've seen less calling out and more pleas for "getting along." In the wake of last week's verdict in Gonzales v. Carhat, lots of luck cozying up to the right wing.

For those who missed it, the male dominated Supreme Court decided that women's lives didn't matter and, despite John Roberts' laughable promise during his confirmation hearing to honor precedent, they decided precedent didn't matter either. That's how wars start, with an opening blow. Last week it was abortion.

In case you're lost (and you may be, a huge decision received very little attention as it competed with twin soap operas last week):

"BREAKING NEWS: Supreme Court Upholds Federal Abortion Procedure Ban Without Health Exception" (Feminist Wire Daily):
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to uphold the federal Partial Birth Abortion Act, a ban on an abortion procedure that the Republican controlled Congress passed in 2003. This ban has no exception for the health of a pregnant woman.
Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal issued a statement this morning, saying, "This ruling shows the true colors of the current Bush-stacked majority of the Supreme Court: it does not care about the health, well-being, and safety of American women. This must serve as a wake-up call to women: we are losing our fundamental rights as Bush continues to stack the courts. Elections matter: this is the consequence of a Republican, ideologically driven president and Congress."
While Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority decision on behalf of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Antonin Scalia, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissenting opinion, calling today's decision "alarming."
LEARN MORE Read the Supreme Court's decision, issued this morning (PDF)

It should be a wake up call and, for many last week, it was. What was done was monumental even if it received less ink and airtime than the dueling soaps.


Don't interrupt the sorrow
Darn right
In flames our prophet witches
Be polite
A room full of glasses
He says "Your notches liberation doll"
And he chains me with that serpent
To that Ethiopian wall
-- Joni Mitchell, "Don't Interrupt The Sorrow" (The Hissing of Summer Lawns)

Don't interrupt the sorrow? David J. Garrow showed up on the Saturday op-ed pages of The New York Times looking for the party. The New Republic(an)'s Garrow (don't breathe easy Nation readers, they run his crap too) shows up offering the first thoughts on the subject. How nice of The New York Times to turn first to a man on the topic of abortion and, naturally, Garrow doesn't disappoint his masters. "Don't Assume the Worst," he instructs -- cheerleader for the clampdown.

Among the half-full glasses Garrow points to (but doesn't pick up, remember, he's a man of a certain age -- fifty-plus) is Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissenting opinion. He finds optimism in the opinion. Why? Apparently he neither reads well nor grasps that dissenting opinions can say anything, they have no bearing. The majority opinion of the Court is what matters.

Isn't it wonderful that the paper went to a man to weigh in on abortion? Isn't that just peachy keen. The cat's pajamas. Doesn't the world need his description of "sad and difficult" on deciding to have an abortion. (He's referring to late term and without any statistical data, he just pulls it out of his ass.)

It's at times like these that we sometimes wonder: Did the feminist movement even happen?

That's as true for those participating who were born after the movement (second wave) was well under weigh and those who lived through the period. In 1967, NOW (National Organization for Women) adopted their Bill of Rights. Their eighth (and final) point was "The Right of Women to Control Their Reproductive Lives." What's changed?

Well, actually a lot. The feminist movement remains one of the longest, ongoing movements and it has resulted in a true transformation of society but let's not pretend for one minute that not only is the journey still ongoing, but also that their aren't a large number of people bound and determined to cut women's legs out from under them. Five such people sit on the Supreme Court. Five men. All but one White. All Catholic. How did that happen, by the way? How do you end up with that sort of "representation"?

Maybe the same way that we went from applauding (in the 90s) the fact that there were finally two women serving on the Supreme Court to accepting the Bully Boy's appointment of not one, but two, White males to serve on the Court -- one in place of Sandra Day O'Connor thereby reducing the number of women serving on the Court to one. Women may have come along a way, and there's surely a long way to go, but don't forget that there are those who actively work to end the journey.

Harriet Miers, lest anyone thinks a woman on the Court just because she's a woman is a plus, wouldn't have been any help here. Her semi-private remarks against abortion were well known -- so well known that it was distressing to see some feminists argue in her favor and state that calling out someone unqualified to serve on the Court (make no mistake, she was unqualified -- even by Bully Boy standards which is really saying something) -- and the decision wouldn't have been altered with her serving on the Court -- was 'sexism.' (Not calling out the monumentally unqualified Miers would have been the real sexism.)

But last week, for women of a certain age, played out like a 1991 confirmation hearing on Clarence Thomas when men demonstrated repeatedly that they just didn't get it.

In the case of the five pigs on the Court, they got it, they knew exactly what they were doing. And little brown nosers like Garrow should be refrained (restrained?) from rushing in to provide cover for them.

Legal expert Garrow emerges from his cave to tell you that it didn't overturn Roe v. Wade. Whether he's really that stupid or just pretending, we'll leave to others to decide. But Roe v. Wade can't be overturned without massive protest. Overturning Roe v. Wade in one fell swoop would result in even the mildest of the mild raising their voices in protest and taking to the streets.

What's done instead is that Roe v. Wade is chipped away at, bit by bit. Even the overly applauded Sandra Day O'Connor assisted in that -- though revisionary historians prefer to look the other way.

The reality is that Roe v. Wade took another body shot on Wednesday of last week, that it's far less stronger than it was even one week prior, that state legislatures will now begin attempting other hits and that the promise of Roe v. Wade has been under orchestrated and deliberate attack since the verdict was handed down.

Garrow can schill and front, offer cover all he wants. But for a supposed legal expert, it's amazing how he fails to note the lack of medical science backing for the decision. By contrast, check out the decision in Roe (check out all the decisions in Roe). Along with ignoring precedent, the five in the majority elected to ignore the medical community. How do you do that? How do you rule on a medical procedure and ignore the medical community? Very easily when your goal is to subvert the rights of women.

