Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Are You A Writer For The Nation? If so, chances are you have a penis

The 2007 year for The Nation was kicked off at the end of December with a January 1, 2007 issue. The cover pictured Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. For reasons still unclear, except a possible deficiency that makes anything beyond the obvious impossible, the fifty-five-year-old, be speckled, John Denver-like mayor was depicted shirtless, sporting chest hair, flashing his manly pits at the readers, while both arms were thrown straight in the air and, did we mention, his hands were clad in boxing gloves.

For those who missed the obvious, Rocky Anderson was portrayed as Rocky because, after all, what's lefter than Sylvester Stallone? The Nation, intentionally or not, was telegraphing to one and all that they could "cowboy up" as well as any Bully Boy in the White House. Any who couldn't grasp the non-subtle point had only turn to page 25.

As Ava and C.I. noted in real time, and as Ruth noted this spring, that is where you would find a book 'review' by centrist Peter Bergen entitled "Waltzing With Warlords" which allegedly would address three books: Sarah Chayes' The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban; Ann Jones' Kabul In Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan; and Rory Stewart's The Places in Between. Page wise, the smallest of three was the one written by Rory Stewart in . . . 2004. Reviewed for the January 2007 issue, a 2004 book. [An expanded version was published in May of 2006. Still far too old to qualify for a review in a January 2007 issue.] Why include a book that was three years old at this point? One of the many puzzling questions pertaining to males the magazine has consistently raised in the last six months.

Our guess is when you want to cook the book 'review' against women, you'll go to any lengths. Centrist and pig Bergen opens his alleged book review reflecting on the obvious image for a war-torn Afghanistan:

I open it and step into a world far removed from the dust-blown avenues of Kabul, where most women wear burqas and the vast majority of the population live in grinding poverty.
At one end of a long room is a well-stocked bar tended by a Chinese madam who assesses us with a practiced calculus. In front of her are more than a dozen scantily clad smiling young Chinese women sprawled over a series of bar stools and couches.

What does that have to do with the three books? Not a damn thing. But Bergen wants his jollies and apparently feels everyone needs to know that he visits bordellos. How proud his parents must be! His former classmates, probably not at all surprised.

Having set the (low-brow) tone, Bergen quickly rushes to explain not all women, apparently, know their place. No, apparently, some women reach beyond their 'natural' abilities such as Chayes and Jones, both of whom are too 'emotional' to write about Afghanistan.

Bergen finds Chayes "angry," "disillusioned," prone to "a smidge of self-congratulations" and not at all trust worthy (". . . we have to take Chayes's word for it"). Bergen finds Jones even more of the text book example of the female 'hysteria' noting that she fell for "trope," that she, too, is "angry" (we're guessing most women Bergen's encounters are angry and that Bergen can find the reason for that just by looking in the mirror), that she suffers from a "tendency to see sinister conspiracies where they don't exist" (so irrational, those women), and much more! The funnin' never stops for Bergen.

Then it's time to turn to the male writer and all the troubles with (women) writers go out the window as Bergen informs us of "Stewart's beautifully written book," offering "picaresque stories, of adventures on the road is a critical point that is often overlooked by Westerners with dreams of transforming Afghanistan into a place where women enjoy equal rights" (killjoys!), "skeptical" (as opposed to the "disillusioned" Chayes), "erudite" and so, so much more.

The book 'review' is nothing but a pig going Oink-Oink-Oink! For those who know no better, Sarah Chayes is a Harvard graduate and a professional reporter who left NPR to live in Afghanistan and work to improve conditions in that country. While she was doing that, Bill Moyers didn't find her 'emotional' and, in fact, had her on as a guest for a lengthy segment of what was then Now with Bill Moyers where she spoke with David Branccacio. Journalists, including Amy Goodman, have interviewed Chayes since she has written her book and we're aware of no on air meltdowns.

In fact, most feel Chayes, a professionally trained and respected journalist, is a reliable source for what she observed with her own eyes while in Afghanistan. To assist gas bag Bergen, what Chayes does is considered reporting. That may be confusing in a new world disorder where 'reporters' are encouraged to run with official statements and given them complete weight -- even when they contradict with the journalist's own observations. Who, what, where, when -- the journalism basics -- are what Chayes covers and Bergen can't handle that kind of reality (from a woman) so he has to point out that, in a first-hand recounting, we [gasp!] are dependent upon the author's observations.

Ann Jones has contributed to The Nation before and, we're sure, is quite aware that there is no more damning phrase from that magazine than being said to possess "a tendency to see conspiracy theories." That is The Nation's equivalent of "Your mother!"

Not only is Jones an author, she's also a journalist and photographer -- with a doctorate as opposed to Bergen's B.A. and, we're sure, the B.S. he's more than earned from years of gas baggery. As for her alleged conspiracy theories, Nation Books only bestsellers, both by Gore Vidal, also argue the (true) narrative that, in the 90s, a proposed pipeline in Afghanistan trumped all other concerns for the US government. That's not a controversial theory to anyone but pigs who 'reported' for commercial TV 'journalism' (which is where Bergen hails from -- the lowest of all forms of journalism). Those not late to the party (that would be feminists) were calling out Afghanistan in the 90s while paid lobbyists were presenting PG-friendly versions of the country to Americans. Jones knows what she's writing about. Gore Vidal knows what he's writing about. The only one lost, intentionally or not, is Peter Bergen. [The February 25, 2007 "The Nation Stats" notes that Jones weighed in with a letter and that Bergen elected to ignore the bulk of it.]

That a three page plus book 'review' trafficking in the worst forms of sexism raised no flags to those in charge of the magazine goes a long, long way towards explaining how readers ended up with the first six months of The Nation this year.

Backstory, in the summer of 2006, a group of women journalists (some established, some emerging) asked to meet with C.I. C.I. knew most of them, who were welcome to come by anytime, but they wanted a scheduled meeting. At that point, Jess, Ava and Ty were already living with C.I. and Dona and Jim were there as guests (they, too, would soon be live in guests).Knowing several of the women who would be attending, Ava checked with the woman organizing the meeting to see if it would be okay to attend? It was more than okay and she was told she could invite anyone else.

The women wanted to lodge a formal complaint about The Nation which was ignoring women writers. Despite having a woman, Katrina vanden Heuvel, as editor and as a publisher, women were hearing tales of freelance pieces being dismissed quickly (and rudely) which had nothing to do with any journalism issue since the pieces would be picked up by other magazines. ("Snapped up," say Ava and C.I.) They'd been following it and they were tired of it. They wanted C.I. to track the issue at The Common Ills.

Jim, Dona and Ty came late to the meeting (Jess attended the full meeting) but were there for that and many other points. C.I.'s response was that The Common Ills focused on Iraq (at the request of members) and that, this far into 2006, it would require a great deal of work to go backwards at this point. (Despite that, C.I. wrote a column for Polly's Brew citing the 2006 statistics for women being published by The Nation.) But, C.I. offered, what if 2007 was charted? What if 2007 was charted and done so at The Third Estate Sunday Review? At which point Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava all readily agreed that they'd be happy to do that. With only full four months left in the 2006 year, the women agreed that was acceptable.

On December 24, 2006, in an edition steered by Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review began tracking the number of males printed versus the number of women printed. All knew it would not be pretty. None expected it to be as bad as it was.

For one thing, we assumed when the feature entitled "The Nation Stats" began regularly appearing, The Nation would quickly move to address the imbalance. By that point, it was not at all uncommon for people with The Nation to e-mail The Third Estate Sunday Review and C.I. knows several people with the magazine. This, we wrongly thought, would not require much coverage to prompt quick improvement. During the six month review period (which ended Sunday), seven people with the magazine e-mailed The Third Estate Sunday Review. The online magazine (Third) was not an unknown quantity to all at the magazine.

The Nation fancies itself as the leading magazine of the left. Therefore, it should have not required anyone to chart the sorry numbers of women published when contrasted with the overly 'healthy' number of males.

In the early months, we would often arrive at the 3.8 or 3.7 males published for every one female. That women had 'leaped' to the one woman for every 3.4 males with a byline by the time our six month study concluded may be seen as some 'improvement.' It may also be seen as shocking considering that during this time, The Third Estate Sunday Review heard from seven with the magazine over a six month period.

As bad as the ratio is, more shocking is the hard numbers. Over a six month period, the 'weekly' (some issues are 'double' issues -- whether they have twice as many pages or the same as a so-called regular issue) published 255 male bylines and 74 female ones. (We've exempted one byline for reasons cited in our coverage -- links offered at the end. Look it up. One article is not counted and only one. Addressing why here will take this feature in another direction about the problem with who gets selected as an intern.) We stopped the count (Sunday) with the last June issue. July issues have since published, but for women to achieve equal presence in the magazine, the first issue of July would have had to begin publishing women, and only women, 181 times.

