Sunday, October 28, 2007

Truest statement of the week

Ironic. The PKK is on the State Department's terrorist list; the U.S. claims it doesn't 'talk with terrorists.' But the U.S. -- and Israel -- aids and abets the PKK through local Iraqi Kurds. And why? The PKK arm, Pejak, attacks Iran. For services rendered, while the PKK attacks Turkey the administration winks and has kept the Turkish military from retaliating. ...

For giving safe haven to the PKK/Pejak, for doing Washington's bidding in Baghdad, [Massoud] Barzani and [Jalal] Talabani have been more than amply rewarded. In 2003 the U.S. military facilitated their takeover of 'security' in Kirkuk and even in Mosul. Now, under the pretext of fighting al Qaeda, units of the U.S. military have been joining Kurdish fighting units (veiled as members of the 'Iraqi' military) in ethnically cleansing 'contested areas' of non-Kurds in advance of a referendum that will determine under whose jurisdiction these parts of Diyala and Nineveh provinces will fall.

Perhaps it all depends on who's doing the cleansing. In 1992 Armenians in Nagorno Karabagh aided by the Republic of Armenia ethnically cleansed Red Kurdistan, the largest and oldest Kurdish community in the Caucasus -- 160,000 Kurds simply disappeared. With few exceptions, Kurds elsewhere said nothing. Kurdish Life did a detailed report on the issue and distributed it to members of Congress, not least Rep. Tom Lantos, Sen. Ted Kennedy and Sen. Joe Biden, all still in office. President Bill Clinton did nothing. Instead, Armenians were rewarded with direct U.S. foreign aid.

-- Vera Beaudin Saeedpour, "Perspectives on Iraq, Turkey and Kurds" (IPA).

Editorial: Re-selling the illegal war

As Diane Rehm pointed out Friday on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, the reported reduction in Shi'ite on Sunni and Sunni on Shi'ite violence has been replaced with inner-sect violence in Iraq. We're not imagining this will get a great deal of attention in the November 1st look backs the mainstream press will be running.

If you've missed it, the narrative was unveiled by the US military mid-month and various outlets have already rushed to do their part to re-sell the illegal war by weighing in early and often.

The narrative declares, "Yip-ee! Violence is down!" 33 is the announced US service member death toll thus far and some reports are already going on about how it's the lowest since March of 2006 (31 was the toll then -- when they started those reports, this month's toll stood at 31 and it may yet rise further). If you think roughly one life a day is fair payment for Bully Boy's bloody and illegal war, you too can rejoice.

If you realize that the illegal war based on lies should have never started, you're aware that at least 33 Americans died this month who not only should have never died, should have never been stationed in Iraq to begin with.

On October 4th, Just Foreign Policy listed 1,080,903. Now? 1,096,367 is their estimate for the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war. AP already telegraphed their desire to run with official figures from the Iraqi government (which show a decrease). In the past, AFP and McClatchy Newspapers have been able to call that nonsense out; however, in September McClatchy elected not to their now monthly figure on Iraqi deaths. They still did the insulting US "combat deaths" -- insulting for a number of reasons but on the most basic, the US military has three classifications: combat, non-combat and "under investigation." McClatchy has portrayed only the first two categories in this monthly feature.

If early versions (test driven by AP among others) are any indication, the refugee crisis (well over 4 million displaced Iraqis -- internally and externally) will not get any attention although the crisis was clearly created by the illegal war.

One also wonders how fatalities between the Turkish military and the PKK will be addressed (or even if they will be addressed)?

If September's big story was Blackwater, the key story of October were US military air strikes that killed civilians -- with the US admitting to a few while using "under investigation" to cover others. That too is falling out of the early accounts so we're not hopeful to see it explored in the end of the month (published first day of the month) stories.

What we're expecting to see is the most simplistic coverage possible that strips away all reality and conveys the scripted message that the illegal war has hit an upswing.


In case you missed it, a large bulk of the mainstream media has enlisted to re-sell the illegal war. So it's time for them to pull down another box of Iraqi War Helper and offer up easy lies, easy numbers and avoid examination of anything. All these years later, that may be the most depressing thing after the fact that the illegal war continues to drag on.

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --

Another Sunday. Ginger e-mailed if we were becoming a Sunday evening site? Not by intention. 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. We thank them all.

What happened? A number of snafus and a number of very real problems.

Truest statement of the week -- caused no problems other than C.I. noting it's "IPA" not "IPS" (and wondering if it was billed wrongly at The Common Ills?).

Editorial: Re-selling the illegal war -- Last thing we wrote and we weren't sure we'd have an editorial. This was worked on by Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava, C.I. and me, Jim. Dona and Ty note this is chiefly C.I. and me with them largely just doing corrections and smoothing out a sentence here or there. We are all tired. I wanted an editorial and I thank everyone for participating but especially C.I. who, even when tired and probably wanting to tell me to let it go, always presses on.

TV: The Wall St. Journal's Entertainment Program -- This wasn't the review that ran in the print edition. (The print edition had no editorial.) Ava and C.I. reviewed another series. But there was a huge breakdown/stoppage during this edition. As the talk went round and round, Ava and C.I. walked off. They ended up watching a video a friend had sent them and since I was already worried about the scope of this edition and since we were still discussing a feature, they went back off and wrote this up quickly. It may be the strongest thing about the edition and we all thank them.

Save the Country: Nyro's passion -- This wasn't our first problem but it became a big problem. Laura Nyro? We all love her music. No problem. Dona read a book on Nyro (as did Jess) and they were contributing from that. C.I. was iffy about this from the start. When they began contributing, C.I. asked (repeatedly), "Where are you getting that?" What followed was C.I. going to a large closet and pulling down countless journals. For the problems with the promotion of Nyro's last studio album, C.I.'s relying on notes in the journal from three phone conversations with Nyro, from a letter Nyro wrote during the recording and from a note she wrote when presented with the official and finalized promotion 'plan.' Nyro was not happy with it and apparently a book (which C.I. says is probably "brilliant" in every other regard) got that wrong. She wasn't happy with the recording of the last studio album released by Columbia either. (She's very clear on that in the letter.) This was a long piece and we raided C.I.'s journals going back several decades freely. Digging through the journals meant we had to let everyone else go (the hour was so late -- none of us have been to sleep since Saturday morning and it's now 4:56 p.m. Sunday as we write). After we were done, C.I. vetted everything we were planning to include with other people who knew Nyro (vetted over the phone) leading to more deletions. There is a strong chance that the original version will run in Friday's gina & krista round-robin.

Mumia -- This feature is self-explanatory and except for some editing surgery by Dona, done quickly compared to other features.

Mailbag -- This was the problem. No one was happy with it. C.I. and Ava pulled nothing from the discussion. (C.I. did and does note, "I was tired and it shows.") This really was a roundtable and had others not pulled statements we might have dropped the mailbag and billed it as a roundtable. Even after people had pulled comments they were uncomfortable with, it was the biggest problem. There were some who didn't want it to run. (And Jess points out Dona -- who never called for abandoing it -- went through almost a half of a carton during this writing session -- half a carton of cigarettes.) We spent hours after the deletions discussing whether or not to run it. In the end, all participating agreed to run it. This is neither a pro-porn or anti-porn piece. That was one of the issues discussions after repeatedly noted. (For the record, we aren't anti-porn.) A comment by one participant (Dona says to note it was a woman) that got deleted was, "Pornography really isn't part of my life because I refuse to allow it to be." Which was deleted by the speaker because everyone is effected by porn. While that is true, it was a valid opinion and when it was removed other comments had to be eliminated because they expanded upon a point that was no longer present. We've never had so much frustration over one piece. (Frustration over the piece. No one was frustrated with anyone participating. All disagreements, even when heated, were friendly.) C.I., who did not make the comment I just referenced, wants it noted, "I could have. I have never had anything to do with porn and I refuse to now. If others do, that's their business. Visuals -- photos or videos of people nude or having sex -- don't stimulate me and never have. I understood the point being made and I understood the reason it was pulled. While it is true that porn's so ingrained in our society that we're all touched by it on some level, it's also true that many people take great strides to minimize the impact. Some may or may not succeed. But I did understand the point being made."

