Sunday, October 14, 2007

Truest statement of the week

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about wiretapping, the controversy now, the frustration that people have with the Democrats, supposedly the opposition party, going along with the Republicans.

CHARLIE SAVAGE: Well, the background is that after 9/11, as we all know now, Bush gave the military the authority to wiretap phone calls without warrants, in defiance of a 1978 law that required warrants for that situation. And he used a very aggressive legal theory about the President's powers as commander-in-chief to bypass laws at his own discretion. Because that program was only legal if that theory were true, that meant that the fact that they did this set a precedent that says that theory is true, and future presidents will be able to cite that precedent when they want to evade any other law that restricts their own authority.
So now, going forward, one of the ways this agenda has been able to be so successfully implemented was that there was no resistance from Congress. At the very moment there was this stronger push coming out of the Vice President's office to expand the presidential power as an end to itself in any way possible, because of one-party rule for six years and because of the atmosphere of crisis after 9/11, there was no push back. And that's how the ball was moved so far down the field.
And one of the things that's been very interesting about the last year is now we have split control of government again, and so the question was, how is that going to change things? And what we've seen from the Protect America Act in August and the dynamic going forward is that even with split control of government, the dynamic is still there. Congress is just as it was for the first twenty or thirty years of the Cold War, when the original imperial presidency was growing under presidents of both parties, by the way. Congress is again unwilling to push back against the White House's assertion that it needs ever more authority, and checks and balances will result in bloodshed. And so, I think, going forward, that you can see that this dynamic is going to be with us. And, of course, two years from now, we may have one-party control of government again, the other party, but that will just sort of hurl us further down this path, I think.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And this issue of the President seeking to protect those in the corporate world who go along with his policies -- well, first of all, obviously, there was the retroactive immunity to the airline companies after 9/11 for their failure to act to provide a kind of security on their planes, giving them immunity from any possible lawsuits, and now this effort by the administration to try to provide retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that went along with his surveillance program.

CHARLIE SAVAGE: Well, and what this is, is because Congress has demonstrated that it's really not going to do anything about the basic fact that the President asserted he could bypass a law and then he acted on that assertion, and, you know, that established he can do that, or whoever else is president at any given moment from now on can do that, that the one sort of last place where critics of this sort of extraordinary development could still have some traction was the lawsuit against the companies, which had also evidently broken privacy laws by going along with this. So, by seeking retroactive immunity, it's sort of the last place closing off the possibility of accountability.

-- Democracy Now!, Friday, October 12th, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speaking with the Boston Globe's Charlie Savage.

Truest statement of the week

The Nation's snotty, radical-baiting columnist Eric Alterman (1) doesn't get it.

-- Paul Street, "Eric Alterman, The Democrats, and the 'Stab in the Back'," ZNet. We love it when the Cindy Brady of the Faux Left gets called out.

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --

Another Sunday. If we hadn't used illustrations, we could have posted this edition in full by 8:00 a.m. EST. Instead, waiting for the Faludi illustration to load (one hour and five minutes on Flickr), we're later than we'd have liked but still early.

Here's who worked on this edition:

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

And of course Dallas and we thank everyone for their assitance and hard work. Here's what we've got.

Truest statement of the week -- Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez discussing reality with the Boston Globe's Charlie Savage.

Truest statement of the week -- The entire article we pulled this from is worth reading; however, Paul Street packed a mouthful in just that one line.

Editorial: Press love for Blackwater -- This was a last minute editorial. We did the wiretapping in the print edition. What happened? Our ACLU illustration is still loading, still loading, still loading. Why not just forget about the illustration? Uh, excuse the hell out of us but to get last Sunday's edition posted required skipping all illustrations and didn't we hear about that in e-mail after e-mail.

TV: Murdering the audience -- Ava and C.I.'s latest. Filled with humor. Filled with insight. When I read this out loud to everyone, we couldn't stop laughing. "What's the new illustration?" Ty's already found three e-mails asking about that. Unless there are major complaints, that will be the basic illustration through at least December. Rebecca and Jess were working on stained glass type illustrations to give the commentaries a new look for the year. C.I. and Ava found the photo of Condi, Dick and whomever (Paul Bremer) watching TV at the White House website. Rebecca and Jess played with it a bit in Photoshop. It's public domain and it shows America at its worst. Considering the bulk of this fall's offering, so does broadcast TV. For those late to the party, Rebecca and Jess created the first illustration for Ava and C.I.'s commentaries. Hated that illustration, created a second, a third, a fourth. The fourth is the one most readers are used to but Rebecca and Jess really wanted the new season to have a new illustration.

1 Book, 10 Minutes -- Faludi's The Terror Dream -- No one was looking forward to this. Not because of the book. We all loved Susan Faludi's The Terror Dream; however, last week we spent forever on a book discussion and then (as we noted) didn't publish it here. We weren't worried what would be said about the book, we were burned from last week. The Terror Dream is an important book and we encourage to pick it up. Second illustration is the book jackets for The Terror Dream, Stiffed and Backlash in that order.

Blog Action What? -- This was what Ty was checking the e-mails for. To the 12 who have already e-mailed to complain and any who might be waiting: If you put any conditionals on your quotes, you didn't get quoted. The ones quoted received an e-mail stating, "Thank you, you will be quoted." Others received that as well. Those who wrote back (and let's be clear that everyone being asked was being asked for this article) with qualifiers such as, "Use this but not that" or something similar, you ended up with an e-mail stating, "You may or may not be quoted." Those who wrote (this is several) repeatedly as they attempted to polish their quotes, got ditched as well. One person wrote this morning with yet another polish. He wasn't included.
We didn't have time for it. As many continued to polish through Friday night, Dona and I (Jim) made the decision that since the earlier versions were no longer good enough to the ones responding, they'd missed their chance. At another time, we might have been more flexible but we had a great deal to cover in a short time and we spent a great deal of time all week contacting people. If you're among the many who responded and wanted to be quoted in part, we didn't quote you. You'll find your opinions echoed in the article. But we'd suggest you take Kat's motto to heart the next time you're asked for a quote: "It is what it is." There was one blogger who went back and forth five times over our request to quote her (her original response noted that it wasn't to be quoted). We're not speaking of her or any of the ones who replied and stated in their replies, "Don't quote me." But if you think you can change your quote repeatedly, you need to step into the real world. If someone asks you for a quote from a paper and you give it, they're going with that quote. They're not going to want to hear, "Okay, I've brushed it up" over and over. Something similar happened at The Common Ills in that sites first months. C.I. did a book survey at the request of some members. C.I. included a blogger (not referring to Ron who did participate and did so via one quote that he never attempted to change). The blogger gave a long list of books in his e-mail. (You were supposed to pick one.) C.I. went to the trouble of fixing the titles on them because some of the titles were not correct. Right before the entry went up (and C.I. had assumed it would be an easy way to get an entry on a busy weekend), the blogger e-mailed with more books (to the question of, "What is your favorite book?" "Is" and "book" being the key words). C.I. hadn't posted the entry and redid it to include the add ons. Then the entry went up. The blogger saw that some members picked children's books. The blogger e-mailed again insisting he didn't know children's books could be included. He already had over twenty books listed but he wanted to add multiple children's books to the list as well. To a question of "What is your favorite book?" that's way too much work. We don't play that game here. We asked you for your comments and noted it was for a feature article we were working on. Those of you who replied are reflected in the article even if you're not quoted. Those of you who began rewriting your quotes or began setting conditions on your quotes ended up not being quoted. Be mad if you want, but learn a lesson from it. When you're asked for a comment to be used in something being written, be prepared. The ones we did quote imposed no rules on their quote and their replies got to the point. They had more comments that, had there been time, we would have liked to have included as well. Blog Action Day is tomorrow.

Concerned Anthropologists have a reason to be -- The big question we had when C.I. was discussing the NPR show in a snapshot was, "Did Page or anyone point out that Monty had been caught lying?" Nope. No one said a word. No one said, "Monty said the woman gave her full name always!" No one even addressed the issue of the anthropologist wearing military clothes and carrying a gun. C.I. says it was a very strange broadcast. It's archived, so if you're able to listen online, you can go to The Diane Rehm Show and pull up Wednesday, October 10th's broadcast and listen yourself. Lewis e-mailed this morning and noted how we (I believe it was me) had brought up here that the crazies e-mail (governmental crazies) to defend Monty anytime she's mentioned at The Common Ills. Lewis wondered whether that was the case? Ava says the public account for The Common Ills got the usual whines from the State Department and the US military as well as three graduate students (one didn't identify herself as such, but Ava knows her -- the woman's from the Bay Area). None will get a reply.

Things to watch, things to do -- We went back and forth over including a press release from the Green Party. In the end, we didn't. Why not? It came in Friday about a Saturday event. Had a press release come in about the Saturday event (how it went), we would have. If you're e-mailing to let us know things that are coming up, please note it is "The Third Estate Sunday Review." In fact, we're adding an entry even though we're tired. Hold on.

Why "The Third Estate"? -- Several e-mails on that came in this week. Most were nice. We pulled this from a reply we e-mailed. For those who need to hop on the high horse before raising the issue, probably not a good idea to flaunt your historical ignorance when making accusations.

Blackwater & Washington Week -- I asked Ava and C.I. last week, at the last minute, to do a piece on Washington Week. They'd already done their TV commentary. But the loss of the book discussion meant we had a huge hole. I felt they could dash something off on the topic in a matter of minutes. They felt they were too tired. C.I. did address it on Monday and it's reposted here.

Highlights -- Kat, Wally, Betty, Cedric, Rebecca, Elaine and Mike wrote this and picked out the selections except where noted. I would also note Mike's "Scott Horton, Third" which covers last week's edition.

"Child Brides: Stolen Lives" NOW with David Brancaccio -- That was added Wednesday in a rare non-Sunday posting. Some saw it and didn't see the date. You didn't miss it Sunday, it went up Wednesday.

That's it for us. We're going to eat, watch a DVD (A Day At The Races, most likely) and crash.

See you next week.
-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: Press love for Blackwater

September 16th in Baghdad, Blackwater mercenaries apparently did what they always do: treat Iraq as their own personal playground and Iraqis as objects who don't have a right to be there. That is, despite how many in the press choose to paint it, the reality. Blackwater mercenaries ride around as if they are armed ambulances, expecting all traffic to stop because they are so damn important. Those who don't immediately pull over to the side of the road get water bottles, flares and worse thrown at them. Those are the lucky ones. Others get the 'joys' of a hail of bullets.

In an adult world inhabited by thinking journalists, we might expect the behavior Blackwater exhibits would be questioned. In what other city in the world could foreigners decide that they are so damn important everything must stop for them? In what other country would that 'road rage' even be tolerated?

Not only has it been tolerated, it has been excused.

Two Fridays ago on PBS' Washington Week, USA Today's Joan Biskupic, referring to the September 16h slaughter of at least 17 Iraqis, mused of the behaviors that have led to Congressional inquiries, "I mean, is part of the problem that even though they've had this rogue reputation, they've been successful?"

Yes, Joan, that's exactly the problem. Go back to your deep coma.

For Iraqis trying to have a semblance of daily life, Blackwater is a clear and present danger. But the mainstream press (which benefits from their own bodyguards) don't seem to grasp that demanding all traffic stop because you are on the road is not normal behavior.

Though there's been no time for the press to question the way Blackwater operates, there has been plenty of time for men to gush over Blackwater CEO Erik Prince. Something about Prince brings out the Women's Wear Daily in alleged hard news reporter. John M. Broder (of The New York Times) appeared to be offering Prince in some sort of Stud For A Night auction: "Mr. Prince, 38, a former Navy Seal, appeared before the committee and its openly skeptical chairman in a trim dark blue suit with his blond hair in a fresh cut." Not to be outdone, James Risen (also of The New York Times) oohed and aawed last week over, "Erik D. Prince, the crew-cut, square-jawed founder of Blackwater USA". No, as C.I. noted, Prince does not have a square jaw nor a crew-cut. He has a pointy chin which is common to those with the inverted triangle facial shape. But why stick to the facts when you have a mash note to pen?

On Thursday, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) broke the news that the Center for Constitutional Rights was filing a lawsuit against the mercenary company Blackwater USA. CCR explains, "The suit was filed on behalf of an injured survivor and three families of men killed in the incident, according to the legal team representing the civilians. The case was brought be the Center for Constitutional Rights and the firms of Burke O'Neil LLC and Akeel & Valentine, P.C. Filed in Washington, D.C. federal court by Talib Mutlaq Deewan and the estates of the deceased men -- Himoud Saed Atban, Usama Fadhil Abbass, and Oday Ismail Ibraheem -- the lawsuit claims that Blackwater and its affiliated companies violated U.S. law and 'created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company's financial interests at the expense of innocent human life'."

That pretty much sums it up.

And it's a real shame that the summation comes from attorneys instead of the mainstream press which continues to provide excuses and minimize the behavior of Blackwater and other mercenaries operating in Iraq.

But as CCR noted in their 2004 advertisement, "We didn't whine about the Patriot Act stripping our Constitutional rights, we got a key provision ruled unconstitutional and thrown out."

TV: Murdering the audience


Though ABC can't provide laughs with their Tuesday lineup, they provide many laughs on Friday. That is a bit of problem when the program, Women's Murder Club, isn't intended to be a sitcom. It's supposed to be an hour long drama.

The series, based on the James Patterson series of books, is about four alleged adult women. There is a homicide investigator, a medical examiner, a prosecutor and (on the outside looking in) a reporter. The first three work together gladly and giddily. So much so that the reporter will ask, "Do you three have a thing?"

If they did, it might actually be interesting. If the three women were involved in a menage a trois, it would mean they had lives. Instead, only the medical examiner, Claire played by Paula Newscome, has what passes for a happy love life. The prosecutor, Jill played by Laura Harris, is torn between two guys and seems intent upon making a snap decision out of fear that she will become the homicide investigator.

The homicide investigator's lines are recited by an alumni of the Dick Wolf School of Rote Memorization, Angie Harmon, who mainly seems to get cast so that people will recall the Rogers & Hart classic "Johnny One Note" from the musical Babes In Arms. She's not much of a "babe" and, though armed, appears to have no idea of how to hold a gun. In fact, she reminded us of the bit Cheryl Ladd used to do all the time, where she'd send up Charlie's Angeles by pretending to aim a gun, ask that everyone wait, toss her hair a few times, then return to gun pose and declare, "Alright, freeze."

Possibly it's not fair to just note that Harmon's awkward handling a gun when she's awkward throughout. The woman was never a successful runway model and her lack of grace explains why. Simply walking across a room on camera appears to be a physical challenge for Harmon which may explain why she eagerly dispenses with acting challenges all but once in the first episode that aired Friday night.

Whether she's questioning a suspect, avoiding her ex-husband, chatting with her friends or noting that a woman has just died and fallen on the roof of her car, Harmon gets each word out in the same flat tone and with all the warmth of Kate Mulgrew.

Rather surprising when audiences are supposed to be vested in Harmon's character. We're not supposed to like her so much as pity her. Lindsay got so involved in her work, we're told, that she destroyed her marriage to Rob Estes' character (heads up to reader Stella of Rhode Island, Estes is a series regular, not guest star). Now the reality is that TV women often have trouble with relationships because writers aren't comfortable providing female characters with the one or two scenes (generally in bed) of them with a husband or boyfriend -- the kind that they repeatedly serve up for lead male characters. A wife of a male lead can exist off screen without a second thought but writers tend to get nervous when it comes to female leads and need to 'ground' them with excess baggage never required of the men.

The reality of Women's Murder Club is that Harmon's zombie like walk through each scene makes it impossible to believe Lindsay could ever get too involved with anything -- be it a job or a partner. Her acting isn't helped by the really bad writing. At one point, referring to the dead woman who landed on her car, Harmon will recite a line about how they weren't close and didn't get along. At another point, she will refer to the dead woman as her friend. That would be troubling if spaced over the hour, when it comes in the same scene it's just jaw droppingly appalling. The scene in question is where Lindsay's speaking with the fourth woman, Cindy played by Aubrey Dollar.

Dollar provides the only excitement from the four leads. That may be due to the fact that she's actually acting and that, as the outsider of the four, she's actually interesting. Harris and Newsome perform their roles but are stuck with reassuring the audiences (constantly) of how wonderful Lindsay is as an investigator, a friend, a person and presumably future Nobel Peace Prize winner. Has so much backstory ever appeared in one episode?

On primetime, no. On daytime, yes. Pre-Luke & Laura, Tuesdays and Thursdays were soap time (any soap) in which two characters sat at a kitchen table with a cup of coffee and recapped everything that happened. Women's Murder Club does that with Lindsay, Jill and Claire repeatedly only instead of over a cup of coffee, it's usually over a corpse. In fact, the show seems intent on popularizing Korpse Klatches. There's something really sad about writers who think that in the midst of an autopsy, the thing to give viewers is "OH MY GOD"s over whether Lindsay still loves her ex-husband and whether he still loves her and will she return his phone call. But then there's something pathetic about a show that needs to constantly explain everything.

Apparently someone was concerned that African-American Claire being friends with White Lindsay might confuse some or frighten people so audiences were treated with a scene where Claire reminded her that they were friends because Claire always tells her the truth -- even when Lindsay was 'destroying' her marriage.

There was so much backstory in the first episode that we honestly fear they may soon run out and be left with discussing when they first got their periods while they go over a crime scene.

In one of the most honest moments, Claire will ask that they both shut up and discover that a corpse did not meet death by hanging but was strangled first. She will note this discovery while informing them see what happens when they back off and let her do her job? That the reality doesn't sink in for Jill or Lindsay makes us up hope ABC's online promotion includes posting job performance evaluations for all characters.

Sticking to the soap opera, Rob Estes' character, the audience learns, is not only Lindsay's ex-husband, he's also just become her boss! And, get this, whether she loves him or not, he's about to remarry. That plot point leaves no impression because Harmon's such a lousy actress that discerning her character's emotions is like trying to unravel what Ali MacGraw's Brenda was supposed to be thinking from scene to scene in Goodbye Columbus.

Harmon stumbles around on various sets, reciting her dialogue in that wooden manner, and utilizing the same blank facial expression except for one scene which truly is horrifying. Lindsay 'destroyed' her marriage over a serial killer and he's the one who got away. To make sure audiences grasp that, though the Women's Murder Club is just as hollow and badly acted as any of Dick Wolf's attempts, this is a soap opera, the last scene will include the shocker that the serial killer is now active again as they discover a corpse with his signature trademark -- the (female) victim's mouth is sewn shut. (Since women are being silenced, we have hopes that 'he' will actually turn out to be editor and publisher of The Nation Katrina vanden Heuvel in a cross-marketing branding. vanden Heuvel silences women by publishing so very few.)

Harmon apparently felt that this scene was the one where she needed to do more than recite. So she turned her back on her two friends (reporter Cindy was roped off from the crime scene) and attempted to have her wooden face register some emotion. The results were more horrifying than seeing the dead corpse with the mouth sewn shut.

She can't change her emotions in the middle of a sentence without going through a sort of Jekyll and Hyde contortion of the face, so that when one wants to indicate that she is going from sorrow to joy, one must cut away and then back.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was referring to Joan Crawford but, had he lived long enough, he could have been talking about Harmon. Her nostrils did this bizarre thing as she tried to get her eyes to tear up and her jaw was doing something underneath the hand she clasped to her mouth that was equally strange. We have no idea what she was attempting to convey but seriously question whether it's in the normal range of human emotions.

There's nothing normal about Women's Murder Club. It lacks the charm of The Snoop Sisters, it lacks the complexities of Columbo, it lacks everything you can think of including a lead actress. It's rather amazing that Steve McPherson sees himself as so hands on, so about the elements, and allowed this series to air as is. Setting aside the washed out look (which hardly telegraphs suspense), the washed out lead is such a huge problem that when we called friends with the show the first question was, "How bad are you going to go after Angie?" Everyone knows she's the biggest flaw, the biggest drawback and what kills what could have been an amusing show.

Her non-acting is far from the only problem. (Though we did keep asking if we were remembering wrong -- hadn't she said she was done with TV? Yes, she had. But films were quickly done with her. Hence her return.) This conception of professional women -- all four are professionals -- as giddy gossips is insulting. But Terri Hatcher in the role of Lindsay could provide enough warmth that viewers might over look the insults (the way they have with Desperate Housewives) and still tune in. Harmon has no warmth, has no acting abilities. Too long in the tooth to continue being cast as "the girl," she needed some way to use her masculine good looks to bring in money that would fill the coffers for the 2008 elections. Those who caught her non-act Friday, regardless of political party affiliation, are forgiven if they contemplated writing a check to the GOP just so Harmon would take her tired act elsewhere. The real victims of Women's Murder Club are the viewers who bothered to watch.

1 Book, 10 Minutes -- Faludi's The Terror Dream

Jim: We're going to try a book discussion again. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and, me, Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, and Wally of The Daily Jot. We're discussing Susan Faludi's new book, The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasies in Post 9/11 America. Mike?


Mike: Susan Faludi is a Pulitzer award winning journalist. This is her third book, previously she published Stiffed and the best seller Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women. It's 296 pages of text, no illustrations other than the cover. It retails for $26.00 in the US. Faludi examines what has taken place in the United States in the last years and the meaning of it all. She ends her introduction noting, "In the end, this is not a book about what September 11 did to anyone. It is a book about what September 11 revealed about all of us and, to that degree, about the opportunities that this great tragedy provided to look at ourselves anew."

Betty: The first thing I'll note is the humor. The humor was sorely missing in Stiffed but it really added to the enjoyment of Backlash. She's addressing serious topics here but there are moments where you will laugh.

Dona: The other big difference is the page length. Both Backlash and Stiffed were huge.

C.I.: Backlash is 460 pages of text, Stiffed was 608 pages and, as Mike noted, The Terror Dream is 296 pages.

Jess: So we're talking a big difference there right away. But, and I think Kat might address that topic, before we go further, Betty's correct, Backlash was a joy to read. Stiffed left me cold more often than not. Do we want to discuss any of that?

Rebecca: Well it was a second book and so there's the natural sophomore slump and the pressure to turn out another groundbreaking book like Backlash. But the humor really isn't there, it pops up in places, in Stiffed. I think it suffers from that.

Elaine: And you have to wonder whether that was intentional? The other two really do depend upon the humor to tell the story. These are big issues and it's a huge scope. The humor is both entertaining and a tool to keep you tuned into the narrative. So I wonder whether the scope of Stiffed, men's issues, made Faludi feel less free to use humor?

Ava: I would call Stiffed a failure, a noble one, but a failure none the less. I'm not referring to the sales, I'm referring to telling the stories it set out to. Promise Keepers, to cite one example, is actively hostile to women and you don't get that from Faludi's coverage, you don't get how hypocritical the group is or how hateful they are. The book suffered from a very delicate approach to the issues so I think it's fair to wonder whether humor is absent due to concern about potentially hurt feelings on the part of men?

C.I.: I think that's a good point and Stiffed does need to be addressed because, whatever you term it, a lot of people put time into that book and may feel they don't need to bother with The Terror Dream. To provide another example, besides the one Ava noted, a magazine, a men's magazine, is discussed but not addressed in Stiffed. Here's the back story Stiffed doesn't explain. A shake up is noted, but why the shake up at the magazine? Two cover stories. One on a musician, one on an actor. In the case of the actor, the feature writer notes the actions of the musician and the actor. These are not the actions of two straight men. This is not tattling on the part of the feature writer. The actions took place in full view of many others and cannot be said to have been private. The writer did not make a judgement call that the two were lovers. The writer merely noted the behavior. When the actor's cover story ran, you had a huge group of people outside the magazine screaming for blood including a large record corporation. The fact that those making money off an ambi-sexual musician and a flavor of the month actor were able to bring down the magazine's leadership, which they did, goes to the sexual panic that is a theme of Stiffed. That it's not covered is an issue because we're speaking of an investigative reporter and that story is well known in publishing circles -- and leadership did not leave the magazine quietly. If you're attempting to find out why a men's magazine that was popular with readers and sported a fluid portrayal of sexuality suddenly becomes restrictive, you're grasping at air unless you're addressing what happened, what caused the huge change, and why. There are many themes that are successful in Stiffed but there are many where the punches were pulled. Ava's given one example and that's another. It's important to note because while Stiffed was successful, it wasn't the huge success Backlash was. Few things ever will be. But the disappointment some feel over Stiffed may prevent them from picking up The Terror Dream so it needs to be stressed that this is nothing like Stiffed.

Jess: I'd agree with that. I read Stiffed first. I was probably in first grade when Backlash came out. So when I was hearing about Faludi, largely from Dona, C.I. and Ava, I decided to start with Stiffed. It was a rough read and I almost didn't read Backlash as a result. I mentioned my problems with it to Dona and she begged me to just read two pages of Backlash. I read the two and continued through the book. Like Backlash, The Terror Dream is a pleasure to read.

Jim: Wally noted ahead of time he wanted to talk about chapter one.

Wally: Right. That's "We're At War Sweetheart." I was actually talking to Ruth about that chapter and she said the point I was planning to make was one Philip Maldari also made last Wednesday on KPFA's The Morning Show when he interviewed Faludi. It's that, reading it, you really pick up on the immediate aftermath of 9/11 in terms of the press. I'm not sure how much that registered at the time for me and how much I had forgotten. It's over six years ago and what was I, in junior high, starting high school? But this is a really important chapter. In fact, if someone was to pull a chapter as a stand alone to include as an essay, this would probably be the one to go with. I was just starting the book when Rebecca's post about Sherry's e-mail went up and I really agree with the points Sherry was making.

Jim: Which was? I read Rebecca's post and we'd hoped to a piece on that but probably won't have time so just explain Sherry's point.

Wally: Basically that the book really makes you appreciate what Ava and C.I. have been doing here with their TV commentaries. Not a great deal's changed, I'd argue, in terms of the media -- news or programming -- since 9-11 and reading chapter one and Rebecca's post made me really grasp why people have responded to Ava and C.I.'s work. They really have been doing something that's not been everywhere. There was a major shift, media and White House led, and the country's still not recovered from it.

Dona: For those participating by phone or reading this rush transcript, I'll note that Ava and C.I. are wanting the discussion to move on -- it's physically obvious -- so I'll just note that Sherry also e-mailed this site and wanted to suggest readers especially refer to "TV: Aftermath leaves an aftertaste."

Ava: While everyone's kind words are appreciated, let's get back to the book. Kat actually had a problem so let's go to that.

Kat: Right. The humor's there. It's a brilliant book. I do regret that it's not at least 400 pages. I think some things need further exploration. I'm not saying Faludi doesn't make her points because I think she does and I think she backs them up. I just feel there is a great deal more to say. Not out of "in fairness" but in terms of pursuing topics further. Backlash was a kick-ass book and it wasn't afraid to provide names. I don't know that The Terror Dream is, I think it just doesn't have enough pages.

Cedric: Such as the reduction of women at The Nation. That's an important point and in Backlash it would have been explored further. It's a sentence or two in this book. It's not a minor thing and more pages might have allowed it to be further developed. That's not a minor point. I get books from C.I. all the time. I'll call and ask, "What's the story with" whatever and C.I. will explain on the phone and then, a few days later, a book shipment arrives. I love to read so I always enjoy the books but the two that really surprised me, surprised me by how much I loved them, were Backlash and Gloria Steinem's Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. I would place both on my all time favorites list -- that's a list of non-fiction and fiction books, they'd make it because they are so brilliant and so brave. So that's my only negative on the book -- that The Terror Dream doesn't have more pages because as much as is explored, a great deal is just touched on. I also agree with Wally's comments about chapter one but would add that my favorite chapter was the fifth one, "Nesting Nation."

Betty: That struck me as the take no prisoners chapter and it was also my favorite. And I just want to toss something out for people, whether they read the book or not, to think about: Why is Oprah so obsessed with repeatedly covering these supposed marriage crisis? Why does Oprah, an unmarried woman with no children, repeatedly go to the well on backlash topics?

Ty: Maybe because her audience is primarily White woman who do not work outside the home?

Betty: Exactly.

Ty: And I think that's a point that comes through in the book, how there's not much we can look at in the media with pride. Whether it's Oprah or an outlet that's not supposedly geared primarily for women, pretty much every outlet has engaged in the nonsense. And the nonsense, just to be clear, is that we all need to worship the White male. The straight White male.

Kat: I'd agree with that. That was what happened after 9-11. And some authors of new book should be forced to read this book before they scribble another word -- especially if they are women -- about 'the brotherhood'. This comes through in the first chapter as well and is what Wally's talking about, the worship of the White straight male and the need to reduce others in order to set them up as heroes.

Elaine: And that's true in the news narratives of 9-11, of the attacks and the responses themselves. Women who acted on the flights are not celebrated by the news, women who acted in the aftermath are not celebrated. The only bravery the press wanted to see was White straight male. We need to keep "straight" in there because one thing that more pages would have allowed for was for Faludi to address the build up and then disappearance of Mark Bingham. I remember calling C.I. that evening, 9-11, and asking, "What's the deal with Bingham?" We'd heard about him all day and a slide was beginning. C.I. explained he was gay. He would quickly be reduced in the narrative -- except when outright erased from the narrative. I called an ex-boyfriend either the next day or the day after that to complain -- he's a news producer at a network -- and was basically told America doesn't need to be divided by gay and straight at this time. But they, the news outlets, were doing just that. They were dividing up men and women, as Faludi documents so well in the book, by whom they elected to emphasize and they were also dividing up other aspects because when you reduce one of the 'heroes' you've created due to his sexuality, then you are the one making the divisions.

Ty: And Elaine's making such a wonderful point that goes to the book. And it goes to how much work went into creating this myth of the return of John Wayne. You had to strip away reality to do that. And Faludi has some very astute criticism of the coverage of some the media turned into heroes.

Mike: Right. Women had to be stripped of their credit, Bingham had to be stripped of his. We were supposed to all rally together but we weren't all represented. What was represented was a White, straight, man and we were supposed to rally around that. In her later sections, talking about the rise of the captivity narratives, Faludi will explain how this myth has been used repeatedly.

Kat: Which goes back to a point Elaine's made repeatedly about the sixties and how much time was wasted reassuring male 'leaders' of how great they were to get them ready to go onstage and deliver a speech or whatever. And watching some of them today go to 'brotherhood' nonsense and reduce women -- such as claiming that the draft is the reason everyone protested Vietnam because 'we' all had to go through an invasive physical -- makes you question whether the work that went into propping up their egos was worth it in the short term or the long term?

Dona: Rebecca had a great response to that which I want to note. She's referring to women with "we" at the beginning: "but we did make up easily half of the peace movement, women did. and this nonsense that a draft was what caused campus action because 'students' were afraid of being drafted or because 'students' had to go through an invasive medical visit (the military's physical) is crap. that's not reality. and don't talk to me about an invasive medical visit if you haven't ever had to pull up your legs and use those damn stirrups."

Mike: And that's what the nonsense Faludi's addressing deals with. "We" becomes male in the portrayals. We are supposed to rally around a non-universal "we" which isn't even accurate because a lot of people get erased to create the mythical "we."

Jess: And get created. Faludi's also addressing how to create the heroes they had to create the audience and supposedly -- though no facts ever bore this out -- women were responding to 9-11 with marriage and motherhood. Betty had her youngest child before 9-11.

Betty: Yes, I did. And 9-11 didn't make me say, "Oh, Lordy, let me get pregnant again!" I'm in Georgia, far from New York City or the Pentagon. But my reaction wasn't one of helpless or fear. My reaction, and this is a common reaction in the Black community, was one of "I'm surprised it took this long." Meaning that after all the little wars and attacks the US government has launched, I was just surprised that it took this long for the rage to be unleashed and directed back at the US on our own soil. Now my oldest, my son, I have two sons and my daughter is the baby, came back from school and day care noting that some of the White kids were in an uproar. I asked him how he felt -- the other two were too young to know about it -- and his attitude was along the lines of my own. Again, for Black people, this wasn't an uncommon reaction. I would say that results from the fact that, sorry Barack Obama, there are two Americas and there are three and four and five and . . . The point is, for Black people, we've experienced brutality historically in this country. Brutality aimed as us isn't a surprise. The panic that's being documented in The Terror Dream, I don't know if most will pick up on this, is basically White people and White outlets. That's not a criticism because Faludi's talking about the myths and lies the mainstream sold and the mainstream is predominately White. White and Oprah who speaks to White people. But the reaction in my community was different as it was in many communities of color and in many White communities that the mainstream elected to ignore. Rebecca's the only one of us who's become a parent since 9-11. I guess if you string out six years as "aftermath," someone could point to her.

Rebecca: Exactly. 9-11 happened and my response was to get pregnant. I was doing my part. I'm joking by the way. I've actually been pregnant multiple times since 9-11 but I only was able to carry one to term and gave birth this spring. Despite the fact that I have regularly tried to get pregnant, in my marriages and out, my response on 9-11 or in the days after wasn't, "Oh, let me get pregnant!" My personal experience in public relations made me see that time after being used by various corporations and business to hop onto 9-11 and attempt to use it as a marketing ploy. That's really disgusting and it's surprising that it wasn't called out for such in real time.

Cedric: Well, and Rebecca and I have talked about this and Wally and I have talked about this, I think it goes to the press seeing themselves not as an independent body but as part of the establishment and seeing their role as not informing but managing the population. I think that point comes through in the examples that Faludi is providing and, certainly, The New York Times hops on any train to call for women to stop working. It appears to be an ingrained obsession with them at this point.

Wally: And what we were being managed into was fear. That's the point of The Terror Dream and it's really a shock to read some of it and think back to those times. Bully Boy was preaching fear, no question. But the press elected to hop onto the "Buy duct tape to seal your windows!" and other nonsense. That seems so long ago now but it really wasn't all that long ago.

Ava: The hysteria went hand in hand with the worship of the male and the 'brotherhood' and all the other nonsense. We were encouraged to live in fear and to look outside of ourselves -- I think this was true for a lot of White straight males as well -- for strength. The reality is that on 9-12, people got up and went on living. Some were mourning very personal losses, some were mourning a national loss, but everyone summoned their strength. They didn't need a coach or John Wayne on the horizon to do that. I think that, more than anything else, laid the foundation that revealed the lies being told of feminism is to blame or women need to stay at home or any of the other nonsense because we saw with our own eyes that life went on.

Jim: And if there's another terror attack?

Ava: It's very likely there will be. That was part of our point, C.I. and my point, in the TV commentary Dona was talking about earlier. Don't look for a hero, be your own. Don't stand on the sidelines or be pushed to the sidelines. One thing that has changed is that if it happens while Bully Boy occupies the White House, he will be called out this time. There will be no rallying around him. He's had six years and any attack reflects on him. Reflects on the press created John Wayne myth of the Bully Boy. He'll be called out -- even if the press refuses to do so -- and it will be a lot harder for the press to set a 'strong man'.

Jim: We're winding down now. Dona and I found something we wanted to read and get a response to. "Backlash by Susan Faludi. Stiffed was not a bad book, it was a very good book, but Backlash was one of those books that shocks because it's so brilliant. If I had the time, I'd be re-reading it right now. It's ground breaking, it's funny, it's (sadly) still pertinent today. If you haven't read it but are thinking about picking it up, don't let the size of the book intimidate you. You can pick a chapter at random and start reading."

C.I.: Either Ava and I wrote that or I wrote it. I recognize the rhythm.

Jim: It's you. You were filling in for Kat at her site when she had to go Ireland. Community member Shirley had suggested you write about books and you were writing about important books that were published before Bully Boy began occupying the White House. Jess stressed Stiffed because he had a really luke warm reaction to that book. You and Ava had noted, I think when you called us from the road Tuesday, that you'd probably draw a clear line between The Terror Dream and Stiffed and Dona and I thought it would be good to explain why.

C.I.: Well I liked Stiffed. I wrote the above during CODEPINK's Troops Home Now Fast.

Jim: Are you saying you'd word it differently today?

C.I.: No, just trying to (a) work in a link for CODEPINK and (b) note that action. Ava, Kat and I were on the road last week and this week, speaking about Iraq to college students, high school students, women's groups and a few labor groups. From time to time one person would bring up The Terror Dream, someone reading it and enjoying it as will most who pick up the book. But the reaction, especially among women's groups, was one of, "I put time in on Stiffed." There was a sense that they weren't up for another book like that. I happen to like Stiffed. It's flawed. And Ava and I had noted two flaws. But there was a woman who reacted strongly to it being brought up the Tuesday we called, her reaction was that after Stiffed she really wasn't planning on ever reading Faludi again. So I asked her what would get her interested enough to pick up The Terror Dream and she replied, "Someone swearing to me that it wasn't anything like Stiffed." It's not like that book at all. And that reaction popped up repeatedly. So Ava and I had decided that was a point that we needed to hit and hit early in the book discussion. Stiffed was a bestselling book. There are people who love it. But there are also people who were very disappointed in it. If you're trying to figure out whether to read the book or not and worried about which other book by Faludi The Terror Dream is more like, the book it's more like is Backlash. It's got the humor, the strong observations. At it's weakest, and that's what Ava and I were both emphasizing in our examples, Stiffed didn't penetrate, it described and sometimes described from a great distance. Backlash had an immediacy because it was up close. That immedicay is to be found in The Terror Dream.

Jim: We all recommend the book highly. Even Dona. Do you want to talk about that?

Dona: I'll just note that one of the quoted is someone I know and it's interesting how, in the book, she's the voice for women when many women my age know a different angle on her. I would describe that woman as a chicken and a liar and note that when she spoke to a group of us at my old college campus in NYC, she got confronted over her sexism and attempted to deny it but said she'd think further about it. She encouraged us to ask her about it 'later' and gave out her e-mail address. Ten other female students and I did just that in 2005, approximately three months later, and she still had nothing to say because she needed "more time." I think she's a pig but even with that aspect of her not being presented, I still loved Faludi's book, though I did skim the pages where the pig appeared. The pig, by the way, will know who she is, she regularly reads this site and a few months back wrote to ask, "Are you the same Dona?" I wrote back, "I need more time to think about that answer." Whether she got the joke or not, that's the only reply she'll get. So even with that woman appearing in the book, I still recommend it strongly.

Jim: Dona really hates that woman so if she's still recommending Faludi's book, despite that woman popping up in it, it's a book you need to read. Susan Faludi's The Terror Dream : Fear and Fantasy in Post 9/11 America is available in bookstores and at your local libraries. Pick it up.

Blog Action What?

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

October 15, a week from today, is Blog Action Day, and the theme this year is the environment. If you have a blog and want to join in, all you have to do is use that day to post something related to the environment, in whatever way, shape, or form you prefer. You can pick an environmental issue that has meaning for you and let us know why it's important. Organize a beach or neighborhood cleanup and tell us about it. If you're into fiction writing, give us a story with an environmental theme. Have a podcast, videoblog, or photoblog? Join the fun! The idea here is to have a mass effect on public awareness by sharing as many ideas in as many ways as possible.

If you're game for participating, go register your blog with the 7,000+ other blogs (with 5 million readers!) that are already signed up. Also, see the Blog Action Day blog for more on how bloggers can change the world.

The above announcement was viewable to anyone with a site on Blogger/Blogspot logging in on October 8th. It was the top item that day and is still visible on dashboard. Currently 13, 785 blogs have signed up to take part in the day's action.

We were curious as to who was signing up and what they hoped for? We were also curious about Blog Action Day itself.

Blog Action Day's founders are bloggers Collis Ta'eed, Leo Babauta and Cyan Ta'eed. Those signing up?

Out of 12,000 e-mails to people who signed their sites up, we had 500 people who responded. Some asked not to be named and they won't be. Those noting where they had heard about overwhelming mentioned the Blogger/Blogspot dashboard announcement, even if they had signed up to take part prior to October 8th (when the announcement ran) which might indicate a faulty memory.

Cocaine (Stuck in a Handbasket) did sign up after the announcement and noted that "the blogger main login page" was where she saw it, "They had one of their daily entries on it, with links to the site etc. I thought it would be fun, and I've always been an advocate for the environment." One of the younger bloggers taking part, Cocaine notes, "I'm hoping that maybe it will inspire people to do something. The blogger practicing what they preach, and the readers following along." Julie (The Turning Tide) expressed a similar opinion, "Just like Blog Action Day says, everyone posting about the same thing on the same day. Sounds ingenious, and even if someone only writes a little tiny paragraph, the net could be overwhelmed with environmental news. It sounds like an interesting way to make a point across the world. I'm interested to see what happens next year."

Awareness was the most cited or referred to hope for the action. Strangely environmental organizations and periodicals expressed no interest in Blog Action Day. Among the many asked for comment, David Perry of the Sierra Club begged off, noting that three basic questions apparently required more staff than the Sierra Club has ("we do not have the staff available") and attempted to push the issue off onto a local Sierra Club chapter. They did and do have time to celebrate a name individual, Al Gore. They're just too busy/understaffed to comment on an action in which 13,785 websites plan to participate. Again, they were far from the only organization but we think it's indicative of organizations seeing themselves as fan clubs as opposed to organizations made up of individuals.

Reading the e-mails from environmental organizations and environmental magazines made clear that lack of awareness is an issue when it comes to their failing to grasp the power of internet. One, who asked not to be named, explained that they are "busy enough" attempting to put out their magazine and don't have time to "waste" on "web nonsense that won't accomplish anything anyway." We found that a curious response since the potential reach of Blog Action Day is now around ten million and there's not an environmental publication around that can make a similar claim.

We also wonder, returning to the Sierra Club, how issuing their announcement of Al Gore's prize win while ignoring the very grass roots campaign of Blog Action Day (they have no mention of it at their website) fulfills their claim to, "Educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment." Unless of course they're enlisting for an autograph party.

Nate (Views from the Left Coast) grasps the potential of the action, even if the Sierra Club doesn't, and replies, "Of course, we all want Blog Action Day and blogging in general to help open and enhance communication between people worldwide. After all, the road to peace is through understanding and appreciation of what is around us." And the Los Angeles Times' Siel (Emerald City), who cited an e-mail from a friend as notifying her about the action, is very clear about hopes that include more than just a one day post, "Beyond awareness, I hope BAD will encourage people to connect on a local level with other activists, to take more grassroots action that yield more tangible results from a personal perspective :)".

Veteran and award winning journalist Alastair Dunning (The Path Less Taken) responds, " As for hopes.. my background as a journalist and an economist has made me a tad cynical.. economics plays the major role in what is, and what will be emitted into our atmosphere, or disposed of in our oceans. I hold out little hope for significant changes in our way of life, other than it increasing it's base in emerging markets the likes of India and China." We didn't find Dunning cynical at all and were very grateful he shared that opinion.

Many shared a similar opinion but usually noted, "Don't quote me." One-hundred-and-twenty-five respondents asking not to be quoted expressed the belief that they did not think much would come from the day of action. The seventy-one who replied to the follow up question asking why they felt that way stated that they didn't see a sense of urgency around the topic with 22 citing a lack of urgency in the general population and forty-nine siting a lack of urgency among environmental organizations. One blogger who blogs just on the environment noted that, "Environmental organizations in the last few years seem to have given up on direct action and become DC lobbyists. For all the attention the Al Gore film [An Inconvenient Truth] has received, I just don't see organizations building on this moment. I feel very lonely and alone most days" in relation to environmental organizations.

Just as he felt environmental organizations had blown their chance to build on An Inconvenient Truth, many felt that environmental organizations were blowing a big chance to raise awareness and educate by sitting out Blog Action Day. Those who felt that way would note various organizations in their follow up replies that could be raising attention to Monday's action but didn't seem aware of it. (If you wrote us about an organization by name, they were either already contacted or we contacted them after we read your e-mail. If you are one of the ones naming an organization, please note, the silence is no longer due to lack of awareness. It's now a choice to be silent that has been made.) Several noted the action alerts they received repeatedly whenever the US Congress was considering legislation but that there were no e-mail alerts to Blog Action Day.

While Billy (Trees for our children . . .) could offer, "I see blogging as important independent media in an increasingly corporatized world..."; environmental organizations apparently feel differently. [Please note, Billy didn't raise the issue of environmental organizations. None who did wanted to be named. One went back and forth on it until deciding against it in her fifth e-mail on the issue of whether to be quoted or not.] Which brings up a very serious issue about the state of the organizations today. In the mainstream press, they may get a brief quote or soundbyte which will be 'balanced' by an environmental skeptic. Blog Action Day offers them the chance to get their message out in full, not partial, without any of the 'balance.' The fact that they do not grasp that or the power of the internet goes a long way towards explaining the many e-mails expressing frustration with the state of today's environmental movement.

Blog Action Day originated very casually. Collis Ta'eed explained, "Cyan, Leo and I work together on a few blogs and the idea came up really as we thought about what was possible from a simple idea. At the end of the day Blog Action Day is quite simple, but it has great potential. Eventually one day I had some time off work and decided to design up a website for the idea and then things just started rolling forward."

Blogger/Blogspot is a much used web tool and their announcing Blog Action Day clearly helped. How much credit they can claim for the leap from 7,000+ participants signed up prior to the announcement to the 13,785 currently (the number is expected to cross the 14,000 mark shortly) isn't known. But what seems fairly obvious is that this already large number could be even greater had environmental organizations bothered to participate in getting the word out.

Since they didn't, some of the strongest activist voices for the environment may not be participating. While there will be strong voices, a thread that came through in some of the e-mails was that some were planning to blog on the day about their belief that global warming was not taking place. When we asked Collis Ta'eed what his reaction was to that potential development, he replied, "Essentially we have no control over what precisely bloggers write, and in fact it would be perfectly legitimate to write a blog post arguing that there's nothing wrong with global warming or something contrary to popular opinion. What we want is simply for people to discuss the issue and give their opinions, their thoughts, their research, their perspective. It really is about mass participation and looking at the environment from as many different angles as possible."

We support his position but note that the potential for such posts really requires that as many voices concerned with the environment be aware of Blog Action Day. This is their first year and they are largely under the radar. Were this their second or third year, we think the topic (which will change each year) could result in an organized counter-action. When future topics are chosen, it's important that those groups active in that area get the word out.

If they had, more participants might be as motivated as Nate (Views from the Left Coast) is,

"I agreed to do a post about an environmental issue, and I reckon I'll write something about what's happening with Superfund under the Bush Administration. I wrote a lot about the Superfund law in years back. My blog is about national and international issues confronting the United States and its people, so I have an unlimited supply of material. Of course, we all want Blog Action Day and blogging in general to help open and enhance communication between people worldwide. After all, the road to peace is through understanding and appreciation of what is around us." The Superfund. How often does someone address that? Those and other important issues could be popping up all over the internet tomorrow if environmental organizations and magazines had seen themselves as part of the solution instead of 'too busy.'

Not everyone who replied had decided yet what they were going to write about. But there is a lot of a passion and talent participating. Billy (Trees for our children . . .) explains the purpose and starting point for him, " ... for my canadian politcis class PSCI 230 I had to create and maintain a blog about any relevant political issue... I chose the environment and a need for intergenerational justice... hence the name of my site 'trees for our children... '." Regardless of what anyone brings to the table (pro or con on the environment), this is a global action.

In fairness to environmental organizations and magazines, we should note that we were highly skeptical of the action. When we began researching it last Monday, we honestly thought this was another blow off action that had little real meaning. As those planning to participate began replying, we realized how wrong we were. There is huge enthusiasm for this action, there is a vast amount of passion about it. Even those expressing skepticism about the next step after Monday feel this is something they can't afford to be silent on.

That isn't limited just to the participants. Collis Ta'eed notes, "Actually this experience - organizing Blog Action Day -- has changed my outlook! We had hoped people would be interested in the idea, but none of us expected the level of support and enthusiasm that everyone has given. It has been a life changing experience in helping us all realize what is possible if you dream big."

We can understand that change in outlook. What started as three friends sharing and talking became a call for action and the response has been tremendous. Even those who replied that they're planning to question the existence of global warming take the issue very seriously.

Blog Action Day's website announces, "Blog Action Day acts as a non-profit organization with a revolving group of bloggers planning and organizing it each year. If you'd like to help, we could sure use extra hands. Contact us with your details, ideas and enthusiasm!. Blog Action Day is and will ever be, simply a vehicle for bloggers to work together to create a better world." And Collis Ta'eed hopes "to help bring the blogging comunity together for a common, higher purpose! The sorts of things we look for in a topic are that it should be an issue that many different blogs on many different topics can relate back to, also something that is pressing and important. The environment was the perfect choice for the first year for those reasons." We hope that 2008's action day will, regardless of the topic, receive more support from organizations involved in whatever issue is selected. For those learning of the action today, you can still sign up to participate by going to the website.

Concerned Anthropologists have a reason to be


The above looks like a US soldier in the United States Army, but who knows? He could, after all, be an anthropologist.

Wednesday on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, USA Today's Susan Page (filling in for Diane Rehm) attempted to tackle the issue of anthropologists being used to spy on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq so that their knowledge can then be used against the people by the US military. Those social scientists engaging in the appalling behavior prefer to see it differently, but that is what it amounts to.

You can't talk appalling behavior without inviting Montgomery McFate -- thankfully, no longer a part of the Bay Area -- who apparently couldn't get a real job in her field so she went to work for the US military long before the Iraq War started. Monty was up to her usual "creativity" (she was humored growing up by having lies passed off as creativity) even when addressing an anthropologist who pops up David Rohde's "Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones" (New York Times) and is billed in the article only as "Tracy."

The Fool Monty denied that anything untoward was going on. Anthropologist David Price raised issues about what exactly Monty's team of social misfits were doing, how they were conducting themselves and what was being done with the information they gathered. Monty dismissed it all and insisted, near the end, that things would be much worse if she weren't 'engaged' in 'the process.' She insisted that "they are not conducting covert or clandestine activities. They identify themselves by name and the unit that they're with to anyone they talk to so it's not a secret program by any means." And she took offense to Price's questions over whether or not people were giving informed consent by insisting that "no one is forced" to talk to the anthropologists and everyone who does is making a choice.

How much of a choice are they allowed?

That's an important question and it only became more important as the hour discussion continued. Page brought up the issue of Tracy.

Susan Page: . . . there was a New York Times article last week which actually prompted us to do this show today. And it did talk about this anthropologist named Tracy, but it wasn't clear to me, Montgomery McFate maybe you know, whether her [full] name was just not disclosed to the New York Times article, or if her full name is not being disclosed to the people she's interacting with in Afghanistan. Do you know -- do you know the answer to that.

Monty : Her name was held from the New York Times story and in other media that's come out of Afghanistan at her own request.

Susan Page: But does she give her [full] name to the Afghanis that she's talking with.

Monty: Yes, she does.

Creative Monty.

Author of Times' piece, David Rohde appeared much later in the program. When he did, Page returned to the issue of Tracy and how she presented herself when interviewing the civilian populations.

David Rohde: Um, she was transparent with them. I don't think she gave her full name, I think she does identify herself as an anthropologist. I saw her briefly, but I don't know what she does at all times. She personally, um, actually chose to carry a weapon for security that's not a requirement for members of the team, I've been told. And she wore a military uniform which would make her appear to be a soldier, um, to Afghans that she wasn't actually speaking with.

Susan Page: And so you think Aghans knew that she wasn't a soldier even though she was wearing a military uniform and carrying a weapon? Or do you think that they just assumed that she probably was?

David Rohde: I would think that they assumed that she was.

He doesn't think she gave her full name. She carries a weapon and dresses in a military uniform. Do Afghans, Page wonders, assume "Tracy" is a soldier? Rohde answers, "I would think that they assumed that she was."

Most anthropologists in the field neither wear fatigues nor carry a weapon.

David Price's questions of "meaningful, voluntary, informed consent" only became more pertinent after it was revealed, by Rohde, that Monty didn't know what the hell she was talking about.

Anthropologists (including Price) have set up Concerned Anthropologists in an attempt to address the manipulation of a social science and of a people. What Monty and her crew are doing is disgusting. They know it is and that's why Tracy didn't want her last name used in the article. (What? You think she lives in fear that the Taliban is going to show up stateside and force her into a burqa? As one told George Packer in December 2006, it's a real drag on the US cocktail circuit when people find out you're taking part in that and, golly, you get lectures and stares.) Put yourself in Afghanistan or Iraq. You're in your home. The US military rolls up to your door. A man or a woman, in military uniform and carrying a gun, tells you, "I'm an anthropologist and I need to ask you a few questions." Do you really think you have the power to say "no"? There is no genuine consent to any action that begins with a full show of force and that's exactly Tracy begins her 'missions.'

[Photo public domain courtesty of the US Army.]

Things to watch, things to do


Things to catch this week.

RadioNation with Laura Flanders, Sunday at 1:00 pm EST, on Air America Radio, XM satellite radio, and streaming online.

What's left of our rights, our Constitution, our presidential options -- and our Left! This week on RadioNation we take on all of the above, with the Nation's PATRICIA WILLIAMS, ALEXANDER COCKBURN and ARI BERMAN. And CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH, defender of more than fifty Guantanamo detainees, on his new book about his experiences, out now from Nation Books.

Democracy Now! [on Pacifica, NPR, community, and college radio stations; on public access, PBS, satellite TV stations (DISH network: Free Speech TVch. 9415 and Link TV ch. 9410; DIRECTV: Link TV ch. 375); on the World Radio Network's European Service and on the Community Broacasting Association of Australia service; as a "podcast", automatically downloaded to your computer or portable audio player; and streams live M-F at 8am EST] has a big week planned and it includes Yoko Ono. We believe Yoko is a guest on Tuesday. Among the topics may be a discussion of the Imagine Peace Tower.

And all week long don't miss the madcap, American sitcom, Life With Nancy. This week, Nancy Pelosi's hijinks include attempting to act as if she doesn't control every piece of legislation that goes through the House as she pushes through legislation to strip Americans of their rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. Listen for her laugh getting excuse that if Congress doesn't leagalize illegal wire tapping by the Bully Boy, then some legislation will be pushed on them that's even worse. Pushed on by whom, Speaker of the House Pelosi? Exactly who are you saying pulls your strings?

Cindy Sheehan gives Life With Nancy two thumbs down: "No matter how many times Ms. Pelosi and George Bush share tea and giggles and no matter how often she 'prays' for him, George is not the Decider and she is only the Leader of the House of Representatives not the people. " Catch Life With Nancy while you can. There's talk that the show will be cancelled in November 2008.

And Friday is the Iraq Moratorium. This is the third day of each month and seeks to demonstrate that US troops need to be pulled from Iraq:

The Iraq Moratorium is striking a chord with the rising generation, as shown in the report by Lancaster (PA) SDS that most of the seventy people at their Moratorium Day vigil were high school students. The mother of another high schooler, this one in Washington State, writes:
"My daughter wore her black armband to school. She took extras and they were gone by the end of her first class. Several people asked her about the armband, she answered simply that she was protesting the war in Iraq. Nobody, students or teachers, reacted negatively. She intends to do it again next month and bring even more extra armbands with her. I'm one proud Mama :)"

Why "The Third Estate"?

"The Third Estate" is a question that pops up all the time and we addressed it the first week and every now and then. The Fourth Estate you refer to is in the US. We weren't going with journalism for our title. The Third Estate refers to France. Briefly, they were the left and they were neither the nobility nor the clergy (the other two estates). The estates voted amongst themselves and each estate then had one vote. The first two usually voted together. The Third demanded a head count vote (not a body count vote -- they represented more people and had more members and would win in a head count among the three estates). They took the Oath of the Tennis Court and started the French Revolution. That's the briefiest explanation.

Sometimes the issue pops up not as a question but as a 'correction' -- usely in an angry e-mail -- explaining that, "The press is the Fourth Estate, you idiots!" The ones making that claim are the idiots. We went historical with our title. Jess proposed it and Dona had a vague idea about The Third Estate. Ava and C.I. knew what it was. Jim and Ty were in the dark and asking, "Why that?" They liked the sound of it but didn't know the background. After it was explained, we all signed off on it. We think it's actually described this site in ways we weren't prepared for -- in ways we didn't expect. But that is what we've come to represent.

Those honestly wondering, we usually note the background twice a year.

Blackwater & Washington Week

Jim: Mike just informed me that in "Highlights," they mention my request last week of Ava and C.I. which was that they do a "quick write up" of PBS' Washington Week. As readers last week know, our opinion was the edition cratered when we made the decision not to include a book discussion we'd worked three hours doing (plus two hours of editing and discussion). It was at noon (here) when I made the request but I did and do believe they could have pulled it off. As it was, C.I. addressed it on Monday in an "Iraq snapshot." I think it's worth reposting here and still think they could have dashed off something together in a matter of minutes.

Turning to the subject of the mercenaries at Blackwater USA. Jeremy Scahill (Guardian of London via Common Dreams) observes, "A pattern is emerging from the Congressional investigation into Blackwater: the state department urging the company to pay what amounts to hush money to victims' families while facilitating the return of contractors involved in deadly incidents for which not a single one has faced prosecution." The relationship between the US State Department and Blackwater is one of repeated cover ups. On Saturday, John M. Broder (New York Times) got all excited on a new 'answer' -- the State Department would by utilizing "its own personnel as monitors on all Blackwater security convoys in and around Baghdad" and by placing "video cameras in Blackwater armored vehicles to produce a record of all operations". Friday NPR's Jackie Northam (All Things Considered) discussed the so-called measures with -- after noting that Rice's recordings "apply only to Blackwater and only in Baghdad" -- Peter W. Singer (Brookings boy) who said that most already had recording devices, questioned "embedding' a State Department monitor with a private contractor doing government work" (a monitor who will "be making somewhere between 3 to 500 dollars less a day than the people that he or she is supposed to be chaperoning") and sees the measures as "very small, and they don't deal with the fundamental issue". CNN reported over the weekend that the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Henry Waxman, sent another letter to US Secretary of State Condi Rice regarding the State Dept's refusal to stop stonewalling Congress over the issue of Blackwater and CNN noted that Andrew Moonen (Blackwater gun for hire who shot the bodyguard of Iraq's vice-president -- allegedly while Moonen was drunk -- in December 2006) was working, in Kuwait, for a US Defense Dept contractor weeks later. For those who have forgotten, last week -- in Tuesday's hearing -- Blackwater CEO, Erik Prince, told Congress that Moonen (unnamed in the hearing) was stripped of his security clearance before being hustled out of Iraq. If Moonen was stripped of his security clearance, how is it that the DoD and their contractor didn't know that? If he was stripped of his security clearance and still made it back over to the region without it, how many other contractor employees are not in compliance with the basic guidelines?