That the leading magazine of the left could reach that point says a great deal. That this could take place when a woman held both the position of editor and publisher says a great deal.

We were shocked, for instance, when the February 12, 2007 issue managed to feature only one female byline-- Elizabeth Holtzman, whose opinions on impeachment were quickly called out -- in the same issue -- by a male. An unqualified male, one could argue, since Holtzman had experience with impeachment due to her work during Watergate and the male had . . . musty academic b.s. We were appalled when the April 16, 2007 issue appeared with 12 bylines and not one, not one, was a woman's.

In May, we began sharing this feature was coming, that the six month study would run on July 4th. [Following FAIR's example of six months studies.] We shared that online, we shared that with various organizations (all but one had asked, the one that didn't was told only that we were far more concerned with The Nation's record of publishing women than we were with anything having to do with any other organization or outlet), and C.I., Ava and Elaine had shared it with friends at the magazine. That was in May.

We began working on the write up two weeks ago. That write up got trashed completely despite the fact that we'd worked ahead of time so that all sites would be able to post something on July 4th without having to give up their holiday. The write up got trashed because despite this feature being announced in May, despite the fact that the feature "The Nation Stats" began running at The Third Estate Sunday Review on December 24, 2006, neither the magazine proper nor anyone connected with it elected to contact us about this feature.

That changed on Monday. Kind of, sort of.

In a pattern well known to any member doing a site, when someone has a problem with something, they run straight to C.I. They rush to tattle to C.I. The e-mail has 12:24 stamped on it and we'll assume that was noon PST (no time zone is given). It was one of 18,342 e-mails waiting to be read in the public account on Tuesday. Jess was working the public account and came across a "woops" e-mail from The Nation and then passed by several pages of e-mails (Yahoo displays 25 e-mail messages per page) to find the original and figure out what the "woops" was about. In that e-mail, the noon one, he found that The Nation was finally commenting on a feature (which runs at The Third Estate Sunday Review, not The Common Ills) that began on December 24, 2006.

Jess was thirty minutes into a reply when Ava asked what he was so focused on. When she saw the e-mail, she said, "No way in hell does a man who wants to lecture C.I. and I on what women should do get a personal reply." A reply will go up at The Third Estate Sunday Review this weekend. The e-mail was meant to be "shared" ("pass on" was the term used) so it was shared with all participating in the writing of it. Whether the name was meant to be shared or not, we don't know. So we will leave him unnamed but, let's be clear, if a man with the magazine thinks he can lecture women on what they should do, we'd argue that goes a long way towards explaining some of the problems that allows 181 more males to be printed in a six month period than women.

We will not claim credit for the news that the issue of women is (finally) being addressed. (More on that in a minute.) We spent six months tracking it. We cannot make changes at the magazine. The magazine deserves credit for seeing the problem and addressing it (however late). By the same token, we will not take the blame for the number of women the magazine has run and find it laughable that a magazine which regularly boasts of its huge circulation numbers wants to attempt to pin the blame for their own failures on us.

The Nation advises, "On the subject of women and the magazine; you should also know that the magazine is more than aware of the imbalance, and has taken steps in the last several months to recruit and bring in more women writers. Between now and the Fall there are six new writers being added to our blogs, as well as new staff added to the editorial ranks."

Let's be clear, because we ran the above by the woman who organized the meeting last summer, that is largely nothing. Awareness may, in and of itself, be a good thing. But writers of print pieces receive more money than writers of 'online exclusives.' More to the point, our six month study focused solely on the print edition of the magazine. We did that for a number of reasons (including, we were warned ahead of time, of the website's tendency to make things that didn't turn out so good disappear -- as we all saw when a post on "American Idol" -- written while Congress was voting on the supplemental -- disappeared after, days later, Cindy Sheehan rightly called out adults who would rather focus on American Idol than the illegal war). But it has been clear even to the most dense that we were addressing the print edition. Nothing in The Nation's response above addressed the print edition.

"Blogs" are not print. Editorial staff doesn't mean more bylines for women. Nothing that is offered addresses the imbalance in print. The Nation goes on to inform us that, "Its worth noting, I think, the extent to which women ARE the leadership of the magazine -- from the editorial side (print, web, and almost all of our senior and executive editors) to the business side (President and the heads of advertising and fundraising) -- but there is an ongoing effort to bring in more women in to the magazine and the website."

More women are in leadership? Our generic response to that is to quote from Ava and C.I.'s "TV Review: Commander-in-Chief aka The Nah-Nah Sisterhood" (The Third Estate Sunday Review, November 20, 2005):

What really frightens us, besides the fact that a backlash only takes root when people who should know better applaud this junk, is an elitist attitude that seems to greet this show."We got our woman president!"
Consider us too grass-rooty but we don't see that as an end all be all. We weren't among the ones saying "At least we still got Martin Sheen on TV" so maybe we're missing it. But honestly, we'll take an Alice over a Commander-in-Chief. Give us working class women who pull together over a queen bee living a rarified life.We've never doubted that a woman could be president (and at some point will be). But we've never assumed that gender would be an answer. A woman who supports equality? Absolutely, that's a great thing. A woman who makes her way as an exception, backs up an agenda she doesn't believe in and does nothing to help other women? We don't see the point in applauding that.
It's a pertinent issue as two women are repeatedly named as potential candidates in the real world: Condi Rice and Hillary Clinton. If either woman (or both) runs, will we get the same giddy "It's a woman!" nonsense? Under no circumstance would either of us vote for Rice. We'd be reluctant to vote for Clinton considering her waffles on the issue of choice and her stance on the war. But will those issues be silenced in the giddy cry of, "It's a woman! It's a first!"
That's troubling.

Again, that is our generic response. Our specific response?

Is Katrina vanden Heuvel the editor and publisher or not? This is a point that's a bit hard for the e-mailer to grasp. (As evidenced as his attempts to slam our work.) The masthead says she is the editor and publisher. When she goes on TV, she is billed as the editor and publisher of The Nation. If she is indeed editor and publisher (yes, we know she is) then she bears the ultimate responsibility for what does and does not get printed. To repeat, our focus has been the print edition. What women do or do not do online has not been the scope of our study. We have never claimed it was. We have noted, in each "The Nation Stats," which issue or issues we were covering in that feature.

We will note this from The Nation, "I did want you to know as well that our July 12th issue is a double issue devoted entirely to Iraq. Two writers have completed a piece that is by far the largest collection of soldiers on the record about their experiences in Iraq done by any publication. It clearly depicts, we think, the horror of the war in Iraq, the illegality, and the extent to which soldiers were sent in unprepared and ill-equipped, and the toll that's taken. I would patently disagree that we have 'refused to cover Iraq as an ongoing illegal war,' and if I had the time for the research project I would quote piece after piece, on print and online, to make the point. The work of Jeremy Scahill, Joshua Kors and our lead edit from November of 05 come to mind as starting points. Regardless, I respect your opinion and wanted you to know that we do have a double issue coming out given over almost entirely to the war."

We are glad to know that an issue finally is devoted to Iraq. We do not claim credit for that although C.I. has led at The Common Ills (see "2006: The Year of Living Dumbly" for the first really hard hitting piece by C.I. and that issue has been addressed at The Common Ills regularly since). We're not really sure why the magazine feels the need to tell us that we are wrong (apparently patently) while also noting that there's no "time for the research project" which would prove us wrong?

We do not doubt that the magazine feels it has covered the illegal war seriously. We also do not doubt that they thought they were presenting women in equal numbers to men until we pointed the obvious culminating with the magazine running 181 more male bylines than female ones. Is it too much to point out the obvious? That the bylines mentioned in the quote above are male bylines? As Laura Flanders has rightly noted, women are being sidelined on the discussion of the illegal war in the media -- all media.

Again, the magazine wants to bring up what was online. We have repeatedly and clearly stated that we are covering the print edition in "The Nation Stats" and all sites (with C.I. leading) noting the Iraq coverage have regularly noted the difference between "online exclusives" and what makes it into print. We'll respond in full to that and other comments on Sunday.
We reject any claims of credit for any changes The Nation is discussing, addressing or considering. We also reject any blame for what the magazine has elected to print. We believe either credits us with more power than we have which is not us rejecting claims of our own power. Each of us has the power to be agents of change within our own lives. However, not being on staff at The Nation, we will not hog credit for needed changes that are (hopefully) now going to be made and we reject any blame for what has appeared in the magazine's print version.
We would further add that when the magazine wants to charge that writing at The Third Estate Sunday Review is "riddled with errors and inaccuracies," it's incumbent upon them to name them and not make baseless charges. Are there typos? There are. Are there factual errors? We're not aware of any and we're not really sure that, if there were, The Nation is any place to lecture on that topic having repeatedly refused to correct errors that made it into print. We'll provide at least one example of that (we've noted many at The Third Estate Sunday Review) on Sunday. Our numbers were not questioned so we'll assume The Nation has accepted those.