As long as you're dipping into the vaults . . . -- A friend of C.I.'s came over for an agreed upon late lunch that was cancelled due to the fact that we were still working on the edition. The friend ended up going over several volumes of journals to help us pick out bits for the Nyro article and, at the end, stated, "As long as you're dipping in to things, why not note Susan Faldui's interview with The Progressive." Dona asked what interview, C.I. offered that quote and Dona exclaimed, "Short feature! Thank goodness!"

Dear Canada: Let US War Resisters Stay -- Contrary to what two e-mails have already wondered, this was not a filler but something that was always planned to run. It ran in the print version. Also in the print version was a look at yesterday's rallies and the peace movement. We were so exhausted from debating the mailbag that Dona wisely suggested we kill both features from the online version or we'd be up until midnight tonight debating.

Highlights -- Kat, Rebecca, Betty, Elaine, Cedric, Wally and Mike wrote this (and did so quickly) we thank them for it.

Are we an evening or night time site? We may decide to become that. We knew we would be behind due to Ava, Kat and C.I. returning from the road Saturday and due to the Saturday protest against the illegal war. We had no idea we'd be this far behind. C.I. didn't do a morning entry at The Common Ills (C.I. did post Isaiah's comic this morning) due to all of our problems here. We're now going to try to grab some sleep (a nap for some -- I've told C.I. I'm napping only so I can help go through the e-mails from community members to The Common Ills. Since The Common Ills has already suffered due to this site, it seems the least I can do.)

We'll see you next week, early or late.

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

P.S. A bonus feature was added after the note went up. "Ty's Corner" notes one more e-mail (at length) and gives an overview of the "Mailbag" process. As the title indicates, Ty wrote this feature.

TV: The Wall St. Journal's Entertainment Program


We don't generally review the same show twice. So when we returned home this weekend and found a tape Fed-Ex-ed by a friend with a note, we were tempted to plead exhaustion and blow it off. We'd already reviewed NCIS in 2005. But the note dubbed the episode "highly offensive." Thinking that possibly Mark Harmon (Jethro) had contributed a nude butt scene, and desperately in need of a laugh, we figured, what the hell?

The shocks piled on quickly. Chief among them the fact that the now-in-its-fifth-season program's only asset is shot to hell. Bloated and chunky, we couldn't believe it had been only two years since we last saw Michael Weatherly (Tony) on screen. Was he prepping, we wondered, for a tele-flick entitled Tom Arnold: The Thick Years? A few quick calls demonstrated he wasn't prepping for anything because his name was colder than Donald the Rumsfled.

Though never reed-thin, he also didn't previously appear as though he were the first to make a beeline for the crafts table when a director yelled cut. Currently, he appears to be not only the first to arrive but the last to leave. And the fire flies . . .

It is a problem, a huge one, when the show still tries to churn out viewer interest in what passes for sparks between Tony and Ziva (played by Cote de Pablo) and adds in Nikki (new character played by Susan Kelechi Watson) to the mix. It's as though Raymond Burr's returned from the grave and been cast as a love object.

Equally disturbing is that the 'sexual tension' between Tony and Ziva already borders on inappropriate. That can possibly be dismissed by the notion that both are willing to continue the flirting dance but when Tony's encouraged in his flirting attempts towards Nikki by Ziva, we've entered a sexually charged work environment that could find Tony and Ziva up on charges since their behavior meets "The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome" (Nikki is not interested); and the harasser is a co-worker (we'd identify both Tony and Ziva of the harassers). Last year, 12,205 charges of sexual harassment were filed with the EEOC (financial penalties paid: $48.8 million).

Were we Nikki, we'd file immediately. We'd see the case as a slam dunk that even Naomi Churchill Earp and the rest of the EEOC board would have to agree with. Nikki's immediate supervisor becomes Jethro who is openly hostile her. He does nothing to clamp down on the sexually charged atmosphere and when Nikki goes to NCIS Director Jenny Shepard (Lauren Holly) to complain about Jethro's hostility towards her, Director Jenny allows her to make those private comments without ever informing her that Jethro's in the room. After Nikki's voiced her complaints, Jethro will announce his presence from the back of the room and the most Director Jenny (who had some past relationship with Jethro prior to the start of the series) can offer is to raise her eyebrows.

Only on CBS -- no where else, as bad as NBC is becoming and even with ABC offering up Cavemen -- could such crap air. Only on that network would it not raise an eye brow and be seen as normal work place behavior. CBS, once known as the Tiffany Network, now exists to 'normalize' sexual harassment. Everyone involved should be ashamed and embarrassed.

When we got done with the scenes above, we phoned the friend and said, "You're right, it is highly offensive." Turns out, we'd noticed something else.

So back to the tape we went, starting at the beginning where Lt. Michael Arnett (guest star in his first and only scene) is threatening to jump off a building to his death. Jethro and the 'boys' (Tony and another we'll get to shortly) arrive. Jethro breaks every rule in the book when it comes to dealing with a suicide (he also lies badly -- the remarks involving Arnett's sister would be seen through immediately in real life) but, this being TV, he convinces Arnett not to leap; however, a sniper fires on Arnett causing him to fall from the building.

Did the shot kill him or the fall? We're not really interested but we don't put "CIS" after our names. For a program entitled NCIS, that information is rather important. The NCIS team fumbles around for the bulk of the episode and, had anyone bothered to explore whether the shot or fall killed Arnett, possibly they could have come up with a profile of the killer. Of course, having some clues and descriptions to go on might have prevented the office 'hi jinks' and meandering storyline.

It also would have harmed Timothy McGee's (played rotundly by Sean Murray) special contribution to the episode. Murray's no actor. He is, however, the step-son of the show's creator (Donald Bellisano) which explains how a lack of looks and talent didn't prevent him from becoming a TV regular. (His step-sister Troian Bellisano sometimes pops up as his character's sister on the show.)

When you can't act, lack charisma and looks, it takes a special skill to stand out. The writers toss it to Bellisano via Robin Thomas -- a really effete actor who played both Demi Moore's smarmy boss Steve in About Last Night and the passion-impaired boyfriend of Angela's on Who's the Boss? -- Thomas' character in the latter was named "Geoffrey." On a show where the other characters have names like "Sam" (Alyssa Milano) and "Tony" (Tony Danza), dubbing Thomas' character "Geoffrey" was a sure indication to viewers that Thomas was playing a priss. On NCIS Thomas played Dr. Neil Fleming.

Not having bothered to figure out how Arnett died, the NCIS crew works through their own hunches. Tony's convinced the killer must be Dana Arnett -- the wife of the dead man. Why? It's always the wife, he explains as he attempts to pass himself off as some sort of movie expert. Good thing Arnett didn't have a butler or 'investigator' Tony's 'training' might have led to paralysis or a meltdown.

McGee has his own hunch. He thinks the killer is Dr. Fleming. And let's note, both 'boys' stick by their initial hunches throughout the episode. Evidence really isn't as important as pursuing your own prejudices. Tony's openly hostile to women (even his flirting is hostile). McGee?

He's openly hostile to the Constitution. Dr. Fleming participated in a protest to close Guantanamo and does not support the illegal war. That's enough for McGee to dub him "anti-government." Oh really?

Considering that both ventures exist outside of the rule of law, it takes a real asshole to claim that being opposed to either or both qualifies as "anti-government." As an asshole, Bellisano has finally found a role that his meager talents can handle.

Who is the killer? Maybe you're interested even though the show wasn't. An alleged crime drama played out -- for the hour -- like the op-ed pages of The Wall St. Journal. Sexual harassment was just 'funnin',' someone who cared about the rule of law was 'anti-government' and a natural suspect in a murder, women were money grubbing schemers . . . Every stereotype you could imagine was piled on including a screed against immigration that we'll get to shortly.

None of this nonsense is ever called out or even questioned. The closest to 'questioning' is Jenny's raised eye brows noted earlier -- apparently being the Director of NCIS allows for that 'editorial' comment.

Did Arnett die from the shooting or the fall? It does matter, even if the show doesn't give a damn. If he died from the shooting, then the killer is something of a professional with training. That would eliminate the doctor right away and lead them to probe the backgrounds of the other 'suspects' (besides the wife, Arnett's boss is suspected by Director Jenny). Eliminate the doctor right away? The 'team' appears to have, based on their remarks about Dr. Fleming, some sort of file on 'anti-government' types. That's how they know he's against Guantanamo and the illegal war. He doesn't tell them that, they confront him with it.

