Sunday, October 21, 2007

Truest statement of the week

And I think that this -- we’re living in a situation that there's a lot of fear and confusion, and, you know, some people are very pessimistic about the future. But I really think that we can do it. We can survive. And, you know, it's so natural for us to want to survive. It's a very strong sort of instinct in us. And we are going to do it. And I see that all sorts of beautiful things are starting to happen. And they're all writing to me at, so I’d like you to, you know, click in, and then you'll see these things are happening.

-- Yoko Ono, "EXCLUSIVE: Yoko Ono on the New Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland, Art & Politics, the Peace Movement, Government Surveillance and the Murder of John Lennon" (Democracy Now!).

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --

Doing the note late on an edition that ran late for a number of reasons. Chief among them, Betty's son wanted to speak to C.I. over the phone, Betty's oldest son.

When we were all in DC for last month, we stockpiled up some illustrations to use in future weekly editions. We all worked on those and Betty's son worked very hard on those. We had noted that on that weekend; however, we hadn't posted any. Betty's son wanted to know when some would be posted and C.I. rightly guessed that the reason had to do with school. So, if you go to school with Betty's son, YES, HE DID DO A NUMBER OF ILLUSTRATIONS. And they will pop up over the next months.

It is a pain in the butt to upload to Flickr. (We all miss Hello! which was never this much of a problem.) It takes forever to upload and half the time you get an error message.

There's a cover of Tori's CD used this edition. It's used in a review by Kat as well. But for the review, it never would post to Flickr. Rebecca and C.I. worked very hard (for at least two hours) trying to figure out some of the problems. They reduced the Tori cover and it did upload, they reduced (and cropped) the Ms. magazine cover and it posted. But those took forever. If we can plan and don't get involved big in a feature we're working on, we can remember to start posting images after midnight. By four in the morning, Flickr's a nightmare of slowness probably due to too many users.

But we did upload three (we think three uploaded, we haven't checked that) illustrations Betty's son worked on. Two are used this edition. The moon and stars illustration is mainly Betty's son but Kat and C.I. added some touches to his finished artwork. The bug illustration is all him. He did those illustrations and many others we will be using. If you're in a class with him and have doubted him, next time e-mail us and we'll set you straight. He has a very strong eye for detail and anytime he can do an illustration himself or one he works on with the rest of us, the illustration is 100% better because of it.

Along with Betty's son, 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,
Wally of The Daily Jot;
Trina's Trina's Kitchen;
and Ruth's Ruth's Report

And Dallas, as always, hunted down links, acted as a sounding board, scanned the Eddie Bernice Johnson newsletter and much more. We thank everyone.

What do we have?

Truest statement of the week -- We went with Yoko. We would have loved to have had two and may note our second choice next week but to be honest, we were just too damn tired. Yoko says it all so if we were only going to go with one, that was the one to go with.

Editorial: It's the silence from the stupid -- Ty's checked the e-mails and the general consensus is "OH MY GOD! I hadn't even realized how little coverage had been given to war resisters who have gone public in 2007." (That's almost a word for word quote from reader Malina but it captures the sentiment of the others Ty's read thus far as well.) There are two months left in the year and Ross Spears, Eli Israel, go down the list, all these war resisters going public this year and where is the coverage?

TV: CBS rolls the dice -- Ava and C.I. Ay-yi-yi. As they like to say. This is so damn amazing that we ended up reworking the edition to carry through the theme. I know e-mails will come in slamming me (Jim) for this because Ava and C.I.'s readers are so devoted but this is my favorite of everything they've done since the fall season started. This is just amazing. We love it. I was reading it out loud to everyone and they were laughing or saying, "Holy sh*t!" This is just perfection and so them. A new reader wrote in and I'm saving Ty a reply. Beth Ann notes she loved Twins and is glad they enjoyed Melanie Griffith in it. She wanted to know what week the Twins review posted? Never. It never made it up here. That's my fault, I kept asking them to postpone it and cover something else. (I do that especially when I fear we have a weak edition.) It ran in the gina & krista round-robin and because Beth Ann is a young reader and a very devoted fan of Twins (she provides quotes from the show in her e-mail), Ava and C.I. scanned it and sent her a copy of the review that ran in the round-robin. That was probably a one time thing. Beth Ann clearly loved the show, had all the episodes memorized and they were happy to do it (even on a day when they just want to go to bed).

Ms.magazine: This is what 35 years looks like -- This was something we planned for next weekend. Ava and C.I. were speaking to friends for this and they also passed on some friends to me. The plan was to get some more comments (we only spoke to about thirty women) and then make this an in depth piece. We rushed it in instead. The longer version was too long and we had to edit it. One thing that got pulled were our own reactions. But I'll note here every adult participating identifies as a feminist and if you had checked with some of us a few years back, that wouldn't have been the case. The feminist movement is more alive than ever and congrats to Ms. on 35 years. Ruth worked on this.

Memo to Pelosi -- What do therapists say? If you don't pay for it, you won't get well? (Elaine would know.) So SCHIPS is important, Pelosi says and we agree, but it's not important enough to fund it the way other programs are, instead it's create a new flat tax and demonize one segment of society. The bill was destined to fail.

Tori Rocks Boston -- In addition to all listed above, Tracey (Ruth's granddaughter) shared her thoughts on the concert as well.

Eddie Bernice, what you got against peace? -- If you're against the illegal war, sign the peace pledge. It's pretty basic.

What's up with Ruth? -- What is up with Ruth? She's started her own site. She also worked with us on this edition. And we thank her for also making time for this interview.

If a picture sings a thousand words . . . --- Noting a Van Fair feature, a photo essay that we wish we could provide tiny, cropped portions of throughout. You really need to check it out in a physical copy. Online the photos won't have the same gravity.

Bug us -- That is as in depth as we wanted to go into that book. Rebecca had another complaint which was the really bad chronology that led her to call C.I. and ask, "Norman Solomon is over 70!!!!" No. But when he's recounting why his father left a job, he does it in such a confusing manner that readers may think he was in high school at the time. We like Norman Solomon, we didn't like the book, and we were shocked by the way women were repeatedly treated in the book. We do not think it was intentional, we do think it needed to be noted.

Supporting War Resisters -- Courage to Resist has a letter and Kat, Ava and C.I. learned of it while speaking to active duty service members last week, one of whom passed it on to them and asked that it get attention when they speak. We copied the letter and you can print it up and sign it. Or, as community member Eddie noted to C.I. tonight, you can click here and sign it online at Courage to Resist.

Highlights -- Mike, Kat, Cedric, Rebecca, Wally and Betty selected these highlights unless otherwise noted and they also wrote the piece. We thank them for it.

That's it. Long, long edition. See you next week.

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

Editorial: It's the silence from the stupid


Last week, two war resisters who elected to self-checkout and go to Canada went public.

On Monday, Ariel Troster (Capital Xtra) reported on 19-year-old Bethany "Skyler" James, an out lesbian who drove to Canada after experiencing non-stop harassment in the army and who revealed that: "The US military is so desperate to enlist more troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, that they are willing to turn a blind eye to even the most blatant homosexual conduct -- leaving people like Skyler to endure the double injustice of fighting in wars they don't agree with, while also being subjected to harassment and intimidation from their fellow soldiers."

Once James made the decision, what did she do? What every other war resister and service members thinking about resisting do: Go online. James went to the War Resisters Support Campaign website. Glass half-full types can see that as a testament to the internet, glass half-empty types can note that our media outlets -- Big and Small -- are hardly resources for service members wanting to resist.

As Gerry Condon (Soldier Say No!) observers:

There is a taboo in the antiwar movement against actually calling on the troops to resist. Only Iraq Veterans Against the War have begun to cross the line. What is behind this taboo? I believe there are a number of factors. One is fear of the perceived legal jeopardy. . . . Another part of the taboo against calling on the troops to resist is that many antiwar organizations, especially the larger and more established, are organized as nonprofit organizations (501c3) for purposes of receiving tax-deductible organizations. They fear they might lose their nonprofit status if they advocate actions the government would consider illegal. To my knowledge, this has not happened. But nonprofits' boards of directors tend to be pretty conservative about such matters. Many of them also wrongfully believe that their nonprofit status will be jeopardized if they engage in any advocacy or support legislative proposals. . . . I believe it is time for the antiwar movement to relocate to the gates of every military base in this country, and abroad. Democracy has failed in Washington. Seventy percent of the U.S. people want the troops out of Iraq as soon as possible. But the Congress says no way. And the leading presidential candidates of both parties say no way. In this election cycle, the antiwar movement should not spend one ounce of its energy backing any candidate who is not credibly committed to ending the war and giving Iraq back to the Iraqis. Instead of wasting our enery on the politicians, we in the antiwar movement should take democracy into our own hands.