Paul von Zielbauer (New York Times) reports that the Iraqi government has finalized their investigation and "found that employees of the American security company Blackwater USA shot unprovoked at Iraqi civilians at a downtown traffic circle three weeks ago, an episode that killed 17 people and wounded more than 20 others, a government spokesman said Sunday" quoting Ali al-Dabbagh who also declares that Blackwater's vehicles were not "even hit by a stone" before Blackwater initiated the slaughter of Iraqi civilians. James Glanz and Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) add, "Those conclusions contradict Blackwater's original statement on the shooting, which said that a convoy operated by the company's guards 'acted lawfully and appropriately in response to a hostile attack.' The Iraqi findings are also at odds with initial assertions by the State Department that the convoy had received small-arms fire." Which again goes the issue that the US State Dept has repeatedly provided cover and falsehoods in order to protect Blackwater. AP reports, "Iraqi authorities want the U.S. government to sever all contracts in Iraq with Blackwater USA within six months and pay $8 million in compensation to each of the families of 17 people killed when the firm's guards sprayed a traffic circle with heavy maching gun fire last month."

Naomi Klein's new book [is] The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism and she uses the book and the research for her article "Disaster Capitalism: The new economy of catastrophe" (October's Harper's magazine, pp. 47 -- 58). this is from the article (page 48):

Everywhere in Iraq, the wildly divergent values assigned to different categories of people are on crude display. Westerners and their Iraqi colleagues have checkpoints at the entrances to their streets, blast walls in front of their houses, body armor, and private security guards on call at all hours. They travel the country in menacing armored convoys, with mercenaries pointing guns out the windows as they follow their prime directive to "protect the principal." With every move they broadcast the same unapologetic message: We are the chosen, our lives are infinitely more precious than yours. Middle-class Iraqis, meanwhile, cling to the next rung down the ladder: they can afford to buy protection from local militias, they are able to ransom a family member held by kidnappers, they may ultimately escape to a life of poverty in Jordan. But the vast majority of Iraqis have no protection at all. They walk the streets exposed to any possible ravaging, with nothing between them and the next car bomb but a thin layer of fabric. In Iraq, the lucky get Kevlar; the rest get prayer beads.

That's pretty clear. Except to the mainstream. Over the weekend on PBS' Washington Week (or Washington Weak) Linda Robinson of US News and World Reports decided to chat and chew the topic with star Gwen:

Linda Robinson: Well Blackwater has about 800 people who are primarily providing bodyguard service to the embassy personnel. And there are about, well there are some thousands of other contractors doing this exact kind of job. So they're moving around the city in convoys and they apply very aggressive tactics in general. There are some who are alleging that Blackwater in particular uses much more aggressive tactics. But let's just set the stage a little bit. Very, very violent city. You're driving around, bombs are going off, at any unpredicted time. So what happens is these convoy drivers uses a tactic: they throw things at people, they sound their horns their sirens if you don't get out of the way they will shoot. So Iraqi drivers generally pull over as soon as they see a convoy. The problem is SUVs cannot readily be identified often from a distance --

Gwen Ifill: Yeah, how do you know it's a convoy? How do you know it's not the military? How do you know -- tell the difference?

That's the problem. Washington Weak tells you that's the problem. For the record, Robinson informs Gwen that it's very obvious when it's the military and it's only confusing when it comes to civilian contractors. So the question is, were Linda Robinson or Gwen to be walking to their cars at the start of the day and a car came zooming through with those in it throwing things at them, would they see that as a problem? Should Jon Stewart attempt to find out for The Daily Show? In fact, it shouldn't even be a surprise. Gwen and Robinson should volunteer for it to prove what good sports they are. After ten to fifteen minutes of drive-bys where water bottles are hurled at them (the mildest object usually cited in press reports) from speeding cars, let's see their smiling, bruised (possibly bloodied?) faces and find out whether they now think that "the problem" includes a great deal more than being able to tell if a convoy is approaching? What's really appalling is Robinson admits to being selective in her report explaining that's why she "set up" because, apparently, reporters are not supposed to show any sympathy for the civilian populations they are allegedly covering but instead are supposed to be act as a p.r. hack for multi-billion dollar corporations. And the chat and chew only got worse as it was wondered if this was all just sour grapes due to Blackwater's "success"?

Last week, the Financial Times of London editorialized: "But privatising war is, in reality, financially, politically and militarily very expensive. The lawlessness of some of these outfits has stained America's reputation and stirred up rage against its troops. Blackwater, which has earned nearly $1bn from the Department of State for protecting its officials, is notoriously trigger-happy: opening fire first in 163 out of 195 shooting incidents since 2005, according to a report by Congress. A Blackwater employee killed a bodyguard of Adel Abdel Mahdi, an Iraqi vice-president Washington favours as a possible prime minister, in an argument last Christmas." Yet our Weak Washington gas bags couldn't explore the topic and, besides, Robinson vouched that the illegal war couldn't continue without mercenaries so they are needed. (Naturally, whether the illegal war 'needed' also went unaddressed on programming 'brought to you by viewers like you'.)


This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

Ruth's Report -- Ruth's latest addresses the issue of why, after you've informed online listeners of how important to you they are, you then attempt to 'beef up' your online presence.

"Disasters in the Kitchen" -- Trina didn't offer a recipe this week. Mainly because she was having difficulty posting C.I.'s Saturday morning entry (C.I., Ava and Kat were already on a plane headed home -- and the problem was with Blogger/Blogspot, Rebecca, Mike and Elaine all tried to post it as well with no success.). But also because she really wanted to emphasize that when something tastes bad, adding other ingredients to it will not strip away the bad taste.

"Friend or foe?" -- Betty's latest chapter finds Cathy Pollitt assuming the high profile position she will in Betinna's story over the next few months. This results from Betty plugging her into the storyline that was planned for Gail Collins back in 2005 when Betty wrote her outline for the site. Back then, Collins was an editor at The New York Times and it made sense for her to play the role she would. With Collins no longer an editorial, the role she was to play in the drama is being split between Pollitt and another (who Betty won't tell us!). She says Pollitt is the gateway to further "darkness."

"THIS JUST IN! BAMBI HAS TRUST ISSUES!" & "Can you trust Obama?" -- Wally and Cedric tackle Obama's latest nonsense.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Bully Mama Interrupts Playtime" -- You had to know it was coming. Since Jenna announced her engagement, Bully Boy's been playing dress up by wearing wedding dresses. Condi and Dick have noticed but ignored it. It was only a matter of time before Big Babs Bush found out and hit the roof.

"the horse race coverage" -- Rebecca on how uninformed the media keeps us despite the fact that they waste ink and hours providing alleged coverage of the 2008 presidential candidates.

"Robert Parry, Carl Bernstein" -- Elaine shares some thoughts on journalism then and now. (And asks some questions.)

"Iraq snapshot" -- Last weekend's edition was a nightmare. It could have been a free for all. Kat reports (and Jim confirms) that he asked Ava and C.I. (who had already written their TV commentary) at noon (on Sunday! when everyone was trying to get the damn edition done) if they could tackle Washington Week? No, they could not. There was no time to start a new feature, the point was to post what was ready and for everyone to get some sleep. C.I. addressed Washington Week on Monday. Jim asked that we note this snapshot and also says that C.I. and Ava could have done that here together on Sunday. (Ava and C.I. replied, "No comment.")

"Center for Constitutional Rights, Marjorie Cohn" -- This is a talking entry by Mike. Jim asked that it be noted and asked that it be noted it was "a talking entry." Mike was blogging at Elaine's office Thursday night while she was doing her group session. He was in a talkative mood and not watching the clock. He says when the session was over, he rushed to include the highlighted things in the title and get the post up at his site.

"the cowardly pelosi & the strong marjorie cohn" -- Rebecca says it all and then some in this post about Nancy Pelosi.

"Najad Abdullahi, Danny Schechter" -- Mike reports on the groups he, Kat, Elaine, Ruth, Rebecca, Ava and C.I. spoke with about Iraq on Friday.

"Thoughts" -- Kat explaining a piece and why she disagrees with the points of it (which, we agree, undercut the entire point of the piece being written and posted at Common Dreams).

"Some names can wait and wait and wait" -- Community member Lynda picked this as "the one to note from C.I. this week." It's addressing the issue of rendering the victim invisible, something we've seen happen repeatedly in this illegal war.
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