Sunday, May 13, 2007

Truest statement of the week

Thank you for asking us what we think. As a student-activist, it's much nicer to be posed these questions, than the one I heard most often from 2004-2006: "When will the students do their part?" Well, here we are.

-- Chris Dols in what Betty dubs a "Say it again, amen!" moment, from Ron Jacobs' "Sitting In On Senator Kohl and the War-A Conversation With Antiwar Students" (ZNet). See, Jacobs did the unthinkable: He spoke with students. He spoke with Josh Brielmaier, Todd Dennis, Zach Heise, Bernadette Watts and Chris Dols about the activism they're taking part in as opposed to sitting at his desk, thumbing through The New York Times and, seeing no coverage of student activism to stop the war, deciding to write another tired, false column on "Kids today, oy vey, are they apathetic!" He actually went out and found the topic he's writing about. If it were a crime not to do so, you'd have a number of journalists behind bars right now.

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --
We're still way ahead of last week! Here's who helped out the 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

Truest statement of the week -- a wise pick. Read it and see why. And thanks to the students and Ron Jacobs for having the dialogue.

Editorial: The silence that harms -- Where is Camilo's book? A few e-mails have come in on that. C.I. noted Joshua Key's, quoted from, early on and a few members complained saying they hadn't read or hadn't read that far ahead. C.I. said, "X number says they'll buy it the week it comes out -- not think about buying it -- and I'll wait two weeks before quoting from it." That expires tomorrow. So we'll be discussing it next week.

TV: The 'boys' are back in town -- "Brilliant" wrote Elise. We agree. Ava and C.I. hitting hard at the realities of TV. I (Jim) wrote the headline and they've stated they think it should be "The 'boys' are back in town -- they never left."

Nation Isle -- Don't you love the illustration? I'm going to talk about this the most. We're all tired and ready to go to bed. Mike, you'll beat me tomorrow. We worked really hard on this and actually did it while Ava and C.I. were soloing on two features. They came back to add their input. Cedric and Wally had shaped Gary Younge, Ty and Jess had mainly worked on Doug Henwood. The rest was pretty much up for grabs. While Dona added some details and descriptions, C.I. and Ava we about taking the dialogue written for Katrina and Liza and sharpening it, rewriting it, and at the end there were two strong (and funny) characters. We think Gary Younge, Liza and Katrina come off as the most full bodied characters. This arose from my reading over C.I.'s shoulder yesterday morning and saying, "That's a great one liner about the cruise. We should do something on that." C.I. pulled the line and that's how this feature originated.

Roundtable -- You asked for it, you got it. Talk-ota.

A Mother's Day Message From Bully Mama -- Thank you to Isaiah for allowing us to post this. And Mike asked us to note that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Bully Mama" should have appeared in "Highlights" but they forgot. (That's the comic we've reposted.)

Mailbag -- Do we have any short features, wondered Dona? Ty had pulled a number of things for the roundtable (pulled from e-mails) and Dona looked over those and thought we needed both the roundtable and the mailbag.

The Trojan -- Obama. Need we say more?

Pigicles? -- A reader os 13 months asked that Ava and C.I. address something. (See you asked for it, you . . .)

Pencil it in -- Things to Do in American While You're Still Alive.

Robert Knight's "The Knight Report" -- if you've never heard "The Knight Report," check this out. If you have, take a moment to enjoy Robert Knight's work again.

Highlights -- Thank you to Mike, Wally, Cedric, Betty, Rebecca and Elaine for doing this feature.

This is a quick note. We all want to go to bed.

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

Editorial: The silence that harms


The second day of the court-martial started at eight-thirty the next morning. The first order of business was to interview members of the jury. All the members of the panel had regular monthly meetings with the commanding general at the base, General Webster -- the general who had ultimate and absolute authority over the trial. Lousis's questions, therefore, focused on possible bias and prejudice. He asked the members if they thought I was guilty of desertion simply for being accused of it, or, put another way, whether I could still be proved innocent after being charged with the crime.
Louis also asked the members if they felt under any command pressure to vote on a certain verdict, or if anyone had told them it was their duty to convict. The question would have seemed silly to me just a day or two before, but after the judge had given the prosecution everything they requested and denied all our motions, I understood what Louis's concerns were. In the end, two of the highest-ranking jurors, both colonels, were dismissed. One had a reputation of being soft on convicting, while the other had a reputation of being hard. But it occurred to me during this process that everyone in the court worked for the same boss. In the case of The United States v. Staff Sergeant Camilo E. Mejia-Castillo, just about everyone there, including me and one of the defense attorneys, plus the judge, the jury, most of the witnesses, the accuser, and the prosecution, worked for the U.S. government. Perhaps that's why the Uniform Code of Military Justice has a conviction rate of 98 percent.

The above, from Camilo Mejia's Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia (pp. 274 - 275) just out from The New Press, addresses his own court-martial but should also be applied when considering that Ehren Watada faces pretrial motions on May 20th with a court-martial set to begin July 16th.

In Road from Ar Ramaid, Mejia tells his story. In doing so, he follows Joshua Key (The Deserter's Tale). That's important. It's important for the historical record, it's important to raise awareness. Monica Benderman (wife of Kevin Benderman) has written of walking into a bookstore and searching in vain for a section of war resistance. She and her husband aren't just complaining about that, they're writing their own book.

Joshua Key's book has been reviewed around the world including in the US where it's racked up praise from a number of daily newspapers. Mainstream daily newspapers have reviewed the book. Who hasn't?

Well don't point at The Progressive. Their May 2007 issue reviews the book. Now The Progressive is a monthly and there is one section for one review. Which means that the magazine could have, at most, run five reviews at this point. The Nation, a weekly, offers multiple reviews each week. But somehow hasn't gotten around to reviewing the book.

We're reminded of the silence that greeted Sir! No Sir! as well. Or, for that matter, Peter Laufer's Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq. It's amazing that an independent, left media can demonstrate so little interest.

But that's what's happened.

How did we get to this point?

Dona can remember a time, in the early days of the illegal war, when a woman and a man, married with children (including at least one infant) were briefly in the (mainstream) news. Both parents were being deployed and the woman was attempting to fight the deployment due to the issue of their children. She brought it up to a supposedly enlightened educator who shrugged and said, "She shouldn't have joined up."

She shouldn't have joined up? The Bully Boy shouldn't have started an illegal war.

It's really interesting how this goes. A war resister might be in the "wrong" for self-checking out but there's no attempt to prosecute Bully Boy for starting the war. A war resister may be held accountable for his or her own actions, but the Bully Boy that put them over there to begin with, by lying and breaking the law, has not been held accountable.

As the list of war resisters grows all the time (and it does, it's only The Nation that shrinks) we have to marvel over some of 'best and brightest' (we're laughing too) in indy media who can't say a word. Aren't they among the first to tell us that a problem isn't an individual issue, it's systematic?

But somehow, they treat war resisters as something to be ignored, an individual story not worth covering because (in their minds) is so small and minute.

The reality is that the Bully Boy broke the law and that war resisters are only to responding to that. The reality is that Camilo Mejia's response didn't happen because one day Mejia decided he didn't care for fatigues. Some have been in Iraq and have witnessed events that underscored for them the illegal nature of the war. Some, Jeremy Hinzman for instance, grasped the war was illegal as it began.

But these decisions that are being made, these courageous stands taken, are not the result of individuals just taking a fancy, they are in response to the illegal actions of the Bully Boy.

We hear a great deal about how Congress abdicates its responsibility on the war and how Congress refuses to address the issue of impeachment. Those are good points, valid ones. However, we firmly believe it is past time to hold independent media accountable when it abdicates its own responsibilities. Joshua Key's book is selling quite well and is stocked in a number of places. Jim and C.I. were on the road speaking on campuses last week and one of the pleasant shocks was finding out how many bookstores were carrying a book that The Nation can't even mention. Another pleasant surprise was discovering how many people were aware that The Progressive had reviewed the book. We believe in calling out. We also have no problem giving credit.

If you've seen Sir! No Sir!, you may remember the moment in the documentary where Jerry Lembcke is showing press coverage of war resisters during Vietnam and reminds, "This was stuff that was in living rooms all over America so people knew this. And this is an important piece we're talking about: how memory about the war has been rewritten, has been reconstructed. This is gone. This has been erased. This has been displaced."

All the easier to displace and erase when you never cover it in the first point.

This movement of resistance within the military taking place today is not over the fact that someone didn't like one day's grub. It is a direct response to the (illegal) actions of the Bully Boy. People are taking stands in response to that.

By not covering it, independent media not only harms the discussions and awareness of today's illegal war, they abdicate their responsibility to take part in the first writing of history. In doing so, they make it all the much harder for those attempting to prevent the next illegal wars. Your silence damages today and tomorrow -- in the short and long term.

TV: The 'boys' are back in town

Bill Moyers returned to TV as the host of a program, Bill Moyers Journal. Greg Behrendt debuted in 2006 with The Greg Behrendt Show and is already prepping Greg Behrendt's Wake-up Call. You might think the two aren't related but you'd be wrong. Moyers works the high end, Behrendt is on dumpster duty, but notice the spaces are always provided for White male voices.