We have noted frequently that if our math is off, please e-mail. We have never received any e-mail about the numbers. On Sunday, we thought we were done when C.I. insisted that our number for the ratio had to be wrong. We redid it and it was. We corrected before it went up. Since our numbers may have been the only thing not challenged in the e-mail (our character appears to have been challenged, Ava and C.I.'s feminist status appears to have been questioned, etc.) we'll assume they are correct and note that anyone can check them out for themselves using the links posted at the end of this feature.

The Third Estate Sunday Review is composed of six people: Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I. C.I. has worked on every edition (only C.I. and Ava can make that claim). When the site started, the reason it started, was C.I. was speaking on an East Coast campus, Jim realized it was "C.I." and, after the talk (on Iraq, of course), approached C.I. and said, "You are C.I. of The Common Ills." Jim, Dona, Ty and Jess had spoken of doing a site. Ava rightly notes that she wasn't a planned participant. She was Dona's roommate and Dona brought her along. It is also true that, when Dona asked, everyone was for it. (Jess especially, he and Ava are now a couple.) Though C.I. helped on every edition (some pieces had no involvement from C.I. during those weeks), C.I. refused to be billed as part of The Third Estate Sunday Review noting, "It's your site." Over a year later, C.I. finally agreed. The writing is a group process with one exception.

Ava and C.I. do the TV commentaries. That is ironic since neither even thought we should do a TV piece in the very first edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review. During that first month, Ava and C.I.'s contributions to the TV reviews were what readers responded to. The e-mails would note a sentence or a paragraph and how much they agreed with it or how they'd never thought about it from that angle. ("Or complain," Ava and C.I. note.) Their jokes were always mentioned as well. Jim will admit he was the last to grasp what they were doing (a feminist take on TV -- "a," not "the"). By February 2005, even Jim grasped it and the TV commentaries were turned over to Ava and C.I.

They were not orginally credited for them, in February 2005, because we were doing group writing, believe in it, and they did not want the credit. The credit only went up when the others got tired of explaining, after being congratulated in e-mails or face to face by friends, parents or professors, that Ava and C.I. wrote those pieces. No one is prouder of the work Ava and C.I. do than are Jim, Dona, Ty and Jess. The TV commentaries are the calling card for The Third Estate Sunday Review. (Ava and C.I. are both groaning but we're putting this in.)

They are always the most popular feature any week. They have been linked to (when little else we've done ever has), they have been run in student and feminist papers, they have been run in three feminist publications by college women. On the latter, if any feminist organization thinks they can raise funds or merely pad out a collection with one of their TV reviews, Ava and C.I. have been all for it. In May, they did a commentary that got far too much attention for their comfort level. With the exception of a friend with PBS who phoned shortly after the piece went up [and a note was added to the commentary on that call], the response was all positive. It was also overwhelming for them (as Dona noted the first Friday of June in the gina & krista round-robin). They do not want to hear about the e-mails on their reviews. (Unless it's negative and then it's no problem with them.) With the May commentary, even shielding them from the e-mails wasn't enough because friends (close and distant) were calling them to sing the praises of that commentary.

They have repeatedly turned down interviews since requests first began coming in for those in the spring of 2005. That wasn't something Jim got because a write up somewhere would bring attention to the site. (It also took months of Dona pointing out to Jim that his encouraging praise -- "lavish," says Ava -- offered before Ava and C.I. were about to start work on that week's commentary was too much, raised the bar of expectations too high and freaked them out.) They have offered shorter commentaries since the overwhelming response in May. They will be returning to their epic commentaries shortly. (A review of a drama planned for this month will be their return.) But we say all of that to note that they are not attention seekers, they do need or want flattery and they try to keep their heads down and do the work required.

We value what they do, whether it's an in depth look or something they complete in 15 minutes. We say all that to note that we will never let stand some man questioning their feminist credentials.

When the man represents a magazine that has published 181 more males than women in a six month period you damn well better believe we won't let it stand or any 'suggestions' of what women should or should not say or should or should not write. Ruth was the most adament that this be included. As an over-sixty-years-old woman there at the start of the second wave of feminism in this country, she said there is no way she can tolerate silence with regard to that nonsense of "a man whose shown no known interest in gender equality suddenly rushing in to question two feminist's commitment." We will go into more detail on that Sunday. For now, we will note that no woman needs a lecture from any man about what women should do nor do they deserve to have their feminist qualifications questioned by anyone at a magazine that allows 181 more men than women to be published in a six month period.

Some at The Nation may enjoy writing The Common Ills because, if Ava reads it and it's a whine, she'll rip the whiner apart. Far be it from us to deny anyone their pleasure, even if it's masochism. But this e-mail was directed to C.I. and we are all sick of that.

"Allow me to introduce myself, I'm another person in the room."-- Rhoda (Valerie Harper) speaking to Mary's (Mary Tyler Moore) date in "Today I Am A Ma'Am," written by Treva Silverman, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, episode two, first aired September 26, 1970.

Like Rhoda, we're all a little sick of it and for a number of reasons.

In addition to the public account there are two main accounts for members and there are also backup acocunts. The Common Ills gets more mail than any other site which is why Martha, Shirley, Eli, Ava and Jess help C.I. with the e-mails. Every site that sprung up, or Ruth's Report, did so because of The Common Ills. Before any other site started, we were all members of The Common Ills community and still are. As such, we are as sick as other members of people running to C.I. about something that's been written elsewhere. It strikes us as tattling and a "woops" doesn't change that. If people are doing that thinking it provides cover (due to C.I.'s policy on e-mails), it should be clear that, from now on, there is no cover when you run to C.I. to complain about the rest of us. In this case, the points were supposed to be "passed on." It doesn't matter whether they're supposed to be passed on or not from now on. If you run to C.I. to complain about us (as happens repeatedly), your e-mail is not about The Common Ills and you have no guarantee of privacy.

Redoing this already written feature meant that everyone had to give up their holiday time on what was a planned 'easy' day. [It also means Kat did not have the time to complete her review of Mavis Staples' latest CD. The plan for that is now to go up no later than Sunday morning.] Unlike The Nation, no one doing a site is paid for it. We run no ads, we beg for no money.

Stealing from the Mamas and the Papas, our approach has always been to be professional without being "professionals" (a subtly lost on some). All of us have busy lives. This isn't employment for any of us. We do it because we feel it needs to be done and because we enjoy it. We don't need to hear from those who refuse to take Iraq seriously and we will not put our own private lives on hold ever again.

In addition to announcing this piece publicly some time ago, we also noted a Labor Day piece. Let's be clear, only one thing will change the Labor Day piece from running. A last minute e-mail from The Nation will not change the Labor Day piece. We will be disclosing something that should have already been addressed in The Nation at length. If anyone wants that piece killed, they can address it (at The Nation) between now and the week before Labor Day. A last minute e-mail will not kill our piece or cause it to be rewritten. Only it running in the print edition of The Nation will. An e-mail saying, "It'll be out two weeks after Labor Day" will not result in us killing our piece or even rewriting it. Comments will not be added to it from a last minute e-mail. We will be using Labor Day for down time. If professional journalists are bothered by the feature (we're not sure they know what the scope is, we've attempted to keep that piece much more on the down low than this one), they have it in their power to pre-empt it only by addressing it themselves.

On what should have been a relaxed Fourth of July for us, we have instead had to do a conference call Tuesday evening about the e-mail and then spend six hours plus writing and debating this piece. If The Nation feels their e-mail hasn't been treated fairly, we don't feel it was fair to do the equivalent of a Friday government news dump on us at the last minute.

This feature was announced in May. "The Nation Stats" began running December 24, 2006. Writing us two days before the feature ran (correction, writing C.I.) appears to us to be nothing more than an end run around our announced and planned feature. To repeat, 7 with The Nation have written The Third Estate Sunday Review during the period that "The Nation Stats" has been running. No one ever raised any issues about that feature.

There is no legitimate claim that The Nation was unaware of the feature. The e-mail mentions not only C.I.'s "And the war drags on . . ." from last Thursday, it also appears to note the week before. In addition, both weeks, The Nation's attempted fundraiser (for rising print costs) were noted at The Common Ills only because The Nation e-mailed the public account. All of that (and more) goes to the fact that the both The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review are known quantities to The Nation by people other than friends of C.I., Elaine or Ava. In addition, Cedric heard last month from The Nation. And, of course, the Cindy Brady of the faux left long ago tried to both correct Elaine and share the new swear word he'd just learned. (Ava and Jess note that others with the magazine, not friends of any involved in the writing of this piece, have written The Common Ills -- with the coffee fetchers showing up in strong numbers beginning in January.)

That alone makes us question the sincerity of an e-mail that starts off so nice. By the time the e-mail begins asserting that The Third Estate Sunday Review's features and/or editorials are "riddled with errors and inaccuracies," we don't see it as a friendly e-mail. We'll assume the man needs time to 'research' that claim. In the meantime, we'll note we stand by what we have written. If there's an error (not surprising considering how much we write and how late we write it), we'll be happy to note it. We will not be noting that someone disagrees with a joke or an opinion. Those are not errors nor are they inaccuracies. In addition, C.I. gets called each Thursday about what's just gone into the new print edition of The Nation. C.I. also gets plenty of office gossip. If the man wants to challenge anything like that, feel free to do so. If it was conveyed by a friend at the magazine to C.I., we will note that.

But we will not ever again drop anything we have planned because someone shows up late to the party. And, again, we will be responding to the most offensive charge this Sunday as well as other points in the e-mail. If you make a charge such as "riddled with errors and inaccuracies," you need to back it up. We will note that, with few exceptions, none of our words of praise for The Nation has ever resulted in a thank you e-mail. Bad manners began showing up in large numbers in the summer of 2006. If they're suddenly desiring to become our e-mail buddies, a tip, charging that writing is "riddled with errors and inaccuracies" doesn't get anyone added to an I.M. buddy list.

Not only is no proof offered of that assertion, to make it one would presumably have to be very aware of our work. As C.I. has often said, "Well it's nice to be read."

We'll end as we began, with Pig Bergen. Ann Jones saw what was wrong with that article and publicly responded. A question worth asking is why no one at the magazine did? A better question worth asking is why Pig Bergen serves not only to announce the sexism that will be on display for the first six months of 2007 but also the slow creep of centrists into the magazine. The 'leading magazine of the left' should not attempt to present itself as such when it repeatedly runs centrists. The center is not the left, it is not even the faux left. For the record, Pig Bergen is, as noted by the magazine, a "senior fellow at the New America Foundation". The magazine fails to alert readers that the New American Foundation is a centrist organization.

We recently (and rightly) noted "Let Laura Be Laura" and we would also add Let The Left Be The Left. That will not result from The Nation's current fondness for centrists. There are plenty of left writers around who can and should be featured. The board of Bergen's organization includes such 'notables' as Fareed Zakaria, the safety czar Christy Todd Whitman and the charm free Francis Fukuyama. At a time when The Nation wants readers to be concerned about with reclaiming the Democratic Party, it's rather appalling that they also feel featuring centrists is what a left magazine does. (Not everyone with the magazine endorses the slow creep of the centrists which is how we first learned of it. "Slow Creep of the Centrist" is actually a phrase said to us by a writer for the magazine face to face.)

Ava and C.I. were in charge of the December 24, 2006 edition and that was the first week that a 2007 issue had arrived (January 1, 2007 issue). They immediately started up "The Nation Stats." "The Nation Stats" ran again in our December 31st edition (covering the magazine's January 8, 2007 issue -- a "double issue"). January 21st, we covered the January 22nd issue in "The Nation Stats." January 28th, "The Nation Stats" covered two issues since two arrived the same day for three of us participating in this feature (January 29th and Febuary 5th). February 4th, we covered the Feb 12th issue in "The Nation Stats." February 11th we covered the February 19th issue in "The Nation Stats." February 25th, we coved the February 26th issue in "The Nation Stats." March 4th we covered the March 5th and March 12th issues of the magazine in "The Nation Stats." March 11th, we covered the March 19th issue in "The Nation Stats." April 1st, we covered the March 26th and April 2nd issues in "The Nation Stats." April 8th, we covered the April 9th and April 16th issues in "The Nation Stats." April 22nd, we covered the April 23rd and April 30 issues in"The Nation Stats." April 29th, "The Nation Stats" addressed the May 7th issue. May 20th, "The Nation Stats" covered four issues -- May 14th, May 21st, May 28th and June 4th. June 10th, "The Nation Stats" covered the June 11th and June 18th issue. On July 1st, we concluded a six month study of the number of male bylines versus female bylines in "The Nation Stats." All "The Nation Stats" with links should take you to the feature in question. Check our math. Check our figures. Non-subscribers can go to The Nation magazine, click on "past issues" and fact check us themselves. We think checking first is incumbent before making charges of errors.

-- 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,

Ruth of "
Ruth's Report"

Trina of
Trina's Kitchen

Mike of
Mikey Likes It!,

Elaine of
Like Maria Said Paz,

and Wally of
The Daily Jot

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Truest statement of the week

Did you catch it? "The good news is that they still have time to change course." Right before the Democratically controlled Congress was sworn in, the 3000 mark for US troops who had died in the illegal war had passed. Approximately 500 have died since they took office. And he thinks "The good news is that they still have time to change course." They, obviously, is Congressional Dems because the 500 US service members who have died while the Democratically controlled Congress has done nothing, obviously, do not "still have time to change course."
"The good news is that they still have time to change course."
Stop the squad, I want to get off.
I'm sure someone else will gladly grab my pom-poms.
-- C.I. commenting on independent voices, in "And the war drags on . . .," who rush off too counsel Congress instead of addressing reality.

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --

Flickr. A pain in the ass. Two hours on the three new illustrations we did. Just to upload. We finally started posting without the three.

First let's note this week's credits:

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

Also, thank you to Dallas who locates links, plays soundboard and a lot more.

New content.

Truest statement of the week -- We hadn't picked this. Ty remembered at the last minute (after we started posting). It was picked by Ty, Jim, Dona, Jess, Ava and Kat. C.I. wasn't keen on it (it's a quote from C.I.) but Dona asked, "Do you want to spend an hour trying to find something else?" No.

Editorial: War Resistance Is All Around -- Adam Kokesh and Liam Madden have been very busy since Friday morning. Who's going to note it? Who's going to note the fact that another war resister who went to Canada has gone public? We won't hold our breaths waiting.

TV: Ugly Husband, Skinny Wife RIP --Ava and C.I.'s. I was laughing when I was reading this out loud to everyone after they finished writing it. (Ava says we were all so tired I would've laughed at anything. Not true.) Fat Man, Skinny Wife. That's been a comedy motif. Why? We have no idea. Ava and C.I. tackle According to Jim.

Let Laura Be Laura -- at a time when so few even appear to care about Iraq, so few in media, we really can't afford to lose the strong voice of Laura Flanders. We toyed with this since the format of the show changed. This week it's a go.

Realities about how we got to the Roberts Court --Is this a short piece? I think so but Dona disagrees. She says it's too long for a short piece. Hold on for her idea of a short piece.

Am I Coward? Yes, I Am! -- We're really getting sick of the e-activism easy style. Lot of self-stroking will go on over this 'event.' They should pretty much all hang their heads in shame.

The Nation Stats -- We wrap up June's issues of the magazine. 3.4 is the current total. For every 3 male bylines our 'left' magazine prints one woman.

Mailbag -- "Way too long" says Dona. Probably so. But we're dealing with a number of issues.

They Were Turned Into Shoplifters! -- True story. This is the one that went up without the illustration (the scan is of one of the two magazines, CDs were stuck to the front of -- stuck so well in this instance, that the plastic CD cover wouldn't come off).

Don't Nobody Bring Me No Blonde News -- This is Dona's idea of the perfect length for a short piece. "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News" is from The Wiz.

Highlights -- Mike, Betty, Cedric, Rebecca, Wally and Elaine worked on this, we thank them all for it.

That's it, we're about to fall over. See you next week.

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

Editorial: War Resistance Is All Around

War resistance is all around . . . if not in the pages of The Nation.

Friday, Iraq Veterans Against the War's Nate Lewis, Mike Blake, Sholom Keller and Steve Mortillo and Adam Kokesh went to Fort Jackson to meet a friend and found themselves arrested. Their 'crime'? Giving speeches on a military base? No. Passing out literature? No. Their crime was wearing t-shirts.

This was actually the second time the US military played Fashion Police and went gunning for Kokesh. You know he has to be thinking, "Damn, they bust me for wearing fatigues, they bust me for wearing a t-shirt!" Who knew the US military brass was composed of a group of wanna be Mr. Blackwells? If Blackwell had that kind of power, Cher would be splitting rocks in Levonworth, serving a lifetime sentence.

Cher's not and neither are Iraq Veterans Against the War. But IVAW is in the midst of a summer base tour which finds them at Fort Benning in Columbus, GA on today 1st at 7:00 pm; then a fundraiser in Philadelphia on June 3rd at 6:00 pm; a fundraiser in NYC on July 5th at 7:00 pm; the Naval Sub Marine Base in Groton, CT on July 6th at 7:00 pm; and concluding at Fort Drum in NY on July 8th at 4:00 pm.

Liam Madden is taking part in the tour (and wrote about it here). Friday, he got the news that the US military was dropping charges against him. When offered a deal, Madden countered that if the military would admit, in writing, that he had made no disloyal statements, he'd be happy to follow their Fashion Dictates. Madden noted on Friday:

"I planned to argue that my comments were accurate and therefore not disloyal. In fact, it is the duty of veterans and active duty members of the military to stand up and tell their leaders when war crimes are being committed," said Madden. "Now that the military has chickened out and dropped these charges I hope others will join me in speaking out against this illegal war."

When resistance goes public, officials get nervous. Fortunately for them, they have Estes Thompson of the Associated Press who wrote an article on Thursday that should have had the Journalism Police out in droves. C.I. noted that it was an example of how much lower the already low standards of journalism had fallen with he-said/she-said being replaced with he-said & then he-said. For all but 12 of the 114 line article, Thompson was happy to parrot the army's figures and their spokesperson while he assured you that resistance while serving just wasn't common. He neglected to tell readers that as late of March of this year, the army got caught under counting figures, that their current 2006 figure is still 2,000 short of the number of self-checkouts. 2,000 short, so they added 200 and Thompson runs with it, apparently unaware that NPR's Nancy Mullane reported back in March: "Instead of 3100 deserters [for 2006], the real number may be closer to 5,000. That's according to analysts within the Army's personnel division at the Pentagon and at the Fort Knox desertion information center. Both reached that 5,000 figure by adding on soldiers who deserted and then were discharged from the Army throughout the year."

But there was Thompson laughable article which would be run everywhere and treated as 'truth.' Self-checkouts aren't a problem for the military, said Estes and that was supposed to be that, end of story.

Of course reality proves that to be false and reality took it up another notch last week when James Burmeister not only went to Canada in the hopes of refugee status, but went public.

Burmeister is a 22-year old Iraq vet who hails from Eugene, Oregon and enlisted under the belief that he'd be doing reconstruction work. The CBC reports:

Instead, he said he became part of a team that set up traps for Iraqis using an object such as a fake camera as a lure.
"If the Iraqis would go and touch it they [the soldiers] could shoot 'em because if anyone messes with the U.S. government property, they're allowed to fire at 'em," he said.

Burmeister, currently in Canada with his wife and their daughter, joins an ever growing list of war resisters who have gone public. For every one that goes public, many more do not. (Nor should they, it's an individual decision and an individual choice whether to go public with the decision.)

By small media, one of 2006's most underreported stories was the ever growing war resistance. The AP, in fact, has done more to cover it than any other outlet. That was true in 2006 and it remains true in 2007. If the pattern holds, not only will it be true in 2008 but The Nation will continue to dummy up on the entire issue. For the record, though Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive), CBS, CounterPunch, the AP, The Kansas City-Star, Democracy Now! and others could report on Adam Kokesh, The Nation appears bound and determined to get through 2007 without ever mentioning his name. Two weeks ago, Anna Quindlen addressed the growing war resistance within the US military. She did so in big media.

TV: Ugly Husband, Skinny Wife RIP

Before the Water Cooler Set started trying to kill off the sitcom by telling the world the format was dead, TV was doing a pretty good job all by itself. "Fat man, skinny wife; fat man, skinny wife . . ." Karen repeated to Jack in one too true, 2004 episode of Will & Grace as they flipped through the channels. It was so bad that we could picture a desperate to work Alan Thicke being informed he needed to pack on at least sixty more pounds just to get called in for a reading.

For those who've forgotten this brief entry into the sitcom canon, it included such unnotables as King of Queens (just cancelled), Yes, Dear (cancelled some time ago), Grounded for Life (cancelled some time ago), and According to Jim (just cancelled and then, on June 18th, brought back). The match up was becoming so common that the average and ugly match up on Somebody's Got To Love Raymond actually struck some as a relief. (For any wondering, Ray Romano is average.) If there was one entry in the field worth watching, it was Still Standing which featured strong leads, strong supporting performers and strong writing. It was the exception.

As if America hadn't suffered enough on 9-11, According to Jim debuted in October 2001. The program stars Jim Belushi and Courtney Thorne-Smith and should have come with a voice over from Jonathan and Jennifer Hart's chauffeur, "And when they met it was murder . . . for the audience." As if the weight difference didn't make them mismatched enough, there's also the fact that Belushi is 13 years older than Thorne-Smith (though he looks 20 years older). Thorne-Smith was never plump on the show, but she did start out a great bit 'healthier' originally. We'll assume that she made an acting choice to become bone thin (while still sporting those breasts?) based on the fact that, with Jim in the house, Cheryl's not going to be eating a great deal.

What confused us was Thorne-Smith's voice which started off at a high but normal range yet has since become this tinkly instrument reminiscent of wind chimes. Is it an acting choice or a refusal to face the fact that you're turning forty? (This November.)

Thorne-Smith played a bossy little thing named Alison on Melrose Place and no one gave a damn until Heather Locklear showed up. As Alison she was prone to issuing orders such as when she told then fiancee Billy that, though they lived together, since they were about to get married, they'd have no more sex until the wedding day. Fortunately for Billy, the wedding never took place. After that even die hard viewers turned on Alison and, near the end, she didn't just show up late to Jo's trial to win back custody of her child, she showed up in the same clothes from the day prior and drunk. Did we mention Alison was an alleged 'good girl'?

From there, like many a Melrose female, she did a guest spot on Spin City before landing a regular gig on Ally McBeal where she was involved with another Billy. If anorexia was contagious, we'd guess she caught it then, from series star Calista Flockhart. She played Georgia and no one noticed and no one cared.

Which is how she ended up portraying Cheryl whose paring with Jim is like watching a fifties sitcom where Harriet Nelson leaves Ozzie to shack up with Eddie Haskall. Like Harriet Nelson's character, Cheryl's lines tend to be delivered while trying not to smile, shaking her head and saying, "Oh, you boys." The 'boy's in question are her husband Jim and her brother Andy (played by Larry Joe Campbell in a performance so bad, it really says something about the others once in the running for this role).

Life, According to Jim, consists mainly of penis jokes. If the show seems to be going for a world record in that category, there's a reason. Jim Belushi never found fame on the big screen. On Saturday Night Live, he never found laughter with one exception. Usually cast (accurately) as the loser in the skit who couldn't interest a woman, he has one bit that can be added to the next clip show SNL elects to broadcast in primetime. Having struck out repeatedly in a bar, Belushi goes off to the men's room and proceeds to stuff his crotch. Near the end, he even puts the hand dryer in there. As he struts back into the bar, his crotch preceding his body by several feet, he finally catches some attention and, a first for the actor, some laughs. After that, it's been The Penis Monologues non-stop except when he makes the mistake of fancying himself an actor and attempts a dramatic role.

That's why you get the character of Jim obsessed with penis jokes. Have no fear, they can work it into any plot. Why even a surprise birthday party can work it in as Jim explains that he hates birthday parties because, as a teenager, he thought he was alone, dropped his pants, grabbed his unit and went to town only to give those who would be yelling "Surprise!" a little (we're sure very little) surprise of their own. From birthday parties to the son's circumcision, and everything in between, it's Penis on Parade.

Originally Cheryl's sister got to get in on the 'guy' humor. Dana (played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley) was the sports interested sister -- and not the idiot her brother Andy was. Then Dana got married and had a baby and now she's been barred from the boys' club. It's a real shame because the Dana who thought her sister was a little pathetic was the most relatable thing about the show.

When not exploring the many levels of penis jokes, According to Jim likes to deal with the really pressing issues . . . from fifty years ago. That may be why the theme of Jim's "My money! I make it!" plays so overly familiar, then again, it may be due to the fact that the themes been repeated each season -- most recently when Cheryl was having to hide money in the cookie jar and Jim was swiping it since, yes, he made it, it's his. (Cheryl does not work outside of the home. Which would make her a natural on CBS a few years back.)

Sometimes According to Jim decides to rip off something a little more recent which is how you get last season's episode where Cheryl coaches their girls' basketball team and then Jim takes over. If it reminds you a lot of the same episode of Still Standing, just remember there were laughs in that episode of Still Standing. By contrast, Jim offered the 'wisdom' that kids today have "too much" self-esteem. Should we note that never has a school basketball team been so White?

We probably should. If you're wondering how something so lame and disgusting could turn out so bad, look no further than Warren Bell who, as we've noted before, complained in his online National Review column:

Yesterday the head of Disney's Touchstone Television and the head of casting for ABC/Disney called me to, er, suggest that According to Jim might do a little better this year in terms of casting minorities in significant roles. Our admittedly dismal track record was recited to me -- two Asian-Americans, one Latino (oh, dear, is that the rightterm?) in roles of "guest star" billing during the 26-episode course of last season.

That was posted on August 10th. 2006, not 1956. In 26 episodes, two people of color and one whose ethnicity was not Anglo were featured in 'guest' roles. These weren't lead roles or even big guest roles like Laraine Newman's or Linda Hamilton's. These were bit parts.

Though According to Jim will return with new episodes, executive producer Warren Bell will not. Before you breathe a sigh of relief, please note why. Bell, who couldn't get Senate confirmation to the Board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB, overseeing PBS and NPR), got recessed appointed by the Bully Boy in December 20, 2006 -- as if December 20 didn't already have enough baggage what with the 1968 death of John Steinbeck, the 1989 invasion of Panama, etc. Having lowered the bar with qualifications by previously installing Kenneth Y. Tomlinson (whom Bell replaces), Bully Boy decided to honor the 'accomplishments' of Bell -- which include not only According to Jim but also such 'stellar' contributions as What I Like About You and Coach. Where others might see crap TV, the Bully Boy saw just what PBS needed.

And that the mediocre weak house that is According to Jim gave Bell enough 'heft' to become a player on the CPB may be the show's greatest offense. Then again, those who've sat through even one episode may beg to differ.

Let Laura Be Laura

At a time when Iraq coverage can be summed up as War As An After Thought (nod to Mike), can we really afford to lose one of the few strong voices on the topic? That's what's happened.

Laura Flanders is the host of RadioNation with Laura Flanders (formerly The Laura Flanders Show). As readers of this site know, we never missed a Saturday broadcast. Until recently. We miss it now because it doesn't air. It did air for three hours, live, each Saturday and Sunday.

The guest list was amazing. Activists, including local activists and not just those already noted everywhere, thinkers, authors, journalists, artists. In fact, the last hour of each Saturday's broadcast featured artists. Some were already names, some were emerging. They might be film makers or playwrights or musicians. Richie Havens, Rickie Lee Jones, the Cowboy Junkies, and many others, talking about how art can reach people.

Maybe Susan Sarandon would call in? Or maybe she'd interview a member of her amazing family (Alexander, Andrew and Patrick Cockburn)? Maybe Flanders would speak with Robert Redford or Joan Baez? What she would always do is speak with callers -- "with," not "to." Some called in because they thought only Laura Flanders got it. Some called in to argue. Some called in to advise about an event that was coming up. Throughout it all, Flanders handled the calls nimbly. Years of hosting Your Call had honed her natural talents.

Media criticism? CounterSpin was Flanders' baby for years. One topic we most enjoyed in the last year or so was her reporting on what she saw going on around the country (sometimes with remote broadcasts as she proved the country was purple)

Along with being a broadcast journalist, Flanders is also an print journalist and book author. All of her years of honing her craft resulted in six hours of amazing live broadcasts each weekend. She called on every skill and gift for her opening editorials that started each broadcast. There might have been a technical glitch, it was live radio, but it was go to break, come back and pick right back up.

Before anyone panics, Laura Flanders has not died or retired. But her six hour live broadcast is now a one hour taped broadcast. As one of the few at Air America Radio from the early days, we'd see it as our loss and her getting to actually enjoy weekends. (If we think back really hard, we can remember that Saturday nights on the town can be very lively.) And we could listen to her one hour broadcast on Sunday (she's also part of The Air Americans during the week on Air America Radio, eight to midnight EST) and say, "She's earned a rest and then some."

But somehow, RadioNation with Laura Flanders didn't just lose callers, the live broadcast and five hours, it also lost what makes Flanders the amazing broadcaster she is. She truly can talk with anyone about anything. That's not shut your mouth while the guest speaks and you wait to get off your scripted zinger, that's really talk with. It's a rare skill. Doing it in a manner that appears effortlessly puts Flanders up there with a select few including Bill Moyers.

So what's our problem? When the show was reduced to one hour, Flanders' scope was reduced as well. Week after week, she's talking to writers from The Nation. Presumably, during many of their 'double issues,' Flanders will be given a Sunday off.

Now Baby Cries A Lot told The Progressive that no one at Air America had radio experience. His ego was, yet again, hanging out of his pants. (Fortunately, the lack of length meant that no one could consider it a weapon.) This was at a time when people such as Mike Malloy, Randi Rhodes and Laura Flanders were on air, had been on air. As with the illegal war, Baby Cries A Lot didn't know what the hell he was talking about.

When you have a seasoned professional who can mix it up on any topic, why are you reducing her to host of an infomercial?

That's what RadioNation with Laura Flanders currently plays as. Don't get us wrong, Flanders can make it interesting. We doubt others could, but when we've listened, we've heard her continue to make interesting points, comments and ask precise questions.

The Nation magazine sponsors RadioNation with Laura Flanders and, presumably, the magazine feels the show should be used to promote the magazine. The magazine apparently feels that this now means all guests will be contributors to The Nation. That's a very scary thought considering the magazine can't address Iraq.

War resister Camilo Mejia does columns from time to time for The Progressive media project. He does not do them for The Nation. So we're guessing that means Mejia will not be on the guest list anymore. We'll guess Matthew Rothschild's name has also been crossed off. And considering the White-White nature of The Nation, we'll assume Flanders' obvious interest in addressing racial issues will now be overridden by the magazine.

This was actually addressed last week but appeared to go over someone's head. (Addressed verbally.) So let's try to keep it at the most basic.

If the magazine sees the program as a vehicle to bring awareness and interest to and in the magazine, they need to Let Laura Be Laura. No one needs to hear an hour each week on what's in The Nation magazine. No one needs an infomercial. It's also true, pay attention here, most of The Nation isn't written by marquee names. Among the big names are Alexander Cockburn (who does lengthier columns at CounterPunch), Katha Pollitt, David Corn, Jeremy Schaill and Naomi Klein. We're really dreading that Flanders may have to soon speak with the Cindy Brady of the faux left whose on air behavior in the past (with both Janeane Garofalo and Naomi Klein) came off sexist and demeaning. We don't doubt that Flanders could handle herself, we just don't think she should ever have to be subjected to that.

Manhattan Transfer (whose members have previously appeared on the show) are a draw. In the old days, she could speak with them or Kate Taylor or any number of people. And each person brought a following to the show.

Pay attention here, when Rickie Lee Jones made a very rare appearance on Flanders' show and actually performed live, that got attention.

If the magazine truly wanted to reach out to a larger audience, the radio program wouldn't play like an infomercial. One guest from The Nation is more than enough. Allowing Flanders to interview the usual mix (in a one hour forum) would mean that an audience would be tuning in who might not normally pick up the magazine. Someone tuning in for Penny Lang, Toshi Reagon, Anasa Troutman, Rhiannon, Wallace Shawn, Reno, Ian Inaba, Moby, Paul Krassner,

Greg Palast, Danny Glover, etc. is someone who can be exposed to the magazine. Those potential listeners, if they've never heard of the magazine, are not going to be seeking out an hour long show that is basically Read Along With The Nation.

One guest from The Nation with a mix of others would alert people to The Nation magazine. Airing an hour broadcast focused on the writers of one magazine is a recipe for ratings disaster and if you disbelieve that ask yourself where Mother Jones Radio is today? (Air America Radio stopped broadcasting that program.) It should further be noted that Matthew Rothschild, as host of the half-hour The Progressive Radio, does not feel the need to sit down each week with writers for that magazine (The Progressive). He rightly realizes that you need interesting guests to make for lively radio and that an infomercial for the magazine he's in charge of would bore the listeners.

It really strikes us as a vanity move on the part of The Nation, not at all dissimilar from The Journal Editorial Report which, thanks to Kenneth Tomlinson, briefly aired on PBS and featured those madcap cuts ups from the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. It did not draw viewers.

Why do we think this a move made by the magazine and not Flanders' herself? This week, on The Air Americans, she reported live from the Social Forum in Atlanta. This is Flanders who reported live from in Nairobi for RadioNation with Laura Flanders. If Flanders was interested in broadcasting live from Nairobi, we'll bet that she would have been happy to report, for RadioNation with Laura Flanders, from Atlanta. But listeners no longer get that kind of coverage. Instead, we get a writer for The Nation talking about what made him or her decide to write a piece for the magazine "on newsstands now" and what they found out. That doesn't make for lively radio and it doesn't steer people to the magazine.

Even worse, it deprives Flanders of the entertaining and informative mix she's pioneered throughout her time at Air America Radio.

Worst of all, due to the scope of The Nation, it's taking away one of the few strong voices we have had on Iraq. Someone who could and did note it each program. To really underscore this point, we think, having reported from Atlanta already this week (for The Air Americans), if Flanders was determining the guests for her show, Sunday's program might offer Iraq Veterans Against the War's Liam Madden and Adam Kokesh, Why? They were in Atlanta on Saturday.

Iraq Veterans Against the War are currently conducting a summer base tour (next stops: Fort Benning in Columbus, GA on July 1st at 7:00 pm; a fundraiser in Philadelphia on June 3rd at 6:00 pm; a fundraiser in NYC on July 5th at 7:00 pm; the Naval Sub Marine Base in Groton, CT on July 6th at 7:00 pm; and concluding at Fort Drum in NY on July 8th at 4:00 pm). Kokesh could have spoken about being arrested by Fort Jackson police on Friday for wearing an Iraq Veterans Against the War t-shirt. By taking Flanders out of the world and forcing her to chat with Nation writers, we all suffer. We now have to wait from Friday until Monday to get news because what is weekend radio but everyone on vacation? With few exceptions, there is no place to hear news (a half-hour newscast that some Pacifica stations offer on Saturday and Sunday really isn't covering the world). Flanders was ripping through the news when her program was live. Noting the things you'd hear about on Monday, when the rest of the media went back to work. Maybe someone will cover Kokesh being arrested for wearing a t-shirt on Monday? Maybe they'll have other 'pressing' topics to cover come Monday. It's really amazing that the left takes the weekends off. (Don't toss out Arianna's new program -- no offense to her but Bob Kerrey? Even C.I., who knows Kerrey, is gagging right now.) They do so, as Ava and C.I. have noted before, at a time when the the networks have expand their own passes-for-news morning shows to cover the weekend.

Listeners are the ones who suffer from the changes. Flanders? Cher survived infomericals and Laura Flanders will survive this. If The Nation had any common sense, they'd back off and Let Laura Be Laura.

Realities about how we got to the Roberts Court

Emily Bazelon has written a must read piece on the new Supreme Court entitled "Sorry Now?What do the liberal and moderate lawyers who supported John Roberts' nomination say today?" It's a piece of Slate whom we hardly ever note and link to even less so, again, must read. A number of e-mails came in this week noting either "Precedent is again tossed out the window" (June 17, 2007) or "Precedent and privacy go out the window" (April 22, 2007) -- some noted both -- and wondering if we were going to update it in light of more cases where precedent got tossed under the moving train?

We hadn't planned on it, we're still a little numb from the shock. But what we can note is that while some outlets were doing their gas baggery over the 2006 elections during now Chief Justice John Roberts' confirmation hearing, we were loudly saying no to him. "Editorial: Who decided Roberts could play leap frog on the Court?" (September 11, 2005) noted one obvious issue:

Last Monday the hearings on John Roberts Jr. nomination to the Supreme Court were supposed to start. They were postponed. Now they are due to start tomorrow. In a week's time, Roberts' nomination has shifted. He's no longer just nominated to the Court, he's now nominated as Chief Justice.

Only in a Bully Boy world could someone who's never served on the Court be considered worthy of not only serving but also presiding over the Court. That's the kind of thinking that puts roommates and pals and campaign workers into public posts and we've seen the damage that can do.

Now the press has taken a pass on Roberts from day one. They're eager to see the boy get confirmed. So we aren't surprised that in the last week little was made of the fact that there's a world of difference between the federal courts and the Supreme Court.

(For the record, Scalia didn't show for Roberts' confirmation and one rumored reason bandied about DC had Scalia ticked off that he wasn't elevated.)

Roberts is damaging in any capacity on the Court, but it bears noting that as Chief, he has even more influence and, due to his age, he will most likely wield that influence for many, many years to come.

When the Court decided women shouldn't have control over their own bodies earlier this year, Katha Pollitt (The Nation) penned one of her most passionate columns in years. But what undermined it, besides apologizing for the fact that she was angry, was that Pollitt saw the new Court make up as a time to lecture voters that it does matter who is in the Oval Office. Sandra Day O'Connor (who chipped away at Roe v. Wade for years) left and look who we got.

The problem with that argument, as we've noted before, is that O'Connor wasn't nominated by Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton. O'Connor was nominated by Ronald Reagan. Staying on the issue of the Oval Office, with the exception of those who may feel, as the Bully Boy does, that s/he talks to God, more important than who is in the Oval Office is what's out in the land. A strong, vocal mass saying, "You're not doing s**t to overturn Roe v. Wade" is a lot more important than who is in the Oval Office. It was 'cute' hearing all the White men on various programs, even CounterSpin offered one, saying of Bully Boy's nominees (Samuel Alito and Roberts), that too much focus was placed on the issue of abortion.

Presumably when it's an issue that will never directly effect your own body, it's real damn easy to dismiss it. However, reality check, women are in the majority in the United States so a health issue that effects them will always effect more citizens than one that only effects men. It was amazing, during the lead up to the confirmation of both, to see so many White males provided with column space and air time. To repeat, men are in the minority in this country and, not unlike conservatives with talk radio shows, over-represented within the media.

If there's any lesson here (and remember, there are rumors that Anthony Kennedy -- an alleged moderate -- will be stepping down from the court to allow Bully Boy to make one more nomination) for media -- big and small -- maybe it's that next go round, instead of rushing to the White males, you try providing some women. And not just on the topic of the abortion -- though, on the rare occasions women were allowed to weigh in, it was always on that issue. The National Lawyers Guild's Marjorie Cohn, Nancy Chang and Heidi Boghosian (to name only three women, and Boghosian is also a co-host of Law and Disorder) are more than qualified to speak on the issues before the court as is Amnesty's Dalia Hashad (also a co-host of Law and Disorder). All four are attorneys even if, when it comes to the 'big' topics like the Court, the media seems to forget that fact.

Back to Pollitt. The other aspect of her column that was flawed was the rush to pin the blame on the Oval Office. That's where the nominee originates, that's not where s/he gets confirmed. Who confirms? The Senate.

In the two confirmation hearings, most of the Democrats embarrassed themselves. Joe Biden demonstrated how much he enjoys the sound of his own voice. We picture him using broadcasts of his own speeches as make out music. Dianne Feinstein was infamously dubbed by Rebecca "Diane Feinstein, Girl Senator," the non-action figure. And what an apt call that was.

Where was the opposition party? Rushing to prove that they were not going to make waves -- not unlike they still do today.

A more vocal reproductive rights presence would nip that in the bud too. In fact, it would stop the Democratic Party's retreat on the abortion issue in its track. But NARAL's not going to do anything to change it. They became DC lobbyists and, while running through the Beltway, dropped their independence and never went back to pick it up.

This is what you get, the current make up of the Court and the decisions they've rendered, when little poodles want to self-present as bad asses, when 'lefties' want to be respected and beloved across the political spectrum, when too much cheerleading for the Democratic Party is coming from supposed independent, left media and not enough calls for accountability.

Roberts and Alito made their decisions and no one should be surprised. Bully Boy nominated them and no one should be surprised by that either. But let's not yet again drop common sense and act as though Democrats in the Senate aren't also culpable for the ascensions of Alito and Roberts. Let's not all play stupid and rewrite history yet again.

Am I Coward? Yes, I Am!


Flipping through the June 28, 2007 issue of Rolling Stone, we stumbled upon "Rock's New Mission: Save the Planet" and it was like watching Laurie, Keith and the rest deboard the Partridge Family bus.

Brave Melissa Etheridge shares that she uses biodiesel when on tour. She's "walking that path" and even recycling! She says that "it's a real freedom. It feels great." Can she stay silent on Iraq? YES, SHE CAN! Brave Melissa. We bow before your easy and pathetic activism. Apparently, an open lesbian can only push the envelope so far -- even when her days of charting are long over. (And they are, hon, they really, really are.)

Alicia Keys want to share why she's taking part in a concert too, all are going to be on stages standing up for Al Gore, even if they won't stand up against the illegal war. The environment's topped her cause list because, "All of my favorite artists -- Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayefield -- have always been a voice for the people. Their music is real-life stories, war stories, painful stories, and, that's why it connects." We couldn't agree more, but Alicia, where's you war song?

Or is singing tired Pam Sawyer covers your way of 'stepping up'? Please tell us that you're not still trying to pass off "Wake Up" as 'maybe' about the Iraq war. "You used to be my closest ally/ In this cold, cold world of deception and lies/ We would defend and protect one another/ Now I can't tell if we're enemies or lovers/ So who's gonna rescue us from ourselves . . ." Love between a client state and a imperial power? Stop yourself before you decide to write an ode to Sally Hemings.

Dave Matthews wants you to know that the cause is all "about saving ourselves." Which apparently explains his silence on Iraq (or maybe he just can't work out a 'jam' on the topic of war?). Translation, Iraqis, save yourself because Dave Matthews has other things to do. Such as? He explains that he's all local these days, even riding a bike (doesn't appear to have reduced the belly). Local is one answer, Matthews explains by noting he "can walk to the store. I can walk to the doughnut shop" -- might want to lay off those crawlers -- "I can walk to get a cup of coffee." He explains that he has guilted over touring and the damage fuel does to the environment.

Strangely, for such a pro-environmenter, he mentions nothing about the band's bus dumping an alleged 800 pounds of human waste into the Chicago River. There were denials, of course, and there was a law suit and, finally, there was the bus driver pleading guilty.

Maybe Dave Matthews doesn't see that as "pollution"? Maybe he sees it as 'trinkets and souvenirs' left for the fans. 800 pounds of human waste dumped into the Chicago River? Again, lay off the crawlers.

After fretting over the damage using fuel to travel does to the environment and stressing how he walks and bike rides and doesn't even flush his toilet when it's just urine (oooh, the smell of it), Matthews forgets to mention that the Seattle based jammer will be performing July 7th in New York, New York . . . to help the environment. Peddle that bike quickly, Dave, peddle it quickly.

John Legend wants to inform that he reads The Atlantic -- it's the National Review with a bigger vocabulary -- and he wants to "save energy." Meanwhile the man whose ego broke up two super groups, Chris Cornell, wants to play all humble and talk about how "we" have to take the lead on this issue. Why? Well, he was in France and they care about this issue. So since they care and they lead, the natural thing for Cornell is to insist the US take control. Our imperialist proselytizer, Chris Cornell, who lost his looks in 1993 and they ain't never coming back. No. No, they're not.

Roger Waters, who has the good sense to at least allude to the illegal war, loses points for his tip: Drink warm beer. Mike D, the surfing Mike D, sees it "right in front of your eyes" but apparently, since 2004's download "World Gone Mad," he hasn't seen coverage of Iraq.

The Partridge Family tackled the environment as well (start with episodes 31 and 94). They never touched on the illegal war in Vietnam (not even when Danny was 'drafted').
So congratulations to our modern day Partridge Family. VH1 wasn't really able to bring them back, but they weren't striking that C'mon Get Happy mood enough apparently. The C'mon Get Happy vibe must be why the laughable and destructive Live 8 is presented so favorably throughout the Rolling Stone article. For reality, read Julie Hollar's "Bono, I Presume? Covering Africa through celebrities" in the new issue of Extra! (May/June 2007, pp. 21-25, Live 8 is addressed specifically on pages 22 and 23).

Now if you've been to a rally to end the illegal war (and no, Modern Day Partridges, 2004 Get Out The Vote For John Kerry concerts aren't rallies to end the illegal war), you are aware that multiple issues can and are addressed. The environment is not an off limits topic at a peace rally. But the Modern Day Partridges are quite happy to make sure that's not the case at an environmental rally. Might not get the fawning, easy press if you actually had something to say, right? Better to keep it safe and easy, that's what made Nina Simone a legend, right, Alicia?

Oh, it's not. No, bravery makes legends. All chicken sh*t results in is the Pathetic Plastiques. But stroke yourselves for doing nothing, year after year, as the illegal war drags on.

The Nation Stats

We have three issues of The Nation since we last checked in on this feature. That's, in part, due to the fact that last week's edition was our summer read/fiction edition. We're grabbing one and only one issue for this edition, the next one in line, June 25, 2007. That will become clear at a later (but not that far away) point. June 25, 2007 finishes out the month of June and since we began this feature with the first issue for January (issued in December, however), we think that's fitting. As always, we provide the photo of Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, attending a staff meeting where she's belle of the ball.


This issue's cover story is "The New Atheists."


"The Great Pretender" -- unsigned, and no, it's not a confession from The Peace Resister.

Robert L. Borosage's "Jackal Time" -- it's been noted we have a book by Borosage and vanden Heuvel on our list of fave books in the profile. What can we say, but we've grown, to steal from Joni Mitchell, "Cart wheels turned to car wheels in the town" ("The Circle Game," off Ladies of the Canyon). But it should be noted, though it didn't result in as much e-mail as our current stance on the magazine does now (e-mails from the magazine's staff), we boosted The Nation here from day one, up until the disgusting summer of 2006 when their timid stance on the war (a fiery editorial followed by nothing) and refusal to cover war resisters became obvious.

John Nichols' "Neoconned Again"

Herman Schwartz' "Summer Lunch Crunch"

Max Fraser's "Farewell, Tony and Carm"

6 pieces

Score: 6 men, 0 women


Calvin Trillin's "Alberto Gonazles Is Still at His Post"

Alexander Cockburn's "Dissidents Against Dogma"

Katha Pollitt's "Tough Luck, Ladies"

Patricia J. Williams' "Divining Demeanor" -- wherein Professor Patti makes like most law professors and gets her 'hard science' from People magazine. This allows her to utilize "Dog Discrimination" as her jumping off point on how black dogs are like African-Americans. And people question the magazine's commitment to exploring race!

4 pieces

Score: 2 women, 2 men


Ronald Aronson's "The New Atheists" -- what is that, "new" atheists? Is there a ceremony for that? Is it like born-again Christians?

Felicia Mello's "Coming To America"

2 pieces

Score: 1 man, 1 woman


Rick Perlstein's "Chinese Mirrors"

Susan Stewart's "There Is No Natural Death (poem)"

Stuart Klawans' "12:08 East of Bucharest"

3 pieces

Score: 2 men, 1 woman

Issue score: 10 men, 4 women

Year to date score: 255 men, 74 women

Which brings the score for the last six months to 3.447 men receiving bylines for every single woman. In her column in the issue, Katha Pollitt noted, "For those who believe the feminist movement marginalized itself by taking its eye off the dollar" -- no, we don't know what she's talking about either unless she's talking about the raunch 'feminists' she's played den mother too -- "this is the perfect opportunity to get back to economic issues that have cross-class appeal."

Having all read Virginity or Death, including Sista' Katha's decree that that NAACP shouldn't 'waste' time worrying about TV portrayals, we can't predict that she'll be the least bit concerned with representation of women. But before she again trots out the column on The New York Times' sorry number of women showing up on the op-ed pages, she might need to weigh in on the magazine she works for.

The lack of women being featured in the magazine was brought to C.I.'s attention by a group of women late in 2006. For a column at Polly's Brew, C.I. went back and compiled the stats for that year. What we had discussed was following 2007's issues each time they arrived in the mailbox. Ava and C.I. were in charge of the December 24, 2006 edition and that was the first week that a 2007 issue had arrived (January 1, 2007 issue). They immediately started up "The Nation Stats." "The Nation Stats" ran again in our December 31st edition (covering the magazine's January 8, 2007 issue -- a "double issue"). January 21st, we covered the January 22nd issue in "The Nation Stats." January 28th, "The Nation Stats" covered two issues since two arrived the same day for three of us participating in this feature. February 4th, we covered the Feb 12th issue in "The Nation Stats." February 11th we covered the February 19th issue in "The Nation Stats." February 25th, we coved the February 26th issue in "The Nation Stats." March 4th we covered the March 5th and March 12th issues of the magazine in "The Nation Stats." March 11th, we covered the March 19th issue in "The Nation Stats." April 1st, we covered the March 26th and April 2nd issues in "The Nation Stats." April 8th, we covered the April 9th and April 6th issues in "The Nation Stats." April 22nd, we covered the April 32rd and April 30 issues in"The Nation Stats." April 29th, "The Nation Stats" addressed the May 7th issue. May 20th, "The Nation Stats" covered four issues -- May 14th, May 21st, May 28th and June 4th. June 10th, "The Nation Stats" covered the June 11th and June 18th issue.
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