They have no file on the widow. Which suggests that the information on Fleming came not from their own investigation but from previous government surveillance.

It's a pity they didn't have a file on the widow, it's a pity that didn't bother to determine whether the bullet killed Arnett.

The wife was indeed the killer. Tony was right but for the wrong reason. Dana (Alaina Huffman) didn't kill her husband for the insurance policy, she killed him because of the work she did. See, Dana wasn't really "Dana." Though she looks cornfed and raised, Dana is actually Najida Mahmoud -- a Syrian al Qaeda agent! Smuggled into the country! Which allows for a little diatribe against immigration. This plot twist -- pretty major -- doesn't happen at the mid-way point and develop, it happens in the final section of the show suggesting that no one really gives a damn about the investigations on this show. [Abby (played by Pauley Perrette) discovers the truth about Dana via a DNA check of INTERPOL's database.]

If they don't give a damn about investigations, what do they give a damn about? Providing the increasingly feminized looking Mark Harmon (is he taking estrogen treatments?) something to do besides sue his sister for custody of his nephew? Well, yes, there is that.

But it's also a little, right-wing screed in which you seem to be catching George Will, Clarence Thomas and the likes in an office setting during their down time. If that doesn't concern you, maybe you're unaware that this episode of NCIS won the timeslot last Tuesday? Now granted, in the seventies, the numbers wouldn't be anything to brag about. But this racist screed (Ziva, for any unfamiliar with the fact that the name is Hebrew, is a Mossad agent whose sister was killed by Hamas) managed to work in attacks on immigration, attacks on American citizens who (rightly) questioned illegal activities, an endorsement of xenophobia, 'normalization' sexual harassment in the workplace and the Bully Boy's eternal cry of "Be Afraid, Be Very, Very Afraid" all in one slow hour.

On the plus side, this being CBS, no one need worry that it's instilling these beliefs in a large number of young people. (The bran and Depends set continues to make up the bulk of CBS' viewership hence only 10% of 18-49 year-olds tuned in last Tuesday.) Even so, it's appalling that this episode (or, in fact, the series itself) aired to begin with. Equally appalling is the fact that the friend insisting we tackle the show again is a higher up at CBS. When a network suit depends upon two TV critics to right the wrong, we'd argue the network's internal problems have gone beyond "messy." Prior to the seventies rebirth of CBS, a lot of crap cluttered up the network. Bravery was found in clearing all the retro trash from the airwaves and looking, if not to the future, to the present. It's past time CBS today demonstrated the same sound judgement.

That this hasn't already happened is as unbelievable as the episode's final scene. When, early on Nikki explains she wasn't aware Arnett was killed, disbelief is expressed since the murder was broadcast on live television. Arnett's widow will mention that her husband's parents are on their way into town. Yet the episode ends, much, much later, with Jethro picking up the phone and calling Arnett's sister to break the news to her that her brother is dead. Viewers willing to believe that a woman would be unaware of the televised death of her brother or that her own parents would come into town for the funeral without notifying her belong to the brain dead demographics that currently account for the bulk of CBS' audience. If voices of objections raised within the network can't kill the show, maybe the ad revenue will?

Save the Country: Nyro's passion


I got fury in my soul,
Fury's gonna take me to the glory goal.
In my mind I can't study war no more.
Save the people!
Save the children!
Save the Country now!

So wrote and sang Laura Nyro in "Save the Country" on her third album, 1969's New York Tendaberry. The Fifth Dimension, who had success covering many Nyro songs, took the single to number 27 on the US top forty pop charts. (Nyro's songs provided the group with five of their twenty Top Forty hits.)

New York Tendaberry rose to number 32 on the US album charts, giving Nyro her highest charting position. It's a favorite of Rickie Lee Jones, Karla Bonoff, Suzanne Vega, Phoebe Snow and many others and "Save the Country" is sampled by Kanye West for his "The Glory." The song was performed, by Nyro, on NBC's Kraft Music Hall Presents the Sound of the Sixties (January 15, 1969). Yes, in primetime. The same network that would air Bright Eyes' performance of "When The President Talks To God" on May 2, 2005 -- but late night, on The Tonight Show.

Early on Nyro garnered attention with her regional hit "Wedding Bell Blues" (later a number one pop hit for The Fifth Dimension) and by bombing at the Monterey International Pop Festival (co-organizer Mama Michelle Phillips would miss the bulk of Otis Redding's performance as she attempted to cheer Nyro up while they shared a joint). David Geffen (then at William Morris) would hear the single "Wedding Bell Blues" after that, become her agent (and co-owner of Tuna Fish Music -- Nyro's publishing company) and set up a recording deal for her with Columbia Records after Nyro performed the material that would make up Eli and The Thirteenth Confession for then label president Clive Davis -- on a piano with a TV screen providing the only lighting in the room.

Verve-Folkways had released her first album, More Than A New Discovery. Columbia would re-release it as The First Songs. For the bulk of her career, Columbia would be her home.

Come young braves, come young children,
come to the book of love with me,
resepct your brothers and your sisters,
come to the book of love,
I know it ain't easy but
we're gonna look for a better day
Come young braves,
come young children
I love my country
as it dies in war and pain
before my eyes
I walk the streets
where disrespect has been.
The sins of politics,
the politics of sin,
the heartlessness that darkens my soul
on Christmas.

Nyro would sing the above in the title track to 1970's Christmas and the Beads of Sweat. The album would provide her with her own first national chart hit, a cover of Gerry Goffin & Carole King's "Up On The Roof" which would make it to number 92 on the pop chart.

Nyro would follow the album with 1971's Gonna Take a Miracle -- a full albums worth of covers recorded with vocal assistance by Labelle (Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash). Nyro would then declare her retirement and move to Massachusetts with then husband David Bianchini. The five-year absences is explained by various theories including Nyro's disenchantment with the music industry (see Smile's "Money") over the dealings involved in the selling of Tuna Fish Music to Columbia and the near label switch to Asylum Records (run by Geffen). The return found a more subdued Nyro and this would be the hallmark of all subsequent albums. In the midst of her brief retirement, Clive Davis would maintain that the press on the sale of Tuna Fish Music (focusing on the monies involved) led to Nyro's retirement and offer that Nyro had told him the mood or desire for composing was no longer present and felt that the move from NYC had provided her with a less inspirational setting. Smile would be followed by Nested in 1978, Mother's Spiritual in 1984 and 1993's Walk the Dog and Light the Light -- all on Columbia. Along with those studio albums, the live albums Season of Lights and Laura: Live at the Bottom Line were released. The first Columbia bungled (in 1977) by insisting a double album be condensed to a single disc. The second (released in 1989), Columbia wasn't interested in.

A real loss because not only did the live album contain six new compositions (including "The Japanese Restaurant Song") it and the tours leading up and following it brought Nyro back to the attention of the public. The CD, now out of print, was issued on the small label Cypress and had Columbia distributed and promoted it, Nyro's comeback might have been even more of an event. (Even without Columbia, the release was a major event with a lengthy write up in Musician magazine. The cover was Natalie Merchant, then with 10,000 Maniacs, and a small photo of Jackson Browne. Had Nyro's album been backed by a major label, a photo of her might have appeared on the cover as well.)

Laura: Live at the Bottom Line didn't just draw attention to her recharged talents, it also offered a road map for older fans who may have been confused by her mid-seventies return with Smile and all that followed. Nyro's themes had expanded (and, as she joked, she was no longer being chased by the devil) to include environmentalism and stronger nods to feminism. In terms of the musical direction she'd been pursuing since returning from retirement, those come across much more clearly than they did on Season Of Lights (both live albums feature Nyro reworking songs from her canon).