Martha Mendoza's "Between a Woman and her Doctor" (Ms. magazine) explains her own experience with late-term abortion and is medically based:

I also did some research, spoke with friends who were obstetricians and gynecologists, and quickly learned this: Study after study shows D&Es are safer than labor and delivery. Women who had D&Es were far less likely to have bleeding requiring transfusion, infection requiring intravenous antibiotics, organ injuries requiring additional surgery or cervical laceration requiring repair and hospital readmission.
A review of 300 second- trimester abortions published in 2002 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that 29 percent of women who went through labor and delivery had complications, compared with just 4 percent of those who had D&Es.
The American Medical Association said D&Es, compared to labor and delivery, "may minimize trauma to the woman's uterus, cervix and other vital organs."
There was this fact, too: The intact D&E surgery makes less use of "grasping instruments," which could damage the body of the fetus. If the body were intact, doctors might be able to more easily figure out why my baby died in the womb.

It's only surprising that an individual woman would do more medical research than those Justices sitting in the majority if you honestly believe that this was a decision they struggled to reach. They spent more time writing the decision than considering it.

That's important to remember because, as noted earlier, Bully Boy nominated two White men to the Court that passed the confirmation process: John Roberts and Samuel Alito. If you remember those hearings, you may remember the treatment of women during them. Women were basically patted on their heads and told how nice it was to see a woman with a sense of civic duty before being sent on their way. Democrats not only refused to filibuster the nominations, they didn't treat abortion as a serious issue. Treating it as a serious issue means much more than an attitude of "Good enough for me" when the nominee resorted to platitudes.

As noted last week in "The Supreme Court decision didn't 'just happen'" (The Common Ills), this point didn't appear out of nowhere. It came about in a landscape where people caved repeatedly on reproductive rights, where people ran from the issue of abortion or offered weak ass 'support' while lamenting the procedure. Abortion is nothing to be ashamed of. It's helped the lives of many women and many families. But the old debater's ploy of act like you support a right even though you're not personally for it, wasn't just trotted out -- it became the standard talking point.

Here's reality: when the Court handed down Roe v. Wade, women didn't hang their heads in shame. They didn't say, "The Court did a good thing for something regrettable but necessary."
How far backward we've gone.

Abortion isn't a simple decision for all women. It's also not a decision to be ashamed of or regretted by all women. In this community, Kat and Rebecca have written of their abortions. Neither regrets them. (Rebecca regrets that due to genetic condition with the fetus, she had to make a choice but she doesn't regret that the choice was available or making that choice.) That's a far cry from Hillary Clinton's infamous back off from reproductive rights in 2005.

When Clinton and others speak of abortion today, they're speaking in the same language once used to describe the then-illegal abortions. Abortions are going to happen regardless of the law.
But 'back in the day,' many women had to take extreme chances with their health, visiting medically questionable doctors (some of whom could and did rape the women -- you can't exactly call a cop to complain you were raped by your abortionist when the procedure is illegal). While that was going on, women with money or access to money could have safe procedures and did -- in a hospital setting.

Back then, when abortion was illegal, churches joined the movement to legalize it. Hard to believe today, but true. That's because the landscape has changed that much.

Opinion hasn't changed. Americans support abortion. But each tiny, hollow, craven politician who wants to be both a "friend" and court the extreme right-wing adds to the climate where an individual's medical procedure is suddenly something to stand in judgement of.

Did any of you, for instance, have a gall bladder removed recently? Are you sure the Lord Jesus approves of that? After all, you were made in God's image and surely you shouldn't mess around with that. Ditto all surgeries from nose jobs to open heart. In fact, if this attitude was carried out across the board, we wouldn't have to worry about the very real shortage of nurses in this country, we'd have to worry about a shortage in faith healers.

But it's only with women that the set feels they can sit in judgement. As has been noted often, Viagra is covered by many medical plans. A man can get a medication to allow him to have sex. Medications and procedures for women that have to do with reproduction are judged differently. And make no mistake, they are "judged."

The judgement of women doesn't result in an equal judgement of men. For instance, the 'vangicals have hardly mounted protests at insurance companies, they've yet to demand proof that those males being prescribed Viagra are married and married to women who can have children. "God's will" only appears to apply to women for the 'vangicals.

And hasn't it been that way for years? And hasn't feminism confronted that double standard?

But we're faced with a new reality today. For years, just as the Repubes have campaigned, as a whole, with Vote-for-me-I'll-end-Roe, the Democrats have campaigned on, "If you don't vote for us, you'll lose Roe." Reality peaked through last week and it shined a light not only on the current composition of the Court but also on the fact that for all the lip service (which, granted, has faded) to abortion, Democrats serving on the Senate Judicial Committee didn't do a damn thing to stop the confirmations of two right-wing, anti-abortion nominees.

It's going to be a lot harder for many to believe the next mealy mouthed Dem who wants to say, "I support it principle but it's a sad" blah blah blah.

It's a private, medical decision. It's been around in this country forever. It was legal before it was illegal, way 'back in the day,' when it was called "quickening." As Sarah Weddington (who argued Roe before the Supreme Court) notes in A Question of Choice (page 152), "The battle was for the basic right of women to make their own decisions. There was a basic question underlying the specific issue of abortion: Who is to control and define the lives of women? And our answer was: Not the government!"