Condon's correct about an aim that needs real energy and support but we think it also comes down to the "non-profit" status of so many.

That and a lack of interest are the best possible explanation for an independent media that preaches bravery but has shown so damn little interest in covering war resisters. Stop yourself and ask where you read or heard about Ross Spears? Not in independent media -- broadcast or print. 2007 is winding down and the relatively small coverage that war resisters have received has predominately gone to war resisters whose stories were public knowledge well before 2007 began. Think about that. Think about how little interest there has been in covering the US military's attempts to hunt down war resisters in Canada. One US reporter, Gregory Levey, with one article (at Salon), is supposed to make up for the silence from all the other print and broadcast independent media outlets?

In what world does that make sense? And where the hell is the rest of independent media?

James wasn't the only war resister to go public last week. Denis St. Pierre (The Sudbury Star) reported on Michael Espinal, an Iraq war veteran who "witnessed -- and participated in -- authorized missions that saw hundreds -- perhaps thousands of innocent Iraqis killed, injured, imprisoned and humiliated, their homes destroyed, their families ripped apart. In Espinal's view, he and his colleagues committed numerous human rights abuses and criminal acts. When his first tour of duy in Iraq ended, he resolved not to return." So he and Jennifer Harrison (his partner) moved to Canada where they intend to raise their family (Harrison is due to give birth in April).

Lives are at stake but that and the power of service members saying no appear to be largely and repeatedly ignored by our independent media. As 2007 winds down, that may be the saddest thing regarding the coverage offered. May they be judged accordingly and may their claims of bravery be greeted with howls of laughter.

TV: CBS rolls the dice

CBS' new hour long series Viva Laughlin is not an ode to one of TV's most underrated actress. It does end up being an ode to an actress, but before we get there . . .

The hour long show is not supposed to be called a "musical." The word is banned by CBS out of fear that it will run off prospective viewers. That's a bit like Marilyn Monroe disowning dumb blond roles -- what you put on screen is what you'll be judged by and Viva Laughlin works in songs repeatedly.

"Good" reporters agree to build up the "macho." CBS is keeping track of the "friendlies" who find a way to make the series appear Guysville with no jokes along the lines of Guysville After Bathing At Baxters. (One friend at CBS winced at that reference even though he is a Jefferson Airplane fan.) So the "good" are telling you the show revolves around Palooka Joe or at least Bazooka Joe and is swaddled in testosterone or at least sweat.

One of the program's most serious flaws is you see the sweat. Hugh Jackman executive produces the show and plays the lead character's nemeses. The lead character is played by Lloyd Owen. Both break into song repeatedly and it's a huge, huge embarrassment every time it happens.

Jackman gets a big production number in the first episode (aired Friday, the show follows 60 Minutes beginning tonight) with the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil." Not since At Long Last Love has such an awkward musical moment been captured for posterity. On the stage, where Jackman's had some musical success, it might have worked to a degree. The camera would have been far enough away that you might have taken in the production and not noticed how razzle-dazzle "on" the performer looked. Jackman twinkles and viewers are left to wonder who would find Peter Allen threatening?

Those not pondering that will note that, as with most TV shows, the camera work consists mostly of planned close ups mixed with toss the camera anywhere. When musicals were all the rage in the movie industry (many, many decades ago), a director who had to be instructed "Show me the feet!" would have been sent on to other genres quickly. Anyone who can't grasp that dancing means shooting below the hip (or, in the case of Jackman, below the crotch) couldn't steer a musical.

And certainly some will ponder whether anyone involved in the show knows a damn thing about character or music? Should Jackman's character be singing (in what's an interior monologue) that he is the devil? Does he see himself that way? Jackman's fey grins and twinkles seem to suggest delight but on the part of the actor and say nothing about the character. As a general rule, anyone who knows the first thing about music would never utilize the Stones for a showy, celebration set piece. The fact that the darkness of the lyrics never resulted in any qualms about song selection had us wondering if Axel Rose or Belinda Carlisle was serving as the series' musical director -- both have a tendency to come off like fifth graders chirping lyrics they don't comprehend into a hairbrush.

If Jackson's going to be surrounded -- as he is -- in the number with scantily clad women, shouldn't there be some interaction? Instead the women mainly exist to watch Jackman twinkle allowing the viewers to watch the women . . . watching Jackson.

As bad as that set piece is, lead actor Lloyd Owen gets saddled with far worse musical bits. Can he dance? Viewers really don't know. They know he can end a number with Liza Minelli like flourish and the flourish seems especially overdone when he's done nothing to deserve triumphant jubilation at the end. Like Jackman, Owen mainly mumbles along with the lyrics (original recordings are used so you get Jagger, Elvis Presley, etc. blaring out loudly -- like a guide vocal someone mistakenly included in the mix). But where Owen differs from Jackman is that he appears to have heard there was a musical entitled Stomp and thinks that planting a foot down clumsily as he strides makes for musical moments.

Or maybe Jackman twinkled so damn much that an edict was issued that Owen would not even offer the White Man's Overbite and so is instead repeatedly shown clomping forward to music (don't call it walking) or driving while he shifts the gears with what's supposed to be force but really serves to indicate he can't handle a stick shift -- symbolism we won't touch.

As bad as BTO is (and they are very, very bad -- what's next, offerings from the canon of REO Speedwagon?), it's the Presley song that provides the worst musical moment Owen contributes as he sings "Viva Las Vegas" -- again indicating that the song selection is based on something other than character development and the lyrics of a song. For those puzzled -- the show is set in Laughlin, not Vegas. It's a bit like sliding over "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" to Jane Russell as a straight number in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Only once in the entire first episode does the music ever work. Blondie's "One Way Or Another" is pulled out of the mothballs Melissa Joan Hart's use of it on Sabrina might have left it in. It's used as the number when Owen goes to visit a former lover he needs to persuade. The lover is played by Melanie Griffith and, among many other interesting choices Griffith makes, she decides not to whisper along to the number. Her voice actually competes with Debbie Harry's at points. Between that and the fact that the two are seen rolling around in a bed (they don't do the deed) and the appearance that Griffith is actually having fun, the number works.

Griffith's the best thing the show has going for it. That's not a back handed compliment. Griffith was wonderful in Twins and this is her most charming role since Nobody's Fool. She plays Bunny Baxter (we'll address the character names shortly) who slept with the lead even though both are married. Bunny is supposed to sleep around a great deal and, to get an idea of how wonderful Griffith is in the part, pay attention anytime Bunny's being discussed while Griffith's not on camera and you'll hear the sort of misogyny you might have expected to die somewhere around 1975 if not sooner. She's not referred to as desirable, she's called a whore and a cheap one repeatedly. It is a credit to her strong talent that she's turning in a full bodied performance in a role that was written as a cheap joke.

Griffith achieves that because she's not being awkward, she's not constantly fretting (the way Jackman does -- as if he's the lead singer of Maroon Five doing the bit in SNL's "I Ran So Far Away" music video). She's conceived Bunny as a character with no veneers and is flooding the underwritten role to make it something truly amazing whether she's attempting to get Owen in bed or turning on him the minute her husband is murdered by screaming to the police that they need to ask Owen where he was when her husband was murdered.

Owen? The names, ay-yi-yi. Bunny Baxter might seem the sort of label thought up in a trash talk session of the men's locker room at the LA Fitness Sports Club. But names like Ripley (Owen's character) suggest the men's locker room was at Easton Gym on Beverly and several things went down before brainstorming. Think we're making too much of the characters' names? On the first season of Will & Grace, Karen got a drag name: Shu Shu Fontana. Jackman's character is named Nicky Fontana -- which might actually out uu-uu Shu Shu. Need another example? Ripley's teenage son is named Jack Holden to which the only reply in a classroom roll call would be, "You first."