Columbia was done with her. Walk the Dog & Light the Light attempted to build on the goodwill of Laura: Live at the Bottom Line but didn't have a clue as to what Nyro had brought to that live album and the performances: herself. Instead, her vision had to compete with a producer and an engineer who were going to 'bring her back' (she was already back). The intensity of the early career had been replaced with a hard earned womanly groove and neither of the two men appeared to grasp what was being captured in the studio and what should be preserved. "To A Child" conveys that best. The song had first appeared on 1984's Mother's Spiritual and was something to behold even then. On Laura: Live at the Bottom Line, she'd explored it even further. What found its way on to Walk the Dog & Light the Light was an abbreviated version of what she had been exploring and one of her concerns (this is Nyro who recorded epic length tracks for Christmas and the Beads of Sweat side two) was that everything was being reduced to single length, not out a feeling that one song was a potential hit but out of a fear that every base had to be covered. Nyro questioned whether her instincts were off because the label seemed so pleased with what was being completed but having given them the simplest Laura Nyro (that's a reference to recording, not songs) the album's 'failure' convinced the label that if they couldn't move units of Nyro as they wanted her, she was done.

'Failure'? The sells reflect Columbia's disastrous marketing scheme which has wrongly been pinned on Nyro. Columbia's marketing showed no appreciation of Nyro's talent or place in the music establishment. It was as though they were trying to copy Roger Davies' plan for Tina Turner's 1984 comeback. Much was (and is still) made of Nyro's refusal to engage in various interviews. Nyro never agreed to those interviews. Nor did she ever say, "Sure, I'll do The Tonight Show." She agreed to consider them. Instead of developing a multi-pronged promotion, the label elected to pin their hopes on Nyro's maybes (which anyone who knew Nyro would have grasped was a "no") and to plan the most hokey and obvious promotional campaign.

The 'failure' of Walk the Dog & Light the Light was Columbia's, not Nyro's. On April 8, 1997, Nyro would die of ovarian cancer while Columbia was releasing the double disc anthology Stoned Sould Picnic: The Best of Laura Nyro.

Nyro left behind a legacy of amazing songs (in the early days and after) and made a name for herself that remains undiminished. The lesson of her art, career and accomplishments it that if you explore, if you reach, you can have a legacy. It's a lesson many of today's performers churning out their safe 'hits' would do well to grasp.

Ty's Corner

Explaining the e-mails. A number come in each week. Dona, Jim and I read them. Jess, Ava and now Dona work the accounts (private and the public one) for The Common Ills. Unless I'm taking some time off, the bulk of the e-mails are read by me.

Each week, the bulk of the e-mails are about Ava and C.I.'s TV commentaries. True from the start, true week after week. When we do a "Mailbag" feature, like this week, I go into it with a number of e-mails I've printed up. I'll designate one or two as "must be mentioned." I'll have a huge stack of e-mails that I think are worth mentioning. From the huge stack, I'll mention the topics and some will be moved over to the must mention based on the comments of others. Some will also be put in a possible mention stack and I'll pull from those as time permits.

Today was no different. With one exception. Sometimes an e-mail is clearly a must mention. When that happenes, I'll e-mail back, "We will mention this." There were two people who got that response last week, Bill and Kimmey. Only Bill got mentioned. I forgot Kimmey because we were focusing on several other things and because (as Jim's "A Note to Our Readers" explains) there were other issues going on.

Kimmey e-mailed this evening to remind me that I had said she'd be mentioned. This is from her e-mail last week.

Hey everyone,
Thursday at Danny Schechter's News Dissector Blog this appeared:

Democratic FCC commissioner Michael Copps asked FCC chairman Kevin Martin to open an inquiry into News Corp.’s purchase of The Wall Street Journal. In a letter to Martin Thursday, Copps said he is concerned that the $5.6 billion combination would result in control of a network and two of the nation’s five largest newspapers by a single company and would result in the ownership of two newspapers and two TV stations in New York, the nation’s top market.

I'm glad Michael Copps thinks it's an issue but it was an issue before he 'discovered' it. This was a topic I e-mailed you about on July 25th and asked that you consider writing about. Along with explaining my reasons and how offended I was on several levels, I also quoted C.I. From C.I.'s July 22nd "And the War Drags On . . .:"

There's also a great deal of ignorance. Rupert Murdoch wants to buy The Wall St. Journal and, sorry to point it out again, that is a New York based paper. You hear the generic argument against consolidation. Where is the argument about consolidation specific to the fact that he already owns the New York Post? One person owning both papers? It just strikes me as being as stupid in the 80s in not noting the obvious fact, Fox TV (entertainment) operated in violation of the FCC which forbade foreign ownership of domestic airwaves. That argument was not made loudly and repeatedly. Had it been, he would have been forced to become a US citizen immediately or sell off his holdings. Mike Nichols, in Working Girl, made the point stonger and reached more people than did our media 'critics' or press of that time period. But here we are again, two decades later, and Murdoch is attempting to own two NYC based papers.

That was actually what took my reasoning beyond personal offense over the continued grab by Rupert Murdoch and brought it to the level of a media concern. I know each week there is so much to cover but I hope you can at least mention this in passing.

Again, I had e-mailed Kimmey and Bill that their e-mails would be mentioned. If I respond that way, you do get mentioned. My apologies to Kimmey for forgetting her and my thanks to her for reminding me that I had forgotten.

An e-mail can result in a "must mention" for any number of reasons including topic, the urgency or sense of passion conveyed in the writing, because it's a topic that we haven't covered but should have and any other number of reasons. Most who get a reply receive, "I will try to work this in." Try is an intention and I mean that I will try. If it doesn't come to pass, as Cedric says, "Oh well." But if I tell someone they will get mentioned, they should be.

Lastly on the e-mails, I do not have time for multiple ones. There are some replies from last week that I have not yet had time to read. As a general rule, I really only have time to write one reply a week to those I respond to. It's also true that I do not feel it's my responsibility to give a heads up to people when we do work in their e-mails. In some cases, due to the fact that we do not do a "Mailbag" each week, I may be dropping back a week or two. If you care enough to write, my attitude is you should care enough to check in. E-mails are mentioned most frequently in the "Mailbag" and "Roundtable" features. In addition, e-mails that come in Sunday as we are the process of posting features. If you're checking to see if you're mentioned for one of those, you should also check Jim's weekly "A Note to Our Readers" which frequently mentions some as a result of everyone be curious as to what the immediate reaction is to what we're posting.


From Abu-Jamal News:

TAKE ACTION: Big Media Must Not Ignore New Mumia Abu-Jamal Crime Scene Photos!
The mainstream media has completely ignored the new photos since they were unveiled
(Press-release from May 18). Please contact the media about the new Educators for Mumia press-release.
"The newly discovered photographs reveal the fact that the police were actively manipulating evidence at the homicide scene." - Lead Attorney Robert R. Bryan
Photo 1: Mishandling the Guns - Officer James Forbes holds both Abu-Jamal's and Faulkner's guns in his bare hands and touches the metal parts. This contradicts his later court testimony that he had preserved the ballistics evidence.
Photos 2 & 3: The Moving Hat - Faulkner's hat is moved from the top of Billy Cook's VW, and placed on the sidewalk for the official police photo.
Photo 4: The Missing Taxi - Robert Chobert testified that he was parked directly behind Faulkner's car, but the space is empty in the photo.

The new photos should be receiving attention.

Police officer Daniel Faulkner was shot dead on December 9, 1981. Activist, journalist, cab driver Mumia Abu-Jamal was presented by the state of Pennsylvania as the culprit. In a court room of the absurd, where the rules were more or less what the presiding judge decided they were minute to minute, Abu-Jamal was convicted on July 3, 1982 and sentenced to death on May 25, 1983.

The problems with the case against Abu-Jamal are many including the conflicting statements prosecution witnesses made under oath in court and the statements they gave the police.

On June 19, 2006, Law and Disorder, co-host Heidi Boghosian spoke of some of the more recent issues that call for the conviction to be reversed. Among those ground was that, during the sentence hearing, the jury was instructed that their decision would be "reviewable, there will be appeal after appeal." This 'assurance' served to undercut the sense of responsibility the jury should have been deliberating with since the statement implied that sentencing someone to death was not really a responsibility those on the jury needed to give great thought to: It could be fixed at a later date by another body. Boghosian also raised the issue of the jury make up.