Who is to control and define? Judging by the op-ed pages of The New York Times, a man. One of the most monumental decisions from the Court (and, again, one that signaled all precedents were now in danger -- in all cases) and the paper says the only one allowed to address it is a man. Now maybe we missed something (please let us know because men are involved in the writing of this and they need to know as much anyone) but men don't get pregnant and they don't give birth. We look forward to the paper of no record's columns on surviving testicular cancer . . . columns written by women.

Last week, America went backwards. How far back we'll go is going to depend on whether or not people use their voices to decry the hateful decision. Maybe we'll just drop back to the 1950s when, as Stephanie Coontz notes in The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, asking for an abortion was grounds for shock therapy. Maybe we'll go even further back.

Or maybe we'll rise up with the spirit and passion of earlier waves and stop this b.s. in its tracks? That's going to be up to the people. It's going to require rejecting the clampdown artists (like Garrow) and demanding that elected officials support reproductive rights. It's going to require not settling, but demanding.

If you're angry, mad, sad or dispirited, we're not going to tell you not to be. We're not going to point to the broken glass on the floor and try to stress that if sunlight hits it, we'll have a pretty rainbow. A very foul thing happened and it needs to be called out. If you're interested in more on how we arrived at the point in time, we suggest the new book by RadioNation with Laura Flanders' Laura Flanders -- Blue Grit, specifically chapter six "Not By Spin Alone," which tackles this issue. From page 150:

The Democrats' "make abortion rare" reframing concedes an awful lot of territory to those who've been legislating away women's rights since the day Roe was decided. It gives up on the idea, for example, that a woman's right to make her own reproductive decision is her private right. Period. Moreover, while Democrats shift their seat on the field, the field keeps moving. And abortion is not just, as George Lakoff and others have called it, a "stand-in" for other issues. It's a life-saver for women who want and need abortions.

About those links (and other stuff)

On April 8th, Dona, Jim and Ty changed the template at this site. They explained that in "Message from Jim, Dona and Ty," noting that -- during the delays -- they'd decided to post a video clip (Check out the video) and to do so they needed to switch templates. They switched and the "widget" wasn't available so the video couldn't be posted here. The switch also resulted in all links being lost, as they noted.

That Sunday, we managed to get ten links up (all community sites and Jess was largely responsible for that). We'd noted that it would be slow going. It turned out to be even slower than we'd thought. We're all busy. We'd asked for input and we got it. Some e-mails were questioning and some were hurt. At the start of last week (which many e-mailers missed), C.I. added over thirty links. Those that did notice still had a few issues.

We think that's a good thing. We think it's great that you have a resource you utilize and enjoy, one you will gladly advocate for. We're going to explain how this works briefly since it's becoming a huge topic in e-mails.

First off, there are still some sites we'll be putting back up. When? Who knows. C.I. spent about three hours last week to get what's up linked to. The new template adds a link and adds it at the top -- you then have to move it to where you want one click at a time (there is no option of dragging it where you want it to be).

We heard from one angry blogger for dropping him. Actually he e-mailed about a link-trade. We traded. He then dropped us. That was months ago (probably about thirteen months ago). We won't be linking to him again.

We'd noted that there were a few links like that in the original note by Jim, Dona and Ty. And that led some people to wonder if some sites were dropped specifically. Yes, they were. Suzette wondered if Danny Schechter News Dissector had been dropped and then, minutes later, e-mailed to note that she saw it was up but wondered why he was "below Mama Cass." We see it as "next to" and C.I. put Danny there and did so as a compliment.

When Ty, Dona and Jim switched templates (read the note), they also thought they were putting links back up (read the note). That didn't happen. (They missed a step that Jess figured out when he added some links that Sunday night.) None of the people currently linked to were being dropped. Suzette noted that we'd never reviewed In Debt We Trust (documentary by Danny Schechter) though we'd planned to. We had planned to. We enjoy the documentary and recommend it highly. That was last fall when Mike had time problems (and he wasn't the only one). We'd also hoped to review the bonus DVD of David Rovics' latest CD. We didn't get to that either. Or a number of books. That's how it goes.

In last week's "Mailbag," Jim noted that there was a division among those working on these editions: some feel we should pick up what we'd hoped to note in the fall but couldn't, others feel time has moved on and we should as well. We're writing this feature early on and other than an abortion piece, we have no idea what ideas will be fleshed out and then judged worth including in the online version. (We did e-mail Suzette the review of In Debt We Trust that ran in the print version the first week of December.) Due to the Court's decision, abortion will be included in some form online. We'll probably have a piece that is built upon several hours of research C.I. did Wednesday night. We wish that had gone up at The Common Ills Wednesday night but, as others of us added input, C.I. said, "This should really be a Third Estate piece."

The reality is that everything we work on makes it into the print version because it has to go out by a certain time. It might be the briefest of sketches. It might by only a first draft. It might be a really bad illustration. But it goes into that. We'll often pick up sketches from the print version and expand upon them here. But Ty's boyfriend delivers those on our old campus and we have a set time so that he's not waiting around and blowing his entire Sunday. One week, we had the print edition done and thought we had the online edition done as well. Then we read Ava and C.I.'s commentary ("TV: Boys' WB!") and realized there was a theme we could use for the entire edition so we scrapped everything we had and started over (around six a.m. EST, Elaine says).

Jim's guess is that most (if not all) of what we missed here (online) will not be picked up. "Time didn't stand still," he says. Those who believe that we need to go back and pick up things concede that it won't happen in most cases just because there's so little time to begin with.

CODEPINK is a site we note often here. It was also the topic of many e-mails, some that reminded us to put in a link, some that wondered if we were avoiding linking to it and some that stated we had dropped CODEPINK ("and are no better than The Nation now," as one wrote). We never dropped CODEPINK. We lost all links, including CODEPINK. We weren't offended by the e-mails (any of them) because we support CODEPINK as well and are glad that so many others do too. Twyla e-mailed late last week to note that we "finally" added CODEPINK but we weren't doing the button.