Many moons ago, a TV flavor of the month sent an actual actress and star a mash note from across a crowded club. It said, "You make me feel like James Bond." The actress showed the note to her friends (and has showed it repeatedly since) leading them to all burst into laughter as they hurried out of the club. When "good" reporters work in similar references in their reviews of or articles on Viva Laughlin, we're reminded of that moment. The flavor of the month was gay and who but an intensely closeted gay man would think referencing James Bond was a way to shore up desirability with women?

The same sexual confusion is on display throughout Viva Laughlin. It's a confusion that only grows more intense when "good" reporters try to attest to the show's machismo. In fairness, maybe they're picking up the on set panic that probably results from a hour long, weekly soap opera with music attempting to pass itself off as a Robert Bly men's group?

The only one not in a panic is Griffith and it's why she steals every scene she's in. Bunny is supposed to be a joke, just another piece of gym equipment for the men to pump. Griffith has elected to portray Bunny as a woman who knows what she wants and, in an episode where Owen's Ripley repeatedly begs off sex (both with Bunny and with his wife), it's good to know someone knows what they want.

What this CBS-BBC-Sony hybrid wants is to offer up sparkling manhood. As a decoration. So we see Ripley (who looks like a less attractive Kevin Bacon) emerge from a pool, we see Ripley fondled in bed by his wife (whom he rejects), we Ripley on top of Bunny (whom he rejects), we see Ripley get most passionate about giving his high school son an overpriced car that he hopes will be a sex magnet. The only one having sex in the entire episode is his college attending daughter with (shades of too many weak females) her male college professor. Ripley can and does have a hissy fit over that, eventually punching him. Which begs the question of exactly what is masculinity these days?

Sounding like TV's mythical Jim Anderson but sporting the worst male dye job since Ronald Reagan, he boasts -- in bed no less -- that he wants his adult daughter to always be his "little girl" while at the same time really hoping that the car allows his underage son to 'get some.' That embarrassment drawfs the car issue (which the daughter does raise) and suggests that the creators have re-written another Males Under Attack From Women screed (which is what Bunny would signify in the hands of a less talented actress). But, if you ask us, if there's an attack going on it's one men are launching against themselves.

They want to offer up Owen as eye candy when he's out of the pool and headed inside the house but don't have the guts to really pull that off (he tosses on a robe which he leaves open), they want to offer up production numbers featuring men but don't have the guts to allow the men to really dance, they want to talk a whole lot of sex but don't want the characters to actually have any (Ripley's assault on the college professor is supposed to be endearing) and they want to offer this strange, subtext laden relationship off on two characters whose names would be perfect for a gay porn film (Ripley and Nicky Fontana).

If the cards are stacked against men in this show, that's not about reality, just the men behind the camera confessing to their own sexual panic. While they crap out repeatedly with snake eyes, Griffith steals the show the hard way, by actually bringing to life a fully dimensional character. Like the House in Vegas, the show runners make sure she goes home with only so much: the strongest asset they have is only a recurring character.

Ms.magazine: This is what 35 years looks like

President Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex, but even he would be horrified by the Faustian bargain we see in today's neoliberal model of globalization. Not to be confused with the political liberalism of John Stuart Mill, neoliberalism is characterized by investigative reporter Naomi Klein as a "holy trinity" -- privatization, deregulation and cuts to social spending -- in which governments dismantle trade barriers, abandon public ownership, reduce taxes, eliminate the minimum wage, cut health and welfare spending, and privatize education. She calls the means of achieving this goal "disaster capitalism" and describes how it has resulted in a worldwide redistribution of income and wealth to the already rich at the expense of economic solvency for the middle and lower classes.

Vanderbilt University's Ronnie Steinberg opens her book review ("Catastrophe Complex") of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism with the above in the latest issue of Ms. magazine. The fall 2007 issue isn't just any issue, it's the 35th anniversary issue. Thirty-five years proper.

Thirty-six is approaching as well. That's due to the fact that Ms. had a trial run as a thirty-page supplement in the December 20, 1971 issue of New York magazine with a preview issue released nationally (and with New York magazine keeping all the advertising revenues for both the supplement and the preview issue and half the revenues from sales of the magazine). Among those producing this trial run were Gloria Steinem, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Nina Finkelstein, Joanne Edgar, Bina Bernard and Mary Peacock. The magazine proper would publish it's first official issue in July of 1972 which is the 35th anniversary it's now celebrating.

Though the magazine had some early supporters from outside the movement (including New York's Clay Felker and David Frost), it also many attackers such as Harry Reasoner who pompously predicted the magazine would die after six months -- at which point, he argued, it would have "ran out of things to say."

Those types were dismissive of feminism as well (The New York Times infamously dubbed the movement "a passing fad"). The need for a magazine like Ms. was noted long before it debuted. Many point to Frieda Kirchwey's 1921 statement about the need for a magazine that would "spread the feminist revolution."

You can also look to what women were covering prior to Ms. In 1962, Gloria Steinem, a freelance writer, was calling out the movie industry's limited (non-existent?) views on female sexuality in Esquire's "The Moral Disarmament of Betty Coed" -- a thought that didn't occur to many in the press then or now. A woman was "Miss" or "Mrs." a division that served notice to women which side of the fence they'd better end up on (married). As many, including Marlo Thomas, have noted, in those days the term such as "spouse abuse" were unknown and violence was considered a "personal problem" or, in the case of rape, something a woman must have invited. Abortion was illegal (the trial issue of Ms. would feature Barbaralee Diamonstein's "Women Tell the Truth about Their Abortions"; the magazine would offer "I have had an abortion" in 1972 signed by Lee Grant, Grace Paley, Anne Sexton, Anais Nin, Nora Ephron, Billie Jean King, Susan Sontag, Barbara Tuchman, Lillian Hellman and others, many other article would follow but it's worth noting that in the fall 2006 issue, Ms. would run "We Had Abortions") and gender-segregation could be found in the home and the work place. On the latter, women had made tremendous strides during both World Wars but the return of service men (gender used intentionally) meant a purging of the work force on government orders.

A magazine like Ms. had long been needed just in terms of addressing issues that the media wasn't addressing. The media wasn't just the mainstream, it also included the pitiful "women's magazines" and the left. Ruth Rosen, in The World Split Open, recounts how she, Susan Griffin and others attempted a late night coup, Radio Free Women, at KPFA in the summer of 1970 due to the fact that the Pacifica station "continued to stonewall requests for programs by and about women" (page 206). Though strides have been made within the country, let's not kid that a lot's changed at most outlets. The Nation magazine felt the need to contact us July 2nd of this year to insist they were aware of the problem the magazine had (printing 3.4 males for every female byline) and that they were working to fix it, why, they were hiring female bloggers! As if that would address the tremendous imbalance in the print magazine (which is what we were tracking) and as if online writing fetches the same prestige or money articles in print do.

Or take the response to Air America Radio. In it's first year, only The Washington Post would profile Randi Rhodes while all the other dailies ran non-stop coverage of Baby Cries A Lot. Rhodes was actually a proven audience getter long before Air America Radio began broadcasting. But the mainstream media was far more interested in a failed (male) TV and movie actor who wrote a few books that lost steam about half-way in. And in our independent media?

The Progressive and The Nation would serve up cover stories on Baby Cries A Lot -- ignoring Randi Rhodes and the other women involved. Mother Jones would run a non-cover story interview with Lizz Winstead. The late and lamented Clamor would run a strong interview with Laura Flanders. Janeane Garofalo? Ms. could and did put her on the cover in 2003 (pre-AAR) but the left publications weren't interested in her unless it was time to play 'balanced' and offer criticism of AAR at which point -- most infamously in The Nation -- it was time to have a meltdown and insist she was crude and not-funny. It was time for males to insist that, of course. Unlike Baby Cries A Lot, Garofalo was actually against the illegal war and, unlike Baby Cries A Lot, she actually was a successful stand up comic. But the problem was with her and not a sexist pig (yes, "Son of Women's Lib" can turn out to be very sexist), The Nation wanted to tell you -- the same magazine that began 2007 with a book review sliming two women journalists, a book review by a pig who decided to open his review by remembering a visit to a whorehouse in Afghanistan. Those examples (there are many, many more that can be offered) only to serve to demonstrate how timely Robin Morgan's "Goodbye to All That" (The Word of a Woman: Feminist Dispatches 1968-1992) still (sadly) is.

Ms. was needed then and is needed now.

The magazine hasn't been without its problems. It's been non-profit, for-profit, no advertising, advertising, monthly and quarterly. Those and other problems resulted from the demands of advertisers as Gloria Steinem documented in her 1990 essay "Sex, Lies and Advertising" now most easily available in Steinem's Moving Beyond Words. Ms. was too political, it didn't feature articles that would go well along side cosmetic ads (meaning 'how to' articles because applying lipstick is so damn difficult that we really do need instructions -- or maybe it's that they think we're too stupid to figure application out on our own?), bruised egos of the (male) heads of companies, etc. The 1990 decision to go ad free follows the most criticized period of the magazine, Anne Summers' era, which Susan Faludi documents in Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women:

When Summers took over from Steinem in 1987, she decided much like Good Housekeeping's editors, that Ms.'s image needed "updating." What it seemed to add up to, though, was upscaling -- a strategy that the magazine's previous management had already begun to embrace in the mid-80s. Now that Ms. was a profit-making concern, the magazine was primarily interested in claiming women readers with high incomes.

This move (which we are not justifying) is due to advertising. Large circulation isn't important to advertisers, what is important is 'desirable' demographics. They would rather purchase ads in a magazine reaching 70,000 'big spenders' than in a magazine with a circulation of a million if the demographics of that million included many low income readers. Back to Faludi (all excerpts from page 109 - 110):

To further the upscale marketing of Ms., Summers hired a market research firm to conduct consumer focus groups around the country. Only women in households making more than $30,000 a year were invited. . . . "one of the things that emerged from the groups was that -- especially in the young age groups -- there was this incredible resistance to the word 'feminist,'" Summers says. One might have thought Ms.'s whole mission was to tackle that resistance, to show women that "feminist" was a word they might embrace instead of fear, to explain how American culture had demonized that word precisely because it offered such potential power for women. The magazine could, in fact, have helped fight the backlash by exposing it, and driving home the point that feminism simply meant supporting women's rights and choices. This was, after all, an agenda that the women in the focus group uniformly supported; every woman interviewed said she believed she shouldn't have to choose between family and career.
But instead of revitalizing the word, Summers came close to redlining it. "I think we have to be very careful in the ways we use it," Summers said in 1998. "Often you can say 'woman' and it means the same thing." But as subsequent issues of Ms. would make abundantly clear, "woman" and "feminist" are not interchangeable.

Two things to note there. First, Margaret Cho, Ashley Judd, and others would appear this decade in the Ms. sponsored "This is what feminism looks like" ads. And Yoko Ono is quoted in the 35th anniversary issue explaining, "I don't think we should be intimidated by the people who started to smear the name 'feminism.' Feminism is celebrating the feminine quality in all of us, embracing men who wish to cherish their feminine side as well. Change the name and they will intimidate us again." Second, Ms. can be criticized.

The latter hasn't always been the case -- except from outside the movement. Ellen Willis and others did criticize it early on. Willis was with Ms. at its inception and it's sad that her passing didn't receive significant attention from the magazine. One could argue old wounds die hard but that wouldn't explain the outpouring for The Ego Of Us All who regularly (and publicly) trashed Ms., trashed Gloria Steinem, trashed everyone. When Jim, Ava and C.I. spoke with friends of Ava and C.I.'s who had been with and/or are now with the magazine, that was the one issue repeatedly cited as needing to be addressed: The Ego Of Us All.

Those talks occurred immediately after Pacifica's From The Vault did a laughable and shameful 'report' on The Ego Of Us All that sidestepped the vileness of the woman. That episode allowed TEOUA to repeat the false smear against Steinem (which we don't repeat because they were so damaging at the time -- we don't even repeat them to refute them but in an attempts* in the past, we've noted the Redstockings had a legitimate concern and they raised it, TEOUA had no legitimate concern, she merely wanted to destroy Steinem and took to repeating those charges over and over). They provided only a small sample of TEOUA's racism (Wakeupcall Radio broadcast much more self-damning statements from the same 70s conference back when the media was having a love-fest over the passing of TEOUA). The episode refused to raise the issue that TEOUA insisted abortion not be part of the feminist movement, insisted lesbians not be part of the feminist movement, sidelined women of color (that's putting it mildly) and on every issue under the sun ran to the right (which is how she ended up serving on a panel for Ronald Reagan during the 80s). TEOUA knew how to grab from the work of the others which came in handy with her insta-'classic' that ripped off Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex. And she knew how to market herself (just a 'housewife' prior to researching the book).

We were told the online tribute received much criticism -- including the fact that Coretta Scott King was being overlooked. (To Ms.' credit, they then began taking responses from online readers about Coretta Scott King.) And that criticism flared up again when Grace Paley passed away and no tribute page was created for her. As one feminist wondered, "Why the hell are we honoring that woman who was so determined to destroy us?" A very good question. When lefty-ish writers at non-feminist publications noted her, we could pin it on the fact that they shared The Ego Of Us All's closeted politics. (And are just as closeted about that as was TEOUA.) But at Ms., the general consensus was, TEOUA got the glowing and undeserved tribute due to Steinem who will bend over backwards to be kind.

We're not slamming her for that (nor would we ever slam Steinem) but that is at the root of it and at the root of the magazine for most of its life -- a desire to be fair and stress the positive when it comes to other women. That attitude is ingrained in the magazine even today. Which is why you get uncritical praise for "firsts" far too often. That's how The New York Times' Gail Collins can win praise for being a "first" and, right before the issue hits the stand, pen a heavily circulated e-mail announcing that she's not concerned with women being represented on the op-ed pages of the paper, just in hiring the best writer. (The circulation of that e-mail is the only reason Collins began having women fill in for vacationing columnists. The e-mail Collins wrote was defending the fact that she had utilized a male guest columnist to fill in for the paper's sole female columnist who was off working on a book.) That "first" was a worst, for those who forgot, and more women (not that many, agreed) appear on the op-ed pages now that Collins is no longer editor of the pages. (Collins herself now appears on those pages). Collins had to replace two columnists during her reign -- Bill Keller and William Safire. She selected two men. Those who read that much forwarded e-mail weren't really at all surprised by the fact that, despite two openings during her reign, she came into the job with one female columnist already writing for the op-ed pages (Maureen Dowd) and left it the same way.

Readers have always held Ms. accountable (most notably when, this decade, the magazine offered a feature article on Mad Maddie Albright) but one of the most positive changes has been the openess of criticism. That includes Ani DiFranco objecting that an article on her career focused on the monetary, that includes Naomi Wolf noting her disagreement over a comic or what she sees as treating the readers like children on the issue of pornography (see pages 189 and 90 of Wolf's Fire With Fire: The New Female Power and How It Will Change the 21st Century) and many, many more. Credit for that, from feminists we spoke to, was usually given to Alice Walker who has repeatedly found a way to publicly offer negative criticism or corrections in a calm voice.

Walker deserves that credit (and far more) but the thing is, criticism from those supportive of the magazine was never something that needed to be feared. Steinem was always open to criticism, always eager to hear it and always willing to consider it (that also includes criticism from those not supportive of the magazine). But in terms of what made it into the magazine, she was generally the first to express a concern about how it might be hurtful to another feminist. (Again, we are not slamming her for that. And C.I. and Ava still raise that issue on features we do here.) Due to the collective writing nature of the early issues, this attitude was reflected not only in early issues but has been carried through today and, for years, was carried out by all but readers as well.

The same attitude has led to many topics being covered that wouldn't have been otherwise. Things that could have been dismissed as "unimportant" got a hearing (far ahead of any mainstream coverage) and expanded understanding.

Which is what Ms. has been doing now for 35 years as a regular magazine (36 if you count the preview): Expanding our understanding. Originally thought of as a magazine that would reach out to those discovering feminism, it's now a magazine far more challenging that many involved in the early days would have guessed. First principles was going to be the hallmark and, though they still matter today, it's also evolved into much more. That's partly due to the fact that readers once expected to move on to other periodicals tend to stay or return because there is not a great deal out there. (That is not an insult to Off Our Backs, which we consider a must read. It is noting that two or a few magazines do not a publishing revolution make.) It's also due to the fact that even with so much that the feminist movement has accomplished, there is still so much more to be done.

This decade's Ms. has offered a number of contributions and chief among them is Martha Burk's column. That was the most cited advancement. Why? Because as a society, we're not really taught to think about money in great detail. Women especially, but true over all. You can think about it in terms of the immediate bills but in terms of planning the future, most Americans aren't taught about that -- especially those from the lower classes. In terms of women, it's why interviewers love to ask women what salary they're looking for -- while most men will shoot for the sky, women -- as conditioned by society -- are far more likely to devalue their own worth. In the 35th anniversary issue, Burk addresses the issue of political contributions and notes, "In today's political scene, a new challenge confronts women voters: getting candidates elected who will make a difference on the issues women most care about. And that means getting those candidates funded. . . . With women still earning nearly 25 percent less than men, there's no question that women overall have less to give. But even that's not the real problem: Political giving in this country, even by individuals, is still driven by the good-ol'-boy networks such as big-time law firms (the highest giving sector) and corporations."

For us, the standout articles were by L.S. Kim and Suzanne Braun Levine and Mary Tone. The latter two offer an excerpt from their new book Bella Abzug: How One Tough Broad from the Bronx Fought Jim Crow and Joe McCarthy, Pissed off Jimmy Carter, Battled for the Rights of Women and Workers, Rallied Against War and for the Planet and Shook Up Politics Along the Way. L.S. Kim offers "Air Time" which explores the realities of women in the news media today. Carole Simpson notes, "When Viagra became available, we had stories about the 'wonder drug' night after night on the evening news. But when the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen showed promise for women suffering the disease, newswomen had to fight to get that story on the air, and stories about hormone replacement therapy, the lack of women in government medical studies, the abortion debate and in vitro fertilization." On the heels of the attacks on Katie Couric (and they are attacks when no one bothers to offer critiques of the two male news anchors and they are attacks when they start before Couric even begins her job -- see "Katie Was A Cheerleader" for more on that), it's a story worth telling and a topic worth examining.

What bothered us about the issue? We continue to be bothered by the reduction of "letters." What Ms. might miss covering in the articles, reviews and features, readers could always be counted on to address in the "letters" section. With Ms. informed readership, four pages of letters just doesn't seem adequate to us.

"then & now" offers a look at accomplishments on key issues since 1972. For those who have any doubts about the importance of Ms. (then or now), check out pages twelve and thirteen of the 35th anniversary issue. And, lastly, a former editor of the magazine suggested to us that "then & now" would be a great format for a regular feature where an activist today and one of yesterday were spotlighted -- it would provide historical education while also providing coverage for today's emerging feminist activists.

*Added by Jim 10/22: A number of e-mails from regular readers and drive-bys asking if they'd missed the "attempts"? Attempts refers to about six different tries to address that topic. That was in features, mailbags and roundtables. C.I. has always been up for trying to address it but C.I., Elaine, Rebecca and Ava have always killed the attempt -- either killing the feature or killing that section. The first three lived through that period while Ava heard about her through her aunt and mother repeatedly over the years. All four note it was very damaging. About a year ago, Ruth explained that period while helping us out with a feature. Though we never questioned their right to kill those attempts, we grasped how damaging the period was after Ruth detailed it at length. One thing that was stressed in all attempts was that no one's blaming the Redstockings who were honestly concerned. The movement should address concerns. The damage came from The Ego Of Us All repeating the charges out of her own desire to destroy any woman who she thought was replacing her. From The Vault allowed TEOUS to make the charges again -- from the grave. Our most recent attempt to address it came early this summer or late this spring when a Bob -- I forget his last name -- e-mailed an interview he'd conducted with Laura Flanders. We enjoyed the interview. We looked at the site and saw TEOUA's charges repeated there. Our initial reaction -- our being Dona, Ty, Jess and myself -- was to say, "Forget it, no link." When C.I. learned of it, it was wondered if we could note, "We don't agree with the rumor on ____ but we're not gatekeepers and the site has strong writing and is run with passion." So we all considered it but kept coming back to the issue. The same charges are made at that site about other people who are also friends of Ava and C.I. and they couldn't care less in regards to that. They don't believe the charges, but have the attitude people are entitled to their view points. With regards to the attack on Steinem, however, that was so damaging (to the movement and to Steinem) and so intense that after again attempting it with no success, we said "No more tries." But, to be clear, the Redstockings are not a group we have a beef with or a group we don't support. Our beef is with The now dead Ego Of Us All who wasn't interested in hearing any response, just in repeating false charges to try to tear down another woman.

Memo to Pelosi

You're no Million Dollar Baby. You got knocked out twice over the SCHIPS program.

We came out against the measure last month. And we're not shedding any tears over the inability of Congress to override the Bully Boy's veto last week.

If you've got 'em, smoke 'em, Fancy Nancy.

In fact, for your bill to be effective, a lot of people would have to be smoking.

SCHIPS, Democratic leadership tells you, is an important program.

But it's not important enough for them to fund it with tax payer monies.

Instead, they scapegoated smokers and want to add a federal tax of a dollar a pack to each cigarette sale. Like the Bully Boy, they don't want to do their job.

Many states have had to utilize taxes on cigarettes to make up the budget cuts under Bully Boy. So, as Billie pointed out to us in an e-mail, in her state, smokers would pay twenty dollars in taxes for every carton of cigarettes they purchased if Fancy Nancy's legislation passed.

When we came out against the measure, we noted that it was just the sort of thing that gives the left a bad name, that makes it look like the left has nothing better to do than legislate personal behaviors.

If Pelosi wants to try to outlaw smoking, be honest about it.

But smoking tobacco still is legal in these United States.

The idea that the costs of caring for children's health issues would be pushed off on smokers demonstrates how little faith the Democratic leadership has in SCHIPS. Instead of asking all Americans to sacrifice, they want to punish smokers.

Or maybe it's to glorify smokers? If the measure goes through, maybe we can start erecting monuments to smokers. "_____ smoked 20 packs a day for 10 years, thereby ensuring that SCHIPS was fully funded. We salute you and your service to the country."

The sense of urgency the Democrats have attempted to portray on this issue is undercut by the fact that they waited until the last minute. Instead of looking like a deeply held belief in something, it looks like yet another 2008 election ploy.

But then it was always going to look that way because the plan is built around a flat-tax being applied to smokers. Democrats are not supposed to favor the flat-tax.

Democrats are also supposed to be the party that's a friend to those in the low income brackets. But instead of, for instance, declaring a tax on all SUV's sold, they went with smokers.

Those wicked, wicked sinners, smoking and harming themselves (even though it is legal). But when you create your tax base around something you consider 'sinful,' it's really hard to continue to call it a sin.

Had the measure passed (and Pelosi says the fight's not over), that would mean those 'bad' smokers were the ones paying for the SCHIPS program while the rest of America sat it out. That's a Bully Boy plan, it shouldn't be a Democratic one.

And a party's that's already pissing off the base for their inaction on the illegal war really can't afford to piss off anymore people.

If SCHIPS matters (and we think it does), tax us all. Stop demonizing certain segments of the public and get realistic that your 'windfall' won't be much of a 'windfall' because at twenty dollars in taxes for a carton, a lot of people will stop smoking and then you'll have to devise another way to fund your program.

If you really believe in SCHIPS, you don't create a 'sin' tax to pay for it. No desire has prompted the illegal war being funded by a 'sin' tax. On that issue, Congress just prints up money over and over.


Illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Pelosi Buys The War."

Tori Rocks Boston

In a musical world that still tries to practice the Brill Building philosophy of write the next song so it's the same as the last hit but sideways, there are few originals. One who will never make the list of copycats is Tori Amos. Friday the artist lit up Boston. As she no doubt did the day prior as well. Attending Friday's concert were Kat, Elaine, Rebecca, Mike, Jess, Ava and C.I.

During the marathon concert, there was only one clinker -- "Professional Widow." The Boys for Pele track is an amazing song . . . reduced to a dance mix on the collection Tales Of A Librarian. Amos elected to offer that version on Friday, stripping the bulk of the lyrics away (lyrics which allow for some very adventurous vocals) and instead offered up a jam (with a plethora of pre-recorded vocal lines) that seemed to go on far too long especially that early into the set. For the record, we go to clubs for dance mixes, we go to concerts to enjoy songs. In fairness, its inclusion appeared to exist for the costume change.

The great news? The new songs from American Doll Posse work amazing well in the set list. "Bouncing Off Clouds" especially offers a new strength that may be missed by some when listening to the 23-plus track CD. Amos opened with that track, a sure sign of confidence to greet an audience with it cold. As the opening notes sounded, they floated over in a spooky riff while the lighting effects went wild and then passion was added as Amos began playing along on the piano. On the opening performance, Tori can sometimes strain for a note or two (ones she'll reach after a few songs) but there was none of the strain on "cloo-uuuds" or "eee-asss-y" that was evident of the Scarlet's Walk tour when she opened with "A Sort Of Fairy Tale" and had to hit minor notes on some of the soaring vocals to put the song across.

"A Sort Of Fairy Tale" also made the set list, appearing near the end of the concert and Amos' destroyed the audience with that song. It's due to become one of her signature live pieces the way "Cornflake Girl" and "Precious Things" have become -- both of which were performed in Friday night's performance the latter as one of the encores. The big surprise may be that "Little Earthquakes" appears to be on the verge of becoming a set piece. Amos performed that early on and it's been reconceived in a more mournful manner.

The encores were "Precious Things," "Parasol," "God" and "Hey Jupiter." Which indicates that Amos was pleased with the audience response. She's known to pull out certain songs for encores, like the wonderful "Mary," when she doesn't feel like she and the audience have connected.

Biggest complaint is not the dance mix of "Professional Widow." Biggest complaint is the temperature in the hall which only seemed to get hotter and hotter as the concert went on. With all the fire Tori Amos was sending out, the least Orpheum could have done is provided the audience with some decent cooling.

Amos spoke a little about troubles crossing the border (strip searches) and, except when she had trouble hearing the sound in her ear piece, that was pretty much it electing to communicate instead via her music.

Of the attendees they spoke with after, most were thrilled with the concert. The exceptions were the ones who had also seen Thursday night's concert in Boston and felt the set list overlooked too many gems ("Jackie's Strength" was the most often cited song performed Thursday that didn't make Friday's set).

"Space Dog" (from Under the Pink) was performed (with a lengthy vocal intro) and that was one of the canon tracks most often cited as a pleasant surprise. In a set that also included "Northern Lad," "Bells for Her" and "Juarez," set list complaints will most likely derive from the exclusion of personal favorites.

Amos opened the show as Clyde, one of the characters from American Doll Posse, and the concerts will continue to utilize that disc's cast of characters to warm up the audience. In terms of expanding, "Big Wheel" (already a huge audience favorite) came and went far too quickly (around four minutes and it was the briefest of all songs she performed). The opening riff could be expanded upon after the song's second verse creating a tremendous jam.

Though not fans of TicketMaster, we'll provide the link for Tori dates because this a tour not to be missed and if "Beauty of Speed" is included in the set list of the performance you attend, pay close attention (and don't rush the applause before Tori's finished) -- the performance is a blend of all her strengths and far more amazing than you might initially grasp. Wally sees her in Florida next month, the core six will see her (some see her again) in December when she comes to the Bay Area.

Eddie Bernice, what you got against peace?

Hey, hey, Eddie Bernice
How come you won't sign the Pledge for Peace?

Eddie Bernice Johnson is a member of the US House of Representatives from Texas' 30th Congressional district. In her Fall 2007 newsletter to constituents, her office notes what the House has been doing regarding the illegal war on page two of the eight page newsletter:

Defending Our Country

* require benchmarks and progress report requirements for the war in Iraq -- Signed into Law

* support timetables to bring our troops home from Iraq -- Vetoed by the President

* provide critical support for veterans, military health care and military readiness -- Signed into Law

* provide the largest increase in support for veterans' services in history -- Passed the House

* require quality care for our wounded warriors -- Passed the House

If Johnson supports a timetable for withdrawal enough to note it was "Vetoed by the President," why won't she sign the Peace Pledge that 90 other members of the House of Representatives already have?

Here's how that apparently 'controversial' letter to the Bully Boy reads:

Seventy House Members wrote in July to inform you that they will only support appropriating additional funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq during Fiscal Year 2008 and beyond for the protection and safe redeployment of our troops out of Iraq before you leave office.
Now you are requesting an additional $45 billion to sustain your escalation of U.S. military operations in Iraq through next April, on top of the $145 billion you requested for military operations during FY08 in Iraq and Afghanistan. Accordingly, even more of us are writing anew to underscore our opposition to appropriating any additional funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq other than a time-bound, safe redeployment as stipulated above.
More than 3,744 of our brave soldiers have died in Iraq. More than 27,000 have been seriously wounded. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed or injured in the hostilities and more than 4 million have been displaced from their homes. Furthermore, this conflict has degenerated into a sectarian civil war and U.S. taxpayers have paid more than $500 billion, despite assurances that you and your key advisors gave our nation at the time you ordered the invasion in March, 2003 that this military intervention would cost far less and be paid from Iraqi oil revenues.
We agree with a clear and growing majority of the American people who are opposed to continued, open-ended U.S. military operations in Iraq, and believe it is unwise and unacceptable for you to continue to unilaterally impose these staggering costs and the soaring debt on Americans currently and for generations to come.

House Reps continue to sign on which is why it's now at 90 signatures. What in that letter does not jibe with the measures Johnson is trumpeting to the voters in her district?

Or does she just enjoy being listed with a lot of losers she's honestly far better than?

Who knows? But page eight encourages her district to "Contact Us" at:

1511 Longworth Building
Washington, DC 20515
Office: 202-225-8885
Fax: 202-226-1477

3102 Maple Avenue, Suite 600
Dallas, TX 75201
Office: 214-922-8885
Fax: 214-922-7028

October 10th, Rebecca noticed that Eddie Bernice Johnson hadn't signed on. After Rebecca noticed it, Common Ills community members living in that district began to take notice. Thank you to Dallas for providing scans of the newsletter.

What's up with Ruth?

Community member Ruth does Ruth's Report for The Common Ills, a column that started off looking at NPR's Morning Edition and quickly expanded. She's expanded as well . . . starting her own site on Friday. Since Ruth was helping us with this edition, we grabbed the time to check in.

First question is, "Will your report continue to run at The Common Ills?" You make that clear at your site but we've got 22 e-mails asking that question?

Well the report stays with The Common Ills and, as you note, I did explain that in my first post. I assumed there would be some confusion so I thought addressing it would make it clear but that does not appear to have been the case. Though delaying my report this weekend to work with all of you may have added to the concern.

Why your own site?

My granddaughter Tracey has been suggesting it for some time. She can give you the hard sell on it including, her key point, more women are needed online and women of all ages.

So that's the hard sell, were there any other issues?

Well, Tracey's beefed up her insistence and I have discussed this at length with Rebecca and C.I. They made a wonderful point which is there are many times in a report where I zoom in on one topic and, as a result, either try to squeeze in some things I really think people would enjoy or need to know about, or they just fall on the cutting room floor. So the site exists to note those things. It might be a broadcast that I really enjoyed but does not fit the topic of the report I am working on. Or it could be a broadcast that was so awful. Instead of attempting to force those into my reports, I can just note them at my site.


Yes. Yes, briefly. That was one of the things I was concerned about, the fact that I really do not have time these days for a site. Rebecca brought up Wally's intent to do a jot and I know that has expanded from its original intent but I spoke with Wally about it and he was highly supportive and told me that, if I'd stay focused, I could pull it off in such a manner.

Wally: I lost my focus long before Cedric and I started working together. It was supposed to be, at The Daily Jot, a comedic haiku, nothing long. By the time Cedric and I started doing our joint-posts, it had already changed and now we generally do a lengthy -- or lengthier -- set up and go to the main joke at the end. You really need to stay focused to do something compact and I think Ruth can do that.

You did an introduction, an introductory post, that's lengthy -- especially compared to what you will be offering. Trina told us to ask you about that.

Well, the thing was that people could stumble upon it and I wanted there to be some sort of basic "About Me" so they would know where I was coming from. The profile options offered did not, to me, seem to offer a way to explain that so I did an introductory post.

Trina said that was very hard for you to write?

That is correct. I wrote and re-wrote that thing repeatedly. I do that sometimes with a report and I will have in the back of my mind, "C.I.'s going to get e-mails asking where the report is?" Sometimes that is the only thing that will force me to let go of a report and get it posted. With this first post, the introduction, it was a hand sweating, fear based writing experience. I really have no other way to describe it.

What Trina found odd was that you now have been doing reports for over two years and yet you were nervous about the introduction. She said your second post, "David Corn moving to Mother Jones," you didn't even sweat but you spent close to two hours writing and rewriting the first post. It's a personal post but Trina said that really wasn't the issue?

She is correct. I have shared so much at this point that there were no nerves over addressing the death of my husband or anything like that. But . . . Honestly, I froze. I was typing and I would suddenly think, "How many people might read this?" I was not worried about what I was sharing but I was worried about how I was sharing it and the potential audience and creating expectations. It was worse than my first report because I was excited about that. I did get nervous over some of the attention that followed -- in terms of, "Can I live up to these expectations?" This was, writing the introductory post, really scary. I enjoyed Mike's introductory post in 2005 but I really understood what he was talking about when I attempted my own first post. I need to think Trina for being there, in her kitchen with me, while I was doing that first post. C.I. and Ava are off doing their TV commentary so I will also share that in the middle of it, C.I. phoned, while a lot of you were on your way to the Tori Amos concert, and said, basically, "Ruth, it's up and life goes on. It's never going to be perfect and if you attempt perfection, you better plan to do one post the entire time." That was very freeing and obvious. It goes to Kat's "It is what it is" motto.

Kat: But that really is a concern. Not just was, but is. If you talk to most of us, you'll find that when we're at our sites we're probably doing thirty to forty minutes of just staring, wondering what to write or how to write it. I mean, Elaine, am I wrong on that?

Elaine: No, that's exactly correct. Kat's noted that before at her site and how we all do have those days -- plural -- where we stare and stare at the computer screen, long after we've selected our topics and excerpts, trying to figure out what we're going to say and how to say it. Kat once wrote, and I'm not trying to make work for Dallas, I have no idea when Kat wrote it, that C.I. just opens up a vein and lets it bleed. That's really true and why C.I. can pull together an entry in half the time -- at least -- that it takes the rest of us at our own sites.

Kat: I remember writing that but have no idea when it went up and we won't make Dallas try to locate it. Ava and C.I., as Ruth said, are off writing their TV commentary and C.I. can usually narrow down a range of dates when something appeared if not figure out exactly when it did so there's no need to bother looking for it to link to. I'll just explain my point here. It's my motto -- It is what it is -- but C.I.'s the one who's always operated under it. The difficulty Ruth's talking about, I know it very well. And I really envy the ability to just let it go which is really what C.I. does and, I think, also what Rebecca does. Am I right?

Rebecca: Your sort of right. I generally -- no, I do write that way. But I am also prone to, believe it or not, at the last minute, after I've written an entire post, delete the whole thing because I'll think, "Oh, I don't need to tackle that." There are a lot of things -- especially these days -- that tick me off. Just writing it tends to purge it but sometimes I'll pull back afterwards and delete it and choose another topic. There are times when I may want to do that and I won't due to the fact that it's time to nurse the baby or something similar. In those instances, it goes up and if someone has hurt feelings or I didn't word it exactly correct, as Cedric says, "Oh well." But talking about it right now, and thinking about how much time I have spent doing that, I will probably do it less often now.

Jim: When you'd do it in the past, what sort of things would be deleted?

Rebecca: To give one example, Katrina vanden Heuvel. As tough as some people think I've been on the woman -- and most of my readers appreciate the toughness -- there are times when I'll delete the whole thing. I'll have something personal in there, for instance, that I know via C.I. and I'll be ticked off at vanden Heuvel and include it thinking, "I'll pull this before I post." But then it will end up being the thing that the whole post is built upon and I'll delete it.

Wally: Which comes back to the issue of focus and how that sort of thing won't be a problem for Ruth if she mainstains her focus because she's really just talking about doing basically three lines of writing in a post.

Wally was very helpful with that, explaining how easy it is to get distracted, to think, "I need to make points A through L" and that the thing to do is to stick to point A.

Keesha e-mailed us to tell us to thank you for including the snapshot.

Well she made a very valid and strong point in that roundtable over a year ago at the gina & krista round-robin. We all want more coverage of Iraq in the community. We want it from our media and we want it from The Common Ills. The community voted to keep the snapshot and, as Keesha pointed out, it should be copied and pasted on all community sites posting that day. It's a very simple way to include Iraq and keep it in focus. We are sick of the lack of coverage of war resisters and the snapshot is one place that we can find coverage of them so instead of being part of the problem, amplify the reach of the snapshot.

Jim: Mike was pissed off Wednesday and I loved that post. One of the points he made was, "C.I. doesn't go 'Whine, whine, The Nation doesn't cover war resisters!' C.I. proves every Monday through Friday (minimum) that they can be covered. The whiners just want someone to make the world better for them."

Yes, and two things on that, Wally brings up a similar point when he filled in for Mike: " If your issue is so damn important, how about you write about it as opposed to showing up every few weeks to scream that no one is covering your issue? No one, by the way, would include you. And, by the way, some people are covering that issue."; second, it is a sentiment similar to the point expressed in a Center for Constitutional Rights advertisement.

Betty: On CCR, I thought you might want to talk about what you're linking to on your "Links."

Well, I link to the community sites first of all. That is a given. After that, I could have spent forever adding links. My template is different from everyone except for this site's and C.I. sat down with me Friday afternoon and set up the site including showing me how to do my link list. I could have added many more. I tried to pick the ones that I have emphasized the most in my reports. I need to add more and my grandson Jayson pointed out to me Saturday night that I did not have Iraq Veterans Against the War on my links. That is an oversight I will fix when I post next.

Mike: Well adding links, regardless of the template, can be a pain in the butt. You're either doing it before you post or right after and you're thinking, "I just want to turn this computer off" or "I just want to do my post." I think we all avoid going into our templates. Partly because it's a hassle and also due to the problem The Third Estate Sunday Review had their first week.

Jess: A friend had created a template for us, had worked all night creating it because we had talked about starting a site but hadn't planned anything. So when we decided to start one up, a friend went into overtime creating a special template just for us. We'd done everything, our articles and all, and then we started doing our 'blog roll' and the whole thing just crashed. We couldn't fix it and ended up using a Blogger/Blogspot template. I think that's on everyone's mind when they're considering going into their own template.

Cedric: I'd agree with that and we were especially nervous, those of guest posting on Friday -- Betty, Wally, Ty, Jim, Dona and myself, about adding Ruth's site to someone else's sidebar links because it's bad enough if something goes wrong at your site but to do it at someone else's site .

My site really is simple after I got it down. C.I. told me I was really lucky because the other sites have to copy and paste code and then copy and paste the link. I just have to grab the link and do not have to bother with code. I had honestly forgotten the template issue until it was just now brought up adding to my list of things to worry about.

Dona: Well don't worry about it. You really shouldn't have that problem. But Trina did say you had one "Oh no!" moment after you were done on Friday.

I did. Thank you for asking about that. Dallas helps out at this site hunting down links -- among other things -- and Dallas has always helped me out with my reports. He and C.I. would grab the tags or the links. I could also ask him, "Did ___ make sense?" So when I finished posting Friday, I had a minute of grief when I realized I forgot to thank him. I'll thank him now and note that he has always been a tremendous help. I did my posts Friday without any help on the links so that's probably why I forgot to thank him but he really has been a huge help in too many ways to count.

Anything else you want to add?

Just that I am really curious to read Ava and C.I.'s TV commentary, that I am still slightly nervous about my own site, and I think we really did a great job on the Ms. magazine feature here.


Mentioned throughout the above are:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim,

C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,

Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Cedric's Big Mix;
Kat's Korner;
Thomas Friedman is a Great Man;
Mikey Likes It!;
Like Maria Said Paz;
The Daily Jot;
Trina's Kitchen;
and Ruth's
Ruth's Report

All but Ava and C.I. participated on this feature (Trina by suggesting questions) and Dallas also participated.

If a picture sings a thousand words . . .

Over 20 pages in in the November issue of Vanity Fair, Annie Leibowitz offers a photo essay entitled "All Over This Land" which takes a look at folk musicians.

The essay opens, as it should, with Joan Baez who was the face of the folk music in the sixties. As an added bonus, the brief description makes no effort, pay attention male reporters, to reduce her to "girlfriend of." The Guthries and Peter, Paul & Mary follow but the next two that caught our interest after Baez were Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins because they offer an interesting contrast. One is an artist involved in the world (Mitchell), the other, the description offers, "can command a swanky cabaret room" -- and that about says it all. (Well, almost. Don McLean is apparently no longer in vogue since Collins championed him more than any listed and he's AWOL from the description.)

The essay closes with Buffy Sainte-Marie and Richie Havens ("The Trailblazers") holding hands and it's among the most powerful and detailed of the photos in the essay.

You can also check out the essay to note who is still estranged from his first family. Hint, both children posed with their mother for a Van Fair photo essay a few years back. As their father was absent from their lives, they are now absent from his. Dad loves something, but it's not his adult children.

Leibowitz, of course, made her name at Rolling Stone. She went on to greater fame (some say infamy) at Vanity Fair. Checking out the essay will remind you of how talented she was and still is. It's among the finest work she's done and will remind everyone of how, like Diane Arbus, she managed to break into the boys club that is world famous photographers in the first place.

The only thing missing from the essay is a wrap around quote. Via Janis Ian, we'll provide it:

Folk is the new black

Cheaper than crack and you don't have to cook

Download it and see

The first time is free, then you'll be hooked

You can be politically correct

You don't even have to risk your neck

Better than crack -- folk is the new black.

-- "Folk Is The New Black," written by Janis Ian, title track to her 2005 CD.

The issue is on sale now. More information at Vanity Fair's website which also has posted video of the photo shoots.

Bug us

Made Love Got War is a catchy title. The subtitle is "Close Encounters With America's Warfare State." The author is Norman Solomon, someone all of us at least like (C.I. goes futher). So it might seem like a natural for a book discussion, right?


On page six, Solomon quotes from David and the Phoenix, "It's the discovery of the age." The discovery of the book is a really negative attitude towards women that we do not feel is intended but comes off page after page -- "humdrum" "housewives" being only one example. In example after example, men are applauded and women are wrong. Wrong for actions (Cathy Wilkerson), wrong for thought (Susan Sontag), wrong, wrong, wrong. When it's time to highlight the wrong or the bad, if there's a woman to go to, Solomon is there. Such as Anita Roddick who "drew sharp criticism" for selling Body Shop -- while Ben & Jerry's apparently drew no criticism -- not really even from Solomon. Had the book been written now instead of being published now, Roddick might have come off better since women who are dead tend to be the only ones receiving any praise in the book -- and what kind of a message is that supposed to send?

But the reason we took a pass on this hastily put-together clip job can be found on page 146: "Mr. Penn showed a lot more maturity and I think complexity of thought than what Ms. Fonda displayed back during the Vietnam War, when she went to North Vietnam."

Solomon made that statement to the grotesque Jerry Nachman on air at MSNBC. What would have been an eye roller in real time becomes a huge problem when, all these years later, Solomon wants to reproduce it.

It's not a surprise that in this book a male and female get compared and the male wins. It's a hallmark of the book and Solomon should take a strong look at that trait on display, page after page.

But if you're going to compare Fonda and Penn (Nachman asked for the comparison), if you're not going to say, "We're talking about two different situations, I'm not even going to go there," then do so honestly. Fonda stopped the bombing of the dikes. There was nothing immature about her visit. Her visit actually accomplished something because she put herself out there.

In France, she talked about the bombings -- which not only Tricky Dick was denying but also George H.W. Bush -- and showed film of the dikes -- film that would disappear in transit when she made it back to America. [C.I. note, the film would disappear in transit after Fonda returned to the US. It was shown in the NYC press confrence. It was shown without sound because the sound disappeared before the film made it to America. The film itself "would disappear in transit when she made it back to America" -- it was shown in NYC before that happened.]

Fonda accomplished something and to call it immature certainly fits into the book's pattern of downgrading women. [What really is the purpose of including Carly Simon over others -- she is the only individual named -- and when including her, maybe it should be noted that she was supporting a family unlike her drug addicted spouse.]

Fonda sat down somewhere she doesn't think she should have. It wasn't a big deal in real time, it took months and months and months of the right-wing tossing out mock outrage over it. (And creating a host of libels to go with that.) There's no denying she accomplished something. There's no denying that her American press conference had a real impact. There's no denying that Tricky Dick and Poppy were exposed as liars. There's no denying that lives were actually saved by the exposure of the bombings.

Appearing on the crap-land that is basic cable may not allow people to think through the responses before speaking. Electing to reprint a transcript of it, indicates Solomon still agrees with the sentiment. We don't. And we think it's embarrassing that something as monumental as halting the bombing of the dikes (which would have starved the population as well as led to flooding) is being reduced to immature. Had the left bothered to stand up to the right-wing nonsense in real time, we might not have the current illegal war.

Perhaps a subtitle that better describes the book could have been thought up? We'd suggest Made Love Got War: Made Time To Grind An Axe Against Women. And note, we didn't have to tear down Penn to note Fonda's accomplishments -- something Solomon might consider thinking about in the future.

Supporting War Resisters

Last week, speaking to a group of active duty service members, one came up to Kat, Ava and C.I. at the end and passed on the below. He noted that they'd covered war resisters in their remarks and asked if they knew of this letter Courage to Resist was circulating? They didn't.

He got it from his sister and has made copies. He asked that it be mentioned in future discussions. Not only has it been but we're posting it here as well. You can print up a copy of our scan and use it or you can visit Courage to Resist where they probably have a much better copy available for printing.



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.

"David Corn moving to Mother Jones" & "Introduction" -- Ruth has started her own site. She posted twice on Friday and the first listed is more typical of what she intends to offer. Check out the site and enjoy.

"Betinna goes to Harlem (the White section)" -- Gail Collins was going to lead Betinna to The Peace Resister Katrina vanden Heuvel. Collins demotion at the paper of no record means Betty had to juggle the outline and reassign Collins' role to new audience fave Cathy Pollitt. This is a hysterical chapter.

"The dregs" & "THIS JUST IN! THINNING OF THE HERD!" -- Cedric & Wally's take on the horse race. We'll be tackling their second subject next week. Early on (but not early enough, we'd already started pieces), Jim realized that this edition could have a theme: women. That came after reading Ava and C.I.'s hilarious TV commentary to us out loud. We were on all board and already had two features that would fit with the theme and a third planned.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Bully Poppa's True Sons" -- Isaiah's comic commenting on the 'macho' of two men ganging up together on one woman. What brave little boys they are.

"Rice Krisphy Kugel via Audrey in the Kitchen"

"Betty filling in for Rebecca" & "Cedric subbing for Kat and talking Blackwater" & "Ty, Jim & Dona filling in for Elaine" & "Wally filling in for Mike" -- We love the guest posts. If we're being filled in for, we love having a night off. If we're filling in, we love the chance to tackle something we might not normally get a chance to. The guests posts are traditionally talking posts where you just talk about whatever. Kat put a condition on Cedric that he be brief because she didn't want him to spend a great deal of time filling in for her and she didn't want her readers to start expecting lengthy posts. Other than that, it was "Write whatever." Betty probably wrote the longest post and notes that she only planned to mention the topic her post is about in passing. "But it's the sort of thing Betinna couldn't address and one of the reasons I'm always happy to fill in any chance I have."

"blog action day" -- Rebecca was the only one in the community to participate and she really laid out in a post noting the misdirection from environmental leaders and how much steam the movement has lost since the 60s.

"Law and Disorder, Naomi Wolf, Peter Brown" -- Mike covers Naomi Wolf's appeareance on Law and Disorder Monday. Or not. She was on. If you listened to WBAI which is in pledge drive mode. Hosts Heidi Boghosian, Michael Smith and Michael Ratner interviewed Wolf live during the two hour slot they filled. The hour long program for the week does not feature Wolf.

"No, the US wasn't happy about England's pullback" -- C.I. correcting media nonsense. Picked by Mike's father.

"Dennis Kucinich, Yoko Ono, etc." -- Elaine covers Dennis Kucinich and Yoko Ono and manages to find a common bridge to connect the two.

"Congressional Dems do the Cave Dance again" & "THIS JUST IN! DEMS KEEP CAVING!" -- Cedric & Wally chart The Cave Dance which apparently is the new Time Warp.
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