On May 28, 2007, Law and Disorder, Boghosian explored the jury issue further with the lead attorney for Abu-Jamal's defense, Robert R. Bryan, who noted the historical, systematic removal of African-Americans from cases in that region. They also returned to the issue of the statements by the prosecution that the decision would be "reviewable" and the thrust of the statement that, since the decision was "reviewable," the appropriate thing to do would be to err on the side of guilt -- explaining that the argument was making a mistake in their decision was no matter of importance. Also addressed was the presiding judge, Alberto Sabo, and his bragging -- while the original case was being heard -- "I'm going to help them fry the ni**er."

Examing the historical manner in which 'justice' has been provided to African Americans, Ron Jacobs notes in "COINTELPRO and the Panthers" (CounterPunch):

Two ongoing cases that appear to be frame-ups from this vantage point are those of Mumia abu Jamal and the San Francisco 8. The former is a case involving the murder of a Philadelphia police officer in 1981 and the latter involves the murder of a San Francisco policeman in 1971. In both situations, the prosecution's case is based on evidence that is flimsy at best and just plain false at its worst. Neither prosecution has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt despite several chances. In addition, the politics of the defendants has been used by the prosecution in an attempt to prejudice the jury.
Mumia's case has always carried the stench of a frame-up. The conflicting testimony of witnesses, the failure of witnesses to appear and many other instances of questionable conduct by the prosecution and law enforcement have conspired to create this perception. A recent book by Michael Schiffmannn titled Race Against Death (currently available only in German) adds even more documentary fuel to this perception. The text, which does a good job placing Mumia's case into a historical context of racism in the United States, provides a history of the case itself and the movement that has grown in support of Mumia following the 1995 signing of his death warrant by then Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge. The new material at the end of the book includes several never-before-published photographs of the 1981 crime scene that were also never produced in court. These photos raise more questions as to Mumia's role in the events of that night the policeman was killed. The litany of miscues and missing evidence already familiar to those who have followed Mumia's case around the world is repeated here, with a renewed emphasis. In addition to this evidence is the newly discovered fact that a fifth bullet fired by police at the scene for comparative purposes was "lost."
The photos in Schiffmann's text cast more doubt on the state's case by apparently disproving the prosecution's statements that Mumia stood over Officer Faulkner and fired at him several times. The photos show no marks from the bullets that were supposedly fired in this fashion. In fact, the sidewalk was not damaged in any way. Schiffmann goes on to write: "it is thus no question anymore whether the scenario presented by the prosecution at Abu-Jamal's trial is true. It is clearly not, because it is physically and ballistically impossible." (p. 205) The remainder of the photos show a scenario that constantly contradicts the testimony of officers and witnesses (apparently coerced) and the nature of the scene they described in Mumia's original trial.
It is the continued refusal of the court to allow a new trial for Mumia that would allow the new evidence to be introduced that has been pointed to by Mumia's supporters as part of the proof that not only was Mumia framed because of his politics and outspokenness as a member of the media, but that the frame-up continues. Added to this refusal by the court is the somewhat understandable desire of the slain officer's family to have a perpetrator locked up, even that someone isn't really the killer.

Many, if not all readers, will be very familiar with Mumia Abu-Jamal's case. Those who are new to it should also be aware that he can be heard providing weekly commentaries from death row on Free Speech Radio. (As Amy Goodman and David Goodman's Exception to the Rulers notes, NPR hired him for a series of broadcasts but then chickened out when police organizations protested.)

Another thing that should receive attention is the December 6, 2006 House Roll Call vote on 527:

Condemning the decision of St. Denis, France, to name a street in honor of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the convicted murder of Philadelphia Police Office Danny Faulkner

This was after the Democratic victory in the November elections but while Republicans were still in control of the House. Nancy Pelosi, who would become the Speaker of the House in January, maintains that Congress was far too busy to explore impeachment. Someone truly worried about how Congress spends its time would have voted "No" or "Present" on the above measure. Instead, Nancy Pelosi voted "yea." So let's get this straight, pursuing impeachment over Constitutional abuses is off the table and wasteful but Pelosi couldn't wait to way in on what a street in France gets named?

Free-Spirit Fancy Nancy obviously has plenty of time to weigh in on the 'pressing' issues.

Her vote was especially galling and appalling when you consider that "Justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal Day in San Francisco" was declared in August of 1997 and that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in January of 2005 calling for a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal (PDF format warning, click here). Sure is a good thing Fancy Nancy doesn't represent San Francisco.

Oh, wait. She does. Or she's supposed to. Of course, she wasn't in Dolores Park yesterday speaking to the many who gathered to protest the illegal war. However, her opponent in the race for Congress was, Cindy Sheehan.

Photo illustration used in this article from The Mobilization To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal.



Once more, into the mailbag. Participating are 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. Last week, as often happens, we mentioned Carly Simon. Bill wrote in to steer us to Daniel Garrett's review of Carly Simon's Into White entitled "The Spiritual Beauty of a Sensual Woman: Carly Simon’s precious collection Into White." An excerpt from the review:

Thought and feeling, sensuality and sadness, are to be found--connected, whole--in Carly Simon's singing on Into White. I write these lines of appreciation, and I wonder if they will convey how special the collection seems to me. I recall (I read) that the music journalist and professor Greg Sandow advised his class at Juilliard, in Fall 2000, that a review should tell a story, be written in plain language, and describe what the music is like, and what experience it allows, the objective and the subjective; and Sandow recommended that, when attempting to write music reviews, students pay attention to, and consider including commentary regarding, point of view, musical details, evocative expressions, idea exploration, and thesis. One wonders what became of his students. Are they writing scholarly books on music? Are they the ones now writing one-hundred word summaries--sarcastic; or mindlessly approving--on contemporary music in glossy magazines, summaries that do not discuss the music as much as share prejudice about the profile of the performer and her (or his) genre? Would they know what to make of Carly Simon? I come to Carly Simon’s new work as a past admirer. I remember liking her songs "Anticipation" and "Legend in Your Own Time" and "Share the End" when I was still in short pants, riding a bike. Her "That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be" was a cool dissection of marriage, her "You're So Vain" a simultaneous celebration and deconstruction of a suave lover and man of the world, and her "We Have No Secrets" was about how honesty can hurt. She expressed and gave insight to desire and possession and pleasure in "You Belong to Me," "Jesse," and "The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of," among other songs as the years went by, as I went through high school, college, my first jobs, and optimistic but flawed attempts at relationships, as the world changed. However, I do not like her now simply because I liked her then. Into White is like a meal of fresh steamed vegetables, baked fish in a creamy sauce, with mineral water and white wine nearby, and the promise of sweet fruits and other desserts, after weeks of eating food offering empty calories and no nutrition. I am thinking not only of taste, and not only of value and use: I am thinking of worth.

Kat has reviewed Simon's Moonlight Serenade, No Secrets and Into White, so we'll toss this one to her.

Kat: First, thank you to Bill for recommending the review. I'll toss out a link to at my site this week. Garrett's review explores the CD itself as well as the problems in today's music criticism or what passes for it. While I agreed with the points he made, I responded most to his writing, his style of writing, in the review. There's a lightness to Into White -- not a lightweight album, a lightness -- that can be very difficult to nail down. Reading, I saw him searching and struggling to convey it and I believe he got it across. He's also exploring the struggle in music criticism that some tend to think is over but I see it as ongoing and do not think the camp embracing their own uselessness have won. I think he's captured that struggle better than anyone else this year.

Dona: On that last part, I'll jump in because Kat's been addressing that for some time. It's present in the first review she did at The Common Ills and she came down especially hard, a month later [see "Why Does Music Suck So Bad, Part I" and "Why Does Music Suck So Bad, Part II"], on the type of critic who confuses stats and figures and autobiographical details with a music review. They seem to think that their synposis with one or two details about the new CD itself somehow count for exploring a CD. I think she really captured it well in those and, when I read it, I immediately thought of that hideous piece of garbage The Nation ran on Courtney Love's CD.