No, we don't have the button we used to. That button (or a CODEPINK button) can be found at every other community site. So are Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava opposed to the organization? (We're leaving out C.I. since The Common Ills does have the button.) No. C.I. spent a half-hour to an hour trying to get the button up here. It won't. We can get the visual to go up but it's not "clickable" -- meaning it displays but it won't, if you click on it, take you to CODEPINK. The template switch meant that we can't write our own code. This template does not provide you that option. So we doubt you'll see the button until Blogger/Blogspot makes improvements in this template.

It's funny because this site has had nonstop problems with templates. Our very first edition, we worked like crazy -- Ty, Dona, Jim, Jess, Ava and C.I. -- and we were so proud of our template. It was designed by a friend. We're looking at it as we're about to start posting our features and it looked amazing. Then we post our features and the template crashes.

C.I. (who always maintains to be computer illiterate -- despite being the one who usually, along with Wally, figures out how to do something new) was the one who said, "You can post features or work on the template." So we dropped the template and went with one of Blogger/Blogspots. Jess reminded Dona, Ty and Jim of that when they switched templates on the 8th and asked them, "What were you thinking?"

"We weren't," is Dona's answer. When Ty, Dona and Jim were adding links, they were adding from another screen where they had our site up (in the old template). When they thought the sites were now on our blogroll (in the new template), they closed the window. So we have no idea what was or wasn't on the list now. Point, if there's something you don't see up there, please write. We may be forgetting something. (There are five sites that still need to be added and they won't be added before midweek.)

A popular question was were we forgetting NOW? No. No, we weren't.

We're not linking to them. Some e-mails guessed it was because of the endorsement of Hillary Clinton. That is incorrect. NOW PAC can endorse whomever they want. (C.I. wants it noted that community member Martha complained about the endorsement to NOW and received a very nice reply from Kim Gandy -- no surprise that it was a nice reply -- where she explained how the choice was decided.) That includes, yes, that they can endorse a War Hawk (which they did).

We're not linking to NOW. If you go to community sites, you'll see no one has "pulled" their own link to NOW. So why won't link to them here?

We linked before due to a number of reasons including the strong calling out of the illegal war. Before Hillary got her endorsement, NOW decided to pull the button that had been on their website for years "PEACE IS A FEMINIST ISSUE" illustrated with a dove. With that gone, we have no desire to link to them. No one's going to pull their own link but should others in the community switch templates and have to redo their links, you'll see NOW won't be added.

We shared our disgust on that choice in a print feature that tied it into "The Dove" (a song recorded by both Joan Baez and Judy Collins -- "The dove has torn her wings . . .") and reproduced NOW's button with a tear in it.

We don't know that NOW is backing off from the issue of war (we doubt it considering that Kim Gandy is president) but that button said something. After last week, when C.I. spoke to a group of "professional women," it's all the more important that organizations speaking to women note the war. (For more on the Thursday group, read Kat's "You just never know.") Ava and C.I. made a point to include (and defend) NOW in "Don Imus." They remain strong advocates for the organization. The rest of us?

Put the dove back up and we'll put the link back up. Until then, don't look for it at our site. (Ava and C.I.'s features are written by the two of them and they include whatever they want in them. A piece written by all of us would have several calling for any link to NOW being stripped out due to the issue of the now-missing button.)

What is Illicit Darkness? It's a really good site. We didn't know it until the person running it contacted us about a link trade. Last week, C.I. had the morning off from speaking or any other obligation last week and used it to add a number of sites. We wish there had been a list prepared ahead of time, but there wasn't. Ty has noted Illicit Darkness many times and, more recently, noted that they were the only site with a link trade that didn't pull as soon as they got their link. C.I. remembered that and made a point to add the site last week.

Marshall wrote that he could understand the slowness with adding links were it not for the fact that music artists' sites have now gone up. We've linked to The Official Cass Elliot Webpage pretty much since time began. A few weeks back, Kat added some music links to her site. Jess noted then that they should be here as well. C.I. had no list and was working from memory and from what we'd stated we would be doing at some point. So Righteous Babe (Ani DiFranco's site and you can get Anais Mitchell's -- who we've noted here many times -- latest CD there as well -- she's now signed to Righteous Babe), Saddle Creek (Bright Eyes), Michael Franti & Spearhead,
and Holly Near. We'd like to also link to Rickie Lee Jones, among others, and if a gift of time ever shows up (wrapped or not), we'll grab it to do so.

We've noted music from the start here (inspired by Kat's wonderful writing even before we ever met her). We don't see those links as "extras," we see them as very much a part of the lives we are living.

The Green Party has always been linked to here. But the e-mails since the template switch have noted that and wondered why we didn't offer a Democratic Party link? Is anyone in the country unaware of the Democratic Party? C.I. links to Democratic Underground, to give a Democratic voice and to the Green Party. We just link to the Green Party here. Jess is a Green. Always has been, probably always will be. When The Green Party link went up at The Common Ills (before Jess knew C.I.), he was thrilled. When we started our site, it was obvious we needed to include the link. That should answer the question.

If it doesn't, turn on your chat & chews, pick up your daily paper (and sadly, pick up most of your independent print media as well). You'll have no trouble finding mentions of Democrats and the Democratic Party. You won't find Greens.

