Sunday, June 03, 2007

Truest statement of the week

Confronted with strong opposition to his Iraq policies, President Bush decides to interpret public opinion his own way. Actually, he says, people agree with him.
Democrats view the November elections that gave them control of Congress as a mandate to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq. They're backed by evidence; election exit poll surveys by The Associated Press and television networks found 55 percent saying the U.S. should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq.
The president says Democrats have it all wrong: the public doesn't want the troops pulled out -- they want to give the military more support in its mission.
"Last November, the American people said they were frustrated and wanted a change in our strategy in Iraq," he said April 24, ahead of a veto showdown with congressional Democrats over their desire to legislation a troop withdrawal timeline. "I listened. Today, General David Petraeus is carrying out a strategy that is dramatically different from our previous course."
Increasingly isolated on a war that is going badly, Bush has presented his alternative reality in other ways, too. He expresses understanding for the public's dismay over the unrelenting sectarian violence and American losses that have passed 3,400, but then asserts that the public's solution matches his.

-- Jennifer Loven, "Bush Has Own Take on Iraq Public Opinion" (AP via The Los Angeles Times).

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --
Earliest edition ever! (Except when Ava and C.I. steered it last Christmas.)

Here's who gets credit for work this edition:

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

We thank everyone and we thank Dallas for his helps and link locating and Rebecca for her photoshopping.

New content:

Truest statement of the week -- we didn't think we had one and everyone was bummed out. Then we remembered this. It's "statements" but read it, you'll get why it was picked.

Editorial: The missing coverage -- You would have thought we were all fogged in . . . in London to judge by last week's Iraq coverage.

TV: The really long pilots -- A question from a new reader, what's the illustration of and who did it? Rebecca and Jess did it. Jess had to look at the illustration (he and Rebecca did three different ones for Ava and C.I.'s piece). It's a sun rising up along the ocean. (Ava and C.I. note that they do all their own links and also put in the illustration. "Point, we grab the one used last, it's quicker, it's easier. There were actually four created by Rebecca and Jess. One Jess hates. The other's a TV, the other's a stephascope.") They grabbed a summer show set to air only through July 11th on ABC. I'll let Mike grab this because I'm exhausted. I will note that when I was reading this out loud after Ava and C.I. finished writing it there were a lot of "that's true" and "I'd never thought about that." There was also some sizeable laughter.

US military goes after veterans -- Adam Kokesh has a hearing tomorrow. The issue is not just the fatigues. He took part in street theater. Thank Elaine and C.I. for bringing up that point (and explaining it to the rest of us) during the writing of this. We'd never heard of the 1970 Supreme Court case. Illustration of Adam Kokesh done by Kat and the core six.

Our Modern Day Carrie Nations -- Sammy, get your axe! The thing is, even though Save Darfur should be humiliated, most people will take a pass on covering this. Every lie they get caught in, the media tends to look the other way. Illustration done by Kat and Ty.

Uncle Dick Wants You -- Suggested by a reader back from Iraq who hopefully won't be redeployed. Public domain photo of Dick.

Operation Iraqi (Oil) Liberation -- Short piece cried Dona! Short and to the point. Public domain photo of Bully Boy.

Sgt. Pepper's turns 40 -- We trimmed this from the print version where it was about 3 times as long. We're serious about the Mojo CD, it is a wonderful cover album.

DVD Pick: Grace of My Heart -- Roz e-mailed asking for something on movies. If she (or anyone else) reminds us, there are some other films we'd like to note. Ones we watch pretty regularly and enjoy but might not get as many write ups as they deserve.

Highlights -- Mike, Betty, Rebecca, Cedric, Elaine and Wally wrote this and picked the selections. We thank them for it.

We're going to sleep.

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

Editorial: The missing coverage

In Iraq on May 12th, 4 US soldiers and 1 Iraqi translator were killed. Three soldiers were classified as missing by the US military. The corpse of one of three, Joseph Anzack, was found.

Alex R. Jimenez and Byron W. Fouty. Who are they? The two US soldiers who have now been missing in Iraq for 22 days.

You might have thought they were found because all last week was non-stop coverage of the 5 British contractors who were missing (one is a 'consultant' -- we consider them all contractors). The US military started searching for them (as did the British military). Two Iraqis, a husband and a wife, working for the US went missing as well. No search party. (Their corpses were discovered last week.) Are contractors (who choose to go to Iraq -- and don't give us that crap about serving their country -- four worked for a Canadian company, one for the US) such a huge story in the United States that Americans just don't care about missing US soldiers?

To follow the mainstream press last week, you might think so. With the exceptions of CBS, AP and Richard A. Oppel Jr. (New York Times), it was rush-rush to the contractor story and not even a mention that two US soldiers continued to be missing.