Kat: Which didn't even know the basics on song length but a critic wanted to play stats and no one in the editorial department appeared to know how to fact check. That entire article needs footnotes and a correction from the magazine. I appreciate what Dona's saying because it's something similar that brought me into The Common Ills community. C.I.'s covering similar terrain in "Ellen Willis," but C.I. was making comments along those lines earlier. That's why I ended up e-mailing in the first place. And C.I. and I were sharing these e-mails about music and C.I. kept saying, "You should write something on this." I know C.I. still encourages visitors to the public account to start their own sites and I don't know if they do or not but if it wouldn't have been for the repeated encouragement, I probably wouldn't have written anything for The Common Ills. But I really do believe that a good portion of the blame for what dominates the charts today has to do with the state of music criticism and with so many wanting to appear 'hip' and willing to praise the unpraiseable. To use Justy as an example, when teeny boppers -- of all ages and genders -- lather on the praise, you can pin it off on the fact that they want to sleep with him -- probably not do the deed, but cuddle -- but what's the excuse for music critics? He's doing nothing but bad, glorified disco and music critics, real ones, would have sliced and diced him in the seventies. His reheated left overs today get sloppy, open-mouthed kisses from alleged music critics and that's as much why you can't listen to top forty radio as is the corporate takeover of radio and music. I enjoyed Garrett's review a great deal and probably should leave it at that because I could talk about it and music and the state of music criticism for hours.

Jim: And many of our readers would enjoy that. So we can stay on this topic a bit more. Betty made the point about the lack of attention given to and importance placed on music in her latest chapter "2 Dull White Chicks Whining and Boring the Hell Out Of Me."

Betty: I enjoyed Garrett's review as well and wish I had read it before I wrote my chapter. I was building on Kat and C.I. there and just really attempting to make the point that alleged music coverage in The Nation never goes beyond the superificial so evident in Katrina vanden Heuvel's bad blog posts. I was rushing to get my final draft completed and up so I only had time to mention a few -- Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Holly Near, Ben Harper, Bright Eyes, Rickie Lee Jones -- but what's really amazing to me is that things are happening in music -- and have been -- but The Nation can't write about it. The most they can offer is a cover story on Bob Dylan -- the same magazine that offered a cover story on Howard Stern, for example -- and there's the tired vanden Heuvel this week dropping back to "For What It's Worth" which is a wonderful song -- and one Kat quoted recently in her review of Stephen Stills -- but really had nothing to do with anything in her post. That's a song from the sixties, she's writing about the No Nukes movement coming back to life. It's the sort of pathetic thing she regularly trots out that only serves to demonstrate she doesn't know the first thing about music. And of course, Kat had covered it better in "No Nukes, Ralph Nader" Tuesday.

Elaine: I would agree 100% with that. Like Betty, I saw the post reposted at Common Dreams, I don't think any of us goes to The Nation website. I was curious when Our Lady of Mass Rip Offs posted. Her post ran at The Nation on Thursday. Kat said everything that needed to be said on Tuesday. One woman is mentioned in vanden Heuvel's long list and we all know how The Nation seems allergic to women. She offers a dopey history lesson that's ahistorical and, no surprise, fails to credit Dr. Randall Forsberg for the work she has done.

C.I.: Has done. She passed away this month.

Elaine: Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know. But Dr. Forsberg and other women, many, many other women, were so important to the nuclear freeze movement, to awakening the world to the dangers -- certainly you could include Dr. Helen Caldicutt, but there were many, many women -- and they are all erased as vanden Heuvel goes running to yet another man. It's shameful, it's pathetic and women especially should call it out.

Rebecca: Oh come on, Elaine, you know the Queen Bee hates women and you know she gets away with it repeatedly. But, yeah, women should call it out. They should be calling it out loudly. But I had an e-mail from a guy named Mel who wrote me to complain that just raising the documented sexism at play at The Nation got his post, he believed, deleted from a website, apparently a left website but it's just another White male site yacking. If it was deleted, the White male yacker doesn't know the first thing about anything.

Ava: He's a putz and an economist, no one in the college considers him left and no one was surprised that the guy Mel would complain to you that the very serious issue of sexism would be deleted and declared forbidden as his monkey-ass website. He's drowning in a tinier pond that Katrina's floating in and I passed your blog post on two women I knew who had for a professor. I should hook you up with them because their remarks were blistering.

Jim: I think this is a good point for a shift that will expand this topic. Ty, this is really your feature, the mailbag, so you want to grab it.

Ty: We're going to come back to music because Jess had a comment and we'll go out on that but on the issue of sexism being overlooked by the left, 16 e-mails came in on a topic from 2005. This was the first any of us were hearing about it. In 2005, a number of left voices were taking their works to Hustler magazine. They included Amy Goodman, Greg Palast and Christian Parenti among others. Twelve mentioned it and asked us to address, four accused us of ignoring the issue. To be clear, we'd never heard of it.

Elaine: I don't think any of us read Hustler, or scan the trashy photos. For those of us on the East Coast, participating by phone, we learned of it only hours before starting the writing sessions for this edition.

Cedric: Not just the ones on the East coast. And Hustler's known for its rampant racism. I mean within the African-American community. I've never picked up a copy but it's well known for its racism.

Betty: Right. I'm not defending the others, Playboy, Penthouse or what have you, but in the Black community, Hustler's got about the same image as Tommy Hilfiger. I know when that film came out in the 90s, there was an attempt to make him a hero but it didn't go over in our community. His image is set in stone. I knew that Goodman had interviewed him and C.I. had pointed out at some point, probably when that interview aired on Democracy Now!, that they would never link to him or anything on him at The Common Ills, another sign of awareness as Keesha would say, but I didn't know people like Parenti were actually taking their wares to Hustler magazine. I was honestly shocked when this was brought up earlier. I don't think there's any excuse for it.

Wally: The two things, just to backtrack, that shocked me the most were, first, that it wasn't in 2002 or 2003 and second that C.I. groaned and I thought, "Oh, C.I. knows this story" until C.I. started saying, "I don't want anything to do with that crap."

Ty: Right, I was explaining the e-mails that had come in during the week and C.I. kept cutting me off saying "I won't be involved in promoting that magazine." It was about my third time where I got across that this was about an issue from 2005.

Rebecca: C.I. loathes the magazine and the man -- as do most feminists -- and it's not a topic that will get raised with C.I. I remember when the piece of trash film came out, a few did try to raise it and C.I. would shut them down.

C.I.: I'll comment, but let's get back to Wally's comment about the timing first.

Wally: Well I don't know Hustler's history and don't read it, have never picked it up. I do know it's trash and I kept asking, "You mean 2002 and 2003, right?" I was assuming that these people involved, and there were others, were involved because they were attempting to stop the illegal war from starting. I'm not justifying it or excusing it. But I thought the only way something so ridiculous could happen would be if they were attempting to stop an illegal war when the mainstream media was silencing dissent, debate and discussion. But this was after the illegal war had started, after it was past the one year mark and, from the e-mails Ty received, was not focusing on Iraq. Again, I'm not saying that would make it right but I am saying that as frustrated as so many were with the echo chamber mainstream media, I would have been less shocked if I'd heard that this was to prevent the illegal war from starting.

C.I.: First, we need to give credit to Aura Bogado of KPFK and Free Speech Radio. According to the e-mails, she's the one who raised the issue. Others may have as well and, if so, e-mail and we'll give credit where it's due. It couldn't have been easy for her to raise it -- for a number of reasons -- and her strength needs to be applauded. She details how Hustler has repeatedly attacked her and they've done that with a number of strong women in attempts to silence them over the years. Their image, as Cedric and Betty have noted, is well known and includes attacks on people of color and attacks on feminists of all races and ethnicities. I do think, for those who ended their association with the trashy magazine, that it was the racial aspect that made them do so. I think sexism continues to be tolerated within the left and, at times, encouraged and supported. I do understand the need to get the word out but I do think there are standards involved and I'm honestly confused as to how anyone could think Hustler was a worthy outlet for the left? I mean, maybe people were ignorant of it. That could be. Only Not In Our Name offered an explanation -- and an apology.