Whether we are Greens or not, we support the third party and think it's more than required, if we're a left site, that we note it. For instance, Jason West is running for re-election as mayor of New Paltz. Those who care about issues like equality should know his name. This Monday, Ralph Nader will be showing his support for West via a screening of the documentary An Unreasonable Man and by signing copies of his book The Seventeen Traditions. That's Monday, six-thirty p.m. at the Rosendale Theater. (Nader will also be participating in a question and answer session.) On The Wilder Side, which is one of the five sites we still need to link to, has more information on that appearance in this post.

It's also true that we offer Liberal Oasis as a link and that's very much a Democratic site. Though Bill Scher may or may not remember this, before this site started, Jim exchanged several e-mails with him. It'll always be linked for that reason and, were there some reason to call Scher out on something, Jim would probably argue for us to give Scher a pass. (And we'd respect that.)

A question on e-mails was also popular last week and we'll address that. When possible, those replying attempt to avoid noting times. (Like, when we start writing editions on Saturday, we attempt to write as though it is Sunday.) That's due to C.I.

C.I. credits Ron (Why Are We Back In Iraq?) with pointing out, early on (December 2004), the ISP issue. When that was pointed out, C.I. stopped e-mailing. There are five friends that e-mail. C.I. saves responses to the public account and then passes on that they can be sent out. That was originally for a cooling off period (which was always the case for C.I. who wishes Yahoo offered a "batch" option the way some e-mail systems do). Then it became an ISP issue.

When we started this site, we were five students studying journalism, planning to be journalists. "Ava" came about because there was already a community member who went by Ava's actual first name. But we should have all done that. One thing we did do was agree that others should send out e-mail responses. If we were going to tackle big media while planning to work there, we needed as little reasons for someone not to hire us as possible. Today?

Ty's turned his internship into a career (in the entertainment industry) and isn't looking back. Ava will follow in her father's footsteps or not but she won't be rushing back to NY for anything more than a visit in the near future. Jess is officially studying for law school now. Dona and Jim remain committed to journalism. To touch on the issue of whether this site could continue after November 2008 (right now, the plan is to go dark), it could. The core six (and Kat) will all be out here on the West Coast. But, back to the point, e-mails are generally written late at night and saved to the draft folder. They go out when we notify that it's okay to send them. (We use the same senders C.I. does plus Ty's boyfriend.)

To stay on e-mails, not everything gets a response and one angry e-mail last week suggested that if Ava and Jess worked the e-mails, that might not be the case. Unless Ty's been benched (at his own request or because we think he's got too much on his plate), Ava and Jess will continue to assist with e-mails at The Common Ills. Jess believes that started on a trip he and Ava made out here well before the big move when they saw C.I. working through e-mail after e-mail and made the offer. (This was after Martha and Shirley had already started helping out with the e-mails. Eli also now helps with the e-mails.) In terms of Jess, as he will freely admit, he rarely ever replied to an e-mail sent to this site, even when he was reading them. Ava did reply. Currently, Ty is primary with backup from Dona (Dona says she hits our e-mail account twice a week). Jim works the e-mails when he remembers to. He is better today at replying to all people as opposed to just getting into back and forths with right-wingers.

With Ava and Jess working the private accounts of The Common Ills (as well as the public account), they are much more in touch with the community than anyone. (Ty's much more in touch with our core readers of this site than anyone.) This means Ava and Jess can join C.I. in advocating for a feature here because they know the mood of the community.

Anything that makes it up here does so because it has a strong, loud advocate. Ideally, more than one. But currently we have 17 ideas for this writing edition. In some form, all will be addressed in the print edition. In terms of online, not everything will be addressed. It will depend on the piece itself (which doesn't have to be well written -- a strong point of view can get it posted here) There are times when a strong piece just goes into the print edition. We had a strong piece criticizing the minimum wage proposal (before the November elections) as too small and noting the problems with it. We didn't post it online. Despite our problems with the meager offer, we decided not to put it up here because there are some people who really could use something, anything, even the meager proposal Dems are offering.

Some questions came in asking why we didn't link to ___, a war resister. In the case of Agustin Aguayo, what would be the point? That site has been deleted. (You can check by using The Common Ills' permalinks where a link for it still exists.) In the case of Ricky Clousing, his site never worked via a link. C.I. didn't see the point of including either (both are on The Common Ills' permalinks) when (a) they didn't work and (b) there was limited time. (We all agree with that decision.) That's also why Jeremy Hinzman isn't linked to. Kevin Benderman's site is one of the five we have a to-add list for. But C.I. only had the morning free, not the whole day. (We thank C.I. for doing that. We didn't ask. Ty had mentioned, that morning at breakfast, the number of e-mails coming in asking whether we were going to add links or not. Due to that being an issue in a number of e-mails, C.I. spent a rare free morning working on our links. We say "Thank you.")

Hopefully, that addresses the issues of links. If you feel there is a site we had linked to (that we didn't mention above) and have forgotten about, by all means e-mail. We have no idea what all was linked to. With very few exceptions, everything we had up before we're more than willing to relink to. If you have a problem with the order of the current links, deal with it on your own. You have no idea how many clicks it took to get them arranged as they currently are.