Behrendt, for the uninitiated, is a no talent of questionable looks whose claim to fame was rewording an old phrase (updating it): "He's just not that into you." There's nothing novel in the statement and the update doesn't even allow for wit but it created a mini-frenzy in women (a number of them at The New York Times) who desperately watched Sex in the City in search of answers about their own lives. The drip character got to repeat the phrase on the show and suddenly it was supposed to be a craze. The same way Sarah Jessica Parker was supposed to be a star. Of course, the thing that (originally and more recently) killed Sarah Jess' film career was the loud gasp that greeted the appearance of that chin wart on large screens, so go know.

Employing the same character audiences first met on Square Pegs and ripping off Miami Rhapsody (where Sarah Jess' character was fond of voice overs and speaking to the camera about pressing issues such as hair care products), Sex in the City gave a gay man's view of women and damned if certain, supposedly educated, women couldn't relate and identify. (Apparently, they longed to also stroll down the streets of Manhattan in a really ugly, pink tutu that emphasized all their body flaws.) With Sarah Jess' 'reborn' movie career due to fail (seriously, remove the chin wart) and the show ending in 2004, there was a desire to try to milk the franchise for any life left in it. Now you might assume that Kim Cattrall, who did all the heavy lifting and was an audience favorite, would be deluged with offers but if you made that assumption, you obviously don't know how TV works.

Instead, TV audiences were offered samples of Greg Behrendt. It was thought women would respond to Behrendt who wasn't funny (despite a stand up career -- which naturally went nowhere) and wasn't attractive. But damned if the White women of The New York Times didn't fall for it, even as women across the country pushed their buggies past the samples table while holding their noses. The Greg Behrendt Show debuted at the same time as The Megan Mullally Show. The Water Cooler Set lined up to praise the limp offerings of Behrendt and sharpened the knives for Mullally.

On her show, Mullally frequently did comedic bits (and, unlike Behrendt, she is funny) and sang (she has a wonderful singing voice). She frequently interviewed celebrities and children and, though not groundbreaking, it was entertaining. The Water Cooler Set places no value on entertainment, they're only interested in what they perceive as hipness.

So they talked up Behrendt's really bad show. What did audiences see? Trash TV too limp to go full out. They saw Behrendt nod his head to a guest's response and follow that by asking a question that gave no indication he'd even been listening. They saw him punch the air while holding his note cards a lot. Someone must have seen it as a swipe from Phil Donahue.

Of course Donahue, whether the weight was up or down, was always genuinely attractive and Behrendt's skin always looks like that of a crystal meth addict in the first week of rehab.
Sometimes he'd sport glasses, Tina Fey glasses, as though attempting to look smart. They only drew attention to his heavily lined and off balance face.

So you had a highly unattractive host who couldn't listen, offering up weak versions of the trash Jerry Springer traffics in, and this was what the Water Cooler Set got behind. Did we mention he sported really blonde (and really bad) highlights worn in TV's idea of punk rock (a mullet), circa the 1980s? (It was Lisa Hartman's hair when Knots Landing brought her back from the dead.) Somehow this was supposed to be someone viewers sought out? The Water Cooler Set cried "YES!" and informed you the Gregster practiced a "refreshingly hands-off approach to problems."

Viewers begged to differ which is how it ended up cancelled. (It's burning off the last of the episodes currently.) Now remember that we pointed out the obvious fact already: a Gregg Behrendt gets offers and a Kim Cattrell is passed over? The three ratings dynamos in daytime are: Oprah, Ellen and Rosie. So it's all the more shocking that the White guy who updated a one liner is the one handed a shot and supported despite lackluster ratings.

Over at PBS? Bill Moyers' Journal is on air. We'll get to the merits of the show in a minute but let's remember PBS' mandate of diversity (someone has to) and let's remember that mandate got trashed somewhere in the early 80s. Maybe it's Jessica Savitch's fault? Goodness knows Frontline people didn't wait for her body to be buried before airing their various complaints. They needed her for viewers and like the angry suits at CBS (in any period), they hated themselves for needing her. So somehow it was her fault that she did the job she was hired to do (wrap arounds to other people's reporting) and indicative of her lack of 'newsie-ness.'

A few weeks back when we noted the waste of federal funding that PBS was, Ty reports several e-mails coming in from readers arguing they would agree with us except for the fact that Bill Moyers is back on PBS! Of course he is. That's only surprising to those who don't know the way he played it off CBS throughout the seventies. "Temperamental" is a word that the Frontliners tossed around about Jessica Savitch which only demonstrated how uninformed they were. The 70s high drama at CBS around Moyers and another 'legend' may not have made headlines but, back then, news standards were a bit higher. It helps that, in the last few years, Moyers has been enshrined (by people who never worked with him at his height) as The Last Journlist Standing.

We're not part of the Moyers Mob but we can appreciate what he does. He prepares for interviews and he actually listens during them. His new show promises some reporting but, largely, is another public affairs chat show.

The Moyers Mob doesn't take kindly to their god being questioned. When we (Jim identified the comments, in his note, as coming from us) rightly noted the absence of women in the two hour*, special debut of the show a few e-mails came in screaming "Heretic!" and, according to Ty, accusing us of everything including, we'll assume, a violation of canon law.

"This is," Ty says one wrote, "a serious news program!"

Only if your own standards have fallen as low as TV's could a series debut that featured comic Jon Stewart qualify as "serious news program." (We know Stewart, we like Stewart. And, unlike the mob, he's the last to claim he's a journalist.)

But, 'serious news program' or not, how controversial is it to point out the obvious lack of women? That special revolved around the reporting during the lead up to the war in Iraq. Where was Amy Goodman?

We asked that question of a friend working on the Moyers' show and were told that they were focused on exploring the 'reporting.' We were told that, of course, Goodman challenged the lies of the administration and regularly called them out in real time. But the special was about the way reporters reported. We'd buy that lie were it not for the fact that Tim Russert was heavily featured and he's not a reporter. He hosts a chat & chew. Russert did no reporting and stuck to the official line. While the McClatchy Boys deserved all the praise showered on them for their work (at what was then Knight-Ridder), when you leave reporting and bring on Russert, you have no excuse not to note Amy Goodman's work. (Our friend conceded that point when we made it.)

After the special, the first regular episode featured two guests -- both male. The second show featured three guests -- all male. A woman, Marilyn B. Young, finally was invited on to the third show. If you think the previous guests were chosen because they offered something that could be filed under 'breaking news,' think again. Nor did they expound on topics that women are silent on.

If you watched last week's episode (or tonight's -- PBS stations carry programming from CPB and put it on the local schedules whenever they want), you might have groaned in disgust when Bill Moyers -- The Last Journalist Standing! -- left reality to reinforce right-wing talking points: "Last month, when the ascendant majority on the Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on partial birth abortion . . ." The transcript rightly puts the talking point in parenthesis but there was no parenthesis in Moyers' voice over, no use of "so-called" a preface to that distortion of late term abortions.

And possibly, you groaned, along with us, as he intro-de Nick Gillispie as "Reason is the magazine for libertarians and the best known of them is Reason's Editor-in-Chief, Nick Gillespie, whose heroes include Margaret Thatcher and Madonna, and whose shoulders are so straight because in a polarized world he refuses to carry water for Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives." "Whose shoulders are so straight"? Reference please? There is none. That's Moyers' (bad) call on Gillespie. We can think of a few liberals who don't carry water for the Democrats or Republicans including Matthew Rothschild, Laura Flanders, Alexander Cockburn and Margaret Kimberley. (None of whom have yet been invited on this program or who were guests on Moyers' last program.) The difference is they aren't libertarians. Hearing that intro, we wondered if Moyers' brain had gone soft?

Gillespie won't carry water for liberals or conservatives . . . because he's a libertarian. That's not a branch of conservatism. It is its own (heavily pushed) strand of political thought. It is hell bent on destroying the federal government (it's actually hell bent on destroying all government but today's make over focuses on the federal government as it tries to gather new recruits).
Though not as heavily funded as the right-wing echo chamber, they are well funded. And they've pushed various treaties over the years. In the eighties, some brain damaged liberal professors took to making the thought-free Left, Right and Baby Boom required reading in various courses. Though heavily (and wrongly -- it was shoddy poli sci) promoted on campuses, it didn't create the great break off (from either the right or the left) the funders had hoped for. So in the 90s, the big push was outside of educational institutions and instead focused on an 'interactive' book (no diskette or disk included, though it was supposedly interactive) entitled Gen-X. Amidst lengthy movie quotes, the 'tarians pushed the lie that Social Security was going bankrupt and that old geezers were living the High Life at the expense of young people.

The book sold well and, by being non-academic, avoided the sort of serious scrutiny Left, Right and Baby Boom was greeted with. Most of all, by using music and movies to grab the 'kids,' they ended up with a captive audience that they could repeat their myths to. That basically explains Nick Gillespie's approach to Reason which tries to make the dismantling of civil-society go down easy.