Rebecca: I think you're exactly right that it's the racial issue that made some cease their relationship. There's no way anyone involved confused Hustler with The Saturday Evening Post. It's a smut magazine, pure and simple. Before you get into their attacks on women and people of color, that is a known. The left's long applauded the Playboy interviews and whether you think that's wrong or right, the fact of the matter is no one, regardless of whether they've picked up an issue or not, could confuse the two magazines. They knew they were working with a cheap, nudie magazine considered smut and, from a public relations standpoint, they were willing to devalue their brands by doing so. When I briefly did public relations in the entertainment world, there were magazines that offered coverage of struggling clients -- Hustler wasn't one -- and I would turn them down because a write up in them wouldn't have helped, a photo spread wouldn't have helped. I don't want to pin the blame on Goodman, who broke off the relationship after one article -- a transcript -- because that's not fair to her. But I do have to ask what she or others involved with Democracy Now! were thinking? A woman is not going to 'expand' the minds of the people flipping through -- with one hand -- that magazine. At best, she could have hoped a few would begin watching the program while jerking off. I'm not sure how much they could have absorbed if they did so since the blood would have left the brain. But with Goodman it was obviously a mistake. I don't think you can say she was thinking, "I'm okay with the magazine." With others, with the men, I do think that issue remains out there, that question lingers. And for Susie Bright . . . Her ridiculous claim that it serves southern men is so racist and so uninformed. Hustler is not a regional magazine. She seems to suggest that the racism involved is 'good old boy' racism and that it can only be found in the south. It has an audience nation wide and Bright's excuses were so laughable and so ridiculous that I cannot and will not offer her the same leeway I will offer Goodman.

Mike: It's also true that Bright's remarks noted a long relationship between herself and the magazine.

Rebecca: True.

Mike: Bogoda's article on this, it just boggles the mind that she had to write it, that she had to say, "This is what they've done to all and this is what they've done to me." I mean how desperate are you for readers that you'll resort to getting in bed with that kind of a magazine? I understand C.I.'s point about sexism being tolerated by the left and I think that's true historically but for me the big shock was Christian Parenti. I would hope a Greg Palast would know better but I'm aware he's a baby boomer and probably just thinks "Boobs! Cool!" His writing with regards to women -- his tiny output on women -- hasn't shown any indication that he's gone beyond his school boy attitudes. But Parenti's a whole other generation. He's older than me but there's no way he didn't realize what he was getting into and grasp how offensive it was.

Wally: And trashy. I mean Hustler is just seen as trashy besides the points everyone else is making. It's not seen as working class, it's seen as trashy and I think that goes to Rebecca's point about where she'd let her clients appear.

C.I.: Rebecca?

Rebecca: No. Wally says it, if you've got something to add, go ahead.

C.I.: I think that the mental likening of "trashy" to "working class" reveals a class bias. As Wally points out, the two are not the same. I think it's a really elite view to say, "Well this is where working class men go." I think it's rather insulting. It happened, as we understand it, the bulk of the participation is over. As Wally pointed out, had it been an issue such as stopping the illegal war before it started, the urgency might have allowed for a justification. I wouldn't have but that's for each person to decide. Both those deciding whether or not to appear in the publication and those deciding what they think of people appearing in it. I do wonder if some of the same people would have agreed were it Inches, Honcho or any other number of magazines with male nudes? I rather doubt that many of the men would have agreed to it. They might agree to coverage in The Advocate but that's not a skin magazine. I'll stick with Goodman and ingore the men because I would be blistering if I touched on them -- she will go anywhere to get the word out -- around the country, on a back breaking schedule -- and I can see her being unfamiliar with the history of Hustler due to the fact that there's a 'free speech' contingent on the East coast, where she's based, that rushes in to defend that type of 'free speech' repeatedly. At times it seems the left offers more defenses of pornography than anything else. I'm sure you could find, in the same time period, more defense of porn than of Lynn Stewart for example. So I'm not going to condem Goodman. But I will note that the same left 'leadership' on the East coast that rushes to ridicule and lampoon the West coast, is one that frequently justifies pornography, and provides pedophiles with a forum regularly while doing everything they can to overlook any attacks on women. That's why I say that it was race that caused many to cease their relationship. The same set loves to pretend that their area is purged of racism -- and expresses complete surprise when it surfaces in the region -- and stereotypes other areas as backwards.

Betty: Which we all saw last month.

C.I.: Which we all saw last month. That said, a struggling writer, I'm not going to slam. Someone who can't get their story out any other way . . . It's nothing I'd ever resort to but so be it. But to see that magazine as a promotional tool, which appears the way many saw it, it a bit different from someone attempting to pay the bills. On Susie Bright, I'll plead ignorance. I've never had any use for her so I can't comment on her.

Jim: On the issue of porn itself? C.I., I'm talking to you?

C.I.: Oh, sorry. Umm, visuals never really did it for me so I've never understood the portrayal of a nation flipping through magazines. I can't imagine I'm the only one who doesn't get off on a photo.

Rebecca: Can I tell a story?

Jim: Please.

Rebecca: In college the issue of porn came up because it was that mind-set, that lefty male thing. And a group of students were going to put out what we'd call erotica today. A single issue. But they were high on Henry Miller and they were saying they were breaking down walls and barriers. For a change, it was one of Elaine's boyfriends and not mine involved. When we found out, Elaine, C.I. and myself, we argued against it and were told that if we thought it was limiting we should contribute. So we did. I worked and worked on mine, which was nothing but my then biggest sexual fantasy.

Elaine: She put more time into her short story than she ever did into any class.

Rebecca: As I said, I worked and worked on mine. C.I. thought the whole project was idiotic and dashed a piece off during a poli sci class only because I was begging and pleading and pointing out that it would be the usual stereotypes of women and the more we could bring it, the more encompassing the view would be.

C.I.: It was a philosophy class.

Rebecca: Oh, that's right. It was Plato's Symposium or something being discussed. Anyway, that story was hot. So hot, the student published journal bumped it up to the front and Elaine's boyfriend and everyone else couldn't shut up about it. I'll turn it over to Elaine.

Elaine: So my then-boyfriend, when the book is bound and published and distributed to a small group on campus, is boasting about the publication, which he oversaw, and at one point throws up C.I.'s story in our faces, or tries to, and notes that it is as stereotypical as anything else in the volume. And C.I. replies that he's just confessing to his own stereotypes. No one, and this includes me, grasped that we were supplying gender and other details to C.I.'s story written in the first person and never using anything more descriptive than "I" or "you" in terms of details. It could have been about two men, two women, a man and a woman, a woman and a man. The gender was supplied by the reader and the role of "you" -- the object of lust -- was cast by the reader as well.

Rebecca: And I couldn't believe it. That was a hot story and I'd read it several times. Originally just because I was grading my own story against it. And I'd never picked up on that.

C.I.: So apparently if you want phone sex or a trashy letter, I'm the one to go to. Anything else on the topic of Hustler before we move on?

Rebecca: Blah, blah, blah. Hold your horses. But the whole story was just the intense thing and I don't think the deed was actually done it but it was so hot. Anyway, to change the topic, using Christian Parenti, I doubt very seriously he would want to be billed as "Christian Parenti, as featured in the pages of Hustler." And that really is what it comes down to from a public relations standpoint. Do you want that credit? If you do, participate, if you don't, don't. I do agree with C.I.'s point that if someone has a story, say Seymour Hersh had a blockbuster exclusive that The New Yorker wouldn't publish and no one would touch, I could see using that magazine and I also agree that emerging writers or writers with no other outlets are to be judged differently. But if they use that outlet, they need to be aware they are opening themselves to questions and issues and they should be prepared to answer about them.

Dona: One question on this, before we move on, sometimes community members will Google for something C.I.'s covered and click on a link to find a porn site. I know C.I.'s addressed this with Beth for Beth's column in the round-robin but just to get it out there.

C.I.: Sure. I don't know who reposts outside the community. Some people do. I know a variety of sites have and that includes legal sites and porn sites. I'm not asked and I'm not notified. I have nothing to do with it and I've never tried to track anyone down and say, "Stop!" Nor would I. I'm focused on doing entries for The Common Ills. Beth asked because a member had found an entry reposted with nude photos of women's breasts. Beth's the ombudsperson for The Common Ills, for anyone arriving late. We discussed the issue, she reproduced our discussion in her column in the gina & krista round-robin, and my attitude was, "I don't have the time to track anyone down. I'm not sure that I would if I did. Members know the site's address. If someone clicks on something like that at work, I'm not responsible because I'm only responsible for The Common Ills." I'm not the net police and I'm not anti-nudity or even anti-photos of nudity. To know where I stood on a certain site's portrayal of nudes would require me doing research and I have no interest in doing that. If someone's reposting a snapshot or whatever, that's their business. I don't have time to surf news site online. I certainly won't waste my limited time searching out nude sites.