Accountablity for Media Big and Small

There's no sense in the media making the Virginia Tech massacres any worse than they were -- the death toll was horrifying enough on its own of course. But most outlets seems to want to do just that. CBS Evening News' anchor Katie Couric called it the deadliest shooting in US history. NBC reporter Ann Curry called it the deadliest mass shooting in US history. By historical standards such statements are just incorrect. The 1873 Colfax Massacre of Black militia soldiers during Reconstruction left an estimated 105 dead. The Sand Creek Massacre of Cheyenne had a comparable death toll. Wounded Knee was a massacre of about 300. The 1921 killings in Tulsa, Oklahoma, killings of African-Americans in what is often referred to as the Black Wall Street left dozens dead and so on. If that might not strike you as media seeming to make things worse then consider NBC's decision to air the video messages of the Virginia Tech killer who had mailed the network the materials before he embarked upon part of his killing spree. What possible news value could be gained from going wall to wall with this gratuitous footage is beyond us. But the rest of the media exhibited no such hesitation and soon the chilling footage was everywhere in the media along with the usual thumb sucking about the tough decisions that serious journalists faced in deciding to air such material. As NBC anchor Brian Williams put it in an interview with on MSNBC, "This was a sick business tonight -- going on the air with this." We would agree, this is sick.
-- Peter Hart in the headlines sections of CounterSpin which began airing last Friday.

The broadcast on KPFA resulted in Jim hitting the roof, calling C.I. and saying that a planned feature was now "dead" and wanting to know whether C.I. mentioned it "to any friends at FAIR"? (FAIR produces CounterSpin.) No, no one outside of people working on this edition had any idea except for a brief note that was up at both Kat and Rebecca's sites announcing that C.I. would address the error Wednesday night at The Common Ills and both pulled the mentions from their posts within an hour when they were informed that it would be a feature for Third. (Kat notes that she also pulled a mention of another school incident -- which also involved explosives -- since it wasn't solely a shooting.)

In answer to the second question, C.I. said QUOTE: "I'm finding it really hard to believe the piece is dead because I'm finding it really hard to believe that CounterSpin addressed media big and small. I'm sure they focused on CBS but who else?" Jim couldn't remember but agreed that they hadn't addressed it all. As you've now seen, they took CBS (C.I. was right) and NBC to task -- and they took two women to task. If you heard the item in the headlines of CounterSpin you might assume it was just those two networks, or women, that got it wrong.

Oh, come on. It was a cesspool of ignorance and isn't that usually the case for All Things Media Big and Small?

Repeating a falsehood over and over does not and will not make it true. The KPFA Evening News, three times on Wednesday, called the Virginia Tech shootings on Monday the worst in US history (using various phrases, including the "the biggest mass shooting in US history"). They lied? No, they just didn't know better. A news staffer grabs a claim and runs with it. The claim is false but it pops up everywhere. Why? An advocacy group did put it out. That didn't make it true. And before rushing it on air or in print, Stupid Media -- Big and Small -- should have demonstrated that they know more than how to repeat. All Headline News wasn't too picky to promote a claim as fact:

The incident, the worst shooting massacre in U.S. history, has raised several questions over people's right to bear arms.

At The Progressive, Ruth Conniff wins the dopey prize. Though it's not clear whether she's saying Barack Obama stated it was the biggest or if she's just offering a tidbit as an intro, she writes:

Monday's massacre, the biggest mass shooting in American history, will prompt "all kinds of discussion," Obama said--about crime, violence, gun control, and campus security, among other topics. "But I hope there will be some discussion of violence in all its forms. . . . [In American culture] we glorify it, encourage it, ignore it . . . . It's heartbreaking. And it has to stop."

Conniff, get a bottle of the strong stuff, blast the Replacements like it's still the 1980s and reclaim your soul and voice. You are destroying yourself in the land of mini-vans and it's not pretty. The National Post showed off their lack of fact checker thusly:

With 33 dead, including the gunman, and 15 injured, the massacre at Virginia Tech was the most lethal mass shooting in U.S. history and raised immediate questions over why students were not warned away from campus in the moments following the initial violence.

Early on, Katrina vanden Heuvel (The Nation) quoted the Brady Campaign on "what appears to be one of the worst mass shootings in American history". (The Brady Campaign is not the advocacy group that popularized the false claim, just FYI.) Similarly, John Nichols wrote about it for The Nation without distorting reality:

There will be plenty of "rapid responses" to the gun rampage on the Virginia Tech campus, which has claimed the lives of as many as 31 students -- making it the deadliest school shooting incident in the history of the United States. Now granted, when you run one female byline for every four male, you're a magazine with plenty of troubles but they are supposed to fact check their writers.

"Deadliest school shooting incident in the history of the United States." That is correct as best we can determine. There was a larger school massacre in the last century but it also involved explosives. On Tuesday, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) also noted it as the worst "school" shooting. So three in small media, taking care with their words and writing, don't embarrass themselves. You can also toss in Free Speech Radio News as an outlet that got it right. Let's return to the Hall of Shame. Sue Lindsey is credited as "Associated Press writer" so Professional Idiot must just be something she does as a hobby? Here she writes:

A gunman opened fire in a Virginia Tech dorm and then, two hours later, shot up a classroom across campus Monday, killing 32 people in the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history.

Whether or not Alessandra Stanley (New York Times) was attempting merely to note what was being said, it needs to be pointed out that observing "Television anchors said over and over that the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech was the deadliest in American history, but that was not the only shocking aspect of yesterday’s continual coverage" without calling out the mistake isn't really addressing reality. Also in the paper of little record, Little Man Marcs demonstrated that he remains as factually challenged as ever when he penned: "Mr. Cho was identified this morning by officials at Virginia Tech as the man who the day before gunned down professors and fellow classmates in what now stands as the worst rampage shooting in American history." [Note: No link to the article -- pure trash.]

No, Little Man Marcs, it doesn't stand as any such thing; however, you continue to stand as one of the worst reporters in American history. Congratulations, how proud your parents must be. Vying for the title of Fool on the Hill, Roxana Tiron and Jackie Kucinich (The Hill) write: "The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history yesterday sent shock waves through Capitol Hill, where the House and Senate observed a moment of silence for the students and faculty killed by a gunman at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va. "

At Slate, William Saletan seemed to be on to something, but hang in for the twist:

"Deadliest Shooting in U.S. History," said the Washington Post. "Deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history," agreed the Chicago Tribune. "Deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history," echoed the Los Angeles Times. What happened at Virginia Tech was indeed our deadliest shooting. But the key word isn't "deadliest." It's "shooting."