Bill Moyers didn't tackle that or Gillespie's much noted admiration from Maxim magazine. He did tell viewers: "Reason has been named one of the best 50 magazines three out of the past four years and is widely acknowledged to have one of the best political blogs on the web." OMG! One of the best 50! Well, if you consider The Chicago Tribune the last word in magazines, then yes. We don't. For the record, that's who selected Reason as one of the best 50 (and The Trib has a number of libertarians on staff -- shh, no one's supposed to notice that). Who "widely acknowledged" that the magazine has "one of the best political blogs on the web"?
As unattributed, on air, as the claim of one of the best 50, this praise largely comes from the right-wing gossip rag Washingtonian and Playboy.

When you've produced a two hour special that didn't manage to interview one woman and you've made it through your first two programs without inviting women, maybe using Playboy as a critical resource isn't the best way to go?

At one point, Nick Gillespie self-defines his crowd: "But what we believe is that in a grand tradition that dates back to the 17th century and to the founding of this country, which is that the individual should be given as much freedom to live his life or her life as he sees fit as long as he's not screwing up somebody else. We believe in free minds. We believe in free thinking. We believe in free speech. And we believe in free markets. We believe people and goods and ideas should be able to traverse the world as freely as possible." It was the perfect time to ask about the safety net and, considering the libertarians long war against Social Security, to zoom in on that issue. Moyers didn't.

The third segment gave us historian Marilyn Young (co-editor of Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam). For that we were grateful -- and for no longer having to wonder if Nick's large gay following rests on that 70s Butch Daddy stereotype he cultivates? Young was a lively guest and not afraid to call out Charlie Rose's nonsense. Much to the discomfort of Moyers. (Moyers brought Rose into the big time, in the midst of one of his his pit CBS against PBS maneuvers, and Rose was always a good soldier.)

A clip is shown of The Charlie Rose Show where Condi Rice lies through her teeth and sidesteps every question while Rose allows one lie after another to go unchallenged. Moyers thought it was great journalism, Young didn't and pointed out that Condi continues to get away with lying in public "because she remains a person of authority; because she is absolutely amazingly implacable in her re-statement, statement and re-statement of half-truths and outright lies. And that kind of certainty in one's own authority and the correctness of one's own position can look very persuasive, especially on TV, especially when you're not pressed." (Our emphasis.)

Moyers attempted to rush to his protege's rescue insisting, "Charlie did keep coming back to her, trying to get her to talk about this" but Young cut him off with, "What he came back to over and over again was an exit strategy. And she said, as they've all been saying, there is no plan B. We're going to succeed with plan A."

Who was right?


She brilliantly demolished every one of Condi's lies. The 'we were all wrong' myth sailed over Rose's head as Condi lied that "it wasn't just America's intelligence services, of course, that thought that he had weapons of mass destruction; this was a worldwide intelligence problem, because the UN thought he had weapons of mass destruction." Rose just sat there. Young noted (to Moyers), "The Germans looked into it and said, you know what? Your information is wrong, it's useless. So there were other intelligence services involved, but they disagreed with ours, which she didn't say. Then she said the U.N. thought there were WMD's. But that's for people with really bad short term memory loss. Because Hans Blix, who was in the U.N. as inspector, was quite persuaded that in fact, there were no weapons of mass destruction."

Condi told Rose, "The United States is in Iraq because the Iraqi Government asked us to be there and they asked us (inaudible) a UN Security Council mandate." Rose didn't challenge it. Young offered reality (to Moyers), "The most extraordinary one, though, the really one that just takes my breath away, is where she says we're in Iraq because the Iraqi government invited us there. And we're there under a U.N. mandate. Saddam Hussein certainly didn't invite us in. And the UN mandate that she refers to, it's a resolution, it's not a mandate-- it says, after all, we're all agreed that everyone should help in the reconstruction of Iraq. That's all. It's not a mandate for occupation, at all."

Charlie Rose conducted one of the worst interviews of his career (which is really saying something) and yet Moyers praises it? He hails the interview noting, "My friend and colleague Charlie Rose conducted a remarkable interview this week with Condoleeza Rice. It was mesmerizing." And when Young (rightly) notes that Rose didn't press Rice on her lies, Moyers responds, "Charlie did keep coming back to her, trying to get her to talk about this". Though it's one thing to offer loyalty to your lackeys who stood with you against the big, bad Charles Kuralt, praising Rose for offering his usual fluff will only result in your own journalistic abilities being questioned.

If this seems like a hit-job on Moyers, we'd respond you need to know your history and not the eternal hype that is put out there today. There is no more difficult or temperamental news 'diva' than Bill Moyers. Were he a woman, everyone would know about it. Because he's a man, it's excused, even the newsroom tantrums (which didn't have to do with the quality of news) don't raise eye brows outside of the group that witnessed them. That bears noting because many a woman has been run off your TV screens for much less.

We find the shop talk amusing. We don't think it goes to whether or not Moyers can deliver 'magic' onscreen (he can and has very often). But we do think it bears noting that nothing stops the White male. Not low ratings, not bad on-set behavior. Moyers has delivered magic onscreen. He's one of the (realtively few) White males who have and, because of that, there's a misconception that White males are the go-tos for the magic.

It's why PBS has Charlie Rose to begin with. A bad interviewer who failed in countless formats -- in fact a man who left tabloid TV and immediately set up shop at PBS. That's how it works for the male entertainers. As Kat pointed out last week, low ratings are being offered as proof that Katie Couric couldn't handle the news when the reality is that Couric's ratings are amazing when you consider that she's faced non-stop attacks from media watchers since the moment she was announced as the new anchor. (NBC actually started the attacks before she left and water carriers, such as one at The New Yorker, were happy to advance them.)

The same ones that hype Moyers today were appalled that Couric did sit-downs with people on The CBS Evening News. These sit-downs were intended explore. When Moyers does it (or did it, though our media watchers seem to have little knowledge of TV past), it's "news." When Couric does it, it's "soft" and a sure sign that women can't handle "news."

Moyers returns to PBS and his first regular (one hour) show contains an interview with comic Jon Stewart but he's still given a "news" pass? No one decries the 'softening' of the format. Don't think there's not a double standard. Couric's working for a network that owns the program and that stated they were going to 'shake it up' before they'd ever decided on an anchor. But all criticism centers on Katie Couric. One minute, chatterers put out the tidbit that women are featured on air less now that Couric is the anchor, the next they're saying women are featured more. It's nothing but mud being thrown out and hoping something sticks.

There's a cottage industry being built on the efforts to take down Couric. It's not based on journalism or anything she's done, it's based on gender. That's entertainment for you. Moyers coasts through with little serious criticism, the Gregster flops publicly and ABC signs him to a development deal, and always the (false) line that Couric is the root of all things evil.

Today it's Couric, next year it will be another woman. Roseanne, Cybil, Mary, Whoopi, all women who had to be taken to task for things other than doing their job (delivering viewers). Men get arrested (even while working for Disney), leave their wives for baby sitters, get busted for drugs, go down the list. None of it gets them drummed out of the profession or even sticks to them. When Kuralt's real life emerged after his death, that did lead to a few whispers but his two-lives were well known in real time. Just not printed. Even today, there's a whole crowd that tells you two 'wives' really isn't about who Kuralt was.

We're not saying it is. We are saying that much less is regularly used to take down women, to 'cow' them, to disempower them, to erase them. You see that in play with the reaction to the dismal ratings for Greg Behrendt. The fact that viewers couldn't stand him isn't an issue. He's White male, he gets a development deal. You see that in play with Moyers who returns to PBS with the softest 'news' show he's ever offered. A woman like Linda Ellerbee gets run out of TV news proper. There are few second chances for women. It's why Judy Woodruff is a 'substitute anchor' on PBS's NewsHour while the (White male) host with the bad dye job turns 74 this week and will continue dottering on air for another decade unless someone does a serious intervention.

As soft as it is, we recommend Bill Moyers Journal. And we don't dispute the fact that he has (and will continue) to make 'magic.' We just don't see his return as (a) the second coming of news, (b) reflective of the diversity PBS is supposed to offer or (c) a good thing for women. One woman, in three hour programs and a two-hour special, has been allowed to speak thus far. One woman. In that show he repeats the distorted label for late-term abortions. And can't stop singing his sidekick's praises even though the sidekick doesn't warrant praise for anything done air. We're not surprised he's back at PBS. (We'd be surprised if he were invited back to CBS. Actually, we'd be shocked.) And we don't see the return as any reason to "save" PBS.

Moyers raised the funding for his show himself. He could do the same thing weekly on HBO -- and without commercials! Now, unlike the Gregster, we'll actually watch Moyers. We'll even grant that he is the best thing PBS has to offer today. We'd argue that fact is just one more indictment against PBS. Diversity was the mandate -- initially strived for but never achieved and now abandoned. And when their biggest star after Big Bird and Cookie Monster can't use his platform to improve PBS' lousy record of presenting women, we're not seeing a second-coming.
Added: *Ava and C.I.: Ty says a number of e-mails came in on the length of Buying the War. Some noted it was two hours and wondered why people were saying 90 minutes? Many more stated it was 90 minutes. We know that on the PBS station we watched it, at the end of the first hour we were treated to "coming attractions" including a nature show -- we made a joke about that in our notes -- and we know that it ended 10 minutes shy of two hours. We were flipping the channel and ended up on a really bad sitcom and made notes on that in case we want to tackle it this summer -- it's a sitcom in syndication. The special itself is 90 minutes. What we saw basically filled out two hours and apparently had a bit more commercials than some stations used. The New Adventures of Old Christine basically runs 23 minutes each week. We call it a half hour show because, with commercials that's what it is. When Ty told us about the e-mails, we shrugged. When he told us about them a second time, we pulled out our notes. It occupied one hour and fifty minutes. Judging by the e-mails, some saw a similar broadcast but many saw the 90 minutes with no interruptions. We're sticking with two hours because that's what we saw.