Dona: You said, I'm quoting from Beth's column, "It doesn't offend me. It doesn't excite me. It has nothing to do with me. Presumably, it has something to do with Iraq."

C.I.: Right. That's my attitude. Beth did research after she got the complaint and had a number of sites -- some nude sites, some not. Some provided a link to The Common Ills, some didn't. It wasn't about me. Certainly in the cases of people presenting it with no credit, it couldn't be seen to be about me. It was about Iraq and it had nothing to do with me. I was neither offended nor flattered, angry or thrilled for myself. It's about Iraq. It did bring home the importance of including at least one line about war resisters. There are slow days where there is very little -- sometimes nothing -- about war resisters in the news. Since anything could potentially pop up somewhere else, it drove home the need to always include war resisters.

Ava: I know we're trying to wrap this up and it's really turned into a roundtable and less of a mail bag, but I want to comment on a point C.I. made earlier. There is a pipe and elbow patches faction on the East coast that will insist that there is no issue there and there are women who will go along with that, who will be silent, because to call it out is to risk the attacks on your own sexuality. Now the right has their own multitude of problems, but the topic is how people of the left came to be publishing in Hustler and I think it needs to be noted that the mentality, the mind-set, is very sexist. And I agree 100% that what would be rightly called out on the West Coast gets silenced by the pipe and elbow factions on the East coast. Being opposed to images of women being abused or post-abuse does not mean being opposed to nudity.

Ty: Good point, let's toss to Jess for an unrelated topic.

Jess: Well, actually, it is related. A community member brought up a music issue this week and I thought of it when the topic of the Carly Simon review came up. A community member wrote a review, years ago, at Amazon about Joan Baez and was censored. He provided the e-mails back and forth between himself and Amazon over this and Baez's voice was described in praise and one of the terms was "sexy." Amazon, a few weeks after the review was posted, took out "sexy" and put in "[physical]" -- in brackets to note that they had changed it.

Kat: That is ridiculous. I know we've discussed that before, I'm not sure if we've done it online, but we've discussed it before.

Jess: The use of the word "sensual" to describe Carly Simon is why I bring it up. One assumes that if Garrett had posted his review up at Amazon, he might have to grapple with censorship.

Kat: There is a world of difference between sexy and a sex object and that's apparently escaped Amazon's knowledge.

Jess: And reading over the e-mails forwarded, I'm just amazed at the struggle it took to get "sexy" put back into the review. I'm going to quote some, "A quick search of will find that word used to describe many voices, bodies, etc. in many posted reviews." Here's from another, still arguing for "sexy" to be put back in -- or if it won't be that the entire review be deleted. "'Physical' (or '[physical]') does not even work as a word substitute." And this: "Is it 'sexy' that was found offensive in my writing by whomever changed it? Or is it that it's applied to the voice of a woman who's over sixty? What I'm asking is, was this an ageism issue?" I could go on and on quoting from the e-mails but it is just ridiculous that Amazon attempted to censor the use of the word "sexy."

Mike: How long did this go on?

Jess: Forever. There's an intense back and forth. And then some weasel named "Joshua S." -- weasel because he's an employee of Amazon and unlike the others won't sign his full name -- writes back, "After researching your inquiry, I found that the phrase does not violate our guidelines and was edited in error." It wasn't an accident, previous e-mails make that clear, including one from a James Pogatshnik makes clear. Amazon found "sexy" offensive when used to describe Joan Baez' voice.

Kat: I think "sexy" was a good call on Baez' voice. It is warm and alive. "Sensual" is a good call on Carly Simon's. The lesson here is do not post your reviews on Amazon. Go to Blogger/Blogspot and create your own site. If you post on Amazon, they own your reviews, you don't. I'm sure that "ownership" allows them to edit as they see fit. So just don't post a review there. Blogger/Blogspot has no charge and you can post the same review there, post it as you want and not have the hassle.

Ty: With the wrap up, there were other e-mails we intended to get to. One of the most e-mailed topic last week was about Ava and C.I.'s call on Bionic Woman. Some viewers had stuck with the show a bit longer and had seen the same problems Ava and C.I. pointed out. They hadn't noticed it so much in the first episode but they say the new Jamie is, Lynne, "a drip" and, Ralph, "incapable of having fun," and, Margaret, "very, very slow. It's like she's in remedial spy class and unable to grasp even the basics so the message appears to be 'Look how stupid women are.'" There were many other e-mails on that and I wish I could note all of them. There were other topics as well and maybe a few of them can be picked up next time. Any thing to add to the comments?

Ava: Just that this was the big problem with the remake and why we hit hard on the way the character was being trashed in the remake. She is very slow and unable to abosrb basics. Her teachers are all male.

C.I.: In one episode, I think it already aired, she will need someone to watch a young female. Despite the fact that there's only one-non-Bionic Woman in the whole show, that's the only one Jamie can think of. People should have raised eye brows over that as they should when her male trainers make smarmy comments to her such as "I'm a breast man." No one involved seems to grasp the level of on the job harassment they are displaying -- or Jamie's acceptance of it -- or the sexism that reeks throughout the entire show. As for the sense of fun, that's why we noted that the original, played by Lindsay Wagner, had a sense of humor. This Jamie is a drip and never even gets excited about her bionic powers. Ty, explain the illustration because e-mails will come in on that.

Ty: Kat and I did the illustration we use for this feature. It's a play on words and we thought it was humorous. I'll also again note that I am gay and Kat, who is straight, and I had both heard from mutual friends, "How come men's flesh is never noted?" I'm unfamiliar with any illustration we've offered that featured female flesh up to that point, but Kat and I were game and we came up with the illustration we use back in January.

As long as you're dipping into the vaults . . .

I find it really curious that people will always ask me, "When did you become a feminist?" That doesn't make any sense to me, because it seems to me that one is always a feminist. It's, "When did you discover that you were a feminist?" I assume all other women are that way, and eventually something will happen in their lives that will make the light bulb go on. It's just a matter of time and encouragement.

That's from Ruth Conniff's "The Progressive Interview: Susan Faludi" (p. 38 of the inteview), June 1993 and we'd suggest that since Faludi's The Terror Dream (discussed in "1 Book, 10 Minutes -- Faludi's The Terror Dream") is now out and since The Progressive is dipping into the archives for their website, they'd consider adding that online. We would, however, encourage them to exclude David Johnson's illustration which looks nothing like Faludi (then or now).

Dear Canada: Let US War Resisters Stay

Last week, we ran a scan of a letter sent out by Courage to Resist to show support for war resisters in Canada. In "A Note to Our Readers" we also included the information (passed on by community member Eddie) that the letter can be signed online if you click here. We're noting both again this week because it's assumed that Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey will learn in November (almost 'this month') whether or not Canada's Supreme Court will hear their appeal. Reader Alicya advises that you can copy and paste the letter into your document and settings besides attempting to navigate Flickr (where the scan is posted).



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.

"Wild Rice in the Kitchen" -- Trina's latest offers some campaign advice and more.

"2 Dull White Chicks Whining and Boring the Hell Out Of Me" -- Betty's chapter heading makes a play on the title of an off-Broadway play. It also covers a huge number of topics.

"Rudy G courts the rape vote" & "THIS JUST IN! RUDY G DECLARES 'CLAYTON SPEAKS FOR ME!'" -- So desperate to win, Rudy G will take an endorsement from anyone.

"Two of Guy Ranz' reports on NPR" -- Ruth's blog post examing the first two-parts of NPR's Iraq report.

"Ruth's Report" -- Ruth develops that topic and others further in her report.

"Thoughts for Friday" & "Intelligence not a requirement for NYT op-ed pages" -- Elaine and C.I. refusing to stay silent as a social science is subverted.

"naomi klein, ms. magazine, etc." -- Rebecca offers her pick for the best book of 2007.

"Brief" -- Mike replies to an e-mail and leaves Our Modern Day Carrie Nations exposed.

"Democracy Now!, Dave Lindorff, hysteria d.j.s" -- Ruth picked this post as Kat's best of the week, noting she was sharing observations from the road and more.

"THIS JUST IN! COWARDLY DEMS!" & "Is it caving when it keeps happening?" -- Wally and Cedric's joint-post on When Dems Attack . . . the Left!
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