The twist? He goes on to write of planes. Trains and automobiles will, no doubt, be next. And for the record, Saletan, the Virginia Tech shooting was not "indeed our deadliest shooting." Hand over another ticket or step aside so the next one in line can play.

That a publicity release from an advocacy group went out last Monday with the falsehood (an advocacy group that got an incredible amount of attention) is no excuse for getting it wrong.

But facts really didn't seem to be the concern in the coverage. We all avoided the TV coverage. So we couldn't have called out, say, Katie Couric, but, note CounterSpin managed to -- while avoiding a plethora of others. (C.I.'s found the above and, had it gone up Wednesday night at The Common Ills, there were 100 outlets listed who got it wrong. Strange that CounterSpin noted no print media considering the scope and reach of AP.) We didn't watch the TV coverage because we didn't need the soap opera. Though Elaine and C.I. always avert their eyes from a roadside accident if they see emergency services have already arrived, the rest of us are far less noble and have the stiff necks to prove it. But we can tell the difference between news and melodrama.

NBC, as Peter Hart noted, aired footage of the killer, footage the killer taped and intended to be aired. They should have. It was news. The wall to wall started long before that was ever aired. And it's strange that CounterSpin didn't call that out. But there is no question that, once this became a news story (and remained billed as such), the videotape was news. Brian Williams isn't much of a news person which is why he made his mealy-mouthed statement. The correct statement was: "We've covered this from various [all and then some] angles all week. Now we had a chance to go inside the mind of the assumed killer. Would an archeologist turn down the opportunity to study something like this? Probably not and a news outlet shouldn't either."


Was NBC's coverage excessive? Compared to what? The entire coverage was excessive. The New York Times created a special headline for their multi-paged, daily coverage of it (including stories that began on the front page). They ran multiple columns about the shooting on the op-ed pages. Mainstream media was nothing but excessive on this topic. As C.I. wrote, they were like vultures picking the bones -- demonstrating the truth in Joni Mitchell's words "Wouldn't they like their peace? Don't we get bored? And we call for the three great stimulants of the exhausted ones/ Artifice, brutality and innocence" ("Dog Eat Dog," off the CD of the same name).

That was big media. What about small media? KPFA listeners got very lucky on Wednesday -- they made it through Democracy Now! without hearing about it. That resulted from technical problems. KPFA listeners were under the impression that Amy Goodman had the good sense to avoid the band wagon. Instead, Democracy Now! (that aired on KPFA Wednesday) offered up an hour long interview with Noam Chomsky. That added something to understanding, that could be considered a public service. Unfortunately, those who listen, watch or read at the website were deprived of that broadcast and got instead an hour devoted to shootings. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang indeed.

What was going on with small media? A lot of them saw the case as a way to make political hay with a pet cause: gun control. It needs to be noted that Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden were in the midst of a speaking tour about the dangers of nuclear energy when Three Mile Island happened. The tour was then cancelled. If you thought small media had any of the same taste, you thought wrong.

The Notion (the blog of The Nation -- one of their blogs) was all over the shooting, day after damn day. The website Lotta Links didn't stick a toe in the cesspool, they dove in -- day after day.

The advocacy group that started the lie All Things Media Big and Small couldn't let go -- let alone fact check -- demonstrated what it was really about: not the tragedy of what happened on Monday, it was about advancing the cause of gun control -- and while the corpses were not yet cold, they were all over the tragedy.

The tragedy should have been a one day lead story (on Monday). Instead it (not just the video of the alleged killer) was wall to wall. Why? Who was served by that?

We don't believe you cater news to protect feelings but we are aware that the defense offered was that this was a tragedy and the victims and the survivors needed it? Needed it why? More than likely, what they longed for was for pushy reporters to get the hell away from them while they were grieving. At one point, a friend of C.I.'s called and C.I. was in the car. "You've got to get to a TV! Headline News is having a meltdown!" (The friend worked at CNN.) C.I. went into a restaurant with a TV and got an iced tea to see what was going on. Poor Headline News -- they had the shooting to gas bag over (this was Wednesday) and the trial of a woman charged with killing her husband! It was hard for them to balance both soap operas, so much so that when they had to pull away (for little over one minute) to note the deadliest bombings in Baghdad of the year, they rushed quickly ad libbing that it was time to check in on "the goings on Iraq". The goings on? As C.I. noted, how "newsie" of them.

The wall to wall, the flood the zone, is hardly surprising -- from media, big or small. We expected CounterSpin to note that panic appeared to be the response media wanted. It didn't note that. But isn't that really at the heart of it all? Isn't that why the advocacy group put out the press release proclaiming it the "worst" when it wasn't? Isn't panic the desired response because (and Bully Boy should have taught the nation this), if you can scare everyone, you can pass just about anything -- whether it solves a problem or not.

Isn't that how we ended up with the Patriot Act, to cite just one example?

It was really interesting to see an advocacy group call for a moment of silence when they appeared to spend the entire week attempting to whip up a hysteria. Out of respect for the victims, you understand -- same victims they used the entire week as pawns to advance their own agenda.