Maria del Rosario Duran isn't press shy. "This is a desperate mother. Stop this thing and bring them home. Every day this is happening. George Bus, please bring them home," is what she told Adam Pincus (Times Ledger) last week. Her son Alex Jimenez is missing. Byron Fouty's family released this statement: "Son, we are so proud of you and for who you are, what you stand for. We know in our hearts, you were doing what you needed to do in Iraq, and we would have never expected any less from you. You are our Hero, our son. We will miss you and love you forever. Love, Mom and Dad."

Alex and Byron haven't raked in the big bucks serving in Iraq. They didn't have the choice of announcing, "I think I'll quit today. I need a flight back." So it was really disgusting to see the press completely drop coverage of them -- couldn't even mention their names -- as they chased after the British contractors day after day. Those living in the United States might as well have been living in London for the way the coverage was geared.

Last Sunday, the US military announced that they had discovered a corpse that might have been one of the two missing soldiers. The rumors out of Iraq last Sunday were that two corpses had been discovered. Might reporters not be interested in following up on that? You better believe the families would have appreciated it.

As it stands, two US soldiers are missing and the press response was to go missing on the subject as well. That's really disgusting.

Barring anymore announcements of US service member deaths in May, the final fatality toll stands at 127. That made May 2007 the third highest month for US troop fatalities. And if you think the coverage of deaths last week overtook the missing contractors, think again.

AP's count for the number of Iraqis who were killed in May (as noted on Friday's The KPFA Evening News) was 2,155. If you think Iraqi deaths overtook the British contractor coverage, think again.

That's really sad. Iraqis and soldiers do not choose to go to Iraq to make some big bucks.

We think it's the height of stupidity to elevate contractors to a higher level of concern than Iraqis and troops. Contractors make the decision to go there. Contractors can leave. Contractors (from Western countries) make a great deal more than troops and Iraqi fortunate enough to find work. In fact, let's note that, Iraq has skyrocketing unemployment. The last thing the country needs is more foreigners coming into it when so many of the people remain jobless.

Now it's sad when anyone's harmed, kidnapped or killed. But the press is supposed to possess the ability of critical evaluation and that should include grasping that, especially at this late date, people choosing to go to Iraq to make big money are making a real stupid mistake. (Again, don't give us the "serve their country" nonsense. None of the five British contractors were working for the UK. And contractors, at least if they're US citizens, should have an easy processing if they wish to sign up with the US military judging by all the press reports of recruiters who have encouraged people to lie about drug use, health problems and more when enlisting.) It is sad that five British contractors are missing. It's just not a more pressing story (in the US) than Iraqis or US troops.

TV: The really long pilots

If you like skating in the Met (and presumably streaking in the MOMA), ABC's Traveler is a show you can relate to. In fact, considering the character Tyler (Logan Marshall-Green) is as dumb as a doornail and always expecting his wealthy father to pull him out of the mess, we'd suggest that if you currently occupy the Oval Office, you could especially relate to the show. How about the rest of us?

Let's start with the basics, Cary Grant did not play a prank that went horribly wrong in North by Northwest. We feel that's important to emphasize and suggest that, if you're the editor of the entertainment section or an entertainment magazine, you check out the review you were ultimately responsible for running. The press material tells you that Traveler is like North by Northwest and the Water Cooler Critics are so stupid (as someone with the show passed on to us) that they have all run with this talking point. It's not just your DC press that gets spoon fed talking points. The friend shocked us by naming one name we've defended before and, indeed, the critic does try to dress their review up by tossing in a book and other things, but there is the standard issue talking point: It's like North by Northwest.

It's nothing like North by Northwest.

The back story of ABC's new Wednesday night show (which is scheduled to conclude July 11th) is that three grad students want a road trip. Tyler's the rich kid whose father's paid the way until recently. Jay's the 'complicated' one (played by Matthew Bomer). Both have various degrees of attractiveness (though they aren't as hot -- especially with those haircuts -- as the press packets claim and the Water Cooler Set duly spits out in print). The third character, Will (played by Aaron Stanford) has all the sexual appeal of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Translation, you know he's going-going-gone the second you lay eyes on him. The road trip takes them to a museum in NYC and they're going to do a little prank. Jay and Tyler do the prank and then get a call from Will asking them if they're out of the museum. They are. The museum blows up.

Jay and Tyler are now the suspects. And, in the tradition of many a summer soap opera plot line, they are on the run. The FBI wants them because they're the easiest suspects (even if they don't fit a profile). FBI agent Jan (Viola Davis) has a few doubts but no one listens to her because she screwed up so bad on a previous case you have to wonder if she's the one who wrongly fingered Brandon Mayfield for terrorism. Or maybe her boss just doesn't trust her because she gets more air time than any other field agent?

Regardless, by episode two, after Jay's girlfriend Kim (played by Pascale Hutton) has sworn her boyfriend isn't a terrorist, Jan begins expressing her own doubts. We think you see our government at its most basic as her supervisor dismisses any discussion of guilt or innocent with the notion that the press believes the two are guilty so go for the big photo op.

Jay and Tyler head for one of the many homes of Tyler's father (played by William Sadler). It is there that they meet someone who, we're told, tidies up after Secretaries of State when they're caught in scandals. So that's how Henry Kissinger has stayed out of prison all these years.

Other than clearing that up, the scenes don't offer much except to prove how stupid Tyler is. The man hooks them up for a lie detector test and asks questions that do not seem at all helpful to clearing them but do seem to be an attempt to determine how much they know about the missing Will and the crime that took place. Moments after, the man will take the boys off in a car, shoot a cop and then attempt to kill them. (This has all aired, we're not doing spoilers.)

This is where Tyler repeatedly assures everyone in the audience of how smart they are because -- like a chesty, high heeled starlet in a horror movie -- he wants to go back to the house -- his father's house. He just can't seem to grasp the very obvious fact that Daddy was in the know.

Jay's brain smart but action stupid. That's because he can see what's coming in every plot point and he will hesitate and he will try to change Tyler's mind but, when he doesn't succeed, he will go right along with Tyler.

The show expects the audience to go right along as well. For instance, college students rarely only know three other college students but apparently class size was an issue and Jay, Tyler, Will and Kim were all in the same courses (despite their differing majors) and, since they apparently know not a single college professor they can turn to, apparently they did independent study.

Early on, when the FBI catches Jay and Tyler and they are being taken in, the van is attacked and a man saving them tells them to "Trust no one." He should have just told them, "Don't talk to strangers" because Will's death appears to have left Jay and Tyler with only one person each (Kim for Jay, Daddy for Tyler).

Though the plot is crap, the scripts aren't actually that bad and zip along quickly. The camera's all over the place, zooming here and zooming there, and the editing is highly fluid. So the only time viewers may nod off is when we're getting back story. That includes when Kim is being questioned by the FBI and when Jay and Tyler question the man Tyler's father hired. As the show moves along (no spoilers), we'll see more back story and it will became painfully clear that if someone's not running, zipping away in a car, shooting a gun or running from an explosion, no one knows how to stage a scene. It's as though the camera's been locked down while the operator takes a bathroom break but time constraints made them go ahead and shoot the scene.

Though not North by Northwest, Traveler is an awful lot like Kyle XY with less attractive male leads (which may explain why Kyle XY resulted in an order of ten episodes its first season and Traveler only gets eight). If your memory goes a little further back (the character Kyle's doesn't), you could even tie into an ABC show from long ago, The Mod Squad. Linc, Julie and Pete got busted for various petty offenses and ended up working as undercover police. That was all established in the pilot. With these 'serialized dramas,' they tend to take a pilot and try to stretch it out over a full season (or two, or three, or . . .).

Bad acting killed many since last fall (think of Kidnapped or Vanished) and indifference from critics and/or audiences killed others (such as Daybreak). But what really may kill them is that they keep upping the ante. This summer Bruce Willis will Die Hard Another Day. And in a 90 to 110 minute film, that works. You can pile on the action over and over and the audience will buy it. The film has a beginning and end, even in the sequels. With these serialized dramas, they have to keep piling it on. As they do, they risk two things, going way over the top and/or audiences growing immune to the same situations. Oh sure, one time it's a bomb and the next its bullets. But these shows aren't The Fugitive where each episode offered a storyline and new characters. They are shows committed to playing the same scene over and over and no wonder so many of the actors tend to look bored. It's not as though Bomer's sitting there thinking, "Okay, when the van we were in flipped and the FBI agents got shot, I widened my eyes this much so for this car crash, I should widen them about two-thirds more."

Now you can argue that Starsky & Hutch or Charlie's Angels did the same thing over and over and that wouldn't be far from the truth. But they weren't upping the ante right before each commercial break. Those were pedestrian shows that depended upon the actors' chemistry to attract viewers. These serialized dramas are light on character (Lost is the exception) and heavy on intense action. You can only be almost caught so many times, week after week.

Look at Prison Break whose entire second season was like the last 15 minutes of an action film. In a theater, there would be no third season, they'd have about five to ten minutes left to wrap everything up and send everyone on their way so the next audience could pile in. Instead, these play out like a nightmare version of the daytime soaps only instead of couples breaking up again, you get the same action scenes over and over.

Episode after episode, the characters are like Sisyphus or the densest Democrat who just won't believe that the party would ever stab the voters in the back over Iraq. Now the Democrats in Congress, much to their surprise, are having to deal with fall out there from grassroots that have been a little too patient and a little too faithful only to finally reach their boiling point. Possibly, TV audiences passed that point some time ago and that's why so many of the 'serialized dramas' failed in the last six months? It wasn't that the shows were 'too complicated' and required 'too much from viewers' as some in the Water Cooler Set have suggested. Please, we're talking TV, not Eugene O'Neill. It was that audiences had built up a tolerance to these shows that take an entire season to do what used to take place in one episode.

Traveler is scheduled to air eight episodes and that sounds and feels just about right.

US military goes after veterans

He had several suicide attempts just trying to live with what happened in Iraq. And he had, you know, decided that he would fight for peace and try to end the war. And from that, he started to get better and then when he got the news that he may be reactivated for a third tour, I walked in and he had a shotgun in his mouth and I had to talk him out of . . . taking the shotgun out of his mouth. And I promised him that he wouldn't have make the decision of becoming a deserter or having to go back, which he absolutely wasn't going to do. [. . .] He knew he couldn't participate in an illegal and immoral war now that he knew what the truth was. And so, yeah, he did. And I told him that I'd do whatever I could to make sure that he didn't have to make that decision.

That's Tina Richards speaking of her son Cloy to Kris Welch on KPFA's Living Room May 24th.

And how's the US military 'helping'? If you missed Friday's snapshot, they're taking a novel approach. David Morgan (Reuters) reported: "The third Iraq veteran -- 23-year-old Cloy Richards of Salem, Missouri, who was wounded in combat -- will avoid losing his disability benefits after agreeing not to wear his uniform at future protests, the Marine Corps said."

Cloy Richards suffers from PTSD, has served twice in Iraq, his crime was the same as Adam Kokesh and Liam Madden wearing fatigues or parts of them only to have the US military scream, "Those are uniforms!"

A lot of self-satisfied War Hawks are saying, "Well that's the law." Is it? And do they know the law? Do they know, for instance that these military guidelines also would prevent children from dressing up on Halloween as US military? That's how the code reads -- self-satisfied War Hawks might want to try reading it. Has any child ever been prosecuted? No, but the US military did try to go after a theatrical production. In 1970, the Supreme Court heard the case of Schacht v. United States regarding the arrest and conviction of Daniel Jay Schacht who wore uniforms while performing plays outside a recruiting center with two other people. The military's 'law' said that civilians (didn't you know the military thinks it has control over civilians?) couldn't wear military drag (which is how the issue of trick or treaters is covered) and that they weren't allowed in entertainment if the production gave the military a bad name. The Court disagreed with the lower courts and found that not only could Schacht wear the uniform in a production but he could say whatever he wanted to while wearing it.

Interestingly, the same US military is not at all worried that two of their brethren visited Winnie Ng in Canada, in search of Joshua Key, while posing as Canadian police.

Not only did they threaten Cloy Richards with loss of benefits, on Monday Adam Kokesh will face a hearing Monday in Kansas City, MO that will determine the status of his benefits and discharge which had previously been "honorable." If he loses his "honorable" discharge, not only are his benefits at risk, he may have to repay the government for his college education. That would include not only the courses he took on the campus of Claremont McKenna College but also the courses he took while serving in Falluja.

His "crime" took place in Washington, DC on March 19th while participating with Iraq Veterans Against the War in street actions to bring the illegal war home. This was, and this matters for anyone who wants to pay attention to the Supreme Court verdict, street theater. As Justice Hugo Black wrote in 1970:

Certainly theatrical productions need not always be performed in buildings or even on a defined area such as a conventional stage. Nor need they be performed by professional actors or be heavily financed or elaborately produced. Since time immemorial, outdoor theatrical performances, often performed by amateurs, have played an important part in the entertainment and the education of the people of the world.

There is not a bit of difference between what Daniel Jay Schacht performed in and what Adam Kokesh performed in so one issue raised at the hearing might be "Are you saying those in the Inactive Ready Reserves aren't allowed to perform in plays and, if so, would you please find the subsection that backs you up on that?" The Supreme Court ruled that the military has no control over productions, whether they are pro-military or anti-military, because once the code was written to allow pro-productions, the military found itself facing free speech issues and does not possess the ability to determine the content of the play or to influence it.

If the US military is arguing that IRR members may not participate in any productions (of any nature) they might need to find a subsection that gives them that power and they should probably inform those in IRR that this is the reality.

Liam Madden may or may not face a hearing for a speech he gave (while wearing a fatigue shirt) and it would be great if Adam Kokesh's hearing could be used to wrap this entire thing up. However, Kokesh goes before the hearing on Monday and he's our chief concern.

To repeat, he engaged in street theater. Justice Hugo Black made it quite clear that was theater. The Supreme Court made it quite clear that anti or pro military, anyone participating could wear military drag. Kokesh had removed his insignia and was wearing nothing but fatigues while participating in a theatrical production. In terms of Kokesh, his rights would appear to already be covered, already addressed and the US military has overstepped their bounds.

Again, the US military may then want to argue that they do not allow any member to participate in theater productions. Find the subsection and provide the material they hand out to drama majors and minors or to returning veterans who are moved to IRR and decide to go to college.

The military doesn't have legal standing on this issue, the Supreme Court has already determined it. Kokesh was clearly involved in street theater which is covered under the theater issue the Supreme Court addressed and the Court found that the military had no right to determine what type of productions (pro or anti military) that uniforms could be worn in.

What's going on here was outlined by Kelly Dougherty, executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War, "This is not so much about Adam as it is an attempt by the military brass to silence opposition to the war among veterans. The military is supposed to fight to preserve free speech, not quashing it. Not only are veterans, who can attest to the realities of war, increasingly speaking out against the war -- but its grim realities are moving them to increasingly take nonviolent direct action to stop it." Tod Ensign (Citizen Soldier and Different Drummer Cafe) told Eric Rudolph (Socialist Worker), "This is just a trial balloon, and it's harassment. But if they get away with it, you can be sure that they will then start becoming more draconian and their sweep of other people will be expanded. This could have a very chilling effect on the IVAW, to say the least."

To no one's surprise, Mommy's Pantyhose's organization has sat this out. Lot of talk about the need to defend veterans from Mommy's Pantyhose but they took a pass on this. Surprisingly,

the Veterans of Foreign Wars did not and their national commander, Gary Kurpius has urged the military to use "a little common sense" and stop this nonsense. (Those who would prefer an audio link can listen to The KPFA Evening News on Friday for Mark Mericle's report which is rather complete; however, it was March 19th and not April that the incident took place.)

"A little common sense" is strongly needed. So is a little (at least a little) public outrage. If you're counting on The Nation to lead on that, cookie, get wise. They've not written one word about this as we write this. By contrast, Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) wrote a lengthy piece entitled "Iraq Vet Faces Penalty for Protesting War." Who's leading and who's get rug burns on their belly from crawling? We think the answer is rather obvious and has been for some time.

Someone will drag you down
And try to knock you under
Hey Mama said with words of wonder
Don't matter cause, cause it's in your soul

-- "In Your Soul," written by Corey Hart, off his CD Young Man Running

Our Modern Day Carrie Nations


Sammy, get the axe!

Our Modern Day Carrie Nations are having a bit of problem. If bad news comes in threes, it's most likely good news only comes in ones so be sure to check out Stephanie Strom and Lydia Polgreen's "Advocacy Group's Publicity Campaign on Darfur Angers Relief Organizations" (New York Times) which tells you that Save Darfur -- the noblest of all nobles, if you believe the hype -- spent $15 million last year . . . on advertising and expenses. How much went to aid groups in Darfur? Not a single dime. Not one blood penny.

$15 million to promote themselves -- there have been blockbuster films in the last few years that had smaller advertising budgets. But when your rallies still aren't picking up steam, when even your most vocal and repeated champion Nicky K has taken to whining about how the cause just needs a photo of a tortured puppy to take off, $15 million in self-promotion does buy you a little attention from big (and small) media.

It also bought full page ads in The New York Times. And, the thing there, Strom and Polgreen inform you, is that aid agencies quoted as being on board with the nonsense of "wage a war to bring peace!" weren't on board. They not only weren't on board, they oppose the notion that military action is needed. InterAction's president states, "I am deeply concerned by the inability of Save Darfur to be informed by the realities on the ground and to understand the consequences of your proposed actions." Did you absorb that? Action Against Hunger declares that "a forced intervention by United Nations troops without the approval of the Sudanese government" (advocated by Save Darfur) could "risk triggering a further escalation of violence".

And yet Save Darfur took out an ad in which they LIED and, Strom and Polgreen tell you,

"some relief agencies said they were horrified when Save Darfur's ads in February reported that 'international relief organizations,' among others, had agreed that the time for negotiating with the Sudanese government had ended."

It's not a surprise that Save Darfur would be caught lying. They get caught all the time. For instance, they're fond of claiming that their April 2006 rally in DC turned out over 100,000 people. C.I. was there (as a favor to a friend) and says it was more like slightly less than 900. Of course, back in May of 2006, after the rally they now claim had 100,000 attendees, they were saying it was thousands with the maximum being 15,000. Funny how their claim of 15,000 tops (a huge inflation, says C.I.) became 100,000.

It's sort of like the way their numbers change on how many are dead. In December 2006, they were citing (in their unity statement) USAID "estimates that 350,000 people or more could die in the coming months." When will those months be coming? How many years? Strom and Polgreen estimate (June 2006) that "at least 200,000" have been killed thus far, since the start. All these years later. But English professor Eric Reeves, as Keith Harmon Snow has pointed out on Guns and Butter, isn't so good with the math.

It's not like people haven't tried to warn you. Mahmood Mandani wrote an essay (London Review of Books) that should have been required reading. From his essay:

The most powerful mobilisation in New York City is in relation to Darfur, not Iraq. One would expect the reverse, for no other reason than that most New Yorkers are American citizens and so should feel directly responsible for the violence in occupied Iraq. But Iraq is a messy place in the American imagination, a place with messy politics. Americans worry about what their government should do in Iraq. Should it withdraw? What would happen if it did? In contrast, there is nothing messy about Darfur. It is a place without history and without politics; simply a site where perpetrators clearly identifiable as 'Arabs' confront victims clearly identifiable as 'Africans'.

A full-page advertisement has appeared several times a week in the New York Times calling for intervention in Darfur now. It wants the intervening forces to be placed under 'a chain of command allowing necessary and timely military action without approval from distant political or civilian personnel'. That intervention in Darfur should not be subject to 'political or civilian' considerations and that the intervening forces should have the right to shoot -- to kill -- without permission from distant places: these are said to be 'humanitarian' demands. In the same vein, a New Republic editorial on Darfur has called for 'force as a first-resort response'. What makes the situation even more puzzling is that some of those who are calling for an end to intervention in Iraq are demanding an intervention in Darfur; as the slogan goes, 'Out of Iraq and into Darfur.'

Since some of us (Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava) left NY and came out West just to get away from the Modern Day Carrie Nations, let us grab a moment to say Mandani is correct, the mood is very up on Darfur. The zombies march around with Samantha Powers groupies chanting "Darfur! Darfur! Darfur!" Now when we're talking about a group that could and did meet with the Bully Boy in April of 2006 (he sure as hell didn't meet with citizens calling for an end to the war in Iraq), when we're talking about a war that The New Republic(an) is cheering on, alarms should have gone off. But they haven't for many.

Jonathan Steele attempted to clear things up with "Sorry George Clooney, but the last thing Darfur needs is western troops" (Guardian of London):

An air of unreality, if not cant, surrounds the latest upsurge of calls for UN troops to go into Sudan's western region of Darfur. The actor George Clooney takes to the stage at the UN security council, pleading for action. Tony Blair seizes on the issue to write letters to fellow EU leaders. In cities around the world protesters hold a "global day for Darfur" to warn of looming genocide. Is it really possible that western governments, in spite of being burned by their interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, would use force against another Muslim state?

Groups in the west have long campaigned to have the government in Khartoum replaced. In the US the Christian right and some of Israel's friends portray it as an Islamic fundamentalist regime. Human rights activists raise the issue of slavery to suggest that Arab raiders, supported by the government, are routinely abducting Africans from the south to use as human chattel. The Clinton administration listed Sudan as a terrorist-supporting state because Osama bin Laden once lived there.

Against this background it was always going to be hard to expect fair reporting when civil war broke out in Darfur three years ago. The complex grievances that set farmers against nomads was covered with a simplistic template of Arab versus African, even though the region was crisscrossed with tribal and local rivalries that put some villages on the government's side and others against it.

The more generous say that Save Darfur "oversimplified" the realities. We're not overly generous so we'll just say that they flat out lie repeatedly.

They got caught out in their lie, in The New York Times, but somehow we doubt many of the left and 'left' sites that have repeatedly pushed our Modern Day Carrie Nations will rush to link that article. $15 million dollars, spent in one year, on themselves. And they want anyone to believe they intend to save Darfur?

Uncle Dick Wants You


Uncle Dick Wants You

to be happy with substandard care when you get back to the US

to talk freely about what you saw in Iraq . . . as long as you happy talk

to shut your mouth if you don't support the illegal war

to come out and see him speak, provided you don't ask any questions

to remember the talking point right now is "Everything was Rumsfeld's fault"

to be damn happy that the USA is providing you the opportunity to be redeployed for a third time

to be damn happy that you signed up for the National Guard but ended up in another country

to be ecstatic that you're protecting contractors making ten times the money you do

most of all, to keep dying

Operation Iraqi (Oil) Liberation


Last week, as May was winding down (and shaping up to be the worst month of the year for US military fatalities), Bully Boy met with Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, in the White House and the two held a press conference. In the press conference, the Bully Boy declared, "The President fully understands the need for the Iraqi government to meet certain benchmarks, and he is dedicated to achieving those benchmarks. We're working very hard, for example, on getting an oil law with an oil revenue-sharing code that will help unite the country. Working very hard on de-Baathification law -- reform, as well as provincial elections."

Note what got mentioned first: "getting an oil law." But it's not about the oil, remember. The illegal war was never about oil. Some might argue that the de-Baathification law and provincial elections might supersede the need to work on legislation for Iraq's oil.

Some might rightly question why the US is so interested in what Iraq's going to do with their oil, or why the US is pushing for the theft of oil that will allow foreign oil companies to pocket up to 70% of Iraq's oil.

But remember, it was never about oil. It was about . . . WMD! And then it was about democracy! But never, ever about oil.

Sgt. Pepper's turns 40


If you've been in a long sleep (or stupor) you may have missed that the 40th anniversary of the release of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was June 1st. Originally released June 1, 1967, this was the eighth album by the Beatles. Where to debut the acetate? It was the sixties, so off to Cass Elliot's London digs. Soon enough, the rest of the world would hear as well.

As Revolver had done before it, Sgt. Pepper's opened many doors for music (some of perception, some of wood). From time to time, someone feels the need to come along and tell you that Sgt. Pepper's really isn't all that. While a person's response is an individual thing, reading a piece suggesting that only "A Day In The Life" was worth noting had us rolling our eyes.

In March of this year, MOJO issued MOJO PRESENTS SGT. PEPPER . . . WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS. The 14 track disc ("All You Need Is Love" is included as a bonus track) recreates the classic album and anyone wondering if the songs still hold up should check this out.

Stephanie Dosen's "Within You Without You" is a must hear and possibly the best track of the collection which is saying a great deal because there's only one clunker in the mix, Chin Up Chin Up's version of "When I'm Sixty Four" which sounds as though the Chicago band decided to channel Mick Jagger for vocals (doing the country twang) and the Cowsills for music. Intentionally or not, it turns the song into a send up which is a real shame because the others involved are doing amazing work. Captain take "A Day In The Life" and turn it into a much more melodic piece (you really need to check out that vocal arrangement). Puerto Muerto brings a very Cass like opening vocal (via Christa Meyer) to "With A Little Help From My Friends." Simple Kid's bits of found sound enrich "Sgt. Pepper's Longely Hearts Club Band" and
there's so much going on in Circus' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" that you don't think it can work but it does (including the fiddle). At this level of excellence others may pick differently for the best and we doubt we'd argue with them but Dosen's "Within You Without You" really is amazing.

And the original? Unlike the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds (a flawed but brilliant album), Sgt. Pepper's hasn't needed repackaging with stereo mixes and enhancements. It's sold quite well for the last forty years just on the recorded sound. Some may prefer Abby Road (Elaine does) but there's no denying this is one of the great rock albums.

Which is why everyone involved in writing this piece has the CD. When Jim, Jess and Ty shared an apartment in NY, the first thing they did was go through the CDs they'd each brought and knew it was going to be a long friendship because they all had a copy of Sgt. Pepper's. Dropping even further back, when Elaine, Rebecca and C.I. shared an apartment in college, this was one of the few Rebecca and Elaine could always agree to (C.I. went with whatever, Rebecca says, "just put something on and stop arguing!"). Forty years later and it continues to be common ground, continues to grab new listeners.

DVD Pick: Grace of My Heart


I got a request and let me put it right here: It doesn't have to be an Ava and C.I. piece. I know they're doing a lot already. But there was the series of DVD reviews of Jane Fonda's comedies in 2005 [Note: Some are linked to in this piece by Ava and C.I. -- the week we asked them to take on two critics and set TV aside.] and there was an article in 2006 where you all talked about movies that no one would guess you liked. I was hoping you might do pieces like that. I didn't even know about Barefoot in the Park until I read the review here.
-- e-mail from Roz

We watch a lot of movies. Especially the core six (and Kat if she's still up) because we usually put in a film after the edition is over. We'll watch as we fall out from exhaustion. We always talk about noting some of our favorites that maybe don't get the attention they deserve. So if Roz will remind us, we'll do that from time to time.

Allison Anders directed Grace of My Heart and it's probably one of our favorites films from the 1990s. The movie follows Denise Waverly's career as a songwriter in the Brill Building who longs to record her own songs and eventually, as the 70s rolls around, she does and ends up with a huge album. If it sounds like the Carole King story, there are similarities; however, there are also differences.

The film has a strong look throughout and the early scenes in NYC before Waverly attains success and the later ones have a different look with a completely different look when Waverly moves out to the West Coast.

Illena Douglas plays Denise and is amazing in the role. Sheltered and scared in the beginning, she slowly grows into her own skin. Eric Stoltz plays Denise's writing partner and first husband (think Gerry Goffin), Matt Dillon plays her second husband (think Brian Wilson only he dies in this movie) and, through it all, John Turturro plays a music publisher/producer (think Don Kirshner and Lou Adler rolled into one). In a smaller role, Patsy Kensit starts out as a song writing rival to Denise who ends up as a friend as they both face the same sexism. (Of their many scenes together, the one that may most stand out is an early wonderfully shot, acted and staged scene where they sit on a couch as far apart from one another as the couch will allow.) Jennifer Leigh Warren (as Doris) is in and out of the film but so strong that when she pops back up, you never question where she's been.

Denise's story is sheltered rich girl who tries too hard to please others but wins a contest and comes to NYC only to discover the contest was nothing more than an attempt for easy press and there's no demand for her or any other "girl singer." (We've already got one, she's told over and over.) But her song writing stands out and she ends up writing for a doo wop group and then hits for a girl group. Hooking up with her first husband, they begin writing more political songs (which is really more Weil and Mann than King and Goffin). That marriage falls apart and she ends up out on the West Coast where she meets Matt Dillon's Jay who's supposed to be Brian Wilson. Though he praises her talent, he really doesn't want her to work and Denise loses herself when she stops composing. Jay's a nut case who offs himself shortly around the time he loses the kids and Denise ends up on a commune. Coming out of that -- through some shock therapy via Turturro -- she finally records the album everyone always seemed to think she could but no one seemed overly concerned about her actually recording. (Even the 'supportive' Jay who liked her talent in the abstract but didn't enjoy anything that might take her away from him even for a minute.)

So there are several threads running through the movie, identity, art and feminism being just three. If the plot interests you, great. Go see the movie.

The performances are really strong and Bridget Fonda, in a very tiny part, is also worth noting. She plays girl singer Kelly Porter (if you need a modern reference, think Kelly Clarkson) with a squeaky clean image who is actually a closeted lesbian. Douglas and Kensit's characters write a song for her entitled "My Secret Love."

Songs? To be honest, that's the main reason we have it in the DVD player as often as we do. Make no mistake, this is an amazing movie. Anders is a brilliant director (Gas Food Lodging and Mi Vida Loca are two other Anders films) and she's written a fast moving screenplay that doesn't have any flab on it. But the DVD often gets played just because we want to hear the soundtrack.

Buy the soundtrack? Is it out of print again? If it is, that's never been the problem. The problem is the soundtrack sucks.

Ever buy one of those "inspired" by soundtracks? We think those are better than the soundtrack to Grace of My Heart. For instance, one of the strongest songs is "God Give Me Strength." In the film, Denise Waverly sings it. On the soundtrack? Elvis Costello. Costello co-wrote it with Burt Bacharach and his version is nice enough but it's not what's performed in the film. (It does appear over the closing credits and on Costello and Bacharach's Painted From Memory.) In the film, Kristen Vigard (who gained fame as Morgan on Guiding Light -- anyone disputing that, Vigard ended up with a People cover for that role) is Denise's singing voice and she does some skilled work. Costello does a nicer version (with a too polished arrangement) that can't touch the power and lightness Vigard brings to lines like:

I might as well
Wipe him from my memory
Fracture the spell
As he becomes my enemy
Maybe I was washed out

Like a lip print on his shirt
See, I'm only human
I want him to hurt
I want him
I want him to hurt

Our suggestion: when someone gets around to doing a deluxe DVD package of this extraordinary film, include a CD disc -- the actual (in full) film soundtrack. A great film deserves a great soundtrack and this one already has it -- they just never put it out on CD.


This was written (and all selections by unless otherwise noted) Mike, Elaine, Betty, Rebecca, Cedric and Wally.

"Baked Ziti in the Kitchen" -- Trina weighs in on Cindy Sheehan and how some are seeing a return that's just not going to happen. Excellent post.

"Nicky K's Desperate Hours"-- Thomas Friedman's back in drag, you won't believe why or who with!

"Ruth's Report" -- hard hitting Ruth! Go, Ruth! The story there. Ruth wrote this on a Saturday. Kat was trying to get an easy Memorial Day for C.I. so she called Ruth and Isaiah and asked if it was okay if their contributions were held until Monday (as Kat planned for her own review). Ruth said no problem. But then Monday came and it wasn't up and she started wondering if there was a content issue? There wasn't. C.I. hadn't read it. Rebecca passed on Ruth's concerns and C.I. posted it immediately and got on the phone with Ruth. This has become, in a few short days, the most popular report Ruth's ever done. Read it and see why.

"Kat's Korner: Those Jones girls" -- Kat's latest review went up yesterday. She had asked C.I. to hold it until Thursday or Friday (after asking it be held till Monday) and C.I. completely forgot about it at the end of the week. It went up Saturday and Mike's father says it's the best thing he's read. Kat's reviewing Rickie Lee Jones and Norah Jones' latest CDs and . . . so much more.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Alberto's Hospital Rounds" -- hilarious comic from Isaiah.

"Law and Disorder: Mumia, Iraq, political prisoners..." -- Group pick for Mike's best post this week.

"Thing get rough for the Modern Day Carrie Nations" -- Kat's winning post that we all love.

"What's a little Jew hating among hypocrites?" & "THIS JUST IN! THEY LOVE JEW HATERS!" -- Cedric and Wally's post which caused some angry e-mails from visitors. Tough. Go to a Jew hater's museum opening and you look like your one too. Don't like it, tell 'em not to go.

"Cindy Sheehan" -- A very lengthy entry from C.I. covering the peace movement and so much more. This can be read and re-read (Wally).

"5 men on the court think they know best ... about women" -- Rebecca's most powerful post and one that should get you active.

"NYT: More concerned with 5 missing contractors than 10 dead US soldiers" -- C.I. hit hard on this topic all last week. Trina said it was among the finest moments of last week.

"Fred Thompson dishes" & "THIS JUST IN! FRED THOMPSON RANKS THE COMPETITION!..." -- Cedric & Wally "interview" Fred Thompson for this humorous post.
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