Nation Isle

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip
That lost its way near Alaska
Aboard this tiny ship.
The mate was a mighty sailing man,
Skipper Vic brave and sure.
Five passengers set sail that day
For a snooze-fest tour... a snooze-fest tour.
The boat started taking on water,
The tiny ship was sunk,
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
The Nation would be lost.... The Nation would be lost.
They floated ashore of this
Uncharted desert isle,
With Gary Younge, the Skipper too, the millionaire, and Wal-Mart,
The movie star, and the rest,
Here on Nation's Isle.

Episode 999, "Life's a bore . . . and then you work for one."
Backstory, the 10th Annual Nation's cruise set sail on July 28, 2007, billed as The Nation's Alaska Cruise. Less than 48 hours after setting sail, the ship sunk. The survivors managed to swim to the shore of an uncharted island and have been living there ever since. The date is now February 16, 2011.
This week's special guest stars: Robert Scheer, Ralph Nader and Mary Mapes.


Victor Navasky walks up to Gary Younge who is working on building a raft.

Victor: Brunch in five.

Gary Younge: Aye-aye, Skipper Vic.


Liza Featherstone pouts while Doug Henwood gets dressed.

Doug: Lovey, aren't you going to get ready?

Liza: What's the point? I've done everything she did. I married a professor. I've even re- instituted the hair style she retired a few years back and nothing!

Doug: Now, now, you wrote a book on Wal-Mart.

Liza: That no one read! I'm so angry! I'm sick of being stuck on this island! What I wouldn't give to be back in New York writing a pithy slam of the peace movement.

Doug: Dear, you've never written pithy. Come now, you'll miss the meal.

Liza: Tree Root Soup? It's not a soup, it's not a chowder! It's a bunch of boiled roots floating around in water! Meanwhile, Miss Money Bags has a mini-fridge in her cabin!


Victor, Liza, Doug and Gary Younge sit around a table.

Victor: Gary Younge thinks he saw a ship a few miles out.

Doug: Really?

Before Gary Younge can answer, Movie Star Richard Dreyfuss comes bouncing in wearing heels and a strapless gown.

Richard: I was wrong, Jaws wasn't the turkey of the year! This cruise was!

Victor: Now don't be so cross, Ricky, the professor is whipping us up an extra special offering. She's been at work in her laboratory for hours on this latest experiment.

Richard: So long as it's not more mashed potatoes.

Richard looks around expectantly for a response. There is none.

Richard: Mashed potatoes! Mashed potatoes! Didn't anyone see Close Encounters?

Liza: (ignoring him) I don't care as long as it's not more Tree Root Soup.

Everyone nods as Professor Patricia J. Williams walks up looking harried and carrying a large, covered pot.

Patricia Williams: According to my calculations, this will be perfection.

Everyone stares expectantly as Patricia removes the lid from the pot.

Liza: Tree Root Soup!

Patricia: Don't be cross, Liza, it's not simply Tree Root Soup.

Liza eyes her bowl suspiciously as Doug spoons some soup into it. Grabbing a spoon, she warily gives the soup a taste.

Liza: Damn it, Patty! This is the same crap we've had since we got to this island!

Patrica: No, no, no. This is different, and not just because these roots had extra dirt, it's different because this soup comes with a homily delivered by me, Patricia J. Williams. I call the meal Homily Casserole. (clears her throat) Sometimes, in our mad rush of daily life . . .

The Millionaire walks up to the table, all eyes turn to watch Katrina vanden Heuvel, decked in jewels and clad in a white mink.

Katrina: Did I miss anything?

Doug: Patricia was just delivering a wonderful homily that can only be improved with your presence.

Liza: Don't be such a kiss ass, Dougie. If Richie Rich had traveled light, the ship never would have sunk in the first place.

Katrina: (fake sincerity) Love the hair, Liza. Loved it years ago.

Liza: (fake sincerity) Yes, it is a wonderful hair style. Just needed a younger woman to carry it off.

Gary Younge: Tree Root Soup, Ms. vanden Heuvel?

Katrina: I filled up on caviar in my cabin.

Liza shoots Dougie a look.

Richard: Is anyone ever going to ask me for my autograph? I starred in Mr. Holland's Opus.

Liza: Mr. Holland's Anus.

Richard: That wasn't funny when the Navarro brothers said it!

Patricia: Everyone, everyone, if I do not deliver my homily in the next few seconds, it will grow stale.

Gary Younge: (excitedly) Skipper Vic! Skipper Vic! (pointing) Look!

Everyone looks as three people approach the shore in small boat.

Gary Younge: People, Skipper Vic! People!

Victor: Yes, Gary Younge, I see them too. Sorry, Patricia, you're homily will have to wait.

Patricia knocks her bowl off the table in disgust while Katrina snaps her fingers at Liza.

Katrina: Bring them to me.

Liza leaps to her feet, fists balled in rage.

Liza: Excuse the hell out of me but I'm not your servant.

Doug: I'll go get them.

Liza: Dougie, sit your ass back down. vanden Hovel and me are going to straighten this out, right here, right now.

Katrina chuckles while Doug runs off down the beach.

Liza: You think that's funny? You laughing at me? Put your dukes up and we'll see who's laughing out their Glasnost then!


Doug and Gary Younge run up excitedly as Three Passengers disembark from the boat: Robert Scheer, Mary Mapes and Ralph Nader.

Gary Younge: You've come to rescue us!

Doug: Finally!

Robert: Well, yes, it has been over three years but we had the hardest time raising funds. Finally, the National Review crowd kicked in the cash saying it wasn't as 'fun' without the left's weak, ineffective whipping boys.

Mary: And girls. Where's Katrina?

Gary Younge: This way, Mr. Scheer and Ms. Mapes. You can come along to, Mr. Nader, just don't expect to be mentioned when we write about this!


Gary Younge comes running up to the table excitedly.

Gary Younge: Ms. vanden Heuvel, Ms. vanden Heuvel, it's a rescue party! Robert Scheer and Mary Mapes have arrived to rescue us! Oh, and they brought (lowered voice) Ralph Nader along with them.

Katrina nods and dismisses Gary Younge with the wave of a hand as Doug, Mary, Robert and Ralph approach.

Katrina: Bob! Mary! So good of you to come. Sit! Sit! We're having brunch. Liza, more bowls!

Liza glares at Katrina but Doug rushes off to retrieve some. Robert, Mary and Ralph sit down at the table.

Katrina: And how was your trip? Pleasant, I expect.

Mary: We've been scouring the coast of Alaska for six months, searching for you.

Katrina: How very dear of you.

Liza: (to Katrina) She means all of us. "You" plural.

Katrina: I know it's important for you to believe that, Liza.

Doug returns with the bowls and places one in front of each. He then spoons soup into each bowl.

Robert tastes some and then grimaces.

Mary: Aren't you having any, Katrina?

Katrina: No, no. Like the dear, late Dorothy Schiff, I prefer not to eat with the help.

Liza: I swear to God, if they hadn't landed when they did, your head would be on a pole!

Ralph: So what happened? How did you all end up stranded on an island?

Katrina: Well, Skipper Vic was piloting the cruise with one hand and attempting to raise funds for CJR with the other, so we crashed and sank.

Liza: That's not what happened.

Katrina: Isn't that right, Skipper Vic?

Victor nods his head but stares down at the table.

Liza: What happened was --

Katrina: No one asked you and no one cares.

Liza: He said "you all." He's not from the south and he said "you all." That's all of us, so pipe down, princess. Skipper Vic didn't crash the ship. He's spent his whole life raising funds, he could probably do it while parachuting at this point. The boat sank because Miss Money Bags insisted upon traveling with the entire stock of Macy's.

Katrina: (laughing) Macy's. I'm sure that sounded 'classy' to you, Liza. So, it's been three years plus, how's the magazine managing without me? I imagine it's struggled to maintain circulation.

Robert: Actually, after four months, it was folded into CounterPunch and, under the helm of Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, it's actually increased circulation.

Katrina: Oh my.

Liza: Increased circulation! I love it!

Katrina: Pipe down, dear, you're still on the clock.

Liza glowers.

Katrina: No offense, Bob, but I find that hard to believe.

Mary: It's the truth. Once you were out of the picture, the magazine stopped providing a platform for the Council on Foreign Relations and other centrists, stopped being the party organ for Democratic leadership and circulation soared.

Ralph: You'd be amazed at how many readers there are for a truly independent left publication.

Katrina: Ralph, go be a spoiler in silence, will you? Now Bob, if that were true, I find it hard to believe that you would have spent six months looking for me. Surely, my sharp, critical eye was missed.

Liza: Oh please, like anyone would miss you.

Katrina: Liza, dear, I believe there are some bugs crawling around in the marsh, see if your big mouth can catch a few.

Robert: Uh - yeah. Uh-huh.

Katrina: What are you not telling me, Bob?

Gary Younge: Mr. Scheer said that the National Review put up the money for the search! Because they missed having a weak, ineffective whipping boy!

Liza bursts out laughing.

Liza: I stand corrected, Katrina, you were missed!

Victor: Bob, Mary, Ralph, we've been stranded here for three years with no outside communication. What's been going on?

Richard: Yeah, do they still use live actors for movies? Or is everything digitized?

Liza: Have they passed universal heath care?

Victor: Or addressed global warming?

Katrina: People, people. Important questions first. Bob, did the Democrats win the White House in 2008?

Patricia: Yeah, how'd Obama Sweet Cheeks do? I'm mad for him!

Mary: Well you might be interested in knowing that the Iraq war --

Katrina: Don't bore me. Democrats, Mary, Democrats.

Robert: The party imploded.

Katrina gasps.

Mary: When Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards all won the same margins in the primaries, it was the death of the Democratic Party. Strangely, there had been calls in the press for serious candidates to drop out of the primaries but it was the media 'front runners' who ended up destroying the party.

Ralph: (laughing) And some people called me the Spoiler.

Katrina: B-but, Hillary and Obama were so much alike. Surely the party triangulated as it always does. Surely it is still alive.

Ralph: It tried to triangulate. Hillary tried to triangulate and then Obama tried to triangulate and top her. Then she'd do it again, then he'd do it again, and come November 2008, they were both running as independent Republicans. With John Edwards not receiving a majority or even plurality in the primaries, The New York Times editorialized that he was "frivolous" and that "Now is the time for all good Ameircans to come to the aid of the Republican Party."

Katrina: No!

Ralph: The good news is, with the faux left out of the picture, a real left emerged. We won majorities in both houses --

Katrina: No!

Ralph: ended the illegal war --

Katrina: No!

Ralph: passed universal health care and overrode a presidential veto --

Katrina: No!

Ralph: provided amnesty to all war resisters --

Katrina: For the love of God, no!!

Ralph: and have just started impeachments proceedings against Jeb Bush.

Patrica: Wait. Jeb Bush won the 2008 election? He wasn't even a candidate.

Mary: Oh, he was, Patricia. While you were off day dreaming about a shirtless Obama delivering a commencement to Harvard, Jeb Bush had already set in motion his campaign.

Katrina: This would never have happened had I been back home, in charge.

Liza: Which part? Ending the war?

Katrina glares at a smirking Liza.

Robert: Look, we could chit-chat all day, but we need to get in the boat and head back to the ship. For one thing, I'm hungry.

Patricia: I make a delicious soup!

Robert: So let's get going.

People begin standing.

Patricia: You can't evaluate it properly until I've delivered the homily!

Gary Younge: C'mon, Ms. Williams, don't you want to get off the island?

Patricia: Young Gary Younge, you are correct. The beauty of youth, the wide-eyed wonder --

Liza: Oh Lord, she's delivering her homily.

Patricia stops and sticks her tongue out at Liza.

Richard: Yeah, let's get going! There's probably still time left for me to restart my film career.

Everyone avoids making eye contact with Richard.

Richard: What? What! I starred in The Goodbye Girl! I was The Goodbye Girl! Listen, listen: "I don't like the panties hanging in the shower!" Huh? How about that?

Victor, Mary, Bob, Ralph, Gary Younge and Patricia begin heading off to the shore. Shrugging, Richard follows them (slowly, high heels and sand do not mix well).

Doug leans in and gives Liza a kiss.

Doug: We'll finally be back home.

They stand. Doug looks over and notices Katrina remains seated.

Doug: (to Katrina) Come on, it's time to go.

Katrina: No! I can't live in a world like they described! One that rejects the Council for Foreign Relations. One that draws a real distinction between the right and the left! One that pardons war resisters! Returning to that world would mean I would have no one left to hob knob with!

Doug: Katrina, you are coming with us. Even if I have to carry you.

Liza slaps Doug on the back of her head.

Liza: Leave her, Dougie. It's Nation Isle. Besides, no great loss.


Jim: At the request of reader Alicia, we're doing another roundtable. She suggested that the mailbags had become mini-roundtables but she asked for something "lengthier." She further noted that "roundtables are becoming all the rage lately and if you don't do another one soon, you'll lose your place." Hey, no cutting in line! Ty's picked out a few e-mails and he'll explain that in a second but here's who is participating: The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and me, Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, 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. Ty?

Ty: I was looking for a mix in the e-mails in terms of topics and I was also attempting to note repeated questions or issues that come up. If you've written about something and it's not here, maybe we'll be able to get to it in the mailbag. I do try to respond to all e-mails that require a response and I know Dona does as well. First up is a question that is very popular after last week's edition: Are illustrations worth it?

Dona: I think they are. Ty and I both responded to that during the bulk of the week. They do put us behind, no question. There are huge problems with posting them and there are huge problems with getting them up on Flickr to begin with. Rebecca, what's the time on that right now?

Rebecca: 45 minutes on one illustration.

Dona: That's uploading one so that gives you an idea. Now uploading can slow down postings but most of the time they do not slow down the actual writing process. What they also do, in the best instances, is give us to something to focus on. Often, the ones doing the illustration are Kat, Jess, Ty, Jim, Ava, C.I. and myself. That's because we're all together. But, even when the rest assisting aren't present, they can make suggestions over the phone, and it's a way to get us all on the same page before writing. So in terms of that, they're a bonus. In terms of the look of the site, I think they've been a plus. We are toying with posting features on Sunday without illustrations when we're unable to get them to load, then coming back in the evening and adding them. It is a problem, but it's also has an upside. Having offered illustrations, at this point, I'd be upset if we stopped because I am used to the 'new' look.

Betty: I'd just add to that illustrations became a big deal to everyone for the editions in the lead up to the September rally. We really wanted to move towards more illustrations. Good or bad, they can be a breather from text. It's also true that even before illustrations became so important, they already were in one regard. C.I. was very vocal that we needed illustrations of war resisters because they weren't being covered and we really needed to do our part to put a face on war resistance. From that flowed where the site is now.

Ty: That was the most asked question, most raised issue in last week's e-mails. I'll turn it back over to Jim.

Jim: Thank you, Ty. For anyone wondering, Ty's turning it over to participate. I like to moderate and listen. On Thursday, C.I. discussed "What's Next for the Peace Movement?" (Foreign Policy in Focus) which was a follow up to Lawrence Wittner "How the Peace Movement Can Win." One complaint came in, C.I. didn't link to the piece. Which was an accidental oversight and C.I. plans to provide the link in tonight's "And the war drags on" entry. But everyone else just wanted to know what anyone else thought of that.

Wally: I agreed with it. I read it and I can't wait to read Marcia's take on it Tuesday in Hilda's Mix, but I agreed with the critiques offered. Cedric and I were talking about it Saturday morning while we were working on a joint-post and we agreed that Brian Corr's was one of the real standouts of that.

Cedric: He's addressing the fact that you can't just say 'we're diverse' by providing spokespeople, you also have to be diverse within the structure of the organization itself. That was the one that stood out the most, most favorably, for me. I was glad it stood out to Wally too and C.I. as well. I also agreed that the "I agree with Wittner" parts should have been dropped. When I started reading it, the Wittner parts are at the beginning, I nearly stopped reading. Then I flipped back to C.I.'s entry and saw Corr was one of the ones C.I. was really talking up, so I went back over and read. About the second paragraph, he starts really getting into it. It was my own personal favorite and I find it interesting that he was the only one to address that.

Jim: Just so you know, everyone appears to want to respond right now so we may make that the topic, Dona's very serious about the time limit here, the sole topic of this roundtable. Mike wants to speak and I'm pretty sure what he wants to say because there's something that really ticked me off and I'm guessing it did Mike as well.

Mike: Saif Rahman, right? We've got one young or youngish person in the mix and he's wasting his allotted time to include an eight-line MLK quote. C.I.'s comments on that were: "I'd also add that in limited space, a multi-line quote from MLK isn't advancing anything. You can summarize it. But to use limited space to share a quote? MLK has had his say and should be remembered. But as the only youth voice invited into the discussion, it was more important to hear from that then to hear a lengthy quote (eight lines) from MLK." I loved that. I've got no problem with a quote and certainly not one from MLK but this was about today's peace movement and the one young or youngish voice is using eight lines to insert a quote? It just struck me as, "Got to beef up my term paper!" C.I. wanted to hear from the youth. Me, I wanted my generation represented. There are very real issues for my generation and they're not going to be addressed that way.

Jim: Other than the use of a lengthy quote, what did you think of Rahman's piece?

Mike: Seems to me everyone's looking for an easy fix. The peace movement is moving along, without much help from outside, and in that section and other people's suggestions, I saw a lot of copy-catting. I saw, "The key is if we just do this!" But "this" wasn't often about the peace movement. It was "let's copy!" Rahman wanted a peace movement that was put together like NOW or the NAACP. I disagree with that and wondered what could have been offered instead, in terms of people my age and issues -- good or negative -- with the peace movement?

C.I.: I wasn't planning to comment on this because I had my say. However, I feel the need to note that Rahman is a young person and that he may have been intimidated by some of the other contributions. I think it's right to point out that we lost a shot at hearing from a young voice. But I also think, or hope, that the next time that won't happen. Foreign Policy in Focus is one of the firsts to present a roundtable on peace. So I just want to note that doing that was a strong thing and if all the contributions had left us less than thrilled, it still would have been. In terms of Rahman, it's not easy being the first one in the water. I'll also throw a nod to Ron Jacobs' "Sitting In On Senator Kohl and the War-A Conversation With Antiwar Students" (ZNet).

Jess: I'll back that point up and note that the complaint is not, "Shut up, Rahman." The complaint is that we wanted to hear from Rahman. And that Ron Jacobs' roundtable is worth reading, really worth reading. That's a wide ranging look of students involved in the peace movement today.

Rebecca: Let me point out what no one probably wants to be the first to about the roundtable in Foreign Policy in Focus, Joanne Landy. Now I hated that. I hated it and I won't give the qualifiers that C.I. did. C.I.'s commentary on that piece had me laughing and it was funny because it was true.

Jim: Should we note the organization?

Jess: A.N.S.W.E.R. is the organization that Landy offers negative criticism on by name. They aren't a participant in the roundtable and I found that a bit snarky.

Rebecca: I would agree with that completely. I also note that the "Mother Russia" comment by C.I. made me snort my diet cola when I read it. That was funny and it really did capture it. I'm also familiar with one get together a decade or two back where C.I. and several others had to step between and separate people because they were bringing their old grudges into a social function and were ready to come to blows.

Elaine: Well the organization I support is United for Peace & Justice. I don't have a problem with other organizations -- ones that really work for peace -- but that's the one I'm behind. I don't see any need for anyone, in a roundtable like that, to trash A.N.S.W.E.R. I found her offensive and her suggestions, as C.I. pointed out, leading to exactly the thing she supposedly doesn't want.

Jim: Meaning?

Elaine: A party line. I'm not going to be as diplomatic as C.I. I have no problem with the left that is Democratic, Socialist or Communist. But I'm not interested in those who are taking their marching orders . . . I'm taking a breath. During Vietnam, and C.I. addressed this in the last roundtable we did, there would be people who were established activists. I'm glad and I thank them all. But for every four of them there was someone who apparently had once taken orders from Russia and, as the leadership changed, the orders changed. So one moment you were supporting this and the next you were supporting that. On board with Germany! Oops, we're opposed now. That was not the entire left nor was it the entire left who were Communists. I want to be clear about that. But there were some like that and, by Vietnam, there were some who wanted to bring all their old baggage into it. I loved C.I.'s comment last roundtable about the man complaining that the youth, then youth, didn't know all about Russia: "So what?" That's how many my age felt when that nonsense would start up. And I dispute the idea that enough wasn't known. It wasn't an issue of knowledge, for those people, it was an issue of commitment, an issue of following the party line.

Betty: Well, and this was before my time so I may be misunderstanding this, but with all that was going on and had gone on, JFK, MLK, RFK, Malcolm X shot, the attacks by the police in Chicago, the stench of Nixon that would lead to the exposure of Watergate, I'm wondering if people, the young people then, would have accepted something like that to begin with?

Elaine: I don't think so. I think you're getting at exactly what the problem, the 'gap,' was. Now I'm not judging anyone for what they fought for or what they thought pre-Vietnam. I am saying no one needed them dragging their old battles into the then current peace movement. It was irritating and a distraction. On the most basic level, it was a distraction because someone would ask you after, "What was that about?"

Jess: My mother, like Rebecca, loved the "Mother Russia" comment as well. She noted the group, which is still around and often younger, that bends themselves into logic pretzels trying to justify this and that and she remembered how much angst and anger they caused in the movement. Not because of their beliefs or their past actions but because they wanted to relive that during Vietnam.

Elaine: Right and I really wish C.I. would jump in.

C.I.: Okay.

Rebecca: Only for Elaine, I will note.

C.I.: You are so right. I'm joking. But, hmm, the thing that has Elaine hesitating is that we're not red baiting and you end up having to choose every word carefully to avoid anyone thinking you're doing that. I majored in poli sci, real ideologies don't scare me, actions may. There were many wonderful Communists or lapsed Communists who made very valuable contributions and were trying to fit in and work with young people during that period. It was probably as difficult for some as it was for young people. And I'm sure that a roundtable of them would note issues, our issues, that weren't exactly helpful either. But this nonsense of "You supported/opposed the Warsaw Pact!" This wasn't a conversation with the youth, it was bickering and arguing between two factions, some of whom would slip over into being neocons as time progressed, was a private argument that they really needed to take outside. Rebecca outed me as a non-Communist --

Rebecca: My mother-in-law told me you'd be upset about that.

C.I.: I'm not upset with you. But that's the sort of thing that I'd never weigh in on one way or another at The Common Ills. I'm not interested in red baiting. If the issue came up, I always sidestepped it. That was with anyone that wasn't a close friend as well. The reason for that, and Elaine and I have discussed this at length starting in college, people who were Communist were wrongly targeted and wrongly smeared. So that's why Elaine's hesitant to tackle this issue full on, she doesn't want it to appear as if it's "Dump on the Communists time!" It's not. We are, however, talking about some members of two strands in conflict who, years and years later, brought their disagreements into the effort to end Vietnam. And it wasn't productive then and it's not productive now. The article we're discussing is drawing a line in the sand and that line could cut off one strong ally. We're not interested in that. We weren't interested in it during Vietnam where some people were trying to bring decades old grievances into a movement to end the war. It was disruptive. It was also very ignorant because if I had been a Communist, I would've been much more interested in what was going on in China than what was going on in the USSR. China was already emerging and you had various visits and trips to that country, not just by Tricky Dick and Pat Nixon, so that would have been on the radar more than someone's love affair with Russia.

Jim: There are people who feel that some people need to apologize for past actions.

C.I.: You're talking about in the 30s they supported this or that, or whatever decade, you can pick at will, and then something awful happened so the right wants them to parade in ash cloth, right?

Jim: Right.

C.I.: Anyone can be wrong. I'm wrong all the time. There's a difference between being wrong and lying. If someone's wrong because they made a mistake in judgement, then so be it. Happens every day, every hour of the day. If someone's wrong because they're lying, that's different. I'm really not interested, however, in individuals apologizing. When world leaders start being forced to apologize, then maybe individuals should. While I wasn't mad at Rebecca for outing me as a non-Communist, I really wasn't, Rebecca, I was bothered because there would be, for some, possibly a feeling of, "Oh, C.I.'s not Communist, I can read C.I. now." If someone likes or doesn't like or believes or doesn't believe in Communism, they're welcome to read but I'm not really interested in anyone who needs a safety valve to read -- someone who needs a disclaimer on this or that before they can think for themselves.

Rebecca: I will note that I wrote about that over a year ago and my mother-in-law said, "Rebecca, you shouldn't have written that." I didn't get that. Now, I know you're not mad, but I do get it now and I'm remembering a guy I dated in college pressing Elaine about whether or not she was a Communist and Elaine refusing to answer it and Elaine did get very mad when I answered it for her.

Elaine: Right. That was one of your dumb jock periods. I think you went through six weeks where you were sampling the entire athletic department. So there was the little boy, in school on a sports scholarship, accusing me of being a Communist and getting angry that I wouldn't take the bait or issue a denial. People were actively persecuted for that and things weren't going to stop by me, or anyone else, stopping in the middle of every political debate to say, "No, I'm not a Communist." In fact, that would have only kept the witch hunts alive on some level. It would have rewarded them to begin with because people would still have to be answering that: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"

C.I.: And let's remember that a number of organization and outlets behaved very shamefully. You can include The Nation in that. So the idea that the one piece we're talking about, in Foreign Policy in Focus, seems to us, Elaine and myself, to have been built around that "I do real work and I'm not like those people" nonsense and we found that very offensive. In this case, "those people" are A.N.S.W.E.R. and in terms of ending this illegal war, A.N.S.W.E.R. has worked very hard on that issue.

Rebecca: It's like the lesbian issue [at the start of the second wave of feminism in the US].

Elaine: Exactly. At a time when lesbians were coming out of the closet and claiming their rightful space, there was an attempt by some outside the feminist movement to use that as a battering ram.

C.I.: Some inside as well, don't forget The Ego Of Us All.

Elaine: Correct. And Gloria Steinem had the best way of responding to that question. I'm not remembering the wording.

C.I.: "Are you a lesbian" is the question and Steinem's answer to the male questioneer was, "Are you the alternative?" Lesbian, straight, bi, non-sexual, various women made up the feminist movement, and still do today, and there was a very real effort to pit sides against one another. I'm not talking about disagreements within the movement. There were valid disagreements that needed to be raised about issues such as were all women being given the same opportunities welcomed equally, etc. The issue was that lesbian had a perjorative for many in society and the easiest thing in the world, whether you were straight or a lesbian, was to rush in to say, "No, I'm not a lesbian." And by doing so, you were perpetuating the belief that there was something wrong with being a lesbian.

Elaine: Whether you meant to or not. And some meant to and were happy to reap the benefits.

Betty: What this is reminding me of is Thomas Friedman. It's reminding me of how he's always wanting Muslims to prove their non-violence with this statement or that.

Ava: I think that's a very good comparison. He's setting up a negative and asking them to prove they aren't that way. Why should any group have to denounce violence that hasn't used it? If they followed his suggestion, if every mosque denounced every act of violence in the world, it wouldn't lead to a universal agreement that "They're not a violent faith." It would lead to, "Oh, did you hear that? They're denouncing it again. You know what they say, where there's smoke there's fire. The lady doth protest too much." And let's be really clear that I've never expected to open The New York Times and find Thomas Friedman denouncing every act of violence by the Israeli government. I didn't enjoy that piece, essay to begin with, and the more it's discussed here, the more I wish the woman had chosen another approach to write about peace or to try to write about or pretend to write about peace.

Jess: To get back to another piece in this edition, what it does is create a Sister Souljah movement, like me or vote for me because I'm not like them! But the reality is that for the right and the right-of-center, regardless of what someone might say, they are always like them. So this nonsense about striving for respectablity in the eyes of the enemy is self-defeating.

Jim: Go, Jess! Okay, Dona's just told me we "really, really need to wrap up." This has become the topic, the piece in Foreign Policy in Focus, so let's stay with that and Dona says Wally, Cedric and Ty especially need to be given the chance to talk.

Ty: I think everything that could be said on Landy's piece has been said, and said very well, so I'll note that along with Corr's piece, I was really impressed with the one by Bal Pinguel. I think it is really important for the peace movement to emphasize the war's costs here. And I think those costs go beyond monetary and to the ugly stain we're leaving on our character. I think the Bully Boy has cheerleaded the nation into a series of dark moments and by not rejecting them, the Congress still hasn't shut down Guantanamo, we've come to a place where our very foundation is at risk. Secret detentions, warrantless searches, illegal spying, these aren't things that just either happen to you or not, these are things that effect the character of a nation.

Cedric: I'd agree with that and back it up by noting, we can only be what we can dream. The US has never been the land where everyone was treated equal and all rights were protected and enshrined. But we could believe that we might get there. What Bully Boy has done is damage that dream, pit us against one another, teach us not "Love thy neighbor" but "Be scared to death of your neighbor." He hasn't done it by himself, he's had a lot of help, but I do believe he set the tone on it and I do believe that we don't know how bad the fallout will be. You have people who have been raised in a time when it was okay to illegal spy on American citizens, to give one example. You have people who believe it is okay to detain Jose Padilla for years with no trial. Let me correct that, to imprison him. And before anyone says, "Well ___ didn't say it was okay!" I know some groups have argued against it. I also know Congress has gone along with it so the message has been sent that our government is okay with it, including the Supreme Court which has elected to sit out on most of the important issues today.

Wally: What Cedric and Ty are talking about are very real concerns. There's also the concern that when you have a country that shrugs over the gang rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl, Abeer, by US soldiers, you have to wonder if it's two 14-year-old girls next time, or if it's a 10-year-old girl next time? At what point do we become outraged after living through one outrage after another while Congres, the Courts and most of the media sat it out? Let me give an example from the real world. You get a neighbor who blasts his music non-stop, all day. He moves out and you get a neighbor who does the same but only for a few hours. You may feel relief that it's not all day. You've accepted that it's okay for someone to blast you out. By the same token, what things are we now going to be more accepting of when Congress finally does act? Okay, no illegal wiretapping but black bag searches are still okay? Where's the line now because Bully Boy has destroyed the line and some people will just be so glad that a line is redrawn that they won't care too much that it cuts off a large chunk of rights we used to have.
So there are very real effects of the illegal war and Bully Boy's other abuses that are going on in this country and they go beyond the cost and the debt and what we could have had if all the money hadn't gone to the war. In many ways, getting back to Cedric's dream point, it may be worse than some of the things we've lost out on financially because even though we were deprived of some needed things, we still had the ability to dream of better and at this point, when you hear some people longing for the days of Nixon, it's as though better has been downgraded to the extreme.

Jim: And on that note, we're going to wrap up this roundtable.

A Mother's Day Message From Bully Mama


For any peace haters out there, a message from Big Babs herself.



Due to the fact that Dona read over some of the e-mailed questions and topics Ty had pulled for the roundtable and enjoyed the mix, we're also doing Mailbag this edition.

Brendan e-mailed to note that Elaine (Like Maria Said Paz) had an idea for a feature here on Wednesday but by Friday had given it up. How often does that happen?

Elaine: Today's Mother's Day, so peace to all, and I had a thought for a feature here. It was a fictional one. On Friday, Laurie Hasbrook's "This Minute and Then the Next" was up at CounterPunch and she'd done it much better, realistically, then we could have fictionally so I tabled the idea but do urge everyone to read Hasbrook's piece.

It's not uncommon for that to happen. We'll have ideas during the week and discuss them then, by the time Sunday rolls around, someone's grabbed them and we don't feel we have much to add to the discussion. (Jess says "Now That's Everything's Be Said" -- a Carole King song.)

Winter093 notes that Mike (Mikey Likes It!) used to talk more about his mother (Trina's Kitchen) at his site and doesn't as much now. It's either "folks" or it's "Dad." Why is that?

Mike: It's obvious, huh? Because I catch hell from two older brothers when I mention Ma and forget to do a link. I don't know how everyone else does their posting. I know C.I. usually gets links and then writes around them. But I write all the way through and when I'm done, I go back in and add my links. I had a story about Ma last week that I really wanted to share but didn't because I was tired and in the middle of the post when I thought, "If I forget the link, I'll have two griping phone calls tomorrow."

With the exceptions of Wally and Cedric, everyone's pretty bad about linking. We've all told Kat not to worry about linking to us when she puts in our names. (We is actually: Jim, Dona, Jess, Ava, Ty and C.I.) We're usually all together when she blogs and we know she's usually leaving something fun to do it and hurrying to get back. We should all do a better job of linking but the reality for those who post during the week is that they're dealing with what's happened on Monday and a lot of other things, including being tired and there's not always time.

Elaine notes that she never goes back and re-reads herself. Usually on Wednesday, she's asking Sunny, "Did I link to Trina?" or whomever so that she can get in that link before she takes Thursdays off.

Marv wanted to know what the deal was with Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) and Wally (The Daily Jot)? Last week had some shorter items and then a really long one on Saturday and what's up with posting on Saturdays anyway?

Cedric: It's a combination of time and how much space we need to say what we want to say. Sometimes we can say it in as little as three sentences. When that's possible, we do so.

Wally: There has been non-stop complaints in the community that not enough goes up on Saturdays. It's also true that it can be easier for us to post on Saturdays. We play it by ear but are seriously considering dropping the Friday posts for good and instead doing a Saturday post each week.

CallieLouBelle e-mails that as someone who does not get the print edition, she feels very cheated for missing out on the feature Rebecca (Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude) led on and then pulled. She wonders if there's anything Rebecca has to say about her pregnancy that can be shared online?

Rebecca: I pulled it because it said too much. I'm a really open person and always have been. I know that means you get it slapped back in your face from time to time and I am cool with that; however, we're talking about my child and I'm following Ruth's lead on that because who knows what it would be like ten or twenty years from now to read about your life online? I regretted pulling the piece only because (a) I felt I put everyone behind (which everyone says wasn't the case) and (b) a lot of time was put into it. In terms of my pregnancy, what do you want to know? My weight gain. Want to hear about my trips to bathroom? My back pain? I've actually blogged about all of that at my own site. I think you actually mean if there's anything I want to share about the birth or the baby? My child is off limits. Regarding the birth, I'll note that I sailed right through it. I'd heard, my entire life, about how painful it was and how long and all the rest. Mine wasn't like that at all.

Betty asks that we note it's okay to hate Rebecca for the easy labor; however, she "is one of the most genuinely nice people you'll ever meet." Elaine notes that Rebecca's long wanted a child for so long that she honestly thinks Rebecca was (naturally) high during the birth and didn't register the pain for that reason. Elaine adds it's also okay to hate Rebecca for emerging from giving birth looking ready to pose for a magazine cover. (Mike adds ":D")

JuJu praises Betty (Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man) ("everyone in fact, but really Betty") for her guest posts at Rebecca's site and wants to know if Betty would consider doing two blogs -- her own and a new one where she just blogs?

Betty: Thank you, JuJu. Filling in for Rebecca, or Kat or anyone, is always fun for me because I can just talk without all the structure and conventions that go into posting at my site. To do a site like that of my own, I'd have to drop Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man because I'd tell myself, "Oh go write at your blog. It's easier and you're not making any sense here." I would use it as an excuse to avoid Betinna's story. I love Betinna but some of the people that girl hangs around with -- ay-yi-yi.

BlueDogYouDog e-mails to complain about C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot"Thursday, specifically this statement: "Like the triangulator in the US, Bill Clinton, Blair destroyed his party." BlueDogYouDog doesn't believe there's any basis to that statement.

C.I.: You're entitled to your opinion. You may be right. I happen to disagree.

Jess: C.I. sent out that blanket statement all last week to about 27 people who e-mailed defending the illegal war: "I happen to disagree." I'll add my two cents. Bill Clinton 'triangulated.' He didn't fight from the left, he fought from the middle. As such, he sold out a number of people in the policies he backed and advocated. This did very real damage.

Ty: Jumping on to that, his dramas -- some were lies but some were self-created -- took up a lot of time that should have gone elsewhere. Hillary had no right or reason, my opinion, to hide away health care. That was the people's business and it shouldn't have been conducted in secret. When they were attacked for that or for inflated claims or outright lies, we used all energy trying to defend them. It wasn't about the party at that point, it was about the Clintons. Time that should have gone into the party went into them.

Betty: As someone who continues to have a soft spot for Bill Clinton, I'll add that I agree with what was said but I'll further note that leadership and bean counters did an equal amount of damage thinking the answer was 'personality' and that all they had to do was find charismatic candidates. I think 2000's choice as well as 2004's choice demonstrates charisma is not easily found. Time could have spent on real issues during Clinton's terms -- I mean time spent by the party -- but they thought they'd found the quick fix and ran from real issues.

Dona: I don't think it's open to debate. I'm jumping in because Ava asked me to because she finds the comment so "stupid and repugnant" that she's not even addressing it. But the Democratic Party stood for something. When Clinton moved to the White House he was interested in standing for something else. He wanted to please and to reach out and did so at the expense of those he was supposed to protect. The desire to please by him and his administration allowed Poppy Bush to get away with breaking the law by allowing Iran-Contra to be set aside. If everyone read Robert Parry (Consortium News), I think it would have been more difficult for Bully Boy to be installed into the White House. But as much as I appreciate Parry's strong work, it's really sad that a journalist had to do what Congress and the administration wouldn't and that, having done that, there's never been any governmental follow up. Larry Bensky recently stepped down from his regular duties at KPFA and in the retrospective they broadcast, he was on NPR being asked about Oliver North. He explained he didn't feel sorry for North because North and his family weren't raped or killed or maimed or injured but North's actions allowed that to happen to many other. The NPR host said, paraphrase, "You're talking about a man that many consider a hero." Larry Bensky responded, "So? I don't." The reason many considered, or even any considered, North a hero when he broke the laws was due to the fact that so many wanted to cover up. The cover up then goes a long way to explaining the situations we're in now. I could give other examples as well. While consensual sex is not an impeachable crime, it sure did get old having to repeat that over and over. No question, that was a witch hunt. But, no question, Clinton did a stupid thing allowing that to happen in the first place. I'm not speaking of morals, I don't care what his morality is or was. I do know he went into office with a "bimbo" cloud over his head and he presumably wanted to be president. I think, regardless of whether he's faithful or not, he could have kept it in his pants while occupying the White House since he already knew the fallout from various 'bimbos' and that the press had such a field day with it originally that it nearly sank him in the 92 primaries. It was a self-control issue for him, a lack of it, and Democrats like me ended up having to explain over and over how consensual sex is not rape, is not harassment. It's easy to say, "He was under attack!" But the reality is he handed out the ammo for this attack by his own actions. But to repeat, consensual sex is not grounds for impeachment nor is lying about it.

Lastly, Kystal wants to know, from Elaine and C.I., what they see as the difference for war resisters then and now in terms of coverage?

Elaine: Well, during Vietnam, there was a greater awareness of war resisters. They might be people who avoided the draft and never showed up or they might be ones who were inducted and then checked out. You knew there were different ways. Today? You get reporters who don't even comprehend the difference between AWOL and desertion. C.I. pointed out last week or the week before, a reporter saying that the maximum someone could face if convicted with desertion was one year, that the reporter really didn't know what they were talking about. A mistake like that back then would have resulted in a correction. I'm not sure that there's the same level of awareness, the same number of people who could complain about an error like that. That's one way, I know Dona said keep this quick.

C.I.: I'll add to that. The awareness Elaine's speaking about existed because of the press as much as because people knew a war resister or two. One difference today has to do with the fact that you have less outlets. Back then, outlets had to compete. Today, they're all owned by the same basic people. Back then, if you were a radio station and you were silent on war resisters, you better believe another station was covering it and people would listen accordingly.
Alternative weeklies were a strong source and there were more of them with less connections and less concentrated ownership. Today you have syndicates and many aren't interested in the topic so you're not, as you might have then, seeing the topic cut out of just one weekly on one person's say-so, you're seeing it cut out of ten or twenty.

Ava: I'll grab the last word and note that the silence on Joshua Key's book was very sad. The Progressive has just run a review in their May issue. ZNet has one online that may appear in print. The Nation has been silent despite all the space they have each issue devoted to books and despite the fact that their book edition, devoted to books, just came out. Let me change my "very sad" to read "very sad and very telling."

The Trojan

In 1992, then candidate Bill Clinton reassured (racist) White voters he could be "tough" on the people of color by comparing Sister Souljah to the racist David Duke -- former Grand Wizard for the KKK. The comparison was false (and blatantly offensive) but it's come to be known as a "Sister Souljah moment" and candidates need to wink and nod to racists that, if elected, equality isn't high on their to-do list.

Bi-racial Barack Obama has long been winking and nodding but, as Paul Street's "'He's a Mouse': Russell Simmons Speaks Some Truth on Obama" (Black Agenda Report) notes, who is paying attention?

Not The Nation magazine which, in the past, could be counted to call this nonsense out. They made the senator and 2008 presidential candidate a cover boy and their legal professor took to the airwaves (KPFA and WBAI) to gush over Obama in a way not seen since Peggy Noons decided she'd have the last word on the Bully Boy. For those who turned crimson as Noons gushed repeatedly over her girl-age crush, you hadn't heard anything. (Ruth addressed Williams' appalling appearance on KPFA.) It was the audio equivalent of her doodling in a classroom spiral "Patty loves Barack" and "Mrs. Patricia Obama."

But Street did point it out and forced up to grab the bad book and read it. The Audacity of Hope is written by The Punk of Politics and it is nothing if not a multi-page Sister Souljah moment as the biracial politician repeatedly rushes to reassure that his half White side will predominate.

Street writes:

He argues that encouraging black girls to finish high school and stop having babies out of wedlock is "the single biggest that we could do to reduce inner-city poverty" (Obama 2006, p. 256).

And that was the first thing we wanted to check out because we're used to that claim coming from White racists. Street is correct, Obama makes it. It's racist and sexist and calls to mind James Cagney's moment in The Lady Killers when he mashes a grapefruit into the face of Mae Clark. If Williams is aware of it, we have to wonder if it gave her 'tingles'?

Presuming that by "we," he means "government," we'd argue "the single biggest that we could do to reduce inner-city poverty" would be to see government invest in inner-cities. We'd further argue that a politician who blames women and pushes the myth of "'hood rats" really isn't prepared for primetime, regardless of whether or not Patrica J. Williams feels that his having once been president of the Harvard Law Review trumps everything else.

In a really bad book, Obama presents one lie after another that he may or may not believe but certainly sends the message to racists, "I see things just as White as you do." Attempting to associate himself with popular White cultural figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Superman only underscore that. (Does no one notice that Obama's yet to identify with any popular African-American cultural figures?)

He's a 'get tough' kind of junior senator who wants the world to see just how 'tough' he can be. He only has to parade that in print because the press acted as if Jack Ryan decided to air his own dirty laundry in 2004.

At the height of Williams soft-porn appearance on KPFA, a listener attempted to interject some reality and noted the fact that Obama is weak on the issue of ending the illegal war. "I am not a single-issue voter!" Williams all but snarled speaking for herself and presumably the bulk of Nation writers who always find a topic -- any topic -- more worthy to gas bag over than Iraq. Furthermore, Williams wanted the little upstart to know, Obama didn't vote for the illegal war!

No, he didn't vote for the 2002 act (which didn't authorize the illegal war that the Bully Boy started). But, left unsaid by Williams, he wasn't in Congress then.

Throughout the book, you'll find Obama untroubled by the illegal war. You'll find that, in the abstract, he supports such wars. You'll find him applauding the attack on the poor (popularly mischaracterized as "welfare reform"). You'll find an idiot who believes racism is really a thing of the past. You won't find anything presidential, you won't find authentic leadership and you won't find good writing.

Sometimes a leader emerges

And is followed for awhile

Doesn't matter what he encourages

As long as he's got style

Young ones conceived in a passion

Of directions we thought enlightened

Grown-up, they follow the mood in fashion

But beneath their bravado

You know they're frightened

I remember time gone by

When peace and hope and dreams were high

We followed inner visions and touched the sky

Now we who still believe won't let them die

We're sorry to disagree with one of the finest songs Carole King's ever written solo ("Time Gone By" from the album of the same name) but we don't think it's the "young ones" we have to worry about. It's the "old ones" at The Nation (who, granted were "young ones" -- or at least "youngish" in 1979) who want to avoid the realities of Barack Obama, the very real racism he expresses that, in better days, they'd call out in a candidate who was (or thought to be) 100% White.

Bi-racial doesn't just get him a pass from the magazine (which avoids current realities of race) it leads to non-stop gushing. We don't think Barack Obama is an Uncle Tom -- even setting aside that Uncle Toms are traditionally 100% Black. We think that's far too modest for what he stands for. We think he's a Trojan Horse. The empty suit, issuing platitudes, with a mainstream press presenting him (racistly) as Black needs some serious analysis. We don't expect to find it in the pages of The Nation. (He is, after all, in name only a Democrat.)
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