Gun control? It's not an issue we work on (or work against). If it's your issue, have at it. But have the decency not to interject yourself into a tragedy in order to advance your cause. And before you suggest a moment of silence, ask yourself if there hasn't already been more than enough silence on the increasing violence in our lives, around the world? A moment of rage, where everyone yelled their heads off for a minute around the nation? We could get behind that. But we don't see silence as an answer. We do see it as a namby-pamby response that's allowed far too many things to occur without being called out.

Pee & B.S.


There might have been an argument for supporting PBS news programs if they could be protected from government financial pressure. But once the Republicans learned that they could wrest journalistic concessions from PBS by threatening its money, PBS changed unavoidably into a government propaganda agency.
During the unified Republican control of the federal government from 2003 to 2006, that PBS reality solidified, best represented today by the "America at a Crossroads" series. PBS is still responding to its Republican masters even though they no longer control Congress.
Given the 3,300 dead American soldiers and the widespread recognition that the Iraq War has been a disaster, what should be said about a corrupt and propagandistic entity like PBS that still is willing to carry water even if its timing is a little off?
What should be done with a news outlet that has demonstrated that it will sell its journalistic integrity for money?
One possibility is for PBS contributors to express their disgust by either cutting off donations or at least demanding back a percentage of what they’ve already given. At least that might show CPB board members and PBS executives that there is a price to pay for selling out journalistic principles.

-- Robert Parry's "Time for PBS to Go?" (Consortium News)

Did you catch any of America at a Crossroads? If you did, our sympathies. If you didn't, consider yourself lucky to have avoided the indoctrination. One thing you grasped quickly is that images would be used throughout to scare and to make stronger points than the words would. A phrase noting that things had changed would lead to stock footage from 9-11. The whole thing played like a nightmare vision of Jerry Falwell's.

Here's where it really gets sick -- you paid for it. With your tax money.

Now PBS has always been accused of liberal and that's largely because of the fact that centrists get mistaken for liberal and because the right has been working the refs for years. PBS wasn't left in the mid-70s. PBS has never been a lefty paradise.

But, in the past, there might have been a better chance at real reporting (not left reporting, not right reporting -- real reporting) could air. Those days have pretty much vanished. (We'd say "were gone" but Bill Moyers' new series starts this week.) In terms of left, once upon a time, the left could have been one of the voices provided every now and then -- while Willie F. Buckley's Firing Line aired week after week.

The right attacked the largely neutral (but right-leaning) PBS and the response was to cater to the right. The right attacks again and the right gets more offerings. This cycle has gone on and on. PBS is now a right-wing offering.

As Betty's long noted, their children's programming is a huge disappointment. Bunnies and bears allow them to avoid issues of racial representation. As Ava and C.I. noted recently, Great Performances is now airing really bad rock concerts that were already available as DVDs before Great Performances got a hold of them. What you get, what's supposed to have you excited and heavy breathing is televised swap meets and Suzi Ormis infomercials.

What you get is a a sort of half-way house for various Republicans as they test their wings for other things.

What you get isn't the news. What you get isn't unique programming. What you get (see Ava and C.I.'s review this week) is justifications for the illegal war all this time later.

What you didn't get was real questioning and exploration of the illegal war. What you still haven't seen is a news program devoted to war resisters who, for the record, meet PBS' government mandate under which it was created.

Instead, you get right-leaning public affairs show, you get bland, generic, inoffensive and lifeless programming and you get a lot of imports -- mainly from England but Canada and Australia get their airtime too.

When NBC had nothing left to lose (in the immediate post-Super Train period), they offered live, televised plays on Sunday nights. The reality is that big names (including Sally Field) leaped at the chance to perform (despite the low pay) and that the plays were relatively inexpensive to air. So Public Television, you might think, would present live plays. No.

It's failing the news, it's failing the public and it's failing the arts. Anyone who doubts the last part should grasp that clip jobs, bits, aren't educating anyone about the arts.

Our own opinion is that PBS has betrayed every mandate it was given. Therefore, we don't just agree with Robert Parry, we'd suggest you take it even further and launch a boycott from now on. But we realize that may be too much for some people. Some people just can't seem to let go of the illusion that PBS is worth having around -- they're usually the same ones insisting that it really is commercial free!

So take Parry's idea and sit out a pledge cycle or two. And if, during that cycle, PBS is under attack and needs your support to demand Congress do something, sit it out. (As Rebecca has long advocated.) Why?

If they learn that the left won't always rush into save their fat asses, PBS might actually start having to offer diversity in their programming, they might actually have to offer a few left shows.

Here's an ugly reality for the left -- to PBS you are the long suffering spouse. PBS will always betray you, will always cheat on your. Why? Because they know you will always take it back. That's why, year after year, it's tilted ever more to the right. It knows the right will pull support otherwise and it knows the left will always rush in to defend it.

What if that didn't happen? PBS might have to start offering programming that served all of the public.

So the next time PBS disappears and all the neighbors are telling you they saw PBS cavorting with the right-wing, chain the front door and don't remove the chain. Tell PBS you're not a doormat and follow up your words with actual action.

Gore Vidal, speaking of what passes for democracy in the United States, is fond of comparing it to a frog in pot of water coming to a slow boil. Little by little, the temperature rises and the frog grows used to it until, finally, the water boils and the frog is cooked.

That's the reality of the left when it comes to PBS. The crap that airs now wouldn't have been accepted in the 70s. However, the 80s and 90s spent a long time warming up the water slowly before it ever came to a boil.

It's time to stop settling. It's time to stop pointing to one program (usually a journalism program and not leaning one way or another) as proof that PBS is still "our friend." It was never our friend but it once did a better job giving viewpoints an airing.

So just consider following Parry's advice and cutting them off for a period.

Don't be their doormat and see if they can get the message. If they do get the message, the response might actually make PBS worth watching.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }